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Showing posts with label Fantasy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fantasy. Show all posts

Monday, March 5, 2018

Movie Review Coco Disney-Pixar

Movie Review - Coco             Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Coco - movies.disney.com
Coco

Coco
In Disney-Pixar's extraordinary adventure, a boy who dreams of becoming a great musician embarks on a journey to uncover the mysteries behind his ancestor's stories and traditions.

Reviews :

Written and directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo) and Adrian Molina (The Good Dinosaur, Monsters University), Coco is a wonder to experience. Dazzling, breath-taking animation, marvelous story-telling, engaging characters and so much heart that it's a film that's going to stay with you for a long, long time. This isn't just the best animated film to come out this year, it's arguably the best film of any kind to come out this year. It's the first film in years that I immediately wanted to see again after it was done, like just not leave the theater and watch it all over again. It's that good.

Coco takes place in Mexico on Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) an important holiday in Mexican culture that is celebrated every year from October 31st to November 2nd (All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas where families display photos of those in the family who have passed on, often going back for generations, then honoring the deceased using calaveras (decorated skulls made of sugar), Aztec marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and also visiting their graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at their graves. It helps to know this as background for the story, though the film does a good job of showing all of this as it goes on. It's all centered around the importance of family and of remembering those who have gone before you.

Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12-year-old boy who lives in a small rural village of Santa Cecilia with his elderly great-grandmother Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía) and three generations of her descendants. Miguel's dream is to play the guitar someday, much like his hero, the famous Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a nationally celebrated musician and actor who came from his village and whose mausoleum is a major attraction there.

However, there is a problem. Many years ago, Miguel's great-great-grandmother, the formidable matriarch Imelda (Alanna Ubach) was married to a musician who left her and their young daughter Coco to seek his fortune writing songs and playing music and never returned. Imelda turned to shoe-making to support herself and her daughter, and eventually shoe-making became the family business. She also began a ban on any and all music in the family - no singing, no guitar-playing, no musicians! - which has continued to this day, rigidly enforced by Miguel's take-no-prisoners grandmother (Renee Victor).
All of this serves as a major obstacle to Miguel and his dreams. Miguel does practice in secret though, watching old movies of the great Ernesto and teaching himself how to play, and decides in spite of everything to enter a talent show for the Day of the Dead.
A sequence of events however result in Miguel stealing Ernesto's guitar from the mausoleum, and the next thing he knows is that he's suddenly an invisible ghost to the living - but the returning dead can see him and he can now see them. Which in turn sets him on a journey across a mystical bridge from the land of the living to the land of the dead, a wondrously beautiful place but one from which he must quickly find a way to return before he ends up becoming one of the dead himself and having to stay there forever. He's helped along the way by a down-on-his-luck denizen named Hector (Gael García Bernal), who's in danger of being forgotten, and a number of other characters he encounters. His quest ultimately requires him solving a generations-old mystery and setting right a wrong that occurred long before he was born.

The musical score by Michael Giacchino (Up, Ratatouille) is as beautiful as the animation, shifting from lively to wistful as the scenes require, and young Anthony Gonzalez's singing voice gives heartfelt depth to Miguel's dreams of becoming a musician.
 
Disney has always been synonymous with great story telling, powerful artwork and animation, and having heart in most of their major films. Some of the great Disney movies have transcended time and are loved by different generations for that very reason. But then in 2013, Disney attempted to trademark "Dia de los Muertos", or Day of the Dead for one of it's upcoming movies, a move met with much deserved resentment and criticism from Hispanic writers, critics, and the public. To say that the Day of the Dead is the Mexican version of Halloween is incorrect. It isn't a holiday as much as a tradition which is embedded into the heart of many Mexican families to honor loved ones who have passed away.
Disney's trademark attempt was an insult to not only the day itself but to millions of people who honor that tradition. That being said, Disney dropped the trademark, and did everything right since then to fix their mistake. Many of the people hired to work on Coco were Hispanic, and after their blunder they also hired Lalo Alcaraz, a political cartoonist and Disney critic, along with Octavio Solis and Marcela Aviles as cultural consultants on the movie. They went from possibly being boycotted to having great international and domestic success, turning many into believers including myself. The end result being a culturally rich and emotional movie that left tears in everyone's eyes.

Unlike past Disney/Pixar movies I've seen, there are three layers of meaning integrated into this movie. The first layer is what every Disney story requires which are the characters, plot, visuals, settings etc. The second layer are the morals that Coco teaches, which any person watching the movie can learn from. These two alone are enough to call Coco a great Pixar movie in my opinion. However the third layer, which involves the integration of hispanic traditions and culture, is what makes this movie standout as special, memorable, and unique.
As a Mexican-American, this movie holds a special place in my heart because so much of this movie feels real and familiar. From the family dynamic that Miguel shares with the family, to the chancla (sandal) smacking grandma, and especially because of the music, this movie feels saturated with Hispanic customs and way of life. It is obvious from the first scene to the last that Disney listened very well to their cultural advisors for this movie.

Being a Mexican-American, I've learned that various aspects of Life, Death, and Family are handled and understood differently between all ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures. Coco involves several scenes in a graveyard, shows relatives returning from the afterlife as skeletal versions of who they once were, and has Miguel racing against the clock to return to his family before dying. These are cinematic occurences which some may not want to watch or explain to their children. My suggestion for anyone who hasn't watched this movie and is not of a Central/South American background is to be prepared and be open minded.
Though some parts of the movie could seem farfetched, myself along with all the Hispanic adults and children watching the movie in theatres were mesmerized to watch something you can identify with as a person and as a community. For many, this movie is all about seeing the world through another's eyes, and that's wonderful in itself.

Ultimately, Coco is a fantastic movie worthy of the Pixar/Disney brand which every family should enjoy. Prior to release, my two concerns with the movie was that it would be a heartless Pixar version of the Book of Life, and that Disney would take advantage and exploit the Hispanic culture in a distasteful way. I'm glad to say that besides focusing on music and honoring the Day of the Dead , similarities ended between the two movies.
I enjoyed The Book of Life, and had low expectations for Coco in comparison. The truth is (no disrespect to the movie or the people who made it) The Book of Life is enjoyable and relatable, not a cultural staple. Although both movies treated one of the most important Mexican traditions with dignity and respect, Coco's heartwarming interpretation will become an unforgettable treasure in the Hispanic community for generations to come.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves animation, great story-telling and characters that grab you by the heart and never let go.
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Coco (Theatrical Version) 2017

  • Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Animated, Comedy, Kids & Family
  • Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal
  • Supporting actors: Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, Herbert Siguenza, Gabriel Iglesias, Lombardo Boyar, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Selene Luna, Edward James Olmos, Sofía Espinosa, Carla Medina, Dyana Ortelli, Luis Valdez, Blanca Araceli, Salvador Reyes
  • Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
  • Format:  Prime Video (streaming online video)
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Studio: Pixar
  •  

Movie Review
Coco: (Theatrical Version)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

TV-Series Review Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7

TV-Series Review - Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7
Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons
From the scheming south and the savage eastern lands, to the frozen north and ancient Wall that protects the realm from the mysterious darkness beyond. The powerful families of the Seven Kingdoms are locked in a battle for the Iron Throne. Game of Thrones, spans across the fictional continent of Westeros.

Game of Thrones Characters:
Game of Thrones is a thrilling journey through a riveting and unforgettable landscape. This is a story of duplicity and treachery, nobility and honor, conquest and triumph. In the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.

Game of Thones is one of my favorite shows of all-time. The story is brutal and tragic, yet engrossing and compelling. The characters are wonderfully written, and everything from character motivations to the dialogue and action sequences are superb. The show also has top notch production values, as the environment, props, and wardrobes look magnificent. GOT is a beauty.

The packaging is awesome, as it has been on all of the season blu rays. The discs are in flip book, which go into a sleeve, which has a paper sleeve over top of it all. This season has black and brown artwork, which looks lovely. Very happy with the packaging. The insert also has a complete character guide, breaking down the different families/houses, and a full map of Westeros.

Extras include a complete guide to Westeros, making of featurette, in episode guides, histories and lore, audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and a plethora of behind the scenes featurettes.

The episodes look amazing on blu ray. The 1080p really shines on this series, and everything look breathtakingly beautiful. The characters, scenery, wardrobes, etc all look excellent. The 5.1 audio is great too. The score is brilliant and the metal swords and armor clanging sound great. Sound and Video are easy 10/10.

