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I don’t know how to start this post, but I guess beginning with a simple statement of fact will suffice: I was bullied in high school.
It’s not something that I really like to talk about, and largely haven’t in the nearly nine years since I graduated. But that doesn’t change the fact that it happened. My story of being bullied is worse than others, but not nearly as bad as some. I was lucky in the fact that, even though people picked on me, I was a big kid: tall, overweight, but at the same time intimidating. Most of the abuse came in the form of verbal stones instead of physical attacks. That’s not to say that I had an easier time than my friend who was shoved down a flight of stairs; it’s just that my scars are a little different.
The teasing can almost be pinpointed to have started when my family moved between second and third grade. I attended a large school district. I don’t know about now, but at the time there were around five or so elementary schools alone, and they all converged into one big middle school once you reached sixth grade. At the elementary school I went to for the first few years, I hung out with a group of popular kids. They all turned out to be football players and other jocks in later years, part of the group of people that would harass me. It makes me wonder how I would have turned out had we never moved. Would I have become one of them?
But we did move, and I was forced to make new friends. I’ve never had a particularly easy time with that, and people who know me might try and call bullshit on me, but it’s true. It takes a while for me to trust people, and I can be relatively shy in new groups. So when we moved, I gravitated towards other shy kids. Most of them are still my friends today, some sixteen years later. But then, we were all teased and picked on. I went from being friends with jocks and cool kids, to the nerds and outcasts – my people.
A lot of the incidents blend together into several years of unfortunate existence, but a few instances do stick out in my head: my agenda planner being stolen in eighth grade, only to turn up a couple hours later with phrases like I LIKE BOYS and I’M GAY scrawled across the pages; a boy, while we were in sixth grade, grabbing my breast and commenting on my weight; another boy, in twelfth grade, approaching me in the locker room while we were alone, wearing nothing but his underwear, and asking me if I liked what I saw (and no, he wasn’t hitting on me); and again, in twelfth grade, yet another boy sitting two desks behind me in class, and ramming the desk in between us repeatedly into my chair so that my fat jiggled while the class laughed.
I’m not saying all of these things to get your sympathy. Yes, it’s painful to remember them, but it was a part of my life, my youth, my developmental years. I was a victim of bullying.
It would be amazing to say that it stopped there, but there have been other instances, even into adulthood. An old roommate, an ex-coworker, an old boss. Very few and far between (those are actually all I can think of), but some people never grow out of the need to bring others down, to dominate them.
Why am I thinking about it now? Because I went and saw the documentary Bully last weekend.
I know bullying exists—obviously, I lived through it myself—but to see such blatant examples of it shocked me in a way I hadn’t anticipated.
Take 12-year-old Alex, for instance. He’s the main focus of the documentary (it revolves around several young people and their families, but he gets the most screen time), and the school he goes to actually permitted filming on school grounds and on the bus. It follows Alex on his first day of a new year, and on that very first bus ride, they catch a boy telling Alex that he’s going to kill him, that he’s going to bring a knife to school the next day and stab him and kill him. Other kids on the bus verbally abuse him and call him names, and some resorted to physical violence: punching, smacking, stabbing him with pencils, and even going so far as choking him.
He seems to take it all with a laugh and a smile, but you know he’s not okay. How could he be? But what good would it do him to cry in front of his tormenters? Only provide them with more fuel to use against him. So he keeps quiet and takes the abuse.
The pain he’s harboring becomes abundantly clear while he’s talking to his mother later. She asks him how his day went and if anyone picked on him, and he lies to her face, says he had a good first day. But then she says, “What really happened?” and he just looks at her with this dead, vacant expression and can’t answer.
During another discussion, he confesses that one of the boys strangled him, but he thought they were only playing around. She says, “Alex, that’s not playing around. Those boys aren’t being your friend.” To which he replied, “If those boys aren’t my friends, then what friends do I have?”
I’m paraphrasing that from memory, but the context is there, even if my words aren’t exactly correct.
There was another boy, 11-years-old, who shot himself with a hunting rifle. His parents attended his funeral wearing jerseys from his favorite baseball team, the husband leading the wife and telling her “We’ll just tuck him in. We’ll tuck him in and he’ll go to sleep one last time.” His best friend collapsed into the casket at the wake, inconsolable at the loss of his dear friend, who he said was bullied all the time. The principal of his school was filmed on the local news saying there was no evidence of bullying.
One girl came out as a lesbian. When she sat down in class, no one would sit next to her. Some neighborhood boys also felt it would be appropriate to run her over with a minivan. She tried to laugh it off, saying she couldn’t even be hit by something cool, but her tears said otherwise. Their entire family got shunned, even by people they had known for years.
Another girl felt so threatened at school that she took a gun with her one day and pulled it out on the bus. Luckily no one was injured, but she had to go to jail at 14, and be charged with severe crimes. The consequences of her actions will follow her for the rest of her life.
And finally, we met a family of a young man who felt like he had no other option but to end his life. His mother found him hanging from a rope in his closet.
I can honestly say I never considered suicide as a means to end the pain, but I have several friends who not only thought about it, but attempted it. I count myself lucky that none of them succeeded and I didn’t have to cry inconsolably into their caskets. But it came close on several occasions.
It never got that bad for me, but I do remember the extreme loneliness I felt at times. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it, didn’t want to admit it was happening, that I wasn’t strong enough to stop it. There was nothing more demoralizing than having to tell my parents what had happened. I remember lying to them to save face, just like Alex did.
I’m admitting this to you all now because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this movie. About how things haven’t changed, and how kids still feel threatened, like they have no way out, no hope or help.
The principal at Alex’s school witnessed another two other random boys fighting and pulled them aside. She told them to shake hands and forget about it. The one boy offered his hand willingly, but the other one was very reluctant to. She scolded him and, after dismissing the other boy, asked him why he wasn’t willing to shake. He said the other kid picked on him a lot, followed him around and tormented him. He said that he’s told teachers, and his parents, and even the police, but the boy refuses to stay away from him. Her response? That by not shaking hands, he was just as bad as the other boy.
He tried to get her help, but she completely barreled over him. Even when confronted with evidence of bullying, she claims her students are “good as gold.” She basically told him that he didn’t matter, that his pain meant nothing.
Now, people are out there that kids can trust. I had a teacher who used to stick up for me all the time, and I’m grateful to her every single day. But the thought process of most is, “Suck it up and be a man,” or “Boys will be boys.”
No, verbally abusing someone is not boys being boys. Stabbing someone with pencils is not boys being boys. And threatening to bring in a knife and kill someone is not boys being boys.
It’s harassment. It’s bullying.
And it needs to stop.
This film is a powerful vehicle for change, and I hope its message spreads. But I know that the people who really need to see this movie most likely never will. Bullies don’t think they’re bullies, or don’t care. They’re never going to go with their family or friends to see this, and they’re going to continue to spread their violence and hate.
I really hope that the world evolves into a place of acceptance for my future children’s sake.
And in the meantime, I recommend that everyone see this film.
Kyle W. Kerr
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS (including the ending!)
Okay, so I’m a little late to this. In my defense, I don’t like jumping on bandwagons. I DID buy this book almost two years ago, but it’s sat unread on my shelf… until now. (I did the same thing with The Da Vinci Code, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is in there somewhere as well, as yet unread.)
With the movie adaptation of THG coming out next month (and in the wake of some amazing trailers), I decided I wanted to experience the story the way it was meant to be before queuing up to see it in theaters. Plus, I’d had several people urging me to read it for years, so I finally relented.
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, here’s a synopsis of the book:
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
One of the main reasons I didn’t read this book right away is because of its similarities to another book called Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. To see what I’m talking about, here’s its synopsis as well:
As part of a ruthless program by the totalitarian government, ninth-grade students are taken to a small isolated island with a map, food, and various weapons. Forced to wear special collars that explode when they break a rule, they must fight each other for three days until only one “winner” remains. The elimination contest becomes the ultimate in must-see reality television. A Japanese pulp classic available in English for the first time, Battle Royale is a potent allegory of what it means to be young and survive in today’s dog-eat-dog world.
It actually sounded like a blatant rip-off to me, and I’d thoroughly enjoyed Battle Royale, so why bother?
Well, honestly, if it hadn’t been for this movie trailer, I probably wouldn’t have—
It just seemed so full of emotion. Seeing Prim getting called at the reaping and Katniss, scared out of her wits for her sister, screaming to volunteer as tribute; the whole of District 12 saluting her; Katniss and Peeta talking about dying. Just watching this trailer made me feel something for these characters, and so I had to pick up the book.
The first 50 pages of the book were pretty well summed up in the beginning half of the above trailer, so it felt like I was reading the book for a second time. Yes, I got to see everything with more detail, but it felt like a repeat. Another thing that I got hung up on was the narration. 90+% of the book is told in the form of first person, internal monologue… meaning you’re in Katniss’ head the entire time. Yes, there is some dialogue, but it’s mostly her.
At the beginning, she kind of annoyed me. She seemed selfish, in a way, dismissing other people’s thoughts and feelings (Gale mentions them running away and she thinks, “Why even think it since we can’t do it? What’s the point?”—paraphrased—when he was clearly wistfully dreaming). And even as the reaping is proceeding and Prim’s name gets called, it’s like she’s just retelling someone else’s story. There was hardly any emotion as she gets pulled away and has to say goodbye to her family.
When she and Peeta, the other tribute from their District, finally get on the train and head to the Capitol, that’s when the story really changed for me. You understand the severity of the situation as they describe the competition they’ll have and how little their chances of survival are, as they’re primped and prettied and set before a crowd and forced to perform. The idea of this being a cause for celebration for those in the Capitol and the idea of people betting on champions and sponsoring them (in order to send them things they need while IN the games) was a clear departure from Battle Royale, so my interest was further piqued.
I’m also starting to like Katniss’ attitude. She’s in it to win it, but she’s also defiant at the same time. It starts with little things: her refusal to act happy with the proceedings, to her shooting an arrow at the Gamemakers during their talent exhibit, and finally, when she gets into the arena and decides to cover Rue’s body with flowers when she’s killed.
The Games themselves are brutal and full of tension. Lots of action and close calls. And the Gamemakers never let things get too dull for too long. Hellfire and deluges of rain…
And throughout all, you can tell how much in love Peeta is with Katniss. Everything he does is in an attempt to make her fare better, to give her a leg up in the Games, to save her… I’m completely on Team Peeta (she also clearly has a crush on her friend from home, Gale). However, where I start to get annoyed is that, while Peeta’s love for Katniss is genuine, her displays of affection are calculated. They were put into the Games as a pair, and she needs to keep up the act. While Peeta’s affections are a confession, hers are part of a show. In the end, he still believes she actually loves him, until she breaks his heart in the last moments of the books.
I couldn’t believe how selfish she was. As soon as I finished the book, I texted my friend, “Katniss is a bitch. Poor Peeta!” And that’s how I still feel several days after finishing. At the end of the Games they both win. Katniss has the idea that they appear to commit suicide rather than one having to kill the other, as the two finalists. While Peeta agrees to do it instantly, his love for her winning out over his will to live, she only does it as a ruse, never intending to swallow the poisoned berries they have. Completely selfish.
The other thing that pulled me out of the story happened towards the very end. It was established throughout the book that the government genetically enhanced/manipulated certain creatures. They have Mockingjays that can repeat words they overhear, and there are the Tracker Jackers, which are basically bees that have the ability to track down the person who disturbed their nests, and their stings have hallucinogenic properties before killing their victims. Fine, okay, I have a good suspension of disbelief, so I’ll go with it. But when there are three tributes left, they all get attacked by a pack of wolves… but upon closer inspection, doesn’t that one have the same eyes and fur color as the boy from District 1? And that one looks like Rue! OMG, they’re all of the dead tributes come back as mutant wolves to attack us! AAAHHH!!!
