Mini-Review: Magnificent Seven (2016)

I just finished the 2016 remake of the film the Magnificent Seven and I have to say that I was actually quite impressed by the effort of the actors and the filmmakers.  I really enjoyed the movie and thought that it seemed to be a credible remake of an old classic for a new audience.  After seeing it, I was a bit dismayed by the lack of critical and commercial success for it.

Now, for full disclosure: I haven’t seen all of the original version.  I’ve only seen bits and pieces.  Somehow, it never seemed to come on network TV (as I recall) and when it was on cable, there always seemed to be something more interesting on that I wanted to watch.  Also, if I recall, the original is a black and white film, and it is MUCH harder for me (personally) to “suspend my disbelief” with black and white films as I’m always doing the “Wizard of Oz” game where my mind tries to fill in what would the movie look like in color (as the original Wizard of Oz starts out in black and white, goes to color, and then moves back to black and white for its ending).

However, this movie seemed to be very much in the spirit of the older classic.  It told a great story with some pretty good performances by the various actors.  The story, in many respects, had a tone much like the latest (as of this writing) Star Wars movie, Rogue One.  I really liked most everything about it.  Sure, there were a few cliche western moments, but it really doesn’t deserve its 54% Metacritic score.  Now, don’t get me wrong–even without the western “cliches,” there are still problems.  One the main ones is the main character’s motivation for helping.  The movie made him seem way too altruistic even though he is getting paid for his services.  While the movie foreshadows the reason behind this a before the midpoint of the movie, we don’t actually get the revelation until the final conflict with villain.  Because we don’t get to see Chissom (Denzel Washington’s character) struggle, 1) he comes off as emotionally distant–we never see why the plight of the town really matters to him and 2) we don’t see him struggle–he has it all too easy.  He doesn’t really have to struggle with the town accepting him, he doesn’t deal with any major conflicts between his team (outside one conflict with another old time associate).

However, even with these issues, I still enjoyed it.  I had only intended to watch about half of it this week (about an hour) and then finish off the other hour next weekend, but I found myself so engaged by it that every time I went to turn it off, I stayed my hand, so the actors, director, and filmmakers did something right, even if the critics and the majority of the audience doesn’t agree.

Overall Grade: B+ (It probably would have been a B- due to the way the protagonist’s motivation was written, but a couple of strong performances more than made up for that flaw in my mind).

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Finished Leave It To Chance, Vol. 2: Trick or Threat

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So I finished rereading Leave It To Chance, Vol. 2: Trick or Threat during this past week and I really enjoyed it.  It is a better story than I remember.  I really like it that Chance has agency in this story.  We can see rivalries and friendships develop and we see her take on a situation when she’s removed from her father.

Even the backup story for this one is good–as Chance tries to follow her father’s wishes, but is swept up by events and a desire to save her friend.  I think this one has more of a “Scooby Doo” feel meaning that while the monsters and supernatural elements are real, you get a real sense of the “adventure” or “mystery” that Chance and her new-found friends embark on in this story.

I really think that the creators hit their stride with this one and really found the link that made Chance feel real and alive and gave her a cool set of stories away from the noir of Devil’s Echo that really made the story resonate with me.  This is by far my favorite volume in the series and I think unfortunately, the creators lost this when they returned to Devil’s Echo (& took the agency away from Chance).  While I don’t know the particulars as to why the series ended, I do think this second volume is the strongest entry in the series.

Overall Grade: A

Early Morning Writing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Early morning sunrise, Image Source: Keeptothewrite.com

So, yesterday I thought I’d try an experiment: I often wake up early (5:00-5:30am), but I don’t usually have to start getting ready for another hour/hour and half.  I usually use that time for leisurely waking up, reading, catching up on homework, etc., but I thought that since I was having such a hard time finding writing time during my busy schedule that I would get up and get ready early and use the extra 2-3 hours as writing time.  Well, here are the results:

The Good
I ACTUALLY got writing done!  Yay!  I was able to write approximately 250-500 words written on a Sci-Fi story (Project Children) that I’ve been working on (outline, character sketches, etc.).  I was able to completely finish the first scene of the story.  I also was able write a rough draft of my Teaching Philosophy that we were asked to do for our Graduate Teaching Discussion Group.  I was also able to write yesterday’s blog entry and post it on schedule (something that was really hard for me to do all of last week).

The Bad
You would think with 3 successful writing projects worked on yesterday, there would be no bad side.  NOT TRUE!  I rolled into my morning duties with no problem, but then I had the afternoon to get through and I was so tired that as soon as I came in I CRASHED.  I had so much reading that I needed to do for class, but the moment I opened the textbook the words just all blurred together and I just couldn’t read any of it.  I went to lay down to “rest my eyes” and recover, but of course, I fell asleep and it was time for dinner.  Also, MTSU’s library opens at 7:00am and I wanted to get there as close to the opening as possible to give myself approx. 2 hours of writing time, but thanks to clothes, traffic, forgetting things, etc., I was only able to get there at about 8:00am and felt rushed to work on my story and the Teaching Philosophy at the same time.  So instead of the 2 hours I’d envisioned on when I embarked on this experiment, it really only came out to be 55 minutes.  55 productive minutes, but 55 minutes nonetheless.

The Ugly
The worst part of this is that I was never really able to recover after dinner to read the material for school, so as I type these words, I’m really going to have to really use my morning to “catch-up” and read the material before class today at 2:40pm.  While there’s not a lot of it, there’s enough and this is a struggle that may not have needed to have happened.  Also, I struggled to get out of bed this morning, so even if I wanted to, there will be no miraculous repeat of yesterday’s writing performance.

The Lesson
So while I was successful early yesterday, I struggled later in the day yesterday and made today a much harder day than it needed to be.  The early morning writing works, but I’m going to have be more strategic in where and when I use it (perhaps weekends, holidays, MWFs, TU/THs, not really sure), but I this experiment has given me some idea of my body’s capacities and limitations when trying to find a good consistent time to write.

Finished The Green Rider by Kristen Britain 


I finally finished the novel The Green Rider by Kristen Britain and I liked it.  It wasn’t my favorite fantasy novel ever but it had enough characterization and and action that I forgave some of its flaws. 

According to Wikipedia, this book is a first novel and I could tell.  Not to be disparaging, but there were elements that seemed out of place.  The meeting with sisters early on in the book seemed to exist only to give the protagonist items she would need later on in the story–a la Tolkien.  Her desire to ignore the repeated attempts to get her to believe that she had the necessary talent to be a good “Greenie” based on all that she had gone through was also particularly irksome.  But overall, I’d say it was pretty good.  Will I read the sequels? Probably, just not right away.

Yet, Kristen Britain did in 1999, what I haven’t yet found a way to accomplish yet in 2017.  She wrote, finished, and published her first novel.  This is the goal I’m working towards.  I hope one day (soon) that I can also reach this milestone myself.  Fingers crossed! 😀

Overall Grade: B-/C+

My Favorite Bonds (James Bond)

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So, James Bond as a character was very much influential to me growing up.  My uncle was a James Bond fan and had seen all of the Bond films and introduced them to me whenever they were on network TV and I enjoyed the action of the films–though I was too young at the time to get the more risqué elements of Bond’s nature. Whatculture.com did a feature listing their favorite Bond actors and I thought I do the same since the character was one of my favorites growing up.  I will not include every actor who played the role, just the ones most known for playing the iconic role.

6. George Lazenby
Not really a huge fan of his performance.  I saw him once as a child and I remember thinking that he wasn’t like the other Bonds.  His portrayal just didn’t have the same calculated “coldness” that I’ve come to associate with the character.

5. Timothy Dalton
This is one of those places where Whatculture.com and I disagree.  I believe that Timothy Dalton is a fine actor, but not a very good Bond.  They tried to do with Dalton what they tried (and ultimately succeeded with Craig) was to modernize Bond and make him more violent and move him away from the camp of Roger Moore, his predecessor.  I just don’t think it worked–his cold calculation came across on-screen more as peevishness and annoyance.

