Monday, July 26, 2010

You Tube Movie Trailers – Sort Of

A couple of these were sent by my friend, Kay Day, who we’ve recently discovered is my long-lost twin. We both have the same . . . um . . . eccentric sense of humor.

The following are three trailers made by talented out of work people.

What if Mary Poppins had been a horror movie?

The Shining as a romantic comedy?

There’s a lesson for writers here. Come back later and I’ll tell you.

I know. . . cliff hangers . . . you gotta love ‘em.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Despicable Me – Review

As I stated in a previous post, I wanted to see Despicable Me out of curiosity. The early trailers didn’t reveal much, but just enough to whet the appetite. As the time of release drew near, we got more of a glimpse. We knew that a super villain suddenly is in charge of three children, all adorable girls. In fact, the tag line according to IMDb is “Superbad. Superdad.”

It could also be, “The Pink Panther meets The Spy Who Loved Me.

I enjoyed this movie very much. Yes, it’s a cartoon, but I think we’ve established that I kinda like those. I love watching the craft of storytelling in its purest form. . .yeah, I’ll go with that. It had action, adventure, fluffy moments when the youngest girl wraps herself around the audience, and, surprisingly, quite a timely moral for our get-ahead-at-all-costs society today.

It was a teensy predictable in parts, but also held some surprises.

Steve Carell voices the main character, Gru, and does it so effectively, I would have never know it was him. As a writer, I love what they did with this character. Remember that a villain must have a reason to be bad.

You may want to take a tissue, although I didn’t blubber through this movie like I did Toy Story 3

I didn’t see it in 3D. I’m reserving my hard-earned cash for movies where it makes sense to shake hands with the characters. My choice didn’t ruin the experience, although I could see where one scene would have benefitted in the WOW-I’m-in-the-movie effect. I may have needed an empty popcorn bucket afterward.


I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars because of the predictability factor. But it didn’t ruin the movie for me, and there were enough surprises to keep my writer-brain from overanalyzing. At least, until I got home. :)

You can view the trailer at the IMDb site.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

When the Opposing Guy is NOT the Bad Guy

Okay, confession time. I have a crush on one of the stars of The Fugitive, and it isn’t heartthrob Harrison Ford. Oh sure, he was cute in his American Graffiti/Star Wars/Indiana Jones days. But the man who has stolen my heart is Tommy Lee Jones. Rugged, great sense of humor, wonderful actor. Okay, he’s not Pierce Brosnan, who is in a different category altogether. But charisma oozes from him whether he’s playing a semi-serious man in black to comedic Will Smith, a rootin’, tootin’ space cowboy, or just doing his job as a US Marshal.

I like him.

That’s why I was happy to see him as this particular antagonist in The Fugitive.

Antagonist? But, Kathy, how can you like an antagonist? Aren’t they all villains? Don’t they either kill, maim, or destroy?

Uh, no.

The Merriam-Webster definition of antagonist is:

“one that contends with or opposes another”

Opposition need not be violent. It could be as subtle as Marshal Samuel Gerard doing his job as he tries to catch Dr. Richard Kimball, a suspect in his own wife’s murder. In this movie, Marshal Gerard is an excellent example of the definition above. As Dr. Kimball hides from the law while proving his innocence, the marshal is hunting him down, in clear opposition to the doctor’s goal.

Is the marshall evil? No. Does he wish harm on the man he’s been hired to bring in? No. He is not the villain.

A story can have more than one antagonist, and often, those sub-antagonists serve as the villains. I think you can clearly see that the killer, the man with the prosthetic arm, is also in opposition to Dr. Kimball’s goals. Kimball is closing in on him, and the killer doesn’t want to be caught. Another antagonist, and perhaps the most dastardly villain, is Dr. Kimball’s good friend, Dr. Charles Nichols. Nichols is behind Kimball’s wife’s murder, trying to silence Kimball before he can blow the whistle on Nichols’s defective drug that he’s trying to market.

My favorite scene in the movie, and one that brings my antagonist-is-not-necessarily-the-villain point home, is when Gerard corners Kimball at the end of a tunnel in a dam. “I didn’t do it!” Kimball says. “I don’t care.” Gerard answers just moments before Kimball plunges into the water to escape. Gerard is stunned as he doesn’t wish harm on Kimball, he simply wants to do his job.

The role of antagonist can change to supporter as the story progresses. We see this as Gerard investigates and comes to the same conclusions that Kimball does. Their goals become the same as they both close in on the real killer.

At the end, after Nichols and his henchman, the one-armed-man hired to kill Kimball’s wife, are taken into custody, Kimball is also placed in a squad car. Gerard reaches in, removes the handcuffs and gives him a bag of ice for his bruised hands. Kimball says, “I thought you didn’t care.” Gerard jokes, “I don’t.”

Hero and antagonist have joined forces, the true villains are hauled away, and we are confident that with this new ally, Dr. Richard Kimball will be set free.


The Fugitive -

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Toy Story 3 -- Review

I had a “me” day today, although I probably didn’t deserve it since I haven’t been overly stressed lately. But it just seemed appropriate. I spent my “me” day at the theater all by myself, munching buttered popcorn, drinking soda, and watching Toy Story 3.

