Monthly Archives: February 2016

Follow Your Giddy Gut…

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Sometimes in my darker moments I wonder what the hell I was thinking putting my professional career on hold, while I pursue writing. What a silly move, giving up my income, such as it was as a freelance film publicist. Did I have some sort of breakdown or mid-life crisis that people were too polite to tell me about? Was it the hair, its style grown out and now hiding my face or the same cardigan that looked like I’d slept in it for days, in a prickly bush beside the canal? But my gut niggled away at me as it tends to do when things aren’t right and so like Julia Roberts in that perfume ad, I broke those diamond chains of the business of show and walked out of the room. The room with all the sane beautiful people, who get paid for a living.

Most writers fit their passion around their paying day jobs and I did too for the first three years. That was me on the Maynooth train every morning and evening with my tiny laptop and headphones, furiously tapping away and I loved it. But the end of my book seemed a century away and as much as I was making progress, it wasn’t quick enough and my mind was far more at home listening to the conversations happening in my head than they were swerving around office politics.

Perhaps writing my book had finally driven me crazy, but somewhere along the line, the joy of writing morphed into an idea that took hold of me, one of having a book in the world and how special and amazing that would be – and not just any book. My book – full of the characters I’d grown to love, full of stories I’d exacavated and explored. What if someone else actually wanted to read them? Even enjoyed them! And so began the dream of making it a career and with it a restless insanity. A journalist friend remarked when I joined the film reviewing ranks (a obvious and comfortable choice to hone my skills), that I seemed different, there was a spark there when I spoke about writing. I knew it myself. It made my legs wobble and my cheeks redden with giddy delight.

Even though I’ve doubted myself since in those dark moments, I made a decision and I followed my giddy gut. It does however make the prospect of the book, now that its complete, all the more terrifying. This week was a particularly low one. The radio silence as you wait for an agent to get back to you is perhaps as crushing as you think their answer will inevitably be. Let me just check my email again! Oh God, nothing. I’ll just check my phone. Put it down. Pick it back up again and so it continues every day. It’s all part of the process I know but my giddy gut tumbles and twists in anticipation. Maybe it’s an ulcer and that’s to be the only result at the end of this project but I hope it’s not. So  for now, I’ll persevere with my amateur daydreaming job until I get a glimmer of turning professional.

 

 

 

Prepare To Meet Your New Best Friend…

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As a writer, your characters are going to be the best friends you ever had. They are going to pick you up when you’re down, make you smile, make you cry, surprise you, anger you, frustrate you, love you. They say writing is solitary and it is, but when you’re in their world, you’re never alone.

Some, you will love before you ever write a word, formed as they are in your mind. Some will only come to life as you write and re-write, clawing at your brain to have their say and some you will love so much that you will alter their fate, that they may live on, taken with them as you are. And when it comes time to leave them you will miss them and they will remain in slumber within the pages of your book or locked behind the glass of your computer screen, until you visit them again.

So when people offer opinions on them, you will be hurt because you care about them. It’s not just a hit to your pride and your writing style and endless hard work, it’s as if they have grabbed your flesh and blood characters out from the pages and punched them in the gut as you watch on, your hands tied behind your back as the fist flies towards them.

As I wrote, that love for my characters took me by surprise. Sure I was prepared to obsess over words and story structure but I wasn’t prepared to actually care for them and therefore want to do right by them. I’m not afraid to admit that when I read my first draft I felt I’d let my heroine down. She was passive to all the action around her and I knew I hadn’t done her justice. Others around her were doing much more interesting things and though she was central to the story, she felt side-lined and underwritten. So I went back in and gave her her mojo back. I gave her the power and personality she needed and I loved her even more. She is better for it and so am I and so I care.

Your characters are present not only when you’ve pen in hand or seated at your computer. They take a crowbar and prize their way into your normal life and into the most mundane actions (blow-drying your hair, walking back from dropping the kids to school) they invade with their voices in your head.

They will hold your hand as you write through the toughest time of your life, welcoming you back into a safe cocoon where you can let the pain go for a little while or direct it into something positive. They will put their arms around you, lay their heads on your shoulder like ghosts and hold you tight. And you will love them for it.

The great thing about them for me is that they are people I would never meet in real life. A teenage girl lost to a land stricken by The Great Famine, a vampire out for revenge on the brother that left him to die, a mysterious gatekeeper to the supernatural world that will bring them together. You’re not going to run into them at your local Spar. And then I feel lucky. It’s a unique experience, a special relationship that exists only between them and I. A priceless one, devoid of criticism and worries about the future. Maybe others will get to read about them some day soon, maybe not but nothing can alter your experience of creating them. That friendship will last forever.

 

 

Zoolander V Deadpool – It’s a walk-off!

