Monday, April 16, 2018

Behind the Scenes with a Movie Sound Mixer, A Quiet Place Review, Ayreon Universe Review, Plus More Movie Reviews and News!

I’m back! And do I have some movie and music surprises for you today. Including someone who used to work in the movie industry.
Plus, I am visiting Thoughts in Progress and talking about how the IWSG anthology all began. Be sure to stop by!

Behind the Scenes of a Movie

“Do not go into the movie industry,” cautioned my mom. Family lore had it; my aunt Helen worked in the studios and suffered a mental breakdown caused by harassment. Decades before the #MeToo movement

My grandfather, Granville Redmond had a different experience. He was deaf and taught Charlie Chaplin many pantomime routines. Chaplin used Granville in his silent films and they developed a life-long friendship.

(right) Chaplin Talking on His Hand to Redmond (left) 1918

I took Mom’s advice, well sort of, I interned at an independent television station. In 1990 I founded Tammarine Production Company. While enrolled in advanced editing and recording courses at State University, I met Gerry Williams, a cinema photographer.

Gerry landed movie gigs in Los Angeles, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. He hired me to be the location sound mixer. I earned IMDb movie credits–"L. Sharon Tammarine."
Sound Mixer on Location

Between takes, I’d chat with cast and crew. Starlets whispered they’d agreed to appear nude because if they didn’t, their resumes were shredded. I can only imagine what my aunt endured. The casting couch started long before serial predator Harvey Weinstein.

In Mexico, Gerry and I worked with an all Spanish speaking crew. My boom operator and I communicated through sign language and gestures. No English required. I wanted to empower my assistant with a marketable skill, so I taught him my trade.

Boom Operator

One night, around eleven, we were on the Mexican side of the border waiting to clear customs before returning to San Diego, California. I glanced through the passenger window. Between traffic lanes, a street urchin of about eight years old sat, with a battered tip bowl, his fatigued body slumped over his guitar. Limp fingers slid aimlessly over tight strings; all the while this vulnerable child inhaled exhaust fumes. I sat in the truck, powerless to make a difference. His image burns in my memory.

I thrived in this community of endless creativity, innovation, and cooperation. Unfortunately, wearing headphones was an essential part of sound recording. Gun shots and other sudden, loud noises began to damage my ears. I decided to save my hearing and change careers.

With hopes of being a writer, I signed up with temp agencies. I worked steadily, but not as a wordsmith. Without a college degree, or formal training, the door was nailed shut.

When my husband and I retired, we bought a sailboat, sold our house, and sailed to Mexico, where we live today on our vessel, La Vita. My brand-new world is filled with real-life adventures. Today, I thrive as an unstoppable writer.

Lynn S. Bradshaw
Traveler, Photographer, Writer, La Patrona de La Cruz Writing Group

Movie Reviews

A Quiet Place

One family’s fight to survive alien creatures who hunt by sound.
It lives up to its billing – it’s very quiet. (And pray you see it with a quiet audience. Good luck with that.)
It was as much a family drama dealing with a catastrophic event as it was a horror/science fiction film. The success of the film relies on how much you grow to care about this family.
In the beginning, the pace was slow and deliberate but not boring. When it picks up a little over halfway, it doesn’t let up. Plus there are some squirm inducing scenes. Nothing gross, but many will cover their eyes. (Nail. That’s all I’m going to say.)
The cast is great, especially the parents, played by Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. Many of you know Krasinski from The Office and he was also the director of this film. (And note that the young lady who plays their deaf daughter really is deaf.)
The creature effects are also great. Creepy and effective.
If you want all the answers, this is not the movie for you. How the creatures came to earth, why they are so hard to kill, etc. – it’s never explained. But that’s not the purpose of the film anyway.
This is a small film about a family struggling to survive in a world turned upside down. And on that level, it works exceptionally well. You will be thinking about it for days afterwards.
Highly recommended.

The Rift
A team of agents are dispatched to Serbia to retrieve a fallen satellite, but that’s not what they find.
The storyline is original and has potential. A mix of time travel, wormholes, and the event horizon and what horrors it might entail. Starts off as a spy thriller before drifting into the unknown.
The cast is decent and does their best.
Here’s where it all breaks down though.
The music is horrible. Think of a cheesy B flick from the 80’s and then turn the volume to eleven. The music ruined all chances of this movie at least being decent.
And while some characters were noted in the beginning to be unstable, they degenerated into a little bit too unstable.
In the hands of a better director – and for God’s sake, a better music director – this might have been a really cool and interesting small film.
Interesting but I can’t recommend it.

Wolf Warrior II
A retired Chinese special forces operative is drawn back into action during an African country’s civil war.
This film came out last year and made almost a billion dollars. So I was curious.
It reminded me a lot of Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger films from the 80’s. The lone mercenary who fights against impossible odds to save people.
For a Chinese produced action flick, it’s good. They go all out, although sometimes the weak budget shows. Plus it’s got a bit of Chinese propaganda to it.
Frank Grillo plays the bad guy. Like he does.
It’s also a bit on the long side. Good thing the hero can’t be killed.
However, if you dig the 80’s style action films, you will enjoy this Chinese version of the genre.
Recommended to those who dig the genre.

