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!

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Plus November Movie Preview and Shattered.

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 November 3 posting of the IWSG are Kim Lajevardi, Victoria Marie Lees, Joylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery!

November 3 question - What's harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

Title!! Blurb is difficult, title darn near impossible for me.

The IWSG is looking for an admin to run our Instagram. Tyrean is stepping down at the end of the year. If you are comfortable with Instagram and would like to join the team, send an email to the IWSG.

Movies don’t always get it right. That applies to movies that include paraplegic characters. There are often two extremes—those who are helpless and miserable, and those who are depicted as heroic for simply doing what everybody does—make it through a day.

Screenwriters ignore some of the most significant challenges for some of the disabled community. When I spoke with spinal cord doctors before writing this book, I discovered that often losing mobility wasn't the hardest part of life for paraplegics, but learning to take over some of their body’s automatic functions was. Many paraplegics must monitor their bladders and bowels, they have to be sure to shift positions frequently, they must exercise regularly—no excuses, and they have to stay on top of pain. A big change is that they have to allow a lot more time for just the basics, like getting up and getting dressed.

Some movies (Wheels, 2017 & Passion Fish, 1992) depict such a dark picture that I had a hard time watching to the end. From the reading and interviews I did, I learned that the trauma following such a life-altering event is devastating, but it doesn’t send everyone into suicidal despair or non-stop drinking. There are a lot of stories out there of people who have worked through the tough emotions and are happy and content with their lives. They’re doing what they used to before paraplegia. They’re falling in love, having children, skiing, playing basketball—the difference is in how they do it. It’s called adaptive living

One of the major things I learned while writing Shattered was to think differently about paraplegics (actually, about anyone living with a disability), to think of them as people first, and find ways in which we’re alike, not different. 

Available at Amazon . B&N . Kobo . Smashwords

I'm a native Californian who grew up in a lot of different places; then landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I write most of the time, hike and practice yoga a lot, and then travel whenever I can. 
In my young adult books, I take on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. My Evernight Teen Publication, Double Negative was voted as one of the best top ten Young Adult books, 2019. My other books, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Sliding on the Edge, Sudden Secrets and Not Guilty are out to four and five-star reviews.  

November Movie Preview

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

5 –

The saga of the Eternals, a race of immortal beings who lived on Earth and shaped its history and civilizations.
Director: Chloé Zhao
Stars: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek
These guys make Ant Man seem like an A-lister.

12 –

Five elite hunters pay to hunt down a man on a deserted island, only to find themselves becoming the prey.
Director: Edward Drake
Stars: Bruce Willis, Neal McDonough, Lochlyn Munro, Alexia Fast
Bruce Willis is hunted for sport. What won’t this guy do for a paycheck?

19 –

Ghostbusters: Afterlife
When a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind.
Director: Jason Reitman
Stars: Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Sigourney Weaver
If this doesn’t work, they’ll give the Ghostbusters a pet monkey and shoot them into outer space.

What’s more difficult for you – title or blurb? Interested in the Instagram IWSG Admin position? Picking up Lee’s new book? And what November movie strikes your fancy?

Ran out of room, so tune in next Monday for reviews of RiffTrax: Live – Amityville: The Evil Escapes and Dune, plus several music reviews and other updates. Then it’s off until December 1!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Series and Movie Reviews, Movie Trailers and News, and New Books

Series/Movie Reviews and News

Squid Game

From the IMDB: Hundreds of cash-strapped players accept a strange invitation to compete in children's games. Inside, a tempting prize awaits with deadly high stakes. A survival game that has a whopping 45.6 billion-won prize at stake.
A South Korean series set in current time, Squid Game tells a very dystopian story.
The first season took many twists and turns I was not expecting, some of them actually pleasant.
It is very dark and extremely violent. Some of the games are tough to watch.
But what makes it engaging are the characters, especially the lead, Lee Jung-jae. They bring humanity to the cold-hearted games.
If you can handle the violence, I highly recommend it.

What We Do in the Shadows

From the IMDB: A look into the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of three vampires, who've lived together for over 100 years, on Staten Island.
Season three just dropped and it’s just as funny as ever.
Nadja, Laszlo, Nandor, and Colin, along with Guillermo, now promoted from servant to guardian, continue to bungle their way through situations with often hilarious results. Nandor and Nadja are now head of the Vampiric Counsel – of course taking turns and undoing each other’s work.
This might be the dumbest collection of vampires ever to hit the screen. It makes for a very silly and light-hearted show.
This series is based on the original movie and still written by creator Jemaine Clement. (He’s also an actor – look for him in the upcoming Avatar films.)
If you’ve never watched this mockumentary series, it’s a must – highly recommended!

News of the World

From the IMDB: A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.
It’s a very simple and sometimes slow-paced story. The glue is the relationship between Hanks and Zengel. Two lost souls who need each other.
There are some intense action scenes, but it’s the bond between the two that carries the film.

DC Fandome debuted a teaser trailer and a teaser feature of Black Adam starring Dwayne Johnson, coming out next year:

And a teaser/trailer of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom:

Denis Villeneuve's Dune comes out in theaters October 22 – but it will release one day earlier on HBO Max!
Like all Warner Bros. releases this year, it will appear in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. This might hurt its theatrical release even as it pleases those who still don’t want to gather in a crowded theater.
I plan on seeing it in the theater and will probably watch it one or two more times on HBO Max.

New Books!

The Life and Times Of Color by HR Sinclair

This book is for people who love color, history, trivia, and superstitions. I’ve collected bits of information on color ideas around the world, added a color thesaurus, and color descriptors as well as places and things that are predominantly one color that a writer could drop into a scene if they’re looking for a pop of color. But this is not just for writers, it’s for everyone who’s fascinated with color.
Read more about the book here
Universal purchase links here

Write Well, featuring Rosemary Johnson

A handbook for Christian writers from the Association of Christian Writers.
Find it at their site

Long-time blogger friend, Katherine’s Corner, is hosting Autumn on a Tray this November 6. 
Visit her site for details.

Seen either series or the movie? Looking forward to the DC movies next year? Seeing Dune in the theater? Picking up either book?
Don’t forget – October 26 is RiffTrax: Live – Amityville Horror 4, live in theaters!
See you November 3 for the IWSG post.

Almost forgot - Books Forward is featuring the IWSG today and an interview with me about the group!

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, October Movie Releases, Romulan Ale, Friends to the End, and New Books

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 October 6 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard!

Today’s question: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

I’ve two guests today, so I’ll keep it brief. I won’t write something I’d be afraid to show my pastor.

Romulan Ale and Beverages in Science Fiction

If you enjoy science fiction movies and books, you might have noticed a tendency for writers to give a unique twist to beverages and food. Romulan ale, the famed blue alcoholic beverage from the Star Trek universe was first introduced in the original Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn.

"Romulan ale? Why Bones, you know this is illegal."
"I only use it for medicinal purposes."

– James T. Kirk and Leonard McCoy, 2285 (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

In the prime/first reality of the Star Trek universe, Romulan ale was illegal because of a trade embargo. Later in that universe, the embargo is lifted at the Romulan-Federation Alliance during the Dominion war, and the drink is brought out as part of the celebration. It turns out most officers sampled it before it was ever legalized (wink, wink).

In the new, alternate reality of Star Trek Beyond, Romulan ale isn’t illegal and is enjoyed by Montgomery Scott at James T. Kirk’s birthday party.

Romulan ale is a perfect example of creating authentic world-building from the embargo to the illegal sampling to the use of it in the alternative universe.

In The Rayatana Series, “awak” is like a mixture of coffee and tea with similar properties. I created awak as a YA-friendly homage to all the other science fiction beverages out there in the books and movies I love.

Nexus: The Rayatana Book 2 by Tyrean Martinson

Young Adult - Science Fiction/Adventure/Sweet Romance
Amaya is supposed to bring peace to the galaxy. Which is tough when she’s being held for crimes against the Neutral Zone. Her imprisonment is on her own ship with her own crew. But close quarters create tension.
Honestly, her role as Rayatana is a mess.
She may never get to use her powers for anything good. Not if her teacher continues to keep secrets, and not if her powers keep harming others. Putting her mother in a coma should put her in prison, but she has a mission. She wants to bring peace to her people. She needs to become the Rayatana.

Book Links: Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon AU, Amazon CA, Smashwords, iTunes, Kobo, Goodreads, and BookBub

Friends to the End

What better way to enter October than with a ghost story?

The fictional town in Friends to the End is loosely based on stories I’d heard as a teenager. Tucked between the homes of what would otherwise be a peaceful rural road is the second most haunted cemetery in Illinois. I passed this road everyday as the bus took me to school. I’d heard the stories of apparitions floating above graves or walking down the road. And I drew inspiration from them to weave together a chilling adventure I hope will entertain children and adults alike.

Friends to the End by CL Colver (website - blog)

Middle-grade, Ghosts, Action-Adventure
Zach doesn’t believe in ghosts…but he should.
Twelve-year-old Zach is convinced he'll never be happy without his best friend Jeremy by his side. But both of their lives changed with a bang five months ago, and as far as Zach's concerned, it's his fault Jeremy will never see his twelfth birthday.
When Zach moves with his family to a Chicago suburb, he quickly becomes friends with a group of thrill-seeking kids trying to find a disappearing haunted house. But Zach's not worried. He doesn't believe in ghosts, so he follows them into a wild, dangerous encounter that becomes a battle to decide what's real and what's not.

Buy links: Universal Buy Link, Amzon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Goodreads

New Books

Criminal Intent by Patsy Collins

Criminals, victims and those wrongly suspected all have a story to tell. This book contains 24 of them.
Find it on Amazon

Snowflakes and Shivers by Jemima Pett

Available October 7
Fantastic beasts leave their footprints in the snow; Christmas tree fairies reflect on their lives; snowflakes discover their destiny; raccoons save Father Christmas, and some randy space cadets have the Christmas of their dreams.
Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Scribed, and Smashwords

October Movie Preview

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

1 –

Venom: Let There be Carnage
Tom Hardy returns to the big screen as the lethal protector Venom, one of MARVEL's greatest and most complex characters.
Director: Andy Serkis
Stars: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Stephen Graham, Michelle Williams
Because there were so many pesky, unanswered questions from the first one…

8 –

No Time to Die
James Bond has left active service. His peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter, an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Stars: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux
2:30 on a Tuesday might be a good time to die…

22 –

Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert's science fiction novel, about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac
No Lynch Weirdness? No overacting by Sting? I’m in!

26 –

RiffTrax Live – Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes
Visit RiffTrax for theater listings and tickets.
What’s scarier than an Amityville sequel? One that was made for television…

Where do you draw the line in writing? Would you try Romulan ale? An ghostly legends where you grew up? And what movie catches your fancy this month?

Be back on October 18 with movie reviews and more!