Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of books and movies and (plays?). Read up on what I think of things, because sure, that’s important.

Hannibal: A Season in Review and Contemplation

Hannibal - Season 1NBC’s crime drama Hannibal breaks the mold of crime shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds, building throughout the first season a far more consistent plot than such shows generally do. This makes Hannibal not only a show that dwells on crime (and its dark psychology) but also a drama about the participants: what are the effects of constantly looking at horrific scenes and imagining the lives of serial killers?

For Will Graham, the result turns out to be tragic. He slowly loses his senses, hallucinating and imagining vile, trippy experiences, to the point Will causes his superiors and friends to question whether he, like the men he catches, is a psychopath. Will has a form of empathy that allows him to “feel” and “understand” serial killers, due to his condition (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/hannibal-will_n_3366085.html). During the first few episodes of the season, this helps him assume the role of the serial killer and ultimately catch them, before he goes crazy.

At first, I did not particularly like this feature of his personality, not because the idea was not good but because of its execution. I understand his empathy aiding him to understand psychopaths, but show pushes the boundaries of believability. By viewing a simple murder scene, he not only knows how the killer killed his victims, but why. Often, the why is so very complex that it is implausible he could so rapidly construct a motive (i.e. the angel people).

As the show progresses, however, the show-runners and Hugh Dancy do a better job of showing how the illness

will_graham_by_the_foolish_princess-d66ma0b

is affecting him negatively. Not only does it destroy his relationship with his coworkers and possible lover, but it also corrupts his sanity. He becomes conflicted because though he wants to continue to help people (he adopts a fatherly role for Abigail, the daughter of the Minnesota Shreik), he also realizes he might be traumatized by the gory sights he sees.

The level of gore and violence in Hannibal is at times over-the-top, like when the FBI find a tower of putrefying bodies stacked and strapped atop each other at the beach. Or when girls are found impaled on elk antlers. Or… any other death in the entire series. The writers are seriously, but impressively demented for creating some of this material, and the “disgusting way to die with psychologically unique killer” a week schtick, while intriguing, may be difficult to keep up. By season’s end, the show-runner’s give up, giving instead screen time for the characters to ultimately come to terms with their fates.

Whose fate I find most interesting is that of Hannibal (which I’ll discuss later on below). Mad Mikkelson portrays Hannibal in an amusing, cool way, a departure from Anthony Hopkin’s unhinged menace. While I have always loved Silence of the Lambs, Mikkelson convinced me Hannibal Lector could be far more menacing when not slurping at Clarice Starling or carving off men’s faces—he could be just as menacing having dinner with Laurence Fishbourne or making sexy eyes at his therapist (Gillian Anderson).

images (16)                He often waxes poetically about psychologically and coldly manipulates the other players in this drama. He strikes a compelling relationship with Will, which he claims is a friendship, but each step he takes to “aid” Will ultimately leads to Graham’s demise. In fact, Hannibal takes  a curious pleasure in manipulation, and when confronted about his actions (several murders and cover-ups), he simply states he was “curious to see what would happen.” But Mikkelson’s Lector, unlike Hopkin’s, is someone capable of receiving sympathy.

At some point, he know Lector will betray Will, which makes their relationship nefarious. In the books, Will confronts Lector and ends up with his face cut to shreds. This creates a palpable tension for the entire season. When next will Lector kill and when will Will Graham, a man capable of understanding serial killers, finally realize his friend and psychologist is the serial killer he’s been looking for. [SPOILER] Furthermore, Lector sets up Will to take the ultimate fall for his murders in a genius, long-term plan that convinces Will, at first, he might be guilty, until Will then realizes the truth about Lector. “I see you,” he says in the finale when they return to the murder scene of Abigail Hobbes. [END SPOILER].

But Hannibal wants Will to become the Chesapeake Ripper (Hannibal’s media moniker) because he wants to be understood. The show is entirely about the need to be understood. Garret Jacob Hobbes, the first murderer, longs to share his passion for skinning and eating girls with his impressionable daughter. Another killer, a doctor, uses living human bodies as fertilizer because he felt a better connection to his victims as mushrooms.

