Genius Movie Review

Sometimes, all an aspiring novelist needs to succeed is an editor who believes in them and is willing to work with them to see that dream of becoming a published novelist become reality.

Maxwell Perkins was one of those dream editors that every writer dreams of. The 2016 film, Genius, stars Colin Firth as Perkins and Jude Law as Thomas Wolfe.

In New York in the late 1920’s, Maxwell Perkins is a book editor who discovered both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. His newest writer is Thomas Wolfe. Wolfe is a promising writer, but his writing is in desperate need of pairing down. Their friendship develops as Wolfe’s work is published and he becomes a successful writer.

Then the problems begin. Both Perkins and Wolfe begin to spend more time with each other than their respective spouses, Louise Perkins (Laura Linney) and Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman). As great a writer as Wolfe is, his explosive energy begins to overwhelm and erode his personal and professional relationship with Maxwell.

As a writer, I very much appreciate this movie. Killing your darlings (i.e. editing) is often a painful, but necessary part of the writing process. But in the end, if the writer is lucky enough to be successful, the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to write a novel is worth it.

I recommend it.

Genius is presently on DVD.

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Filed under Books, History, Movie Review, Movies, New York City, Writing

Flashback Friday-In And Out (1997)

Coming out of the closet is never easy. It’s even harder when someone else outs you publicly.

In the 1997 film, In And Out, Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) has just had his world turned upside down. His former student, Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) has just won an Oscar and publicly outs Howard during his acceptance speech. Howard is engaged to Emily Montgomery (Joan Cusack) who has finally gotten past her self-esteem issues. That is until Cameron’s speech. When the press descends on Howard’s small town in Indiana, Howard must ask himself some rather tough questions.

I think what makes this movie stand out is that it deals with a difficult subject in a broad comedic sense. The chaos that ensues after Cameron’s acceptance speech is funny, but it also forces the characters and the audience to ask some very tough and delicate questions. Looking back on the 20 years since the movie’s release, it’s small, but significant breakthrough to the mainstream audience about the LGBTQ community is never the less important.

I recommend it.

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Star Wars Character Review: Darth Vader

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the original Stars Wars trilogy. Read at your own risk if you are just now discovering the original trilogy. For this post, I will also be briefly delving into some of the narratives in the prequels.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from original Star Wars trilogy to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

In previous posts, I have examined Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan (the late Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (the late Alec Guinness).In this post, I will be writing about the series’s most iconic character, Darth Vader.

Every hero needs a villain. In whatever world that hero inhabits, the villain is the one who keeps the hero on their toes and challenges them as they go on their journey.   There is no more iconic film villain than Darth Vader. Physically acted by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones, Vader is the ultimate villain. Physically imposing and a master of the dark side of the force, he is the overlord of the empire.

Darth Vader started his life as Anakin Skywalker, a young man who was blessed with force sensitivity and discovered by Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). He would grow up and marry Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) and father Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa. An enthusiastic, slightly hotheaded young man with an eye for adventure in his early years (much like his son a generation later), Anakin turns to the dark side, looses his humanity and becomes Darth Vader.

For most of Episode 4 (A New Hope) and part of Episode 5 (The Empire Strikes Back), Vader is the standard villain. Then something begins to change. He begins to sense that Luke is also force sensitive and pursues him with the end goal of turning him to the dark side.  The infamous “Luke, I am your father” scene is one of the greatest plot twists in all filmdom, in my opinion.

In episode 6 (Return of the Jedi), Vader finally redeems himself and turns back into Anakin after killing the Emperor while saving his son. Revealing another one of filmdom’s great plot twists that Luke and Leia are twins (and turning their kiss in the Empire Strikes Back into a moment of incest), Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader dies and is finally at peace.

A villain should more than Snidely Whiplash. A more interesting and well-rounded the villain creates a greater threat to the hero, compelling them to act to defeat the villain. A mustache twirling villain who uses the hero’s loved ones/love interest to draw them out into a fight is boring and predictable. A villain that is complicated, that is motivated by more than the standard villain motives, now that is going to grab an audience and keep them wanting more.

To sum it up: A good story deserves a good villain. But if the villain is 2D, predictable and boring, then there is no point to the story or the journey that the hero will go on to defeat the villain. In creating the iconic Darth Vader, George Lucas challenged future writers, regardless of genre to create villains that excite the audience and encourage them to cheer on the hero as they defeat the villain.

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Filed under Character Review, Movie Review, Movies, Star Wars, Writing

Throwback Thursday: Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984)

The story of David vs. Goliath is one that resonates in every corner and culture around the world. The struggle of the common person vs the person who holds the cards and throws around their weight because they hold the cards is one that we call relate to.

In Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984), a wealthy developer wants to bulldoze a local community center and use the land for something else entirely. It’s up to Kelly (Lucinda Dickey), Ozone (Adolfo Quinones) and Turbo (Michael Chambers) to convince the developer to keep the community center open.

Intellectual, this movie is not. Totally cheese-tastic 80’s, of course it is. But there is something redeeming in the message of community and finding the common ground with someone who you might normally walk away from.

I recommend it.

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Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

Imagine if you will, a slice of literary paradise amid the hustle and bustle of New York City.

Imagine a bookstore filled to the brim with books, from floor to ceiling. Imagine the inviting aroma of fresh coffee, the smell that only a book has and the feeling that the money being spent goes to help the less fortunate.

This is Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.

Located at 126 Crosby Street in Soho, Housing Works Bookstore is a bookworm’s dream come true. Not only does it contain books on every subject, but there are tables to sit at, to relax, have a drink, to work, to chill, to meet your friends or just take a breather from the world for a few minutes.

I’ve been to Housing Works countless times over the last few years. My favorite part of visiting Housing Works is that they are a non profit. The money they make goes to helping New Yorkers dealing with the double affliction of AIDS and homelessness. Even if I go in to just donate, I know that in the end, the money that someone else spends on the book or books that I donate will go to help someone in need.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe is located at 126 Crosby Street in New York City.

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A United Kingdom Movie Review

There is something powerful and fairy tale like about love. With the right person, we can be swept off our feet and take our lives into a new direction that we night have not previously considered. But reality has a way to crashing in on the fairy tale. Real love and real marriage, takes work.

Ruth Williams and Seretse Khama knew that better than anyone.

Released last weekend, A United Kingdom is the story of their love and the struggle to be recognized as a couple. In post World War II England, it is nearly love at first sight for Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo). But not everyone is thrilled about their relationship and eventual marriage. Ruth is a Caucasian office worker and the daughter of a middle class family. Seretse is the heir to the throne in what is today the country of Botswana. Needless to say, there are many on both sides of the color aisle who are not pleased with the marriage. Ruth and Seretse’s relationship is tested, but the question is, will their love and marriage survive what seems to be insurmountable odds?

I really liked this movie. Not just because it is a true story, but because it still resonates today. Many of us don’t think twice nowadays about interracial marriages, but back then, it was not just a marriage. It had major political and economic implications. Ruth and Seretse broke barriers in ways that we can only see in hindsight. Their story is also a reminder of how powerful love can be.

I recommend it.

A United Kingdom is presently in theaters.

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Newsies Review

In 1992, a little movie hit theaters. Newsies was the story of the 1899 Newsboys strike. While the movie was not quite the hit with critics, it became a cult favorite. In 2012, Newsies premiered on Broadway and became a smashing success.

Yesterday, Newsies hit the big screen for a three night only event. Leading the cast is four of the original Broadway performers Jeremy Jordan (Jack Kelly), Kara Lindsay (Katherine), Ben Fankhauser (Davey) and Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Crutchie). Backing them up are Newsies veterans, from both the Broadway production and the touring production.

As a fansie, I couldn’t be more thrilled that the show was filmed for the big screen. I have been a fan for many years. It just reminded me why I love this show. While there were minor changes to the dialogue, 98% of what was on stage is on-screen.

I absolutely recommend it.

Newsies, The Musical will be in theaters tomorrow, February 18th and Wednesday, February 22nd. Check your local listings for theaters near you.

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Flashback Friday-Warrior Queen (2003)

There is an old saying:

“Well behaved women seldom make history”

Boudica was not one of those women. In AD 60, she led a rebellion against Rome that, unfortunately failed. But where that rebellion failed, her legend began.

In 2003, a TV movie entitled Warrior Queen hit the small screen. Starring Alex Kingston as the legendary Queen, the TV movie told the story of Boudica and her quest to rid Great Britain of the Roman conquerors.

I learned about Boudica quite a few years ago. Boudica is to Great Britain as the Founding Fathers are to the United States. She is a national hero revered for her strength and courage as a leader of her people. She is an icon. The problem with this adaptation of her story is that screen writer Andrew Davies (who wrote the screenplay for one of my favorite miniseries, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice), just missed the mark as far as I am concerned. The issue is that while Boudica’s life story is more myth than fact, Davies seemed to rely more on the myth than the known facts.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Television, TV Review

Early Throwback Thursday-Birds Of Prey (2002-2003)

A sequel that is done well is hard to find, especially one with an alternative story line that varies from the original narrative. While there is some freedom in creating the alternative story line, the writer or writers have to be careful. If they stray too far from the original narrative, they might loose the hardcore fans that admire and respect the cannon narrative and characters.

In the short-lived television series, Birds of Prey (2002-2003), the criminals in Gotham City are running loose. With Batman in exile, it seems like there is no one to stop the criminals. Enter three women who can take back Gotham City. Helena Kyle/Huntress (Ashley Scott) is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Barbara Gordon/Oracle (Dina Meyer) used to be known as Batgirl, until she was shot by the Joker and paralyzed. While she may sit behind the computer, she still watches over Gotham and her residents. Newcomer Dinah Lance (Rachel Skarsten) has the power of telekinesis and while she may look weak, her abilities outweigh her physical image.

Looking back, this was one of those series that had potential. Unfortunately, it didn’t have enough potential to last longer than it did. The other thing that kept it from lasting was that the audience member had to have been well versed in the Batman universe to truly get into the show.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Bridget Jones’s Baby Book Review

Helen Fielding’s iconic modern single woman, Bridget Jones, is an every woman. She is in her 30’s, curvaceous, smokes too much, drinks too much and spends too much time thinking about her boss, Daniel Cleaver. She is also funny, engaging, warm, flawed and real. Making her debut in 1995 in a newspaper column, Bridget has become the voice for the average woman who is simply trying to figure out what she wants from her life and who she wants to spend it with.

The latest story in Bridget’s crazy life is Bridget Jones’s Baby. Published last year, Bridget is at a major crossroads. After sleeping with both of her ex’s (Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy), she finds herself pregnant, with both men angling to be both the baby’s father and her future partner. Can Bridget choose which man she wants to be with and more importantly, which man is her child’s father?

The first thing that came to mind when I started reading the book was the movie that was released last year. There were changes between the book and the movie, which I will not spoil. However, I will say that it took me a while to get into the book. As much as I wish I could say that I loved it, I can’t. It’s not the best book I’ve read, but it’s not the worst either.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice