A Viral Idea

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.” Leonardo DiCaprio as Walter Cobb, Inception

A classic.

A classic.

About a month ago, I was wandering the new and used DVD bins of FYE and came across a sci-fi classic. Yesterday night, I threw it in the player and enjoyed one of my favorite movies from my childhood. There were differences of course, as this was the director’s cut version. But the film was still rewarding to see, especially after a long absence from my mind.

That movie was Dark City.

I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it. Its opening weekend competed with another flick called Titanic. When you think about the shadow that movie cast, you’d realize how ironically appropriate the name Dark City really is.

But you would have to live in a cave not to have heard of The Matrix or Inception. In an interview with the Los Angelos Time, Christopher Nolan was asked about Inceptions connection to movies like Avatar or Surrogates. He responded:

“The whole concept of avatars and living life as someone else, there’s a relationship to what we’re doing, but I think when I first started trying to make this film happen it was very much pulled from that era of movies where you had ‘The Matrix,’ you had ‘Dark City,’ you had ‘The Thirteenth Floor‘ and, to a certain extent, you had ‘Memento’ too. They were based in the principles that the world around you might not be real.”

I have to make a note to check out The Thirteenth Floor.

Dark City financially failed. But it planted the seed of an idea in our minds. Inspiration and creativity come from places we sometimes forget. Stories we used to hear, the movies we watch, all are sources of ideas. Sometimes the greatest ideas just aren’t well told the first time, like a draft in need of improvement. And sometimes, even the worst ideas make for great stories. Like Don Quixote. Sometimes, a terrible idea is the start of a great story to write. Whether or not you throw in a character who opposes that idea is up to you.

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Warrior

Coming to theaters on September 9th, 2011.

Coming to theaters on September 9th, 2011.

Thanks to Gofobo.com, I got my hands on advanced movie screening tickets for Warrior, which doesn’t come out for another two weeks. I didn’t know much about it other than the fact that it involved two brothers and a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting tournament. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was in for a treat.

Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) is a former Marine and former alcoholic, now sober and sorry for past abuses towards his two sons and wife. One day after church, Paddy’s youngest son and wrestling prodigy Tommy (Tom Hardy) returns out of the blue to have a father-son chat. Meanwhile, Paddy’s eldest son Brendan (Joel Edgerton) struggles to make ends meet while working as a high school physics teacher. Brendan and his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison) work three jobs between them and are still dangerously behind on their mortgage.

When Brendan moonlights as a prize fighter for extra cash, he is swiftly terminated from his teaching position despite the best attempts of principal  Joe Zito (portrayed by the always likeable Kevin Dunn) to prevent it. Tommy takes up training again at a local gym where he floors a local contender for an upcoming Sparta tournament and impresses the gym owner. But when both Brendan and Tommy learn about the tournament however, anyone can see their fateful collision course.

The movie mixes two genres strangely but fairly well, being both a sports martial arts movie and a family drama. Many modern martial arts movies do this to some degree, such as the Rocky series or Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger, but always between husband and wife. It certainly shares a strong kinship with The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, both movies being family dramas on top of prize fighting.  But the fighting in Warrior is simply a byproduct of the strife and struggles the characters face. This fight of brother against brother was probably going to happen sooner or later, while the themes of this film were not as discrete as they were in The Fighter.

The directing deserves a respectable nod for its careful application of blue lighting and the right mix of sports event cinematography to regular camerawork within the story. The plot throws in plenty of twists and turns as details surrounding the characters’ pasts are revealed. There are no bad guys in this movie, and you don’t know just who to cheer for as you reach the end.

Still I have to strike a few points for two things. First, the lack of blood and bruises. This was probably a conscious decision to keep the PG-13 rating and relax people who do not like on screen gore. Maybe a director’s cut version will solve this, but the beatings these guys took seemed less intense without massive post-fight shiners. The second was the application of a few over emotional factors, like the ending music and the military chorus. Gavin O’Connor, who makes a cameo appearance within the movie as tournament founder J.J. Riley, was banking on some patriotic military appeal. Which is fine if it were a touch more subtle. I also wonder if O’Connor was playing with the idea of an alternate ending, and is in fact doing these screenings to gauge audience reactions to the decide on which to use for Warrior‘s release.

But the acting in this movie is outstanding. All of the actors, both major and minor, manage to subtly blend this chemistry on screen, letting you easily pick up the friendships and the rivalries. Everyone is on point, mixing the smiles and rib poking with checked frustration and unfinished business. Praise is due to Jennifer Morrison for overcoming the stereotypical worried wife that we’ve seen with Zellweger or Talia Shire, who played Rocky’s Adrian. Instead of the hysterics and tears, Morrison puts on a performance of pouted-lip resignation when she sees she cannot change her husband’s mind. But this blossoms into amusing antics, such as spending the entire day watching her cell phone for news and pretending not to be worried.

Nick Nolte’s character is pitiful to watch: humbled before God and trying to make amends, however unwelcome, with his two sons. Although infinitely patient with his angry children, his rambling character manages to jerk sympathy where none is likely deserved. It’s perhaps unfair to judge him because we only see the echoes of who he was and the results of his actions. Joel Edgerton successfully combines both brains and brawn with his character’s esoteric background, indirectly luring his students into cheering for him as the guy they all want to be.

Hardy's character is not so much shown to the world as he is 'unleashed.'

Hardy's character is not so much shown to the world as he is 'unleashed.'

But the real spot light is on Tom Hardy, who is phenomenal. Hardy has completely replaced the charming Eames of Inception with Tommy Conlon. The loveable accent is gone and in its place is something from the rougher side of New Jersey. Instead of charming wit, we have Tommy’s checked fury which creates an atmospheric tension so thick, it chokes you.  But never does it get out of control. It just broods in a menacing hulk of a man but never explodes outside the ring. To be put in the same room as this man would probably terrify you, if only quietly. And best of all, Hardy proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Christopher Nolan‘s decision to cast him as Bane in the upcoming film The Dark Knight Rises was no mistake. Tom Hardy could easily be an action movie star as huge as Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, but also fully capable of acting and portraying a deep role. His pairing with Christian Bale will be legendary.

Warrior is a solid flick with appeal enough for everyone. Check it out, if only to pump yourself up for next summer.

Music for Writing

What has two thumbs and makes the summer blockbusters epic? This guuuuuuuuuy!

What has two thumbs and makes the summer blockbusters epic? This guuuuuuuuuy!

For about three years, I’ve sharpened my writing skills on first the Black Library’s forum boards (which no longer exist), and then the Bolthole. Well, it’s not uncommon for writers to listen to music during the writing process in order to pump up or inspire them. Music is just creatively inspiring like that.

In the last two years however, I took advantage of the ability to anchor links within words to allow my readers the chance to listen to the same music I did during the writing process. It was a nifty idea only available online.

Still, a lot of talk goes into the kind of music that writers should and would listen to while writing. I’ve personally found that anything without lyrics allows the writer to focus on the work with minimal distractions. So to help out other writers, be they Warhammer fans like myself or doing their own thing, here is a list of twenty music pieces to get the creative juices flowing. It’s up to you to decide what works in what settings. And don’t be afraid to plug the names or artists into Pandora to see what you get.

  1. Epic Themes vol. 3, Dawn of War OST.
    An epic war piece great for action.
  2. Dream is Collapsing, by Hans Zimmer.
    An adventurous piece where things take a bad turn. I trust you’ve seen Inception
  3. Explosive, by Bond.
    A burst of violins with a beat in the background, mixing classical and technical.
  4. Palladio, by Escala.
    You’ve probably heard this before in diamond commercials, so you may want to check out the remixed version.
  5. Daath, by Diatonis.
    Creepy ambient music for horror and ghost stories.
  6. E.S. Posthumus,by  Ebla.
    Need something biblical? Ready for metanoia or the angels to fall upon a foe with swords?
  7. Time, by Paul Cardall.
    A peaceful piece for when you need to build a moment of wonder.
  8. Clubbed to Death, by Rob Dougan.
    Because something is happening and you’re not sure what. It neither slows the pace down nor speeds it up, but keeps it even.
  9. Kodo (Inside the Sun Remix), by Yoshida Brothers.
    For that mixture of fast paced action and the exotic.
  10. Adagio for Strings, by Samuel Barber.
    Do not listen to this unless you feel like being depressed over the results of man made tragedy.
  11. Mind Heist, by Zack Hemsey.
    Because someone is clearly up to no good.
  12. Yeah, kinda like that...

    Yeah, kinda like that...

    Radioactive Sunrise, Fallout 3 OST.
    An ambient piece that is haunting in a way I can’t explain.

  13. Uprising, by West One Music.
    A well named piece that suggest people growing tired with the current status quo and moving towards change by any means necessary.
  14. Requiem for a Dream Remix, by Clint Mansell.
    To be honest, this theme was used in various shapes and forms throughout the whole of Darren Aronofsky’s film. This remix wouldn’t exactly have fit it, but made it into some kind of epic, almost mythical piece.
  15. Def Con, by Immediate Music.
    For when the world’s explosion is pretty imminent.
  16. Preliator, by Globus Epicon.
    A chorus filled piece that I believe was used in the Spider-Man 2 commercials. Good for intense rivalries.
  17. Linger in Shadows, by Wojciech Golczewski.
    Something mysterious that takes a dark, drastic turn into something violent and tragic.
  18. Trailblazing, by Steve Jablonsky.
    Something honorable and sorrowful in one. Makes you instantly think of soldiers forced to do their duty despite the dangers. Probably why it ended up on the Pearl Harbor soundtrack.
  19. Ecstasy of Gold, by Ennio Morricone.
    A building piece that screams ‘obsession.’ If you haven’t seen The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, then shame on you.
  20. Code Red, by Elliot Goldenthal.
    From the soundtrack of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, this track screams mounting trouble.

That’s all for now. I’ll seek out more within a month.