I thought it was completely over the top and took me out of the story. If it had just been a genetically engineered pack of wolves, fine, but this? Too much…
Overall I enjoyed the book, but those couple of things stop me from giving it a super high rating. I’m going to see the movie next month, and I’m definitely going to buy the remaining two books (I definitely want to see what happens!). And I would still recommend the book, even though I wasn’t super happy with the ending. So…
Kyle W. Kerr
It’s rare that you have an actual experience reading a book. I’ve read many, and while I’ve enjoyed a great number of them, few have transcended into the other category, that stack of books that have something more… the books I want to purchase at the bookstore every time I see them, even though I already own a copy. It’s happened to me with Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Now, I must say, Erin Morgenstern and her debut novel, The Night Circus, have been added to that very short list.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
I first read about this book several months ago, before its publication, in an article about publishers looking for “The Next Harry Potter.” I was more intrigued by the blasphemy of this statement than anything else (you all know my obsessive love of all things HP), but once I started reading, I couldn’t help but feel, well, sorry for Erin. This was to be her debut novel, and already there was so much pressure on her and the book to succeed. The publisher and booksellers had spent countless dollars promoting the title and throwing extravagant, Le Cirque des Rêves themed release parties, and she was already scheduled for a whirlwind promotional tour. The concept of the novel heavily piqued my interest, but what of the reception it would receive from the rest of the world? People can be so… mean. I didn’t know anything about her, but I found myself rooting for her nonetheless. I really wanted everything to work out for her.
When the book was finally published, I immediately bought a copy. It was forced to sit on my shelf for a few months, however, as I was in the middle of reading an epically long book already (and I never read more than one book at a time, out of respect for the work and its author), though I noticed its shimmering cover out of the corner of my eye on many occasions. Finally the day came when I could take off the dust cover and stick my post-it bookmark between its pages. But I was nervous. I’d fallen into the trap of over-hyping something in my head so that the actual product couldn’t possibly live up to what I was expecting (the movie Hereafter is a perfect example of this). The book was beautiful to behold, from the sparkly cover, to the intricate silver inlay of the actual book’s cover, to the stripey endpaper that made me slightly dizzy. So, just as I was about to begin the book, I sent out a short tweet to the woman herself.
I didn’t expect anything in return. I follow several authors and other celebrities I occasionally tweet at and don’t get responses (SOME do, which is always lovely). But, very shortly after sending it, I received this:
@KyleWKerr Hurrah! I hope you enjoy it.— erin morgenstern (@erinmorgenstern) January 22, 2012
How could I be nervous after that? So, with a little less trepidation than before, I made the plunge.
I read the book in five days flat.
That might not SEEM impressive, but I rarely do that. I’m very open about the fact that I’m a slow reader, and it usually takes me a week or two to read a book, and sometimes a little longer depending on the length of the book and how into it I get. 400 pages in five days was something of a record for me. I still read at the same pace, but you can ask my roommate… I hardly did anything else. No TV, no movies, I just read for hours on end.
I can’t give the book any higher praise than that.
But I’m going to try.
The concept of the story drew me in, but three things kept me reading: 1) the depth of the characters, 2) the richness of the setting, and 3) the elegance of the writing.
The characters were introduced in such a way that I cared about them almost immediately. Poor Celia and her manipulative father, and lonely Marco with his indifferent teacher. We know they’re in competition with one another, but you want them both to win, or for neither to lose (I think that’s an important distinction). And it doesn’t stop there. My favorite characters, outside of the main two, were the twins Widget and Poppet, whose extraordinary powers make them a dangerous combination, though most don’t see it that way. The rest of the cast… you’ll just have to read it to see the wide variety of characters you meet. When I finished the book, I felt like I’d lost some friends, but take solace in the fact that I can visit them whenever I want.
It takes a little while for them to get to the circus, but it’s worth the build-up. Morgenstern clearly flexed her imaginative muscles in creating tent after tent of impossibly alluring “acts”. From a garden made of ice, to a labyrinth comprised of many different experiences, and a carousel that seems almost like… magic. Once you enter the circus, you’ll never want to leave.
And her writing was as smooth as silk. It flowed beautifully word-to-word, paragraph-to-paragraph, chapter-to-chapter, so that by the time I looked up from the page, hours would have passed in what only felt like the blink of an eye. It’s simple in its construction, and didn’t have me running for the dictionary every few words, which allowed me to just read. It’s pure, escapist writing.
I cannot recommend this book more. A wonderful yarn it is, but more importantly, it’s a vehicle to transport you into a beautiful world of mystery and mysticism.
*Image with rainbowy cover was taken from Erin’s website.
Kyle W. Kerr
Wide Release: March 4, 2011
Rango is a slightly neurotic chameleon who gets lost from his owner on a trip through the desert. He’s been alone for a long time and doesn’t really know how to act around other “people,” though his penchant for theatricality gets him into dangerous territory when he runs afoul of some nefarious gangster-types in the animal run town of Dirt. There’s a shortage of water and most of the town’s inhabitants had to sell their land in order to survive. But when Rango comes in and claims to be a vigilante who killed seven bandit brothers (with one bullet, no less), he unexpectedly finds himself appointed sheriff and has to play the part in order to protect the town’s inhabitants.
Johnny Depp voices Rango with the deftness of the great character actor he is. He’s able to switch back and forth between eccentric and tragic, fearless and lonely. Though his is the only developed character in the movie. Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic) plays Bean, another reptile trying to keep her late father’s farm afloat. She’s fierce, and has a weird habit of freezing during stressful situations (literally, she just freezes in place and can’t move, some sort of defense mechanism?). You also have a corrupt government official and a wicked rattlesnake whose bloodlust is only outweighed by his two-dimensionality.
I guess the story was cute (especially for the youngins), and the graphics were great for a special effects studio who’s never done a full-length animated feature before (ILM, who did CGI work for Iron Man, Harry Potter, Transformers, Terminator, the list goes on). But the whole thing felt stilted to me after a while. I was mildly curious about the ending, but got bored midway through. And about three-quarters through the movie, Rango has an existential hallucination akin to the desert/stone crab scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about), and couldn’t help but wonder if director Gore Verbinski has run out of ideas… Maybe that’s a little harsh, but nothing in this movie felt original.
It’s a decent movie to see if you’ve got some kiddies to take (to be fair, the kids in the audience laughed a lot and seemed to enjoy it), but save it for your To Be Rented pile otherwise.
Kyle W. Kerr
The premise of this book is really what drew me to it. Authors David Levithan and John Green co-wrote the novel, each writing about a separate teenage boy who both happen to have the same name, Will Grayson. They don’t know one another, but after a few chapters their lives converge at pivotal moments for each of them.
Will Grayson is trying to find his place within the social castes of his high school. His best friend is Tiny Cooper, an imposingly sized, flamboyantly gay football player who falls in and out of love faster than most people can blink and always tends to steal the show. He also befriends Jane, a member of the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) who turns out not to be a lesbian but isn’t exactly free, either, which proves to be an unfortunate complication when Will decides he likes her. He feels unappreciated as a friend, pressured by his parents to pursue their idea of the perfect career, and doesn’t know how to navigate his life as it seems to spiral around him.
will grayson hates life. he only has one friend, maura, who also hates life, and they only hang out because they have nothing better to do. will lives alone with his mother, his father out of the picture. they’re poor and he has to work to help pay the bills. the only thing good in his life is isaac, a boy his age he met in an online chatroom, and they happen to be in love. no one in his life knows he’s gay, but the two arrange to meet face-to-face for the first time after a year, and will heads to chicago with breathless anticipation. but his happiness is only short-lived.*
The boys meet at a porn store in downtown Chicago, and their lives are changed forevermore.
I think you can see what I mean by an intriguing premise. The authors agreed on the structure of writing about two boys with the same name, that they would be in high school, and that they would equally write half of the book (alternating chapters). They went off and wrote the first couple chapters of their own Will Grayson/will grayson’s story without talking to one another about what they would write, then convened once they were done.
The resulting product is a mash-up of friendship and love, angst and depression. You can’t depend just on yourself in life, and sometimes the people you rely on disappoint and hurt you, but sometimes the ugly precedes the good.
I didn’t know how it’d like this book, but ended it with that happy sign of satisfaction that comes from finishing a good book. The characters have stuck with me in the couple weeks since, and it’s one of those stories you wish you could continue reading, if even for just another couple pages… but alas.
Both authors have written numerous other books, and I will delight in perusing them in future.
*David Levithan wrote his will grayson chapters completely in lowercase. I can’t find the interview I read about it in, but it’s supposedly because the character thinks so little of himself that he doesn’t think he deserves it (capitalization). Very unique!
Kyle W. Kerr
I have a new favorite author to add to my list. Yeah, that’s a tiny hint about the direction this review is going to go.
My first foray into the fictional world created by Cassandra Clare was with her debut novel City of Bones. In it she established a new set of warriors called Shadowhunters, an ancient race of Nephilim (half human, half angel) whose sole purpose is to protect humans against the demon underworld. She introduced us to Jace, Clary, Simon, Izzy, Alec, Magnus, and more, a combination of Shadowhunter, Vampire, Warlock, Lycanthrope, Faerie and Mundane (human). They join forces – however reluctantly – to stop a rogue Nephilim from unleashing the demon hoard in an attempt to destroy the race of Shadowhunters. The trilogy continued with City of Ashes, and concluded with City of Glass.
With Clockwork Angel, Clare delves even deeper into the Shadowhunter mythology, taking us back to 1878 London, England. We meet new warriors Will and Jem, who stumble across the body of a murdered 14-year-old girl while fighting off a demon, then set off on a search for her killer.
Next we find Tessa, fresh from a trans-Atlantic journey from New York City, her parents and aunt dead, with only a letter from her brother telling her to join him in the Old World to start a new life. Yet the moment she arrives, something is terribly wrong. A strange coachman and a pair of sinister sisters take her from the dock, promising a quick reunion with her brother… but six weeks later, she hasn’t seen him, and they’ve kept her prisoner, torturing her day after day, forcing her to Change.
Once she’s perfected her talent, they deem her ready for the Magister, a mysterious man of enormous power amongst Downworlders. But on the very night they’re to hand her over, the boys’ investigation leads them to the very house Tessa’s being held captive in, an otherworldly battle ensues, and they are able to escape.
What unwinds from there is a tale of misdirection, conspiracy and betrayal… one full of secrets and temptation.
I fell in love with Clare’s stories with The Mortal Instruments books, and not much has changed since finishing the first of the Infernal Devices trilogy—unless you count my new obsession for a whole new cast! She has an uncanny talent in making every character three-dimensional, with giving them a history and a purpose for their actions. In reading about these fully formed people, you can’t help but become wrapped up in their lives and invested in their futures.
Tessa is a fierce heroine in a world of proper ladies, whose love for her brother overrides any fear she might have. Will acts like he doesn’t care about anything—and his past hints at some dreadful secrets—yet his stern indifference gets overshadowed by his deep concern for his friends. Jem’s tortured past has dire consequences on his present, and his gentle compassion will leave your heart aching.
Cassie (as she’s known to her fans) weaves a harrowing tale that will have you turning pages long into the night. There are two more ID books to come (and she swears that’s it), as well as a whole new trilogy in the TMI series. Up next is City of Fallen Angels in April, and Clockwork Prince in August. Also big news right now is the City of Bones movie, which is currently being cast.
This book will not disappoint, and I’m not exaggerating when I say: 10/10.
Kyle W. Kerr
Romantic comedies are a dime-a-dozen, though sometimes you find a diamond in the rough. Yes, you’re all groaning at my use of clichés, but this movie was so darn CUTE that I really need to wax a little poetic right now.