4. Pierce Brosnan
I really liked Pierce Brosan and wished I could rank him higher.  I used to watch him when he was on Remington Steele and was overjoyed when he I heard he might play Bond.  Then came word that the show wouldn’t let him out of his contract and Dalton became the next Bond (if my memory recalls correctly).  Finally, however, Brosnan got a chance to become Bond and I enjoyed his run (especially the first two movies).  The problem is that the world changed and Jason Bourne came on the scene AND the screenwriters went back to their excesses with camp–Die Another Day is STILL the ONLY Bond film I have not seen–although, if it ever comes back to streaming, I will watch it, if only for completeness sake.

3. Daniel Craig
I really like Daniel Craig’s turn as Bond.  I didn’t think I would and I resisted watching Casino Royal as long as I could.  However, I watched the Bourne movies and enjoyed them and took a chance on Royal and was pleasantly surprised. I think Craig needs both the right script and the right motivation.  He was masterful in Casino Royal and Skyfall, but Quantum of Solace and Spectre were both disappointments.  I know others will rate him higher, but to me he has very high highs as Bond, but also very low lows.

2. Roger Moore
I know I’ll get hate for this choice, but Roger Moore’s Bond was actually a great successor to his predecessor.  The problem in most people’s eyes is the campiness of the stories.  While I agree they do get silly sometimes, Roger Moore is able to summon that “cold calculatedness” of Bond even in the midst of some of the most absurd situations.  While Roger Moore is more comfortable with the amiable jokester qualities of the character, his flinty gaze can still be seen when necessary.  Besides, this is the Bond I grew up with, so nostalgia also has a lot to say in influencing my decision.

1. Sean Connery
While I don’t think that Sean Connery always played the role perfectly, the fact is that his portrayal helped to define the character on-screen.  Connery could do both dead-pan humor and “coldly calculating” with but a quirk of the lips or a tightening of the eye and that to me (not including the womanizing aspects) are the key to the character.  To me, the idea that Bond is ruthless while masquerading as charming is central to Bond’s character and without a doubt, Connery’s portrayal always gave hint to this inherent contradiction of the character.

Lovely Fall Break 

I am currently on fall break. While I have a lot of things to do, I also want to make sure that I take time to rest. The first part of the semester has been very intense, so I want to be sure that I don’t burn myself out.
I am also trying to recover some writing time, meaning that I’m trying to rediscover a time to simply draft.  I only need a little time–anywhere from half an hour to one hour–but it needs to be consistent.  I’m more dedicated when I can tie my projects to something that I already have to do. For example, I finished Kristen Britain’s The Green Rider just this weekend by reading a little bit each day with the nightly snack that I eat each day.

This is what I need for my drafting–to find a simple time when I’m at my most creative and just draft.  I may just have to do something similar to what I’m doing now, which is to compose on the phone.  It is more convenient, but it is also much slower.  Hopefully, I’ll find a good time/activity to help me get back into not just creating projects/revising projects, but also drafting projects.

Whale Song Revision

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MTSU Writing Center, Image Source: Tucolla.Wordpress.com

Another short (and late) blog post.  I went to the writing center yesterday as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post entry and it was EXTREMELY helpful.  I had a short-story entitled, Whale Song that I’d sent out for a while before becoming frustrated by the rejections.  Specifically, when markets gave feedback on the story, they mentioned that the protagonist felt very “high-handed” and didn’t come across as sympathetic.

During the session, I mentioned this and brainstormed ways to combat this impression while keeping the core of the story intact.  With the help of my consultant, I was able to think of ways to both change the character as well as the structure so as to better tell the story that I wanted.

I will post an Author’s Note here when the revisions are complete.  There is an anthology that I’m hoping to submit the story to and its deadline is Nov. 1, so (in addition to the graphic novel and the rough draft of the short story I’m trying to create), I will be revising the story with this deadline in mind.  I keep you posted on my progress.