Movie Review of The Last Unicorn and Playing Dress Up

I’m currently watching The Last Unicorn, Anniversary Edition, which I borrowed from the library because my niece likes unicorns, still believes in magic, and is confident the workers on the side of the road are pumping magic treasure into the ground. The Last Unicorn is set in medieval times and is about a Unicorn that sets out to find other unicorns, convinced she is not the last one left on the earth. Along the way she encounters danger, adventure, and monsters. The Last Unicorn, based on the book by Peter S. Beagle, boasts the voice acting talent of Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Alan Arkin, and Christopher Lee with songs performed by America.

Some notable moments are the riddle speaking butterfly that made my niece quite excited. I mean, talking butterflies with hats, what more could a five year old ask for? Plus he calls the unicorn sunshine, or sings about sunshine, I couldn’t quite tell from the kitchen where I was cutting apples; but my niece was quite happy and said, “You know my grandpa with the long beard? He calls me ‘Sunshine.’” Which made me laugh quite a bit, because her description was hilarious and accurate. She’s talking about my father, and you tell me if she was spot on.

dad

OK, so it’s not the longest beard I’ve ever seen, but it is pretty intense. In fact, when his hair is sticking up and wiry someone once aptly called him a bush with two eyes.

The movie is far more detailed and the plot line more extensive than I would have thought. The art work is quite good, with the animation classic scooby-do (I’m sure there is a proper term for this, but that is what I call it). The background is very vague and the characters detailed, but with little shading. Some of the animation gets a bit muddled with all the magic going on, but an eye pleasing experience over all.

I didn’t finish the movie though. As I said it is rather detailed in plot and my niece got bored about halfway through when the plot hadn’t even taken off yet. It just kind of meandered along really, I was bored myself. So I suggested we get dressed up and go for a walk. Which we did, and had a grand time. I mean to go back and watch the end of the movie, but high fantasy isn’t really my thing and I couldn’t justify giving time over to a movie I didn’t really want to watch when there are so many other shows I’m behind on. Like HIMYM. (I just got around to watching my DVR of the show and watched the series finale and WHAAAA???)

I mean, doesn’t this look like more fun anyway?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Movie Review: Seeking A Friend for the End of the World

In a month everyone dies. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World stars Steve Carell and Keira Knightly in a indie comedy about an asteroid that is about the destroy the Earth. Nothing much matters any more, and nobody belongs to anyone. But Dodge and Penny decide to help each other finish unfinished business, Dodge is off to find the girl that got away and Penny just wants to find a working plane to get back to her family overseas.

seeking a friend for the end of the world

This movie is a realistic and depressing look at what people will be doing when the world ends. Not fighting zombies, not eking out a coexistence with the Chakz, but trying to find peace in the face of the inevitable. Knightley and Carell are an unlikely match that works well. Their chemistry slowly builds, changes, and makes sense as the story continues. The movie is funny, poignant, and a little sad.

I liked the feel of the movie, that people will be who they have always been. Dodge continues to try and sell insurance to a world that is about to cease its existence and Penny takes back her emotionally abusive boyfriend she doesn’t care about because it’s the familiar. It takes a different kind of connection than an asteroid hitting the earth to shake them up from their routines, it takes a clashing of human connection to force their mindsets to change.

If you don’t mind a little bit of sadness in the midst of a beautiful human connection, watch Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. You may laugh and you will probably cry, but the beauty of the moment will be worth it.

“This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.” T.S. Eliot

Dead Mann Walking

I recently borrowed Dead Mann Walking by Stephan Petrucha, a comic book writer who worked on The Walking Dead, from the library, and actually finished it. I know, what? More than the feat of actually finishing a book, because lately that has been a hard road to hoe, I actually enjoyed it as well. Bonus.

dead mann walking

Dead Mann Walking is the story of Hessius Mann a zombie detective. That is, he’s a zombie who used to be a cop and is now a detective for zombies and anyone else who will pay. At some point in the not too distant future, a way to eternal life emerges, a miracle, people can be brought back to life. Wrongful convictions don’t mean permanent death and those wrongly killed at the hands of the State are brought back to life, including Mann who was exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder.

But then people realize that the dead brought back to life start to decompose after a time, they don’t feel pain like a liveblood and some of them even go feral. The new type of being is called Chakz and they don’t have the same rights as those with blood rushing through their veins. Mann lives and works in a condemned building, he cleans his wounds with bleach and super glues broken bones back together.

One day the Eggman (not his real name, it’s the name Mann comes up with to remember that he has a client) shows up at Mann’s door with a proposition, find a Chakz for him and the Eggman will give Mann a lot of money, but he needs the zombie detective on the case right away. Mann sets off to find the lost Chakz and discovers the case is more complicated than he first thought, which is a problem. Mann used to have a photographic memory, but since he has been brought back from the dead his brain is not as sharp as it used to be so he uses a recording device, that is, if he can remember where he put it.

It took me a bit to get into the book as I’m not the world’s biggest zombie genre lover, but once I got into the thick of things, the story really picked up and takes off faster than a half faced zombie’s feral run. Petrucha’s writing is excellent and his universe well plotted. Personally, I liked that the zombie apocalypse happens because of science. That depending on their emotional state the zombies have different states of being. It’s not just monsters eating people.

I also loved all the twists and turns the story took. I tried to figure things out before Mann since he has a bad memory and all. Unfortunately, as the narrator he also forgets to tell parts of the story, so while I figured out a few things, there were twists I didn’t figure out before they happened. Which I love! Mann does solve a mystery or two in this book, but there are a lot of questions left at the end which is why I practically ran to the library to get the second book in the series.

Graphic Novel Book Review: The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman is a graphic novel series I keep hearing about, so I decided it was time to at least attempt to read it. We all know I’m not the biggest fan of graphic novels.

SANDMAN

Synopsis from GoodReads

In Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman weaves the story of a man interested in capturing the physical manifestation of Death but who instead captures the King of Dreams.

Summary from Such a Book Nerd

Beginning in 1916 with a ceremony attempting to capture Death, Sandman kicks off big.   The ceremony goes wrong, and instead The Sandman – a strange figure – is brought to earth/reality.  From that moment on, people fall into the sleeping sickness, and don’t awaken for decades.  Sandman is kept in a  glass bubble until 1988, when his original captors are old men.  Finally freed, he’s out for revenge on those who kept him locked up all those years.  Arriving home, he sees the remains of his crumbled kingdom – which, in his absence, has fallen apart.

He learns from the three graces that he must collect three items to regain his power – a bag of sand, a helmet, and a ruby.

What I enjoyed about this graphic novel that it had some short stories, a few longer pieces of the arch for the season (the collecting of the three items), as well as, laid the ground work for the larger story about the sandman. I thought the stories were well written and that the art added to the feel of the story in a way that made sense and made the story telling more interesting.

Some of the art work was very heavy and dark. And I did find it interesting that the silhouette of the sandman looked kind of like Gaiman. But of all ways to consume a horror story, the graphic novel may be my newest favorite. I’m not a huge horror fan (dare I tell you, but Stephen Kings Salem Lot puts me to sleep without fail as it is overly descriptive?) But I did find the horror stories compelling in this format.

Perhaps my favorite  character though was Death. She was quite memorable, and one of the reasons that I will probably continue reading the graphic novels. 

sandmandeath

You can read another review here on Such a Book Nerd or on Some Reading.

eBook Review: Risen

risen

I found book one of the Dark Victorian series, Risen, by Elizabeth Watasin free on my Kindle App.  It looked like my type of reading, which is still important even if the book is free, it was set in the Victorian period, looked a bit steam punky, and had a skull on it. I’ve had moderate success when I pick random free books, so I was still a bit wary. However, this was my most successful, random, free book on Kindle to date.

