Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review: Justice League (movie)



What it's about?

After the death of Superman at the hands of Lex Luther and Zod, the world has lost its hope. Batman is convinced something bigger is coming but his attempts to bring together a team are failing. Now that bigger attack is coming and what few people he has managed to gather are not prepared to stand alone. 

Thoughts?

Full transparency, I hated Batman V Superman and I know I'm not alone.  I honestly have had no love for any of the movies DC has put out recently (animated or not) with the exception of Wonder Woman.  I did like Man of Steel, but mostly because it broke the Superman mold for me and made him interesting to watch - to the detriment of what most think makes Superman who he is.  So to say I wasn't expecting much from this movie is an understatement.

I was pleasantly surprised. 

Now, by no means is Justice League a master piece, far from it. At it's core it's a fun movie to shut your brain off and watch, and the storytelling and action actually makes it quite easy to do that.  I found myself having a good time and enjoying the movie, even if there were narrative issues throughout.

The beginning is quite choppy, with -  I swear - 20 different beginnings to the film which weren't needed. However once that time has passed the movie is easy to like. Joss Whedon's talent for writing engaging dialog shows throughout the entire movie and makes the characters easy to like and get along with.  It especially shows with Flash and Aquaman and their senses of humor. They were easily the best parts of the movie, but honestly all the characters got a moment, even if it was small. 

The characters we already know going in from previous movies had their stories rounded out and expanded, while the newer characters were introduced with just enough to make them just as interesting. Even the big bad, who under performed a bit, still got much more build up and time then in some Marvel movies. Steppenwolf was kept very cut and dry and for once only hinted at what might come after him, rather then rushing forward with too many villains like some other films (I'm looking at you Batman v Superman).

In the world of DC attempting to catch up to Marvel, this really isn't the train wreck I was expecting to see. A lot of the stuff I did like beyond the above is more spoilery so I'll stay away from it for those reading.  Still I would recommend seeing this movie and not going in with such a fatalistic attitude as the previous movies may have given you.  This feels like a new start for DC, and if they do focus more on the single movies and crafting the story as they say they're going to now, we may yet get some more films that give us exactly what we want.

Oh, though you should know there's a mid credit stinger and one at the end and both are worth watching. 

Final thoughts:

Justice League oddly gives me hope for future DC movies. I know they've stated they plan to move away from their extended universe and I'm all for this, but this movie shows they can still make entertaining stories that aren't just a royal mess. So maybe the ones they've already announced have a bit more promise then I thought. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: American Horror Story: Roanoke


What's it about?

One of the creepiest true stories in history is that of the Roanoke Colony that up and disappeared, leaving all their belongings and only the word 'Croatoan' behind.  In current times a family has purchased an old farm nearby in the hopes of starting over, only to find that the farm is haunted by the missing colony members.  They manage to make it out alive and now are telling everything that happened to them, via a reality confession show with very realistic reenactments.

Thoughts

American Horror Story is one of my favorite current tv shows and this season shows no sign of stopping. I love the variety of stories and characters and how they manage to capture different pieces of fear and use them against the audience.

This series follows the trend I'm used to with this show.  Along with a new and interesting story, the creators have also decided to try another form of story telling: reality tv. By using only footage caught on camera by reality show cast members, 'actors' and cell phone footage, the show treats you to a very unique story.

Every season the story telling style changes and I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that they would eventually touch reality TV.  The narrative style almost simulates a google search, specifically my own when I find a story that's super interesting and devour the entire internet to find everything I can about it.  The footage does the same, showing you piece by piece and letting you piece it together.  In the end the story is choppy and messy and a little hard to follow, but since it reminds me of myself, I really love it.

What's actually really nice about this season is you're introduced to everything via the reality show so you don't see the actual ghosts until halfway through the season and oddly that makes them scarier.  Because you never hear the actual ghosts talk and when they do finally show up you are already scared of them and as creepy as Kathy Bates is, the actual Butcher is worse.

My favorite character this season has to be Lee, the real Lee.  I didn't like her at first, but when the actual Lee took a more active role in the story she grew on me.  I loved seeing her move from being the victim to the hero of the story - if you could call it that. Also, while Angela Bassett was awesome, I loved Adina Porter for her range and how easy it was to identify with her and what she was experiencing.

I do have to say I was disappointed with Lady Gaga's role with this season.  Sadly she wasn't in the season that much due to her tour and album, so her part was quite small. What little there was of her character left me hungry for more.  She played the original supreme witch (connecting back to Coven) and I would have loved to see more of her character then a couple flashbacks and a few flashes.  I'm not sure how more of her story would have fit in overall, but I can't help wanting it.

The most disappointing part of the series was the Polk family. The stereotypical hillbilly family, they provided a second threat to the main characters for daring to live on that land.  What made them interesting was that they had ties to The Butcher and her ghost army which allowed them to survive - and yet they were also saddled with the standard inbreeding, druggie, stupid and mentally impaired cliches that fill the horror genre.  It made them uninteresting and boring and honestly seemed a bit below the amazing writing I'm used to on this series.  Also their need to have cameras everywhere became a tired gimmick plot device to keep the series going.  While a single YouTube video was used toward the end with the death threat, I wish they'd peppered that in throughout as a reason why they recorded stuff so it didn't seem so contrived. They didn't seem fully realized and the series just kinda sank there.

Final Thoughts

I very much liked this season and how it tied to the others. While not my favorite, it does stand out for it's depiction of certain characters and how the main antagonists were utilized (those being the ghosts). Now, as usual, I have to wait a year to watch the newest season in one binge sitting. Oh well, worth it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Books You Should Check Out: Lovesick Gods by Amanda Meuwissen


Heroes aren’t meant to act like their villains—or fall in love with them.

The elements touch everyone on Earth—Fire, Water, even Light—but every so often someone becomes more attuned to their elemental leaning and develops true power. When an evil Elemental known as Thanatos arrived in Olympus City, it saw the rise of its first hero—Zeus. But the death toll caused by defeating Thanatos changed Zeus, who by day is young detective Danny Grant. 

It’s been six months since Thanatos terrorized the city at the start of Lovesick Gods. Danny should be used to his duty behind the mask, but the recent past haunts him. His girlfriend left him, he snaps at the barest provocation, his life feels empty—he needs an outlet, any outlet to pull him out of his depression.

Enter notorious thief Malcolm Cho, the Ice Elemental Prometheus. There was a time when Danny welcomed a fight with Cho, filled with colorful banter and casual flirtations that were a relief compared to Thanatos. Even as a criminal, Cho had recognized the threat Thanatos posed and promised to help Danny stop him, but the day Danny needed Cho, he never showed. Cho was the reason so many people died that day—including Danny’s mother.

Danny decides to teach the man a lesson and fan the fire of their attraction into something more. At worst, he’ll get some no-strings-attached sex out of the deal and finally blow off steam; at best, he’ll get Cho to fall in love with him and then break his heart to spite him. Danny doesn’t expect to fall for Cho in the process, and he certainly can’t predict the much darker threat on the horizon.

Excerpt below Author Info.




About the Author:

Amanda Meuwissen has been writing and posting online for many years, including maintaining the website and blog for the software company Outsell. She is an avid writer and consumer of fiction through film, prose, and video games, and is the author of the paranormal romance trilogy The Incubus Saga and young adult novel Life as a Teenage Vampire. Amanda lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her husband, John, and their two cats.







Excerpt: 

Danny had always assumed Cho’s subtle flirting was just to get a rise out of him. The man mocked him, lied to him, betrayed him. And all that, that got his crank turning? Even when he’d played nice with Danny in the past, he’d just been hoping to bend him over the nearest surface.
Cho wasn’t good or redeemable. When the city needed him, when Danny had needed him, he’d run away and hid, then dared to show his face right after and expected Danny to act like nothing had happened. Cho just wanted to use Danny like everybody else. Even Andre and Lynn wouldn’t look twice at him if he wasn’t Zeus.
Just like them, Cho only saw Danny suit deep, not even skin deep, just leather and lightning. No one cared about Danny Grant. His past relationships proved that. He’d never once been the one to end things; they’d always left him first. Vanessa left because he was too distant; he couldn’t tell her he was an Elemental, and it had only gotten worse after his mother’s death. Before that, his last boyfriend had been sweet and soft and loving, but he couldn’t handle Danny’s intensity.
“Maybe I need someone who isn’t Lightning leaning,” he’d said.
Danny didn’t care what element someone was, but he didn’t want sweet or soft right now. He definitely didn’t want loving. He shouldn’t have to always be the lonely superhero that couldn’t be honest about who he was without putting people in danger.
Cho wouldn’t be in danger. He could take care of himself. Danny wouldn’t have to hide that he was Zeus. He wouldn’t have to hide anything, worry about anything. He could take what he wanted and blow off some of that steam rising steadily within him.
Turning around, he spotted Cho in line, halfway to the counter now. Cho was smooth and handsome and exuded sex appeal. It wasn’t as if Danny was blind to that. This could be everything he needed. And he’d finally get his revenge.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New Release: magnifiqueNOIR Book 1: I Am Magical by Briana Lawrence


