Adrian Lyne

Introduction

I only discovered Adrian’s movies thanks to playing the Silent Hill video games. After playing them and wanting more of that atmosphere and story, I looked online at similar games, films, and books. One of the first and most common replies, as far as film went, was to watch Jacob’s Ladder. I eventually did, and my mind was blown away. Since then I’ve watched two more of Adrian’s films, and while he hasn’t done much lately he is undoubtedly one of my top directors of all-time.

Fatal Attraction

Quote from Sleepless in Seattle: “Well I saw it and it scared the shit out of me! It scared the shit out of every man in America!”

That quote should pretty much sum up this movie. Just as Sleeping With the Enemy was a look at a disturbed and abusive man, in Fatal Attraction we see the same in a woman, albeit in a different situation. This movie covers sexual urges and acting upon them, infidelity, honesty and communication, and much more.

Michael Douglas stars as a lawyer in New York, living the good life with a picture-perfect family. At a publisher’s book release party he encounters Alex Forrest; she quickly starts to flirt with him and he doesn’t exactly discourage it. As time goes on life at home doesn’t seem so perfect and he sees Alex a few more times, and inevitably he gives in to her advances.

Well, Alex is a tad cray-cray. Hence the term bunny-boiler. After Michael comes to his senses he stops the affair and assumes that’s that, but Alex doesn’t accept it’s over. After harassing him and his family, including spending the day alone with his daughter, Michael has no choice but to tell his wife about the affair. He is of course kicked out, but eventually they reconcile, and not too far from a dramatic conclusion to the movie.

As with Adrian’s other movies, what struck me the most was the framing and lighting of this movie, especially the contrast between the lighter and comforting home life and the darker and increasingly-sinister affair. The pacing of the movie is excellent; little things here and there start to go wrong, not seem right, and then it continues to build all the way until the final confrontation in the house.

Jacob’s Ladder

As mentioned above, Jacob’s Ladder was undoubtedly one of the key influences on the Silent Hill video games, and not just because of the subway similarities. In a similar plot to Silent Hill 2, in Jacob’s Ladder a former Vietnam soldier starts to see things that don’t make sense, and through key events and meetings begins to suspect what the true meaning of things are.

Jacob is living with his girlfriend, who also works for the U.S. Postal Service. They share a small apartment, in stark contrast to the large townhome Jacob once shared with his wife and 3 kids. Gabe, the youngest, was killed before Jacob went to Vietnam, and of course it still haunts him after coming back. As time goes by more and more strange things happen to Jacob, and talking with his Army buddies it’s apparent he’s not alone. He sees more and more ghost and demons, and only with the guidance of his chiropractor can Jacob start to realize what the truth might be, as well as what he needs to do to truly move on.

Indecent Proposal

The last of the three movies I watched, I didn’t anticipate the emotion that this movie had, even more so than Adrian’s previous movies. As always beautifully lit and photographed, this movie also had the stellar performances of Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore; Robert Redford also gives a great performance of a confident and cocky rich man.

The premise for the movie, if you look at it on its own, is pretty ridiculous and out there. A rich man proposes to spend one night with a couple’s wife in exchange for a million dollars. While that’s a decent chunk of change, I can’t imagine any well-functioning couple would say yes. But of course this is a movie, and they agree. Harrelson regrets it as soon as Redford picks her up, while Moore is quite emotional but doesn’t show us that she doesn’t want to go along with it. Soon after it happens they fight and eventually separate. Moore does stay with Redford, at least until he slips up about the scheme. This is near the movie, and after leaving him Moore returns to where she and Harrelson met and fell in love, and we’re left with hope of reconciliation.

Somewhat unbelievable plot aside, it’s hard not to get sucked into this movie. Dynamic performances, beautiful lighting and photography, and a perfect music score all come together to make a very good movie.

5 Days, 5,440 words

For a long time I’ve loved the idea of writing, the notion of it. Sitting in front of a computer or typewriter, sipping on a beverage, and just letting the inspired ideas pour out on screen or paper. It was something creative and productive, proof of time well spent.

Since then I’ve gone through periods where I read about writing, and perhaps even attempt it, but then it quickly fades away, usually replaced with enthusiasm for something else like music.

Lately I began re-reading No Plot, No Problem, written by the founder of National Novel Writing Month Chris Baty. This was a very thoughtful and well-received gift from my brother, and in the past I had gotten excited for and even began a NaNoWriMo session or two, but it never really got far. My longest piece, simply titled Awesome Novel, is 40 pages and 6,800 words. I don’t remember it taking that long to write, but re-reading it shows that nothing really happens.

The biggest point the book makes so far (the later part of the book isn’t supposed to be read until getting into your month-long novel writing endeavor) is simply getting into the most important habit a writer can have: sit down and just write. This can seem like such an odd thing, especially when attempting a much larger body of work. Aren’t I supposed to spend all this time planning, outlining, refining? In actuality, no! Sure, it helps to have at least something in mind, a rough summary of a plot and/or one or more key characters. In his book Chris recommends taking at most a week before NaNoWriMo to do any planning, but no more. Anything further just lets anxiety, doubt, and over-working starts to ruin things. So many people seem to forget that the first draft not only doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be anywhere above the level of total dog shit (important note: that’s my take on it, not from Chris).

I had heard of several writers on /r/writing that had done just that, gotten into the habit of simply sitting down and writing. Some had done it for a few days, others a few weeks, and a few were approaching a year if not longer. Everyone pretty much agreed: almost everything written was fairly bad and/or embarrassing, but not as terrible as they had feared. And some of it was, surprise, not too bad. Almost usable as-is!

I think that’s the “secret” of writing. Just like movies and TV, and fitness models and such, we always see the end results. It’s the same when we read a book. We’re viewing the final work, the last draft or edit, or the person at their peak physical prime. All things that took time, blood, and sweat to even begin creating, and that much more further down the line to refine, reshape, and even completely change if and when it wasn’t working.

The point is that we don’t need to worry about what others might or will think. When writing there is no obligation to show the text to anyone, either now or ever if we choose. We can take what’s been written and either continue building off of it, edit and re-arrange before continuing, or if it’s a complete dead end just close the file (no reason to delete, you never know one day…), start a new file, and try something else. Second, third, fourth, and further drafts are when to let the analytical reasoning half of the mind into the room to see what’s been going onto the screen or page.

(Holy shit my habit of writing more has seeped into this post). ANYWAYS, I decided at the beginning of this week to see if I could develop that same habit, simply sitting down in front of a blank screen and just take off. My first day’s writing was around 800 words, and for the rest I tried to get at least 1,000, usually coming in just above that mark, with the largest close to 1,200. On one day I didn’t get to do my writing until later in the day, and it was starting to get close to not even coming close to my daily number. The weird thing was even after just a few days I really wanted to keep my streak going, so after dinner and a little Netflix I made sure to get my laptop and start writing, and within 2 hours I had my 1,000 words.

The end results are the same as what was mentioned on that sub-reddit; most of it is pretty meh, but there are a few small portions that could be worth taking and trying to make something of it. That may be something I do later on, but for now I’m gonna keep writing new material during the week (taking the weekends off to relax and recharge). One thing I did notice is that so far the writing follows Awesome Novel in that nothing really happens. I think this week I need adopt a  soap opera, melodramatic overkill mode, and just throw much more action and such at the reader. A novel can afford to take time to meander and delve into little things here and there, but for short writings I need to get going.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing it, but it will be at least for a few more weeks. I do want to eventually gain enough experience to eventually move onto what Ray Bradbury recommended doing, which is writing a short story a week. That would be pretty easy to do, word count-wise, as it would still be around 1,000 to 1,500 words a day for 5 days. The main difference is that I would need to have a little bit of prep going into it, at least a rough idea of the story I want to tell.

I think if I could get into that, and work in that mode for a few months, then I would finally be ready to possibly take on the writing of a novel. I don’t know about doing it within a single month, as my job and daily responsibilities simply can’t be compromised, but perhaps two months would be more than reasonable to devote free time on.

Catan

Formerly known as Settlers of Catan, Catan has become one of the most popular modern board games available. While it may look complicated at first glance, it’s actually pretty easy to learn the basics and start playing. There’s even an online (albeit older) introduction, as well as an iOS and Android assistant app. Both are nice options, but at first I think it’s fine to just go by the small rules booklet included with the game.

In Catan several settlers (i.e. 3-4 players; 2 are supported, while an expansion can handle up to 6) have discovered the island of Catan and begin to build and develop. The first step is to lay out the land tiles (the hexagonal pieces), which can be done in a fixed or random order. On top of these land tiles round number tiles are placed, also randomly.

These numbers are what coordinate with each dice roll; the number that comes up each roll is what resources are dolled out to each player that has a piece next to that hexagonal tile. The player that rolled can also spend resources that he or she has acquired to build roads, settlements, and cities. If he or she needs resource cards they don’t have, they can also trade with another player as well as the bank (at a higher 4-to-1 ratio).

The order of play continues in a clockwise order: each player rolling, resources handed out, and items constructed. One caveat is if a 7 is rolled; instead of resources produced, a robber on the island allows that player to steal a resource card from another player. Also, if anyone is holding more than 7 cards, he or she must discard half of their choice of cards, rounded down.

The first player to reach 10 victory points wins the game. This come from settlements, the longest road constructed, and having the largest army.

