Monday, January 10, 2022

Crazy, Jeremy Hawkins Tribute, and Movie and Series Reviews


Thank you, Alex, for your support, and for boldly trusting me with the spotlight today. You’re brave. You’re also as sane and as stable as they get. Me? Not so much. In fact, I’ve been called “crazy” multiple times—by myself alone, hourly.
Scarier still, I’m a mental health clinician. I know. There are many…“unhinged” (shall we say?) people in the helping profession. That’s one point I playfully underscore in InSanity.
Meanwhile, I ponder the terms “insane” and “crazy.” I’m perplexed by this antiquated yet still mainstream lingo. “Crazy” is used to stigmatize people. It’s not good to be crazy. That’s understood.
Wait, what about Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” Alex? It’s a fabulous song! I know this because, um, you mentioned it. (I then listened to it.) Of course you’re right. It’s crazy good, much like the man himself. He practically boasts about his craziness.
There are countless other songs with “crazy” in the title: “Still Crazy After All These Years” (Paul Simon), “She Drives Me Crazy” (Fine Young Cannibals), “Crazy in Love” (Beyoncé), “Let’s Go Crazy” (Prince). Thus, crazy is good, thrilling, sexy, and exciting, right?
It seems there’s a good crazy and a bad crazy.
By the same token, perhaps there’s a good sane and a bad sane. A sane person like you makes for a loyal, dependable friend.
Yet according to R.A. Salvator, “Sane is boring.” We don’t like mundane predictability all the time.
Then again, you’re not at all boring, Alex. You’re a good sane. I’ve proven my point.
Me? Um, well I’ve rambled too long already. * Crazed smile*

Insanity by Robyn Alana Engel
Author of International Award-Winning memoir, Woman on the Verge of Paradise, delivers another hearty dose of optimistic love, painful heartache, and all the feels for which words don't suffice. In this refreshingly intimate search for the line between "sanity" and "insanity", a sassy seductress encounters human grit, benevolence, and one man who isn't weird.
"Never before has a book so completely changed my viewpoint on mental illness and suicide (with the exception of Moby Dick). InSanity has really sunk its teeth in me."-Ken Lynch, Author of a series of books based loosely on his childhood and not-so-loosely on his service in the Navy
Find Insanity on Amazon

Movie and Series Reviews

Descriptions courtesy of the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

In theaters and free on Disney+
A young Colombian girl has to face the frustration of being the only member of her family without magical powers.
This stunning animated film is set in Columbia but not sure if it’s based on Columbian folklore.
It is beautiful to look at and very charming. The colors, the animation – it all comes alive.
Could’ve used a little bit more editing and development, but overall very entertaining.

The Matrix Resurrections
In theaters and free on HBO Max
To find out if his reality is a construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more.
Wait, Neo isn’t dead? Nope! They have brought him back to cash-grab for mor money.
The film’s story line is very similar to the first, albeit done a little differently. But you do watch the movie thinking you’ve seen it all before.
A couple stars return, but it’s mostly a new cast. They also shaved some money on special effects – now they aren’t quite as good as the first film (which came out twenty years ago). The action scene weren’t quite up to snuff, either.
It was nice to see Neo and Trinity again, and the movie was entertaining – but completely pointless.
Watch if you’re curious.

Ron’s Gone Wrong
The story of Barney, a socially awkward middle-schooler and Ron, his new walking, talking, digitally-connected device, which is supposed to be his 'Best Friend out of the Box.'
This is a thoroughly charming and fun adventure!
B-bot is the device every kid must have and it was originally designed to help kids make friends – which now the bots do through social media instead of in person. But Ron isn’t connected or upgraded, so he bumblingly but sweetly tries to make friends for Barney. Of course, the top of the company doesn’t like Ron’s malfunction (independence) and wants to eliminate him. (Using other bots to spy – so much commentary on Bill Gates and other big-tech guys!) This is a great film for kids and adults alike.
Highly recommended!

Series based on the Marvel Comics superhero Hawkeye, centering on the adventures of Young Avenger, Kate Bishop, who took on the role after the original Avenger, Clint Barton.
Absolutely the funniest of the Avenger series. It also kept everything fun and never grew too dark.
There are some great surprises and call-backs to previous NetFlix series. It also ties in with Black Widow and there are a lot of surprises.
Renner and Steinfeld play well off each other in a father-daughter/reluctant mentor-protegee kind of way.
At only six episodes, it’s the perfect length.
Highly recommended!

The Witcher – Season Two
Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter, struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts.
And of course for season two, he has a partner – Ciri!
The first season was a bit confusing as it jumped around in time. Season two offers a straighter narrative and is much easier to follow.
Season two is also far superior. The cast and writers have found their footing. If you are a fantasy buff, this is a much-watch.
Highly recommended!

