Free Fire (2016) a (mildly) belated review

Cult director co/writer Ben Wheatley and his co/writer (and spouse) Amy Jump are the brains behind 2016’s Free Fire, a dark comedy/action film that features a very impressive cast… and a sadly underdeveloped story.

I’m going to be blunt here: I was hoping for much more in this film than what I got.

The story goes like this: Back in 1978 (why set the film in this year?  Easy, because it was before the advent of cell phones.  If the film were set in the present and cell phones existed, this story would be done very quickly) a group of individuals get together in an abandoned factory for a gun sale.  Things go sideways quick and the various members of the cast are soon engaged in an extended gunfight which plays out for perhaps 3/4ths of the film.

I’ll get into SPOILERS in a moment but here are the things I liked about the film:

Armie Hammer, an actor whose appearances I’ve found not all that memorable (my general experience is, and I don’t claim to have seen all his various roles, he’s been cast too many times as the big, quiet -and boring- type), is quite good as the somewhat arrogant, pot smoking intermediary who gives off vibes of being quite dangerous beneath it all.  But is he?

Sharlto Copley is an actor who can be somewhat… overwhelming… at times but here his arrogance and silliness serve him well.

Cillian Murphy, another actor with a very long list of roles, is obstensibly the hero of the piece, an IRA man who is interested in purchasing weapons and who has an eye for…

Brie Larson, Oscar winning actress plays a woman of mystery here, an intermediary for the IRA fellows who gets caught in the resulting crossfire.  Or does she?

These are the four roles I found most intriguing in this film but, truthfully, just about everyone is good -or, more properly, bad– in their individual roles but the biggest problem this feature has is that after everything is set up, there just isn’t all that much of a second act.  The characters attack and counterattack and after a while it feels repetitious and we’re dealing with diminishing returns.

Based on that, I can’t recommend Free Fire.  If you’re curious, here’s the movie’s trailer and, afterwards, I’m going to get into a more SPOILERY focus on one of the film’s elements leading to its conclusion…

As mentioned, we’re now going to get into…


Still here?  You’ve been warned!

As a writer, I’m always interested in all things story and Free Fire was no exception.

If there was something that kept me going on with it, even after feeling the film was running out of steam, was where it was going.  The fact is that while I ultimately can’t recommend the film, I could see that the people behind it were certainly trying to do something interesting.

The film isn’t “just” a silly shoot out.  It’s an attempt at making a black comedy with the action elements.  Sadly, in the end there wasn’t enough “there” there for me to like it, but I was still intrigued as to where it was going.

Which is where, from a writer’s standpoint, the film somewhat misfired because the movie’s conclusion was set up only minutes from the movie’s actual conclusion.

Let me explain: I kinda knew the film would feature the slow deaths of the many characters within it.  I wondered who would survive to the end and, when we got to the “last three”, two of the characters got together and one of them states something to the effect of: “Let’s go, the police will be here in fifteen minutes”.

Then, the final of the three characters emerges, takes out the other two, and tries to get away with the money intended to pay for the guns.  However, as this person is heading to the exit, the lights from police cars is seen pouring from under the door of the factory.  The final survivor is caught.

Allow me to humbly point out: THIS IS STUPID.

Why, suddenly, are the police an issue… other than to provide closure to the film?

Free Fire starts with the various characters going into the abandoned factory and, because this is a gun purchase, they have to check the merchandise.  Therefore, before any monies are exchanged, the buyer gets to try out one of the weapons he’s interested in buying.

I assumed at that point in the film they chose this abandoned factory for the purchase because any gunfire -specifically the gunfire from the buyer examining the merchandise- would be muffled and therefore the police would not be called to the area.

What the movie needed was AT THIS POINT IN TIME to explain the situation with the police.

Have one of the characters say: “Look, take your shots quick.  We’re pretty muffled for sound here but you never know if someone out there might hear them and call the cops.”


With that single line and, even more importantly, at that point in time, the film’s makers don’t have to put the awkward bit of dialogue at the tail end of the film -and moments before its actual ending- to clue us in on how the film will end.  Instead of the character suddenly pointing out the police will be there in 15 minutes, this same character would then say something to the effect of: “We really need to go.  This place muffles plenty of sound but with this much gunfire someone out there must have heard something.   It would be a miracle if the cops weren’t on their way right now.”

I know, I know.  A silly little peeve but its there, nonetheless, for me.

Now that I’ve mentioned this writerly peeve, let me give the film some love:  I really like how they subtly laid down information regarding Brie Larson’s character.  There are at least two bits of dialogue, both given by her and one of which is included in the above trailer, that hint to what she’s all about.

I enjoyed that!