Will Graham possesses the ability to empathize with and understand these people, and in the end that’s what Lector wants to—to be understood. Unlike Hopkin’s Lector, who would eat a census taker with chianti and fava beans, Mikkelson’s Hannibal Lector begs to be explicated, to be sympathized with, to be explained. He may not understand his own psychopathic tendencies, and he may not even understand why he manipulates the only man he might care about into a terrible position and madness.

[SPOILERS ABOUT THE FINALE]

 

Of course, in the end, this presumption is flipped. Perhaps Lector only took the case because he recognized Graham’s unstable condition, understood the opportunity to exploit it. By becoming his psychiatrist, he could manipulate Will into taking the fall for all of his murders and then make Will believe so deeply he was mad, that perhaps Will would adopt the shrine of Chesapeake Ripper. Instead, Will outsmarts Hannibal and sees through his plan.

By then, though, Hannibal has already convinced Graham’s friends and colleagues of his guilt, even Jack Crawford who before did not question Graham’s loyalty. The ending sets up an interesting dynamic for next season. Will Graham in prison while Hannibal Lector remains free. Though Will understands Lector now as a monster, he is powerless to stop his further killings. Also, the feud has become personal after Lector’s betrayal. Next season will likely see Will attempting to prove his innocence and Hannibal’s guilt while Hannibal continues to cover his tracks. By season’s end, however, let’s hope the two end up on each others’ side of the prison bars.

[END OF SPOILERS. READ ON!]

Overall, the series is dark and somber, taking itself incredibly serious with an armada of symbols and overwrought motifs (that elk). It’s twisted, gory, and horrific, much like the human mind, and as far as drama goes, it is better and more subtle than many other shows on television. I hope the show-runners can continue the intense tension into following seasons, because above all, Hannibal is different.

(Side-notes)

1.) Didn’t all of the food look absolutely delicious? It makes one ALMOST want to become a cannibal. Almost. If you’d like the non-human recipes for the food cooked on the show, you can find them here: http://janicepoonart.blogspot.com/

2.) The elk motif did not actually make me annoyed. I thought it was a useful way of showing Graham’s madness and darkness, which we in the end see was a direct result of Hannibal Lector. Lector IS the dark and mad part of Will’s brain, and he does not go insane until Lector begins toying with his fragile state of mind.

3.) Seriously, the cinematography.

4.) My favorite non-main character was Abigail Hobbes, played with a mix of startled innocence and haughty malice by Kacey Rohl.

images (17)

5.) When Will Graham first started hallucinating, I rolled my eyes, but the direction they took this plot thread by season end made all the sweating and time loss and strange dreams worth it.

6.) Laurence Fishbourne was alright. Mostly annoying, to be honest, but he was alright.

Review: Divergent

Remember when I vowed to read more YA books from now on when I wrote The Percy Jackson Experiment?  Well, I took that seriously and have been searching for other decent YA novels. This lead me to another much talked-about Dystopian novel which both has been praised as highly original and dejected as a Hunger Games rip-off. The book is Veronica Roth’s Divergent, the first book in a new trilogy.

Divergent serves as a fast summer read brimming with action and suspense, but very little substance– the themes Roth tries to translate come out forced. What she’s trying to say isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but we’ll touch more on that in a second. Where the book shines is in its plot, which though not exactly tightly woven, twinkles with moments of action.

In a dilapidated future-version of Chicago, Beatrice Prior lives with her family and faction Abnegation. In this city surrounded by a fence beyond which there are apparently terrors, there are five factions who cooperate but live by different ideologies. Each holds one trait above all else: for Abnegation, this is selflessness, for Erudite knowledge, for Amity love and acceptance, for Candor honesty, and for Dauntless bravery. At the age of sixteen, each teen must complete an examination to determine the correct faction and then decide whether or not to leave their families and factions or stay.

Beatrice (or Tris as she is later known) makes a choice which might shatter the status quo and uncover a conspiracy.

