Saturday, January 30, 2016

"The Shannara Chronicles" Review

On the DZA Scale, I put this between "Great Big TV Show of Cliches and Stereotypes" and "good, but if they turn it into a movie it'll suck," depending on the episode. There's even a couple "awesome" moments.


This is based off of The Shannara Series, which I've never read, so I can only judge the show purely by the show, none of that "Well, in the book..." But I've heard the books are pretty good, so I might pick them up sometime.

The show takes place in our world, a few thousand years or so after the destruction of human civilization. Humans are still around, but the world is ruled by elves and there's also trolls and gnomes and dwarves and, oh yeah, demons. Those guys are a problem.

The demons have been closed off in another world with a sacred tree as the lock and key. The tree's now dying, and every time a leaf falls, a demon gets released into the world. And they're not exactly thrilled about being locked up for the past thousand years without any cell service or HBO to fill the time.

I'm waiting to see if they ever try burning down the damn tree. Seriously, it's a tree.

The series centers around Wil, a half-elf wizard of sorts, Amberle (pronounced like Amber-lee), an elven princess, and Eretria, a human rover (thief). All three have been selected by the tree/destiny/fate to save the tree and lock all the demons back up. And these characters are great. Wil's a smart-ass (and an idiot), Eretria has trust issues, Amberle is proud but at the same time overwhelmed by their quest...my only problem with these guys is the stupid love triangle they've got going on. They either need to stop with the high school drama or someone's gotta die.

You've got some classic clichés: Wil has magic stones given to him by his mother via his wizard-y father on her deathbed (deathbed scene), quest that brings three unlikely characters together and forces them to work together, love triangle, girl with trust issues being told by her love interest to get over her trust issues...

One other problem: everyone on this show is Captain Obvious. The first time we meet the druid Allanon (the father figure/guide), he's waking up from a thirty-year sleep alone in a cave and says, "It has begun" to no one in particular. Just stupid stuff like that where the characters are just being obvious and dramatic.

Other than the obvious dramatics, the love triangle, and the slightly sub-par acting, this is a decent show. The people I thought were going to die in the first three episodes are still alive, the people I thought would still be alive are now dead (except for the core three, of course).

I do, however, have some predictions that I would bet $100 each will come true:

-Allanon's going to die
-Amberle's going to end up queen (which means her uncles have to die)
-Wil, Amberle, and Eretria are all going to survive
-the demons will lose, but not until after the "Darkest Moment" when it looks like all hope is lost and they're going to win

And one that I'm not so sure about (maybe worth $50):

-Wil's going to end up with Eretria

Because Amberle's a princess and will probably need a political match. Plus, Wil's the one who's always going on about trusting people and that's Eretria's biggest challenge. And they've already slept together.

I'll stick with this show unless it really starts to suck. And while I'm waiting for the next episode I'm going to start catching up on the new The X-Files. Because aliens!

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Thanks for reading! :)

Know a good movie, show or book? Any questions or concerns? Then PLEASE contact me.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Movie! "The Boy"

I put this one closer to the "monuments" end of the DZA review scale, somewhere between "awesome" and "fantastic."

You can stream The Boy here.



The Boy is about an American woman babysitting a porcelain doll in the UK. Easiest 5K you've ever earned, right? Just one teensy little catch: it's haunted. It's like Chucky, but good.

The doll/boy's name is Brahms. Twenty years ago he died in a house fire when he was eight. The doll showed up soon after and the parents have been caring for it ever since, growing all kinds of weird.

I saw this with my mom and her BFF Cat.* They're both in their mid-forties, they're moms, they're responsible adults, so when the nanny Greta starts breaking the rules like "put the doll to bed" and "feed the doll" and all the other stuff...

Mom & Cat: "Follow the rules, you dumb bitch! That's what they're paying you for."

Me (age 20): "Whoo-hoo! Par-ty! If I were in that mansion I'd grab all my sorority sisters, order pizza, and--wait, what's with the creepy kid laugh and footsteps...? Crap, it's haunted."

So, yeah, the characters are pretty darn realistic, since Greta's closer to twenty than forty. :)

What I really liked about this movie was not just the fact that there was a minimum of stupid horror movie mistakes and clichés, but it was about domestic violence. Greta left an abusive relationship in the US and ran right into another with Brahms, the doll. So while she makes some dumb decisions (doesn't go for the cops or leave the house when she should), there's a real reason for it. Pulling teeth is easier and less painful than trying to get DV victims to leave their abusers.