Overall this is an excellent 1st season in this great series. I enjoyed every episode, and always recommend this show to anyone I talk to about movies/tv. Game of Thrones gets my highest recommendation, and the blu ray sets are glorious. This is the best show on television, in my humble opinion.
The casting is excellent and the plotline riveting from the first episode, even when I can't keep all the Houses straight! (That's when the capability to rescreen comes in handy - and it helps to keep a novel with the appendix of Houses at your elbow.)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7

  • Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Action & Adventure
  • Starring: Various Artist
  • Supporting actors: Various Artist
  • Directors: Various
  • Producers: Various
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 7
  • Studio: HBO
  • DVD Release Date: December 12, 2017
  • Run Time: 3800 minutes
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TV-Series Review
Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-7

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Movie Review Star Wars VIII The Last Jedi

Movie Review - Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi - youtube.com
The Last Jedi

From the ashes of the Empire has arisen another threat to the galaxy’s freedom: the ruthless First Order. Fortunately, new heroes have emerged to take up arms and perhaps lay down their lives for the cause. Rey, the orphan strong in the Force Finn, the Ex-Stormtrooper who stands against his former masters and Poe Dameron, the fearless X-wing pilot, have been drawn together to fight side-by-side with General Leia Organa and the Resistance. 
But the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke and his merciless enforcer Kylo Ren are adversaries with superior numbers and devastating firepower at their command. Against this enemy, the champions of light may finally be facing their extinction. Their only hope rests with a lost legend: Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Where the action of Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended, Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins, as the battle between light and dark climbs to astonishing new heights.


Both directors of the new trilogy are huge Star Wars fans, each with a different mission as filmmakers within the series and each with their own sense of style and vision. Compared to Abrams, whose job it was to create new and likeable characters while thrusting them into a fun and familiar Star Wars setting (a job well done IMO), Johnson's job was to continue the arcs of those characters while somehow subverting expectations. I can't speak for other fans, but I had a strong personal need for the saga to expand on its ongoing narratives, themes and character dimensions in ways that were simultaneously new, familiar, interesting and unpredictable. I didn't want just another Empire the way we kinda got just another New Hope. I knew that to do that Johnson would need to take some risks, and as it turns out he took a lot of them with varying degrees of success. Not everything lands how it should've, but all the A-plot stuff with Kylo, Rey, Luke and Leia worked great for me initially and in retrospect.

Without going into too much detail, VIII suffered mostly from one or two of its subplots, namely that of Finn, Rose and DJ. In spite of their subplot's flaws, perhaps the biggest payoff was one in which DJ helps Finn and Rose to understand that war is far more grey and nuanced than they previously realized, and that the concepts of good and evil are maybe a bit more relative than they'd like to think. This is a concept that is echoed in various ways throughout the movie's various arcs, and its a theme I personally adore, but I wish Finn and Rose had come across it in a more fun and concise way.

One of the most common complaints I've seen of this film has to do with it's attempts at humor. Admittedly, I was caught off guard by it near the beginning, but I quickly and effortlessly found myself enjoying it, and did so for the most part for the rest of the film. I'm not sure I understand why the humor didn't land for so many people, at least not beyond the fact that humor is a very subjective construct. The humor of the prequels suffered greatly because it was so infantile and kid-centric. I think people forget how much humor there was in the original trilogy, but it seems to me that the new trilogy hasn't forgotten, nor has it failed to understand what made that humor more successful. The humor simply needs to appeal to the widest possible audience, young lings and old lings alike. Was some of the humor too “meta” in this film? Who knows. One could easily argue yes or no, but I personally didn't think the humor was specific enough to be truly bad in a meta sense. Overall it seemed fine, and a lot of it got genuine laughs out of me.

I have enormous difficulty taking seriously the opinions of those who say flat out that Episode VIII “sucks” or even of those who somehow loved it unconditionally, although there seem to be far fewer of those in the latter category. Either way, let's not kid ourselves into thinking there has ever been a perfect SW film (although Empire was objectively maybe the closest we'll ever get to one). Empire took plenty of risks that in hindsight paid off beautifully, and I feel quite comfortable saying the same of VIII. As far as risks go, the difference between the two films is that VIII takes maybe one or two too many. Its possible that a few more months in the writer's room probably could have fixed all or most of the film's biggest missteps, but as a realist I understand time isn't always as abundant as we'd like it to be. In the end, The Last Jedi is what it is, and it would have been folly to ever think it could have pleased everyone.

I could follow suit with so many of the Internet's talking heads by nitpicking this film to death, but doing that seems unnecessary and beside the point of cinema. It might be a cynical view, but I think a lot of people kinda enjoy dissecting all the “bad” parts of movies more than losing themselves in all the “good” parts. I simply can't find it within myself to cut off this film's face to spite it's nose like so many people have. When considering the poignantly grey themes of The Last Jedi, doesn't it make more sense to embrace a more “grey” approach to how we experience films? To reference a specific quote from VIII, if darkness rises, shouldn't the light rise to meet it?

With all it's jaw-dropping spectacles, touching character moments and fresh thought-provoking themes, its the sum of Episode VIII's parts that, for me, make it an enjoyable cinematic experience. I have no quibbles about recommending this episode of Star Wars, but I'd try to ignore the Internet's echo chambers.
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Star Wars VIII : The Last Jedi

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Movie Review Wonder Woman

Movie Review - Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman - Amazon.com
Wonder Woman

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny.


The storyline in a nutshell: Diana leaves her paradise Island of Themiscyra that is magically hidden from the rest of the world to fight alongside men in a war to end all wars.

Wonder Woman is a movie that everyone can comprehend and accept, which is not brooding and polarizing like other DC movies. Unlike many comic book movies that make the main character one dimensional, I have never seen so many profound aspects in a fictitious superhero movie before. It is a movie beyond woman equality, history, war, ethics and even religion. It’s about honor, duty, good, evil, love and doing what is right.

Wonder Woman is a good mix of action helped by the back drop of The Great War/World War I. It is not just plain adventure but has a narrative focused on the increasingly treacherous world with diminishing tolerance and morality. While I don't consider it good to compare, it was inevitable to see similarities with Captain America: The First Avenger.
This doesn’t just create a good visual. After a three-movie streak of stinkers from DC studios, this moment demonstrates what makes superheroes, something Zack Snyder apparently doesn’t appreciate. Heroes represent, not the recourses we’re willing to live with, as with Snyder's Superman, but the aspirations we pursue, the better angels we hope to achieve. We all hope, faced with the nihilism of the Great War, that we’d overcome bureaucratic inertia and face our enemies head-on.

In some ways, this Wonder Woman, directed by relative novice Patty Jenkins, accords with DC’s recent cinematic outings. Diana’s heroism doesn’t stoop to fighting crime, a reflection of cultural changes since the character debuted in 1941. Ordinary criminals, even organized crime, seem remarkably small beer in today’s world. Crime today is often either penny-ante, like common burglars, or too diffuse to punch, like drug cartels. Like the Snyder-helmed movies, this superhero confronts more systemic problems.

But Snyder misses the point, which Jenkins hits. Where Snyder’s superheroes battle alien invaders, like Superman, or pummel the living daylights out of each other, Wonder Woman faces humanity’s greatest weaknesses. The Great War, one of humanity’s lowest moments, represents a break from war’s previous myths of honor. Rather than marching into battle gloriously, Great War soldiers hunkered in trenches for months, soaked and gangrenous, seldom bathing, eating tinned rations out of their own helmets.

This shift manifests in two ways. First, though Diana speaks eloquently about her desire to stop Ares, the war-god she believes is masquerading as a German general, this story is driven by something more down-to-earth. General Ludendorff’s research battalion has created an unusually powerful form of mustard gas. The very real-world Ludendorff, who popularized the expression “Total War,” here successfully crafts a means to destroy soldiers and civilians alike. He represents humanity’s worst warlike sentiments.

Second, this Wonder Woman doesn’t wear a stars-and-stripes uniform. Comic book writer William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman as an essentially female version of Superman’s American values, an expression externalized in her clothing. This theme carried over into Lynda Carter’s TV performance. But this Wonder Woman stays strictly in Europe, fights for high-minded Allied values rather than one country, and apparently retires to curatorship at the Louvre. Her values are unyoked to any specific nation.

Recall, Zack Snyder’s Superman learned from his human father to distrust humankind, and became superheroic only when threatened by Kryptonian war criminals. Diana, conversely, learned to fight for high-minded principles—which she learned through myths which, she eventually discovers, are true without being factual. Snyder’s Superman, in fighting General Zod, showed remarkable disregard for bystanders, his film’s most-repeated criticism. But Diana charges into battle specifically to liberate occupied civilians. The pointed contrast probably isn’t accidental.

Unfortunately, Diana learns, war isn’t about individual battles. She liberates a shell-pocked Belgian village, and celebrates by dancing with Steve Trevor in the streets. But General Ludendorff retaliates by testing his extra-powerful chemical weapons on that village. No matter what piteous stories she hears about displaced, starving individuals, ultimately, her enemy isn’t any particular soldier. It’s a system that rewards anyone willing to stoop lower than everyone else, kill more noncombatants, win at any cost.

In a tradition somewhat established by the superhero genre, Diana culminates the movie with a half-fight, half-conversation with her antagonist. Ares offers Diana the opportunity to restore Earth’s pre-lapsarian paradise state by simply scourging the planet of humanity. (Though Greek in language, this movie’s mythology reflects its audience’s Judeo-Christian moral expectations.) Diana responds by… well, spoilers. Rather, let’s say she simply resolves that fighting the corrupt system is finally worthwhile, even knowing she cannot win.

Wonder Woman’s moral mythology resonates with audiences, as Superman’s doesn’t, at least in the Snyderverse, because she expresses hope. Watching Diana, we realize it’s easy to become Ludendorff, wanting to not just beat but obliterate our opponents. Yet we desire to emulate Diana, standing fast against human entropy and embodying our best virtues. Diana is a demigod, we eventually learn, and like all good messiahs, she doesn’t just rule humanity, she models humanity’s truest potential.


This is by far the best DC to be made since The Dark Knight. Although I remain loyal to Marvel, I am pleased with DC success with Wonder Woman as it is one of the most well rounded, entertaining superhero movies to date.
 
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Wonder Woman

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review Book The Death House

Review Book - The Death House

The Death House - Amazon.com
Death House

Toby’s life was perfectly normal… until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test. 

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts. 
About the Author :

Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed horror, thriller and YA author. She has written for New Tricks on the BBC and has an original horror film in development. Sarah was the 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and has three times been short-listed for Best Novel. She has also been short-listed for a World Fantasy Award. She lives in London.
 

Sarah Pinborough​'s The Death House is a stunning, powerful, painful, and yes, beautiful, read. The speculative elements are slight, but all the more intriguing for it. The focus is squarely on the main character, Toby, and the sudden turn of events that lands him in the Death House alongside other children who've suffered the same fate. Its brilliance is in the characters and the whiplash of emotions they (and you) go through during this short, engrossing read. Fans of Neil Gaiman, Lord of the Flies, and light psychological horror should give this a go.
There’s a whole generation of kids right now growing up on a steady diet of YA dystopia, and when they are ready to move on to more solid grown-up fare, here is the book to get them there.

Here is a dystopia we-the-reader don’t even see, don’t have explained to us beyond the barest of bare-bones basics. There’s no scrappy rebellion against the system, no Team This Guy and Team That Guy ‘ship wars.

In this world, kids are routinely blood-tested for some never-named disease / genetic anomaly. The ones whose results come back as ‘Defective’ are, with no warning, picked up by agents in vans and whisked away to a boarding school on an island. There, they just … wait. Every now and then, kids get sick and are taken upstairs to the sanatorium, never to be seen again.

So many questions! The symptoms of the disease seem to vary, the kids share rumors about its effects and history, but none of them know, so neither do we. The nurses and teachers, overseen by Matron, are cool and detached. Lessons are perfunctory. Socialization is pretty much left to fend for itself.
This was a fascinating book, and one I highly recommend. A gothic romance of sorts told as a fable. Powerfully emotional, often shocking and complex enough to keep you on your toes, not so much with the plot twists, which are fairly telegraphed, frankly, but with the way the characters act and react to shocking, horrific, unreal situations.

Not without its flaws, for sure, but the pluses definitely outweigh any nagging negatives. This one will stay with you for a long time and haunt you - the overall affect, like the northern lights described within, is brilliant. A must-read.
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The Death House
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Book Review The Cured

Book Review - The Cured

The Cured - Amazon.com
The Cured

Henry spent eight years chained to a post. Exposed, starved, infected with the December Plague, and mad. During those eight years, the December Plague consumed most of the world's human population, causing the infected to become violent and cannibalistic.

But Henry escaped. And now he's been Cured. He vividly remembers what has been done to him and others. He can also recall the terrible things he did while he was infected. He and his fellow survivors face a world unlike anything they knew before. They are weak, lost and completely alone. Now released from both the madness of the Plague and the cruelty of their captors, they must decide which is more important: survival or revenge.