Adam (Ashton Kutcher, The Butterfly Effect and Killers) and Emma (Natalie Portman, Black Swan and V for Vendetta) meet when they’re teenagers at summer camp. Adam tears up because his parents are getting a divorce and Emma makes an awkward attempt to comfort him, then Adam asks if he can finger her and Emma says no. Cut to 10 years later when they meet again at a frat party. They agree to go on a “date” the next day, which Emma fails to mention is actually her father’s funeral. They meet once more four years later when Emma moves to his city for her medical residency, then again a year later when Adam gets really drunk and wakes up naked on her living room couch.
That’s where the story really starts. After a hurried hookup in her room, they decide to be friends with benefits, to make themselves available at all hours of the day for the other to use on a purely sexual basis. They have rules: no arguing, no getting jealous, and no falling in love. This latter proves especially difficult as the weeks progress… until things get a little too heated.
Natalie Portman is stellar as usual. But who knew she could be so FUNNY? Watching her get drunk at a holiday party and saunter out to hail a cab, then scare a couple of girls out of Adam’s apartment who she TOLD him to sleep with to begin with… believe me, it makes perfect sense when you watch it! But more than her comedic turn, Natalie maintains your sympathy as someone scared to open herself to love in fear of getting hurt.
Ashton Kutcher has been in a number of romantic comedies, yet I think that the character of Adam had enough depth to put this performance on another level. I know he can be a serious actor because of his role in The Butterfly Effect (if you haven’t seen this movie, RENT IT IMMEDIATELY!), so I always give him the benefit of the doubt when he releases a new movie. He’s been pigeonholed into this genre, which can start to get old after a while, but he manages to portray a guy with morals, a sense of humor, and a deep seeded need to be loved.
What really stands out the movie is the writing. An incredibly heartwarming yet witty exchange between the characters that had me laughing throughout. Never a dull moment, the 110 minute movie seems to speed by and leaves you wishing for more.
Definitely recommended! Go check it out!
Kyle W. Kerr
WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS. You’ve been warned!
I desperately wanted to see this movie because of a) the really messed up looking trailer, and b) it’s been garnering a lot of media and award attention. Plus, Natalie Portman is an amazing actress, and I really liked director Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain.
The movie’s been out for a couple of weeks, and I finally got the chance to see it. I settled in for a tale about a ballet dancer named Nina (Natalie Portman, V for Vendetta and Star Wars: Episodes 1-3), who finally lands the lead role in Swan Lake. Her innocence and perfectionism are lauded as invaluable traits for the White Swan, though she is encouraged by the show’s director to give more into the dark side, to experience a more wonton lifestyle and lose her inhibitions to bring more out of the evil half of her character, the Black Swan.
Yet as she begins to strip away her introversion and shed her purity, she becomes increasingly paranoid that the director is trying to replace her, and that her friend Lily (Mila Kunis, That 70’s Show and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is trying to steal her role. She soon spirals into a world of disillusion and self-doubt, even as her debut as the Swan Queen draws ever closer.
Now, the reason I needed to put a spoiler warning at the top of the page is because, in order for me to tell you why I didn’t like this movie—which, in fact, I didn’t—I need to reveal some things. The “twist” of the movie is that it’s from the point-of-view of a completely unreliable narrator. A number of things happen that don’t actually happen, such as Nina and Lily having a drunken/under-the-influence tryst after a wild night on the town, hallucinations of self-mutilation (like tearing a flap of skin off her finger, which disappears a second later), and even a murder (that’s at the very end, and I’ll save the revelation of what actually happens a mystery for now).
I think a lot of people are viewing the unreliable narrator technique as unique, but here’s my issue: I don’t like being blatantly lied to. It’s one thing to use red herrings, to have sharp turns and sudden dips in the narrative, but to mislead with falsehood is a cheat. Instead of walking out of the theater with a general sense of awe like most moviegoers, I left thinking “So she imagined it all?”
Was I supposed to leave pondering which scenes were delusions and which were reality? Probably, but instead I went home frustrated, annoyed by the purposeful misdirection. At least Mila Kunis didn’t end up being to Natalie Portman what Brad Pitt was to Edward Norton in Fight Club, which was something I considered halfway through, though they thankfully didn’t do.
There were also a couple of things left unexplained, such as Nina’s overbearing, overprotective mother (who seemed to have a couple screws loose herself, though how much of that was really the mother versus her perception of her mother is another question). Nina also scratched herself bloody with anxiety on several occasions, which is supposed to be some sort of nervous habit I suppose?
However, as disappointed as I was in the storytelling, the movie wasn’t ALL bad. Natalie did an amazing job with the content she was given, and I feel she fully deserved her Golden Globe nomination (and subsequent win!) for her portrayal of Nina. Her graceful elegance and understated performance brought believability to a character wracked with turbulent—and oftentimes self-destructive—emotions, and her “stage presence” kept my eyes riveted to the screen.
Mila Kunis was just kind of there, and her character could have been played by a myriad of other actresses without any change to the film (whereas I can’t imagine anyone other than Natalie in her own part). None of the other actors stuck out enough to mention, save a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her cameo by Winona Ryder so short you’ll barely have time to think, “Hey, was that Winona Ryder?”
I know why the movie is garnering so much attention. Believe me, I get it. The thing is, the twist didn’t hook me like it did everyone else. It just annoyed me, so I can’t bring myself to recommend this to anyone. Seems like another one to save for the Netflix queue.
Kyle W. Kerr
Written by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
For sale February 2011
“WHO IS GIDEON CREW?” reads the cover of the Advance Reading Copy sent out to reviewers. Who indeed.
I’ve never read one of the many novels by either Douglas Preston OR Lincoln Child, as co-authors or individuals. They’re internationally bestselling authors, and this was my first foray into one of their worlds.
Gideon Crew witnessed his father’s death by government agents at the age of twelve. He grows up believing his father is a traitor, responsible for the deaths of 26 undercover agents. But on her deathbed, his mother tells him the truth. His father is not a traitor, but tried to warn the government about a flawed new encryption standard, and was used at a scapegoat when it eventually failed. She sets him the task of clearing his father’s name and bringing down the man who made it happen.
This in and of itself could have been a sufficient novel, but it’s only the beginning. The takedown happens within a couple of chapters and serves the purpose of highlighting Gideon’s ingenuity, persistence, and superior analytical skills.
Thinking he can finally get back to his life, he’s summoned by a mysterious organization working with the US Government to track down a Chinese defector known as Mark Wu, who supposedly possesses the plans for a revolutionary weapon more devastating than the H-Bomb. He doubts his own abilities to succeed on such a mission, and soon finds himself embroiled in an international race to uncover Wu’s secret before his adversary—a ruthless killer called Nodding Crane—finds it first… and kills him in the process.
The story was well crafted and not predictable (I’m one of those people who LIKE to figure out the mystery before the character does). I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Gideon Crew, whose multi-dimensional background added real life and purpose to his journey. His efforts often impressed me, even as he occasionally fumbled because of his inexperience. The only thing about him that isn’t fully explained his is past life as an art thief. It helps him bring down his father’s killer and is an asset to him in his pursuit of Wu’s secret, but it’s mentioned almost as an aside. Hopefully it’s explored in future books. But regardless, I look forward to more adventures with him!
As far as the writing goes, I have to pay the authors the highest compliment I can in saying that it reads with one consistent voice. I dare anyone to pinpoint where Preston ends and Child begins; their collaboration is flawless. The only criticism I can think of is that, as a pretty voracious reader and lover of words, they still managed to use a couple terms that even my Kindle didn’t know (it took a bit of online searching to find what a tubercularium is).
In a fast paced, thoroughly unpredictable romp, Gideon Crew is the newest go-to man for international espionage and intrigue. He’s a great addition to the tradition of the everyman-cum-superman, and I can’t wait to see what he gets wrapped up in next.
[Note: When searching online for images of the book’s cover, shots of director Michael Bay (Transformers, Armageddon) kept appearing. After checking IMDb Pro (you’ll have to take my word on this, it isn’t on regular IMDb yet), it appears Gideon’s Sword is already optioned property, and he’s set to produce and direct the movie version for Paramount Pictures, the screenplay of which is currently being adapted by Chap Taylor (writer of ‘02’s Changing Lanes), for a possible 2013 release.]
Kyle W. Kerr
So, my resolution for 2011 is that I’m going to write more, and that means putting an end to the neglect of my blog. Not only am I going to write more about my writing, but I’m also going to review EVERY new book and movie I experience. I get to see a lot of advance screenings for movies (one of the many perks of city living!), and I currently have over 30 ARCs (advance reader copies) burning up my To-Be-Read pile, so a lot of the things I’ll review will actually—hopefully—be relevant and useful. Or not. We’ll see.
Tonight I saw a screening of COUNTRY STRONG, which opens in theaters this Friday. It’s the story of country superstar Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow), just out of rehab after a mysterious-and notorious to the characters in the movie-incident at a concert in Dallas the year prior. She’s being forced into a comeback by her husband/manager James Canter (Tim McGraw, who doesn’t have a singing part). Along for the ride is Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund, TRON: Legacy), a rehab aide by day who helps Kelly in more ways than one, and a baritoned crooner by night, as well as Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester, Gossip Girl), whose youth and talent make Kelly jealous.
I really wanted to like this movie. I’m a big fan of Leighton for her portrayal of Blair Waldorf on GG, and I already knew she could sing from that single she released a few months ago. I’d first seen Garrett in the ill-adapted Eragon movie (which I can forgive him for), and then a few weeks ago starring opposite Jeff Bridges in the new Tron movie, which similarly impressed me. And I was even looking forward to Gwen because of her spin on Glee a month or so ago.
But the story, while not necessarily tired, still felt cliché because of all the real life stars we watch who go through the same experience. These people that are in and out of rehab every few months, staging comebacks at a higher frequency than the full moon appears… it’s just old. It didn’t help the movie in any way. And at almost two hours, it seemed to drag on, too.
Gwyneth doesn’t get as much screen time as you’d think (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing), and they saved most of her singing until the end—save for an impromptu song she sings for a Make-A-Wish kid with leukemia that was really cute—sort of like that forbidden romance where you wait an ENTIRE movie for that ONE KISS. She was fairly believable as a depressed starlet, but nothing about the performance was particularly wow-worthy.
Leighton seemed to gain more confidence in her performance as the movie went on, which reflects the character’s own arch in a way, though you shouldn’t be able to see it in the performance itself. She seemed uncomfortable for the first half of the movie but found her groove in the end, and she’s a decent singer to boot!
The big delight of the movie, surprisingly, was Garrett Hedlund. Not only did he have an extremely sultry voice, but his sincere portrayal as Beau was completely believable, the only un-forced performance in the entire movie. I almost wish the movie had been more centered on his life and struggles to become a country star. He’s definitely someone to keep our eyes on in the future.
Overall, the movie was cute, but not something I’d run out to see on opening night. Maybe go for an early matinee if you’re interested in seeing it in theaters (the singing alone is worth the $6), but don’t spend $11 to see it Friday night. I probably would have been annoyed if I’d paid to see it. Definitely a matinee movie, or wait for it on Netflix.
Kyle W. Kerr
06/15/10 | General, Movies, My Writings, Reviews | 0 Comments
Yes, I’ve been gone for a while, but I have my reasons. The biggest thing to happen recently is that I (finally!) moved back to the Boston area. I’m in an area called Somerville, literally just across the city border from Cambridge. Just a T ride away from my favorite city in the world!
Moving is a real pain in the arse. I’ve moved almost once a year for the past 7 years, which is kind of ridiculous if you ask me. I’m ready to settle down for a while, and I think this living arrangement is going to be both positive and productive (I’m living with two other writers). No distractions, no more excuses.
The only thing that I regret about moving is that I won’t be able to attend ThrillerFest like I’d hoped. There’s no way I can afford it after the move, so I’ll have to wait until next year! And, since the Maui/Hawaii Writers Conference & Retreat is now officially defunct, it looks like it’s going to be the only party worth going to. Good thing I’m writing a thriller now.
