Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Hangover Part III Film Review: A Raunchy and Wild Finale

The original The Hangover was a unique and hilariously entertaining picture, but then they tried to do the exact same film in a new location with the sequel.  The Hangover Part III corrects that with a very different plot.  It may not be the most fresh or original idea, but it is packed with the charming and quirky characters we enjoyed the first time around.  The critical consensus is that this movie fails to repeat the magic, but do I think they're right?  You can find out if I think this film is worth your time in my latest film review for Collective Publishing.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Breakdown of "The Hangover Part III" Podcast: The Wolfpack's Last Comedy Feast

The critical reception isn't pretty for The Hangover Part III.  Scott and I don't always follow everything the average critic loves and hates.  In our latest podcast, you'll find out if we feel the final chapter to be a proper send-off for the Wolfpack.

I must admit that I came out with some very passionate views of this picture.  It took a day for me to actually reflect and come up with my real rating of this film.  This was recorded the day I saw the movie, and so my views have changed slightly since that time.  If you want to see how much they've changed then be sure to read my review for Collective Publishing on Wednesday.  Yes, I'm shamelessly pimping my other work.

But the podcast does offer up opinions and analysis of The Hangover franchise, and looks at what works and fails with this high-grossing series.  It is a great listen for those wondering if this film is better than the critical consensus.   

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Film Review: Beam Me Up, J.J. Abrams

The Star Trek reboot was a massive hit with almost all audiences.  Though there was always a little bit of tension over the fact J.J. Abrams openly admitted he was a bigger Star Wars fan and just a casual fan of Star Trek.  There were many critics that described the first as a Star Trek flavoured space opera rather than an actual Star Trek film.  And if that bothered you, I can tell you right now Star Trek Into Darkness will not make you any happier.  But it does contain several winks and homages to the franchise's past, and may have a few scenes that will get you absolutely giddy.  The reality is the reboot drew in new fans, and so the big question is if the sequel is a worthy follow-up.  I answer that very question in my latest film review for Collective Publishing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Breakdown of Star Trek Into Darkness Podcast: This Isn't Your Grandpa's Star Trek

Scott and I return from our hiatus with a Breakdown of one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer, Star Trek Into Darkness.  It also is the longest podcast ever as we have tons of opinions and thoughts on this film.  We deliver in-depth analysis of what works and what missed.  It is also one of the first podcasts we recorded without knowing what the other person thought of the picture, and it leads to some pretty lively discussion.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Hits and Misses of the New Series from the 2012/2013 Season

This week the networks are hyping up the news series for their fall schedule.  History says most of them will likely turn out to either be flops or mild successes, but there is usually one or two massive breakout hits.  This past year, Elementary was a strong ratings giant and continued CBS's reign on top.  I never watched Elementary because I'm allergic to gimmicked procedurals.  I did watch a fair amount of the heavily hyped new series from last year.  In my latest Collective Publishing, I look at 5 heavily hyped new series from this past season and analyze their freshman success (or failure).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Splish Splash Everett is Taking a Bath

Because I need to post something that my son will hate me for in his teen years, right?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Latest Trendy Song That Makes My Heart Dance with Glee

I've dished up a song by The Lumineers in the past.  It has been very clear for the last several years that Mumford & Sons has started a certain trend or maybe even craze in the music industry that is being followed by several bands.  The Lumineers would be one of those bands.

It gets played on most rock stations, but not sure how much the hardcore rockers like this music being shoved on their laps.  But there are many who do love the shoveling of this music, because it sells out arenas and actually moves albums in stores.  It is one of the current hot trends in music right now.  I describe it as a "Celtic folk rock fusion thing" that for the most part is upbeat and happy.  I'm probably the only one to use that description because it is kind of awkward and also would be deemed inaccurate by anyone who is a big fan of the genres I mashed into the description.  The one indisputable description is that it is trendy and hot right now.

There was a time that I tried to rebel against the hot and trendy.  Mostly because I argued the trendy usually looks rather stupid a decade later.  I still hold to that belief.  A lot of things that are super hot in pop culture don't have a long shelf life and aren't what endures as the classics to be remembered.

But at 35 years old, I really don't care anymore.  I'm fine being suckered by the trends and jumping on what is hot.  If I like it at the time, then that is the only thing that matters.  I like this new song by The Lumineers called "Stubborn Love."

It is the right kind of song that gets my fingers dancing and keeps my heart upbeat while I type away during the day.  An enjoyable and catchy song keeps me cheery and happy while trudging through some of the more mundane pay copy.  I still have all my other more deep and profound songs that spark creativity, but a fun little piece of eye candy is a great thing for the straightforward work.

