Pacific Rim – A Slow Burn

I didn’t see Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro, when it came out last summer. I had wanted to. I had planned to. Giant robots and even gigantic monsters! Anime fan that I am, having loved Neon Genesis Evangelion, I should have been first in line.

But I didn’t go see it. I finally got to see it later last year and, well, in all honesty, I wasn’t all that impressed.

But, and here’s a big but, I’ve seen the movie since then and it has slowly, ever so slowly, burned its way into my collective unconscious. I still have some problems with it, namely, that scientist guy with the extremely annoying voice and his equally annoying lack of comedic talent. But the rest of the movie I now love.

I love the look of it, the characters featured in it and, most of all, the massive fight scenes between the Jaegers, the gigantic human-controlled mecha and the Kaijus, monstrous creatures who have invaded our world from a breech in the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

I do wonder sometimes why some movies don’t quite hit the right nerve when we see them at  a particular time and then, when we chance upon them again, we find we like them after all.

Pacific Rim is what it is. A big, gorgeous SF spectacle of humanity fighting to survive when faced with what appears to be an unstoppable and unbeatable foe. I also like the multi-cultural look to it. It’s set in Hong Kong and the characters are from different nationalities, although since the breech is in the Pacific, it does focus on the countries that border the Pacific, e.g. China, Russia,  the United States, Japan and Australia.

I especially liked the character of Mako Mori, a rookie Jaeger pilot, played by Rinko Kikuchi. Mako lost her family when she was only a child in a Kaiju attack. She is determined to avenge their deaths. Mako is strong, but Kikuchi brings a touching vulnerability to the character that is sometimes lacking in “kick-ass” heroines.

Her mentor is Stacker Pentecost, played by the always impressive Idris Elba, who was a standout in Thor as Heimdal. Pentecost is very protective of Mako and we find out why during the course of the movie.

Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Becket, who starts out as a rather cocky Jaeger pilot who, after experiencing a tragedy early in the  movie, must learn to face his own inner demons.

Ron Perlman is also in the movie and he’s, well, he’s Ron Perlman. What more is there to say? He plays Hannibal Chau, a black market dealer in Kaiju organs. His part isn’t terribly essential to the plot, but it’s always a delight to see Perlman. I’m not surprised he was in the movie, as he played Hell Boy in Guillermo del Toro’s movie of the same name.

Another big plus is the great soundtrack by Ramin Djawldi, who has done such an impressive job with the music for the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Now, initially, on first viewing, I would have only given this movie two popcorn boxes. I’m going to give it three popcorn boxes now, however, because there are still some problems  that, honestly, could have been left by the wayside, i.e. the annoying scientist guy, who was really only in the movie to provide exposition about the Kaiju. Actually it’s probably more like 3 1/2 popcorn boxes, but I don’t have a half a popcorn box icon. I probably need to make one at some point. 🙂

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popcorn, movies, films, reviews, movie ratings

popcorn, movies, films, reviews, movie ratings

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Three Things I’d Like to Share Today

Still wondering if I even still have a job. Guess I’ll find out when the big boss comes back on Friday.

Oh, well, life must go on.

So, here are three things I’d like to share today.

First. I finally saw the movie The Great Gatsby. I resisted seeing this movie when it came out because The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels and I’m always a little suspicious when a book I really love is made into a movie. Plus it was directed by Baz Luhrmann. Now, I’ve got nothing against Mr. Luhrmann. I enjoyed Strictly Ballroom, his version of Romeo + Juliet (which also starred DiCaprio) and Moulin Rouge. But sometimes his movies are like a really big box of really rich chocolate which has been left to melt in the sun. A tasty, delicious but sometimes gooey mess.

The Great Gatsby

But I enjoyed The Great Gatsby. I thought Luhrmann did a fantastic job of capturing the giddy, chaotic, insane tenor of the roaring Twenties, and I think DiCaprio brought  just the right touch of charm, vulnerability and underlying tension and danger to the role of Gatsby. The other actors, which included Tobey Maguire as the narrator Nick Carraway and friend to Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy, the object of Gatsby’s infatuation, and Joel Edgerton as her bullish husband, Tom, were excellent also. The movie is gorgeous and I was drawn along with it from beginning to end. I’m sorry I missed it at the theater, but at least I still got a chance to see it. I’m giving it four popcorn boxes.

popcorn, movies, films, reviews, movie ratings

popcorn, movies, films, reviews, movie ratings

popcorn, movies, films, reviews, movie ratings

popcorn, movies, films, reviews, movie ratings

 

 

 

Secondly, I want to share a book on writing fiction that I think is one of the most interesting I’ve read in a long time. It’s called Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron. I’ve read this book twice already and took copious notes. Here’s some quotes from her website about the book.

  • How – and why – story and the brain developed in tandem.

  • Why we use story, and not facts, to make sense of the world.

  • What it is that gives story it’s unparalleled power.

  • What the brain craves in every story it hears.

  • How to create stories that hook readers from the very first sentence.

  • How to create stories capable of moving people to action.

I highly recommend as it’s not only a treatise on why we as a species are so drawn to stories, but also on how you as an author can tell compelling stories.

Thirdly, and last but not least, I had a visit with my doc today and she told me that since I’ve started my low-carb nutrition plan and went back to walking (40 minutes a day, five days a week), in a month I’ve lost seven pounds! I’ve still got a LONG way to go, but it’s start.

Now, I’m doing low-carb because my blood glucose was starting to inch up and I needed to cut back on the carbs. Not everyone would probably like doing low-carb, but I’m not not eating certain foods. If I do eat something that’s a bit high in carbs, I just cut back on it. One slice of bread instead of two. Soy milk instead of regular milk. And light, non-flavored soy milk at that. I love mashed potatoes, but I only eat about a 1/2 cup or less of it.

Counting carbs is a lot easier than I thought it would be and I’ve found that I don’t even miss all those high-carb foods so much. I feel better physically and I’m definitely going to stick with the program.

Now, if only I could finally say goodbye to crap job, which I hope to be doing soon, I’ll definitely be on the right track. 🙂

5 Great Articles about Using Tarot for Writing

tarot, fortune telling, tarot spreads, crystal ball, reading tarot, telling fortunesI use the Tarot a lot when I write. I have dozens and dozens of tarot decks. I collect them. I have tarots that feature vampires, Olympic gods, zombies, fairies, vodou, fairy tales, etc. I find them very useful. I use my tarot cards to brainstorm characters, ideas, plots, scenes, settings, etc.

I plan to blog more about how I use tarot for writing  at some point, but for now, since I have to go to my weekend job on this fine, sunny Sunday afternoon, I’ll quickly share some articles about using tarot for writing.

Tarot for Writers – Corrine Kenner

First off, if you’re interested in using tarot for writing, pick up this book Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner. I highly recommend it, and I never fail to mention it in the tarot and writing workshops I’ve done over the years.

Kenner’s book is not only a fantastic introduction to tarot, with meanings provided for all the cards, but she gives you great advice on how to use the tarot to create characters, brainstorm plots, come up with ideas and even to break writer’s block. I can’t recommend it enough. Consider it your basic textbook or guidebook for using the tarot for writing.

Kenner also has a book out called Astrology for Writers. I haven’t read it yet as I just heard about it. Like today. I’ve ordered it, however, and will let you know what I think of it. Based on Tarot for Writers and how useful it’s been for me, I don’t doubt Astrology for Writers will prove just as useful.

Article No. 1 – Using Tarot in Writing

My friend Raelyn Barclay has done a phenomenal job with the tarot. She is an amazing resource and you will learn a lot from her not only about writing and using the tarot but the tarot in general.

Article No. 2 – The Tarot as a Tool for Writing Your Novel

This is an excellent article by Marlisa Fabrega on how to use tarot to write your novel. She has great examples on how to use a single tarot card like the Empress, for example, to come up with a character for your story.

Article No. 3 – Tarot for Writers – Using Tarot to Find & Nurture Your Creative Muse

This article by Sarah Ockler talks about how she used tarot to write her YA novel. She has great tips, links to tarot resources and a list of books that feature tarot in them.

Article No. 4 – Using Tarot for Creative Writing

Janet Boyer provides links to spreads that can be used to do tarot readings for your characters. Have you ever tried that? It can be fun and give you insights into your characters that you didn’t have before.

Article No. 5 – Tarot and Creative Writing

This article by Ruth Ann Amberstone provides some handy questions to ask yourself before and during your writing sessions.

I hope these prove helpful to you if you’re considering using tarot in your writing or have already done so, but wanted to see what others have done with tarot and creative writing.

If you have any questions about using tarot for writing, please feel free to ask them in the comments section.

The Croods Surprised Me! Big Time!

‘The Croods.’ DreamWorks Animation

I had not even heard of The Croods until it showed up on Netflix streaming a couple of months ago. It came out in March, 2013.

What was I doing in March, 2013? Heck, I don’t know. Probably going crazy like I am now. I mean I found out the movie made $587,204.668 worldwide and I just recently heard about it.

Anyway, whatever the reason is I hadn’t heard of it, I was not that impressed with the trailer when I came across it a few weeks ago. The movie looked totally dumb! 

However,  the other night I was bored (how can someone be bored who has 500 movies saved in her My List at Netflix I can’t quite comprehend myself), but I was. It was late too. Like about 11:00 p.m or something. I saw that The Croods had gotten some good ratings, I like animated movies and, what the heck, I hadn’t seen a movie about cave folks in awhile. I told myself I would watch it for a few minutes, most likely it would bore me or I”d hate it and then I’d go to bed.

Next thing I know the credits are rolling and I’m sitting with this nice little warm glow in my chest, which usually happens after I’ve seen a movie that was not only well-done, but left me with something afterwards. Like the embers from a warm fire.

Directed by Kirk De Micco and written by De Micco and Chris Sanders, The Croods is the story of a family of cave dwellers in prehistoric times. Voiced by Nicholas Cage as Grug, the paterfamilias, Emma Stone as Eep, his adventurous daughter, and Ryan Reynolds as Guy, literally the new guy on the block, The Croods was a delight from beginning to end.

Most of the cave dwellers in the immediate area have been wiped out except for the Croods. You know, nature red in tooth and claw and all that. Grug has managed to keep his family safe because he is not only strong, but he’s cautious to the point where he forces the family to hole up in a cave and the only time they go outside is to get food, which features in a rather hilarious sequence where the Croods work together as a well-oiled survival team, from the dad on down to the toddler, to get their hands on a huge egg.

‘The Croods.’ DreamWorks Animaton

Eep, however, wants more and in true hero’s journey fashion sneaks away when she sees a strange light outside the cave. The light turns out to be a torch carried by Guy, a young man who is not only more advanced than the Croods (he knows how to make fire, for example) but warns Eep there’s soon to be a cataclysmic event that will wipe out the Croods if they don’t get their collective butts out of that cave. And thus begins the journey of the Croods as they must search for a new home.

The voice performances were great (even Nicholas Cage was good, and I’m not normally a fan of his), the animation is gorgeous (the landscapes are quite fantastical and obviously never truly existed but are astounding to look at), the storyline moves along quite briskly (hey, the movie kept me up past midnight), and there’s a message that doesn’t necessarily hit you over the head, but does remind you of what it means to be human.

I also liked how important story-telling was to the characters. Everyone eagerly gathers round when someone is about to tell a story. Grug basically uses his stories to warn his family about dangers. Guy, however, uses storytelling to inspire and to encourage.

Here’s a quote from a review I came across by Jeff Koons.

The imagination of The Croods lies both in the mastery of animation and the spirit of humanity found within the story. The film emulates our world as it deals with the human condition and a realization that it’s not just about survival but transcendence. After emerging from the darkness of the cave, the Croods learn to face their fears, and after initial reluctance, accept the guidance of an orphan boy. The guidance allows the family to draw upon his leadership and learn from their new experiences. It’s human nature to strive for and find a greater purpose in life. As the Croods begin to grasp the power of ideas and analyze their own existence, they move from contemplating the present to the universe and beyond. As their experiences become richer, they begin to understand that there is a human responsibility, not just to one’s self and family, but to one’s community. It’s a beautiful moment of enlightenment as the family experiences this growth and evolution. I walked out of the theater feeling that my family and I could feel a greater connection to what it means to be human and to face the challenges that we confront in being part of the ongoing story.

‘The Croods.’ DreamWorks Animation

That pretty much sums up what I felt about The Croods, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. So I didn’t 🙂

So, yep, I was very pleasantly surprised by The Croods.

I give it (drum roll please) 5 Stellar Popcorn boxes!

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Oh, yeah, and it’s also up for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature against “Despicable Me 2,” “Ernest & Celestine,” “Frozen” and “The Wind Rises. I’ve not seen any of these movies yet, although I do have “Despicable Me 2” sitting on my table for future viewing.

Picture Bride – Movie Review

Movies3I’m finally tackling the hundreds of movies I have in the My List streaming queue over at Netflix. I have this habit of putting on My List whatever movie happens to catch my eye or interest. Problem is even if I watched a movie a DAY from My List I’d not get through all the movies I’ve saved in even a year. More like a year and a half.

But I’m giving it a try.

The other day I seriously just closed my eyes and picked a movie at random from the list. This is the one I chose.

Picture Bride, released in 1995, was directed by Kayo Hatta from a screenplay she co-wrote with Mari Hatta. Kayo Hatta was an Asian American filmmaker, writer and community activist.  It appears that Picture Bride was her only feature film, which is unfortunate as it was a lovely movie.

Starring Youki Kudoh, Akira Takayama, Tamlyn Tomita and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, the movie also features a brief, but memorable appearance by Toshiro Mifune.

Picture Bride tells the story of 16 year Riyo who becomes the “picture bride” of a field hand on a sugar cane plantation in Hawaii. It’s set around 1918. Riyo has never met the man she’s going to marry. All she has is a picture of him and he of her. The marriage is arranged by Riyo’s aunt. When Riyo arrives in Hawaii, she discovers that her husband-to-be is far older than the picture he sent her. He had sent her a picture of his younger self. He is, in fact, in his forties and as Riyo angrily tells him, old enough to be her father.

Understandably, Riyo is not happen about what she sees as a deception on his part and wishes only to return to Japan. But she has no family there and, even if she did, it would cost more money than she can earn as a field hand and laundress.

The concept of “picture brides”  came about in the early 20th century when immigrant workers, mostly Japanese and Chinese, would engage matchmakers to help them find wives. Photographs of the prospective bride and groom were exchanged in order to facilitate these matches.

Picture Bride was a lovely, lyrical movie that did not rely upon big stars or special effects to tell a poignant story of love and longing. The movie was just long enough to tell it’s simple, quiet store. The characters were interesting, with none of them perfect. They were human beings with flaws and needs and desires, thwarted not only by circumstances but by their own self-doubt.

The scenery was gorgeous as was the cinematography and  whoever did the costumes did a wonderful job in research and design as it felt as if I were really in that time and place. Most of the movie is in Japanese with English subtitles and I was glad for that as I love the sound of the Japanese language.

There was one possible story line that was hinted at in the movie, but was never followed up on. That was my only quibble with the movie. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed it and at the end it left me with that warm, quiet feeling such movies usually evoke.

Popcorn rating – 4 Bags

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The Wolverine – Movie Review

Movies3I don’t go to the movies as often as I used to. Partly because once I finally got a wide-screen television I discovered I could enjoy movies as much as I did when I went to the theater. Ticket prices have a lot to do with it also.

I’m still a big movie lover, however, but now, unless it’s some movie I’ve just go to see on the big screen, I wait until the movie shows up at Netflix or my local library. With the shorter turnaround time from when a movie comes out at the theater and shows up on DVD, I usually don’t have to wait that long.Wolverine, Hugh Jackman, movie review, X-Men, X-Men movies

Which brings me to The Wolverine. I didn’t see it in the theater, but not because I thought it sucked or anything. It was for the reasons I stated above. Unless a movie is something I’ve just got to see when it comes out, I wait for it to show up on DVD.

The Wolverine stars Hugh Jackman as the eponymous hero. Jackman has played Wolverine since the debut of the X-Men movie franchise back in 2000. Wow, can you believe it’s been fourteen years since the franchise started? I’m a big fan of Jackman, but I have to admit, because of the clarity of HD, you can see the years beginning to show on his face.

But he’s still pretty darn hot! He was heavily muscled in this movie and the action scenes were a testament to that.

The movie also starred Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova and Will Yun Lee. Lee played Danny Woo on one of my favorite, too-early cancelled TV shows, Witchblade.

Directed by James Mangold, who also directed Jackman in another favorite of mine, Kate and Leopold, the movie was written by Scott Frank, who wrote among other movies, Marley & Me and Minority Report, and Mark Bomback, who penned Total Recall (2012) and, apparently, is doing the rewrite of the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey.

So what did I think of The Wolverine? Well, I’ve seen all the X-Men movies and this one was slightly better than some of them but not as good as others. This is the second X-Men movie featuring Wolverine as the central character and I thought it was better than 2009’s X-Men’s Origins: Wolverine.

The Wolverine is set in modern-day Japan and I’m a sucker for any movie set in that country as I’m fascinated by Japan. The cast was serviceable, meaning they said their lines and did their part. I thought Wolverine’s love interest in the movie, Mariko,  played by the model turned actress, Tao Okamoto, was very lovely but a bit bland as an actress.

Rila Fukushima, who played the katana-wielding, precognitive Yukio, was a pretty likeable character. Like so many female characters in so many movies, she kicked her requisite quota of asses. She did have a bit more depth to her than Mariko and I found her to be, as a result, a more interesting character.

As for Dr. Green, Viper, whatever the heck her name was supposed to be, as played by Svetlana Khodchenkova, I had no idea what her deal was. I mean she was a villain, yes, but I never really got any sense as to what she was doing or wanting except to spit venom into people’s faces.

Wait, I should clarify that. I did find out what she was up to but by then I didn’t care.

See, that was the major problem I had with The Wolverine. The movie waited so long to finally clue me in as to what was going on that when I finally found out (due to a rather inane “plot twist”)  I really didn’t care. I never felt fully invested in the plot, the characters or their plights. There were a lot of action scenes that honestly left me feeling ho-hum.

It wasn’t a bad movie, but my criteria for how I feel about a movie pretty much follows this line of thought:

1. Would I recommend this movie to family and friends?
2. Would I watch this movie again?
3. Would I want to personally own this movie to add to my collection?

In all three cases, with The Wolverine, I have to say maybe (but with a lot of qualifiers) on Question 1 and a definite no for both Questions 2 and 3.

Not that Question 3 is necessarily a kiss of death for a movie if I should answer no.  I’ve seen a lot of movies I really liked but have no desire to own, but would watch again if I came across them. If I want to own a movie, well, that says a lot! Unfortunately, that was not the case with The Wolverine. I have no desire to own it and one viewing was enough for me.

Popcorn Rating – 1 Bag (Don’t even bother)  to 5 Bags (What are you waiting for? SEE THIS MOVIE NOW!)

I give The Wolverine three popcorn bags. It was okay, but it left me feeling a bit blah at the end.

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