Archive for December, 2014

One of the interesting side effects of being a writer is that it affects how you read. It’s often said that in order to be a good writer you should be a voracious reader, unless of course you plan to be like the wonderful Garth Marenghi who once said:

“I’m one of the few people you’ll meet who’s written more books than they’ve read.”

I doubt there are many writers who didn’t begin by being readers, and who don’t continue to read. Those of us who love to create stories do so in part because we loved hearing/reading/watching stories first, and even when we begin to create our own tales we still want to read others, if for no other reason than, most of the time, we already know how ours end!

It’s also highly likely that you will end up writing the kind of stories you like to read. People who only love gory horror novels are unlikely to write slushy romances (or vice versa) and even if they tried their hand at it they might well be rubbish, because if you don’t understand a genre how can you create something that will appeal to fans of that genre? Similarly, knowing the genre will allow you to (hopefully) avoid the pitfalls, you’ll know all the clichés and can either ignore them, or at least use them with a degree of knowing self-awareness.

Of course one of the downsides to reading widely within your genre is that horrible moment when you find a story like yours that someone else did first, although given there are only so many stories in the world, it’s unlikely any of us will ever do anything so shatteringly original that it will shake literature to its foundations…although my new novel about a man who becomes a cat might…

Joking aside even if you’re writing on a similar theme to someone else the chances are your story will be a lot different, and sometimes what you do with an idea can be more important than the idea itself. Your prose and your characters may make it a very different story, so as long as you aren’t writing a tale about a boy wizard who battles an evil force who killed his parents, or a British secret agent with a licence to kill who’s battling a guy with golden digits…the chances are you’re probably ok. There are plenty of stories out there about magical children and lethal secret agents after all.

That said I have turned away from idea because I’ve realised they’re too similar to something else out there, but I’ve also persevered with story ideas that seem similar to other’s plots too. I don’t think there can ever be a hard and fast rule, but I’d suggest that you think long and hard before you give up on an idea.

Anyway, to return to my original point, which sort of got away from me but hopefully the tangential stuff was still interesting. As I was saying, when you start to write it affects how you read. Very often now I’ll be reading a book and find myself proofreading it, thinking of different ways to structure a sentence, thinking how a writer could trim down what they wanted to say.

This process doesn’t usually impede my enjoyment of a book, and I think for a writer it’s healthy, and it shows you’re honing your craft, even when you’re not actually writing. On the plus side at times it’s a boon, often the phrase “Well if he/she can get published so can I ‘cos I’m better than them” has come to mind, in fact while I was writing my very first novel I had a particular paperback purposefully resting on the desk as it was one of the worst books I’d ever read, it was a useful motivational tool!

Of course the flipside is also true, and sometimes I read other writers and think; “I’ll never be as good as them!”

That’s writers for you, the ultimate flip-floppers, either we’re unassailably brilliant, or we’re absolutely rubbish! We don’t do average!

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The Pyramid

Posted: December 11, 2014 in Film reviews
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Directed by Grégory Levasseur. Starring Ashley Hinshaw, Denis O’Hare and James Buckley.

A small group of American archaeologists uncover the tip of a hitherto unknown pyramid in the Egyptian desert. The pyramid is unique because it is three sided rather than four, but before the archaeologists can begin to explore the worsening political situation in Cairo prompts their backers to demand that they leave.

Before they do they take the opportunity to send a small robot inside the pyramid to investigate. When it is attacked by, they presume, wild dogs, archaeologist father and daughter team Miles and Nora Holden (O’Hare and Hinshaw) venture inside to retrieve it, accompanied by Michael, the robot’s operator, documentary film maker Sunni and her cameraman Fitzie.

Once inside they quickly become lost within the labyrinthine interior, and all too soon they realise that it wasn’t wild dogs that destroyed the robot, and that the same force is now stalking them…

 

Sometimes I wonder how certain films get a cinematic release. Suffice to say that the Pyramid really should have been a straight to DVD affair. Suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite for any film that deals with the fantastical, be it science fiction, fantasy or horror, but whilst the existence of monsters is something I can always buy into for ninety minutes, stupid characters is something I always find jarring and, in the best (or worst traditions) of bad horror flicks down the ages The Pyramid features stupid characters doing stupid things…but on the plus side they at least get punished for this.

