Archive for the 'Movies' Category

I love the smell of apocalypse in the morning
by Jessa Slade on January 11th, 2010

Currently working on: The End is coming! (Not an apocalypse end, just The End of my Book 3)
Mood: Pre-post-apocalyptic


As a child of the Cold War, I have a special place in my heart for apocalypses.  Total world destruction was forever imminent — but it was survivable as long as we got under our desks in time, and meanwhile there’s still a lot of ice cream to eat when you’re 10 years old so it was hard to get too freaked out.

Of course, I planned to be a survivor (the aforementioned ice cream was motivation and I’m super quick sliding under a desk) so — thinking ahead — I even decided to study Russian.  It was us or them, I figured.

Who knew, I should’ve studied Mandarin.  Oh well.

Over the years, I studied apocalyptic literature and movies with great and horrified delight.  Here are a few of my favorites apocalypses you might have missed the first time around.  I even learned a few more tricks — besides the head under desk thing — that might help you survive the end.

nuke-alasALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank
One of the first post-apocalyptic books written in the nuclear age, ALAS, BABYLON was also one of the first post-apocalyptic books I read as a kid.  Set in a small Florida town, the book chronicles the breakdown of the society — naturally — as well as the heroism of those who kept their heads and their hearts.

Apocalyptic lesson: When the bespectacled doctor’s only set of eyeglasses are destroyed, I was horrified.  As a four-eyed kid myself, I understood this was a death sentence.  The lesson I learned was read lots now because you never know when you won’t be able to read again.

nuke-swanSWAN SONG by Robert McCammon
In a post-nuclear world, two children become the leaders of opposing camps of good and evil as the rebirth of civilization hangs in the balance.  Apparently the author hates being compared to Stephen King, but this story does read as a more digestible version of the themes in King’s THE STAND, another fun post-apoc — plague, this time — story.

Apocalyptic lesson:  The survivors are afflicted with keloid scars that worsened through the course of the story… and then revealed the true, inner nature of the afflicted.  The lesson being, you better be pure and good if you want to avoid permanent radiation burns and possession by creeping evil.

nuke-maxMad Max with young, hawt, pre-crazy Mel Gibson
Because post-peak-oil is definitely post-apocalyptic as anybody who wouldn’t be able to fuel up their sweet 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon Coupe aka Max’s Interceptor would agree.  You probably saw this movie when it first came out and then it got buried under layers of Tina Turner’s hair in Beyond Thunderdome.  Go back to the roots where surviving the apocalypse meant being badder ass than the bad guys.  Yes, I know this contradicts the earlier post-apocalypse lesson of being pure of heart, committed to humanity, and not so quick on the trigger.

Apocalyptic lesson: Invest in black leather now, before it’s too late!!!

nuke-loganLogan’s Run (the 1976 movie version)
Spoiler alert!  This was an interesting take on post-apocalypse because… whatever bad thing had happened (some sort of environmental disaster, apparently) was over, but the people didn’t know it and had barricaded themselves inside a domed city and were euthanizing themselves to avoid any overcrowding that would force them out into the bigger world.  Allegedly, a remake — in the works with various producers and directors since the mid-1990s — has been again rescheduled for 2012.

Apocalyptic lesson:  The only thing worse than an apocalypse that ends the world is living as if an apocalypse has ended the world… when it hasn’t.  Doh!

nuke-sarahApocalypse has gotten more sophisticated over the years, from the fabulous climate change pseduo-science of The Day After Tomorrow — cold air from space swirls down to freeze our heroes!!! — to the amok-running of technology in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (my fave of the franchise — girl crush!) which taught us that (contrary to the waif-like Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run) upper body strength will be vital to post-apocalypse survival and, yes, black is still THE color for Armageddon.  But for all the changes since the fall of the Soviet Union, apocalypse remains full of good times in the end times.

Don’t forget to pack your Zippo.

Do you have a favorite apocalypse story?  Do you think you’d be the brave assistant deputy mayor who leads the survivors to safety?  Or would you be the well-armed loner who vows not to get involved?  Or would you be the mutant screamer?

Darkly Dreaming
by Annette McCleave on October 20th, 2009

I’m a DVD-aholic. My life just doesn’t allow me to faithfully watch a TV show once per week at a certain hour. Ok, maybe one (Defying Gravity). But more than that? Nope. As a result, I was very late to the Buffy party. So late in fact that the show had been canceled before I saw my first episode—I picked up the Season 1 DVDs in a bargain bin at a local electronics store.

