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12 January 2017 @ 11:46 pm
Wrapping up my 2016 film reviews/comments, because I was on top of these until we hit December, heh.

First up: Arrvial. This film has Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, it's about languages and science, it's about the importance of and the difficulties inherent in communication, it's about first contact with aliens, I was predisposed to like this film, okay? Except then it was smart, educational, funny, and had a rare (at least in Western media, to my experience) type of ending where instead of it being BOOM BIG ENDING there were events and information that put into context everything in the film that you'd already watched, that brought everything into focus. And what reveals! If you're looking for an explosive alien movie with blowing things up and landmarks going up in smoke, this is not the film you're looking for. It's more like Contact, it's thoughtful scifi, and it's bloody brilliant.

[SPOILERS - things I loved]The alien language was beautiful. I loved the constant idea throughout that we progress by helping each other, by working together, culminating in the reason for the aliens' visit being that we're to be able to help them in the future. The idea of langauge and understanding as a gift! Time travel, the fourth dimension, as a lived experience! "I just found out why my husband left me," oh my heart, right in the feels. You think in the language you learn. Just. THIS FILM. I REALLY, REALLY LIKED IT.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Possibly unpopular opinion time: I thought the Harry Potter films were pretty, and creative, and some of those actors and actresses will forever be the face of their characters for me, but. They cut so much of the books in the earlier films that it damaged the plot and they could just never touch the books. My hope for Fantastic Beasts that as a film not based on a pre-existing story it would be forced to have a stronger plot in order to stand on its own merit. It did have stronger plot, and the creatures and magic were as magical as expected. It's not one I'm going to rave about, but it was enjoyable, I'd watch it again, some good funny moments and nice little details, I'd love to adopt a niffler and a bowtruckle, and the inside of Newt's suitcase was very well done.

[SPOILERS - some thoughts]I did fall into the trap of thinking that the little girl was the Obscurus host and I liked that it was Credence instead. And it had some lovely details and jumping off points - if I still wrote Harry Potter fanfic I would be enjoying the hell out of playing with those *grins*.

On the downside, I'm not sure how I feel about the Grindlewald reveal, mostly because to me Fantastic Beasts wasn't the introduction to a war story, but a war recovery story, with Newt and Jacob, but also other characters, finding their feet and discovering - literally in Jacob's case - magic, in discovering wonder and joy again. If this is just a nod to the wider world, well okay then. But if this is going to be a war franchise... we'll see. Also, um, what happened to diversity? There's a shot at the end of the female, character of colour head of MACUSA surrounded by a pack of all white, male auorors that slammed it in my face that despite two women as well as two men heading the cast (although the focus is on the guys; i'd be interested to see the screentime) there's a distinct lack of racial diversity that, especially considering there's no story source material and they could have done anything they wanted, is damn sad.

Well then. Rogue One. I'm not a fan of Star Wars as such; I consider myself to be more an enjoyer of Star Wars as someone who likes Things Set In Space. But even I appreicated how this prequel to A New Hope adds wonderful details to the existing 'verse and casts A New Hope in a new light. It's a good space-heist movie, there's some fun and humour very reminiscent of the original films which I enjoyed, and I appreicate the many shades of grey the film explored. And then that ending. I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THAT ENDING. As such, I think this is a good film but I'm going to need some time before I do any rewatching. To recover.

[SPOILERS - oh you want to hear about the ending - NO, REALLY, HUGE SPOILERS]The ending? Everyone dies. We're talking major major character death. But it works so well. When they first started going I jumped to the thought that characters dying would be a good explaination for why none of them then show up in the three films that follow it, but I was still holding onto a silm hope that maybe some of them would be allowed to survive. Because this film had managed to make me care about them. And then there was the moment where the Death Star plans are being passed from hand to hand by rebel soldiers as they're persued by Darth Vader, these nameless background characters dying to pass these plans on, a human chain, and that, THAT MOMENT, was for me the context of the whole film.

Rogue One is the story of nameless background characters, who have their own story and thing going on, who contribute to the big plot lines but we never see it. And I am a sucker for stories about background characters being brought into the foreground. I didn't expect to see that in a big franchise film. Bravo! And, as is the way with Redshirts (sorry, I know, wrong Stars :P ), they did. Tragically. Sadly. But this time we know their names, we know their stories, and it gave me all the feelings, but the moment that my eyes leaked? Those nameless characters persued by Darth Vader, their exit door closing, passing the plans through the slim remaining gap onto their fellow rebels, dying for it. Because I didn't know their names, or their stories, or anything about them, but the characters of Rogue One had given me direct empathy and for the first time I can remember I had leaky eyes at the death of background characters. Damn you Star Wars, you and your feelings.

side note - rant about taking small kids into 12A filmsCollapse )

So, that was 2016. Up in 2017: I really, really want to watch Hidden Figures! And I am, of course, looking forward to Spiderman Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor Ragnorok. Not sure what else is coming out yet. What films are you looking forward to in 2017?
08 January 2017 @ 06:46 pm
It's that time of year again - here's the books (and grahic novels) I read in 2016, organised by how much I enjoyed them and how highly I'd recommend them (rather than just dumping them on you).

The Big Book List 2016 EditionCollapse )

My most anticipated book release in 2016 was a closed and common orbit by Becky Chambers, which follows on from a long way to a small angry planet. They’re stories about found family and diversity set in space, perfect for anyone who loves things like Firefly. They are hugs in books and I highly recommend them! Frances Hardinge also landed on my list of favourite authors last year with A Face Like Glass and cemented her place there with this year’s read The Lie Tree - I love that woman’s creative use of language.

Other favourites were: The City of the Lost, one of Kelley Armstrong’s best books in my eyes; the clever The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew, set in Nazi England in 2014; The Panoptican by Jenni Fagan, full of harsh realities and beautiful language; and Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt – I read Dicey’s Song years ago and finally got around to starting the series from the beginning. I also finally got around to reading The Complete Maus, which is as excellent and heartbreaking as everyone says it is. There are a fair few graphic novels in my favourites for 2016, for incredible stories and beautiful art.

M biggest disappointment was The Ables, which started out full of promise and descended into a sexist, ablest mess. Most confusingly popular book was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which has a good gimmick, sure, but as stories go certainly isn’t worth the hype. And ‘the worst book someone recommended to me’ goes to Nod, which was seriously not my cup of tea.

Of the single issue comics I’ve been reading this year – too many! - I especially love Bitch Planet, Saga, Giant Days, The Wicked & The Divine, Pretty Deadly, The Beauty, and The Hunt - lots of Image comics basically. I continue to read all the Serenity comics that come out, because reasons. And on the Marvel front I cut down a lot, but Doctor Strange has been amusing, fun, and features a great librarian, Civil War grabbed my interest with its Phil Noto variant covers and turned out to be an interesting story, and I’m enjoying the new Hawkeye.

At the moment for 2017 I’m looking forward to Sunstone volume 5, because 4 ended on a cliffhanger damn it; Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt, because I read a sampler and HELLO; Kelley Armstrong’s final Cainsville novel and A Darkness Absolute, the next City of the Lost book; Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology; and there’s a lot of hype around Caraval by Stephanie Garber and I’m always up for a carnival/circus plot.

What's everyone else keeping their eyes out for this year? And what were your best books of 2016?
13 November 2016 @ 11:21 pm
Guys, guys, I'm so excited that I finally get to share this with you! For Marvel Big Bang 2016 alphaflyer has written Seventh Crow, the third in her Avengers/007, SHIELD/MI6 series following 2013's Second Mouse and 2014's Locust Wind. Once again I teamed up with her to do the graphics and I wanted to try something I'd wanted to do from the very beginning, but was completely out of my depth: make a fanvid film style trailer. I ended up getting two years to learn how to do it and have a go - thank you to everyone on my f-list who gave me hints and tips! - as we were meant to post in 2015 but offline life got on top of us.

Now I get to present to share with you a brand new 34,000 word mission crossover epic fic from alphaflyer, accompanying graphics, and my first ever fanvid. We did the thing! I am so proud of us :D

Fic: Seventh Crow
Beta readers: inkvoices, jrbarton
Fandom/Universe: MCU/Avengers, James Bond/007 (Craig movies)
Rating: PG13
Word count: 34,000
Warnings: Canon-typical violence; swearing; two or three allusions to recent traumatic election processes
Summary: "One for sorrow, Two for joy ..." A long life in intelligence has taught M one thing above all: criminal organizations are like a tick embedded in the skin of humanity. You can never be sure you have pulled out the entire thing. What remains causes disease to take hold and fester.
Accompanying Art: Art for Seventh Crow
Artist: inkvoices

And I'm just gonna leave this here *grins*:

11 September 2016 @ 09:37 pm
I watched Morgan on Thursday night. The premise is that a corporate Risk Management Consultant is sent to an old building in the middle of picturesque nowhere because there has been an incident with an arficial, or synthetic, humanoid experiment and her job is to decide whether or not it should be terminated.

I do love a good robot or artificial intelligence story, but the set up for Morgan is more like a sci-fi thriller or horror, with the house in the middle of nowhere populated by a scientific team that may or may not be too attached to their creation, or may or may not have gone stir crazy, or may or may not be what they seem. And that's before we meet the titular Morgan. There's lots of creepy atmosphere and jumpy moments, and then plenty of flinch-worthy violence - or at least for my tastes. I've read reviews where it's said to be too predicatable or generic, but then I don't generally watch things that verge into horror territory.

But I liked the nods to things happening behind the scenes, the whys of Morgan's creation and the idea of whether or not artifical intelligence should be created with emotions and what the implications of that would be. Contrasted with how the hell do humans deal with emotion anyway?

HUGE SPOILER FOR THE ENDING BEHIND CUTCollapse ) So an Ex Machina style think piece it is not, but it gave me thinky thoughts and I enjoyed it for what it was. We also enjoyed figuring out where we recognised the cast members from.

Also, there's a reference to a past incident at Helsinki that made us think of Orphan Black - do people just like the name of the place or is it actually a major centre for genetics research? Heh.

And if you like robots and AI, excuse me whilst I throw a rec at you for the comic Descender. I recently read volumes one and two of the trade and am impatiently waiting for the third. It's a good story and the art is freaking gorgeous.

04 September 2016 @ 04:30 pm
To celebrate Civil War release day tomorrow here in the UK I bring to you a Civil War rec list! These ones have been sustaining me in my wait – and I’m going to wait a bit longer because a comic book friend told me today that they’ve over ordered the steelbook edition and a copy is mine if I want it, but I won’t see them again for a bit, but steelbook. These are my favourites of what I've read. Feel free to rec (me) more Civil War goodness in the comments!

28 August 2016 @ 09:31 pm
I finished a thing! I love it when I do that :D

Over at the be_compromised 2016 promptathon sugar_fey prompted ROAD TRIP! and I remembered that I'd started writing a Clint and Natasha post-Avengers road trip way back in the day. But I decided I didn't know America enough to make it into what I wanted, and by that point other people had written theirs and I loved those stories, so this went into the discarded folder. This week I tugged it back out, looked at it sideways, and rewrote it into this.

Title: Driver Choses The Music
Rating/Warnings: PG13 (mild self harm, f-word)
Length: 2000 words
Author Note: first posted here at the be_compromised promptathon for sugar_fey's prompt ROAD TRIP!
Summary: Clint shoves his bag in the trunk of the car – a standard, bland SHIELD undercover ride – and doesn’t ask how Nat acquired the keys. Doesn’t ask how, or even if, she’s gotten permission to take him off base, doesn’t ask what’s in the bag she shoved in his arms on their way out, doesn’t ask what they’re doing in a SHIELD garage at ass o’clock in the morning. Doesn’t care.

28 August 2016 @ 09:21 pm
Two films watched on Friday, because it was a bank holiday with a cheeky Firday off to make it a long weekend and I treated myself :)

First up: Swallows And Amazons. A family of kids go on holiday in the Lake District, camp out on an Island, and meet some pirates. I loved the books as a kid, but the stories grow up with the protagonists and the first book is a decidedly young story so for this adaption the writers tried to add a bit of spice. SPOILERS - specifically they...Collapse ) This could have worked, but it doesn't really gel with the childhood summer adventure, like they have genres they tried to mash up and it didn't quite work. The performances are average and overall the film is nothing special, but it's visually lovely and a nice, nostalgic slice of childhood - I always wanted an Enid Blyton adventure as a kid, but Arthur Ransome adventures felt more attainable, even if I didn't know the first thing about sailing.

On the other hand I saw a little girl watching it with her mum who gave me the widest grin when we were leaving that I couldn't help beaming back at her. So maybe for the intended age range it's much more magical.

Next up: Nerve. Based on a YA novel - that I haven't read, unusual for me! - so I can't tell you how it compares to the book. The story revolves around an online game where people complete dares, as voted on by their watches, for money and the ones with the most watchers and who complete the hardest dares end up in a final. Our protagonist is a teen who isn't a risk-taker and ends up partnered with a stranger.

It's a good, well-paced story, the dares escalate in a way I found believable, all of the characters are three-dimensional and shades of grey which kept any of them from being boring, it made me laugh at times, and there were some nerve-wracking moments. The ending felt...somewhat obvious in some ways, but it also had a twist that I didn't see coming. It'd be interesting to see how the book ends - my cinema buddy @TricksyLieSmith is on that. Overall I enjoyed this one, more than I thought I would.

09 August 2016 @ 11:22 pm
I'm still taking questions for the get to know your author meme if there's anything you want to ask me. I plan to write up a post with the answers at the weekend. In the meantime I am mulling them over!

And since the summer Prompathon at be_compromised is still taking prompts until the end of Sunday (nudge nudge, hint hint) I thought I'd ask you all about prompting, and things like promptathon vs leaving prompts in exchanges.

When I leave prompts in open things like promptathon, where there's no expectation of prompts being filled and there's no exchange, I don't see...fills as a gift. I like getting rid of ideas that I don't have the time to play with myself, generating new ideas, seeing what ideas everyone else comes up with, and if I manage to enable someone into getting creative that makes me all kind of happy. Then there's exchanges, where I like to give an idea of my likes and dislikes, and then sit back and forget that I'm going to get a gift until it arrives and then I'm super excited, look at what someone made for me. But as a writer I also know that it can be awkward writing for someone else in an exchange, so more recently I also think it's nice to leave some prompts as well as an but I'll love whatever you come up with. Sometimes I'll also use exchanges to hopefully try and get a particular type of story that I might fancy at the time.

How do people feel about prompts, and is that different as a reader to as a writer? Are there particular kinds of prompts that you particularly like leaving? Do you ever feel that your prompts need to fit in with the kind of prompts people are already leaving in an event, or that you can buck the trend and prompt whatever you like? Do you leave different kinds of prompts in open events than in exchanges? And basically any thinky thoughts around prompts and prompting :)

And of course if this inspires anyone to drop a few more prompts over at promptathon, well then excellent *grins*.

(Because it's fun chatting with internet friends, I'm trying to be better about posting on LJ, and there are so many writing/creating conversations we could be having!)
08 August 2016 @ 07:06 pm
Meme time! Not done one for a while. Stolen from endeni: pick from the following questions to ask me about my writing