Anyway, it was a great movie, and actually scary. I wouldn't put it on my top 5, but probably top 15.

And now for my favorite part...

I knew I should've taken the job at McDonald's.

Spoilers!


Greta lands her job at Crazy Estates, and the parents leave for a month-long vacation. Immediately she starts breaking the rules of how to care for the boy/doll, because it's a doll and it doesn't look like there are any nanny cams anywhere.

It's looking like a pretty typical horror movie: Creepy stuff happens. There's the romantic interest with the grocery boy, Malcolm. There's zero cell service at the estate and no nearby neighbors. Kid's laughter and crying and footsteps are seeping through the walls and footsteps. And things get progressively worse when Greta continues to ignore the rules...

And then the doll starts moving. Greta comes into the bedroom and it's sitting up next to the list of rules, calls her on the phone, makes her a sandwich, totally freaks her out...that puts her in line (re: domestic abuse, pattern of abuse). Malcolm thinks she's crazy until she puts the doll in a room, outlines it in chalk, leaves, comes back and it's moved to the radiator. So, definitely not crazy, doll's definitely possessed.

Malcolm decides this is the moment to tell Greta that Brahms was a creepy little punk who probably killed the neighborhood girl before setting the house on fire, and that they should get out of here. Greta refuses to leave.

Then Greta's ex shows up, having gotten her new address from her 10-year-old nephew. The conversation goes something like this:

"Sorry I beat you and made your life so miserable that you ran to the other side of the planet. I promise I'll be better. We leave tomorrow morning."

And Greta thinks, "Hey, this haunted doll scared the shit out of me. Maybe it'll do the same for my ex and chase him away."

Brahms apparently agrees, because Greta wakes up in the middle of the night when the doll has moved to the other room and written Get out in rat's blood over the ex's head.

Malcolm comes in when the couple's arguing (he stayed outside in his car when Greta insisted on not calling the cops because he's smart) and tries to mediate, but the ex takes the Brahms doll and smashes it. Destroys it completely.

And the house starts shaking and the lights flicker and Malcolm and Greta and the audience are like, "Oh, shit, we've just released the spirit."

Yeah...there is no spirit.

Brahms is alive and has been hiding out in the walls for 20 years.

Yeah.

He comes out, wearing this creepy porcelain doll mask, kills the ex and attacks Malcolm. Malcolm gets knocked out, Greta escapes...and comes back, because she knows Malcolm will be dead by the time the cops arrive (remember: no cell service, and Brahms cut the phone lines).

So she comes back, grabs a screwdriver, hides it in her pants, and puts Brahms to bed.

And it looks like she'll be able to do this without bloodshed, because Brahms is crazy and just wants to be an eight-year-old boy cared for by a pretty nanny. Therefore, Plan A is to put him in bed, grab Malcolm, and get out, letting the cops handle it.

Unfortunately, Brahms also has a weird sexual fascination with Greta (hanging out in the walls is not a good way to get the girls, so he's a horny virgin with a homemade sex doll of Greta in his room), so he pushes for sex, and Greta stabs him with the screwdriver. She grabs Malcolm and leaves.

The end!


You can stream The Boy here.

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*I changed the name of Mom's BFF because of creepy Internet people.

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Thanks for reading! :)

If you know a good movie, show, or book, or have any questions or concerns, please contact me.

Friday, January 22, 2016

"Bone Gap" Book Review

I'm taking a January class (i.e. J-term) called "Writing for Young Adults," and we're reading a YA novel a week.

Best. Class. Ever.


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On a scale of "burn it in a Nazi-style book burning along with Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey" to "erect monuments in its honor as we encase it in glass in the Museum of Congress," I put it at "weird as fuck, not quite a must-read, but very good."

Get it here on Amazon.


This one was weird. I mean really weird. But I think that about every magical realism book I read, because magical realism is weird. That's not Laura Ruby, that's just me.

But it's also a very good book, even with the whole damsel-in-distress plotline.

The main character, Finn, saw the town's favorite person, Roza, get kidnapped, but nobody believes him (mostly because he can't recall the man's face, also because she supposedly went willingly). So Finn's ostracized from the town, while Roza's dealing with her kidnapper, who's transporting her to completely different worlds and doing other weird magic stuff. There's also a magic horse, whispering corn, and bees.

