Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Epic - A Two-Minute Movie Review

Lawrence of Arabia is widely considered a movie of epic proportions. Schindler’s List is clearly epic.  Spartacus and The Ten Commandments are both epic films. These movies are long productions with sweeping stories that needle at you for days. Epic, the movie by Twentieth Century Fox Animations and Blue Sky Studios,  is not epic. But it’s not bad.

As I walked into the movie theater to see Epic, I was reminded of the hundreds of Super Buffets I’ve run across over the years that I wouldn’t step someone else's foot into on a dare.  Labeling oneself as “super” or “the greatest” or “epic” is a poor-man’s Jedi mind trick. Say it loud enough or in a pretty enough font and someone might actually believe Epic is, indeed, epic – even if it does only run 102 minutes long. But Jedi mind tricks don’t work on the weak minded, so I sat down in my seat ready for a disaster…that didn’t come.

Epic is the story of our first interactions with a world of human-like creatures that live among us in the woods. They ride humming birds and mingle with slugs and snails. The queen among them, played by Beyonce Knowles, is a tiny Mother Nature figure who holds the key to keeping the green grasses green and the trees leafy. Her death threatens nature’s balance. But the queen is not without a last trick: she summons a human, Amanda Seyfried’s Mary Katherine, to join with the young and rebellious Nod, voiced by Josh Hutcherson, to make sure a proper heir is found before everything turns to dust.

Epic feels like an animated movie that either ran out of budget or time – or both.  The ending comes quickly and seems too tidy; only a few characters are properly fleshed out.  While occasionally witty (Aziz Ansari’s Mub steals the show), Epic is nothing more and nothing less than animated retread. It follows a tried and true and vanilla path, despite its lofty name.  And like your typical Super Buffet, seconds are not recommended.

Epic is rated PG.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trebor's Time Machine -- Now Available!

That's right, Trebor's Time Machine is now available in both eBook and paperback editions. It's been a long time coming, but everything is officially up and running. For now, we're going to concentrate our eBook efforts on the Kindle platform before turning to iBooks and Nook. You don't have to own a Kindle; there are Kindle readers (software programs) for all the major platforms, so I don't expect this to be an issue. The ETA at this point is to have the other platforms up by the Fall.

As I mentioned, I released both the paperback and the eBook editions at the same time. Why not just ride the eBook wave and forgo the paper edition altogether? Simply put, I like the paper version better. As most of you know, eBook formatting is still very basic. There isn't much support for images and advanced formatting at this point. Or maybe I should say that the various readers and software programs all handle images and advanced formatting differently. A vanilla conversion is still the safest way to go. So the eBook edition should produce a similar experience on all the readers and devices--no graphics or advanced formatting. We don't have those issues on the paperback side.

For the paperback, we've got drop-caps, graphics on the chapter start pages, associated "elevator" graphics on the title pages...the whole nine yards, so to speak. I'm very happy with the results. I think you will be too.

So, that's about it. Now on to Trebor II!

Trebor's Time Machine: eBook edition
Trebor's Time Machine: Paperback edition

Friday, May 24, 2013

Iron Man 3 - A Two-Minute Movie Review

Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man to date. While some may have a soft spot for the first edition's origin story, those who prefer action in their movie-going diet will eat this one up. Is it the best Marvel movie? No, not at all. I still prefer The Avengers and Captain America. And it's not without its flaws.

The film's villain (at least on face value) is Ben Kingsley's wonderfully played The Mandarin. As is often the case in movies of this ilk, there always seems to be another evil-doer in the background, in this case Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian. And this is where Iron Man 3 shows its real weakness. While The Mandarin's motivation is clearly defined, Killian's is alluded to, but never brought fully into the light. Is it just me, or do comic book bad guys get their feelings hurt way too easily? And when they do, they tend to create the most elaborate schemes to show the world they aren’t to be trifled with. A good comparison is Javier Bardem’s Silva from the latest Bond film, Skyfall.


Kingsley steals the show, but most of the other performances are solid. Gweyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is a strong-willed, reluctant hero. Robert Downey Jr. is a more emotional, troubled Tony Stark that comes across as genuine and not forced. Don Cheadle’s Colonel James Rhodes, while not asked to do much, is again spot-on as Stark’s right hand man. A special nod should also go out to the young Ty Simpkins for his Harley Keener.  Child actors are often miscast (think Star Wars: Episode 1) or their asked to do more than they should. Simpkins’ Keener is a welcome addition to the story, neither annoying nor “forced.”


Aside from the villain motivation issues we discussed above, the screenplay does what it’s asked to do. You won’t leave the theater replaying the storyline in your head, like you would the first Mission Impossible, but that might not be a bad thing.

Special Effects:

Not to the par of Star Trek Into Darkness, but above and beyond most titles in this genre.


Iron Man 3 is a good way to spend 130 minutes of your day. Don’t ask the villains to explain themselves and you’ll find the film one of Marvel’s best.

Iron Man 3 is rated PG-13.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness - A Two-Minute Movie Review

The crew is back in the second installment of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot. Star Trek Into Darkness is an action-packed tour de force that bests its predecessor while upping the ante on our expectations for Abrams' Star Wars VII. Without the hassles of origin story necessities weighing it down, Into Darkness is free to start with a sprint, which it does,literally. It stops only to catch its breath occasionally when the plot demands something other than lasers, photon torpedoes and phasers set to stun. It's a thrill-a-minute popcorn movie that all other popcorn movies should strive to be. It's what most of the Transformers movies should have been, and weren't. But it's more than that; Into Darkness is often funny and occasionally teary, the former more than the latter. It's also pure Star Trek. Okay, there are probably Trekkies who may find faults, particularly in the way it revisits decades-old story lines, but Trek-lovers should be more than satisfied with Abrams' work. 


Even after the second movie, I'm still amazed at how well-casted these films are. Simon Pegg's Scotty is dead-on, as is scene-stealing Karl Urban as Bones. But Zachary Quinto, as the stoic Spock, is the real shiner here. His Spock is as logical as he is ripe with pent-up emotion (being 1/2 human 1/2 Vulcan). His scenes with Chris Pine's Kirk are crisp and true to the original duo. As *** (Abrams chose not to name the enemy prior to releasing the film, so I won't name him either) Benedict Cumberbatch is cold, concrete-strong, and a worthy adversary. In all, the acting throughout is top-notch. 


Not nearly as confusing as the first Star Trek, but complex enough to feel satisfied that we aren't just being fed special effects, Into Darkness is clever and well-crafted. The movie has just the right mix of humor (per Star Trek regulations, it seems) and action, never taking itself too seriously. After all, we don't expect the main characters to die. This isn't LOST


Awesome. Nothing looks obviously green-screened or fake. The space sequences are seamless. And the new depiction of warp speed is a welcome change. 


Star Trek Into Darkness is this year's best movie. Iron Man III is good; Into Darkness is better. But see them both. If these two movies are any indication of the quality yet to come this summer, we'll all be happy campers come August. Star Trek Into Darkness is rated PG-13. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Two-Minute Movie Reviews

Introducing the Two Minute Movie Review

Some movie reviews are the size of small books. Have you ever read a review so complete that you almost feel like you've seen the movie by the time you reach the end? Do you find yourself skimming the pages searching for the only answer you care about: does the reviewer like the movie or not? I do. While I don't mind spending the time on an Ebert review after I've seen a movie, I'm too paranoid of ruining my experience at the movies to do anything more than a stick my toes in. With people like me in mind, I'm introducing my two-minute movie reviews.

These won't be long and they won't give up key plot points. I'll what I can in the short time I'm given to let you know if I like the movie and why. I'll use a 10-point scale like the one you see below. Why? Because thumbs up or down seems too limiting. And a five point scale leaves no room for average; the movie can only be below average or above average. In truth, there are too many movies out there where I come away neither better nor worse (if entertainment can, indeed, add something tangible to your existence).

I'll usually rate movies on a few different levels: acting, script, special effects, things like that. Don't look for me to see too many romance films or cryfests. If something crashes, flies through space, gets shot by lasers, runs amok in streets, or blows up national monuments, I'm probably there opening night. Expect a review shortly after.

Coming soon: Iron Man 3 and Star Trek into Darkness soon.

Second proof

The first proof looked good...but not good enough. Once printed, I found that the fonts in the front dominated the elevator graphic. I also revamped the back to make it flow better. Inside I found that I dated the author's note 2012...a year too early. And in furthering the date errors, I discovered a misdated chapter. I'm not sure how, but I missed the date by 6 months. This far into production and I didn't catch it until now. Sheesh.
The new proof will be in tomorrow. If all is well, it'll be available on Amazon within days.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Files sent!

I just sent the book to the publisher. With any luck I'll get the proof back in a week or two. If we're all good at that point, I'll hut the GO button. That's the print book, which I wanted to set out in the wild first. Plan on something in the range if $14. The eBook will be much cheaper, but you'll lose some of the print-only formatting. In either case, you'll get the same Trebor  story. That's all for now.