Look Forward to: Rogue One

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Hey there!

So, I thought about doing this post for a while but I wasn’t quite sure of it because (don’t tell anyone!) I’m not really a Star Wars kind of gal. Sure, I see the potential and the many doors the franchise opened, but all in all, it does not really push my buttons. Or at least not the right ones. 

However, I do realize that for many (many, many, many) people, it IS a big deal, so I figured that I would bring it over anyways, since it is a piece of speculative fiction after all, and that is what we do here in this little corner of the blogsphere.

So, ladies, children and nerds: Rogue One. A Star Wars Story. 

Rogue One, A Star Wars Story poster.png

What is it about?  

Kids, I really don’t think I need to answer this question, but for those of you who’ve been living in Nepal with the monks, or in Santa’s Workshop in the Pole, or under your average large rock, I’ll give a brief overview.  Rogue One is a stand-alone story within the Star Wars universe, happening sometime between episodes III and IV. It aims to introduce us for the first time to the rebel forces that have gathered after Revenge of the Sith, and that will go ahead and cradle Luke Skywalker and company for the original Star Wars. The story brings about an entirely new set of characters, along with a premise that fans are sure to love: the small, brave group of heroes who need to sneak into the heart of the empire to steal the schematics of their new (old!) terrifying weapon, the Death Star.    

Why you should give it a shot?  

Ok so, as I said, I am not a Star Wars freak. I enjoy the movies with the intellectual curiosity of any speculative fiction writer, but they are not much my cup of tea. However, there’s no denying the amazing creativity and world-building techniques this mega-saga displays. The universe of Star Wars is vast, and, considering the events of last year, quite likely to expand. While Rogue One might not directly tie in to the worshiped franchise, it’s definitely a nice morsel to include in the collection, and also an interesting test as to whether there can be value to the universe in general and not just the heart-wrenching characters. A sort of testing the waters, to put it another way. If it succeeds, we might be seeing more light sabers, Jedi knights and The Force that have nothing to do with the original franchise. Something to keep an eye on, indeed.

Fans and enthusiast of the genre certainly should give this movie a chance, because it’s sure to be a well-crafted, entertaining affair that will add value to the current sci-fi market. I, for one, am happy that speculative fiction is taking a more active part in mainstream motion-pictures, and you won’t see me complaining if more space opera films come around as a result of the Star Wars re-revolution. So bring it on!

Release date: December 16, 2016.   

 

Moana (Movie Review)

Hello, fellas!

So in the spirit of my Top 10 Best and Worst Movies of 2016 (look forward to it!), I headed over to the local motion-picture house to get me some writing material. Among them was Disney’s most recent release (and a recommendation in this very blog last month), hailing straight from the Polynesian islands, new princess on the block, Moana.

Some Background ———-

Moana is not Disney’s first attempt at tackling a minority in one of their feature films (can somebody say The Princess and the Frog? How about Pocahontas?) and when they set up to do so, they normally do it with a vengeance. Moana is a film rich with the culture of Polynesian and Hawaiian islands, and despite much discussion, there is no doubt that effort was put into preserving and enhancing the traditions the film highlights. Cast and soundtrack take deep care to honor the movie’s main setting, with voice actors who all have some sort of Pacific Islander heritage, and songs that include intricate lyrics in a Polynesian language that is actually spoken in the American Samoan Islands.

All in all, Moana paints a really complete picture of the world it’s trying to offer the viewers. It opens a new, innovative and interesting setting for Disney to explore and audiences to enjoy and learn about, all while shedding some light over the rich oral traditions and stories of the Polynesian communities, too long ignored in mainstream film.The movie tells the story of Moana, a young girl who struggles with her place in life and the responsibilities her father and her tribe have put on her shoulders. Much of it we already know: the struggle, the self-doubt, the moment of truth when the heart finally tells the young heroine what to do… Pretty basic Disney stuff. It’s old and it has holes, but we love it. Like most of Disney animated hits, filmmakers make Moana’s struggles personal enough that you can relate and care for her, that you shed a tear or two when she crosses a milestone, and don’t feel guilty because of the simple gladness you get when she comes out victorious at the end.