Music/DVD Review – Ayreon Universe

The first ever Ayreon concert took place last September, selling out all three shows in Tilburg in the Netherlands. Lucky for us, they recorded it, and the double CD and DVD were released on March 30. Of course I got both! A live CD is cool but it’s even better when you can see it.

First, let me say the production values are incredible. If not for the crowd cheering at the end and beginning of each song, you might not know it was live. The quality is that good – the musicians, the singers, and the production team. Both the DVD and the live CDs will amaze you.

Next, to give you an idea of what went into producing the show and the results – Arjen began planning the event two years ago. He needed to pick the songs and notify singers and musicians well in advance. Six months out, the musicians began practicing together. Then the backup singers were added. (All of whom are front singers of course.) Some singers weren’t sure they’d make it, so there were tryouts two weeks before the show, just in case. Arjen is so humble and gracious, he even thanked those who didn’t make the cut.

He also features and talks about every performer in the DVD booklet. Including himself – “Yeah, what can I say about this hippie? Besides the fact the he’s extremely tall and could use a visit to the hairdresser. Go and eat some more peanut butter, dude, any thinner and you wouldn’t exist anymore!”

The music is incredible. Some songs sound exactly like the original recording, which is impressive. Where other singers filled in (most are European, as I doubt someone like James Labrie would be able to fly over for three weeks) they did a great job. Everyone got into character and gave it their all.

The music selection is unique. I imagine Arjen had a list of songs he wanted to do and that was whittled down to conform to whom could perform the vocals. There is something from every album, including from his Star One projects, and they perform at least one big hit from each. The Eye of Ra from Star One seemed like an odd choice, but it was fitting as the last song, as every singer came out to perform. Which was really amazing – to see that level of talent on one stage just blows the mind. Singers and musicians. Including Jeroen Goossens who plays everything from the flute to the didgeridoo. (Which only Ayreon could pull off in style.)

One of the notable moments on the DVD is when Floor Jansen (lead singer of mega-popular Nightwish) walked on stage. She’s six foot one and in heels, she towered above everyone on stage. It wasn’t until Arjen came out toward the end of the show (he’s not comfortable on stage) that someone stood taller. (He’s six foot seven. As he said, extremely tall!)

This was a once in a lifetime event. If you are a fan of Ayreon or just a fan of prog - so much talent from so many bands in one place – you have to pick up the CD and DVD.

Highly recommended!

Ninja News

Ronel the Mythmaker asked me to contribute to her A to Z Challenge posts. I was honored to be her J post - Joining Writing Groups.

New release!

The Ashes of Home by Ian S. Bott
Visit the full list of retailers HERE

The WEP – (Write...Edit...Publish) team, that quirky online writing community, led by those much-loved bloggers, Denise Covey, Yolanda Renée, Nilanjana Bose and Olga Godim, is open for submissions for their April challenge – Road Less Traveled.
The challenge is open to all writers. We welcome flash fiction, poetry, non-fiction, essays, art or photography. Word limit is around 1,000 words.
Your choice on how you approach the challenge: a career choice? A journey to an out-of-the-way places? A fork in the road? For more brain joggers, visit the WEP site.
The Top Three entries receive prizes!
Let your imagination run riot! We'd love you to join us!

Think you’d want to be a sound mixer? Did you see A Quiet Place? (If not, tip-toe to your nearest theater now!) Seen The Rift or Wolf Warrior? Have you picked up Ayreon Universe? (You have to see it!) Posting for WEP? Or are you just wondering what happened to April…?

See you May 2 for the posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group
Don’t forget - Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, the next IWSG anthology, comes out May 1!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Insecure Writer’s Support Group. April Movie Preview, Revolution 2050, Ready Player One Review, and More Movie Reviews

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!

April 4 question - When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

Sometimes I think I just drown. In a lack of inspiration. Music is usually what pulls me out of it. Whatever is on my radar at the time or pounds hard and fast to inspire a scene.
What do you do?

I’m also looking for some assistance. My publisher sent me a library request form for Dragon of the Stars - and for CassaStar. If you’d be willing to share it with your library, send me an email or leave a comment and I’ll email you the pdf files. The files contains everything a library would need to know to order and stock my books. All you need to do is email it to your library or print it out and drop it off next time you visit. Thanks!

Are you following TheIWSG on Instagram? Here are the prompts for April:

We need co-hosts for the coming months! If you can co-host on May 2, June 6, July 3, or August 1, please leave a comment below or send me an email. It takes at least four co-hosts each month to keep up with everyone. Thanks!

There’s also a Self-Publishing Conference coming up on April 14 and it’s free to register for it.

Revolution 2050!

Hi, Alex—thanks for inviting me! And hello ninja army!

My dystopian novel, Revolution 2050, is my take on where the increasing polarization of today’s American culture may be heading.