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There is silence as the room falls to darkness, two spotlights falling on the red velvet curtains at the top of the runway. With a dramatic sweep to one side, out comes Derek Zoolander,  his hands 80’s style in his Valentino pockets. Dressed in a blue glittering tuxedo, his spikey hair pointing to the heavens, he smiles at all the beautiful people in the front row. But there’s a look of uncertainty in his eyes. Has he waited too long for his comeback, having spent 15 years in the wilderness of Northern New Jersey? His dark eyes dart to his left. The other circle remains empty, a solo channel of light, awaiting its conqueror. A red suited hand slinks out between the curtains like a burlesque dancer, his index finger curling an invitation to the audience. It disappears back inside, teasing them and reappears holding a sign that says, WARNING! I MAY BE TOO HOT. AVERT YOUR EYES LEST THEY MAY BE BURNED IN YOUR SOCKETS BY MY ASS! The crowd goes wild and Zoolander’s heart sinks a notch. He skirts a look behind him to his own still gorgeous and fashion ready rear and thinks, NO DEREK, YOU’VE GOT THIS!

The music starts, the familiar thump of Michael Jackson’s Beat It and Zoolander’s confidence soars. Even without Hansel, who’s meditating on a higher plane, he knows he can do this and beat a guy who’s so ugly he has to wear a mask. Poor dude! This is the walk-off to end all walk-offs and Zoolander hits the beat first, ignoring Deadpool, who’s just flung a little white fluffy unicorn into the audience and disappeared again. Derek starts with Le Tigre, his features melting into the pose, smizing eyes and pouting lips as he moves stealthily down the catwalk. Oh how he’s missed this. He dazzles Blue Steel at Katie Perry and Susan Sarandon, who give him a huge thumbs up. Seated behind them, wearing dark glasses, Benedict Cumberbatch nods and smirks at him, a secret weapon ready at any moment to spring into the fray as Mugatu sits in diamond studded shackles, willing Derek to failure.

The big question for those seated here tonight is does Zoolander have something new to offer? As loveable and drop dead ridiculously good-looking as he is, the answer is eh, em, not really. Now that’s okay in some circles because now and again the world needs a little Zoolander magic to leave you with a silly smile on your face. But the crowd aren’t smiling, half as much as they are enjoying him as a piece of strutting nostalgia. Even Mugatu looks a little bored. Keifer Sutherland elbows him to pay attention but it’s too late. He has caught Deadpool’s unicorn, his eyes transfixed as the curtain finally drops. That Deadpool, he’s so hot right now, he quips as Deadpool comes out guns at the ready. The music changes to the thudding ‘X Gona’ Give It To Ya’ courtesy of DMX and he somersaults through the air, catching up with Derek who tries to do the same, spinning face first off the catwalk, into the bosoms of Penelope Cruz. Luckily Billy Zane is there to graciously dust him off and help him back up.

Deadpool’s suit, inhabited by God’s Perfect Idiot is quite the fashion statement. Handmade in gorgeous red and black, it’s a snug fit and half the audience bemoans the fitness regime that goes into looking that trim. He was right about his ass they think. A few Zoolander fans tweet nasty comments – the suit’s a bit grubby and has seen better days. Spotting his nemesis Ajax (the English villain) in the audience, Deadpool draws his gun leaping through the air, as bullet after bullet hiss through the perfumed ether. The head of the lady sitting beside Ajax explodes, brain spatter everywhere, outfits ruined. Derek’s face turns pea green and he swiftly vomits over the side, narrowly missing Anna Wintour, recovering his Blue Steel quickly. He will not be outdone. While half the audience have scarpered on Deadpool’s side, the other half, teenage boys mostly stay in their seats, guffawing wildly and clapping their hands. Deadpool jokes about his aim and they love him for it. He also curses a lot, some for impact but mostly for fun but once again Mugatu is bored. Is that all he has? Is that it? Some brain matter has made its way into his coiffed do and he swiftly orders his assistant Todd, to pick it out. Todd is honoured.

Meanwhile Ajax makes a run for it, grabbing Deadpool’s baby mama who’s come to support her man. Deadpool sure does love that girl. He has a sex montage in his film to prove it. Yep, she’s a keeper and they are well matched. So naturally he’s gonna look to get her back. Plot done and dusted. Oh and Ajax also turned him into the ‘pepperoni flatbread’ that he resembles beneath his mask. More of the audience are fleeing for their lives, disappointed that Deadpool in the flesh is a bit of a let-down, literally all mouth and no trousers while the Zoolander fans are already taking selfies and looking to download the trailer for the next Will Ferrell comedy. Preferably without Mark Wahlberg.