Speaking of which, it got put on the back burner for a few weeks while I’ve been in transition. No time to write amidst packing, moving, and unpacking. But now that I’m (mostly) settled into my new place, I hope to increase my output exponentially! I’ve actually joined a local group of writers that get together once a week for the sole purpose of… writing! We literally gather and spend two hours in silence. Sounds dull, but it’s surprisingly helpful. In fact, I’m writing this Journal Entry at said meeting right now! I also used it to finish a chapter I’d been languishing over for a couple weeks, which brought me into a new one that I’m currently working on… 18,000 words down!
With 15 chapters, that’s about 1,200 words per chapter. My first book averaged just under 4,800 words per chapter. Yeah, it’s a big book (134,000 words within 28 chapters—which you can BET is going to be cut significantly for publication)! The way this book is going, there’s probably going to be 80-90,000 words and 70ish chapters. Writing a thriller is a much different experience and I’m enjoying the challenge. It’s also undeniably adult – there’s sex, torture, murder, and lots of yummy, juicy stuff to write. There’s all that stuff in my other book too, but not in the same way. You’ll have to read them to see!
I’ve come to realize that I need to do a bit more plotting of the sub chapters. I have all of the big events that need to happen and the sub plots that will make it a decidedly non-linear story, but need to fill in a little of the… filler. How am I going to get from the big event I’m wrapping up to the next one? I don’t know yet, and that’s one of the things that’s making my productivity lag. I’m trying to write this as chronologically as I can (as an experiment… the last book was written on a per chapter, hodgepodge-like basis and I didn’t stick to any particular pattern) to see if it helps the flow of the book. Obviously there are some bumps I need to work out, but it seems to be working fairly well.
In the time since my last post, I’ve seen a number of movies… Iron Man 2 (8/10), Date Night (7/10), Clash of the Titans (6/10), Sex and the City 2 (8/10), Letters to Juliet (7/10), Shrek Forever After (9/10), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (8/10). Upcoming movies I’m looking forward to are Toy Story 3, Knight & Day, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Last Airbender, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Inception, Salt, Charlie St. Cloud, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Those are the summer releases, but of course I can’t NOT mention Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 in November and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in December!
Honestly haven’t read any books worth noting. Sad, but true. Though I’ve recently acquired The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Kathy Griffin’s memoir, Official Book Club Selection… both of which I have high hopes for.
I need to start planning out some of my other bajillion projects, but want to get seriously back into the flow of writing this one first. I’m hoping that by writing more than one project at a time I’ll be able to be more productive, because if I lose interest in one I’ll have another to go to, which should hopefully eliminate much of the down-time in my writing. I. Freaking. Hope.
That should be it for now, but I’ll be writing more entries now that I’m not going crazy. Let me know how you’ve all been either in the comments or by sending me an email!
Kyle W. Kerr
I’ve been hearing for years about how amazing Anne Rice is. She’d written the hugely successful Vampire Chronicles series, the Mayfair witches books, the Sleeping Beauty erotica trilogy… but I’d never read one of her stories. I’d always wanted to, but something always kept me away.
What’s funny is that I read her son Christopher Rice’s first three books before I ever picked one of hers up. He’s a talented writer himself and I think he has a long career ahead of him.
What about her turned me off so? To be honest, it was her very public return to the Catholic Church and her pledge to devote the rest of her life’s work to Him. Even though I’d never read a word of her writing, I somehow felt betrayed… mostly because of the knowledge that her son is gay and her decision seemed like a slap in the face. How could she rejoin a religion that is bent on condemning her son’s soul to hell?
Forgive me my rant, because that’s not how I feel now. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with religion for a long time, and it has taken many years to sort through my conflicting feelings towards it. I’m not a religious person by any means, but moreso in the sense that I despise organized religion. I don’t like the messages they preach and I think it is despicable that they use God as an excuse to spread their own bigotry and hatred.
Myself, I’m agnostic. You heard that right… I’m not an atheist. I’m a scientifically oriented person, but I believe there are things that can’t be explained by science, so my mind isn’t completely made up. Though I don’t go to mass or pray, I still believe in God in my own way and have my own respect for Him. I believe that Jesus was a real person who tried to change the world for the better and ended up pissing off the bigots of his time to his unfortunate end (which is why I don’t believe he would stand for the hateful things his followers claim to preach in his name…).
However, I now know that not everyone who is a Catholic follows all of the same beliefs. There are those who follow the rule of tolerance and love, and that’s where I now realize Anne Rice is. She has never stopped being supportive of her son, and is a strong advocate for Gay Rights. In a way, I saw in myself some of the same attitudes that some of His more fanatic followers have, and I wasn’t giving her a chance just because of her religion. There was something seriously wrong with that.
So one day I decided it was time to delve into her stories. I eased myself in with a viewing of the adaptation of her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, and instantly fell in love with her characters and their story. I bought the book that day and finished it within a week.
There are many things one can say about Anne’s writing, about her captivating stories, her lyrical prose… but what I found myself so absorbed in was her voice. It was one of my more magical reading experiences, and I couldn’t believe how she kept up such language on every page of the book, in every sentence, every word. There was nothing extraneous, every word was important and helped to paint the picture of this beautiful world. I’d enjoyed the storyline as a movie, but reading the novel was an experience on a whole different level. She’d found an instant fan, one who’d been writing her off unfairly for years.
All that being said, I received a copy of her newest novel, ANGEL TIME, for Christmas (note the irony in THAT), and it was the first book of the new year that I read.
Here’s a small description of the book from Publisher’s Weekly:
“[…] this kickoff to bestseller Rice’s new Songs of the Seraphim religious romance series centers on hired assassin Toby O’Dare, a one-time aspirant to the priesthood until personal tragedy unmoored his life. Guardian angel Malchiah visits Toby, who’s just consummated his latest kill, and offers him redemption for his sins. After accepting the offer, Toby is whisked away to 13th-century England, where, in the guise of a Dominican friar, he becomes the protector of a Jewish couple accused wrongly by the gentile populace of having murdered their young daughter for her conversion to Christianity.”
To be fair, the book started out slow. There’s a lot of exposition from Toby, who we only know as Lucky at this point, over his life as an assassin and his longing to believe in God. I love exposition (as a literary writer myself), so knew enough to give the book a chance. Again, I was amazed by Anne’s lyrical words, the way she could weave together sentences and paragraphs and pages as if from the finest silk. Though beautifully woven, she almost lost me in the second chapter after a lengthy description of a hotel. Even though I knew it had to be important, I wasn’t deep enough into the story to care just yet. But still I gave it a chance.
And that’s when Malchiah came into the picture. He’s an angel that has been following Toby for almost his entire life. He promises to absolve Toby of his sins, to get him back into God’s good graces. As a way of getting Toby to believe he was real, he recites Toby’s childhood in great detail, things Toby never revealed to anyone in his current life.
That’s where the story really started for me, hearing about poor but determined Toby as a young boy, oldest of three, trying to follow his faith and manage a corrupt father and alcoholic mother at the same time. His innocence and pure spirit are captivating, and it makes his loss all the more heartbreaking. Once he leaves home for New York City, circumstances lead him to his first kills, but you know that he is completely in the right for what he does.
The story takes an interesting turn there, as Toby gives himself over to His services and is transported back in time (because in Angel Time, time as we know it does not exist), and he has to protect the Jewish parents of a young girl who the town’s Catholics believe murdered her because she wanted to convert to Christianity. In this time, we get to hear from Fluria, the girl’s mother, about her own struggles with love and religion, because as a Jewess, she fell in love with a Christian, and people were killed in those times for much less.
In the end, this story is about love and Toby’s struggle to find faith and his place in the world. Again, I fell into the trap of believing the story would be preachy, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. It wasn’t in the slightest.
I’m fascinated with religion, by the characters and the stories they tell. Religion is a topic I bring into a lot of my own writings, in various ways, for that reason. And this is a story that anyone, of any religion or belief system, can enjoy.
I follow Anne on Twitter and was happy to learn that she recently finished edits on the next book in her new Songs of the Seraphim series, The Dybbuk, and it is scheduled for an October 2010 release. It’s definitely on my To Buy list… I’m even considering picking up her Life of Christ series. I figure I owe her the benefit of the doubt in this case.
Kyle W. Kerr
I’ve seen a few new movies in the months since my last post, but there’s really only one worth mentioning.
Being the movie fanatic that I am, I frequently prowl the back alleys of movie gossip sites and heard about this particular feature a number of years ago. After the success of Titanic, James Cameron basically fell off the face of the planet, and I figured he was suffering from the same fear that plagues all successful artists… how the hell is he going to follow THAT?
But that isn’t what really happened. He spent his time working on a couple of documentaries (low-key, of course), but he’d also started production on something he’d written almost a decade earlier, an idea that was too far ahead of the technology at the time. He wrote AVATAR and ended up putting it away in a drawer, only to pick it up many years later, blow off the dust, and think… Hey, this isn’t so bad!
And so it began. Production started and whispers of a new mega-budget Cameron project started to circulate (even now, no one really knows how much it cost, but many believe it is the most expensive movie ever made, so over $300 million!). People kept talking about the kind of technology being developed and pictures leaked of actors wearing strange costumes. Everyone in the industry was buzzing, and that buzzing eventually turned into a frenzy late last summer when the first trailer debuted.
I have to admit, when I first saw the trailer I thought it looked a bit… dumb. Well, not necessarily dumb, but I didn’t really know what to think of it. Not much of the story was explained (it was a TEASER trailer, after all!), and the visual effects didn’t look right. Little did I know that it was the limited viewing capabilities of our home computers (even though my monitor is high-def) that was the problem. BUT, even though I wasn’t overly impressed the first time I watched the trailer, I watched it again. And again. And many more times over the following months until the theatrical trailer was released, and by that time, I’d started to become a little, well, OBSESSED.
Cut to the week leading up to the release of the movie. Everyone is talking about it, critics are raving, and you can’t turn on your TV without seeing a dozen or so commercials every hour. I talked my friend Francine into seeing the movie in 3D with me on opening night, even though we expected a huge crowd, and I probably lost a good handful of Twitter and Facebook friends because I could talk of little else.
Now, I have a confession to make. I am a HUGE Titanic freak (sounds redundant when you think about it, doesn’t it?), and it is probably the worst kept secret that I am deeply in love with Kate Winslet… Couple that with the fact that the Terminator franchise is one of my all time favorite storylines (T2 is one of the most incredible movies ever, and I WAS named after Kyle Reese from T1 after all), and the fact that he also directed the hilarious True Lies, I was definitely a James Cameron fan. But now, my liking of him has escalated to an unhealthy level.
We went to the theater early (only about 2 hours), expecting to see a swarm of people (I was there for when people were lining up for the midnight release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon back in November, and was expecting similar lines), but was disappointed by the seeming lack of bodies. We didn’t even get in line right away, and opted to sit in the game room for a half hour or so because we weren’t really worried about getting bad seats at that point. All of this was an ominous sign. I knew AVATAR was the most expensive movie ever made, and I feared for Jim’s reputation if it didn’t open with smashing numbers. But then a queue started, and we diligently and patiently waited for it to snake its way into the theater.
I wear glasses, so having to wear 3D specs over them has always been difficult. I’ve never watched an entire feature length movie in 3D, but did see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in IMAX, and the last twenty minutes of the movie were in 3D (which was my first real experience with 3D where it wasn’t kitschy), and it was annoying for that short amount of time, so how would I feel after over two and a half hours?
