Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Posts Tagged ‘stories

Quick Review: Avatar

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Saw the movie.  I hope to expand my thoughts and deliver a real review, but here’s the gist: Avatar is a great B-movie, wrapped up in incredible special effects. 

The story is its biggest weakness; the narrative fails to challenge the audience on any level.  And that’s okay–there’s a lot left there to enjoy.  The problem is that there’s so much there Cameron never bothered to tap.

Hope to write more on this soon.  For now, Overstreet’s review pretty much nails it.

Written by taj

January 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm

A Brief Word on Under the Dome

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1074 pages.  The story achieves lift-off somewhere around page 100, and rockets full-throttle all the way to page 1042.  Those last 32 pages kill the entire ride.

Written by taj

December 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm

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The New Avatar Trailer…

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…still fails to impress.  I get a real Attack of the Clones vibe from this movie the more I see of it and I don’t think I’m the first person to write that down.  Much of the production design looks like it was lifted from other films.  It still resembles a video game.  And from the looks of it, some of the CG looks just a tad unnatural. 

There are glimpses of the kind of movie-making at which Cameron typically excels.  “You get me what I need, I’ll see to it you get your legs back.  Your real legs.”

Some moments lack any hint of subtext.  “We’re going up against gunships with bows and arrows.”

Then there are glimpses of inspiring moments that fail to inspire.  “They’ve sent us a message that they can take whatever they want.  Well, we will send them a message: that this, this is our land!”

In 23 years we’ve come from “Get away from her you bitch!” to “this is our land!”

(shakes head)

Still…it’s a three-hour film and this is only a three-minute trailer.  Internet video often pales to an IMAX screen, and the greater resolution may improve the rendered CGI.  The only thing keeping this on the must-see radar, however, is the promise of stereoscopic 3-D. 

And that’s a real shame.

Written by taj

October 30, 2009 at 8:49 am

Review: FlashForward – “No More Good Days” (Pilot)

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flash_forward_promo_posterLet’s get it out of the way: Lost changed things for television.  Every year since its 2004 premiere, networks have tried to emulate its magic, with varying degrees of success.  This year’s entry from ABC is FlashForward.  It carries the same network logo, a pair of familiar faces, even a billboard advertising a certain ill-fated airline.  But while FlashForward’s spin on the Lost paradigm captures its sense of oddity, it lacks the patience and sense to let the audience engage on its own. 

We open on a man who wakes to find a disaster.  Instead of a doctor, we learn he’s a federal agent.  Instead of an island, we find him in Los Angeles.  Instead of a plane crash, everything has crashed—cars, helicopters, you name it.  It’s happened all over the world.  For two minutes, everyone on the planet blacks out, and glimpses their lives six months in the future. 

The pilot’s opening tease, including the brief flashback to fill us in on the jolting intro, suffers from narrative ADD.  In nine minutes, we’re introduced to ten separate characters with five interconnected storylines.  And that’s all before the “event” even takes place.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by taj

October 2, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Still no release date for The Prisoner

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the_prisoner_2009According to both AMC and IMDB, The Prisoner has no official release date.  Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellan star in the remake of Patrick McGoohan’s cult classic.

AMC’s web site only mentions the November 2009 time frame, and IMDB hints that the mini-series will span six episodes.  Other than that, details are scarce.

Producers have touted the new mini-series as a reimagining of the original, which has angered some purists.  At the San Diego Comic-Con, the creative team seemed to express that Patrick McGoohan supported the project before his death.

The nine minute trailer unveiled at the Con suggests the reimagined tale broaches themes of identity, faith and belief, and concepts of freedom–all useful components in modern myth making.

If Battlestar Galactica is any indication, remakes and reimaginings can work, and sometimes even surpass the original.

In The Prisoner, “Number Six” (Jim Caviezel) finds himself trapped in an isolated environment known as “The Village,” whose inhabitants refer to themselves by number rather than name, under the control of the enigmatic “Number Two” (Ian McKellan).

