Timing is everything…perhaps

We’re two days away from the official release of the Patty Jenkins directed, Gal Gadot/Chris Pine starring Wonder Woman film and, thus far, the aggregate of reviews presented over on Rottentomatoes.com are incredibly ecstatic…

Rotten Tomatoes: Wonder Woman (2017)

As of this writing, the film sits at an incredibly lofty 97% positive.  While I suspect this number will drop a bit when we reach Friday and the full forces of worldwide reviewers are heard, the film nonetheless already has 74 “pro” reviews, a fairly high number, and of those only 2 were “negative”.

The two negative reviews come from, respectively, Luke Buckmaster for The Daily Review (the full review is here) and Steve Rose for The Guardian (the full review is here).

Mr. Buckmaster gives the film a mediocre 2.5 stars out of 5 but his review is hardly a body slam against the film.  His main criticism appears to be centered around the movie’s climax, which he (and, to be fair, a few others) felt was just another CGI effects-laden fight-fight-fight-fest as well as the fact that the film felt familiar to him, especially the “fish out of water” aspect of Princess Diana/Wonder Woman emerging into the real world of WWI, which he interestingly noted was not unlike what occurred in the movie Crocodile Dundee.

Mr. Rose, on the other hand, is far less impressed.  Here’s some of what he had to say:

I had no shortage of excitement and goodwill towards this female-led superhero project, but in the event it’s plagued by the same problems that dragged down previous visits to the DC movie world: over-earnestness, bludgeoning special effects, and a messy, often wildly implausible plot. What promised to be a glass-ceiling-smashing blockbuster actually looks more like a future camp classic.


However, his appears to be the only really negative voice out there -so far anyway- and he ultimately gives the film a below average 2 stars out of 5.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’ve made my opinion of Batman v. Superman known plenty of times around here.  I really liked the film and, further, thought the addition of Wonder Woman in it was a stroke of genius.  She single-handedly spiced up the movie’s climax which, had she not been there, might have been a far duller affair.

This past Memorial Day Weekend proved a big disappointment to the theaters in terms of revenue.  According to Emma Spencer at laist.com, the theater revenue was at an 18 year low (you can read the full article here).

Frankly, this doesn’t surprise me.  Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which I had no interest in seeing (another dead horse: I didn’t like the first film at all, despite so many others liking it, therefore had no interest in seeing the second) plus the latest Pirates of the Caribbean, Alien: Covenant, and Baywatch were pretty much the “big four” films out there this weekend, and as far as I was concerned, none of them were interesting to me.

In fact, as I looked over the many films coming this summer, there were precious few of them that looked like slam-bang appealing works.  When I wrote my original list, I was indeed curious to see Wonder Woman and was wowed by the trailers that had been released to that point.

Now, given the very positive reviews and what I’m assuming is interest in this film (and lack of interest in the others), I’m most curious to see this film…and see how it does.

Perhaps this is very much the right time, both in terms of box office and political tides, for a Wonder Woman film to be released.

The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017 remix)


Just released today to coincide with the (gulp) 50th year anniversary release of what is likely the most famous of The Beatles’ albums (though, as I mentioned previously, many feel it isn’t necessarily their best album), you can now pick up various editions of the new, 2017 remix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Image result for sgt. pepper's lonely hearts club band 50th anniversary

There are inevitably going to be those who wonder if its worth buying this edition of the album.  If you’re like me, you’ve picked up many different editions of the album and, going in, wonder if this one will be all that much different.

It is.

Oh man, is it.

But don’t take my word for it.  Over on rollingstone.com, Mikal Gilmour offers a review of the album.  You can check the review out here:

Review: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Anniversary Edition Reveal Wonders

One of the more fascinating things Mr. Gilmour points out is the following, found in the liner notes of this new edition of the album:

Giles Martin (son of the famous George Martin, the original producer of these albums who passed away in 2016 and the man who did the remix for this new 2017 version of Sgt. Pepper’s) observes in his liner notes: “The original Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was primarily mixed as a mono album. All care and attention were applied to the mono LP, with the Beatles present for all the mixes. … Almost as an afterthought, the stereo album was mixed very quickly without the Beatles at the sessions. Yet it is the stereo album that most people listen to today.” In other words, popular music’s most elaborate and intricate creation – and one that helped end the mono era – wasn’t made to be heard in stereo. 