Honestly? I forgot I was wearing them. Well, after the disconcerting sensation of depth perception for a MOVIE wore off! I was disoriented for maybe the first five minutes, but after…
For those of you who don’t know what AVATAR is about, it follows the story of ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who is recruited by a company to fill in for his recently murdered twin brother. Jake’s brother was a scientist and worked closely with the avatar program, training for years to operate an avatar body and learning the native language of the Na’vi. His involvement meant millions of investment dollars, and because the avatar bodies are made from the DNA of their host mixed with the DNA of the Na’vi, Jake is literally able to step into his brother’s avatar, something no one else can do.
He is transported several light-years away to Pandora, where he is quickly recruited by the person in charge of security, another ex-Marine, Colonel Quaritch, to be his spy on the Na’vi, to learn their ways and feed him useful information on how they might eventually fight the native population.
But what Jake couldn’t have foreseen was the level of intelligence the “savages” have, or the peace loving and spiritual insight that is their very nature. He manages to get accepted (for the most part) into their tribe, thanks mostly to Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who believes she can see his good heart and pure spirit. Jake falls in love with Neytiri and the Na’vi People, so when Quaritch decides it’s time to move and destroy the spirit of The People, Jake has a very tough decision to make: stand back and watch it happen, or abandon his own race and fight alongside the Na’vi.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The visuals are unparalleled. I’ve never seen a movie with so much CGI work look so photorealistic. That’s thanks to the team over at Weta Workshop/Weta Digital in New Zealand (owned by my other favorite director, Peter Jackson, who’ve done visual effects work for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia movies, King Kong, X-Men: The Last Stand, Jumper, The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), just to name a few). They were heralded for their work on Lord of the Rings, but they have progressed to GODS with AVATAR. The transition from real to CGI is seamless, and when you have a human standing next to a Na’vi, neither looks fake. What’s most impressive was the emotion they were able to capture from the actors, from small facial movements, to the depths of their eyes. If any digital effects company in the world could’ve pulled this off, it was always going to be Weta. When I saw LOTR for the first time, I was mesmerized. And if anyone has seen King Kong, pay special attention to the end of the movie when you can LITERALLY see the light go out of Kong’s eyes when he dies. Beautiful CG work. And, being the crazy movie fan that I am, I have watched ALL of the special features for the LOTR movies, King Kong, and The Chronicles of Narnia, so know the depth of detail they put into their designs that we can’t even SEE on screen.
Also, the 3D enhances your experience of the movie tenfold. I haven’t seen the movie in 2D. Hopefully they’ll find a way to release the DVD in 3D as well, because I can’t imagine watching it any other way. The way it just immerses you. Who would’ve thought that just adding depth perception to a movie could create such a difference!
The thing that I liked most about the movie is the thing people have spoken about least, and that’s the acting. Sam Worthington as the lead is great. This was the first movie I’d seen him in (he was previously in Terminator: Salvation, but I wouldn’t see that until after AVATAR), and I was impressed with him. He’s great with the action, but he could also be passionate and sensual when needed. He’s a commanding presence, so it takes no stretching of the imagination to see him leading a Na’vi army against The Sky People.
But the person who most impressed me, the performance that stayed with me long after the credits stopped rolling, was that of Zoe Saldana playing Neytiri. It’s a testament to her performance that I FORGOT I was watching a nearly naked, ten foot tall alien with yellow eyes and a zero waistline. The raw emotion that radiated from her, the sadness in her eyes, the joy on her face, the power of her voice… whatever the scene, she never gave less than her A-Game. AVATAR was just nominated for NINE Academy Awards, yet Zoe wasn’t nominated for best actress. I think this was a HUGE oversight. EVERY SINGLE SECOND of Neytiri’s performance was done by Zoe. They didn’t record voices for this movie and then Weta spent the next three years doing the animation, these actors suited up and motion-captured their entire performance. Meaning Zoe had to train for months beforehand so she was lithe enough to be a believable Na’vi, had to learn their native language, had to fight, to cry, to love. Every miniscule movement on their faces was captured and 100% reproduced on their Na’vi counterparts thanks to the amazing technology James Cameron and his crew invented. Don’t believe me? Check out this video:
All in all, a worthy movie of all the attention and money it is making. This was truly a magical experience for me, and if anyone hasn’t seen it in 3D in theaters yet, you cannot imagine what you are missing.
Film Score: 12 out of 10.
Kyle W. Kerr
10/28/09 | Genius Mode, Movies, My Writings, Reviews | 2 Comments
It’s okay, you don’t have to try and convince me otherwise. I have been a HORRIBLE blogger these past few months. Not only have I not written, but I haven’t been keeping up with my blogroll, either. Sometimes you fall out of a habit and it’s hard to get back into the groove again. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start afresh and I won’t have to write another of these apologies for a long time…
What have I been up to since May? Well, as you saw, I finished my first novel, Love, Simon. I’m happy with where it is and have recently been sending out queries to agents. I know it’s a long and treacherous road to finding representation, but I have faith that when the right agent reads something of mine at the right time, magic will happen. So, enough about Simon for now.
I started writing my second novel, which is as different from my first as it’s possible to be. I didn’t start out to do that. Yes, I wanted to write something DIFFERENT for a change, but it hadn’t been my intention to start this particular book. There were (and still are) a few projects that I really wanted to start, but when it came down to putting fingers to keyboard, this is what I started writing. It’s a story that has been percolating in my brain for the last five or so years, and I initially envisioned it as a screenplay… but who am I kidding? When am I going to find the time to learn how to write a screenplay? I think it’ll work magnificently as a movie, but someone else will have to adapt what I’m writing now. It’s kind of an urban fantasy thriller, but with a literary twist (though hopefully the fantasy part will blend in so seamlessly it’ll read more like a literary thriller). Here’s the logline:
What if Jesus was never meant to be our Savior, but a warning? What if, 2000 years later, God fathered a daughter?
And that’s as much as you’re going to get until the book is published, whenever that may be! If you’re clever, you might be able to find an Easter Egg about it somewhere else on this site, but that’s all I’m saying right now!
I’m really enjoying the process of creating a new world. And, like I said in the past, I am no longer limiting myself to work on ONLY ONE project at a time. I have ideas for two YA series—one an urban fantasy and the other more commercial—as well as my next literary novel (which I’m going to give a little time before I start… I need a little BREAK). So, I’ll keep everyone updated to my progress.
In the meantime, I’ve also finished a new short story entitled “The Mommy Tree.” It’s currently making the rounds of my first readers, but early response has been positive. I’m planning on submitting it to a contest at the end of the month that I have no chance in hell of winning, but I’m not one to be intimidated by overwhelming odds—would I have chosen to be a writer if I was? Keep your fingers crossed for me just in case!
Work is still the same—work. I’m making strides and creating waves, in my usual fashion. Even the CEO of the company knows me by name. That’s just how I handle business.
I went to see the musical WICKED this past weekend in NYC. I read the book about a year or so ago and wasn’t overly impressed with it. I’d been expecting a fairytale told from a different POV, when all I got was a big political statement that I found BORING. I read to the end because I was curious, but it’s not something I’d recommend. And it’s already been made clear to me that I’m one of the only people in the world NOT to love this book, I understand this. It’s just hard for me to get into something when my expectations aren’t met. But the musical was INCREDIBLE, for lack of more clever verbiage. I was skeptical, because of my experience with the book, but they were able to draw the real story out of the novel and make the musical based on that. The overall plot is the same, but it had a more humanized quality to it—more literary, if you will. And the music was witty and sad all at the same time. I wish I could have recorded that performance to watch over and over again. I bought the original cast recording, but it pales in comparison to the experience of seeing it live and feeling the entire theater shake from the power of their voices. Definitely worth a see if you’ve got the time and money.
Over the summer I was able to watch a number of movies. I’ll list them below and give a short reaction to each (since there are quite a few, I won’t bore you with longer opinions):
After Wolverine, I saw—
Angels & Demons – Still the best of the Dan Brown novels, I was pleased with the adaptation. I read the book a number of years ago, so the plot wasn’t very fresh in my head (my mom, on the other hand, reread it for the showing and was disappointed by the changes made). And I’m so glad they didn’t have Langdon jump out of the helicopter at the end, which was the most unbelievable part of the whole book. Though, I have to admit, I did miss Silas from Code… But that might just be misplaced longing for my love of Paul Bettany. *shrug*
Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian – The first movie was cute, and I really only went to see this because a friend wanted to. But I was pleasantly surprised at how funny the movie was. Amy Adams is always refreshing, and my favorite part was with the singing Cherubs (voiced by The Jonas Brothers, I would find out later). Obviously, this was just a screwball flick, but worth your time if you’re looking for a laugh.
Up – I LOVE Pixar. I have never been disappointed with one of their movies, and this one fits in the same mold. It was witty, but also extremely heartfelt. Their animation only gets more incredible with each movie, and hopefully they’re only just hitting their stride.
My Sister’s Keeper – I had heard of this book, but never picked it up. But from the first trailer that premiered for this movie, I wanted to see it. Why would this young girl no longer want to help save her sister’s life? There had to be something more… and there was. My only complaint is for Cameron Diaz, someone I’m never much impressed with. You can take any role she’s ever played, exchange her out with another actress, and it wouldn’t make a difference. Not like Kate Winslet, where I can’t picture anyone else but her playing each of her roles. I also happened to miss the emotional climax of the movie. TMI, but I should have gone to the bathroom BEFORE the movie started, and I didn’t think anyone would appreciate me peeing in the theater. Oops.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – OMFG was this movie HILARIOUS. I loved the first Transformers for its amazing wit and breakneck action, and this was no different. Besides the fact that the theater put it on the smallest screen in the building, I was absorbed from the first minutes of film. Shia LaBeouf is extremely funny and a perfect fit for this role, and even though the story gets a little convoluted in places, it was definitely first-class entertainment. The guy in me drooled the entire film!
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a Harry Potter freak. I’ve been to two midnight premieres (including this one), went to the midnight releases of the last THREE books, and reread the books once a year. So, it should come as no surprise that I LOVED this movie. Yes, hardcore fans, the plot and structure were rearranged to fit the 2 ½ hour movie format, but that’s been the case for all five previous movies as well, so get over it! One of the things I loved most about the movie was the humor. I still laugh every time I think about Ron climbing into bed with Harry to swoon over Ramilda Vane, whom he recently fell in love with due to an expired love potion. The special effects were flawless (save for the Inferi at the end, but that’s just me). All the kids have really come into their own. And we were introduced to some great new talent in the form of both Young Tom Riddles, who both gave very chilling performances. I’ll be first in line when this movie comes out on DVD, and I’ll be sure to be at the midnight premiere of DH Part 1 next November!
The Ugly Truth – Predictable, but enjoyable. Some of the best lines were in the trailer, but it wasn’t really lacking in the funny. I’ve liked Katherine Heigl since her Roswell days, so this was a no-brainer to see. Of course (and I hope I’m not ruining anything for you here), the guy gets the girl in the end, so it was satisfying. And Katherine playing off of Gerard Butler was great fun as well.
Julie and Julia – As I said above, Amy Adams is always refreshing. And seeing her try to cook her way through Julia Child’s cookbook was enjoyable, to say the least. And it’s amazing how Meryl Streep can so fully embody whatever character she plays. I fell in love with her in The Devil Wears Prada, and she really shone as Julie Child in this one. I’ll have to check out some of her earlier work!
The Informant! – Ever since the Bourne movies came out, I have really come to appreciate the raw talent that is Matt Damon. In this quirky comedy, he plays a professional turned informant when he disagrees with the way his company does business. He’s bumbling, almost moronic, and ends up getting himself in some real trouble in the end. Odd, but worth the watch. You won’t know where the movie is going until the last frame!
Couples Retreat – I’m not a big Vince Vaughn fan. To be honest, I think he plays the same character in ever movie he’s in (which I believe is just a caricature of himself), and it’s getting old. This movie is no different in that respect, but he isn’t the only main character, so he sort of gets blended in with the rest of the cast. That being said, I really enjoyed this movie. It was funny and unpredictable at times (though I think the ending was a little too easily wrapped up).
