Bren’s writing and movies blog

Because I have an opinion about creativity and know how to use it

Archive for July, 2008

A more nuanced critique of “In the King’s Name”

Posted by brenatevi on July 31, 2008

So I watched “In the King’s Name” with my friend Josh, and presented a scathing and hilarious (or so I’ve been told) review of that movie. Yet, as Josh said, “The great thing about very bad movies is that it shows you what NOT to do.” So here’s a more serious, and much less profane, look at King’s Name (Don’t even hover the mouse cursor over this link, because I call it my evil blog for a very good reason.)

Things I learned not to do from King’s Name.

1) Don’t use Semi-important Characters. It isn’t the first thing I’ve learned, but I think it’s the most tragic. Leelee Sobieski is a fine actress, yet in this movie, I really have no idea what the point of her character. She seems like a strange combination of Eve, Gandalf, and a damsel in distress (the first scene is her and Ray Liotta in bed, with some very odd things happening with Ray’s face.) The character was everywhere in terms of development, and it was very hard to sympathize with her at all because I had no idea where they taking the character next. What I was hoping for was Leelee to stomp into the chambers and kick Ray’s butt from here to eternity. (I don’t even remember the character’s name… actually, I can’t remember any of the charaters’ names, except for Farmer.) Instead, she stopped two spells, in the course of thirty seconds… Not exactly the show stopping display of wizarding I was hoping for.

2) Don’t try too much with a script. I’m writing by the seat of my pants, at 7am, so it’s quasi-excusable (I could wait, but it’s here and now, and I probably won’t sleep…) but for a movie, figure out where you are going, and try to tie your characters in better. There were four characters in the room at the end, and there wasn’t enough to do with them all at that point. As I type this out, I realized what they should have done: the old magus was kept around waaaaaay too long. He should have been Obi Waned earlier in the movie, so that Leelee’s character was the one that faced Ray’s character in the duel, or alternatively, made Ray’s character crazy powerful, so that he was sword fighting Farmer at the same time he was wizard dueling Leelee… It would have fixed a problem with the fight between Farmer and Ray, where Ray wasn’t using his powers at all, leading to “Playing with your prey” syndrome, something a insane wizard might do, but to an intelligent viewer it is as annoying as hell. On the other hand, my solution might have had the exact opposite effect, “Way too much happening.”

3) Ye gods, watch the edits. There was a scene where Farmer and friends were making their way through a forest, and the scene cut to black three or four times. We were like, “What the hell?” I know what they were trying to pull, using the cuts to simulate passing of time. There are smarter ways of doing it, and the first time everyone watched the cuts they should have said, “Whoa, that didn’t work.” And they did funky cuts in both big battles, which made an unwatchable mess even worse, and several other times (only once did it work, and that was when Ray was messing with Claire’s head, but that scene was supposed to be jarring.) I think this might be the problem with the entire movie. I remember from reading about Lucas’s attempts to edit Empire Strikes Back closer to his vision in the Secret History of Star Wars. Everyone, including Lucas, agreed that his edits were unworkable. I wonder if what was originally shot might have been much better than what ended up in the theaters. I also wonder if the actors ever watched the movie and said, “Uh, that isn’t the movie I acted in.” Or they knew it was crap, they were under contract, and they made the best of a bad situation.

4) Try to make the battles make some sense. Choreography is very, very, VERY important in movies with battles. This looked like people were just swinging swords at each other (although I did get a laugh out of the so-called “looting” scene, where an old lady was beating at a orc… err, trog? with a broom. Made as much sense as everything else.) And there were too many parts that made no sense in the grand scheme of a battle. In real life, while on the battlefield everything is chaotic, there is at least a very basic organization, “This unit is here, that unit is there, this is this army’s objective, that is that army’s objective.” Here… it was like a mosh pit with swords, and that’s insulting mosh pits. I could go on and on and on about the battles (what in the bleeding hell was the point of the leaders fight by themselves? And not to mention Farmer’s acrobatics when he was pulling turnips in the beginning…)

And there’s more if I wanted to waste the time, but it’s pointless. I think if they had done better with just those four points, the movie would have been much more engaging. I feel sorry more for the actors, all of whom I know could have turned in a much better performance with a better director, and a tighter script. Hell, I could have done better, and I’m a neophyte hack (although I’m working on improving that.)

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Nightmare pt 7 – Survivor

Posted by brenatevi on July 31, 2008

She had been stuck in the tower for two hours when she heard six twanging sounds and the thuds of six bodies. Considering she had been stuck in the tower with nothing but the growling of the little monsters to keep her company, she should have felt relief. Instead, she stared intently at the hatch that lead down to the fort courtyard.

“I don’t expect you to believe me, but it’s safe to come down.”

Strangely enough, those words reassured her, and she carefully exited the tower to meet the Tall One.

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Minor Character Awareness Month

Posted by brenatevi on July 29, 2008

As I wrote about a week ago, the minor, oftentimes unnamed, characters are important to me, especially when they die. reading 1632 by Eric Flint, I came across this plague once again. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed 1632, thought it was well written and engaging (I finished it by reading 7 hours straight,) but towards the end, a minor character buys the farm in a heroic way, saving one of the main characters, and, and… that was the last he was mentioned. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book, but it did disappoint me. All I wanted was a throwaway line like, “Thank God such and such stepped in front of me, or I would have been dead.” It’s one line, and shouldn’t be THAT hard to fit in.