Though they didn’t know it at the time, mono was on its way out and would be replaced by stereo music shortly after the release of this album.  But because of the time it was created, all the care was made toward the mono mix of this album and the stereo mix, the mix most of us have heard/listened to all this time, was a version The Beatles didn’t really bother with.  The mono version was what The Beatles intended us to hear yet what we heard was… something else.

The 2017 remix of this album intends to correct this error and, trust me, they’ve done it.

Listening to the 2017 remix of Sgt. Pepper’s is -and I know this is going to sound like a cliched bit of selling- nothing short of a revelation.  The music feels far more lush than it ever did before.  There is a multi-level to it that makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of the band as they present their songs.

One of the biggest surprises, at least to me, turned out to be the song Good Morning, Good Morning.  Here’s a demo version of it…

I must admit, I never thought all that much of the song.  Of all John Lennon’s works, I always felt this one was slight, perhaps no better than “ok”.

But in this 2017 version?

…Oh… my.

The song engulfs you with a frantic, crazed energy.  The almost circus like music swirls and surrounds you, hitting your ears as if taking several gunshot blasts.

And that’s just one song!

If you’re a fan of The Beatles and/or Sgt. Pepper’s, do yourself a favor: Toss all the other copies of the album you have and get yourself the 2017 version, then give it a listen and see if I’m wrong.

I don’t think I am and, yes, this new mix of the album is that good.

Highly recommended.

On Writing… and a few more thoughts on Roger Moore

While looking around the internet following reading the news of Mr. Moore’s passing, I found the following article by Maxwell Strachan and presented on Huffington Post:

Roger Moore Came to hate the way society glorifies men with guns

The article is pretty much self-descriptive, though it seems Mr. Moore had a lifelong animus regarding guns that first developed when he was a very young man.

There will certainly be those who point out Mr. Moore was a hypocrite.  After all, the most famous character he portrayed, James Bond, often was presented like this…

Image result for roger moore james bond images


Image result for roger moore james bond images


Image result for roger moore james bond images

I believe you get the point, no?

Among many other things, James Bond is known for the weapon he carries, a Walther PPK.  Along with romancing beautiful women, high wire escapes, a Martini “shaken and not stirred”, and sophisticated gadgets, the Walther PPK is one of James Bond’s trademarks, the gun the fictional secret agent carries.

I find it fascinating that Mr. Moore, while certainly not slamming the James Bond role that made him a world-wide superstar, nonetheless was quoted as stating:

I regret that sadly heroes in general are depicted with guns in their hands.

Now, as the headline above indicates, this is about “writing”, so how does this relate to my writing?

Because I had something of a same experience with regard to the first novel in my Corrosive Knights series, Mechanic.

When I first envisioned the story, we were just coming off a decade of some very macho -and heavily armed- heroes.  You had Rambo.  You had The Terminator.  You had all the other action roles played by Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenneger.

These were next level action heroes who, it appeared, were influenced by Clint Eastwood’s action heroes of the 1970’s, particularly the Magnum brandishing Dirty Harry Callahan.

But as these things go, the spectacle has to be bigger and bigger and therefore the action/violence in many of the films released in the 1980’s and into the 1990’s were bigger and bigger as well…to the point where they made the original Dirty Harry film look positively quaint.

Into that time I first came up with what eventually would become my Mechanic story and the hero of the piece, the tough as nails Nox.

When I first envisioned her, it was through the veil of those heroes and their big guns.

But a curious thing happened on the way to writing the novel itself.

Yes, Nox carries a gun on the cover of Mechanic.  She also carries a handgun on the cover of the fourth book in the series, Nox.  But the character uses a gun very little in either novel.