Plus I'm a sucker for cute and happy little kids, and this video has one of those too.  I am not sure if the actual lyrics are super happy, but the video has heart and the music is good for the soul.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Survivor Caramoan Finale" Recap: The Revenge of the Jury

Survivor Caramoan was loaded with blindsides and betrayals.  In the finale, it is time for the backstabbed to put the mastermind on the hot seat.  It was a pretty entertaining final tribal council, which is a fitting capper to a memorable season.  I've got all the highlights and reveal the winner in my recap for BuddyTV.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Be Distracted by "Everett Riding a Lion" Pictures as I Disappear for the Weekend

I have several projects that need my attention, plus the duty of making a few wonderful ladies feel special, so I'm going to hide away from the blog for the weekend.  I'll be back to post link to the Survivor finale recap on Sunday evening.  Enjoy your weekend and to the amazing mothers out there, have a fantastic Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Random Collection of Thoughts on Things I Should Have Posted About Weeks Ago

I've already been the broken record about my less than stellar posting record in 2013, so I won't play that game again.  Instead, I'll serve up some quick thoughts on things I should have written about several weeks ago.

1.  I've got a few emails wondering why I never wrote anything on the passing of Margaret Thatcher.  This is a pretty simple answer.  I really don't have much to say about her.  Her peak was when I was more concerned about He-man overcoming Skeletor, and I was never really driven to read up too much about her.   What I do know isn't really positive, because my leanings tend to shift to the liberal side of things.  Plus a huge dose of my knowledge on Thatcher comes from fictional works like Billy Elliot, which doesn't really make her sound too wonderful and cheery.   I'm sure one day I'll have more to say about her, especially since I really want to see the biopic starring Meryl Streep, Iron Lady.  The one real positive I can say is that she was a strong and powerful female figure in a field largely dominated by men, and considering how men can be about their positions, she deserves a lot of respect for her ability to become a famous and powerful political figure.  I also think all the shots about her being cold and ruthless partly come from the fact she was female and she likely needed to command that kind of authority in order to hold on to leadership.  Looking at the two iconic conservative leaders of the '80s, Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, I would vote for Thatcher as the far more interesting and appealing figure.

2.  On the passings I ignored front, Paul Bearer passed away and there were a few shocked I didn't write a tribute to him.  I haven't really followed wrestling this year, and so I didn't even find out about it until a few days later.  I also didn't really have much to say, because even though he was a pretty memorable character and manager to one of wrestling's biggest stars, The Undertaker, I was never really drawn to him as a wrestling character.  The guy had some pretty silly facial expressions that made me laugh, and it is still fun to impersonate his "oh yeeees" catchphrase, but as a whole, there just isn't much I could say about him.  There were a lot of tributes written about him, and he had a long wrestling career that actually was pretty prolific even before he became Paul Bearer.  He also sounded like one of the really genuine and great human beings in wrestling, and so he will be missed by many.

3.  There have also been several emails surprised that I completely ignored Kathleen Wynne becoming the Premier of Ontario.  It was a pretty historic event considering she is both the first female and first openly gay Premier of the province.  I haven't had anything else to say other than it is nice when there are moments of actual progress in politics in the year 2013.  I approve things becoming egalitarian, and I also approve of Dalton McGuinty being out of leadership since he'd burned off all his goodwill.  Other than those thoughts, there hasn't been much else to comment on.  Her term has just begun and she really hasn't done anything of note.  She gave a hell of a speech and has promised some big changes, but that is kind of what politicians do.  I'd like to see what she actually plans to do.  To be honest, at this point she seems like another lame duck politician.  There is likely an election pretty soon, and I don't like the Liberal party's chances this time around.  It is just easier for me to not get too invested until I have an idea where things are going for Ontario this year.

4.  I'm absolutely stunned that the massive meteor explosion in Chelyabinsk, Russia hasn't been followed by every film studios announcing the newest series of giant asteroids or flying rocks attacking Earth epics or at least someone writing the script to an Armageddon remake starring James Brolin, Dwayne Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Kate Upton.  I also don't remember reading too many rants about how "God did this" because women wear tank tops, which also surprises me a bit.

5.  Speaking of Russia, I'm pretty sure I haven't even mentioned once the new FX show, The Americans.  This is a travesty, because this is one of the best TV shows.  Period.  There hasn't been an "anti-hero with a family trying to battle different enemies" show that has been this good or this complex since The Sopranos.  Considering many believe that is one of the best shows of all time, this is pretty high praise.  Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys deliver top notch film caliber performances on this show, and they really do a brilliant job of getting you to sympathize with characters that would have been the worst kind of movie villain 30 years ago.  The show has done a great job of making you care for both sides, because they have CIA agents you're invested in and want to cheer for, but also you obviously sense a connection with the two KGB agents posing as Americans who also have likable children.  The series has some of the best action sequences on televisions, and it is loaded with suspense and twists.  I really love the show, because it is essentially about family and trying to belong more than a spy thriller.  The writing is phenomenal and the characters are so complicated and complex.  This show has really made up for the stinker that The Walking Dead has been decomposing into, and this is now the series that everyone needs to check out.  If it wasn't for the fact I had to binge watch most of the episodes, I would have tried to do weekly reviews on it.  I will try to review the box set if and when it comes out -- especially if anyone from Amblin is reading this, I'd love a reviewers copy.

