Movie Review


So I’ve been horribly negligent about updates, haven’t I? Well, I could post a long apology, but I’d rather just get moving forward again and catch you up to speed on the writing side of things which has been somewhat dominating my time. I’m currently back onto my 500-words-a-day wagon, since that seems to have a greater impact on my total word count than attempting to write at least a sentence a day. While the latter gets props for accessability even during the most busy of times, the former gets mad props for actually making me stick to the keyboard, even when I don’t feel like it.

Going back to a word count requirement has also meant the resurgence of sticker awards! This has brought me an untold amount of childish, gleeful joy. :-)

Since the summary draft is smoldering off by its lonesome until October (when I go back, tear it down, patch it up, fix the major problems, etc. to prep for the beginning of Nanowrimo–which I’ve also never participated in before, and still don’t know if I’ll do “officially” or not), my goal for September was to get some short stories finished. In particular, I was hoping to get my July Challenge stories all wrapped up into nice, messy little rough drafts. I’m currently working on seven stories at the moment (I guess novel work makes me ravenous for variety), listed below:

“His Last and Second Chance” – SF – Current word count: 3724 words

“In the Shadow of the Mons” – SF – Current word count: (estimate*) 1500 words

[Untitled/PEA] – SF – CWC: 2087 words

“The Screaming Trees” – H – CWC: 2857 words

“The First Ghost of Oldshore” – Dark F – CWC: 5478 words

[Untitled/Angel] – H/spec – CWC: 1648 words

“A Shepherd of the Valley” – H – CWC: 1622 words

Needless to say, I’ve been keeping myself busy, and I’m feeling great about it! I’m jumping around a lot, but even so, I feel myself making more progress in the last two weeks than I have in months of time. So huzzah for progress!

The (*estimated) word count is due to my early b-day present from awesome pals Kaku and Kayla, which I will post picture of soon, and which will explain why the word count must be estimated. :-)

Oh! I also got my first copy of DARK FUTURES! It’s so shiiiiiiney! Just ignore the fact that I’m listed as Maggie Jamison in the ToC and Maggie Slater on the story itself. ^_- I do answer to both names. *ahem*

I’ve been having some fun geeking out recently to the old Batman: The Animated Series episodes which I can get through Netflix! YAY! I gotta say, I was thinking about it last night, and that cartoon has some of the coolest female characters. Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Batgirl, Poison Ivy–they’re pretty, they’re smart, and they kick a lot of butt–good and bad. Okay, Harley is *insane* but she’s still pretty darn cool. Just sayin’. Any chick that can hang with the Joker has to be pretty bada$$.

Also, if you’re looking for something to read while I get my blogging here back in gear, check out my interview with author Lavie Tidhar over at the Apex Blog, or my recent review of Zombieland for The Zombie Feed!

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It was only by luck that this week we ended up with three sci-fi/horror flicks via Netflix. I think we had intended to split them up a bit, but hey, good things come in threes, yes? So here’s an overview of our week-long movie marathon:

(WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

Resident EvilRESIDENT EVIL: Okay, so this is one of those movies both Andy and I have been wanting to see for a while. We realized it was probably going to be horrible–as, unfortunately, many films-based-off-video-games are–but we were morbidly curious about it. I must say, overall, we weren’t too surprised by it. Pretty flat acting (I think Jill and the film version of Rick from Blade Runner would make a great couple, considering their blank-confused stares), terrible special effects, and–much to my chagrin–moments that simply would not have worked in the game. I’m sorry, but kicks to the head alone never killed the zombies. EVER. I know, because when I run out of ammo and actually *try* that, I die pretty quick. Maybe I’m just not that skilled with the hand-to-hand combat, but kicking the dogs… really? I mean… really? 

That said, the beginning was awesome. The visuals, the gassing of the office workers–the whole setting was just dynamite. I actually stared in awe for the first five minutes thinking, “No way. No way! This might actually be good!” Of course, that only lasted until Jill appeared, but still. I’ll give credit where it’s due: the beginning was great. (Minus the voice-over.)

Now that I think back about it, it didn’t make any sense why what’s-his-face–the brother of that office girl–was in the mansion… Was he trying to break in to find out what happened to her? Never really explained that bit. I’m going to assume that was the reason.

