Tag Archives: Darth Vader

Six ways to fix NEVER GO BACK by Lee Child

Let’s say it: Lee Child has a Superman problem.

His hero, Reacher, is beloved by fans for having the brains of Sherlock Holmes and the body of Conan the Barbarian. The man never gets outsmarted and is invincible in a fight. Here’s the last post about these books: Secret recipe for any Lee Child novel

The latest Reacher book, NEVER GO BACK, slams smack-dab into the Superman problem. Because an invincible hero puts the B in Boring.

Did I enjoy the book? Yeah, it’s always fun to read about Reacher. With every new novel, though, Reacher struggles less and less to overcome the bad guys.

If the hero doesn’t sweat, the reader doesn’t worry. Or care.

Because I do care about Reacher and Lee Child, here are six ways to fix NEVER GO BACK.

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Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, Thrillers and mysteries

Possible script for STAR WARS VII by J.J. Abrams

First of all, J.J. Abrams should direct everything.

Not just STAR TREK and the new STAR WARS: EPISODE XVIII-whatever, but every film for one entire year. You’ll say, “That’s not possible — J.J. can’t direct every film made during a calendar year.”

Sure he can. We can clone ourselves an army of J. J. Abrams, or download his brain into that Big Blue supercomputer thing IBM built just to beat Ken Jennings in a game of Jeopardy. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY.

And here’s a brilliant take on how the first new STAR WARS film should go. Now that Disney owns Marvel and Star Wars, I hope studio executives take notes.

Related posts:

Why new STAR WARS movies by Disney are an achy breaky big mistakey
Seven movie clichés that must be NUKED FROM ORBIT
Hollywood: Sidekicks do NOT need their own stupid sidekicks
Leonard Nimoy’s insane music video: The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
Old Spock vs. New Spock


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.


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Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

Why new STAR WARS movies by Disney are an achy breaky big mistakey

Disney just bought LucasFilm for $4 billion dollars, causing a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of souls suddenly cried out in pain and anguish.

Maybe because they did cry out in pain.

Now, you can argue that this is not so bad, because (1) this definitely means George Lucas isn’t directing new STAR WARS movies, which does, indeed, avert disaster, (2) Disney didn’t do half bad after it bought Marvel and started pumping out IRON MAN movies and CAPTAIN AMERICA and THOR and such, which leads to the Ultimate Fanboy Fantasy of (3) Joss Whedon directing a STAR WARS movie, which would cause the universe to implode out of sheer awesomesauce.

HOWEVER: All those reasons are destroyed by the Death Star of one simple truth.

And no, that truth is not the fact that Disney buying STAR WARS means we will be swimming in all kinds of direct to video trash aimed at five-year-olds, along with special editions and special-special editions and God knows how much other new nonsense the Disney factory will pump out, month after month, year after year, until kids who grew up watching STAR WARS movies band together and march upon the House of the Mouse to burn that sucker down.

Here’s why STAR WARS: EPISODE 7 OR WHATEVER is a terrible idea: the hero and villain are both dead.

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Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

Hollywood: Sidekicks do NOT need their own stupid sidekicks

Ever look at an overstuffed movie poster and wonder, “Is that tiny figure over on the left a man, a woman or a smudge that didn’t get properly PhotoShopped out of existence?”

THE EXPENDABLES 2 is the latest movie to stuff 40 pounds of characters into a 5-pound bag.

Here’s the movie poster.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 movie poster.

Who’s that one guy way in the back, wearing a hat? NOBODY KNOWS, but he made $15.3 million for this movie. Remember that tomorrow at work.

I counted 11 action heroes on that poster, which is 10 more action heroes than you typically need for an action film, even if eight of these guys just got broken out of the Beverly Hills Nursing Home.

Bet you anything the team of screenwriters — if I put a 9 mm to their head and started counting down — couldn’t tell you all 11 character names, and the average movie-goer wouldn’t notice if you chopped five of them from the film entirely.

