The Crocodile Princess is coming to the big screen!

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Now that the ink is drying on the contracts, I have an announcement to make. My novel, The Crocodile Princess, has been licensed by Keller Entertainment to become both a graphic novel and a feature film in conjunction with a Major Chinese studio. (Not sure I’m allowed to say who yet, so we’ll leave it at that.)
I’ve been sitting on this news for two months now, since the fine folks at Keller Entertainment first approached me, but wanted to wait until the contract was officially signed before I made the announcement. I’ve worked with the Kellers to get the story down to a more manageable form (it’s a bit long for a film) and I’ll be scripting the graphic novel myself. (But not the film, although I will be working with the scriptwriter.) This is why I stopped writing stories for a while, as I’ve been too busy with the development process.

Now, there is something I should mention that isn’t going to make everyone happy, but I want to be upfront about it. The Chinese studio wants to make an adventure  film set in China, but which will also appeal to an international audience. What that means is that they asked that at least three of the main characters become foreigners so they could put famous Hollywood actors in the roles for some star power outside of China. This is part of the current Chinese strategy to reach a global market, and upcoming films like The Great Wall with Matt Damon are examples of this approach. Long story short- Little Gou has been replaced by a Scottish sailor who’s been living in China, and Sister Cat by a similar character (still Chinese) who is a little more petite than the mighty warrior nun of the Gou adventures. This comprise allowed me to keep Gou and Cat separate from the film rights, while finding the balance the producers wanted. I know there will be claims of whitewashing, but it was the only way the project would move forward. Think of it as an alternate reality version of my original novel’s story. 🙂

Speaking of stories, I have to say the revised version of the story is awesome, and much better than my original in some ways. Getting to work with entertainment professionals has really helped to up my writing game, and the story has only benefited from it. For example, the character replacing Sister Cat is no longer a sidekick character, but an equal partner to the roguish gambler, and helps to drive the story in a way Cat never did. I’m really excited to see this character and her story evolve, and this new pair are quite the swashbuckling duo! You’ll get to see them in action on the page, and hopefully on the big screen not too long afterwards.

The truth is, I can hardly believe it myself and it still seems unreal to me, but every word I’ve just written is true. One of my stories is jumping to not one, but two other media, and it’s going to be incredible to watch it all unfold.

I’ll update you all from time to time, and if there are any questions just ask! And, if you want to read the book that inspired all this, why not click this link and pick up a copy?

Rob

Review- Dragon Blade (Jackie Chan) (Mild Spoilers)

I just finished watching Dragon Blade, and I have to say I have really mixed feelings about it. It’s a giant pile of awesome ideas and potential wrapped in a badly directed and mismanaged package. The core idea is great- a team of Silk Road mediators in Han Dynasty China lead by Huo An (Jackie Chan) have to keep peace among the 36 different tribes that control parts of the Silk Road which runs between China and Rome. One day, a Roman army shows up on the Chinese border city of Wild Geese led by Commander Lucius (John Cusack) on the run from Rome because they’re fleeing with their lord’s youngest son to keep his elder brother from killing him. The Romans and the Chinese are the two ends of the Silk Road, but this is them meeting for the first time and lots of cultural conflicts and misunderstandings ensue.

Great stuff, and the first half of the movie is actually pretty good with a nice mix of comedy, action, and some cool scenes where each side gets to show off what they can do. It was made for Chinese audiences, but the Romans are played as strong and heroic, and Cusack and Chan are fun to watch together, regardless of how awkward the English dialog is. (And it’s REALLY awkward- this movie needed an English re-write badly, the lines sounding like they used Google Translate on a Chinese script.) I especially enjoyed the portrayal of the Romans as builders and engineers as well as warriors.

However, then the second half of the movie hits and it turns into a nonsensical mess that pretty much squanders everything the first half built up. Things and characters appear and disappear, and stuff happens that makes sense but was never really explained or built up to. You can kind of piece most of it together, but you’re left scratching your head as to what the writer/director was thinking. For example, the version I saw has a bizarre flash-forward to modern day at the end that comes out of nowhere and seems to be part of a whole storyline that was left out except for this final scene. Stuff like that.

I blame a lot of this on the director, Daniel Lee, as you can see in this a movie that in the hands of a good director like Ridley Scott could have been fricken amazing, but was instead reduced to a dog’s breakfast of a film.

I give the first half a B-, but thanks to a D- second half, I can only give the film a C- in the end. Which is sad, because I liked so many things in this film, just not the film itself. See it on Netflix, it’s definitely not worth a theatrical price to see, unfortunately.

