The Best Devils

March 1, 2017

The Devil, no matter what you call Him or believe about Him, has been an ever-present force in popular culture. Sometimes hero, sometimes villain, and sometimes just there, He is one that everyone knows and recognizes almost immediately.

While one of the more famous antagonists in one of the most famous books of all time, many other forms of literature and storytelling include the dark one as well. Movies and television, for instance, are one of the most accessible mediums to deliver depictions of the great antagonist, and some of the most recognizable.

The following list contains some of my favorites, but by no means is the most definitive.

Little Nicky (2000) – Harvey Keitel

Actually not an antagonist, but a loving, caring father who wanted the best for his kids. Little Nicky, played by Adam Sandler, was his son, who had an important job and was cheered on by his dad down in Hell. Also one of the best portrayals of what happened to Hitler after he died, and one we all hope is true.

End of Days (1999) – Gabriel Byrne

Definitely overdone in the pompous way that Byrne is famous for, this man truly made you feel like he was ushering in the apocalypse. One of the more interesting foils for our hero, wonderfully portrayed in the overdone style that Arnold Schwarznegger does so well, this was the popcorn flick we needed in times of turmoil and stress brought upon by the new millennium, and Byrne portrayed the villain we so desperately wanted to see vanquished.

Prince of Darkness (1987) – A swirling mass inside a container

Does anyone remember this forgotten gem from John Carpenter? A movie you truly have to pay attention to every detail to fully understand, it’s rather psychological and leaves you with a really…creepy feeling. There’s the Devil, but also an Anti-Christ and an Anti-Anti-Christ…yeah.

Reaper (2007) – Ray Wise

I feel like if the Devil truly does exist the way the Bible says, this would be the most accurate portrayal. Ray Wise, always awesome in anything he does, brought a wry sense of humor and realism to his character. It’s such a shame that this show only lasted for two short seasons, but I have a feeling that it would have gotten old pretty quickly if it continued for much longer. Still, this cemented Ray Wise in my mind as one of the greatest actors of our time, and provided a lot more fun to this comedy that teetered on the edge of meh.

Constantine (2005) – Peter Stormare

Okay, so this movie wasn’t the greatest. In fact, John Constantine, one of my favorite characters of all time, was not even remotely done justice. However, the surprise appearance of the Devil Himself at the end gave it a ray of light that made me smile. Peter Stormare, one of the greatest character actors we have, brought such a matter-of-factness and passion to the Devil that you just couldn’t help but want to have a beer with the guy. Full of jokes and buddy-buddy attitude, no one but Peter could pull this off. Worth watching the movie just for this, but you could also skip ahead to his scene.

Supernatural (2007) – Mark Pellegrino

Over the years on the 28 seasons of Supernatural (yes, I know there’s only been 12 with a 13th coming), many people have portrayed Lucifer Himself. Rick Springfield worked hard for the weekend, but didn’t do as good a job as the Devil as Mark did. You may remember Mark from Lost as Jacob, or Dexter as Rita’s ex-husband Paul, but in my opinion his shining moment was on Supernatural. He had a subtle smoothness to him, a sense of urgency that shined through his gritty exterior. The kind of guy that you could envision being possessed by the Devil, and if you knew it, and would totally believe it.

The Prophecy (1995) – Viggo Mortensen

Yep, it was Aragorn himself in this one. A chilling, cerebral haunter in a graveyard, he talked, and you listened. He played a bit of an anti-hero, actually preventing someone from doing something really bad. This movie is beyond a cult classic, and if you haven’t seen it before, why not? Every performance is awesome in this, but when the Devil shows up, you’ll know it, and won’t forget it.

Futurama (2000) – The robot Devil!

How can you not love this guy? Played up for laughs more than anything, some of the best plots came about because of him. Still, some diabolical antics arise and no matter how much you love him or hate him, you realize that yep, this is still the Devil.

So that’s my list. What do you think? Let me know in the comments—which depictions of the Devil do you like best?

And if you’re interested in reading an interesting take on Lucifer, check out my new book, In the Pale Moonlight, available now!

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Rogue One

January 16, 2017

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but it goes beyond simply talking about the plot and fun stuff of the latest Star Wars movie, and more into writerly motivations and musings, but still, please stop reading if you don’t want spoilers. That’s right: SPOILER ALERT!

I’ve always loved Star Wars. In fact, it’s what inspired me to become a writer. Back in 1994 I was reading Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy, and loved every minute of it. I know a lot of people have given some horrid reviews of the 90’s era Star Wars novels, and I’m sure if I went back after 20+ years and reread them, I’d agree. But hey, I was 14 and thirsty for anything Star Wars related.

I loved the role playing game by West End Games and drove my friends insane begging them to play it with me. We had fun, but it was no AD&D Second Edition. One of the coolest parts of that game was the digest with new scenarios and characters and fiction. One night while flipping through, I saw at the front of the book submission information…and decided I’d write a story.

It lasted all of one page and I gave up after a week.

Regardless, I will always and forever love Star Wars.

So it’s no surprise that I loved Rogue One!

What a great, gritty story. Hopeful, but intense as hell at the same time. And from a writer’s point of view, incredible characters.

I felt like I knew enough about all of them to care. They had their motivations, their strengths and weaknesses, and their own story arcs. Sadly enough, they all died, but not surprisingly. Some went out in a blaze of glory, and others had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Which brings me to my only complaint about the movie: Baze Malbus.

Going into this film, I loved the look of this guy. Big, heavy weapons, a gritty appearance, and the faithful companion to his oldest friend. I was not disappointed in the movie at all, as they did an excellent job with his character. Except for his death…

They could have done a better job giving him a reason for it. His friend died, and ran out into an active firefight to check on him, took out a few enemy troops, and then died in an explosion. It really accomplished nothing. Like I said, I know that in real life, these things happen, but why did he have to be so mindless about it?

As a writer, I’m taught that things need to happen for a reason. There needs to be a motive, a purpose, something that makes a man do what he’s doing. So why couldn’t they have him just get enraged and charge the battlefield, taking out as many guys as he could along the way? Why not have him jump onto a troop transport swarming with enemy troops and pull a grenade, taking out himself and everyone else, thus securing a safe passage for the other characters?

It bugged me, and still does. I know it can’t change, but it makes me realize that when I write something, I’ll need to follow these rules or guidelines so that no one is scratching their heads.

However, at the end of the movie, everything was redeemed. The last five minutes were more amazing than anything I think I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Darth Vader, mowing down an entire platoon of Rebel troops like it was nothing? Fuck yeah! Lightsaber in one hand and the Dark Side in his other (seriously, it showed him waving his hand and fist to fight these guys), he plowed down that corridor and tore through those men. I know he’s the bad guy and all, but shit…I wanted to see him win just out of general principle.

I will study that scene. I will write my own version of it. It will become my go-to for any and all action scenes I write, now and forever more.

Well, maybe not all of them. But most of them. And nothing will be as awesome as that.

Craft of War?

November 15, 2015

So, Warcraft.

I was never a Warcraft person. I played the original game a few times back when it came out (1994? That was over 20 years ago!), but not a whole lot. I enjoyed it, but if you know me, you’ll know I’ve never been a big video game person.

Unless it’s involving The Legend of Zelda. Then I’m all over that shit.

But yeah, Warcraft and Starcraft, not really my cup of tea. World of Warcraft? Don’t get me started.

Well, okay I’ll start a little bit.

I’ve lost friends over that game (and other MMO’s, to be fair). I had a friend who ignored his family, lost sleep and was frequently late to work because of WoW. We aren’t really friends anymore.

I’ve seen relationships end because of that game. And let’s face it, that Leroy Jenkins thing, while hilarious (and probably fake from what hundreds of blowhards have told me), just proved how stupid some people can be.

But there’s this Warcraft movie coming out soon. It looks over the top, shiny and filled with CGI. I can’t wait to see it.

First off, the main character is played by Ragnar Lothbrok. I love Travis Fimmel, and can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to see him in this role. I think he’ll be one of the shining stars in this cast. Also, it’s directed by Duncan Jones, son of the legendary David Bowie. Duncan directed one of my favorite movies ever, Moon. Let’s hope he can do as good a job with this one.

More than that, though, is the story. Not only does it follow the humans, typically thought of as the good guys, it also follows the orcs, or bad guys.

Both of these sides have stories to tell. Both have their own motives and needs. We are going to see both sides of this story. How often does that happen?

As a writer, that’s awesome. One of the big things going on in the sci-fi/fantasy world aside from white male protagonists getting the boot is the grimdark nature of people. Maybe the protagonist isn’t completely good, and the antagonist isn’t completely bad. I don’t want to see horrible, evil people win out, of course, but how many of us can honestly say we’ve never done anything even remotely “bad”?

I have. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I’ve rooted for the bad guys before, as I’ve believed in their cause more than anyone else’s. There’s nothing wrong with that, since we all need to believe in something.

