Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Frightday Posts

This is my monthly collection of posts I write for Frightday, a fun site full of horror film reviews, trailers, cryptids and conspiracies, plus an awesome podcast that I listen to every week without fail.

review of Consumption

Throwback Thursday review of The Thing (spoiler alert: it's amazing!)

my super long review of The Wailing

Preacher episode 4: Monster Swamp

Preacher epiode 5: South Will Rise Again

Preacher episode 6: Sundowner

Outcast episode 4: A Wrath Unseen

Outcast episode 5: The Road Before Us

Outcast episode 6: From the Shadows it Watches

SDCC 2016: Panels Part 1: Teen Titans Go and Jim Lee

My first priority at San Diego Comic Con was to see panels and I went to quite a few.

* Teen Titans Go!

Teen Titans Go! is an adorable, comedy based cartoon show on Cartoon Network. Tara Strong (Raven), Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), Scott Menville (Robin), and Khary Payton (Cyborg) with producers Aaron Horvath and Pete Michail were on the panel to discuss the show. I personally enjoy the show. I never watched the original unfortunately because I didn't even hear of it until after it was over. This show is very light, over the top, and enjoyable.Each episode pretty much starts fresh because the characters can die or get into crazy situations. They mentioned their new season is starting tomorrow (August 1st) with a new episode every day for 5 WHOLE DAYS on their island adventure. We saw the first episode including the new theme song to go with the event.

The panel talked about the organic, crazy way they make the show. They talked about the easter eggs in the art may not be seen by anyone else until the show is out. The actors can brings improvised material that makes it into the show. It was fun to see each of the actors going in and out of their character's voices. Tara Strong also performed her Bubbles voice to allay awkwardness about discussion of the crossover with the new Powerpuff girls TV show. Most of the actors talked about how much they love the show, how much they love working with their Teen Titans family for so long, and how they came up with their characters' voices. Tara, Khary, and Greg came up with their voices in the studio during their auditions.

The one thing that annoyed me about the panel was that the children asking questions never paid attention and always asked the same questions. Someone should have been screening them and maybe prompting them to think of a different question since it was already answered. This sucked up a lot of time and made the vibe a bit awkward. Other than that, I enjoyed the panel.

* Jim Lee

I stumbled on to a Jim Lee panel the last time I was at Comic Con waiting for a Neil Gaiman panel after his. He charmed me and my fiance with his hilarious commentary, beautiful art, and crazy talent. Now, we try to see his panels whenever we can. This panel was a little different than usual. He didn't complete as many drawings this time, but he was also demonstrating his technique and answering many fan questions. The main piece he drew was of Harley Quinn with hair buns. The minor piece he completed was to demonstrate how he draws mountainsides and then later added Batman throwing tons of pokeballs at a Pikachu (based on his own experience playing Pokemon Go).

Jim is hilarious to listen to and he can poke fun at his fans a bit, but it's all in good fun. He shows his drawing process, but admits he doesn't usually do the undersketching. He just didn't want to intimidate people away from drawing. He talked about moving to the US as a child and not knowing the language. He cited his experience to being more attentive to visual communication cues like the way people stand and their expressions among other things that helped him become a better artist. He mused over the new Alfred from Batman vs. Superman who not only works as a butler by day, but also helping Batman at night with weapons and backup. The conclusion was he must be on meth and it totally sucks for him since Batman can sleep during the day. Jim Lee is always a joy to watch and it's interesting to see his artistic process as he draws.

More tomorrow!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

SDCC 2016: Mysterious Galaxy Signing and Shopping Spree

Mysterious Galaxy is an amazing indie bookstore in San Diego that puts on so many awesome author events. I hadn't been to their new location since they moved, so it was a bit hard to find. However, the interior layout is so much better organized and open than the old store. Check it out if you're ever in San Diego.

