Movie review: Drive (2011)

I'm not even going to pretend I'm good at reviewing movies. I'm so not, which is why I don't do them. But I feel compelled to talk about Drive, because I loved this movie that much. I saw it last Sunday, and four days later, I'm still thinking about it.

Quick premise: Ryan Gosling (of The Notebook fame) is a Hollywood stunt driver by day and getaway car driver by night who finds himself drawn to his lonely neighbor, Irene (played by Carey Mulligan), and her young son. When Irene's husband gets out of prison, "Driver" finds himself getting caught up in the ex-con's problems with the mob, and in trying to help keep Irene and her son safe, things go very, very wrong.

We never do learn Driver's real name, or where he's from. But somehow that doesn't matter, because his character is just so present. It doesn't matter where he's going. It doesn't matter what he wants. You just know that you don't want to miss a single second of what he's doing right now.

It's been a long time since I watched a movie where I couldn't take my eyes off the lead character, and it's not just because Gosling is beautiful (which he is). He doesn't even talk that much. He doesn't have to, because there's so much said in the way he moves, his facial expressions, his eyes.

Ryan Gosling, you nailed it. You slayed me just by the way you stood there, breathing.

The movie is visceral, tender, violent, and emotional. There was a lot of blood, but it never felt gratuitous. The story unfolded at the perfect pace, never feeling slow, never feeling rushed. There were moments when I didn't dare breathe. I never knew what was going to happen next – nothing about this movie was predictable, and more than a few times I was shocked. Never have I rooted so hard for a character I knew almost nothing about.

Drive was artfully shot. It had an 80's noir feel, and while some folks have complained about the strange soundtrack (all songs I'd never heard before), I didn't mind it. I was already jarred the whole way through – for me, the music only added to this effect.

And oh yeah, I loved that Scorpion jacket.

I came home after the movie and sat for awhile, needing to digest it. I had a ten-minute pity party where I felt sorry for myself because I knew there was no way I'd ever be able write a story as compelling and brutal as Drive, or a character as intoxicating and complex as Driver.

But then I snapped out of it and thought, "Hell with that. One day I will. At least I now know what I'm gunning for."

Go see Drive. Seriously. It's brilliant.

(For a more in-depth take on this film, check out my friend Ben's review at Dead End Follies.)

What have you watched lately?

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So I have this friend... (A story)

So I have this friend we'll call Jane, who published her first novel this past summer.

After three years of hard work, Jane was exhilarated to finally see her book on shelves. It was everything she thought it would be, and she was a happy girl over the summer, thanks to the amazing support she received from her publisher, the reviewers, her family, her friends, and her new readers.

But of course Jane knew that simply "being published" wasn't the end of all the hard work. As much as she secretly wished she could just focus on her second novel, Jane understood very well that part of a published author's job is to continue to promote her work.

So she did. Every day, she continued to blog, Facebook, tweet, and network with as many people as she could. And she genuinely enjoyed it – talking to other writers and readers is something she loves to do.

Then she got the brilliant idea that maybe she'd start making video blogs. A lot of authors did this, and she'd always enjoyed watching them, so why not make a few herself? What better way to connect with people than to simply talk to them, in video form?

What better way to be more accessible to her readers?

She made a few vlogs. Her friends were amazingly kind and supportive, and they cheered her on, despite her nervousness and anxiety.

But not everybody was kind.

In fact, there were a few creepy assholes not-so-kind people who watched Jane's vlogs and thought her accessibility meant that she was actually ACCESSIBLE. And these perverts people were quite bold in telling her so. Perhaps they thought they were complimenting her. But Jane did not take it that way.

The comments made Jane feel bad. No, scratch that. The comments made Jane feel like shit. She then realized that she doesn't have skin thick enough to handle this special brand of unwanted feedback. Maybe someday she won't care so much what people think. But right now, unfortunately, she does.

So Jane has decided not to make any more personal vlogs. She is now content to talk to her writer friends and loyal blog readers the way she always has, through the written word, which is the way she communicates best, anyway.

The end.


Jane is totally fine. The vlogs she has already made will continue to stay on her site, because frankly, they required so much time and energy to create that it would be a shame to delete them.

She is also incredibly grateful to all her friends for cheering her on, in everything she does, and is determined to be just as supportive to her friends as they've been to her. That's a promise.

ETA: Just to clarify, the "unwanted feedback" was X-rated and did not come from anybody who's a regular reader of Jane's blog. These folks crawled out of the swamp, and then they crawled right back. Jane would like you to know that if you're even thinking it's you, IT'S NOT.

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Talking to myself

Come on, we all talk to ourselves, usually when nobody's looking. Right? RIGHT?



I'm at my friend Karen Peterson's blog today, interviewing myself about CREEP, agents, editors, and Snooki! Be sure to stop by!

Click HERE to go THERE.

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Guest Post by Todd Ritter: How to get published in 10 easy steps

I'm happy to welcome fellow thriller author Todd Ritter, author of DEATH NOTICE and the upcoming BAD MOON (Minotaur Books) to The Serial Killer Files! I've asked Todd to share his publishing journey. I know you'll find his take on it as hilarious as I did.

By Todd Ritter

Step 1: Come up with a great idea for a mystery novel while working nights at a newspaper. Example: Serial killer sends the obituaries of his victims to the local paper — before he strikes.

Step 2: Try to ignore this idea for months until you get a headache from avoiding it. Eventually, come to terms with the fact that you’ve decided to write a book. Title it DEATH NOTICE.

Step 3: Research things you’d never thought you’d learn about, such as embalming, crime scene analysis and opera. For fun, throw in taxidermy, mostly because it’s a very twisted hobby your father enjoys. Write the first draft in a flurry of creativity that you have never experienced before or since. Estimated time: Three months.

Step 4: Write a query letter and post it on a writing forum for advice. Try not to cry when the general consensus is that you suck and you’ll fail at everything you do.

Step 5: Send query letter to an agent. Be rejected.

Step 6: Repeat Step 5 more than a hundred times over the course of three years, rewriting your book from top to bottom more times than you can count. Drink heavily. Once again, try not to cry. (Tip: It is advisable that you skip this step and proceed to Step 7.)

Step 7: Rejoice when an agent finally says she wants to represent you! Prepare yourself to wait patiently for many months while trying to ignore the fact that life-changing news could come at any moment. Drink heavily.

Step 8: Rejoice even more when your agent calls you at work to congratulate you on your two-book deal! Breathlessly tell a co-worker, who cries with happiness. Tell your boss, who kindly lets you take the rest of the day off to celebrate.

Step 9: Prepare yourself to wait patiently (again) for 18 months while your editor suggests changes, you review typeset pages, you look at potential book covers, you see your book on listed on (!) and get that first, glowing review.

Step 10: Stay up late the night before your book is scheduled for release. When the clock strikes midnight, celebrate that you are officially a published author. Try not to think that you now have to write another book. Drink heavily.

Thanks, Todd! You know I can relate, especially to step 10.

About Todd:

Todd Ritter was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania. An editor and journalist for more than 15 years, Todd began his career as a film critic while attending Penn State University. Currently, he works for The Star-Ledger, a three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and New Jersey’s largest daily newspaper. His first mystery, DEATH NOTICE, was released last year by Minotaur Books. His second, BAD MOON, will be published on October 11. Visit him online at

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Vlog #3: Twists and reality

(ETA: I forgot to announce the winner for a signed hardcover of CREEP! Congrats to Julie Fedderson! Julie, please email me at jennifer @ jenniferhillier (dot) ca and I will send you your book!)

Guys, I seriously have to re-think whether I want to continue doing these vlogs, because I really feel like I'm going to throw up every time I post one.

But then I remember the kind words of my blog buddy, L.G. Smith, who wrote:

"Jennifer has a got a pair on her a bull would envy."

Thanks, L.G.! Here we go...

So tell me! What is the scariest thing about your job? For me, it's the reviews, hands down.

(Don't forget, I'm giving away books all month long... comment to win a signed hardcover of CREEP!)

