Monday, February 10, 2020

Birds of Prey Review, What’s Wrong with Discovery, Aladdin Review, Movie Trivia, and More!

Movie Reviews

Birds of Prey

Joker has dumped Harley and she’s trying to find her place in life. In other words, without Joker, Harley is a big target and everyone wants her dead.
This film capitalizes on the best part of Suicide Squad – Harley Quinn. She’s fearless, resourceful, and quite reckless. But it’s still the simple things in life she loves - her pet hyena, Bruce Wayne; an egg breakfast sandwich made to perfection; and smashing people with a bat.
The story is told with some flashbacks (Harley style) and the names of villains blasting across the screen (along with their grievances against Harley) and it lets you know you are in for a fun ride.
Yes, it is rated R. Not as foul as Deadpool. But it is violent and contains language.
Ewan McGregor as the bad guy chews up scenery. He obviously had fun just going for it, over the top and all, with the role.
The film is all about Harley, but it’s fun watching the Birds of Prey come together. Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell are great in their roles.
And the big rumble in the end is awesome.
I didn’t love it, but I really enjoyed it.
Recommended.

Aladdin

Another Disney cash-grab based on the 1992 cartoon.
This one is a step above The Lion King. A lot of it is word-for-word identical to the first, but they did change it up a little. (Probably to make it longer more than anything else.) It’s very colorful and with great special effects. And Guy Ritchie directs! Now that’s surprising.
Will Smith does his best to do his own spin on Genie, which I appreciated. Ultimately, Robin Williams still did it best.
The musical numbers don’t work as well in this live action version as they did in the animated film. Back in the 50’s and 60’s it worked, but today it just doesn’t.
Another drawback is the monkey Abu. Just like The Lion King, the realistic CGI monkey has no expression. Abu was so expressive and funny in the first movie. Here, he’s just a monkey. Jafar’s parrot was also just a parrot.
And of course, you sit through it knowing all the words to the songs and half of the dialogue and enduring the overwhelming sensation that you’ve seen it all before.
Fun film if you’ve never seen the original, but if you have, just go watch it instead.

Why Discovery is a Dumpster Fire

When CBS announced that Star Trek: Discovery would only be available on a pay streaming service called All Access, my initial thought was no. Or more accurately “Hell no!” Then they announced a new show called Star Trek: Picard and I knew I would have to eat my words.
While being extorted by CBS, I decided to give Discovery a whirl. Here are my ten reasons why this show is a dumpster fire. (Please note that I have only seen season one. I’m told it gets better, but that’s not setting the bar very high.)

1. No likable characters. The characters run the gamut from unlikable to downright annoying. It’s hard to root for these guys.

2. The radical Klingon redesign. This show supposedly takes place in the same universe as Enterprise, the original, and TNG. What idiot thought that completely changing one of the most recognizable races on the show was a good idea?

3. The Klingons mostly speak in their native tongue with subtitles. Look, I’m fine with subtitles, but the mouth prosthetics are horrible and so the actors sound like they are struggling with pronunciation. If you ever wore the full mouth plastic vampire teeth as a kid for Halloween, you know what I mean.

4. Plot holes that the Federation could fly an entire fleet through.

5. Ridiculous advanced tech for the time period. This show exists between Enterprise and ten years before the original. The tech is more advanced than Voyager. Holograms, cloaked fleets, spore Drive, and I could go on. It doesn’t fit!

6. The captain, who follows the orders of Starfleet, has the autonomy to bring a mutineer (who has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison) onto his ship and keep her as a crew member. No one in Starfleet has a problem with this.

7. Cussing. I don’t need it in Star Trek. Just because you can add in the F bomb does not make the show more adult.

8. Where is the humor? It would be great to be a crewman on TNG, DS9, Voyager, or Enterprise. But it is a joyless, soul-sucking experience to be aboard Discovery.

9. Other than Michael, I don’t know any of these characters. It’s like they were so busy trying to tell a mediocre to poor story that they forgot that the heart of Star Trek is rooted in growing familiar and ultimately feeling a sense of family with the characters.

10. I will never re-watch any of these episodes. That’s sad! I’ve re-watched the original series, TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise so many times, but Discovery is a misfire in almost every way.

Conclusion – total dumpster fire!

Ninja News

Available February 13 on audio-
Dragonfly Summer by J.H. Moncrieff
Jo Carter never thought she'd return to Clear Springs, Minnesota. But when the former journalist receives a cryptic note about the disappearance of her friend Sam twenty years before, she's compelled to find out what really happened.
Find it on Audible

MC Book Tours
Mason Canyon, who runs Thoughts in Progress, a book review/feature site, also does book tours - MC Book Tours.
She’s putting together tours for two of our friends and their upcoming releases:
Murder, Just Because by Yolanda Renée
Dancing With Dementia by Jemi Fraser
If you can host either author, contact Mason!

Movie Trivia

Going for the comic book/graphic novel movies!
Name the movie from the tagline, star, and year.

1: They destroyed everything he had, everything he was. Now, crime has a new enemy and justice has a new face. Liam Neison 1990
2: Justice is coming to all of us. No matter what we do. Jackie Earl Haley 2009
3: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Alec Baldwin 1994
4: In the absence of light darkness prevails. Ron Perlman 2004
5: Believe in angels. Brandon Lee 1994
6: Last time he fought against his sworn enemies....This time he will fight with them. Wesley Snipes 2002
7: First contact. Last stand. Daniel Craig 2011
8: A step beyond science fiction. John Candy (voice) 1981
9: Judgement is coming. Karl Urban 2012
10: Still Armed. Still Dangerous. Still Got It. Bruce Willis 2010
11: She alone has the power to save paradise. Tanya Roberts 1984
12: His time has come. Hugh Jackman 2017
13: In the future, the odds of survival are 1000 to 1. That’s just the way she likes it. Lori Petty 1995
14: Freedom forever! Natalie Portman 2005


Since February 17 is a holiday, I won’t be around – I'll post again on February 24.
Seen Birds of Prey or Aladdin? Think Discovery is a hot mess? Helping with either blog tour? And do you know any of the trivia answers?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, February Movie Preview, Movie Reviews, and More!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.


My awesome co-hosts today are Lee Lowery, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Jennifer Hawes, Cathrina Constantine, and Tyrean Martinson

February 5 question - Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

Ironically, I covered this in my December IWSG post. (Double ironic because today’s question is mine!)

So rather than post the Frazetta image that inspired CassaStar again, I’ll go with another artistic inspiration.

Dragon on the Sea by Ayreon is about the Queen of England sending Sir Walter Drake out to meet the enemy. The lyrics gave me the idea of a dragon space ship and a man being sent on a quest. The result was my fourth book, a standalone novel, Dragon of the Stars.

Here is the YouTube video – most of the lyrics fit somewhere into the story:



Need a couple co-hosts for April and May. Leave a comment if you can help either month!

New release from an IWSG member and former Admin!
Wielder’s Curse by Elle Cardy (Lynda R. Young)
Her curse isn’t the only darkness waiting to break the world.
The second in the sweeping Wielder’s Storm fantasy series, this epic adventure is about a fierce young girl, out of control magic, terrifying secrets, and now dark visions and a sinister enemy on the hunt.
Find it on Amazon


Movie Reviews

The Good Dinosaur
While we still have Disney+, we decided to watch this Pixar film since we missed it in the theater.
The meteor misses earth, so dinosaurs don’t die out and evolve instead. The herbivores are farmers and the big carnivores are ranchers. Humans are just now evolving and still run around on all fours, barking and howling like dogs, and the main one’s name is Spot…
What the f***?!
This movie is what happens when writers drop acid. And then forget to edit sober. The film also handles some really adult and difficult themes that hopefully went over kids’ heads. Of course, the poor adults along for the ride were treated to a really juvenile story. And it should have been called The Clumsy Dinosaur – how he lived until the end I’ll never know.
It does have some stunning scenery animation. Very life-like. The dinosaurs – not so much.
It’s a train wreck, but at least it was watchable. Although I may never get the redneck Texan T-Rexes out of my head…
Not recommended

Parasite
An unemployed family slowly cons their way into working for a filthy rich family.
Since it’s up for Best Picture, we decided to watch it. I’m not sure what all the excitement is about though.
None of the characters are likeable, either the poor family or the rich. They aren’t all complete scumbags, but they are very screwed up and damaged characters. So it’s really hard to care what happens to any of them.
It is fascinating in a creepy kind of way how things start spiraling out of control for everyone. However, there are some plot holes and some characters/plot points that just don’t lead anywhere. Plus the film’s message seems to be that poor people are parasites. Maybe that works in South Korea, but not sure how well that goes over here.
I predict this will not win Best Picture.
Watch at your own risk.

