Sunday, June 30, 2013

Now That's What I'm Talking About! A non-spoilery review of White House Down

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Man of Steel and came away disappointed because of the lack of character development, sufficient character motivation, and wanton destruction with no thought to the consequences. 

Today, I'm here to say that White House Down was, surprisingly, a far better movie. I know, right?!

Those who pay attention to such things tend to go into a Roland Emmerich movie expecting something fun, funny, and full of action with the highest stakes imaginable. A true popcorn movie that you pay to see simply to be entertained. I found much more, and think this is his best film since Independence Day.

Emmerich has done his share of wanton destruction, so it was really nice to find him fairly restrained with this movie. Things blow up, but they're specific and non-gratuitous. The writing was solid, the character development just enough to make us care about the people we're watching. I know that makes it unfair to compare this to Man of Steel, because they were trying to do two very different things. One was a one-day event while the other spanned a lifetime. Still...

The opening of the movie was nicely tense. If you have a basic idea of the storyline, you know right away, as each person is introduced, what is going to happen to them. I found the initial invasion a bit too easy, though they did set up why that was. I just thought someone would have fought back, at least had time to draw his weapon. But that minor complaint was offset by great actors doing a great job, from the big names (James Woods!) to the unknowns (that bad guy who referenced Speed with such deliciousness!). Especially good was the actress who played Channing Tatum's daughter, who brought off a tricky combination of terror and bravery with aplomb.

Number One and I give this two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not Your Average Day of News

Let me know when the bombardment's over
I came home yesterday to a positive barrage of news. Some so incredibly good, some so incredibly bad, and some just mind-boggling.

Number Two is very into tennis, so first I got hit with the rundown of retirements and upsets. She'd started the day with her favorite player getting injured and having to retire, so that bummed her out. It got worse when Federer went down and freed up the path that would have been John's.

While I watched that suprising win over Federer with her, I browsed my Twitter feed. OMGYay, DOMA defeated! Prop 8 dismissed! Fantastic!

Aaron Hernandez arrested. Patriots release Aaron Hernandez. Then, a short time later, Aaron Hernandez charged with murder.

Somewhere in the middle, shocking in its timing and its (fan-related) connection to home, was the concurrent arrest of Cleveland Browns rookie linebacker Ausar Walcott for murder and immediate release by his team. In this house, we are a fairly equal blend of New England Patriots fans and Cleveland Browns fans. As far as the teams go, Walcott (undrafted rookie who hasn't done anything yet) is obviously a much lesser impact on his team than Hernandez (star tight end with $40 million contract). But murder charges in the NFL? Two on the same day, and both of them for our teams? Kind of freaky.

So then I come on down to my computer to get to work and I learn of a woman being outed for plagiarizing. She claims she hired a ghostwriter and didn't know that person stole the work. Her bio claimed *she* was a ghostwriter who got such unheralded acclaim she decided to publish her own book. But then once discovered, she said she can't write.


Did I miss anything else? What other news stories made your eyes pop yesterday?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Man of Steel? More Like Man of Sillyness

I love action movies. I was the one who dragged my husband to see the latest Die Hard film, and my geek factor rose to 20 over Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. 

The one thing most action movies have in common, though, that I really hate, is indiscriminant destruction. Yes, I thought The Avengers was the best movie of 2012, but I really cringed for New York during the whole final battle.

But at least in The Avengers the good guys were trying to stop the destruction, and MOST of it came at the hands/bodies/creepy ships of the aliens. At least we were shown the people in harm's way, and the effects on some of them as the battle raged. I could forgive the excessiveness in a film that had fantastic characterization and acting, a solid, interesting plot, and well-developed motivations.

Man of Steel? Not so much. WARNING: From this point on there are rampant spoilers for the recent film Man of Steel. I'm holding back nothing. So read on at your own risk.

I was a little wary of this film before I went. I didn't care for the Dark Knight trilogy all that much, and wasn't sure I'd like the "darker, grittier" tone that was supposed to match those films. I also was a little bored at the idea of the Zod storyline again. But I love Superman (and really, more I love Clark Kent) so I wanted to give it a try.

*heavy sigh*

It turned out, I liked the Zod storyline overall. Russell Crowe was good as Jor-El, and I found the extended backstory of Krypton actually interesting. I appreciated that they took a new approach to Clark and Lois's meeting and connection. And I thought the most interesting thing about Clark's personal thread was his struggle (and sometimes failure) to always be the better man. The best part was seeing him save people, and then be passive aggressive against a bully.

But his character development fell far, FAR short of what they were striving for. They NEVER gave ANY hint that he had this rule about not killing people. (If I missed it, please feel free to correct me in the comments!) They did a decent job showing his dilemma when Zod threatens the entire planet if they don't turn him over, and I can appreciate the hints of "is he a hero or a threat?" that flow throughout his interactions with the human military.