Moana is a likable character. She is caring, determined and kind, and displays a level of maturity that is quite alien to regular Disney princesses and I believe is very refreshing. She has a dream yes, but she doesn’t let this dream overcome her own responsibilities to her people. And even when she does decide to pursue it, it is always with an optimistic but practical mind that is willing to learn and face the challenges that are sure to come. Her quest is somewhat reminiscent of Rapunzel’s in Tangled, but she lacks the sometimes annoying naivete, and her attitude brushes on Brave‘s Merida, but without the spoiled rebelliousness and selfishness of the red-headed Scottish lass.

The rest of the characters do a good job of complementing her, especially Maui, demigod extraordinaire, but it’s Moana herself who holds the weight of most of the movie. It’s a refreshing new trend by Disney:  a girl interesting enough that she can hold your attention throughout an entire film, without needing a love interest (or a sister) to help her. They first introduced this trend for Brave, and now for Moana it has definitely being perfected. Disney embracing the concept of woman empowerment after almost a century of damsel-in-distress-type heroines is definitely a plus in my opinion, so thumbs up for that.

The story, although simple, is well-thought and complete, with a surprising ending that is very moving and teaches about understanding and trust, all the time keeping the mysticism and subtle sense of surrealism of old oral legends.

Disney lovers will like Moana, and even those who are not avid fans of the animation giant will enjoy this movie’s well-crafted action and its clean, simple humor that leaves you chuckling all the way through. Will it stand beside its blockbuster princess predecessor, Frozen? Hard to say. Moana is an entirely different animal with entirely different aspirations. But what it’s obvious is that this brand-new Disney movie holds its own weight in the Disney universe, and hopefully it will become the gateway to many more exploring and voyaging to far lands and untold stories.

10/10!

Shout-out to an amazing artist: Check out “To Belong”!

Hi, guys!

So everyone here knows I love to recommend creativity and good work, and that is what I come to do today. I’ll bring you To Belong, a fan-made crossover web animated series by talented YouTuber The Nameless Doll. 

By mashing together a bunch of Disney and animated movie scenes with great talent and more than a little creativity, this artist has managed to bring to life an original story in a way that is interesting, engaging, and impressive. As she prepares to launch To Belong with original art and animation through a Kickstarter campaign, I wanted to give her a shout out for the amazing job she’s done so far.

Comes to prove that creativity comes in many forms, and writers don’t need to publish books to offer great stories. Check out the web crossovers below to learn a little more of the story, and don’t forget to go to the author’s website and support her Kickstarter campaign so that this talented, creative storyteller can keep regaling us with her amazing gift!

To Belong Series Official Website

The Nameless Doll Tumblr Blog

 

Look Forward to: Disney’s Moana

look forward

Third in the month!

See? I told you I would do three of these this month. You won’t be getting anymore juice like this for a while so enjoy it while it last, guys. 

So today in our Look Forward To… we go back to my geeky, less than mature roots and take on the newest princess movie by Disney’s very capable staff, a Polynesian 3D princess with some amazing powers of her own.

Enter: Disney’s Moana. 

Moana Teaser Poster.jpgOk, readers of mine, I like Disney. That’s not a secret to anyone. I know all the songs by heart, I have them on a playlist I put on when I’m taking a shower, and when I find a Disney movie while browsing through my cable channels, I normally leave it on (and make popcorn). So sue me!

Moana comes to take the place of the newest princess movie that Frozen last held, and does it with flair by taping into a culture that is both mysterious and familiar for Americans: the far-away cousins from Hawaii we all go to see whenever beach season opens up. I, for one, find it quite the interesting approach. Disney has been trying for a while to appeal to the minorities and portray itself as a multicultural company that respects diversity. Movies like Mulan, Pocahontas and The Princess and the Frog came to help set up that notion. Disney Channel’s series Elena of Avalor, the first Latina princess in Disney history, already started this year’s effort with its July TV premiere, and now in comes Moana.  

What is it about?  

