Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Five - Movies

READER BEWARE: Opinions Are Expressed Below

You now know MY top five favorite books. So what becomes of a good book? It becomes a movie! So now it's time for MY top five favorite movies. The synopsis for each movie was provided by the Netflix website. For some of the movies, I provided my own insight as well.


Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman

***In this Oscar-winning classic, American expat Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) plays host to gamblers, thieves and refugees at his Moroccan nightclub during World War II ... but he never expected Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) - the woman who broke his heart -- to walk through that door. Ilsa hopes that with Rick's help, she and her fugitive husband (Paul Henreid) can escape to America. But the spark that brought the lovers together still burns brightly.***

My Take: I hate movies about romance, but I couldn't help but love Casablanca. Here's a little factoid for you...the writers changed the script so much during production that Bogart, Bergman and the rest of the cast had no clue who the character Isla was going to choose to love and leave at the end of the movie. Another factoid is that the movie's most famous line at the very end of the movie was not originally there. It was dubbed in later.

Sunset Bulevard starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden

***Running from debt collectors, screenwriter Joe (William Holden) stumbles upon the crumbling mansion of former silent-film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). As he begins working for Norma, writing a comeback screenplay, their professional relationship evolves into something more. A provocative look inside Hollywood show business, Billy Wilder's classic noir won Academy Awards for Art Direction, Music and Screenplay.***

My Take: This movie is funny, dark and disturbing. It has been said that Swanson was playing herself (which she really was). However, she didn't go off the deep end.

All About Eve starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter

***Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's sharp script anchors this story about New York City theater life, with Bette Davis playing an aging Broadway diva who employs a starstruck fan (Anne Baxter) as her assistant, only to learn the woman is a conniving upstart. The now-classic All About Eve won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Mankiewicz), Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders).***

My Take: This movie has the most Oscar nominations in film history (14)...what else needs to be said? And I might add, this was a time when Oscars really did go to the best movies.

Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig and Eva Greene

***Martin Campbell (GoldenEye) directs the 21st film adaptation of the 007 franchise, which marks Daniel Craig's debut as James Bond and plays him against a corrupt financier (Mads Mikkelsen) in a showdown of Texas Hold 'Em. Eva Green stars as Vesper Lynd, and the sublime Judi Dench reprises her role as M. Because the action is based on Ian Fleming's first novel, you'll also learn critical facts about Bond's back story.***

My Take: Gasp! I chose this movie above all the other classic Bond films? Yes, I did and I'm not ashamed. Why? Because Daniel Craig breathed new life into the aging Bond character, and the whole scenario was very believable.

Batman Returns starring Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito

***Trouble returns to Gotham in director Tim Burton's sequel as Batman (Michael Keaton) battles three new villains plotting to take over the city, including corrupt businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), the hideous Penguin (Danny DeVito) and the mysterious Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer). This comic book brought to life drew two Oscar nods for its visuals, but its dark themes and violence led Warner Bros. in a lighter direction for Batman Forever.***

My Take: I was going to put Inception here, but I couldn't shake away a movie that I have known about practically since I was born (exaggeration). I'm not even going to attempt to hide the reason why I love this movie...Michelle Pfeiffer's amazing performance as the deeply troubled, leather clad seductress Catwoman.


Napoleon Dynamite starring Jon Heder

***This Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee follows Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), a quirky, ninja-loving teenager growing up in the far reaches of Idaho, whose life gets complicated when his shady Uncle Rico (John Gries) shows up with a scheme to sell plastic serveware. While a shy girl (Tina Majorino) starts showing Napoleon some attention, his new best friend (Efren Ramirez) decides to run for school president.***

My Take: Don't even get me started on this complete waste of film...and my life.

Photos provided by Google

Friday, August 27, 2010

Popcorn Worthy? - The Last Exorcism

READER BEWARE: Opinions Are Expressed Below

I'll admit it...I'm a sucker for movies that have the home recorded effect. I'm talking about the nauseating, shaky camera movies like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Quarantine and Paranormal Activity. It's kind of a sick pleasure to watch the alleged real footage of inevitably doomed (and stupid) people. The Last Exorcism follows this same formula.

"If you believe in God, you must believe in the Devil"

The central character is Cotton Marcus from Baton Rouge. When Marcus was a little boy, he rose to fame in the religious community as the leading expert in performing exorcisms. He soon followed in his father's footsteps (who had 150 exorcisms underneath his old belt) and became a charismatic evangelical minister. All was going well for Marcus until a young boy from Harrisburg, Texas was suffocated to death in order to cast his demon out. This is the point when Mr. Miracle reveals his true colors. You see, all of the exorcisms Marcus performed were money grubbing scams. So with guilty conscious and doubted faith in hand, Marcus sets off to set things right. Marcus takes a documentary crew behind the scenes to show them how "un-real" his (and others) exorcisms are by performing one last time on camera.

Through random selection, Marcus chooses his last exorcism and answers the pleas of Louis Sweetzer who claims his daughter Nell is possessed by the devil himself. With camera crew in tow, Marcus sets off to the Sweetzer Ranch located in the deep backwoods where demonic superstition runs rampant. Here in hillbilly paradise, Marcus does not heed warnings to return back home and meets the highly dysfunctional Sweetzer family. The father is a religious tyrant, the brother is sitting on the thin line of insanity and Nell is as sweet as pumpkin pie...suspiciously sweet. Well as luck would have it, Marcus stumbles upon a bonafide case of possession. Throughout the movie, he has a hard time admitting this despite all the foreshadowing and not so subtle clues.

As far as scares go, this film is riddled with nail biting moments (as well as some pretty good humor). I'm talking about cold sweat, hair standing on end and edge of your seat fear that makes the girl 10 rows behind you scream to the top of her lungs (as well as a few curse words from several other people). You never really know what is coming up next or what you will see. It's one shock after another I can assure you. That's the excitement behind it all...there's an actual air of mystery to the plot. I'll just say that actress Ashley Bell, who brilliantly plays possessed Nell, provided most of the scares through her glaring stares and contortionist abilities (yes she really can bend into all of those positions...look it up).

The only drawback to this film is its ending. It starts off spooky with screaming in the woods and demonic chanting, but it pays off being pretty much absurd and frustrating. There was a definite ending this movie could have had, and it would have been absolutely wonderful...but they had to take it one more step further. It was a step that pretty much left everyone grumbling.

Two more things of importance...never trust a ginger, and there is no climbing on the ceiling as the trailer implies (consider me disappointed on that point).

3.5 Popcorn Kernels Out Of 5 (great suspense, excellent performance from Ashley Bell, weak ending)

Photo provided by Google

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Library

This summer I sold my soul to the devil, and I found myself back at the Franklin County Library. I had no problem with that though. I'm very service oriented, and I enjoyed serving the wonderful citizens of Mount Vernon (no sarcasm there). I had volunteered my services at the library once before, so it was good to see "The Library Girls" again AKA the amazing women I work with. They were glad to see me too...especially when the heavy objects came into play. Just kidding! They enjoy my entertainment a lot as well.

I would now like to take this opportunity and inform you that working at a library is NOT easy work. The library this summer was a crazy place to be between children's programs (186 being our highest attendance), a snake, massive renovations, 2,700 book deletions, Coke Floats, Lemon Icebox Pies, babysitting, shocking patrons with $1 fax fees, belting out a friendly "HELLO!" every time someone came in, being a magician's assistant, blowing up balloons, helping computer illiterates, conducting research, teaching teenager's how to read non-electronic clocks, exterminating a hornet the size of my open palm, plotting to overtake the Loomis armored truck, and on and on... SO do not assume that we just sit and stare at computer screens and read books. You would be wrong.

It seems just like yesterday that I came back, and now I must go. I must return to college and continue my education. I will truly miss seeing my co-workers and our regular patrons. I may even miss seeing all of the children who wonder why I don't like Dr. Seuss, who keep the building loud and lively and beg for thirty more minutes on a computer. Okay, yes I will...

Well anyways, it's been a great summer at the library.

Thanks for having (and putting up with) me!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Five - Books

READER BEWARE: Opinions Are Expressed Below

I love to read, but I have managed to compile this list of books that I consider to be MY top five favorite reads. The synopsis for each book was provided by the Barnes and Noble website. For some of the books, I provided my own insight as well.