Corrosive Knights, a 8/30/17 update

Before I get to the update, a story presented on and written by Stephanie Convery:

Terry Pratchett’s unfinished novels destroyed by a steamroller

The article’s title is self-explanatory.  The late author/humorist Terry Pratchett, who died in 2015, wanted his unfinished works steamrolled so they took what one has to assume were the hard drives of his computer and did just that.

A shame, I must say.

While much of my “bits and pieces” are pretty crappy and not worth printing, on the other hand they are bits and pieces I’ve worked on and given some of my time to.  Maybe one day people will be curious to see all my stuff and, in that case, I’m not adverse to having it available to be seen… though I doubt at this time you’ll find a large amount worthy of “discovery”.

Which is a good segue to my Corrosive Knights series and the progress I’m making on book #7, the latest in the series.

With regard to that, there’s the proverbial good news, bad news, and good news here…

I’ve mentioned before Book #7 was intended to conclude the series’ main story, though I’ve been hasty to add that there was going to be a book #8 which would present an “epilogue”.

Well, things might be changing.

Without getting into any spoilers, Book #7 was always intended to present a “two part” story which dovetails in the end before reaching the conclusion.

So, the first bit of Good News: Instead of concluding the main story with Book #7, I’m now thinking it might be better to present the two stories separately, ie have a Book #7a and a Book #7b.  Or, to be less anal about these things, have a book #7, follow it up with Book #8 -no longer the epilogue story I was planning-, and end it all with that epilogue story as Book #9.

In other words, the Corrosive Knights series, to all those fans out there of the books, may wind up being one book longer than I intended.

The Bad News is that if I go this way, it means there’s a lot of work for me to do on what might be the “new” Book #8.  It will no longer be part of a book and, being its own full novel I feel it has to be “novel length” which means it clocks in at the 100,000 word area.

Which puts me in a bit of a quandary.  The first part of the story is essentially written up (It already reached the 100,000+ range).  It needs considerable editing/cleaning, for sure, but I was holding off on doing this and instead focused on the second part of the novel’s story.

Now, if I decide to let that second part be used in its own novel, it means I could jump back to that first part of the story and finish it up and get it released relatively quickly.


Here’s the thing, I’m in something of a “groove” with this second part of the story and I’m loathe to switch gears and move away from what I’m currently doing.

Let me be crystal clear here: I’m dying to get the book out but writing is a difficult thing for me.  Mostly its because I’m very, very hard on myself.  I don’t want to create something that is at best average and/or predictable.  I pride myself on releasing stories that, I hope, surprise and engage readers.

To do that, I get into this OCD-like state where I’m thinking about the work I’m currently doing during almost all my waking moments.

I know this sounds like exaggeration, but I assure you this is the case.

For me new, interesting ideas can suddenly pop up.  I could be walking the dog or driving to get some crappy fast food or sitting on the toilet or taking a shower and, just like that, it hits me.  Most other times I’m thinking about where I’m currently at and how to write the latest chapter.  Either that or rewrite it and make it as good as I can get it.

The bottom line is this:

If I have enough material to make a second novel out of that second story (something which is still not a done deal), it means the concluding two books of this series will take a little longer to be released than I was hoping.

My hope was to release this last book by late this year or early next year but, if we do have two final books, I have a lot of work to do and that will take me through the end of the year.

At least.

And then, I have to get into the rewrites/editing and that will take longer.

Which brings us to the last of the Good News: If I do decide to split this book in two and finish that second book before going into the editing of the first, the last three books of the series are going to come out really quickly.

I’ve already written out what would be the first book.  I’m currently writing that second book.  I have the first draft of the epilogue book already written.

All I may need to do once I finish that second story is edit the three last books which means they will be released pretty quickly.  Writing a book is always far harder and more time consuming than editing it.

However, all this is in flux.

Let’s see how the second half of that story goes and I’ll update you soon enough.

In the meantime, stay dry and enjoy the last of the summer.

Man, was I tired last night…

…how tired?

Not nearly as tired as the many fine people in Texas helping out all those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Seriously, your life can be frustrating and exhausting.  You can work incredibly hard for so little pay and/or recognition.  Hell, you can spit venom at the TV at whatever latest awful thing our “President” has done…

But to then see all the misery going on in Texas thanks to Hurricane Harvey followed by images of the many, many fine folks out there helping their neighbors and strangers who are stranded or flooded out…

My heart goes out to them.

I hope that Hurricane lifts quickly and the waters recede just as quickly and we can fix what nature destroyed.

I’ve been through more Hurricanes than I care to think about, including the infamous Andrew and Katrina, the later of which thankfully hit our area when it was still a relatively small Category 1 storm.  But Katrina’s ultimate destruction sure looks a lot like what Harvey’s doing now.

So keep safe out there.


Sketchin’ 21 & 22

These two pieces were being worked on and off the past few days.  Last night I decided to finish ’em off.

