Thursday, July 19, 2007

Never say Die, Bruce

Alright, let's get this out of the way right off the top. Yes, I know Bruce Willis is kind of a crazy fuck and all. But I can't help it. There's just something about him -- and he still has that something -- that's so charismatic and engaging and enjoyable to watch that I can't help but dig him. He's older and balder but that squinty glint of mischief in his eye is still clear and I can't resist.

And if you go to see Live Free or Die Hard this summer, I doubt you'll be able to resist him either. This is the summer of blockbuster sequels, with Spidey, Pirates, and Ocean's each entering their third (and presumably final) movies into their repertoire. They say three time's a charm, and those movies did do big business.

But Die Hard is a much older franchise, with the original flick being released 19 years ago. That original, to me, still stands as one of the finest action movies ever made. It was remarkably smart in addition to being clever and it spawned a large number of inferior rip-offs over the next several years. Bruce was making a name for himself on "Moonlighting," but Die Hard propelled him to box office gold and movie star status. His John McClane was both a reluctant hero and loveable, cocky smartass. He took movie quotes to new heights with the unforgettable "Yippee kai yay, motherfucker."

Also noteworthy, he made bleeding sexy.

Over the years, the second and third entries into the franchise really hadn't suffered the suck quotient that most sequels do. They weren't the same caliber of the first movie, but they ranged from decent to pretty good, which is saying a lot. And a lot of the credit goes to the character of John McClane as played by Bruce Willis. The stunts stayed real, the action was heart-palpitating, and McClane cracked jokes.

Now, nearly twenty years later, here comes the fourth film of this series during the summer of blockbuster sequel pageantry. It seemed everyone making the other movies decided they had to make things complex and convoluted to somehow justify their existence. The studios and directors understood that people like to see shit blow up onscreen, but they also seem compelled to make the shit blowing up be couched in faux-artsy-fartsy plots and gaudy sets.

Luckily, Bruce is back to show us that's just not the case.

In what may become the sleeper hit of the summer, he teams up with Justin Long to save us all from terrorists who're hacking all the systems that make our country tick. And believe me, they blow up a lot of shit while saving us all!

Best? Most of the blowing up of shit is real, man! You really can't top that. Don't get me wrong, I like CGI effects in some capacities and think it enhances a lot of movies. But, when shit is blowing up, I want to see the real thing. When pixels are crashing, burning, twisting, and suffering, there's really no excitement there.

And excitement is what Live Free or Die Hard is about. Director Len Wiseman and writers Mark Bomback and David Marconi seemed to get what others didn't. Bigger and badder can be good, but not when it's just bigger and badder confused plots and blurry action. There are a few twists in the flick, but if you've seen the other flicks, I really don't think you need to be as clever as John McClane to figure out what this movie is really all about. And that's the beauty of it. It keeps it simple and just keeps roaring forward.

Bruce and John McClane are older, and that's acknowledged. But here's where Bruce still has the drop on a few other stars who've recently tried to reprise old roles or still kick-ass in action movies. Bruce, he still can pull it off.

Times, they have certainly changed. Wanting the most bang for the production dollar, they kept this movie at the PG-13 rating. And I personally find it appalling that all the blood, violence and destruction isn't a problem for this rating, but the aforementioned "Yippee kai yay, motherfucker" money-quote has to be truncated to not include an audible version of the "fucker" portion of the phrase. But that's our society. Blowing shit up is okay for kids, but saying "fucker" is not. Fucking the ratings board.

But I certainly wouldn't let a quibble about our decency standards sour me on this entire movie. It's definitely not as smart, fresh, or clever as the original. Most of the jokes, in fact, are callbacks to the first. (The best is when a feeb named Agent Johnson comes to help out McClane.)

Timothy Olyphant as the designated bad guy works. It took me a really long time to place his face. For a while, I thought he looked Josh Duhamel, but knew he wasn't. I'm very familiar with Olyphant from Deadwood, but without his Seth Bullock 'stache and wild west greased back hair, his face just wasn't clicking. Ultimately, it was his cold demeanor and hard eyes that helped me connect the dots, and what worked so well for his role here.

Justin Long has taken heat over his "this movie is better than God" comments, because a lot of people like to get pissed off over ridiculous shit. But I thought he did well in his role as the young hacker thrown into this dangerous partnership with McClane. His humor has an innocent timbre that plays well against McClane's weathered, wiseass routine.

It may not have the beautiful jewel-box plot of the original, but this new flick does summer movie-going right. It starts with a bang, and races forward with plenty of thrills and chills as it blows shit up. It proves that even two decades later, Bruce, Die Hard, and the basic action genre, still have plenty of life.

Oh. Also noteworthy? Bruce is still sexy when he bleeds.

Yippee kai yay, motherfucker.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sitdown with Donald Capone

My pal Don Capone was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for me regarding his latest release, the comic-slanted novel Into the Sunset, which is now available.

I loved this book, and was really excited to hear him tell me a little more about it.

1) Into the Sunset is about a young man who decides he wants to live in a retirement community. How did you come up with the main premise of the story? As a busy New Yorker, is this something that appeals to you in theory?

While bringing my own mother around to check out these types of places, I had the same reaction as my lead character, Wayne. Which was basically, "Holy shit! This is great! I want to live here!" So, once I had my character in a retirement community disguised as an old man, I had to make something happen. It couldn't go smoothly, or there'd be no story. It had to all come crashing down eventually. Living in a community like The Sunset appeals to me personally, but I know it's just a case of "the grass is always greener."

2) You're a fan of The Sopranos. Didn't that show make it clear to you that moving anyone, for any reason, into a retirement community is a bad idea?

Yep, and things end up not so great for my lead character, too. Assisted-living communities are so popular now (seems new ones are being built every day) that I think we'll see them as the setting in more and more books, TV shows, and films. I'm glad I am one of the first to use this setting. A lot of potential for good stories there, both serious and comedic.

3) Though he has certain problems, overall Wayne Benson is a cool, laid-back guy. Did you base some of his personality on yourself or anyone you know? How about his friends? All imaginary, or ripped from the headlines of your life?

Little bits and pieces are me or people that I know—for all of the characters. But really not that much. And I don't know how cool Wayne is. He was a really selfish guy in the early drafts, then I gave him some heart and vulnerability. He's just a guy looking for a home.

4) If you were casting Sunset as a movie, who'd be in it? What would the soundtrack be like?

While I was writing the book I didn't have anyone in mind for the character of Wayne. Now I think it would be a good part for Ashton Kutcher.

For Eleanor I had in mind Julie Kavner (aka Marge Simpson) for some reason. Though I think Eleanor needs to be sexier, someone like Diane Keaton, though she's been on a real cold streak lately. As for the soundtrack, I actually mention a lot of bands in the book. U2, Cake, Green Day, The Ramones, Blink 182. Stuff like that. While in the Sunset, some old-time music would probably be playing, though. Maybe there has to be two soundtracks, one for each of Wayne's personalities. And the soundtracks should definitely include some funny dialogue from the movie between songs, like the soundtrack for Animal House.

5 a) Let's talk about writing in general. I've heard some writers say they write primarily to please themselves first. Others, I've heard say they write for an audience. Which do you do?

I think I write for myself. Stephen King has a theory of having a "first reader," someone you are writing for, someone you have in mind that you know will appreciate what you're doing. A spouse, whoever. But I think I write what I would want to read. That's my criteria. I am my own first reader.

5 b) Sometimes, there's tension amongst writers between the literary and commercial boundaries. Do you favor one or the other for reading? If forced to hear someone else categorize Sunset, would you prefer to hear that it's literary or commercial?