(Spoilers)

You already know what I liked about the book, that it keeps you engaged with action. Leaping on and off trains, fighting, shoot-outs, zip-lining from skyscrapers. When Tris joins Dauntless, she embraces their lifestyle by acting out dangerous missions which really aren’t so brave as they are stupid. But I love stupidity and reading about a community of people devoted to risking their lives for no reason to do stupid things– count me in!

The political overtones about coming together rather than driving each other apart because of ideologies felt a little heavy-handed and strangely ineffectual. From the very beginning, the system of factions seemed rather strange and though the system begins falling apart, it probably should have fell apart a long time ago.

All this turned out completely fine. I really enjoyed the book, in fact, and would suggest it for those rainy summer days you may spend all hours indoors reading. You will finish it fast and likely want to continue the series because the story ends with a dramatic cliffhanger. If there’s one thing Roth does right, it is to entice you to buy the next book. And yeah, sure, I’ll probably buy the sequel at some point, but there are plenty of other books to read at the moment.

The only real problem I had with the book was the forced romance with the characters Tris and Four. Before they even build a real relationship (which they do, fair enough), she already has “feelings” and freaks out when he is around. I’m sorry, but as a “strong” female protagonist, Tris gets much too “shaky in the knees” around Four. What starts out as a school-girl-type crush blossoms into a full-fledged romance and though toward the end, this romance becomes more believable, her initial queasy feelings toward him rubbed me the wrong way.

I think also most reviewers find too easy of a connection with The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, though besides the genre Dystopian, I think Divergent differs great from Collins’s novel. There is, at least, something fresh and fun about the read. Roth’s tale is not exactly like those, but that’s a good thing– reading the same book again would make me snore.

If you’re looking for something fun and fantastical and action-packed and teen-friendly, pick up Divergent by Veronica Roth. And maybe even the sequel Insurgent.

The Percy Jackson Experiment

It’s time to talk about YA seriously. We enjoy it secretly, buy it for our Kindles, Nooks, and IPads so no one will see the covers of the books we read, and we deny its quality. We say, “I don’t read YA, but I guess I enjoyed Harry Potter. And the Hunger Games. Oh, and–”

Let’s stop pretending: YA is just another category we can store books. That doesn’t mean YA books are shined up like you’d expect: no, YA books we consider suitable for teens and preteens are full of guts, sex, and gore. Teachers can apparently even be fired for reading YA material to their middle school classes. No that that’s a problem. Books are the one great free place for children anymore, forbidden to see R-rated films or cuss. They can sink into the sordid details of books their parents never expect hold immoral pleasures, those same parents only happy “that they’re reading.”

In my formative years, when I had so much acne my face looked like a red scatter-plot and my voice screeched like a porpoise, I

resented reading YA books. I tackled lengthy Dostoevsky tomes, serialized syntactically-repulsive Charles Dickens works, and sometimes even excerpts of Keats.  Now, this all had a profound effect on me, this chasing after philosophical significance in each work I read. I craved classics, and they served both to entertain me and make me look like an under-aged literati. I scoffed at kids who read so-called YA books.

To be honest, anything from The Hunger Games to Ender’s Game to Treasure Island may be flukes. They may entertain more than just young adults simply because they are not meant for young adults. But let me impress upon you an important idea. In publishing, the marketing choice to make something YA usually does not come until the author has a deal.
Because of all of these revelations, when perhaps three weeks ago I was offered the chance to read the Percy Jackson series, I took it. I recently finished the fifth book, having devoured them quickly and rapaciously, even in the midst of exams. Getting hooked on any series when exams approach is as bad an idea as pointing a laser pointer in your own eye. Why are these books so addictive? I’m afraid you’ll have to discover that for yourself. Here is a synopsis of the debut.

After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There’s little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.

This first installment of Rick Riordan’s best-selling series is a non-stop thrill-ride and a classic of mythic proportions.

There are five books in the series, and I really enjoyed them. At first, I was annoyed by little things. The meaning of some events were vague, and a lot happened for no reason at all. But as the series progresses, Rick Riordan finds his footing in about the third book, the plotting much smoother, the character motivations much clearer.

