Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

reel roy 2I’ve been reading movie reviews since I was a kid. Every Friday, I’d go for the reviews in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s weekend section before I hit the funnies. Even now, I’ve been known to guiltily flip past the front section of the paper to check out the movie reviews before going back to read about more weighty matters.

And Roy Sexton is the first movie reviewer to ever make me laugh out loud.

Not just once either. I made the mistake of bringing his latest book — “Reel Roy Reviews, Vol. 2: Keep ’Em Coming” — as reading material on Philadelphia’s PATCO High Speed Line. Spent the entire trip giggling like a stoner in study hall. I think I scared some people. It would be worth getting the book just for his side-splitting evisceration of “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

Here’s the great thing about Sexton’s humor, though. Even when he’s trashing a film, he’s got a rare knack for being sharply funny without coming across as snide.

You can tell Sexton is one of those guys who just really enjoys the experience of going to the movies. Reading his reviews is like heading to the cineplex with an affable, really-freakin-funny friend. For a sparsely attended afternoon matinee, maybe, where you can put your feet up on the seats and do a “Mystery Science Theater” without feeling like a jerk.

If you and your friend like the movie, great. If not, you can still have a blast ripping on it, and laughing about how bad it was over beers later.

In his second volume of reviews (see my review of the first volume here), Sexton expands the scope a bit. He includes more reviews from concerts and regional community theater productions from his home turf of Michigan. He even has a few pieces about the local theater scene. Even if you don’t have any inherent interest in Michigan community theater, the latter have a pleasant local-newspaper-columnist feel that you don’t see enough of since this whole digital age thing happened. Besides, Sexton is the kind of guy who could write a septic tank installation manual, and still be fun to read.

What I enjoyed most in the book, weirdly enough, were the reviews of movies I wouldn’t have any natural inclination to watch. Not because he artfully lambasted them, but because he made them sound like fun.

His innovative approach as a reviewer is to evaluate the overall experience of watching a movie, rather than judging it as good or bad according to some film scholarly criteria that — let’s be honest — most film viewers don’t particularly care about in the first place.

It brought me back to those pre-Netflix days when I’d sometimes watch movies not because I’d specifically chosen them, but just because they were on.

I don’t do that anymore. When I’m watching a movie now, it’s one I’ve read about and determined will likely be worth the time I’m investing in it. Something critics have praised, or else a less revered but still cinematically significant film watched out of obligation to shore up cracks in my cultural literacy.

Nothing wrong with that. Still, Sexton’s book reminded me of the half-forgotten pleasures of accidental viewing. Discovering a glorious piece of cheese like “Roadhouse.” Or watching Jean Claude Van Damme now being acknowledged as a gifted comic actor, and knowing you picked up on that the first time you saw “Kickboxer.” Or maybe the fifth time. Or maybe … what is this … the 15th viewing? Hell, I don’t even remember. Hey! “Big Trouble in Little China” is on next! BOOyah!

Ah, those were the days.

Sexton is a welcome reminder that movies like “300 — Rise of an Empire” can still be a hell of a lot of fun. Especially if you’ve got a hilarious guide along with you.

Oh yeah. Be sure to check out more of Sexton’s stuff at his Website, Reel Roy Reviews.

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reel roy reviewsI don’t consider myself to be a meathead when it comes to movies. Back in the day, my propensity for going to the video store and returning with movies such as “Heavenly Creatures” and “Lost Horizon” — cinematic offerings with an insufficient number of explosions and/or boobs — was a boundless source of exasperation for my roommate and our drinking buddies. I still recall the looks of wounded accusation that greeted me when I returned from work one evening to find them screening a video of “Last Tango in Paris” that I’d rented the night before. Seems they’d spotted the “X” rating on the box, and expected a very different kind of film.

That being said, one of my problems with a lot of film reviewers is that they’re a bit too much into movies as serious art. Look, I’m sure that 12-hour-long, avant garde version of “King Lear” released by the Icelandic Film Board is a masterpiece. You know what? I only get one Saturday a week. I’m not going to devote a significant chunk of it to watching a movie that doesn’t entertain me.

That’s what I like about Roy Sexton of the blog “Reel Roy Reviews,” who is now officially my favorite film reviewer. The guy’s obviously a hardcore film geek, who’s seen a ton of movies and has a good sense of what makes for a quality film. But there’s an element of populism to his approach that I see lacking in a lot of film reviewers. He understands that sometimes you’re just not in the mood for a transcendent redefinition of the cinematic art form. Sometimes you just want a fun night at the movies.

He also understands that even a movie that’s not “good” by any objective standards can still have elements that make it worth watching. Like when you’re flipping around on cable, see a movie and think: “Oh yeah, this movie. Damn, this movie sucks.” Then 90 minutes later, you’re still watching.

In other words, he doesn’t review like a serious student of cinema, so much as a regular person who just happens to really like movies. And since that description fits me and — I’d venture to say — the vast majority of movie viewers, that makes his reviews enormously engaging.

I just finished reading a collection of his reviews in book form, titled “Reel Roy Reviews Volume 1: Keepin’ It Real.” Most of the book covers films released from mid-2012 to early 2014. To tell you the truth, I’m probably not going to see most of the films he reviewed. Even the good ones. Much as I like movies, I just don’t have a lot of time on my hands these days. Had to prioritize, and books won out.

So why bother reading them? Because the guy can write. As an added bonus, he’s freakin hilarious. Even if you’re not planning on seeing the movies, the reviews are a pleasure to read.

My favorite part is a section where he goes back and reviews movies he loved as a kid, to see if they still hold up. If I wasn’t already a fan, the fact that this section included “The Black Hole” — Disney’s brilliantly twisted, how-the-fuck-did-this-get-made peyote trip of a kids’ movie — would have sealed the deal.

Added bonus? He likes the 1980 movie “Popeye.” Why the hell does this movie have such a bad reputation? Sure, it tanked at the box office. So did “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You’re telling me that a movie directed by Robert Altman based on one of the best comic strips of all time, starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall, with a screenplay by Jules Feiffer and a soundtrack by Harry Nilsson has NO redeeming qualities?

OK, going off on a tangent here. Bottom line — get Roy’s book. And be sure to read his reviews at reelroyreviews.com.

http://horrornovelreviews.com/2013/08/25/tom-joyce-the-freak-foundation-operatives-report-review/

I recently reviewed Dope Thief by Dennis Tafoya, which I regard as a prime example of a classic setup played off right. As such, it’s an illustration of what I like about genre fiction in general.

Note the term “classic setup.”

The plot of Dope Thief revolves around a small-time thief who pulls what’s supposed to be a routine job, and unexpectedly finds himself in possession of a huge wad of cash. He realizes too late that he’s stolen organized crime money, and that some very dangerous characters will be coming after him to collect.

Variations on that setup have been done plenty of different times. But Tafoya throws in plenty of overt and covert references to classic crime fiction, communicating he’s well aware of this.

Sometimes, I hear people complain about genre fiction, saying that it’s essentially the same thing being done over and over.

To me, this is tantamount to complaining that the the classic song structure of verse-chorus-verse is inherently hackneyed. And yeah, there’s plenty of derivative crap on the radio. But plenty of vital, innovative music follows the verse-chorus-verse structure is still getting released, which means that isn’t the quality that makes a song derivative crap.

The classic song structure remains viable because:

1) It works, and

2) Part of the appeal is seeing what new variations songwriters get out of that configuration.

So let’s look at, say, the classic hard-boiled detective story. (more…)

Remember the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys? Now they have a blog. Hide your daughters.

http://the-imbloglio.livejournal.com/

Jon Gibbs - author pic 2I’m a member of several different writers groups, including Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, for whom I edit the quarterly newsletter.

Writer Jon Gibbs recently contributed a piece that I think is worth reading for any aspiring writer. He gave me permission to repost it here. And once you finish reading this post, be sure to check out his Website and his blog, both of which have a lot of informative and entertaining stuff.

So take it away Jon …

Give Yourself Permission to Fail

by Jon Gibbs

For many writers, rejections are a bit like a trips to the dentist. We’ll do almost anything to avoid them, rather than risk getting bad news.

You can understand someone being afraid of dentists (I know I am), but why fear rejection? What’s so terrible about someone passing up the chance to publish your work?

I think it’s partly because, no matter how much we like to pretend we don’t care, it hurts to have a story turned down.

And so it should. If you don’t care if your story gets accepted, why submit it there in the first place?

But I believe there’s more to it than worrying about the sting of being told ‘No thank you’ by someone you’ve probably never met.

Jon Gibbs - Barnums Revenge - cover pic - compressedA rejection, especially when we’re starting out, is a hammer blow to our self-confidence. The bad news for would-be writers is that you’re going to get rejected, probably quite a lot. If getting published is important to you, those rejections are going to hurt.

The good news is that it gets easier. The more knocks you take, the tougher you’ll get, and if you make the effort to improve your craft, if you’re willing to recognize your mistakes and learn from them there’s a good chance that you will get published.

So go on, give yourself permission to fail. Take a deep breath and pitch that story.
One day, your dream will thank you.

Born in England, Jon Gibbs now lives in New Jersey, where he is the founder of The New Jersey Authors’ Network (www.njauthorsnetwork.com) and FindAWritingGroup.com, Jon’s middle grade fantasy, “Fur-Face” (Echelon Press), was nominated for a Crystal Kite Award. The sequel, “Barnum’s Revenge,” is scheduled for release in February, 2013.

Jon Gibbs - Fur-Face cover pic - compressedJon has a website: www.acatofninetales.com and a blog: http://jongibbs.livejournal.com. When he’s not chasing around after his three children, he can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.

nerd2Well, it’s happened again. Week after week, two blog entries I’ve written get the most views.

This one deals with a bizarre conspiracy theory about coded messages from FEMA on the backs of road signs. I used it to explore a hypothesis of mine regarding the nature of conspiracy theories, which is that they’re essentially the result of a pattern recognition impulse gone haywire.

But this one gets by far the most views. In it, I examine the way that one’s values can change gradually over a span of decades, to a point where popular entertainment once regarded as innocuous can later seem offensive. As an example, I cite the movie “Revenge of the Nerds,” which features ostensibly sympathetic characters engaging in exploitative behavior toward women such as surreptitiously taking topless photos of cheerleaders with hidden cameras.

And week after week, according to the metrics helpfully provided by Word Press, variations of two search terms garner the most views on this blog: “FEMA road signs conspiracy” and “topless cheerleaders.” (more…)