Mar 7 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #10: Gospel vs. Blues

Both gospel and blues are musical traditions rooted in the American South, both are based in tragedy, pain, and misery. But the difference between gospel and blues is that the gospel offers hope. The very nature of the blues is that there is no hope. Your heart is broke, you’re probably going to die from it–and then things will get worse. Don’t matter whether it’s deserved or not, the point is that it stinks–and there’s nothing you can do about it.

It is completely true–I totally borrowed a plot element from a major motion picture for my VBS. The key difference is that the motion picture is a blues song. The character in the movie never changes–she begins selfish, everything she does is selfish, and the very last thing she does–committing suicide–is still selfish. There is no hope. To quote an oft-forwarded email, “The Blues are not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch; ain’t no way out.”

In my story there is hope–and change. Our protagonist does change–certainly beginning selfish, but becoming different. The funny thing is that for years I wanted to write an Iron Man kind of story–a selfish jerk goes through some really bad things and comes out on the other side different–better different–than he was before. But I never could seem to get it right; the scripts ended up morphing into something else. But this year I have inadvertently written that story.

From a storytelling perspective you want to see that change. If the character is the same in the first act as he is in the third act, then what was the point of this story? If Tony Stark is the same after becoming Iron Man as he was before he became Iron Man, the movie would be a failure (I’m looking at you, Jumper).

From a teaching standpoint you want to communicate that there is hope. If I fail to communicate that, then why did I write this VBS? If my only success is as a storyteller, then I have failed, because I missed the point of telling the story.

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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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Dec 18 2008

Review: Jumper

I was kind of apprehensive about seeing Jumper, as it starred Hayden Christensen, whom I despised from the Star Wars prequels. However, my brother, who generally has  good taste in movies, liked it alot and after much cajoling convinced me to see it.

This was the second worst movie I saw this year.

The main turd-in-the-Coke isn’t actually Hayden Christensen: it’s his character.

Spoilers follow.

He plays a kid in high school who suddenly finds that he can teleport. He uses this power to break into bank vaults and steal piles of money, beat up bullies who picked on him in school, and impress a girl. Samuel L. Jackson plays a mean guy who tries to kill him.

Early in the movie it is quite evident that his character is a lying, evasive, deceitful jerkface. But after everything he goes through, he finally learns that–well, nothing. He doesn’t learn anything; he remains the same jerk at the end of the movie as he was at the beginning of the movie. He is absolutely the most irritating protagonist since that guy in Drum Line. That is bad enough, but the real clincher is: his chicky leaves him because–guess what–he is a lying, evasive, deceitful jerkface–but then she comes back. Why?

Finally, Samuel L. Jackson fails to kill Hayden Christensen–something he should have done in Star Wars: Episode 2.

So, save yourself two hours of your life you will never ever get back and skip Jumper.

But, you may say, what will I do with my time?

Well, you could always start a blog where you spoil movies other people really like.

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