Monthly Archives: June 2015

Strange Magic LucasArts – Movie Review

IMDB: Stange Magic

Strange_Magic_poster

Img Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/9b/Strange_Magic_poster.jpg

First things first, the animation is beautiful. Everything is smooth, the world looks like it belongs, and I don’t think I’ve seen an animated movie this well done. The voice acting is nicely done and the singing isn’t half-bad.

That being said, what is wrong with this movie?
“Let’s a make a musical, but instead of writing new songs, let’s just get licensed stuff and get it to fit into the plot.”

This looks like Epic, remember that movie? No, I’ve seen it and I barely do. This looks a lot like Epic, fairies, pixies, and a ‘dark forest’. The good thing being that it doesn’t have that horrible snail & slug comic relief. I feel like someone should strip the audio & edit this to be something else. It’s great to watch, the visuals are stunning, but it is a mess.

Three different screenplay writers with the story coming from George Lucas. It says he supervised the choice of the songs. From the other movies that the three other writers have worked on it looks like a mish-mash that wouldn’t make for a kids movie. Lion King (1, 2, 1 1/2) Brave, Saving Private Ryan, and a few others that just don’t add up.

It’s not horrible. Compared to Epic, it actually has a story that makes sense and the voice acting is levels above. This feels like those B-Movie rip-offs of Blockbusters, but this was done from a mediocre movie and with a bigger budget. The movie really isn’t that bad, but it didn’t need the music, or half as much ‘comedic relief’, it’s just trying too hard.

The main problem being that pacing it off, and the middle of the movie drags. I don’t see the target audience. There’s not enough happening to keep kids invested, but there’s not enough depth to keep older viewers engaged. Watching this just makes me want to get some editing software and cut about ten minutes from the run time.

EDIT:
Put it on for my kids. They love it.

EDIT the 2nd:
Kids have now watched this movie at least 4 times today. It’s actually pretty good after the second time through.

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Better Watch Out- Chapter 2

Sara pulled me along to the car. Even with me slowing her down we moved incredibly fast. I slid into the drivers’ seat and the car moving before I knew where we were going.

“Circle around the block.” She ordered. “We can swing around and get them in the car.”

“It’ll be a tight fit.” I replied as I took the first turn as fast as my old hatchback could go.

“Watch out.” Sara screamed.

A dark shape stood in the center of the road. I swerved to miss it, but I wasn’t fast enough. My little car slammed into the shape. The world spun too fast as we discovered that the car wasn’t the three hundred pound gorilla in this fight. I closed my eyes tight and waited until the spinning stopped.

The car lurched to a stop. I opened my eyes to see a towering figure dressed head to toe in in fur. Whoever it was wore a leather mask that was twisted in a snarl. Most impressive were the curled mountain goat style horns on the side.

It took a step toward the car. I blinked in shock as the masks mouth opened and closed.

“It’s not a mask.” I muttered.

Sara groaned as she sat up. Somehow the decades old seatbelts had held. She followed my gaze to the approaching figure.

“Come on.” She worked at the buckle, but it was stuck in the latch. “Help me.”

I leaned over to get a better look at the buckle. My mouth dropped open as the buckle righted itself and then unlatched.

“Thanks.” She pulled away the seat belt and climbed into the backseat. “Come on.”

“Uh-huh.” I followed her to the backseat. “This isn’t exactly how I imagined it.”

“What was that?”

“Is the door stuck?”

It thudded as she put her shoulder into it. “Yeah.”

“No problem.” I pulled the cushion off the little frame to expose the trunk area of the hatchback. “Follow me.”

I pushed open the hatch and offered my hand to pull her out. She took it, but something in the back caught her eye.

“What’s this?” She held up a thick length of wood.

“Broken axe handle.” I took it from her and pulled her out of the trunk.

“Why is it here?”

“Trunk doesn’t lock and the hydraulics are busted.” I let the hatch go and it stayed in place. “It was busted.” I added slowly.

“No time.” She pulled me along. “Let’s go.”

The fur covered creature was getting closer. Getting hit by the car hadn’t stopped it, but it had at least slowed it down.

“Where are we going?” I asked as we ran back the way we had come.

“My house.” Sara yelled. “My parents need me.”

“Your mom told us to run.” I replied as she pulled me along.

As fast as we were going I wondered why she needed a ride home. I looked over my shoulder to see the furry thing still heading our way. Sara stopped without warning. I tumbled into her and we fell into a tangled mess on some random person’s front lawn.

“Are you okay?” I rolled off of her.

She didn’t answer. I stood up and helped her to her feet.

“We need to keep moving.” I looked at the furry thing that was still heading our way.

“They’re gone.” She whispered.

I looked over at her house. The sleigh was gone and the only anything had happened was the broken window. Sara was across the street and at the front door in a blur. I followed her as fast as I could. It wasn’t the best plan, but getting inside the house at least put a wall between us and the furry thing.

Sara pounded on the door. The handle wouldn’t move. Even with her hitting it with all her might the door didn’t budge.

“Wait.” I grabbed her hands.

“What?”

“Just wait.” I put her hands on the door handle.

“What are you doing?” She looked up at me, the color gone from her eyes again.

“My radio never worked until you touched it.” I looked her in the eyes. “The seatbelt was broken until you touched it. I don’t know what’s going on here, but you fixing things when you touch them is pretty easy to believe considering I just punted a goblin.”

Her irises slowly returned. I tried the door, it swung open. A moment after we stepped through I closed and locked the door. I turned around to figure out what to do next. We stood in a little entry way that connected to what had once been the living room. The furniture was scattered around the room. I was pretty sure they didn’t come with the gashes that they now sported, but at least they matched the ones on the walls.

Sara walked to the living room and looked around. Her movements were slow. With each step her shoulders slumped a little more.

“What happened?” She whispered. “We just left.”

“Sara.” I walked around the room looking for something to grab, that furry thing didn’t sit well with me. “I know this is bad, but there’s still that thing out there we hit in the car.”

“What?”

“Run or fight.”

There was a scattering of ashes across the floor. I didn’t see a fireplace, but there was an old fashion iron poker stuck into the couch. It came out with a solid tug. I held it up and felt the weight in my hands. It felt better than nothing. My mind tried to tell me that if the thing could shrug off getting hit with a car then this poker wasn’t going to do much.

“Where are they?”

I turned to see Sara on her knees in the middle of the room. She suddenly seemed so small. I walked over to her and knelt down beside her.

“Sara.” I touched her hands. “I don’t know what happened. I’ll help any way I can, but we’re not out of this yet. There’s some weird goat thing man that’s coming for us. We need to get out of here.”

“We should call the police.” She looked at the phone on the wall. “Do you have a cellphone?”

“It’s in my bag in my locker.”

“I don’t have a cellphone.” She shrugged. “We don’t even have a landline. That’s weird right?”

“Sara.” I tried to get her to look me in the eyes. “I know this is bad, I’m freaking out here, but we’re not out of this yet.”

“Where did all this ash come from?”

“Knecht.” The voice sounded like a brick pulled across gravel.

I turned out to see the furry goat man thing standing nearby. Up close I could see that he, obviously a he, wasn’t wearing a fur coat. He had cloven feet and each finger ended in a sharp claw. I jumped to my feet and held the poker out in front of me like a sword. He stared at us from across the room.

“Back up.” I tried to sound like I wasn’t about to jump out the nearest window.

The creature was across the room in a blink. I watched as he pulled the poker out of my hands and added it to a tangle of stick on his back. He looked at me as I stood between him and Sara.

“Knecht Ruprecht and his kobolds were here.” The creature knelt down and examined the ash. “He uses bewitched ashes to tarnish natural magic.”

“What are you talking about?” Sara looked up at the creature.

“I answered you question, little elf.” It picked up a handful of ashes and let them fall through his fingers. “He came for your parents. They kept him busy while you escaped.”

“Who are you?” She asked.

“Krampus.” His broad smile showcased a set of sharp teeth.

“Who?”

“Ah.” He nodded. “They kept you isolated. Good plan. Tell me, little elf, how old are you?”

“Why do you keep calling me that?”

“Answer the question.” His gentle voice had an edge to it.

“Sixteen.”

He nodded again. “You’re of age.”

“Age for what?”

“Your magic, little elf.” Krampus stood up. “Your birthright has come to you and that puts you in his sight.”

“Who?” She asked.

I really didn’t want the answer.

“Why, Santa Claus of course.” Krampus gave a small laugh.

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Brainstorms

I’m about finished with the first full draft of my main project, which means I’ll be sending it off for input soon. Once I’ve got it out of my hands I will need something to work on. That will help me keep from going crazy.

1. Vikings
Historical Fantasy around Vikings. A little tough to find creatures, which is a little odd.

2. Werewolves
Eh, why not?

3. Science Fiction
I like the idea of clone life insurance, like a person has a clone clause in their insurance. Nothing more to it than that.

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Better Watch Out- Chapter 1

I tried to block out the speech that droned through the old speakers on the wall. The auditorium was packed with the entirety of the student body to listen to the new campaign speeches. Student council something-or-other hopeful number three was in the middle of a passionate monologue that had to do with student parking. The speakers were at least twenty years old, but they were loud and there wasn’t much else to pay attention to in the room. There were a few pockets of enthusiastic supporters for the candidates, but most of us just wanted to get out of here.

Granted, this had saved me from another one of Mrs. Duvalls’ droning lectures, but I had learned how to adapt to those. Concentrate on the mole just below her right eyebrow and it looked like I was paying attention. History was important, before this year it had been one of my favorite subjects, but I was lucky enough to get a teacher who had only changed her lesson plans twice since she started her job and that was to remove references to the USSR and West Germany.

I looked around, but I couldn’t see any of my friends. Finding the three of them in the seven hundred assembled students wasn’t the easiest thing. Everyone was sectioned off by the class they were in, but the teachers were lined up along the wall. It made it hard to pick out people based on their schedules and cut down on socialization during this oh-so-important assembly. It didn’t matter really. Unless they were right next to me it wasn’t like we would be able to talk.

My search purposely avoided the area where Sara sat. Her natural near-white hair was a beacon among the crowd. The first time I saw her I thought she was a princess. I was eight at the time, but she still looked like some fairy tale come to life. It was easier just not to look at her, otherwise I’d find myself staring. The worst part about it was that she was one of the nicest people I’d ever met, but I didn’t have the courage to talk to her. She was athletic, smart, and sweet.

Up until this year we had been the same height too. We were both five foot tall if we stretched, but then I hit s growth spurt. I towered over her now, like most of our sophomore class, and it made me feel odd talking to her. Not that I did that a lot before, but I had pre-planned conversations based on our mutual shortness. Hobbit jokes, mostly.

Yeah, I’m not exactly lining the ladies up. My new height and the physique that came with it may have turned a couple of heads, but I was still me. I didn’t play sports, I wasn’t in the honors society, and I wasn’t stuck up enough to be a prep. My small group of friends usually migrated between eating lunch with the chess club, man I suck at chess, and under a tree in the quad on warmer days. Of the four of us only I had a car, but it was a hand-me-down beater that didn’t have AC and would die whenever someone turned on the radio.

I stood up in a hunched fashion to keep out of sight and waddled down to the stairs. Mrs. Duvall was giving me the stink-eye by the time I got to the floor. She was a good few inches over six feet tall and bore a striking resemblance to a bad Julia Childs impression. My mom pointed that out to me after the first parent-teacher conference.

“What are you doing Isaiah?” She hissed at me, even that was a monotone.

“Bathroom.” I tried to step around her.

“It can wait.” She crossed her arms.

“If you have a mop, sure.” I shrugged.

“Fine.” She stepped aside.

I made it out of the auditorium and took a deep breath. That many people all closed in like that didn’t do well for my calm. I stood in the open area for a moment to enjoy the extra space. The lunch staff was getting the cafeteria ready for the impending rush of freshmen. Our school had an open campus for lunch, for sophomores and up.

The bathrooms were off to my right by the front doors and to my left was the cafeteria. For a moment I wondered how long I could stay out here. I didn’t actually need to go to the bathroom, and I didn’t want to hang out there until the assembly was over, but going back in didn’t sound like a fun idea either.

I strolled over to the lunch line. The menu was out and who was I to ignore such dynamic options? One of the workers stopped to watch me approach. I didn’t remember her name, but she’d been one of the few that left a lasting memory. Twenty years ago she must have been drop-dead gorgeous, even today in a hair-net and apron she was pretty.

“Cheese pizza and a drink for two dollars.” I nodded as read the menu aloud. “Since there’s no one around, would be able to tell me what the cheese really is?”

She rolled her eyes and went back to work. I opened my mouth to say something else when one of the doors to the auditorium slammed open. My eyes locked on the vice principal as she stormed out toward me. I guess they had some serious rules against bathroom time during an assembly. For some reason my natural reaction was to point at the lunch menu.

“Get back here young lady.”

Young lady?

My gaze shifted down slightly to see Sara already at the door to the outside. She was fast. The vice principal tried to chase after her, but sensible office shoes didn’t lend well to a run.

“I’ll get her.” I found myself saying.

The vice principal was stooped over with her hands on her knees. I rushed after her and caught the door shortly after she went through. Sara stood outside pacing back and forth.

“Hey, Sara.” I closed the door behind me. “What’s up?”

She turned around to face me and suddenly she went from nearly ten feet away to within kissing distance. The irises of her eyes had disappeared, leaving a small dot of black in a sea of white. I took a step back. She had said something, but I didn’t catch it.

“Do you?” She had backed me against the door.

“What?”

“Do you have a car?”

“Yeah.” I nodded. “It’s in the student lot.”

“Can you take me home?”

“Sure.”

She was right in front of me one moment and then not in the blink of an eye.

“Come on.” She waved me on from the gate.

I ran toward her and she disappeared again. My brain tried to understand what was happening, but came up with nothing that made sense. I was pretty sure that if I listened hard enough I would have gotten elevator music. When I got to the gate I found her at the entrance to the parking area. She was pacing again. I couldn’t understand how she moved so fast. She wasn’t running, but she was almost a blur as she moved back and forth.

“Which one?” She asked as I caught up to her.

“Here.” I walked up to my car and gave a short wave.

She took in the faded yellow hatch-back that was older than both of us combined and nodded. “Is it unlocked?”

“Yeah.” I chuckled. “No one would want to steal it.”

“Let’s go.” She said from the passenger seat.

I looked at the gate where she had been a moment before and then to the car. “How?”

“Please.” She pleaded. “I need to get home.”

That did it. I hopped into the drivers’ seat and started the car up on the first try. We pulled out onto the road and I started heading toward her house.

“I live on Pierpont Way.” She prompted as I made a turn.

“I know.”

She looked at me for a moment.

“I used to mow your neighbor’s lawn.” I added.

“Isaiah, right?”

I nodded.

“You got tall.”

“Tallest in the Shire.” I quipped.

She looked at me for a moment again. “Hobbits. Right. Sorry, not in the mood for jokes.”

“What’s going on?”

“I don’t know.” She put her head on the space above the glove compartment. “I just have this horrible feeling that I need to get home now.”

“Okay.” I nodded.

“I need some music.” She flipped on the radio.

“No.” I managed to say a moment too late.

The speakers crackled at static, but the engine kept on.

“What’s wrong?” She asked as she moved the dial around for a signal.

“The radio doesn’t work.” I said slowly as I tried not to stare at the dials as I drove.

“Oh, because all the stations have gone digital?” She turned it off after she couldn’t find a station.

“No.” I shook my head. “Because it kills the battery.”

“It does?” She looked at me as I drove. “If this is a joke I’m not getting it.”

“No, not a joke.” I missed the turn and did a quick illegal U-turn. “Every time it turns on the car dies.”

“Didn’t this time.” She shrugged.

“I noticed.” I said.

I drove in silence for a few blocks before I took another turn. We were in the tangle of pre-fab suburbs now. The roads were a mess of grids and circles as the models of the houses changed. Each addition was done by a different company so while each subset had few variations on the same theme the general scheme of things was a mess.

Sara leaned back in the seat and brushed her hair out of her face. This was the first time I’d really spent time with her. When we were younger we kind of played together. Not a lot, just when our circles of friends crossed, but once I realized girls weren’t cootie factories it was too hard for me to actually think around her. Most of the time I felt like I would just turn into a mumbling boob and forget how breathing worked.

I turned down her road.

“Why are their cars here?” She muttered.

I stole a look at her to see her hand on the door. “Please wait.”

She looked at me, once again the color was gone from her eyes.

“Let’s take a closer look.” I didn’t know what was going on, but she needed someone on her side. “I’ll drive closer and if we need to we can get out.”

“Okay.” She nodded. “Let’s go.”

I drove along the road a little slower than the twenty-five mile an hour speed-limit. She was on edge and I was starting to get the feeling that something wasn’t right. I didn’t know what, but it felt right to take a cautious approach.

A shape zipped across the sky. I stared for a moment trying to figure out what it was. We weren’t by any airports and there wasn’t any sound attached to it. Helicopters didn’t move that fast anyway. My thought process was interrupted as the passenger side door snapped shut. I looked out the windshield just in time to see Sara open her front door. I left the car in the middle of the road and ran to catch up to her. I made it to the end of her driveway to see the front door close. Damn, she was fast.

The shape swooped by in the sky again. It was too fast to see, but I could tell it was getting closer. For some reason I thought I could hear bells.

I knocked on the door. Sara’s mom answered it. I took a step back as those large white eyes greeted me.

“Who are you?” Her voice had a strange lilting accent to it. “Go away.”

“Mom.” Sara called from inside. “That’s Isaiah, he gave me the ride here.”

“Good.” She hauled Sara through the front door by the collar of her shirt. “Take her back to school, now.”

“Tell me what’s going on.” Sara yelled.

“No time.” Her mother kissed her on the head. “Run.”

Sara winced as her mother’s lips touched her forehead. She looked up at the sky and gasped.

“This isn’t happening.” She whispered.

I looked up at the sky. “What?”

“How did you do it?” She asked her mother.

The door was already closed. She tried the handle to no avail.

“Mom.” She screamed. “Let me in. What is that?”

“Sara.” I pulled her away from the door. “There’s nothing up there.”

Something inside the house crashed. I looked to the door. Sara stared up at the roof.

“Run.” She pulled me down the steps of her porch toward the car.

“What are we running from?” I asked as she literally pulled me along.

“You can’t see them?” She ducked behind one of the cars in the driveway and pulled me down.

There was another loud crash from inside the house. She pulled me down beside her.

“See what?” I asked.

“I couldn’t see them either.” She muttered. “The kiss.”

“What?”

She pulled me close. I closed my eyes as our lips touched. My heart thundered against my chest and my head swam. It wasn’t like I had dreamed, but it felt like I was floating. I opened my eyes. They focused on her face and I blinked. Had she always had pointed ears?

The sound from inside the house made took my attention from inspecting the girl of my dreams. My breath caught in my throat as I looked at her home, or rather, what was on top of it. There was a sled pulled by eight animals that had to be reindeer and a brown sack next to the driver. The only thing it was missing was a fat jolly man in red. In his place there sat a twisted goblin with sickly green skin that held the reigns tight.

There was another crash as a goblin tumbled through a window to the ground outside. He was dressed in a stained tunic that was held tight by a rough cord at its waist. The gnarled handle of a dagger stuck out from its chest.

Sara looked from me to the dagger. “Grab it. We have to help them.”

I reached out and grabbed the goblins hand. It took one good tug to pull it over to us.

“Thought it would be heavier.” I looked down at the goblin.

Its green skin had an unsettling sheen to it, but the face was almost human. If not for the too-large hook nose and long double-pointed ears it would be just some person. My eyes settled on the daggers handle. I looked at Sara. She gave me a nod.

My hand closed on the handle. The goblins eyes snapped open. It let out a cry full of anger and pain. I screamed, stood up, and kicked it as hard as I could in the ribs. The creature sailed through the air. It gave a solid crunch as it hit the side of the house.

I couldn’t catch my breath. It might not have been dead before, but it certainly was now. I had killed it. This creature, a goblin, something that belonged in the fantasy isle, not the front yard of the girls I had a crush on.

“What’s that?” Sara’s voice sounded small and far away.

I looked up to roof of her house. What I had thought was a bag had started to move. I watched as it stood up and shook off its slumber. The form of a large man in a brown hooded robe now stood beside the sled. The goblin that had been holding the reigns pressed itself low in its seat to avoid attention.

“We should run.” I muttered.

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Starting Tomorrow

As of Saturday, June 20th, I will begin to post chapters of both projects I’ve been working on for the last few months. There are two stories, one a novella and one just barely novel length, that are in their first draft state and probably have a lot of mistakes.

Oh well, I hope you’ll enjoy them.

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Inspiration From Life

There are times when perfect lines for a story pop up in daily life. Rarely, do they fit what I’m working on, but I like to take note of them for later use. Today another one dropped in my lap.

The first line that I thought was worth keeping was when I was a teenager. I wasn’t sleeping well, and would often wake up multiple times a night. This was great for remembering dreams, but not so good for getting rest. The dream sticks with me to this day:
I was walking in a field on a bright autumn day. A few fluffy clouds dotted the sky. As I walked I looked up and spoke.
“God, what’s the meaning of life?”
To my surprise, God answered.
“Well, Scott, that’s simple. Bananas, socks, and underwear.”
I looked up at the clouds with my mouth agape. “Really?”
“Yes.”
“Wow.”

I woke up and for about thirty seconds I was secure in the fact that I knew the meaning of life. Not sure how I’m going to fit that into a story ever, but I like it. This was also around the time that I’d occasionally sleep walk and had myself convinced for a few hours that I could fly.

The second line happened a few years later while I was in college. I had taken a graded gym class to make myself get healthier. One day while we were running the track one of my classmates said:
“My kidneys can’t tell the different between cheap beer and whiskey.”

It sounded like a line out of a pulp detective novel. I’ve used it a couple of times in short stories. Someone once pointed out to me that it didn’t make sense, but I love it.

The third line, the one that happened today, is one of those that I’m not sure where it will go. I’ve been slowly reading John Dies at the End, so when this popped into my head my mind went somewhere weird. The line:
My hands smell like gasoline. I didn’t get gas today.

For those of you unfamiliar with John Dies at the End, it’s this trippy story where lost time and strange things are pretty normal. I’m about 270 pages into it and I’ve been working on reading it a little at a time. It’s on my Kindle and save that for waiting rooms.

That’s all for now. A few good lines. Not sure what I’ll use them for.

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