I believe it is extremely important to pay attention to YA books because they capture very adult themes while delivering a tight, fast-paced plot. People complain a lot about books either being pointless or too pretentious, and most YA books hit that sweet middle spot.

Like I said before, I have not read many YA books, but I will suggest a few I actually did read.

1.) The Underlander Chronicles

Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games author) first wrote this brilliant, multi-faceted series. Absolutely fell in love with it in the sixth grade. Great action with some quirky twists.

This irresistible first novel tells the story of a quiet boy who embarks on a dangerous quest in order to fulfill his destiny — and find his father — in a strange world beneath New York City.
When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor’s arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland’s uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it — until he realizes it’s the only way to solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.

2.) Chronicles of Narnia

Classic books to better get in touch with your childhood imagination.

Narnia is the land of enchantment, glory, nobility–home to the magnificent Aslan, cruel Jadis (the White Queen), heroic Reepicheep, and kind Mr. Tumnus.

3.) Inheritance Cycle

Like dragons? Fair enough. Read this.

Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.

4.) The Bartimus Trilogy

Possibly one of my favorite fantasy books growing up. As I begin to delve back into fantasy, I remember why I fell so deeply in love with the genre. This dark and stylized book thrilled me.

Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the “ultimate sacrifice” for a “noble destiny.” If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn’t tough enough, Nathaniel’s master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy’s only saving grace is the master’s wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine. In British author Jonathan Stroud’s excellent novel, the first of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the story switches back and forth from Bartimaeus’s first-person point of view to third-person narrative about Nathaniel. Here’s the best part: Bartimaeus is absolutely hilarious, with a wit that snaps, crackles, and pops. His dryly sarcastic, irreverent asides spill out into copious footnotes that no one in his or her right mind would skip over. A sophisticated, suspenseful, brilliantly crafted, dead-funny book that will leave readers anxious for more.

6.) Perks of Being a Wallflower

Not a fantasy or adventure series like the rest, this too is considered YA. It is beautifully written and will break your heart and make you crack up until you wheeze for air. For even further awesomness, there will soon be a movie of this starring Logan Lehrman and Emma Watson. Count me in!

Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

If you read any of these books, including the Percy Jackson series, you will come away with a new appreciation for books usually meant for kids. While at 18 I’m supposedly an adult (under the law), I am certainly still in love with imaginative stories that spark my mind and carry me to magical realms.

Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

One of the coolest covers ever.

I first encountered Chuck Wendig on Litreactor when he was interviewed about his upcoming book. I began reading his very cool blog terribleminds and was hooked, so when his first full-length novel was released, I bought it for my Nook.

Well, I both enjoyed and disliked the book for several reasons. Perhaps reading it was a bit out of element though I can’t say anyone would not be. While it falls into the category “urban fantasy,” I read it more as a horror-drama with smatterings of snarky humor. In a moment, I’ll give you its high and low points, which seem intricately intertwined.

Here is the Amazon low-down:

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.

Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

- Amazon.com

The premise is probably one of the best things about this novel, not because it is entirely unique, but because of the approach Wendig takes. So she can see how you’ll die, but hey, instead of saving you, I’ll hook up with you and then rob your dead body. We encounter Miriam while she’s travelling cross-country, conning sleazy men so she can thieve from their corpses. She’s vile, dirty, and caustically sarcastic– not to mention a bit hilarious. The opening was one of Blackbird’s better segments as it allows us to see into the grim life of Miriam, a simple slice of the last few years. But as much as the opening chapters gave us, I wanted more.

Blackbirds is mainly about Miriam’s transformation, from sly psychic temptress to sly psychic temptress with a heart. But I don’t think we got to see enough of Miriam’s previous life to fully appreciate where she ends up in the end.

On the road, when she encounters Louis, it’s almost sweet. Probably because he’s the only character not interested in killing and thieving, he is my favorite character. Miriam’s ultimate attachment to him and her eventual attempt to save his life give this book emotional impact.

The book reads like an underworld travel guide for debauched clairvoyance-catchers. I really enjoyed the viciously dark tone, the gratuitous cussing, the extremely realistic violence, and the general air of pessimism. But still something felt very off as I was reading. Maybe I never allowed myself to be fully sucked in. It’s not that the main characters were not compelling enough but perhaps that the plot was predictable.