In fact, the conclusion of Mechanic (MILD SPOILERS!) has Nox taking down those who she’s fighting against without “blowing them away” via heavy gunplay (to be fair, she does shoot one person down with a single shot).

This was done very much on purpose.

The fact is that, like Mr. Moore, when I got down to the business of writing Mechanic I’d developed something of a distaste for the idea of heroes wielding massive arsenals of weapons and engaging in equally massive shootouts.

Though there remain some shootouts here and there, after writing as many books as I have it occurred to me that I’d rejected using this type of resolution.

First, because its been done so many times before and second because I’m just not that into guns and it seemed silly to go there when I can try to be a little more clever with how villains get their just rewards.

I’m not saying that those who love guns and/or are writers/filmmakers/what-have-you who love to do elaborate shoot-outs are somehow creating works I feel are “inferior”, only that my particular creative writing path has taken me elsewhere.

I suppose the bottom line is this: If you’re a writer, write what you feel works for you.  I’ve made many action/adventure novels and the temptation to have elaborate shootouts became, to me anyway, something I didn’t want to dwell on.

I feel the end result was something better, certainly in Mechanic and hopefully in other works as well.

Zach Snyder and Roger Moore

Sadly, it seems tragedies are the order of the day.

Yesterday it was revealed that director Zach Snyder, best known -and made the object of much internet loathing for his Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice film- announced he would be stepping away from completing the Justice League film because his 20 year old daughter had committed suicide and he felt he and his family needed to take the time off to deal with this tragedy (you can read a little more about this here).

As I’ve mentioned far too many times before, I very much liked BvS and, frankly, found myself at a loss as to why so many on the internet were so negative both about the film and, especially, Mr. Snyder.  The loathing, anger, and snipping he got were, in my opinion, way disproportionate to the film -whether you liked it or not- he delivered.

My deepest condolences and its a damn shame all that internet blather forced him to break his silence and announce the reason he was leaving the JL movie.  Unfortunately, had he simply walked away and dealt with this tragedy in private, there’s little doubt many of the more nasty people on the internet would have openly speculated he was fired from the JL film or worse because of course it has to be a disaster.

To them, I can only hope they get over themselves.

Even if BvS were the worst film -much less superhero film- ever released, Mr. Snyder didn’t deserve half the crap he got for it.

Again, my condolences.

Next up, the passing of Roger Moore…

The first Bond film I ever saw -I think!- happened to be the first Bond film featuring Sir Roger Moore.  Released in 1973, Live and Let Die is, to my eyes still, a fantastic piece of action escapism.

In time I got to see not only all of Mr. Moore’s Bond films, but also all the Sean Connery features.  Overall I felt Mr. Connery’s films were stronger, but Roger Moore’s works, though far more tongue in cheek, were nonetheless quite good as well.

To me the biggest problem with Mr. Moore’s Bonds versus Connery’s is that it seemed every really good Bond film was followed by a far… lesser… one.

In order, Mr. Moore appeared in these seven Bond films:

Live And Let Die

The Man With The Golden Gun

The Spy Who Loved Me


For Your Eyes Only


A View To A Kill

It’s interesting, to me, how I love Live and Let Die and disliked The Man With The Golden Gun.  I love The Spy Who Loved Me (many feel, and with good reason, that this is one of Mr. Moore’s all time best Bond films) and disliked Moonraker.  I love For Your Eyes Only (my own personal favorite Moore Bond film) and love Octopussy (hey, two in a row!) but found A View To A Kill a sad finale to his Bond role.

Of course, Mr. Moore didn’t just do James Bond films.  He was active in TV and movies and was equally well known for playing Simon Templar in the TV series The Saint.

He was also very capable of making fun of himself as evidenced from this scene from the film Cannonball Run.  Easily the film’s funniest scene, where Mr. Moore plays spoiled rich brat Seymour, a man who thinks he’s the super-suave Roger Moore…

Rest in Peace, Mr. Moore.  I can’t help but appreciate all the hours of great entertainment you’ve provided me.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) a (mildly) belated review

Call the Resident Evil films  one of my guilty pleasures.  There are, with the one I’m about to review here, six of them.  Arguably that’s at least three too many and yet…

I dunno.