Where the Wild Things Are – This is another book I never got around to reading. Funny, considering I went to B&N after watching the movie and was able to read through the book in about 2 minutes flat (I think there’s, what, 20 words total in the book?). Based on that, you can imagine how much of a creative leap the filmmakers had to make in order to draw the story out for two hours. The movie, if you haven’t seen it already, is very dark and depressing. Max “runs away” from home (and into his imagination) because he is lonely and believes everyone thinks he’s bad. But, like the old saying, life isn’t always greener. He stumbles upon the Wild Things, who are a bunch of lonely, depressed creatures themselves. They make Max their king in hopes that he will cure their loneliness and bring them closer together. But nothing Max does seems to help, and eventually he discovers that he misses the very people he was trying to escape. Exceedingly beautiful and poignant film, even if it is a little sad. Great performance by young actor Max Records.
Movies I wanted to see but missed and will have to catch on DVD: Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, The Hangover, The Proposal, Year One, Public Enemies, Bruno, (500) Days of Summer, Funny People, District 9 (!), The Time Traveler’s Wife, Inglourious Basterds, Gamer, and Surrogates.
Movies either out now or coming out that I want to see: Law Abiding Citizen, Amelia, Astro Boy, 2012, The Blind Side, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Road, The Princess and the Frog, The Lovely Bones (!!!), Avatar, and Sherlock Holmes.
I’ll have to talk about books, TV shows and music in another post!
What has everyone else been up to all summer? I know a little if I follow you on Twitter or Facebook, but like I said, I haven’t been keeping up with my blogroll.
I’m much better at updating Twitter (and consequently Facebook, since my Tweets are my Status Updated on FB). So, if you haven’t already, please follow me on TWITTER!
Kyle W. Kerr
What do the two of these have in common? Nothing, apart from the fact that I’m going to discuss both of them in this blog post.
I never read the comics when I was younger, but I did watch the cartoon, so there was definitely a certain level of anticipation on my part when the first of the X-Men franchise was originally slated for release. Though I’ve deemed the X-Men films as the movies where good actors go to get a break from acting, they’ve served their entertainment purposes and I’ve liked all three of them.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is supposed to be about the—er—origins of, well, Wolverine, if the title wasn’t obvious enough. It starts off when he’s a kid and he finds out he’s half-brothers with Victor Creed (aka Sabretooth), goes through a choppy montage of clips with the two of them fighting in every war imaginable in recent history, to the point where they’re both recruited to become part of William Stryker’s personal SWAT team of mutants. That’s all in the first five minutes. To say that this film is roughly edited and moves at too quick of a pace is an understatement. I had a connection with Wolverine because I’ve already been through three other movies with him, but it didn’t leave me enough time to bond with the other characters.
One of my favorites has always been Gambit, but the eight minutes of screen time he had wasn’t nearly enough for me (though they were probably the BEST eight minutes of the movie!). The whole storyline was a bit contrived and I left feeling disappointed. It was entertaining, don’t get me wrong, with some decent action and a look at a bunch of new mutants we hadn’t been privy to in the earlier films in the franchise (and some of them, like Gambit and Deadpool, already have Origins spin-offs of their own in the works), which was cool. But the acting in this installment was particularly bad, even on Hugh Jackman’s part, which pains me to say.
And there’s also the fact that they CHANGED Wolverine’s origins for this movie! Like I said previously, I didn’t read the comics, but even I know that Logan didn’t have his claws UNTIL the metal was added to his bones… they were a sort of perk of the operation. In the movie, young Jimmy (I don’t know WHY he’s called Jimmy in the beginning and throughout the film by Sabretooth and is now Logan, but whatever) gets mad and the claws come out of his hands as bone, and he goes through all the wars and most of his life with the bone claws (which I actually found kind of disgusting for some reason) that turn into metal during the operation. And since when does Sabretooth have long life like Wolverine? He also seemed to have healing powers of some sort, because he never seemed to be hurt, no matter how he was shot, stabbed, cut or impaled. Anyone know anything about X-Men that can let me know about this?
Basically, it’s a pretty mindless movie with some decent action and cool special effects. Hopefully the Wolverine 2 movie that is already being planned will be a little better in the story and acting departments, because this one was definitely lacking in both. Go to see it in theatres if you like (mostly because the SFX will look better), but it’s not really necessary.
Score: Not great, but didn’t want to throw myself on Wolverine’s claws… 6/10.
Neil’s name has popped up over the past few years, but I never picked up one of his books. Most recently (if you call two years ago recently), I saw the movie Stardust, which is based off of one of his novels, and I really liked it! Now, I still haven’t read any of his books, but I subscribe to his Journal on his official website and I also just followed him on Twitter.
There are some authors that I love to read but who can be fairly boring people. There are others that I don’t particularly like their books but I LOVE to read them talk (meaning, anything BUT their fiction, ie. blog posts, interviews, etc…). Stephen King is one of the latter. I HAVE eighteen of his books and I’ve read exactly four of them. They’re okay, but don’t have me itching to pick up the next one (then why do I have eighteen of them? I have mentioned my compulsive book buying before, haven’t I?), but his On Writing book is incredible, I read every Entertainment Weekly column he writes, and every time I see an interview or anything with him I have to read it. He’s just an incredibly interesting and intelligent person whose brain I love to get a glimpse into.
This is my problem with Neil. Not a problem, per-se, but definitely a predicament. I love reading him talk so much that I’m afraid to pick up one of his books! Take his latest Journal entry for instance (read it here… trust me, you’ll enjoy it!). A very well thought out response to a question that plagues most published authors, but also an answer to an email from a fan! As a heavy reader myself, I like to see instances where authors take the time to communicate with their fans, and Neil does that on a daily basis through email, his Journal, and on Twitter. It’s very frustrating when some of your favorite authors don’t even have a WEBSITE, let alone a blog or Twitter account or Facebook page. A great amount of interaction isn’t necessary (they do have to have time to actually write the books we so love!), but a little would be nice, and a bit more is always appreciated.
Are we too connected? Only time will tell, but I enjoy the communication and is something I plan to do myself when I finally get published. I mean, how else would I have known that Christopher Rice finished his fifth book last week if I weren’t friends with him on Facebook? I know he has no clue who I am, but it’s nice to have that little connection.
But back to Neil. I have been enjoying his Journal entries for months now and think it’s finally time to venture into his world of fiction. Are there any fans out there who could recommend a first read?
And if you haven’t checked out his Journal, definitely take some time to do so!
P.S. Follow me on Twitter if you haven’t already!
Kyle W. Kerr
04/27/09 | Books, Genius Mode, Movies, My Writings, Reviews | 4 Comments
For those of you who follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, you’ll know all about the new love of my life, my iPhone! You’ll also know that I spent an hour typing out a blog post on my new iBlogger application… which promptly crashed as I was trying to post it. So, I’m going to try and retype as much of it as I can remember and try to post it again (I’m at work, so hopefully it doesn’t get lost again!).
It’s been a month since I started my last set of updates and I’ve written upwards of 18,000+ new words! My productivity has slowed dramatically now that I’m back at work (I’d taken a week of vacation to try and finish), but I’m still trucking along. I’ve only got one more chapter to rewrite and four others to revise! This is the closest to FINISHED my book has ever been. I’ve been plotting out my next books too, so all around the writing is going well! Cross your fingers for me that I can finish soon...
And now to the random:
THE READER came out on DVD, and it was just as amazing this time around as it was in theaters. Kate Winslet is extraordinary and no one has deserved their Academy Award more. I’m totally not biased.
I’m reading a book called BATTLE ROYALE, about a bunch of Asian students put on an island with various weapons and ordered to kill one another until only one survives. It’s a translation from either Japanese or Chinese, so the writing isn’t that good, but the story is good enough to keep me reading anyway!
The summer movie season is gearing up, starting with WOLVERINE this Friday. Be ready for my reviews coming in as I see them! I did just see 17 AGAIN and it was actually really good. Semi-predictable, but funny enough to make it worth it.
ThrillerFest is coming up in July, which I’m really excited about. It looks like it’s going to be as good or even BETTER than last year! And it’s nice to see all my friends who I only get to see once or twice a year, not to mention all of the writer eye candy! And don’t forget about all the free books! I think I got upwards of 30 last year. Let’s see if I can break that this time around! I’m going with my friend Dawn (whose wedding I’m going to in August!), which is who I went with last year and had a lot of fun! Should be a great time. And this time I get to go for the entire week versus just the long weekend. Fun!
I think that’s enough for now. Hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve been having (except Dawn, who lives where it’s still SNOWING!)...!!!
Kyle W. Kerr
02/24/09 | Genius Mode, My Writings, On Writing, Reviews | 3 Comments
This seems to be the time I’ve subsciously chosen to blog every month, so I couldn’t disappoint the three of you who actually read this!
Okay, I’ve been a little hush-hush about this in the last couple of blog posts, but I guess it’s okay to talk about now. I have a confession to make: I’ve been writing. Yes, I KNOW. I don’t know what brought it on, so didn’t want to say anything in case it decided to go away again. But I’ve actually written more in the last month than I have in the last YEAR. Literally. I’ve gotten a few more new chapters written, and rewrote a section of another chapter I’d been dreading working on (and it was actually REALLY easy to do, to my surprise!). All-in-all, about 18,000 or so words.
I love my book, I really do, but I need to move on. I’ve been working on it in one form or another since I was in 10th grade. That’s over EIGHT years, folks. Eight years is a long time to have the same voices in your head, to live with the same people day in and day out. That’s why I’m hoping I can finish this one within the coming month and move on to some other projects. I’ve already mentioned that I won’t allow myself to work on any other (novel length) projects until this one is done, because I’ll never finish it if I do, and that’s still very much the rule. Though, IF I’m able to keep up this pace, finishing it within the coming month shouldn’t be a problem. I HOPE. I PRAY. Please, God, just let me finish. I don’t ask you for much, and all the jokes you like to play on me should warrant me some favors. At least one. I’m calling it in.
I’ve already decided on my next two projects, which are actually two beginnings to two young adult series’. The first is a fantasy series, and the other is an absolute bitch-fest. Did I talk about this in my last post? I’m not going back to read it, so I hope not. Ah well, you’re not getting any more information than that, so I guess you can hear it as many times as I want and it doesn’t matter, does it?!
Oh, did anyone happen to see a certain show this past Sunday, one featuring a flawless, bald, gold man who just so happens to be missing his genitals? THE OSCARS. So… KATE WON! I’M SO EFFING HAPPY FOR HER!! SHE SO DESERVES IT!!! I made a vow a while ago that, by the time I’m established in the world of Hollywood, if Kate hadn’t won an Oscar, I’d write a movie that would get her said deserved Oscar. Well, someone has spared me the trouble. Not that I would have minded writing it for her, but I don’t know how long it’ll be until I’m there, and I couldn’t bear seeing her Oscarless any longer! I love you, Kate! Can I have your babies?!
I’ve seen the movie TAKEN, starring Liam Neeson, twice now. It’s the one about an ex-CIA agent whose daughter gets kidnapped in Paris and sold into sex trafficking. The trailers for the movie looked amazing, so I was really excited about it. Honestly, the first time I saw it I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a really good movie, but I was hoping for/expecting something a little DEEPER, considering who the star was. But it was exactly the kind of movie you’d expect it to be. The second time I saw it I left those hopes at the door and just enjoyed the movie for what it was, and that time walked out much more satisfied! I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something with a few well-placed shocks and Liam Neeson kicking ass along the way!