So in remembrance of all of those characters that have died and then were forgotten by their writers, I would like a moment of silence.

Oh, and someone smack me if I ever do the same thing I’m complaining about.

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Nightmare pt6 – Hard Fight

Posted by brenatevi on July 29, 2008

The Tall One had carefully looked in the doorway when she attacked. He could only feel teeth and the hard blows of thrashing limbs. Even without the ambush, she still would have been a hard fight; her strikes were as painful as a grown man’s. Despite her flailing at him, he got her by the neck and threw her across the room. She bounced off the wall and flew right back at him, but he was better prepared, bracing himself and pulling two knives. She hit him mouth first, sinking her teeth in his metal bracer. She let go when he swung at her with a knife, and then dived for his knees. He raised his foot and as she skid underneath, he stomped down on her to hear crushing bones and an out rush of air, yet even with that she was still struggling. He skewered her to the floor, and she went limp.

“I- I’m – I’m sorry,” she said in a bare whisper.

He simply nodded, and waited for her to die.

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Nightmare pt5 – Sudden Foreboding

Posted by brenatevi on July 28, 2008

He woke up to an unreasoning fear that filled his entire being. He couldn’t say what was bothering him, but the fear was still there just the same. He got out of bed, glanced at his still sleeping wife, shrugged, and headed out to the barn. He was there when he heard the scream.

“Father,” his youngest called out, “Mother needs you.”

The voice didn’t sound right, and his terror was still there, so he took his thresher with him. The boy sprang at him as he exited the barn, and the fight for his life began.

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Nightmare pt4 – Painful Birth

Posted by brenatevi on July 27, 2008

He heard his wife’s screams and came running into the house, flying through doors and skidding around corners. The screams stopped just as he got to her room. His heart dropped into his stomach, yet he still opened the door. As the door creaked open, he first saw blood on the floor, then he saw his wife… a bloodied empty womb that looked as if an animal had attacked her. He moaned and dropped to the floor, despair flowing through his mind. His anguish was so much that he didn’t hear the light footfalls behind him.

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Nightmare pt3 – Roadside

Posted by brenatevi on July 26, 2008

“Wow,” the man thought, “this must be my lucky day. That little girl will bring in at least thirty gold. And her dog means I won’t go hungry tonight. Well, I better go make her acquaintance.”

“Hello little girl,” he said out loud, “how are you today?”

She just sat there, with the dog’s head peeking out of her lap. The man slowly approached the girl, making just enough noise to let her know he was approaching.

“Cute dog you have there. What’s his name?”

“Dinner,” she replied in an unearthly voice. The last thing he saw was bloody teeth.

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On tribalism

Posted by brenatevi on July 25, 2008

They gathered at the the waterhole, each tribe carrying their totems high above their head, proud of the status their totem conveyed, and fearful of the opposing totems. The grunts and screams filled the air, the totems bobbing in the air like the surface of the ocean. This carried on for quite some time, but the most serious it got was flinging poop, and even then everyone on all sides enjoyed it. Then everyone got quiet and arrayed themselves in a triangle; things were about to get serious.

First up was a an old man carrying a symetrically deformed rock, painted black with four geometrical shapes marked out in red.

“P,” he said in a thin reedy voice. Everyone behind him ooked and eeked, while the other two groups gave raspberries and made crude motions with their hands. With his piece said, he nodded and sat down.

Next up stood a middle aged man, carrying a white rock, not as symetrical as the black rock. A green hatchmark glared out from the center.

“X,” he said with a broken voice, like a zombie resurrected a thousand times. Everyone behind him nodded sagely, while the other groups played dead. He shrugged and sat down.

Lastly, a very young man stood up, wringing his hands nervously, as if he was embarrassed to be there. The other camps were hooting before he even said a word. His response was twirling his strange totem, two very oddly shaped rocks connected by a piece of rope.

“N!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. His group, while much larger than the other two groups and containing many more different types of people, said very little, with only a few of the younger males ooking at all. Everyone else urinated on the nearest patch of grass.

A short while later, everyone dispersed to play with their favorite rocks.

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Nightmare pt 2 – Hard Decision

Posted by brenatevi on July 25, 2008

Day 1

“He’s coming.”

“And from the looks of that dust he’s bringing friends. What can you see with the scope?”

“That’s odd. I see him and the dust cloud, but not what’s causing the dust… wait a second, that can’t be right.”

“What?”

“Oh my gods…”

“Let me see.”

“I can’t do this, Beka. I’ve done a lot of things for our people, but I can’t do this.”

“Damn. That’s Tneron’s boy, and so many others…”

“I can’t fight them. They are only children. Can you?”

“If they are in thrall to the Demon, yes. What other choice do we have?”

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Nightmare Part 1 – Monsters

Posted by brenatevi on July 24, 2008

This started as a typo. I had meant to type 1000 word stories and typed 100 word instead. And then it became an experiment. And is becoming a new experiment.

*

The town streets were more empty than pillaged graves as the two adventurers rode through. One might think that the town had been abandoned, except for the movement of curtains, and the furtive eyes peeking from behind them, watching the Tall One intently. The Tall One ignored the town, while the shorter one observed all he could about his surroundings.

“Why are they peeking out of their windows at you?”

“Because they asked me to kill their monsters, and I did.”

“So why aren’t they treating you like a hero?”

“Because the monsters were their children.”

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