I dig ’em.

Having said that, I’d also be the last person in the world to argue these movies represent some kind of high water mark in the annals of actions/suspense/horror cinema.  Indeed, the second to last film in the series, Resident Evil: Retribution, I thought apart from an interesting setting proved to be pretty bad.

However, the first two films in the series, Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse, were, again in my opinion, quite good at delivering on the promise of action and suspense along with apocalyptic zombie related gore.

Almost all these films were written and/or directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, whose wife happens to be Milla Jovovich, the movies’ star.

So, after all these years, what do I think of the supposed “final chapter” in this series?

I think its a decent enough film that never swings too high nor falls too low, which is something of a shame as I wish I could say this was a truly brilliant send of to this series and Ms. Jovovich in what is arguably her best known role.

The movie opens with Alice (Jovovich) emerging into a devastated Washington D.C. and facing off against some of the nasties that now reside there.  Soon, she is contacted by the enigmatic A.I. which has alternately helped and hindered her.  In this case the A.I. tells her she must return to Racoon City, where this whole mess started, and release a chemical which will neutralize the man-made virus that devastated the world. (Most of this is found in the video I’ve embedded below)

Only problem is that Alice carries this virus within her and while it hasn’t made her a zombie like all the others -in fact, it may have made her the bad-ass super-hero she is- if she releases the counter-toxin, she will likely die along with all the other zombies.

I won’t give away too much more of the story -not that there is all that much more story to give away- but Alice meets at least one old friend along the way back and, together, they face off against another pair of old foes.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter does feel like a conclusion of sorts even though the film’s makers couldn’t quite bring themselves to ending it all.  There is wiggle room for another chapter in the saga though news of a “new” Resident Evil film series (you can read about that here) indicates that perhaps this might well be the last rodeo for Alice and her particular company.

If this is the case, this six film series was, at least to me, a pleasant enough diversion while it lasted.  Even if these works were never quite classics, they were entertaining and, sometimes, that’s the best you can hope for in a movie.

So, I raise a toast to Ms. Jovovich’s ass-kicking Alice.

If this is the last we’ll see of you, it’s been a fun ride.

Sgt. Pepper’s at 50…

While there are those who would argue which of The Beatles’ albums was their very best (I’ve heard more than a few state it was Revolver), I suspect few will argue Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is their most famous/well known album.

Personally, I love almost everything about the album, though there are a few songs on it that… well, they may not be quite as good as some of the others.

This year, Sgt. Pepper’s reaches a milestone, having been released an incredible 50 years ago.  To celebrate the occasion, new releases of the album are being unveiled, many offering a very intimate look at the creative process by giving us early “takes” of the many songs.  These collections, it should be noted, will be going for some mighty big bucks, should you want them.

As I was perusing the internet, I stumbled upon this fascinating article by Annie Zaleski for Salon.com which posits the following question:

Sgt. Pepper’s at 50: Was It A Concept Album Or An Identity Crisis?

Many view Sgt. Pepper’s as a concept album -one of the first ever made- but the reality is that apart from the opening chorus, the follow up song A Little Help From My Friends, and the closing chorus, there is little that makes this a concept album, at least when compared to works such as Pink Floyds’ The Wall or The Who’s Tommy or David Bowie’s 1. Outside, each of which tell a story through their songs.

The author of the article points out that John Lennon noted as much, stating his contributions/songs on the album could have easily been in any of the other Beatles albums.

And yet…

Far be it for me to argue with one of the people/musical geniuses behind the album, but I feel Sgt. Pepper’s is a concept album.

A very loose one, I grant you, but a concept album nonetheless.

It starts as a concert, then we have each of the fictional members of the band give us their song, culminating in the concluding Sgt. Pepper’s reprise and, because we’re getting a concert, of course it’s followed by an encore (A Day In The Life).

