3.23.2017

Books: Brynnde is FREE (for a limited time)

If you haven't yet picked up my sweet, clean Regency romance novel Brynnde, you now have the opportunity to grab it for free! Click here to go to the Amazon page. And if you don't have a Kindle, no worries—you can download a free app that allows you to read Kindle books on your smartphone or tablet.



And if you do read it, a request: Please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are very helpful both to me and other readers. Even just a star rating helps! Thank you for supporting my work!

3.22.2017

Television: Elementary, "The Ballad of Lady Frances"

SPOILER ALERT

Lady Frances is a guitar.

An expensive, vintage guitar.

That gets stolen.

And the person from whom it was taken sends a hitman after the thief. Which is where our episode begins: A hitman threatening and shooting a man, demanding the return of Lady Frances. We have a moment of anxiety, thinking someone has been kidnapped. But no. It's a guitar.

At which point we think, Oh, yeah, that was in the preview.

Then there's this whole thing about a new technology that, like Siri, is always listening, waiting for the moment you need her it. (My Siri is a man, anyway, and he addresses me as Miss Kitty Boo. TMI?) Anyway, for the purposes of our story, this technology listens for the sound of gunfire and reports/records whatever is happening in the vicinity of said gunfire. Like, the entire city is bugged? I guess? Seems like there would be too much "noise" to get clear audio, but the glory of television is that they can pretend that's not an issue. And that somehow all of NYC has been mic'd up.

In a stupid coincidence, the guy monitoring this particular altercation regarding Lady Frances is a guitar enthusiast and edits the audio before passing it on so that he can go retrieve the well-known-in-certain-circles instrument. But then he ends up dead, too. And of course it all turns out to be a corrupt politician. How original.

Oh, and Meat Loaf was the guy who had the guitar and hired the hitman. I mean, he wasn't playing himself or anything. He had the decidedly Teutonic name of Herman Wolf. But if you did steal a guitar from Meat Loaf, it's not difficult to imagine he might at least send someone to break your knees. So that's good casting. Though I really enjoyed Mark Boone Junior as the guitar expert. Put him in more stuff, would you?

And now we must address the Shinwell story line. Sigh. I wasn't paying super close attention, but it seems like someone shot at him? And it turned out to be the same gun (based on ballistics) that had been used to kill a gang friend of his back before he went to jail? I'd say I'm trying hard to care, but no. I'm really not, and I really don't. I was way more interested in the idea of Holmes redecorating the townhouse. I wanted to see the wallpaper choices!

Still, I noticed while watching there was something off about this episode. The script was fine, I guess, but something about the way it was filmed . . . I actually asked aloud, "Did they let the intern shoot this?" Specifically the scene where the guitar enthusiast-turned-thief was addressing an unseen person and then is murdered—it was just so ham-handed. Really clumsy. Maybe that was the script's fault, though, because it required keeping one character out of the frame or silhouetted. I dunno. Did not feel right.

All in all, kind of an odd episode but not terrible.

3.19.2017

Movies: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson
Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Disney, 2017
PG; 129 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)


_______________________________________________________

I was 15 when the animated feature was released, and like many a girl, I was charmed by Disney's take on the fairy tale. I could identify with Belle, being that I was also a bookish, lonely outcast. And I remember loving the stained glass of the opening narration, and thinking Adam (I took pains to figure out the prince's actual name—remember that this was before the Internet could be found in every house and library) was quite handsome for an animated guy. I liked him more than The Little Mermaid's Eric anyway. I think it was the hair. Again, remember: 90s.

Still, the charm faded over the years. I got older and life happened. Even once I had children of my own . . . I don't know. Disney used to feel like something magical that happened only once in a while. Now it's everywhere all the time. Its ubiquitousness has cheapened it a bit, at least for me.

So. This live-action remake of the beloved animated version. Well, it goes to some effort to answer lingering questions from its predecessor, like, "Why didn't anyone notice the prince and the castle were cursed?" And, "How does Belle get the Beast onto her horse?" It also expands the stories of the castle servants and tells us how Belle and Maurice came to be in Ville Neuve. And it goes back to the original fairy tale in that the reason for Beast imprisoning Maurice is that Maurice tries to take a rose from Beast's garden.

It also gave us some new songs that weren't all that necessary.

As for all the fuss about Le Fou being gay, it wasn't nearly as in-your-face as I was expecting. I think they could've done more, in fact, but I suppose they feel they need to be gradual with these things.

There was a moment when I was afraid they would err on the side of "men dressed as women = shaming for the men," but I was glad to see they twisted that a bit.

I was entertained, yes. I thought the production design was magnificent. The acting pretty much spot on. But the sum total did not, as they say, bowl me over. I didn't walk out wowed, merely satisfied.

And that's fine. Not every meal you eat is going to be memorable. Some will simply fill you when you're hungry. At least this isn't one I'll remember for being terrible.

Television: Broadchurch 3.3

So Trish is understandably weirded out by the anonymous text telling her to "shut up or else." Shut up about what? She doesn't know who attacked her. So is there something else—something she does know—that someone doesn't want her to spill? Does it have anything to do with whoever she slept with the morning of the party, whose name she refuses to give to the police?

There's a lot going on but not a lot of progress being made. The man who owns the estate where the party (and rape)  took place mentions in passing that he used to go by the waterfall as a child. Ding ding ding! Ian confesses to Jim that he made up what he told the police because he blacked out and can't actually remember everything that happened at the party. Guess that explains why he went and cleaned his clothes, except . . . Why have the clothes in a bag hidden in the closet? And what's on his computer that he needs Leo to scrub? (Probably more of that porn...)

And why do I have a sneaking suspicion the porn Tom and his friend (who turns out to be the cab driver's stepson) are watching may eventually connect to all this? Did someone video the attack?

People I hope bad things happen to: Leo mostly, but Harford a little bit too. Leo is the worst. Harford needs to be taken down a few, which Hardy did a little bit. Need more of that.

Oh, and Mark Latimer refuses to move on with his life because he feels justice hasn't been done. So he corners Beth with an attorney who starts giving them information on pursuing a civil case against Joe (they don't even know where he lives now or under what name). But Beth isn't interested, and neither is Chloe. Beth points out that Mark is wasting his time with his living children by fixating on the dead one. Ouch. I mean, not inaccurate, but still. Ouch.

Best moments are always between Miller and Hardy. Let's just take a second to admire Olivia Colman's amazing reactions to her co-star's grouchy. The two of them do so well together. It will be sad when this season ends and the show with it, but I can see a line of novels picking up these two characters. They're the starting point of what makes it all worth watching.

3.18.2017

Movies: Passengers

Okay, so I took great pains not to read anything about this movie before seeing it. I was aware of some buzz about women being upset about it, but I didn't read any articles to figure out why. I didn't really even know how critics felt about it. Like, all I knew was what I'd seen in the trailers.

Turns out, it's a crap movie.

For a lot of reasons.

So let's go through a few of those reasons:

1. We're supposed to sympathize with the stalker-y character who ruins another person's life because he's lonely. And I almost can sympathize with him, but this movie is so written from a white hetero-male perspective it hurts.

2. The main female character is a writer. Ugh. Can writers please stop romanticizing their own craft? This character is practically flawless—she's a wonderful writer (whose father was a Pulitzer prize-winning writer as well), she's beautiful, etc. *gag* So we've compounded that white hetero-male perspective with this ethereal, beautiful writer thing. [And note: I'm a writer and I still hate this.]

3. Um, it was boring. Like, from the trailers we already gathered that Jim (Chris Pratt) had woken up Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence)—and can we just pause for a moment over the lack of subtlety in using Disney's name for the Sleeping Beauty princess?—so that was no big surprise. And then there was the, "We've gotta fix the ship and save everything!" part. And then it was over. No twists. And largely really boring because it was them talking and goofing around a lot of the time. Jesus, this movie could have been a short.

4. Not sure how I'm supposed to feel about the wronged woman falling in love with and forgiving her "captor" of sorts. More male fantasy. Excuse me while I vomit.

The only good thing in this movie was Michael Sheen as the android bartender. And I thought the ship was pretty cool. But this movie is so bad . . . The dialogue is fine, I guess, but the plot crawls and with all the above issues, the sum total = BAD . . . and yet the guy who wrote it continues to get tons of jobs . . . I really hate a system that rewards this kind of crap.* Guess I'll always be indie.

I still haven't read any of the articles about why women were upset, though I can certainly guess (see above list). I did just pop over to Rotten Tomatoes after the movie and saw that, while audiences found it middling (64% fresh), critics really disliked it (31%). Looks like I fall in with the critics here.

*I understand what's being rewarded is the fact that the movie made money. But I'd say reward the marketing team, not the writer who, in the end, received terrible reviews from the critics. This screenwriter also wrote Prometheus, which was awful as well. Maybe stop giving him these projects since he's proven he's bad at them?

3.15.2017

Television: Elementary, "Fidelity"

Continuing from last week, Holmes has been arrested by some federal agent named Gephardt who baldly admits to murdering the people from the previous episode. There's some government conspiracy angle, but I honestly lost track of things after this because I was distracted by other goings on and none of what was happening in this episode was very interesting. Kitty spent a lot of time trying to get Holmes to admit he was angry about her having a baby and quitting detective work, but he just told her the baby was "beautiful" and then he and Watson ended up being the godparents. So... That's a thing that happened, and pretty much the only thing I remember.

Holmes was arrested but then released, so that felt like a feint to get people to tune in from last week. Also a cheap way for Holmes to get info. After that... whatever. This is me throwing up my hands. The Gephardt guy was bad and they went after him, and in the end he was... taken into custody, I think? He was bloody, but I don't think he died? God, I don't even remember. That's how not at all engaged I was.

But next week is about a famous guitar or something, so that should be fun? Assuming the episode doesn't start with the guitar thing and then veer off in a random direction like so many recent episodes? Seems like the preview almost never has anything to do with the actual plot any more; it's only ever a tiny moment in some straying story line. Like a fly landing on a wall then flying off in loops to land somewhere else on the wall. That's what Elementary is now. Buzz buzz.

3.13.2017

Television: Feud, "Pilot"

I've watched my share of Ryan Murphy: some seasons of American Horror Story, the first season of Scream Queens, American Crime Story (which he produced and directed some of but didn't write), and I did try Glee way back when it first started. In any case, I think Murphy has a definite brand, though I'd be hard pressed to name it. Maybe it's more of a spectrum? From glossy to gritty, from howlingly ridiculous to . . . slightly less ridiculous.

Given that spectrum, Feud fits squarely in the Murphy mold. It archly and colorfully examines the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford at the time of their making Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. Their rivalry is Hollywood legend, of course, and quite vivid at a time when a certain amount of class was expected from the film elite. (Made the feuds all the more delicious, though—like a luscious dessert. Nowadays Twitter feuds make these things less of a treat.)

In the first episode of this mini, Joan Crawford (played by Murphy favorite Jessica Lange) is nearly bankrupt and searching for the right property (I'm speaking in the film sense rather than real estate) to restore her to Oscar glory. The scripts being offered her don't do her justice, at least not to her way of thinking, so she raids bookstores and finds Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. After reading it, she takes it to Robert Aldrich and promises him she'll also deliver a perfect co-star. She chases Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) down on Broadway while Aldrich shops the story and strong arms Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) into financing.

Of course there are problems even before shooting begins. Joan gets a glimpse of Bette's contract and sees Bette is getting more per week. And so it begins.

Since Murphy never met a frame story he didn't like, there's one here too: the conceit is that some kind of documentary is being filmed, and so people like Olivia de Havilland (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Joan Blondell (Kathy Bates, another of Murphy's regulars) give tidbits of backstory about Joan and Bette.

Certainly this is an entertaining show and I'll continue to watch. So far it's not outrageous, but I'm sure—just based on the actual history of the subject matter—it's building to that. I will say I'm way more excited about the prospect of a Charles v Diana story line next season. In the meantime, I'll enjoy this one. There is, after all, a reason I keep watching Ryan Murphy shows. For the most part, they serve up the very thing(s) he promises. It's just a matter of deciding which of those things I want. In the case of Feud, yeah, I think there's room on my plate for a little.

3.11.2017

Favorite Movies

I'm not sure anyone can truly narrow down their "favorite" movies. Or maybe only a dull person could, someone who never has moods and is always the same will perhaps not change his mind about which films are his favorite. Whenever I'm asked, there are a few that immediately spring to mind. But there are others that I have to dig deeper for.

When someone asks me what my favorite film is, I answer without hesitation: Young Sherlock Holmes. This is the movie that had the largest impact on my childhood, so I think that's a fair answer. Alongside it, I might mention the Indiana Jones films which also had a huge impact on me. The Secret of NIMH and The Last Unicorn and Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal and The Neverending Story . . . I watched Clue whenever we had a rainy night . . . I remember being enamored of Annie for a while . . . Watching Summer Magic over and over one summer when it aired constantly on the Disney Channel . . . Quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail . . . Watching The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock a lot, too . . . And The Point. I used to write in my school notebooks, "A point in every direction is the same as no point at all."

But these are all movies from when I was young ("young" being relative). In high school, I fell in love with Jurassic Park, to the point that my classmates gave me all JP stuff for my birthday. As an undergrad, I was blown away by The Matrix.

So how do you define a "favorite"? I suppose that's what it comes down to. Is it a movie you watch over and over again and always enjoy? Is it a movie that made a difference in your world somehow?

I'm asking because tonight I showed my oldest son The Prestige, which I had forgotten how much I liked. I wouldn't hesitate to call it a favorite. Certainly I think it's my favorite Christopher Nolan movie. I never fail to be wowed by it, even though I know, so to speak, how the trick is done. What I mean is, I never get tired of the story.

Is that the key to a favorite? Loving the story beyond its years? Then some of my other favorites would be Now, Voyager and The Innocents. My Fair Lady remains my favorite musical. Oh, and Rope. I do love Rope. Easily my favorite Hitchcock film.

These are just the ones I can think of right now. On a different day, at a different time, the answers could change based on my mood and what comes to mind. Are there any that never change? If so, is that how I know they're my favorites? Because I always name them, no matter what? Well then, Young Sherlock Holmes still tops the list. It will forever be the one that comes to mind first. And the Indiana Jones movies, though which one I like most will fluctuate. (I don't count Crystal Skull. I pretend it never happened.)

I can trace a path through my life as it was impacted by movies. The ones I would see and then my friends and I would act out. The ones my family and I would quote. I remember seeing Ghostbusters and being too afraid to walk home from my friend's house down the street because that movie really bothered me. I remember collecting the Dick Tracy trading cards after that movie came out.

But then I wonder at which point the impact began to fade. Film school? When I was subjected to so many movies I could no longer feel them? Oh, but that's where I saw Now, Voyager and Rope and so many other movies that I'll remember even if I didn't love them.

I do love a lot of movies, but are they favorites? V for Vendetta is a fantastic film that I'll watch almost whenever I come across it, but I don't think it's a favorite. Maybe "favorite" films have to connect in a way that is unable to be articulated. But it does leave me to wonder why I can truly enjoy some movies without feeling that connection. What forges that bond?

This post is just a lot of me musing and rambling. Trying to suss out which films are truly my favorites. I don't think there's a firm answer. But after re-watching The Prestige tonight, I know it's on the list. And that makes me feel good. Because it means that my list didn't stop when I was young. It means it's still possible for me to have new favorites ("new" also being relative). That gives me hope. Because I've liked a lot of movies, but I can't remember the last time anything I saw became a favorite. I hope it happens again soon.

3.10.2017

Television: Broadchurch 3.2

We begin compiling a list of potential suspects by taking note of their strange behavior, which mainly consists of them looking shifty. Trish's estranged husband (is "estranged" the word? they're separated but still see each other around town) tops the list, not for refusing the DNA swab, though that's reason for pause, but because he pulled a bag out of his closet and began washing the clothes in it, right down to the soles of the shoes. Hmm?

Also, smarmy kid running the fishing line manufacturer, acting like heir to a throne (made of fishing net). Someone slap him, please.

Ellie asks Beth to nudge Trish in the direction of giving her statement, even though Trish isn't ready. Then Hardy makes the decision for everyone by demanding Trish get down to the station at 4:00. I think the acting here is brilliant, btw. The tug of war between wanting to be compassionate and needing to find the rapist before he can strike again is both subtle and palpably tense. I also had a moment in which I felt like Hardy was angry, not just about the urgency of the case, but about being a man forced to deal with what another man had done to a woman. (Angry at the rapist, mind, not at having to do his job. Angry and maybe a little guilty by association with his gender.) I'm not sure I'm explaining that well, but again, it's such a subtle thing but done so well. It's why I love this show.

What else? Maggie hates what's happening to her little newspaper, and then she's told that they're closing the Broadchurch office anyway and taking the paper in a more regional direction. "Redefining 'local'" they said. I can see both sides of this. Newspapers don't sell like they used to. People go online or to the telly for news. Crying, "It's an institution!" won't save things. But, cute as the kittens were, they shouldn't have been the lead. Sure, put the picture on the front page, but then direct readers to page six or eight or whatever.

It occurs to me that I sort of miss getting a newspaper . . .

And Paul is mad, too, because no one goes to church any more. Or they only go when something is wrong, never when times are good. Church has become a kind of last resort when one is desperate.

There's a lot of social commentary in this show. But for the millionth time, it's done so well, I don't even mind.

Finally, that little pissant Harford runs off to . . . was it her dad? Anyway, she's related to the guy who owns the store Trish works in, and after being told not to talk about the case, of course she does just that. Well, we assume she does. We don't see the conversation, so we can't know what she said.

Sum total of all that occurs in this episode: Trish is sent a threatening text from an unknown caller telling her to shut up.

Dun dun DUN.

Seriously, though, I do love this show. I'll be sorry when it's well and truly over, but at the same time it's not the kind of thing I'd want to see them drag on indefinitely. Better to end while you're on top. *sob*

3.07.2017

Television: Elementary, "Wrong Side of the Road"

Was anyone really asking, "Whatever happened to Kitty?" I'd think we'd be more curious about Mycroft or Lestrade, but okay. After all the Shinwell, maybe Kitty is a relief.

We gloss over the fact that Kitty is wanted for murder by saying she sent Gregson a letter, so that when she arrives at the precinct, she is welcomed with open arms and much love. "Must've been some letter," mutters Watson, as if hanging a lampshade on it excuses it for being a plot convenience.

And why is Kitty back? Well, someone she helped Holmes put away in prison is now out on good behavior and people connected to his case are starting to die. So the concern is that Holmes and Kitty are on the hit list. "Get them before they get you," more or less. Until the guy they think is behind the hits ends up dead himself.

Someone appears to be covering up evidence, too. When it becomes clear that one "natural causes" death may actually be a lethal injection that prompted a heart attack, the body is dug up in the dead of night and set on fire before it can be exhumed and re-examined. Hmm.

There seems to be a Red-Headed League threading through all this, as red hair abounds from various sides, including a strand (dyed from gray) at the scene of the body burning.

Oh, and Kitty has a baby. ::shrug:: I guess this gives her more to lose? That's the usual dramatic reason for giving someone a sudden wife/husband/child/pet.

The episode ends with Holmes being taken into custody because the government was behind it all along. Or something. It's not entirely clear because it was a cliffhanger. Maybe they'll enlighten us next week.

3.05.2017

Television: Broadchurch 3.1

The final series (season) begins with Hardy and Miller handling a rape victim. Fair warning: it's difficult to watch, even though the program handles it with utmost tact and respect.

Trish was raped while at a party on Saturday night but doesn't say anything to the police until Monday. Why? Shame, confusion, ??? Evidence supports her story, but there does seem to be something "off" about the whole thing, too. So long as this does not turn into yet another "she lied about rape" story line, I think I'll be okay. I'm pretty sick of accusers being portrayed as liars in television and movies just for the sake of drama.

Meanwhile, Miller's father is apparently staying with her. Pro: he can watch the kids. Con: he doesn't seem quite all there? Hard to tell from the short scene in which he was featured. Oh, and surprise, surprise, Tom is having issues. After everything that's happened, color me not at all shocked.

The episode is a subtle enough start, the equivalent of dipping toes in. This has never been a fast-moving show, so the sedate pace is nothing new. The episode lays the groundwork; let's see what builds from here.

3.02.2017

Television: Legion, "Chapter 2" & "Chapter 3"

Um . . . Okay. After a pretty strong start, we're now mired in David's head. I guess we're trying to figure out exactly what his powers are and how strong they are? And somehow this will help determine that?

I'm a character person, so the fact that this is character-driven is not a problem for me. Except that this character isn't doing anything but lying around and remembering stuff. And sometimes not remembering stuff. Or stopping others from knowing what he remembers. Or something.

What I'm saying is: it's getting kinda boring. Kinda monotonous. I'm hoping there's a payoff for all this at some point, but right now it feels a bit interminable.

I think we're supposed to be worried that, while they faff about with David's memories, the bad guys are going to find them. Except there's been almost no tension from that quarter since the first episode. Jean Smart (yeah, her character is named Dr. Bird, but she's always just going to be Jean Smart—which really does sound like a superhero name, come to think of it) talks about how there's a war and they're losing and they need David, but I don't feel any of that from the show.

I haven't watched the episode that aired last night yet. Maybe something finally happens? I mean, besides people getting stuck in David's brain or whatever?

Stylistically, this is a great show. And it has such potential. I loved the first episode. But I think we need to move things along now. This tendency to dwell doesn't do Legion any justice.

3.01.2017

IWSG Reminder

If you got here by looking for my IWSG post(s), you should click over to PepperWords for that! Cheers!