Moana is a young, adventurous teenager who leaves in Montunui Island, in the Polynesian region. Her father is the chief of their tribe and descendant of a long line of navigator that three thousand years ago traveled around the Pacific, having adventures and discovering all the island of Oceania. So when her family is suddenly put in danger, Moana doesn’t hesitate to sail on a journey to find a mysterious island that holds the key to save them. She will get more than she bargained for, though. Aided by mighty demi-god Maui and her own affinity with the ocean and the creatures that populate it, Moana will live a thrilling, dangerous adventure, encountering scary monsters, impossible odds, and fulfilling the ancient quest of her ancestors while discovering the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.   

Why you should give it a shot?  

As casting comes, Moana is hitting the little-known button for the most part. Disney tried to stay true to the film’s premise and featured a voice cast with strong Pacific Islander roots such as 15-year-old Auli’i Cravalho, making her debut with this movie, and Temuera Morrison, supporting actor from Star Wars Episode II and III.

Notable in the cast though it’s the addition of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, portraying demi-god and male lead Maui, who had to reconnect with his Samoan heritage for this part. The Rock has become a Hollywood regular for the last several years, and has won the hearts of the audience with his easy smile, warm humor and amazing charisma that brings a good dose of lightness to the hard action thrillers he normally portrays. It’s bound to be interesting to see how he uses those same assets to his full advantage in this new setting, where his impressive muscles and physical prowess is not even showcased.

 

With Disney there’s always the controversy of whether the newest movie is going to live up to the standard set up by its predecessors, and being a direct follower of Frozen, Moana has it tough, I must admit. It will take a lot for this new princess to beat the winter blockbuster of 2013 (which also premiered around Thanksgiving) and the almost 1.3 billion green bills it put into Disney’s pockets. However, there’s always hope, and even if it doesn’t manage to get as much traction as Frozen, Moana is sure to be an fun, endearing and exciting experience for the whole family.

Release date: November 23, 2016.   

What makes a good Epic Fantasy movie?

sword-918542

Hello, everybody! 

This week, as I was running through my head all the possible topics to talk about in a blog post, I was meandering and lazing about the great, mysterious Internet and I found several useful tidbits that I thought would make an interesting discussion topic: What makes a good Epic Fantasy Movie?

Is it stunning effects? Good history? Engaging artistic performances? Or perhaps awe-inspiring makeup and costume treatment? Not to forget the music, creature design and old-fashioned-but-still-flair-full dialog fans expect from everything Epic.

Even though fans of the genre can have their dreams realized by tuning unto HBO’s Game of Thrones, is it really enough to fulfill our motion-picture needs?

Let’s take a look at the Epic Fantasy options 2016 brought with it:

 1- The Shannara Chronicles.  Ok so, January 2016 means The Shannara Chronicles, or how I like to call it The-Series-That-Tried-To-Ride-The-GoT-Gravy-Train-But-Failed-Miserably.

Now, boys and girls don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that for fans of lets say Twilight, this particular YA-Epic Mash Up works out fine. After all, if what you want is the shallowness, crazy-hormones-low-brain-activity high this particular series gives, you should go for it (and now it’s up for a second season, yay!). Personally, I started watching Shannara in search of a series that would take on my favorite fantasy topics, but lighten up a little of the gore and low-morals that are at the core of Game of Thrones. Hey, I wanted to watch an actually nice hero for once, sue me! Point is, it so didn’t work out. The Shannara Chronicles is like a weird mixture of Vampire Diaries, Buffy and GoT, except it takes the worse part of those three and puts them together. Flat characters, an under-developed story and oh, hey two girls fighting for a single guy! Just what the doctor ordered… not. Honestly
Galavant Intertitle.png, if I were to chose my Epic Fantasy series of choice on this 2016, I would go with Galavant over Shannara, and that is just a stupid gag series, with singing! Season 2 (January, 2016), had ostensibly less quality than season 1, but at least I didn’t want to put my hands around the lead girl’s neck like, oh I don’t know, every second!

Against a backdrop of Egyptian pyramids, an ensemble cast of Egyptian gods and humans on differing scales pose.2- Gods of Egypt.