First up is my take on a publicity still from the classic 1946 Alfred Hitchcock film Notorious.  The movie stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman and many consider it one of Mr. Hitchcock’s all time greatest works.

I’m not entirely satisfied with the piece, largely because I feel I didn’t get Mr. Grant’s eyes as well as I wanted to.  I’m happy about the rest of the piece and I could one day return to this and take on those eyes once again.  In the meantime, love the while pattern lines on his suit.  That part really came out wonderfully, IMHO!

Next up is the actress Sarah Douglas in one of her most memorable roles, that of the villain Ursa from Superman and Superman II

As I mentioned before, one of the things I most like about using the iPad and Apple Pencil (no, I’m not getting any money for mentioning my tools) is that it allows me to experiment.

In the case of the Ursa picture, I quite literally did a 5 minute piece, hardly bothering with getting everything “right”, then came back to it yesterday.  Once again, I realized I needed to work on the eyes.  Eyes are usually THE thing that either makes or breaks your piece and in their original form as drawn they looked too sloppy.

So last night I erased the eyes I had and redrew them and, suddenly, the picture was something like a thousand times better.  I cleaned up a little stuff here and there and added that weird lit up/dark background and, voila, another piece.

I’m quite happy with it!

Sketchin’ 20

I’ve been doing stars from the past for the most part and decided it was time to take on a more modern star and the character she plays. So, here we have  Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones…

A confession: I have yet to see ANY of the Marvel Netflix shows, including Jessica Jones.  But Ms. Ritter looks great in the role.  Love her look and wanted a crack at it.

Hope I did her justice!

Saturday past…

A few days ago I posted a lovely (IMHO!) picture of Humphrey Bogart (here it is) and wrote how I made it despite it being a very high pressure day.

Well, more like stressful.  Very much so.

It went like this…

We headed out early-ish (around 9 am) to go look for some tile for the front of our house.  As we were looking around, my wife receives a phone call from her mother.  Busy as we were at that moment, she considered ignoring the call while we were talking with the sales clerk but, ultimately, decided to take the call.

She started talking and walked away while I dealt with the sales clerk.  She was gone the whole time I looked around and, after a while, received a strange text from my daughter saying she was just exiting the gym and was not in… prison?!

What the hell?

I got together with my wife, who looked considerably more animated, as she concluded what turned out to be one of several calls with her mother.

To make a long story short(er): Someone hacked my daugher’s phone, perhaps after she used the wi-fi at a Starbucks the day before but, honestly, who knows.  Whoever did it got a hold of her phone numbers, found the entry marked “Grandma” and called that number.

There were at least two scammers involved in the call, one of whom was a female.  Once the call was answered, the female scammer was hysterically tearful, appropriate because the scammers didn’t want the Grandparents to realize it wasn’t her they were talking to.  The second scammer, a man, claimed to be a lawyer, told the Grandparents that my daughter was in an accident and was in jail because of it and that he needed credit card numbers so that he could pay for her release.

The scammers knew what they were doing, applying high pressure tactics and, frankly, scaring the living shit out of her Grandparents to get those credit card numbers.  Cleverly, the tearful woman claiming to be my daughter begged them not to tell her parents (us) about this.

On the other hand, they were also quite inept.  At one point the “lawyer” was asked by the Grandparents where my supposed daughter was incarcerated.  He said he didn’t know.  A laughable answer, considering he was supposedly right next to her at that moment.

Thing is, they did just enough to almost get what they wanted which was a credit card number.

Luckily, despite the hysteria the scammers created the Grandparents nonetheless made that call to my wife and in that moment, everything unraveled for the scammers and they made no more calls.

The next day, perhaps not coincidentally, I received a very official looking email supposedly from Apple which stated I had purchased an “unknown add on” app for $99.  It was followed by a second email also supposedly from Apple, also looking exactly like official Apple emails, stating I had changed my password and if I didn’t do this to click on the convenient link provided in the email to fix everything.

Yeah, sure.

I didn’t click any of the links in the email and instead went directly into my Apple account.  There was no such charge and there was no such purchase.

The phone call scam provided both my wife and her parents several moments of sheer terror, and its that terror that the scammers were hoping to exploit to get credit card numbers.  Its a nasty business and we’ve since found, in talking to other friends/relatives, that this type of scam isn’t a new thing.

So for those who’ve read this and aren’t familiar with the scam, there it is.

Be wary.

Watch out with the use of wi-fi in restaurants or public places.  Also, its helpful to keep your phone numbers listed impersonally.  Instead of listing someone as “Dad” or “Mom” or “Grandma” or “Grandpa”, list them by name.

And always be weary of any phone callers who call you for any reason -however stressful it may be- and ultimately want your credit card numbers.

Please, please don’t let the emotion get you as it almost did my daughter’s Grandparents.