My daughter and I glommed the first season in a couple of days, and promptly ran out and bought Seasons 2 & 3. There’s nothing like watching back to back episodes in order, on your own sofa, with lots of popcorn. As went Buffy, so went Angel—we watched ‘em all in rapid fashion. Because I was late adopting Buffy, it’s hard for me to know whether TV influenced the popularity of vampire novels, or whether the emergence of vamp books inspired Joss Whedon. (Though, my bet would be on the former).

Other shows I’ve DVD’d: LOST…I got bored after Season 3. Grey’s Anatomy…I’m falling behind, so I’d say my interest is dwindling. Battlestar Galactica (the re-imagined series)…I loved it, but didn’t enjoy the ending.


My current faves are Dexter and True Blood. Because I don’t get the cable package that includes HBO and Showtime, I have no choice but to impatiently await the DVD releases. But I’m loving both right now. Is my addiction influenced by the knowledge that both are based on popular book series? Not really; I’ve never read either series. But it does make me more interested in reading the books—because I’m one of those people who believes the book is almost always better than the ‘movie’. Judging by the current reign on Sookie books on the bestseller lists, I’d venture a guess that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I think TV has influenced popular fiction—and vice versa—but not always in terms of storyline. Even before the internet, TV began to increase our need for gripping conflict and quick resolution. Some TV shows are only half and hour, and others, while technically an hour long, are chewed up by twenty minutes of commercials. We’ve grown accustomed to having conflict thrown at us from the opening line, reversals and reveals coming fast and furious, and endings delivered with drama and satisfaction—all in the space of an hour. Genre fiction, in order to compete, has had to do the same. Readers no longer have the patience to wait for the story to gently roll out.

It’s too simple to blame TV completely for this trend, but I think it had a profound influence. What do you think?

Them’s fightin’ words
by Jessa Slade on July 13th, 2009

Currently working on: Flying to Washington DC for the Romance Writers of America national conference!!!
Mood: Three exclamation points worth of excited

Hi, my name is Jessa, and I’m addicted to cheesy movie rock anthems.  And hey, there’s a lot of us here tonight :)

I think there’s nothing wrong with admitting it.  Sometimes, jamming the radio, pumping your fist and singing loudly off-key — well, you don’t have to sing off-key if you don’t want to, but I don’t have a choice — is the best way to kick off your Sunday shoes.

And yes, that’s my first favorite inspirational song, “Footloose” from the movie of the same name.

footlooseYou’re playing so cool
Obeying every rule
Dig way down in your heart
You’re burning, yearning for some
Somebody to tell you
That life ain’t passing you by
I’m trying to tell you
It will if you don’t even try
You can fly if you’d only cut
Loose, footloose

Weren’t string ties sexy?  Okay, no, but doesn’t Kevin Bacon don’t the melody and lyrics just make you want to toss your hair over your shoulder and tell your preacher daddy a thing or two?  That’s what I look for in an inspiring song, a message that says to keep pushing, keep trying.

For me, a good inspiration song should also be:

Crankable: When I need to be musically inspired, 2 on the volume dial just won’t do.
Singable: Instrumentals are lovely, but something about belting out lyrics is so satisfying.
Outrageous heavy-handed in the symbolism department: We’re talking eye of the tiger, baby.

Speaking of wonderfully cliche mixed metaphors…  Perhaps you’ll remember the not-so-memorable, sort-of-follow-up to that quintessential teen angst paen, ”The Breakfast Club” called “St. Elmo’s Fire.”  The theme song, “Man in Motion,” still rolls through the oldies station on occasion:

st_elmos_fireI can see a new horizon underneath the blazin’ sky
I’ll be where the eagle’s flying higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion, all I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future’s lyin’, St. Elmo’s Fire
I can climb the highest mountain, cross the wildest sea
I can feel St. Elmo’s Fire burnin’ in me

A lot of the best cheesy movies feature a male lead, and often the theme song — like those above — reads like a conversation with or ode to the romantic interest.  Nowhere is this better expressed than the theme song from “Top Gun,” “Highway to the Danger Zone.”

top-gunHeadin’ into twilight
Spreadin’ out her wings tonight
She got you jumpin’ off the deck
And shovin’ into overdrive
Highway to the danger zone
I’ll take you right into the danger zone
She’ll never say hello to you
Until you get it on the red line overload
You’ll never know what you can do
Until you get it up as high as you can go

Oh please.  “Get it up as high as you can go,” indeed.  Still, as an anthem sing-along it definitely rocks.