To give you a flavour of this stupidity…when the tomb is first opened an outrush of toxic aid causes one of their diggers to start foaming at the mouth, in fact he looks like he’s turning into a zombie. Sadly he’s not, it might have been a better film if he had been. Despite this, and despite the fact that the robot is clearly attacked by something, they still venture inside. They do wear masks, but these are soon removed (toxic air, what toxic air?). Best of all they leave no one outside, aside from an angry Egyptian soldier, and their only means of finding their way back out again comes down to a single wire trailing along behind them. I’ll leave it to your imagination what happens to that wire.

What follows is a fairly by the numbers horror story as they’re picked off one by one. The characters are wafer thin and every one of them is a standard trope. Father and daughter bicker, he’s an old school archaeologist whilst she believes in using modern technology. Michael is a geek who uses his robot to spy on Nora in her pants (because what kind of a lousy horror film would this be without a woman in her undies eh?) Sunni is the driven journalist who’s happy to put herself in harm’s way if it means getting the story, and Fitzie is the whiny, wise cracking joker in the pack, channelling every last ounce of Bill Paxton’s Hudson from Aliens.

Actually Fitzie is at once the best and worst thing about this film, The In-betweeners’ Buckley gets most of the funny lines and he spits them out with aplomb. The flipside of this is that he’s almost too knowing whilst everyone else is pretty bland, which means his presence comes off as jarring at times. O’Hare is a decent actor who does the best he can with the role. Nobody else really stands out in roles you imagine a hundred other actors or actresses could play.

The dialogue is at times risible; “Stop being an archaeologist for one minute and act like a human being!” “I’ve been climbing my whole life.” “From a shitty room to a kitty tomb.” Actually that last one did at least make me laugh.

The cgi monsters are effective enough, although the big bad looks like he might have got a part in Doctor Who or Merlin, he’s most effective during the night vision scenes.

The script is predictable, and if you sat down at the start and listed what order the characters would die in I bet most people would end up with a sequence pretty close to the eventual outcome. Every Egyptian tomb clichés is thrown in, from pitsof spikes to rooms that fill up with sand. The direction is uninspiring, and downright inconsistent at times. At the start it seems to want to be a found footage film, but gives up on this fairly quickly.

Some films are bad, some films are so bad they’re good. The Pyramid hits the former but sadly falls a few cubits short of the latter. You’d be better off watching a double bill of The Mummy and The Descent, because clearly this film is trying (and failing miserably) to channel both.

 

 

By Roger Moore.
Sir Roger Moore is most famous for playing James Bond in film and The Saint on TV but in a career that began in the 1950s he’s worked on hundreds of films and TV shows, and worked with a whole host of famous, and not so famous, names, and in this follow up to his autobiography (which I haven’t read yet but which I hope to at some point) he regales the reader with myriad tales culled from his decades in the business.
This is not really an autobiography as such, there is no real narrative. Although the book is structured into sections, these are not chronological and simply allow Moore to discuss different topics (for example; Leading Ladies, The Rat Pack, Producers etc.) so for the most part what you get is a series of interconnected (sometimes rather loosely interconnected it has to be said) anecdotes about actors, actresses, singers, directors, writers, producers, stuntmen and even royalty.
This could have been a mess, but Moore is such a wonderful raconteur, and he’s had such a long career, that it’s almost impossible not to find many of his anecdotes intriguing, and there’s interesting things to be found here for any fan of show business, whether you want to hear stories of the Carry On Gang or Frank Sinatra, Roger Moore seems to have worked with, or at least met, pretty much everyone in the business over the years.
The lack of an actual narrative is a weakness, and at times Moore does go off on strange tangents and often segues into recounting second-hand tales and gossip rather than things he actually witnessed, which does feel like he’s padding the book out a bit, but he (or perhaps his ghost-writer) is an amusing and self-deprecating writer and you easily forgive such diversions when there’s so many interesting anecdotes.
Whether you’re a fan of Roger Moore, or just of moves in general, this is a fun, if slightly flimsy, read.