Review (SPOILERS) Ready Player One [Movie]

I can’t review Ready Player One without spoilers.  I might be able to, but I’d have to go watch the trailer a bunch to make sure what I talk about is only from the trailer.  Oh, but can I assume people HAVE read a book that’s been out for 7 years?  I generally have a ~1yr policy on not spoiling books so….  (1 year from when you learned about the book is my general rule.)

So you have fair warning: I will be spoiling both book and movie if you haven’t consumed them yet… well, stop reading or don’t complain. I’ve done what I can to make sure everything that might preview on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere has given you time to go “noooo, no spoilers!”

I have been avoiding other reviews so everything I say is my own.

I suspected from the trailer, but I have to say I think it’s disappointing that they (a) left out the whole D&D part of the book and (b)if he was in any kind of formal school that was…. ignored? Edited out? It was world building I wished they had included.

know they had to trim things to make it into a viable move-length format but…. but since RPGs is my area of geekery (I loved how that played out in the book) I don’t like that it was completely cut out.  I feel like they managed to keep video games, movies & music – but roleplaying got cut completely.  I didn’t even see some good WOW references or EverQuest (and maybe I just missed them).  The closest was a troll but I didn’t see anything that screamed “RPGS” in it.

So putting that aside, I would say that as a movie inspired by the book; it’s good.  As a movie based on the book it lacks some of the depth the book had.  Not surprising, Ready Player One was told in first person and converting that to third person limited is damn difficult.  And on that front, I think this might be the best conversion from 1st person book to movie I’ve seen.

That said, it still loses some of the… urgency that Wade experienced in the book. I felt like he was less invested in hating IOI and more invested in his own comfort.  In the book it’s clear from page 3 or so that IOI is despised and even if Wade doesn’t feel he has the power to stop them; he would if he could. That was not evident in the movie.  I wish they would have minimized the romance with Art3mis rather than minimize the personality and motivations of the protagonist.

Which leads to the fact they minimized his role in general. I don’t know how I feel about this one. On the one hand I feel like Art3mis/Samantha was a much more interesting character and more plot-driving. I kind of love that she was the one to stick out the danger of IOI’s headquarters. BUT the romance element was… frankly, I felt like it was forced.  I just felt like they kept pushing the “kiss the girl” thing which wasn’t as true in the book.  At least my memory of the book it felt like they formed a friendship and he had a crush on her before he met her – but after meeting her he found the friendship as important as potential romance.

My other beef is minimizing the international nature of the world. I feel like it got set in OK and stayed there.  Everyone was just magically there; I kept wanting the scene where H comes to “rescue” him and I hated that WADE didn’t call H.  If I step away from the book, it’s fine and makes sense.  But definitely, the classic stands, “The book was better.”

I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD.  I will try to distance myself more so I can watch it without wanting to see the book on the screen.

Review: A Wrinkle In Time (movie) Spoiler Free

I have cried during more movies in the past 12 months than I think I have the rest of my life.  A Wrinkle In Time did it to me again.

loved this movie for so many reasons.  I loved Meg and Charles Wallace.  I thought both of them were so well crafted, you didn’t need to read the books to understand them (I think, of course it’s impossible for me to be sure).  I thought the Mrs.’s were superb and even though it’s not exactly how I pictured them, it’s exactly how I could have pictured them.

Madeline L’Engle is one of my all-time favorite authors; like so many others I grew up on this book and loved it.  When I felt like an outcast, I looked around for my Charles Wallaces & Calvins in my life.  When I looked for them, I often found them waiting for me with open arms; and this movie captured that love and acceptance and patience… perfectly.

The graphics in this movie were fantastic.  They really thought through the descriptions of what L’Engle wrote and what they wanted it to look like.  There were a bunch of times it bordered on cartoony, but not in the worst of ways – I accept it’s a kid’s movie and they don’t need to be realistic the way I would demand of something like Ready Player One (not the VR world, but their real world) or Avatar (*cough* failed *cough* oh sorry, I have been sick ya know…)

I didn’t like that they left out one of my favorite characters.  I don’t remember him/her/it perfectly but that obscurity of gender is why that is one of my favorite characters in the book.  That and he/she/it was one of the most accepting, gracious, and loving characters – which they tried to absorb somewhat into the Mrs’s but…. well it just isn’t the same.  I understand why they did it (trying to make a movie for kids under 10 you don’t want to introduce a new, weird character 3/4s of the way through….) but I was looking forward to seeing the interpretation of him/her/it on screen and I won’t lie… if I have to critique this is probably it.

I also was very disappointed they cut the twins.  There was an important element in the two boys being “adjusted” to their father’s disappearance while Meg & Charles Wallace sort of aren’t.  Or at least, they both feel excluded from that adjustment which adds an important juxtaposition to Meg’s continued rage & lashing out. It also means they won’t be able to make any of the sequels – the twins rise in their prominence in later books. Despite cutting the twins, I did love the messages of an inter-racial couple adopting kids.  The message that you can choose to love as well as “fall” in love.

I cried. I sniffled and snuffled and tears rolled helpless down my cheeks through so much of this movie.  Just like Blank Panther & Wonder Woman.  I am jealous of kids today who are getting to see movies with heroes & heroines that look like them. Hell, I would have just taken a heroine (and did – her name was Sailor Moon and she was still constantly having to be “rescued” by a damn man).

I want to live in the world where we aren’t color-blind, but we are color-kind. We don’t “ignore” color or race or heritage; but we treat those differences with curiosity and kindness.  Movies like this – big budget which celebrate (or at least don’t denigrate) minorities might just help us move towards that world.  Media – books, movie, music, art – can help people open their minds and their hearts. No longer are we limited to James Bond & Superman; now we can explore the plethora of possibilities…. and I am so excited I could – and did – cry.

We have a long way to go.  There are a lot of lessons on manners when you encounter someone “breaking taboo” we need to construct and accept across our culture(s) – but these movies; these glorious beautiful movies…. I can’t wait for more like them.

Review: Star Wars Last Jedi

I don’t know if I can avoid spoilers.  I am going to try.  But if you (like me) did everything you could (including avoiding interviews) so you could go into this movie with as little knowledge as possible – well, I might let slip something you didn’t want see.  Fair?  Good.

I would give it a 3/5.  Overall it was ok, I enjoyed it, but… BUT

My biggest critique is the length.  So they introduced a new character (Rose) who I like a LOT, but I feel like they added an entire segment to the movie which…. was really only there for us to get to know Rose.  And…. it made the movie feel long.  I honestly kind of wish they hadn’t had it.  It had some fun moments, but it made for weird pacing because it was trying to weave  3 sets of characters and (all) movies struggle anywhere above 2 groups of heroes.

The Rey & Luke segments were very well done – Mark Hamill is amazing.  Luke’s arc during this movie might be one of my favorite parts.  I like how the character struggles with his past – and they all but steal one of my life phrases!  Avoiding obvious spoilers – teacher me was quite happy.

There were some call-backs to Empire and even Jedi which were… decent.  Nothing too in-your-face and I enjoyed it.

enjoyed the movie.  I am still processing whether it felt like a Star Wars movie.  There was a lot more humor (as my husband said, it felt like they were trying to mimic some of Guardian‘s humor Correction: he told me that what he said is that it’s like they let Lucas try to make a Joss Whedon movie  – I stand by my memory that he compared it to Marvel).  I enjoyed most of it – and the porgs were NOT annoying.  I was expecting to hate them but they were in the movie just enough to be amusing – not annoying.

I will be honest, I don’t know that I will be as excited about “young han solo” as I might have been 10 years ago.  I think Star Wars in running into “long running game syndrom” – when RP’ers have been running the same game a long time eventually they get to the point where their characters are ridiculously powered and not much feels like a threat anymore.  Star Wars is reaching that for me – there were some scenes where it just felt like they wanted to “top” what they’d done before (Fast & Furious has gone there too…)

I think I am moving more towards “I’d like to see a different universe on screen” in fantasy, superhero, & sci-fi.  Star Wars is great, Marvel is fun – but what are the stories we aren’t getting to see because the directors and writers are getting stuck in these boxes?

Musings: Books I want to see on screen

I was looking through this article (here) about 100 books being (maybe) turned into movies.  I found myself rolling my eyes at another remake of 1984.  As much as I’m looking forward to (I hope!) a good movie version of A Wrinkle of Time, there are some titles I think are grossly missing from this list.

#1: Codex of Alera (Jim Butcher)

I reviewed this series here.  There is some seriously fun imagery and ideas in here.  It would probably need to be a TV series.  Tavi would be a tough guy to cast, but I think as long as they managed to find someone who could pull off “small and skinny” and then bulk up (some)…. He wouldn’t need a lot of bulk.  I totally think Kitai should be played by Millie Bobby Brown – she can pull off the “scary but not at the same time” look perfectly.

#2 Alanna (Tamora Pierce)

I have wanted a “Tortall” series since I first read these books in middle school.  If HBO wants their next series…. Tortall would not be a terrible one to tackle.  There might not be enough blood/sex/violence for HBO though.  CW could expand beyond super heroes.

