Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the month “August, 2013”

Jack Reacher Returns In Never Go Back

Lee Child and I at ThrillerFest VIII.

Lee Child and I at ThrillerFest VIII.

Lee Child’s 18th Jack Reacher novel, Never Go Back, is coming out next week in the U.S. For those interested in learning more about the book, below is the trailer and background on the novel from the man himself, Lee Child.

 

Book Review – Wrestling With The Devil by Lex Luger

Lex Luger - Wrestling With The DevilWhen I became a wrestling fan, it was in the heyday of larger-than-life characters like Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior and the British Bulldog. Not only did these superstars have otherworldly personas, they had spectacular physiques. While Lex Luger wasn’t known for being the most charismatic performer, his physical presence couldn’t be denied. In the 1980s he was a force to be reckoned with in the National Wrestling Alliance and World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and when he came to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Luger was a top babyface (i.e., good guy). After his stint in the WWF, Luger went back to WCW and became World Champion and eventually joined the rebellious New World Order. Luger had a stellar career but he wasn’t without his vices. His autobiography reveals all of the ups and downs he went through, including the death of the “First Lady of Wrestling,” Miss Elizabeth. I found it to be a captivating read up until the final couple chapters where the book turned into what felt like an infomercial for Christianity. While I’m glad religion helped Luger turn his life around, his heavy-handed use of Bible verses came off as preachy instead of inspirational. Nevertheless, Wrestling With The Devil was an enlightening and entertaining read that wrestling fans should check out.

Synopsis 

Pro wrestling sensation Lex Luger was leading a thrill-ride life, with fans screaming his name and money pouring in faster than he could spend it. One of the most memorable figures in the sport’s history, Lex was the ultimate all-American muscleman. The three-time world champion could slam anything that got in his way—and he believed he was invincible.

But outside the ring, Lex was self-destructing. He lived a secret double life that was taking him down and ripping his family apart, culminating when his mistress died from a much-publicized drug overdose. Without realizing it, Lex was fighting for his very life—and the enemy was a host of his own demons.

Yet it wasn’t until he was at his lowest point that Lex Luger began to discover what true strength is all about. That strength would get him through the greatest challenge of his life: a paralyzing spinal cord injury.

In this stunningly honest memoir, Lex Luger reveals behind-the-scenes stories from the world of pro wrestling, recounts his dramatic struggles with personal failings, and shares how—through unexpected faith, grace, and redemption—today he’s standing stronger than ever and fighting the battles that matter the most.

50 Years Of James Bond: The Movie

James Bond 50th AnniversaryI recently discovered a great James Bond video on YouTube that I had to share with you. Below is the official description and the video. Enjoy!

Approximately five minutes from each of the 22 Eon produced James Bond films have been cut together, in order and in sequence, beginning with the first five minutes of DR. NO (1962) followed by minutes 5-10 of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963), minutes 10-15 of Goldfinger (1964), minutes 15-20 of Thunderball (1965), continuing on through each of the remaining 18 Bond features (accounting for variables in each title’s running time) culminating with the final five minutes of 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

This fresh look at the “James Bond Formula” provides a new exploration of the evolution of the series into a filmmaking genre uniquely its own. With few exceptions, each title’s transition into the picture that follows it is nearly seamless, creating a viewing experience that at first might serve to remind us “if you’ve seen one Bond film, you’ve seen them all,” but looking more closely it is in fact an endearing homage to a character who single-handedly shaped modern cinema’s action/adventure formula and who continues to leave an indelible mark on generations worldwide.

James Bond – Moonraker

MoonrakerLast week I read Moonraker by Ian Fleming and watched the film of the same name. The book was better than the movie – big surprise – but neither were spectacular. The novel was a straightforward old-school thriller that, unfortunately, lacked mystery. It’s plot was more cohesive and believable than the film’s, but it didn’t keep me guessing. While I’ve yet to read them all, Fleming’s Casino Royale is still my favorite in the series and coincidentally it’s also my favorite Bond film. But back to Moonraker the movie. The opening scene, where Bond is fighting another man in mid-air for a parachute, is one of the greatest in cinematic history (check it out below). And the movie’s theme, written by Hal David and sung by Shirley Bassey, is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. For your viewing and listening pleasure, I’ve also included the opening title sequence from Moonraker below. The bottom line is this: If you’re a James Bond fan, you should read the book and see the movie. Just don’t expect either of them to blow you away.

Steven James’ Keys to Organic Writing

Steven JamesAt ThrillerFest VIII I attended Steven James’ CraftFest session on organic writing, (i.e., writing without an outline). Following his presentation, James provided the audience with a handout summarizing his advice. For those interested in writing, below are highlights from the handout.

Keys to Organic Writing 

Let narrative forces rather than formulas drive your story forward. Imagine a giant ball of clay being held by a group of people. As one person presses against the clay it changes shape. 

The clay is your story; the people surrounding it represent the narrative forces pressing in on it. For example: 

  • Believability: The characters in your story need to act in contextually believable ways. All the time. 
  • Causality: Everything that happens in a story will be caused by the thing that precedes it. 
  • Inevitability & Surprise: The end of every scene must not just be logical, but, in retrospect, the only possible conclusion to that scene. Scenes will end in a way that’s unexpected and yet satisfying to readers. 
  • Escalation: The tension must continue to escalate, scene by scene, until it reaches a climax after which nothing is ever the same again. 
  • Scenes & Setbacks: If nothing is altered, you do not have a scene. If your characters solve something without a setback, you do not have a story – you have a setup for a story, an event, but that’s all. 
  • Continuity: Think of pace as the speed at which things are happening, think of narrative energy as the momentum that’s carrying them along. 
  • Story & Genre Conventions: Readers enter a story with expectations based on their understanding of story and of the genre they’re reading. You need to know the principles of storytelling and be familiar enough with genre conventions to meet or exceed your readers’ expectations without resorting to using cliches. 