Batman film a stand-alone?

Over at GQ magazine online, Joshua Riviera points out that…

The Batman Director Matt Reeves Says His Movie Isn’t Connected to Any Other Batman movies

Speculatin’, especially in light of the very recently announced Martin Scorsese produced Joker movie (which reportedly also won’t fit in with any other movie continuity), suggests that DC/Warners may be moving away from the continuity heavy movie releases -ala Marvel films- and instead hit audiences with films that may not be tied into one another.

There is speculation, and it is natural, that what lies behind this may be related to a) The Justice League film being “bad” and/or b) Ben Affleck wants out of the role.

While the Justice League film certainly has an interesting backstory regarding its making, there is an Aquaman movie being currently filmed which clearly is tied into the continuity and the Wonder Woman sequel, one would think, is still tied into the continuity as well.  However, reports released suggest the Flash film is taking on the Flashpoint storyline, which essentially resets the universe/continuity and could offer a way to reboot the DC superhero universe and, if necessary, remove actors who may not want to stay in their respective roles.

On the other hand, DC/Warner, unlike Marvel, has a pretty long -and successful- history of having films set in their own continuity.  The Christopher Reeves Superman films, regardless of their quality beyond the second one, were their own thing.  As was the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman films.  As were the Joel Schumacher Batman films that followed them.  As were the Christopher Nolan films that followed them.

Many of these films made tons of money and were very successful.  Others less so.

Regardless, DC/Warners, unlike Marvel/Disney, has tasted considerable success with movies featuring their characters in their own proper continuity (Sony, who until recently owned the film version of the Spider Man character, had success with the Raimi movies and less so with the ones that followed, set in their own continuity).

Therefore, it might make more sense that they aren’t as enamored of the idea of continuity heavy films.

Sinister?  A sign of bad things regarding the Justice League film and Ben Affleck’s continued presence in the famous role of Batman?

Its certainly possible as well.

Sketchin’ 19

Today I took on Constance Frances Marie Ockleman, better known as actor Veronica Lake (1922-1973).

She was another stunning beauty who starred in several unforgettable films, including Sullivan’s Travels, The Glass Key, This Gun For Hire, and The Blue Dahlia.  She would be paired with actor Alan Ladd in seven films, including three of the films I’ve listed above.

Unfortunately, her career following The Blue Dahlia was mediocre at best and heavy drinking took its toll. She would die at the too young age of 50 from hepititis.

Here she is, in better times…

Weirdest movie news… perhaps ever!

I read about this movie news yesterday and I’m still more than a little stunned.  The article is by Mike Fleming Jr. and its presented on

The Joker Origin Story On Deck: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver, Martin Scorsese Aboard WB/DC Film

Todd Phillips is probably best known as the director of the three The Hangover films (he was also the writer of the later two in the series, which were IMHO quite horrid).

Scott Silver is mostly known as a writer and his most successful project was 8 Mile.

Martin Scorsese, on the other hand, needs no introduction, being the acclaimed director of such seminal films as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and, more recently, The Wolf of Wall Street.

So the article above states that these three individuals have gotten together to make a Joker “stand alone” film which explores Batman’s arch-villain’s origin.  Mr. Scorsese, it is implied, will serve as a producer and not direct.

Now, a few points regarding this article:

  1. How freaking insane does that trio of individuals coming together to make a Joker film (of all things!) sounds?
  2. Is it really wise to make a Joker film without Batman?
  3. What exactly will the tone of this film be?  The article indicates the film will be “hard boiled” yet at least one of these three individuals is known for comedies.
  4. It is stated the film will lie outside the other movie continuity, which seems to indicate we won’t have Jaret Leto playing the character.  Given we have Martin Scorsese involved, can Leonardo DiCaprio be far behind?
  5. I repeat: How freaking insane does this sound?!?

When I read the original article, my first move was to check the calendar.

Yesterday, alas, was not April 1st.

Over on various comment boards some people far more clever than I wrote that this sounded like a movie version of Mad Libs.

I agree.

Will this film ever get made?

I wonder.

And if it does, will it be any good?

We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?

Total eclipse of the…

…well, around these parts not quite so total.

Still, we had a fair amount of the sun blocked by the moon.  I’d say at least 3/4ths of it was blocked.  Here’s a photo I took of a sheet of paper (I didn’t have any fancy $2.00 sunglasses to gamble my eyesight on and therefore used the famous pinprick method of “seeing” the eclipse):

Not the most dynamic picture ever, I grant you, but at least I wasn’t doing this…

Image result for trump looking at the sun images

On instagram my daughter found this image of an obvious MENSA candidate that, if one believes the post, decided to stare at the eclipse a little too long without any eye protection.  This was the end result…

Image result for looked at eclipse too long

Enjoy your future blindness, my cerebral friend.