Friday night of Comic Con, they held a Gail Carriger book signing for her new releases, Imprudence and Poison or Protect. The first hour or so was a loose Q&A session where fans asked questions and Gail answered as best she could. She gave her book recommendations (Uprooted by Naomi Novik and Court of Fives by Kate Elliott), character name creation (usually having some hidden meaning about the character), and easter eggs of minor characters showing up in other book series in the same world. She also spoke of her past as an archaeologist specializing in ceramics which she studied and excavated all over the world. Next year, she will be entering a writing hiatus, but will still be attending events.

Poison or Protect is a self published romance novella feature Sophronia from the Etiquette and Espionage books. Gail admitted to being a bit squeamish about writing romance especially the "nookie" scenes (her words). She decided to self publish in order to write in a shorter, harder to sell format and also continue the series with LGBT characters in perhaps a more explicit way than her publisher would like. I'm excited about it (even though romance really isn't my thing) since it delves into minor characters in her world we wouldn't normally see as closely. Needlessly to say, the signing was awesome and informative with many fun people who exchanged book recommendations with me.

On the Monday after Comic Con, I went back to the store to go on a shopping spree with my left over money. Here are all the books I bought (which I meant to take a picture of before I put them all away):

Your Brother's Blood by David Towney
The Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs
Dinner by Cesar Aira
Thirst by Benjamin Warner
Imprudence by Gail Carriger
Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne Valente
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne Valente
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay
Fellside by M.R. Carey

I love this bookstore because I never would have heard a lot of these books and authors in a bigger store or Amazon. This store focuses on mystery, horror, science fiction, and fantasy and is willing to include lesser known books alongside the big names. I hope to have you all read reviews for most if not all of these books whenever I finish them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

SDCC 2016: I'm Back and Best Cosplay Part 1

This year is my triumphant return to San Diego Comic Con! I haven't attended for three years, due to either not getting tickets or lack of funds. This year was AMAZING and I hope you won't get too tired of my posts about it. I only had tickets for Thursday and Sunday, but I got to see everything that I really wanted PLUS I went to Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, and the San Diego Safari Park (which I might do a separate post on). I'd like to start with some of my favorite cosplays that I saw during the convention.

Negan from The Walking Dead and B-Mo from Adventure Time

Punk Flame Princess and Finn from Adventure Time (with their own mathematical sign!)


Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th and Michael Meyers from Halloween

Tubbs from the addictive mobile game Neko Atsume

Wonder Woman

If any of these photos feature you or someone you know, please email or comment so I can credit you. More posts to come!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Me Before You

* spoilers *

Louisa "Lou" Clark has been working in the same cafe for years and loves it. She likes fashion and helping people, but doesn't really aspire to go to school or do anything momentous. When the cafe suddenly fires her, she's devastated. Her family depends on her paycheck since her mother was laid off and her father hasn't been able to get a job for months. After working job after job at a temp agency, they refer her to a job that keeps opening: being a caregiver for Will Traynor, a rich paraplegic good at alienating everyone around him. Can Louisa keep this job and support her family or will she allow Will to chase her away?

Me Before You isn't the typical movie I would watch. I'm more partial to horror and fantasy films over tearjerky romances, but this one was different than the usual fare. The characters are flawed but enjoyable to watch. Emilia Clarke is charming as Lou, wearing loud, colorful clothing and adorable shoes. She embraces the little things in her life like cute (others would say childish) fashions and helping those around her. Despite her kindhearted nature, she doesn't let Will push her around and isn't afraid to stand up to him. I loved her enthusiasm and excitement. Will is much the opposite. He makes tasteless jokes and tries as hard as possible to make everyone around him uncomfortable. His life before his accident was full of adventure and extreme sports, but now it's full of constant pain and the realization that he can't have that life anymore. Lou and Will predictably become friends and something more.

Their relationship starts with simple conversations and getting to know each other. Lou discovers early that Will wants to kill himself through assisted suicide and makes it her goal to make life so awesome he won't want to die anymore. So she takes him on a number of excursions that she's never done before and wants his company. It doesn't all go well as Will's health is fragile and she doesn't do the necessary study to be the caregiver of someone with his health. He has a nurse, but the nurse isn't there 24/7.  Her boyfriend is also an obstacle. Patrick is obsessed with fitness (which Lou has no interest in) and doesn't seem to have any emotional or real attachment to her at all. Matthew Lewis' talent is criminally wasted on this flat, cartoonish character, but he provides the only person who thinks Lou shouldn't care for or be with Will.

