New Film Review Site Is Live!

Thought is the parent of the deed.

— Thomas Carlyle

After mulling for a few days over the question of whether or not I should keep publishing film reviews on The Cat’s Cradle, I decided to go ahead and make a new, separate site for them.

I present to you:

(Heh, that didn’t take long for me to decide, now did it?)

I’ve been writing reviews about various topics and media that are obliquely related to noveling, but these have been spread over several sites from 2012 and on. I won’t be removing those reviews from their original sites, and I will probably continue to post some reviews (mostly for books) on The Cat’s Cradle. However, I want to keep my regular writing-related posts on The Cat’s Cradle, which will still be published every other Monday. Any reviews posted on or copied to Second Unit Reviews, and you can expect a post every Friday for the next few months as I collect, edit, and republish collected content. All previously published reviews will have a link to the original post and the date it was originally written. This will include reviews of the Star Wars and Marvel movies which up until now could only be found on my private Facebook, but will now be shared with all of you! Once I’ve caught up on the old content, then posts may become more sporadic since I can then write about whatever catches my fancy any time I choose. After all, the point of Second Unit Reviews is to have a fun, informal place to geek out. (I will do my best not to let this shiny new toy interfere with my regular writing responsibilities!)

So, if anyone is interested in my screen-rants and fangirling about movies, TV shows, comic books, anime, and video games, please be sure to check out, follow, like, share, and otherwise enjoy Second Unit Reviews!

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Should the Cat’s Cradle have film reviews?

Hello, readers! I have a question for you. Well, a couple of questions, really.

The main focus of The Cat’s Cradle is (supposed to be) writing, specifically in relation to fantasy novels, structured around personal experience and anecdote. However, I also like writing reviews of films and television shows along with a large dose of fangirling.  Some of these kinds of reviews have already popped up, but I try to keep them to a minimum. After all, this is supposed to be a writing site, not a movie review site.

But I do enjoy writing about things I really loved (or hated) about stories in other media, even if it doesn’t directly relate to writing. Over the last few years, I’ve done a few “reviews in sequence” where every day or week for a certain span of time, I write a brief review of a film that is part of a series or franchise. The two I’ve done so far are “7 Days of Star Wars” from 2016 where I watched Episodes I-VII, one each night for a week, and wrote reviews about each one, and then “The Merry Months of Marvel,” where I reviewed one Marvel movie each week starting in January 2018 and ending in May 2018. Currently these are only found on my private Facebook, as I didn’t want to flood The Cat’s Cradle with this off-topic random content, so they’ve only reached a very limited audience.

Ideally, I’d like to have a separate “blog” section on The Cat’s Cradle to post geeky gushing, but my WordPress site is, by necessity, very simple since I have neither the funds to afford purchasing a more complex theme/skin, nor the skills to modify what I have beyond some basic cosmetics. Right now, I can only add static pages rather than individual entries, and apparently this Piano Black theme has been retired, so if I try to overhaul the site, I may not be able to switch back if I decide I don’t like the new look. I don’t really want to do that if there is little to no interest in my screen-rants.

Plus, there are a bunch of other questions I need to answer before making such a change:

  •  These reviews are fun to write, but will they distract me too much from working on my regular entries and my novels?
  • There are already a lot of sites that do far better, more in-depth, and more entertaining reviews than I do, so do I have anything new to add?
  • If I can’t add a second scrolling blog to the current site, do I just work post them in with regular entries (with a special tag, of course), or should I just make a whole new site and link the two? (I already do have basic access to another site, Geek La Femme, but I technically did not create it. It is essentially abandoned, but I don’t know if I can or should resurrect it in any way.)
  • If I do make a new site or section, do I move the reviews that I already have done over to that new place (which can create a host of dead links) or leave them where they are (which may leave people confused and the organization system muddled)? And if I decide to make a new site, should I take my content from Geek La Femme (which includes reviews of anime and video games) and add it to the new one?
  • If I write or post any such reviews, should I add them to my Audio Editions, even though I get behind on the regular ones so often? (Recording them doesn’t take long, but editing can range from 2 to 4 hours, and I have little enough time as it is.)

So what do you folks think? Should I bother with this or just let things rest as they are?

The Difference Between a Convention and a Conference

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It’s been two months since I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, so I’ve had time to mull over the experience. Going somewhere new for the first time is always stressful, as one cannot know what to expect. The information I learned there was good, the speakers were engaging, and my fellow attendees were both kind and polite. I don’t really regret trying out this new opportunity when it arose.

However, I also don’t think I’ll be going back.
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Not a Legend, Not a Flop – A Review of King Arthur

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Another film review from the Penn-Mar Literary Critics! Many thanks to Avellina for joining me on this venture into Arthurian legend.

Be advised that this entry contains spoilers!


 

I will not pretend that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was a good movie. It was average at best, mediocre at worst. It managed to be better than Beowulf or Dracula Untold but did not reach the level of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. And yet, to my surprise, I rather enjoyed it.

King Arthur is a popcorn film, a Pacific Rim in the fantasy genre. It focuses on CGI action and glib character moments rather than the deeper tales of good and evil. It has the look of such epic films in many respects, (the production values are quite good) but lacks something vital that keeps it from true greatness. Well, actually, it lacks a lot of things. It’s filled with internal inconsistencies, plot holes the size of Miami, a magic system with no real rules, an over-emphasis on action that looks good rather than what makes sense, gratuitous CGI, inability to really distinguish between characters (especially the women), and a tragic, almost criminal under-use of Jude Law.
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Live Action Beauty and the Beast: A Review

(Click image for source)

Click HERE for the Audio Edition!