This should be fun. Naturally there’s the chance that this movie could suck, but I’m looking forward to a two-sided fight that no one really comes out the victor. In writing, it seems like everyone needs these finite, super mega death bomb endings with clear winners and losers. Sorry folks, it doesn’t always work that way. Expect things, like life, to be open ended.

Now I just need to wait for the movie and see if I end up changing my tune. Not that anything else is coming up. Some movie about a war in the stars, I think?

Same old, same old

October 26, 2015

Literature and movies have much in common. Some of the most popular and cherished movies came from books, as did some of the worst, most forgotten ones. While both have writing in some way shape or form, movies are much more visual, but need to tell a story at the same time.

So why is it that some movies are so terrible, visually, audioally (huh? I know it’s aurally, so lay off), and storywise?

As you know, I’m smitten with the sword and sorcery genre. Maybe it has to do with my love of Masters of the Universe, or maybe my affinity for Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Whatever the case, there’s a lot of great S&S work out there.

There’s also a lot of shit.

I mean, a lot. Like, more than a lot. More than there should be, unfortunately.

Over the past few years, I’ve tried to make an effort to watch as many S&S movies as I can. Some are fantastic. Ladyhawke, anyone? Conan the Barbarian, both of them, of course. Dragonslayer! The list goes on.

But the bigger list is the crappy ones. The other night, I watched one of them, and just couldn’t stop shaking my head.

“The Warrior and the Sorceress” was just over an hour long, so I figured I’d give up some time to watch it. Hey, it had David Carradine and Anthony De Longis in it. Not only are we going to get the smooth, kickass action of Kane from Kung Fu, but the expert, badass weaponry and fight coordination of Blade from Masters of the Universe. Hells yeah!

Yeah…not quite.

Without going into a lengthy diatribe, let me say that this movie should have been called “How Not to Make a Movie.” Everything was bad. Seriously, there was no redemption.

Go ahead and watch it if you want. But I’m fairly certain you’ll agree with me.

Anyway, the point I want to make is, it just accentuated my belief that every story is the same. From what I’ve seen, most S&S has one of three beginnings:

  1. A group of guys are getting ready to go kill another group of guys. Then they do. The end.
  2. A wanderer who just so happens to be the greatest swordsman in the history of ever is just wandering and he stumbles upon a nefarious villain who needs to be put down. Hijinks ensue. The villain is put down. The wanderer continues wandering.
  3. Someone or a group of people are hanging out in a tavern waiting for people or something to happen and then it does.

I’m trying my best as a writer to do something different. While I can’t reinvent the wheel, I can give you a story that you’ll enjoy. Hey, who knows, maybe you’ll even see it as not the same old thing!

Currently, I’m working on a story for an anthology. I realized about two pages in that it was going the same way as always. So, I started over. After watching some of these terrible movies, I think I’ve got something that won’t be the same as always.

Who knows, though. Maybe I’m just hoping for a live action Ken Kelly or Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo painting. You can’t deny, the artwork of those men (and thousands of other talented, amazing artists) was beyond badass, and more than a little inspiring.

I know I shouldn’t compare my short stories to movies or paintings, but let’s face it, they’re a good start. I read a lot, and for the most part, things start out the same. So maybe if do write “the same old thing” no one will care? After all, what works, works, and history can prove that one.

That damned twist

October 5, 2013

I just watched the Nicole Kidman movie, “The Others”.  It was released in 2001.  That was twelve years ago.

Aside from hating every second of my life at the time and not doing what a normal 21-year old man should have been doing, I can say that writing twist endings to my stories was not included.  In fact, the endings to my stories at the time were dull and predictable, the kind of “I’m so happy to be alive even though I have nothing!” bullshit that a lovestruck, confused guy would write.

I was a mess.

But regardless of that, I just watched “The Others” and have to say that the twist ending was no big surprise.  Maybe back then it would have been, as twist endings were “new” and “unique” and “rare” at the time.  I know, I know, O. Henry had been using them long before, and many, many people had used them long before.  But in the end of the millennium era, Myke Edwards was transitioning from happy go lucky teenager to miserable adult, and movies were coming out with twist endings.  People were stunned.

Now, I expect it.  In fact, if a movie doesn’t have a twist ending, I’m more shocked than I would be under other circumstances.

It just made me think.  Do I try to put in twists?  Or do they come naturally?  Or do I not even use them?

Because to me, they’re just endings.

Whatever the case, it was a predictable ending.  Suspenseful movie, but I pretty much figured out the end before it happened.  Good night all.