Point of No Return

While suffering from an ultra-annoying migraine, I nursed myself back to health last weekend watching movies – two horror movies to be exact: House on Haunted Hill and Return to House on Haunted Hill.

I have never seen the original so I will refrain from discussing it.

But I want to focus on the script for the second movie. Since I now have received my feature film writing certificate from UCLA, I feel I am pretty qualified to make this grip.

Not to say, it’s a bad thing either. If I can see things “wrong” in other scripts, then I can make sure not to make the same types of faults in my stories. It’s a good teaching tool.

Ready?

Here’s a quick summary from imdb.com

The editor of a fashion magazine Ariel Wolfe receives many calls from her sister Sara, but she does not return. When Sara is found dead, apparently after committing suicide, Ariel goes to her apartment with her friend and photographer Paul. She meets Professor Richard, who is seeking Sara’s journal to find a lead to the statue of the evil god Baphomet for a museum. Later, Ariel and Paul are kidnapped by the gang of the treasure hunter Desmond, who intends to find and sell the statue to a private collector for five million dollars. They go to the house, where they meet Richard, his assistant Kyle and the student Michelle, but the criminals dominate the group. However, the house suddenly closes all the exits and they find trapped inside with vision of ghosts that are reliving their final moments in the place they died.

Ok, now that we’re caught up —

Many times Ariel repeats the words ‘my sister….’ ‘You killed my sister…’ ‘my sister said….’ So you apparently have a sister? Why can’t we use her name – Sara? Which by my count was only used once or twice. I hate repetition. Which actually is a good pet peeve to have. Drove me crazy.

Second — When Sara’s sister (!) escapes and runs to the SUV parked outside she can’t find the keys and bangs the vehicle in anger. Fine. But, there are two SUVs parked there – why didn’t she try the other? And if your life means that much to you – wouldn’t you try to hotwire it? No, I don’t know how to, but that’s not the point. When your life is in danger, you do crazy (and sometimes miraculous things!)

On that same note, Ariel later saves the day by throwing the idol down the sewer drain (so all evil spirits can be freed.) She’s the one who came up with the idea of how to get it out of the house…..yet she can’t figure out how to hotwire a car? If that same brain can think under pressure to save everyone, why can’t it be used for mechanical work?

After one bad guy is pulled apart to bloody bits, the professor slips in the leftover mess onto the hard floor. During the film’s climax, Ariel walks backward (while in tennis shoes) across a blood-soaked floor – and why didn’t she slip? Yes, the professor was hurrying himself across the room, but tennis shoes don’t have super grip strength either.

And also why didn’t they slip on the many water puddles scattered through the many underground damp tunnels? And how did the water even get down there in the first place? Unless there was a VERY recent storm that passed by, I don’t think you can justify that much liquid.

At one point, the remaining live characters happen upon a massive tub used for hydrotherapy, but the water appeared pretty clean for being locked up for about 50 years. Ghosts tried to grab at Ariel and her friend when they got caught inside the tank, yet the underwater shots looked clean – as in anti-murky and wouldn’t or shouldn’t it be if bodies were dumped in the tank? Slowly the body would dissolve or something….all the ghosts appeared intact, very much alike the new victims swimming for their lives.

Flashlights – I was trained to create tension, conflict, get at the heart of the story, so why did the flashlights work the entire movie? Wouldn’t it be better they break down? Or at least flicker?

Visually, Ariel wore white and the bad guys wore black, so it was a true battle between good and evil. At the end of the movie, Ariel was wearing red – thanks to all the blood splashed on her. I really didn’t even notice that, but her tank top was so blaring white it was hard to ignore.

Lastly, Desmond twice applied chapstick to his lips. Still can’t figure out the symbolism for that. If it was cut from the movie, it wouldn’t leave behind much of an impact. Was a nice little character trait, but other than that, chuck it. Did not add to the overall picture.

Several times it seemed the writer needed to create a situation for a character to do something else, so he was forced to create a diversion for the character to finish the puzzle. So if he needed him to get to C and he was at A, he inorganically created a B to complete the circle.

With all that said, I was not hired to do the script, for all I know it could have been a rush job and needed to be finished in less than a week….I’ll never know. I just can comment on what I saw.

And thankfully, I can now see loopholes and faults that need to be fixed in my scripts.

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Campaign Cocktails

A few months ago I came up with an idea of making election themed cocktails for this year’s General Election. Wednesday, the Reno Gazette-Journal printed my drink article. I could not be prouder to see my creations in black and white!

Most people get their best ideas in the bathroom. Me, I get mine at 1 a.m. While sleeping. And that’s where this idea was born.

Somewhere in my subconscious, I wandered upon the idea of election-themed cocktails. From that, I thought about Nevada races.