February Movie Preview

Here are the upcoming theatrical releases for February! As always, descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snark provided by me.

7 –

Birds of Prey
After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord.
Director: Cathy Yan
Stars: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ewan McGregor, Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Plausible? Who cares? I’m there!



14 –

Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island
A horror adaptation of the popular '70s TV show about a magical island resort.
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Stars: Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Portia Doubleday, Michael Peña
If I don’t get at least one “Da plane!” I will be bitterly disappointed.


21 –

The Call of the Wild
A sled dog struggles for survival in the wilds of the Yukon.
Director: Chris Sanders
Stars: Karen Gillan, Harrison Ford, Cara Gee, Dan Stevens
The dog is CGI. Why?????


28 – 

The Invisible Man
When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
Director: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid
I worry this will make us long for the Chevy Chase version…



Has art inspired your writing? Can you co-host in April or May? Seen either movie I reviewed? And what films catch your eye this month?

Monday, January 27, 2020

Reviews – Picard, Togo, The Aeronauts; Top Movies of the Decade, War Movie Trivia Answers, New Releases, and Ninja News

Last Friday, I was a guest on Scott Coon’s site for the Little Create Interview – five simple questions, five interesting answers. Check it out!

I also posted at the IWSG site - Ten Tips for Handling Bad Book Reviews.

Movie and Show Reviews

Picard

This show debuted on January 23, picking up with Jean Luc Picard twenty years after the last Next Gen movie, Nemesis.
It was a great first episode, snagging you from the opening scene. And it doesn’t let go. It’s very nostalgic without pandering. They don’t force-feed – it comes through sweet and natural.
The special effects, sets, everything – top-notch and movie quality.
And as much as I hate CBS for making me pay for this, they have my money for the duration of this show…
Highly recommended!

The Aeronauts

Inspired by a true event, this film depicts the first gas balloon to go beyond 23,000 feet in 1862.
Felicity Jones is daredevil balloon pilot Amelia Wren and Eddie Redmayne is scientist and meteorologist James Glaisher. Both are battling demons – she lost her husband in a balloon accident and he is fighting to prove the weather can be predicted.
The cinematography is amazing. The view from the balloon, the sight of the balloon in the clouds – all impressive.
The leads do great in their roles. The story begins with the balloon launch and then is told in flashbacks to show you where the characters came from and why this flight is so important to both. There are plenty of scary moments, as well as some painful ones when they hit ice. (Always bring the moleskin!)
While not historically accurate, it’s still a fun adventure tale and a look at a world we no longer know. Created by Amazon Studios, they’ve proven they can produce a big theater film.
Recommended

Togo

The true story of the real sled dog hero in the 1925 Nome, Alaska diphtheria serum run. Willem Dafoe plays musher Leonhard Seppala as he and his team, led by the aging Togo, race to get the serum during a storm.
Those of you who’ve seen the animated film Balto only know part of the story. Also one of Seppala’s dogs, he was the lead dog of the team that reached Nome with the serum – and therefore got the glory. However, that team was one of nineteen who ran for approximately thirty-one miles each. Seppala and Togo covered over two hundred and sixty miles!
It’s told in flashbacks, going from Seppala and Togo’s run through the storm to the beginning when man and pup met – and it was not love at first sight! Togo was a runt and Seppala wrote him off, but Togo proved to be smart, fast, and one amazing escape artist, and eventually he won over Seppala and became his lead dog.
There are plenty of tense moments, such as when they cross the frozen sound. The settings are beautiful and closeup special effects really good. (Just ignore the obvious matte paintings in the background of the sweeping shots.)
At its core, Togo is about the close relationship between man and dog and what happens if they push each other too far.
If you’re a fan of adventure, animal, or survival stories, you’ll really enjoy Togo.
Highly recommended

Ninja News

#IWSGPit went fantastic! There were more Tweets than ever before.
Thanks to everyone who participated or spread the word.
Any success stories from #IWSGPit, please pass them along. We want to feature you in the newsletter!

Spurred by a post by Anne R. Allen, I finally started being more active on Book Bub. My profile was set, but not every book had all the links, I wasn’t following many other authors, and I hadn’t reviewed any books. I am rectifying that now! If you have a Book Bub presence, please follow me – and I will follow back. And I am going to spend time every week reviewing new books.

The authors featured in the five IWSG anthology books have a website they run - IWSG Anthologies. With Voyagers: The Third Ghost coming out soon, you can visit the site each week to learn more about the authors and read a snippet of each story.

New release-
Moving Through Disclosure: The Handbook I Wanted During My Husband’s Pornography Addiction Disclosure by Elsie Amata
Find it on Amazon

And to give you a little chuckle…
I was watching a RiffTrax movie.
Man and woman watching the news on television.
The man gets up and says ‘No time for news now.’
One of the RiffTrax guys responds – ‘CNN’s new slogan!’
Yeah, almost too sad and true to be funny…

Top Ten Movies of the Decade

Here are the top ten, best-reviewed, and of course my personal favorite movies of the past decade, in no particular order. (Without commentary – sorry, I was running out of room in this post!)

The Avengers
Rogue One
Mad Max: Fury Road
Inception
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Hobbit trilogy
Super 8
Wonder Woman
Fast Five
Guardians of the Galaxy

And special mention to Aquaman and Star Trek: Into Darkness

Movie Trivia Answers

War movies – name the movie from the three actors and the year.

Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Barry Keoghan, 2017 Dunkirk
Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, 2009 Inglorious Basterds
Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, 1997 Starship Troopers
Jeremy Irvine, Davile Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, 2011 War Horse
Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, 1979 Apocalypse Now
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, 2014 Edge of Tomorrow
Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, 1986 Platton
Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, 2001 Black Hawk Down
Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, 1967 The Dirty Dozen
Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, 2016 Hacksaw Ridge
Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, 1964 Dr. Strangelove



Did you watch Picard? Seen Togo or The Aeronauts? Participate in #IWSGPit? On Book Bub? Did you get any of the trivia right? And what are some of your favorite movies from the past decade?

Monday, January 13, 2020

Neil Peart Tribute, 1917 and The Witcher Reviews, #IWSGPit, Top Albums of Last Decade, and Movie Trivia

Neil Peart Tribute

I’m going through a period of mourning for Neil Peart. No, I never met him. I don’t personally know anyone in his family or his close circle of friends, and yet I’m very sad. You see, Rush was very important to me during my formative years. I would say that I idolized them as a teen. When I accepted Jesus into my life, that idol worship turned to admiration. I admired their talent, songwriting, musicianship, and their friendship. They went from supermen to men that I wanted to emulate. I loved the fact that they put so much effort and time into their craft.

They called Mr. Peart the professor because every drummer who ever met him has learned how to be a better musician by studying him. His musicianship made me want to reach new heights with all my passions; his lyrics spoke to me and lifted me up; his dedication made want to try harder in all my endeavors.

I was lucky enough to see Rush in concert over twenty times. Like everyone else in the crowd, I stood in awe while watching (in my humble opinion) the greatest drummer of all time. My heart and prayers go out to his family, band mates, and friends.
God bless you Neil for the music and the inspiration.

1917 Review

Caught it Friday night and most of the audience was older—but boy, did they pack the house!
This is a powerful film and told in a really unique manner.
The movie itself is very somber. It places you in the shoes of two young men sent off to warn a platoon not to attack as they are walking into a trap. The mission is almost impossible and you are right there with them in the mud, ducking the shots, and feeling the fear.
What’s really amazing is the movie appears to have been shot in three takes. (It was filmed over two months though.) The camera moves so smoothly and seamlessly as it follows the two men on their journey. You almost believe you are watching it real time.
The two leads do an amazing job. Other characters come and go quickly and the guys must carry the film. (Slight spoiler – George Mackay as Lance Corporal Schofield really steps it up.)
The explosions, the plane crash—they all seem so real. The sets themselves were incredible, from the never-ending trenches to the bombed-out city. Both special effects and cinematography were top-notch.
This isn’t a psychologically heavy film like Full Metal Jacket. It’s more somber and sad and a realistic look at the lives of the men in the trenches in France during WWI. It won best picture and director at the Golden Globes and it won’t surprise me if it wins the Oscar as well.
Highly recommended.