But then they start fighting, and it all goes to hell.

First, they destroy Smallville. Not just General Zod and his cultish followers. I have to insert a whine here about how they made a big deal of how Kal-El would soak up the young, strong rays of the yellow sun and develop powers as he grew up, and then Zod and his crew got those same powers after, oh, five minutes. Their invulnerability was kind of ridiculous. So anyway, then they start flinging each other around the town, blowing apart buildings and making things explode and taking down military helicopters. The "saving" that Superman does isn't quite enough to sell me on the colonel or whatever saying "this man is not our enemy."

During this battle, Clark gives no thought to the innocent people who might be behind the walls he just smashed down. He doesn't try to move the fighting away, or to rescue anyone. Afterward, he's all grave and melodramatic in thanking the colonel for seeing that he's not a threat, but he doesn't go see if anyone was hurt in all that shrapnel and structural collapse.

And THEN. They go do the same thing in a couple of big cities. Zod doesn't care, he wants to destroy all of humanity so he and his five fellow surviving Kryptonians can start over (I guess they'll harvest the 20,000-year-old babies in the genesis chamber of the crashed scout ship, because of COURSE they haven't reached their expiration date yet). Buildings topple, cars fly around, pavement buckles. We have an odd stretch where Perry and some guy from the Daily Planet try to save some chick as if we should care desperately about her plight, when we barely met her and I never even caught her name.

So after all that, when there are probably thousands of casualties already (not counting the babies in the destroyed genesis chamber), Zod doesn't get sent back to the Phantom Zone with the rest of them and he's determined to end Kal-El. Ensue a pointless fistfight because they both have the same powers and indestructability. AGAIN they plow through buildings and probably kill thousands more people without a blink of Clark Kent's eye. Zod uses his infrared vision/laser eyes to threaten a family, and Clark kills him to stop him.

And then Clark yells an anguished "nooooo!!!!"

So I kind of figured that was because he'd killed the last of his kind, leaving him all alone, but the debate all over the Internet (ref. Entertainment Weekly) is all about how a major trait of Superman is his sometimes desperate attempts not to kill anyone, ever. For me, it's not about whether it's okay for him to kill. It's about whether the writing sucks or not, and this writing pretty much violated every major "rule" of characterization.

Any action can be justifiable if it's well motivated. In the bus scene where Clark saves his classmates and his dad thinks that was a mistake, have Clark argue that life is more valuable than reputation. Give him an opportunity to stop a horrible crime and instead of physically harming the culprit, turn him over to the authorities. Have him at least SAY something about moving the fighting out of Smallville, and let him lead the bad guys to open land. Destroying trees and abandoned buildings and the occasional farm implement will satisfy your mindless need to smash for no reason. Then when the whole planet is in danger from the World Engine, let him lament the loss of life a little bit. Give it some depth, not just a tossed off concept. Have him go crazy with grief at all the people being killed by Zod's relentless attack, let him have a full conversation with SOMEONE at SOME point about his responsibility not just to save lives, but to avoid taking them. When he fights Zod, let his blows be about avoiding collateral damage instead of causing as much of it as possible.

Then, MAYBE, I might buy that he has some remorse over killing the bad guy.

As it is, I'm left feeling that Superman is not all that super, and is in fact kind of a douche.

What did you think? Do you disagree? Counterarguments welcome in the comments!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Welcome Guest Blogger Louise Rose-Innes

When my friend called me a few years ago and said, “My only New Year Resolution last year was to have a date for this New Year’s Eve, and it isn’t going to happen,” I replied, “That sounds like a romance novel in the making.” So she promptly asked me to write a happy ending for her, since it didn’t look like it was going to happen in the real world.

That’s the beauty of romance...

We live in a dream world of hot, alpha men who are rugged but gentle, rich but unpretentious and macho, yet caring. The heroines are feisty but sensitive, beautiful but confident, and successful in their own unique way. It’s an ideal world of escapism.

THE NEW YEAR RESOLUTION is the result of our conversation. Nicole, a single mum and divorcee, decides it’s time to get back into the dating game—but only because she needs some fun in her life. Not because she’s looking for anything serious. So a “no-strings” New Year’s Eve date with jet-setting eco-tycoon Ryan Jackson is just the ticket.

Except Ryan needs Nicole for reasons of his own... He’s out to change his womanising image, so as to raise money for his latest eco project, and he needs an ordinary, respectable girlfriend. Nicole fits the bill to a T.

So Nicole’s New Year’s Eve date turns into a week-long vacation on the idyllic tropic island paradise of Medjumbe – off the coast of Mozambique—with Ryan and his prospective investor. All she has to do is pretend to be Ryan’s girlfriend for the week, and enjoy an all-expenses-paid beach holiday.