Unlike other concept albums, there is no “big” overarching story here, except for the ones within each of the individual songs themselves, yet to me Sgt. Pepper’s is ultimately a role-playing concert performed by The Beatles, who by that point could no longer tour.  They couldn’t do so because audiences simply drowned out their music/singing and things were too dangerous.

So with Sgt. Pepper’s, The Beatles offer a simple, elegant concept, that of them doing a concert and giving fans their latest songs.

A simple idea, but a concept nonetheless.

The album, in my opinion, deserves very much being considered one of The Beatles’ greatest albums, even if one may like Revolver a little bit more… 😉

On Writing: What to write and your first work…

It seems an obvious thing, but if you’re interested in writing something, what do you write?

The obvious answer should be similar to everything else regarding you as a person: Write what you like.

If you’re into science fiction, write science fiction.  If you’re into mystery, write mysteries.  Ditto with romances, biographies, young adult, children, or how-to tomes.

Having said that, I suspect there are those who pursue genres or book types which are popular, as well.  I’m hopeful they’re a minority, but who knows.

So you want to be a writer of, say, mysteries, and you wonder what you need to do to come up with your story.

The first step in the process, should you have reached the point where you want to write mystery novels, is to read plenty of mystery novels.  You see what works and, sometimes even more importantly, what does not work in other mystery novels/stories.

You analyze what excites you about them, what, for lack of a better term, “tickles your fancy”.

The next step is to start writing.  And you write and write and write and, eventually –hopefully!– you’ve written that first novel.

Then what?

There is a story, very likely apocryphal, that upon writing his first novel Ernest Hemingway threw it in the trash and got to work on his next book.

The fact of the matter is that whatever you write first, whatever it may be, is likely not going to be all that great.

Understand, there certainly is a possibility the novel or story you write is a good one.

But let’s be real here: Just because you decide to go to the track one day and run a lap or two, it doesn’t mean you’re suddenly the heavy favorite to win the 500 meter race in the next Olympics.

So write that first novel as best as you can.  Pour your heart into it and revise it and polish it and try to make it the very best thing you can.

Then, you have to find the moment to abandon it.

I’m not saying you should throw it away and use the experience gained to write your second novel.  What I’m saying is that as important as starting a novel is, it is almost just as important to find the time to finish your work on it.

I know what I talk of!

Haze, wasn’t the first story I wrote but it was my first attempt at an honest to goodness novel.

Writing the book proved a brutal but ultimately very rewarding experience.

Of all the books I’ve written since, one of the biggest lessons learned from writing Haze is that you need to focus on what is important in the story and not get too consumed with page or word counts.

In the book’s early incarnations, there was an awful lot of stuff going on in the book’s first act, stuff that over time I realized didn’t add much to the story and, worse, kept readers from getting to the good stuff.

The writing of this novel turned from my finding how to create a story to my learning what was important in telling that story versus what was extraneous.

It took me years to figure this out.

In between, I left the book for a while and devoted time to writing other stories and plotting other novels.  I worked and worked while Haze sat in a drawer and on my hard drive.  Now and again I would return to it, having gained more experience over time, and revise it.

I can’t say how many times I’ve revised that book, but I suspect it was far more than my usual 10-12 revisions of a novel.

And that’s another thing that experience teaches you.  I’ve come to realize that my first 1-3rd draft of a novel is usually where I’m putting ideas down, sometimes out of order or presented in a word salad.  If I have a notion for a scene and I’m not certain about where it will go in the book, I may just write a description and highlight it and go about writing whatever else needs to be written.

In time, I have that first “full” draft of the book and from that point on the polishing starts.  I go over the novel to make sure I’ve accounted for every action, that I’ve explained why things occur and how.  I make sure everything is clear.

The last three or four drafts of my latest novel are inevitably devoted to grammar and syntax.  I make sure everything is spelled right and that there be as few typos as possible.

And once I’m done, it’s off to the next book.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again: Writing is not an easy thing to do.  It requires considerable work and, as should be obvious by what I wrote above, considerable patience and effort.

But if I can do it, anyone can! 😉