6.  If I'm doing a min-review of big budget TV series then I need to bring up The Following.  This series has got relative buzz on TV from audiences and critics, but would get panned for being convoluted and marred by weak writing if it was on the big screen.  This is one of those examples of expectations being far lower on television, and why many film critics call this medium the inferior form of storytelling.  Despite my essential trashing of this series, I watched it almost as loyally as The Americans.  I rolled my eyes about 56 times an episode over the lame plot twists, the constant reveal of new cult members, and the attempts to make the vile killers relatable.  Yet I still stuck with this show, and I found myself invested in the outcome.  This is almost entirely due to the great performances by the two leads, Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy.  The finale gave a pretty fitting ending to the relationship and even though it ended things on a cliffhanger, I think I got what I wanted from this series and probably won't return unless the buzz is really strong.

7.  On the family side of things, Everett took his first unassisted steps yesterday.  This is a giant champagne cork popping event in the Spicer house.  Not that we actually are eager for him to move any faster or be able to reach even more things.  The current pace is just fine.  He needs to walk at some point, and so it is exciting to see him developing.  I'll probably talk about this more in an Everett dedicated article real soon.  I haven't done too much parenting writing since my Dad's Eye column ended, and so I'm sort of itching to get back into that kind of writing for a bit.

8.  For movie lovers, there is an awesome channel in Ontario on Rogers called Hollywood Suite.  I've been meaning to mention this before, but well, I haven't.  Well, I did on one podcast, but not all of you bother to listen to those.  It is $6 a month, has four channels, and an On-Demand service.  It is a collection of films from the Warner Brothers, Sony, and MGM catalogue along with a select few other films from other studios.  The collection is incredibly deep and is loaded with classic films.  The On Demand service is still improving, but hopefully, will have a great selection over the next few months.  It is real cheap at $6, and sure it doesn't have the newer films like TMN, but it is a great way to open yourself up to some older gems.  I endorse it if that means anything, and it is an amazing value for those with PVRs since there is something record-worthy every single day.

9.  I wanted to thank everyone for the really kind and supportive comments and emails regarding my A Brutally Honest Personal Update on my Writing Career and Life.  It was especially touching to get several emails and comments detailing one's own battles with depressions and self-worth.  It really means a lot.  I am glad that the article had some value to others.  I knew you were all awesome.

10.  This summer I'm going to take the plunge on several projects.  A few of them are directly linked to this blog while a few others will remain secret until completed and some other key details are worked out.  I'm hoping that the second half of 2013 will be an exciting one, and I'll have a few cool announcements to make about some things you'll be able to read and enjoy from me in the future.

With that, I'm all caught up on things I should have written about weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"Survivor Caramoan" Episode 13 Recap: Blindsided by a Blindside

Okay, I did sort of sense a blindside coming.  I can't believe how often people have flip flopped or made big plays this season.  It has been one of the most unpredictable in a long time.  It has also been incredibly entertaining.  There hasn't been a season of this caliber since Heroes vs. Villains.  But this week has finally given me someone who I think is the favourite to win this thing.  I reveal that prediction in my latest recap for BuddyTV. 

'Iron Man 3' Review: Blasting Off the Dazzling Blockbuster Season

Summer is a time the big budget special effects spectaculars start shoving their way into the theatre.  No one would ever consider these films as Oscar contenders, but the movies are designed to be the cinematic equivalent of a roller coaster.  We go to these films to turn off our brains and have loads of fun for two hours.  Iron Man 3 is a visually stunning film with one of the most charismatic and funny leads in all of Hollywood, Robert Downey Jr.  Is that enough to make this film a hit?  Find out in my latest film review for Collective Publishing.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

It's Tuesday, So Here are Some Questions

I'm a little busy with pay copy and marketing today, so I'll likely not be able to spend much time on here.  Instead, I will distract you from my absence with a couple of questions.

I've been quickly learning that a huge portion of my readership comes from either writers or people with aspirations to be a writer.  So, I'm curious to find out how you see your burgeoning writing career.  Do you have desire for writing to become your main source of income or is it just a side passion?  Do you want to be freelance or get a full time job with a magazine or other publishing companies?

The questions that interests me most, what is it about writing that attracts you as a career option?  Since writing is such a broad vocation, what type of writing is it you hope to break into?  Fiction?  Magazine writing?  Journalism?  Criticism?  Corporate or business writing?  A little of all of them?

The final option isn't a bad one, by the way.  It is what I do.  Partly because it is smart to have multiple revenues streams when you're self-employed, but also it helps me remain interested when I have a variety of writing jobs.  The act of writing is the biggest draw for me, and I love dipping into various avenues, be it ghostwriting or journalism or creative writing.  Though I am hoping over the next few months to be able to focus a bit more one some personal projects such as fiction and book writing.

Now, for all my readers that aren't writers.  What is your dream job or are you one of the lucky few that is currently doing it?

Have a grand Tuesday.

Monday, May 06, 2013

'The Place Beyond the Pines' Film Review: A Masterpiece About the Rocky Road of Fatherhood

Fatherhood is an ambitious and challenging endeavour.  It is appropriate then that The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious and challenging film.  The picture explores how becoming a father can alter a man's life, but also looks at how a father can shape the future of his son.  The picture questions what makes a good father and forces you to decide how we define good.

The message of the picture is appropriately summed up by the common phrase "the sins of the father," which was derived from verses in Exodus and Deuteronomy.  This film reveals that the actions and decisions of two fathers have profound and even some dire effects on their sons.  It explores that many acts have repercussions on loved ones and possibly even shapes their future.  As a relatively new father, this message digs right down to my gut, even though I'm aware I'm witnessing drastically different lives.

We're introduced to Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) with an extended tracking shot that follows him sauntering through the carnival as he is being introduced over the loudspeakers and enters the tent to a big applause right before he performs daredevil stunts on his motorcycle inside a circular cage.  It is an introduction that is fitting for a rock star and instantly makes you think this guy is a big deal.  After his show, he is surrounded by kids who clamour for his autograph and just want to be near this local celebrity.  It then become clear that his control and power is just an illusion, when his life derails after he is confronted by a fling from a year ago, Romina (Eva Mendes), and discovers that they have a son together.

Romina makes it clear she expects nothing, but Luke feels an obligation to provide now that he is a father.  The tattooed bad ass never has felt connected to a family before, and this is his chance to achieve what his father failed to do.  He wants to have a relationship with his son and provide his son with both necessities and gifts.  Luke makes a meager living and the revelations he is a father quickly exposes how little celebrity and power he really has.   He eventually encounters an eccentric guy named Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), and is introduced to a quick way to make some cash, robbing banks.  Luke's life may be overwhelming him but he is always a master on his motorcycle, which gives him an exceptional skill in a "trade" that needs a quick departure.

Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is the second father in this story, and he is a low level cop aspiring to move his way up the ranks.  His home life is rough because he's obsessed with his work, and his wife (Rose Byrne) is constantly worried he will leave it in a body bag.  Avery gets a massive boost to his career and image when an event causes him to become a hero, and he has a chance to use this fame to catapult his career.  Things start to get complicated when he discovers several of the cops he works with are corrupt like Deluca (Ray Liotta).  He is torn between doing what he knows is right, but also avoid getting in trouble with his fellow officers. We see a man with a strong moral compass but also an eye firmly focused on personal gain.

Both fathers are incredibly complicated individuals who base their decisions on their social and economic status.  It is their perceptions and values that take them down different paths.  Luke takes the corrupt and dark road, but he is essentially sacrificing his own safety so that he can help out his family.  On the other hand, Avery appears to be a man of justice and even a hero, but he is focused on rising to the top in his career over relationships and family.  I was left questioning who really is the good person here or the good father, or more importantly, if good exists at all in these situations.

Director Derek Cianfrance presents one of the most layered and compelling pictures that I've seen in a long time.  It is intimate in its portrayal of these fathers but also sweeping in its scope.  The dialogue feels natural and organic rather than lines designed to drive the plot forward.  There also isn't a single wasted scene and every single action has an impact on the greater narrative.  The Place Beyond the Pines is the type of picture that needs repeated viewing, so you can catch every detail and insight.

The film has three clear acts, with the first two following the actions of the fathers.  The final act jumps forward 15 years, and focuses on the two sons, Jason Glanton (Dane Dehaan) and AJ Cross (Emory Cohen).  The performances are incredible from start to finish and the writing remains spectacular, but the final act isn't as riveting.  To be fair, the first two acts deliver some of the most engaging and fresh storytelling in modern cinema.  The final act is crucial because it gives weight and importance to everything that took place previously.  We learn how the actions directly shape and impact the destiny of the sons.   

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are two of the hottest acts in Hollywood right now.  They prove their value and incredible talents with powerful performances.  Gosling delivers an award winning worthy showing and is absolutely captivating.  Luke is a tormented character who does some evil things, but Gosling is able to make him relatable and he connects with the audience.  Gosling is incredibly effective in displaying his volatile side while also showing a softness and compassion.  Cooper brings a nuance to his character, and presents a guy strong on the outside but deeply troubled inside.  It is a subtle and understated performance that demonstrates an inner battle being waged inside.