Website find: Lessons from the Screenplay

When my interest in screenwriting flows rather than ebbs, I always try to seek out new resources online, whether it’s articles, discussion forums, and even Youtube channels. One of the latter that I’ve kept my eye on is Lessons from the Screenplay, created by Michael Tucker. I must note up-front that these aren’t hardcore, depth-of-the-ocean analysis videos, but nevertheless it’s fun to watch as some of my favorite movies are analyzed and I learn new terms related to the structure and creation of these movies, primarily from a script/writing point of view.

Resident Evil 7

Introduction

The last Resident Evil game I played was 4 on the Wii. It had quite a different atmosphere than the previous games, with an over-the-shoulder view and a much more action-oriented style (although when I played Code Veronica on the Dreamcast I remember running around with dual Uzis, so maybe it’s been moving in that direction for a long time…). I heard the same criticisms for 5 and 6, ramping up the action and gun-play and all but leaving tension and atmosphere behind.

The Demo

Then came the Resident Evil 7 demo. I didn’t play it at first, but watched Markiplier run through it. I was pleasantly surprised, as this certainly wasn’t any Resident Evil game I had seen since the remake of the first one on the Gamecube. The tension, atmosphere, everything was ramped up, and I was certain that every time he rounded a corner that would be the end. The ending of the fairly short demo left me with so many questions and wanting more, so Capcom definitely succeeded in what a good demo should do.

The Full Game

When the full game was released I was eager to watch Markiplier play through it. I was happy to see the beginning of the game did keep quite a bit from the demo, but also changed up just enough to keep people on their toes.

You play the game as Ethan Winters. His wife, Mia, has been missing for 3 years; one day he gets a strange video message from her, ultimately warning him to not try to come after her. Doing exactly the opposite, Ethan travels to Louisiana to find out what happened. Ethan pulls up to a property behind a locked gate, and he must sneak around to get inside. Even starting from here the atmosphere is already filled with tension and dread. Moving closer to the house there are dead cows and birds, the former often found butchered and tied together with saw blades and more in strange sculptures. Entering the house (and luckily remembering a flashlight), it looks decrepit and abandoned. Making his way to the basement, Ethan finds Mia, who is frantic about escaping immediately. While going back upstairs, Mia suddenly becomes violent and apparently possessed, attacking Ethan and forcing him to defend himself, ultimately killing Mia.

Before long we learn a little bit more about this family and the home they occupy. Navigating and learning the layout is very important to Ethan’s survival, as there are monsters along with the seemingly immortal family members roaming the premises.

As Ethan makes his way through the house, and later an older house and a barn among other locations, he finds better weapons and more items, some of which can be combined to create other items. This crafting system is luckily on the simpler side, akin to the one found in Alien Isolation.

Eventually Ethan finds his way to a crashed tanker ship, which he discovers was carrying Mia and a young girl, Eveline, who escaped the crashed ship and made their way to the Baker family. Ethan must utilize the lab equipment in a nearby salt mine to devise a way to ultimately kill Eveline, which is the ultimate final fight of the game. Teasing its connection to the other games in the series, Ethan is rescued by Chris Redfield and an Umbrella-branded helicopter.

Changes and Evolution

As noted previously, the Resident Evil franchise had been veering further and further into the action genre, shedding its survival roots as well as its incredible atmosphere. This most recent game turned that all around, although it is still a unique entry in the series.

The first notable change is the first-person perspective, which was something that even the next Silent Hill game was potentially going to use. I think this is something that should have been used many games ago, as it forces the player into the game and really helps push the “illusion” of being there. I can understand the earliest games used third-person perspective due to technological limits, especially as those games were console-exclusive.

The next thing I noticed is the enemies, which besides not having traditional zombies were quite unique, along with the fact is that in general there weren’t that many of them. As each game came out there seemed to be more and more enemies crammed into each area, which becomes almost numbing to any dread or horror. In this game, with having far fewer enemies the player has to rely on listening for any cues, which of course helps draw him or her more into the game. Most of the enemies were fairly easy to kill or avoid, but of course with rare amounts of ammo around it can still present a legitimate danger.

One thing that I was thrilled to see this game keep was the unique and even quite strange keys and the locked doors that were all around the house. Some may have groaned and rolled their eyes at this, but I think it’s cool to roam a house/mansion/etc. and encounter strange locked doors. It makes me really curious about what in the world is behind it, and knowing that somewhere else was the key or other method to access that area, which could be a small single room or could be an entirely new hallway and number of rooms.

Conclusion

Overall I was really happy with the direction this game took, the immersive visuals, lighting, and sound design that all helped sell an incredibly dreadful and at points downright scary environment, something I hadn’t experienced  since the re-made first game on the Gamecube. Of course the next game is already in development, and I’m really intrigued to see what it does. I would love to see something like the mansion in the first game, and/or another different and unique location with plenty of things and areas to explore along with something really terrifying lurking and roaming the halls, eager to kill and maim the player.