Rob

Cinema Sins: Godzilla 2014

And this is pretty much exactly what was going through Rob’s head as he watched this film…

Cozilla: The “Lost” Italian Godzilla Release

Grab Mary Jane and prepare to ride the Galaxy Express! We’re going back to the 70’s!

Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

So, I just watched Tucker and Dale vs. Evil– a deconstructionist horror/comedy in the same vein as The Cabin in the Woods. This is not to say that it’s as good as Cabin, which I’d argue is actually a masterpiece, but it tries to cover some similar territory. The basic premise is that two scruffy but likeable hillbillies are being terrorized by a typical bunch of college kids who think the hillbillies are psycho killers due to a series of misunderstandings. It’s meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reversal of the typical college kids are hunted by crazy rednecks movie, and is played more for laughs than horror.

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It’s a cute movie, with a nice premise, but if I had to use a word to describe it, I’d use the word “timid”.  I know that’s an odd word to describe a horror movie, so let me explain by giving an example of an early scene in the film. (minor spoiler, but it won’t ruin much)

There’s a scene early on where Dale and Earl are driving along in their truck and drinking beer. They spot a cop behind them with its lights on, and Earl (who is driving) fumbles his beer, trying to figure out where to stash it and spills it all over himself. Dale, being the nice guy he is, leans over from the passenger seat to try and clean it up, but his shirt collar gets stuck on Earl’s belt, and so his head is stuck bobbing in Earl’s lap as Earl pulls over for the cop.

What we have here is the classic awkward humor shot of the cop walking up to find one redneck who looks like he’s getting oral sex from his buddy. A nice uncomfortable situation for everyone involved, and some nice squirming humor for the audience, right?

Nope.

As they pull over, Dale unbuttons/rips open his shirt and sits up, bare-chested. The cop never sees the implied oral sex, and while there are suggested gay humor overtones to their conversation, it doesn’t actually amount to anything. No squirming humor, just a mildly amusing situation.

And the whole movie is like this.

They spend the whole film almost doing something neat with a character or situation, but almost always pull away at the last moment to give us something cute instead of actually pushing it to make us laugh or squirm. This is especially weird since there’s a scene of a classic horror movie massacre (historical flashback) that’s quite gory and almost over the top, but it’s one of the only things in the movie that is. The two rednecks aren’t quite rednecks, the college kids aren’t quite college self-absorbed or jerks, and the whole thing feels like a collection of neat ideas that they just didn’t take to the next level.

I guess that’s why I’m writing this. The whole film to me felt like a missed opportunity. If they’d just been more over-the-top with it and pushed things a bit more, it could have been a great film, but as it is, it’s just a cute one.

I rated it 3/5 on Netflix, and I’d say that’s just the right rating for it. If you’re in the mood, it’s a fun watch, but don’t expect it to quite live up to its premise.

Review- Dredd

While some of my closest friends are Judge Dredd aficionados, I am merely a casual fan of Dredd and his world. As such, I wasn’t really hung up on accuracy or continuity when I saw Stallone’s Judge Dredd film, or the current film Dredd. As a result, I didn’t hate Stallone’s take on it as much as they did, but I didn’t especially like it either, as it was an over broad and not especially well written film.

In fact, about the only baggage I had going into watching Dredd this weekend was that I watched The Raid earlier this year, which is a film with a very similar premise. I admit, like many people, I viewed Dredd through the eyes of it being a Raid knock-off, which might be part of the reason I took so long to watch the film, despite being curious about it. (As it turns out, Dredd went into production before The Raid did, and came out after it because of bad luck, so the films are the result of parallel development rather than one film copying another.)

In any case, despite its over-the-top violence and occasional flaws, I really enjoyed Dredd. It’s a solid and entertaining film that didn’t get as much attention as it deserved, and it will be a shame if it doesn’t get a sequel. (Which it likely won’t, due to poor box-office.) Yes, it could have upped the dark-humor quotient a little more, but I thought overall it was pretty balanced and well thought-out. About the only thing that bugged me was that it really made the judges look massively outnumbered and almost impotent in the face of trying to control Megacity One’s crime. Maybe that’s accurate for the comic, I’m not sure.

Also, I don’t think Karl Urban has the chin for Dredd. But he does have the attitude and his voice does convey menace pretty well…

But I’d have to say I enjoyed it, and give it a thumbs up. 🙂

Rob

P.S. 138 is the number, in case you were wondering.

Movie Review- Singham

Friday night is movie night in my household, I collapse onto the couch, pick a movie from Netflix and go to it.

