Category Archives: Reviews

The place to find out what I think about things in pop culture.

Friday Update #6: The Branding Betrayal and Other Briefs

I haven’t posted to the Friday Updates in a couple of weeks, mainly because I haven’t had much to say since my last post, but also because I’ve had other commitments and time got away from me. More on that later.

In Support of Branding

I wanted to kick off this post with a slight nitpick. As some of you may know (if you know me personally), I’m a fan of movies. I enjoy a good movie as much if not more than a good book. I enjoy them for the stories, sure, but I especially enjoy them for the experience they provide. And I’m especially a fan of movie franchises, as I can continue to reenter the worlds of my favorite characters and experience something new while hanging on the edge of my seat to the exploits of people old (but not necessarily those of old people, except for maybe Clint Eastwood, and only if he does another Dirty Harry, which I guess would be hard to watch nowadays given that he’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—more on that later).

However, one of the things I depend on in my movie experiences is continuity, and that’s especially true of those that actually continue into sequels and more sequels. Franchises like James Bond can get away with actor changes because there are so many of them that eventually the actors will get too old to play the part, like Sean Connery, who’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—still, more on that later). The only thing we really must have in a James Bond movie consistently is the tracking gun barrel sequence at the start of each movie, and the opening credits sequence with the dramatic song and the nearly naked women superimposing the movie’s weapon of choice. There are story points that must be addressed, too, but those are related more to the genre than to the franchise itself. At any rate, James Bond has a specific brand we expect each film to adopt, and those are the things we expect—oh, and of course the James Bond theme song by Monty Norman. Other movie franchises like Mission: Impossible also have an expected brand, with the lit fuse marching toward an explosion and the classic theme by Lalo Schifrin (I almost mixed the two composers up—I’ve watched these franchises so many times that they sometimes run together on details like that). It’s also well-known for its anti-brand of style by changing directors and storylines so much that each movie barely resembles the one before it, and really only has Tom Cruise and the opening fuse to bind all five together. Weirdly, this works out great for that series.

If you’re paying attention, then you’ve noticed that I’ve addressed two of the top three blockbuster spy movie franchises currently running. The third franchise, the Bourne series, also has a brand, with each film taking the exact title from the book that corresponds with its entry number (The Bourne Identity is the name of the first book and movie, The Bourne Supremacy the second, and so on through The Bourne Legacy, which changes the lead character but stays firmly in the established cinematic universe), and this keeps them all in the same family.

Or, at least this is true of the first four films.

Now, I just saw the latest Bourne film, Jason Bourne, on Wednesday, and even though I enjoyed it, there are a few things about it that annoyed me. And it all has to do with its branding.

Movies like this remind me why branding in a series is so important. On the outside, novels in a series establish brands by having similar covers and similar fonts from one installment to the next. Their internal content can also establish brands, with recurring themes and recurring popular characters populating them. But they also form brands by the titles they use. Novels do this. Movies do this. Even the names of television episodes (something many audiences will never even see) do this. The show Scrubs, for example, would title each episode as “My [Something].” That puts every episode into a family. My favorite show, Community, would title each episode after a fake and ridiculous course title (“Advanced Complaining,” for example, was never a Community title, but it could’ve been because each episode was titled something like that). I think branding among titles is a good idea, but keeping a continuity among titles to establish that brand is vital if the series has three or more installments and the first two are of the same style.

Before I saw Jason Bourne, I watched the Honest Trailer for the original Bourne film trilogy, and I think it does a fine job highlighting many of the trilogy’s repeat items, enough for me to recognize them when I see them in new installments. I must also say that plenty of elements within the newest movie match those of the older films (the use of the word asset, for example) quite faithfully. And I was pleased to see that the end title song, “Extreme Ways” by Moby, makes its fifth appearance in the series, over the usual hi-tech background graphic where the credits flash, with its expected differences in style from its previous incarnations. And, of course, the story is basically the same as it is in the first four movies. Even though it brings nothing new, it’s still most everything I expect from a Bourne film. Well, almost everything.

Going back to the title, there are two expectations that people like me will have whenever a new entry into the series is released: 1. The title will be The Bourne [Something]. This is how it’s lain out in the previous four films. It’s how the fifth movie should’ve been presented. It’s what we expect when we set up our DVDs and Blu-rays beside each other on the franchises shelf. 2. The title should coincide with the book that matches its installment number. In this case, the fifth book is called The Bourne Betrayal, so the movie should’ve been called The Bourne Betrayal. Even its IMDB entry mentions this inconsistency in the trivia section. What’s worse is that the movie’s plot actually supports this title.