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Worst Movies Ever Blogfest

Before we get to the good stuff, Carrie Butler has won a signed hardcover of CREEP! Carrie, please email me at jennifer (at) jenniferhillier (dot) ca so I can mail out your book!

And now...

The ultra-cool Alex J. Cavanaugh has challenged bloggers everywhere to come up with a list of the 10 Worst Movies Ever. This was too much fun! Here are my picks:

10. Matrix Revolutions (2003)
At the risk of insulting Matrix fans everywhere, this movie (the final installment in the Matrix trilogy) was a strobe-light honey for me. You know how it goes. You're at the club. Hot guy's watching you from across the dance floor. It's dark, you're drunk, the strobe lights are pulsing, he's a reasonably good dancer. So you do a little bump 'n grind. An hour later, the lights go on, and you realize you've been rubbing up against Gollum the whole night. All that foreplay for a big fat letdown.

9. Congo (1995)
I had such high hopes for the movie, because I liked the book (written by Michael Crichton). But I could never suspend my disbelief in the theater. You just knew the little actors inside the gorilla suits were about to pass out from lack of oxygen, and I spent the whole movie wanting it to end so they could take the damn suits off already and breathe.

8. Unstoppable (2010)
One large, lazy dude who couldn't walk fast enough to get back on a train that was going three miles an hour at the beginning somehow managed to spark a whole movie about an unstoppable train? No. Just… no.

7. Children of the Corn (1984)
This movie scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a little girl. But I watched it again as an adult and can only conclude that I must have been a slow kid, because this was the stupidest movie ever. It wasn't scary, it wasn't suspenseful. Not all of Stephen King's stories translate well to the big screen.

6. From Justin to Kelly (2003)
It pains me to admit I've even seen this movie, but I watched it because I was rooting for Kelly Clarkson during the first American Idol season. Between Justin's terrible hair and the awful dance sequences, I have permanently lost brain cells. If the statute of limitations hasn't run out, I may just sue to get them back.

5. The Perfect Storm (2000)
Neither George Clooney's intense jaw-clenching nor Mark Wahlberg's pecs could save this movie for me. It had potential – hundred foot waves, bunch of hard-working Massachusetts boys fishing to pay the bills – but everybody dies at the end. It's supposed to be a true story, so who told the tale? Their ghosts?

4. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)
I'm so grateful there was never a Remo Williams: The Adventure Continues. This movie just wasn't believable. Fred Ward, a grizzlier version of Richard Gere, couldn't make Remo interesting. Joel Grey, who played his Yoda-like mentor, was a little man wearing guyliner and pound of pancake makeup. And the adventures? Not so adventurous.

3. The Love Guru (2008)
I'm a fan of Mike Myers, I really am. But this movie wasn't funny, and the story had no hook. The best part of it was this scene (see below), but only because I love the song. My stepdad, Tim Allan, was the guitar and banjo coach for the film, and alas, not even his brilliance could save it.

2. Double Impact (1991)
Jean-Claude can't act, all right? He can do a perfect split. He can rock a mullet. He can wear high-waisted jeans like nobody's business. But he cannot act, so please don't have him playing TWO characters.

1. Showgirls (1995)
The Best Worst Movie Ever. Elizabeth Berkley's terrible acting, combined with her spastic nekkid dancing, Kyle MacLachlan's annoying flop of hair (cut it or wear a bandana, dude), and Gina Gershon's man-eating (and woman-eating) fake drawl – I honestly couldn't look away. I saw this in the theater with friends when it first came out, and cry-laughed the whole time. I've seen it a few more times since on TV. Whenever I feel bad about myself, I always think, "It could be worse. I could be Nomi in Showgirls."

Comment on this post to win a signed hardcover of CREEP! I'm giving away books all month long.

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The unveiling of my UK cover!

First! Congratulations to Julie Geistfeld, who's won a signed hardcover of CREEP! Julie, please email me at jennifer @ jenniferhillier (dot) ca and I'll get your book out right away.

And now! I'm excited to reveal the cover of the UK edition of CREEP, which will be available in paperback this December 2011 from Little Brown/Sphere!

