Apr. 5th, 2017

thewayne: (Default)
Books:
1/2 Miniatures: The Very Best Short Fiction of John Scalzi
1/5 Twenty-Sided Sorceress 1-3, Annie Bellet
2/11 Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Movies:
1/06 Sing
1/07 Hidden Figures
1/25 The Founder
2/11 Resident Evil: Final Chapter
2/19 Lego Batman 3D
2/21 The Great Wall
3/07 Logan
3/27 Beauty and the Beast (2017)

I figured that if I could consistently do this quarterly that it would be a lot less work than trying to do everything early next year!

Miniatures.
This new release by Scalzi is a collection of some of his short work, in some cases, very short. Lots of fun stuff if you like Scalzi, including a multi-part work about going back in time to kill Hitler and what the repercussions would be. Fun stuff.

Twenty-Sided Sorceress, 1-3. This collection of three books: Justice Calling, A Murder of Crows, and Pack of Lies is a YA series about a woman living in a town of witches and werewolves who just happens to be a sorceress, a type of practitioner who is not trusted in the magic community. The reason for the mistrust is fairly simple: when a sorcerer/ess kills someone, they can suck their power and add it to their own (except for weres). Jade Crow is keeping a low profile, running a comic book/game store, when Bad Things Start To Happen. Most of it is because of her ex-boyfriend, a sorcerer who trains up neophytes then kills them to suck their power, decides it's time for her to die. She escaped before he thought she was ripe for the plucking. This was an impulse ebook buy and a lot of fun, though a tad Mary Sue-ish. The characters were decently-done, and you definitely don't want to mess with Jade when she has her mean on. When I can find a collection of the subsequent books I'll probably buy them, but I'm not going to actively seek them out. These three books set up the confrontation, but the battle with the ex won't be for another book or two at least.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. I don't normally read RomComs, though I do occasionally like them in the movies. Something about the description of this one intrigued me, so again, impulse buy. It's a contemporary setting in rural East Sussex about a retired English Army Major whose brother has an unexpected heart attack and dies. The Major has been alone for several years since his wife died, has never gotten along particularly well with his sister in law, and his son is a rather alien financier in The City. He's rather staid in his ways, and things come to a head with his brother's death. The Major's grandfather was a war hero in India and was awarded a pair of Churchill fowling pieces for service in rescuing the family of an Indian prince. The guns, as a matched set, are worth a very respectable amount of money. And his father, upon his death, gave each of the boys one of the shotguns, with the understanding that on the passing of one brother, the gun would be returned to the other. Alas, he didn't explicitly spell that out in the will. And the sister in law, and his son, know the guns are quite valuable and are trying to press the Major to sell his piece along with the other and split the proceeds. But that's just one story thread. The real 'Last Stand' is the Major slowly falling in love with a Pakistani woman who runs the town's shoppe. She is also a widow, and also a tremendous lover of books. Except for skin color and people talking, they are an ideal couple. The story of their relationship, and the difficulties in their getting together, is very well woven (IMO). What I found most interesting is that this is Helen Simonson's first published novel! Her second novel was released earlier this year and is not a continuation, which I'm both glad and not happy with. The book is in development as a movie, and I think it should be a lot of fun if they do a good job.


Sing. While it is a new year, I would class Sing as one of the better animated movies that I've seen in the last year. Excellent story, and amazing character acting. And it's sitting on the coffee table in front of me, I expect to watch it again soon.

Hidden Figures. What a movie! While there was no chance it would win the Oscar for Best Motion Picture, it certainly deserved the nomination. It tells the story of black women, mathematicians, working on the space program to launch the first American (man, of course) in to space and later the moon landings. Just an amazing movie. It definitely felt time-compressed, but lots of movies have to do that to cover the key points of the material and to get them in to one movie.