It is 1880 in a mechanical and supernatural London. Agents of Prince Albert’s Secret Commission, their criminal pasts wiped from their memories, are resurrected to fight the eldritch evils that threaten England. Amidst this turmoil, Jim Dastard and his new partner Artifice must stop a re-animationist raising murderous dead children. As Art and Jim pursue their quarry, Art discovers clues about her past self, and through meeting various intriguing women—a journalist, a medium, a prostitute, and a mysterious woman in black—where her heart lies. Yet the question remains: What sort of criminal was she? A new beginning, a new identity, and new dangers await Art as she fights for the Secret Commission and for her second life. (Synopsis from GoodReads)

The premise for the book was intriguing. Dead people brought to life to make up for past deeds. I liked that there was a story in this book that ended, the dead murderous children mystery is wrapped up, but the mystery of who Art was, is only just beginning. I enjoyed the character Jim Dastard, a talking skull, perhaps due to his  likeness to Bob from Harry Dresden, but mostly because he had some of the best lines.

There were a few things that were a bit odd. A little out of place was the fact that Art is Quaker but adept at fighting and hitting on women. However, it’s possible all of this explained as more about Art’s past is revealed. Also a bit odd was that the author could have set this in any time period she wanted, she’s the creator after all, but has her main character dislike many of the things about the Victorian era, and even goes about modifying clothes so her fighting makes sense. While they do this on Warehouse 13 with H.G. Wells, perhaps the disjointed feeling is that Warehouse 13 is purposefully campy and gets away with sideways turns of characters while this gothic steampunk book takes itself seriously.

These are minor questions that were raised as I read, in the end Risen is a very good book. The writing is excellent, the concepts are intriguing, and the characters have the feel of fully fleshed out individuals even if all the parts of them aren’t revealed in the first book. The author clearly knows where she is going with her story, and a fun story it is! I know the murderous dead kids seems a bit gruesome, but even that is done well, and I’m known to like things a bit dark, so I was not put off by that. If you like steampunk with a twist of darkness, the magic arts, and talking skulls, give this series a chance.

Audio Book Review: American Gods

american gods

Everyone, and everyone, has recommended I read American Gods. They told me it should be my first taste of Gaiman. But, I’m never one to do what everyone tells me. So I picked at Gaiman’s prolific work, reading some of his children’s books, his graphic novel The Sandman series, fell in love with Neverwhere, and even watched him sing with his lovely wife Amanda Palmer on Youtube. Then I decided it was time to delve into the oh so popular American Gods. Chris ordered it on Audible and once he was finished I started listening to the story. It took me a while to get through it because I had just moved to Texas. I read the 10th Anniversary edition, with the author’s preferred text. (Following synopsis from GoodReads)

. . . . Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. It is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.

Along the way, Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path. . . . 

According to the author, either one loves this book or hates it. Apparently, Chris and I are not everyone because he found the book just so, so, and while I enjoyed the book, Gaiman’s way with words is quite wonderful, I didn’t exactly fall in love with it. I see the appeal though, Gaiman pulls from many mythologies, across the world, and compares them to those we Americans hold dear. And it’s not football, like you might think. The imagery that Gaiman pulls out of his head and puts down on paper is amazing. I was thoroughly entertained the entire time. Further, I enjoyed the many twists and turns of the book.

What American Gods does is makes one think. What gods do we hold dear, and why? Are they more important, do they compete with the old gods? Is there anything wrong with that?

However, those twists I mentioned? Well, perhaps it is because I’m my father’s daughter, but I saw each of them coming before it was more than a whisper of a thought in the book. I was not at all surprised by the ending. They were excellent twists, they were unusual and captivating, but I guessed a good 80% of them before they happened. This doesn’t make the book less enjoyable, but it is probably why I didn’t fall in love with it.

I did really like this as an audio book. The voice over actors are all very good, and there are many of them, so the different people are all distinguishable. Even though I can tell some of the voice over actors read several parts, they read them differently enough that even before the narrator says who is talking you can tell. That is the hallmark of a good voice over actor to me. Additionally, I wouldn’t have read the book nearly as fast in person because I was only really able to listen to this as I drove to work. Some times it made leaving the car hard, but it was always fun to come back to on the drive home.

I do recommend reading this piece of Gaiman’s work. It is excellent, a contemporary novel with a twist of the supernatural. Like his other work, Gaiman’s book will make you think and ponder the things we have deemed gods. The start is a bit slow, but once the story hits its stride it surges forward and may drag you to the end before you are ready.

Book Review: Pleasure Unbound

pleasure unbound

I read Pleasure Unbound as part of the Virginal Fantasy book club. I read it after the group had, but that was my library’s fault. So there. I don’t often post reviews of the scifi erotic type of books that I read because they are all very similar and I read a lot of books so culling out the scifi erotica on my to do list has made the list much more manageable. However, lately my reading has decreased significantly and so culling is not as necessary, plus I thought this series had some unique aspects to it.

Synopsis from GoodReads:

She’s a demon-slayer who hungers for sensual pleasure-but fears it will always be denied her. Until Tayla Mancuso lands in a hospital run by demons in disguise, and the head doctor, Eidolon, makes her body burn with unslakable desire. But to prove her ultimate loyalty to her peers, she must betray the surgeon who saved her life.

I liked how demonic did not necessarily equal bad. It reminded me of Whedon’s show Angel. Demonic is more similar to alien than necessarily evil. They even have an underground network to take care of each other, including the aforementioned hospital. The hospital has a spell on it so creatures who normally don’t get along can’t fight each other there. It reminds me of Lorne’s karaoke bar on Angel. I dislike that the brothers are exempted from the no fighting rule, seems an unnecessary exemption, the author just wanting to write some fight scenes. If you are the models for the demon society, maybe you should be modeling peaceful interactions? But what do I know.

The demon slayer is your typical, I don’t really know what’s going on, type of characters. But I did like that when she begins to understand how her organization may be corrupt she investigates further and wants more knowledge. She doesn’t stick her head in the sand. The sex scenes are appropriately power struggle filled, but didn’t really stick out in my head. Honestly, the book would have been fine without them.

In my mind this series is part of the Buffy/Angel universe, just a part we never heard about before. It has some similar organizations and story line aspects to Whedon’s shows. It was enjoyable and I plan on reading more of the series.

 

Movie Review: Rise of the Guardians

Recently I’ve been introduced to a lot more children’s movies, and reintroduced over and over. I’ve now seen Rise of the Guardians at least half a dozen times. Not necessarily all the way through at one time, but I’d say, put together the 100s of times the movie has been playing at home, and I’ve seen the whole Rise of the Guardians at least six times. Only we call it the Jack Frost movie.

rise-of-the-guardians-slice5

Pitch Black (voiced by Jude Law) starts stealing children’s dreams and is turning them into nightmares, he feels that the Boogey Man is no longer feared and as a result he has lost power. The only way to get more power, is to get more children to believe. So he invades their dreams. As a result the number of children who believe in Santa Claus (played by Alex Baldwin with a heavy accent the entire time), the Australian boomerang dealing Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fischer), and the Sandman are diminishing as they give all their believing power over to Pitch. The Guardians of the children are loosing power so the Man in the Moon decides that they need another helper and he picks Jack Frost (Chris Pine) from obscurity at the bottom of an icy river to aid the others. No one believes in Jack Frost and he has a hard time fitting in with the other guardians, plus he is trying to remember where he came from and he spends the rest of the movie learning how to be part of a team and understanding what it means when children believe in you. All very heart warming indeed.

I like that the movie has a solid central story line and doesn’t necessarily delve deeply into all of the characters, but only enough to add depth. At the same time I like how a lot of the way Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny do their jobs are explained in this movie, it’s done really well and almost makes me a believer again. My favorite side character is  the Sandman, he doesn’t say a word, yet he makes me laugh the hardest.

I think the best voice actor of them all is Alec Baldwin, he does a fabulous job as Santa Claus, bringing a lot to the boisterous character just with his acting chomps. Surprisingly, it’s Chris Pine who is the least adept at being a voice actor. Some of his lines fall a little flat as though his imagination weren’t quite working in that moment. Because it takes a lot of imagination to bring your voice to where it needs to be to read the lines. Hugh Jackman and Isla Fischer are fine in their respective roles and Jude Law does an impressive job as Pitch. I just love to hate that guy.

A sweet children’s movie, with a really good story line and acting, Jack Frost… I mean Rise of the Guardians is a movie adults will enjoy as well.

Book Review: Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein will be going on my all time favorite books I read in 2013. It is a deliciously written, heart wrenching tale, of women working for the British War Effort. An historical fictitious tale, Wein writes the struggles of two friends as they help their country in a time of need. The story is written from both girls’ perspectives, and I guess it could also be termed an epistolary tale, as it is told from the letters one girl writes and the reports another girl writes.

code name verity

I don’t want to give too much away, because the story reveals itself beautifully, in a complicated and wonderful voice. But I will say that I enjoyed that the story was told from two different perspectives, and Wein did a great job of making their way of writing completely different. I really felt I knew the girls because of the way they wrote and from the perspective of the other person writing about them.

I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction lately, because it often is so much about the history that the story is lost and the voices of the characters and their emotions are lost. But, if this is the start of a new and fresh take on historical fictions, I may reconvert to reading the genre again. I recommend picking up this book even if historical fiction or young adult fiction are not your normal cup of tea. This is just a really good book and reaches past the boxes it has been labeled as, and tells a wonderful heartbreaking story.

Television Review: Orange is the New Black

orange is the new black

 

Orange is the New Black is a television show produced by Netflix and streaming on the same. All the episodes appeared on July 11, 2013, and Chris started watching them soon after. It took a while, but he convinced me to give the show a try, and now I’m hooked. I thought it was going to be cutesy and Mob Wives type of drama with no real sense of character development. But I was totally wrong.

Summary from Netflix:

Every Sentence Is A Story: From the creator of “Weeds” comes a heartbreaking and hilarious new series set in a women’s prison. Piper Chapman’s wild past comes back to haunt her, resulting in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. To pay her debt to society, Piper trades her comfortable New York life for an orange prison jumpsuit and finds unexpected conflict and camaraderie amidst an eccentric group of inmates.

Piper is rather naive, or in denial, about what it means to live in a prison, in spite of having read up on how to survive life in prison. Some of the things she does makes me want to bang my head on the table, but then she’ll do something that’s really clever and I get super excited. The women that Piper meets in prison are all interesting characters with some really intense backgrounds that are slowly revealed throughout the season. The show does a good job of intertwining why the name five or so women are in prison with life in prison and what feeds into their psyche and why they do the things that they do.

Orange is the New Black is edgy and doesn’t shy away from racial conflict, one of the inmates explains, “It’s not a race thing, it’s a tribal thing,” which makes Piper’s eyebrows raise to her hair line, or away from sex, there are a lot of boobs in this show, especially the first episode, and even some vaginal fisting, nor does it shy away from characters who are neither good nor bad, they are complex women, most of whom have led difficult lives, or been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and all of them have a reason for being where they are. Sometimes I don’t even like the star of the show, she’s selfish and stupid, and clever and interesting, and she learns from her mistakes.

I’m totally addicted to this show and I’ve been telling everyone to give it a try. Based on the real life story of Piper Kerman’s one year stint in Prison, Orange is the New Black is an exciting, new, and original drama by Netflix that explores the penal system and the women who wind up in prison.