Which is very nearly the point. Miriam sees the future and she decides finally she should try to stop some guy’s death. The tension is somehow lost because we know exactly where we’re going to end up and if you try hard enough, you can figure out what might happen when we get there. Not that there are not small surprises, but those feel small once you worm through the main mystery.

What did carry better tension than the main Louis-based plot were brief interludes during which Miriam told her story to a young interviewer. Whether this was in the past or future, we do not know. We get flashes of Miriam’s past, her troubled childhood and eventual pregnancy. And this backbone for the character certainly gives her better weight. It gives you a little bit of the unexpected I was expecting. Which is what I want. Chuck Wendig, I just want you to sneak up on me from behind and twist my neck and break it.

Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoyed Blackbirds and will be tuning in for the sequel Mockingbirds coming out this September, but there is one major flaw, a distracting flaw in this work: Chuck Wendig is a blogger at heart.

He writes funny but passionate passages full of sarcasm, wit, and satire, but this satire sometimes overwhelms the actual story. He spends so much time saturating the atmosphere with the scent of urine and blood that we realize, no this isn’t just a diatribe about the nastiness of truck-stop bathrooms and Waffle House’s, it’s an actual story about an actual girl. This sort of tongue-in-cheek writing best serves blogs, where he is absolutely brilliant. But the same sort of style crosses into his book, which feels strange and very distracting. There are times he gives in to some of the most conventional literary tropes, then whips out very imaginative sentences. So, the writing is hit-and-miss.

I would probably give this story a six out of ten stars if I proscribed to such rating systems, but I don’t, so I’ll leave it at “Read it.” It’s a short, fun novel that slightly blackens your heart and eye. Fans of Chuck Palahniuk and other subversive writers will probably get a kick out of Miriam Black.

Want to hear other’s thoughts? Check them out here:

http://sqt-fantasy-sci-fi-girl.blogspot.com/2012/02/blackbirds-by-chuck-wendig-brash-and.html

http://iwishiwasabook.com/blackbirds_by_chuck_wendig.htm

http://www.myshelfconfessions.com/posts/review-blackbirds-by-chuck-wendig/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+shelfconfessions+%28my+shelf+confessions%29

http://thebooksmugglers.com/2012/04/book-review-blackbirds-by-chuck-wendig.html

Review: Avengers Assemble

If you have yet to see The Avengers movie, do not read on. I don’t care if I ruin this movie for you, and you’ve been warned. Instead, go watch this really sick movie, then come back to read this review.

Alright, guys, let’s get down to business (to DEFEAT the Huns… I mean, Loki?) When brother of Thor Loki decides to raise an intergalactic army to overtake earth, it’s up to Samuel L. Jackson with an eye patch, Scarlett Johansson in a full-body leather suit, and that guy from the show The New Adventures of Old Christine to rally up the world’s mightiest heroes in hopes of saving our planet.

Years ago, there was a dream, a dream to reboot several popular comic book characters as lead roles in their own movies, then to combine these universes into one so that these characters could interact. Then came today, May 4th, the day The Avengers came out. While I really enjoyed the individual movies, the one that really fell short for me was Thor’s. For some reason, the thought of portals through space and Thor’s friends threw off the vibe. But Thor does much and more to rectify himself in this new film, and I think we reach an even greater understanding of the Thor/Loki relationship. While Thor was minus hammer for most of Thor, he makes good use of his magical hammer in this new film. Also, I’ve got to praise Tom Hiddleston’s acting, which is superb and hilarious. He has such wit and good timing, and he did well conveying his motives and that sort of smug “I know something you don’t know” attitude.

Another standout performance is, of course, RDJ. The movie crackles with energy when he steps on-screen.

But who surprised me was Mark Ruffalo. He did such a great job as Bruce Banner, the man trying to contain the beast, that he deserves a lot of credit. His subdued manner and overall demeanor– his performance was note-perfect. Subtle and quiet, only to explode when the green guy came out. Even though the Hulk was great (his fight with Loki was incredibly enjoyable), Bruce Banner held his own against his counterpart. The movie is not just high on action (which it is, oh yes, it is), but it’s funny. Hilarious, actually. On par with the first Iron Man film.