When you know the right questions to ask, your story will unfold in unique, unpredictable and fulfilling ways. 

Escalation:

  • Does this scene ratchet up the tension of the one before it?
  • How can I make things worse?

Believability:

  • What would this character naturally do in this situation?
  • Is he properly motivated to take this action?

Causality: 

  • Is this event caused by what precedes it?
  • How can what I want to happen bow to what needs to happen based on the context?

Inevitability & Surprise:

  • Does this scene end in a way that’s both unexpected and yet inevitable?
  • How can I assure that readers don’t see the twist coming?

Scenes & Setbacks: 

  • Have I inadvertently included scenes just for character development?
  • Is there an interlude or moment of reorientation between each scene?

Continuity: 

  • Do my revelations happen at the right moments within the story?
  • Have I used foreshadowing to eliminate coincidences, especially at the climax?

Story & Genre Expectations:

  • What requisite scenes are inherent to this genre and to this story?
  • How can I render them in a way that’s not cliched?

Movie Review – The Expendables 2

The Expendables 2I finally got around to watching The Expendables 2 and it was great. Like its predecessor, it was a balls-to-the-wall action movie that featured a ton of gunfire, explosions and humorous one-liners. Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the references the characters made to some of the real-life stars’ iconic films, such as The Terminator and Rambo. The acting, while not Oscar-worthy, was appropriate for the subject matter, and I loved Chuck Norris’ role in the movie – especially when he dished out a line that could have easily been one of the endless “facts” people tell about him. Jean-Claude Van Damme was a terrific villain, and his showdown at the end with Stallone was awesome. The Expendables 2 was a non-stop action movie I enjoyed just as much as the original, and I highly recommend you check it out.

Review – Alienware 14

Alienware M14I’ve had my new Alienware 14 for several weeks and it’s great. Below is my video review, and for more details on the laptop’s specifications, make sure to visit Alienware’s website.

Book Review – Writing a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner

Writing a Killer ThrillerWriting a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner, a well-respected freelance fiction editor, is a worthy addition to any writer’s library. Filled to the brim with useful information for aspiring and published authors, the book is broken into nine parts:

  1. What’s a Thriller, Anyway?
  2. Design a Killer Plot
  3. Create Compelling Characters
  4. Hook’em & Keep’em With Tension and Intrigue
  5. Bring Your Characters to Life on the Page
  6. Sustain the Suspense
  7. Revise for Success
  8. Wrap-Up & Checklists
  9. Other Related Info

Renner’s advice, while sometimes repetitive, is spot on. And her use of book excerpts to illustrate points, as well as quotes from industry experts, made for an engaging and enlightening read. Writing a Killer Thriller was a quick, powerful book that provided me with a behind-the-scenes view of what goes into writing a top-notch thriller. If you’re a writer, make sure to add it to your reading list today.

I’m Going To WrestleMania XXX!

WrestleMania XXXThe first WrestleMania took place three days after I was born. Since then, it has gone on to become an annual extravaganza that generates nearly $75 million and attracts nearly 100,000 attendees, not to mention the millions of people watching it worldwide on pay-per-view. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been enjoying WrestleMania from home. Next year, I’ll be there in person, in New Orleans, to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

In addition to the event itself, I’ll be enjoying WrestleMania Axxess, where fans get to meet wrestling legends, as well as the superstars of today, and engage in a variety of fun activities. I’m also attending the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, where the superstars of yesteryear are honored for their impressive body of work. And finally, the weekend will wrap up with WWE Raw, where I’ll get to see how the aftermath of WrestleMania plays out.

Being a lifelong wresting fan, I’m thrilled to have the chance to attend WrestleMania; and with it being the event’s 30th anniversary, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I’m equally happy that it’s taking place in a vibrant, historical city I’ve yet to explore. It will be a fantastic weekend that I’ll remember for a long time to come.

For a taste of what WrestleMania is like, here’s a video of the “Top 10 Championship Changes” to take place at the event:

 

 

Book Review – Placebo by Steven James

Steven James PlaceboPlacebo by Steven James is a very good thriller that’s worth your attention. I recently completed the book and was impressed by many elements of the story. I found Jevin Banks to be an extremely likable protagonist who matured as the story progressed, and the supporting cast was equally memorable. James’ ability to jump between characters, even those who aren’t in the same room during a scene, impressed me. Character hopping can be a hard thing to pull off without disorienting the reader, but James handled it extremely well; and by doing so, he ratcheted up the suspense during tense moments and sustained a brisk pace throughout the novel. The plot itself was an interesting one that despite being sometimes bogged down by moments of expository scientific dialogue, made me think critically about the pros and cons of the pharmaceutical industry. And being from Philadelphia, I loved that a good portion of the novel was set in the City of Brotherly Love. It seems every book and movie takes place in New York City, so whenever someone wants to shake things up and pick a different locale, I’m all for it. Overall, Placebo was a highly enjoyable read that I blew through in just a few days, and I highly recommend it.

Stay tuned for my interview with Steven James, as well as my review of his upcoming novel Singularity, the second book in the Jevin Banks series.

Synopsis

While covertly investigating a controversial neurological research program, exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks is drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms. After giving up his career as an escape artist and illusionist in the wake of his wife and sons’ tragic death, Jevin is seeking not only answers about the questionable mind-to-mind communication program, but also answers to why his family suffered as they did. 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: