8.22.2017

Movies: Logan Lucky

Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Written By: Rebecca Blunt (?)
Bleeker Street, 2017
PG-13; 119 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)


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An cinema employee called this, "a hick Italian Job," and that about sums it up, I suppose. It lacks the slickness or sophistication of something like Ocean's Eleven, but it's fun in its own way.

Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, a down-on-his-luck West Virginian whose brother Clyde (Adam Driver) believes their family is cursed. Clyde is himself a one-handed bartender, having lost his left hand and forearm during two tours in Iraq.

When Jimmy's ex-wife tells him she and her new husband are moving—and taking Jimmy's daughter Sadie with them—Jimmy's determination to be able to stay close prompts him to hatch a plan to rob the motor speedway. With the help of Joe Bang (Daniel Craig doing a fair, if somewhat uneven, job of a Southern accent), Joe's brothers, and their own sister Mellie, Jimmy and Clyde set the heist in motion.

I expected this to be funnier, but it certainly has its moments. The pacing is a little weird, and there are some half-baked subplots that either needed more cooking time or should have been left out of the ingredients list entirely. But on the whole, the movie is enjoyable and serves up more or less exactly what is stated on the menu.

Best scene: Game of Thrones argument. Runner up: Joe Bang explains science.

This isn't one that needs to be seen on the big screen, but it is a fun little film. Too bad it opened opposite The Hitman's Bodyguard because, while I think the two movies are very different, they'd likely have some audience overlap. And THB is certainly the glossier, shinier bit of celluloid. (No, not literally. I know it's all digital now.) So I think more people went for that one than this. Not having seen THB yet, I can't compare, but Logan Lucky is worth consideration.

8.20.2017

The Great American Eclipse 2017

Just in case some of you are idiots—and I hope not, I mean, I don't want to believe that, but better to err on the side of caution—let's be clear:

IT IS NEVER SAFE TO LOOK AT THE SUN

No, not even when it's being eclipsed.

No, not even if you peer through your fingers or a slotted spoon or something.

No, not even if you use a mirror. In fact, that's probably worse.

No, not through a telescope; that's definitely worse. (Unless you have a solar telescope specifically designed for looking at the sun, and no, you don't.)

If you don't have eclipse glasses (and if you do, please verify they're not bogus), there are some ways to make your own viewers. Find a reputable site and follow the instructions. Try here if you're too lazy to look it up yourself.

Please don't be an idiot. Enjoy the eclipse safely.

ETA:



Are you f'ing kidding me? What did I just say???

8.16.2017

I'm going to pause here for something rather serious. There's a lot of news flying around about racism, white supremacists, etc. Let me just say . . . I grew up in the American South. Privileged if not by sex then at least by skin color. If the homosexual kids I went to school with feared for their lives, I never thought about it. If the black kids I went to school with had a more difficult time, I never thought about that either. Same for any Jewish kids, Muslim kids . . . I couldn't even say whether I knew any Jewish or Muslim kids.

THAT'S PRIVILEGE.

Not having to think about things like that. Being blind to the difficulties others may face for whatever reason—skin color, religion, sexual orientation.

I'm not proud of it. I'm sorry that it's taken all this to fully open my understanding. I never wished any of my black, homosexual, or differently religious friends any harm. But my lack of interest—my indifference—may have been harmful in the same way neglect can be.

I can't change who I was, but I can change who I am.

And while I'll never fully comprehend what others live with day to day, I can be here for them.

We must think about it.

About them.

About our friends and neighbors of every color, orientation and creed.

We can't hope for things to just get better somehow. We can't shrug and say, "Well, it's nothing to me."

You feel like your privilege is being threatened? Good. It should be. It's time to really, truly be united. Against hate and ignorance and fear.

8.14.2017

Television: Doctor Who, "Thin Ice"

It's going to take forever for me to get through all the episodes stockpiled on my DVR. Doctor Who just isn't must-watch television for me any more, which kind of makes me sad. It's like I'm trying desperately to care but it's a struggle. There are so many other shows, or even other things to do, that are more appealing.

This episode is a case in point. The Doctor and Bill go to a Frost Fair in London, 1814. (I think it was 1814 anyway. Could be remembering wrong.) There is something large that lives in the Thames and must be fed. There are aristocrats eager to feed it, and the "food" is mainly people of lower classes who are expendable. So . . . social commentary, which is par for the course, but not even very interesting social commentary because it's nothing we haven't heard or seen, nor is it all that original a take. The episode therefore felt very generic.

Meh. This is only the third episode for this season, and while the show is not as bad as it used to be, it's also not as good as it could be. I feel indifferent, which is better than when I felt angry and annoyed, I guess. Then again, when a show can make you feel something, that means you still care. When you cease to feel anything, it means you've stopped caring. Hrm.

8.12.2017

Books (Kind Of): The Adventures of Sel & Am

So I had been doing an exclusive serial story in my author newsletter. But now I'm shuttering that newsletter because I just don't have the time to keep up with it, and of all the social media I do, it really had the lowest ROI. But I don't want to leave readers hanging! So I will be posting The Adventures of Sel & Am on Wattpad. The first part is up nowhttps://www.wattpad.com/story/119342727-the-adventures-of-sel-am (if you are/were a newsletter recipient, you've already read it). More to come.

8.10.2017

Books: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I first became aware of this book during my writing retreat and workshop in France; the agent running the workshop used samples from the book, and those samples were so beautifully written I felt the need to read the whole thing.

The book in its entirety does live up to that first promise. Dual tales are spun: Sarah Grimké, daughter of a wealthy Charleston jurist and plantation owner, and a slave in the Grimké household named Hetty (basket name: Handful). Sarah Grimké was a real person, and Kidd did loads of research then embroidered the story with her lovely prose.

As beautiful as the book is, as well-written as it is, I will admit feeling fatigued toward the end. I sort of wanted it to wrap up already. It's like a movie that goes on just a few minutes too long, you know? Some of that embroidery, some of the lingering on thoughts and moments, was perhaps not all that necessary.

But on the whole I enjoyed it, even if I did skim the last 30 pages. ("Yes, yes, okay, but what happens? Let's just get to that bit.") The bad luck that these two women suffer, both together and singly, at times feels like too much to bear. Still, it's all wrapped in a gorgeous package of beautiful writing, smooth as a hull cutting through calm waters. I admire the craft put into this book, and the research and effort. If a story is a box, this one is artfully carved and gilded. Maybe it didn't need quite so much gold leaf, but it's lovely.

8.06.2017

Movies: The Dark Tower

Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor
Directed By: Nikolaj Arcel
Written By: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel (screenplay), based on the books by Stephen King
Sony Pictures, 2017
PG-13; 95 minutes
3 stars (out of 5)


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There's a common trope in YA novels these days—fantasy YA novels, that is—where the main character has a dream, or several dreams, that gives him or her important information. That's where The Dark Tower starts, too. Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has been seeing a psychiatrist because he keeps having nightmares about a man in black and a, er, dark tower. Everyone assumes the dreams are trauma from having lost his father in a fire a year before, but of course like every good YA story the child is right all along and is the true hero.

While watching The Dark Tower, I was reminded of things like the Percy Jackson books. This really is a young adult story, and I wonder if that is why the critics have taken it so badly. They expected (or wanted) something else?

I read The Gunslinger a very, very long time ago and have little memory of it. Never read any of the other books in the series. So I was able to approach the movie as a mostly clean slate and with little to no expectations. My only thought was: Idris Elba is the coolest guy who ever guy'd, and I like Matty McConaughey, so why not?

It's a short movie, and somewhat perfunctory, by which I mean the parts that should have had the most emotional impact failed to fully land their punches. And the "funny" parts could have been played for more laughs. But for what it is, The Dark Tower is . . . ::shrug:: It's fine. McConaughey hams it up a bit, and his jacket has weird sleeves that I found distracting, but eh. Whatever.

My 11-year-old son, though? He came out of the movie really liking it. Which only reinforced my feeling that it was definitely more a YA story than an adult one.

Lots of fun easter eggs for King fans (and I'm sure I didn't even catch all of them). I can at least say I liked it more than Valerian; I did not at any point get bored as Tower moves along at a brisk clip. Part of me wants to say Elba is wasted here, but at the same time he's so perfect as Roland that, even if he is wasted, we benefit from it. And so does the film.

In short, not as bad as everyone seems to think. Or else I just think differently. Wouldn't be the first time.

8.02.2017

IWSG: August 2017

Cross posted from PepperWords.

It's time again for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Question of the Month: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

Well, I used to work in publishing as an editor (and sometimes still do freelance work), so I have a healthy list of peeves. I think the thing to keep in mind is: there's a difference between things that are correct and incorrect versus preferences. Certainly, anything incorrect is annoying, and when an author seems unschooled in basic grammar, that's a problem for the reader. "Bad writing" can therefore be listed as a peeve. But many writers can at least put a sentence together. Some just have "tics"—little writing quirks. You see it in even the most established authors.

I know one writer who is what I call "comma happy." I mean, I use commas pretty freely myself, and this guy outstrips me by a lot. Most of the commas are unnecessary, though not "wrong" per se, though I find reading his work halting because of all the pauses the commas create.

Tense problems are something that bother me, and they're a common problem. Even I make those mistakes. Every peeve I have is one I've committed, probably more than once, at that's what bothers me most.

As for peeves when I'm reading or writing or editing: noise and interruptions, of course!