TFW: Favorite Villains

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This one deserves a little setup. First off, “favorite” is a very awkward word in this case. Approaching the topic of villains, favorite is often not the way I’d like it put. More like most effective villains. Or even “worst” in the sense that they’re very nasty. A couple of these, favorite might be okay, but there are definitely levels to these choices that I’ll be explaining as I go through.

Also, this topic was shockingly hard. It made me realize that I don’t read a lot of things that focus much on the villainy. If they do, then the character becomes so gray to me that they no longer read as a total villain. See A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin for lots of examples of this. Or sometimes the villains in my favorite books are monsters, and I wasn’t sure if that should count. Basically my thought process this week was pretty particular, and I obsess too much. Now let’s get started! Oh, and some spoilers ahead, too.

5. Dodge from Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Dodge starts as the monster under the bed. Then evolves into the bad kid next door, the unpredictable kind that makes you squirm every time he’s left alone with one of our main characters. Then something fantastic happens near the latter half of the series, and he gets a ton of backstory and character depth that you didn’t see coming. Like any great comic book villain, suddenly what’s happened to him becomes tragic. Hill went above and beyond in making Dodge both terrible and magnetic, and he’s one of the reasons this series is a must read.

4. Randall Flagg from The Stand/The Eyes of the Dragon/The Dark Tower by Stephen King. This is one of those times when favorite tastes sour in my mouth, because if anything I love to hate him. He’s arguably the most twisted and real-seeming villain King has ever written. Crimson King, eat your heart out. He’s powerful and mysterious, but he’s also fallible, often due to his monstrous ego. Some of the biggest events in the King-verse, he’s there working his evil machinations. Most disturbing of all, he’s charming. People want to follow him. He’s seductive, and nothing makes a villain more horrifying to me than that.

3. Amy Dunne from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Those spoilers I warned about? Right here. Though I think the cat is mostly out of the bag with this one. For the first half of the book, we’re under the impression that Amy is a victim. Then the second half slams into us like a truck, and we’re left with our jaws on our chests as she explains her evil plan and how perfectly it went. She’s a murderer and a mastermind, a complete sociopath who sees only her own gain and catalogues every slight against her in painstaking detail. She uses the basic, female stereotypes that permeate the media to handily win her way wherever she wants to be. You almost have to admire it, which is so gross of me to say but is a testament to incredible writing.

2. Roland Croninger from Swan Song by Robert McCammon. When we first encounter Roland, he’s a somewhat dark-minded kid obsessed with a computer game. Nothing new there really. Then the unthinkable happens, and America has been struck by nuclear war. In the ensuing fallout, Roland sees himself as a knight from his favorite game. He’s determined to serve his king and prove himself courageous. His actions are ignoble but fueled by an unnerving sense of honor and rightness, turning him into the definition of lawful evil. It becomes clear throughout the course of the book that of all the ne’er-do-wells in his army, including the man who outranks him, he’s the most deadly and effective. Again, he’s awful, but McCammon gives him so much time and thought that he’s a blast to follow.

1. Francis Dollarhyde from Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Some might say Hannibal Lecter, for his style and charm. Some might say Jame Gumb for his creepiness and the way his character was molded from some of the most notorious real-life killers in history. But I say Francis. Because his backstory is tragic. His life is sad. His delusions are terrifying and depressing. For a time, his heart isn’t entirely corrupted, and it makes his ultimate choices even more heartbreaking and awful. Before Harris was making Hannibal a character that was hard to hate, he created Francis, who defines why you would cringe away but also feel sympathy for a character. In Francis, he creates this perfect portal into pathological evil, stares right into its heart, and dares to show us the goodness that could be, making for a perfect, villainous tragedy.

There you have it! Thank you for reading, and as always, happy geeking!

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Top 5: 80s Fantasy Films

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I submit that it doesn’t get any better than 80s fantasy movies. I’m thrilled that we have adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. They’re beautiful and breathtaking. But that 80s fantasy is something I always go back to. I grew up on it and love each one unconditionally. Now I have the unenviable task of ranking my favorites. Here we go!

5. Legend. This film is gorgeous, like a fairy tale come to life. Ridley Scott managed to capture the essence of magic unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I know the arguments about practical effects versus CG have gotten downright obnoxious by this point, but Legend illustrates perfectly the reason practical effects fans are so passionate. Tim Curry as Darkness is inspired. The only reason it isn’t higher on the list is the story is fairy-tale-simple, and the movie is more visually compelling than anything else. I still highly recommend it.

4. The Neverending Story. A childhood classic. If you’re a book lover, a bit of a loner, enjoy immersion in your stories, you’ll relate heavily with Bastian. He’s the every-kid who would rather be locked away with a book than face his problems. Then the story turns around, stares him right in the eye, and makes him deal with himself. It’s beautifully done, as well, with a vast, unique landscape to traverse. It fires the imagination. After seeing this, who didn’t want their own luck dragon? The reason it’s number four is because it’s more of a children’s movie. It does have crossover appeal, but I do think this has the best impact if you watch it when you’re young.

3. The Dark Crystal. This is another of those movies that proves you don’t need CG if you have ingenuity. The cast of characters consists entirely of puppets, and because it’s Jim Henson, they are fantastic puppets. One of the most interesting things about this movie that sets it apart for me is the lack of humans. I love the idea of a fantasy world where we’re simply not included. Jen the Gelfling, our main hero, does work as an audience surrogate, but he’s not human. I think audiences deserve to have their imaginations stretched as far as this movie takes us.

2. Labyrinth. Here’s Jim Henson again, with another deeply unique fantasy tale. Like The Neverending Story, if you’re the outsider who loves LARPing in the park, Sarah is the girl for you. She’s growing from a girl into a young woman, and the process is painful, frustrating, downright maddening. Like a child, she throws a tantrum that summons the Goblin King Jareth, and to face him, she must overcome her immaturity. It’s the perfect movie for women anywhere and everywhere in their walk in life, and not just because David Bowie as Jareth is gorgeously inspired.

1. The Princess Bride. I think Peter Falk as the storytelling grandfather put it best when he listed every conceivable thing that could be in a good story in regards to The Princess Bride. It’s adventurous, exciting, tense, hilarious, sad, romantic, and beautiful. There is simply no competing with a story that has everything. It’s perfect. If you’re like me and grew up with it, you probably have it memorized and quote it daily. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you doing? Go watch it! And have fun storming the castle!

Thank you for reading. I hope that if there are any of these you haven’t seen, you’ve just been convinced. And as always, happy geeking!

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#T5W: Books I Want To Reread

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Hello and welcome to another Top 5 Wednesday. This week, we’re talking about rereads. I’ve never reread a book. I do like to flick through old favorites and reread beloved passages. I do this a lot with It by Stephen King and The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. But I’ve never sat down and reread an entire book. The thought has crossed my mind though, and if I were going to, here are the first ones I’d pick.

5. Bone by Jeff Smith. It wasn’t that long ago that I read this comic series, but I loved it so incredibly much that I could see myself reading it again soon. It is a comic, so it would be fairly quick. Revisiting those characters and that world would be a great time, as much as the first time around.

4. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I’m a broken record about this one. I adore this book. I’ve read all of BEE’s work. So while I impatiently wait for the next book to come out, I could do some rereading. This one especially, because it’s my favorite, and because I’d like to do a more thorough reading of it. There’s so much detail in this satire, and I want to notice every bit.

3. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. I’m a big fan of this play. It’s my favorite of what I’ve read so far, which admittedly isn’t much. I read it back in my early twenties, and it’s time to go over it again probably. What holds me back is all the Shakespeare I haven’t read, of which there is a ton. There doesn’t seem to be much use in reading the same play over and over when there’s more to be explored. Still, it does call to me.

2. The Ignored by Bentley Little. This was the first of Little’s novels that I ever read. It was in high school, borrowed from a friend, and it blew my adolescent mind. I remember the premise and the beginning of the book being brilliant. I remember the crazy ending. Details have started to get very fuzzy. Part of me is afraid to go over it again and discover that teenage me was very easily amazed, but I also want all those details of a book I loved so much back.

1. The Dark Half by Stephen King. I’m winding up for a Stephen King reread, once I get those last couple of books over and done with. When that day comes, this is the first one I want to tackle. For similar reasons as above. I remember I adored this. I remember most of what went on, but not the finer workings. I’d also just like to see if I still fall for it now like I did then. Whether King retires or writes until he dies or even has a million posthumous things published after, I’ll always be reading him. Even if there’s nothing left to do but go slowly back through his massive bibliography.

Thank you for reading and, as always, happy geeking!

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The “I Never” Book Tag

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This tag was created by LizziefayeLovesBooks. Let’s get right into it, shall we?

1. “I never read that!” Name a book that you’ve never read, that everyone else has. There is plenty that fits here. I’m going with any book by Jane Austen. I don’t have a particular hate for her or anything. Her work has simply never appealed to me enough for me to want to spend time on it. I’m more of a Bronte girl myself.

2. “I never read anything so awesome!” Name your favorite book. This fluctuates depending on the day. I have a top five that I cycle through. There are a couple I tend to mention often, so let’s go with one I don’t talk about as much. Watership Down by Richard Adams. It’s a fantasy adventure novel starring rabbits. It’s also incredible. Very well-written and exciting throughout. Despite none of the main characters being human, I got really invested in their story. If you’ve ever scoffed at this book, give it a chance.

3. “I never thought I would get through it.” Name a book that you didn’t like, but powered through it anyway. The Woods Are Dark by Richard Laymon. I love horror, but this was some shockingly bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. I could do an entire article ranting about everything that was wrong with this book, starting with the terribly poor writing and ending with the extreme perversion of the whole thing. Yep, I’m kink-shaming a man who is not even here to defend himself any longer. Trust me, if anything deserves it, it was this thing. I finished it mainly because it was a total train wreck. In that way, I suppose it provided some form of entertainment at least.

4. “I will never finish that!” Name a book or a series that you don’t plan on finishing. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. I put this one down a long time ago and eventually just got rid of it, because I realized I would never pick it up again. Have you ever read a book that you were enjoying while you read it, but you felt absolutely no need to pick it up again when you put it down? This was that scenario for me. It was a really long, really involved, thoroughly written family drama that I found was fine while I was reading it but actually bored me to tears whenever I tried to think about it in hindsight.

5. “I will never regret reading that.” Name a book you read solely on a recommendation that you ended up really liking. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. While I still desperately need to finish the entire series, The Chronicles of Prydain, that first book ignited something in me that I hadn’t felt since I was a kid. Any truly great children’s fantasy series has that power, and I can easily say Prydain does, too. This one passed me by when I was younger, but a close friend of mine was talking them up, and I realized I needed to give this a shot. To hell with being “too old” for it. And I was right to take the chance. You should, too.

6. ” I would never do that!” Name a relatable book character who made choices you didn’t agree with, or did things you would never do. For my part, I think characters can be interesting or relatable and have none of the same values or make any of the same choices as me. I don’t need a character to act as I would in order to enjoy something. I don’t ever find myself reading a story and thinking about how I would’ve navigated it. I’m not there for that. I’m there for the story being told. So while I’m sure there are answers for this question, it’s not the way I read or judge characters, so I can’t answer it well.

7. “I never wanted to admit it.” Name a book that you were embarrassed to say you read or were embarrassed to carry around with you. Well, I’m currently reading Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Mispelled by Harlan Ellison. For obvious reasons, that’s a little uncomfortable in public. Bravely I took it with me for a long sit in a waiting room, only to find myself trying to position the book so the title and the questionable cover couldn’t be seen and getting super paranoid. I swear, I felt confident until I actually got in front of people. Story of my life.

8. “I never read anything so heartwarming.” Name a book or a series that really touched your heart. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Me and heartwarming don’t often mix, but I have to say this book knocked me for a loop. It’s really beautiful, romantic, and tragic, but also unlike anything you’ll ever read. There’s a touch of historical fiction. Portions of it brought to mind Chuck Palahniuk. The ending is the wildest acid-trip of a finish I’ve ever read. It leaves you feeling washed out with the emotions it runs you through. Including one of the best romances around.

9. “I never laughed so hard!” Name a book that made you laugh out loud. Okay. This is going to be a weird one. I’ve never finished Christine by Stephen King, but I started it at one point. It wasn’t for a lack of enjoyment. I just put it down, and by the time I was ready to pick it up again, it had been a very long time. Now I have to start over, and I haven’t found myself ready yet. But! There was a point in the story where the main character, Dennis, is bearing witness to these kids pissing off their dad. It eventually leads to this: “Oh God, what an onomatopoeic family, I thought. For Christ’s sake don’t put a bangshang-a-lang on them, Pops– they might make poopy-kaka in their pants.” Safe to say, I lost it.

10. “I never could have made it through childhood without it.” Name a favorite childhood book or book series. Goosebumps. Just the whole series by R.L. Stine. It became my gateway into adult horror. It also became an obsession that I collected dutifully. I have incredibly fond memories of these books. Through all kind of adversity I went through at school, these stories were a comfort. I could get lost in them. They ignited a love of reading that I still have to this day.

Thank you for reading, and I encourage all of you to try this tag for yourself. As always, happy geeking!

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Top 5: Nicktoons

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Here’s something new I’m trying. Random Top Fives! This could be fun, methinks.

Starting us off, let’s talk about Nicktoons. Like most modern people, I grew up with these. I watched them well into my teens and early twenties. Don’t judge. And some Nicktoons clearly outclass others. I know we view most things like this through nostalgia goggles, but there are some Nicktoons I watched that I didn’t enjoy, and I kept watching them. I don’t even know why I did that other than when you’re young, you’ll watch just about anything. But here are the ones that stuck with me. That, in my opinion, have stood the test of time.

5. Ren and Stimpy. Okay, this might still be those nostalgia goggles I was disparaging up there, because I haven’t actually had a ton of luck rewatching this one. It appealed so perfectly to me as a kid. I adored it. I had a Happy Happy Joy Joy poster on my wall. I watched every, single episode. In hindsight, this show was incredibly twisted and disgusting and bizarre, and it probably shaped who I am today with it’s nastiness. I probably shouldn’t have even been watching it, which makes it even more magical in a way. This one made the list for the undeniable impact it had on me.

4. Spongebob Squarepants. Not exactly covering new ground here. Everyone holds a place in their heart for Spongebob. The question is more “why so low?” Because the show has outlived its creative drive entirely. The original showrunner is off the project, and it shows. But there was a beautiful time when this was one of the funniest, most entertaining cartoons on TV. Still, another reason it’s so low is I’ve watched those episodes to the point of memorization. I have no desire to watch it again, because I’ve exhausted it. I know every joke. That also means it had to make the list, because anything that unforgettable is worth mentioning.

3. Angry Beavers. This one came out at a time when the new Nickelodeon cartoons were becoming hit or miss for me. It seemed like these shows all wanted to be Doug or something like it, and I was never that much of a fan of Doug in the first place. Then Angry Beavers arrived. It was fast-paced humor with two incredible voice actors that knew how to manipulate already funny material into gut-busting material. I’ll put it this way. My mother had very little tolerance for Nicktoons, but she loved this one. It had some kind of universal appeal, like lightning in a bottle. I’m sad this show didn’t become more of an “it” property for Nick.

2. Invader Zim. Another show that was too short-lived for how utterly brilliant it was. And brilliant is the word. Not just funny and cute and entertaining for a few minutes, but genuinely a work of genius. The jokes were deeper and wider than their audience. The stories and characters, too. Ren and Stimpy was a dark comedy, which was strange enough for a kid’s show, but this one took those same bricks that had been laid down before it and built higher. There’s a reason we still talk about it, still watch it, still walk around in Gir shirts.

1. Rocko’s Modern Life. But this might just be the perfect Nicktoon. It bridges the gap between Ren and Stimpy and Invader Zim, with an adult sensibility but a more subtle and mature sense of humor. It has the day-in-the-life of a show like Doug, but with a much more compelling cast of characters. It’s absurd, but not to the point of total, inane randomness. It never talked down to its audience. It can still be watched at any age and carry the same amount of enjoyment and laughs. If you don’t believe me, rewatch it. It’s still so smart and so good.

What were your favorites? Talk to me in the comments. And as always, happy geeking!

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How I Rate Books and Movies

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This topic might seem a tad on the dry side, but I think it’s important. I’ve been doing a lot more reviews lately, and I could stand to clarify what my various ratings mean to me and how I think as a reviewer. I’ll be adding the link to this article to my about page for future reference, as well.

Firstly, my rating system is more lenient with movies than with books. I realize that’s a little odd. Shouldn’t they be exactly the same? The more I think about it, the more I realize the answer is no. Books are more of an investment when it comes to time and full concentration. Therefore, in my mind, a disappointing book becomes more of a beast to contend with than a disappointing film. With a film, you’re out a couple of hours. With a book, you’re out at least four hours. Maybe even more if you got stuck with a middling whopper. In that case, it seems important to differentiate. Though I do use a five star system for both.

Ratings for Books

Five Stars – Any flaws I felt this had were minor or easily overlooked. I don’t believe any book can ever be perfect, but this rating isn’t about that. It’s for books that made me fangirl. Books that make me want to vomit hyperbole. Books I can barely even talk about because they’re just so good.

Four Stars – Still very good, but with flaws I couldn’t ignore. If I know when I review the book I’ll be harping on things the author did wrong, places they veered off the path, but I’m still thoroughly enjoying myself, I know it’s a four star read. These always still come highly recommended.

Three Stars – Middle of the road. Meh. Left me feeling basically nothing either way. This typically isn’t a positive stance. In fact, sometimes three star books that leave me feeling empty are worse than books that get a big, negative reaction. Though I could probably still see the side of people loving this, too.

Two Stars – Very flawed. Lots of problems. Probably would result in a touch of ranting. Most of the books I really don’t like get this rating. Because ultimately it takes some level of competence to get published at all, and it’s there in the book even with all the surrounding issues.

One Star – I don’t hand out one star ratings lightly. A book has to be truly without merit for me to say that. It has happened, but not often. If I give a book this rating, run. Run far and fast from it.

Ratings for Movies

Five Stars – Enjoyed myself completely while watching. Didn’t glance at the clock. Wasn’t waiting for the movie to be over. I was completely engrossed and lost in the story. Probably I didn’t want the story to end at all. It’s also likely that a film that receives this high praise had excellent acting, beautiful cinematography, and lots of good points.

Four Stars – My book and film ratings are similar here. A good movie with some flaws, but nothing too terrible. You should still watch it, and I still enjoyed it. I may nitpick slightly is all.

Three Stars – Good movie, but turn off your brain. Don’t look for deep meaning or grandiose symbolism. Look maybe for things to be a little sloppy and silly. Probably has plot holes or a plot that was too complicated for the simple production. Some special effects failures. But still fun, I want to emphasize. It’s a lot easier to watch a dooberish movie than to read a dooberish book.

Two Stars – Good for one viewing maybe. No rewatch value. Far too many nagging problems in the mix. Not worth owning and likely only worth checking out if you’re very intrigued.

One Star – Terrible. Don’t watch it. Again, I don’t throw one stars around like candy, so to imagine a movie that is that awful… We’re talking The Room levels of stink here.

One last note: sometimes when I write a full review of a film or book (and especially when I’m reviewing TV shows), I don’t leave a rating at the end. The reason is that my thoughts have been so thorough and nuanced, trying to sum that up in a number can feel trite. Ratings work for shorter reviews, such as in monthly wrap-ups or my triple features, but longer reviews express my feelings better than a simple rating ever could.

I hope this clears things up for you if you were at all confused about my rating systems. And as always, happy geeking!

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Review: High-Rise

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Based off of a J.G. Ballard novel of the same name, High-Rise is about an apartment building that was designed to be a self-contained community. There’s a built-in grocery store, garbage chutes on every floor, a pool, a gym, anything you could want. The only reason to go out would be to go to work. But there are bugs in the system. The lower floors are for those with lesser incomes, and the elite take the higher floors. When the lower floors start having technical issues, they blame the rich. The system breaks down. Chaos ensues.

Here’s a very important question the movie doesn’t answer: why doesn’t anyone leave? This scenario serves as a mini-apocalypse, with the high-rise going Mad Max in short order. Yet not a single person flees. One character, the wife of the building’s architect, considers it. Packs a bag. Then the architect hits her, and she never tries again, even though that moment of physical abuse doesn’t really seem to affect her.

Which leads nicely into me saying this movie is weird. Very, very weird. Motivations are simply not going to make total sense. The direction was clearly more style and image than it was natural character development and story progression. A rather essential chunk of the story, wherein the denizens of the building go from merely wild to completely unhinged, is shown in montage. A quick glossing over of everyone descending into pure anarchy.

The only character whose story feels whole is Dr. Robert Laing, played by Tom Hiddleston. His journey makes sense, but his encroaching madness has little to do with the fluctuating tribes of psychopaths around him. It’s because of a petty thing he did that had devastating consequences. That made sense. It was vivid and done well. Here’s the problem. Laing isn’t the only character we’re following. There’s a whole cavalcade of characters, and I can’t answer the myriad questions I have about most of them.

Especially Jeremy Irons as Royal, the architect. (Also, his name is Royal? Subtle. Anyway.) Royal has a tendency to be equally good and equally shit as a person. He bestows kindnesses. He dishes out abuse. He rescues his wife. He cheats on her. He makes a place for all the stray dogs that have amassed in the building. He refers to a woman he slept with by her apartment number rather than her given name. What is he? Who is he? The picture we’re given is complicated but not actually deep. More confusing than anything.

Luke Evans as Richard Wilder has some depth to him, but again not as much as Laing. Evans manages to make it work in spite of that, but it’s only because he’s clearly acting the hell out of the part. The women have some good moments, but there were at least two I couldn’t tell apart, because they were merely faces in the crowd that happened to keep popping up. And notice I called them “the women.” That speaks to how little character there was. There was Charlotte, whose major characteristic was that she was a free spirit who had a lot of sex. And there was depressed, pregnant Helen. Not a lot to work with there, and not a lot to discuss either.

I’ve not read the novel by Ballard, but I get the feeling this is about the gist of what they had to work with. I have read a collection of his short work, and this seems par for the course. Women with little to no character. The men who generally don’t seem to like them very much. An opinion of mankind that makes Lord of the Flies look like Winnie the Pooh.

And that’s where I’m not sure what the message was. People are crap? That seems too simple. Especially when the tone of the film edged so often and strongly toward dark comedy. So is it about the absurdity of this scenario? Because the director did make it seem very absurd. Or the absurdity of violence? I don’t know. It was a spectacle that comes off as pretentious for that very reason. Because greatness would require the movie having a moral or a message that’s tangible and not lost in the muck. It feels like something I would’ve written in high school. The hilarity of human folly. But it’s not clever or deep. It’s sophomoric.

It also wasn’t all bad. There were some very powerful scenes. Some hilarious scenes. Luke Evans put in an especially fantastic performance. It was beautifully shot and works as a piece of art to admire. It’s a movie that could probably benefit from multiple viewings, but could you stand to watch it over and over? Not because it’s violent or subversive. I don’t mean that. Because it’s sloppy and imperfect. How many times can you sit through a swirl of colors and sound with the hope that it will eventually make perfect sense?

A very mixed bag, but I do actually suggest checking it out for yourself. Thank you for reading, and as always, happy geeking!

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Review: Crimson Peak

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I live in a town with no movie theater. We used to have one. Then everything went super duper digital, and the people running the tiny theater couldn’t afford the new equipment, and that was that. I said that to say I’m never up on new movies anymore. The closest movie theaters to me are thirty minutes in either direction. It’s become a hassle. I’m one of those people now. Forever waiting for DVDs and Blu-Rays. So if you’re looking at this review and going, “wow, real current there, Quill,” my response is, “hey! …shut up.”

Crimson Peak is the most recent outing of Guillermo del Toro. It’s a gothic tale about a haunted house, grisly murders, and an unfolding mystery. We follow Edith (Mia Wasikowska) as she heads to her destiny with said haunted house and unravels the clues. Right out of the gate she’s a fantastic lead. She’s an every-woman with some extra flourishes that flesh her out and give her some good depth. I found myself rooting for her the whole time, and it’s part of what kept me glued to my screen.

Rounding things out, we have Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain), a mysterious duo with a boatload of secrets. Also, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) who has “Jonathan-Harker-esque hero” written all over him. And because I simply have to mention it, Jim Beaver plays Edith’s protective father. I’m always glad to see him pop up. While it’s easy to pigeonhole these characters into easy categories, as I have for the benefit of the reader, they’re not cliches. There’s some really interesting gender role reversal going on with Thomas and Lucille. Alan is a very savvy guy that I wish there’d been more of. These roles are what they need to be but also more. It’s what makes the movie feel so rich.

Well, that and the setting. My God. This thing is a feast for the eyes. Del Toro always brings the fantastic monsters, and the ghosts here are some of the most disturbing I’ve ever seen. Rest assured a couple of those ghosts were Doug Jones, meaning they have all that creepy movement and wonderful awfulness you look for in a monster. The house itself is like a dark wonderland, falling apart at the seams with a huge hole in the roof, which allows it to snow inside the house. Sinking deep into red clay that makes it appear as if blood is seeping up from the floor and running down the walls. It’s gorgeous. Even if this doesn’t sound like your thing, this is one to enjoy simply as art.

Does this movie have downsides? Barely, but the one I’d call out is a very personal thing. I’m a very observant viewer. I’ve also read widely and watched a lot of movies. Little gets past me. So I was never really shocked by revelations that came later in the film. That’s not to say other viewers won’t be. This is something that I tend to go through, so it wasn’t one of those films I could crow about on the grounds that it caught me off guard with its mysteries.

I can say that it pulled a very strong, positive reaction out of me. It’s Poe-esque, with its sinking mansion, howling ghosts who serve as warnings, and pale, brooding characters. Edith is the perfect audience surrogate if you’re a sensitive type who likes to write and enjoys intrigue. I thought her journey was very powerful. I fangirled. What else can I call it? It left me fangirling, which doesn’t happen that often anymore. So of course I want to scream from the hilltops now that everyone should watch this.

I’ve had a very up-and-down relationship with Guillermo del Toro and his films. I loved Mimic and Hellboy. Blade II and Hellboy II were disappointments. Pan’s Labyrinth was beautiful but left me feeling hollow with its nihilistic message. So it feels nice to be back on his bandwagon and waiting for his next project. Also, I need to watch Pacific Rim. Damn my lack of a movie theater.

Thank you for reading, and as always, happy geeking!

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October 2016 Reading Wrap-Up

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So the reading didn’t go as planned. I had a lot of hiccups in trying to get through the books I chose. I ended up watching more scary movies and not reading as many scary books. Still let’s talk about what I did read.

After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones (My Rating: 3.5/5) This was a dark, strange story collection, and it felt like something I should’ve liked more. My main problem was the writing style. It didn’t really flow. Jones had a tendency to bring plot points or actions out of left field, and they didn’t read as shocking. Rather they read as confusing. I found myself having to read passages over and over because I was confused about what he was trying to say. So when I should be chilled and thrilled and fully engaged, I was frustrated.

There are some gems here though. The title story is fantastic and takes the idea of a haunting to a whole new place. “Xebico” and “The Spindly Man” both deal in some great horror meta. But my favorite was “Doc’s Story”. My understanding is it was later written into a full book, and I’m dying to get my hands on it.

Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck (My Rating: 5/5) Another short story collection with a lot of odd tales. This one was a little hard to get my hands on, and I ended up jumping on it when I found a good deal, and even then I ended up paying for an advanced reader’s copy by accident. Still I’m glad to own it, because it was great. This style of prose is more my speed, tending toward magical realism. Everything from the mundane with a touch of eeriness to outright bizarre. Speaking of, the title story, which was the definition of bizarre, was my favorite of the bunch. I also really enjoyed “Rebecka” and “Reindeer Mountain”.

Last Look by Charles Burns (My Rating: 3.5/5) I feel so torn about this one. I adore Charles Burns. This book is a bind-up of a trilogy he’d been putting out over the last couple years. His artwork is second to none. His storytelling is character driven and strong. But this reminded me so much of The Sculptor, which I hated. Yet another story about a self-absorbed, artistically sensitive guy and the way he wrecks his own life and the lives of those closest to him. The difference being that I don’t think Burns is trying to make me sympathize with this selfish man. I think he’s just presenting the story.

Yet even then it’s hard to give him a pass when he has a female character whose perspective is sacrificed in favor of following the man and his many mistakes. I thought she would’ve made for a much more interesting and sympathetic point-of-view. Though in that case the male character would’ve come off as even more of an ass. Which he is. The bottom line being that, for me, I’m tired of these stories. I’m tired of these characters. I thought he had an incredibly unique way of showing the conflict via dream sequences, but I wish it had been a different conflict.

I’m hopeful next month will be better all around, both for the amount I read and the quality of those reads. If you would like to support this blog, check out my Patreon. As always, happy geeking!