The Wheel of Time
Set in a high fantasy world where magic exists, but only some can access it, a woman named Moiraine crosses paths with five young men and women. This sparks a dangerous, world-spanning journey. Based on the book series by Robert Jordan.
I started this series despite a few negative reviews. I’m not sure why any reviewers had issues though – I found the show to be spectacular.
I haven’t read all the books (they were a bit over-stuffed and I wasn’t sure the series would ever end) but the show follows them closely. It does eliminate a lot of the books’ minor characters that are just there for padding, which is a bonus.
It’s a hundred percent entertaining and engaging and another must for fantasy fans.
Highly recommended! 

Jeremy Hawkins Tribute

On January 3, we lost an amazing guy – Jeremy Hawkins.
On February 2, we are going to pay tribute and give back to one who was so giving and involved in our community.
To honor his life and support the family he leaves behind, on that day:
• Post a story or memory about Jeremy.
• Post photos of Jeremy.
• Share some of the graphics he made for you.
• Post a photo of you wearing one of the t-shirts he designed.
• And to support his family, between now and then, purchase one of his t-shirt designs, one of his books, or one of his prints. (He also created the IWSG t-shirt.)
Spread the word and let’s pay tribute to one of the most supportive and loyal guys ever to cross our paths, Jeremy Hawkins.

Any other crazy songs you can think of? Seen any of those movies or series? Will you join us on February 2 in honoring Jeremy Hawkins?

We need IWSG co-hosts for March, and April! If you can help, please leave a comment. We need three to four more for each month.

Next Monday is a holiday so I will be back on January 24 with two awesome guests!

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

IWSG Anthology Winners, #IWSGPit, Spider-Man: No Way Home Review, and January Movie Preview

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.

The awesome co-hosts for the January 5 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Olga Godim, Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken!

January 5 question - What's the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

Probably that I didn’t begin sooner or that I am such a slow writer. I did begin although I have never sped up my writing.

The Seventh Annual IWSG Anthology Contest Winners!

The genre was sweet romance and the theme first love.

Thanks to all who entered – it was a record amount of entries this year.

Now we present the authors of First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts:

The Art of Making Doughnuts - Linda Budzinski
Paper Faces - Sylvia Ney
The Real Thing - Sammi Spizziri
My Heart Approves - Melissa Maygrove
Oliver’s Girl - Michael Di Gesu
Clyde and Coalesce - Kim Elliot
My First Love(s) - Templeton Moss
How to Save a Princess - Katie Klein
The Castle of Ohno - SE White
Marmalade Sunset - Denise Covey

A special thanks to our official judges:

Author Nancy Gideon
Nancy Gideon is the award-winning bestseller of over 70 romances ranging from historical, Regency, and series contemporary suspense to dark paranormal and horror, with a couple of produced screenplays and non-fiction writing books tossed into the mix. She’s also written under the pseudonyms Dana Ransom, Rosalyn West, and Lauren Giddings.

Agent Caitlin Blasdell, Liza Dawson Associates

Caitlin Blasdell has been a literary agent with Liza Dawson Associates since 2002 with a focus on commercial fiction. Before becoming an agent, she was a senior editor at HarperCollins Publishers.

Author Susan Gourley
Susan Gourley is traditionally published in fantasy and science fiction romance using the name Susan Kelley. She is currently serving as the President of the Pennwriters writing group renowned for the annual conference.

Author Jennifer Lane
Jennifer Lane writes sports romance and romantic suspense with a psychological twist. She has published nine novels and two short stories, including Behind the Catcher’s Mask as part of the IWSG Masquerade Anthology.

Author Meka James
Meka James is a writer of adult contemporary and erotic romance. A born and raised Georgia Peach, she still resides in the southern state with her hubby of 16 years and counting. Mom to four kids of the two legged variety, she also has four fur-babies of the canine variety. When not writing or reading, Meka can be found playing The Sims 3, sometimes Sims 4, and making up fun stories to go with the pixelated people whose world she controls.

Author Loni Townsend

By day, she writes code. By predawn darkness, she writes fantasies. All other times, she writes in her head. People call her peculiar with a twisted sense of fashion, but don't let those understatements fool you. Her behavior is perfectly normal for a squirrel disguised as a human.

First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts will be published by Dancing Lemur Press' imprint, Freedom Fox Press, later this year.

This is our seventh anthology! Previous titles include Dark Matter: Artificial, Voyagers: The Third Ghost, Masquerade: Oddly Suited, Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, Hero Lost, The Mysteries of Death and Life, and Parallels: Felix Was Here.

is this month!
If you’ve never participated in a Twitter pitch party, this is your chance.
Dozens have signed book contracts as a result – you could be next.
Visit the #IWSGPit page for the rules and hashtags.
And then join us on January 26!

Goodbye My Brother

On Monday, January 3, I lost a dear friend – Jeremy Hawkins.

Jeremy and I had been good blogger buds for twelve years. His blog was Being Retro / Hollywood Nuts and he was a producer for Howling Wolf Records. He also interviewed many celebrities over the years and visited many cons.

He also designed the t-shirts for the IWSG and A to Z Challenge and many more, sold at his NeatOShop.

This is a huge loss and we will miss Jeremy tremendously. He was a very giving person and did everything he could to help his fellow creatives. May we never forget him.

To find out more about Jeremy, you can read about him About - HERE.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Review

Spider-Man ask Doctor Strange to make the world forget his identity, but when the spell goes wrong, villains from other universes begin to appear.
This is the third of the Tom Holland films and definitely the best.
Tough review to do as there are so many spoilers and surprises. (At several points, our audience clapped and cheered.)
The movie hits on every level as it deals with the multiverse, portrayed well in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It tugs at the heartstrings, zings with action, and delivers a great story.
Only complaint – ten-fifteen minutes could have been shaved from this two and a half hour film.
But this is the ultimate Spider-Man film and you just have to see it on the big screen. And as always, stay for the two bonus scenes.
Highly recommended!

January Movie Preview

Here are the upcoming theatrical releases for January. Descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snark provided by me.

21 –

Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre
Special agent Orson Fortune and his team of operatives recruit one of Hollywood's biggest movie stars to help them on an undercover mission when the sale of a deadly new weapons technology threatens to disrupt the world order.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Cary Elwes, Jason Statham, Josh Hartnett, Aubrey Plaza
Statham is really growing as an actor – apparently in this film, he punches a lot of people.

28 –

Biochemist Michael Morbius tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead.
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Stars: Jared Leto, Michael Keaton, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris
Morbius trades one incurable disease for another…seems silly, doesn’t it?

What do you regret and did you overcome it? Excited about the IWSG anthology? Ready for #IWSGPit? Did you see Spider-Man? Seeing any movies this month?

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review, and December Movie Preview

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 for the December 1 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray!

December 1 question – In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

Stresses me? Definitely the first draft. I find it excruciating to get my thoughts onto paper.

What delights me is the editing. Now that I’ve thrown a story up onto the page, I have something to work with. I can finally really see it and be able to shape it the way I want. And as I was reminded by another's answer, someone enjoying my work is a treat!

What stresses and delights you?

I’d also like to take this time to thank my fellow IWSG Admins – L. Diane Wolfe, Michelle Wallace, C. Lee McKenzie, Pat Hatt, and Juneta Key. We also say goodbye to Tyrean Martinson this month as Juneta takes over Instagram. Thanks for every sacrifice and effort you’ve made to make the IWSG what it is today.

January is when we announce the winners of the IWSG 2021 Anthology Contest! So, tune in.

And our next #IWSGPit Twitter pitch event is January 26!
We’ve been a trending topic the past few years with hundreds and hundreds of publishers and agents tuning into the feed. It’s a great opportunity to pitch a completed manuscript and there have been a ton of success stories. Get those manuscripts and pitches polished and join us that day.
See the IWSG site for details.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review

This picks up many years after the first film with Egon Spengler’s death bringing his estranged daughter and her two kids to his weird house in a small Oklahoma town. If you are longing for nostalgia, this is your film.
It hits all the Ghostbuster notes without them feeling nothing but recycled. Some are similar but most take a fresh spin on the original.
It’s also heartwarming. It’s a warm, fuzzy, feel-good movie. The family dynamics were good rather than fractured. The small town wasn’t mean to the newcomers. The film didn’t fall into any of those traps.
And did I mention funny? Because there are some really good laugh out loud moments.
Mckenna Grace shines as the granddaughter and star of the film. She brings authenticity to the role of a geeky young lady.
And of course, there are the guest stars – Billy Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver. And if you get to the end of the movie and see Weaver’s name and wonder where you saw her, give it five seconds – there is a sneak ending after that!
The film was everything I’d hoped for and I highly recommend it!

December Movie Preview

Here are the upcoming theatrical releases for December. Descriptions courtesy of the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Snark provided by me.

17 -

Spider-Man: No Way Home
For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero is unmasked and no longer able to separate his normal life from the high-stakes of being a Super Hero. When he asks for help from Doctor Strange the stakes become even more dangerous, forcing him to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
Director: Jon Watts
Stars: Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Marisa Tomei
If it does feature all three – Holland, Garfield, and Maguire – won’t that break the time-space continuum?


The Matrix Resurrections
Plagued by strange memories, Neo's life takes an unexpected turn when he finds himself back inside the Matrix.
Director: Lana Wachowski
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Christina Ricci, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jessica Henwick
I think resurrections refers to what they hope to do with this franchise…

The King’s Man

In the early years of the 20th century, the Kingsman agency is formed to stand against a cabal plotting a war to wipe out millions.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson, Gemma Arterton, Djimon Hounsou
I don’t think I could handle two straight hours of ‘Louie, Louie’…

What stresses and delights you? Ready for #IWSGPit? Did you see Ghostbusters: Afterlife? Seeing any films this December?
After this week, I am signing off until January 5 and the next IWSG post day – and the announcement of the IWSG Anthology Contest winners!
Have a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, November 8, 2021

RiffTrax Live: Amityville, Dune Review, and New Music – Dream Theater, Jerry Cantrell, and Mastodon

RiffTrax: Live – Amityville: The Evil Awakens

Another awesome riff from the guys of a movie that isn’t horrible, so it’s easy to watch as they riff it. (And as a made-for-TV film, it’s not bad and rather gory.)

One of the best lines was from Mike. The priest is hesitant to enter a room and Mike says “What, is he afraid Chris Hanson is waiting for him in the next room?” (Host of To Catch a Predator.)

And of course, some screen shots of the event:

Dune Review

Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, and Sicario), known for his stylish and deliberate pace, this is part one of two movies.

The director knows how to let a movie breathe and how to make quiet moments just as important as active and loud moments.

The visuals are stunning. On a massive scope as well as an intimate one.

The actors are great and assume their roles well - Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Fallout/Rogue Nation), Zendaya (latest Spiderman movies), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Stellan Skarsgård (Thor, Avengers), Josh Brolin (Avengers, Deadpool 2, Grindhouse), Javier Bardem (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men), Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), and on and on and on.

Gone are the weird whispers from Lynch’s version. (Awful film, but he did follow the story even as he bit off way more than he could chew.)

This is a film you digest. We saw it opening night in the theater and then again a week later on HBO Max. Its depth continued to resound.

Now, not to offend fans of the books, but this is not a movie you will love. The storyline is dark. You will admire and respect it, but not love it.

There are those who hated it (and they need not comment about that here) but go in with an open mind and know you are about to see a deliberate masterpiece and you will not be disappointed. Highly recommended.

New Music Reviews

Dream Theater - A View from the Top of the World

Dream Theater are one of those bands whose every release garners strong reaction (positive and negative). For every fan that loved The Astonishing, you have a camp that found it too long and frustrating because it was a departure. For every fan that loved Distance Over Time, you have a camp that thought DT played it too safe and didn’t take enough risks. I love both because it is, in fact, the essence of progressive music.
On the new disc, DT harkens back to their mid to late 2000s compositions (think Octavarium). They don’t break any new ground, but they don’t have to. This album is solid and enjoyable from front to end. There is no filler. Each track spotlights the reason to listen to DT, the musicianship. Every member gets a chance to shine with guitarist John Petrucci anchoring the whole affair with his stellar playing. James LaBrie shines on vocals and props to Mike Mangini for his phenomenal drumming.
Standout tracks include Answering the Call, Transcending Time, and Awaken the Master.
For me, they never disappoint, and this release is exceptional.

Jerry Cantrell - Brighten

I am a huge fan of Cantrell’s Degradation Trip (2002) double disc. It is a powerful musical journey that deals with the devastating effects of drug abuse. So, I was so excited to hear that JC was finally back with more solo music. I don’t have the words to express how disappointed I was on my first listen. This was not what I was expecting. I didn’t listen to it for a week but to be fair I finally gave it a second spin. I’m so happy that I did. Once I got over what it wasn’t, I could focus on what it is.
It’s Jerry Cantrell churning out mid-tempo rockers and it’s really, really good. I’ve enjoyed this more and more on each subsequent listen.
If you love Alice in Chains, keep an open mind and give this a try. It’s a great listen.

Mastodon - Hushed and Grim

Mastodon are one of those bands that the critics love. The last two discs received glowing reviews, but I found them to be good just not great. They just didn’t resonate with me. So along comes this new album, and the reviews are pouring in over how great it is. I’ve been down this road, so I approached this album with a skeptical ear.
This is a home run for Mastodon in my humble opinion. This is the most adventurous and progressive music that they have ever made. It’s 85 minutes long without a stinker in the bunch.
This is my favorite Mastodon release since Leviathan.

Now Available!

The Boo Brothers by Steven Arellano Rose Jr.
The Boo Brothers consists of two teen tales of terror. These tales come from the deepest fears of that isolated realm that lies between childhood and adulthood. They are sure to entertain with fright. Now available at Smashwords. Sign up for his newsletter and get it for free.

Did you see the latest RiffTrax? Catch Dune? Interested in any of the new discs? (So much new music!) Be sure to tune back on December 1 for the next IWSG post!