So why change the name? I don’t know. I suspect that the studio dipped its hand where it shouldn’t have, as it often does, and decided that it would make more money or be more appealing to feature the main character’s name instead of what audiences actually expect. I mean, it worked for Jack Reacher, right?

Here’s the thing. The movie is the same regardless of what title it’s given. My complaint is about as OCD and nit-picky as OCD and nit-picky get. But I also think this inconsistency is as annoying as snot. Just give it the expected title. As long as it has the name Bourne in the title, we’ll know it belongs to that franchise. The title change has single-handedly taken a franchise I love and made it into something I love a little less. It just feels like a detached entry now. Being that it takes place 12 years after the previous three just isolates it even more.

Now, if the next Bourne movie is called Jason Bourne 6, and not The Bourne Sanction (the sixth book’s title, and the sixth title to maintain consistency), then I’ll have to stop caring what decisions the studio makes for this franchise. Seeing as how they aren’t changing the formula a lick from movie to movie, either, I’m guessing the series has had its heyday and is ready to take another long nap. I don’t know. Makes me sad, though. This really was one of my favorites for the longest time.

For those of you who write series books or make series movies, please stick to your established brands. Changing them by even the slightest angles derails the momentum you’ve created. Don’t do it. Change the stories instead. That’s what we care about being new.

Other Non-Writing Things

So, I missed last week’s post because I was distracted. We had my grandmother’s memorial the following day, and I was mentally checked out from doing anything creative or informative in the hours leading up to it. I was also exhausted from two straight days of walking several miles on the soggy beach during the hottest time of the day, so I ended up sleeping through most of it. So, sorry if you were expecting news. But I really didn’t have any.

The week before, I was supporting a friend at a cocktail party on the 29th floor of a beachfront condo about an hour from where I live. I was tired when I got home. Plus, I didn’t have any news. I did have fun though. I don’t get invited to cocktail parties like that too often.

Smashwords Sale

For those of you who might’ve been interested in buying my e-books during the Smashwords sale, the sale is over, and everything is back to full price. But, you can still find coupons for discounts and freebies in the Promotions sections in the header, so don’t worry about it. Thanks to those of you who bought something, or will buy something.

(I just noticed that most of the existing coupons are expired or soon to expire. I’ll generate a new batch at some point soon. Keep checking back.)

And that’s it for this week. I’ve spent the last few days working on my computer game, Entrepreneur: The Beginning, and I’ve been reading a lot on the Story Grid website, catching up my knowledge on how to edit, so I haven’t been writing much lately. I will soon, though. Don’t worry. I did write a poem called “My Fading Silence” a couple of nights ago, however. You can read it in my previous post. I don’t write poetry often, so it’s a rare treat.

Oh, and I’ve officially cancelled my preorders for Teenage American Dream, Sweat of the Nomad, and Zipwood Studios until further notice. I will be reinstating them at some point, but not before I get an email list together or something substantial toward their development. I also need to figure out if I want to release their original short story versions under their existing titles and their novel versions under new titles. Check back here often for new information.

Advertisements

Friday Update #5: Thesauri and How to Grieve

I didn’t get much writing done this week. I’ve been spending time researching marketing, as I’ve been for the last few weeks, and thinking about more ways to better the work I have. I’ve also been spending more time on side projects, including work on a computer game I’ve been building since May 2009, called Entrepreneur: The Beginning.

Perhaps the biggest of my writing news comes from the books I bought earlier last week, The Rural Setting Thesaurus and The Urban Setting Thesaurus, which arrived at my house last Saturday. They come from the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus, three other books I own, all of which I highly recommend if you need a quick reference on character types, character feelings, and setting details. I won’t get into the specifics in this post—let’s just say all five books are worth the investment—but I do hope to include them in my eventual writers’ books series, which I really need to launch soon. I got a raise at work this week, and the new income may make it possible to upgrade my phone in the near future to one that takes better photos, so I may wait until then to really get going. But we’ll see. I’m still reading through the introductions of each of these thesauri, but I believe they are helpful resources all in all.

The End of an Era

2016 has been a pretty awful year for me so far (and for others I care about), and not much good in general for most people it seems. Last month I lost the last of my grandparents, not an uncommon occurrence for someone who just turned 40 like me, but turning 40 is a big deal in its own right, and having to deal with both catastrophic changes in the same week is a little rough. Well, yesterday I had to say goodbye to another lifelong legend—the Schefflera tree that stood in the backyard of my family’s home and defined it since I was a small child. My grandfather had given it to my mom as a housewarming gift, and it spent the next 38 years growing strong, bringing both shade and character to the backyard. It was the bedside tree of my favorite cat, Sniffy, and companion to “Eagle Base,” the shed that my neighborhood friends and I used to use as “base” during our epic games of hide and seek. It outlasted the orange tree that I grew up climbing, and survived a number of hurricanes.

This week, my mom was told that the tree was causing problems to the drain field, so after some financial considerations (a drain field costs $5000 to replace), which included the cost of replacing the field every ten years, she decided the best course of action for the yard and the neighbors’ yards was to have someone cut it down. So, that happened in the last 24 hours.

I don’t usually grieve the loss of a tree. But with my grandfather dead, Sniffy dead, and the shed known as “Eagle Base” long since destroyed, I feel like my entire youthful history is getting erased. Yes, there are pictures of all of these people and things. But my memory gets worse every year, and one day there will be no more memories of that tree, or of the ways it had served its home well.

Well, except for this:

So, that’s my update for the week. Not much to speak about in the writing circle, but sometimes it’s best just to know how things are going.

Here’s a picture of the tree for posterity.

schefflera
My Schefflera

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

December 14, 2015

Disclaimer: I am posting this review four days before the movie comes out. So, I have not seen it. This is fake. It’s for the purpose of parody. Please do not take this review seriously. If you’re looking for a real review, check back in four days…on someone else’s blog. This one will likely spoil moments that aren’t actually in the movie. If this offends you, then you’re probably camping out in line as we speak, reading this through your Stormtrooper helmet as you eat marshmallows in your tent.

 Movie: Star Wars 7

Release Date: Friday

Runtime: I don’t know

Review: Okay, so there’s a lot of hype going into George Lucas’s abandoned child, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and let me tell you, as a fanboy, it is so worth it. It’s got stars, and it’s got wars, and it’s got lots of fighting in space, and it’s just awesome. J.J. Abrams really got this one right. It’s got Spock fighting Captain Kirk, and Yoda drinking a soda even though he’s a ghost (spoiler alert!), and Chewbacca, let’s just say, is so hairy. It’s amazing how much detail they put into these characters.

I know what you’re thinking. What about the prequels? No, they aren’t awesome. Episode III is kinda okay. But it doesn’t have enough Jar Jar. You really can’t have too much Jar Jar. Everyone who thinks Jar Jar ruins the movie ruins movies. If I can’t have my Jar Jar, then I don’t want my Star Wars.

The Force Awakens does not have Jar Jar, and it’s better for it. What it has instead is a talking Monkey named Hans. Spoiler Alert! The monkey is played by none other than Harrison Ford. They call him Hans YOLO! and he has a sweet ride. It goes so fast. In one scene, he beats Vin Diesel and the Rock to the finish line. It’s amazing. Really, you should see this movie.

Now, I can’t talk about this movie without discussing everyone’s acting abilities, but I must say, I see an Oscar in R2D2’s future. He’s really got the whole droid thing down. Come on, Academy. Stop ignoring trash cans on roller skates! It’s bad enough you’ve ignored Jim Carrey for The Truman Show and Man on the Moon. Don’t snub the R2!

So, what’s my final verdict? Star Wars: The Force Awakens is awesome! How do I know? Because I’ve seen the trailers for it, twice! Five stars (and three wars)!

The new Star Wars opens this Friday. But you already knew that because you’re yelling at me for writing this crap.

B+

Healthy Obsession…

November 4, 2015:

Okay, so last month I had a more prolific blogging period than usual. Much of that came from my “need” to promote a novel I was pushing out to the public, complete with chapter samples, launch day announcements, and the eventual cave-in to the freebie model that satisfies the growing trend of $.99 books (and pricier titles) getting ignored. That blogging series steamrolled right into the day that cinemaphiles (including myself?) have been waiting for for 30 years (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re either not a cinemaphile, or very sheltered, or grounded in reality–take your pick). And then there’s the seasonal writing push I tend to feel in October, thanks to the perpetual shots of pumpkin that blitz my system.