I try not to get excited about new movies and this is why. I love the original animated Disney Beauty & the Beast (which I have mentioned before in my Favored Fairytales entry on the subject). But I also love the idea of a Beauty humanizing a Beast in general. It’s such a compelling story, so I was looking forward to seeing a live action adaptation. I was curious to see how they would play the story, what kind of depth would be imparted to the characters, a new spin on a “tale as old as time.”

What I got was an often inferior carbon copy of the original animated version.

I cannot express how much this disappoints me. Don’t get me wrong; the movie isn’t bad per se. I don’t feel like I should demand my money back or that I wasted my time. It’s competently done. The singing (for the most part) is good, the CGI passable, the sets rich and ornate (albeit over-Baroqued), the costumes were pretty, and I enjoyed the talking furniture. There are some good moments between Belle and her father, both Gaston and LeFou were entertaining, and some of the plot holes from the animated film were explained (like how Gaston knew where the castle was, what happened to Belle’s mother, and why everyone didn’t seem to know that a giant, impossible-to-miss castle was sitting within a day’s ride of the village).

But.

There were so many things they could have done to enrich the characters, to deepen the story, that were missed. What depth the animated version had was mostly lost in the translation to live action, and what backstory there was felt pasted in as an afterthought rather than integrated into the film.

While I could go on at length pointing out all the flaws of the film (which others have done in great detail), I want to focus on three main points whose poor execution crippled the live action film:
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The Sorcerer Supreme in Cinemas

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Today we’re going to talk a little bit about the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Doctor Strange.

(Those of you who know me are welcome to stop reading now; it only gets more fangirly from here.)

Oh, and SPOILERS!

*ahem* Okay, ready?

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Art by Luna Delika

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Reflections on Star Wars

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Happy Star Wars Day everyone!

I’m sure many folks are tired of seeing Star Wars-related posts, videos, pictures, sales, and general internet celebrations by now… but I don’t think I’ve ever shared my own formative experience with these films.  I’m not old enough to have seen the Original Trilogy in theaters (Episodes IV, V, and VI), but I was one of the young people who went to see the Prequel Trilogy on the big screen (Episodes I, II, and III).  Children growing up after the release of the Prequel Trilogy will never experience a time, like I did, when there were only three Star Wars films.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first watched Star Wars.  Probably seven or eight years old at a guess, maybe even six.  I don’t remember my very first viewing or my initial reaction to them.  I don’t recall ever hearing or seeing anything about Star Wars before this point.  (I was shy, home-schooled, and far more interested in My Little Pony and Grand Champions than with space ships.)  One of the earliest memories I do have is of holding the VHS tape of The Empire Strikes Back, entranced by the cover.  I’m not sure if this took place before I actually watched the movies or after; I was fond of sneaking peeks at films and books that were outside my age range.  (I used to slink over to the Adult Fiction section of the library like a little wanna-be ninja.  It felt so… illicit; I always expected to be caught and booted back to the children’s area by a librarian.)  In any case, I must have liked A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, because I watched them again.

And again.

And again.

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NEVERMORE: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe

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On Halloween, my friend and fellow writer Foxglove and I drove 8 hours to Boston, Massachusetts so we could see a play.  For one night only, Jeffrey Combs, of Star Trek and Re-Animator fame, was performing a masterpiece called NEVERMORE: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe at the Somerville Theater.

2014-10-31 NEVERMORE

From @jeffreycombs

I confess that I had no idea what to expect.  Plays are not my forte; I’m never sure what is going to happen or how it will be presented.  But I enjoyed Mr. Combs’s work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and always liked Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of the macabre.  And, since there was a good chance this would be the last time the play would be performed, Fox and I decided this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

We were not disappointed.

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Doctor Who: Time, Space, and Fandom

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Image via NancyWho on fanpop.com

It’s been a while since I was this obsessed about a show.  More than a show; an entire universe spread across many different kinds of media.  One of the most appealing aspects of Doctor Who is that it exists in so many forms, allowing for a wide array of stories and expression.  And one of the most challenging aspects of Doctor Who is that it exists in so many forms, making it very difficult to track them all down.

I’ll say right up front that I haven’t watched any classic Doctor Who.  I really hate watching a series out of order, but since there are 100 episodes missing from classic Who, I was reluctant to dive into the franchise at all.  However, my friend Storm Elf assured me that I could start with the 2005 series that introduced the 9th Doctor and I would be fine, since there’s a 16-year gap between classic Who and its reincarnation.  We watched the first episode together at Katsucon and later she hosted a Doctor Who viewing for the next few episodes.  After that, I went through a lull where I didn’t watch any Doctor Who.  But in late September 2013, after listening to several Sapphire and Steel radio plays, I felt in the mood for some more weird time-related stories and decided it was the right time to start up Doctor Who again.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

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Influential Books: Part 5

This is the fifth and final part of a series of entries discussing various books that deeply influenced my writing and outlook on stories.  You can read the Introduction here, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.  Please note that discussion of these books may contain spoilers.

I thought I’d close out this discussion of influential books with a genre that I don’t usually read:  nonfiction.  It’s only in the last three years or so that I’ve really started delving into nonfiction; before I just passed it by as something that I don’t dealt with for research, not read for fun.  However, I started finding interesting books about internet culture, fandom, introverts, and writing.  So, here I am to talk about three nonfiction books that helped influence me as a person as well as a writer.

Image via dailyom.com

Image via dailyom.com

This book saved my life.  I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say that.  I was deep in the grip of depression when my onii-san David let me borrow his copy of Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck.  I was in pain, confused, and trying desperately to claw my way out of a hole I had only recently realized I was in.  I needed to make sense of what was happening to me, why I was so unhappy, and what to do about it.  Listening to other people doesn’t help me much because I often find it hard to relate to someone else’s thought processes.  But books…a book I can read.  A book I can understand and apply to my own life and experiences.  And Finding You Own North Star helped me do just that.

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