Ok, this movie sucks. There’s really no other way to put it, and for someone like me who is a Mythology junkie, it sucks to hell and back three times. The characters are horribly under-developed, they literally have no motive whatsoever for the things they do in the movie, and the only one who actually has a little bit of layering is the bad guy, who, considering you are supposed to not like him, doesn’t bode well for the rest of the movie.

The story is spotty at best, and the performances feel flat because, as I said, there is no depth or background to pull up from. I guess the objective was for viewers to focus on the action, but the problem is, the action is not that hot either. It ebbs and flows without a clear pattern and since it doesn’t really build up, when you get to the final battle you are like “Oh, that’s it?”

All in all is a bad attempt at motion picture that I hesitate to call Epic Fantasy, but alas… here you have it.

The Huntsman – Winter's War poster.jpg3- The Huntsman: Winter’s War. 

This movie… what to say about it….

Just to get it out of the way, guys, costume design and make up in this movie is on point. Effects are not  bad either. Sadly, these two things are the only good thing about it. Not even Chris Hemsworth could save this movie, and I forgive a lot of things to that face of his. It just was so… BORING! Yes, that is the word. We watched it at home when it came out in Blu-Ray, with pop-corn and the lights out, and we were literally sleeping five minutes in.

It has too much exposition and to little character development. It doesn’t do a good job of connecting with its predecessor and the only action concentrates in about the last 10 minutes of the movie, when you are already hopelessly ashamed of having spent the past two hours watching it.

Warcraft Teaser Poster.jpg4- Warcraft.

For Warcraft, I will at least praise the CGI and Make up work. They do an amazing job with those orcs and the truth is they look amazing. Overall action is fast paced and the movie itself is entertaining. But (always there is one), that is all this film is. The main characters are too simplistic to engage. It perhaps comes with the fact that is based on a video game, but I don’t believe that forgives it. I have read books of the Warcraft universe and they are amazingly well-crafted. This movie is not. It’s great to spend a good two hours, it’s eye-candy with all that gorgeous special effect and costume work, but it doesn’t trap you. The only character that is relatable is Durotan, and only to a small degree, because with so many things happening we don’t get to see much of him. My opinion would be that this movie suffers from overdoneness (same problem that The Hobbit trilogy had a couple of years ago). Filmmakers tried to do too much and cram it in too little a space. As a result, everything feels somewhat exaggerated. It lacks the subtlety and careful treatment good epics need to make it to the heart of the viewers.

All in all, 2016 was definitely not the year for Epic Fantasy, and while the movie roster is yet to finish airing, there are no more likely candidates coming to take up the fallen mantle. We will have to wait perhaps for the second Avatar (if it ever does happen) or hope someone takes pity on us poor fans and throw us a bone of Epic Fantasy we can happily shew on.

For now, I’ll leave you with a throwback for your hungry hearts, from the most amazing epic movie saga ever made:

Look Forward to: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

look forward

Hi, everybody!

So I said this last week in another Look Forward To… post for Marvel’s Dr. Strange, but November comes bearing gifts this year, so here I am doing my job of presenting them to the eager world.

Today we speak of a very polemic release that has yet, for some reason, been quite ignored in mass media: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. 

Ok, so J. K. Rowling is big (who doesn’t know that?) but with the recent release of The Cursed Child to pretty good overall success we should probably say that she is big “again.” Reason why it comes as no surprise that this movie was finally made. Now, kids, I must confess. Neither The Cursed Child nor Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them have me jumping up and down of joy per se. Don’t get me wrong, I am as much a Harry Potter fan as the next girl, but I just don’t believe in milking the loyalty of your fans using their love for a series that (let’s face it) has nothing more to it, only to make money. Which is, I’m afraid, all this movie is going to be about. But anyways, let’s not be judgmental before actually judging, shall we?

What is it about?  