Who really deserves credit for making this movie come together is Joss Whedon, the director of this whole shebang. I expected, though reluctantly, that this movie might not live up to my high expectations. How would they incorporate all of these characters? Would they just join forces, just like that? That would make NO sense. Fortunately, the director and writers worried just as much about storytelling as awesome action sequences. The film actually portrays each characters’ shortcomings and personal conflicts with a lot of skill and detail. Iron Man’s selfishness, Hawkeye’s lonliness, Black Widow’s past, Thor’s relationship with his brother, Captain America’s disorienting incubation in a glacier for fifty years, the Hulk’s anger problems and personal philosophy. Seriously? You can fit all that in a movie, have characters clash constantly against each other, then bring them together in a single movie. Well, the movie is pretty long, so… yes.

Then again, who cares how long it is when you have so much epic-ness occurring on screen? Let’s review some of my favorite scenes:

1.) Every scene where the camera was positioned behind Scarlett Johansson as she walked away (every scene with her in it)

2.) The Hulk vs. Thor

3.) Iron Man vs. Thor

4.) The Hulk tearing apart that giant alien worm-thing with metal armor

5.) Iron Man redirecting a nuclear missile into space (Good for you, Tony! Taking one for the team!)

6.) The reveal of a new villain. At first, I thought it was the Red Skull returned, but it could possibly be Thanos, who is much more formidable than the Red Skull. After thinking about it more, I suppose that makes more since. Would the Red Skull really assemble such an army to gain the tesseract?

Either way, I am stoked about phase two of this series which will lead up to the Avengers 2. We’ve got Iron Man 3 and Captain America 2 to look forward to. The casting is very, very good. I certainly hope Ruffalo gets his own movie, showing how he has begun to control The Hulk; not to mention a movie about SHIELD members Nick Fury, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. This movie is a promise for all the really great things that will come soon.

Share you own thoughts if you have seen the film!

Review: Game of Thrones

Apart from being a nerd boy’s porn fantasy, Game of Thrones is actually quite a decent show. Be-headings, wars, sword fights, even lancing.

Seriously, what more could you ask for? The show brings back to me the nostalgia of middle school fantasy books with perhaps a bit more gore. Based on the series Song of Fire and Ice by R.R. Martin, the show details the political and violent going-ons in the seven kingdoms ruled by King Robert. Mostly, the show details the clash between those in power and does so with delicious relish. Onscreen, the characters threaten to murder each other constantly under the consistent threats of war, sabotage, and even vague dangers afar.

I have only watched half of the first season, but if after deleting Facebook, I decided to sit around and watch the show, it would be a good use of my waste of time. Indeed, it sure would. Any show with this much blood and the audacity to show that much skin, that’s a damn good show in my book.

Not yet convinced? Here are five reasons.

1.) A beheading in first five minutes, I promise

2.) Peter Dinklage

3.) Awesome script

4.) A man cuts off his horse’s head after losing a joust

5.) One character dies after someone pours molten gold onto his head

6.) A lot of killer sword fight sequences

7.) The entire Stark family

8.) Peter Dinklage

What really makes this a gem is the superb, chilling acting. So, my suggestion? Go watch this show already on Hbogo.com.

Derek watched the show for eight hours… which became days… then months. He could not stop watching TELEVISION! Then, Derek died from hunger/thirst/beheading.

Return to Start?

Cinematic Books, Worth Making?

My book will probably never be a movie. Right now I’m holding my breath for it to become a book. But once I get an editor and publisher, I doubt many agents will option by movie. Even so, I doubt they’d do anything with the rights other than hold onto them. A lot of authors don’t realize that this is what happens to a lot of books. Some books, people would love to become movies, but some agent bought those rights and is holding out.

Once a book is picked up to get published, and if said book is generating any sort of buzz, you can be sure film agents are looking into making the book as a movie. Sometimes, just because the movie is super popular, an agent or director will option the movie or buy the rights. But not all books are right for the silver screen. There was a recent article on this in TIMES magazine that definitely worth checking out.

