Sunday, May 31, 2015

My Thoughts On Tomorrowland

Today, I've seen a movie that absolutely necessitated me to do one thing that I've not done before on this little blog - write a movie review. That movie is none other than Disney's latest wonderfully extravagant salute to the power of human imagination and ingenuity - Tomorrowland.

But because I'm a far from conventional dude, this is going to be a far from conventional review. It'll focus less on the movie itself and more on its connections to other movies, not to mention this here real, ever-changing world in which we live in.

First shout-out of the day: a hat-tip to Sir Paul.

Let's start by examining some of the most recent movies Disney did before this one. Two and a half years ago, Disney put out the movie that fully restored my lost faith in animation that they hadn't served up. Having been disappointed in Up, Tangled, and even Toy Story 3, all of which I'd found ridiculously overhyped and overrated (although I've come to like TS3 since then), Pixar bounced back with the visual beauty and fascinating story of Brave. But I didn't see that one before seeing one of the film world's most epic mashups of some seriously disparate genres. Not film genres, though - video game genres.

"Wreck-It Ralph is a giant of a man
Nine feet tall with really big hands
Livin' on a stump on his very own land
Until his world went crazy..."

Eventually, after a fictional classic arcade game meshed unbelievably well with sugary-sweet racers and a wildly obsessed hunter-killer of Cy-Bugs, I did finally catch the party on Pixar's best leading lady ever.

Now and forever shooting for her own hand!

Let's get back in order here, now we're gonna jump ahead to only eighteen months ago, to November 2013. You all remember the instant smash hit latest addition to Disney's animated canon, featuring two new princesses, hella ear-worm-y new songs, and so much beautiful ice and snow to distract from any story weaknesses the movie has.

Also the catalyst for OUAT's best storyline yet.

Don't get me wrong - I actually liked the movie when I first saw it. But does it really deserve all the hype it gets? No. It's good for kids, and easily analyzable by adults, but unlike the songs, the story has a harder time sticking in my brain. It's harder for me to connect to other stories thematically, which, I think, is the hallmark of the best stories told in film and literature. I am aware that my opinion may not be very popular, but it is my opinion, and as Roger Ebert says, "All criticism is subjective." So, if you feel the need to sharpen the pitchforks and light the torches on my account, you may do so. But it won't change my thoughts.

Such as the fact that this moment, right here,
is my favorite part of the movie.

But the best thing about Frozen is how it sets itself apart from other Disney movies by playing around with the traditional Disney tropes, particularly those of the Princess movies. It sets up the obvious Big Bad, and obvious love interest for our latest Princess - and then turns those on its head by making neither obvious candidate for either position the correct one.

The Disney Deconstruction continued a year ago with the release of a live-action adaptation of one of the classic Disney Princess movies. I've not seen Sleeping Beauty before, but I do know of that movie's iconic villain. She got her own movie, with the writer of Alice in Wonderland on board, and as a Villain Protagonist, she helped make one of the most unique Disney movies in memory.

Behold her horned, cheekboned glory!

Helping push this movie on Disney's path of making increasingly different, un-Disney-like movies was the one moment that turned Maleficent into a villain. Even before I knew what the scene was meant to represent (you never expected Disney to green-light a movie with a rape metaphor, did you?) I instinctively teared up for Maleficent when her wings were taken from her. As a longtime fan of Maximum Ride (and, later, Angelfall and Generation Icarus), I know that there is a special hell reserved for those who would dare to prevent those capable of exploring the air from doing so. It's can't do that. It's a huge, huge taboo as far as I'm concerned.

Amen, Shepherd Book. A-friggin'-men.

And then along came, six months ago, my new favorite animated movie of all time. Between the beautiful setting (a mashup of the city my parents called home, and another massive metropolis just an ocean away), the intense emotional gamut-running, and the wildest comic-book action not portrayed on-screen by flesh-and-blood humans, it's no wonder, too.

Yeah, yeah, you haven't seen the first five yet. But who cares?
THIS is the one everyone in the world needs to see.

At its core, Big Hero 6 is, like Wreck-It Ralph, an epic little mashup. In this case, the mashing-up lies not only in its setting, but also in its protagonist, Hiro Hamada, who blends the engineering talents of this guy...

Mmm...donuts. :)

...and the tragic, death-in-the-family backstory of this guy...

It's hard to say whose heart the universe enjoys breaking more.

...while keeping both their snarkastic senses of humor intact.

Not actual lines from the movie, but you gotta admit -
these are TOTALLY in character.

Oh, and while we're at it...Baymax. The most adorable thing EVAH. The best fictional robot, best health-care provider (despite his painful slowness), best fist-bumper, and sometimes he can be cuter than your average miniature schnauzer begging for playtime.

Baymax, fetch! Good boy! *pats his head*

Now, there are three trends that the last three movies I've mentioned have all followed. First, they alternate between animation and live action. Second, they get increasingly dark and emotional. And third, they get less money at the box office with each successive entry. Frozen got over a billion dollars, Maleficent got about 750 mill, and Big Hero 6 got a little over 500 million.

Following these same trends is Disney's latest release.

"You ain't seen nothing yet."

Looking at the trailers, they were trailers done right. Each one focused on one specific scene from the movie - for example, the scene in which Casey (Britt Roberston, best known as Angie from Under The Dome) picks up a pin that allows her to see into Tomorrowland, or the scene where she goes to see Frank (George Clooney, but you already knew that) and ends up dragged along for the ride as he weaponizes his house against robotic invaders before they make themselves a daring escape. That first showcased the movie's promise, and that second showcased its high action (with director Brad Bird at the helm, what else would you expect?) But neither of them really gave away the point of the movie, for which my viewing experience was all the better. This is one of those movies that utterly depends on not being spoiled, especially not in the trailers.

Also proof of this movie's quality -
it's co-written by Damon Lindelof of Lost.

So, for that reason, all I will say about the main plot of this dark, emotionally-wrenching, and sadly-underperforming-at-the-box-office movie is this: George Clooney and Stiles Stilinski's real-life girlfriend must save the world from Dr. House.

The sad thing is, in the movie, he's completely right.
So expect Cracked to use him for their next article.

I will also not spoil too much about the movie's message, which is, quite simply, that we humans must all stay positive and believe in our ability to change the world. As a writer who's not been officially published, such thinking is often the only thing that keeps me going as I pursue my dreams. Having still not been able to attract a single literary agent after sending so many query letters (over fifty at last count), I need to remember that in some universe known either to man or tachyons, I will be published, and I will become the next big bestselling YA author. Whether or not it's the one I'm currently inhabiting...well, lemme get back to you on that, buddy. But while I do write to show the world the warped sense of reality in my own head, I have a bigger, more noble purpose as well. Just as the YA greats before me - chief among them, of course, J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, James Patterson, Cassandra Clare, Heather Brewer, Ransom Riggs, Veronica Roth, Marissa Meyer, and more other amazingly talented individuals than I can shake a stick at or count on all my fingers and toes - have influenced this generation of young readers and writers, so I must one day influence the next generation.

The movie does a great job putting that message out, even with its reliance on hard science. But it puts it best with something only a gifted writer (like Bird and Lindelof) could have come up with: a metaphor given to Casey by her dad: (paraphrased): "You are met by two wolves. One represents darkness and despair...

With apologies to Derek's fans, but I needed
a blue-eyed werewolf to make my point.

"...and the other, brightness and hope...

For those who aren't into Teen Wolf -
the werewolves' eyes are normally this color.

Unless they've killed an innocent soul.

"So which one wins? The one you feed." And with that, I now have something else to add to my usual blogging signature.

Feed the right wolf.
Remember - Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Review: Maximum Ride Forever

Maximum Ride Forever by James Patterson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy shit nugget, am I seeing this right? A Max Ride swan song?

I promise you this, mis amigos - I am gonna kill to be first in line for this one!

Yes, I'm rating it five stars in advance. No way it'll be anything short of awesome. Thank you so very much, James Patterson, for presenting the world with this - because God knows, we need all the answers that were left unsolved in Nevermore.


Yeah...this was as amazing as I could have hoped for. Not only was it wall-to-wall with apocalyptic disaster business, but it was crazy intense as all get-out, not to mention livened up by Max's delightful narration. Oh, Max Ride, how I missed you and your snarkiness.


* All the deaths that occur throughout the novel are faked - except two. Those two are, of course, the ones that hurt the most. Requiescat in pace, Akila and Fang. Never mind that Fang gets to live on in the form of a clone - it's still not the same. Not to me.
* Some of the evil scientists we all know and love to hate did, in fact, contribute to the apocalypse. Not for nothing do we sometimes call him Dr. God, but me, I prefer Dr. Haagen-Dazs.
* Oh, and the granddaddy of them all...yeah, I totally called it. Max and Fang finally did the do - right before he up and left the Flock again, of course - and by the end of the book, she's pregnant with his baby. Oh, and that epilogue with little baby sweet. And not in the wrong way, either. There's a reason why I stuck to the Fax ship from the beginning, people. :)

I imagine some people won't like the way this story reverts to some of the infamous old Max Ride standbys - such as retconning character deaths, Angel being Angel (seriously, she's become way too creepy), and Dylan being Dylan (go away, winged smarmosaur.) But it wouldn't be a proper Max Ride swan song if it weren't done in the old style, would it?

Three years without answers, and now we finally have them. And the future looks a hell of a lot brighter for our beloved Flock now...a future that we can hopefully be free to imagine without the aid of another book. (Not that I wouldn't like another one, but let's face it, nothing lasts forever.)

So, hopefully, this'll be the only time I have to say this: ave atque vale, Max Ride and the Flock! :D

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: Origins

Origins by Taran Matharu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This new series has been super-hella-hyped on Wattpad, and so before I began Book 1, I decided I needed to take a look at this novella first. From what I hear, the main characters in this story aren't those from The Novice - but I could be wrong. The Novice (which I had to special-order from Marin County Library) is still sitting and waiting for me to crack it open.

What we've got here is a Soulbound-level Mashup of Everything. There's definite influences of Pokemon (the creatures from another world), His Dark Materials (the demon thing, but thankfully not the anti-religious stance), Soulbound (although whether or nor Matharu's read that obscure little book of Auntie Heather's, I'm not sure), and How To Train Your Dragon (which is almost certainly intentional, because Matharu's also got an HTTYD fanfic on Wattpad - one I really need to read at some point.)

I definitely can't wait to start the first full book now. And, even better, Matharu's got a new origin story, Rory, going on Wattpad now. :)

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Review: Kestrel

Kestrel by J L Pawley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The origin story of Kestrel, as its title implies. You get Exactly What It Says On The Tin, and you get it served nice and hot and consumable in a short span of time, like a good cup of espresso. And you learn just how badly off Kestrel was before she joined the Flight...ugh, Gavin. Just when you thought Jess Pawley had come up with despicable enough bad guys, along comes this ultimate rich dick.

Next stop - Falcon and Tui's Origins! :D

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: Half Wild

Half Wild by Sally Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn't think the first book quite lived up to the hype, but this one does. Mostly because of the newfound blending of witch and werewolf mythology for Nathan and his Gift (although the CHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCH thing was a bit annoying, but thankfully it only came about a couple of times.) I was also surprisingly less weirded out by the second-person POV parts, but probably because I was expecting those this time around after Half Bad.

Definitely the most unexpected part was the love triangle - a totally unique one in that it combines people of different sexual orientations. And you know what? I had a very hard time deciding to favor one ship over the other. At one point, I was even thinking, "Why not an OT3?" I don't normally ship OT3s, so...but hey, Ms. Green's done it pretty well. Especially with the idea of fluid sexuality - a tricky thing to handle at the best of times (which is probably why I haven't attempted to do so yet in my own writing), but it does exist, and in this story, it's pretty believable, I think. It's more believable than Andrew Smith's example in Passenger, which, to me, felt shoehorned in at the last minute, not like in Grasshopper Jungle where the MC was questioning from the get-go.

But that ending...holy God. Was I the only one sensing parallels to Ra's al-Ghul trying to get Oliver Queen to kill him? Maybe I was.

Oh well. One book to go, coming out next year...and hopefully the whole shipping issue will finally be put to bed by then. Haha, I just made quite a funny, didn't I? :)

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Review: The Cemetery Boys

The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Auntie Heather's first all-new story in three years was one I was dying to read for a very long time. Seeing it at last, I was far from disappointed - although I was pretty devastated. Between the sad circumstances of Stephen's move to Spencer, and the shocking ending that I totally did not see coming (well, not totally, only 'cause the first major villain is given away in the prologue, but the second, not so much), it's safe to say that this is Auntie Heather's darkest tale yet.

Highlights include:

* The general vibe of it all - Bates Motel meets Stand by Me. The former does get referenced (or, at least, Psycho does), and the latter is almost certainly intentional because Auntie Heather pretty much did this In The Style Of Stephen King. The acknowledgments say it all, right down to the "With love from your Constant Reader." And if that wasn't a dead giveaway, the character of Martha is one of King's favorite stock characters - the hyper-religious bat out of hell.

* Auntie Heather's typical subtle pop-culture references strike again on page 106, in which the song being mentioned is pretty easy to pick out as that new classic, "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark."
* In every way, this is Auntie Heather's most R-rated story yet. In addition to the freaky, sometimes quite violent horror-show-ness, there's no dancing around the sex and profanity this time around. This book is definitely not gonna be in any library younger than high school.
* And as for Stephen and Cara (whose names make me wonder if Auntie Heather watched The Tomorrow People), they're actually a good example of insta-love done sort of right. Not to the same degree as Scott and Allison, but...there was definitely something fishy about it. Of course, I didn't realize just how fishy until it was too late and I was driven to tears. And to think Cara still misses him? There's so much potential for a sequel here...

So this one was one of my better reading days this year. I'm sure by the time 2015 ends, this story will still be on my Top 5 of 2015 list. Especially with Lady Midnight being delayed till next spring...

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NOTE: For some reason, Goodreads isn't cooperating with my blog anymore - I tell it to post my reviews to my blog, and nothing happens. Why, I'm not sure. But until then, I'll just have to manually post my reviews.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Review: We All Looked Up

We All Looked Up
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I think I should have realized this book was gonna disappoint me when I noticed at Target that it was grouped not with the other sci-fi and/or fantasy-type books (Divergent, The 5th Wave, Cassie Clare's books, etc. etc.), but instead with the John Green-type books. Never mind the fact that this isn't really much of a dystopian, that it does lean more towards contemporary, but it seemed like an odd arrangement at the time.

Now, I know better. Damn, but this book sucked. Half the POV characters were unlikable (especially the one who thought 80s music was the most vile invention in the history of humanity), and the other half didn't do much to make me like and/or sympathize with them. And as for the whole story? I'm sorry, but Cabin in the Woods did a much better job of showcasing the terrible selfishness and unworthy-of-living-ness of our generation. It actually entertained, rather than pressed on with a relentlessly dreary tone.

And the open ending, while not totally unexpected, still made this book very much not worth the hype. In my headcanon, this world suffered the fate Community predicted for its 'verse if the show were to be cancelled after Season 5. In other words, total meteor-induced destruction. And you know what? It deserved it.

Oh, and one more thing - I should also have guessed this book would be one I hated because Mr. Wallach's agent is one of many who rejected me. Now I know why - if this book is anything to go by, Red Rain really isn't that guy's style. :(

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