The Wizarding World has moved to North America! Newt Scamander is a wizard researcher who studies and rescues magical creatures, sometimes going so far as trapping them in his mysterious (magical!) leather case with none the wiser. He arrives at 1926 New York set on this noble task when his secret is accidentally discovered by Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj (American form of Muggle) who opens his magic case and sets Newt’s creatures on the loose. Now, Newt, with the help of Jacob, underappreciated American Auror Tina, and Tina’s sister and roommate Queenie, must set to find and re-capture Newt’s creatures before they hurt themselves or the unsuspecting humans of New York.    

Why you should give it a shot?  

Alright so, first, let’s get casting out of the way: Eddie Redmayne. This guy you might know from hit 2012 musicale Les Misérables, 2014’s The Theory of Everything and 2015’s The Danish Girl. What do all these movies have in common? Easy, they were all Academy Award Nominated movies. Except for the error of judgement on his part called Jupiter Ascending, Eddy Redmayne can normally be trusted to deliver a stellar performance. His portrayal of world-famous scientist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, earned him an Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award all in the Best Actor category, for his incredible rendition of the ALS-riddled physicist.

Another notable figure is Colin Farrell, who will portray an Auror and the main antagonist in this particular movie. This man I think deserves no introduction as he has been part of some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters such as Alexander, Total Recall and Minority Report. It will be interesting to see this action blockbuster star explore yet another type of role with this movie.

 Now, for our second reason I present you with a question:

What did you love about Harry Potter, the characters or the world?

Could you have one without the other?

That is basically what Fantastic Creatures asks you. You have the spells, the wands, the hippogryphs… But no Hogwarts, Ministry of Magic (not even Muggles apparently!) and most importantly, no Ron, Hermione or Harry. There is no doubt J. K. Rowling is a master at World Building, and now she is overseeing the entire process from the Screenwriter’s and Producer’s chairs! Her personal involvement, coupled with the stunning effects Warner Bros company can fund, this film is sure to be something to behold. However, it remains to be seen whether the Wizarding World alone can hold its own in the eyes of the fans, and Fantastic Creatures seems like the perfect test for that. Rowling’s last attempt at publishing, The Casual Vacancy, was not the most successful endeavor for the world-famous writer. Perhaps, if Fantastic Creatures holds its own against the eager, voracious minds of the Harry Potter post-ending fans, she might just go back to the world she created and bring us some more magic to love in the future (I’m crossing my fingers for a Marauders’ Prequel series right here!).

Just for that alone, this writer hopes Fantastic Creatures ends up being the biggest blockbuster of 2016. Amen.

Release date: November 18, 2016.   

Look Forward to: Marvel’s Dr. Strange

look forward

Hi, guys and girls!

Today I bring you yet another post in our Look Forward To… section. Things are getting interesting in the movie industry for the following months, so I predict many more posts like this one to let you know just a little of what’s going on. You’re welcome, I know!

Today we discuss one of three interesting movies to premier in the coming month of November: Marvel’s Dr. Strange.

Ok, so for those of you who are new and don’t know we rock in this part of the internet, you should know I like anything and everything that has to do with Fantasy, Science-Fiction and Speculative Fiction in general. This extends towards movies. From the masterpieces like Interstellar, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, to the seriously flawed, seriously offending elements like, oh, I don’t know, I’m thinking Jupiter Ascending (and it had Shanning Tatum on it, I mean, come on!) and the most recent Gods of Egypt (not even the fact that I’m a mythology junkie saved this movie).

Anyways, as such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that after Disney, Pixar and Ghibli Studio, Marvel is the other movie maker I am very fond of. I’ve been following the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) for a while now, and as such, it’s obvious I’m quite caught by this particular movie.

What is it about?  

Ok so, like all of the Marvel movies, the film is based off a comic book, in this case, telling the story of Dr. Stephen Strange, a top-grade neurosurgeon who suffers a car accident that leaves him unable to operate. As a result of this, and the shock of being rid of his one true worth (hint: Narcissistic much), Strange sets of on a journey of self-discovery and healing that takes him to the Ancient One, a Celtic mystic who teaches him about the hidden world of magic and alternate dimensions.

Why you should give it a shot?  

