Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review Blade Runner 2049

Many people were expecting an opening closer to $45 -$55 million domestically, and it fell far short of that at $36 million. Did the length scare people off? It has received overwhelmingly good reviews from critiques and movie reviewers and fans alike. I don’t get it.

Go see this movie before it leaves the theater! You will thank me later. It is maybe the best sequel ever made. The cinematography alone will make the visit worthwhile. Roger Deakins will finally win the Oscar for this film.

It is long, longer than most any movie made these days and the editing is a throwback to another era, when we could actual spend a little time with a scene or a character to absorb what is going on. And with this film I wanted to spend that time. It isn’t edited like a James Bond movie, and I appreciated that. The movie is not pure homage, either. It is subtle. There is complexity to the characters and Gosling’s low-key approach make his emotional outbursts all the more powerful. It didn’t feel too long when I was watching it and I could have gone another hour easily. Director Denis Villeneuve gave each scene room to breathe and there is so much obvious care to stay true to the original vision of Ridley Scott. He takes all the things that worked and made the original so iconic and improved upon them. The city scape is dark and eerie and amazing. Meticulous details, like PAN AM, RCA, Cuisinart, and ATARI still being viable companies in this fictional alternate universe, and references to the Soviet Union with product advertisements, like Soviet Happy, which seems like an oxymoron, but fits perfectly with the ambience of city life in San Angeles. The technology is cool and convincing, and just different enough, and yet real enough to be completely plausible.

The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is almost another character. It plays around with Vangelis’ original score and it works perfectly.

And the story stays with the same themes of what it means to be human and to have empathy are examined from every side and often turned inside out. It is a noir detective story that doesn’t just dabble in psychology; it goes all in. The heartbreaking love story between K, the protagonist played by Ryan Gosling, and Joi, brilliantly played by Ana De Armas, is layered and smart and nuanced. There are some emotionally powerful scenes between them, and it adds juice to other themes of injustice and bigotry.

I love that they brought back Detective Gaff. I just wish he still spoke in the city dialect. While being interviewed by K, Gaff’s origami skills are on display, as he creates a small sheep, a not so subtle nod to the seed book by Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Writing this sentence makes me wonder if the character’s name is not another nod to Dick.

Watch the three short films before you go see this if you can, and you can, they are all over YouTube. They will explain what happened in the interim, between the two movies. They are not required to enjoy the film, but they will enrich the experience. The story is better in this sequel and has an actual character arc for K, a replicant cop that struggles with his own humanity. Dave Bautista is brilliant in the third short film and the movie, and I would love to see more of his character in this film. I’ve read other reviews that say the characters are thin. Perhaps the subtlety is missed by some, but I thought most of the main characters had depth.

I missed having Sean Young attached to this movie. She was amazing in the original, haunting and beautiful and perfect for the role. The character she played is a centerpiece in the story and I wish they could have found a way to include Young in the PR campaign. 

To be completely honest I didn’t love the ending. I won’t spoil it for you, and it seems unfair to even say that, because it earns the ending and it really works.

I want Ryan Gosling’s coat. It will be on my Christmas list. Heh.

There are so many cool parts to this film, from the set pieces, to the new technology, to the fight scenes. I rarely want to see a film more than once. I can count on one hand movies that make this list. It joins Star Wars: A New Hope, Twister, and the original Blade Runner. I will definitely watch this more than twice. This film is a masterpiece in every way and deserves to clean up at the Academy Awards. I am dumfounded why more people haven’t seen it, yet, but I implore you not to let the length of the film keep you away.

I hope this movie has long legs and earns out the $150 million plus price tag, because there is talk now that more movies could be made in this universe, and that can only be a good thing.

 Go see it and let me know what you think.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Book Review - Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliantly written masterpiece in every way! If you like historical fiction Into the Wilderness is a hallmark example of how to do it right. As a young man, the stories by James Fenimore Cooper captured my imagination, The Leatherstocking Tales: Deerslayer, Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder and more. They are set during the French and Indian War, in and around the New York frontier. The writing style can be a bit hard to get into since it is quite old, but the stories are excellent. Into the Wilderness starts a series of books by Sara Donati that follow the offspring of Hawkeye from the original stories and carries us through the decades following the war, through the War of 1812 up to the Battle of New Orleans. Donati has changed the surname of the family but the rest is true to the originals. However, the prose is light years beyond the originals.

This first installment sets the tone and introduces the characters. A well-educated young woman from England, Elizabeth Middleton, has been brought by her father to the small wilderness village on the western edge of the New York frontier, where Hawkeye lives with his extended family of Mohican Indians. His son, Nathanial Bonner is a prominent figure in the region, known for his hunting skill, and his wilderness prowess, which he inherited from his father. To call it a romance story would not be wrong, but it would short shrift the complexity and nuance of this story. It weaves unconventional love with the fate of the Mohawk. This book has everything you could ask for in a story: brilliant prose, colorful characters, exciting setting, intriguing plot, wild adventure, love, sex, betrayal and so much more. It touched me emotionally as I got invested in all the characters. All of them are complex and well-developed and each has their own voice and motives. It is a wonderful example of a character-driven story.

The person behind the pseudonym, Rosina Lippi, is a college professor in her other life and the historical aspects of this book are extraordinarily well-researched. I learned things about slavery and how women and people of color were treated in the era that were never covered in my history lessons.

I’m so glad my wife turned me on to Sara Donati. I’ve read and loved every book in the series and look forward to her next series. There is even a short crossover with Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon for fans of that series.

I listened to this on audiobook and the reading by Kate Reading (Jennifer Mendenhall) is amazing. This story and the ones that follow fell right into her wheelhouse, with many different accents and languages. Kate can do Scots, French and English with equal appeal. With this series, she has risen to be my favorite audiobook reader.

The stories that follow this are all fantastic, but this one is special and will remain one of my favorite novels of all-time.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Passengers. It didn’t suck!

Let me say up front that there will be spoilerish things in this post.

You were warned.

When I saw the initial ads for PASSENGERS I got really excited. Two of my favorite actors in a science fiction drama. What more could I ask for?

Well, I could ask for a lot of things, actually, like good special effects, a good script, and a good finish. Opinions on movies vary about as much as anything on Earth. And I rarely agree with the professional critics, and man oh man were they being tough on this movie.

David Edelstein, a film critic for New York magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, is the only critic I found (in a very small sampling) that said he actually liked the movie. But even he didn't like the ending. Most of the negativity was relayed to me from my son or from a few articles online. But there seemed to be a general consensus that the movie sucked.

Given all of the naysaying and negativity, I had modest expectations. I went in with a half-open mind, expecting the ending to suck.

I enjoyed the opening. I really like Chris Pratt, and his mechanic alone on a huge ship and looking at spending the rest of his life in the midst of five thousand sleeping people worked for me. His character felt believable and then the moment comes when, on the verge of suicide, he sees the Jennifer Lawrence character, and the movie takes a darker turn.

I’ve heard about the discussion that the premise of waking her up was a plot contrivance. Those people completely missed the entire point of the story. It was about a guy who has a choice to make, live forever alone, or ruin someone else’s future so that he doesn’t have to be. That is the WHOLE PLOT! Then others said it was tantamount to rape. PLEASE. Are you effing kidding me? Did you even watch the movie? Was it extremely creepy that he knew about her and had read all her published work? Yes. Clearly. But it felt plausible the way it was played. He had agonized for months about doing it, then they became friends and then lovers over the course of time. It wasn’t rushed, played about as well as it could be to show time without being pedantic. And it was Pratt and Lawrence. They were right for their parts, or at least made them seem like people. People put in an impossible situation.

Was the screenplay perfect? No, but it was plausible and some of the plot issues people discussed were lamp-shaded right up front. It was enjoyable seeing the two of them together.

Then comes the moment of truth when she finds out that he woke her on purpose, which he did not flinch from, and her reaction felt realistic.

Things start progressing when one of the crew also wakes up, because the ship is dying.
All this time I’m waiting for the suck. Surely something blaringly bad was going to happen. A horrible line or something really cliché or just plain awful plot. I kept waiting, and expecting.

They deal with the ship starting to have problems individually, because she was trying to avoid him. But, it turns out if he hadn’t woken her up everyone on board would have died. In the process of saving the ship both of them have hair-raising experiences where I was sure they were going to die. That had to be the part that ruined the movie. This happened multiple times for both characters. No, they live through one heroic thing after another. Still not sucking. In fact, it is really working for me. I am feeling the characters. I care. Then as the climax comes, I was starting to think it was going to have one of those cliché Romeo and Juliet endings, and that really would have sucked, because I am still waiting for it to suck.

But no. It has, to me, a satisfying conclusion. A happy ending. I like happy endings!

The final scene can be taken many ways, but I will say it was the simplest choice of endings. The screenwriter or director could have gone a multitude of different directions at the end, but chose the easiest closing. It was fine with me.

I walked out of the movie happy. It didn’t suck. It actually exceeded my expectations! So, I guess I owe all of the naysayers a thank you.

I have no idea why so many people were so hard on this movie. Okay, it won’t win an Oscar, and there were no truly emotional moments for me, ones that make something memorable, but I did enjoy it. Is it really too much to ask for a movie with a nice happy ending to be released at Christmas time? I don’t think so. All the Grinches out there need to get some perspective.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dune Abides...I mean...

I saw a book being advertised on the interwebs. It was a new cover for Dune, but I mistook it initially as saying Dude. The image refused to leave my brain, so it must be purged. This is what I came up with.

Anyone care to write this crossover?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas at Our House - A Photo Essay

My wife loves to decorate for Christmas. 

And I love the Result. This is our master bedroom.
After 25 years of marriage visiting craft boutiques and shows, and hunting for bargains after Christmas we have amassed a lot of stuff to decorate the house.
This only the inside of the house, and not a comprehensive photo-essay, but it covers most of the stuff we have out right now.

Moving down the hall to the entryway. A lot of these things she created herself.

A few years back we decided to switch things up from the traditional. This is the living room.

Yes, we have eclectic taste, but we made a decision a few years ago, to decorate with stuff that made us laugh. Life is too short! Her trees and boughs are the best!

Now we transition into the dining area.

 We have a more traditional  Red and White Tree in here.

  Mud Room.

That just leaves the basement where the boys live and game. 
We used to put up another big tree down here, but the cats were always rough on it. We have lots of room to expand on the decorations down here.
That’s it for now. I hope you all have a wonderful and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cover reveal for J.L. Gribble's new book - STEEL MAGIC

A good friend of mine is set to release her latest book in July. But the new cover is out today! Here are the details:

Title: Steel Magic
Series: Steel Empires Book 2
Author: J.L. Gribble
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Alternate History
Release Date: July 6, 2016
Pre-order Link: Pre-order Steel magic

Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.
Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn't in the cards. They're set to become professional mercenaries-if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.

The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane's quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.
But when a friend is kidnapped, they'll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.

About the Cover Artist:
Bradley Sharp was born in 1977 in Oxfordshire, UK. From a young age he filled many sketch books, so it only made sense to study Graphic Communication at Nene University, where he received a BA Honors degree in 1997.

But the real world called Sharp away from academics, so he traveled around the globe a couple of times, working as a graphic designer. Now he makes a living by designing magazine spreads, but freelances with vector illustrations, allowing him to create something far-removed from what he does in his nine-to-five job.

Sharp finds vector to be an easy tool and believes anyone can use it. "I'd say my artwork is nothing more than glorified doodling. I like the logical inconsistencies of surrealism and find inspiration from many places such as music or the science fiction genre. Dog Star's novels lend themselves well to my style. I look forward to working with DSB in the future, and hope fans will like the imagery as much as they enjoy the words." Find Sharp's work online at http://www.bradsharp.co.uk.

About the Author:

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).