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

***The novel chronicles the relationship of Anthony Patch, a Harvard-educated, aspiring writer, and his beautiful young wife, Gloria. While they wait for Anthony’s grandfather to die and pass his millions on to them, the young couple enjoys an endless string of parties, traveling, and extravagance. Beginning with the pop and fizz of life itself, The Beautiful and the Damned quickly evolves into a scathing chronicle of a dying marriage and a hedonistic society in which beauty is all too fleeting. A fierce parable about the illusory quality of dreams, the intractable nature of reality, and the ruin wrought by time, The Beautiful and the Damned eerily anticipates the dissipation and decline that would come to the Fitzgeralds themselves before the decade had run its course.***

My Take: Even though The Great Gatsby is a close contender, I view this book as Fitzgerald's greatest work. It's engaging (and heartbreaking) to witness the deterioration of the two beautiful leading characters.


A Separate Peace by John Knowles

***Gene was a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas was a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happened between them at school one summer during the early years of World War II is the subject of A Separate Peace. A great bestseller for over twenty years, it is one of the most starkly moving parables ever written of the dark forces that brood over the tortured world of adolescence.***

My Take: The obsessive and paranoid darkness that consumes the main character is all too shocking. And the question is, were they more than just friends?

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

***Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires... The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning ... along with the houses in which they were hidden. Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames... never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think... and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do!***


The Giver by Lois Lowry

***In the story of a seemingly utopian city in a futuristic world, Jonas is singled out to receive special training from The Giver--who alone holds memories of pain and pleasure in life.***

Gone by Michael Grant

***In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE. Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no Internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened. Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day. It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...***

My Take: This book shows the terrifying adolescent struggle of humans versus human nature. The author seems to draw inspiration from Lord of the Flies and the Left Behind series.


The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

***The Sound and the Fury is made up of undifferentiated streams of consciousness that ultimately turn out to be the inner voices of a family's siblings. Its construction is so masterful that the last sentence refers the reader back to the first one, as any perfect work of art might do. Sound has the earmarks of a modern psychological study, although the book was published in 1929. It is a dramatic and harrowing tale of the Compson family's pathology—primarily in the form of incest and incestuous thoughts.***

My Take: The entire first section, told through the mentally disabled mind of Benjy, gives the reader a bitter taste of what is to be expected...absolute crap.

Photos provided by Google

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Shell

Here's a little story about a girl who enters a terrifying situation...

I stared at an insipid shell. Its glazed, sunken eyes didn’t notice me as a shiver worked its way up my spine. The lighting around me was warm and welcoming, but the shell’s sickly pallid hue made the room bitterly chilly. How did I get here? That was the least of my worries as the shell sensed my presence. It raised its red and purple needled arms to attack and hissed between its rotting teeth. I defended myself by lashing out to destroy the horror before my eyes. Its hard exterior shattered in a web-like pattern as my hands beat into its face. I tried to claw at its thin hair, but it escaped my grasp. The shell hunched over in defeat and watched me with hate in its bloodshot eyes. Blood flowed from its cracked face, but it felt no pain. I backed away – horrified. I was weak going against such a monster.

I placed my hands over my face to shield the sight of such a beast, and my eyes began to sting. Was just looking at the creature enough to scald eyes? No. That wasn’t it. I pulled my hands away to see that they were running with blood. The monster had inflicted damage upon me when I had cracked its frictionless shell. Blood from my hands slithered down its face. No. That wasn’t right either. I realized the truth.

I stared at myself in the cracked surface of a mirror.


And the point of this was to say...DON'T USE DRUGS!!!

Photo provided by Google

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dr Pepper's Next Big Promotion

Since I'm majoring in journalism and emphasizing my studies on PR work, I decided to take a stab at writing up a new promotion for my favorite soft drink...Dr Pepper. I'm using the "sex sales" angle here...

Do you have problems finding love and passion? Well if so, then I can’t help you there. But I do have a way to quench your other thirsts. With an ice cold fresh can or glass of Dr Pepper, you can send your taste buds on an orgasmic joyride. Just one taste will send a shiver of ecstasy throughout your entire body. With 23 great flavors in each individual sip, what more could you want from a drink? Don’t get high from Coke, drink a Dr Pepper. Dr Pepper (open and drink-----deeply sigh in delight). Now that’s fresh!

I think Dr Pepper will be flying off the shelves! Don't you?

Photo provided by

Friday, August 6, 2010

Popcorn Worthy? - Salt

READER BEWARE: Opinions Are Expressed Below

I recently discovered that I have the amazing power to predict the future. No, not's just that Salt, starring luscious lips Angelina Jolie, was just too predictable for my taste.