You only think you’re free…

Written by taj

September 22, 2009 at 5:28 pm


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Alien_FosterWhile film novelizations tend to sit in the realm of the literary gutter, a small handful have managed transcend the stigma.  Most notably is Orson Scott Card’s, The Abyss.  Lesser known, however, is Alan Dean Foster’s riff on the original Alien

Finding a copy of either one of these is a challenge — novelizations on average will only see one printing before they wind up on a rack inside a used book store.  But I spotted a copy of Alien sitting in the window of one this week. 

I snagged it for a buck fifty.

Written by taj

September 17, 2009 at 3:56 pm

James Cameron’s Avatar Trailer Disappoints

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Last week, after 12 years of anticipation, the general public received its first look at James Cameron’s follow-up to TitanicAvatar

Given the sudden deluge of promotion after a long absence of any real PR for the film, high excitement just might plow over any inherent weaknesses the film may contain.  Granted, at this point, every observation is mere supposition.  That said, the trailer hints that trouble lies beneath the film’s glossy IMAX veneer. 

At just a hair over two minutes, the trailer crams in a collection of stunning imagery, almost no hint of plot, and barely a whisper of character.  Most of Avatar’s visuals thus far resemble other films.  We’ve seen giant mech-warriors wage bloody war; we’ve seen gargantuan creatures devour humans.  Even the floating rocks resemble a scene from a Final Fantasy game. 

Reaction, depending on who you read, is a little mixed at this point.  People coming out of the 16-minute “Avatar Day” IMAX preview last Friday have raved at the presentation.  Kyle Smith’s initial enthusiasm praises every taste of eye-candy, and seems hungry for more.  USA Today quotes one viewer in Alexandria, Va. who called it “mind blowing.” 

On the other hand, the two-minute trailer released last Thursday left many viewers doubtful.  The glimpse left film critic and author Jeffrey Overstreet underwhelmed.  Disappointment rounded discussion in an Ain’t it Cool News Talkback forum, one talkbacker even calling it a “blueman version of Last of the Mohicans.”

There’s no question the stereoscopic IMAX 3D rendition will amaze anyone with eyes.  The visuals, though tainted with unoriginal particulars, still look gorgeous.  Cameron has always shot his films with layer and depth; working his magic in 3D is the next logical step.  The film, however, should not have to depend on the way it’s viewed.  A CGI Gollum still managed to enthrall without the aid of 3D glasses, or a 50-foot screen. 

I’ve written before that Cameron’s films provide an experience more than a story.  Telling/selling a story at that level means ensuring that the experience serves the narrative.  Flip that notion, and you wind up with something more like The Phantom Menace

Avatar premieres December 18, 2009.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed. 

(also posted at Blogcritics)

Written by taj

August 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm

“Writers write. Posers whine about how hard it is.”

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So says John August (writer of Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Nines, and others).  I like August’s blog; he always has a sobering word for writers hanging out on the lower rungs. 

Writers get stuck.  Stephen King made it halfway through his first draft of The Stand and hit a wall, which he overcame a few weeks later.  That’s not writer’s block.  Real writer’s block cripples the writer with paralyzing anxiety.  Usually, when a writer invokes a block, they’re either “non-writers” as August calls them, or they’re ignoring the basic principles. 

Bodie Thoene tells a story of one of her first staff writing gigs, facing a deadline and an angry empty page.  Her editor only admonished her–what do they teach you people, he said.  Stick to the fundementals–who, what, when, where, why, how.  Thoene wrote her piece and handed it in with minutes to spare. 

Writers write.

Written by taj

August 19, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Book Review: The Templar Lagacy by Steve Berry

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TemplarLegacyWritten in 2006, The Templar Legacy joined a growing glut of Templar stories.  Once again the narrative takes on the myth of those legendary knights and the secrets they protected.  Once again, the effort subverts Christian tradition.  Readers offended by The Da Vinci Code beware—Steve Berry’s novel is both more subversive, and a slightly better read. 

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Written by taj

August 13, 2009 at 6:00 am

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“A lunatic is easily recognized. He is a moron who doesn’t know the ropes. The moron proves his thesis; he has a logic, however twisted it may be. The lunatic, on the other hand, doesn’t concern himself at all with logic; he works by short circuits. For him, everything proves everything else. The lunatic is all idée fixe, and whatever he comes across confirms his lunacy. You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.”

Umberto EcoFoucault’s Pendulum

Written by taj

August 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm