Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review: Justice League (movie)

What it's about?

After the death of Superman at the hands of Lex Luther and Zod, the world has lost its hope. Batman is convinced something bigger is coming but his attempts to bring together a team are failing. Now that bigger attack is coming and what few people he has managed to gather are not prepared to stand alone. 


Full transparency, I hated Batman V Superman and I know I'm not alone.  I honestly have had no love for any of the movies DC has put out recently (animated or not) with the exception of Wonder Woman.  I did like Man of Steel, but mostly because it broke the Superman mold for me and made him interesting to watch - to the detriment of what most think makes Superman who he is.  So to say I wasn't expecting much from this movie is an understatement.

I was pleasantly surprised. 

Now, by no means is Justice League a master piece, far from it. At it's core it's a fun movie to shut your brain off and watch, and the storytelling and action actually makes it quite easy to do that.  I found myself having a good time and enjoying the movie, even if there were narrative issues throughout.

The beginning is quite choppy, with -  I swear - 20 different beginnings to the film which weren't needed. However once that time has passed the movie is easy to like. Joss Whedon's talent for writing engaging dialog shows throughout the entire movie and makes the characters easy to like and get along with.  It especially shows with Flash and Aquaman and their senses of humor. They were easily the best parts of the movie, but honestly all the characters got a moment, even if it was small. 

The characters we already know going in from previous movies had their stories rounded out and expanded, while the newer characters were introduced with just enough to make them just as interesting. Even the big bad, who under performed a bit, still got much more build up and time then in some Marvel movies. Steppenwolf was kept very cut and dry and for once only hinted at what might come after him, rather then rushing forward with too many villains like some other films (I'm looking at you Batman v Superman).

In the world of DC attempting to catch up to Marvel, this really isn't the train wreck I was expecting to see. A lot of the stuff I did like beyond the above is more spoilery so I'll stay away from it for those reading.  Still I would recommend seeing this movie and not going in with such a fatalistic attitude as the previous movies may have given you.  This feels like a new start for DC, and if they do focus more on the single movies and crafting the story as they say they're going to now, we may yet get some more films that give us exactly what we want.

Oh, though you should know there's a mid credit stinger and one at the end and both are worth watching. 

Final thoughts:

Justice League oddly gives me hope for future DC movies. I know they've stated they plan to move away from their extended universe and I'm all for this, but this movie shows they can still make entertaining stories that aren't just a royal mess. So maybe the ones they've already announced have a bit more promise then I thought. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: American Horror Story: Roanoke

What's it about?

One of the creepiest true stories in history is that of the Roanoke Colony that up and disappeared, leaving all their belongings and only the word 'Croatoan' behind.  In current times a family has purchased an old farm nearby in the hopes of starting over, only to find that the farm is haunted by the missing colony members.  They manage to make it out alive and now are telling everything that happened to them, via a reality confession show with very realistic reenactments.


American Horror Story is one of my favorite current tv shows and this season shows no sign of stopping. I love the variety of stories and characters and how they manage to capture different pieces of fear and use them against the audience.

This series follows the trend I'm used to with this show.  Along with a new and interesting story, the creators have also decided to try another form of story telling: reality tv. By using only footage caught on camera by reality show cast members, 'actors' and cell phone footage, the show treats you to a very unique story.

Every season the story telling style changes and I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that they would eventually touch reality TV.  The narrative style almost simulates a google search, specifically my own when I find a story that's super interesting and devour the entire internet to find everything I can about it.  The footage does the same, showing you piece by piece and letting you piece it together.  In the end the story is choppy and messy and a little hard to follow, but since it reminds me of myself, I really love it.

What's actually really nice about this season is you're introduced to everything via the reality show so you don't see the actual ghosts until halfway through the season and oddly that makes them scarier.  Because you never hear the actual ghosts talk and when they do finally show up you are already scared of them and as creepy as Kathy Bates is, the actual Butcher is worse.

My favorite character this season has to be Lee, the real Lee.  I didn't like her at first, but when the actual Lee took a more active role in the story she grew on me.  I loved seeing her move from being the victim to the hero of the story - if you could call it that. Also, while Angela Bassett was awesome, I loved Adina Porter for her range and how easy it was to identify with her and what she was experiencing.

I do have to say I was disappointed with Lady Gaga's role with this season.  Sadly she wasn't in the season that much due to her tour and album, so her part was quite small. What little there was of her character left me hungry for more.  She played the original supreme witch (connecting back to Coven) and I would have loved to see more of her character then a couple flashbacks and a few flashes.  I'm not sure how more of her story would have fit in overall, but I can't help wanting it.

The most disappointing part of the series was the Polk family. The stereotypical hillbilly family, they provided a second threat to the main characters for daring to live on that land.  What made them interesting was that they had ties to The Butcher and her ghost army which allowed them to survive - and yet they were also saddled with the standard inbreeding, druggie, stupid and mentally impaired cliches that fill the horror genre.  It made them uninteresting and boring and honestly seemed a bit below the amazing writing I'm used to on this series.  Also their need to have cameras everywhere became a tired gimmick plot device to keep the series going.  While a single YouTube video was used toward the end with the death threat, I wish they'd peppered that in throughout as a reason why they recorded stuff so it didn't seem so contrived. They didn't seem fully realized and the series just kinda sank there.

Final Thoughts

I very much liked this season and how it tied to the others. While not my favorite, it does stand out for it's depiction of certain characters and how the main antagonists were utilized (those being the ghosts). Now, as usual, I have to wait a year to watch the newest season in one binge sitting. Oh well, worth it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Books You Should Check Out: Lovesick Gods by Amanda Meuwissen

Heroes aren’t meant to act like their villains—or fall in love with them.

The elements touch everyone on Earth—Fire, Water, even Light—but every so often someone becomes more attuned to their elemental leaning and develops true power. When an evil Elemental known as Thanatos arrived in Olympus City, it saw the rise of its first hero—Zeus. But the death toll caused by defeating Thanatos changed Zeus, who by day is young detective Danny Grant. 

It’s been six months since Thanatos terrorized the city at the start of Lovesick Gods. Danny should be used to his duty behind the mask, but the recent past haunts him. His girlfriend left him, he snaps at the barest provocation, his life feels empty—he needs an outlet, any outlet to pull him out of his depression.

Enter notorious thief Malcolm Cho, the Ice Elemental Prometheus. There was a time when Danny welcomed a fight with Cho, filled with colorful banter and casual flirtations that were a relief compared to Thanatos. Even as a criminal, Cho had recognized the threat Thanatos posed and promised to help Danny stop him, but the day Danny needed Cho, he never showed. Cho was the reason so many people died that day—including Danny’s mother.

Danny decides to teach the man a lesson and fan the fire of their attraction into something more. At worst, he’ll get some no-strings-attached sex out of the deal and finally blow off steam; at best, he’ll get Cho to fall in love with him and then break his heart to spite him. Danny doesn’t expect to fall for Cho in the process, and he certainly can’t predict the much darker threat on the horizon.

Excerpt below Author Info.

About the Author:

Amanda Meuwissen has been writing and posting online for many years, including maintaining the website and blog for the software company Outsell. She is an avid writer and consumer of fiction through film, prose, and video games, and is the author of the paranormal romance trilogy The Incubus Saga and young adult novel Life as a Teenage Vampire. Amanda lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her husband, John, and their two cats.


Danny had always assumed Cho’s subtle flirting was just to get a rise out of him. The man mocked him, lied to him, betrayed him. And all that, that got his crank turning? Even when he’d played nice with Danny in the past, he’d just been hoping to bend him over the nearest surface.
Cho wasn’t good or redeemable. When the city needed him, when Danny had needed him, he’d run away and hid, then dared to show his face right after and expected Danny to act like nothing had happened. Cho just wanted to use Danny like everybody else. Even Andre and Lynn wouldn’t look twice at him if he wasn’t Zeus.
Just like them, Cho only saw Danny suit deep, not even skin deep, just leather and lightning. No one cared about Danny Grant. His past relationships proved that. He’d never once been the one to end things; they’d always left him first. Vanessa left because he was too distant; he couldn’t tell her he was an Elemental, and it had only gotten worse after his mother’s death. Before that, his last boyfriend had been sweet and soft and loving, but he couldn’t handle Danny’s intensity.
“Maybe I need someone who isn’t Lightning leaning,” he’d said.
Danny didn’t care what element someone was, but he didn’t want sweet or soft right now. He definitely didn’t want loving. He shouldn’t have to always be the lonely superhero that couldn’t be honest about who he was without putting people in danger.
Cho wouldn’t be in danger. He could take care of himself. Danny wouldn’t have to hide that he was Zeus. He wouldn’t have to hide anything, worry about anything. He could take what he wanted and blow off some of that steam rising steadily within him.
Turning around, he spotted Cho in line, halfway to the counter now. Cho was smooth and handsome and exuded sex appeal. It wasn’t as if Danny was blind to that. This could be everything he needed. And he’d finally get his revenge.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New Release: magnifiqueNOIR Book 1: I Am Magical by Briana Lawrence

RELEASE DAY IS HERE! - A message from my wifey:

This time last year I was launching the Kickstarter for this little idea I had about a group of black, queer, magical girls. While the Kickstarter didn’t end up panning out, I told myself that I wouldn’t give up on the idea and that I’d finish the story and release it someday.

Today is that day.

“magnifiqueNOIR” is here and I am so thrilled to be presenting it to everyone!

If you’ve already preordered the book through the Indiegogo or our Etsy shop, you will be receiving it very soon! I got confirmation from UPS that the 15 boxes (yes, 15!) will be at my house this Friday! After that, I’ll be autographing all of them and then giving my post office a nightmare (just kidding, we already talked to them and came up with a plan).

If you haven’t ordered the book yet, now is your chance! Not just the physical copy, but the eBook as well! So here’s Bri’s somewhat comprehensive list of ways to have a little bit of black girl magic in your home, on your Kindle, and more important: in your hearts (boo Bri that was cheesy).

  1. The super special awesomely autographed copy! Follow the link here to get a physical copy of the book autographed by yours truly! We have a limited amount of numbers before we order batch #2 of the book in time for fall season conventions!
  2. The amazing Amazon physical copy! While it doesn’t come with my autograph, it is discounted for a limited time, and hey, free shipping through Prime is always nice!
  3. The magically fantastic eBook copy! Because who doesn’t want their electronic reading device to come packed with black girl magic?
  4. Conventions! I’ll have a list of them up soon, but this Saturday, I’ll be at MSP Fall ComiCon at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, so if you’re local, you can come and get a copy of the book from me in person!
  5. Don't forget we have prints and a bunch of items with the girls on it. All of these can be found at our etsy store:

Now comes the next part: promotion. If you are absolutely in love with the book, talk about it online! Use the hashtag #magnifiqueNOIR to share your love for these girls. Take pictures of your book/eBook, share this post everywhere, and definitely, most definitely, definitely definitely definitely LEAVE A REVIEW when you’re done reading! Let’s show the world that black girls with magical powers are spectacular!

As always, thank you from the bottom of my chubby black queer girl heart for all the support. When I came up with this idea last March, I had no idea it would grow so much. There may have been some hiccups along the way, but we’re here now, and you all are truly magical :)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: The Conjuring and Conjuring 2

What are they about?

Both movies center around the figures of the Warrens, who are real life ghost hunters.  Each movie tackles at least one of the 'real life' cases they investigated and what they encountered, with a bit of cinematic flair.


Like most people I became familiar with the Warrens through the Amnityville Horror movies.  I was reintroduced to them several times through my various adventures into stories of ghost hunters and paranormal things.

Across all of this, there's very different views of the Warrens.  Some people love them, some people owe them their lives, some people hate them and on and on.  Either way, they are some of the most interesting people out there when you look into paranormal things.

With that in mind, I actually love the idea of them being part of this cinematic universe and I'm very much enjoying seeing it grow across several movies.

The first Conjuring introduces us to Ed and Lorraine Warren in the context of not the Amnityville Horror, but rather another haunted house that is supposed to be possessed by the spirit of a dead witch who is terrorizing the family.

In this movie we have all the normal trappings of a paranormal hunt however with two very distinct differences.  For one they keep the movie in the correct time period - the 70's.  So there's a well done nostalgic feel that keeps you rooted in the technology of then and how people may have reacted in that time.  The second is that there's no found footage.  James Wan (the director) has wisely decided to ignore the cliche gimick of shaky cam and instead focus on scaring the bejezus out of us in other ways, and it's effective.

The second movie, Conjuring 2, explores another slightly more well known case with the Warrens
known as The Einfield Haunting.  Again we're presented with a large family who has to deal with a demon in their house, with it's own intentions.  And since this one takes place in England, the Warrens have their hands tied with what they can and can't do.

Oddly, both of these movies manage to duplicate the feeling that I always loved about X-Files, the tv show, and my little paranormal fangirl.  You, as the viewer, are presented with the tale of a demon and how a family copes with it.  Yes, it could be fake, and the Warrens take you for a ride to slowly delve into proving it so that they can perform an exorcism.  In the end they become kind of the heroes of the franchise without any huge display of powers.  They just happen to know about the paranormal.

With reguard to powers, there is a caviate.  Yes, Lorraine Warren is shown to have psychic powers.  However, she's never really shown to control them.  Rather she's just a party to what they show her and then relays the message.  She doesn't summon up the demons or powers at will, they just either are or aren't there.

Beyond these two movies, there's a host of spinoffs that have either been released or are on the way.  From Annabelle, to the Nun and hopefully many others, we get to see other cases that the Warrens have had some part in. And as someone who loves a good ghost story, I love seeing how these all intermingle with each other.

Now, yes, I have reviewed another movie about The Enfield Haunting and I've linked it.  Also, through my reading and websurfing, I know that these movies take quite a few artistic liberties.  For example, the real Annabelle looks more like Raggity Ann then some chipped and creepy porcelain doll.  And The Enfield Haunting has it's own controversies with how the Warrens were tied into it.  Weirdly the controversies add their own layer to watching the movies and guarantee me hours of further reading to hear all the sides and come to my own conclusions, like any good ghost story should, so I don't mind the artistic liberties.  It just means that I have a lot of reading ahead of me to learn the real story and what actually happened.  It's like a really good cinematic teaser.

I honestly like both of these movies for what they are and that's a good scary ride.  It doesn't matter to me if they're true or not, but the fact that their based in a thread of truth runs just the right line to make it good.  That plus the style of James Wan and the great actors and actresses makes for a fun ride.  I'm very much looking forward to checking out many of the spin offs, soon as I find them on a streaming service I subscribe to.

Where did I watch it?

HBO Go streaming service.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: D. Gray-man Hollow

What's it about?

Return to this alternate timeline where the world is a mixture of science and magic and exoricists hunt down mysterious weapons called Innocence to defeat the Millenum Earl.  Allen Walker, an exorcist, discovers secrets of his past and how he is truely tired to the Noah, the Millenium Earl and the 14th.


Back when I'd originally started this series, I loved the characters but the series cut off with no real resolution thanks to a host of issues.  Sadly it left things unresolved and upon hearing that there was a continuation I was eager to jump back in.

I am a huge sucker for anime that focus on religion, mainly because it's so interesting to see how other cultures see something that I'm familiar with.  So anime that deal with exorcists and demons and the like are super interesting to me.  There's always something new about it and so much creativity they aren't afraid to explore.  In the course of a continuation I was excited there too, because the characters I'd been introduced to were very interesting and deserved more screen time.

Sadly this continuation didn't turn out as I'd hoped.  Unlike other projects out there that pick up old source material and continue it for a new audience, this anime drops the viewer right into the thick of it.  While this might work for some series, D.Gray-man it does not.  There are just far too many characters for one to keep track of, and this was in detriment to the series as a whole.

The original D.Gray-man series had a habit of introducing the audience to a daily monster, then defeating it and recruiting them to The Order of exorcists.  This style makes it easy to follow from day one, but jumping back in it means you're left with about 20 characters to juggle.  Add to that the newly introduced members of the Noah family (the bad guys), the Crows (exorcists in red), the Thirds (more exorcists), the scientists, the Bookmen and a couple more daily monsters and it will make your head spin. It almost made me want to take out a pen and paper to take notes - which is not a good thing.

Though, realistically I should have realized from the opening, as it basically shows all these characters as different groups and hints that there's a lot to keep track of.

Even setting the characters aside, the plot arc of the 14th is heavy, and a lot to swallow.  Without giving too much away it causes an upheaval in The Order and Allen is stuck right in the middle of it.  He's not so much an active character, but rather along with the right, trying to survive with everyone else.  This fast pace leaves the viewer wanting to take more notes.  It also made it feel like I was watching a long winded recap due to the speed, and I found myself really hoping that they would slow down and re-cover a few things, rather then handing characters so much exposition dialog.

Sadly, the final nail in the coffin was the ending of the season.  It's left wide open with no resolution, obviously hinting at them expecting to have more time.  Sadly, like the previous series, it was cut off after just one season with no resolution in sight.  I'll have to hunt down the manga for a resolution, which isn't horrible, but it would have been nice to see it in animated format before I do that.

While not all bad, there were some good points of the series.  For one, Kanda gets a well done arc that explains quite a bit of his back story and where he came from.  Though rushed, I did like learning about the 2nds and Alma.  The sad part is that like the rest of the series, this is left open ended and at the end of the season we are left seeing only the beginnings of his reactions to discovering the truth.  I would have loved to see this full story line all the way to the end with his reacting to what he learned, but no such luck.

The Noah family, also, enjoys a bit of a redesign for the better.  While more is learned about the Millennium Earl that completely destroys his ability to be threatening, other characters like Tyki Mikk are done beautifully.  For as a little as he shows up in this new series, him and Road are high points in the season and there's never enough of them, ever.

The animation is a bit of a sticking point as well.  While overall it looks stunning and beautiful, there are certain points where it misses the mark entirely.  Comical moments are paired with 1st season Naruto style animation that makes me want to wash my eyes out and high tension fight scenes are paired with oddly drawn eyes that make the characters look squished or cross-eyed and destroy the tension completely.  It's highly distracting and really detracted from the series as a whole, no matter how much I wanted to know what was coming next.

Final Thoughts?

While series like Black Butler and Full Metal Alchemist have made anime retreads and continuations all the rage, this is one you can skip.  The plot points are interesting and the characters are there, but it makes more sense to read a well edited Wikipedia article then try and keep track of everything over 12 episodes.  I wasn't impressed, it actually saddened me that I spent the time on it.

Oh well, time to hunt down some fanfic about Kanda and Alma and look into the manga series, hoping there's some closure and better explanation there.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: The Witch

What's it about?

Set back in the 1600's, a family is banished from their colonial town to build their own farm and find their own way.  However, things don't go well on their own.  Within the first year they are set upon by an evil force, set on bringing them to ruin.


I'll say first off, that as a practicing witch, movies like this give me pause.  I often laugh off the way my kind are portrayed in movies and during the holidays because it's usually quite comical or so far off the mark.  However, there are some portrayals that really get under my skin, and that's usually when they're rooted in the fear people have of witches and the severe hatred that some people have based on religion.  It bothers me because their view of us is nothing like what we really are and when a lot of people hate, well, stupid and dangerous things happen.

That said, this movie got under my skin in a really good way, so much to the point that I actually turned it off halfway through and took a break before I could finish it.  There's a severe amount of religious self loathing and self hatred in this movie that I wasn't prepared for.  That plus the dated style of speaking really pulls you in to this family and what they are dealing with.  You feel for all of them, and when the shit starts to hit the fan, it's painful to watch, but it's also like a train wreck, because you want to see where it all ends up.

The other thing that got under my skin was the treatment of Thomasin.  A lot of how she was treated scared me, because the family was so quick to jump to hatred and fear and she's put in a really impossible place.  She has to deal with all of it and somehow survive.

My biggest gripe with the film is that in some cases they showed a little too much.  While I understand why they included the imagery they did, I wish there were two scenes where they didn't, because it kind of ruined the effect. But that's mostly minor and can be overlooked.

All in all, the movie is quite good, if you can get past some of those points.  It's not scary in a bloody way, really.  Instead I found this movie scary and effective because of how well it shows how quickly people will turn on each other when scared.  Especially considering the current world and how much people are emboldened to act on such emotions, this movie cut a bit closer then I was expecting.

Over all, after making it to the end, I really liked it.  I admire where this film went and how the story played out.  Though hard to watch, it's a very well done folktale.

How I saw it

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness

It's hard to describe this book and really do it justice. 

I picked it up on the recommendation of a friend on Facebook, and do not regret it for a second.

The book tells, in manga form, the story of a young woman who has never viewed herself highly and how that has effected her view of herself and the world, and held her back from living. 

This is an intensely personal story from the author. In a simple and crude style she gives us a view into the personal and crushing parts of her life. She doesn't expect us to understand everything and doesn't give excuses, but is rather very up front and blunt with the turns her life has taken and why and where it has taken her. 

While some of her experiences were totally foreign to me, several hit far too close to home. Several times I found myself looking away from the book and pausing as I remembered parts of my life growing up. This is not just for queer teenagers, but also speaks to eating disorders, issues with belonging and the need to be accepted but also be alone, just to name a few. It is an emotional book to read and grasp, however the rough manga style makes it very easy to read and light to take in, to contrast the heavy material.

But with all of that it's also worth it. No deep answers are given, no fixes suggested, just honesty. The type of honesty I wish I'd had when I was experiencing the worst of this in my teenage years. The author doesn't claim to be an expert, or even fixed. She just exists and is still learning how to be herself and deal with who she is, if she even knows. 

In that I found the book to be refreshing and needed. Having someone present this much emotion and personal info while not claiming to be an expert is so sincere. This book's simplest message is that 'you're not alone' no matter how alone you feel, and that is something so important.  It's even more important then being fixed or able to cope with life, because sometimes just having someone understand is enough.

Every once in the great while I come across a book that I have feel a deep need to buy multiple copies of and give them to friends. This is one of those books. I highly recommend giving this book a read and a chance. It doesn't offer any answers or fixes, but sometimes just knowing that someone else gets it means just as much.  Seriously, go get yourself a copy. 

BTW: This was soooooo me in high school.  I should have known:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Netflix Death Note - The Story that Could Have Been

There's a problem you run into when becoming a published author, that I hadn't anticipated.  Me, always an avid reader, has found it really hard to read as many books as I used it.  It's not just about the time investment or the work to find stories I'm interested in with all the novels out there - it's the intimate knowledge of the process of getting published.  I know all the work that goes into getting out there and all the blood, sweat and tears that come from those before they hit this point and all those who haven't made it yet.

So when crap comes across my plate, it tastes even worse then I could imagine.

So with that in mind, let's talk about the Death Note movie from Netflix.  This is not a review, but it does contain spoilers so if you have a desire to see this movie after all of the horrendous reviews you've scrolled past on your social media feed, you might not want to read this.  Or do.  Maybe.  Whatever.

Beyond all the issues with whitewashing and the watering down of the story - which trust me, I could write pages about.  But both of those have been tackled in several other reviews, so I'm going to aim a little differently.

See, along with the being able to taste the infinite details of the crap set before me, I also find myself graspoing at plot threads that could have worked.  In some cases this makes me like certain movies that others might have hated.  With the Netflix Death Note there is a specific thread that my creative side latched onto.  In other words, lets talk Mia Sutton.

In the movie, Mia Sutton initially reaks of 'edgier then you Bella Swan.' However, as the movie goes on, she's obsessed with finally having power on her own terms that isn't filted through a stereotypical glass.  (AKA: To be a popular girl, one must be a cheerleader.  To be noticed in high school, one must fit in a specific archetype.  But to be a god, she can kill whoever she wants.)  Mia becomes more 'Kira' then this protrayl of Light ever is, and she also becomes a villian in the film.  There in lies the thread of a plot that would be interesting.  Give her a different Death God/Shinigami and have this girl be smart enough to not make herself the figure head and instead manipulate a fuckboy into killing for her and keeping her hands clean.

That, right there, is the makings of plot gold and a story that we don't often see told.  Yes, she is a female caught in a storyline about sex, as many women are, but this is sex on her own terms and used as a weapon.  In a world where the sultry badgirl is so common, why not take the moment to flesh her out and give her a little more then expected.  You can have a smart woman and then write a really engaging story about her downfall. That is a story I would devour that and happily hunt down surrounding media for like fanart and fanfic.

Sadly the Netflix version of Death Note doesn't hold up to this premise which it offers.  It chooses to focus squarely on Light, and while he has some doubts about Mia, they're easily passed off in the lackluster finale in a very YA fashion.  Instead of a showdown like they deserved, Mia makes her last fatal move and unceremoniously dies in a bed of flowers, along with any dream that she might have been a more interesting character.  I wish they'd delved a bit more into her story, give us a reason why she likes to kill so much and why she feels she needs this power, heck, show her planning and plotting more with Ryuk, because I'm sure he's intelligent enough to leave her clues... after all others can see his eaten apples.

All in all the movie presented us with a very different take on Misa Misa and didn't follow through, much to my dismay. That's not to say that the original Misa Misa was perfect, she was however very interesting and much more fleshed out then this version.

If you take anything away from this movie, whether you watch it or not, I hope you look at your own works and take a step back.  If, at any point, any of your characters can be replaced by a 2 dimensional cardboard cutout then you have not done your job as a writer and story crafter.  It is up to you as a creator to show us all sides of a character you create - not to hand us an archetype and expect us to fill in the details.  We, the audience, came to watch your movie... not play MadLibs with the plot points from the last handful of things we've watched.

I think, to a degree, a lot of movies of late are getting sloppy.  Well written character moments are traded in for flashy montages and chase scene climaxes that are a dime a dozen.  Be bold, take a chance.  Flesh out a character for the audience and give us a reason to love and/or hate them.  Let us see their path and convince us with your writing that this is the path they chose, where ever it may lead.  Because therein lies the stories we want to read and see.  Therein lies the best kind of storytelling.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Books You Should Check Out: Paper Terminal by Tyrine Carver

Fall is right around the corner in Minnesota and the weather is cooling down - the perfect time to curl up with an open window, a blanket and a book.  So perhaps add this one to your shelf?

Paper Terminal is the first illustrated novel adventure of Riley.  She's rescued by and then dragged into the magical wake of two people who are constantly getting involved with Sirens, Dragons and a mysterious entity who is trying to kill her.  Or maybe they're trying to kill her dead brother.

And remember how I said illustrated novel?  Not only is this Riley's story, but it's punctuated with beautiful art by MuseTap Studios, of whom Tyrine is a member.  I've already started to fall in love with the characters through her art and can't wait to read their adventures.

You can pick up the book at this link!

Check it out, and don't forget to leave a review if you do!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: Jessica Jones Season 1

What's it about?

On the Netflix side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe there's a little apartment turned into an office with an often broken window in the door.  This is Alias Investigations and - if you can convince her to help you - Jessica Jones is one great PI.  However, at the moment she's out of the office, trying to track down the man who ruined her life. 


There's a lot of really good things about Jessica Jones.  First and foremost it's a super hero show with women in the forefront - front and center.  Yes, I said women: plural.

The show does an amazing job of showing us a variety of female characters (good and bad) that have been severely lacking for sooooo many years. We have super hero females, best friends, lovers, assholes and innocent victims.  Men are barely present in this series, which is a refreshing change, but they are present in some very integral parts.  The downside is that this really highlights the lack of such care in the Cinematic Universe as a whole and makes me glare at the movies for not offering us more.  (I love Scarlet Witch, I do, but come on, give us more main females then just her and Black Widow!)

The down side is this show also made me realize something else about the Cinematic Universe and I find it super troubling.  There are no female characters in the Marvel Universe who do not come from a place of sexual trauma or abuse.  And if you think they don't, it's because we haven't heard all the details from their backstory yet.  This is a serious problem with female characters and probably deserves a huge rant in and of itself.  However I'm gonna stop myself, cuz this is a review.

Back to the good stuff, one of the things this series does amazingly well is side characters.  Aside from being fully fleshed out with a lot of really diverse bits, they are given an important part that makes the series as a whole work.  While the character of Jessica Jones is trying her best to hunt down Kilgrave and stop him, he's leaving a pile of bodies around her.  Jessica Jones doesn't have time to mourn all these bodies (though she really wants to), so these side characters do it for her and give the audience that much needed release.  There isn't a stack of nameless faces around her like a slasher movie, nope these are actual people and the series goes through episode after episode to show us that and remind us.  It has a very sobering and real effect that I don't think could have been portrayed in a better way.

Kilgrave himself was a really interesting villain and one who kept me guessing.  Aside from being written incredibly well, David Tennant did an amazing job portraying him.  At every turn he was more and more devious and untrustworthy.  This isn't just a man you fear.  He's a man you hate and avoid because you don't dare give him an inch.  There were several times in the story where it seemed like they were trying to give him some motivation for how he was - but then it came to light that he was lying again, manipulating with every fiber of his being power or not.  It's truly scary to see someone who can do nothing but manipulate everyone around him.  And he's really really good at it even without his power.  Seriously, this kind of character and writing gives me nightmares and inspires me to create at the same time - I love it.

Final thoughts?

Overall I'm quite happy with the series even with it's flaws.  I'm looking forward to jumping into the rest of this world and what comes from it.  Hopefully the amazing female characters cross over into the other series, because there's a few I would love to see again, aside from Jessica herself.

Where'd I get it?

Steaming on Netflix of course!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Back Seat Gamer: Persona 5


I'm just going to buy the game, she says, but we won't play it until after conventions settle down.
I'm just going to watch the opening, she says, but we're not starting it yet.
Maybe just one battle, to see how the mechanics work, honest.

I know it's a lie, of course.  This is how Persona games get you.  3 had a great opening, 4 had nearly 2 hours of cut scenes before the first save point.  And Persona 5?  Well, it drops you in the middle of the story as a thief in a flashing casino escaping the police.  That's how Persona gets you, so it's just best to give in and go.  You'll enjoy the ride.


As the main character, you're on parole from a recent court hearing and are sent to a large city to attend school and hopefully not get into any trouble.  You are supposed to keep your head down and be good, and especially not form a group of Phantom Thieves who spend nights in another world battling to change the hearts of the rotten adults of the world.  Something like that is way over the head of a normal teenager, such as yourself.

The Persona series are JRPG games where teenagers deal with deep issues and summon a part of themselves (their persona) as a physical way to fight and survive in the world around them.  Powers are leveled up by making friends and connections in the normal world and at night you battle the supernatural forces lurking in the world to your heart's content. Honestly, it's hard to explain if you haven't played one, but they are some of the best RPG games I have ever seen.


Since seeing that first Gamestop video - was that a teenager shooting himself in the head to summon a monster?? - the curiosity hooked us.  Persona is one of the most unique JRPG series I've ever heard of and each installment catches you in it's clutches with masterful story telling, engaging characters and heart-wrenching reveals.  You can jump in anywhere, but the games don't forget about the previous installment, so there's still enough call backs to make your little fangirl heart swell up with nostalgia as you meet the new main characters and explore their world.

Persona 4, without getting into too many spoilers, was phenomenal and easily held it's place as one of the best stories I've seen in a video game.  Not to mention one of the best treatments I've seen of teenagers dealing with queer identity. Persona 5 takes that amazing storytelling to another level with several plot points that left us yelling at the screen or just staring dumbfounded as the truth revealed itself.  While this new set of characters doesn't have the same queer-centric story lines that made me love Persona 4, I wasn't left with a shortage of things to love in it's place.

For one, the main character.  While most JRPGs are full of faceless and nondescript leads so that the player can easily insert themselves, this main character had the most personality I've ever seen. He doesn't talk much and you choose most of his dialog, but this is combined with subtle things like smirks and flair that give you a very clear idea who he is.  As Ryugi so finely puts it in the game "I'm already pegged as a trouble maker, so why not live up to the part?" The main character seems to have taken this quote to heart and is keeping his head low like he's supposed to, but he can't resist the urge to do what he can.  He's mischievous and the game communicates this very well with the limits it has on a character you play and great dialog choices.  I am generally not a fan of main characters in franchises, usually it's the side characters that get me.  But, believe me, this game is written so well that I love the main character the most and that is impressive!

The story line of Persona 5 deals with some very adult issues - ones that many teenagers will relate to.  Rotten adults are everywhere in this world and some are so rotten they've crossed the line.  However where movies and TV series will water down these issues or over-sexualize them, Persona 5 does a good job of walking the line.  The villains are not exaggerated cardboard cut outs and have just as much care in their crafting as the main characters.  A teacher who abuses his students - for example - isn't just shown as a rapist, but as a failed hero figure that took his Olympic status too far.  You can easily see how a simple desire of his went too far, got corrupted and now must be stopped.  Most stories out there would just make him a rapist and be done with it, but here the sexual aspect is toned down because he's abusing multiple students in multiple ways and not all of them are so obvious.  But all of it needs to be stopped so that is where the focus is placed.

Your teammates step outside of the mold as well.  Ryugi, the clown thug, is allowed to remain this and still be lovable in his dumb moments rather then being forced to grow more intelligent by the end.  Similarly Ann is allowed to be unapologetic about herself and isn't squished into the form of the 'sexy girl' trope.  All of the characters step outside their standard mold with well written story lines and reveals.  Most of the things I love about them are spoilers, so I won't go into them here, but let me just say that if you max out all of their social links, you'll find that these characters are much more complex then the marketing material might suggest.

A moment of attention must also be paid to the adults in this story.  While the majority of the story lines deal with shitty corrupted adults, the game doesn't let that be the only option.  You will meet responsible adults in the game who haven't become corrupted and who are actually still attempting to deal with the world as a whole.  And when things get rough, you will find adults who actually listen to the teenagers, again providing an under used story option to explore that most ignore.

There is also the fact that this story, aside from the masterful writing, gets seriously political and feels far too close to the current reality in the US.  It's scary how well it's written and I don't want to give it away.  But this is the game I really needed to play this year and I have all sorts of complicated feelings with it.

What I'm trying to say is that the story telling in this game is some of the best out there and it's hard for me to convey without a lot of arm flapping and pointing, but just trust me.  If you love good stories, you will love this game.

The game mechanics of Persona are familiar with the rest of the series.  Once again you, as the main character, have the ability to collect several powerful creatures like Pokemon and evolve and arrange them to give yourself more powers.  A newly added mechanic from other Shin Megami Tensei games is that you can now negotiate with the creatures you fight and ultimately collect.  Should you negotiate correctly they can give you money, give you items or join you without much of a fight. The mechanic makes sure that level grinding doesn't become tedious and repetitive, because there's always something new.

I also highly recommend the soundtrack for this game as it does a masterful job of sweeping you up into the moment so you feel even more accomplished when you beat that boss.  Level grinding has never been this catchy!

How Much I Played

I did not play this game.  The Persona series has me firmly in the passenger seat due to the mechanics for collecting and combining the persona you collect.  I love the variety of creatures, but there's no way I could keep track of all of that, plus all the other characters.  That and the fact that my wifey loves playing these games, I wouldn't take it away from her.  So I watched the whole game and helped her pick dialog and yes... I'm already planning cosplay.

Final thoughts?

I am not kidding, I can not think of a thing I didn't like about this game. We're on New Game plus, playing it a second time to unlock all we missed and I'm still invested.  We even went and hunted down the anime prequel episode The DayBreakers to get more content and it's still not enough.  I need more of this game, more of these characters and more everything.  Not because the story is unfinished, but because it's that good.  I'm even praying for an anime adaptation just to see a couple more scenes, because I can't wait to relive it all again.  This is what fandom looks like. 

Where'd I get it?

We bought Persona 5 for the PS4 at Gamestop and watched Persona 5: The DayBreakers on Crunchyroll.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: Black Butler Book of the Atlantic (OVA)

What's it about?

Against his better wishes, Ciel Phantomhive has been asked by the Queen to investigate the Aurora society and their dealings behind closed doors.  Their next meeting happens to be at sea, so it's time to board the ship - which is certainly not the Titanic - and deal with the cargo below - which certainly isn't zombies. 


Black Butler is one of my absolute favorite anime series and I've been chomping at the bit for this arc to be animated.  I was quite happy when they did Book of Circus and now with Book of Murder out and this one, I really hope they continue to animate each of the arcs in this way.  I know I'm not the only one looking forward to the "Not Hogwarts" arc that comes next!

The format of an OVA works well for this arc, as it is quite short.  I'll admit when I started watching it I was quite worried because there are some moments of horrible CGI that sticks out like a sore thumb and a couple shots of the boat which are very disorienting to look at.  However when it came to the very important scenes of the anime, that was where the animation took it's time and looked incredibly fluid - so it was worth it.  They obviously wanted to stretch the budget and focus on the scenes that deserved it, which was perfect. 

We got to see this movie dubbed in the theater thanks to a lucky local showing and the dub does not disappoint.  Just like all the other seasons the voice work is amazing and the chemistry between Ciel and Sebastian is perfect.  Brina Palencia and J Michael Tatum are always a joy to listen to!

This arc does not deviate from the manga in any ways I can tell, so you're going to get a very accurate retelling.  In fact, there's a couple shots that I recognized right out of the manga, which happened to be a nice touch.  That said most of the parts I absolutely loved are semi spoilers so I'll leave them out and be a bit vague.  I loved all the returning characters and the plot points that were revealed in this arc and seeing them animated was icing on the cake!

That said, this is not a stand alone movie.  There are several references to previous arcs (very notably Book of Murder) that will be lost if you haven't seen them.  The dub does try to make up for this by adding in small comments about the Shinigami/Reapers and other plot points, but I can see someone who is behind getting quite lost.  Still it doesn't affect the main plot too much, so I think any confusion may just urge them to catch up, rather then ruin the whole movie.  

Final thoughts?

Yep, totally NOT the Titanic (but it is) and totally doesn't reference that movie at all (but it does).  And I love it. I already have a list of friends I plan to share this blu-ray with as soon as it's out. 

Where'd I get it?

We saw this movie in the theater due to a limited showing by Funimation Films.