Beyond the just stunning effects and honest entertainment Marvel movies usually deliver, there are many good things about this one. First of all, we have the leading character, Dr. Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Now, if you have not heard about Benedict Cumberbatch that’s because you’ve been living under a rock! He is the pretty face (and stunning acting) responsible for roles like Sherlock Holmes, from the hit mini-series Sherlock, Khan, from 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness, Alan Turing in Academy-Award-Nominee The Imitation Game, and he also lent his amazing, amazing voice to the dragon Smaug in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series and the tiger Shere Khan in the recent Disney live action adaptation of The Jungle Book. 

The cast also includes many more amazing stars such as Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia 1 & 2) and Rachel McAddams (The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife). All in all, the cast aligned for this piece is pretty reliable and I for once I’m glad they went with Mr. Cumberbatch for this character. All that British flair and aristocratic mien is going to go great to portray arrogant genius Dr. Strange. Fans of his performance in Sherlock are definitely in for a treat.

While it’s still not clear how this particular movie fits into the MCU, so far the creators behind this amazing project haven’t disappointed (much), so I, for one I’m willing to give them a shot (and two hours of my time) to find out just how Dr. Strange ties in with the overall story arc and how will he help further it.

Release date: November 4, 2016.   

Pumpkin, Spice and all the things… not nice?

Autumn, Black, Dark, Decoration, Fall, Halloween
 It’s Halloween Season! 

We are almost into October and my favorite part of the year is coming right up. Working on costumes and events and getting busy for Halloween is always fun, as it is starting to fret about this year’s NaNoWriMo. It will be my first time participating so it’s both exciting and terrifying. I won’t be starting a new piece, more like finishing an ongoing one, but the 50k words splash of creativity will definitely come in handy.

There’s excitement in the air this season, dears and darlings! But before NaNo, look forward to the special posts I’ll be releasing for Halloween costume making, which I intend to document this year. I’m not bad at arts and craft but I’m not a particular whiz either, so it should be fun to see me struggle with the Steampunk Female Military Officer I’ve chosen to become this year.

Look forward to it!

Straight from… #5

 Straight from… Reddit

Does reading make one a better writer?

Answer: Hmmmm, let me think… You would never jump into doing an open-heart surgery without having seen the procedure done a hundred times, right? The same happens with writing. All the theory and technique in the world is not going to help you if you don’t read. You have to know your environment, who are the players, how good are they and what people are reading. Anything else is pure bogus. Whoever tells you a writer doesn’t need to read to be a good writer is lying. Through. His. Teeth.

In the words of Samuel Johnson: “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”

The Razvak Hunter Book Launch: Whos, Hows, and Whys.

Banner (Book Launch) (Small) There are many rewarding things about releasing a first book. You feel accomplished and happy, but there’s also insecurity and a certain nostalgia, along with a sudden eagerness.

Ever since The Razvak Hunter was released on February 29, it’s been an utter roller-coaster. Fun and frustrating in equal parts, there is a lot to be said about the process of discovery, trial-and-error and the many mistakes you’ll certainly make along the way.

Knowing that success is the result of many failures, and that you can’t achieve it until you’ve screwed up a good deal of times is both uplifting and disheartening. Because it basically means that each and every step you take towards your goal is well-taken, but you are also guaranteed to have many, many failures on your path.

This year and this book haven’t been what I envisioned, but they were what I expected. Harsh reality and a little disappointment come every time we try something new. The challenge is to stick to it and make the most out of the tools
you have.

This book launch was like that. It was great for many reasons. It reminded me of the support of my family, the amazing people that have helped me get to where I am and grateful I am for each and every one of them. It has brought together old friendships and created some new ones. 

From a strategic and publishing point of view, I was unsatisfied. But still I ended the night with a smile. This book launch was a party more than an event, with the objective of celebrating not only a personal accomplishment, but also thanking all those people who coped with the hours of hard work, crazy schedule and sullen writer, and did so with a smile and all the encouragement they could muster. To all the people that helped print, cut, paste… to those who handmade the decorations, lend their musical talents and time to make this moment possible.

To all of them:

THANK YOU!