Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Four Fictional Characters Tag

Hamlette tagged me for this one.  I tried not to repeat characters I've already listed on this blog as ones I relate to.  I really tried to find book characters, but while there are many book characters I really want to be, I couldn't find one that I particularly relate to.  I'm sure there must be some out there, but I scanned my book shelves and came up with nothing.  Movie characters, on the other hand... it's hard to pick just four.  I also have several opera characters I relate to.

The Rules: 
1. Link back to the person who tagged you. 
2. List four fictional characters (use pictures if you want! They can be from movies or books) and, if you like, describe what they're like and why you believe they relate to you. 
3. Tag a few other blog people! Three, or four, or even twenty. :) Share the fun! Be sure to let them know you've tagged them!

1. Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Like Napoleon, I prefer to work alone, and if I do have to work with someone I don't know, I would be a bit of a control freak about it because having to depend on others to do their job right is very hard for me.  However, once I accept someone, then I’ll risk my life to save them and they have my trust from then on.  I lack Napoleon's specific safebreaking skill set (unfortunately), however, like him, I’m pretty unflappable under action, stress, and duress.  (I’m the one who went back to sleep after the Northridge earthquake wrecked my apartment.  I mean, come on, it was 4:30 am in the morning.  Aftershocks don't bother me.  The house and broken stuff can be sorted later.  I just wanted to sleep.)  Like him, I’m not riled easily, but, on occasion, I don’t mind baiting others, particularly if I'm trying to get their measure.  I also like the finer things in life, and we’re both good cooks.  Also, the fact that it wouldn’t match would definitely bother me!

2. Peter Jensen (Mikael Persbrandt) from The Salvation (2014)
This older brother character is one I relate very strongly to.  We’re both quiet and steady, a bit cynical, and not easily provoked.  We give our married younger siblings time and space to be alone with their spouses, and can happily go off and/or stay in town by ourselves.  Being alone doesn't bother us.  And if you mess with our younger siblings, we will calmly and efficiently (and violently, if necessary) do whatever needs to be done to rescue them.  If that means leading the bad guys away and possibly sacrificing ourselves to save our siblings... yeah, we'd do that too.

3. Valerian (Caitlin Clarke) from Dragonslayer (1981)
One of the first female characters I related to.  She has spent most of her life masquerading as a young man, both to avoid the horrible lottery that selects which girl will get sacrificed to the dragon, and to get things done she couldn’t do as a girl.  She leads a group to the castle of a wizard to petition his help in defeating the dragon.  She goes by herself to the dragon’s lair to gather scales to make a shield.  She stands up for what she believes, and she’s willing to fight for what’s right, including standing up to the power of a king and his men, and the dragon as well.  Like most of the characters I relate to, she has little respect for authority when it is not used for what she perceives as right.

4. Victoriano Ramirez (Oscar Isaac) from For Greater Glory (2012)
I relate to quite a few freedom fighter characters, and of those, I probably relate to Victoriano the most.  He leads his group of ranchers himself, upholding his own sense of honor and justice.  He doesn’t trust the General or anyone else until they actually earn his trust.  At the same time, he doesn’t discount them out of hand either.  He’s willing to listen to what they have to say, even if he’s openly skeptical.  He relies on his own scouts for information first.  Like him, I depend on my own intel, not what others tell me, and neither of us are team players.  At least not until the team proves itself worthy, and we see everyone else can pull their weight.  Even then, we still have trouble following orders, and when Victoriano sees something wrong in a battle plan, and it appears no one else has seen the problem or is acting on it, he takes the initiative to take care of it himself, which is not necessarily a good idea, but darn it all, no one is doing anything.  I would do the same thing, and I definitely share his impatience with apparent inaction.

I don't know who to tag, but please, if you read this and haven't yet been tagged, I'd love to read what other fictional characters other people relate to!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Robin Hood Week - Tag

Olivia at Meanwhile, in Rivendell is hosting a Robin Hood Week.  Check out her blog for all kinds of links to various Robin Hood posts.  Here are my answers to her opening questions tag:

What was your first exposure to Robin Hood?
Er.... No idea if it was the Disney animated one or the Disney Richard Todd one in book format.  One or the other.  I also had a Robin Hood kid's book that dates back to the same time frame, so that one's mixed in there too.  I know in elementary school, I had a lunchbox for the Disney animated one, and it was my favorite lunchbox ever.  My sister wanted to steal it, and we both still talk about it to this day.  And meeting Prince John at Disneyland was a highlight of my early visits to the park.  There's an old photo of me with Prince John from that Disneyland trip somewhere... need to get it from my parents and scan it to share.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how big a fan are you?
7 or 8.  I'd say I'm a pretty big fan of Robin Hood in general.

How many versions and spin-offs of the legend have you experienced?
Oh man... so very very many.  I don't think I could count them.  Movies, mini-series, tv series, Robin Hood themed episodes of non-Robin Hood television shows (like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Time Tunnel, etc.), Robin Hood in Ivanhoe, books... 