The leads are complimented by a wonderful supporting casts.  Mendes gives one of her the greatest performances in her career as a woman who wants to move on but is also drawn to Luke. Liotta has played crooked cops before, but this is one of his more disturbing and intriguing showing in a long time.  Mendelsohn gives a very casual and easy-going feeling to Luke's partner in crime, and it adds a depth to a character that otherwise could have been forgettable.  I could really end up listing the entire cast, because everyone hits their characters and makes you believe in what is being shown.

The cinematography and music instantly sets the mood for a chilling and disturbing picture.  There is also an eerie beauty to the scenic shots and musical choices.  It plunges you deep into the atmosphere and keeps you unsettled as the tale of the fathers' sins unfolds.  There are moments of hope and beauty, which causes the picture to be that much more impactful during the tragic moments.

Cianfrance already proved his talents and masterful skills in the critically acclaimed Blue Valentine.  This is a far more ambitious film with much loftier goals.  The story would have been powerful if it just focuses on one of the acts, but instead attempts to delve deep into the dirt and complexity of four individuals and those in their lives.  The strong storytelling and expert direction creates a masterpiece that will stick in your mind and trigger discussion for a very long time.  This is the film that has finally kicked off 2013 properly and set the standards for the best pictures of the year.

Rating: ****

"Revenge Ep. 20" Recap: New Beginning and Shocking Endings

Revenge delivers up some twists with a few shocking secret revelations, but also serves up a surprising character death.  It was a loaded episode that is setting things up for the big finale.  I analyze all the major moments in my latest review for BuddyTV.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

This Week's Podcast will be Delayed

For numerous reasons, we haven't had the opportunity to record this week's podcast on film.  To be honest, due to several commitments and projects, I'm not sure when that will happen.  I do know there won't be a podcast up here on the usual Monday morning schedule.  I apologize to those who feel it goes great with their beginning of the week Corn Flakes and bagels.  You'll have to settle for a side of scrambled eggs this week. 

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Considering the Day, the Geek in Me Demanded to Post a Video on Star Wars

So, I have.  This is a rather fun and humorous animated short of the original Star Wars done in a minute.  It is a video done by a company called 1A4 Studios.  I just discovered them today, so I apologize if they've been all the rave the past few years or something.  They definitely look to have enough content to ensure you're distracted for about a year.  This is pretty fun for anyone that even has a passing knowledge of the original.

May the Fourth be with you.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Pain & Gain Review: A Dumbbell to Your Senses

It is rather fitting that Pain & Gain is set in the '90s, because most of the time it feels like a music video that would have been played on MTV or MuchMusic.  Except I'd rather watch Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" repeatedly for two hours, because it has better pacing and a more coherent plot.

Pain & Gain is based off a series of articles in Miami New Times about the "Sun Gym gang", a group of incompetent bodybuilders, who committed a series of brutal acts to extort money. There has been some controversy over making a black comedy about the real life brutal kidnappings, torture and murders.  From what I've read, the heinous exploits by Daniel Lugo (played by Mark Wahlberg) and Adrian Doorbal (played by Anthony Mackie) are loosely followed in the film and much like most "true stories" in cinema, large portions of the picture are fictionalized.  This really shouldn't be a massive shocker since "based on true stories" like Braveheart, Argo and Rudy have major alterations of fact and it is always better to see these movies as historical fiction.  Pain & Gain changes the names of the majority of the characters, creates a fictional character in the coke snorting Christian Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), and reimagines large chunks of the account in the original articles.

I don't have any problem with a film about a fictionalized version of tragic events, though I also won't argue that the film may be in bad taste.  Instead, I have a problem with it not being a very good movie.

The picture rapidly fires out loud and explosive scenes with its frenzied cuts.  It is all energetic and colourful, and it is actually a bit refreshing for a film to have a sexy feel with the topless men and the bikini clad women.  But the constant flashing of chaotic scenes risks transforming the most focused adult into an ADHD teenager.  Halfway through, you're just bored with the festival of the flashy and obnoxious.

Even if this is a hyperactive teenager's fantasy, it is a very adult film with the dark subject matter, shots of bare breasts, and graphic violence, but the speeding sports car pacing and elephant stomping lack of subtlety appeals to a younger audience.  Director Michael Bay excels at aggressive and boisterous filmmaking, and this attempt of comedy comes off as another Transformers film but with big muscle heads replacing the giant, smashing robots.  It's a stupid action picture yelling out that it is a black comedy profiling bizarre and quirky characters.

