Monday, November 20, 2017

Trailer Reaction: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite books growing up. I've probably read it half a dozen times, and listened to it more than that. So when I heard they were doing a big-budget movie, I admit I got excited. 

But we've had two trailers so far and, personally, I'm having some issues with them.


#1: The tagline of the film is apparently "Be A Warrior." Ummmm, no. Warrior things are not mentioned in the book. Like, ever. And considering how they actually take down the villain in the end? So I'm concerned about whatever they've reworked in this story to make it jive with their chosen tagline. Because that's not working with the story I remember.
 
#2: Meg seems too confident and comfortable; there's a work around, because most of these clips of her being confident are either at home, on her turf, so allowances might be made for that. Except she's also being shown as incredibly smart while being confident and comfortable which, in the book, was not the case. She considered herself the 'dumb one' of the family AND the odd one out, which gave her severe self-confidence issues.
 
#3: Meg is being shown as pretty smart and Charles Wallace barely gets his face on screen, let alone a word in edgewise. But I guess I should be happy he even made it into this trailer? (He wasn't in the last one.) And Meg's entire world, at this point, basically revolves around Charles Wallace.
 
#4: I'm nervous about the casting of the three Mrs. Ws. None of the actresses are what I ever imagined these three ladies to be like. If you've read the book, you know what I'm talking about; if you've listened to the audiobook narrated by Madeleine L'Engle herself, then you REALLY know what I'm talking about. Casting choices aside, I'm not too thrilled about the way they've been depicted -from imagery to costumes- either. This 'visionary' directer is definitely putting her own visionary spin on it and I'm not sure I'm going to like it at all.
 
#5: Where is Charles Wallace, exactly? I mean, this kid basically gets the whole story rolling. He's the one who first meets the Mrs. Ws, who he then introduces to Meg; he's the one who latches onto Calvin like he's necessary and Calvin then becomes necessary; Charles Wallace is the only reason Meg really gets involved in anything and I very much dislike he's being short-changed. Of the two trailers so far, he has only been seen in the second one -seen, because he is literally hanging out in the background of every scene he's in. That they haven't given any mention to him or to one of the most interesting sibling relationships I've seen in fiction makes me nervous.
 
#6: Action sequences. Where was that in the book again? Don't get me wrong, I'll give movie adaptations leeway for stories; they are ADAPTATIONS, after all. But action sequences do not a good story make and this is a lesson I don't think Hollywood understands.
 
#7: Mr. Jenkins, the school principal. I assume this is who admonishes Meg about using her father's disappearance as an excuse to act out. In the book, he's depicted as kind of a surly old man, out to get Meg, who no one likes, and the casting choice for him doesn't quite live up that image. Why is this important, you ask? Since he's hardly in the book at all? Because I think ahead and Mr. Jenkins plays a huge role in the sequel, A Wind in the Door. That's why.
 
#8: The giant flying lettuce leaf with a head better not be their version of Mrs. Whatsit's centaur-like form. IT BETTER NOT BE.
 
So from the most story-stretching to the very far-sighted, those are my big concerns so far. At the very least, the trailers give me a need to re-read the book, as there's a definite feel of wrongness I need to identify going on here.

What are your thoughts on the trailers for A Wrinkle in Time?

Monday, November 13, 2017

It's NaNo Time!

NaNoWriMo snuck up on me this year. I knew it was coming but I just kept pushing it off.

Like many things for the past several months, writing got pushed onto a back burner. At the time, I thought it was a good thing, to give myself a break and some breathing room to cope with life. Since September, my brain has finally started percolating on the story again, trying to work around plot holes and dead ends, but I never could make myself sit down and work on it.

Then suddenly it was November 6th and I hadn't so much as opened my WIP, let alone written a single word, and that familiar overwhelming frustration of failure set in and told me that now there wasn't even a point in starting, because there was no way I could catch up.

But on November 7th I told that thought to shove off and wrote 4497 words. Just to prove it wrong. Since then, I haven't written consistently, but I've made good progress, considering.

The primary reason I didn't knuckle under to that bout of doubt is because I know what I'm capable of. And thanks to NaNo's updated stats through the years, I have recorded proof of it, too.
If I once wrote over 10,000 words in a single day and over 180,000 words in a single month, I can make up for the six measly days of November.

And I feel alive again. Working on my story, writing -it makes me feel like me again. Many writers have said variations of this but I suddenly know what it really truly means to say I write to live.

It also helps that I'M ON FIRE WITH IDEAS. The history of this WIP Glass & Cinders is long and convoluted. Many years ago, it started out as a short story, which most of my friends and family told me was perhaps the best thing I'd ever written but that it need to be longer. I totally agreed with them. Even while writing the short story -for a prompt contest with a 2k word limit- I knew it needed to be a longer piece eventually. My first attempt, during NaNo 2012, was an absolute disaster. Because of the short story, I knew what I wanted to write, so for the first time ever I made an outline for my story. A scene-by-scene outlining detailing all events of the novel. And it was the most boring piece of drivel I'd ever written. I only managed to write 50k out of sheer willpower and as soon as December hit I shoved it to the side in disgust.

Why did I bother with the 50k on a terrible project? Well, firstly, I couldn't not write 50k; I couldn't fail NaNo! I've never done that (and I don't ever plan to). But mostly because I kept going back to that outline and thinking how good it sounded. It simply wasn't translating. I eventually boiled it down to the fact that there wasn't enough conflict and plot in the outline to carry an entire novel or even a novella. And I really, really wanted to write a novel.

Over the years I've re-outlined, overhauled, and completely revised this WIP maybe seven times. I've discarded characters, changed entire timelines, and written hundreds of thousands of words on plot aspects I wound up throwing out a month and a half later. Each time I've done one of these major overhauls, a new piece would fit perfectly into place -and knock half a dozen out of whack. Suffice to say, this has been my most infuriating and temperamental project to date.

My biggest problem, I think, has been my obsession of outlining this story. I've always been more of a pantser, but so many aspects of this story demanded an outline, so I've obliged. This November, however, I kind of tossed it out. I've kept a structure from the outline, but for the first time in years, I'm concerning myself more writing the story, getting those words down, letting the story and characters guide me, than trying to force them into my outline.

And, I have to tell you, it's liberating. The characters which have proven so incredibly uncooperative are suddenly showing me different aspects and angles of themselves. Plot pieces are falling together, development arcs are blossoming before my eyes, and a character that I tossed out of the project back in 2012 tapped me on the shoulder yesterday and said, "Pardon me, but this is where I belong and this is the role I play." AND IT FREAKING WORKS.

I haven't felt this in-tune with a story in a very, very long time and it is wonderful.

It's not my most-impressive word count. I think it is probably the worst I have ever done during a NaNo ever. But that doesn't bother. I'm writing again and I'm loving it for the first time in forever. That's what matters.

I've also been digging up some really good resource materials, namely:

The Celtic Myth Podshow (there are a TON of podcasts on Celtic mythology, folklore, and history, but so far this is my favorite)
Why Didn't Cinderella "Just Leave?" -This blog post from Pages Unbound talks about the reasons why Cinderella endures the abuse of her step-family and whether it's justified story-wise. Or, more accurately, whether the fact that she doesn't "just leave" is justified story-wise. If you're like me, maybe you never actually thought about the abuse angle, but yeah, poor Cinderella isn't just misused by her step-family -she is abused. This is great food for thought as I'm working on my own Cinderella retelling.

My blog posts might be a little sparse this month because of NaNo and all its ensuing chaos, but I do have several ARCs to read this month as well, so look forward to some of these reviews through December:
I, uh, maybe forgot how crazy this time of year is and maybe forgot just how many titles I have to read. BUT THEY ALL LOOKED SO GOOD!!!

How's your NaNoNovel going?
If you're not a WriMo, how are you keeping busy this November?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Is the Possible LOTR TV Show a Good Thing?