RELEASE DAY IS HERE! - A message from my wifey:

This time last year I was launching the Kickstarter for this little idea I had about a group of black, queer, magical girls. While the Kickstarter didn’t end up panning out, I told myself that I wouldn’t give up on the idea and that I’d finish the story and release it someday.

Today is that day.

“magnifiqueNOIR” is here and I am so thrilled to be presenting it to everyone!

If you’ve already preordered the book through the Indiegogo or our Etsy shop, you will be receiving it very soon! I got confirmation from UPS that the 15 boxes (yes, 15!) will be at my house this Friday! After that, I’ll be autographing all of them and then giving my post office a nightmare (just kidding, we already talked to them and came up with a plan).

If you haven’t ordered the book yet, now is your chance! Not just the physical copy, but the eBook as well! So here’s Bri’s somewhat comprehensive list of ways to have a little bit of black girl magic in your home, on your Kindle, and more important: in your hearts (boo Bri that was cheesy).

  1. The super special awesomely autographed copy! Follow the link here to get a physical copy of the book autographed by yours truly! We have a limited amount of numbers before we order batch #2 of the book in time for fall season conventions! http://etsy.me/2wgOepY
  2. The amazing Amazon physical copy! While it doesn’t come with my autograph, it is discounted for a limited time, and hey, free shipping through Prime is always nice! http://a.co/iLjp1os
  3. The magically fantastic eBook copy! Because who doesn’t want their electronic reading device to come packed with black girl magic? http://a.co/eTKiHSf
  4. Conventions! I’ll have a list of them up soon, but this Saturday, I’ll be at MSP Fall ComiCon at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, so if you’re local, you can come and get a copy of the book from me in person!
  5. Don't forget we have prints and a bunch of items with the girls on it. All of these can be found at our etsy store: http://snowtigra.etsy.com

Now comes the next part: promotion. If you are absolutely in love with the book, talk about it online! Use the hashtag #magnifiqueNOIR to share your love for these girls. Take pictures of your book/eBook, share this post everywhere, and definitely, most definitely, definitely definitely definitely LEAVE A REVIEW when you’re done reading! Let’s show the world that black girls with magical powers are spectacular!

As always, thank you from the bottom of my chubby black queer girl heart for all the support. When I came up with this idea last March, I had no idea it would grow so much. There may have been some hiccups along the way, but we’re here now, and you all are truly magical :)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: The Conjuring and Conjuring 2


What are they about?

Both movies center around the figures of the Warrens, who are real life ghost hunters.  Each movie tackles at least one of the 'real life' cases they investigated and what they encountered, with a bit of cinematic flair.

Thoughts

Like most people I became familiar with the Warrens through the Amnityville Horror movies.  I was reintroduced to them several times through my various adventures into stories of ghost hunters and paranormal things.

Across all of this, there's very different views of the Warrens.  Some people love them, some people owe them their lives, some people hate them and on and on.  Either way, they are some of the most interesting people out there when you look into paranormal things.

With that in mind, I actually love the idea of them being part of this cinematic universe and I'm very much enjoying seeing it grow across several movies.

The first Conjuring introduces us to Ed and Lorraine Warren in the context of not the Amnityville Horror, but rather another haunted house that is supposed to be possessed by the spirit of a dead witch who is terrorizing the family.

In this movie we have all the normal trappings of a paranormal hunt however with two very distinct differences.  For one they keep the movie in the correct time period - the 70's.  So there's a well done nostalgic feel that keeps you rooted in the technology of then and how people may have reacted in that time.  The second is that there's no found footage.  James Wan (the director) has wisely decided to ignore the cliche gimick of shaky cam and instead focus on scaring the bejezus out of us in other ways, and it's effective.