Dwayne Johnson is charming and very funny, and you can see him growing as a real acting talent.  His performance is one of the few glowing areas of the film.  To be fair, Wahlberg and Mackie are humorous as well, and seem to be having fun in their roles.  They deliver some funny moments and have a few witty lines, but the script doesn't allow for anything to linger or breathe.  A proper comedy allows things to settle down and then set up the next joke, but this ends up being an endless stream of chaotic flashy images with some dialogue.

The humour that is given a few minutes to settle in is always of the juvenile kind.  There is one gag that is just a lame poop joke about a fat patient who messes up the bathroom.  Another consists of a sex starved priest that is just a very cliché and tired shot at the Catholic Church.  None of it is even remotely funny, and just takes away from the real dark humour, which is the absurdity of the bodybuilders' vicious scheme to get the money.

It is also hard to laugh when the film is entirely populated with morons and detestable people.  The main characters seem framed to push forward a cynical depiction of the American Dream, as they believe they deserve riches and success.  The problem is they're also framed as heroes and it feels like you're supposed to be rooting for them, even though they're barbecuing severed hands and run over humans.  The victims all end up being just as reprehensible, especially Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) who is abusive and ill-mannered to everyone in the picture.  Even all the background characters turn out to be unlikable, such as the male neighbours who salivate and drool at a scantily clad woman right in front of their wives.

Fargo, a film this one tries to pattern itself after, is an absolutely brilliant picture that is also about dunderhead thieves and some unsympathetic victims, but the writing is much smarter and the characters are actually layered.  There is also Marge Gunderson who is sweet and kind, and has a wonderful relationship with her husband.  Ed Harris is supposed to be that in his role as retired Detective Ed DuBois, but he comes into the film far too late and his part feels more like a plot device.

I realize it is hip and cool to hate Michael Bay.  I actually went into the picture with high hopes, and thought he was going to try to do something different.  This film has an intriguing story, but it needed fine and delicate touches rather than smashing all the plot points onto your head with a sledgehammer.  I'll try to end this review with something positive.  Bay proved to the world that he is fully capable of chucking his stylized film into your face without blowing up an entire major city.  For him, that shows some diversity.

Rating: *½

Thursday, May 02, 2013

A Brutally Honest Personal Update on My Writing Career and Life

A week ago, I wrote a piece asking you fine readers to let me know what you want posted on this site.  I got some pretty awesome feedback via email and the comment section.  It is always swell to discover there are people who actively care about my little site.  Of course, a week after declaring that I wanted to start posting more original content on the blog, I proceeded to mainly just stick to the podcasts and links to my other articles instead.  It would almost make you think I wasn't sincere and that the piece was just written to get some kind of new content on the blog.

I was sincere.  Even if I warned you that I likely wasn't going to follow any of your suggestions, because I'm stubborn and largely just want this site to be my personal outlet.  But I did have every intention of writing fresh content on here rather than using it strictly as a "pimp my other works" hub.

Then life jumped in my way, and this poor blog is always the victim of those occasions.  My taxes ended up taking a lot longer than I planned.  The summer months tend to be a drought period when it comes to finding writing work and clients, and so I've been extra busy with marketing and querying.  I'm hoping to have some client lined up before the hot summer rears its head.  The bills have a funny habit of not just waiting for when I have a steady revenue stream.  I also have actual clients and deadlines, and since they pay real live money, they deserve my real live attention.  Of course, there is that whole being a daddy thing, which consists being a stay-at-home dad in the mornings while Emily works and then some crucial cameo appearances throughout the remainder of the day.  Speaking of Emily, she sort of appreciates it when I play the role of loving husband and spend some time with her.  If I'm honest, I've been sucking at that over the last several months, and I'm now trying to remedy that problem.  You add all that up, and my blog has been treated like the smelly kid during prom.

But there has actually been one more thing.  It is something that I haven't ever really talked about on this blog before.  It may have some value for me to reveal it, so I'm going to take a moment to be very open.

I've had some moments over the past few months where I've been suffering from high anxiety, self-doubt, and insecurity.  I don't want to call it depression, because that is a medical term.  I haven't bothered to get diagnosed.  I also know there are many people who suffer through such bouts that are far more severe than me, and more often than not, I'm pretty happy and content.

There are days I wake up and feel pretty overwhelmed.  I look at my career and get frustrated with where it is at.  It isn't always just career oriented.  I'll battle with how I view my own self-worth.

I want to make it clear that I'm not saying these things to earn pity or words of encouragement.  I know that I've got it pretty great.  I'm able to follow my love of writing.  I have an unbelievable wife who is supportive, beautiful, and fun.  My son lifts my spirits every time I see him, and fatherhood is an amazing treasure that I cherish.  My life is pretty amazing, and I know it.  Most days.

