So this post will be a round-up of a bunch of reviews of stuff I've interacted with lately... These are the things I've seen, read and played of late!!!
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
This is a non-fic book on Screenwriting which answers, in no uncertain terms, writing questions I've had for years. I'm looking forward to testing the methods presented therein on my latest movie idea. In fact, I may be contacting a couple of you at some point, and presenting the idea to you to see if you think it would be worth pursuing or not (it's part of the process laid out in the book, fear not).
The book is written in a fun, informative way, by a guy that had made millions of bucks writing/selling scripts in Hollywood to all the big studios. He knows what they look for, and, more importantly, what makes a story work on the screen, and he lays it out in clear, logical fashion, and infuses it with contagious enthusiasm. It could end up being the best ten bucks I've spent on a book.
Summary: 5/5 This has earned a permanent place on my "tools of the trade" bookshelf, for future reference. The techniques apply to fiction writing as well, so I'm eager to try them in that capacity as well.
The Bourne Legacy
starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton
I liked this movie MUCH more than I thought I would. It is a top notch action flick, with some surprisingly good acting (especially by Rachel Weisz). It is filmed in a similar style to the other Bourne movies (handheld shaky-cam), but the set pieces are memorable, with plenty of "whoa"... in fact, I was sitting ready to award this movie the rare 10 score, until the finale, which featured a disappointingly lame motorcycle chase through the streets/slums of Manila, in the Philippines. There were several "oh brother" moments that ended up pulling a full point-and-a-half off of the score for me, but didn't come anywhere near ruining the film for me.
I was surprised by the interesting layers that Renner brought to the character he played - the guy can certainly hold his own on screen. I'm probably the only person in the world who was unimpressed by The Hurt Locker a few years back, and Renner's Oscar-nominated performance in that film. And his performance in The Avengers made me leery of how he'd do in this film, but I needn't have worried. He really holds the screen well, and was very believable (up until the unfortunate climax). I was hoping for a cameo by Matt Damon, but other than a few references, no such luck. And all things considered, I still have no idea why Norton was so gung-ho on doing what he did in the film (I won't spoil it for you).
Summary: 8.5 on the crisp action, above-average acting and filmcraft.
Legion by Brandon Sanderson
OK, so I've seen this novella mentioned for months now, and was quite eager to get my hands on it, since, hey, it's Brandon Sanderson, and he's never let me down yet. It is an entirely new type of story for Sanderson, featuring a main character that has imaginary friends. He interacts with these imaginary friends as though they're real, and he fully understands that he's crazy, and openly admits it to those that try to meet with him. You see, he solves mysteries, with the help of his various "friends", for the right price, of course. A special camera has gone missing (along with it's inventor) and so this guy has been hired to track them down.
The book was released first as a hardback, to raise money for charity, which caused some friction from fans who did not realize that they'd be paying premium price for such a short "book". And it is brief. Like, one-sitting brief. It went on sale last week for $2.99, so I grabbed it up and read it.
Bottom line, I have no idea why this "book" even exists. Sure, the premise is cool enough, and it has some spunky dialog, but the story resolves itself so quickly, almost before it even gets moving. And it really has no depth whatsoever to speak of, as far as character/story development. It almost seems like the product of a weekend writing assignment in some writer's workshop or something. A fun diversion, but nothing to sink one's teeth into. I have no idea if Brandon has plans to turn this into a series or not, but honestly, it will take a lot to lure me in to reading more in this world.
Summary: 2.5/5 If you're a Sanderson completist, you'll find enough incentive to find/read this one, but if you're looking for a good story, look elsewhere. This is a barely-developed premise, and little more.
Chosin: A Documentary
IMDB sums this devastating documentary up best:
"After 60 years of silence, the survivors of the Chosin Reservoir Campaign of the Korean War take us on an emotional and heart-pounding journey through one of the most savage battles in American History."
This documentary really took the wind out of me. As the summary says, it talks in detail about the Chosin Reservoir battle in the forgotten Korean War, revealing to me a part of our military history that I have only occasionally heard referenced in passing, and knew nothing about other than it was fought in cold weather. What an eye opener. 15,000 Marines and Army soldiers - most of whom had next to no training -- were surprised and surrounded by a force of 140,000 Chinese soldiers, and had to fight their way out, in weather so cold (40 below) that it would freeze breath, and freeze eyeballs if you went too many seconds without blinking.
The North Koreans swept south so fast in the summer of 1950, they almost succeeded in capturing the entire Korean peninsula. Two cities near one remaining port represented the very last foothold the South Koreans held, as they tried to hold out long enough for us to get there. After WW2, we rather radically downsized our armed forces, so we called up a bunch of reservists, 19, 20 years old, gave them a week or two of physical training, and packed them on ships, no time for boot camp. We got enough boots on the ground to keep the South from being lost, then regrouped and staged an offensive, landing a force in Seoul, capturing the city, and then swinging all the way around to capture a city on the other coast, and cut the enemy off. 15,000 troops then pushed north, into the Chosin Reservoir, where a massive force of Chinese military was waiting to meet them.
The documentary features survivors telling their mind-numbingly terrifying tales, once again awakening in me my thoughts on the limits of human endurance. Many of the stories these guys have told no one about, ever, even family and spouses. I believe the fact that the doc was made by veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan helped the Korean War vets feel comfortable enough to open up about their experiences. The doc also features actual video footage of the 17 day struggle, as well as photographs, in their gruesome fullness, plus some recreation footage. I can't go into the details here, in this short summary, but I will say that, every now and then I see something that I feel should be required viewing by everyone drawing breath, especially late-teens. This is such a title.
Summary: 10/10 The South Koreans to this day honor every US veteran of the Korean War. They are revered as heroes, and their government has always freely flown veterans and their families over to Korea, free of charge, as often as they wish to visit. The military cemetery over there is cared for by classes of school children who see to it that each grave has fresh flowers, has the headstones polished, and the grass hand-manicured (with scissors). They value every life lost in preventing their country from being destroyed. We may have forgotten about the Korean War over here, but the Koreans will never forget.
Odds and Ends
- After seeing the latest trailer for The Hobbit, I am officially super stoked about seeing it.
- Contrariwise, I was greatly underwhelmed by the trailer for Lincoln, Spielberg's latest epic, which stars the great Daniel Day Lewis. Man, it looks so melodramatic and corny... I mean, yes, it is Spielberg, so one would have to expect a measure of melodrama. But, really, Lincoln's voice? Really? And what is Tommy Lee Jones doing in this movie? And Sally Field and David Strathairn? Sheesh, just seeing them kills immersion for me, even in the trailer. Yeah, I think I'll pass on this one.
- Torchlight 2 has been released, and purchased by me. I've put several hours in, and it promises to hold my attention for a good time to come.
- I'm reading an outstanding book called Prince of Thorns, by an author named Mark Lawrence. It features perhaps the lowest anti-hero I've yet encountered in a fantasy book. You know the guy is evil, but it's just so well written and such fun to read, it's like a guilty pleasure. I'm tearing through it. In fact, I'm itching right now to get back to it, so I think I'll call this post done.
Adios for now. Hope your weekend is a great one.
Dave the Wanderer