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


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.


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
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 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.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, January Movie Preview, Movie Reviews, and New Releases

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 T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, and J.H. Moncrieff!

January 8 question - What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/parent? Did you just "know" suddenly you wanted to write?

What started my writing journey was this illustration by Frank Frazetta for Battlestar Galactica:

It inspired me to write a scene that would later become part of a novel. That story sat in a drawer for years. When I pulled it out, that one scene and the two characters were all that survived the rewrite. And it became my first published novel, Cassastar.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group made the list - The Write Life’s Best Websites for Writers 2020! 

That's four years in a row now.

Thanks to all of you for making it happen.

#IWSGPit is next Wednesday!

If you have a manuscript to pitch, don’t miss it.

Presenting the cover for the next Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology:
Voyagers: The Third Ghost

Release date – May 5, 2020
Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99
Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure / Fantasy & Magic
Dancing Lemur Press/Freedom Fox Press

Journey into the past…

Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane – what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Louise MacBeath Barbour, Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!

Pre-order on Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo

Movie Reviews

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I’m sure the fanboys will whine, but I thoroughly enjoyed this film!
A little uneven in the beginning. But wow, the second half really redeems it with a ton of great action scenes and scenes that will hit you in the heart.
A lot a familiar faces show up, which is a lot of fun.
It ties it up nicely with several great twists.
And very cool in 3D.
(If you did hate it, go back and watch episodes 1-3. Now those sucked. Lucas was a horrible director and the dialogue worse than a soap opera.)

Jumanji: The Next Level

Not as fresh as the original, which was to be expected, but still a lot of fun. Also just a little slow in the beginning as it finds its footing.
Even with the newness off, the movie still gives viewers some new twists, which includes new characters – and new game characters.
Some of the scenes are incredible and others hilarious.
And a touching ending about friendship and growing older.

The Mandalorian

Let’s just get this out of the way – baby Yoda is damned cute. No denying it.
I’ve never been a fan of any of the animated Star Wars series. But I ended up absolutely loving this show.
It’s just like the Star Wars movies, but with eight episodes, there was more time to develop the characters.
The story is a space western. Mando is a hired gun who ends up doing the right thing and puts together a team to save the child – baby Yoda.

Each episode got stronger and stronger. Lots of replayability – I’ll definitely watch it again. If it were a movie, I’d place it at number two or three on my list. (Rogue One definitely number one.)
Highly recommended!

The Lion King

Let’s get this out of the way – the animation is stunning. One step away from totally realistic. Rivals The Jungle Book.
Now, let’s get to the truth.
How did this film make over a billion dollars?
The animals are realistic, which means – the voice comes through, but not the expression. The effect is – cold. Expressionless. Total lack of connection. And totally empty.
The film is also ninety-nine percent, shot-for-shot like the original. Same songs as well. Bottom line – there was zero reason for a remake other than a cash grab.
You want to see a Lion King that will move you and stay with you? Watch the original 1994 version. Skip this hollow, cold adventure.
Not recommended.

New Releases

And Then You Fall by Heather M. Gardner
Third in the Maguire's Corner series
Now the series is complete!
Find And Then You Fall on Amazon

Tales from a Hack by Ryan Bevan (Husband of our very own IWSG member, Deniz Bevan
Reminiscent of horror classics from film and pulp, this collection of original stories of the macabre will transport the reader to a delightful land of evil things.
Find it on Smashwords

January Movie Preview

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

10 –

Two young British soldiers during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldier's brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap.
Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth
Yes, I featured this movie last month as a December release. That was its limited release (for Oscar consideration) – this is its wide release. Got it? Good, glad we got that clarified.

17 –

A physician discovers that he can talk to animals.
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes
Tony Stark invents a gadget to talk to animals and discovers they all like Captain America better.

24 – 

The Gentlemen
A British drug lord tries to sell off his highly profitable empire to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong
Going out on a limb, Richie makes a London crime drama/dark comedy - we'll see if it works out...

What started your writing journey? Participating in #IWSGPit? Dig the Voyagers cover? Seen any of the movies/shows? And what movie strikes your fancy for January?