There were some cracks in the plot, and a few crushing disappointments, but besides all that for an earthquake movie…
Flying back from Melbourne last week I got to watch San Andreas, the latest earthquake film starring Dwayne Johnson (The Rock). Admittedly, a tiny screen in the back of an aircraft seat is hardly the ideal movie experience and the small children sitting opposite me across the aisle were a strong argument for contraception, but I still pretty much got the gist of the film.
Our hero The Rock is a highly-decorated Rescue Helicopter pilot who, through reasonable circumstances, happens to be flying a chopper by himself to a maintenance department (there’s no other crew on board to ruin the story or steal the limelight, right?) when the largest earthquake like, for ever and ever, hits the west coast of the USA. On the ground below shit starts falling down a lot. Plenty of screaming people, panicked texting, cancelling of dental appointments, crying babies inexplicably left on the footpath… you know the deal.
So, being an expert in saving people and coincidentally flying a million-dollar piece of high-tech rescue helicopter, does The Rock start doing his thing and helping folks? Nope, instead he decides to go and save his ex-wife who, by the way, left The Rock to go and shag a billionaire property developer dude. The entire city is going under — literally collapsing down big-arse holes appearing in the ground — and The Rock figures he should focus on saving his cheating wife who’s been blowing a real estate salesman.
But that’s not his main worry. The Rock also has a daughter (Alexandra Daddario) who likewise needs rescuing and that’s next on the list. Fuck the rest of the population, they can get their own helicopter.
The story progresses through our main characters impossibly avoiding countless ways to get squashed, buried, burned, mugged and drowned until they reach the inevitable, climactic conclusion. I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself. Don’t worry, no one gets really hurt. Well, none of cast — the good guys, at least.
Actually, you gotta hand it to the film’s makers that despite the utter chaotic, total destruction involved here you never really see any squished bodies in the streets or burning cats. It’s all kind of tastefully done, if that makes sense, and the only people who die are the villains who deserve it and one sacrificial lamb early in the movie. He was a nerd anyway.
Would I recommend it?
Okay, so the story line is silly, it encourages stealing helicopters (Bronwyn Bishop would approve) and our heroes continually survive the most incredibly dangerous situations. This is McGyver, The A Team and Rambo all combined into one and on lots of steroids. But the special effects and CGI stuff is gob-smacking and stunning — well worth the price of renting a DVD. The “big” scenes of rippling suburbs, smashing buildings and the tsunami at the end (yes, there’s a cool tsunami scene at the end… of course) are some serious popcorn-munching, beer-swilling movie moments. Awesome to watch. Who the hell cares about a credible story? Sure, in reality a zillion people would have been killed, but never mind that. Check out the Hoover Dam going down the gurgler. It’s like one enormous toilet being flushed with cars and terrified people getting stuck in the S-Bend. Cool!
Like I said, you only see the bad people getting crushed, slashed and crispy-fried. The moral of this film should be, “You never know where the next flying sea container is coming from”.
And no dogs were harmed during the making of this movie.
By the way, if you’d prefer reading a book instead, two of mine (below) are now permanently free for the sake of promotions. Yes, that’s free. Twice As Dead is a mystery, crime, paranormal thriller with lots of black humour like you’ve just endured in this blog, while Bedtime Story is a more traditional horror story designed to scare the shit out of you. Neither story includes large blocks of falling concrete. Links are below.
Yes, yes… I know…
Die-hard readers of printed books argue that there’s nothing to match the “feel” of those real pages. The crunchy noise they make as you turn them, keeping your partner awake in bed beside you and prompting hissed threats of divorce if you don’t keep quiet. The way that books, like bits of toast, always fall on the floor the wrong way and flip closed, losing your place. The comforting weight of a good tome, like carry around a loaf of rye bread in your backpack. Attracting rats and mice.
Don’t forget germs. A good book can cause people to burst into tears. Tears means sniffles, sniffles means snot, and snot means germs — this stuff’s bubbling out of your nose for God’s sake. It’s hardly going to be sterile, is it? The avid reader probably leaves enough germs on a book’s cover to wipe out an entire city with pneumonia.