The After the Cure Series:
Book 1: After the Cure
Book 2: The Cured
Book 3: Krisis
Book 4: Poveglia
Book 5: The 40th Day
About the Author :
Deirdre Gould lives in Central Maine with her three children and husband. She's also resided in northern Idaho, coastal Virginia and central Pennsylvania, but all of them just led her back home.The winters sure are cold, but that just means the zombies run slower. The area is isolated, but that just means the apocalyptic diseases don't spread as quickly. And the storms are bad enough that no one thinks you're crazy for "prepping." It's kind of ideal for a post-apocalypse writer when you think about it.

Want to keep up with the After the Cure series? Join the mailing list here: http://www.scullerytales.com/?page_id=96 to get the latest announcements about the series, special offers and free stories.

When I read the preview for this book I was disappointed to learn it would not revolve around the characters from the first book. But the premise seemed interesting and the writing was good so I gave it a shot. It was incredible! The characters are just as engrossing and it became evident that while it was a different perspective, it was still very much a sequel to the first book, continuing the original story line.
This is not your normal zombie story, it's not told thru a zombie's eyes, but it's just as full of suspense, action, and excitement. I kept finding it hard to put down even for a few minutes and I knew I just had to keep reading. I loved the characters and I felt the pain and anguish that Henry went thru. This is one that will stay with me awhile.
Just remember to read After the Cure before starting on this book. It'll make more sense. Again, really in love with this series. Bringing a human quality to the zombie genre is so unique. Actually thinking of these horrifying creatures as suffering souls is genius. A few grammatical errors along the way, but it didn't distract too much. The characters are fully fleshed out and you are aching to know all of their backstories as your introduced to them. Warning though, major cliffhanger at the end!
 I would highly recommend.
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The Cured

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Book Review Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy Book 1)

Book Review - Annihilation

A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy Book 1)

Annihilation - Wikipedia
Annihilation

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
About the author :
Called “The Weird Thoreau” by The New Yorker, NYT bestseller Jeff VanderMeer has been a published writer since age 14. His most recent fiction is the critically acclaimed novel BORNE, which has received raves from the NYTBR, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and many more. Paramount Pictures has optioned BORNE for film.

VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy was one of the publishing events of 2014, the trilogy made more than thirty year’s best lists, including Entertainment Weekly’s top 10. Paramount Pictures has made a movie out of the first volume of the Southern Reach, Annihilation, slated for release in 2018 and starring Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, Gina Rodriguez, Natalie Portman, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

His nonfiction appears in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and The Atlantic.com. VanderMeer also wrote the world’s first fully illustrated creative-writing guide, Wonderbook. With his wife, Ann VanderMeer, he has edited may iconic anthologies. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with two wonderful cats. His hobbies include hiking, reading, and bird watching.


I am being a fan of these types of books, I felt VanderMeer had created the bones of great story, thought the fleshing out of that story was highly problematic and ultimately took what could have been a fabulous book down to merely a good story. It could have been so much more, and that, my fellow readers, is what is so deeply disappointing here. I wanted this to be a five star review, not merely three or four stars.

The bones of the story are truly intriguing - a mysterious Area X along the "lost coast" (the location is never truly identified for us by VanderMeer because God forbid we name anything here because names carry something mysterious about them. Unfortunately, we are never really told what. Names and locations are meaningless? Too confining? To defining? Your guess is as good as mine) where something dramatic and alien and unexplainable has occurred. Little goes in or comes out of Area X - and what does come back out is never who or what we think it is.

As I said, VanderMeer is a good enough writer that he hooks the reader early on and doesn't let go. I read all three books in the series, one right after the other, even though, in my opinion, the series remains vastly overpriced. Yet he is a very good writer and I did not want to wait to get through the series until the prices came down for each book. The first book is definitely the strongest of the three, but my feeling is that if you are going to invest time and money in the first book, there isn't much point unless you are prepared to see it through to the end of the series.

Many reviewers have compared the books to the TV series "Lost." I think the comparison is apt in that the island in "Lost" is mysterious and replete with strange and unexplained phenomenon. But I think the analogy is even more apt than that. Many viewers of "Lost" loved the ending, which I found sappy and saccharine, without any real answers to the questions I asked through-out the whole series. But many viewers became ,more attached to the characters than the storyline, so maybe they didn't care so much that no answers were really provided at the end. I did, however. I wanted real, concrete information to a show I had invested viewing over the course of many years. When I didn't get answers, I felt betrayed and let down.