Now, I need to pose a question to all of my writer friends out there, and I would really appreciate an answer from all who have the time! A little backstory first, though…
I hate editing. Editing in the general sense of the word, anyway. When I write, I edit as I go, fleshing out sentences and paragraphs and pages, reworking dialogue until it has a natural sounding flow, making sure words aren’t repeated too often or too close together. In starting a new day of work, I always reread what I’ve already written in that chapter, checking my flow and rhythm, wording, and so on. By the time I’m done with my “first draft,” I’d say it’s akin to most other writer’s third or fourth drafts. Depending on the length, it may have been “edited” twenty-thirty times already. That being said, I hate having to go back over work I’ve already written and deemed finished, because I’m a picker. I could pick and pick at words and sentences until the earth dies, and I could pick some more after, too. I feel like I’ve already done the work and shouldn’t trouble going over it again. It’s finished. Most of my short stories—oh, who am I kidding? ALL of my short stories are technically “first drafts.”
My question is, do you actually ENJOY editing/revising? I’ve heard both arguments, but am curious to what you think. Some say revising brings out the TRUE story, while others say you’re just moving around words and beating the dead horse more dead. You know what I mean. What’s your opinion on editing/revising?
Kyle W. Kerr
01/25/09 | Books, Genius Mode, My Writings, Reviews | 4 Comments
First, the caving in part: We all know how much I’m obsessed with Harry Potter. It’s about the worst kept secret in the world that I worship the ground Jo walks on (yes, we’re on a first name basis, Jo and I), and would like nothing more than to have her babies. Might be a little complicated, but with the help of some magic, I think we can get it done.
Well, something’s been happening in the last few years: another phenomenon was born. I’ve been mostly ignoring it, somewhat because I was already so involved with the characters of too many series’ (Harry Potter, The Sword of Truth, the Inheritance Cycle, etc…), but mainly because the author is being hailed as “The New JK Rowling”, which is simply heresy as far as I’m concerned.
The author in question? Stephenie Meyer. The books she wrote? The Twilight Saga.
I said I would never read these books. I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon, and I felt like I would be cheating on Jo and Harry if I did. Seriously, I felt that strongly about it. But, as the title of this post states, I finally caved in, having asked for and received all four novels in the Twilight series for Christmas.
Let’s just say that I started reading the books about two weeks ago, and I’m already on book four. I have REALLY been enjoying them. They’re absolutely nothing like Harry Potter, obviously, but they’re just as easy a read. I’ve never been a HUGE fan of the vampire stuff, but there’s something about this new mythology that Stephenie has created that is, for lack of a better word, fascinating. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m just going to say that she takes all of our ideas about vampires and their culture and completely turns it on its ear. She has new answers for everything, including but not limited to why they don’t go out in the sun, and it’s all proof of a really clever and talented writer.
The thing I like most about the books, and it’s something I imagine most of the readers really respond to, is the love between the story’s main characters, Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. The forbidden love between vampire and human, “the lion falling in love with the lamb” as Stephenie so eloquently puts it, is both beautiful, heartbreaking, and completely hot. Can’t believe I’m swooning over a YA fantasy novel! If you’ve read the books, you’ll know what I mean.
The stories are full of passion, love, fierce rivalry, betrayal, and suspense. I’m kind of disappointed that I didn’t start reading the books while the movie was still in theaters, because you all know I think every movie should be viewed in a theater environment, but it’s something I’ll definitely check out on DVD when it comes out. I’m only at the beginning of the fourth book, but I’m sure it’s going to be a doozy, at least from what I’ve heard.
Now, for the second part: I’m not saying that I’ve broken through whatever barrier has been keeping me from writing, but I completed the chapter I began back in October and have also written a completely new chapter in the last week alone. This part is going to be very short, because I don’t want to jinx whatever is going on, and I don’t want to put any false hope behind my sudden writing spurt. However, I will say that it felt nice to finish something again, and then to write something completely new in such a short amount of time. For instance, yesterday alone I wrote over 2200 words, which was the completion of the new chapter. I haven’t been giving myself the time to write so much, which is part of the reason why it’s been going so slow. I just need to prioritize, then everything will be okay.
Thanks again to everyone who commented on my last post, or wrote to me personally. It’s not easy admitting one’s faults, but the support you have all shown me has truly helped. Hopefully you won’t have to read anymore of the woe-is-me posts for a very long time, if ever again, but I hold no promises. Sometimes it just helps to get it all off your chest.
For those of my writer friends who also have blogs, don’t take it personally that I haven’t commented on your sites in so long. It’s hard to explain, but when things become stressful, even seeing a buildup of RSS reeds can feel like overwhelming pressure. So, I have gone through and cleared all of the backlogs, and plan on coming back to them anew. I’ll be back at your next new post and hopefully I won’t disappear like that again, stress permitting. I love you guys!
Now, to end this post on a lighter note, I’ve also recently discovered David Sedaris. For those of you who know me, you’ll know that David has exactly my sense of humor. I’ve listen to two of his CDs, one a live recording of him at Carnegie Hall, and the other the audio version of his book Holidays On Ice, both of which were completely hilarious. Below, you’ll find a clip of him on David Letterman, reading one of his most humorous essays. Enjoy!
Kyle W. Kerr
You’re either going to love this movie, or loathe it. It definitely takes a certain type of humor to get this movie. Luckily, I have said sense of humor, so I didn’t leave disappointed, but I can’t claim the same for everyone.
This story starts with Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) as he gets fired from his job at the CIA for being an alcoholic. He’s in a rocky marriage with uptight Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton), who is having an affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). She wants to divorce Osbourne and marry Harry, though she doesn’t realize that Harry is a sex addict—and slightly neurotic!—and their relationship doesn’t mean as much to him as it does to her. With me so far? In the meantime, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) wants to get plastic surgery to improve her looks and hook a man. She works at a gym with happy-go-lucky Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), where they find a CD containing information about CIA agent Osbourne Cox. They decide to try and blackmail Cox into paying to get the information back, and it basically blows up in their faces.
And that’s really only the half of it! Basically, this is the Coen Brothers’ idea of a Soap Opera, though much more entertaining, and with MUCH better acting!
There are a lot of big names in this movie (most of whom are listed above), and it’s nice to see most of them taking themselves not so seriously. One of the biggest scene stealers in this flick is Brad Pitt, whose blond streaked coif and tight gym shorts only add to the slightly dimwitted character. He is able to portray this almost childlike enthusiasm and innocence that gets caught up in something more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.
Some of the most hilarious scenes in the movie were between J.K. Simmons (as the CIA Supervisor) and another CIA officer, as they try to understand the situation from their end. The story is so ridiculous that the Coen’s brought in these characters just point that fact out to us and make sure we knew THEY knew the movie’s ridiculous.
Now, this movie isn’t all sunshine and dildos (you’ll get that if you’ve seen the movie). Some people actually die, and in some not so nice ways. BUT, they were shown in such a way that they’re actually kind of funny (or, at least I think so!). Just be prepared for it when you sit down with your garbage bag of popcorn and three liters of soda.
I didn’t see There Will Be Blood, but I’m guessing this isn’t the kind of movies the Coen’s are expecting to get Oscar noms for, and they certainly won’t. It was entertaining, it was funny, and I didn’t feel like I had wasted $10. That’s a big plus!
Like I said, not everyone is going to like this movie, but some of you will. I’d recommend it to friends of mine who share my sense of humor. For me: 7/10.
Kyle W. Kerr
Apologies in advance for how LONG this post is going to be. I haven’t updated in a while, so this is going to be a bit of a ramble. But, considering the title of this blog is A Writer’s Ramblings, I guess I’m allowed.
It appears that I am unemployable. I got a job sometime in June, but that basically ended in flames and I was forced to quit. Of course, that was two weeks before I headed to Honolulu, so let’s just say I’m a bit strapped for cash at the moment. (I had to sell my soul to three people in order to even GET to the conference and retreat! Thank God I have such great friends!) I’ve currently got my resume out to a number of places, and am even applying to some less-than-ideal jobs in the area (the dreaded retail). Please, pray for me.
I’ve seen a few new ones, three of which I saw on the two 8 hour trips between Minnesota and Honolulu. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Okay, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen the first three Indy movies in their entirety yet, but I just have to say that this movie was REALLY hokey. I mean, I love Cate Blanchett, and I’ve recently come to appreciate Shia LaBeouf, but the acting was just BAD. And that ending. Really? I’m usually really good with my suspension of disbelief (I AM a writer, after all!), but that ending was just completely ridiculous. Good lord! Kung Fu Panda: Not much to say about this one. Cute, cuddly, adorable. Jack Black is awesome as usual. I’d watch it again. Skadoosh! Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: I have to say that I really LOVE Focus Features lately. Atonement. In Bruges. And now, Miss Pettigrew. I really, really liked this movie. It’s about a nanny who’s hard on her luck and having trouble finding a job (maybe THAT’S why I connected with her so well! She’s ME!), and ends up stealing a lead from her placement agency after they deem her unemployable. The movie follows her through one day, and it was simply amazing. Plus, I love Amy Adams, too! The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: Awful. It was nowhere near as good as the first two. The amazingness of Rachel Weisz was noticeably absent, the portrayal of the once adorable son (who is magically in his mid-twenties after only a 7 year time gap between films) is that of an arrogant jackass, and the storyline was just WAY too out there! What, you couldn’t find a way to bring back Imhotep for a third round? Whatever. The Dark Knight: Anyone who has seen this movie already knows how amazing it was, so I don’t need to add to everything that has already been said about it. I will say that I believe director Chris Nolan, and actors Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart all deserve Oscars.
I’m currently obsessed with the following three songs (note my seemingly erratic choices! Blame the stress…):
Le Disko by Shiny Toy Guns
I am apparently not allowed to embed the music video for this song (WHY?!), so you can listen to it HERE. This song was offered as a “Single of the Week” through iTunes, so I was able to get it for free. It has such a catchy tune that I haven’t been able to stop listening to it!
Creator by Santagold
I first heard this song on episode 2x02 of Gossip Girl (I LOVE that show!), and instantly downloaded it. It’s been less than a week, but I must have listened to it over 50 times!
An Angel by Declan
This song came to my attention while I was searching for someone else on YouTube (which I talk about below). I don’t know how old this kid is, but I can’t get enough of this song! Just ignore some of the bad lyrics (rhyming “hives” with “hives”, for instance… and using “eyes” at the end of two consecutive lines!) and concentrate on his voice and the music. He reminds me of Billy Gilman, though obviously not singing Country. He has two albums out in the US right now (I think there’s one import available in the UK that isn’t available here), and has such an adorable voice! It’s funny though, because it drops about THREE OCTAVES between this album and his next one.
I’m currently reading The Venetian Betrayal by my new favorite person, Steve Berry! I hadn’t read any of his books prior to having him as a teacher in Honolulu, so I thought it might be a good idea to check him out. I’m just beginning part four of five parts, and I’m really enjoying it so far! He’s definitely a talented writer, and it’s good to know the lessons he taught us can actually be put to good use! I’ll definitely be buying more of his books in the future.
Some books that I’m really looking forward to their releases are Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr and JK Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard...! Brisingr is the third book in Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, formerly the Inheritance Trilogy because he decided to make the series four books instead of three (which I’m not complaining about!). I absolutely loved the first book in the series, Eragon. The second book, Eldest, I didn’t think was as good as the first, but was still very good (enough to get me to want the rest of the series!). That book comes out in about a week, which I’m really excited about. The Tales of Beedle the Bard was mentioned in Jo’s last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was a present from the recently deceased Dumbledore to Hermione as a clue for Harry on how to defeat Voldemort. Only one story from the book was mentioned in Hallows, but Jo created a set of seven copies of this book, each handwritten by herself and bound in beautiful leather and encrusted with precious stones. Six of them were given away to people who were intricate to the success of Potter (I’m guessing her agent, editors, etc), and one was auctioned for charity. Amazon.com bought the book for a reported $4 million, and teased us with pictures of the book and reviews of all the stories within. We thought we’d never get to see inside, when they announced that they were going to publish the book and give all the proceeds to charity! They have a standard paperback of the book available, but I’m interested in THIS one! A replica of the one Amazon won, which is selling for a mere $100. Well worth it, I say!
