WRATH goes to Hollywood 


I recall those early heady days when Permuted Press offered me a contract for Objects of Wrath . They signed me to a trilogy, and paid me for two books I hadn’t even written yet. I got the advance within three weeks of signing, just days before Christmas. And, let me tell you,  it saved Christmas for my family. I had visions of family vacations in Jackson Hole and delusions of movies made. That was before reality set in, and I realized that a) the books weren’t going to sell themselves and b) Hollywood sure as hell wasn’t going to be kicking down my door.

Since then, I’ve finished four novels. Tears of Abraham, a stand-alone novel about the next Civil War, went into bookstores all over the country last year. Once again, I thought, “okay this is it.” Alas, the book died on the vine, after zero promotion and being miscategorized as science fiction (despite my vehement objections). So, after getting my hopes crushed many times, I’m jaded.
Still…

I signed an agreement last week with Council Tree Productions, a Hollywood based film and television production company helmed by veteran producer Joel Eisenberg. It’s a new company, but Joel has some juice in Hollywood, and he’s also a writer. I really look forward to working with him. The other partner in the company (also a writer) is the founder of a successful private equity firm. They invested $180 million in Telemundo, and have conducted billions in transactions. These are serious people.
What now?

After my initial dance in the street, I’m looking at more waiting, hoping, and work. Just signing with a producer is a big deal, a tremendous opportunity, but it’s far from the end of the journey.  The producer will come up with marketing materials and shop the idea to various studios. We’re hoping for a televison series with one of the streaming services like Netflix, or with cable. I’m busy writing scripts for episodes, which may or may not ever see the light of day. Once the series has the attention of a studio, things start to get interesting. The producer will attach a director, and secure financing for the project. I’m hoping for a “direct to series” deal, which is the best possible scenario. That means the first season (13 episodes) gets picked up by the studio. What’s more likely, though still statistically improbable, is that we get signed to shoot a pilot. If the show gets green-lit, that’s when the real celebration begins.

I’m anticipating something of a roller-coaster ride. Highs and lows, some near misses and dashed expectations. Hopefully, by the end of the year the project will be in development, somewhere. Even then, I won’t know until the studio green lights the series.

I’m quietly optimistic, and very grateful for this chance. My work will be in front of people who can change the trajectory of my life with a phone call, and that’s exciting. The thing is to enjoy the journey, to embrace it. Even if things don’t play out the way I hope they will, it’ll be quite the ride. And other doors may open that I can’t foresee now. I’m learning how to write for film, and that’s a fun process, a very different beast from novels.

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Jupiter Ascending Review: Nerd Heaven!

Jupiter Ascending is a movie I’ve looked forward to since I saw the first trailer for it more than a year ago. I’m a huge science fiction fan, and within the last twelve months, there have been some excellent films released: Gravity, The Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Jupiter Ascending, which is my favorite of the bunch.

This isn’t hard sci-fi and makes no pretense of being so. It’s a fully realized space opera, original and visually breathtaking. I saw it in 3-D, and I highly recommend enjoying the film in that format.The CGI is stunning, and there are some extended set-piece scenes that put my jaw on the floor.

There is an intricate back story, one which the film makers no doubt paired down for the sake of pacing, but I was impressed, nonetheless. There is a Shakespearean feel to the film (if the Bard wrote about guys in gravity boots with spaceships and super-cool light shields) with this family who has no sense of humanity juxtaposed with a well and truly grounded heroine.

There is a good bit of humor in the film, which I appreciated, including a long scene reminiscent of a trip to the DMV that had me in stitches. The acting was solid, and some of the performances were deliciously over the top. The film makers put a great deal of effort into the details of the world building, from the opulent living quarters these advanced humans enjoy to a wide variety of aliens and genetically altered species that populate the film.

Overall, this is now one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies. I hope they make a sequel

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Interstellar: Review

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I grew up reading science fiction, and it remains my favorite genre of film and books. Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, Rober Zelazny, Heinlein, Azimov, and Greg Bear remain some of my favorite authors. I enjoy the hard-sci fi as well as more playful space opera. I love the first Star Wars movies, and I also really like Contact. I loved The Edge of Tomorrow. Heck, I even liked Riddick.