Overall Grade: C-

SunshineSUNSHINE: Whether this one is horror or not is rather debatable to me, to be honest. While yes, it does have horror elements in the middle, it suffers as a whole from a split personality. On the one hand, it seems like for the first half of the film, you’re watching a rehash of the Armageddon plot, but with more arguable science (we actually watched this with Kaku and argued the science for most of the film) with a few moments of eye-rolling, less character development, and a much slower plot. But then, it had Michelle Yeoh and Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow, anyone?), both of whom I think are pretty fun–even if this film didn’t capture even a fraction of what I think their acting potential could be.

The problem arises in that the hero-plot (restarting the sun) and the horror plot (fate of the Icarus 1) clash horribly. The sad thing is, the horror plot–before we really know what happened to Icarus 1–is flipping amazing. The scene in which our “heroes” enter the defunct Icarus 1 is hands down one of the most f’ed up scenes I’ve ever seen in a sci-fi horror flick. It is spooky. It is skin-crawling. It is deliciously adrenaline-raising. Talk about kicking in the “fight-or-flight” response in viewers. But instead of switching to an all-out horror movie, the hero-thread still remains both viable and strong. The problem I found with this was that the hero-thread diluted the horror-thread, making the situation more annoying than scary, while the horror-thread killed the heroic spirit that the hero-thread needs to have.

More on this: A hero story–take Armageddon, despite bad science, if you will–has to have 1) characters you want to see succeed, and 2) that ending that makes you feel awed or inspired or bitter-sweet. I’m not saying all hero movies have this, but I *did* care about the characters in Armageddon, and I *did* feel moved at the end–if only by the tragedy of it. (Not saying the science was good.) Heck, in Apollo 13 (so excellent science, AND excellent “characters”), you feel something when you see they’ve made it back alive, and you’re pulling for them all the way home. Hero stories need to ride on character. I think Sunshine tried to do that, but somehow it fell apart. I didn’t really care if they succeeded or not. At the end of the movie, I didn’t really feel like I knew any of them better. And I wasn’t moved. 

And that’s because of the horror plot. A horror plot has a very different feel to it. The goal is to inspire dread–that oh so delicious feeling that comes with the adrenaline rush right before Person A looks behind Dark Door #1. It often doesn’t rely so much on character as on situation. It’s the fact that the characters are standing in for you that makes it scary. You don’t need to know the people in depth, though if the writer actually bothers to make you *like* them, then the dread-o-meter reading goes way up. But often, well-developed characters aren’t a necessity. Sunshine had this in spades, at least for part of it. The characters were rote characters you didn’t really feel much for, but you liked them enough. But mostly, the scene on the Icarus 1 is exactly the kind of feel that gets me ready for an all out insane bloodfest. Only, that didn’t really happen. Sure there were moments where I think they tried to do that, but the drama was ruined by the fact that even *if* they succeeded in escaping the crazy man, they were still doomed to die. So who cares if they die throwing the bomb into the sun or stabbed to death by the sun nutter? The fact that at the end the film tries so hard to evoke that hero-awe only ruins the horror story and fails to evoke anything other than “Oh, is it over, now?”

Plus, the fact that they had to manually detonate the bomb… I’m sorry, but WHAT? Considering that they can build an incredibly ship like the Icarus, do they not have automated systems to some degree? I did notice that the captain of the ship still had to manually go outside to see the damage to the heat shields–no robot probes here. So a little on the low-tech side.  

Overall Grade: C+/B-

CloverfieldCLOVERFIELD: Again, perhaps debatable–this time, for whether or not it qualifies as sci-fi. I’m leaving that up to your discretion. 

At any rate, this film was a lot better than I’d been lead to believe. I’ve had numerous friends tell me this movie absolutely sucked, and that they felt like they’d wasted their money and a good chunk of their lives watching. I dare any of them to watch The Happening. Yes, this film was latching onto the Blair Witch fad of the jiggly, non-pro camera-man, but despite that, it was actually pretty fun. I don’t doubt that my estimation of it benefitted from my low expectations. The monster was enjoyably fearsome looking–and I loved the arachnid spawn that fell off it–and the graphics were top-dollar, which I appreciated very much after Resident Evil. 

The characters were a little on the wobbly side–and almost too deludedly suicidal–but hey. There wouldn’t be a movie to watch without them being a little insane, right? The camera-man’s incessant ramblings did get very old, very quick, but the visuals usually carried me through before I got too ticked off.

I did actually care as one by one they’re picked off. I particularly felt for Marcie, though I’d say that’s one of the best scenes in the film. While I would definitely say it was horror, I don’t think they necessarily built up the creep-factor as much as even Sunshine did during the Icarus scene, but then maybe abandoned/ghostly space ships creep me out more. (Note to self: play Dead Space soon!) But I would say, overall, Cloverfield is a good disaster flick. It isn’t going to blow your mind with new ideas–it’s basically Godzilla in New York–but I enjoyed the mindlessness of it. 

Overall Grade: B+

So the week has been pretty quiet, hence no new posts. Kaku got back from Europe last weekend, so we’ve all been hanging out, haloing it, and catching up on Dexter. I must say, Dexter is a bizarrely fun show. It’s got just enough creep, from the main character himself!, to keep me highly entertained. At any rate, I’ve been having a blast with it. The sister is annoying, but that’s probably my only complaint at this point. It’s highly addictive.

We’ve also been cruising through Desperate Housewives Season 2, which I *love*! I must say, the plotting, characters–it’s all like heroin to me. Rarely does a TV show make me so crazy to watch more. Which is why Netflix is wonderful! No commercials, no waiting at season finales (if you’ve ordered the next season in advance)–it’s lovely. We’re also making our way through Home Improvement Season 2, which is just light and fun. ^_^

On Saturday, for pizza night, we watched I Am Legend. It was actually a lot better than I thought it would be. Sure the ending struck me as a little weak, and I definitely think some of the issues (such as the humanity status of the monsters) could have been more developed, but overall it was a pleasurable watch. Perfect? No. Fun? Yes, actually, which somewhat surprised me. I’d like to read the novella and see how the original story went. All in all, though, I’m glad we watched it. Solid three stars, maybe even three and a half.

Watched the debates, but I’m so sick of politics by this point, I won’t even comment. It didn’t change my vote so far, let’s just say that. After the debates, we got our political frustrations out with a game of political halo, which resulted in a wild battle between Hillary, McCain, and Barak. It was *crazy*! Then we watched Futurama. ^_^

Did some cleaning this week so far. Yesterday, we cleaned up the kitchen which had gotten pretty messy and then tidied up the dining room. Swiffer’d the floors (yay!) which was much needed. Today, I washed the towels and washcloths in the bathtub; now it’s just a matter of them drying.

Other than that, the weekend was quiet–Apex was at a con, so radio contact was limited. Took the time to catch up on my Zelda playing (2x through Windwaker, which is hands-down the best Zelda). Finished the interview with the amazing Brandy Schwan today, which was the first productive thing I’ve done this weekend! Hooray! Thank you for helping me out Brandy! ^_^

So that’s about it for here. Oh! Got our driver’s licenses in the mail at last, so now we can get rid of our temporary ones. ^_^ Yesterday, with our “New Moon” money, we were at the local Walmart getting a few things (the Swiffer included), and we decided to pick up some Full Sail (local Portland beer–very nice). But we didn’t have our licenses! I happened to have a laminated, certified copy of my birth certificate with me at the time, so that worked, but it was funny. Just nuts! It’s nice to have the ID back.

Feeling a cold coming on. Scratchy throat off and on/nose clogged in the back/all that good stuff. Still have most of my energy, but I suspect that when Andy goes back to school on Thursday, the cold’s going to hit home. Bah. I hope it holds off until after my birthday (also Thursday). :-\

Writing Stuff:

Got the rejection back on “Mechanical Difficulties.” I’m not really that surprised, but ah well. At least the story is old enough that it doesn’t quite feel like a punch in the stomach anymore. I just don’t have anywhere else to send this story. *le sigh*

Edited “Mimicry” to make the third draft. Should be going out to my next cold reader soon (heads up Tim!).

Sketched a map for the current new “short” fiction project, which is probably shaping up to be a novelette in length. Man, I need to work on creating shorter stories. I just love novelette-length fiction so much! XD! Ah well, to be worked on, I suppose.

So Andy and I finally got a chance to see Sweeney Todd, which we intended to see in the theater, but never got around to. Don’t worry, folks, it didn’t make our WORST MOVIES EVER list by a long shot. But I must say the song lyrics, and the fact that the actors are always singing over each other, got really distracting/annoying/lame after a while. I liked it much better when they stopped singing so much. Let’s just say, it’s no Phantom of the Opera. The characters could have been developed a little more, also, but overall, I think it worked. Stylistically, of course, Tim Burton is a master. No argument there. The costumes, the makeup, the filmography, graphics, etc. were all beautiful. Plot-wise, it had a much better ending than Corpse Bride, so I was pleased with that. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it.

Overall, I think the only thing that actually bothered me was the singing. All the actors have very nice voices, but the songs didn’t do them any justice, and the songs didn’t improve the feel/emotion/set-up of any given scene. If anything, they detracted from the experience. Musicals are tricky things. You can either do them perfectly where the music seems to fit in so well you hardly notice they’re just randomly breaking into song, but if you do, you hardly care because the songs are just so fantastic (I’d put PotO and My Fair Lady into this category), or the music can be obnoxious (ST).

For that reason, I’m probably going to rate this a three and a half out of five stars, for Pretty Good, Glad I Saw It, Probably Won’t Buy It On DVD.

Oh my word. I think Wall-E, the new Pixar/(Disney?) movie, is just about the cutest movie I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Ever. Granted, it could be my time of the month when everything strikes me as particularly adorable and touching, but my eyes leaked through the whole movie. Not crying, just leaking–the perpetual watery-eyed “OH MY WORD THAT IS SOOOOOOOOO CUTE!”

Even Andy thought it was adorable. We plan on buying the DVD when it comes out.

Not only was it cute, but it was well plotted, with great characters (Eve is hilarious – Bad temper, anyone?), great dialogue between the robots (which is minimal, save for electronic vocalizations of each others names–it’s amazing how much you can communicate with that and physical gestures alone!), and on top of that, it had some very interesting sub-themes to think about without being preachy at all (which is amazing at a time when Hollywood seems to have to jam environmentalism (which I even agree with!) down everyone’s throats vaguely disguised as “fiction” – The Happening, anyone?). Granted, as a fan of robots in fantasy and SF, and having written a ton of robot characters myself, I personally have a soft spot for unspeaking robots. Clicks, whirs, shrugs, all that stuff is just so much stronger as a communication platform (in my opinion), not to say that Asimov didn’t do a marvelous job with his robots, or Philip K. Dick with his Nexus 6. I just like the slightly more rustic, moderately humanoid, silent (language wise) robots, slightly verdigised or rusted, simple but with big mind and big hearts.

So naturally, Wall-E played right into my heart.

I am SO going to make a life-sized felt Wall-E, because I wanted to hug him through the whole movie (just imagine me squeaking quietly to myself: I’ll hold your hand, Wall-E!!!), but couldn’t… because it was a movie. Well! I’m planning a life-sized Wall-E so I can hug him whenever I like. I may also do an Eve, but I haven’t quite decided on that yet. Hey, I can go small, why not large?

Had lunch with Kelly today! Hooray! ^_^ It was good fun, and I totally got those delicious habanero chicken wings. Mmmm! They are so deliciously awesome and insanely, evilly hot! Oh, but so good!

After that, I came back here and FINALLY got some writing done. 2,000 words on Chapter 3! Hooray! Obviously far from perfect, but it touches on some key things I want to put in there, and it brings out a little more about Marha and Keon both. Working on finishing that up sometime this weekend.

Also got two critters reviews done! Hip-hip-hooray! That means I’m only 4+ short of pulling my average up so my own stuff can go out! Now if only I’d edit something enough to put up in the queue…

Had left-overs for dinner and watched Blade Runner. It sucked. I’ve read the book it’s based on (Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), and the book was very good. Not my absolute favorite, but it was well executed and made one think. The movie, though, was just bad. It doesn’t follow the book plot at all, to it’s own peril. I still don’t know where the unicorn came from. Also, Roy’s head doesn’t match his body–he looks like he should be lean and ripped, but actually, he has a grandfather body. It’s… kind of creepy–in the not intending to be, kind of way. Especially when he wears those high-cut pants. Ugh.

Unfortunately for them, the worst part about the film was Harrison Ford’s acting. To think he made this between Raiders of the Lost Arch and Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back. We both got really tired of him making his “surprised” face about half-way through the film. After that, we just gave up and started trying to talk our way through. Unfortunately again, unlike Terminator, it’s not a film that sets itself up for really witty viewer comments. So it ends up just being dull.

Here, so far, is our list of WORST MOVIES EVER111!!!

1. The Happening

2. Curb Your Enthusiasm (TV series – so technically, not a movie, but still, it sucked.)

3. The Wild

4. Buckaroo Bonzai (this is our gage for sucky movies)

5. Blade Runner

So there you go, the running list of movies that truly suck. If you want to save your time and money, don’t ever bother to rent any of these. Unless your a masochist, in which case, knock yourself out.

So a brief overview of the past few days, eh?

MONDAY

Lots of odds and ends. Did dishes almost all day. Admired the thunderstorms. Andy brought home the first disk of season one of Stargate SG-1, and we watched the pilot. We were not amused. Andy says decisively: “It sucked.”

TUESDAY

Set up a financial tracking system on my computer, which is really nice to have, but also very depressing. It’s painful to see how much we owe in loans (just for me!). Then we went to the bank, and then did grocery shopping.

Which meant I could actually try a new Orange Chicken recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. Well, it’s not exactly “new”–my mom has made it for the family before, but I’ve never tried it on my own. So! I decided to give it a try, and here are the results:

YummySuper Yummy!

It was goooooood! ^_^ And spicy, too!

Then Andy and I watched the first aired episode of Stargate SG-1, and were slightly more amused than when we watched the pilot.

WEDNESDAY

Today, we did many things. First, we went and saw Get Smart, which was fantastic! It’s the first movie since Lars and the Real Girl that we actually didn’t regret spending money to see. The film got off to a slightly rough start, not for any fault of the film itself, but because the movie theater was having difficulties getting both picture AND sound to work. Thanks AMC. But they fixed it pretty quick, so that was good. It was a fun movie–the only thing we could think to criticize was the choice of Madonna/Justin Timberlake’s awful new song as part of the sound track. Blech. But otherwise, the film was fun on a bun!

Then we picked up packing paper for his mum, grabbed an accordion folder for finances (which we actually did BEFORE the movie, because we had time to kill), and we finally got Andy some new clothes, because he doesn’t have too many. We also need to do laundry sometime… ^_^

Then we went over to Mom (Slater)’s house for a cook-out. First, however, we had to take pictures of things to sell on Craigslist (Piano, anyone?), and then we polished a silver tea tray with two tea pots, a creamer, and a sugar dish. It was much more work than we anticipated getting all that tarnish off. We have both decidedly chosen NOT to own silver in the future. ^_- Then we had hotdogs, hamburgers, and sausage for dinner which was yummy, and then Andy got his butt served to him in a seven game series of Brawl against his bro John (John was Donkey Kong; Andy was Ike).

After that, Andy and I headed home to watch Hot Fuzz which we’d gotten in the mail (Netflix rox!). The movie was often interrupted by random phone calls, first from Andy’s bro trying to get a ride to a friend’s house (even though Andy would have to drive all the way over back to his house and THEN to the friend’s house, and THEN back here) until that got straightened out, and then from my mom while they stood in line at Disneyland in California. Those butts. They had a “fast pass” for some Screaming Rollercoaster, but they had time to kill, so they figured they’d wait in line and go once and then if they liked it, they’d use their pass to go back almost immediately.

Eventually, we got to watch Hot Fuzz, and wow! It was so much fun! I had somewhat low expectations of it, because the ads made it look so stupid, but since we had seen and liked Shaun of the Dead, we thought we’d give it a try. And it was awesome! ^_^ I haven’t had that much fun with a movie in ages. Again: a movie we could not find fault with. It was fantastic; Andy thinks it is his new favorite movie. ^_^ Good times! We’ve had a string of amazing movie luck today, so I expect we’re due for a bunch of really bad ones soon. ^_^

Also, had root beer floats, which are awesome.

TODAY

Will update about today later, when more has happened. Will be going out to lunch with a one Miss Kelly Almond, and am muchly looking forward to that. ^_^ TTFN.

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