Why would some authors not want their books transformed into cinema? Let’s explore that shall we?

When books become movies, the author makes money. Sometimes, lot’s of money. No, not as much money as the producers or actors, but still– lots and lots and lots of money. Take Twilight for example, which significantly bolstered the sales of the novel. While books like Twilight and Harry Potter were popular pre-film-versions, the film sagas dramatically increased their revenue. The newest IT book to be made into a film is The Hunger Games. It will likely make a lot of money because it kicks ass and has a huge fan base.

Another book becoming a movie is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Johnathen Foer, which I happen to have liked. What intrigues me, however, is that the story based on some survivors of 9/11 does not seem like it could be easily transferred to film. There will be probably be significant changes to the plot line, which is fine, but… here’s where we have a problem. Authors are EXTREMELY protective of their darlings. Many understand that in movies, things need to be changed. But some can’t stand the idea of some director they don’t know meddling with the world and character the author created.

Some things are changed merely because they cannot be put onto the big screen. Take American Psycho for example. The book is one of the most disturbing pieces of literature I’ve ever seen and the movie a fun-gory piece of camp, though not exactly a masterpiece. Why? Likely because despite it being gory, they could not include all of the thematic significance expressed in the book. That, and they left out the scene that would be certainly inappropriate to speak of here involving a rat and a woman’s you-kn0w-where. Curious? Read here.

But my book, though I think there are no rats involve, contains similar gut-retching scenes. Scenes that on paper make your skin crawl, but in a film would just be… out of place. I’m not saying it’s anywhere near as bad as The Human Centipede or anything, but it’s still pretty bad. So, for the sake of this argument, let’s compare my book to something that would make a better movie: The Hunger Games. 

The Hunger Games, if you’re disdainfully ignorant, is about Katniss Everdeen who is forced by her oppressive government to fight-to-the-death 23 other teenagers. Basically, there are kids doing crazy awesome stuff to kill each other. The book isn’t just good because of the fighting, but also because it explores political intrigue and the repercussions of suppressing a people. In this series, there is a real element of horror underlying everything. Scenes that could very easily become film. Also, it’s written in first voice, present tense. Perfect for a film.

Now… my book. It’s not that I wouldn’t like it, but firstly, I’d be super protective of my baby. Secondly, there are just too many static scenes for the screen. On page, there might be a level of tension as Sebastian sits on a psychiatrist’s couch, lying to him. But on screen, it might come across as just talking. Also, maybe there is such thing as too much murder. And maybe my book has it.

Either way, it’d be cool anyways.

What books-turned-movies did you enjoy? Any you didn’t?

I highly suggest you read The Hunger Games and watch the new trailer.

Also, while you’re at it, check out the synopsis for The Savagery of Sebastian Martinelli, my book.

Review: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

While Damned certainly is better than Chuck Palahniuk’s last effort (cough, cough Tell All), it does not quite live up to his former work on books such as Rant and Fight Club. It does, however, set up a very intriguing premise.

What were my expectations? Read here: http://derekberry.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/palahniuks-new-book-haunted/

While funny, the book is not entirely earth-shattering. Its satiric slant on Judy Bloom novels and The Breakfast Club are probably the best thing about this book. The thing is, the book falls flat.

Maddy ends up in Hell and constantly flashes back to her life to discover just how she ended up there. While she goes through a complex, though unrealistic character arc (from polite chubby girl to sad dead girl to complacent dead telemarketer to crazed ruler of Hell.)

I’m not sure how I feel about the whole book, honestly.

The descriptions of Hell certainly lend to Palahniuk’s taste for the vile and unclean, though these are tepid descriptions compared to his past novels:  Maddy encounters the Sea of Insects and Mountains of Toenail Clippings, along with more disgusting lakes and swamps. But honestly, these merely served to set Hell up as a gross kid’s bedroom.