So it was with great anticipation I forked out the extra bucks to see Interstellar on a super-big screen. I’d been looking forward to this one since I’d seen the trailer for it last year.

Of course, I was doomed to disappointment. It’s a rare thing when lofty expectations are met. It’s a decent movie, but I was hoping for something, well, stellar.

I liked the premise, the idea that the Earth had turned against humanity, leaving mankind no choice but to reach for the stars. The scenes of cars and trucks laden with people migrating to anywhere else were reminiscent of the Dust Bowl and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

The acting was good, with Michael Cane and Mathew McConaughey delivering solid performances. The special effects were excellent, and there were some breathtaking scenes in space.

But there were too many moments where I scratched my head and said “What???” I had to resist the urge to turn to my wife and criticize the movie, risking the wrath of fellow movie goers, and I didn’t want to be THAT guy. So I sipped my drink and simmered.

My issue with this movie is that it pretends to be smarter than it actually is. Had I gone into the movie with a different set of expectations, I think I would have enjoyed the film much more.

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SPOILER ALERT

When the crew is on the planet with the massive tidal surge and a character drags her feet instead of returning to the ship, I cringed.

When they decide to investigate planets orbiting a black hole, I thought, why the hell would they do that. Black holes are inherently unstable, dangerous things you stay away from.

When the survivors leave a planet and within ten seconds are drawn into the black hole’s gravitational pull, I rolled my eyes. When they arrive at this black hole minutes later, not crushed by the gravity, I squirmed in my seat.

In the library of time, where past and present are laid out in extra dimensional space, I wondered what the hell was going on.

And the ending, where our hero decides to return, somehow without any time distortion, drove me nuts.

So there it is. I found the movie to be visually stunning, and emotional, but the massive plot holes and shoddy science detracted from the overall experience. If I’d known going in that the movie was essentially silly, I could have rolled with the inexplicable twists and turns and made up physics.

It’s worth watching on the big screen, just be prepared.

Review: Lone Survivor

Poster art for "Lone Survivor."

Lone Survivor is one of the best films I’ve seen in years, and I’d put it right beside Saving Private Ryan in the war genre. It is that good. The action sequences are relentless, gritty, and real. There is an emotional depth to Lone Survivor that I’d hoped to see, and the movie exceeded my expectations. That the movie is grounded on Marcus Luttrell’s true story gives the film great meaning.

There are heroes humping through the mountains of Afghanistan as I write from the comfort of my home, a forgotten war still being waged. My deepest gratitude goes out to the men and women serving our country and risking their lives.

The film manages to encapsulate some of the dilemmas with this war, without being preachy. There are significant problems with the Rules of Engagement because our troops are fighting an insurgency that melts back into the civilian population. And there is the problem of logistics and “too many moving parts” which puts our soldiers often unnecessarily in harms way.

We see the fear, sacrifice, brotherhood and blood of heroes. I wept as the credits rolled, feeling both grateful and inadequate, having done little of worth with my own life. I highly recommend this movie.

Coud Atlas… Review

I just finished watching one of the best films I’ve seen in years, Cloud Atlas. Some folks did not like the convoluted structure of the film, which features six story-lines over hundreds of years. After about twenty minutes, I was still confused, but glued to the screen. By the time the credits rolled, I did not want the film to end.

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The acting is perfect, with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry standing out in an ensemble cast. The film covers hundreds of years, with interweaving story lines and connections between each piece in history, from the mid-nineteenth century to the distant post-apocalyptic future.

 

I do not in any way believe in reincarnation, and you don’t need to in order to enjoy this movie, which is really about redemption, love, and freedom. The way our actions impact those around us, and how our decisions for better or worse can ripple through the generations.  The special effects were excellent, and not over-done in the way of most science fiction movies.

 

Every now and then, Hollywood surprises me by producing something cerebral and true; at a time when the box office is flooded by bombastic fluff and when the television is full of shows with zero substance, Cloud Atlas is like a cool drink of water on a hot day. It felt like I was reading a superb novel, layered and subtle, with engaging characters who grew over time.

 

I’ll be watching this one again soon.