Movies: Deadpool

Alas, any movie that gets hyped has a mountain to climb once it comes time to actually sit down and watch it.

After hearing how great Deadpool was, I was eager to give it a try. Maybe, I thought, there was such a thing as a Marvel movie that wasn't the same old, same old. Maybe, I hoped, we could get something more from our popcorn flicks.

Okay, a couple considerations: (a) I didn't see this in a cinema full of people. I'm sure crowd mentality makes a big difference in how one views a film. (b) I haven't read the comics. But I firmly believe a good movie shouldn't require a viewer to already be familiar with the characters anyway. It should stand on its own.

The pros: I enjoyed the snark. And the movie is, in parts at least, visually arresting. Violent, but not gory. More Kingsmen/comic book violent, which I can stomach. Also, interesting music choices.

The cons: Some of the snark was a little too on the nose, too self-aware. And the plot was so damn pedantic. The villain was not at all interesting either. Plus, I don't think they established his abilities well enough. If things are going to come down to a fight (and they are, they always are), we need to know what everyone is capable of. And then we do a girlfriend-in-distress thing? Gag me. I don't care if that's how the story goes in the "source material" (see above); change it.

Also, the X-Men felt shoehorned in there.

And after the fabulousness of the scene on the highway, the final climax felt bland. And Deadpool's stupidity in believing the baddie could really fix his face . . . Also, what was the whole, "What's my name?" thing? That's the best catchphrase they could give the bad guy? Yawn.

Marvel seems to have a couple tiers of heroes/movies. A-list: Avengers and all their singular characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. B-list: Ant-Man and now Deadpool. And sure these characters can (and will) show up in each other's films, but really, there is a definite hierarchy. Which is why no one thought Deadpool would make as much money as it did and why they dropped it in the "off season." Next time, after having done so well, he might get pushed closer to the summer circus, moved to the Big Tent. But can it do well against real competition? After all, maybe it only did well this time because it had no rivals.

I won't bother to go again into how tired I am of these movies. But they're putting them out almost as regularly as the comic books they're based on. Gah.

And in the end, was Deadpool different enough? It was different, but . . . It [He] was trying too hard to be anti-hero. He doth protest too much, attempting to make his case, claiming to be so different, so outside the lines. When you have to argue it that hard, it usually means the evidence doesn't support it. Otherwise you'd simply show rather than tell.

At the end of the day, Deadpool is just another in a growing stack of these films. And—dare I say it?—this one is more cute than hefty, its box office boom notwithstanding.


Television: Limitless, "Finale: Part Two!"

So, fellow viewers, are we satisfied with this ending?

I'd say I am.

Skipping all the padding, it comes down to a shoot-out in the lab that was manufacturing NZT. Sands is killed (we think, but in shows like this it's never a given). Piper gets away and turned up at Brian's parents' house (now also his house) and revealed she'd created a permanent immunity shot but didn't want the government to have it. She gives it to Brian—he's been taking NZT as he tries to find her, and the side effects have been increasing—and then leaves. So . . . are they still girlfriend/boyfriend, or . . . I mean, is this a LDR now? Do we care?

I suppose the point was to have her as a character who can pop in whenever. If the show gets renewed.

Meanwhile, Brian gets to form a fresh new team at the FBI. This sort of resets the show to its beginning thesis: Brian + FBI friends, yet he's also harboring a secret. So if there's a second season, we can start from the top.

I did have one question, though. The FBI said that Sands and his people couldn't be making enough money just from sales of NZT. Really? I mean, even if it sells for $20 a pill, and you consider the dealer is taking a cut of the profits, if Sands' guy is the creator/distributor, the money all funnels back to Sands. (Which begs the question of where and how Morra makes and gets the drug?) And as widespread as this drug supposedly was, that's a lot of money. But whatever. I don't watch the show to debate economics or supply and demand.

Anyway, here's hoping Limitless gets a shot at another season. If not, though, it ended well and has been a fun ride.


Television: Elementary, "Turn It Upside Down"

So Emil Kurtz, who was Watson's mole inside Morland Holmes' organization, was murdered in what was made to look like a café robbery gone bad. But Watson knows better, and when Sherlock confronts her with her recent bizarre behavior, she confesses to having double-crossed his father.

Everything then points to Morland having offed Emil after discovering Emil was spilling secrets [to Watson, though whether Morland knew it was Watson was still a question mark].

Still, it's a given that Morland himself didn't walk into that café and shoot anyone. So the first step is to find out who did and then trace it back to Daddy. This is achieved via a very strange coincidence (if that's the word for it)—one of the victims of the shooting wasn't shot; she had an acute allergic reaction and died from that. Her sister, who was also at the café, then tells a story of that having happened only once before, and doctors determining her sister was allergic to mountain lions. Everyone now: The fuck?

Okay, so the thought is that the murderer had been near a mountain lion. None of the zoos have mountain lions. That leaves taxidermists. And that's how they find Arthur Tetch, who readily admits to having been approached and eventually hired to murder not only Emil but some research lady some weeks before. The man who hired him called himself Mr. King, but Tetch's description places the guy as too young to be Morland (and surely Morland would keep his distance from something so distasteful anyway). One of Morland's lackeys then?

Sherlock finds surveillance equipment in Emil's apartment, too, seemingly recently installed.

Anyway, the story wends through the research lady having been doing work on having people take an online survey to discern whether they were psychopaths, sociopaths, etc. I would argue that, while it's fair to assume a wide pool of responders, they're also going to be largely self-selecting and you're going to get skewed results, but whatever. It's pretty clear that someone on this research staff was using the responses to pinpoint people like Tetch who might be willing to kill for money.

Meanwhile, Morland stands clear of wrongdoing. He admits to some more shady dealings but nothing approaching murder. And Sherlock is forced to admit, in turn, that he'd jumped to conclusions—something he usually prides himself on not doing.

As things wind down, it's the nicknames of the people doing the hiring and murdering that sparks Sherlock in another direction—he recognizes a pattern in the naming convention that leads him to believe Moriarty is back.


They've been teasing this for weeks, so we're less impressed than we might otherwise have been.

On a softer note, last week Morland had come to the brownstone in search of something he'd lost. Turns out it was a ring. A ring that had belonged to Sherlock's mother, in fact, that Morland planned to use as a kind of bribe to some countess. Sherlock had discovered the ring back when he'd moved in, and had secreted it in the fireplace. He doesn't tell his father that, though.

One has to wonder whether Morland was lying about Sherlock's mother being an addict. I wouldn't put it past him, really. The man manipulates, and that's a strong form of emotional manipulation right there. Maybe it doesn't matter, but it's the kind of thing that interests me—the psychology of characters and their motivations. I'm a character person first and foremost, which is pretty obvious if you read any of my books. (Peter in particular has been lauded as a great character study. Give it a whirl, eh?)


Television: Why I Don't Cover Game of Thrones

I sometimes get asked whether I watch Game of Thrones, and if so why don't I write about it the way I do other shows? The answer to the first question is: I do watch it. Kind of. I'm not riveted the way so many other people seem to be. I get kind of annoyed with the show, actually. For a lot of reasons I won't bother to get into here.

So then why don't I write about it? Well, for one thing there's already so much out there, so many people writing about it, and they delve way deeper than I could be arsed to. And a lot of them have read the books, too. I tried. I got maybe three pages in and just couldn't be arsed on that end either.

I'm a Game of Thrones dilettante, I guess. I'm not into the books, and I'm also not into the show enough to throw theories and such around. I don't care enough to rehash every minute. I probably only care about half of the story lines at any given time. I'm curious to see how it all ends, but sometimes the getting there feels like a slog. Like I have to get through a lot of muck, but I have faith I'll be rewarded in the end.

Let's hope so, anyway.


Television: Limitless, "Finale: Part One!"

Okay, so I admitted last week that I'd totally stopped paying attention to the episode, so this week I was all, "Really? That happened?" when they gave the recap. I guess that's a reason to be happy for recaps.

Sands is in custody. Brian is still desperate to find Piper. And without the immunity shots, Brian can no longer take NZT. Nor does he work for the FBI any more. Instead he works retail at some would-be Best Buy.

When another agent named Bruster comes in to join forces with the FBI, it's pretty much a given he's a bad guy. Sorry if that spoils things for anyone, but his behavior is questionable from the start. So the reveal later is hardly a reveal at all.

Meanwhile, New York is suffering under a widespread NZT outbreak as the drug hits the streets. I have to wonder that this hasn't come up sooner, and that all the while the FBI has been giving Brian NZT they didn't think to work on finding out where it comes from. I mean, where are they getting it to begin with? Maybe they answered that early on and I've forgotten, but still.

Rebecca won't give Brian any more NZT because he's no longer immune, so he and a coworker go get some of the street stuff. Brian then sorts out where the supplies are coming from, but the FBI has a different lead. Courtesy of (you guessed it) Bruster. They round up all Sands' people, or so they think. But it turns out Bruster works with Sands, and they're really out to decimate Morra's network. They discover all this too late, however; Bruster and Sands are in the wind.

The episode was slightly hobbled by Brian not being at the FBI, but by the end of it that appears to be on the verge of changing. We can only hope.

Also, Brian's fixation on Piper still doesn't ring true to me. I don't find any chemistry there, and while I can believe Brian is honestly concerned for her, and that he also would like to find out if she's been successful in replicating the immunity shot, the romance feels forced. "She's my girlfriend!" is a tad whiny and hard to take seriously when they were together for all of a week before she disappeared.

One more episode this season, and no word yet about renewal. What I love about Limitless, though, is the balance of drama and comedy. It satisfies on both sides. When I want to watch something funny, Limitless will do. It has enough humor in it for that. When I want a drama, Limitless will also do, and it has the bonus of not being too heavy to watch right before bed. (Yes, I ingest television as if it were sandwiches.) No other show on my viewing list fits this particular slot for me, so I'm very much hoping it stays on the schedule.


Books: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

I picked this one up off a shelf at Barnes and Noble because my daughter's name is Evangeline. After reading the book flap, it sounded intriguing enough to give it a try. And I'm glad I did.

This one was difficult for me to put down, possibly because it hit so many of my sweet spots. It's a mystery, has a paranormal element, and is set in my home stomping grounds of the Louisiana swamps and antebellum glamor.

The story is of Charlotte "Charlie" Cates, a single mother who has just lost her four-year-old son. His death has triggered prophetic dreams in which young children seek Charlie's help. When she's given the chance to go down to Louisiana to do a story on a cold case disappearance, one of these dreams prompts her to accept. [Aside: between this and The Lake House, I seem to have a cold case/child disappearance thing going. But the two books pair really nicely.]

There is the fish-out-of-water element of a New Englander navigating the South. (I myself am a Southerner who lived for years in New England, so . . .) Young does a decent job with it, and doesn't go too far with the dialect spellings, giving just enough to allow readers to hear it mentally. Meanwhile, the book is also populated with interesting characters.

Though I predicted most of the revelations early on, the twisty-turny journey of the story kept me turning pages. Things move at a good clip, yet Young doesn't sacrifice detail for plot. It's a nice balance of beautiful prose and pacing.

The only thing that felt somewhat overdone—the one thing that drew attention to itself—was the argument for faith and God and religion. Now, Charlie isn't religious, and it's true that down South one is likely to run into and deal with a lot of people who are. But this book felt the need to explore that a bit too much in that it detoured into that discussion a tad too often. It left me half wondering if the novel had originally been written for the Christian market.

But overall this is a really compelling read. It's one of those books that I'm sorry to see end, one that will be difficult to follow.


Television: Elementary, "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing"

An episode predicated on a ridiculous amount of happenstance. Someone is faking his murder as two other people plot to kill him. So . . . whodunnit? And is everybody happy now?

The subplot involving Watson's ongoing blackmail of one of Morland's employees as she tries to eke information about Morland's doings was far more interesting, even though hardly present. The employee begs off when he realizes he's very close to being found out, then Morland makes an abrupt visit to the townhouse—Watson discovers him there, so who knows what his lackey has dug up while she and Sherlock were out—and the employee ends up dead. The murder is meant to look like an accident, but Watson knows better.

And so, one suspects, does Sherlock. Watson has made up any number of excuses to meet this informant, but Sherlock is smarter than that, right? A couple of his comments during the episode invite Watson to 'fess up, but she doesn't.

So what has Watson received in return for all this runaround? News that Morland seems to have had a Russian assassin—the one that supposedly tried to kill him and did kill his lady friend—busted out of a gulag. But whether he's looking for revenge or has something to hide is still a big question mark. Looks like we're building to quite the finale.


Television: Limitless, "Hi, My Name is Rebecca Harris"

So in this episode Rebecca confronts Brian about his ties to Sands and Morra, and Brian finally tells her the truth: that Sands killed her father. Rebecca then decides to try some NZT. Ostensibly to better figure out how to get justice/revenge? (Are those the same thing in this case? Are they ever the same thing? We could have a rockin' philosophical debate right now.)

But then we're subjected to Rebecca's narration, and we see her having the conversations with herself that Brian normally does with himself, and she's just not nearly as good at it. Or as much fun.

And while one would expect two NZTers are better than one, somehow Brian comes across and slow and stupid here. I even had to ask my husband whether Brian had taken any NZT? Because it seemed like he hadn't. Maybe the writers were worried Brian and Rebecca would sound too much alike so they scaled him back a bit. I dunno, but it was off.

Meanwhile, Sands' people are champing the bit to go take Brian out. Sands is clearly reluctant; after all, Brian has helped him in the past, and in no small way (his son, yeah?).  But at some point the Rebecca-centricity of this episode lost my attention, so I don't remember how it all fell out. Not the most glowing recommendation.

Hopefully it finds its voice again this week and this was just a blip. Though I feel things have been sliding since the Russia thing. As I often point out, it's very difficult to sustain really good work, and when the bar is set high from the beginning, the writers have made it harder for themselves in the long run. Not that shows should come out of the gate limping, but a series is a marathon, not a sprint. And while episodes will be up and down, the ultimate goal is to have them average out over time so that people don't lose interest. Slumps shouldn't be allowed to go on too long.


Movies: The Jungle Book

Starring: Neel Sethi
Voices By: Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Christopher Walken
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Written By: Justin Marks, from the book by Rudyard Kipling
Walt Disney, 2016
PG; 105 minutes
4.5 stars (out of 5)


There was a time—it seems very long ago now—when I adored the animated film The Jungle Book. My favorite was always Bagheera. I wanted so badly to be raised by a panther.

With all the remakes and updates that have become so common, I had reservations about this version of the story. But the trailers made it look so good. And it really is. I highly enjoyed it, and my kids loved it. Since they're the target audience (I think, though surely there is also some thought of hitting older people in the nostalgia), I'd count that as a success. By the numbers, it certainly looks to do well.

It's not perfect. There were some moments when the way the animals moved didn't look quite right. And the kid playing Mowgli sometimes came across as too whiny. Not sure if that was the direction or what. I also didn't love ScarJo as Kaa. Not because she's a woman—I understand why they did that—but because that particular actress in the role didn't work for me. But that's a personal thing.

Nice cowbell joke for Christopher Walken, and he did the Marlon Brando thing well. A little sad to hear Garry Shandling in what must be his last role, or very nearly. Overall, just nicely done. But my kids wondered at the change to the ending, and . . . It's been a long, long time since I've read Kipling. So I don't remember how the stories end. I think my memory of it is largely informed by the early influence of the animated feature. But I also think times and sensibilities have changed quite a bit since then. Instead of a child growing up and leaving to join his "real family" or "real tribe" . . . Instead of him doing what he's told, even if it's something difficult that he doesn't want to do . . . Making a big sacrifice . . . Now the prevailing sense is that he can prove himself and then do whatever he wants once he's earned the respect of those around him. I guess? He can make his own tribe/family. Or something like that.

Then again, maybe leaving Mowgli in the jungle just makes it easier to do a sequel.

"Jungle Book 2: Back to the jungle."

"Jungle Book 2: Jungle Boogaloo."

"Jungle Book 2: The Wrath of Khan."

"You can take the boy out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the boy."

It pretty much writes itself.

Seriously, though, it was fun. Any issues I had were relatively minor.

Television: Elementary, "Art Imitates Art"

Am I caught up now? Yes? Whew.

Um . . . So a young woman is murdered outside her gym in the Bronx. And it turns out she's one of the subjects of an art instillation in which the "artist" has blown up selfies he's found online? So there's a fleeting question of whether someone is mad at this artist for doing such a thing, but that's dropped relatively quickly. Because why murder one of his "models" if they're mad at him? Unless one intends to murder all the models, which would actually have been a really cool story. Instead, though, we get some malfeasance on the part of a crime lab (another potentially interesting story if they'd stuck with it for any length of time) and circle back around to the assistant district attorney.

It was the kind of episode that didn't quite add up to the sum of its parts really.

Meanwhile, we did get more of Watson and her newfound half-sister Lin, but it was all sappy and not all that fun or interesting either. Lin was better as annoying, less good as belligerent and forgiving. And Watson is almost too even-keeled; I'd like her to show some spark now and then.

Anyway, we're down to the last three episodes of the season. CBS has renewed Elementary for 2016-2017, so there's time to pump in a bit more dynamism. We're in need of something antic.

Movies: Romantic Comedies

So I was listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour (again) and today they discussed romantic comedies. And then things kind of veered off into romance, or romantic elements, but less comedy. So when they asked one another what romantic comedies were, I dunno, personally key to them, some of the answers were . . . not really rom-com?

I feel like romantic comedy is a very definite subset of romance (which can be dramatic, or can be a secondary element to a comedy—look at Bridesmaids or The Hangover, which are buddy comedies predicated on romance). One PCHH panelist mentioned she didn't think anyone made rom-coms any more, at least not of the kind that were so common in the 90s and early 00s. And I think that's true. I don't know why, but someone somewhere decided rom-coms don't make money. That only women go to see them and it's better to make a movie men will see and women will go with them to see. Because women, I guess, are more flexible, more willing to go see an action movie than a guy is to go see a rom-com.


Then I tried to think what rom-coms ever had an impact on me. And while I've liked a lot of romantic comedies, I have to say few have actually left any kind of impression. My Best Friend's Wedding was a big one for me, and that one is interesting because [SPOILER, but God are you late to this party if you need that warning] the leads don't end up together. That probably says something about me and my outlook on the world, or at least on romance, but . . . Anyway, the other one I came up with was Enchanted. Because I am a romantic at heart, and I believe in a kind of magic that occurs when two people meet and are "meant to be." Sure, it's all just chemistry and pheromones, but a girl can dream.

Maybe I'm really just a sucker for movies in which people sing? Hmm.

These days there doesn't seem to be a call for movies about people getting together. I don't know what in our society has shifted, but there you have it. The joy of watching two people fumble awkwardly toward each other and a meaningful relationship . . . Maybe we're too cynical for that now. Instead of funny, we want people to go through real hell—diseases or wars or something.

A year or so ago, I co-wrote a romantic comedy script that was very well received. It received great studio coverage, was likened to Silver Linings Playbook (which is more like a romantic dramedy, I guess) and even briefly optioned. But no one wanted to put any money on the line for it. Because there's this idea that these movies don't sell, SLP notwithstanding. I guess if we could have gotten Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence to sign on?

The bottom line is, though, that no one seems to be asking for rom-coms. There's no clamor for more of them. No one misses them, I guess. The PCHH team made an interesting comment that they preferred to watch relationships unspool on television series because one could go deeper and further with the characters. Instead of stopping at the point where two people get together, viewers get to see the aftermath and find out if Happily Ever After really happens.

So maybe we're done with idealizing relationships. Maybe, as a society, we've come to the point where we're seeking something deeper and more meaningful than what a traditional rom-com offers.


Television: Elementary, "All In"

So I've only watched the first of the double-header that aired last Sunday. But I called the [SPOILER ALERT] sister thing pretty much from the start since this girl Lin was acting like an annoying little sister from moment one.

Though how and why the Mycroft thing? Maybe that gets answered in the next episode, so I guess I'll find out. I can make a few educated guesses though.

Let's skim the story here. Lin is a real estate agent who uses empty properties to host illegal poker games. One of the poker games gets robbed, but Lin doesn't go to the police because, um, illegal. So this episode begins with Lin coming home to her own apartment and finding a bag of money and getting shot at, all of which sends her scurrying to Sherlock Holmes.

I have to say, more episodes should begin this way: with a client appearing. Just like in the stories. But that's a personal preference.

Since Lin's apartment is a crime scene and also probably not safe, she moves in to the brownstone and "little sistering" begins. Lin tells Watson about how Mycroft Holmes was the love of her life, and that's how she knew about Sherlock, but Watson smells a rat and discovers Lin is really her half-sister. (Lin never knew Mycroft.)

The rest of the plot is NSA involvement and something about Eastern European spies.

Points to this episode for giving Sherlock some of his funniest, driest bits of dialogue. I actually laughed aloud a couple times. More of that, please.

Meanwhile, while Lin is annoying in a sister kind of way, she has the potential to bring interesting new energy to the show . . . assuming she stays around. Elementary has a habit of introducing then releasing characters in a somewhat frustrating way.


Books: Changers: Manifesting Destiny

Not a review. An announcement. My young adult fantasy novel will be published by Evernight Teen.

Okay, so there's no cover yet, but I can't wait to see what the designer comes up with!

Changers: Manifesting Destiny is planned as the first in a trilogy. I'm so excited to share it with you! More info as it becomes available. For now:


Books: The Lake House by Kate Morton

In The Lake House, Kate Morton twists her usual frame story/historical flashback style into a head-hopping tale that spans the better part of a century. The plot is spun out from multiple points of view, some more interesting than others. This makes the book a tad uneven, though what must be counted the "main characters" are at least the most interesting and get the most pages devoted to them.

The Lake House is a mystery that balances on the fragile strands of human relationships. In Cornwall, in 1933, the young son of a wealthy family goes missing. Meanwhile, in 2003, an off-duty London police officer takes on the cold case while trying to distract herself from other problems.

The threads here are woven nicely enough that one can almost forgive the hefty coincidences that plague the solution. And one could also almost want to see these characters again in another mystery novel.

Morton has a deft way of building characters, and she does a fair job of keeping the reader guessing here. Overall, I very much enjoyed The Lake House.


Movies: Pawn Sacrifice

Going into this movie, I knew only a handful of things about Bobby Fischer. 1. He was a famous chess player. 2. I think he disappeared for some period of time? 3. There had been a movie called Searching for Bobby Fischer that I never saw, but the title is probably what made me think he'd disappeared.

So why watch this movie? Well, I saw the trailer back when I'd gone to see Mr. Holmes and it looked interesting. I mean, who doesn't like watching someone go crazy? That's pretty entertaining, right?

Anyway, if you take this movie as historically accurate, it turns out Bobby Fischer was kind of an asshole. A paranoid asshole, but there you have it. And Tobey Maguire does that pretty well.

I do wish there had been more of Liev Schreiber, who did a great job as Bobby's Russian nemesis Spassky. But then again, this wasn't his story.

Peter Sarsgaard, too, did a fine job as Father Lombardy, struggling to keep Bobby balanced.

And you don't have to know about chess to watch this. I used to play, haven't in years, and never competitively, but even my rusty self didn't need to dust off any old knowledge to follow the story.

In all, it was a good movie. Not thrill-a-minute or anything—I mean, it's chess, after all—but I enjoyed it more than Carol, or even Trumbo. (Maybe I just don't like one-word name movies? I should check into that.)

For what this is (and it's probably a very specific taste), it's a fine movie with solid performances by all involved.


Tarot Dice

A friend of mine sent me this link on Facebook, and of course I had to try it. Tarot (which, if you know me, you know I collect) but as dice rather than cards.

You can click on the pic for a better look at the board.

There are drawbacks. For one, this comes in a tube that you are supposed to retain in order to roll the dice (kind of like Yahtzee). Except my tube arrived partially broken. It's still useable, but it doesn't look very pretty. The dice themselves are large, and there are 13 of them, so it's not easy to roll from your hands (yes, I tried).

Anyway, you're supposed to roll the dice from the tube, one at a time, and then place each dice in the appropriate square on the board in order. The board itself is cloth that rolls to go back into the tube. Like the old Pente boards. Because apparently I'm name checking all the old games today.

A die is only considered reversed if it lands reversed in front of the querent. If it lands sideways, you're to consider it upright.

Okay, so the biggest, most obvious drawback becomes the fact that some combinations will never be possible. For example, the King of Pentacles and Justice will never come up in the same reading because they are two sides of the same die. So if you want all possible combinations when doing a Tarot reading, you're better off with traditional cards.

Also, in some cases, the images on the dice are very similar, and I found myself having to carefully check the die against the booklet to make sure I knew exactly what I'd rolled.

That said, I will admit the two readings I attempted came across loud and clear and seemingly quite accurate.

Overall, despite the various issues, I enjoy this as an alternative to cards. The 13-die reading is a lot of information to absorb, but the booklet points out that one can do a Celtic Cross or other kind of reading with the dice as well. I haven't tried that yet, but I might, just out of curiosity.


Books: The K-Pro

. . . is free on Amazon Kindle for a limited time. So go pick up a copy if you haven't already. And be sure to listen to the podcast too (below)!


Movies: Carol

The only books by Patricia Highsmith that I've read are the Tom Ripley ones. I really like those. And maybe I'd like The Price of Salt, on which Carol is based, but . . . I don't know.

For those of you even farther behind than I am on these things, Carol is set in the 1950s and follows the titular character (played by Cate Blanchett) in a budding romance with a much younger woman (Rooney Mara). Complications arise as Carol is in the midst of a divorce and may lose custody and visitation with her young daughter.

My chief problem was a lack of tension. They didn't make me care enough about Carol to care whether she got to see her daughter. And I didn't really feel much by way of sexual tension between Carol and the shopgirl either.

Maybe it plays better in prose? Research informed me that Highsmith was in therapy to "normalize" her sexuality at the time she wrote The Price of Salt. That tidbit makes the book and movie marginally more interesting. In the film, Carol does mention seeing a therapist. I'd almost think that would have been a better story than whatever it was they were trying to tell me in this movie.

In short, I was underwhelmed. The film is slow, almost soporific. Really good musical score, but when you're noticing the music, that tells you something may be wrong with the bigger picture.


Movies: The Hateful Eight

My record with Tarantino movies is spotty. The first one I ever saw was Reservoir Dogs, and I only watched it because it was required viewing in film school. I'm sure Tarantino would be pleased to hear that. It was a bloody movie, but I actually kind of liked it, which surprised me.

But then I tried to watch Pulp Fiction—I've tried dozens of times to watch that movie, and I've never been able to get through it. Not my thing. Doesn't interest or engage me. Same with Kill Bill.

I liked Inglourious Basterds when I saw it but couldn't tell you now what it was I liked about it. Was somewhat indifferent to Django Unchained, I think. In the same way of Inglourious Basterds, I only have an impression of that movie really. Hated Jackie Brown. But again, can now only vaguely recall it. Which is to say, I more remember how much I disliked it than anything about the movie.

Come to think of it, none of Tarantino's movies stay with me. For someone so dead set on leaving his mark, he fails to impress me much or deeply. (And I know what he'd say to that, too.)

So. The Hateful Eight. Set in post-Civil War Wyoming. A bunch of rough types are holed up in Minnie's Haberdashery as they wait out a blizzard. Being rough types, it's only a matter of time before tempers explode. And then there's a kind of mystery over who poisoned the coffee, and we get Samuel L. Jackson as Sherlock Holmes and Walter Goggins as his Watson. Sort of.

It's actually not a bad idea. But the film is overly long and—in the way of Tarantino movies—both talky and bloody. I suppose that's what people go to see in his movies? He's catering to a very specific crowd and I'm not of their number.

We get some very good performances here. But I must necessarily cringe at the open misogyny and abuse of the one female character. And at the ridiculous level of bloodshed.

I have a feeling this one will slide, like all the others, into a corner of my brain until it becomes nothing more than a foggy impression. For me, Tarantino movies apparently end in one big shrug. There is a failure to connect on some level. What that says about me, or his work, is up for interpretation.


Food: Big Red Float

I received something very cool in the mail yesterday. Big Red soda. And not just the regular type (though there was some of that, too), but a box of something labeled Big Red Float.

That unmarked silver can is the Float.

I couldn't help it; I opened one right away and poured it over some ice. And I'll be damned if it didn't taste almost exactly like Big Red poured over vanilla ice cream. This drink tastes like a Big Red float.

I've had the Dr Pepper Vanilla Float, and it didn't win me, despite my love for DP. Big Red, however, got it right. This drink tastes just like what it's supposed to be and without any weird aftertaste (well, not any weirder than any soda aftertaste anyway).

Whether or not people who don't like Big Red will like this? No idea. The chief criticism I've heard of Big Red is that it's too sweet and/or tastes too much like bubble gum (rather than cream soda). But the Big Red Float is mostly a vanilla ice cream flavor with the underlying taste of Big Red. It's the vanilla that hits first and foremost. So maybe people who aren't as fond of Big Red will tolerate the Float version.

The pros to drinking Float rather than making an actual float? No melting ice cream everywhere. No mucky glasses to clean (assuming you drink from the can, but be sure to chill it first since this absolutely should be served cold). None of that inconvenient trying to get the last of the ice cream up a straw. And I think the Float soda would actually make a great slush, too, if you were to freeze some. Might have to try it . . .

Our ability to find Big Red regularly out here on the West Coast has been spotty at best. Online searches give a list of places in the area I should be able to buy it, but the hunt often proves fruitless. So either there are a lot of Big Red drinkers stocking up or those stores aren't stocking it as much as the Internet thinks they are. I sure would love it if a few would make it a point to keep Big Red available—and Big Red Float, too, if and when it hits the market.

Books: Peter on Blog Tour

I'm going on tour this month with my novel The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller, and I hope you'll travel with me to a few of the stops. Today's in particular is a great one. It's a Q&A about me and the book, and I had a lot of fun answering the questions. Bonus: a photo of my reclusive writing partner!