The Founder. Again, what a movie! But I also cannot blanket recommend this movie to just anyone. It's the story of Ray Kroc and the founding of McDonald's, though it might be more accurate to describe it as the theft of McDonald's. Kroc was a literal traveling salesman, selling milk shake mixers to drive-in restaurants. It wasn't exactly making him rich, then he receives a major order from two brothers running a little restaurant in California. He drives out there to see why they needed so many machines, and in a contrast to the slow and messy teen hangouts that he had been selling to, he sees a clean operation where people line up to order at a window and are handed a bag with their burger and fries. It blows his mind, and he talks the owners in to letting him franchise the operation. The dark side of this movie is that Ray is a pretty evil and conniving person, ultimately taking even the name from the founders. He was quite a slime ball, at least as shown in this movie, so it's hard to know how much is accurate and how much exaggeration or just pure fiction. I've been a fan of Michael Keaton for a long time, and he does an outstanding job of portraying Kroc.

Resident Evil: Final Chapter. Guilty pleasure movie. I've seen all of the Resident Evil movies and own the first couple, and just had to finish out the series. And it stays true to form: lots of zombie blasting, the evil Umbrella Corp., etc. A good wrap-up for the franchise. Basically a pretty decent shoot-'em-up, nothing terribly deep here. Basic popcorn movie with very good stuntwork and fight choreography.

Lego Batman 3D. Another guilty pleasure movie. I hadn't seen the previous The Lego Movie, but I had friends recommend it. And there was a certain silly vibe of this movie that really resonated with me. One evening while my wife and I were in Phoenix for the renaissance festival, we went to the movies. And in this case, the plural is accurate: she once again saw Star Wars: Rogue One, I saw Lego Batman. Lots of fun, pure silly. I absolutely loved the villains saying Pew! Pew! as they fired their blasters! AND as a bonus, I got a Lego Batman bag of Lego parts, which I haven't assembled yet. I think it's for the Bat Wing. Lots of good call-outs to the Adam West TV series and the previous live movies. And I expect I'll buy it, it'll be a good 'too sick to work' movie for watching when suffering from brain death and unable to sleep.

The Great Wall. Lots has gone on in the last few years with Caucasian actors appropriating Asian roles, but that's not really the case here. This is an original work with Caucasians in addition to Chinese casting. Yes, Matt Damon is a star, but he's not the only hero in this film and not remotely the best hero. The director, Zhang Yimou, denies the 'White Savior' trope, and I agree. The Washington Post critic says Damon is "heroic, but also clearly a foil for the superior principles and courage of his Chinese allies." It's a basic monster movie, but with some good twists. Lots of fun, I've seen it twice and will consider picking it up. It's not a giant monster movie, but the monsters are quite good. Amazing stunts and mass battle scenes. Right now it is one of four movies to make more than $100million in China while not making that much in the USA. While it made good money in Asia, it's considered a loss in the USA excluding the aftermarket of digital sales and broadcast.

Logan. Granted, I only saw eight movies in the first quarter of the year. This, hands-down, is perhaps the best of the bunch. For an X-Men movie, sort of, it's a fantastic story and does an excellent job of wrapping up Hugh Jackman's and Patrick Stewart's roles as Wolverine and Professor X. VERY gritty, VERY violent, it definitely earned its R rating. There's not much to say about the movie without giving too much away because it has a heck of a story. There's obviously a 'rescue seemingly innocent young child from bad guys' that's seen in the trailers, but it's so much more than that. If you're a fan of Jackman's and Stewart's X-Men movies, this is an absolute must-see. And as a bonus for me, it's initially set in El Paso, so a lot of the scenery was very familiar.

Beauty and the Beast (2017).
I was whelmed. It was a decent enough movie, and the visuals were stunning, but it just didn't grab me the way that I expected to be grabbed. As much as I love Emma Watson, she's not a singer: they autotuned some or all of her songs. The saving grace for me was the animation of the transformed household items and their voice-acting, but also Kevin Kline. You just can't go wrong with Kevin, and his song is truly touching. Plus, he can sing. After seeing him in Pirates of Penzance (the movie, sadly not the actual production), boy is he a great comic actor! Granted, his role in this movie doesn't have much in the way of comedy, but still, he excels. Still, I wanted more and the movie just didn't deliver, and I can't really put my finger on what didn't work for me.

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