Except the hot, balmy climate, the close proximity and the undeniable attraction between Ryan and Nicole make keeping their relationship on a pretend basis virtually impossible to accomplish. As their passion sizzles under the tropical sun, Nicole finds herself falling for the jet-setting playboy—which is a complication she does not need.

Already fragile from her divorce, with an important job and a child, Nicole can’t afford to put her heart on the line for a man whose previous girlfriends include an impressive list of royalty and supermodels. So she tries to back out of their deal, only to discover it’s a lot tougher than she thought.

If she leaves Ryan, his reputation will be in tatters and he’ll lose his funding—a fate she doesn’t wish to bestow on him. However, if she stays, and continues the facade, her heart will be inextricably damaged, which is a risk Nicole is simply no prepared to take.

Then the paparazzi get wind of their affair...

THE NEW YEAR RESOLUTION is available from here.

About the Author
Louise Rose-Innes is a romantic novelist who lives in the United Kingdom. She is a member of the Romance Novelists Association (RNA) and a member of the Professional Writers' Alliance.

Louise has self-published three non-fiction books, two contemporary romances and one short novella. Her latest romantic suspense has been acquired by Entangled Publishing and will be available later this year.

In addition to writing, Louise runs a popular marketing blog for writers called Here she blogs on eMarketing techniques for writers including social media marketing, self-publishing, Web PR and Promotion.

Louise loves to hear from her readers, so visit her at or on her Facebook page - or connect with her on Twitter - @LouiseRoseInnes.

Thanks so much to Louise for being my guest today! THE NEW YEAR RESOLUTION sounds like a great read and is already on my wish list!

If you all were to make a no-holds-barred new year's resolution like Nicole, what would it be?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

This is What a Blog Looks Like When You're on Deadlines

I can't read that headline without singing "When Doves Cry." Weird, huh?

So, yeah, I'm on deadline. I'm actually ahead of it, so I decided to post something here before I hit a month since the last post.

Though "ahead of it" sounds much more optimistic than it is. I had to do some massive moving things around, which was tricky, but I got all the timelines smoothed out and changed all the emotional stuff that was different because of things happening earlier and new things happening and stuff. And then I got to skip past gobs and gobs of deleted text that had been moved to earlier pages. That was very satisfying, seeing my daily progress go so high and thinking I'd gotten past the hardest part.

And then I realized the next scenes are totally effed up, as far as timelines go. So okay, yeah, I'm probably procrastinating a little bit here, too.

So what else is going on in my life? Number One just graduated from high school! I think I've mentioned here that she's going to Emerson College in Boston at the end of August. So we're immersed in the logistics of that big change.

In the meantime, we're enjoying the Harrisburg City Islanders games. They've had the best start in the 10 years of their existence, and even though more than half of my favorite players are either gone (retired or on other teams) or hurt, they're still a joy to watch.

It's also Big Popcorn Movie season! I absolutely LOVED Iron Man 3 and enjoyed Star Trek into Darkness (but not as much as the first one of the reboot). I'm intrigued by Man of Steel and Pacific Rim and White House Down. My tastes are definitely all over adventure movies lately, with less concern about quality than I used to have. Not to say those movies won't be good. We'll see.

I have to admit I'm torn about Much Ado About Nothing. I've loved everything Joss has ever done, but my brain just doesn't get Shakespeare. I mean, I can *get* it, but it takes so much work I have a hard time enjoying it. And since I'm supposed to be a smarty-pants, that's hard on my ego. LOL

We are almost through the drought between regular-season TV and summer TV. Thank God they do new programming in the summer, right? It's my go-to destressor and I have definite withdrawal symptoms when nothing's on. Graceland started this week, and I really liked it. A house full of beautiful people, what's not to like? :/ Seriously, though, they seem to have hit the chemistry factor, which to me is the most important thing. Well-written, well-acted shows have suffered from a lack of chemistry, while silly or mediocre shows have flourished because they had it.

Besides chemistry, I liked the setup and introduction. They had a decent balance between giving the new guy a hard time and making his entrée into their world rough and also welcoming him and treating him as one of the team. An even more intriguing balance has been struck on the theme of trust. It's almost impossible to do the work they do without trusting each other, because they can trust no one else, and no one can trust them. And then, at the end, a few seconds of phone conversation shake that all to hell.

I'm also excited about the return of Falling Skies, Continuum, Royal Pains, Franklin & Bash, and Covert Affairs. Those should hold me until fall! :)

Okay, that's way too long for a blog post to begin with, and I really must go solve my timeline issue. Tell me what you're doing this lovely June!