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:

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?

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?

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?  I don't want a career.  I want to be a wife and writer. (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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rogue One Revisited

Rogue One is coming to the end of its theatrical run, and this makes me sad.  I’m enjoying it too much on the big screen.  Every viewing I’ve been to on this movie, and almost especially those in the last two weeks has been nearly sold out.  We actually got turned away from one viewing a couple weeks ago because it was sold out, and we ended up having to go to completely different theater.  I don’t think I’ve ever attended a movie this many times with full audiences every single time.  (How many times have I seen it, you ask?  Only eleven... which is not nearly enough.)

This movie has indeed become my favorite of the Star Wars universe films, for so many reasons.  It’s given me my undisputed favorite character from any of the movies:  Director Krennic.  Followed immediately by my second favorite:  Cassian Andor.  It’s the film to finally give me my nearly perfect SW universe character match (Cassian).  It’s got my favorite droid (K2SO).  I love every single character in this movie, except one (sorry, Lyra).  It’s rare that I want to be friends with movie characters.  That’s not my thing.  But I want to be friends and hang out with all of these people.  Even the tertiary and bit characters, like Blue Leader and Pao and Melshi and a couple other one-line pilots and Imperial officers and Admiral Raddus and and and...  I have ridiculous quantities of love for all of these characters.

I love the planets and the scenery.  I love the vast quantity of Stormtroopers on screen at any given time.  I love the ships.  I love the dialogue, the music, the costumes, the props, and every blooming thing about this movie.

And watching Rogue One remains the most amazing and unique experience.  I honestly am not sure I’ve ever sat through a movie quite like it.  What I mean by that is that the second half of the movie, from when the Rogue One team assembles and head off to Scarif, is one giant unstoppable emotional crescendo.  It never lets up and it never plateaus, it keeps building.  And building.  Just when you can’t think it can go any higher, it does, and then it does it again.  All movies build to their climax scenes, of course, but not sustained for this long.  There are little ups and downs.  Not in Rogue One.  There are no downs.  It goes up and up and up until you think it can’t go any higher, and then there’s the Death Star coming out of hyperspace, and then it leaps even higher with Vader igniting his light saber, and then it goes even higher when the Tantive IV escapes and we’re back in those bright while corridors where it all began in 1977, and then it impossibly goes even higher when Leia appears (and that's just the last fifteen minutes, it does that throughout that last hour).  My sister and I have run through every single movie we’ve ever loved, all the ones we've watched over and over in the theater before this, and we can’t find a single one that builds so steadily quite the way this one does, or one that matters emotionally to us as much while it’s doing it.  That is the key.  Movies are merely enjoyable popcorn fun unless they matter emotionally.  And this one matters emotionally on a hardcore level.

The sheer joy, satisfaction, and revved up energy I experience when coming out of the theater after a viewing of Rogue One feels like I've been launched to the moon.

Part of the joy of this one is also that it’s brought back an unexpected wave of nostalgia for the sheer wonder that was 1977.  I didn’t believe that could be possible.  All those childhood feelings, what it felt like to sit in the theater back then, the excitement that wasn’t just excitement for a cool new movie, but for a game changer.  Rogue One brought all that back, for both me and my sister.  It reminds me of everything I fell in love with Star Wars for in the first place.

And it has made me love the original Star Wars and Empire films with a renewed passion that I haven’t had in a while.  (Yes, I’m aware that I’m dating myself.  But I cringe every time anyone calls the first film “A New Hope.”  It was Star Wars when it came out and changed my life, and that’s what I will always call it, except under extreme protest.  It’s Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi.  End of story.  And Han shot first.)

This nostalgia is probably no surprise, as most of the people making this movie are around my age and went through exactly that same thing.  Star Wars means the same thing to them as it did to us.  My sister picked up the Visual Guide (which is wonderful), and the foreword by John Knoll could have been written by me or my sister.  We read his words and went Yep.  What he said.

I have my action figures, I have my t-shirts and sweatshirts.  I have books and magazines to pour over.  I have my wristbands with my favorite quotes. I even have my Rogue One Klennex box, which just might be the oddest movie merchandise ever but I love it.  It all lets me hang onto the movie high that Rogue One induced for a little while longer.

I have no idea what Star Wars VIII, or even next year's Han Solo movie will bring, but bring it on.  I prefer a straight fight to all this sneaking around.  If only someone had told me back in the day, relax!  Star Wars will not only still be going strong thirty years from now, but if anything, it will be going stronger.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The future of movie theaters?

I've spent countless hours in movie theaters.  I love movie theaters.  Sitting in a darkened theater for two hours is one of my happy places.  Or... it used to be.  But old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be, apparently.

First is this new trend of forcing you to select your seat at the box office window.  I. Hates. It.  Precious.  It's nearly impossible to tell from their charts how close your proposed seats are to the screen.  I like to sit fairly close, but not too close.  But I like the screen to dominate my view.  I've already had to sit way farther back than I remotely like on a couple viewings because I can't tell!  I feel like I'm going to need to carry some sort of giant cheat sheet with me, listing every single auditorium in every single theater we go to, and which rows represent the distance I like.  Now, if it's a viewing that's nearly empty, as does happen, then switching seats isn't a problem.  But really.  This whole trend has added a level of stress and unhappiness I've never had before when going to the theater.  Even when a screening was nearly full, I could still find seating that pleased me just walking in.  Now... not so much.

Second is this new trend of changing the stadium seats to be these wide, long recliner seats.  Oddly, in an age of cramming more people in, this is doing the opposite.  The theater I was just in, that would have had a good 30 rows or so, now only has 8 rows.  And because the seats recline, apparently they felt the close rows no longer need to be stadium-style, so we're regressing back to my childhood days of staring up up up at a screen, rather than looking straight ahead or slightly down via stadium seating.  AND, the way they rebuilt the theater to accommodate these recliners... they put a very wide *&^$&* aisle where the best seating would have been previously.  Seriously, people.  WTF???  And of course, you have to choose seats ahead of time, so I had no idea the theater even had this new configuration.  So, it's either sit too close and below the screen.  Or sit too far away and be up higher.  STRESS!  UNHAPPINESS!  Why do they think this is a good idea, exactly?

Third, our AMC has not only done one and two, but their theaters are now dine-in theaters.  I just experienced this madness this week.  When you hand them your ticket to get in, they tell you, "Don't go to the concession stand, your waiter will come to your seat to get you whatever you need."  As you walk back to your auditorium, you pass kitchens.  Full-on restaurant kitchens.  With chefs.  Waiters are walking the theater balancing trays.  You don't walk into the theater anymore, a waiter escorts you to your seat.  The seats have trays (which prevent you from crossing your legs), and there are menus, real silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin waiting for you.  There is a call button between seats to call your waiter to you anytime you want.

I'm not kidding.

I was appalled.  I go to the movies to sit in the darkness, be undisturbed, and get lost in a fictional world for two hours.  It appears that joy is going to be taken away.  Now there are people walking about carrying food, being distracting.  Now there is the clatter of silverware on plates, glasses being set down on trays, and the smell of meals, being distracting.  Even their fricking call button is illuminated and glowing right beside your head.  I had to take the napkin and cover it up it was so irritating.  All these things pull me out of the movie.  All these things make me want to cry. 

I just want to watch a movie on the big screen in peace and quiet.

I don't want to pick the wrong seats ahead of time.
I don't want to recline.
I don't want to eat a meal.
I don't want a waiter coming to check on me.
I just want to watch a *%@%$^ movie IN PEACE AND QUIET.

*deep breath*

I guess we really are heading towards the world depicted in Wall-E.  Everyone on their personal recliner, not having to get up or move, everything coming to you.

Friday, January 13, 2017

January 2017

Silver's one year birthday is coming up in just a week.  Wow!  How time flies.  He's doing well, about 55 lbs. now.  He makes me laugh all the time, he's such a big silly dork.  He has started howling occasionally if all the neighborhood dogs are set off by sirens or something and he's outside, except my boy sounds like it's the first time he's ever used his voice or he's got laryngitis!  He has the hoarsest, most unused-sounding voice ever.  It is the funniest thing you've ever heard.  He's starting to blow his coat, so there is white fur going everywhere right now.  Just normal life with a Husky!