Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Movies of 2011

Best MovieSource Code

Source Code is science fiction on a human scale, the likes of which we haven’t had since Gattaca.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens, a man who has to go back in time to discover who bombed a train.  He wants to find a way to go off mission to save a woman he meets on the train, but he has to deal with his own internal struggle before he can do either.  Read my full review of this fusion of science fiction and romance. 

Honorable MentionBattle: Los Angeles 

Battle: Los Angeles is entirely from the point of view of Marines who have to fight off an alien invasion.  They experience the fog of war as they endure vicious urban street fighting to rescue civilians whom they’ve never met and with whom they have no personal connection.  To read more about this movie that authentically shows the Marine culture seamlessly blended with alien special effects, look at my full review

Special Category—Best African-American actress goes to Charlize Theron, for her role in Young Adult (see my review).  If you’re puzzled about her being an African-American, look up her bio.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Worst Movies of 2011

Happy St. Stephen’s Day

This is a positive blog.  If you’re an aspiring writer who wants an agent or editor to notice you, don’t flame people online.  But so long as I do it in an amusing way,  I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the two worst movies I saw in 2011.


1. Kirsten Dunst plays a depressed person.

2. She appears topless a couple times for no particular reason. 

3. She feels better when she finds out the world is about to end.

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon

Basically, there are three elements to the movie:

1. One part total crass ignorance about space.  (For instance, Pink Floyd might have referred to the dark side of the moon as a figure of speech, but the people who made the movie acted like it was a physical reality.)

2. One part Victoria’s Secrets ad.  The model (she’s not really an actress) Rosie Huntington-Whiteley said in an interview that she asked the director Michael Bay that wasn’t it odd she appears in high heels throughout the movie.  She says he replied that naw, it was okay.  

3. And to be fair, one part cool special effects.

That’s it for those two.  Hopefully my next post will be on the best movies of 2011.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Happy Feet Two" Stomps on "Young Adult"

If you want more cheery fare than my review of the movie Young Adult, Brooke Busse on her blog reviews the movie Happy Feet Two.  

Happy Feet Two isn't really my speed, but it had almost twice the gross in its opening weekend than Young Adult.  So between these reviews you might find a movie that suits you.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Teaser Tuesday Again

Teaser Tuesdays is a meme hosted by the Should Be Reading blog.  We’re to grab a novel we’re currently reading, open to a random page, then paste two random sentences.  (Unless they contain spoilers, since that would be too random.) 

I’m currently going over The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells since I’m doing a mashup, and you can read excerpts from it here and here.  But now for two sentences by H.G. in the original: 

“I crawled out almost immediately, and crouched, my feet still in the water, under a clump of furze. The horse lay motionless (his neck was broken, poor brute!) and by the lightning flashes I saw the black bulk of the overturned dog cart and the silhouette of the wheel still spinning slowly.” 

Sorry, horse lovers, but I’ll include the death of the horse from the original.  Just remember that it’s the mean old Martians who cause it.  And reputedly, The War of the Worlds was the first book to coin the term “Martian” for an inhabitant of Mars.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Movie Review: Young Adult

Young Adult has a double meaning:  The main character, Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), is the author (not a writer!) of young adult novels.  She wakes up by drinking a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, then works in an on-again off-again way on her latest novel while ignoring deadline calls from her publisher.  But she’s also someone who has never matured beyond her self-absorbed teen years.  Her apartment looks like a teenager’s room, and she hasn’t gotten beyond her prom queen/screw the guys in the back of the school attitude. 

Her career and her immature life collide when she receives a baby announcement from her high school sweetheart and his wife.  She somehow assumes she can live like the teen heroine of one of her novels and just swoop back into the small town of her youth and pluck her ex-boyfriend out of there.  When fellow grad Matt (Patton Oswalt) points out the ex is married and has a baby, Mavis shrugs it off by saying, “We all have baggage.” 

But yes, her ex-boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson) is obviously a good husband and a good father.  And his wife is nice to Mavis.  In fact, almost everyone in the small town is nice to her or impressed by her accomplishments.  Mavis is actually only moderately successful—she lives in Minneapolis, not New York or Los Angeles, and she is essentially a ghost writer for the famous author who started the young adult series she writes for.  But in her mind, she is an exalted giant compared to these nothing people in this small town.  Soon, Buddy will realize she’s here to rescue him, and he’ll abandon his wife and child for her. 

Young Adult is an uncompromising sort of comedy.  Don’t look for any cathartic scene to resolve Mavis’ insecurities.  In fact, the more she talks about her feelings, the more self-centered she gets.  She transforms every friendly gesture from Buddy into an absurdist sign that her romantic flight of fancy is working.  It’s as fascinating as a car skidding into a wreck, a car driven by that prom queen you always hated. 

Okay, raise your hand if you recognize yourself in this movie.  Did I say “yourself”?  I meant your roommate, or someone whose blog you like.  The person who never grew up, and who looks back to high school for his/her glory days is a painful reality.  These people are blights on our society, dried-up leaves that clog our parties, raging waves that dash against their peers who have grown up and moved on.  But they sure write interesting novels. 

They try hard to make Charlize Theron look dowdy in some scenes, moping around in gray sweats or baggy blue jeans, but you can still see what an impressive woman she is.  And she is completely believable as the moderately successful person consumed not so much with her importance, but just with herself.  Every dead look of hers at the accomplishments of others and every sneer tossed at her ex-boyfriend’s wife defines her as the self-absorbed.  Everyone else provides fair to good performances, but Theron is the one who carries the movie on her ivory shoulders. 

