Sunday, July 30, 2017

And now for a minority opinion

Normally, I don't like to post much negative stuff.  I only do it when I feel very strongly about something.  But as I've just had one of the most unpleasant movie-going experiences of my life, I figure I'll blather on a bit about it.

That would be my viewing of Dunkirk.  My brother-in-law and I went to catch this on the IMAX this morning and we nearly walked out mid-movie.  I'm not sure if unpleasant is strong enough to describe what sitting through this movie was like.  I suppose, given my intense dislike of Interstellar, this should not really be a surprise.  Interstellar had the award for my least favorite movie until today.  Now it's a toss up between the two.  I guess it's fair to say that even though I loved Memento, I'm officially not a Christopher Nolan fan.  At all.

The good stuff:
  • Tom Hardy, Spitfires, unlimited ammo, and aerial dogfights on an IMAX screen.  Best part of the movie by leaps and bounds.
  • Mark Rylance.
That's it.

Not even Ken Branagh, who I adore, gets any marks here.  But he's given nothing to do other than be Exposition Man.  I suppose if someone has to tell us what's going on, it might as well be him.

I hated, loathed, and despised Hans Zimmer's score for Interstellar.  His score in Dunkirk (if one can even call the incredibly loud, monotonous, droning wall of noise in Dunkirk a score) made me nostalgic for the incredibly loud wall of monotonous organ noise from Interstellar.  Okay, not really.  All it did was upset my stomach, give me a migraine, make me want to take a shower to wash the awfulness away (no, I'm not joking), and confirmed my long-held need to run the other way screaming when I see Zimmer's name on a movie poster.  (If you think my reaction is strong, my brother-in-law's is even stronger.)

We assumed this incessant wall of oppressive noise that never ever lets up is supposed to increase the tension for movie viewers?  (Never mind that if your movie can't be tense without music something's wrong somewhere.)  All it did for us is irritate us.  It overrides everything.  Couldn't hear the dialogue, couldn't even hear the fricking gunfire.  It didn't help that our theater was so loud my normal earplugs were ineffective, and earplugs don't help anyway with the overwhelming bass and constant physical vibration from the sound.  But even if the volume had been turned down, it wouldn't have made the movie experience any better.  I respect the right for the director to make whatever stylistic choices he sees fit to help his vision come true, but these choices flat-out fail for me.  We were never tense, never worried for characters, never on the edge of our seat.  We were annoyed and looking for the exit. 

SPOILERS!!!

As to the story... there wasn't much of one.  It felt more like a slice-of-life look at Dunkirk rather than a story.  That will work really well for some viewers.  My brother-in-law is a history teacher, and he was not at all happy with the historical side of it.  I'm not a historian, nor am I that familiar with Dunkirk, other than basic WWII knowledge -- big military disaster/trouble getting everyone home -- so those aspects didn't bother me the way they did him.  Neither of us liked the script's choice of following those opportunist little twerps as they deceived and lied to get off the beach ahead of the other soldiers.  We both were hoping, quite uncharitably I do admit, that they'd get blown up before the movie ended.  Every time the movie cut back to them, I groaned, because not only did I not care what happened to them, I actively disliked them.  This isn't to say there weren't plenty of men willing to do anything to escape that beach, self-preservation is a strong motivation, and it's not that their story might not be worthy of telling, but this movie made no effort to make me like or care for them or their story.  Maybe I'm not supposed to care for them?  Maybe their self-serving attitudes are supposed to balance the heroism of the pilots?  I really don't have any idea what my take-away from this movie is supposed to be.  That might be part of my problem.  I came away with nothing but a profound feeling of annoyance.

If I wore a watch, I would have checked it multiple times to see how much more of the movie I had to endure. I know it's running time is supposedly short, but man, it felt endless.  Interminable.  Painful.  This is what happens when there's no emotional investment in the characters... it's boring.  And dude, what happened at Dunkirk should not be boring.  I didn't get any sense of amazingness or happiness when the few ships showed up at the end.  Maybe because there appeared to be only a handful of boats come to help? 

I did at least like the two pilots.  And Mark Rylance.  But I didn't care about them.  We aren't given enough to care about them. 

So, yeah.  This one's a huge ugly fail for me.  However, I recognize that the very things that don't work for me personally in this movie seem to work very well for the majority of other people out there, so I would probably still recommend this movie.  The subject is worthy, regardless, and people should decide for themselves if they like it, not listen to reviews, positive or negative.

Friday, July 07, 2017

The Fall (2006)

This has to be one of the most uniquely shot, beautiful, and intriguing movies I've ever seen.  This is a movie about making movies. It's also about storytelling and about the relationship between a storyteller and an active listener.  Whose story is it?  And it's about imagination, or perhaps shared imagination would be a better phrase.  How does one perceive story?


It's set in a hospital in Los Angeles of the 1920's, where a young girl with a broken arm meets a Hollywood stuntman who's been injured on the job.  They become friends as he tells her a story.  The movie juxtaposes life in the hospital with a fantastic tale of adventure, until slowly the two stories merge.  The young girl populates the story with various people from her life and whom she has met and seen at the hospital.  I'm going to avoid spoilers in this review, because this movie is too good to be ruined by a casually tossed-out spoiler.


I rented this movie for my sister, as she's a big Lee Pace fan, and I came away loving it as much as she did. We watched it twice in one day.  Then showed it to her husband.  Then showed it to my niece.  I've watched most of it again here with the subtitles turned on.  Then we bought our own copy of the DVD.  LOL!  It's one of those movies that just needs to be seen again, to help put all the pieces together, because there's far too much to catch on the first viewing.  A lot of important dialogue is spoken in the background, or said at the same time something else is going on, so on first viewing, we missed a lot.

Catinca Untaru is adorable and amazing as young Alexandria.  She instantly became my favorite child character in any movie.  I love her.  This movie works so well because of her.  Because of her relationship with Roy (Lee Pace's character).  They are wonderful together.


It's her imagination we see at work in this movie, bringing his story to life, sometimes in subtle but cool ways.  Such as when Roy tells her one of the story's characters is an Indian.  We've seen him working in a Western in the beginning of this movie, so when he says Indian, you know he's thinking Native American. He mentions the words squaw and wigwam.  Alexandria doesn't know any Native Americans, but she works with a man from India in the orange groves, so he's the one she envisions in the story anytime the Indian is mentioned.

This movie was filmed on location all around the world, and it makes for some absolutely exquisite locales.  It's colorful and striking, with amazing architecture and wide open landscapes. I ooohed and ahhhed all the way through it.  One of my favorite shots is in the very beginning of the movie, in black and white, of a rope being thrown off a bridge.  You can see the shadow of the rope coil on the water below, and then the rope snakes into the camera's view, while you're still watching the shadow below.  It unwinds as it falls, the shadow matching it, and it is lit and filmed so perfectly that that shot just boggles my mind every time. 

 
 
 
(and this isn't even a fraction of the amazing real places shown in this movie)

This movie is rated R, and for the longest time my sister and I were wondering why that was, as almost nothing in the first half was R.  But the movie does turn darker, more violent, and more emotional in the last half, and it does eventually earn its R rating.  Even still, it has a lot of humor in it and some of the funniest moments were in the middle of what seemed the darkest moments.  Ultimately, it was a satisfying, beautifully told story that just sucked us in and will definitely be one we re-watch on a regular basis.


Saturday, July 01, 2017

First of July

The apricots have come and gone, although I still have a bunch in the fridge that are slowly going bad because there are just still too many to consume.  My apples have mostly come and gone as well.  I dried tons of them this year, which will be nice to munch on later.  My tomatoes are currently ripening.  I got smart this year and planted them in a slightly different shadier area, and for once they have not died in the sun.  They are flourishing, yay!

The three wild parrots are back and enjoying apples.

It's turned hot, of course, and my walks with Silver are mostly restricted to very early morning before it heats up.  When it's still 90 at 9 pm, there's no chance of an evening walk.  He still loves water so he has a blast playing with the sprinkler and hose.  The more water to play in the better.


Today marks my 32nd straight day of studying the Danish language on duolingo.  It claims I am 47% proficient, but I don't remotely have the vocabulary built up yet for that to be true.  And I am never in a thousand years going to be able to pronounce some of their words correctly, but I don't care.  I am having an absolute blast learning it!

I have always loved studying languages.  Took three and a half years of French in high school, a year of Russian in college, and I've been learning Italian (via opera librettos) my whole life.  But Danish is the first language I'm studying for no reason whatsoever but because we live in a fabulous age where things like duolingo make this possible.  This means zero pressure.  No grades to worry about, no tests, no trip to Copenhagen (though I can dream), just nothing but learning for the sheer fun of it.  And it is so much fun that it's one of the first things I can't wait to start working on every single morning when I turn the computer on.  The grammar rules are pretty straight forward, much simpler than French.  The pronunciation of words is the only truly difficult (impossible!) part.  However, practice really does make a difference, and I can at least understand the spoken lessons far better than I thought would be possible when I first started.  And reading and writing Danish... that's the easy part.

My sister is studying Norwegian, which shares a lot of the grammar rules and many similar words.  I find I can follow her lessons along with her with relative ease and help her understand the sentence construction... and their pronunciation is sooooo much easier.  Their words are mostly pronounced the way they look, which cannot be said of Danish, where almost nothing is pronounced the way it looks like it should be said.  I find that amusing.

Yep.  Pretty much.

Current favorite Danish word:  badev√¶relset which is the epic word for "the bathroom."  Don't ask me to pronounce it though.  It's something along the lines of "bell-vay-ah-suh" but I haven't listened to it said enough to remember for sure.

I also find it amusing that the last two movies I watched were French-language movies.  Wrong language!!  I have watched four or five movies in Danish now, but I watched them back before I started studying the language.  I'm going to rewatch those in a another month or two, see how much I can actually understand at that point.

And now for something completely different.

I am a huge fan of the chocolate peanut butter Kind bars, and I recently found I could make my own.  These are spectacular.  Very easy to make (other than chopping up three kinds of nuts into bits is a pain), and they taste so much better than anything from the grocery store.  I've made two batches so far.  I like these for breakfast with my hot tea, but for those so inclined to eat between meals, they'd make a great snack.


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

Apricots!

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:

Rules
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?
Both!

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?
No.

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.