Still, we’re very sentimental about the printed novel. It’s kind of romantic in a sleeping spouse-enraging, doughy, germ-ridden sort of way.
Okay, to be fair in this digital, piracy-plagued age there’s a lot to be said for a real book. Your average Stephen King-like novel is around 200,000 words. A printed book is a bloody efficient way to store 200K words. It doesn’t need batteries or a power outlet, it won’t break if you drop it, and when someone else wants to borrow your book it means you’ll hand over your copy, which should prompt many people to say, “Piss off, buy your own — you bloody cheapskate.” That’s good for the author’s sales.
But be honest, as much as you’re keen to hang onto the past and bury your face in several pulped trees when you’re reading, have you ever tried an eReader?
They’re awesome. If you consider buying something like a Kindle Paperwhite it’s not like reading from a screen at all. Amazon has gone to great lengths to create an experience akin to reading a printed paper page — without the snot and germs. However, if you want to try ebooks cost-free you don’t need an eReader at all, if you already own some kind of tablet. Free apps will mimic a Kindle perfectly.
Personally, although I own one of the original Kindles, lately I prefer to read books on my iPad using the Kindle app. For a very simple reason — I can set the app to display white text on a black background and read in the complete dark without disturbing my wife in bed… apart from the constant sniffing, burping, farting and yawning of which I’m apparently guilty of (yes me, not her, but I think she’s making it up). The app never forgets what page I’m on — although I often forget what I read the night before — I can increase the size of the text when I’ve been drinking, and being an iPad I can plug in some headphones and listen to soothing book-reading music at the same time (like Nine Inch Nails or Ozzy Osbourne).
Ebooks are generally cheaper, even best-sellers are usually much less in price than the printed versions. There is a wealth of very cheap, “indie” authors’ books, too. In fact, a zillion free books are out there. Okay, not all of them are well-written. In fact, there’s a lot of crap self-published and the good indie authors are the first to acknowledge this, but don’t let that deter you, because there really are some excellent indie authors doing sci-fi, thrillers, horror — it’s not just about romance and erotica like 50 Shades of Grey. Of course, if you are on the look-out for a bit of naughty porn-without-pictures you should find the odd title or two… yes, I’m being sarcastic.
I don’t have to convince you about eReaders. The apps are free, almost every ebook is available in a decent-sized sample that’s free so it’s a “try before you buy” no-risk purchase. In Australia (dunno about anywhere else) you can even borrow ebooks through your local library. For free — it’s a library, right?
Trust me, eReaders in all shapes and sizes are brilliant. What have you got to lose by trying one? Only a couple of hours reading a really good book… maybe even one of mine?
Featured Book, Twice As Dead US$2.99 from Amazon
“The first time anyone encounters a ghost it helps to be wearing some pants. Wearing anything really, but pants is a good start.”
Lukas Boston is a private detective who attracts beautiful women, annoying ghosts and murder investigations no one else will take on. He’s also caught the attention of a sniper, who is getting closer to Lukas with every shot.
Thanks to his grandmother’s gypsy blood, Lukas has the Gift to see the Dead, but the spirit world only brings him trouble. When the spectre of a dead drug courier starts visiting Lukas, it reopens a case involving a long-missing shipment of cocaine. Word gets out on the street that Lukas somehow has fresh clues and suddenly everyone wants Lukas to find the stolen drugs. Some people will pay Lukas very well if he does – and others will kill him, if he doesn’t.
Welcome to the world of Lukas Boston, a place filled with crime, sex, ghosts and Lukas’ very annoyed landlady
A quick rant – I’ve got a theory. Television networks purposely broadcast really stupid programs with the intention of attracting a really stupid audience which, in turn, will believe the really stupid advertisements. I mean, it makes sense, right? Most commercials won’t work on any half-intelligent people. We know nothing will ever clean an oven with a single wipe. And that 4WD climbing the hill without any problems? How come the trees are growing at 45% angles? Hmm… We’re treated like idiots by the TV advertising executives. Either that, or they’re only interested in idiots.
Here’s another complaint. Not only the ridiculous high rate of adverts per hour (we suffer the highest rate in the world averaging -yes averaging – 18 minutes per hour), but the amount of times we see the same fucking commercial. Seriously, given a choice I’ll not buy a product that’s been flogged to bloody death on the TV purely out of some grumpy, but understandable principle. Again, you’d think any TV executive with half a brain would know this. Like, don’t annoy your audience, you dicks.
Talking of annoying, my biggest pet peeve of all – companies that use their own children acting as adults to promote adult products. Sure, use kids to advertise kids’ products, but mufflers? Car accessories? I’ve got news for these people. NO ONE ELSE THINKS YOUR CHILD IS CUTE!! Nobody else is going to be so enamored by your sticky little bastard rugrat they’ll be convinced to buy a new set of tyres. Don’t do it. In fact, if you think it’s a good idea to use children in adult commercials, you probably shouldn’t have children. The gene pool is in enough trouble.
By the way, none of the above applies to that advertisement during the footy with the scantily-clad cheer leaders bouncing up and down.
Don’t you hate it when you’re watching a good TV drama that you’ve been enjoying and suddenly it turns into this kind of “what the fuck?” show?
I’ve been watching an ABC (Australia) drama on Sunday nights called “Top Of The Lake”. It’s a little confusing who made this show – the BBC, ABC and someone in New Zealand all have a hand in it, and it’s actually filmed somewhere near Queenstown on the South Island of NZ. Jane Campion gets all the producer’s kudos while the main actress is Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men).
It was going okay until the most recent (fifth of six) episode. It’s like the show’s writers or maybe the producers got lazy when it comes to credibility – and that pisses me off. So far, it’s about finding a pregnant 13 year old teenager who is missing, probably dead, in Deepest Darkest New Zealand Rain Forest and bringing to justice whoever is responsible. Lots of nasty relatives look likely, there’s a bunch of permanently angry, weirdo lesbians and female sex addicts in a commune who oddly insist in frolicking naked in freezing rivers, and the local police are possibly corrupt and – in the case of David Wenham’s character – at least guilty of acting with all the dynamics of a cardboard box. But okay, that’s Wenham’s thing.
For me the wheels began to fall off when our heroine and hero, Detective Robin Griffin (Moss) and her rough bit of shag, Johnno, decide to jump in a kayak and follow a suspicious dude paddling down the lake. This guy’s miles away, right? And for those who don’t know, these lakes and the surrounding mountains in NZ are huge and very, very wild. This is finding a needle in an enormous, wet and rugged haystack. Still, our intrepid duo manage to easily find not only the (hidden) kayak of the suspicious dude, but Johnno nearly catches him – he fails.
So what do they do next? What anyone else would do apparently – they have a shag in the middle of Deepest Darkest New Zealand Rain Forest. Not just a quickie knee-trembler against a nearby tree, it’s the full-on, get-all-your-gear-off bonking on the forest floor.
Folks, this is NZ, the south of the South Island in winter-ish weather. It’s FUCKING FREEZING. No wonder Johnno jumped on top. It must have been like laying down on the floor of a Woolworths meat freezer after all the lamb chops had fallen off the shelves.
Then, despite this all happening in the remote parts of Deepest Darkest New Zealand Rain Forest, two scumbag-type blokes appear out of nowhere and try to film the naked, shagging couple with a mobile phone. Supposedly they have a Scumbags-R-Us YouTube account. Like… what? Where the fuck did these guys come from? A fight ensues, Johnno gets the phone off them while Robin scares them away by shooting a few trees (she’s a detective with a gun, remember), but not before Johnno gets badly knifed in the groin (serves him right for picking fights naked). Do they jump back in the canoe and paddle to help? No, apparently it makes better sense to walk (on a buggered groin) Rambo-style through the impenetrable forest and freezing rivers to eventually arrive at the angry lesbian/hippy commune. Hmm…
Here, while Johnno’s get stitched up by women barely containing either their unbridled lust or their man-hatred for his rude bits, it’s discovered the mobile phone has a video of the missing, pregnant girl in the forest – kind of proving she’s still alive. Everyone celebrates by drinking gallons of champagne and passing the phone around for a look. For fuck’s sake, anyone who’s ever seen any kind of police procedural show – even Noddy Visits Mr Plod – knows that phone is suddenly a prime and vital piece of evidence. But hell, don’t worry, let’s pass it around a bunch of drunken, permanently angry lesbians and sex addicts for a few hours before handing it in for evidence. Shouldn’t be an issue…
The final scene is Elizabeth Moss (the detective) bursting into tears supposedly because the missing girl is alive. Most likely, I suspect, it’s with relief because she’s finally reached the end of this ridiculous episode.