After a brief but bloody civil war, the North American Commonwealth dominates the eastern half of the former United States. The NAC is controlled by a totalitarian regime called the Directorate. The Directorate controls the media. It enforces its ideology through fear, intimidation, and the ever-present brainwashing. Sam Moore is a Directorate member and high school “teacher” in what is little more than a government run indoctrination center. By 2050, a whole generation has lived under the Directorate’s iron fist, and one wonders if there is any spark of freedom left?

The western portion of the former U.S., called the Western Alliance, is populated by liberty-loving souls. I couldn’t write the story without including the natural clash of ideologies, which I believer mirror today’s political world. However, the story’s focus is on loyalty, love, family and a fight for freedom.

Revolution 2050 includes elements of Red Dawn. I can’t think of any modern movies that the story mirrors. But then again, Hollywood’s not known for originality these days, which is why I’m no longer a big movie goer. Now, if a modern version of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 were to hit the big screen as was rumored… While writing Revolution 2050, what came to mind most was a five-part 1987 TV miniseries titled “Amerika.” Somehow, I now feel even older…

Alex, thanks so much for the invite and allowing me a few words with your ninja army!

I'm a former long-haul trucker and live in East Texas. I graduated from the University of Texas at Tyler with a Bachelor's degree in history and minored in English. I've taught high school U.S. history and American Government for the past 20 years. I'm also a private pilot and when not teaching or writing, I'm in the air.
I’m on Twitter @jay_chalk, Facebook, and reviews are at Goodreads.
Find Revolution 2050 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo

Movie Reviews

Ready Player One
I had a little trouble getting into it at first and worried I wouldn’t enjoy it. (I also worried that I’d reached an age where I couldn’t enjoy anything anymore!) However, as the film rolled along, my enjoyment rose.
Interesting way to sell a movie – a young man playing a video game. In the beginning, I literally thought I was watching someone play a game and wondered if that was all the film would be. But as the movie got me involved in the characters – real as well as the avatars – I was swept up in the story as only Spielberg can do.
There are a billion references in the film. It will be fun to rewatch and catch more of them. Mecha Godzilla, Firefly, Batman – it’s all there!)
In this day and age, we expect the animation to be great and it was spectacular.
So, despite my hesitation at the beginning, it turned out to be a great film.

Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle
This movie came out at the end of December and I was stunned by all of the good reviews. And the fact it made almost a billion dollars. A billion!!! So I finally had to check it out.
And you know what? It was actually a really fun movie.
The board game morphs into a video game, pulling in a kid from the mid-2000’s. Twenty years later, four more teens are pulled into the game. They have to win the game in order to return to the real world.
Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart were both in Central Intelligence, another movie I didn’t expect to like. But I did. Now throw in Jack Black and Karen Gillan and it’s a ton of fun. The four must learn to work together if they hope to get out alive, and in a realistic fashion, they do.
In the wrong hands, this could have been a train wreck. But the director balances all of the elements – the action, the humor, the stars – perfectly. It’s not deep, but it’s funny and enjoyable.
Highly recommended.

The Shape of Water
This film won Best Picture and Best Director, so of course I was eager to see it.
Unfortunately, I’m still not quite sure what I think.
I liked it. The imagery and sets are so incredible. They have del Toro all over them.
There are a lot of uncomfortable elements. And the director put them in to highlight what would be taboo in the sixties. They aren’t there for shock value or because the director felt compelled to include them. They simply show a side that no one wanted to admit existed.
Woman falls in love with fish. Well, there is a reason and validation for that. You just have to watch until the very end.
Many years ago, del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth was up for best picture. And while I consider it to be the most depressing film I have ever seen, it was also brilliant. I also think it was a better film and more deserving of Best Picture than this film. As far as enjoyable, I think his Hellboy films are far more fun and certainly more watchable.
I’m glad I saw it, but it’s not a film I’ll watch again.
Recommended to those with an open mind.

April Movie Preview

Here are the upcoming theatrical releases for April! As always, descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snark provided by me.

6 –

A Quiet Place
A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
Director: John Krasinski
Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds
I hadn’t heard anything about this film until recently – it was probably in a quiet place…

20 –

Primatologist Davis Okoye shares an unshakable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent gorilla who has been in his care since birth. But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry transforms this gentle ape into a raging monster. As these newly created monsters tear across North America, destroying everything in their path, Okoye teams with a discredited genetic engineer to secure an antidote, fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield, not only to halt a global catastrophe but to save the fearsome creature that was once his friend.
Director: Brad Peyton
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Will Yun Lee, Malin Akerman
And hot on the heels of my post about video games to crappy movies…but maybe Johnson can save this one.

27 –

Avengers Infinity War
The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
Directors: Anthony Russo | Joe Russo
Stars: Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin, Letitia Wright, Chris Evans
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!!!

What do you do to keep writing during dark times? Can you co-host in the coming months? Picking up Revolution 2050? Did you see Ready Player One yet? Seen Jumanji or Shape of Water? And what films excite you this month?

With the A to Z Challenge in full swing this month, I’ll be taking some time off since I’m not participating. Look for my next post in two weeks when I have a special guest who was involved in the movie industry.