Roza's a bit stereotypical. She's a Polish girl with choppy English who grew up in a tiny town with no name, where she dated all the guys, none of whom appreciated her or treated her with respect, because she's sooooooooooo beautiful. That's also the reason she got kidnapped: her looks. All the men in her life, even the security guard at the airport, only want her for her looks, and most of the women in her life hate her for the same reason. Until she comes to the town of Bone Gap and meets Finn and his older brother Sean (the latter of which falls in love with Rosa; Finn dates the beekeeper and sees Roza as more of a sister).

And the bad guy's creepy. Really friggin' creepy. Expect nothing less from a guy named Scare Crow.


Spoilers!


Finn and his older EMT brother Sean live alone in their house because their dad's dead and their mom ran off with an orthodontist who doesn't want kids, and they argue because Finn's the only person in town who actually believes Roza was kidnapped, and Sean thinks she just left (specifically left him, because they had a thing going).

But then we see Roza in this weird suburban house that's locked down tighter than a vault. Every day her kidnapper stops by to give her food and asks "Do you love me yet?" At least he's not hurting her, just driving her insane. She tries to escape, but when she gets out she's hunted down by a wolf-dog-beast, blacks out, and wakes up in a castle. She's the queen and her kidnapper's the king, and keeps asking her, "Do you love me yet?"

Finn's still hated in the town, but he gets a horse. It just shows up in his barn one day. He rides it to the teen beekeeper's house, Priscilla (a.k.a. Petey), who, like Roza, has some rotten experiences with men (hmm, I'm sensing a theme here). Mostly her problem is she has a gorgeous body, but an ugly face. Finn doesn't mind, and they start dating.

Weird stuff happens.
Weird stuff happens.
Finn and Petey ride the horse and it literally takes them to a different world before riding back (right around here is where I'm wondering what kind of drugs Laura Ruby's been taking).
More weird stuff happens.
We learn that Roza's kidnapper is her weird biology teacher.
Weird stuff happens...

And then Petey figures out why Finn can't remember the kidnapper's face, or really anyone's. He has prosopagnosia: he's face blind (which is a real thing). If you're face blind, you don't recognize people by their faces. You can't even describe the face of your wife of fifty years, or your kids, or your siblings. They're recognized by their bodies, their hair, clothes, the way they move, voices, etc.

Meanwhile, Roza's been taken to an exact replica of her home village, and learns that her kidnapper/bio teacher is the lord of the dead. Yeah. Friggin' Hades. So when she snaps and threatens to kill herself, that doesn't exactly work on him.

Finn also gets a lead from a long-time Bone Gap resident and, thanks to the horse, figures out how to slip into the other world (which is the land of the dead) to rescue Roza. Scare Crow/Hades/bio teacher stops them from leaving, because he still wants pretty Roza. So Roza takes a piece of a broken mirror and cuts up her face like the Joker. Scare Crow lets them go.

By the time they get back to Bone Gap, Petey's told everyone (including the cops who completely dismissed Finn's story because he couldn't describe the kidnapper to their liking) about his face blindness, welcome back Roza, apologize to Finn, and no more weird shit happens.

The end!

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I want suggestions! Any good books/movies/TV shows/whatever!
Get Bone Gap on Amazon for cheap here.

Thanks for reading! :)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

American Horror Story: Hotel

Sorry this wasn't posted on Friday per usual. I get my TV shows 24 hours after they air (so in the case of AHS, Thursday), and I needed some time to absorb this.

SPOILERS ABOUND! :)



American Horror Story is either really good or really bad by season, as each season has a whole new set of characters (but same actors) and a completely different theme and story (even though they all take place in the same world, which is cool). So for me, Season 1 (Haunted House) was good, Season 2 (Asylum) was okay, Season 3 (Coven) was spectacular and may still be my favorite, Season 4 (Freak Show) sucked balls, and Season 5 (Hotel) was amazing.

Season 6 is gonna suuuuuuck.

Anyway, Hotel is a hodgepodge of storylines and creatures. Gaga plays a vampire known as The Countess, we have ghosts like Haunted House, several serial killers, a weird rapist demon, and Queenie from Coven makes a brief appearance.

She's either going to kill you or start an awesome song, I don't know which.


Here's the thing with this season's AHS: it's all about love. Specifically "true love," or finding "The One," which simultaneously makes all the characters act like teenagers but also wrenches your heart out. And it doesn't necessarily mean romantic love. Iris's true love is her son, Donovon, whose love is the Countess, whose love is a 1920s actor named Valentino who died in 1930 (except in AHS he faked his death, was turned into a vampire, turned Gaga, was shut away with his other lover in the hotel for a hundred years, busted out, and was shot in the head and face multiple times by Donovan in a jealous rage).

My biggest problem with this season is a bunch of kids end up getting turned into vampires led by a sociopathic 9-year-old (long story) and they're shut into a tomb and killed by an adult vampire, who never gets punished for it. (The sociopathic leader probably deserved to die, but not all of them.) (And it's the same bitch who kills Queenie!)

There's also a rape scene or two (or rather, a rape, a dub-con, and a double-murder during sex). But those perpetrators get punished (not specifically for the rape(s), and being dead doesn't necessarily mean the end for them, but still).

However, it's intriguing, mysterious, rarely predictable (did anyone else see John being the Ten Commandments Killer?) and most of the good guys end up with a happy ending. Which is important, because it sends the message that no matter how f***ed up your life gets, so long as you have a purpose and you keep going, you'll be okay.

My favorite character is Liz Taylor, a MTF transgender concierge who's a BAMF, a lovable bitch, and who ends up ruling the hotel at the end, pulling all the ghosts together into one big family (which she joins when she finds out she has pancreatic cancer and decides to die in the hotel so she can haunt it with all of her friends).

She also has all the best outfits. Yes, even better than Gaga's.

To hell with vampires, ghosts, demons, and witches. Just give me Liz Taylor. :)

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Thanks for reading!

Know any good TV shows, books, or movies?
Questions or concerns?
Then please contact me!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Stop Telling George R. R. Martin How to Do His F***ing Job

Warning: some spoilers for the Song of Ice and Fire books and Game of Thrones series.

I'm an author, but I'm not published. You know why? Because writing and getting published is f***ing difficult. It doesn't run on a 9-5 time clock, you can't just go through the motions and expect to succeed, and even if you do get published chances are you have to get a "real" job because if you're not in the top 1% of writers (i.e. Stephen King, Nora Roberts, etc), the money you make is shit.

So forgive me if I get pissed when people who haven't written anything longer than a bitchy USA Today article try to dictate a career writer like George R. R. Martin on how to do his job.

Look, I get it. I'm an avid Game of Thrones fan. I've read every book and seen every episode at least once. It's killing me as bad as it's killing the rest of you how long it's taking for The Winds of Winter to come out.

That said, here are 5 reasons why you all need to get a grip, be patient, and stop telling George R. R. Martin how to do his f***ing job.





1. You Have the TV Show


And even better, it's a good TV show. Yes, it's diverging a bit from the books these days, but who cares? It's the same world, it's the same characters, and no changes are made without George R. R. Martin's approval. Most books-to-movies or books-to-TV-shows suck. Be grateful this one doesn't.

Season 6 comes out in April. Spend the next few months rereading the books if you really want something to read or the prequel novellas or going to Comicon dressed as Daenarys.




2. Perfection Doesn't Happen Overnight


Game of Thrones came out in 1996, back when I was still crapping my diapers.

A Clash of Kings came out in 1998.

A Storm of Swords came out in 2000.

A Feast for Crows was 2005.

A Dance with Dragons was 2011.

Yes, those last two took at least five years to come out. He's gotten a bit busier since starting this thing twenty years ago. He didn't even get on the New York Times' Bestseller List until 2005, and being a bestseller means doing a bunch of other stuff that doesn't necessarily include writing. There's marketing, publicity, making sure HBO doesn't mess up his show, dealing with bloodsucking publishers, all of it.

If you want a good Winds of Winter, you have to be patient. If you want crap, then yeah, ask him to spit something out in a week.




3. There's, Like, 8 Different Plots and They're All Important


We have Bran Stark finally getting interesting.

Shit on the Wall's just got real.

We get to find out what's happened to Uncle Brandon Stark.

Samwell Tarly's met some evil name-stealing wizard dude right when he's trying to learn to be a maester.

Cersei's got her revenge to plan and a trial to go through.

There's a mess down in Dorne as the war spreads south with the Sand Snakes and Myrcella.

Arya's in assassin school.

The baby Aemon Targaryen apparently survived and is going after the Iron Throne (and did anyone else freak out when Tyrion put that one together?)

Daenarys is stranded and now surrounded by a bunch of dothraki who don't like her nearly as much as Drogo did.

Tyrion's stuck in Essos.

Sansa's trying to navigate through everyone who wants to use her and marry her off to so-and-so to get Winterfell.

We haven't seen Rickon Stark in ages and now we need to figure out what's up with him.

Stannis Baratheon's getting his ass handed to him.

Reek has just rediscovered himself as Theon Greyjoy. Oh, speaking of which, there's the Greyjoys.

Not to mention all of the prophecies we're getting and which one is real, which one is false?


GRRM could turn any one of these plotlines into a separate book. That's part of what makes this series so fascinating: the sheer amount of stuff that's happening. It guarantees that somehow you'll stay interested. For example: I'm bored to death with Brandon Stark and occasionally with Arya, too. But Tyrion never fails to capture my full attention and I love Dany. One of my friends hates Dany but loves Sansa (I don't know why; she only just recently became interesting). My mom usually tunes out the Wall but knows all the ins and outs of King's Landing.

So don't think of it as "GRRM's writing one book and should be done by now." It's more like "GRRM's writing eight different books between two covers, obviously it's going to take a while."




4. He's Creating a Whole F***ing World.


And contrary to popular belief, GRRM is not God. He can't do that in 7 days.

There's the sheer geography of it: the Wall, King's Landing, the Seven Kingdoms, Dorne, the dothraki, Meereen, Slavers' Bay, and everywhere in between. Each place needs an established culture, social structure, and political system. That means food, scandal, songs, trade...how do men and women relate to each other in each place? How are the children raised? What about the religion? How are the poor treated? How is each place affected by the war in Westeros? How does each place affect the war in Westeros? How does the pacing of The Winds of Winter affect the next book we're all going to be begging for in a couple years?

And this is just setting. What about the plotlines and the characters? How do they fit in?

You expect GRRM to have all of these answers for you on your schedule? Seriously?




5. He Feels Guilty Enough About It; Don't Make It Worse.


Just read his apology on Entertainment Weekly.

Now, I'm not saying the man doesn't owe us an apology. Robb Stark, little Shireen, Jon Snow, THEY'RE ALL DEAD, YOU BASTARD! That's what the apology should be about. Not, "Sorry, creating these very long, very complicated books that maybe 1% of the global population is skilled enough to write is taking a little longer than I thought."


In the wise words of Neil Gaimon, "George R. R. Martin is not your bitch."

Friday, January 1, 2016

Demonology Files: The Rich Guy and the Angel of Death

"The Miser and the Angel of Death"
3rd installment of the Demonology Files

(Note: a miser is a really rich guy; think Trump)

A man had spent his whole life accumulating money. He had to work doubly hard because he did it all legally with a minimum of scandal ('cause government fines are expensive). In other words, he was all work work work, money money money, all the time. He didn't marry, he didn't have kids, and even though he was rich he didn't get laid because he spent all of his nights doing paperwork.

One day, our miser finally decided he was rich enough. He was going to take a year off and then play it be ear. Maybe take a tour of Europe or go to Japan and eat sushi.

But then there was a knock on the door. The miser answered it (apparently he was so cheap he didn't even hire a butler), and it was an angel on a Blackberry.

"Hi, I'm Azrael, Angel of Death," they said, not looking up. "I'm here to take you to the afterlife."

"What?" the miser squawked. "But I still have stuff to do!"

"Hey, in five minutes I gotta pick up a drunk twenty-year-old who decided to drive home. Don't you start with all your unfinished deeds."

"Give me three more days and I'll give you a third of my money," the miser said (which was enough to buy a pair of jumbo jets and a lake house).

Azrael rolled their eyes. "Oh, yeah, let me take a bribe and disobey orders from God. Sounds like a plan!"

"Two days! Two days, and I'll give you half of my riches!"

"Still not worth eternal torment in Hell."

"One more day, and I'll give you all that I own."

"Nope."

The miser sighed. "Give me five minutes? I just want to write a note."

Azrael still didn't look up from their Blackberry. "You mean a text?"

"No, a note. Similar to a letter?"

"Whatever. Five minutes."

The miser quickly wrote his note, before Azrael took his soul.

"Humanity, make use of your life. I could not buy one hour for all the money I own. Make sure that you realize the value of your time."

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Death and the Miser


This is an Islamic story that inspired the above painting by Hieronymus Bosch, a late 15th Century painter who wanted to show the dangers of turning away from Christ and Christianity to earthly desires. (See the guy on his death bed? He's reaching for a bag of gold given to him by a demon instead of the cross the angel's trying to point him to.)

Anyway, I like the story because it's a universal message: death doesn't take bribes.

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Thanks for reading! :)

Questions? Comments? Concerns?
Then please contact me!