Apr 19 2013

VBS Development Diary #11: Act 3

This week marked 4 months since we started working on this year’s VBS. Typically at the 4 month mark we are getting ready to perform, but we haven’t even created any props, sets, or costumes, and haven’t rehearsed a line. In fact, the performers don’t even have the script yet.

The reason is this: despite a good plot and a good first draft, the script wasn’t really that great. It didn’t stink–but when I finished the story, even as the writer, I felt kind of let down. Not quite end-of-a-Michael-Crichton-novel kind of let down (I’m looking at you, Sphere), but definitely underwhelmed.

So by mid February I knew the final act needed some work. The problem is, the last night has a lot of action, and I kind of stink at writing action scenes–I’m more of a story-and-dialogue guy. The funny thing is I’ve been listening to a podcast about screenwriting, and both screenwriters on the show mentioned that they hate writing action scenes as well. So I knew it was going to take some focused time and attention, which is always hard to come by.

Then the last two weeks of February blizzards hit mid-Missouri and I got three free snow days from work. Now, how to do this? Thankfully, I still have about a bazillion action figures–some I’ve had since I was a kid. Allison and I busted out the WWE wrestling ring playset, assorted G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Total Justice, and Lord of the Rings figures, as well as a tub of Jenga blocks.

We set up the Jenga blocks to roughly simulate the set for the last night’s action scenes, then placed the figures roughly where they would start. Then we basically played with action figures until we worked out the placement of the actors and how they would interact, then performed the scene while describing what was going on and filmed it with the iPhone. Within probably 90 minutes we had solved our last night’s plot problems and worked out all of the action scenes.

It was a good thing we filmed them, too. When I finally sat down last week to transcribe the voice notes from those video storyboards, I realized that I had forgotten almost everything we had recorded–I guess my brain didn’t feel the need to remember since we had filmed them. I wrote the first of three action scenes the other day.

The reason I am spending all of this time when I already had a finished script in hand is that there is no fix for a bad script. You’ve probably seen movies that tried to compensate for a bad script with special effects, sex, or explosions, and in the end, it was just a sexed-up, impressive-looking, explosion-filled bad story.

There’s no fix for bad writing other than good writing. Hopefully the extra effort will in fact prove to be an improvement.

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Aug 7 2009

Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Fifteen minutes into the midnight showing of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra the film burned and broke.

That was my favorite part of the movie.

No, I’m not kidding.

If I hadn’t been there with my children and students I would have walked out shortly after they got it back up and running.

I can say without exaggeration that I hated every minute of this movie.

To call it a steaming pile of poo would be to besmirch the good name of steaming piles of poo.

I know I’ve given some movies some bad reviews on this site. Some angry, scathing reviews. All of those movies were better than this. Even The Happening. Even Jumper. Even Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

My friend Clavis was there, and he said that he has been bored enough to rent several of  the cheezy movies at Redbox, and this was worse than all of them.

I went into this movie with low expectations. After all, it’s directed by Stephen Sommers, the guy who gave us Van Helsing back in 2004. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to set expectations low enough.

There are words to describe exactly how I feel about this movie. Those words are called profanity. Speaking of profanity, G.I. Joe has lots of it, so you might not wanna take your kids. I haven’t yet gotten an up-close look at the Hasbro toys based on the movie, but hopefully for the sake of accuracy they have one with a voice chip that takes God’s name in vain.

There are also several graphic scenes that aren’t suitable for children, including one guy who gets giant needles stabbed in his neck, has a seizure, and gets his face eaten off by nanobots, which resemble a flesh-eating green mist.

That’s it for the spoiler-free portion of the review. Now that I have given you how I felt, the following details why:

Duke and Ripcord are a couple of Army guys. They get thrown into G.I. Joe, a secret classified elite fighting force, a group so big on secrecy they bring these two noobs to their secret base.

It’s a good thing, too. Apparently this ultra-elite fighting force consists of people who, unlike Wolverine, aren’t the best they are at what they do. Duke and Ripcord are pretty much better than this entire team, with the exception of Snake Eyes.

That’s OK though–shortly after joining the team the two noobs get special effects accelerator suits that make them almost as good as Snake Eyes. They don’t need special suits to be smarter than alleged smart-girl heroine Scarlett.

For you needless flashback fans out there, this is your Holy Grail.

If you aren’t tired of CGI special effects yet, then maybe this movie will cure that for you. This movie has so many explosions and fireballs it makes the complete Michael Bay anthology tepid and quaint.

Destro and his team use holographs to communicate to each other. Of course the point of a hologram is to be able to communicate with another human, and vice versa. In quite possibly the stupidest point in the movie, three holograms ride on a submarine together with no other humans in the craft. And no, I am not making this up or even exaggerating one quanta.

Also, ice sinks in water. Make a note of it.

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