I notice, suddenly, that my favorite inspiring songs all mention flying.  I think that when I need an inspiration song as bad as the ones mentioned above it’s because I’ve been seriously flattened by something.  But how can I stay down when St. Elmo’s Fire is burnin’ in me?

Okay, which ones did I miss?  What is your favorite cheesy movie theme song rock anthem?  Feel free to quote your favorite line too so we all can sing alone.

How to make a lifelong nerd… er, reader!
by Jessa Slade on June 13th, 2009

Currently working on: The End
Mood: Pre-post-apocalyptic

I’m old. This sad fact is revealed by my favorite childhood book, which is actually an LP.  For you whippersnappers, that’s a Long Playing record.  As in vinyl. 

hobbitMy first favorite book was, not shockingly, THE HOBBIT.  And the awesome thing about this version of the 1977 animated TV movie is that you could read along while the actors spoke, so you didn’t have to ask any adults how to pronounce Lothlorien and whatnot.  Plus, there were cool iron-ons.  Plus, there were sing-alongs.

To this day, I sometimes spontaneously break into the chorus of “Down, down to goblin town, you go, my lad, ho ho, my lad” while on my way to the day job.

This post, of course, is just a blatant excuse for a fan-grrl moment about the 2011 remake of THE HOBBIT, with exec producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (director and writers of the most recent THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy — swoon) with  Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II) directing.

dragon2dragon1I can’t wait to see Del Toro’s vision for Smaug.  Shiver.  He says his favorite dragons are Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Vermithrax Pejorative from Dragonslayer

Rumor has it, the story outline and treatments are done, and the screenplay work has begun.  Oh, to be a writer on that team.  The shoot itself is supposed to last for most of 2010 in New Zealand (I am totally going to plan a book signing tour in NZ! I only want one gold piece…) using some of the sets and actors from TLotR. The actor to play Bilbo is supposed to be announced in the next couple weeks.  Oh, gleeful Gollum-style cavorting!

But back to the book/LP version I sang along with as a kid.  What I liked best about it was the moment I discovered there was a much loooonger version, though without pictures.  Written by this guy name Tolkien.  And there were three sequels.

Thus is a lifelong nerd reader born.

Did you ever read a book as a kid that totally ruined you for life?  And did you later buy that book for a child at your first opportunity?

Dark heroes wanted: Wimps need not apply
by Jessa Slade on April 13th, 2009

Warning: Some of the following may cross the line into slight snark and spoiler territory.

Currently working on: Judging the 2009 Prism contest
Mood: Happily awash in books

joss-archerIt’s tough being a dark hero.  Sure, you’re sexy, powerful, sexy, and possess a seemingly endless supply of black leather jackets. 

But you’re also tortured.  The forces of evil are arrayed against you in ways that most cowboys, architects and veterinarians just don’t have to deal with.  Even billionaire sheiks wouldn’t put up with the brooding shadows that haunt your eyes when you’re a dark hero.

I know last week I said I was in love with my brooding hero.  But – oh fickle heart of mine — my loves only last about 400 pages, and then I’m on to a new love. 

joss2This week, I’m enamored with this hottie:

If you don’t recognize him, that’s Joss Whedon, the creative genius behind Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and — most recently — Dollhouse.  Sure, “creative genius” is overused, but I don’t think I’m overstating the case to say that Buffy and Angel helped crack the floodgates for today’s feast of paranromal and urban fantasy romances.

While Whedon is most often lauded for his strong heroines, I think he does a smashing dark hero.  Emphasis on smashing.

joss-angel2Angel, of course, was the first.  (I’m skipping the movie version of Buffy, because apparently creative genius goes through a crawling stage before it can fly.)  The vampire with a soul, poor Angel had to pay endlessly (or at least through the five seasons of his own show) for his sins.  Love was granted him — with the absolutely wrong person, naturellement, a vampire slayer – then torn away (repeatedly).  He even lost his soul on occasion.