There are a bunch of things I’m watching nowadays. We’re halfway through the fifth season of Project Runway. I have to say I’m really disappointed with this season. I don’t care for any of the designers. Every time someone gets voted off the show, I’m not particularly bothered. And there’s no one I’m really rooting for to win, either. In fact, most of the contestants annoy me. Suede, with his referring to himself in third person; Blayne, who can only think about tanning; Keith, who’s only capable of sewing together strips of fabric and calling it fashion forward… the list goes on. Gossip Girl season two just started recently, and I’m happy to report that it’s as scandalicous as last year, and hopefully the ante gets upped even more! The Sarah Connor Chronicles had its season two premiere on Monday, and it was amazing. You all know how much of a Terminator fan I am (I’m named after Kyle Reese from the first movie, after all!), and this show has not disappointed (too much). John Connor finally has some of his balls back, Cameron could have been bad but ended the episode on the side of good, and they’ve brought in a female version of the T-1000 (the guy from T-2 who was basically liquid metal)!!! It’s going to be an amazing year. Now, I just have to wait for the premiere’s of Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes…!!! TV JOYGASM!
Some NEW shows that I’ve been watching include Skins and Fringe. Skins is basically Dawson’s Creek on CRACK! It centers on a group of 7 British teen friends, and involves a whole bunch of drugs, sex, swearing, eating disorders, manipulation, fights, suicide attempts, a possible sexual relationship between one of the friends and a teacher, parental abandonment, and that’s only in the FIRST FIVE EPISODES! It airs on the BBC America channel on Sundays at 10PM, but an unedited/uncensored version of the show is available on iTunes. I don’t know what it is about this show, but it is completely addicting. The kids are really great actors, and the storylines are simply explosive! Love it. The other show, Fringe, just premiered on Fox the other day, and stars Dawson’s Creek alum Joshua Jackson. It’s an X-Files-like show that centers on the unnatural, but doesn’t involve aliens (at least, I don’t think it does) and actually revolves around science. The first episode started a little slow, but I was completely hooked by the end of it! Now I’ve got another show to set up on my DVR!
I’m only going to put two on here, and it’s a complete coincidence that the main actors for each movie are schtupping one another.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I first heard about this movie about a year ago, and it’s been on my mind ever since. When I finally got to see the teaser trailer above, my first reaction was HOLY FUCKING GOD! It looks really incredible! And, it brings together a number of my favorite actors, including Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. This movie is definitely on my list to see this winter.
After seeing what he could do with Million Dollar Baby, I can’t pass up the chance to see another Clint Eastwood drama. Not only is the concept completely horrifying, but it’s actually a TRUE STORY. Besides, it doesn’t hurt that Angelina Jolie is in it.
The following video I first saw on an episode of Oprah. This is the video I mentioned earlier, the one I was searching for on YouTube when I came across Declan’s song. This is of a boy named Andrew Johnston trying out for Britain’s Got Talent, which is exactly like its American counterpart. You MUST watch the entire video, from the start, or else the song and his voice won’t be AS powerful (though, they’re powerful on their own as well!). I would suggest turning up the volume as loud as you can, preferably using a set of good headphones if you’ve got them around. I swear on all that is good and holy that I actually teared up listening to his voice, and he hits a note right in the middle of the song that sent a jolt right through my body.
I would also highly suggest listening to this in hi-def, which you can see HERE. The faces on the judges say it all. Absolutely stunning, and I can imagine him singing for movie soundtracks in the very near future (they have used boys choirs in recordings for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc… LOTS of work for these kids!)…!
And the last thing I want to talk about is the lawsuit of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. vs. RDR Books, a company who wanted to publish a Harry Potter Encyclopedia based on the website The Harry Potter Lexicon. I’m not going to go into the reasons behind the lawsuit—you can read about it HERE—but just comment on the outcome. Thank GOD the judge sided with Jo and WB, or else we might not have seen the comprehensive Harry Potter Encyclopedia that Jo herself is writing. We’ve been hearing about this book ever since the publication of Deathly Hallows last summer, and it would have been a real travesty had she felt forced to give it up. Justice sides with good once more, and hopefully we get our hands on that book sometime soon!
I’ve made a vow to keep up with my blogging from now on, so you won’t have these ridiculously long posts to sort through anymore. Thanks for listening, though!
Kyle W. Kerr
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe took the world by surprise. Not many thought that the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Harry Potter series could be repeated, yet it happened again with The Chronicles of Narnia. The first movie went on to gross over $730 million worldwide and left audiences all over the globe wanting MORE.
In Prince Caspian, the world of Narnia has been ravaged by time and the harsh rule of a race of humans called the Telmarines, a people who do not believe in magic. In the 1300 years since the Pevensie siblings left Narnia after serving for years as Kings and Queens, the Telmarines invaded and managed to drive Narnians almost to extinction.
The King of the Telmarines is dead and his son, Prince Caspian, is waiting for a time when he can take the throne. In the meantime, Caspian’s uncle, Miraz, serves as Regent of the realm. However, when Miraz’s wife gives birth to a son, Caspian’s life is suddenly in danger and he is forced to flee in order to survive. In the throes of his escape, he blows a horn with a mysterious past, and in doing so summons the Kings and Queens of old to help in his plight.
It has only been a year for the Pevensies, yet the transition from royal adults back to ordinary “children” hasn’t been easy for all of them. Peter, for one, hates being treated for his age and starts fights with other school-aged boys just to prove his manhood. Yet one day they feel an strange pinching in their stomachs as they’re waiting for the train to school, a pinch that feels oddly like magic. In the blink of an eye, the children are back in Narnia and they are faced with fighting two battles: the advancing Talmarine army, and their waning faith in Aslan and in themselves.
From the moment I stepped out of the theater after watching the first Narnia installment, I instantly wanted to watch the next one. It has been two and a half years, and six months longer than the original release date, and I’m very pleased to say that the wait has been well worth it. Through most of the two and a half hour movie, I literally had chills running up my spine. This movie, in my opinion, is even better than the first.
What makes it so great is that director Andrew Adamson didn’t try to recreate the look and feel of the first movie. This is a much darker movie, one with severe moral undertones about acceptance and prejudice, and it shouldn’t feel as fluffy as the first one was. A number of reviews I read about the movie complained that there wasn’t enough magic in this one, yet what did they expect? The Pevensies come back in an age where magic is all but gone, so there naturally wouldn’t be any magic to see. There are still a number of Narnians left: from centaurs and minotaurs, to talking badgers and mice to dwarves. There was plenty of magic in that respect, and certainly enough action, to let the audience leave feeling satisfied.
Another interesting element of this movie is the level of emotion that the young actors were able to bring to their roles, as well as the feelings the characters themselves were feeling. In the first Narnia, it’s obvious that it was their first real acting job. Yes, they did the best they could at the time, but they have all grown as actors, resulting in much more three dimensional characters this time around. They actually FELT like they were the Kings and Queens of Narnia past stuck in the bodies of teenagers and children. It was something in their eyes, a sense of knowledge far beyond their years, and the very way they held themselves that made it so believable. They have all grown, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
My favorite transition was in the character of Edmund who, in the first movie, betrayed his family for his own gain. In Prince Caspian, you can tell he is still trying to make up for this betrayal and will do anything for his family. Not only does he defend his brother, stick up for Lucy when no one believes that she’s been seeing Aslan when none of the rest of them has, but he’s turned into a calculated, badass warrior. He’s very confident in his position as a King, gets right into the thick of battles, and even slides down a roof to kick a Talmerine soldier over a balcony. He is able to stand in front of the Telmarine usurper, surrounded by enemies, and shoot off a witty sort of banter that lets Miraz know exactly who Edmund is: a Narnian King. Not to mention how much older he seems, considering actor Skandar Keynes’ voice dropped about three octaves!
Newcomer Ben Barnes as Prince Caspian only added to the great cast. The only thing I was confused about was his accent. He’s British, yet he had some sort of Italian accent in the movie, which didn’t exactly match up with the rest of the Telmarines. Other than that, I’m glad we’ll be seeing more of him in the upcoming The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie in 2010.
Overall, really incredible movie. The action is enough to keep anyone’s eyes glued to the screen, but the sarcasm and wit will keep you in your seat, and the emotion will leave you longing for more. This is one of those movies that you really need to see in theaters, and one you’re likely to see multiple times (like I’m surely going to do myself!): 10/10.
GO SEE THIS MOVIE.
Kyle W. Kerr
I am really starting to love Focus Features. Not only have they produced my most recent favorite movie, Atonement, but they have also brought us such movies as Brokeback Mountain, Lost in Translation, Pride and Prejudice, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Constant Gardner, The Pianist, Billy Elliot, and Eastern Promises, just to name a few. To add to that list of amazing movies (and cult classics), they now bring us In Bruges.
This movie is not for the conservative at heart. In fact, it takes a really good sense of humor and a very un-politically correct mindset… both of which I have. Not only is every other work ‘fuck’, but they manage to throw in the C word about 10 times, and they make fun of blacks, gays, fat people, midgets, Belgians, and just about everything you can think of, while throwing in a mixture of sex (almost), drugs, violence and crudity. They were able to get away with a LOT in this movie. And I couldn’t have loved it more.
Behind everything listed above is some truly remarkable acting, a incredibly witty and well written script, and some surprisingly serious moral undertones. I’m not really a Colin Farrell fan, but he really won me over in this movie. He’s a hired hit man, he’s just killed a priest, and yet you’re pulling for him almost from the word go.
Here are some examples of the witty (and crude) dialogue in the movie (not work appropriate):
Ray (Colin Farrell): If I’d grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so… it doesn’t.
Ray: They’re filming midgets!
Ken (Brendan Gleeson): Harry, let’s face it. You’ve always been a cunt. The only thing that’s gonna change, is that you’re gonna be an even bigger cunt. Maybe have some more cunt kids.
Harry (Ralph Fiennes): You fuckin’ retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!
Ken: I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids.
Harry: Insulting my fucking kids?! That’s goin’ overboard man!
Ken: I retracted it, didn’t I?
In the context of the movie, it really isn’t offensive at all. By the time you reach the conversation between Ken and Harry, the language of the movie is already well established, and it only adds to the humor of the moment.
Definitely worth a watch (if you meet the above mentioned requirements for viewing, that is!)...!
I was actually somewhat disappointed with this movie. It has a really great premise (people who can jump through space and can pretty much go anywhere they want to go), some phenomenal actors had signed on (Diane Lane, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell), and some great special effects to back the sci-fi themes of the movie.
Yet, somewhere it fell short. Yes, the special effects were really great, and some of the action was thrilling… and, there was a semi-good twist at the end, though most people could probably have guessed it. But, there were a lot of things that were off-putting about the storyline, such as characters not being surprised to see someone they thought had been dead for eight or so years, and the main character’s flippantly nonchalant attitude to being attacked by a man who was able to keep him from jumping with some strange electronic device. Not to mention the girl who gets on a plane to Rome with the guy she thought had been dead for eight years without even a second thought. It also had some really cheesy dialogue at times (to the point where audience members were laughing during “serious” moments).
I don’t know; I’m all about suspension of disbelief in the name of moving the storyline forward. I mean, you can’t really have twenty minute exposition scenes where you explain everything that’s happening, but there has to be a sense of realism to what you’re doing, too. I was able to believe the jumping, and the circumstances behind how his first jump happens, and even the war that’s brewing between the Jumpers and the religious zealots who think that no one but God should be able to do what they are able to do (though, I would have liked a little more back-story on them, too…). But you need to back it up with something, and that something was definitely missing.
See it in theatres if you want, but only for the cool special effects. This one is probably better left for your Netflix queue.
Kyle W. Kerr