The second movie, Conjuring 2, explores another slightly more well known case with the Warrens
known as The Einfield Haunting.  Again we're presented with a large family who has to deal with a demon in their house, with it's own intentions.  And since this one takes place in England, the Warrens have their hands tied with what they can and can't do.

Oddly, both of these movies manage to duplicate the feeling that I always loved about X-Files, the tv show, and my little paranormal fangirl.  You, as the viewer, are presented with the tale of a demon and how a family copes with it.  Yes, it could be fake, and the Warrens take you for a ride to slowly delve into proving it so that they can perform an exorcism.  In the end they become kind of the heroes of the franchise without any huge display of powers.  They just happen to know about the paranormal.

With reguard to powers, there is a caviate.  Yes, Lorraine Warren is shown to have psychic powers.  However, she's never really shown to control them.  Rather she's just a party to what they show her and then relays the message.  She doesn't summon up the demons or powers at will, they just either are or aren't there.

Beyond these two movies, there's a host of spinoffs that have either been released or are on the way.  From Annabelle, to the Nun and hopefully many others, we get to see other cases that the Warrens have had some part in. And as someone who loves a good ghost story, I love seeing how these all intermingle with each other.

Now, yes, I have reviewed another movie about The Enfield Haunting and I've linked it.  Also, through my reading and websurfing, I know that these movies take quite a few artistic liberties.  For example, the real Annabelle looks more like Raggity Ann then some chipped and creepy porcelain doll.  And The Enfield Haunting has it's own controversies with how the Warrens were tied into it.  Weirdly the controversies add their own layer to watching the movies and guarantee me hours of further reading to hear all the sides and come to my own conclusions, like any good ghost story should, so I don't mind the artistic liberties.  It just means that I have a lot of reading ahead of me to learn the real story and what actually happened.  It's like a really good cinematic teaser.

I honestly like both of these movies for what they are and that's a good scary ride.  It doesn't matter to me if they're true or not, but the fact that their based in a thread of truth runs just the right line to make it good.  That plus the style of James Wan and the great actors and actresses makes for a fun ride.  I'm very much looking forward to checking out many of the spin offs, soon as I find them on a streaming service I subscribe to.

Where did I watch it?

HBO Go streaming service.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: D. Gray-man Hollow




What's it about?

Return to this alternate timeline where the world is a mixture of science and magic and exoricists hunt down mysterious weapons called Innocence to defeat the Millenum Earl.  Allen Walker, an exorcist, discovers secrets of his past and how he is truely tired to the Noah, the Millenium Earl and the 14th.

Thoughts:

Back when I'd originally started this series, I loved the characters but the series cut off with no real resolution thanks to a host of issues.  Sadly it left things unresolved and upon hearing that there was a continuation I was eager to jump back in.

I am a huge sucker for anime that focus on religion, mainly because it's so interesting to see how other cultures see something that I'm familiar with.  So anime that deal with exorcists and demons and the like are super interesting to me.  There's always something new about it and so much creativity they aren't afraid to explore.  In the course of a continuation I was excited there too, because the characters I'd been introduced to were very interesting and deserved more screen time.

Sadly this continuation didn't turn out as I'd hoped.  Unlike other projects out there that pick up old source material and continue it for a new audience, this anime drops the viewer right into the thick of it.  While this might work for some series, D.Gray-man it does not.  There are just far too many characters for one to keep track of, and this was in detriment to the series as a whole.

The original D.Gray-man series had a habit of introducing the audience to a daily monster, then defeating it and recruiting them to The Order of exorcists.  This style makes it easy to follow from day one, but jumping back in it means you're left with about 20 characters to juggle.  Add to that the newly introduced members of the Noah family (the bad guys), the Crows (exorcists in red), the Thirds (more exorcists), the scientists, the Bookmen and a couple more daily monsters and it will make your head spin. It almost made me want to take out a pen and paper to take notes - which is not a good thing.

Though, realistically I should have realized from the opening, as it basically shows all these characters as different groups and hints that there's a lot to keep track of.

Even setting the characters aside, the plot arc of the 14th is heavy, and a lot to swallow.  Without giving too much away it causes an upheaval in The Order and Allen is stuck right in the middle of it.  He's not so much an active character, but rather along with the right, trying to survive with everyone else.  This fast pace leaves the viewer wanting to take more notes.  It also made it feel like I was watching a long winded recap due to the speed, and I found myself really hoping that they would slow down and re-cover a few things, rather then handing characters so much exposition dialog.

Sadly, the final nail in the coffin was the ending of the season.  It's left wide open with no resolution, obviously hinting at them expecting to have more time.  Sadly, like the previous series, it was cut off after just one season with no resolution in sight.  I'll have to hunt down the manga for a resolution, which isn't horrible, but it would have been nice to see it in animated format before I do that.

While not all bad, there were some good points of the series.  For one, Kanda gets a well done arc that explains quite a bit of his back story and where he came from.  Though rushed, I did like learning about the 2nds and Alma.  The sad part is that like the rest of the series, this is left open ended and at the end of the season we are left seeing only the beginnings of his reactions to discovering the truth.  I would have loved to see this full story line all the way to the end with his reacting to what he learned, but no such luck.

The Noah family, also, enjoys a bit of a redesign for the better.  While more is learned about the Millennium Earl that completely destroys his ability to be threatening, other characters like Tyki Mikk are done beautifully.  For as a little as he shows up in this new series, him and Road are high points in the season and there's never enough of them, ever.

The animation is a bit of a sticking point as well.  While overall it looks stunning and beautiful, there are certain points where it misses the mark entirely.  Comical moments are paired with 1st season Naruto style animation that makes me want to wash my eyes out and high tension fight scenes are paired with oddly drawn eyes that make the characters look squished or cross-eyed and destroy the tension completely.  It's highly distracting and really detracted from the series as a whole, no matter how much I wanted to know what was coming next.

Final Thoughts?


While series like Black Butler and Full Metal Alchemist have made anime retreads and continuations all the rage, this is one you can skip.  The plot points are interesting and the characters are there, but it makes more sense to read a well edited Wikipedia article then try and keep track of everything over 12 episodes.  I wasn't impressed, it actually saddened me that I spent the time on it.

Oh well, time to hunt down some fanfic about Kanda and Alma and look into the manga series, hoping there's some closure and better explanation there.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: The Witch



What's it about?

Set back in the 1600's, a family is banished from their colonial town to build their own farm and find their own way.  However, things don't go well on their own.  Within the first year they are set upon by an evil force, set on bringing them to ruin.

Thoughts

I'll say first off, that as a practicing witch, movies like this give me pause.  I often laugh off the way my kind are portrayed in movies and during the holidays because it's usually quite comical or so far off the mark.  However, there are some portrayals that really get under my skin, and that's usually when they're rooted in the fear people have of witches and the severe hatred that some people have based on religion.  It bothers me because their view of us is nothing like what we really are and when a lot of people hate, well, stupid and dangerous things happen.

That said, this movie got under my skin in a really good way, so much to the point that I actually turned it off halfway through and took a break before I could finish it.  There's a severe amount of religious self loathing and self hatred in this movie that I wasn't prepared for.  That plus the dated style of speaking really pulls you in to this family and what they are dealing with.  You feel for all of them, and when the shit starts to hit the fan, it's painful to watch, but it's also like a train wreck, because you want to see where it all ends up.

The other thing that got under my skin was the treatment of Thomasin.  A lot of how she was treated scared me, because the family was so quick to jump to hatred and fear and she's put in a really impossible place.  She has to deal with all of it and somehow survive.

My biggest gripe with the film is that in some cases they showed a little too much.  While I understand why they included the imagery they did, I wish there were two scenes where they didn't, because it kind of ruined the effect. But that's mostly minor and can be overlooked.

All in all, the movie is quite good, if you can get past some of those points.  It's not scary in a bloody way, really.  Instead I found this movie scary and effective because of how well it shows how quickly people will turn on each other when scared.  Especially considering the current world and how much people are emboldened to act on such emotions, this movie cut a bit closer then I was expecting.

Over all, after making it to the end, I really liked it.  I admire where this film went and how the story played out.  Though hard to watch, it's a very well done folktale.

How I saw it

Streaming on Amazon Prime