After they go on a big romantic trip to Mauritius and finally confess their love for each other, Will confesses his plan to kill himself and wants her to be there with him. Lou is devastated and doesn't talk to him the whole trip. At home, she agonizes over the decision to be there for him and eventually does. The typical Happily Ever After ending would be that Will loves Lou so much that he doesn't want to die anymore. Unfortunately, it's not very realistic since he's in constant pain every day and just isn't happy. He can't be the person he was and this life isn't enough for him. This ending has come under fire from advocates saying this fictional character's decision should somehow apply to all disabled people. It's perfectly possible to adapt to being disabled, but with Will's character development, it would have been a cheap, hollow, cliche ending. It also puts assisted suicide in the forefront of the media and gets people to talk about it.

I cried for about the last half hour of the film, but it was a beautiful story of two people changing each other's lives for the better. Lou sees more of the world and gets some direction to her life and Will got to enjoy his last months of life. It's cliche in places, but charming, sad, and sweet. I understand people's complaints about it, but I think it's a fitting end to the story. I wish they were a little more realistic about his actual death. If you see one romantic comedy/tragedy this year, you should watch this one.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, July 16, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane

Michelle flees her home in New Orleans after a fight with her boyfriend. Late at night in a rural area, the radio reports about blackouts in major cities. Distracted by that and a call from her boyfriend, she doesn't see the truck that hurtles into her car, leaving her unconscious. She wakes up in an underground bunker in what looks like a jail cell. The man who claims to have saved her is Howard. He also claims that the world is uninhabitable and they can never leave the bunker. She's resistant at first, but then meets another survivor named Emmett. An escape attempt leaves her believing Howard after what she saw through the window, but is Howard really as benevolent as he says?

I didn't enjoy the original Cloverfield because it focused on the most privileged and boring characters who I couldn't bring myself to care about. This film is completely different and solves that problem nicely. The bunker setting is incredibly claustrophobic and the bulk of the film is completely dependent on the performances of the two main characters: Michelle and Howard. Michelle's first urge is to run when something goes wrong whether it's a fight with her boyfriend or an apparent apocalypse. Of course she distrusts Howard as he locked her up in a cell and won't let her near any entrances. She proves to be incredibly resourceful and uses her skills as a designer and a seamstress in ways I didn't expect. Never completely trusting Howard, she tries to utilize safeguards and always looks for ways of escape. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of the best final girls in the last few years because she balanced using her skills and being capable with feeling fear and grief.

Howard, on the other hand, is very capable, eerily prepared for such an event, and unstable. He isn't afraid to do what he thinks is for the greater good even if it's incredibly monstrous. He simply won't see it that way. Conflict and tension revolve around him. The first part of the film's suspense is due to if he's telling the truth about the outside world being uninhabitable. When it's revealed he is, that settles down, but his emotional outbursts triggered by just about anything keep that tension going. John Goodman is frightening in this role. He could be fairly even keeled one moment and then lash out the next. The second part of the film is focused on getting to know him more and discovering if the others are in danger by being in such close quarters to him. His action near the end of the film needs to be seen to be believed.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a suspenseful film that has excellent performances and masterfully built suspense. It's clear the Cloverfield stamp was added later since this film has virtually nothing in common with the original movie. This film is unique in that it takes place during an apocalypse situation and then extends past it. What are survivors to do? How will they live in this much different world? Without going into any detail, I loved the ending. It was completely unexpected and well done. The effects looked amazing. I would love to see a sequel.

My rating: 8/10 fishmuffins

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Lady Jane

Lady Jane Grey in history was Queen of England for 9 days from July 10 to July 19, 1553. Her reign was short because Mary, King Edward VI's half sister later known as Bloody Mary, usurped the throne from her and then beheaded her for treason. This book tells a different story in a fantastical world. This version of England has Ethians, people who can turn into an animal at will, against Verities, people who don't have this ability, instead of Protestants against Catholics. King Henry VIII was a very public Ethian, prone to fits of rage, turning into a lion, and eating people. Despite this, Ethians are still hunted and killed, so they rose up in a marauding gang called the Pack. The peasants are caught in the middle and are hostile towards Ethians since their livelihoods in livestock and food are constantly being stolen by them. King Edward VI has thus far done practically nothing about it, but he's slowly dying of the Affliction without having done much at all. This world takes historical events and puts a fantasy spin on it. The tone is much more lighthearted than I expected because it still deals with some heavy subjects.

The novel is told from 3 different perspectives in alternating chapters: Lady Jane bookworm extraordinaire, sickly King Edward VI, and Gifford Dudley, son of Lord Dudley (Edward's most trusted advisory) and horse by day. The novel style and tone are seamless through the eyes of these three characters as if there was one author instead of three. All three of the characters deal with normal teenage things like first love, first kisses, refusing to communicate, and forming friendships. They also deal with more adult things (as they were considered adults in that era and had real responsibility), like marriage, running countries, gathering armies, discovering regicidal plots, and fighting to regain the throne from Bloody Mary, who hates and longs to execute Ethians instead of Protestants. The various romances in the novel are sweet, but rather shallow. Lady Jane is by far my favorite character because she was quite knowledgeable about a variety of subjects due to reading constantly, which is taken from history as she was one of the most educated women at the time. Gifford is sweet, but the most frustrating because he kept up a front and told the most lies. Edward becomes more self aware and realistic about life after being so privileged. He grew on me over time.

While the book is very fun and light hearted, I had a few problems with it. I didn't like how the authors addressed the reader except for the introduction. The other few passages took me out of the story and didn't really add anything. I thought the lighthearted tone would change when talk of people being executed and such was discussed, but I never felt like these characters where in any danger. It's also based on a pretty horrific event in English history where Mary executed 280 Protestants. Subtle pop culture references are peppered throughout the book like quotes from Shakespeare, lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Mark Twain quotes. I enjoyed them as little Easter eggs, but again, it kept the story too light for such subject matter.

My Lady Jane is a fun, fantastical read that is the perfect summer read. It has romance, betrayal, secrets, people turning into animals, kissing, adventure, scheming relatives, and humor. It's a coming of age novel about finding oneself as well which pretty much anyone can relate to. The writing and style flowed well through the different characters' chapters. I look forward to another collaboration between these authors.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Purge: Election Year

All crime is legal for 12 hours every year, allowing the rich to prey on the poor and the innocent. Charlie Roan knows first hand the damage the Purge can do after she witnessed her entire family killed in front of her. As a senator, she's running for president and advocating for the abolishment of Purge night, which angers the New Founding Fathers who directly profit off of its existence. So of course they decide to sabotage her security and kill her on Purge night. Can Charlie live long enough to see election day in the face of a hostile group with deep pockets, plenty of resources, and no qualms over murder?

The Purge: Election Year takes some themes and situations from our own political events then makes them over the top and satirical. Charlie is a clear reflection of Bernie Sanders made young and attractive. Both promise changes for minorities and the poor. Both come from outside establishment and advocate for their views through their actions. Charlie makes an effort to talk to all of her supporters away from her security. She chooses to stay at her own home during the Purge to prove a point and will made every effort to win the election the legal way. Her portrayal is a bit over the top as she starts criticizing someone who just saved her life over their tactics toward the same goal. The New Founding Fathers and their cronies are completely over the top. They are all rich, male, old, Christian, racist, and sexist. They color their hatred and greed with religion to justify it, much like Republicans do today. Of course these people are literally making human sacrifices in church and are the most one dimensional evil characters ever. The film captures the fanaticism and the vitriol I see from that side of the political spectrum.