Young Adult is not for everyone.  It’s not a hilarious comedy; the audience alternates between making disgusted sounds and laughing at the oh-no-she-didn’t-say-that lines.  But I think it would have a wider appeal if it didn’t have the admirably literary title.  If it had been called The Anti-Wife, more women would “get” it and want to see it.  So that last sentence shows I can already spin things in a Hollywood way. 

P.S.  For me, the movie contained some horror elements.  No, the genre is not horror, and the movie is very mainstream.  But I’ve never seen pedicures and manicures close up before.  The horror.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays

The should be reading website is holding their Teaser Tuesdays meme. 

The challenge is to randomly open to a page on whatever you’re currently reading and post two sentences from it.  (And naturally, no spoilers.) 

My current read is The Shadow Reader, by Sandy Williams. 

“None of the fae stops me as I walk forward, but hands move toward sword hilts.  Worry is etched on some of their faces.” 

Just to note:  These are not cute, harmless fairies.  Their hands are moving toward their swords because they find the human narrator a threat and are thinking of killing her.  

Friday, December 9, 2011


Grimm is a show you should be watching.  The main character Nick (David Giuntoli) is a descendant of the Brothers Grimm.  He discovers in the first episode he can see things others can’t—the true nature of the fairy tale monsters around him.  As most of you know, the old fairy tales were not cute tales for kids; they were strange tales on the edge of reality, and they often had horror elements.

The first episode features a wolfish serial killer who kidnaps a child—so no, this is not a show for your children to watch.  Nick has to team up with a Blutbad (Silas Weir Mitchell)—a reformed big bad—to have any chance of solving this one.  Other episodes start with a bus passenger dying from a massive dose of bee toxin, and a woman fleeing from a pursuer whom she’s oddly in love with.  Nick has to use his savvy detective skills, augmented with the Grimm lore and the help of the big bad to solve these supernatural crimes.  If you want to see crime fought with GPS devices and a Blutbad’s nose, as well as handguns and scythes, Grimm is the show for you. 

David Giuntoli does a great job as the man completely puzzled by the fate that’s been handed him.  (He also gives off a Superman vibe, as the polite good guy.)  And Silas Weir Mitchell is hysterical as the reformed big bad who drinks espresso and gets irritated when his pilates sessions are interrupted.

Currently, Grimm is on Friday nights at 9:00 on NBC, although with all the Christmas programming going on, it might end up getting preempted as soon as I recommend it.  And yes, that time slot puts it up against Supernatural and Fringe, but so far it’s holding its own.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dept. of Homeland Security Warning

This is a little late, but the Dept. of Homeland Security issued this warning tweet:  

Homeland Security 
How dangerous can turkey fryers be?
Citizens, make sure your unit does not catch on fire!  
(Seriously, can you believe they get paid for this?)  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

D'Abo Sizes Up Nakajima

In my previous post, I had Kendrick size up D’Abo, from my science fiction manuscript Day 10K.  In this one, D’Abo, a senior lieutenant who’s over 40 and seen it all, sizes up the young Ensign Kendrick. 
Ensign's Insignia

. . . the floor of the bridge looked like a cluster bomb packed with handrails, auxiliary consoles, and vertical power cables had gone off, then left as is.  In the midst of it all, Kendrick had stationed himself at the captain’s shoulder, as if he belonged there. 
            Tall for a half-Japanese person, Kendrick was nimble on his feet.  Unlike Mannheim, who stared in disbelief when whipsawed, or other junior officers who protested when jerked around, Kendrick would project an air of calm, as if he already knew how an officer should react in every situation. 
            He almost got away with it. 
            His narrow face would show the tight lips of disdain when told to not be so by-the-book when a situation was fluid.  That, his obvious intelligence, and something about one of his parents having been in the Fleet, all pointed to a certain type of attitude:  The senior officers did not measure up to his freshly-minted standards.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nakajima Sizes Up D'Abo

In this post and the next I'm going to show a neat technique with regard to characters.  After they've interacted for a couple chapters, have them size each other up, the way I do in my science fiction manuscript, Day 10K.  Below we have Kendrick, an idealistic ensign fresh out of the Academy.  He's being reamed out by D'Abo, a senior lieutenant about twice his age.  Keep in mind, these are both good guys.  

Lieutenant's Insignia

            D’Abo turned and looked up at him.  “As for you, Kendrick.” 
            “Yes, ma’am.” 
            “Did someone die and make you admiral?  You do not interrupt the captain.  You do not contradict the captain.  You can send your cute little messages questioning his orders, but don’t let that make you think you’re going to discuss ship’s policy over a cup of hot vanilla with him!  Do you understand?” 
            “Yes, ma’am.”  Kendrick observed her.  Lieutenant Gwen D’Abo was the most unpredictable officer on the ship.  She was a mustang -- having signed onto the Fleet as ordinary crew, then working her way up through officer recommendations, online courses, and tests administered in the field to become an officer herself.  She was living proof the process produced a different kind of officer, compared to the rigorous training of the Academy -- which was an almost scientific procedure for transforming cadets into a finished product.  D’Abo evidenced a casual attitude towards her duties, which never seemed to get her on the captain’s list.  On the other hand she socialized more with the enlisted crew and junior officers and was more sympathetic than an imperious officer like Grayhawk.  But D’Abo could also suddenly turn rigid or even outraged when a line was crossed.  Puzzling.   


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