Let me start off by saying that this movie was intended for fun mindless action. Nothing else. It seemed like someone took the script, shot it up with an AK-47 and then decided to go with that. In other words, the plot and dialogue was flimsy. However, there was a great concept behind it all. Russian sleeper agents that are raised from birth are living in America...sound familiar? I even loved the Lee Harvey Oswald reference. Was he really a sleeper agent that successfully sent a Russian "screw you" message by killing John F. Kennedy? Other than those two concepts, the rest of the plot fell flat and I became bored.

As far as the action, it was the same old stuff. I wasn't on the edge of my seat at all, and a rush of adrenaline did not surge through my body even for a split second. Most of it could not be humanly possible to do without dying in the process. Sure it's a movie, and Jolie is a CIA agent (possible Russian spy), but she's also human. I guess they were going for a James Bond approach. Another flaw was the love factor. Jolie's character was married to a German (relatively unknown actor August Diehl), and the love was there...but not really. He had a weak screen presence (barely any presence at all) and no character development. The movie tried to convince me that they loved each other by showing three second flashbacks of them falling for each other. I just didn't feel it.

The only thing that this movie has going for it is Jolie herself. Otherwise I could have slept through this movie and not cared. I think everyone involved in this movie knew that too...that's why they ditched Tom Cruise and made the main role female. Jolie is a one of a kind lead action star and just what this movie needed to bring in an audience. And for the sidekick, best friend role, please cast someone else other than Liev Schreiber. He's a good actor, but he wasn't right for this movie because he ruined the ending. I won't say why...

And now for the music. It was nothing to write home about. If you want a good action movie, you've got to have some good music to back it up. It was lacking both.

The saddest part of all is that a sequel was set up. To be honest...I'm not going to see it. Who is Salt? I know who she is, and I've seen enough.

2.5 Popcorn Kernels Out Of 5 (for being boring and having gaping plot holes)

Photo provided by Google

Monday, August 2, 2010

Developing a Person

Where does the idea for a person come from? No, I'm not asking about the meaning of life...I'm talking about developing a fictional character. To be honest I don't consider them as characters. I actually see them all as people, not just a written name with some listed traits on a page. They live, they breath and they are a part of me and the people that surround me. I say this because a lot of characters come from real life walking inspirations...consciously or subconsciously.

Before putting anything down on paper, I develop a handful of characters (some I use and some that I save for a later book). I create their names, their looks and their entire life history. It is important to have some form of life history made out beforehand. It makes the character more believable...more real...more relatable. It also helps form a bond between the author and the character. If the author has no passion or emotional attachment to a character (even it is fear and loathing towards the antagonist), then they will just turn out flimsy and weak. Every character must be strong, even if it is a minor character that neither helps nor hinders the progress of your book. On top of that, every character must be flawed in some fashion. For Example: The protagonist has a dark secret to hide, he was beaten with the ugly stick or he even suffers from drug addiction.

Now comes the part where I will probably be shipped of to Terrell to weave wicker baskets and feed nuts to squirrels for the rest of my life. When I write, my characters speak to me. As I am writing about them, they seem so real that I can actually see them in my mind and hear all of their unique voices. They don't speak to me all the time, just when I need to figure out which direction to take the story. If anyone knows the setting and situation the best, it would be the characters. So I always listen to what they say, because they know their limitations.

Now it's time for me to get struck down by a bolt of lightening. To the characters, you are their god. You control every aspect of their life. You choose where they work, how much money they make, who they can and can not fall in love with and where (and if) they live. To sum it all up, you hold their fates in the palm of your hands. Who lives? Who dies? That's up to you. For me it is really hard to kill off some characters, but there are others that I know right off the bat that will not make it to Chapter 10.

If you asked me, personally I believe (whether you like it or not) every character is a mirror of your own subconscious. Sure you try to avoid that...but it will tend to slip out in bits and pieces. I'm not saying that inside of you is pure evil that wants to blow up half the planet...but some of the mannerisms...some of the thoughts...some of the feelings subconsciously slip through into your antagonist or any other character.

So if you want to get into the writing game, developing a person is one of the first steps to the next great book. Give it a try even if you don't want to write a book because creating your own personal character is actually really fun.