This is a common problem, not just for Hollywood but for novels, especially anything involving fantasy and sci-fi, because no self-respecting Jedi or Hobbit goes off on an adventure without at least 23 other people tromping around with them, squabbling with each other when they’re not getting captured by Darth Vader and such.


Now, this problem also happens in comic book movies, partly because of the Comic Book Movie Laws.

Movie No. 1: The origin story of the hero along with the hero’s nemesis, the best villain. So: one hero, one villain.

Movie No. 2: The hero gets two sidekicks as he battles TWO villains.

Movie No. 3: The hero juggles an entourage that won’t fit in a Greyhound bus while he battles THREE villains.

Movie No. 4: Doesn’t happen, unless your name is Joel Schumacher and you’re making the mistake known as BATMAN FOREVER. Otherwise, the series dies and reboots.

I just watched THOR again, using the powers of Netflix over the Series of Tubes and such, and it is a fun little popcorn movie.

However, the cast of characters will make your head hurt: Thor, Hannibal Lecter, Loki, Princess Leia‘s mom, the Guardian, the Frost Giants, that arrow-shooting guy from THE AVENGERS and BOURNE LEGACY, Agent Coulson, the Frost Giant King, Yoda, the shark from JAWS and other people I’m probably forgetting.

In all seriousness: There’s a scene where Thor’s buddies are walking down the street and one of the SHIELD agents calls it in, saying he just spotted Xena, Robin Hood and Jackie Chan.

This agent is not only sarcastic, but wrong, because he’s completely forgetting Thor’s fourth sidekick, the fat bearded guy who — and this is shocking — likes to eat a lot.

In this movie, Princess Leia’s mom is Thor’s love interest, which is like a sidekick, but different, in that Thor makes goo-goo eyes at her. With his other sidekicks, he simply claps them on the shoulder in a manly way, or maybe hugs them — though he hugs her, too. IT IS CONFUSING.

Anyway, the point is, she has two of her own sidekicks: an old Norwegian scientist guy or whatever and some kind of sarcastic girl scientist who is apparently there for contrast, to make Princess Leia’s mom look even more smart and beautiful.

You heard me right: The sidekick has sidekicks of her own.

This is all too common and all too wrong.

Every movie and book could be improved by killing off every possible character.

In fact, thinking of “Who could we erase from the page?” is the wrong question. Start by saying, “Who is the ONE essential character?” and work up to the number two, the number three, pi (3.14-whatever) and some imaginary numbers.

Then break the Four Barrier and stop to reflect upon WHAT YOU HAVE WROUGHT, which is a far, far better story than what you started with.

THOR can’t exist without Thor (1) and if we need a second character, it’s obviously Loki (2). Odin (3) and the Frost King (4) would round out a top four. That story could work. Everybody else could go take a nice long vacation on a desert planet with two suns.

Going the other direction, just for fun: Say goodbye, Xena / Robin Hood / Jackie Chan / Fat Guy sidekicks (minus 4). Not essential to the story at all. See ya to Princess Leia’s mom and her two sidekicks (minus 3). Goodbye to Agent Coulson and the arrow man (minus 2). No more Guardian and Odin’s wife (minus 2). That’s 11 characters out the door, and those actors need not be unemployed: we will send them to star in THE EXPENDABLES 3: STALLONE NEEDS ANOTHER FACELIFT.

IRON MAN 2 had it much worse than THOR, with the villain played by Mickey Rourke getting buried by layers upon layers of sidekicks. I mean, look at this movie poster. All sidekicks, all the time. Villains are so boooring.

Peoples of Hollywood and writers of books, please kill off sidekicks.

Do it with a sharp pen, a 12-gauge shotgun or a red lightsaber — I don’t care.

Just do it before they make IRON MAN 3.


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.



Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

The secret truth about writing

When was the last time you went to a movie and wanted to stay behind and watch it again?

