Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Steel review

Time to talk about the new Superman movie, Man of Steel.

In short; I LOVED IT!

Okay, okay . . . I know there are all kinds of critics out there who are crying big alligator tears and lamenting like the followers of Moses trudging along the desert in their complaints on how Superman has changed dramatically.

Tough tamales, Tomas. 

To re-invent the franchise Superman HAD to change.

Let's get something straight; for a number of us the traditional Superman character was just too much.  Too handsome.  Too honest.  Too naive.  And WAY too POWERFUL.    He wasn't so much a super hero as he was the embodiment of a classical Greek god.  He was invincible and incapable of feeling pain.

Without weaknesses in a hero where is the thrill of victory in both overcoming the weaknesses and your foe?  No weaknesses means no one could stand against such a powerful creature with any possible chance of succeeding (readily I'll admit Lex Luthor and his brains made a good run for the money . . . but who really believed he could beat Superman?)

Along comes Henry Clavil and his interpretation of a reluctant super hero.  Handsome, brave, naturally caring, nevertheless this superman is carrying a great burden.  He knows he's different from the rest of the world.  Yet he doesn't know how to fit in.

In the movie Superman's natural father will say his son will be 'like a god' among Earthmen.  But Superman's adoptive human parents have a different take.  They know their son will always be 'different' from the others.  And being 'different' in Superman's version of being different means the majority of human will look upon him as a monster.

Therein lies the success of this movie.  The turmoil Superman has to go through to prove to others . . . and more importantly to himself . . . he is worthy.

For me everything about this movie worked.  The sci-fi geek in me absolutely went bug-eyed over the geewhiz gizmos Jor-El (Superman's natural father) plays with on his homeworld AND in the spaceship found lying in ice on Earth.  I LOVED the battle armor the bad guys wore.   I loved the choices for actors depicting Superman's two fathers.  Russell Crowe for Jor El and Kevin Costner for his Terran father.  Both men are iconic in their depictions.  Both give off those vibes that make you wish you could hang with'em for a day or two just for the heck of it.

Now for the controversy the movie has generated;  Superman, at the end of the movie, killing General Zod.  Yes. . . you heard it right . . . Superman actually killing someone.

Since I've never been a real fan of Superman I didn't know his legend was that of an all-powerful being who did not use his power to kill.  If you ask me, brother, taking on the gig of being a superhero and NOT killing a bad guy or two has to be a tough row to hoe.  To be honest, when the evil general gets his neck popped . . . well, tough cookies, general baby!  You deserved it!

A hero who never . . . ever . . . is placed in situations where the bad guys don't get whacked occasionally just doesn't sound right to me.  But the angst the big guy goes through in doing the dirty deed makes for a good cinematic story.

Are there flaws in the movie.  Yes.  Does the movie plod along?  Oh, my!  It moves along excellently.  Are match ups for actors to characters a good match?  Superb!  Would you go see another movie with this cast?  Sign me up, Kal-El.  I'm there!

Go see the movie.  Judge for yourself.  I suspect you're gonna like Henry Clavil's version of Superman.  Like it a lot!

Friday, June 14, 2013

One Lost Summer; the newest from Richard Godwin

A good friend of ours, Richard Godwin, has a new book out called One Last Summer.

An absolutely brilliant writer, Richard's been main lined here in this blog before.  Erudite, cosmopolitan, his writing is particularly insightful.  His newest is no less fascinating. 

Obviously the thought of interviewing Richard about the new book crossed my mind.  It's always good to hear the machinations and construction of the novel from the author himself.  Fortunately Richard was more than happy to comply.

So without further ado, here's our conversation over his newest book.


1.  Richard, you have a new book coming out.  Tell us a little about it.

One Lost Summer is very much a summer novel, it is also in many ways a Noir novel.  Rex Allen loves star quality in women. He moves into a new house in a heat wave with few possessions apart from two photographs of his dead daughter. His next door neighbour, beautiful Evangeline Glass invites him over to one of her many summer parties, where he meets her friends and possessive husband Harry. Rex feels he knows Evangeline intimately. He starts to spy on her and becomes convinced she is someone other than who she pretends to be. When he discovers she has a lover, he blackmails her into playing a game of identity that ends in disaster.
One Lost Summer is a novel about obsession, love, memory and identity, and much more. It explores the things that make us feel we have an identity and what happens when those things are removed from us, as well as the extent to which we can know anyone, even ourselves. It also about how much we understand the irrational impulses that drive us.
Rex Allen, the protagonist, might say it is about what happens when you forget. Evangeline, his beautiful next door neighbour, might say it is about being trapped and the things you do to escape. Coral, the character around whom much of the drama revolves, might say it is about reality and how easy it is to manipulate it. Harry, Evangeline’s husband, might say it is about lies and liars.