You would only have 3 seasons, because I’m not sure you’d want to try to expand out the last 2 books into 2 separately seasons.  I think they would work best as a single season.

#3 Akata Witch/Warrior (Nnedi Okorafor)

The review  for this book should tell you a lot of why I want to see this book on the large screen.  This would make for an amazing 2 movies.  Or 3.  I could see turning this into something of a trilogy – without giving away anything in the plot… yeah if I were to put my hand to screenwriting this I would make it a trilogy.  Oh the end of that second movie…. would drive you all wild! Cliffhanger!

#4 Tiger Burning Bright (Bradley, Norton, & Lackey)

(Goodreads link) As I was looking at my bookshelves my eyes alighted on this jewel in and lit up. And I have to fight with myself over TBB or The Elvenbane, but I decided this one is less famous and would make a great one-hit-win. I might need to reread and write my review on it to do justice, but this would be a kick-ass movie.  I almost re-ordered my entire list to put this as #1!  If you don’t know these three names by last only, they are Marrion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, and Mercedes Lackey.  Anyone who loves 2 out of those three is probably now drooling.  (I may have written four paragraphs of fangirling over these authors and had to edit it out…)

This book follows three women, a mother and her two daughters as they seek to save their kingdom from the hungry powerful empire that is attempting to swallow them up.  With secrets, magic, and each having their own skills and talents they manage to not only save their own lives, but save their people.  OMG. Excuse me while I go get lost in Merina now.

#5 Dark Horse Series

I’ve already reviewed Mary H. Herbert’s series (here) and I have long loved these books.  The fact they haven’t ever gotten picked up just seems dumb to me.  They are perfect movie material.  Literally, casting is the only question in my world.  How they handle the Hunnuli is also vital – they have to do it right. Seriously, don’t try to handle magical awesome horses if you can’t handle magical awesome horses.

I have so many images in my mind of what I think would work well, I would love to see a good director/producer tackle this one and do it right.  With the rise (finally!) of acceptable female-lead movies, I think this books series not only would make AWESOME movies, but might finally be able to be done right.  Not too much focus on the relationships of men + women, but not ignoring them entirely either.

OK Hollywood…

So These are my suggestions.  There are others I could list (hell, a lot of the books I read I might recommend….), but I will let these 5 stand as my recommendations for 2017.  Maybe I’ll do this again NEXT year, see which ones stay on the list and if I change any out….

 

Review: Wonder Woman

I am not going to promise not to write spoilers. I’m going to try, but there may be things in this review that are not in the trailer and “spoil” the movie for you.

Fair enough warning?

I loved this movie. It wasn’t “perfect” but it was close.  I will gladly go see it again in theaters to get the big surround sound and see the action on the big screen. Hell, I might even see it on IMAX. (No, I don’t tend to like 3D movies, more often then not I get a headache from watching them).

I could nitpick about some of the pacing, but honestly – as origin stories go – it wasn’t terrible pacing. I think it helps they didn’t have to set Diana up as a some “lost soul” who needs to turn her life around because she is an egotistical asshole.  They are a little heavy-handed on the “oh no, don’t tell her the secret that could save her life” trope – which is one I tend to detest (how can you say you love someone and deny them a VITAL tool?).

But above and beyond the nit-picking – it was a GOOD movie. And I cried through like half of it.

Not because it was sad. Because I was finally seeing myself in a hero. We got close with Hermione (can we all agree she is the one who carried Harry to “success” already?).  I think it’s what many other authors/movies have attempted (Hunger Games got pretty close IMO) – a female lead who kicks ass. A female who others females can look up to.

The scene that really sells it for me is child-Diana – standing with delight and watching the Amazon warriors and imitating them. I can’t wait to see little girls doing this in real life – imitating their hero who looks like them.

I wish I could give a perfect example to my male friends why this is so emotional – but how do I explain to them who have always had these heroic images they can mimic? How can I help them understand what it means that after 30 years, I have finally seen a woman who I would like to emulate on the big screen? A woman who doesn’t bow to the men around her, who inspires them. A woman who might love, but the romantic relationship is secondary to her love of ALL mankind – and her service to them. She has her life and he might join her, but she will not merely follow him.

Superman was made before I was born – before my older brother was born. He literally was born into a world where he could see a hero on “the big screen” who looked like him – and attempts like Elecktra and Catwoman don’t exactly count either because they aren’t really heroes – they are anti-heroes.

I wanted to see this movie on opening weekend in the hopes to tell Hollywood we need more female directors & female leads – they bring diversity to the art. Which inevitably elevates the entire art, challenges norms and explores different voices. We need more female superheroes. We need more female leads in film. We need more female directors given the budget commensurate with their skills. I want my daughters to see woman in film they can emulate – and they will. They will be born into a world where there is at least one woman on the big screen they can mimic. I’m kind of jealous of them.

 

Character Profile: The successful sidekick

I love and hate writing “side-kicks.”  These are the secondary characters who are useful and/or required for success in a novel.  I love them because they give me a place to explore depths my protagonist doesn’t have or a sounding board for my protagonist to discuss aspects of the novel. I hate them because I struggle to make them “real people” in their own right.

I think Robin (of Batman & Robin) is sort of the perfect example of the “exposition bitch.” Robin is, from the Adam West to the 90’s cartoons, an idiot. Batman explains everything to him. I hate it. Robin’s biggest role is as the plucky kid who needs the hero to explain things -and really so the reader/viewer can get it.  Now, I haven’t read these, but I am told by more knowledgable people that some of the comics portray Robin better. Is it really any surprise he eventually leaves the Batcave to become his own hero when Batman treats him so poorly?

Love interests are often portrayed this way too in film and novels. Especially in the “match-up game” – you know, the point where characters are beginning to pair up and you want to make sure no one feels left out?  So you try to bring in a love interest for Person #3 and that love interest is either really dumb or basically never on screen or when they are on screen, they are ornamental.

Big Bang Theory started on this path when they brought in Bernadette, but they pretty quickly fleshed her out and I think they avoided it with Amy Farrah Fowler. They circled it again with Raj when they want to pair him off with someone – and they spend several episodes finding anyone.  Why can’t he be happy being single or finding that he is content with his friendships? Why does he need to be paired off in a romantic relationship? It weakened the plots to try to force him into it and creates some seriously unhealthy images of why people get into relationships.  The Wheel of Time does the same thing in some ways, but I think that Jordan – for all his other faults in the series – does a good question of asking why people get into romantic relationship and exploring different things working for different people.

I don’t have the answer for writing a good side-character/sidekick. It’s a question I ask when I write a “small” character.  The handmaiden to the lady-protagonist always feels a little like a cheat to me. Of course the lady (with the education) has to explain more depth of politics to her (young & inexperienced) handmaiden. I want to be better at this one. I tear up my innkeeper-friends, love interests, and “childhood best friends” on a regular basis to make sure they are real people underneath their wrappers.

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (movie)

I saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them over the Christmas holiday and I had some very interesting thoughts.  Again, I don’t want to hash out “yet another review” of whether it was good or not. I’ll leave that to the professionals. I will also assume anyone reading this has already seen the movie, because although I will attempt to be spoiler-free, I will reference key moments in the plot which might not make sense until you see them.

No, I was struck by something and it was niggling my brain the entire movie. It’s an old quote I read or heard where the definition of fantasy is that the fantastical element is what solves the problem. So just having magic isn’t enough – magic has to be the catalyst for the climax – the magic of the book/character. Otherwise it’s just a story that happens to exist in a fantasy realm.  Same rule applies to sci-fi.  “Science” (as it is classified in that universe) must solve the climatic issue, not just “higgly-piffly-wow” or whatever.  Otherwise, again, it’s just fiction with a science fiction theme thrown on top. Difficult to manage in character-driven plots, but possible (I think Red Shirts is a great example of “character-driven, sci-fi solution”).

FB&WtFT uses magic intricately, and at the end I had to consider whether they used magic or whether it was just a book-in-a-fantastic-world (several HP books are more “happen to be in a fantasy world” than a magical solution). I would argue they did use magic – and a magical beast no less – to solve one of the two major threats in the plot. The first solution was the direct magical barrage, and I actually would argue that is not using magic as a solution per say merely because there was nothing specific or even challenging in that solution (I actually really didn’t like that!). IF the confrontation with Credence is the climax, I felt it was…  well it really wasn’t, it was the extremely short confrontation with Graves which is the real climax – and it was kind of anti-climatic merely because I never felt he was a threat. He was one against dozens and we had no reason to believe that the numbers would NOT prevail against him…

Don’t get me wrong I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but as a critic… I felt the end wasn’t quite as tight as it could have been if the magic which made the plot (the fantastic beasts) had been the solution – instead of just a solution. If Graves had been exposed because of one of the creatures Newt had… or a potion made from one of them somehow. And why did Newt recognize him anyway? What makes him so special? Does he have a gift that allows him to sense/see illusions (would be useful with all the invisible-ish beasts). Unless it was meant to be a character story with a fantasy setting – in which case it was the perfect solution and all my criticism goes out the window anyway.