What was the last political stump speech that made you laugh and cry and want to go knock on the doors of your neighbors to make sure they voted? When was the last time you read a newspaper story that built up to an amazing climax instead of petering off into boring little details?

More people are writing more things than ever before. Movies and TV shows, blogs and newspapers, hardcover novels and digital e-books. Yet most of it is forgettable. Trite. Boring.

It used to be, blockbuster movies were the ones that had amazing special effects.

STAR WARS showed us things we’d never seen before, like lightsabers. Who doesn’t want a lightsaber?

JURASSIC PARK gave us dinosaurs that weren’t claymation or puppets. Today, though, any old TV show can afford to have great special effects.

And with the written word — novels, speeches, non-fiction and poetry — every author has the same unlimited special effects budget. You can do whatever you want for free. So what’s the problem?

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Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, Red Pen of Doom, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers, Speechwriting, Thrillers and mysteries

The automatic shotgun: born for a zombie apocalypse

Anyone who watches zombie movies knows the scene I’m talking about: the chainsaw massacre.

A hero grabs a chainsaw and starts wading through the zombie hordes. Sure, a Husqvarna  450 is loud and impressive, but it’s not a serious zombie killer. The sucker is heavy, requires gas and makes a lot of noise, which only attracts more zombies. Also, you’ve got to get all up close and personal, with black zombie blood spraying everywhere and infecting anybody with an open wound or an open mouth. I mean, the more you think about it, the more you say, “Hey, you take the manly chainsaw, and I’ll stick with the wussy little Glock.”

By the same token, a machine gun is bad, because it’s super loud and wastes all kinds of ammo, since zombies have to be hit squarely in the head.

HOWEVER: an automatic shotgun, like this, would actually be amazing useful. Every man secretly wants two of this mounted his in car, 007-style.

Sidenote: every man also wants a working lightsaber, a red one (blue ones are nancypants) because Darth Vaderwill always be epic, except when George Lucas turns him into a whiny little kid named Annie, which I believe was some kind of comic and a movie about a red-headed orphan girl who went to live with Lex Luthor. Also, (1) I’d rather watch Vader grab a cart and go shopping at Safeway than see the latest movie Sylvester Stallone puts out, because I saw THE EXPENDABLES on an airplane and it was quite expendable and (2) we men of the world would happily pool our beer money to raise the $59.3 million in CGI that George Lucas would require to make a five-minute short where Darth Vader takes apart Jar-Jar Binks in the Thunderdome, with Mel Gibson on deck after. Also, Carrot Top, who for some reason has turned into a Oompa-Loompah steroid monster. And Snooki fourth. Then all of the Kardashians and Kanye West, with special guest star Taylor Swift getting a front row seat to watch it all. OK, I believe that’s it.

Back to the automatic shotgun, which is amazing: With one of these and a lightsaber, an action hero would be ready for any form of apocalypse, be it (a) zombies, (b) insect-like aliens, (c) zombie aliens or (d) hordes of blood-thirsty and shirtless werewolves who are all upset that some random, whiny high school girl — who is not remotely pretty enough to fight over — picked some boring sparkly vampire instead of their leader, the Blue Power Ranger.

blue power ranger taylor lautner

Yes, werewolf lover boy was a Power Ranger first.


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.



Filed under 1 Survival Sunday, Zombie apocalypse

Surviving the coming zombie apocalypse

Are you prepared?

The zombies hordes are coming. It’s just a matter of time. Maybe not today, though it is Halloween. It could happen next month, when some egomaniac scientist at a giant pharmaceutical company creates a retro-virus that cures cancer, and death, with the little side effect of turning you into the walking dead.

Preparing for the zombie apocalypse can be fun and useful. Having a stockpile of basics like food, water filters and ammunition will serve you well if (a) giant asteroids smash into Australia and turn the planet into a snowglobe, (b) some idiot dictator decides to start playing global thermonuclear war or (c) the bird flu makes sweet love to the swine flu and turns into the 99 Percent of People on Earth are Dead Flu.

Are you ready for the zombie apocalypse? Go get ready. DO IT NOW.

(Click over here to read Zombie movies are NOT standard horror movies. Then come on back for more deep, intellectual pondering of zombie flicks.)

Also, zombie movies are just fun to watch.

So let’s talk, you and I, about why zombie movies are so popular while you think about how woefully unprepared you are for any sort of disaster. What if the power went out right now – do you even know where the flashlight is, and some batteries that actually work?

FIRST: It’s always fun to imagine an apocalypse because that means there are no rules. You can do whatever you want. No police, no prosecutors, no jails. Total freedom. Need some groceries? Hop on down to the grocery store, shoot a few zombies wandering around the aisles and load up on all the canned food you can find.

SECOND: Zombie movies are completely unlike other horror movies, where it’s the Boogeyman who gets to have all the fun. In zombie movies, the heroes get to dish it out just as much as the zombies. They get to blow them up, dismember them with chainsaws and beat their zombie brains out with whatever croquet mallets or golf clubs are handy in the Sports Authority at the mall.

THIRD: Shooting zombies is a huge part of the appeal of zombie movies. DAWN OF THE DEAD had an entire scene where they played zombie chess by shooting zombies.

And this leads us into something deeper and all meaningful or whatever. Shooting things and blowing stuff up is fun. HOWEVER: We are trained from birth to not hurt other people, because if we ran around shooting and blowing up other people, we’d be in prison, and in Hell, if that’s your thing. Even if religion is not your thing, it’s morally repugnant to get your kicks by hurting people at all, much less setting treating them like zombies.

Men who got drafted to fight in World War II had trouble firing their rifles at other human beings, even though they were Nazis, because they knew killing people was wrong. This feeling was so strong that even when they were getting shot at, many soldiers didn’t fire their rifles, because killing other people was wrong. It’s good they have these instincts. Otherwise, we’d be a bunch of savages.

zombies superheroes

What could be more fun than plain old zombie hordes? A whole bunch of zombified superheroes, thats what.

The percentage of soldiers who shot at live human soldiers on the other side went up in other wars, such as Korea and Vietnam, when they started having soldiers fire at human silhouettes instead of bull’s eyes.

This is why war propaganda portrays the enemy as cartoonishly evil subhumans, and why soldiers in every war have slang terms for the other side that dehumanize them. It cuts down that barrier.

With zombies, there’s no barrier. They’re not other human beings. They’re already dead. Zombies are unthinking monsters that you are supposed to blow up, decapitate or set on fire, because if you don’t, they will eat you and every other person you know and love. There’s no negotiation. There’s no chance for diplomacy. Kill or be killed.

And that’s why zombies movies are fun. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel bad watching stupid action movies with insane body counts. The evil bad guy, fine, he deserves it. His 5,932 soldiers for hire, they’ve got moms and wives and little kids, right? Not cool.

Dead Snow — Ded Sno is the Norwegian spelling — gives you Nazi zombies in the snow, and it amazing. Fire up the Netflix and watch it today.

I don’t feel bad watching zombies go boom, though it is required by law for a character in a zombie movie to come face-to-face with a wife, husband, son or daughter who got zombified, and they can’t bring themselves to put the zombie down, and it’s the only time in the movie when you might get something stuck in your eye.

Otherwise, it’s a free-for-all. In regular horror movies, you can shoot the Boogeyman with a .357 magnum, stab him in the chest or plant six pounds of C-4 in his tighty whities, and he’ll still keep coming back. You will not get anywhere. It’s frustrating, and to me, it’s cheating. I mean, come on. How many times have Jason, Freddie and every other horror movie villain been killed and resurrected?

Zombies don’t cheat. They play fair. Though the heroes usually die anyway, at least they have a fair chance, and they get to romp around the apocalyptic wasteland, taking whatever they need and doing whatever they want until the zombie horde catches up and goes nom-nom-nom.