I’ll watch next week, which is the final episode (there are rumours of a sequel) to see if Top Of The Lake redeems itself. And I might catch another glimpse of Elizabeth Moss naked again – maybe shagging on top of Mount Cook or inside a party ice machine.
I’ve been really brain-storming how to get my books in front of people who might want to read them – meaning reaching the right readership, and it occurred to me I’m going the wrong way about it.
The thing is that my Lukas Boston Mysteries should appeal to female readers who like this kind of roguish, smart-arse, womanising, amusing main character with ridiculous good looks and charming bedroom manners, but my new covers were screaming “horror”, which couldn’t be further from the reality. All the paranormal stuff in my Lukas Boston books is funny, kind of quirky shit. Definitely not frightening. Lukas gets annoyed by ghosts. They’re a pain in the arse most of the time.
Anyway, in my efforts to figure out a solution, someone on a forum suggested my books were “Urban Fantasy” and it might be the key to reaching those women readers, since it’s popular. Now, say to me fantasy and I going to think dwarves, elves, dragons and wizards – and all the above shafting each other with swords and axes in pursuit of some kind of Holy Grail (in a castle at the End Of The World). Asking the forum for clarification (what is “urban fantasy?”) triggered a fierce debate. A touchy subject, apparently.
However, I can safely tell you that these days “fantasy” applies to just about anything paranormal. Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches… you name, they all get categorised as a kind of fantasy figure now. In fact, someone went so far as to say there is no such thing as horror anymore. Instead “Horror” needs to be correctly identified as whatever fantasy sub-genre the story demands.
I had another problem. If you start labeling any sexual or naughty stuff in your books as in any way… well, rude – you run the risk of the Erotica Police abducting you in the middle of the night and dragging you screaming away into the darkness, never to be seen again. In other words they get pissed off, if you try to kind of cash in on the popularity of erotica without actually writing the “wet plumber shags bored housewife” books. But Lukas does get a bit risque now and then – think “Fifty Shades of Benny Hill” here (well, not quite). So what can I do?
However, it seems you can include romance-like keywords in your metadata as long as you don’t register your books in the actual Amazon Romance categories – go figure. And we’re talking a foreign language here. Stuff like “rake”, “rogue” and “alpha male”.
So this all led to me rewriting the Lukas Boston metadata and redesigning the covers again, including adding the handsome chap in the top right-hand corner who, I should point out, looks nothing like me. I’m sure he’s disappointed about that.
At least this is a really good thing about self-publishing. You can tweak and change stuff on the fly, trying to adjust your books to find that readership as much as you like. Fingers crossed…
I love space shit. Fill the screen with cool-looking planets and spaceships and stuff, and I’m happy as an alien pig in extra-terrestrial crap. We don’t really need to mess up any of the plot with too much explanation of how all this quantum-physics impossible shit can happen — you know, faster than light travel and super-secret space stations that no one notices. We can ignore all that.
But the movie Interstellar seriously tested my patience.
Not because of the script or storyline — which does have its weird moments. Example? Okay, like the incredibly sophisticated robot/droid thing that looks like a Coke vending machine and can pretty much do anything, but NASA still needs a top-gun human pilot for its last remaining spaceship to “fly” it properly using a little joystick thingy.
No, Interstellar pissed me off because I spent 2 1/2 hours asking myself, “What the fuck did Matthew McConaughey just say?” Between the indecipherable southern drawl and the “I’m so cool I’m never going to raise my voice even when the whole world is turning to shit” delivery I spent most of the movie trying to hear what McConaughey was saying. The useless mumbling bastard needs subtitles — damn! Why didn’t I think of that last night? Sod it, no — sub-titles annoy me.