This film takes what other Purge films did and makes it more interesting and at times more extreme. As always, the murder montages are shown with striking and disturbing images. The best clips are women dancing around corpses hanging from a tree, an old woman primly seated watching a body burn on the sidewalk, and an epicly large guillotine. I wanted to see way more of the guillotine. It takes so much time to make and it's so visually dramatic, but it only had 5 seconds of screen time. Some Purgers get clever and pretend to be dead to surprise passersby. The camouflage is genius. Another group of particularly spoiled teens take the opposite tactic and cover their car complete with Christmas lights, daring anyone to approach. People from Europe decide to visit during the Purge for some murder tourism. They dress up in American patriotic gear and happily murder some people. It's insane, but makes sense in this world. The masks and outfits are extra creepy this time. I like to think of these people slaving over their outfits like cosplayers going to a convention because their so excited.

Each Purge movie has such potential. The concept is strong, but the details around it are fuzzy. I've always wanted to see exactly how the New Founding Fathers come into power, but it's not in this movie. I'm always a bit disappointed. This film does a little too much manufactured sob stories to elicit emotion. It felt out of place and manipulative. The pacing isn't always the best and people don't always take the most logical actions. Some characters are completely unnecessary. I would definitely see more Purge films. The films keep getting better and better as it goes along. I hope they keep the ideas fresh and keep pushing the envelope. I especially appreciated how timely the film is in skewering our current state of politics.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Kushiel's Dart

Phedre's parents sold her at an early age to the Night Court as an indentured servant. The red mark in her eye and her name mark her as cursed and thus unfit for anything that would change her financial future. Delauney stumbles upon her and recognizes her mark as Kushiel's Dart, a person who feels pain as pleasure who hasn't been seen in the realm for ages. He buys her bond and trains her in both courtly and sensual arts. Above all, he trains her to observant and retain even the smallest bits of information. Now renowned as an accomplished courtesan, her services are coveted by many and she collects many bits of information and secrets for Delauney. She stumbles upon a plan to betray the kingdom to a foreign force and she's discovered. Lost in a foreign land with only a hostile guard at her side, she has to find her way back to her homeland to warn of the coming destruction.

I wasn't expecting a lot from Kushiel's Dart. I assumed it would be very fluffy and romance focused, but I was wrong. I was surprised that the book is close to a thousand pages long. It has more in common with Game of Thrones in the political intrigue and spying realm and the high fantasy world world is as if not more complex than Westeros. The Phedre's home is called Terre d'Ange, Land of Angels. It was settled by Elua, the product of Yeshua's (Jesus) blood and Magdelene's tears. Carey's takes a different version Christian mythology and makes it polytheistic with deities like Naamah (sexuality and prostitution), Cassiel (discipline, celibacy, and guardianship), and Kushiel (pain and chastisement). The society is therefore completely different.

The Cassiline Brotherhood and servants of Naamah are equally respected. Different sexual preferences are normal. The way servants of Naamah are trained and employed are healthy and respectful of all. Breaking these conventions means social ostracization and legal repercussions. Phedre's evolution from scared little girl with no prospects to successful, confident servant of Naamah was well written and overwhelmingly positive. The depictions of her services with patrons isn't as descriptive as I thought it would be. It wasn't crass or overly detailed. There is sex, masochism, sadism, orgies, bondage, and a love triangle, but it doesn't take precedence over the main plotlines. Phedre's struggle to get back to her lands was especially exciting and my favorite part of the story.

Only a few things bothered me. One part had a god physically attacks and traps Phedre's group, which I felt was a little out of place as no other deities or mythical creatures were present.The language is quite formal and sometimes hard to follow. At times, the narrative could have used some editing. I don't mind slow moving stories, but this tried my patience at times.  I feel like this one book could have been at least 2 or 3 books all by itself. It was quite the saga. Other than that, Kushiel's Dart was an enjoyable. It has romance, intrigue, war realistically rendered, and friendship. I'm not sure if I will continue the series, but Kushiel's Dart was a fun lengthy read. Carey's complex world is the best part as its detail and vision are a rarity,

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Shallows

Nancy Adams is grieving for her mother who died after a long fight with cancer. She decides to go to the Mexican beach where her mother was at her happiest to surf and forget her troubles. They follow her anyway as her sister calls her wondering why she's basically run away and her father laments over her decision to drop out of med school. Nancy brushes them off, enjoying the sun and surfing the waves. The locals go home for the day, but she wants just one more wave. She stumbles upon a whale carcass and the shark that killed it. Trapped on a rock in the shallows of the sea, Nancy struggles to find the will to live and ways to outsmart this killer shark.