I focused on the four major candidates — two for governor, two for U.S. senator — because they generated most of the press this year. I also added a “None of These Candidates” drink for those who don’t do alcohol.

I narrowed down my cocktails to reds or blues, the classic campaign colors, and began to figure out my liquors. Did I want something sweet? Sour? Fruity? Tangy? Peppery? Bubble gum? The choices were migraine-inducing — and tough.

What resulted are the recipes I’m sharing here.

As for the disembodied candidate-head swizzle sticks you see in the accompanying photograph — all Burning Man! Where else would you think of something like that?

Cheers!

Kellene Stockwell is an Emmy Award-winning producer at KTVN Channel 2. She is currently working on her breakthrough Hollywood screenplay. You can read her blog at kellene23.wordpress.com or follow her Twitter adventures at @kellene23.

CAMPAIGN COCKTAIL RECIPES 

(Cocktail recipes for each race appear in alphabetical order by candidate’s surname.)

Campaign cocktails 2010 

GOVERNOR’S RACE:

RORY REID

3/4 ounce DeKuyper Island Punch Pucker
1/4 ounce Cruzan Banana Rum
1/4 ounce Smirnoff Orange Vodka
1/4 ounce Smirnoff Raspberry Vodka
1/4 ounce Absolut Citron Vodka

Carefully add ingredients to shot glass in order listed. Stir with hip looking swizzle stick. The resulting color should resemble “” wait for it! “” Scope. The good news is the drink won’t taste like mouthwash. Serves 1.

BRIAN SANDOVAL

2 blueberries
1 1/2 ounces Goldschläger cinnamon schnapps
1 ounce Smirnoff Orange Vodka
1/2 ounce Bacardi Gold Rum
1/2 ounce UV Cherry Vodka 

Place blueberries in bottom of margarita glass. Add remaining ingredients to ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into glass. Serves 1. Note: Drink has a small bite, so beginners might want to avoid it. Serves 1.

U.S. SENATE RACE:

SHARRON ANGLE

Stirrings Cosmopolitan Rimmer
1 to 2 blueberries
1 ounce Gatorade Fruit Punch
1/2 ounce Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail
1/2 ounce Smirnoff Pomegranate Vodka
1/2 ounce Smirnoff Orange Vodka
3/4 ounce 7Up

Wet rim of port glass with water, then dip and twirl in Cosmopolitan Rimmer to lightly and evenly coat. Place blueberries into bottom of glass. Add remaining ingredients except 7Up to ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into glass. Add 7Up right before serving to create bubbles and fizz in the “Pretty in Pink” liquid. Serves 1.

HARRY REID

Sliced strawberry
1/2 ounce Southern Comfort liqueur
1/2 ounce DeKuyper Island Punch Pucker
3/4 ounce UV Raspberry Vodka
1/4 ounce Gatorade Cool Blue

Place strawberry into bottom of Old-Fashioned glass. Add remaining ingredients to ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into glass. The Southern Comfort helps keep the drink smooth. Serves 1.

EITHER RACE:

NONE OF THESE CANDIDATES

Strawberries, plus 1 extra sliced for garnish
Blueberries
Crushed ice
Club soda 

Freeze raspberries and blueberries beforehand. Just before serving, mix berries and crushed ice in highball glass. Add club soda. Garnish rim of glass with sliced strawberry. The berries will act as ice cubes. Stir, as desired, with cool lookin’ swizzle stick. Serves 1.

‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ Creator Dies at 90

The cartoonist who dreamed up “Rocky and Bullwinkle” has died.

Alexander Anderson Jr. was 90. He had Alzheimer’s disease.

Anderson and his fraternity brother, Jay Ward, started to produce cartoons specifically for TV. They worked out of a garage behind Anderson’s family’s home in Berkeley. There, they created Crusader Rabbit and his friend Rags the Tiger along with Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties and Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Anderson had said he couldn’t understand how a mouse or Superman could fly. But some squirrels actually do fly. So, he felt Rocky was closer to reality than Superman or Mighty Mouse.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Paul, the World Cup Predicting Octopus, Dies at 2½

Paul the psychic World Cup octopus ... AFP

Paul the Octopus, the tentacled tipster who fascinated soccer fans by predicting results at the World Cup, died Tuesday.

Paul had reached the octopus old age of 2½ years and died in his tank on Tuesday morning at the Sea Life aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen, spokeswoman Ariane Vieregge said.

Paul correctly tipped the outcome of all seven of Germany’s games. He made his predictions by opening the lid of one of two clear plastic boxes, each containing a mussel and bearing a team flag.

The octopus seemed to be in good shape when he was checked late Monday, but he did not make it through the night. He died of natural causes, Vieregge said.

“We had all naturally grown very fond of him and he will be sorely missed,” Sea Life manager Stefan Porwoll said in a statement.