The greatest strength of a creative person can often be their greatest weakness.  I've read about many writers, musicians, actors, and other artists that struggle with addictions and depression.  Many of them have disorders that eat them up inside.  But at the same time, they create beautiful and remarkable works of art like stirring songs or profound prose or visual masterpieces.  I know personally, I've always got a legion of ideas and thoughts doing jumping jacks in my head.  I've never struggled with coming up with creative writing, because it is always there.  I'll obsess about those ideas and dwell on them.  The ideas will consume me until I finally allow them to be released from my fingers as I type them out.  The problem is that the obsessions and dwelling can sometimes be negative thoughts or be tough memories from my past.  Those thoughts can knock me down, and even though I know writing is my cathartic release, I instead opt to let it boil over inside me without ever lifting the lid on the pot.

The majority of creative people that I know (and what I definitely know about myself) are a very emotional bunch.  Once again it is these strong emotions that create captivating and inspiring works.  It is what allows one to open up and present something that resonates with people.  I also think a lot of that emotion is connected with the creativity and is part of that passion that drives those folks.  I know many of my feelings and emotions are what I pour into my creative works and sometimes are the cause of my ideas.  The problem is that not all emotions are cheerful and grand.  I can have days that I'm running on the clouds, but also days that I feel I'm being buried by a thousand pounds of dirt.  Now, bad feelings can be the catalyst of beautiful work.  I really believe my writing is often my best form of therapy.  There are those days that my emotions are too strong and my obsessions are too deep and my energy is sapped, and I allow myself to go to a dark place without allowing the writing to pull me out.  Even though I know that every time I write, it has been my medicine.

I've actually been in relatively good shape for the past few years.  It helps that my wife is a rock and someone who puts up with me.  The darker moments still come, but luckily, I haven't been teetering over the edge like I was several years ago.  For the most part, my bad days just make me a moody and insufferable ass.  Or I find myself just breaking down and crying in front of my wife.  Though there are those days that I feel it could just be a few more steps to the right and I'd seriously think about doing self-harm again or ending everything.  I'd call those pretty bad days.

The really dark times were over a decade ago.  And almost two decades ago, I did try to commit suicide back in high school.  I look back at that time, and to be honest, it scares me.  I'm glad that it does.  I hope to never return to that thought process again.  I still have periods where the energy is sapped, and I wonder what is going on with my life.  I'm usually able to handle it all much better than before even if I feel strapped to an anchor at the bottom of the ocean.  I lack the teen angst now, which helps a lot.  There are advantages to growing up.

I've got strategies in place.  I look at my son.  I kiss my wife.  I take my dog for a long walk.  I remind myself that I am a creative person for a reason, and I write.  Writing is important.  It is just too bad on those worst times, I forget that.

I've felt a lot of anxiety about my career and various other things the past few months.  In this current spiel of honesty, I can open up and now say that some of those days where there was no content on the blog meant I was overly stressed or panicking or whatever.  I do want to say that a lack of a post from me doesn't always mean that.  A disappearance can sometimes mean I'm rushing to get work done on deadline or actually, spending time with my wonderful family.

I feel enough responsibility to my family and have a desire to provide for them that my energy sapped days still don't stop me from writing my pay copy.  This is how I make my living.  My living is sort of important to my family staying in our house and being able to turn on lights.  I haven't allowed my personal demons to hamper me from getting work done on deadline.  It just has meant I don't always have any energy left over for here.

My self-doubt and insecurities have been chained to me since I was a kid.  I remember in high school having a really bad habit of not writing an essay, because I felt that if it wasn't completed then I didn't have to suffer from a teacher telling me I wasn't good enough.  I always loved writing, but I was scared to discover I sucked.  Though I do now actually finish my work, because again, I wouldn't get paid for a blank Word document, I'll still have my times where I stress about what I've written.

I'll have days where I obsess about the copy that I wrote.  Instead of sending it off to the editor, I'll waste another two hours reading it over and over to makes sure it is perfect.  Even after I send it, I then panic about it possibly being hated.  I've also written several articles on this blog that I eventually deleted, because I felt it wasn't good enough.  But then there are those days where the deadline is now rubbing against me and even though I stare at my article and scream, "This is shit!" but I need to send it off.  I then think about it all night and wonder how much the reader will despise and tear it apart.  90% of those times are when readers and my editor tell me that they loved it.  Some of the most popular stuff was content that I despised.

This isn't an everyday thing.  I've got days where I whip through my copy, I am happy with it, and then send it off without a second thought.  This happens pretty often.  It may have happened a little less often lately.  But I know I am capable of a stress and panic free day of writing.  I also know it is how I want to write.  I am busy enough where I can't pencil in 3 hours where I panic over a few thousand words essay.  Plus as I stated before, it just turns me into an insufferable ass, and since I like being around people, it isn't a good way to be.

I remind myself I suck as a critic to my own work.  I find most people are too hard on their own stuff.  I know that I just need to write honestly and follow where the words take me.  There are just going to be days where it will be marvelous and there will be days that it is several notches below that.  When you write every day, that is how it happens.  Not everything can be Shakespeare -- unless, you're Shakespeare.  Even then, he has a few plays that misfired a bit.

I am not saying any of this for validation.  At the moment, I am pretty confident in my writing abilities.  Instead, I just hope this honesty can resonate with someone out there.  If you have your days that you want to hide then you can at least know you aren't the only one.  Of if you're an aspiring writer but you have days you hate your work or just feel drained then know a guy who even makes a living off writing has those moments.  I don't know the solution.  I actually don't think such a thing can possibly exist.  I think these moments come along with the package of who I am.  I am creative and I am emotional and I obsess and all those things have times where they combine to be something great then less great the other times.  My goal is for it to just be great more often than not.

My last thing I want to mention is the whole self-value thing.  I can suck at it.  But as a writer, it is important to realize you're good.  Your work has value.  There are many companies that will try to take advantage of you.  They will try to get away with shit pay.  If you want this to be your career then you need to decide your work has a certain dollar value.  If you're talented, you have a right to make good money.

I write because it lifts my soul.  I love it.  I also want to be rich.  I'll be honest.  I want to make good money without having to lift something heavy or sweating outside.  I like being able to take the little things floating in my head and making them become something more.  I want to make money off those little ideas.  I want it to be enough so that I don't need to do any other work to provide for my family.

In order for anyone to make good money off writing, they need to see it as a business.  It can be art, but in the end, it is a job.  You work for your job.  In this case, you're self-employed.  You have to manage finances and set up things like a business.  Most importantly, you have to see a money value on your work.  You can't go below that rate, because you have to believe your work is worth something that a skilled professional would get paid.  The internet is full of cheap ass publishers, but there are really good publishers too.  You have to decide that they are the people you want to work with.

I'll be honest, I've had days I've panicked about my place.  I started thinking that I just need to accept anything.  I needed the affirmation.  I have accepted jobs below what I know I am worth.  I did it, because I needed the acceptance, and I worried I'd never get any other work.  Or I'd convince myself the exposure was important, and it would be nice for people to see my name in print.  All it gave me was a few pats on the back and some really awful pay.

I'm trying to refocus my career and not accept the smaller paying stuff.  I don't have time for it.  It rarely will lead to higher paying stuff.  Right now, I have some ghostwriting that pays great.  I have a few things that I took for exposure, and now think may have been a mistake.  Then I also have clients that give me exposure and pay great, and even better also give me creative freedom.  I love creative freedom.  I find the better paying jobs often trust you enough to give it.

Creative freedom is why I love my blog.  I don't have an editor here.  I can write whatever I want.  This is the main reason I want to start writing more content on here.  I love it.  It is my release.

It has actually also been really great for my career.  One of my best clients, Collective Publishing hired me based off my work on this blog.  I have also been able to sell several articles that I've written on here.  This little site has been huge for my career.  It has been a career that is still very young.  My wife reminds me of that fact when I start getting morose.

This is the honest and bare my soul reason this blog hasn't been a happening place over the last few months.  I hope revealing the reasons will motivate me to stick with the blog and start making this an exciting stop again.  It also has opened up a door that allows me to be even more honest on here.  I would be willing to write about this stuff again if anyone found it helpful rather than self-indulgent.  Not that being self-indulgent has stopped me from a vanity piece before.  If I'm going to write a serious piece, it is better to have a real point and mean something to people.

I do want to remind you that my absence doesn't mean I've drifted into self-doubt or hate.  Sometimes I'm just busy.  This is sort of what life has a habit of doing when you're self-employed and with a family.

If you read this far then thank you.  You're all amazing readers.  I am so flattered that many of you follow me to all the sites that I work for.  It's a great feeling knowing I have some people who read my variety of stuff just because they find me entertaining.  It is humbling too.

Thank you for being awesome.       

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

'Survivor Caramoan' Ep. 12: The Blindside Strikes Back

This season has been about players wanting to make big moves and be in control of the game.  It has led to many flips and lies, and created an incredibly entertaining season.  Tonight's episode is a doozy with some major shockers.  I recap all the fun over at BuddyTV.

The Guide of the 2013 Summer Blockbuster Season

The major Hollywood tentpole films are on their way, and it looks to be a pretty crazy summer at the box office.  But which are the films that you should toss your money towards?  And which ones should you scream and hide under the bed if they get mentioned as an evening out option?  I am here to sort that all out for you.  I've written up a survival guide of all the wide releases for the Summer Blockbuster season over at Collective Publishing.