Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Harry Potter in Five Pages

The first page of the original synopsis of Harry Potter that J.K. Rowling sent to publishers is now online.

For those of you fortunate people who have never had to do this, agents, editors, and publishers often require a synopsis of a novel, along with sample pages. This is an incredibly . . . well, since I want to get published someday, I won’t finish that sentence. But think of it: You spend over a year writing a novel, then you have to summarize it in about three pages. And we’re told the synopsis has to be written in as interesting a way as the novel.

I can’t show you the page here. But to see the first page of the five-page synopsis J.K. Rowling wrote in 1995, click on the link below.


A couple things to note: A synopsis shouldn’t just be Person A does this, Person B does that. It should show what is unique about the novel. Also, the normal advice is to just name the main character, or perhaps a second character. J.K. Rowling named all three main characters, plus a couple others. I’m not sure if things are different for children’s book, of if the very names of the characters show what is interesting.


I’ve never been much of a Potter fan. But I did once have an incredibly detailed dream about the three main characters. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Screamingly Funny Slasher—Review of Happy Death Day

This may seem off-subject, but I say the best Jake Gyllenhaal movie was Source Code from six years ago:


(Was that six years ago? Wow. See my review here.)
Now imagine a slimmed-down version, without the science fictional elements. The screenwriter who riffed off of Source Code would have pitched it as comedy/horror.


The trailers emphasize different elements, but I saw that the death-by-bus scene in Happy Death Day was almost identical to the death-by-train scene in Source Code.

So I went to go see it. To my utter shock, the matinee cost $12.06. But I had come this far.

I found Happy Death Day amusing and entertaining. One reviewer said the movie didn’t take itself seriously, and that matched the trailer. As a bonus, the boy whose dorm room Tree wakes up in is emphatic that they did not have sex—he wouldn’t do that sort of thing. And they never do anything sexual.

But is it a rip-off of Source Code? I say yes. The clincher is that Tree keeps getting birthday texts from her father, which she ignores. Late in the movie, she reconciles with her father, and that gives her the emotional clearance she needs for the climactic moments. This matches how Colter Stevens in Source Code needed to reconcile with his father late in the movie before he could finally do what he had to.


Is it worth seeing? If you have that much disposable income, maybe. It would be best for you to wait for it to come out on Netflix. If you want to analyze it, watch Source Code first. If you want the entertainment aspects, watch Happy Death Day first, so you won’t be depressed by the lesser effort. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Don’t Mess with Kevin Sorbo

I’ve been torn about whether to post anything about the massive meltdown in Hollywood. Things done behind closed doors have been shouted from the rooftops.

Here’s a surprising example: Kevin Sorbo was sexually harassed.



Before he was an actor, Sorbo was a male model. (I know, hard to believe. Not.) He was set to pose one time when the guy in charge of the shoot grabbed his rear end. Sorbo turned around and punched the guy so hard he was knocked unconscious.

Kevin Sorbo was fired.


The fact that Kevin Sorbo went on to be famous may make readers think I’m saying this is how every person should react in this sort of situation. No. I don’t know how every person should react. But this sort of thing does happen. It happened to Kevin Sorbo. 

See my review of his autobiography here

Friday, September 29, 2017

Buffy the Vinyl Slayer

Below is the Buffy action figure made out of vinyl.




How important was the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer? See my entry titled “What if Buffy had Never Been?” 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Trek vs. Galactica

I didn’t watch the new Star Trek on Sunday. The SyFy channel very cleverly ran a Battlestar Galactica marathon over the weekend, and I was recording a stellar episode when the new Trek was playing.

To show you how important this sort of thing is, here’s a picture of yours truly standing near the actual prop that was used as Apollo’s viper throughout the series:



Notice the realistic detail, including the NO STEP on the wing.

To be fair, here I am in front of the actual chair Captain Kirk sat in during the original Star Trek:




Yes, it took me a few takes to get the chair and my head lined up, and my eyebrow just right. Can you blame me? 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Truth or Lie

Crystal Collier’s blog takes its place as one of the more amusing ones in the blogosphere. A typical entry has her wry take on the world around her, complete with relevant (or irrelevant) pictures and memes. Then she’ll introduce someone’s novel, complete with a back cover blurb, link to Amazon, and a bio of the author. Then come the lies.



The author comes up with three unusual statements about him/herself. Fellow bloggers get to guess which one is the lie. From the pool of those who guess correctly, one will win an e-book copy of the novel.


This is a nice blog to follow. And it’s not just because I won this last time. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Optimistic Hiroshima Movie: In this Corner of the World

In this Corner of the World is a beautifully animated, memoir-style movie. It focuses on Suzu Urano (married name Hojo). She starts out as a hard-working little girl who loves to draw. When she eventually does marry, she’s not quite certain of her bridegroom’s name. We see a real slice of life as she adjusts to married life in the 1930s.

During the war years, she uses ingenious methods to keep her family fed as the rations they’re issued keep diminishing. Then something horrible happens in 1945. Her home town was a suburb of Hiroshima, and she lives just a train ride away.



In this Corner of the World is not meant to make Americans feel guilty, or to argue the Japanese side of the war. It simply shows what everyday life was like in a bygone era. And despite what happens, it is ultimately a hopeful and optimistic story—although you have to stay through the end credits to really see this. (I’m told that in Japan, it’s normal to sit through the end credits, so often little extras are shown during or after.)

Many of the background scenes are hand-painted. Whether or not you’re an anime fan, you’ll want to see this movie.


For my review of Your Name, click here

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What if Buffy had Never Been?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed popular culture in more ways than one. It paved the way for the incredible dominance of urban fantasy in novels—these are the novels set in our modern times that tend to have women fighting vampires, werewolves, etc. At one point, as I was looking at the science fiction/fantasy shelves of a bookstore, a fellow walked by and complained about the lack of science fiction. “It’s all vampires now!” Although urban fantasy is currently shrinking, it’s still an established part of such bookshelves.

Those who are not into such novels would have noticed the uptick in TV shows set in contemporary times featuring vampires, werewolves, etc. They must have wondered what was going on!

Buffy also changed pop culture in another way. Their musical episode “Once More, with Feeling” was so successful, other TV series went on to have special musical episodes. I find the song “Walk through the Fire” to be one of the greatest popular songs ever written. It’s copyright, so I can’t show you it on this blog, but I’m sure you can find it. That soundtrack is definitely worth owning.

But what if Buffy had never been?



I’m talking about a slightly alternate universe. Many people wonder why Buffy wasn’t that successful in its first season (actually only a half-season in length). Why? It was up against Ally McBeal.

For those of you who don’t know, Ally McBeal had a very different portrayal of the feminine. It featured Ally literally swooning over men she met, and it dominated among young female viewers. As I watched the first season of Buffy and saw how fantastic it was, I knew that many young women who should have been watching it were wasting their time watching Ally McBeal. I was quite concerned Buffy wouldn’t make it.

But for its second season, Buffy was no longer on against Ally McBeal, and the rest is history. But what if Buffy had been cancelled?

Urban fantasy would not have dominated the bookshelves. TV shows with contemporary vampires and werewolves would have been far fewer. Even the movie scene would have changed, since I don’t believe the Twilight series would have been such a raging success without Buffy paving the way. I know that Ally McBeal had its share of musical numbers, but without the success of the Buffy musical, other TV series would not have dared to write entire episodes as musicals.

Joss Whedon, who was the driving force behind Buffy, is now directing The Avengers movies, which are changing expectations for movie blockbusters. But without the culture-changing success of Buffy, he would have just been some guy who felt sorry for the blondes who got killed in horror movies.


So instead of pop culture featuring variations of Buffy kicking a vampire’s head in, it would have been dominated by stick-figured women swooning over the men they liked. Now, isn’t that a nasty alternate universe?  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie Review: Valerian and the City of A Thousand Yawns

This is not a negative blog. I try to report only on positive things. But once in a while, things are so frustrating, I want to comment.

I almost fell asleep a couple times during Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I haven’t been this hyped up by the previews for a movie and then so disappointed at the reality of it in fifteen years. The main problem (and this is so ironic after attending a writers workshop yesterday) is that I couldn’t view Valerian as a sincere person. He was not a character I could sympathize with. And besides, Dane DeHaan sounds like a nasally version of Keanu Reeves.



Cara Delevingne as Laureline is even worse. She is a one-note cold fish towards Valerian throughout.

Yes, there are lavish special effects in Valerian. But it’s mostly a matter of telling, not showing. Here we are told there are some exotic aquatic aliens. There we are told there are exotic programming aliens. And that is it. They play no role in the story. The movie features elaborate CGI sets, but mostly they are rushed by. 

Click below to read the spoilers. 


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