On Friday, Varitey.com dropped an exclusive that Tolkien's estate and Warner Bros. Television are in talks with Amazon Studios about a Lord of the Rings television adaptation (with a whopping price tag reportedly in the range of $200-250 million, according to Deadline).

There's certainly a lot of detail -and even entire characters- left out of the movies that a television adaptation could delve into. Nerdist points to Tom Bombadil (a character featured in over 30 pages of The Fellowship of the Ring and left entirely out of the films), but my personal thoughts turn to Faramir. He got the butt-end of the stick script-wise when they decided to strip out his nobility and common sense for the bulk of The Two Towers to use him as a convenient story device, but they also cut out so much of the beautiful romance that blossoms between him and Eowyn while they recover from their wounds.


That being said, I'm not particularly thrilled by the idea of a Lord of the Rings TV show.

Despite some flaws, the movies proved fantastic adaptations. Some of the best book-to-film adaptations to date, in fact. While there were some things they left out from the novels, it wasn't enough to make a reboot necessary, even if they do sink enough money into it to make it a reasonable contender for the films. Reboots of all kinds are currently invading the box office, small screens, and streaming services. Some of them are really good and many of them are unnecessary. (I ask you, do we NEED live-action remakes of every Disney film ever?)

If one wants to do a television adaptation of a series, I'd like to see them tackle something whose film series didn't actually cover it very well. There's some that would fall into the genre-focused push Amazon Studios and CEO Jeff Bezos seem to be looking for, an example being Harry Potter. Granted I've only seen most of these films once (and I haven't watched either of the Deathly Hollows yet), but they leave out rather a lot to be desired, in my opinion. There are also plenty of book series thus far untapped by Hollywood that could be fantastic as a TV series. To name a few, Elemental Masters by Mercedes Lackey, which retells fairy tales in a magical alternate of the early 1900s; Pendragon by D.J. MacHale, about a boy who travels to different worlds to stop the villain from corrupting them into chaos; Joanne Harris' Rune books, which retell and carry on Norse mythology.

If you're going to do something big, why not do something different?

Now, if they were to decide not to do a Lord of the Rings adaption, but instead made a TV series out of the unexplored stories and histories from Middle-earth, like material from The Silmarillion, The Lost Tales, and Beren and Luthien -that I would be interested in.

What do you think about a possible Lord of the Rings TV show?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Review | Spoiler Free


I can sum up what I love so much about this film in two words:

CHARACTER INTERACTION

The character dynamic in this is spot on and, more importantly, it works overtime in oh so subtle ways to develop and deepen the characters we know and love, hate, or simply tolerate.

Take Hulk, for example. I've never been a big fan of The Incredible Hulk comics and -while the MCU has taught me to love adorkable, haunted Bruce Banner- I'm still iffy on the Hulk himself. When I first found out that Hulk would be playing such a big role in this film, I wasn't thrilled. But you know what? IT TOTALLY WORKS. They really focus on Hulk as a separate character and develop his personality enough that, well, now I actually like the Hulk. For maybe the first time ever. Guys, that's huge. (ahem. no pun intended.)

I was actually skeptical about a lot of the characters chosen for this film (mostly Hulk) but what could have been a disastrous chemical imbalance of personalities works out as a fantastic meshing of opposites and opposition. Because it's not just about the 'team' (Thor, Hulk, Loki, Valkyrie) dynamic that works together as a whole. They've delved deeper into the characters, taking more of an Avengers-style approach, giving each character unique dynamics and relationships with each other that paints the Thor franchise as a whole, I think, in a fresh coat of paint. Within the relationships there is so much foreshadowing and inversion dynamics in play as well, the qualities of one reflected in the flaws of another and vice versa. There is so much mirroring, so many layers, it's a wonderland for a character-lover like me.

So let's pull up those 5 THINGS I'M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO from my initial Road to Ragnarok post and compare.

1. Loki
Loki has worn a lot of hats throughout his existence in the Marvel universes and I love the turn they take with him here. Scaling back from his epic Supervillain role, down to his more realistic amoral core, going back to the character's roots in Norse mythology (in more ways than one), all of it deepening and -dare we hope?- developing his character.

Minor Spoiler: Thor: Ragnarok doesn't deliver any dramatic redemption arcs or character development for Loki, like it 'kind of did' in The Dark World -and it's perfect.

2. Thor and Loki's Relationship and Dynamic
Oh. My. Gosh.
Yes.
Just yes.
Everything about this is spectacular. 

Asgardians, we know, are prone to overreaction and theatricality. I mean, Odin banishing Thor and stripping him of his power to teach him a lesson, Thor and his ilk breaking Loki out of prison and committing treason to save the universe -the first two Thor films are filled with these big dramatic flourishes and reveals. Thor: Ragnarok handles these scenarios differently. The big moments and reveals -like when Loki is ousted and the truth about Odin- aren't the point of the story, they aren't The Plot; instead, they're character moments and they were treated as such. They have a more intimate, down-to-earth feel. They're simple. Simple but so powerful. There's no shouting or grand speeches -just being. Thor being Thor. Loki being Loki. And a little squabbling. I mean, come on, they're still brothers.

Overall, this simplistic approach makes those moments more important and to have more of an impact, because the film takes time to focus on character (unlike my complaint with Thor.)

Thor especially demonstrates growth and -in one of my favorite moments- he POINTS IT OUT TO LOKI, telling him that people are supposed to develop and grow. Thor tries to guide Loki, but he doesn't get preachy about it, which makes him feel so much more human and, possibly, more able to relate to Loki, especially this new angle of him we see.

One of my absolute favorite things is Thor's habit of throwing things at/through Loki to determine whether or not he's flesh or illusion. How realistic is that?!?

I FREAKING ADORE THESE TWO.

3. Hela
Again, OH MY GOSH.
I did not expect the twist they took with this character, but it fits so well. Again(!) offering up more layers and more dynamics between the familiar characters that continues to deepen the characters and their relationships, not only in this film, but in the films that have come before.

Cate Blanchet is amazing in this role, but we already knew that was going to happen.

4. Story
EVERYTHING!

You know me, I get distracted by all things character. But the story here is awesome, not just for the next step in the MCU, but also for it's use and adaption of elements from both the comics and Norse mythology.

5. Kirby Krackle
To my utter shame, I did not actually notice the use of this artistic element. This time around. Distracted by character, remember? I got so caught up I did not distinguish any uses of the Kirby Krackle, but I totally plan to keep an eye out for it during my next viewing.


THOR: RAGNAROK HAD A LOT OF QUESTIONS TO DEAL WITH AND I LOVE THE WAY IT DECIDED TO ANSWER THEM. At the same time, it carries on the family theme seen in the other Thor franchise films and it continues to develop and mature Thor's journey to become and understanding of a true hero. The whole narrative has a nice but different feel to it, like Thor has finally figured out his own identity and his own voice, instead of trying to follow in his father's shadow or live up to expectations.

This a serious contender for my favorite Marvel movie of all. And I haven't even talked about Banner meltdowns and what an awesome character Valkyrie turned out to be! (Who, by the way, is not just your run-of-the-mill, kick-ass, I-can-do-anything-a-man-can-do female character overrun with testosterone. She is actually awesome, due to backstory and character.) 

This movie freaking rules.

The one thing I am not sure about is some of the humor they chose to use, like the slapstick comedy and a lot of Thor screaming/yelling/yelping. This kind of humor was funny first viewing, but has a notorious rep for getting tiring quickly there after. It really depends on how the humor holds up over time to determine whether this was a 4 star or 5 star film for me.

The question isn't "Should I see this film?" but "When?"

Have you seen Thor: Ragnarok yet?
What did YOU think?

The Road to Ragnarok
Don't miss a post!

Rewatching Thor


I forgot how much blasted fun this movie is! I don't think I've watched it since it first came out on dvd, but it's a good one. The only thing I wished for while watching this anew was a better angle at the complications of Loki.

Given his further development in Avengers, but especially The Dark World, we get a better grasp of what drives Loki, which I don't think is touched on well in the first film. There, Loki is depicted as a slick trickster, but also a wolf in sheep's clothing. You get the feeling he was always destined to turn villain even before he discovers his Jotun lineage -since he had already set in motion the disruption of Thor's coronation and the scheme to trick Thor into going to Jotunheim against Odin's orders. As the viewer, I didn't feel like Loki could ever have been trusted or relied on at any point. By the time he turns full-blown villain, it comes as no surprise (admittedly, weren't trying to surprise you with it).

But after the final confrontation of the film, when Odin has stepped in to save both of his warring sons, Loki says [in reference to destroying Jotunheim] "I could have done it. I could have done it for us."

Was he trying to take over Asgard or was it all a misguided attempt to prove himself to Odin? If the latter, why tell Thor -the brother he insists he loves- that their father had died? GAH!!! Loki's a hot mess here, but not in a good way. All I knew was that something was missing in Loki's development here.

THEN I FOUND THE DELETED SCENE.

You know when you watch a deleted scene and shout at the TV "THAT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE! WHY DIDN'T YOU KEEP THAT SCENE IN? IT'S WHAT MAKES THE STORY WORK!"

This is one of those movies. There is one, apparently insignificant scene, of Loki and Thor preparing to enter Thor's coronation ceremony. It exhibits the exact, beloved brotherly behavior that I devoured in The Dark World. They tease each other, insult each other, and inspire each other; they're freaking adorable and brotherly. It introduces them both in a friendly, grounded light, while simultaneously hinting at Loki's vindictive nature and Thor's arrogance and pride.

Maybe it wasn't a perfect introductory scene, but served up foundation to the entire relationship and conflict between Thor and Loki. More than that? It would have made me more sympathetic of Loki, more heartbroken by his later betrayal. This introduces Loki not as the Trickster-soon-to-be-Supervillain, but as the mischievously lovable brother of Thor, and that would have had a significant emotional impact in the film.

According to the commentary on the deleted scene, director Kenneth Branagh cut it because it was too slow of a moment and he wanted to jump into the punchier action of the scene, Thor entering the ceremony to raucous applause, It does get the story started with a bang, but I can't help but feel this is another case of character being sacrificed for Hollywood's all-mighty action!

It's also possible I'm being a mite overcritical, given that Kenneth Branagh is about to direct the adaptation for Artemis Fowl, one of my most beloved books, and he darn well better DO IT RIGHT.

I also caught another Easter egg this time around! Since I've been reading through some of The Mighty Thor comics I was reminded that -originally- when Odin sent Thor to Midgard, he put Thor into guise of a mortal man called Dr. Donald Blake -the name of Jane Foster's ex in the movie version, an alias she and her friends tack on to the god of thunder since they don't know what his real name is.

Avengers and Thor: The Dark World
Rewatching these I had less revelations, I guess because I've seen them more recently/frequently.

In both I noticed for the first time the brief appearance of Odin's two ravens. Neither is given a role nor are their names mentioned, but it's a nice inclusion for fans. Just a little 'Here you go. We didn't forget them.'

And viewing Avengers once more I remembered Loki's most heinous act of all. I can only blame Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the resurrection of my beloved Coulson for making me forget how much I hated Loki after that cold-blooded murder. If not for the television show, would I be so infatuated with Loki's potential redemption? If not for the so typically comic book move of bringing Coulson back from the dead, would I believe Loki even deserving of a redemption?

Which leads then to the inevitable question -how can Thor believe Loki deserving of redemption after murdering Coulson? They were friends; Thor obviously mourned Coulson's death.

And even if Thor is capable of accepting that, I'm pretty sure the rest of the Avengers are going to have a major problem with that come Infinity War.

Oh, I'll definitely need popcorn for that.


The Road to Ragnarok ends tomorrow with my Thor: Ragnarok Reaction.

The Road to Ragnarok
Don't miss a post!
Rewatching Thor

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

REVIEW: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

The Road to Ragnarok continues...




4.5/5 stars
PG-13: for sexual references, some language, violence
Recommend to fans of Norse mythology, villains, antiheroes, and/or Loki
Note: This is an original novel and in no way associated with the character in Marvel comics or movies.





Loki, that’s me.
Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.
So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.
Now it’s my turn to take the stage.
With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.
From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.
(via Goodreads)
 

"Now it's his turn."

This simple catchphrase did the trick. It both intrigued me and made me wary. The biggest failings -and most common versions- of villain origin or perspective stories is that the villains are made out to be 'misunderstood heroes' only by changing the other characters and events of the story so drastically as to make the original version incompatible. I really, really hate that. If you're going to do a villain story, have the decency and skill to make the villain interesting or sympathetic without changing the details of the original, okay?! (I'm looking at you, Fairest of All and Maleficent; looking at you.) And if someone decides to tackle Loki's story -well, that could be really good or really, really bad. Either way, that catchphrase made sure I couldn't rest until I knew which it was.

I don't know if I've maybe mentioned this before, but I'm a little (a lot) obsessed with Loki. As of Thor: The Dark World and Loki: Agent of Asgard I've become obsessed specifically with his potential redemption arc story lines.

The Gospel of Loki is not one of these. It is both an 'origin' story of the God of Mischief and a retelling of the bulk of Norse mythology from Loki's side. Initially, I had misgivings because Harris is also the author of Chocolat, a book I enjoyed until the ending absolutely ruined it for me. But I needed more Loki after Agent of Asgard.

And, my dear fellow readers, I'm happy to report that THIS IS THE KIND OF ORIGIN STORY I CRAVE.

Loki, as depicted by Harris, is a compelling and sympathetic character I can't help falling in love with. He's witty, sly, clever, and irreverent; misunderstood, misused, spiteful, and lovable. Harris masters his voice, which feels both familiar and unique. Loki starts out neither villain nor hero and -by the end- he doesn't completely fall into the villain category because his foes aren't quite heroes themselves. Every character here -from Odin and Thor to Frigg and Heimdall- is more gray than black or white. Even watching Loki descend closer and closer into bad guy territory, I never stopped being on his side.
"Basically, never trust anyone." -Lokabrenna | The Gospel of Loki, pg 62
The Gospel of Loki -or Lokabrenna- is broken into books, which are then broken into the many 'lessons' Loki learned throughout his involvement with the other Norse gods. I don't know a lot about Norse mythology but I did recognize quite a few of the tales recounted here. Harris does a fantastic job -in voice and in story- shifting these tales into Loki's point of view and then seamlessly piecing them together into a larger tapestry of Loki's history. With each step Loki takes closer to unleashing Ragnarok, I couldn't stop cheering for him, crying for him, and wanting him to win. On the verge of releasing the Norse Armageddon, Loki still made sense to me. I understood his motivations and his frustrations so well I couldn't really blame him for it -that is what I crave in a book. 

This is an entertaining read, equally hilarious and gut-wrenching, masterfully woven from beginning to Ragnarok. When I first finished it, I really, really wanted a sequel, because there's so much potential for one, and I want to see so much more with this character. But I finally convinced myself that it actually could be the perfect and that it didn't need a sequel. AND THEN I FOUND OUT THIS IS A PREQUEL!


 


The RUNE series has two books already, published in 2007 and 2011.

But wait.


THERE'S MORE









THE GOSPEL OF LOKI IS GETTING A DIRECT SEQUEL NEXT SPRING!
I'm in love, you guys. In love. This is one of those moments that the book fairies have smiled down at me and said, "You know that crazy thing you wished for, that you thought wouldn't come true in a hundred years? Well here it is."

At least I'll have some more Loki shenanigans in Thor: Ragnarok to tide me over until then.

1 day to Ragnarok!

What's your favorite book based off mythology or folklore?

The Road to Ragnarok
Don't miss a post!
Rewatching Thor