I think many of the negative reviews of this series reflect this same kind of sensibility. VanderMeer has engaged in the cardinal sin of many writers - getting us hooked on a story, then disappointing many readers by failing to provide a concrete, satisfying conclusion with answers to our most important questions. Yes, you can leave some mystery, but too much unanswered is never a good thing.

I suspect that the author was striving to continue the mystery and lack of conclusive answers that the characters felt when confronting themselves, their motivations, each other, life, the unknown, etc. That the characters didn't fully understand themselves (ie, the mystery of their personhood) or the mystery of Area X, so why should we? I speculate here, but the author probably felt he was simply mimicking Area X in all of its grand mystery (and yes, mimicry plays a large role in the story and no, we are never really told why) and that his mimicry was important to the story.

But the problem is that such an approach is never truly satisfying to a large percentage of readers. What I was hoping for (but never got) was not so much an ending like the conclusion of "Lost" where there are no real answers but we feel so in love with the characters and their relationships with each other that we are not supposed to care our questions go unanswered, but more like the ending to the series "Battlestar Galactica" in which are questions are answered, but the answers are nothing that we really expected. I wanted a refreshing and unexpected surprise at the end. Something I didn't see coming.

You won't get that here. That is not to say that VanderMeer answers no questions about Area X - he does do that by the final book. That said, he just doesn't go far enough with many of those answers, nor are those answers in any way truly a wonderful and unexpected surprise.

Moreover, I failed to feel strongly attached to many of the characters, who seemed "lost" (no pun intended) within themselves. Control plays a strong role in book two, but fades almost entirely away in importance in book three. A lot of times you feel like shaking the characters and screaming "wake up," but they never do, but rather remain mired in their own confused and obscure states of being. Now I get the sense that VanderMeer wants use to revel in this as being a reflection of the utlimate meaning of the human condition, but frankly, it just feels unsatisfying and makes one feel frustrated with the characters. Many times they just meander through the story and their non-stop stream of consciousness fretting and lack of clarity does drag the story down at times.

Ending the story by stressing simply - aren't these characters fascinating in and of themselves and this is just the human condition, to remain an ultimate mystery to us - was deeply unsatisfying to me. Tell me what happens to Control. Tell me what happens to the Earth. Tell me the "why" of Area X. Tell me the "Why" of what happens to the biologist. Or what happens to Saul or the psychologist.
 
http://amzn.to/2BAInRG

Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy Book 1)

http://amzn.to/2BwHn17

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Movie Review Outlander Seasons 5

Movie Review - Outlander Seasons 5

Outlander Season 5 - Den of Geek

Outlander Seasons 5 Serials :
  1. Sassenach
  2. Castle Leoch
  3. The Way Out
  4. The Gathering
  5. Rent
  6. The Garrison Commander
  7. The Wedding
  8. Both Sides Now

While on a second honeymoon with her husband, British combat nurse Claire Randall is transported back in time to 1743 Scotland. Accused of being a spy, she is catapulted into danger and finds herself torn between two men in vastly different times. Diana Gabaldon's best-selling book series is stunningly realized by Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore in Season One's first eight episodes.
I realize most buying this will already be fans of the books/show and have seen the episodes but for any newbies who saw this as a suggested purchase and want to know more, here's what I can tell you. (I've watched the entire show so far and am reading the first book).

First off, ignore the part of the description that says "epic travel through time." This is not a time-travel or science fiction story. It's about Claire Randall, a combat nurse in the 1940s who goes to Scotland after the second world war to reconnect with her husband (Frank)/have a second honeymoon. Not realizing the place they're travelling to is a place for some pagan/druid activity, Claire accidentally time-travels through some standing stones after watching a druid ritual and ends up in 1700s Scotland. From there it turns into an adventure/historical fiction story when Claire runs into and is kidnapped of sorts by some Scottish Highlanders who don't know what to make of an Englishwoman running around in that area. She's taken back to their clan's Scottish castle and not knowing how to escape and go back to her own time or what to do next, has to cope with living in an era where there's a lot of Scottish clan politics (and clashing with the English soldiers who occupy the Scottish territories). At the same time she has to be very careful to hide the secret of who she really is and where she really came from, not easy to do because Claire is very much an independent, stubborn, forthright person and harder still when she is "hired" to be the healer of the Mackenzie clan (the clan of the castle/property she's taken to). It doesn't help that she attracts the attention of an English garrison commander - a brutal, sociopathic, sadistic English captain who is none other than her husband's ancestor. And it really doesn't help that she might be developing smooshy feelings for one of the very, very handsome soldiers at Castle Leoch. (Why can't I fall through standing stones and meet some gorgeous guys in kilts? Surely Houston must have some standing stones somewhere?)

From showrunner/executive producer Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), the show is beautifully executed and very faithfully adapted. Much of it so far is right out of the book. Of course this doesn't mean it's exactly to the letter how it'll be in the book because television doesn't work that way but it's very closely done (author Diana Gabaldon is a close consultant on the show and has a fun cameo in episode 4 "The Gathering.") Here's my opinion on the show for what it's worth: I actually like it better than the book. I'm really enjoying the book but watching the show, I can tell the show makes some slight tweaks here and there (scenes added, certain lines in the book given to other characters, etc.) that make the storytelling smoother and an easier transition to tv. It's like if the book is a pretty wooden carving, the show is the same carving, but sanded and oiled. There are so many parts in the books where it just wouldn't work to have the show film them as is. The show also softens some of the characters (including Jamie and Claire), so while it stays true to the essence of their characters, they're also made easier to like and relate to.

The actors, costumes, sets, music, etc., everything is breathtakingly realistic and very well produced; unlike so many American period shows, the characters look and act like real people. The costumes (done by Moore's wife costume designer Terry Dresbach) actually look like period clothes and not like they were picked up from the 1700s Scotland Gap like they would in any other show. It's a very expensive production so their attention to detail is amazing and really pulls you into the new world Claire is thrown into (with some occasional flashbacks to the 1940s lives of Claire and Frank). One warning: the Highlanders' accents are sometimes hard to understand and the Gaelic (native Scottish language of that time period) is not subtitled, but if you pay close attention, it doesn't need to be and you can understand the context of what they're saying.

I've seen a lot of comparisons to Game of Thrones. This is nothing like Game of Thrones which is high-concept fantasy. I haven't read the rest of the books yet but from what I've heard, Outlander's books (and the show) are really more historical fiction and not fantasy. Some people complain it's slow at times but it's never boring or unengaging. The first few episodes have to have some quieter moments to set up all the characters, storylines and conflicts. The only negative thing I have to say - not really negative so much as a warning - is it is extremely gritty and graphic. This is made for the Starz network, the same network that had The White Queen, Spartacus and Black Sails. If graphic sex scenes and very graphic blood and gore and draconian punishments are not for you, neither is this show. It's not family friendly, absolutely not for kids or the squeamish and there are some rather disturbing scenes in just the first few episodes, so be mindful who you watch it with. Much as I love the show, there are scenes of it I simply won't watch again - I'll either skip them or mute and leave the room.

Diana Gabaldon has told the story many times of the failures in making this into a project for the screen before and she agrees - and so do the books' fans - they really couldn't have seen a better job done with this than Ron Moore has done. I highly recommend this (with the above caveats in mind) if you liked the books or like this kind of show in general.
 
http://amzn.to/2BAInRG

Outlander

  • Genres : Fantasy, Drama, Romance
  • Director : Metin Hüseyin, Anna Foerster, Brian Kelly, Mike Barker, Philip John, Brendan Maher, John Dahl, Richard Clark, Douglas Mackinnon, Norma Bailey, Charlotte Brändström, Jennifer Getzinger, David Moore, Matthew B. Roberts, Julian Holmes
  • Starring  : Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan
  • Supporting actors  : Duncan Lacroix, Tobias Menzies, Grant O'Rourke, Graham McTavish, Stephen Walters, Romann Berrux, Andrew Gower, Lotte Verbeek, Laura Donnelly, Steven Cree, Bill Paterson, Keith Fleming, James Allenby-Kirk, Nell Hudson, Finn Den Hertog, Gary Lewis, César Domboy, Gary Young
  • Season year : 2014
  • Network : Starz
  • Producers : Toni Graphia, Toni Graphia, Matthew B. Roberts, Matthew B. Roberts, Matthew B. Roberts, Elicia Bessette, David Brown, Ronald D. Moore, Maril Davis, Maril Davis, Anne Kenney, Anne Kenney, Ira Steven Behr, Ira Steven Behr, Michael O'Halloran, Paulo De Oliveira, Karen Campbell, Shannon Goss, Ben McGinnis, Michael Wilson
  • Format : Prime Video (Streaming Online Video)
http://amzn.to/2BwHn17

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