Darth Vader reading Harry Potter

The only way zombie movies could be better is if Darth Vader stopped reading Harry Potter, took out his lightsaber and started wading through the zombie hordes. Who would win? I’m putting some paper decorated with dead presidents on the Dark Lord of the Sith.


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.



Filed under 1 Survival Sunday, Zombie apocalypse

The world explained by TWO COWS

If you went to university, like me, and studied the philosophers and the political science and such, you learned that people far, far smarter than us violently disagree on (a) how the world works, (b) how the world SHOULD work and (c) who should run the world.

However: I can boil down just about all the major approaches to these worldly questions by using TWO COWS.

Here we go.

ANARCHY: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price — or your neighbors steal your cows and kill you.

FEUDALISM: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

PURE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

NIHILISM: You have no cows. Who really cares, anyway? They’re just gonna die some day, and so are you. And nobody’s going to remember you. And even if they did, you’d still be dead. It’s all so pointless. You might as well be dead now.

COWS WITH GUNS: You are a cow, and humans want to turn you into hamburger. The only solution? A revolution.

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Filed under 5 Random Thursday

Top 10 facts about agent Cherry Weiner, who has a license to kill

Literary agent Cherry Weiner calls herself a dinosaur.

If you went to PNWA (Pacific NorthWest Writer’s Association, pronounced “pawn-WAH” because I say so) this summer, you witnessed Cherry Weiner, heard her speak, perhaps even talked to her and shaken her hand.

Do not wash that hand. Germs will never touch down again anyway.

As dictator-for-life of the secret Cherry Weiner Fan Club of Literary Awesomesauce, it is my sacred duty to explode some of the myths surrounding this goddess of books and words.

Fact 1: Cherry Weiner didn’t come to America from Australia — Australia swam to Manhattan, dropped Cherry off and swam back.

Fact 2: Thor’s hammer was forged from five parts iron, one part vibranium and three flakes of ash from Cherry Weiner’s first Marlboro.

Fact 3: Cherry Weiner doesn’t own a computer because she tells her pool boy, Keanu Reeves, to plug the hell into the Matrix and tell her anything worth knowing.

Fact 4: Don Maass came up with his “raise the stakes” schtick after he saw Cherry Weiner win the first World Series of Poker by going all-in ON EVERY HAND.

Fact 5: Cherry Weiner hasn’t stopped in a gas station for six years. Her car keeps running out of fear and respect.

Fact 6: Barry Eisler joined the CIA and studied martial arts from masters in Japan because he heard Cherry Weiner once had a shot of sake and said, “That stuff is OK.”

Fact 7: Cherry Weiner knows steampunk is split into Western and gaslight branches because she invented steampunk when the power went out in Manhattan one night in 1985.

Fact 8: Bob Mayer can kill a man with a spoon. Cherry Weiner can kill a spoon with a man.

THE MATRIX: "Perfect! Let's see that seven more times." THE MATRIX RELOADED: "Meh." THE MATRIX REVOLUTION: "Fools! You ruined it."

THE MATRIX: “Perfect! Let’s see that seven more times.” THE MATRIX RELOADED: “Meh.” THE MATRIX REVOLUTION: “Fools! You ruined it.”

Fact 9: Cherry Weiner doesn’t wear a watch, because she decides what time it is.

Fact 10: There is no such thing as published books and unpublished books. There are books that Cherry Weiner kills and books she lets live.

You cannot sign up for the secret Cherry Weiner Fan Club of Literary Awesomesauce — you must be chosen for it by proving your worth.

The first method of joining is to wait for her pool boy, Keanu Reeves, to find you via the Matrix, and if you can kill him, you’re in.

The second method is to win an MMA fight without any ashes dropping from the Marlboro between your lips.

The third method is to drink Cherry Weiner under the table — but this is impossible.


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.



Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday