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Review: The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016)

Just got back! Trailer!



First things first: This is not a prequel. I thought it was a prequel. It starts prior to Snow White and the Huntsman, when Chris Hemsworth's character (who now has a name--it's Eric!) first gets taken by Queen Freya (Emily Blunt's Ice Queen is called Freya) to train in her army. But then it skips forward like 7 years and it's after Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron's Evil Queen from the first movie) has been defeated by Snow White (Kristen Stewart was not invited back), and supposedly everything is okay now. Until it isn't.

Really it's an expansion of the first movie, an opportunity to explore Eric's relationship with his first love, Sara (Jessica Chastain's definitely-not-inspired-by-Katniss ace archer), and how that all went down before Ravenna's minions picked him up in a tavern all depressed and mopey. It brings in new characters like Freya and Sara who are both a joy to watch, and whose characters arcs are more similar than they realize. The story is a basic quest adventure, with the quest object (the mirror) being the Sealed Evil In a Can variety, and I did enjoy seeing it come into play in the end. But I didn't love it as much as I wanted to. I have two main talking points here. Just two.

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*All GIFs via Giphy.

YA Adaptations: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, both the book by Brian Selznick and the movie (called simply Hugo) directed by Martin Scorcese, is about this kid who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. He keeps all the clocks in the station running, routinely pinches food from the shops to survive, and sometimes clockwork toys from the toy shop for parts. You see, he's trying to repair an automaton--a mechanical man who can write. The automaton is his last connection to his father, who died in a fire at the museum where he worked, and Hugo is sure that when he can get it working, the automaton will give him a message from his father.


Book Cover via GoodReads


Now, in order to get into the real meat of this story, I am going to have to spoil a mid-point plot twist--namely what Hugo actually finds when the automaton comes to life. I went into the movie completely cold and found myself spellbound, and I wouldn't want to rob anyone of that experience if you haven't seen / read it yet. So if you don't want to know any more, this is the place to stop reading.

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YA Adaptations: The Maze Runner

James Dashner's The Maze Runner series has four books, including the prequel that was published last, and movie adaptations for the first two, The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials. I've seen both, and while I certainly have a lot to say about both, for the purposes of keeping things relatively spoiler-free (and also not testing my blood pressure any more than absolutely necessary) I'm gonna stick with the first one.


Book cover via Goodreads


I don't like them.

Rather, I like the idea of this story, and I rather liked the movie by comparison--which is unusual, as I tend to like the book better than the movie--more than its execution. Certainly there have been worse things to happen to the YA Dystopia sub-genre in the wake of The Hunger Games, but this one bothers me for a very specific reason that I haven't seen in any other YA Dystopia so far.

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YA Adaptations: The Mortal Instruments

Have you heard of the Suck Fairy?

It's a wiley and sadistic little creature who visits all your favorite childhood movies, books, and TV shows, waves a wand, and POOF! Sucks all the magic and charm out of them. This is why when you revisit your favorite things from when you were a kid, you find yourself saying, "I used to think this was so cool, why does it suck now?" Because it's been visited by the Suck Fairy.

At least that was the explanation offered to me on the Internet awhile back. I forget which discussion brought this up. But actually, I'm experiencing sort of the opposite phenomenon now. What's the opposite of the Suck Fairy? A whimsical elf who visits things you didn't like that much on first encountering them, but then when you go back, you go, "Wow, I actually don't remember why I didn't care for this the first time, because it's actually awesome!" Any ideas? The Awesomeness Elf, perhaps?

Let's talk about The Mortal Instruments.


Book cover of City of Bones via Goodreads. Tangent: How gorgeous is that new boxed set? Wow. I'm glad I didn't buy the first editions, because now I can collect the prettier ones!


This best-selling YA urban fantasy series by Cassandra Clare has six books in the main line-up, plus a spin-off prequel series called The Infernal Devices, and most recently a spin-off short story collection called The Bane Chronicles. Since the adaptations so far are focused on the first book, City of Bones, that's mainly what we're talking about today. I have been wanting to love this series since the first book came out. Last week, I finally got it.

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A couple weeks ago, the following trailer was released for the upcoming movie adaptation of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children:



Honestly? I think it looks fun. I'm a big fan of reigning Queen of the Goths, Eva Green, and was immediately excited when I heard she'd been cast as the enigmatic Miss Peregrine herself. Also, say what you will about Tim Burton--he knows his audience, and he still has the capacity to create some stunning visuals and memorable characters when he starts with a good story. And this is a good story.

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Writing Update: My Revision Method

Results of the BluRay experiment: Nope. Not surprised really, but I *had* to try.

Next, since I started this blog as a way to keep folks posted on my adventures in writing and trying to get published, let's get back to that for a minute. It's been a very productive year for me--I had two articles published in the actual paper last year, which was my first print publication ever; and earlier this year I sent in a manuscript to a publisher I've had my eye on for a while. I'm not done submitting--going through the most recent edition of Writers Market and a few other places to see how gets it next--but this one's my top choice. Fingers crossed!

That second adventure forced me to actually write and finish a synopsis for the first time ever, which was an accomplishment in itself. Here's the worksheet that helped me do that: http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/04/17/how-to-write-a-1-page-synopsis/

I've seen dozens of different How To Synopsis type books, websites, workshops, etc., and this is the only one that's really helped. It's excellent, so definitely check it out if you're in Synopsis Hell and need some pointers.

So, here's what I'm working on now: Revising another project that's set in the same fictional universe as the one I submitted. Not a sequel, but a completely separate story with entirely different characters and a different target audience. Like the previous story, this one has been drafted to completion, perused by my trusted beta reader, and combed over with notes. So this is my (hopefully) final draft before I send it to a publisher/agency and cross more fingers on its behalf.

I want to share with you the method I've been using for my revisions lately, because I only just started doing things this way a few months ago, and it's been the most helpful, and the most likely to actually get me through to the last page. I'm sure you've heard this before, but every writer is different, and this might not necessarily work for you, but it's certainly working for me, and I'm excited about it.

What I do is take what I call the "Master" file of the manuscript--in this case, the Word file of the last one I revised back when I went over it with my beta's notes and mine. I keep that open in one window. In another window, I have a new document, which I name "Title_Draft X" based however many it is by that point. (For me, it's usually three or four.) I copy around 10 pages of text from the "Master" file (or a chapter's worth, depending on the chapter length), paste it into the "Draft X" file, and go over every line one more time. Sometimes I cut things out. Sometimes I add. Sometimes I move lines around or fluff up/trim down the descriptive paragraphs. But every time, I'm only dealing with those ten pages. Period. Then when I get to the end, I write [SEE PAGE X] at the bottom so I know where to pick up again in the "Master" file when I'm ready to do the next ten pages. Save, back up, repeat.

And that's it. I do that until I'm at the end of the manuscript. Sounds simple, right? It kind of is, and it kind of isn't. I do sometimes find a scene that will work better earlier in the story, and when I do I mark that spot with [INSERT SCENE FROM PAGE X], *or* I lift the whole scene from the text and plop it into Notepad until I'm done with those ten pages, and plop it back in when I'm done.

It sounds somewhat tedious. And it is. Revising is the least fun part of the writing process, especially for us pansters.* Because there's this bug in my brain that says, "But we've written it already. We know how this one ends. Let's play with the NEXT one instead." I write to find out how the story ends. If I know how it ends, I lose interest. So yeah, this part of it is tedious. But working on it in small chunks like this? I don't know, for some reason it just works.

*For those not in the know: "Pansters" are writers who start at the beginning and just write until they finish the story. As opposed to writing an outline and working from that. Outlining kills the creativity DEAD for me, every single time. I'm never doing it again.
Hi all! Two pieces of news:

1) I've decided to commit to writing at least one blog post every week, in order to stay motivated and in touch and stuff. We'll be going with Tuesday until further notice. Wish me luck!

2) I have a new laptop computer! You saw the FaceBook post, you know her name already. But she doesn't come with DVD-playing software, so I downloaded VLC, which is super-easy to use and much better than the Windows Media player I was using for Lenny. (The now-dead former Lenovo, may he rest in pieces.)

However. It also gives me this screen when I start it up:


[Screenshot of VLC "Open Media" menu, with option to play BluRay disc circled w/ accompanying text saying "SRSLY???"]*


Sooooooo, I dunno if this means I can actually PLAY a BluRay disc on this computer, because I thought you needed, y'know, special hardware for that, never mind software. On the other hand, this is a program that I got online, which by definition means it should be able to accommodate most, if not all, computers you introduce to it.

I need to test this.

Not getting my hopes up, but I grabbed a BluRay copy of a movie I've already seen (the 2015 version of Cinderella) from the library yesterday to check it out.

Results pending--stay tuned!

*Another thing I've decided to start doing: captioning/describing all images posted on the blog. This is why.

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2015

Damn, this was a good year to be a movie geek. Star Wars! The Avengers! Mad Max! Ex Machina! Crimson Peak! STAR WARS!! I saw a lot of movies in the theater, some of them twice, and I still haven't finished going through the back list. But what was it like for horror fans? Specifically, those of the female persuasion?

The Visit - $65.2 million
Insidious: Chapter 3 - $52.2 million
(Poltergeist - $47.4 million)
(Krampus - $42.7 million)
Unfriended - 32.5 million
Crimson Peak - $31.1 million
(Sinister 2 - 27.7 million)
(The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death - $26.5 million)
The Lazarus Effect - $25.8 million
Ex Machina - $25.4 million
(Honorable Mention: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension - $18.3 million)

That's a LOT of movies. Like I said, it was a good year. However you feel about M. Night Shyamalan, or remakes of classics like Poltergeist, or the unflinching cynicism of Christmastime horror-comedies like Krampus, chances are there was something for you to see and love this year no matter what. That's kind of a big deal. Having options is a big deal. Seeing so many movies catering to so many different sensibilities is a big deal. The comparative lack of presence from people of color in this list, regardless of the other good things I just mentioned--also a big deal. Again, there's a reason I decided to do this looking specifically at box office numbers, rather than what I personally thought was the best.

But let's be honest here: this recap is mostly gonna be me gushing about Crimson Peak.


via Tumblr


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WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2014

Happy Leap Day! *phew* Still February. So, I had to get a new computer and lost all my stats so I had to look up these numbers again. I also saw more in theaters this month than I was anticipating, and that helped fill the space nicely I think, but also filled in a lot of blogging time I was expecting to use for other things. So yeah, the wrap-up post for 2015 is gonna get squished into next month. Sorry about that!

Annabelle - $84.3 million
(The Purge: Anarchy - $72 million)
Ouija - $50.9 million
(Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones - $32.5 million)
Oculus - $27.7 million
(Honorable Mention: As Above/So Below - $21.3 million)


The horror universe is Jason Blum's oyster right now. 4 of the 6 movies on this list are Blumhouse productions. If that doesn't convince you he's dominating the genre, I don't know what will. However, even discounting the massive turnout of Blumhouse pictures on this list, there is one that is conspicuous by it's very absence: Jennifer Kent's The Babadook.

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Review: The Witch (2016)

One of the reasons I love watching horror movies, especially in the theater, is that everyone is riveted to the screen. In my experience at least, horror audiences contain the fewest texters, chatterboxes, and rustlings of various foodstuffs. If there is talking, it's of the, "Don't go in there!" variety, or everyone scream-laughing at the jump scares.

But this is the first time I've been in an audience that was utterly silent by the time the credits rolled.


No, really. Do NOT go in there.


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