And all of this prolific writing leads to the inevitable issue that various viewer stats begin to spike, and with it my “need” to drive the numbers higher starts to eat at my brain. What can I write about next? What will draw the masses? Are the masses out there to be drawn? Why are so many people interested in pumpkin macchiato and hoverboards? It becomes a give and take of experimentation, acceptance, and confusion. How does one article generate more readers than all of my other articles combined? Higher numbers lead to more obsessive questions. And thus my search to answer those questions leads me to experiment with even newer ideas and loftier goals. The results often reveal that one shouldn’t mess with a working formula. But I digress.

The same can be said in the world of e-book commerce. My new e-book, The Computer Nerd, has already shot well past the number of downloads that my last two e-books have generated, in spite of their one- and two-month leads over it (Lightstorm and “The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky” respectively). But how? It’s getting ready to catch the total download count of “When Cellphones Go Crazy,” which I released back in July. And the thing has been on the market for just two weeks. Its acceleration up the graph has been relentless (ever since I made it free, but not at all when it came with a price tag), and I keep holding the planned $2.99 price at bay because I’m curious to see if it can catch the top three (“Amusement,” “Eleven Miles from Home,” and the highest downloaded title, “Shell Out,” which is ten days older than “Eleven Miles,” but a good 80 downloads ahead). The idea that it could take my whole author catalog is thrilling. But then it drives me to wonder, Should I make everything I release, ever, free? If so, how quickly can the next e-book rise? The answer to that next question, of course, will hopefully be answered on Black Friday, when I plan to release my next title, a novella called Cards in the Cloak. Given the cover, length, and category, I’m assuming it’ll have a run similar to what Lightstorm experienced. Just a hunch. But again, the question comes back to “Why?” Why did The Computer Nerd have such a lousy first two days (in viewership and sales) then take off like a rocket in spite of its views never topping the dismal first-day views? I have my theories (coming in the post-mortem I’ve been promising for the last two weeks), but the deeper question is, “Can I replicate and improve these with the next one?”*

So, these numbers become a source of obsession for me. But can we call it a healthy obsession? Besides the weirdness that a writer is even attracted to numbers–as a rule, people with degrees in English don’t mix well with anything related to math–I think a “healthy” obsession with these statistics is possible because that means I’m motivated to write something even better than the last thing and to do it soon while the fire is burning, not just in me, but in the readers who have come to find my writing stash.

And that’s really my main drive, to keep the writing coming.

As a reader, you may be wondering what this means to you. To put it simply, it means, don’t ignore what drives you (as long as it’s healthy and won’t cause you or others physical or psychological damage). That might be obvious, but there are still millions of people in the world who aren’t seeking out their dreams, or aren’t putting as much into them as they could, so I guess the message is still important, and if you’re reading this, and you’re not doing anything but dreaming, then stop driving yourself crazy and start doing what matters. Satisfying a dream is psychologically rewarding, even if it keeps you stirring in bed at night wondering if this was really such a great idea. The answer is yes. It’s such a great idea. You may hate the results, but at least you did what you’ve always told yourself you’d do, so you can stop asking all those “what if” questions, at least the starter “what if” questions–the branching “what if” questions, including “What if I had a million people reading my story about penguins in a jungle?,” may not actually stop assaulting your brain. But that’s okay. We’re humans, and we are never satisfied completely.

It also means that pumpkin coffee and hoverboards are popular subjects, way more than e-books and reading.

*To answer the above question, I think the answer is “not necessarily.” Books are like dates. You might have a successful run with one and a lousy run with another (not usually in that order), but you can’t really learn from your triumphs and failures because success comes from the other person’s experience, not yours, which means you have no control over how successful you are. You either hit the mark or you don’t. If you don’t, don’t despair. Just try again. Unlike true insanity, you probably could do the same thing the same way and have better results because the reader (or your new date) may have different needs that are more in line with what you have than the last reader (or your old date). You could also do it differently and have the same results. You just don’t know until you put yourself out there. If you do hit the mark, then congratulations, you’ve got a book that connects to people (or a follow-up date, which is also preferable).

Free for How Long Now?