Upon hearing about this third in the franchise, I feared it could never live up to the first two. Forgive my failure to review Toy Story 1 and 2. Suffice it to say, I LOVED THEM! They each get 5 stars as does TS3.

Andy’s grown up and about to leave for college when the toys find themselves given away to a daycare. I won’t spoil how they got there, but let me say that the writers handled it very well. We know from the trailer that this daycare is run by some unscrupulous toys, and Woody and the gang must get out of there with parts intact.

A tad darker than the first two, it made me think about those toys crammed into my Memories Box all these mumble-mumble years. Sammy the seal—once as important to me as Woody is to Andy—his straw hat, a flipper, and both eyes now gone, is waiting for me to play with him once again. sniff

If you’ve ever loved a toy, or ever loved a child leaving the nest, this movie will pluck your heartstrings and affect you like no other Pixar film. It ties up the series nicely, yet. . .perhaps leaves room for more. Please, Pixar, please? The principles taught in all three movies should be taught everywhere, to children and adults alike. (Politicians, you listening?)

Rating_star I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars. Now, I have to dig through the garage and hug the stuffing out of Sammy.


Toy Story 3 -

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nothing New Under the Sun

My son posted this on his Facebook page. Someone has taken a synopsis of Avatar and shown how it is exactly the story of Pocahontas. Absolutely priceless!

Beware on this site, though, if you go clicking around. What I saw could be rated PG13 for language and. . .um. . . immature humor.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Backward Character Arc

I’m back from vacation and ready share my insights once again.

Ask anyone who knows me. I love stories with happy endings. Give me sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. Give me a character who changes for the better. Give me Disney!

But I watched a movie the other day that seemed the antithesis of my strong desire to leave the theater covered in fairy dust. Up in the Air starring George Clooney is a downer, yet I oddly liked it.

Before you rush out and rent it, let me give you my disclaimer. The language, particularly in the first five minutes, but spattered throughout the film, is offensive and in my opinion, unnecessary. There is also a brief female nude scene. Also, unnecessary. I don’t know why “sophisticated” stories translates to gutter language and smut. I nearly turned the thing off so I could jam it back in it’s Netflix envelope. I’m glad I didn’t.

The tagline for this movie is, “The story of a man ready to make a connection.” Ryan Bingham is a seasoned airline traveler with a company who fires people for corporations. His life is literally up in the air. He’s rarely home, he barely knows his younger sister who is getting married soon, and his life can be summed up in one neat little carry-on bag. And he loves it.

Ryan isn’t ready to make a commitment, or so he thinks until he meets Alex played by Vera Farmiga. She is the girl who is the female him. Also travels extensively, knows the ins and outs of car rental, and covets the American Airlines concierge key in Ryan’s possession.

Another thing that Ryan has that Alex doesn’t is scruples. More on that in a minute.

As Ryan and Alex rearrange their schedules so they can be in the same city at the same time, Ryan begins to fall for Alex. The self-proclaimed loner bachelor begins to enjoy feeling like a couple. After his sister’s wedding, he has an epiphany. Love means never having to be alone again.

Ryan has this epiphany in the middle of a seminar where he is the keynote speaker. When he’s not firing somebody, he’s speaking on baggage. . .internal that is. He teaches people how to cut the fat from their lives, and for him that used to mean relationships. But just as he’s introduced, he realizes that he no longer believes his own conviction. He leaves the podium and the thousand or so people who came to hear him and hops on a plane. When he lands, his rental car leads him to Alex’s doorstep, where she lives, or rather. . .where she lives with her husband and kids.

Ryan is crushed. It was because of Alex that he threw out his entire belief system. He no longer wants to live and die alone. He wanted a companion. Instead, he gets someone who angrily informs him that he was merely an escape, a “parenthesis.” How humiliating.

The end of the movie has Ryan continuing to fly, but the zeal is gone. He no longer sparkles when talking to the ticket agent. He has lost the spring in his step as he drags his carry-on bag behind him. The fun is gone, and now he is just another passenger traveling from one destination to another.

How can a “give-me-true-love-or-give-me-death” kind of gal like me enjoy a movie like this? Because it made sense. People are wired to connect with other people. I loved watching him change to the person I knew he could be. And then, I was just as angry at Alex as he was. The story put me in his shoes; I empathized with him. That’s the key to any good story, by the way.

Don’t get me wrong. I longed to see him glance across the aisle to a pretty woman who shyly grins back, giving me some kind of hope that he would be okay. But I didn’t get it. For all I know, Ryan is still up in the air, sipping his cocktail, and avoiding commitment.

This, my writer-peeps, is how to write a character arc backwards. Ryan starts out happy with his life in perfect order. It changed when he met Alex, and he was still happy but his introspection changed. Disney would have given him a happily-ever-after. But the rule of arcing your character is not that the hero/heroine end up in contentment, but simply that they end up in a place different from where they started.

And the writer did it perfectly.


Up In the Air -