The Witcher Review

The series is based on the book series by Polish writer, Andrzej Sapkowski, of which I’ve read.
The translation from books to show is outstanding – the series is really well done and a lot of fun.
Henry Cavill absolutely nails the role – the mannerisms, the look. He owns the role of the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia.
The rest of the cast is great, including Yennefer, the sorceress, who is naked in half of the episodes. (Note to parents – this is not kid-friendly!)
Minor complaints aside, I thought this was a tremendously successful first season, with great action, fun characters, and top-notch special effects. (For a television show.)
And on a side note, this show is more popular world-wide than the Madolorian. Wild, huh?
Highly recommended.

Top Ten Metal/Prog Albums of the Decade

Amorphis - Queen of Time - Thirteen is a lucky number. The thirteenth album by Amorphis is killer from start to finish.

Baroness – Purple - I’ve always liked Baroness, but Purple turned my like to love.

Devin Townsend – Empath - This album is crazy. It’s everything Devin has ever done thrown into a blender and it is a stunning achievement.

Dream Theater - The Astonishing - Yup, I picked DT’s most divisive album and put it in my top ten. This album took chances, and even though it’s a little bloated, it’s a stellar achievement as a prog concept album.

Haken - The Mountain - This is the record that established Haken as a prog force to be reckoned with. Incredible musicianship, stellar compositions, and they went beyond normal prog conventions to create something new and exciting.

Katatonia - The Fall of Hearts - First listen - “I’m not so sure about this, but I’ll give it another spin.” Second listen - “I think I like it—there’s something so compelling about it.” Third listen - “Is this a masterpiece?” Fourth listen - “Yes, it is!”

Khemmis – Hunted - Take crazy D&D type lyrics, mix in a cool retro 70’s vibe, add some of the coolest guitar breakdowns I’ve ever heard, and the result is an album that just crushes.

Rush - Clockwork Angels - So much love for this band! Their last studio record turns out to be one of their best (and that is truly saying something). An incredible prog concept album from the kings of prog music.

Symphony X – Underworld - This is power metal meets prog with the great Russell Allen on vocals and Michael Romeo absolutely dominating on guitar. If you are a guitar player, you need to check this out. Your jaw will literally be scraping the ground listening to his incredible riffs and break downs.

Voyager – V - I discovered this Australian band quite by accident (a super happy accident). These guys (and gal) are amazing. It’s prog with pop sensibilities. Every song is an ear worm in the best way possible

#IWSGPit

#IWSGPit is this Wednesday!

8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Writers may send out 1 Twitter pitch every hour per manuscript.

Publishers/Agents will favorite/heart pitches they are interested in. Publishers can either Tweet basic submission guidelines or direct writers to their submission guidelines.

No images allowed in pitches.

Pitches must include GENRE/AGE and the hashtag #IWSGPit.

Visit the #IWSGPit page at the IWSG site for the list of hashtags.

See you Wednesday!

Movie Trivia

Today it’s all about war movies! (And war movies of any genre.) Name the movie from the three actors and year:

1 - Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Barry Keoghan, 2017
2 - Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, 2009
3 - Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, 1997
4 - Jeremy Irvine, Davile Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, 2011
5 - Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, 1979
6 - Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, 2014
7 - Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, 1986
8 - Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, 2001
9 - Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, 1967
10 - Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, 2016
11 - Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, 1964

Answers January 27!


Anyone else shocked by Neil Peart’s death? Have you seen 1917 or The Witcher? Participating in #IWSGPit? What are your top albums from the past ten years? And do you know any of the trivia answers?

Since next Monday is a holiday, I will be offline and back on January 27 with trivia answers and the top movies of the last decade.