This week, I decided to go for something a little out of the ordinary and this poster caught my eye…

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Now, the fact that it’s a clear ripoff of Iron Man’s aesthetic aside, it is a pretty impressive poster and so I read a few glowing reviews and decided it was time to finally face my destiny. You see, to my eternal shame, I’ve never actually watched a whole Bollywood movie, just seen pieces of them here and there. So, I decided to settle in and see if this movie earned it’s cool poster.

Short answer- it did.

The basis of the film is super simple- Singham (the guy you see in the poster) is a modern Hercules (or rather Rama) who works as a much beloved policeman in a small rural village where nobody ever actually goes to jail because of his wise guidance and judgment. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of an urban gangster from the nearby big city of Goa and the gangster uses his corrupt influences to get Singham transferred to the big city where the gangster is the one who has all the power and is determined to destroy our hero. Of course, things don’t quite go as the gangster planned.

For my first Bollywood film, I think this was a good choice. The plot was dead simple, the music was catchy (this is Bollywood, of course there are song and dance numbers!) and it was just plain fun to watch. My only issues were that it’s actually a bit long (it drags in a few spots) and the ending is really odd and brutal by North American standards, it’s not a Hollywood ending, and was a little unsettling in some ways. (Ethically and morally, but it’s good to see non-Hollywood endings from time to time and different perspectives.)

If you’re still on the fence, just watch this clip, and you can decide whether this is your kind of film:

Ironically, I had seen this clip months ago, but didn’t realize it was from this movie until I got to this part.

Singham!

Rob

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade Review

I finally got around to seeing Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, after many years of almost seeing it but getting distracted by other things. I just re-joined Netflix, and am using it to catch up on movies that I haven’t seen for one reason or another but want to, such as this one.

In short, I found it pretty dissappointing.

The premise is interesting enough- the Warring States period has come to an end and the Tokugawa Shogunate decides that these superpowered ninja it’s been using as weapons are now a liability which could be used against the Shogun. Since there are two clans, Kouga and Iga, they tell each clan to have their best people try to kill each other as a “contest”, which is simply a way of getting rid of the strong so the Shogunate can then wipe out the rest of the clan members with minimal resistance.

All in all, a good premise to stage a bunch of ninja fights around, and this might be why the novel version called The Kouga Ninja Scrolls has been made into a manga and anime as well.

To add to the drama, the core story is about the second-in-commands of the two clans who have fallen in love with each other in a Romeo and Juliet situation and now have to lead the two ninja squads trying to kill each other.

Again, a well-used premise with built-in emotional conflict that should make for a strong story.

So, with this in mind, why didn’t I like it?

There are a couple reasons. First, this film version is actually pretty dull. The fights would be neat if I hadn’t actually watched Naruto, but having seen Naruto (which the film seems to be trying hard to present itself in the style of), I’m more interested in the story and characters. This is a problem, since the film is trying too hard to be deep and artsy and really skimps on the characters and keeps the story dead simple to the point of being actually dull. Most of the film is pretty images and our two lead moping around because they know they’ll have to kill each other eventually. (Oh, my life sucks…So sad….)

Second, the ending just kinda sucks. The leads do stupid things for stupid reasons, and then it sorta works out by chance although there is no logical reason it should have. The director also plays very fast and loose with the concept of simultaneous action in a way which I didn’t like and find slightly dishonest. (Or at least illogical.)

Third, and this is just a personal thing, it seemed to be trying to go out of its way to present several of my favorite historical characters Yagyu Munenori, Yagyu Jubei and Hattori Hanzo as complete dicks. I suspect this is on purpose, since these men are all presented in romanticised historical fiction as being heavily connected with the Ninja clans they’re trying to kill in this story. I think the author was trying to put a different spin on them, which is reasonable, but as these are some of my favorite historical people, I also have a right not to like it. (Imagine if someone did a pirate movie that had someone playing Captain Jack Sparrow in it, except now he’s a cruel drunken rapist who acts nothing like Captain Jack Sparrow from the other films. How you’d feel about that is about how I feel about this portrayal of those characters.)

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, I tried reading the manga adaptation called Basilisk a few years back and didn’t care for that much either. (It was a messy collection of weird sex and violence scenes.) Still, it’s another film off my list that I wanted to check out. Here’s hoping the next one’s better!

Rob

Wolf Children Official Trailer (English subtitles) – YouTube

Well this looks beautiful. 🙂

Wolf Children Official Trailer (English subtitles) – YouTube.

Monster Roll- Sushi Chefs vs. Giant Monsters

This looks like awesome dipped in soy sauce. I really hope it gets made!

via Monster Roll on Vimeo.