The aquarium has not yet decided how best to commemorate their most famous resident, he said.

“We may decide to give Paul his own small burial plot within our grounds, and erect a modest permanent shrine,” Porwoll said.

After rising to global prominence during the World Cup in South Africa in June and July, Paul retired from the predictions business after the final between Spain and the Netherlands – correctly picking Spain – and returned to his primary role of intriguing children who attend the aquarium.

The invertebrate was stepping “back from the official oracle business,” Tanja Munzig, a spokeswoman for the Sea Life, told AP Television News at the time.

“He won’t give any more oracle predictions – either in football, nor in politics, lifestyle or economy,” she said. “Paul will get back to his former job, namely making children laugh.”

After his World Cup soothsaying skills were revealed, the English-born Paul was appointed as an ambassador to England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup. He had English roots, having been hatched at Weymouth Sea Life Center on England’s south coast in 2008.

Imitators sprang up all over the world, including Mani the Parakeet in Singapore and Lorenzo the Parrot in Hannover, Germany.

The latest was a saltwater crocodile named Dirty Harry, who predicted Spain’s World Cup final win and called the result of Australia’s general election by snatching a chicken carcass dangling beneath a caricature of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

“El Pulpo Paul” became so popular in Spain that the northwestern Spanish town of O Carballino tried to borrow him and made him an “honorary friend.”

Paul, who had an agent, got hundreds of requests to go to Spain. The Madrid Zoo asked Sea Life if it would be willing to make a deal to bring him in as a tribute to the Spanish soccer team’s victory, either temporarily or for good. But the German aquarium turned down that offer, too.

Paul’s name will live on the Greek island of Zakynthos, where a permanent sea turtle rescue center funded in part by donations generated by the famous octopus is being established.

___

Associated Press writer David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report. 

(Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A Walkman Obit: Remembering the Portable Player

wiretotheear.com

The Walkman, the Sony cassette device that forever changed music listening before becoming outdated by digital MP3 players and iPods, has died. It was 31 years old.

Sony announced Monday that it has ceased production of the classic, cassette tape Walkman in Japan, effectively sounding the death knell of the once iconic, now obsolete device.

In 2008, JVC became the last company to cease production on stand-alone VCRs while HP omitted floppy disk drives from all its PCs in 2009 – years after other computer manufacturers did the same.

Apple did away with the floppy drive when they introduced the first iMac desktop computer back in 1998.

On the camera front, Polaroid halted its production of its well-known instant film products in 2008 before licensing the name out to a niche marketer.

With the introduction of digital music and online music stores like iTunes the number of CDs being used is also dwindling.

Portable CD players are also in serious decline thanks to the popularity and convenience of digital music.

The first Sony Walkman – the TPS-L2 – was unveiled in June 1979 and could only play, not record, tapes. It didn’t even have a radio but was still priced at $450.

It will continue to be produced in China and distributed in the U.S., Europe and some Asian countries. Digital Walkmans are also being made with models that display lyrics and have improved digital noise-canceling technology.

Still, if you’re looking to chisel a date in the Walkman’s tombstone, then Oct. 25, 2010, is as good as any.

(The Associated Press & The Daily Telegraph (AU) contributed to this report.)

Conan O’Brien Unveils First Week’s Guest List

 Conan O’Brien is welcoming a roster of big names his first week back on the air.

His late-night run on TBS hosting “Conan” will kick off with Seth Rogen and musician Jack White on Monday, Nov. 8, the network has announced.

Tuesday’s show will include guests Tom Hanks, “30 Rock” regular Jack McBrayer and Soundgarden.

“Mad Men” star Jon Hamm stops by on Wednesday, and Thursday, Conan will greet Michael Cera and Julie Bowen.

For nearly 20 years, O’Brien was a fixture at NBC, but he left last January after just a few months as host of “The Tonight Show.”

His new Los Angeles-based show will air Mondays through Thursdays at 11 p.m. Eastern.

His very first guest might be decided by an online poll, which offers unlikely choices like Pope Benedict XVI. (AP)

The Vatican Line: Homer Simpson is a Catholic

The Vatican newspaper has not been shy in its praise of the long-running animated TV program “The Simpsons” — and now we may know why.

L’Osservatore Romano has written a story under the headline “Homer and Bart are Catholic” that included the phrase “few people know it and he does everything to hide it but it is true: Homer J. Simpson is Catholic.”

Last December, the newspaper cited the show on its 20th anniversary, praising its philosophical leanings and irreverent take on religion.

Now the paper quoted from an analysis by a Jesuit priest, the Rev. Francesco Occhetta, discussing Homer’s and his son Bart’s conversion in a 2005 episode after meeting the sympathetic priest Father Sean.

L’Osservatore says behind the TV show’s jokes are themes “linked to the sense and quality of life.”

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)