2.  Give us the provenance for it.  What and when did that germ of an idea for the new book pop into your head?

 I was thinking about the things that make up identity and decided to explore them. I was also thinking about the double lives some people lead.

3.  Is this new book in any way different in style when compared to your other works?  Is this one another deep psychological thriller?  Or might we expect a grand adventure?

This one is different. My first novel ApostleRising was a violent police procedural, and at the
same time an investigation into the effects of evil on a police officer. Mr. Glamour also had a high body count but was in many ways a satire on a set of people obsessed with designer goods. One Lost Summer is not violent. I would call it  a Noir novel that is also a work of psychological suspense. It is not a grand adventure, it is more a suspenseful dig into what makes us assume an identity, it is also about nostalgia and how misleading it is. It is about loss and perception.

4.  The more books a writer releases into the reading public, does it help establish the brand name of a writer?  The more the better?  Or should a writer worry more about the quality of their product rather than the volume of  production?

I think quality should always take precedence over quantity. And in many ways that typifies the problem with publishing, an industry that uses a quantitative analysis of something, writing, that is purely qualitative.

5.  Returning back to the new one, tell us about the main character.  Someone we already know?  And their flaws . . . every great character has a certain set of flaws.  Are there any in this one we should look for?

Everyone is flawed.  As Rex Allen digs into the life of his beautiful next door neighbour he himself becomes unmasked and unhinged. He is in the grips of an irrational impulse that has a precise geography in his life, but he has lost the map.
Evangeline herself, beautiful dishonest, Evangeline, who is trapped by Rex and traps him in turn does not understand the forces at work that reveal her flaw. It may be that Coral, the character Rex asks Evangeline to act out in their secret meetings is Evangeline’s alter ego and the ultimate crack in her facade that was crumbling when Rex first arrived in
Broadlands Avenue in the middle of a heat wave that changed everything. Harry, Evangeline's possessive husband has a dubious past and is flawed in his need to own people.

 6.  Of course we're interested in the villain!  Or villains. What can you reveal to us that will only entice us even more to hurry and acquire the new one?

One Lost Summer is about the lies people tell themselves to carry on living. Rex is an unlikely villain, a sophisticated man with expensive tastes in search of reality. The novel explores the moral parameters we operate inside in order to define ourselves. The events of One Lost Summer seem initially to exist in the mind of Rex Allen until you realise otherwise. Then there is an extremely dramatic revelation. It is also a real summer read. 

 7.  And finally, with a new one almost here, have you started working on the next book?  Care to tell us anything about it?

I have. I am under contract with Black Jackal Books for my next crime novel for 2014. I have also signed a contract with Italian publisher Atlantis, to write a mini-series and a novel for Christmas. It takes place in various European cities, with an emphasis on the crime of each city and with a Noir feel. Both the series and novel will be published in English and Italian.    
Here's where you can find Richard on the net.  You'll find his Chin Wag at the Slaughterhouse filled with information about Richard, and Richard's many interviews with fellow writers.  Get to know this guy.  You'll discover a first-rate writer and one astute intellect.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book trailers

Let's talk book trailers today.  You know, the absolutely MUST HAVE one or two minute blurb that EVERY writer must create in order to kick start his novel.  Videos plastered onto every video sharing site in the known universe.

Lots of questions.

Do they work?  How long should they be?  Should the images be still photos or animated?

And the sound?  What kind of a sound track should be included?  Should it be loud or soft?  Music or horses neighing?  And then there's the video sharing sites.  How many to use?  Can there be too little, or too many, one might flood their wares onto?

Questions.  Lots of questions.

Know what?  I haven't a fracken clue.  First, I'm not that sure book trailers work too well . . . although I'll readily admit, I have a ball making my own.  There's just not a whole hell of a lot of facts out there in Make Believe Land that gives you a hint on their efficacy.  I've never heard a successful writer rave about his book trailers.  Yes, I've listened to the sales pitches of promoters who are hawking their video-making skills.  THEY are quite positive a good book trailer will make or break a wannabe author.

Hmmmm . . . doubtful there, Quasimodo.  Very doubtful.

I suspect a good video of a book trailer might tickle the interest of the reader who is  teetering over whether to buy the book or not.  IF the book buyer, the book, and the video all converge on the same point at the same time.

And that's the point;  all three interests have to converge onto each other at the same time.  How many times does that happen in the grand scheme of things?

Still . . .

My problem is I can't (or haven't figured how to)  insert the trailers into a wide market base.   If these puppies have any hope of working they need to be seen by a lot of people.  And I mean a lot of people.  Five or six video sharing sites are not going to hit that sweet spot which will generate mass hysteria.  Fifty or sixty video sites might be the number needed.

So maybe . . . just maybe . . . the schlep who does these video for a living and knows the markets which will be the most successful should be the route to go.  If you can afford their services.


The other question . . . or fascination . . . for me is the choice of background music.  A key factor, if you ask me, on the success or failure of a book trailer.  Music sets the mood for the reader.  And it's their mood that decides whether they buy the book or not.  Therefore I think one should be quite selective when it comes to the choice of music.

So let's see if I am right or not.  The last couple of days I made two trailers for the newest novel out on the market of mine.  Guilt of Innocence.  It's the newest Turner Hahn/Frank Morales novel.  I essentially used the same images for each trailer.  But text and selection of music are different.  Watch both of them and then decide for yourself which one is more effective.

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bullitt and the feeling of Deja Vu

The other night I watched Steve McQueen's Bullitt on the American Classic Movies channel.  As I watched a number of startling revelations hit me at once.  Some I actually thought quite profound.
The first thought crossing my mind is how American movies in the action/police drama genre have changed over the years.  In part changed, thank you very much, because of this movie.  I'm only partially talking about the famous chase scene in the movie.  The rolling carnage of a rumbling Dodge Charger and its powerful Hemi driven by the bad guys being chased by McQueen in his British Racing Green Ford Mustang with its butch-sounding 390 V-8.  Up and down the famous hilly streets of San Francisco--this chase scene becoming the standard ALL chase scenes afterwards would be judged by.
Gives you a tingly sensation seeing the birth of a iconic image like this.  It really does.
But what really caught my attention was McQueen's way of acting.  I was stunned by the lack of verbiage (dialogue) in the movie.  McQeen tells a story of a complex murder through innuendo;  through side-long glances.  Through pauses in what little dialogue there is.  I haven't done this yet but the thought crossed my mind that throughout the entire movie I'd bet at least a nickle (and that's a pretty big bet for me, brother) McQueen doesn't say more than 150 words max from start to finish in dialogue.
That was his style.  He excelled at it.  And in this movie it was a brilliant performance.
Now think of today's movies.  Lots of talk.  Lots of explosions.  Lots of outrageous physical action which defies Physics and Gravity at the same time.  Lots of forgettable movies.
But the truly profound discover I realized while watching the movie was the stunning disconnect of seeing history flashing before my eyes.  Seeing a world I remember living in.  Yet at the same time having this deja vu like sensation of seeing an alien world in front of me.
In the shots showing the skyline of San Francisco there is no Transamerica Building.  That famous pyramid shaped 85 floored building that dominates today's San Francisco. The movie was made in 1968.  The Transamerican building's construction didn't start until '69.  Kinda spooky realizing you're looking at a piece of history filmed just before Modern Times.
But there's more.  The other thing that jarred my jingle bells was the startling realization just how much today's technology has ingrained itself into our lives.  A scene in the movie shows a suspect, gunned down (and the center piece for the whole movie's plot), in an hospital surgery unit being worked on by a group of doctors and nurses.  There is no technology present.  No multiple monitor screens keeping track of the patient's vitals.  No high tech gizmos with attending specialists hovering in the back of the room waiting to be called upon.  Instead the impression you get is a surgery room that's startling primitive in nature.
There are no cell phones.  No computers.  No small two way radios.  Nothing.  You don't see pedestrians talking on their cell phones as they are walking down the streets.  You don't see gigantic digital screens flashing advertising slogans off buildings.  What you do see is a native species living lives completely divorced from technology.
A jarring revelation, quite frankly.
There is a reason why this particular movie so vividly impressed me compared to, say, watching an old reel of the Keystone Cops filled back in the 1920's.  Back in '68 I was 19 years old.  A year out of high school.  Already married and a father.  I knew the old technology back then.  Was familiar with many of the cars. Familiar with the turtle neck sweaters and sport coats McQueen wears in the movie.
I remember living in this alien world.
And that scares me the most.