October 27, 2015:

So, last week I released my latest e-book, The Computer Nerd, with a modest price tag of $.99. I had set this price thinking it was a great idea. Er, no. Not only was I selling poorly on those first two days (how poorly will be covered in another blog sometime in November), with the few “sales” I was making mostly credited to free coupons I had given to a select group of people, but I had gotten a severe reduction in my normal first-day page views compared to other day-one titles (again, specifics coming in November). I was beginning to think my chances at this self-publishing game was drying up before I’d ever hit my stride. Ouch.

So, I said “screw it,” and last Wednesday night (just under 48 hours after release), I decided to make it free…temporarily.

“Sales” over the next few days spiked in a tremendous way. Let’s just say my readership value multiplied by about 2500% from that move. The Computer Nerd, as of this writing, is now ranked #51,299 at Barnes and Noble, which is not impressive to the big picture, but a personal best, and I know it’s due to my making it free…temporarily.

(As a side note, John Grisham’s The Rogue Lawyer, which I hyped in my blog post from October 19th, is ranked at #5. I’d like to think my hyping of his book has led to its impressive rank, though I’m willing to bet his name brand has had some hand in it. At any rate, it’s obvious that book readers everywhere took my advice and chose to read his book over mine, not due to quality of the read but due, again, to the name recognition. Given the average review it’s getting, that might’ve been a bad call.

Just kidding, of course. I’m not delusional. He doesn’t need my promotional help. I’m assuming.)

Anyway, I had planned on tacking the price back onto The Computer Nerd tonight, with an increase from $.99 to $2.99. But, my 2015 goal is to gain readership, not income, so I’m keeping the price free as long as the momentum continues. Once it dries up, then I’ll put the price tag back on.

What does this mean to you, the reader? It means you should snag your copy at any of the available retailers now, while it’s free without a coupon, and then tell everyone you know to get their copies so that the momentum can continue and the price can stay free. So, how long it stays free will depend on popularity. That means its freedom depends on you!

Shallow, maybe. But regardless of what the price may communicate, I care about my books, and I want people to read them because I think they do speak to people in ways that maybe they can relate. So get yours today. And read it, too, while you’re at it. It’s good. Personal opinion, of course, and you’re welcome to tell me differently if you disagree. It’s a detail I’d probably need to know. But I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

The official page has links to the stores that carry it. If you don’t have anything to read it on, you can read it on your computer. Smashwords has an online reader, and Adobe Editions and Kindle both have PC-friendly apps you can download and install to read .EPUBs and .MOBIs respectively. Kobo also has a nice reader available, if you’re interested in purchasing books from them. They actually have my favorite of the reading apps. But stick to what you love.

If you get your copy, please be kind and leave a review, either at the store you bought it from, or at Goodreads. Thanks. And feel free to comment on it here, or on the official page if you want to discuss it.

Lethal Hairdo

October 23, 2015:

Continuing with a Back to the Future theme, in a loose kind of way now, it’s time we turn to one of the greatest action movies to come out of the 1980’s, Lethal Weapon, and more importantly, to its greatest legacy left on pop culture, the mullet.

Ah, yes, the mullet, the greatest hairstyle to hit a generation since the Moe Howard bowl cut, which I guess was just a revision to the old Caesar cut, which was likely the revision to an alpaca’s hair–I’m no hair historian, so I don’t know. From the mullet we have learned a great many thing:

  • Bad guys tremble at the sight of a mullet.
  • Ladies melt at the sight of a mullet.
  • Mel Gibson was at his best in a mullet.
  • The Lethal Weapon series died with the movie that did not give us a mullet.
  • Bonus Fact: George Clooney and John Stamos gained fame under a mullet. (Not really Lethal Weapon related, but still an accurate observation born from the eighties.)

As you can see, the mullet was important to our culture and to the longevity of Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson, and maybe the eighties?

Let us never forget the power it had on 1980’s cinema and the stars that had graced our screens.

Long live the mullet!

Want more mullet drama? Come back at 9:00 to read about the epic battle between man and his hair, told in poetry.

The Pros and Cons of Riding a Hoverboard

October 22, 2015

“Back to the Future” Day Week continues with an essay about the one thing we were all looking forward to having in 2015, but never got, thanks to ambitious predictions matched with poor sensibilities that led to our shattered hopes and unshattered bones.

Marty McFly was an expert skateboarder in his day. He could “skitch” (skate-hitch) like the best of them. But the one thing that kept him grounded in 1985 was the set of wheels under his board. By the time he got to 2015, he was stuck with these crazy pink magnetic boards that hovered off the ground. They still rode the same, at least for him, but they posed new thrills and dangers for him.

Robert Zemeckis, the director of Back to the Future, says in an old video that hoverboards “have been around for years, but…” and then talks about parent groups, toy companies, and stuff you can hear about in the Honest Trailer for Back to the Future, which was just released yesterday. Apparently, they haven’t “been around for years,” and perhaps haven’t actually been around at all, but it might be interesting to speculate what the world could be like if we did have hoverboards. So, here are the pros and cons of moving around on your own hoverboard.

Pros:

  • You can be cooler than those losers who ride around on “wheels.”
  • Hoverboards are flatter, and thus easier to stuff in a locker or backpack than a traditional skateboard.
  • They still function well as a food tray.
  • If you need to repel a magnet, just aim your hoverboard’s underside at it.
  • Futuristic designs look more relevant on a hoverboard than a traditional skateboard.
  • You can “skitch” easier on the back of flying car.*
  • You can hop curbs a bit easier.

Cons:

  • A lack of friction equals more spectacular wipeouts (technically a pro for “Epic Fail” videos on Youtube).
  • Hoverboards use magnets in place of wheels and probably don’t work on most surfaces.
  • They’re made of thicker plastic, and are less reliable for using as a crowbar than the skinnier skateboards of the 1980s.
  • If you run into a wall, they can break free from your feet and never return (see “friction” con).
  • It’s still impossible to take a date out on a hoverboard.
  • Your dog will probably prove to be a better skater than you if you put him on and send him off.
  • Having a hoverboard means we can no longer say, “It’s 2015! Where’s my hoverboard?” which is just as important to pop culture as the hoverboard itself.

And there you have it. Can you think of any pros and cons to having your own hoverboard? If so, list them in the comments. Would be fun to develop an epic list for something we may never get.

Come back tomorrow. We’ll be discussing mullets.

*We still need flying cars.

Don’t You Forget About Me

October 22, 2015

Even though “Back to the Future” Day was yesterday, the celebration continues with a look back at my favorite movie of all time.

In the year 1985, the same year that Marty McFly first adventured with the DeLorean into another time, a movie was released that would change the landscape for take-charge teenagers forever. Well, two movies, if you count Back to the Future. That first movie, The Breakfast Club, changed my life.

But that’s vague, so let’s paint a backstory here.

In February 1985, the month that The Breakfast Club was released, I was still just a kid, not even in the double-digits yet. High school was still many years away. And, most importantly, it was an R-rated movie, and my parents were too responsible to let me, their young child, see something with such language at the time of its release. So, I didn’t see it in 1985. Or, really, any time particularly close to 1985.

In kid’s terms, “particularly close” might mean a few weeks, or at the most, a few months. In kid’s terms, two years is a lifetime, and I’m pretty sure it had taken me a lifetime to finally get the opportunity to see it. But sure enough, sometime in the mid-late ’80s, a local independent station, which later became a FOX affiliate, started airing the edited-for-television version (Bender’s spirited curse becomes a spirited support for a university when “F**k you!” becomes “Fam U!” for example), and now, finally, I got a chance to see it.

I was blown away. And I don’t know why, exactly. As a nine- or ten-year-old, I had no reason to find power in the story of five teenagers who were way older than me and went through things I was still years off from experiencing myself. But I did. Maybe I was moved with anticipation. Maybe I thought all high schools were like Shermer High, and maybe I thought all teenagers were like the archetypes presented in the movie. Realistically, I was grabbed hard by the throat by the awesome soundtrack–I mean, that opening on black title cards and a montage of static empty high school scenes, so simple yet so thematic. But at my core, I think I was moved more by the dynamics of these people, the friction between styles, ideologies, and backgrounds, even with the one common thing they all share is universal: our parents help shape who we are. For a ten-year-old, that’s quite a lesson to learn.

On the one hand, I think it did probably have some bearing into helping me understand the person I’ve become, based on the instruction my parents had offered me. Both had vastly different levels of style, personality, and responsibility when it came to raising me. Mom was always very economical, responsible, intent to raise me to respect others, follow the rules, and so on. Dad was basically carefree and pretty blasé about most things, and more or less the dead opposite of my mom. In some sense, they were like a two-person Breakfast Club, two completely different archetypes trying to reach the same goal: not to accidentally wreck my life or kill me. I’m still alive and functional, so…I guess they succeeded.

But that’s not all I got out of the movie.

The characters in The Breakfast Club have a three-dimensional arc we can all learn from, even though the substance in their arcs may seem shallow at times–Ally Sheedy’s character, for example, grows from being a weirdo to being a pretty weirdo. But they still exhibit change in the nine hours they’re forced to sit together in a high school library. For most of us, change takes longer, but the fact that we can change is well-documented in this brilliant John Hughes movie.

And speaking of John Hughes, this is the movie that made me a fan of his work.

I’ve probably seen this movie 40 times or more by now. I don’t recall if I had done this on my first viewing, but at some point I had recorded a VHS copy of the edited-for-television version, watched it at least ten times in the three or four years following, bought the soundtrack on cassette, noticed a theme I hadn’t heard in the movie, rented the real movie (on VHS) when I was finally a teenager, was surprised to see that the edited-for-television version had cut a few scenes (including the joint sequence, which featured the theme in the soundtrack I hadn’t heard in the movie previously), eventually bought it on VHS when I was old enough to carry a job, bought it on DVD years after that (as part of a triple pack with Sixteen Candles and Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and I even had the opportunity to see it in theaters last year when Cinemark put The Breakfast Club in its Classics Series lineup for that season. And let me tell you, it’s amazing what we miss on the small screen that’s so much more defined on the big screen. I feel like seeing it in the theater brought me full circle. And even if I never watch it again, I feel as though I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth, and life’s worth, out of it.

I could keep going, but that’s the point. There’s so much to get out of this 97-minute movie that its impossible to cover it all in a single blog and still keep it short. So, rather than dive into character studies, cinematic tricks, relevant themes, and so on, I’d rather open this topic up for discussion.

Have you seen The Breakfast Club? What was your favorite part? I still get a kick out of Allison throwing the salami slice at the statue and watching it stick to the amorphous head. Just funny stuff.

Thanks for joining me on this nostalgia trip. Come back in an hour for my essay about hoverboards.

A Goodreads “Favorites” Review: About a Boy

October 21, 2015

In honor of Back to the Future Day, I wanted to post a couple of “blast from the past” reviews for two of my favorite books, Syrup and About a Boy. Now, these are technically new reviews, so I’m not actually blasting the past here, but I have reviewed both before on my Visual Bookshelf, so I am kind of going back in time. That site’s gone, of course, and with it, all of my old reviews. I doubt I’ll review most of the books featured there twice, but these two books are certainly worth revisiting, so with that, I’d like to share my thoughts.

I’m continuing my “blast from the past” review series, or more accurately, my “favorites” series with a review of my second favorite book of all time, About a Boy by Nick Hornby. Although less revolutionary to me than Syrup, it still speaks to me as a man, as a role model, if I were one, and as a person who appreciates time. It reminds me that anyone can become a better person, and it inspires me to respect anyone and everyone. It, well, it’s a novel, and meant to be enjoyed as one. It doesn’t have to speak to anything.

But it does have to be read. Here’s my review of it on Goodreads:

About a Boy Review

What’s next? It’s a surprise. But when you walk away, don’t you forget about me.

A Goodreads “Favorites” Review: Syrup

October 21, 2015

In honor of Back to the Future Day, I wanted to post a couple of “blast from the past” reviews for two of my favorite books, Syrup and About a Boy. Now, these are technically new reviews, so I’m not actually blasting the past here, but I have reviewed both before on my Visual Bookshelf, so I am kind of going back in time. That site’s gone, of course, and with it, all of my old reviews. I doubt I’ll review most of the books featured there twice, but these two books are certainly worth revisiting, so with that, I’d like to share my thoughts.

I’m beginning with my all-time favorite novel, Syrup by Max Barry. It’s a story I continue to think about to this day, and one that still subliminally influences my own writing. It’s brilliantly conceived, expertly crafted, and hilariously received. If that’s not enough, then consider this: It makes me proud to be a writer.

Read my Goodreads review for it here:

Syrup Review

Come back in an hour to read my review of my second favorite book.