Where did it go so horribly wrong for both? Deadpool was going to string those other clean-livin’ Marvel superheroes up by the cojones, right? Nevermind, he’ll still slash the box office at least until normal folk decide he’s not worth it and all the best bits are in the trailer. And Zoolander, oh Derek, you made people wait til now and realising that there’s little or no fun in fashion anymore, turned your movie into some sort of Austin Powers caper that missed the mark.

Neither gentlemen it seems is at their best. Derek looks forlorn as he strides into his final end of catwalk pose, trying to muster the courage inside to bring his Magnum before it’s too late. The smell of dried blood and bodily fluids from the masked superhero is making his nose wrinkle as Deadpool slinks into his pose, one hand on an extended hip, the other behind his head like Betty Boop. He couldn’t care less about the result. There are a bunch of @#&%£$~# anyway. He gets up in Derek’s face. I just got my sequel greenlit he says. Took ten minutes. Suck on that Zoolander! With that he springs off the end of the catwalk after his girl, his teenage legion hot on his heels.

Left alone, Zoolander fires his Magnum at the crowd but it’s too late. Everyone has left, except for Billy Zane.

 

 

 

Review – THE SURVIVALIST

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Starring: Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouéré
Directed by: Stephen Fingleton
Cert: 18 Running Time: 105 minutes

The Survivalist has a feel of The Walking Dead to it, a spin off without the walkers as we take a detour through the leafy woods to the home of the survivalist (played by Martin McCann). All that we know is that civilisation has fallen and he lives alone in a remote cabin, his survival skills honed and perfected for his threatened existence. It begins with him burying a man’s body in a shallow grave and the audience is under no allusions that he is warrior-like in his defence of his small patch of land. For the first fifteen minutes or so, we follow him silently about his daily routine of setting animal traps, washing himself, sleeping, tending to his meagre crops. It’s a stark existence, life pared back to the very basics and its fascinating. The camera pulls you in close to him, intimate with him, graphically so sometimes but we are in his world.

When two strangers, a woman Kathryn (Olwen Fouéré) and her teenage daughter Milja (Mia Goth), turn up on his doorstep one day, it throws his world into disarray. The young girl is offered to him sexually in exchange for shelter and food and in letting desire overrule his judgment, so begins a tension filled thriller that will test the survival instinct of each one. First-time writer/director Stephen Fingleton has fashioned a haunting tale of violence and paranoia where the slightest misstep can get you killed and the stakes are extremely high for all involved. The sparse dialogue and close setting work to Fingleton’s advantage creating a suspense filled game of cat and mouse.

It’s a hugely confident debut and the casting of McCann (Shadow Dancer, ’71) as the survivalist is integral to that. He gives his all in the role bringing a mesmerising intensity, dangerous yet vulnerable in the same breath. In not providing the wider picture of what has happened to these people or the outside world, it engages the viewer to fill in the blanks and allow the intrigue of the premise to get under your skin. When the film shocks as it does, the stakes are set higher, raised by how closely the film has pulled you in. Filmed in the North, Fingleton masterfully uses sound to convey his world as if nature has her own dialogue, from the buzzing of insects on the forest floor, to rainfall in the long grass, to the human clash of a spoon scooped furiously through a watery stew and the painful hiss of a red hot poker as it cauterises a wound.

While The Survivalist may be too minimalist and too dark for some, it packs a punch and delivers on its premise. If you like the look of the trailer, then go along and witness a director and star on the rise.

4/5

A writer’s affliction

When I started The Dark Blue Light I thought I’d have lots to say about writing. Surely it must be easy to write about something that consumes you to such a degree, especially when its actually writing. Easy-peasy! But the more the site filled up with my film posts, the more diminished and random the writing ones became and it’s not for the want of trying.

I’ve written countless entries about my book only to decide not to share them. I guess I won’t be winning any social media awards anytime soon but 90% of writing a book is confidence and it’s a very infrequent visitor as I sit at my computer. As a first time writer, it’s crippling and there are days where you think ‘who am I kidding, this is just a hobby isn’t it? Do you think you’re going to actually get this book out there? It’s not good enough’. And you beat yourself with that thorny stick most days so that when it comes to writing about writing, there’s not a shred of confidence left for that and so I shelved post after post, keeping them just for me. Well no more.

I read a wonderful post on Terrible Minds this week from Emmie Mears about writers and confidence and I saw myself in every word. It cripples writers at every level and ultimately we are our own worst enemies for we allow that voice in. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/02/04/emmie-mears-hi-hello-were-here-to-revoke-your-artist-card/

It’s worth mentioning that Terrible Minds has been the inspiration and frequent kick up the arse I needed to keep writing so if you’re a new writer check it out and subscribe. I’m convinced Mr. Wendig has a portal to my psyche as most of his posts are just what I needed at that exact time. You’re welcome in my brain any time Chuck – keep kicking!

I guess the biggest news I have to share is that I finished my book (I know, at last!). On New Year’s Eve I typed the last words and I allowed myself the celebration of that moment before the terror came creeping back in. So in spending nearly four years writing it, conceiving it and being so hard on myself, I’m now laying it out in open court for the good people of booksville to either embrace or point their bony fingers at and laugh. So begins another chapter of confidence shredding. So I’m actively bullet proofing myself. Some days it’s impenetrable, other days it finds the cracks.

I’m forcing myself to remember that this book has just begun its life cycle. There’s a step forward in every submission I put together and rejection is part of that cycle and it’s a big world out there. Maybe an agent or publisher will like it and take a chance. Maybe they won’t and I’m as prepared as I can be for that.

What I wasn’t prepared for though since I finished it, was how much I’d miss it this past month. It’s done now and I’ve kind of had to let it go but I’ve spent every day with these characters and I miss them. I miss their voices in my head. I miss their company. I have comfort in that I will visit them again. This book is an origin story, the beginning of great adventures for my characters and I will dive in again but I’m nervous about them, for them. I’m nervous about booksville’s reaction to them and this holds me back just now from walking with them again. Other books too swim around in my mind so perhaps I’ll kick one of those around and invite some new characters in. One things for sure – I’m not stopping and I’m not giving up. So let the chips fall where they may. I’m ready.

Review – POINT BREAK

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Starring: Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Teresa Palmer, Ray Winstone, Delroy Lindo
Directed by: Ericson Core
Cert: 12A Running Time: 1 hour 54 mins

When word got out that Point Break was to undergo a remake, there was a face palm moment when you thought to yourself, why? Why would you meddle with something that was pretty terrific and damn near perfect as it was; a film that has aged extremely well considering it was made back in 1991. How could they hope to pull it off? The sad news is, they haven’t and the Point Break we’re subjected to in 2016 is a far cry from the exhilarating adrenaline rush of the original.

It’s as if the filmmakers viewed the original (directed by Kathryn Bigelow) and made a list of all that was great about it; two can’t-and-won’t-take-your-eyes-off-them leads; one spiky and cool love interest; stunning photography and stunt work set to the baking hot California sun; some smartly executed detective work and genuine heart pumping frenetically shot action including THAT chase scene. So all these things went on the list and then it was scrunched into a tiny ball and kicked to the kerb.

This version sees bigger stunts, more action, more realism and to its detriment more locations. Gone are the sun-kissed beaches and blue skies, replaced with craggy grey rock faces and endless trees, as the filmmakers firmly pin their sails to the world of extreme sports and little else. Much has changed too for the characters. Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) is a former extreme sports pro and YouTube star who has now joined the FBI, an adrenaline junkie who left it all behind when a colleague plunged to his death. After a spate of well, not robberies exactly, but some sort of eco-crimes carried out by daredevils, he is hot on the gang’s trail and infiltrates them in order to bring them down. The problem here is that there is no arc at all for his character. There is nowhere interesting for him to go. At least in the original Keanu Reeves’ Utah had to learn how to surf in order to get closer to Bodhi and his gang and zen as Patrick Swayze’s criminal mastermind was, he was intoxicating and exciting, with a twinkle in his eye.

This time out, Bodhi is played by Edgar Ramirez and while he tries to channel that coolness, he’s let down by a shabby script, making him bland and dull. You wouldn’t follow him to the supermarket, let alone over a cliff. Opposite him, Bracey seems to have studied Reeves’s original performance, sounding like him and even giving us the seminal, oh no I can’t take the shot, I have to fire into the air in frustration scene which comes off more like the Hot Fuzz homage than the original. Not one bit is believable for a second.

Teresa Palmer is given absolutely nothing to do but hang around and look pretty, which is fine in the right film and there are times when you feel like you’re watching a Fast & Furious movie and not one of the entertaining ones. Incidentally, the director here, Ericson Core served as cinematographer on the first Furious movie. So what of the stunts? As standalone pieces they are fine but they don’t truly serve to advance the story. Some involves robberies, some don’t. The only jaw-dropping moment comes in a huge waterfall rock climb that does take your breath away but again the stakes are not what they should be, changing them as they have. A cameo from James Le Gros (who played Roach in the original) is reminder enough that they should have left well enough alone.

I remember fondly watching Point Break in the cinema in ’91 and literally wanting to surf all the way home, such was its adrenaline fuelled ride. Did I want to jump off a mountain after this one? Yes, but for the wrong reasons. A note to Hollywood. If you’re going to dabble with recent classics, do it well and pay attention to what made them great.

1/5