Monday, June 24, 2019

Reviews - Toy Story 4, NOS4A2, Prodigy, and Baroness’s Gold and Grey Album – Plus New Releases

Jamie at Just the Cheese is interviewing Chewbacca (played by me) on Wednesday – check it out for some slightly raunchy laughs!

Plus – we have a guest at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group site today who got a three book deal all because of #IWSGPit! So check it out.

Movie Reviews

Toy Story 4 

There was no short before the film, which was fine. (The one about the woman eating her dumpling son was just weird.)
This film had the feel good sensibilities of the first movie and it felt similar in tone. It picks up not too long after Andy gave the toys to Bonnie.
It was great seeing all the characters again. Newcomer Forky added a lot of humor. Bonnie made him at school out of a spork from the trash and he keeps climbing back into trash cans while Woody does what he can to convince Forky he’s Bonnie’s new favorite toy, not trash.
The animation is of course spectacular.
On the surface it seems like a kid’s movie, but the many adult themes that weave their way through the story will resonate with adults. Woody was purposeless and didn’t know where he fit in anymore – that’s a heavy concept for kids.
It was a fitting way to end it, if it really is the end this time.
Not my favorite Toy Story but better than three and I enjoyed it.


From the IMDB - Charlie Manx, a seductive immortal who feeds off the souls of children, has his whole world threatened when a young woman (Vic McQueen) in New England discovers she has a dangerous gift.
For those who think famous people’s kids get all the breaks – well, they do. I’ve never read any of the books by Joe Hill (a.k.a. – Joe KING) so I can’t speak to the man’s writing prowess. But after watching the first couple episodes, the story is very entertaining.
It’s like X-Men combined with horror. Some people have unique special powers. Some can go anywhere through a magical bridge and find lost things (like Vic McQueen), some can see the future through Scrabble tiles, and some (like Charlie Manx) can stay perpetually young by siphoning life from children.
It’s an interesting twist on the vampire legend. Stephen King called it ‘Scary as hell,’ but it’s not really scary – just very intriguing. (Yeah, don’t you wish your dad was famous and gave you a blurb like that?) Although it is starting to drag just a little bit...
The show is on AMC – recommended.


From Rotten Tomatoes - A secret branch of the military calls upon psychologist James Fonda to take the case of a dangerous patient, nine-year-old Ellie.
This is an effective film on a very tiny budget, taking place in one building. It’s a science fiction thriller/drama that’s all psychological, so don’t expect a lot of action. It’s a cat-and-mouse battle of wits between Ellie and James.
What really sells the movie is the actress playing Ellie, Savannah Liles. She is chilling as the gifted, super-genius, and very dangerous child. She’s also cold and heartless, making it even more difficult to get through to her. And scary to try!
It doesn’t break new ground, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

Baroness - Gold and Grey

I picked up their first album, Red, in 2007. While I enjoyed it, the album reminded me of Mastodon. I kind of forgot about them until Purple was released in 2015 and I fell in love with their unique brand of rock, sludge, and prog rock.
Cut to Gold and Grey which furthers their sound and cements them in my eyes (or ears) as one of the most vibrant and interesting bands making music today.
Every song has its own feel and style, and yet they all fit together to create a cohesive – dare I say – masterpiece. Practically every song is an earworm in the best way possible.
So catchy and inventive, it’s my second favorite album of the year. (Right behind Devon Townsend’s Empath.) I recommend it for people who enjoy music that challenges them.

New Releases

Windy Hollow
Beast World MG Fantasy Series, book #3
By Tara Tyler

In BROKEN BRANCH FALLS, Gabe and his friends go on a quest to save their school, blowing up all the rules, and discover their origins.
Then they go to CRADLE ROCK and meet some real live humans, scaring them into attack mode. The Beasts realize they have to spread the truth ASAP.
Now, school's out, and Gabe is ready for a break from all the drama...
Gabe and his friends fly over the Great Sea for the wedding of the century: a dragon prince and a beautiful harpy. But Gabe can't relax on this vacation. Besides competing in rigorous wedding events, he overhears the nearby human village WINDY HOLLOW is in danger from an evil human scientist and a vengeful were-ogre experimenting on beasts. Gabe and his friends risk crossing the mountains to help, despite several warnings.
Maybe he's going too far this time, but he's in too deep to quit. It's do or die, hopefully not die!

Find it on Amazon

The Demon Kiss
Rite World: Blackthorn Hunters Academy, Book 1
By Juliana Haygert
A young woman with a secret heritage. A man who made a deal with the devil. And an academy where the students are just as dangerous as the demons...
Find it on Amazon

City of Wished 4: The Eternal Night
By Rachel Morgan
Cinderella retold: Fae, vampires, shifters, and a Godmother who’ll grant you any wish—if you pay the price.
Find it on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble

Don’t forget the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Annual Anthology Contest is open and taking submissions!

Genre is middle grade historical – adventure/ fantasy and the theme is voyagers.