Look familiar? ;)

Sphere loved what Gallery did with the cover, so they tweaked the tagline and kept everything else pretty much the same. I LOVE IT. I think the consistency is great.

I can't wait for CREEP to be released in the UK, along with Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Sphere's other export territories. My quest for world domination is succeeding! I'm taking over the world, one CREEP at a time.

KIDDING. Y'all know I got no ego. Just super grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way, for the friends I've made on this journey (YOU!), and for everything that is still to come.

Do you have any news to share?

(It's giveaway month! One random commenter from the U.S. or Canada will win a signed hardcover of CREEP, so be sure to say hello!)

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You know you're sensitive about your age when...

... you receive a lovely review for CREEP from the Times Publishing Group, and yet... well, first, let me give you an excerpt:
This novel marks the debut of Jennifer Hillier. The former Canadian, who now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, has launched what promises to be a very illustrious career. You’ll not only enjoy this taut thriller but also watching this young woman develop as a first class writer.
Wonderful comments, right? And yet, what was MY take-away?

"Yay! He said I was YOUNG!"

I don't remember when birthdays started to suck. My best friend Dawn, when I turned 22 (some moons ago) said to comfort me, "Don't worry, sweetie. You're still eight years away from thirty."

Yeah? Whatcha got now, Dawn?

Anyone hate getting older? Please tell me it's not just me.

(CREEP been blessed with so many good reviews – be sure to check them out on my REVIEWS page! One random commenter from the U.S. or Canada will win a signed hardcover, so comment below if you'd like to win a copy. Or, just to say hello.)

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Live from the octagon: Jenny vs. Book Two

I'm back! And I've actually missed blogging. Just wish I had more time and energy for it.

So last we talked, I was getting my ass kicked by my book. I can't even exaggerate – over the past few weeks, I've had a knock down, drag out, dirty ass fight with Book Two. And for a while, the book was winning. Which was unacceptable, because this was the main event, and I wanted to hold onto my title.

But round one went to the book.

Round two, book.

Round three, book.

Not good, kids, not good. This is an MMA fight, best of five (and before you boxing purists yell at me, I love boxing, too). By mid-August, I'd lost three rounds. The only way to win was to get the damned book to submit.

Finally, somewhere in chapter 19, I got my second wind. I made a massive change. A minor character took on a starring role, and from that point forward, I had momentum. I had flow. My instincts, which were all but dead, came back.

I saw my opening. I went for it. I got the take down. I finally got my book in a rear naked choke hold, and no way was I going to let go. And you know what?

The Book. Tapped. Out.

I won this fight – barely – but hey, a win is a win. Draft three is finally under control and I can see the finish line. Was it a perfect fight? Hell no. I'm watching the replays and I know where I went wrong. I know what not to do in future fights. I know what my weaknesses are and what needs the most work.

8 things I learned:
  1. Stay hydrated. I gave up coffee. It was awful at first, but my concentration got better once I stopped peeing out all my bodily fluids.
  2. Stay in shape. Train without overtraining. Plot without overplotting. Write without overwriting.
  3. Take breaks. Little ones throughout the day, bigger ones on the weekends. I'm no good if I'm not rested.
  4. Tell yourself nobody's watching. Even though everybody is. I was writing for everybody else but me, and I was choking. I needed to focus on writing for me.
  5. Listen to your corner. Ask for feedback. Ask for support. That's what your team is there for. 
  6. Envision the win. Every day. Picture it, meditate on it, ACT AS IF.
  7. Accept the losses. Losing can be just as valuable as winning. It teaches you humility, it makes you hungry, and it makes you fight harder and better the next time. 
  8. Perfection doesn't exist. Not in fighting, and not in writing. I'm not Superwoman – I can only do so much, and it's either good enough, or it's not. But either way, I'll be fine. Still here. Still growing. Still learning. Still fighting. Still writing.
And you know what else helped? YOU GUYS. Your comments, your emails, and your tweets cheered me on. Amazing what can happen when you have the support of a community. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

So? How's your summer been? What'd I miss? Been in any good fights lately?

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