Category Archives: Movies

We Need a Hero.

america

I know I’ve talked about this before–all the superhero movies that are so popular right now.

I know part of the reason is that we now have the technology capable of really showing live action movies where people can fly and turn into giant green monsters and walk through walls and have realistically rendered feathered wings. So for that reason alone it makes sense that Hollywood has been churning them out, one after another. But if you recall, we had superhero movies in the 70’s, the 80’s, and the 90’s. It just seems like now every single blockbuster movie is about a superhero. (Either that or it’s a Disney film.)

Superman was huge when it came out. I remember that. And the first Batman did pretty well. But other than that, superhero movies didn’t really capture the interest of people other than those who liked comics to begin with or just liked action movies in general.

But look at all the remakes of Superman in the last ten years (and Spiderman. And Batman.). And then there’s the whole Marvel production of all the pieces of the Avengers, both featured in their own separate movies (Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, etc.) and all together, and now even with a TV series on top of that. They’re producing more movies than ever before in this genre. And America is eating it up.

So why are we so desperate for a hero?

I suspect there are a few reasons, but here’s a couple off the top of my head. First, we don’t have the kinds of heroes that America used to have. In the forties, you had the war heroes, and leaders like Churchill and FDR and J. Edgar Hoover and the G-men. You also had a clear cut enemy–the USSR. In the sixties there were people like JFK and MLK. Plus there were a lot of sports heroes with squeaky clean reputations. We lost our innocence as a country after that, with scandal after scandal after scandal. Who are our real-life heroes now? Firemen. I think we can still count firemen, especially with 9-11.

I can’t think of any others. We support our military in general, but often not in specific conflicts like Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else. Most of the sports heroes are drug addicts, womanizers, or something else. Don’t get me started on politicians and supposed “political leaders.”

And then we have our modern world. There’s constant threat abroad, whether in the Middle East or North Korea or nowadays even Russia is something to be concerned about. No one has any illusions; any day some wacko could walk into Times Square with a dirty bomb in a briefcase. Goodbye New York. Generationally (if you believe things like Straus and Howe’s generational theory), we’re about to hit a crisis soon. It’s like the 1930’s, after America was recovering from the Great Depression and Germany and Japan started quietly swallowing up other countries. The Balkans? Yeah. It makes me wonder. And if you look back at the 1930’s, that was the beginning of Superman and Batman and all the comic books.

Interesting parallel!

So with those things in mind, maybe it’s not such a surprise after all. We feel threatened. And we look around, and there aren’t too many heroes.

Me, I vote that we find either Captain America or Batman. They tend to make less of a mess of the city than some like Superman or the Hulk.

Advertisements

Book Review: Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

First just a quick announcement–I’m offering my short story pack “A Troll Under Golden Gate Bridge: A Cathy Pembroke Tale” for free for the next two weeks on Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/159895 . This is an experiment to see if offering the first tale free leads to any sales on anything else.

Now to the book review:

bones

Title: City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1)

Author: Cassandra Claire

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Genre: YA Paranormal, Horror (supposedly)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

So I already reviewed the movie few months back on my blog. Visually, I liked a lot of the elements, but plot-wise I felt it was weak and stumbling. I decided to read the book to see if any of the gaping holes in logic and continuity would be solved in the written version.

I’m happy to say that at least the world makes a bit more sense now.

SPOILER ALERT

No, these child Shadowhunters are not the only hunters on earth, which was alluded to in the movie. There was no ridiculous attempt to take over the world with flying demonspawn/bat things. And the logic of Jace being Valentine’s son held together a lot better with a lot more evidence. So in those aspects, I liked the book better. It’s still pretty junky teenage angst and creepy things, but it’s like candy–it tastes good for a moment then leaves you hungry afterwards. I like candy fiction now and again.

I read another review which stated that this book was basically rewritten Harry Potter fanfic, which I can somewhat see, but I applaud Cassandra for moving beyond that starting point, if that was the starting point. (which it probably was.) There’s enough interesting details in the world with the runes and scars and glamors that I enjoyed the tale. I caution the writer to avoid similes whenever possible. They are not her best talent. (his hair was like brass. REALLY?!) I’m also not crazy about the pseudo-incest or whatever you might call that, but it certainly creates tension. I caution here to stay away from the Mary Sue-like portrayal of her heroine, and either let her be ugly or just do away with the poor me I’m just not as pretty as ____ attitude. I’d also like to see her actually train to use a weapon before using one. It’s not that easy. Really.

I don’t particularly like Clary, the main character, which isn’t a good thing. But I sort of like Jace and all his conflicts. The best character by far was the warlock, because he was SUPPOSED to be cardboard and over the top. As others have said, we know next to nothing about Valentine which basically makes him a boring 2D villain. About the only reason I felt anything at all for him was because of Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ portrayal of him in the movie, which speaks volumes about JRM’s acting talent and nothing about Cassandra’s writing ability.

For now at least, I’m willing try the next book. Then we’ll see if I like where this series are actually going.

So for me, this earns a lukewarm 3 out of 5 stars. Sort of liked but didn’t love it.

Movie Review: Mortal Instruments, City of Bones

bones

I downloaded a sample of the book and meant to look at it before the movie came out, but never got the chance. Therefore, you may at some point see me reviewing the book as well. But there were some elements about the movie that I want to discuss first.

First I want to say that visually, the movie was stunning. There were a lot of artists who had a good time with that movie, with the runes, the exotic buildings, the garden, etc. So it was visual candy, if nothing else.

I didn’t mind the basic world set up, although I kind of sighed and rolled my eyes at the cliché vampires and werewolves battling things out. The friend who watched the movie with me pretty much said it–“What is, this, YA Underworld?” I wanted more demons, more variety of demons, and fewer vampires. I think zombies would have been an improvement, actually.  I liked the demon dog–that part was freaky and totally scary. The lava demons were decent as well.

The whole brother/sister question for me was very Luke/Leia, except with chemistry. I personally think it’s a lie, but I guess I’ll have to wait to find out. The romance was a little overdone–why not just let them get to know each other a little first? But I know that’s all part of the YA genre with the drama and angst, omg.

So in all, it was an okay movie. I liked some parts, like the whole rune thing. That was cool. The placing things inside paintings was another nice element. I would have liked to know more about the whole history of everything and how this faction came to be at war with that faction, why the werewolves are good, etc. I had a very hard time believing all the evil in their city is being held back by three hunters. Other nits–why do they make such a big deal about summoning demons when demons seem to be everywhere? Or did I miss something there?  Last, how is it possible to come OUT of the portal, rather than in? I didn’t see a way to get back once you went through. So yeah. Some things didn’t make sense for me.

I’ll probably still read the sample and decide if I want to read the book, see if it holds all these missing pieces. If the angst is over the top (or the romance), then I’ll pass.

Last, I really wonder why so many Millennials find paranormal romances so interesting these days. Is it because our world is so dark these days that it seems natural to fill it with vampires and werewolves? Do they think we’re near the End Times? (see my blog post about that). Or maybe it’s the opposite–they were so sheltered and helicopter-parented as children that they want away from safe, bland things. They crave danger. Maybe they crave a crisis where they can show their heroic side. Demons taking over the world would definitely qualify.

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this!

Fanfiction or Twist?

Image

So I’m driving to work this morning, listening to the radio, and I hear them announcing some new TV or movie called “Wonderland” taking yet another spin off of Alice in Wonderland, making Alice the bad guy as she’s grown up. A thought struck me, thinking of this and of other spin offs I’ve seen advertised lately, including the new movie “Oz” and the recent Snow White twists. Are these twists? Or could you also label them as fanfiction?

Wikipedia has the definition of Fanfiction as “a broadly-defined fan labor term for stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.”

If you take this definition at it’s heart, then all the recent stories using Grimm fairy tales, Lewis Carrol’s book, Sir Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, etc. etc. are all at their heart fanfiction. And they’re selling very very well to the public’s appetite.

Of course what we typically consider fanfiction are stories set in other writers’ worlds where the writer still owns the copyrights to the book/movie/etc. Like Harry Potter, for example. Thus fanfiction writers can’t profit from their stories, no matter how good they might be. Their only option is to completely change the world and characters enough that it becomes their own. I understand that “Fifty Shades of Gray” was originally a Twilight fanfiction. I’d bet that there are others.

So what do we as writers take away from this?

Personally my take is this. Everything that we create as writers comes from somewhere. It may come from our life experiences, current world events, things we’ve read, things we’ve seen. Most writers pull from at least some literary source for at least part of their stories. It’s what we do with all these borrowed images and ideas that makes it unique. And let’s face it–sometimes it’s fun to play in a world that’s already been created for us, to play around with the characters left behind. I don’t see anything wrong with this. One just has to be careful in deciding if you’ll be able to claim it enough to be able to sell it to others. There do exist some franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars where you can be hired as a ghost writer to write entire books and profit with them. Dean Westley Smith certainly built a nice career doing this.

So call it a twist on an old classic, or call it ‘fanfiction’. Borrowed worlds do have their place.

Printing Woes

When I looked at my final proof copy, I found some annoying errors. My background is in Creative Writing and also in Illustration, and I’m something of a perfectionist when it comes to those two things, particularly in graphic design. Your cover is your product, at least in that it is the first thing a potential reader is going to see. So for me, it has to be perfect. So I made some corrections, submitted it again, and will have to do yet another proof before I have the printed version available for sale. Boo for missing my deadline!

At long last, however, I think I’ve got it. I’ll have to wait a week for the proof, and then another week for it to be available on eStores like Amazon, but here’s the final cover for the print version of Heart of the Witch.

Image

And to go along with the release of the trade paperback, I’m offering a Giveaway on Goodreads–three autographed copies will be sent free to the winners!  Come sign up!

Giveaway on Goodreads!

Can I take a break from Vampires?

Image

Today I started reading a short story from a writer’s group I belong to, and just as I started becoming interested in the plot, up he popped. A vampire. In the story. I wanted to turn off my computer right away.

Now I have to preface this with something.  I like vampires. Heck, it used to be that you couldn’t keep me away from a vampire book or movie. Starting with the hilarious Love At First Bite, I would head out to see any vampire flick I could find.  Clive Barker. Anne Rice. Bram Stoker. Not to mention the fun movies from the 80’s like Salem’s Lot, The Hunger, and Lost Boys.

But I think I may have reached critical mass. I’m not sure exactly what did it–it might have been watching the third Twilight movie (or reading the series), or it might have been shows like  True Blood ,The Vampire Diaries or My Babysitter’s a Vampire.Or maybe it’s just that it seems like every single new YA novel out there (particularly indie) features vampires and werewolves.  But I’ve just come to this point now where I’m sick of them.

I need a break.

And it’s not that the stories are good, bad, or anything.  Like I said, I always liked vampires.  But sometimes in the middle of a fad, I think people just get fed up of having too much of something.  It’s like dining on nothing but steak.  Sooner or later, you crave a change.

I just have to wonder, however, why it seems the supernatural is SO popular these days, particularly in YA fiction. Do our young people crave more risk and danger in their lives?  I know my pre-teen is overprotected, and in fact I’m trying to step back, give her more independence. But it just makes me wonder.  Maybe we’re so removed from reality that we crave that violent, bloody hunger that vampires so embody?

I’ll leave the pondering for now.  And I’ll avoid vampires in the media like they avoid sunlight, until my aversion fades away.

The Raven and horror fiction

Image

So as I mentioned in my last post, I recently went to see the Allen Edgar Poe inspired movie, The Raven.  I actually was pleasantly surprised by the plot line of the movie.  There had been some vague hints of horror in the previews, but it actually falls more under mystery/suspense, a la Silence of the Lambs.  I enjoyed John Cusack’s portrayal of Poe in particular–he embodies the horror and anxiety of the author who is confronted by real life enactments of his gory short stories.

So this brings me back to musings about today’s society and our taste in books and movies.  If you’ve taken literature before, you know that there were several ‘periods’ of different styles of writing in the last few centuries, often going along with different periods of art and music styles. You have the Classical (Age of Reason), the Romantic (to which writers like Poe and Mary Shelley belonged), Realist in the early twentieth century, etc.

So what kind of period are we in now?

I would say that during the sixties there was a big push towards experimental styles, and a heavy dose of realism in both fiction and movies in the seventies.  Since then, however, we seem to have swung back towards a more romantic style.  The bigger, louder, more melodramatic, the more shocking, the better.  Perhaps this is because we have become so inundated by information that it takes a lot to even get our attention.  A murder is not enough.  It has to be a psychotic, grisly murder.  And if that’s the case, this movie definitely gets your attention.

For all of that, however, what I particularly liked about this movie was the witty dialogue and the little war of words between writers that they included along with the gripping plot.  It gives me hope that we haven’t just become accustomed to brainless violence.  That hopefully there are still some readers and viewers who enjoy thinking.

For that, I do recommend the movie.

And then go back and read all the works of Poe that you can find.