What is your favorite version of Robin Hood (can be book, movie, TV series, anything)?
I have different favorites for different things.  I'll say up front that I think the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn is the best version.  It's everything a Robin Hood story should be, and nothing has ever quite touched it.  But while I think it's the best version, it's not necessarily my favorite version.  My personal favorite Robin Hood character is Stuart Wilson's version in Princess of Thieves (2001).  He's older, not necessarily wiser, but embodies all the attributes I want out of a Robin Hood. He's noble and rough, snarky in the face of danger, has a nice combo of protective love and bitterness, and is still capable of changing.  Princess of Thieves also has my favorite Will Scarlett, portrayed by Crispin Letts.  I'm also quite fond of Cary Elwes in Men in Tights, even though I'm not particularly fond of the movie itself.  My favorite Sheriff (to date) was a book version, De Lacy, who I believe is in the Richard Todd Disney Robin Hood, but I haven't actually seen it, only read it, so I don't know that the movie version will measure up to the book, even if it's based of him (if that makes any sense).  I'm also fond of Robert Shaw's Sheriff in Robin and Marian, only that movie scarred me when I was young and I'm still haunted by a few moments from it, so I have not seen it since.  Favorite Guy of Gisborne would be Richard Armitage's version, naturally, from the BBC series.

The one character I don't think I can pick a favorite of, would be Prince John.  Prince John seems to be quite good in all versions.  I might just love Peter Ustinov's lion version in the animated movie the best.  But Ralph Brown in the 1997 Ivanhoe miniseries, Toby Stephens in the BBC miniseries, and Oscar Isaac in the 2010 Robin Hood are right up there as well.

My favorite scores are Korngold's Adventures of Robin Hood and Michael Kamen's "and the score turns black with notes" Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  (That's one of favorite composer quotes, from a making of video that played back on television when that movie came out.  Never forgotten it.)

Are you one of the lads? (Meaning, have you watched/are you a fan of the BBC show?)
Yes, I'm a fan of the show.  I'm backwards to most fans, though... the third season is by far my favorite season, followed by the first season, and then the second season.

Who is your favorite Merry Man?
I'm going to have to go with Robin himself.  He's the reason I'm a fan of the stories.  The other merry men come and go depending on the version.  And if I don't like the Robin... I'm probably not going to stick around very long.

Do you have a favorite portrayal of Lady Marian?
Olivia de Havilland from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).  She is perfect.

Do you have any interest in or aptitude at archery?
I used to do a lot of archery in my high school days.  My mom had several bows and a whole quiver of practice arrows, so we'd set up hay bales and targets and shoot away.  I also got to do archery in high school as a P.E. course.  I was pretty good at it.

Fact or fiction -- which do you think?
A bit of both.

Do you think Robin Hood has been "done to death," or are there still
new twists that can be found?

Oh, not overdone.  Not at all.  Not remotely.  Are you kidding?  I am anxiously looking forward to the next version, coming out next year, cuz Ben Mendelsohn is the Sheriff.  I don't care who else is in it, that's a version I'm sooooo looking forward to.  When the Russell Crowe version was announced, he was originally supposed to be the Sheriff in that.  And I was super excited.  Super duper.  And then they changed it and made him Robin Hood, and all my joy evaporated.  Now don't get me wrong, he makes a good Robin Hood, but it would have been different and far more interesting if he'd gotten to play the Sheriff instead.  Well, guess I just needed to be patient and hang in there, cuz now I'll get a Sheriff I really want to see.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

RIP Roger Moore

So sad to hear about the passing of Roger Moore.  He isn't my favorite James Bond, but he was still MY Bond.  The first Bond movie I saw in the movie theater was The Spy Who Loved Me, and I saw every one after that.  James Bond movies are a huge part of my life, and Roger Moore is integral to that.  Of course, he also did so many other things beyond Bond.  My favorite role of his is Ffolkes, in the 1980 movie ffolkes.  Very entertaining film, and Moore was fabulous as the cat-loving, knitting, cranky counter-terrorism expert in it.  That movie had a great cast, but Moore is the one that made it great.  I've always wanted three cats named Esther, Ruth, and Jennifer, just because of this movie.  I also have always loved him in The Wild Geese (1978). 

One of my favorite exchanges from The Wild Geese:

(Roger Moore) - Allen!  What, not even a hearty handshake, a Shawn my boy how are you, nothing?
(Richard Burton) - Clown
(Roger Moore) - Oh, "clown."  At least it's a start.  Now, would you mind telling me what you're doing here, thank god.
(Richard Burton) - If we live, I'll tell you about it.  Idiot.
(Roger Moore) - Clown and idiot.  You always were a flatterer.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Back in March, I posted a couple pics of my apricot tree in full bloom.  Well, I have a bumper crop this year, and the tree is loaded!  I've eaten a few already, ones that have been ripe enough to fall off.  The rest aren't quite there yet, but they'll be ripening up in the next week or so.  There's nothing like fruit off the tree.


And here's a shot of Silver thinking he's a cat and that the back of the couch is made for dogs to perch on as well.  Since he fits and is comfortable... I guess he's right!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Special Night

Last Wednesday, my sister and I went to see opera tenor Joseph Calleja in concert.  He has been one of our favorite tenors for years now, and we could not pass up the opportunity to hear him live.  It was a fabulous evening!  He was in fine voice, and the program was a good one for us.  Normally, the concerts we've seen at this venue have piano accompaniment, but he had an orchestra.  The first half was opera arias, and all ones we love.  The second half was Italian songs.  There were five encore songs as well, and thunderous applause from the audience for all of it.

And one of the neatest parts of the evening was that the concert was a tribute to Mario Lanza.  And who was in the audience?  Mario Lanza's daughter and three other members of his family!  That was pretty amazing.

It was a great evening for two opera lovers!

(one of my favorite arias, which he sang live for us)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Writer Tag

Hamlette tagged me for this one.  So here goes...

1. What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?
Let's see.  I'm a fiction writer of short stories, novellas, and novels.  These days, I write mostly dark actiony fantasy stuff, with a bit of Combat! fanfiction thrown in every now and then.  What style do I write in?  Depends on what the story requires, but usually it's in third person limited, and I tend to write fast-paced suspense stories, I guess you could say.  I'm not sure the word topic applies, as I don't write about topics.  However, there are certainly themes I'm fond of, that I find myself drawn back to over and over again.  Friendship.  Betrayal.  Love.  Magic that isn't traditional wave-a-wand/spell magic. Freedom and fighting for freedom.  Standing up for what's right.

2. How long have you been writing?
Since I learned how to spell.  My first completed story that was not written for school was probably second or third grade, but I'm not memory-oriented, so no actual idea.  I wrote about a space race to Mars, complete with plenty of action, betrayal, and attempted murder.  Yeah.  Not much has changed.

3. Why do you write?
I write to escape this mundane life.  I write to tell stories that will entertain others and let them escape for awhile.  I write to hopefully keep them up until 2 am because they can't put it down and have to find out what happens.

4. When is the best time to write?
Weekend mornings, or weekday nights.  Has to be done in off-hours when I'm not at the day job.  I prefer evenings, when it's dark and quiet and nobody's bugging me.

5. Parts of writing you love vs. parts you hate.
There's nothing as glorious as watching an idea take off in your head, watching it expand and surprise you and become something you didn't dream of when you originally said, "hey, what if..."  I also love writing or rewriting when I'm not involved consciously, but am just racing to write down what my characters are doing and saying.  Anytime they're in charge and I'm not having to coerce or bribe them into working for me is fun and delightful and makes for a good writing day.  I trust my subconscious to deliver what's required, and it very rarely lets me down.  Conscious fiction writing... which I do as little of as possible, is never as fun.  That's when it becomes work.  I'm also probably rare, in that I like editing as well.  I love tightening up a manuscript, throwing out the useless bits.  There's a great joy to turning a 200 word paragraph into a 100 word paragraph where every new word does a better job than the 200 that came before it.  And one of the very very very best parts of writing is when it's all over, and the story is in the hands of a reader, and you find out if it all worked or not.  That's the reward.

What do I hate about writing?  Not much.  Getting stuck, I suppose.

6. How do you overcome writer's block?
Depends on the type of writer's block.  The kind where I'm just lazy and would rather do something else?  I just have to start writing and everything will click into place all on its own, guaranteed.  Just start writing.  The kind where I'm stuck on a scene because I'm missing an element, or the world building failed, or I let my conscious brain interfere and accidentally wrote myself into a corner... those require patience and more thinking time.  So, I walk away for awhile and do something else while the subconscious fixes it.

7. Are you working on something at the moment?
I've got a fantasy noir tale I'm writing, currently titled "The Sunflower Dress."

8. Writing goals this year? 
I'm not a very goal-oriented person, I've discovered.  If I set goals, they tend to make me stubbornly do the opposite because I don't like being told what to do.  Even by myself.  Even if it's something I really want.  So I don't set goals.  (Deadlines from editors are a different thing entirely, but I don't have any of those right now.)  So, I'd say the only task I have at current is to keep working on my WIP until it's complete.  After that, who knows.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Born in China (2017)

And this movie, folks, is precisely WHY I DON'T DO ANIMAL MOVIES!!!!!!  I spent the whole movie tearing up over the beauty of it, and then sobbed my eyes out at the end because not every story in this movie ends well.  And the set of animals I cared most about was the one without the happy ending.  I did not bring nearly enough Kleenex with me.  I blithely assumed because the trailer was so full of cuteness that I didn't have to worry about my heart being torn out and stomped on.  Yeah.  Right.  Couldn't have been more wrong.

My heart and the ensuing waterworks aside, it's a beautifully filmed movie, showing absolutely gorgeous locations in China and a bit of the lives of the wild creatures that make their homes there.  I took my nephew, and he thought the movie was only a half hour long, that's how caught up in it he was.  If he noticed the complete mess it turned his aunt into, he politely didn't say.  LOL.  The credits had some great extra footage showing the filmmakers on location.  It really is a beautiful movie, with some incredible footage of some beautiful creature.  Alas, I could never sit through it again, knowing what happens.

There was a trailer beforehand for next year's Disneynature Earth day movie, entitled Dolphins.  It looks beautiful as well.  I told my nephew his mom can take him to that one!  I'm done!  (Although, I'll probably let him talk me into it when the time comes. I'll just remember to bring more Kleenex, just in case.)

Friday, April 07, 2017

Tag - I'm it!

Eva at Coffee, Classics & Craziness tagged me for this.  I haven't done anything on this blog regarding writing or reading lately, and my author wordpress site is still horribly crashed, so... here we go.  The Tag - I'm it! tag:

You must be honest.
You must answer all the questions.
You must tag at least 4 people.

1. What book has been on your shelf the longest?
I have all my books from childhood, no idea which one I got first.  However, some of my fondest early reading memories are of the My Book House series.  Loved loved loved these.  Book 10 was my favorite.

2. What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?
Not reading any books right now, just reading the current issue of F&FS magazine. The last read was Rogue One by Alexander Freed, and the book I'll read next... I am not a planner, so no idea. Whatever appeals to me when I'm ready to start a book

3. What book did everyone like, but you hated?
Atonement by Ian McEwan

4. What book do you keep telling yourself you'll read, but you probably won't?
Jane Eyre.  I've tried.  Believe me, I have tried.

5. What book are you saving for retirement?
Santorini, by Alistair MacLean.  It was his last book, and I bought it when it came out in 1986, but I've never read it so I would always still have one novel left to look forward to.  Not that I'll ever be able to afford to retire, but that will be as good a time as any to read it.

6. Last page: read it first, or wait 'til the end?
Wait until the end. I'd be way more tempted to read the plot on wikipedia than read the last page of the actual book.  Last pages would rarely tell me what I want to know anyway.

7. Acknowledgement: waste of paper and ink, or interesting aside?
I love acknowledgments. I read every single one of them, as these are the people/things that made this book possible for that author.  That's very important to me.  Acknowledgments are lovely things.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?
Han Solo in any of the Han Solo Adventure trilogy books by Brian Daley.  Particularly Han Solo and the Lost Legacy.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life? (Place, time, person?)
No.  My brain doesn't roll that way.  Things rarely link to a place, time, or person.

10. Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.
Alas, no interesting stories.

11. Have you ever given a book away for a special reason to a special person?
Just as presents for birthdays and Christmas.

12. Which book has been with you most places?
All my books have come with me from house to house.  But my paperback thesaurus that my dad used in college and one of my many copies of Alistair MacLean's The Secret Ways are always at my desk, and both went to the college dorm with me, while my main collection stayed at home.

13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad later?
I can't say I've ever re-read anything that was required.  Either I liked it when I read it, or I didn't.  If I didn't, well, life's too short to revisit things I dislike unless someone gives me a very good reason to.

14. Used or brand new?

15. Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?
Yeah, read The Da Vinci Code on an airplane once.  Can't say I remember much about it.

16. Have you ever seen a movie you liked more than the book?
Many times.  I have a shelf of books that were all turned into movies, and for many of them, I prefer the movie.  The Dirty Dozen, Laura, Swamp Water, and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, among them.

17. Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks included?
In a novel?  Dear me, no.  I have yet to read a description of food that made me want it.  Now, watching people eat delicious looking food in a movie?  Sure, but not written-word food.  Cookbooks?  I'm not sure they made me hungry, but there are recipes I read that I want to try.

18. Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?
I'm afraid none.  I don't think anyone is currently familiar enough with what I like to be able to successfully recommend books to me.  Movies yes, books, no.

19. Is there a book out of your comfort zone (e.g., outside your usual reading genre) that you ended up loving?

Not tagging anyone, but if you read this and would like to share your own bookish answers, I'd love to read them.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

April 2017

April is here, and, with all the rain we've finally had, the wildflowers are in full bloom:


Writing stories at my house these days usually entails a Silver sleeping under my desk:

He's now 60 lbs of playful energy, but he has the work routine down pat, and usually sleeps and lets me work between 8 and 5 before demanding more attention.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Caught this one opening weekend.  Lovely movie, great cast!  I have nothing bad to say about it, but, it's just... not my cup of tea.  I'd only seen the Disney animated film once, in the theater when it premiered back in 1991.  It wasn't a movie that appealed to me then, either, mostly because there's not one character in this movie I relate to or want to be.  (I've realized this is actually true of most Disney animated movies, so that may be why I appreciate these films, but never love them! Interesting!)  So it's very pretty, very well done with outstanding production values, and I suspect most people will love it.

The only things I truly loved about this movie were Luke Evans as Gaston and Kevin Kline as Maurice.  Now, they were both amazing and rocked their roles.  Luke Evans has the best voice of anyone in the movie.  If I ever saw this movie a second time, it would be just to watch their two performances.  Really really loved them both. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Skull Island (2017)

Well, given how much I loved The Great Wall, you'd think this one would be up my alley as well, wouln't you?  But this one I did not particularly enjoy.  Parts of it were very cool, but overall... no.  Not so much.  What's the difference?  Mostly characters, some plot issues.

I have not seen such a useless, meaningless bunch of characters in a long time.  They don't DO ANYTHING.  The characters don't exist to do anything but run around and get smashed or eaten.  With one exception, nobody has an arc, nobody grows, nobody changes, nothing bloody happens with any of them. I have zero reason to follow these people on their journey, no reason to be invested in their fates.

The exception is John C. Reilly's character, who is the sole saving grace of this movie.  He's delightful, has all the great lines of dialogue, and his survival story is at least purposeful and has a satisfying conclusion during the end credits.  He gets to open and close the movie, and really, if you junked every other character and just followed him, I would have enjoyed it a heckuva lot more.

So, the plot of this one involves a supposed bunch of scientists with a military escort supposedly investigating an uncharted island.  Really, one guy (John Goodman) is there to prove to the world that Kong and monsters exists, except he doesn't actually have a good plan to achieve this without getting everyone killed.... so everyone gets killed.  Dude, you've had years to plan this, and that's the best you can do?  Samuel L. Jackson plays the military colonel who hates that the Vietnam war is ending and he has nothing to do, so he shifts into full-on Ahab mode and goes after Kong.  At least he has something to do in this movie.

Tom Hiddleston, admittedly looking mighty fine, is along supposedly as a tracker just for the money, but he has nothing to do either.  My sister is a big fan of his, so I mostly went to keep her company so she could see his latest outing.  One of the problems is this movie turns into a survival movies, where the only object is to stay alive... and that is one of my least favorite types of movie (although there's a couple exceptions).

And ye gods!  This movie, while only a PG-13, was remarkably gruesome.  I had to look away a few times, and I'm not even all that squeamish.  But seriously, sheesh!  The one death-by-spider-leg moment seemed particularly unnecessarily awful.

Kong himself looked pretty spectacular, however, and the scene where he swats the helicopters out of the sky was my favorite scene in the movie.  That was neat.   The skull crawler bad guys were pretty cool as well, in that they were about the ugliest monsters I've ever seen, but effective.

Also, as seems to be the case with all King Kong movies... they're a bit heartbreaking.  At least in this one Kong survives to defend his island (and fight other monsters) another day, but still.

So, glad I saw it once, but won't be watching it again.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Great Wall (2017)

I saw this movie a few weekends ago. The minute my brother-in-law told me all the critics hated it, I knew I had to go.  I had already thought the trailer looked cool, and nothing will drive me to the movies faster than knowing the critics don't like it, because whatever they're looking for in a movie usually isn't what I'm looking for.  And this movie seemed right up my alley.

A sci fi/fantasy tale set in Medieval China?  Bring it on!

And sure enough, I enjoyed it immensely.  Is it a good movie?  Probably not, but "good" is a relative term.  The movie is loads of fun for someone like me who loves the combination of a buddy movie, action, and beauty. 

The basic plot concerns some European mercenaries heading east to try to obtain black powder (gunpowder) to take home and sell for a fortune.  But their timing couldn't be worse, and they end up prisoners of the Chinese right at the time when hordes of legendary alien creatures are about to attack.  The Great Wall has been built to keep them out.  The mercenaries prove their worth in battle against the monsters, but the monsters are smarter than everyone thinks and find a way to circumvent the wall.  Then it's basically a fight to implement a crazy plan to defeat them.

Hordes of nasty things are one of my sweet spot map items.  I have written at least three short stories (two of them published) that feature immense vast quantities of nasty creatures.  It's something I come back to again and again.  So, regardless of anything else in this movie, I would have loved that.  I like these creatures too.  Kinda creepy, kinda cool... will tear you apart in a heartbeat and are pretty unstoppable.  They communicate with sound, and I really liked the sound effects on them.

The cast was fun.  I'm not particularly a Matt Damon fan, but he's always so nice that it's impossible not to like him.  Pedro Pascal, however, I do love, and he was delightful.  The two of the together made this into a rather delightful buddy film, and their dialogue made me laugh a lot.  They banter, defend each other, argue, and save each other with great enthusiasm. The end of the movie was just perfect and made me very happy.

I enjoyed the rest of the cast as well. Willem Dafoe skulks about being shifty. Tian Jing is beautiful and resourceful as Commander Lin Mae.  Hanyu Zhang as General Shao was rapidly heading towards being my second favorite character, but he didn't last long enough.  Sigh.  Everyone else was well-suited to the movie and I enjoyed their performances.

And beauty... something I really have learned I require in a movie.  And this movie was unexpectedly beautiful.  The scene early on where the various ranks of the army pour out onto the wall to take their positions, each group in their own vivdly colored armor made me ooooooh with delight and just wish I could pause the movie to soak in all the color.  The Chinese army in this movie might be the most beautifully armored army of all time.  Those colors are exquisite.  This movie was filmed on location as well, which always helps.  The scenery was beautiful, and in some cases, breathtaking.

There was little or no bad language (that I recall), no romance, and the violence was not particularly graphic, which I appreciated.  My favorite action sequence might be the one with the fog and screaming arrows, because that was just too cool.  I really wanted to see it a second time in the theater, but unfortunately, it's already gone, so I'll need to wait for the DVD at this point.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton (1955-2017)

Damn it all, my sister let me know that the news broke that Bill Paxton has died.  He was only 61.  I have no words, only tears right now.  Bill Paxton is in the top five on my list of favorite actors who are not only extremely important to me, but whose characters and movies matter at a deeply emotionally level as well.

Aliens, Titanic, Agents of SHIELD, U-571, Vertical Limit, Twister, Navy Seals, Terminator... I own all those on DVD.  I may be one of the only people who watches Titantic for Bill Paxton's bookends more than for the rest of the movie.  And he's the only reason to sit through "we got cows" Twister.

I've adored him since the first time I saw Aliens and Hudson opened his smart-ass mouth.  He's an actor I would watch in anything, just because it's Bill Paxton, and he has never disappointed me.

I'm so sad and crushed by this news.  My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and co-workers, and to the fans like me whose world was always brightened by his movies.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Simple Question Tag

I'm taking this tag from Hamlette, as it looked fun.  If anyone would like to play along, please do!

1. How does your morning start?
Somewhere between 5 and 6 Silver wakes me up to go outside, though nowadays, I'm usually awake before he is because of Thinking.  Then I fall back asleep until he paws on the glass to come back in at 6:30-ish. Then I feed the cats, feed Silver, get dressed, and take Silver for a walk. Then I make tea, eat a Kind bar, put on music, check email and blogs, etc., and start work at 7:30. 

2. What's your favorite color?
It depends.  Maroon.  Purple.  Black.  Blue.  Probably blue.  Pale blue eyes I can get lost in and deep soothing velvety blue to run my hands over, and mountain sky blue that tells me I'm home.

3. What book are you reading right now?
Re-reading "The Sleeper Wakes" by HG Wells for the umpteenth time.  It's my favorite book by him.

4. What is your opinion about having a mobile phone?
I only carry it when I have to, which annoys my family no end, because that means I do not take it walking or hiking.  However, I love being able to text my sister, and the various movie dialogue I use for notifications never ceases to amuse me.

5. Your favorite actresses? (Pick at least two)
Jessica Chastain has rapidly shot to the top of the list, cuz she's amazing and can do anything.  I also quite love Naomie Harris, Rooney Mara, and Daisy Ridley.  Barbara Stanwyck is still my favorite classic era actress.

6. What's your favorite movie right now?
Rogue One, as I just talked about yesterday.

7. Snow or rain?
Both!  There's nothing like being out in the snow, I even love shoveling snow.  But I don't live in the snow anymore, and I'm more than delighted with rain.  Silver loves rain, so we go walking no matter the weather, even in a downpour.

(pic my dad just sent me of where he lives - I just want to take Silver and GO down that road! Also, just look at that blue Sierra sky.  Nothing like it.)

8. What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Homemade vanilla.

9. To which countries have you been?
Canada, Mexico, Australia

10. What are you doing mostly in the evening?
After another walk with Silver, it's usually cooking dinner for family and hanging out with them, or writing, or watching movies, or IMing with my best friend.

11. How old are you?
I am neatly bracketed by my birthday buddies, Hugh Jackman and Will Smith.

12. Which countries do you really want to visit?
Australia again.  Great Britain.  Italy.

13. What's your dream career?
Nowadays?  To be an actor. (Flying helicopters for fun on the weekends.)

14. If you were cast in a movie, which character would you love to play?
The protagonist's wife, who's a spy (he's not). She's killed in the first ten minutes by the bad guys, who are trying to get back something she stole that they desperately need.  She doesn't tell them where it is, and her death and that macguffin kick off the protagonist's journey through the rest of the movie.  Or I'd love to play a stormtrooper in any future Star Wars movie.  Or I would really really love to play a Bond girl, when Ben Mendelsohn gets to play the antagonist.  I'd be his girlfriend, the one who betrays him to help Bond, and gets killed for it in some uniquely colorful way that only Bond films can do.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rogue One Revisited

Rogue One is coming to the end of its theatrical run, and this makes me sad.  I’m enjoying it too much on the big screen.  Every viewing I’ve been to on this movie, and almost especially those in the last two weeks has been nearly sold out.  We actually got turned away from one viewing a couple weeks ago because it was sold out, and we ended up having to go to completely different theater.  I don’t think I’ve ever attended a movie this many times with full audiences every single time.  (How many times have I seen it, you ask?  Only eleven... which is not nearly enough.)

This movie has indeed become my favorite of the Star Wars universe films, for so many reasons.  It’s given me my undisputed favorite character from any of the movies:  Director Krennic.  Followed immediately by my second favorite:  Cassian Andor.  It’s the film to finally give me my nearly perfect SW universe character match (Cassian).  It’s got my favorite droid (K2SO).  I love every single character in this movie, except one (sorry, Lyra).  It’s rare that I want to be friends with movie characters.  That’s not my thing.  But I want to be friends and hang out with all of these people.  Even the tertiary and bit characters, like Blue Leader and Pao and Melshi and a couple other one-line pilots and Imperial officers and Admiral Raddus and and and...  I have ridiculous quantities of love for all of these characters.

I love the planets and the scenery.  I love the vast quantity of Stormtroopers on screen at any given time.  I love the ships.  I love the dialogue, the music, the costumes, the props, and every blooming thing about this movie.

And watching Rogue One remains the most amazing and unique experience.  I honestly am not sure I’ve ever sat through a movie quite like it.  What I mean by that is that the second half of the movie, from when the Rogue One team assembles and head off to Scarif, is one giant unstoppable emotional crescendo.  It never lets up and it never plateaus, it keeps building.  And building.  Just when you can’t think it can go any higher, it does, and then it does it again.  All movies build to their climax scenes, of course, but not sustained for this long.  There are little ups and downs.  Not in Rogue One.  There are no downs.  It goes up and up and up until you think it can’t go any higher, and then there’s the Death Star coming out of hyperspace, and then it leaps even higher with Vader igniting his light saber, and then it goes even higher when the Tantive IV escapes and we’re back in those bright while corridors where it all began in 1977, and then it impossibly goes even higher when Leia appears (and that's just the last fifteen minutes, it does that throughout that last hour).  My sister and I have run through every single movie we’ve ever loved, all the ones we've watched over and over in the theater before this, and we can’t find a single one that builds so steadily quite the way this one does, or one that matters emotionally to us as much while it’s doing it.  That is the key.  Movies are merely enjoyable popcorn fun unless they matter emotionally.  And this one matters emotionally on a hardcore level.

The sheer joy, satisfaction, and revved up energy I experience when coming out of the theater after a viewing of Rogue One feels like I've been launched to the moon.

Part of the joy of this one is also that it’s brought back an unexpected wave of nostalgia for the sheer wonder that was 1977.  I didn’t believe that could be possible.  All those childhood feelings, what it felt like to sit in the theater back then, the excitement that wasn’t just excitement for a cool new movie, but for a game changer.  Rogue One brought all that back, for both me and my sister.  It reminds me of everything I fell in love with Star Wars for in the first place.

And it has made me love the original Star Wars and Empire films with a renewed passion that I haven’t had in a while.  (Yes, I’m aware that I’m dating myself.  But I cringe every time anyone calls the first film “A New Hope.”  It was Star Wars when it came out and changed my life, and that’s what I will always call it, except under extreme protest.  It’s Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi.  End of story.  And Han shot first.)

This nostalgia is probably no surprise, as most of the people making this movie are around my age and went through exactly that same thing.  Star Wars means the same thing to them as it did to us.  My sister picked up the Visual Guide (which is wonderful), and the foreword by John Knoll could have been written by me or my sister.  We read his words and went Yep.  What he said.

I have my action figures, I have my t-shirts and sweatshirts.  I have books and magazines to pour over.  I have my wristbands with my favorite quotes. I even have my Rogue One Klennex box, which just might be the oddest movie merchandise ever but I love it.  It all lets me hang onto the movie high that Rogue One induced for a little while longer.

I have no idea what Star Wars VIII, or even next year's Han Solo movie will bring, but bring it on.  I prefer a straight fight to all this sneaking around.  If only someone had told me back in the day, relax!  Star Wars will not only still be going strong thirty years from now, but if anything, it will be going stronger.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The future of movie theaters?

I've spent countless hours in movie theaters.  I love movie theaters.  Sitting in a darkened theater for two hours is one of my happy places.  Or... it used to be.  But old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be, apparently.

First is this new trend of forcing you to select your seat at the box office window.  I. Hates. It.  Precious.  It's nearly impossible to tell from their charts how close your proposed seats are to the screen.  I like to sit fairly close, but not too close.  But I like the screen to dominate my view.  I've already had to sit way farther back than I remotely like on a couple viewings because I can't tell!  I feel like I'm going to need to carry some sort of giant cheat sheet with me, listing every single auditorium in every single theater we go to, and which rows represent the distance I like.  Now, if it's a viewing that's nearly empty, as does happen, then switching seats isn't a problem.  But really.  This whole trend has added a level of stress and unhappiness I've never had before when going to the theater.  Even when a screening was nearly full, I could still find seating that pleased me just walking in.  Now... not so much.

Second is this new trend of changing the stadium seats to be these wide, long recliner seats.  Oddly, in an age of cramming more people in, this is doing the opposite.  The theater I was just in, that would have had a good 30 rows or so, now only has 8 rows.  And because the seats recline, apparently they felt the close rows no longer need to be stadium-style, so we're regressing back to my childhood days of staring up up up at a screen, rather than looking straight ahead or slightly down via stadium seating.  AND, the way they rebuilt the theater to accommodate these recliners... they put a very wide *&^$&* aisle where the best seating would have been previously.  Seriously, people.  WTF???  And of course, you have to choose seats ahead of time, so I had no idea the theater even had this new configuration.  So, it's either sit too close and below the screen.  Or sit too far away and be up higher.  STRESS!  UNHAPPINESS!  Why do they think this is a good idea, exactly?

Third, our AMC has not only done one and two, but their theaters are now dine-in theaters.  I just experienced this madness this week.  When you hand them your ticket to get in, they tell you, "Don't go to the concession stand, your waiter will come to your seat to get you whatever you need."  As you walk back to your auditorium, you pass kitchens.  Full-on restaurant kitchens.  With chefs.  Waiters are walking the theater balancing trays.  You don't walk into the theater anymore, a waiter escorts you to your seat.  The seats have trays (which prevent you from crossing your legs), and there are menus, real silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin waiting for you.  There is a call button between seats to call your waiter to you anytime you want.

I'm not kidding.

I was appalled.  I go to the movies to sit in the darkness, be undisturbed, and get lost in a fictional world for two hours.  It appears that joy is going to be taken away.  Now there are people walking about carrying food, being distracting.  Now there is the clatter of silverware on plates, glasses being set down on trays, and the smell of meals, being distracting.  Even their fricking call button is illuminated and glowing right beside your head.  I had to take the napkin and cover it up it was so irritating.  All these things pull me out of the movie.  All these things make me want to cry. 

I just want to watch a movie on the big screen in peace and quiet.

I don't want to pick the wrong seats ahead of time.
I don't want to recline.
I don't want to eat a meal.
I don't want a waiter coming to check on me.
I just want to watch a *%@%$^ movie IN PEACE AND QUIET.

*deep breath*

I guess we really are heading towards the world depicted in Wall-E.  Everyone on their personal recliner, not having to get up or move, everything coming to you.

Friday, January 13, 2017

January 2017

Silver's one year birthday is coming up in just a week.  Wow!  How time flies.  He's doing well, about 55 lbs. now.  He makes me laugh all the time, he's such a big silly dork.  He has started howling occasionally if all the neighborhood dogs are set off by sirens or something and he's outside, except my boy sounds like it's the first time he's ever used his voice or he's got laryngitis!  He has the hoarsest, most unused-sounding voice ever.  It is the funniest thing you've ever heard.  He's starting to blow his coat, so there is white fur going everywhere right now.  Just normal life with a Husky!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Rogue One (2016)

On New Year's Day, my sister and I celebrated the arrival of the new year with our traditional double feature at the theater. This year, it wasn't hard to choose which movies we wanted to see:  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One.  It was my fourth viewing of each of them, so that kind of tells you how much I love these two movies.  They are my favorite movies released in 2016, and it's hard to choose between them (though Rogue One slightly edges Fantastic Beasts out for my number one spot).  And I haven't reviewed either of them here, yet.  Shame on me.  So, here goes with Rogue One.

Wow, I loved this movie.  I can't say that strongly enough.  Didn't expect to, because once again, I liked only parts of the trailer (ie: AT-ATs on the beach, holy smoke amazing).  But, turned out I was worried for nothing because the parts I didn't like in the trailer weren't actually in the movie.  Yay!

But yeah, I loved this movie.  It will probably end up being my favorite of all the Star Wars films, but we'll see where it settles.

*Spoilers follow!!*

What do I love?  In particular?  Besides all of it?  LOL!

The characters.  I love these people so much!  All of them.  My family made the mistake of re-watching Force Awakens last week.  Now don't get me wrong.  I still love Force Awakens, but we found it unexpectedly awkward to view after Rogue One.  The characters in Force Awakens are all on learning curves, and Rey and Finn are so young, still growing, still figuring out who they are.  Whereas the characters in Rogue One know who they are, they're all mature.  It's a very different type of movie, and as much as I still love the Force Awakens characters, I couldn't help but gravitate to the new ones more.

Bodhi, the defecting Imperial pilot is great.  I love all his scenes, love his energy.  My favorite moment of his is when he explains to Jyn what Galen told him about being brave and how he could make things right.

Galen Erso - Mads Mikkelsen is perfect in this role, love him so much as Galen.  And Jyn - just love her too.  Great lead for this movie, and she beautifully binds everything and everyone together.  I admire her immensely.

Chirrut and Baze... 2016 had some great best friend pairings, something I always appreciate in a movie.  I don't know if I like these two or Goodnight Robicheaux and Billy Rocks (from Magnificent Seven) better.  They're very similar friendships, with similar ends.  I love their dynamic, love their dialogue, how Baze always looks out for his friend. "I don't need luck.  I have you!"

K-2SO - the scene stealer!   Best droid ever.  Funniest dialogue and actions.  "Did you know that wasn't me??"  (My nephew does a perfect imitation of him doing the "whole system goes down" part that just cracks us up, and we have these silly faux-arguments about who gets to have K-2 as their partner, cuz everyone wants him around.)  His death is one of the saddest in the movie.

Which brings me to the two most important characters to me.... Cassian Andor and Director Krennic.

Cassian - A movie always works best for me when there's a "me" character, and holy smoke.  Cassian is the most "me" character in all of the Star Wars movies.  As much as I loved the original trilogy, as influential as it was on me growing up... I never actually related to anyone.  I loved Han the most... but I wasn't anything like him.  He's far too reckless and doesn't think before he acts half the time.  (This is part of why Raiders of the Lost Ark was so important to me when it came out, and why I still go by Indy as a nickname, cuz it gave me "my" Harrison Ford character that Star Wars hadn't provided.)  When the prequels came out, young Obi-Wan came closer.  And then Poe Dameron came closer still... but he's far too trusting and enthusiastic for me to fully relate to him.

Cassian, on the other hand, in his very first scene in this movie, I leaned over to my sister on our first viewing of the film and said, "oh man, he's me!"  So, I finally have my Star Wars character match.  I love Cassian, and I feel him so much.  I love all the things Diego Luna does to bring the role to life, how much he conveys about what his character is feeling/thinking with just a look. I love Chirrut's comment about how he carries his prison around with him.  I love his practicality, and his bitterness, and his hope, determination, and faith despite those things.  I love how he's always thinking.

And then there's Krennic - I have a new favorite bad guy!  Oh man, do I love Krennic.  He's got everything going on that I love in my bad guys.  My favorite bad guys are always the hands-on sort, the ones not afraid to get their hands dirty.  That's Krennic.  He's always doing things himself that he could just send someone else to do.  He fetches Galen back in person in the beginning, when he really doesn't have to.  Could have just sent his death troopers.  (And how cool is it that the guy has his own personal private squad of the baddest storm troopers ever, all loyal and taking orders just from him???)  He goes to confront Galen personally again after he finds out Galen betrayed him.  When he finds out someone's accessing the archives on Scarif during the attack, he goes himself, and takes out Cassian.  He has no problems holding his own in a physical confrontation. He's also the only Imperial Officer I've ever seen who goes armed.  No one else (that I recall) ever sported a blaster at his side at all times, and I love it!  He's also confident and stands up for what is his, even when he's being railroaded by Tarkin.  He even has the nerve to tell Vader he's got more pressing things to do than respond to the Dark Lord's summons.  Hah.  Vader may intimidate him, but he's still not afraid to mouth off a bit.  Nearly pays for it too, LOL.  And we can't forget that this guy actually got the Death Star built.  No one else.  Krennic did that.  Dude, hats off to you cuz that's a huge accomplishment.  (And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great uniform and snazzy cape that he totally owns as he strides around.)

(I just might now have a huge crush on Ben Mendelsohn.)

The first time I saw this, the movie really came together for me when Rogue One departed Yavin on their mission.  The energy level from that point forward absolutely soared.  That last half was unbelievably awesome.  From the beauty of Scarif, to sneaking in, to the Rebels creating diversions, to the fight on the beaches, to Admiral Raddus showing up and everyone else following, to Blue Leader (love him too!) and his squadron going down to defend the ground troops, to everyone having their moments, to how they're successful but at what cost, to watching that star destroyer sheering downwards towards the shield gate, to the Death Star and the Imperial fleet showing up, and that amazing moment with Jyn and Cassian on the beach, to Vader igniting his light saber in the darkness.  WOW!!!!  I can't say any other Star Wars film affected me as much as the last half of Rogue One.

On my subsequent viewings, the first half became just as important as the second, as I noticed all the details I missed the first time.  I'm particularly fond of all of Krennic/Galen's scenes (naturally), and their whole backstory of which we only get glimpses.  I'd watch this movie just for Krennic and Galen.

This fourth viewing was perfection.  Fourth viewings have that tendency.  You're over your initial expectations and reactions, you've seen it again and processed everything.  The fourth viewing ends up being the most relaxed of the viewings, and at the same time, the most exciting.  It flew by.  Felt barely an hour long and ended long before I was ready to leave the theater or that world or those characters, while at the same time being just perfect because I wanted more.  One should always want more.

So, that was rather a messy and rather personal review, but there you have it.  Rogue One rocked my world.