I guess I can’t quite feel satisfied because the book isn’t truly OVER yet. It ends with a To be continued…

… meaning that Palahniuk plans a trilogy. Both exciting, but… can he really keep this idea interesting for three books? Will Maddy really make her way to Heaven? Sure, there’s a nice little plot twist toward the end, but then… poof!, it’s over. It doesn’t pack quite such a big punch, because well… to be continued…

That was what frustrated me most, being that I did not realize that I would have to buy more books to finish Maddy’s story.

While the book holds some of Palahniuk’s fun elements. Such as making the headquarters of Hell a place where damned teens can call the living during their dinners to perform surveys about flavored lip gloss. Or his intense study of the Hollywood family unit. Maddy’s parents are easily the funniest characters:  adopting children for the sake of publicity and exploiting Maddy for the media.

Oh, and Hitler shows up along with Vlad the Impaler.

All in all, I enjoyed the novel, but was just… disappointed. It didn’t quite live up to the premise. While Palahniuk played a lot with how political power works and musings about demonology. Honestly, he can do much better things but is restricted by the voice of his narrator. He pens a satire of the afterlife where mortals replace religion with recycling and the biggest worry for those who die is what shoes to wear.

Review: Moneyball

Review: Lion King in 3D

Some may say that this is a ploy to empty your pockets for the sake of nostalgia, only in 3D. I think it is more of an opportunity to introduce the children of today to the wonders of Disney’s past.

While we waited through the opening trailers, I remembered what had gone wrong with Disney. Showing soon was another movie about hamsters and yet another Air Buddies film for the incredibly long saga of sequels following Air Bud. This marks the fifth straight-to-DVD spin-off of that series.

So, to rewind back to the good ole days when Mufasa ruled Pride Rock on the silver screen, it was quite a treat. If any readers here want to feel especially old, you should know that The Lion King was the first movie I ever saw in theaters. It came out before I had turned one years old.

The Lion King, being one of my favorite movies, cannot fail but be good. I’m rather glad I hadn’t seen it in a while (years), so a lot of jokes returned fresh to me.  Just so you know, I will not recap the movie for you. Whether you like it or not, The Lion King is a must-see. I shan’t waste time recounting the plot. So, go watch it. Bonus points: if you’ve ever read/seen Hamlet, imagine that with lions and also a gassy warthog.

Watching it as an older human being, I realized a few things about the movie:

1.) Mufasa, while being such a great father figure, is sort of a jerk to his brother. I mean, imagine how much abuse Scar had to put up with before finally deciding to kill Mufasa? Also, at one point, he forces Zazu, his Tucan companion, to act as a target for Simba’s target practice. Now, I cry too every time Mufasa topples into the stampede of wildebeasts, but now at least I understand what embittered Scar so much. So, basically, even if you hate for me for saying this, Scar wasn’t so bad. Oppressed under his brother’s rule, the runt of the family, maybe his actions were at least understandable.

2.) The hyenas, portrayed as evil, comical minions to Scar, spoke with accents different from the rest of the cast (American or British). I read that this may be an underlying message of racism, to cast African Americans to voice the ignorant, evil characters.

3.) GASP! Sexual innuendos? Yeah, pretty much.

I’m glad, yet not glad The Lion King has been released in 3D. On one hand, it gives today’s children a chance to experience the movie as if it were only now coming out. With the avalanche of crap kids’ movies, this is a welcome revival.  Arriving in the theater, I was actually surprised that more children than teens my age had come to see the film.

The 3D was underused and horrible. The scenes “in 3D” were just pathetic. They could have marketed it as a normal movie and that would have been fine, but they insisted on 3D. So, basically, I had to pay an extra four dollars per ticket for lackluster 3D. I am obviously not a fan of 3D. In this aspect, the decision seemed simply to make more money on The Lion King‘s re-release.

If you have a child who has never seen the film before, I suggest you take them out to see it in theaters, to experience its full impact.

If you, like me, simply want to revisit your childhood, just pop in an old VHS, because it may not be worth the money.

What do you think about the film? Is it good to bring back old masterpieces to cinemas? Or is this just a ploy to pillage your purse?

The Lion King returns to theaters after being long dead. I guess, that’s the Circle of Life?

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