See the site for full details.

Anyone else see Toy Story 4? Watching NOS4A2? Seen Prodigy? Want to take a chance on Baroness’ great new album? Picking up some new books? And are you entering the IWSG Anthology Contest – just two more months to send your submission!
See you next Wednesday for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.
And don’t forget to visit Just the Cheese !

Monday, June 10, 2019

RiffTrax: Live – Star Raiders Review! Ronel Talks Music, Smallfoot and Wandering Earth Reviews, and Ninja News

RiffTrax: Live – Star Raiders!

June 6 was the latest RiffTrax: Live event, showcasing Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine, starring Caper Van Dien of Starship Troopers fame. (Which they also riffed a couple years ago – Casper doesn’t have a good track record with movies.)

The show started with an educational short about lying. Kids discussing lying with a teacher. Kids obsessing over a man laying cement. Kids throwing rocks and breaking a window. I’d be lying if any of it made sense, but the guys had fun with it.

Then came the feature film and the opening credits showed Casper scanning the horizon with binoculars, to which the guys said he was searching the cast for another name actor. (None were to be found.)

At another point, someone commented that the effects weren’t too bad for 1992 but he was corrected – the film came out eighteen months ago! That’s right – the craptastic film came out in 2017.

The acting was bad. The plot was thin and in most spots made no sense. The dialogue was beyond cheesy. And the special effects ranged from ‘okay’ to worse than an Asylum film.

This was inside Saber Raine’s ship. Yes, that is a submarine periscope in his spaceship!

One of the aliens didn’t speak English and the guys dubbed him Gary. “Gary, you are the voice of reason.”
Ironically, we watched Gary die four times in the film. I guess they missed that in editing.

However, it was a blast and very funny! Do not attempt to watch this film without RiffTrax. (DVD comes out later this year.)

Next up The Giant Spider Invasion on August 15!

Music and Dark Desires by Ronel

When Alex said that this post should focus on progressive rock/metal, at first I had no idea what that meant. And then I Googled it. Mm, yeah, I definitely listen to progressive rock!

For those who don’t know, progressive rock is a style of rock music popular especially in the 1970s and characterized by classical influences, the use of keyboard instruments, and lengthy compositions (according to the online dictionary).

I love using music to inspire me while I’m writing. During the planning phase of “Dark Desires”, I listened to a lot of Rush and a bit of Deep Purple (yeah, “Smoke On the Water” was on replay).

Linkin Park probably doesn’t fit in with the genre (though I think they might despite not being listed as such along with other favourite bands like Muse, Led Zeppelin and others in this post), but that is what I listened to while drafting the story. There’s just something about the music itself – forget the lyrics for a moment – that makes creativity flow.

Rush and Queen helped me to polish the story and get it ready for publication. In the TV series “Chuck”, Morimoto who created the arcade game “Missile Command” called Rush the music of the universe. I think he might be right. Chuck later figured out that there is a correlation between the music (specifically “Tom Sawyer”) and how to play the game, some mathematical pattern others couldn’t see. Maybe it’s the same with writing?

There are other great prog rock bands, of course, but these guys helped me with this specific story. (If you click on the links on each band, you’ll be led to a post on my blog about them.)

Find Dark Desires on all platforms: UBL

Award-winning author Ronel Janse van Vuuren mainly writes for teens and tweens, though she is known to write mythology-filled short stories for anthologies aimed at older readers. Her dark fantasy works, usually full of folklore, can be viewed on her website and on Goodreads.
Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.
Sign up to be notified of new releases, giveaways and pre-release specials – plus get a free eBook – when you join Ronel’s newsletter.
Connect with Author Ronel Janse van Vuuren: Website, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Instagram, and Amazon author page

Movie Reviews


A Yeti named Migo goes in search of the elusive smallfoot – humans.
It’s a simple message – people hurt by others, create rules and build walls to prevent it happening again. But walling ourselves off from others isn’t the answer. And we always need to seek the truth. (And in the deluge of media crap these days, that is so true!)
The animation is good. The scenery is very realistic while the characters are cartoony, which works.
It was mildly entertaining and better than I expected.
Recommended for a rainy day rental.

The Wandering Earth

The sun is dying and thrusters are built to move Earth to a new location.
This film made 800 million world-wide. I have no idea why…
It was ambitious to take on the book. Hopefully it’s not as bad as this film.
This film is just stupid and on so many levels. So many plot holes, inexplicable character actions, etc. There is no rhyme or reason why the two main characters leave the underground sanctuary. The mystery sister’s origins aren’t revealed until over halfway into the film. (Like the director forgot to explain it and stuck something in to cover his butt.) Actual science is out the window. (Move the Earth to another galaxy? Really?)
Plus there’s a HAL computer who wants to kill everyone.
And it’s good video game animation, but it’s not realistic and looks bad on the big screen.
This film makes Michael Bay movies look intelligent.
Not recommended!

Ninja News!

IWSG Anthology Contest

Don’t forget the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Annual Anthology Contest is open and taking submissions!
Genre is middle grade historical – adventure/ fantasy and the theme is voyagers.
See the site for full details.

New release!
Hoosier Dad by Elizabeth Seckman

Find it on all platforms HERE

Did you catch RiffTrax’s Star Raiders? You don’t want to miss the August show! Does music inspire your writing? Seen Smallfoot or The Wandering Earth? And are you entering the IWSG Anthology Contest?

I’m not posting next Monday but I will poke in and check on people during the week.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Godzilla and John Wick Reviews, June Movie Preview, and Lots of News!

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 June 5 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

June 5 question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

I read a variety, but so far science fiction has just been my comfort zone. While I grew up reading both science fiction and fantasy, I was exposed to a lot more science fiction in cinema and television. So I’m familiar with it. And while I’d like to write fantasy, it’s more challenging to come up with something really new. With science fiction and space and galaxies far, far away, the only limit is my imagination!

IWSG Anthology Contest

Don’t forget the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Annual Anthology Contest is open and taking submissions!
Genre is middle grade historical – adventure/ fantasy and the theme is voyagers.
See the site for full details.


Mark your calendars! The annual #IWSGPit Twitter pitch party is set for January 15, 2020.

IWSG Instagram

The IWSG Instagram prompts for June are:


The WEP challenge for this month is open!
Theme – Caged Bird.
Up to 1000 words.
There are also some changes regarding signing up, voting, and prizes, so be sure to visit the WEP site for details.

Movie Reviews

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Ghidorah is awakened. Godzilla fights him. Monster awesomeness ensues.
Seventeen Titans awake, although you’ll only see half of them. But who you see the most of matters – Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan. We even get a glimpse of King Kong who will be in next year’s Godzilla film. (My money is still on the radioactive breath lizard – ape flambĂ©, anyone?)
The story has to do with a broken family and terrorists reviving the Titans, but the real spectacle is the monsters. Every moment with them on the screen is breathtaking - and they are on the screen often! As for special effects, let’s just say we have come a long way since the rubber suit. These creatures are real and terrifying. Even Mothra kicks butt.
Some reviewers have called it absurd. Of course! Any film revolving around kaiju and a massive atomic-breath creature is going to be a little absurd. Like that’s stopped sixty years of Godzilla films.
There are a lot of little nuances that give nod to the original movies and you will grin when they appear.
This film is for the kid in all of us who longs for spectacle – and a really great monster film.
Highly recommended!

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Continues the story of John Wick, now on the run after killing another assassin on neutral ground and with a fourteen million dollar price on his head.
The previous films featured close to a hundred gun shots to the head. This one contained only a little over fifty, but there were swords/knives to the head and other creative deaths.
The best sequence involves two dog trained to attack. Great animal stunt work – they steal every scene.
The human stunt work and special effects – I’m not sure how they pulled some of it off without really killing people. And it’s a very slick and stylish looking film.
However, those expecting more than just Wick running around killing people while everyone tries to kill him will be disappointed. After all of the glowing reviews, I felt let down that it was just more of the same. I do like this type of film, but it’s become very repetitive.
And will continue to do so, as it left it wide open for them to continue with a fourth film. Wick is really having a bad month…
Recommended if you really dig the series.

June Movie Preview

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

7 –

Dark Phoenix
Jean Grey begins to develop incredible powers that corrupt and turn her into a Dark Phoenix. Now the X-Men will have to decide if the life of a team member is worth more than all the people living in the world.
Director: Simon Kinberg
Stars: Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain
A whole movie wrapped around a blown transformer in Arizona seems a bit much, but I’m all for it.

14 –

Men in Black: International
The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.
Director: F. Gary Gray
Stars: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson
Maybe it’s a new marketing trick – no funny lines in the trailer.

John Shaft Jr., a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, enlists his family's help to uncover the truth behind his best friend's untimely death.
Director: Tim Story
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Alexandra Shipp, Avan Jogia, Regina Hall
Didn’t I see this already? Oh yeah, it was called Shaft. Wait, didn’t I see that one already as well? Yeah, it was also called Shaft…

21 –

Toy Story 4
When a new toy called "Forky" joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.
Director: Josh Cooley
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Tom Hanks, Patricia Arquette
Two hours of Buzz and Woody in a bin at Goodwill sounds depressing, but that’s how all toy stories really end.

Beneath Anna Poliatova's striking beauty lies a secret that will unleash her indelible strength and skill to become one of the world's most feared government assassins.
Director: Luc Besson
Stars: Sasha Luss, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans
Apparently John Wick has a daughter…

And I’ll end with a cool shot my publisher sent from a recent con – Live Long and Prosper!

What’s your favorite genre to write? Participating in WEP or the IWSG Anthology Contest? Have you seen the latest Godzilla or John Wick? And what movies catch your eye for June?