And then, to really get up my nose, it took headphones and about five rewinds to figure out what Michael Caine was whispering on his death bed scene (sorry, but that’s not really a spoiler) — only to discover it didn’t make sense anyway. Caine gasps and gurgles that apparently the whole thing didn’t have to happen (or something) and Smelly McConaughey (a few years back one of his co-stars complained he never uses deodorant) was on a wild goose chase. Which is utterly at odds with all the urgency and drama powering the story up to that point. But okay, maybe McConaughey muttered something earlier that explains this better and I missed it.
Matt Damon makes a fat appearance as a stranded astronaut on another planet. It’s only a small role in the overall movie and obviously allowed him to spend more time in the catering tent. Otherwise, existing alone on a remote planet at the other end of the universe is apparently a good way to pack in the calories.
And the ending? No surprise that there seems to be a blatant device for a sequel, but perhaps not. Maybe the director just said, “We’d better stop there, the audience will have had enough by now”. No argument from me.
Tonight it’ll be “Oblivion” with Tom Cruise running around some planet and carrying lots of big-arse guns. Or maybe they’re normal-sized guns and just look big, because Tom Cruise is such a short arse? I’ll let you know.
By the way, if you’d like to see my own efforts at a space shit story, check out Ghost Beyond Earth. Here’s a link to my web page and it’s available as an ebook. Lots of readers reckon it’s science fiction, others say it’s space opera, but I’ve always insisted it’s a ghost story — with a particularly nasty zombie-like dude included, too.
Really, it’s a ghost story.
This is the now-famous Cooper Family ghost photograph. I’m fascinated by pictures like these. Years ago I borrowed a book from the library called (something like) “350 Famous Ghost Photographs” and it contained – no surprises – 350 pictures of ghosts, fairies (Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle was a big believe in fairies or “faeries”) ectoplasms and lots of other paranormal stuff. This picture wasn’t one of them, but the concept behind the book was interesting. Every photograph included was, to the photographer’s knowledge, genuine. In other words, they may well have been the victim of some kind of hoax, but the person who took the picture believed it to be real. With that in mind, it only needs just one of those pictures to be genuine and ghosts exist – and at odds of 350 to 1 what’s the chances…? Actually, you can apply the same thinking to UFO sightings. Really, is every single UFO sighting over the past, let’s say even just a hundred years, completely false? Every… single… one? (Hmm… worth another post I think)
Anyway, one of the pictures in that book prompted my short story called “The Girl In The Back Seat” a totally creepy photograph of a family that got lost driving to friend’s house. They used a pay-phone to call and ask directions, so their hosts were waiting in the driveway to take a photo of their arrival. When the picture was developed, a ghostly girl was sitting in the back seat. It’s the kind of innocent, utterly out-of-the-blue ghost photo that has infinitely more credibility than any team of ghost hunters running around haunted castles.
So what do you think of this one? The background story is distorted and retold by countless websites – many debunking the picture, some suggesting it’s real. Basically, it was a straightforward family photo that proved very, very different when it was developed. Is it a hoax by someone? Well, you’d have to say it’s an imaginative one. Hardly your standard “unexpected ghost in the background” picture.
I think it could be real and no amount of 21st century internet analysis about “wrong” shadows or angles and can lessen the impact of its original form. What possibly caused the hanging man is another debate altogether. Bottom line for me is that they are simply too many of these incidental ghost photographs for each and every one of them to be a hoax. They can’t all be fake – one of them must be real. Just one, remember? Maybe it’s this one?
Here’s the latest installment in my Lukas Boston paranormal thrillers. This is what they call a full-length book at 60K words, but you know… back in the good ol’ days that’d be about half a book – hey still, for US$2.99 you can’t wrong. You can buy it from Amazon here.
Lately with the rebranding of my Lukas Boston thrillers and the Horror Story books my website hasn’t really matched the look and feel of the cover designs, so I’ve gone for a new theme with bits of dripping blood and whatever (sorry Manu, after all your work). It’s still a bit of a work in progress while I get my head around what the theme has to offer.
Let me know what you think!