I think I do have a literary style, which comes out in my short stories (and possibly my next novel), but I think Into the Sunset is definitely more commercial. Which doesn't mean it's not well-written, just that it's probably too silly to be deemed "literary." I mean, there are toilet paper jokes in there! It's like a comedy film not garnering Oscar nominations. But, hell, I'd watch Office Space any day over Crash. As for my reading habits, I can read something just laugh-out loud funny, like anything by Tim Dorsey. Or I can read The Road, which is very gray and ashy (and literary).

5 c) If you were forced to categorize, which would you say your strongest asset is in Sunset: the craft, the art, or the storytelling? (or something else?)

Well, all those three things are really inseparable. But if I had to choose, I'd say the storytelling. The plot pretty much cranks along at full speed. I tried to keep in mind Elmore Leonard's rule about "cutting out the parts that readers tend to skip."

6) How do you think your favorite writers have influenced your writing?

Well, there are my favorite writers, and then there are my favorite writers. I've always listed John Irving and T. C. Boyle as my all-time favorites, but those guys are so good they're in another league. You can't even aspire to them (or, at least, I can't). This is what I got from those guys: from Irving I got the semi-colon; from Boyle I got the fucked-up shit always happening to the lead character. Now some of my other favorite writers are: Jonathan Ames, Ted Heller, Nick Hornby, Tim Dorsey, Christopher Moore, Bill Fitzhugh, and Elmore Leonard. From those guys I got the high-concept plots, engaging dialogue that includes lots of rock n' roll references, and screwed up romantic relationships.

7) Say you sold 10,000 ebook copies of Sunset, and only 10 paper copies. Would that satisfy you as much as if the stats were reversed?

10,000 copies? Are you high? Is that a typo? Actually, I get more money for the ebook, so that would be fine by me. Really, it doesn't matter. I just want people to read the book, whatever the format.

8) You've also serialized a novel online through Rebel Press, Like I've Never Been Born. Do you think this sort of electronic reading is going to continue to blossom?

People have a short attention span online. That's why flash fiction is perfect for the internet. Also, you can finish the story before your boss magically appears behind your desk. Not that I am speaking from experience, mind you. You shouldn't do that at work. NOW GO BACK TO WORK RIGHT THIS INSTANT! YES, YOU!!

Seriously, I think some version of the ebook will become practical. Like music on an iPod, you could load up your reader with books, go on vacation and have several books with you, though you'd only be carrying around something the size and weight of one book. Just think, you'd be able to search through the book easily if you had to refer back to something, or even switch over to an audio version of it! How cool would that be? Sony has the Reader, but it isn't Mac compatible, they have no clue how to market it, and no one really knows it exists. I'm waiting for Apple to pick up the ball here and do for publishing what they did for the music industry. Maybe they will incorporate it into the iPhone.

9) Rebel Press is growing with the latest new releases. What are your ultimate goals with the company?

The original intention of Rebel Press was to get exposure for the writers involved, so we could get another writing credit on the old resume, then enter the books in various contests which would hopefully lead to more exposure and more credits. So I'm not deluded. Those are still the goals. One day I'd like to have an ezine version of Rebel Press that would focus specifically on new, unpublished writers.

10) I've asked it before, but let's see if you've changed over the past couple years. You can't have both. So, from your writing, would you rather have critical acclaim or lots of cash?

The critical acclaim.

Thanks Don! Also, as a side-note, I stole the "who would you cast" question from Ellen Meister, who routinely does this with authors on her blog. It's cool. And, to answer Don's question about if I was high when I asked the one question, I was drunk. Nevertheless.

Now Available from Rebel Press

Into the Sunset by Donald Capone.Amazon

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Katrina Denza profiled

Check out the hugely talented Katrina Denza at Writer Profile Project.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I couldn't title this post because Blogger is being a fucktart. Anyhow.

Are you watching Flight of the Conchords after Entourage? If you're not, you should give it a try. It's REALLY funny. As with some other HBO shows (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras) the humor is calibrated a little off-center, but for a show about a band trying to make it in New York, it's not the off beat kind that you're thinking of.

It actually goes well in conjunction with Entourage, because all the Hollywood excess and good luck and lavishness of that show can really make you want to fucking kill yourself if it's the last thing you watch on a Sunday night before going to bed and knowing you have to face another workweek in your shithole job. I mean, yeah, Drama and his loser proclivities should help ease the sting, but even with Vince now being broke, they're still clubbing and coozing and though I've grown to love three of the guys, the knowledge that there are talentless peckerheads like Eric Murphy populating LA -- living high on the hog for doing nothing -- really can be a pisser. I was really hoping Harvey would've smashed his face in when Eric was supposed to tell him he couldn't buy Medellin. But, of course, Drama saved the day there.

Anyhow, I digress. I didn't mean to talk about Entourage. My point was just that Conchords brings you back down to Earth and makes you feel not-so-bad about yourself. I mean, what with Bret and Jemaine having one fan, sharing a bedroom, and taking public transportation. Give 'em a try.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

William Reese Hamilton

This month's Eclectica is featuring some excellent writing set in Venezuela from William Reese Hamilton.

Tagged by Paul

Paul A. Toth has tagged me.

The rules:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Here's my eight things:

1. I can't ride a bike. I've tried to learn several times but always end up injured.

2. I swam with a shark once, and went scuba diving with a whole bunch of sharks. Hammerheads. They're very cool and beautiful and primal, but I was really, deeply scared. The best part of the whole thing was this loudmouth asshole who kept making fun of me for being nervous before the dive. They warned us many, many times that the most important thing to do was to NOT get freaked out and swim away. Asshole got down there and when the sharks showed up, I looked over to see his reaction and only saw a cloudy trail of sand in his wake. He totally bolted. Surfaced too fast and got black eyes. Laughing at him made the terror worthwhile.

3. Right now, I believe that Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee is the funniest show on television. I'll talk more about this shortly on the blog, but in the meantime, if you have a chance to catch this gem of a show, please do. It's on at 5:30 PM weekdays on the Food Network.

4. If celebrity encounters interest you, I've had a few. Most notably, I've been yelled at by Greg Maddux and fell on my face in front of Andy Garcia. The yelling at by Maddux? Oh, I totally deserved it. The loudmouth asshole I referenced in number 2, he's got nothing on me. Look up "obnoxious" in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of Susan DiPlacido after eight stadium beers. The whole ugly incident also cost me my favorite boyfriend. For some reason though, I still laugh about it, so I don't regret a second of it! The Garcia thing, I don't think I deserved that humiliation. But my friends still laugh about it so I don't regret it.

5. I would rather swim with sharks than speak in public.

6. I once got arrested for streaking. The following detail probably doesn't need stated as it's implied, but I had been drinking. I'm telling you, that Cocktail Hour with Sandra Lee can lead to some wild stuff!

7. I have a tattoo that reads "Please return to Caesars Palace." Again, with the cocktail hour. You know.

8. I struggled an inordinately long time to come up with this list. I love to talk, but prefer to talk about things that interest me. I don't interest me, because I'm a boring person. I have a few decent anecdotes, but they're best told verbally while swapping stories over vodka.

Since I'm not a rulebreaker, I tag:
Biff Mitchell
Dennis Mahagin
Don Capone
Maryanne Stahl
Ellen Meister
Jordan Rosenfeld
Middle Aged Suburban Diva

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Get AMERICAN COOL this summer!

AMERICAN COOL now available from Rebel Press!

ENTER the world of AMERICAN COOL, where risk, rejection, and romance are played to win. When characters meet every roll of the dice with grit, humor and determination, is it enough to change the stakes? AMERICAN COOL is Susan DiPlacido's first collection of short stories.


Available soon at Barnes & Noble and Booksamillion.

Also, read a lively interview with me here.

This book is published by Rebel Press, and I thank Rebel profusely. I can't thank Don Capone enough. He designed the kickass cover and set everything up and encouraged me and dealt with my difficult freak-outs. Another huge thanks to Ellen Meister, a fast rising literary superstar who was kind enough to give me a great blurb on the book.