The Shallows has an interesting concept and a different visual style. The shark is a metaphor for Nancy's grief and likely depression. If she sits idle, she can't move forward in her life and lets the grief consume her. This film has more in common with movies like Gravity and The Babadook than Jaws. The idyllic setting contrasted well with the violence. Although a fairly minor point, I liked how the images on her phone screen and watch were displayed. It was clear and different than I've seen. The visual effects are pretty good. The shark in particular looked realistic and Nancy's physical deterioration and injuries were impressive. Unfortunately, this is about all the film has going for it.

The movie would have been better as a short. So much of the film is stagnant. The first bit of the film is filled with creepy, lingering shots of Blake Lively's body. The latter half of the film has her laying on a rock doing pretty nothing for way too long. The plot is very basic and is stretched thin to fill the length of a short feature length film. While the shark seems to be largely metaphorical, it would be nice if the shark attacks made sense. Nancy is pulled under by the shark, but only has a rather large gash on her leg to show for it. Others are bit in half by the massive shark's jaws, so her injury doesn't really make sense. The ending is overly saccharine and unsatisfying.

The Shallows could have been a fun thriller, but a lack of momentum, dull and static scenes, and unrealistic leaps in logic make it a fairly unenjoyable film. The theater experience was also awful as a bunch of bored eight year olds chatted loudly through the entire film. I was fooled by the hype and the generally positive reviews.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Wolf Road

Elka doesn't remember her parents at all, but was raised by her strict, abusive grandmother. One day after a fight, a storm takes her away into unfamiliar territory. A man she calls Trapper finds her and takes care of her, teaching her survival skills to live in the wilderness. Years later, she sees a wanted sign in town and discovers he's wanted for the murder of women and children. She accidentally leads the law to his cabin, stranding her on her own with the man she thought of as her father and the law chasing her as she hopes to find her estranged parents.

Wolf Road is told by Elka as if she's speaking it. The entire thing is in her accent and dialect. It takes a bit to get used to, but shows how she thinks and feels. Although without formal education, she learns quickly how to survive in the woods. I enjoyed her intense journey and her no-nonsense attitude. She isn't afraid to do whatever it takes to survive and gets out of difficult situations in her own way. The way she thinks through problems and relates things to her own experience is unique and made the book an interesting read. Elka gives in to the urge to give up at times and makes loads of mistakes, but it made me root for her even more.

Quite a few villainous characters cross Elka's path. Some of them are one dimensional characters, but others were nuanced and realistic. The Trapper, who she discovers is a killer named Kreager, is the main villain. His only good act is to take care of her when her found her at age 7, which was later found to be for selfish reasons. He is unapologetically evil and enjoys being so. I would have though an overly virtuous person would go after him who was flatly good, but I was wrong. The woman after him is Magistrate Lyon, who punishes most crime with death. This case in particular is close to her heart because Kreager killed her son. Elka has as much if not more to fear from Lyon than Kreager, so she's doubly on the run. Lyon's sense of morality is black and white, driven by vengeance. She does monstrous things as well, but has the law on her side.

On the surface, Wolf Road is a historical thriller novel set in the 1800's with the same technology, social order, and sensibilities. Elka reveals that the Cold War led to the Big Damn Stupid (as her grandmother calls it) where North America was bombed with nuclear weapons by accident. The only differences between this post-apocalyptic future and the 1800's are huge, unpredictable storms that Elka calls thunderheads and the spots of land still affected by radiation. I would have liked a little more detail on the events, but it's left intentionally vague. Although it's a relatively minor point in the larger story, this fact gives the story just a bit more depth and mystery.

The Wolf Road is a fast read that held a lot more than I expected. Along with the science fiction and thriller aspects, some horror elements make the narrative even more intriguing with murder and cannibalsim. Beth Lewis crafts an addictive story and I look forward to what she writes next.

My rating 4/5 fishmuffins