But he portrayed one of the important lessons of a dark hero: Redemption is so often a path, not simply a destination.


In contrast (the hair, if not so much the black leather), Spike was the unrepentant dark hero.  Reveling in his badness, he offered a delightful foil for the self-flagellating Angel.  

In Spike’s human past as a minor Victorian poet with a penchant for tearing up — and that’s tearing as in crying as opposed to shredding – we see another vital aspect of the dark hero: Vulnerability must be hidden from the world. 

Until, of course, the heroine rips you wide open.  Being a dark hero is sooo much more difficult when there’ s a heroine out there with your name stenciled on her love bullets.


Which is not to say that torture, remorse and vulnerability has to get a man down.  Whedon does the wounded warrior with a light hand, like the wise-cracking Captain Mal from the criminally cancelled, one-season space-opera Firefly and its movie sequel, Serenity.

Mal lives one of the dark hero’s most deeply cherished credos:  That which does not kill me gives me a right fine opportunity for target practice. 

joss-horrible21Even when the hero is a villain (and, hey, villains are the heroes of their own stories), Whedon delivers a character of such depth that you can only hope a heroine comes along to set him back on that path of redemption.  (I will not spoil Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog for those who have not seen it — and why haven’t you? — but those who have know I am being very snide with that last sentence.)

Dr. Horrible taught us: It’s okay for a dark hero to sing.

joss-ballard2All of this (except for that last example, which is probably undermining my efforts) is a thinly veiled attempt to interest you in Whedon’s work because I am thoroughly enjoying his latest, Dollhouse, and I’m fatalistically convinced it won’t survive the season. 

We’re only now beginning to unravel the layers of Whedonesque plotting, but already the dark-hero-in-the-making FBI Agent Ballard is suffering nicely.  He needs to be roasted a little longer to be truly dark, so I’m hoping more people find the show.  Soon.  I need my Whedon fix since he seems to know: Dark heroes, like dark chocolate, are good for the heart.

Any fellow Browncoats in the house?  And speaking of brown coats, will someone please tell me what’ s sexier than a black leather jacket?  No, srsly, I need something sexier than a black leather jacket.

High Times
by Jessa Slade on March 30th, 2009

There are so many ways to come at telling a story: Bold frontal attack.  Frantic sideswipe.  Sneaky garrote from behind.  If you combine:

  • All the names wizened Asian men have given various ass-whoopin’ martial arts 
  • Plus all the appellations for flavored martinis
  • Plus all the NASA designations for interstellar objects…

Still writers have come up with more definitions for writing maneuvers.  And one of my favorite is the “high concept.”

My XY’s snickers aside, coming up with your high concept isn’t a writing technique that involves choosing your favorite mind-altering substance…  Well, actually, that probably wouldn’t hurt.  Chocolate martinis, at least.

Because I have a regrettable tendency to want to write deep and intricate, I have trouble keeping my story focused and contained.  And this can be more dangerous than nuclear fission without those monstrous concrete barriers.  The high concept acts as reminder, retaining wall, and warning.  The high concept is your story condensed to one line.  Preferably less.

snakesSeems difficult?  Let’s practice.

Snakes on a plane. 

There.  You have the entire concept in four words.  If you want to totally flesh it out, you could add “with Samuel L. Jackson.”  Done.  You have characters, you have setting, you have action and conflict.  You got it all.  (Except — you know — a good movie.  But whatever.  That’s a different concept.)alient


Four words is awfully long though.  I think we can do better. 

Alien vs. Predator.

Oh yeah, baby.  I see the whole thing now.  Alien.  Versus.  Predator.  Could you express character and conflict more succinctly?


Why yes.  Yes we can.titanic


Ah man, you gave away the end too.  Brilliant!

But high concept isn’t just for writers anymore.  I like to use it in my daily life to give people a sense of what to expect with me.  Consider the following exchange at my stoopid day job.

Boss:  Jessa, can you step into my office for  a moment?
Jessa:  Resident Evil meets Rainman.
Boss:  Hey, you know what? Never mind.  I think I got it covered. Take a long lunch.  On the house.

This exchange has even greater comedic value if you know that I am self-employed.  So how’s your day/week/life going?  Tell us in high concept since it’s not yet chocolate martini time.