What The Huntsman Lacks in Story it Makes Up in Artistry

The-Huntsman-Winters-War-2.jpgThe Huntsman has easily been one of the most obnoxiously advertised movies of the year. It’s everywhere. But, it still only produced modest numbers opening weekend.

Rather than being a prequel to Snow White and The Huntsman, this movie really spanned the story of before and after Snow White with a focus on Emily Blunt’s character, Queen Freya. Freya is the younger sister of the evil queen Ravenna. Her ice-based powers were unlocked due to tragedy and she has spent the days of the first movie conquering the kings of the north in her battle against love.

Eric, the huntsman, was taken as a child to become one of Freya’s soldiers and served her faithfully until he lost his wife. Enter the Snow White story. Now, the magic mirror is missing and Snow White has charged him with the task of finding it. This classic quest brings him in contact with several humorous dwarves, goblins, and finally Freya.

We can all be thankful that the acting in this movie is astounding. Brought together are some of my favorite actors playing striking characters in killer outfits. That’s my favorite part of this movie. It is truly beautiful. Each outfit has an amazing attention to detail and there are several per character. The scenery, monsters, and castles all live up to this high standard (see the poster above). With great detail, seamless special effects, and just generally beautiful composition.

Often times, I feel fantasy movies miss the mark (LoTR being an obvious exception). They don’t quite transport me to a new world the way a book does. It’s all too similar to just being in the woods or the outfits seem medieval with nothing unique. In this movie, I felt my inner fantasy geek was satisfied. I watched a tale of magical adventures in a far off place. It is clear that the producer ( who did this movie and Maleficent) knows a bit about world creation. But, that doesn’t mean it was perfect.

While the acting, scenery and outfits were on point, I was disappointed in the story line. It felt like I was watching a large number of disconnected plot points with limited character development. It was like watching the outline of a story and not the story itself. This was frustratingly emphasized with sudden changes in moods and tones of Eric.

There were some great battle moments that were awesome feats of special effects, but I didn’t quite feel the epic-ness of the boss fight due to odd camera angles and unnecessary close-ups. And these final scenes lacked tension and build the way any good epiphany should. I fully believe that is a fault of the writers and not the actors, however.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. Was the plot masterful? No. But, I got to spend a little while in a place that wasn’t here, and really, that’s why I like movies.

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. The best decision they made was keeping Kristen Stewart far away from this movie even if it did make for some awkward transitions. She’s the main reason I didn’t love the first one.

Cress by Marissa Meyer

CressIn this third book of The Lunar Chronicles we add yet another female heroine Cress, who plays the role of Rapunzel. At a young age Cress was trapped in a satellite using her technological skills to benefit the Lunar Kingdom specifically, video spying. But, as Cress has gotten older, she’s become her own woman with her own wants and knowledge of right and wrong. Helping Cinder is right.

Cinder herself has a simplistic plan, save Cress, find the doctor, save the world. Of course these things are never so simple.

I have loved these first few books, but found Cress to be a bit of a disappointment. These added characters may have needed skills but they are beginning to distract from the main storyline. I also think there was a lot of possibilities with Cress that weren’t explored. This character has had a damaging childhood and yet she is relatively normal. This could have been a great opportunity for Meyer to stretch her writing muscles and give us another complex character. I don’t think she quite got there.

My other issue with Cress as a character is that we have now three couples. Why does everyone have to be paired off? This is not realistic nor necessary. I think this need to pair each character off implies that people cannot be complete without a significant other, which is just not true. Give me a strong female character who doesn’t need a man please! In this case I’d even like a male character who doesn’t give in to the first woman available. Even Levana has some dark romantic past apparently!

Really this book seems like a lot of filler. I think Scarlet and Cress could each have been shortened and turned into a single novel. The back and forth and repetition of events (Do they really need to be split up again?) is getting old. It really just feels like a tactic to pop out another book and not an important part of the plot. The only character development that occurs when they are split up is the Cress/Captain relationship, which I am not a fan of to begin with and which could have been done in other ways. Side note: I think I don’t like it just because I picture her as so much younger than him, but I guess that’s not how it’s technically written.

The action scenes continue to be my favorite. I still think Meyer does a good job making them serve a purpose and not be too ridiculous. Cinder’s personal storyline is definitely the best part of not only this book but also this series and I wish we had stayed more dedicated to her throughout. Hopefully the final book will return to her as the focus, but, sadly, I think we will probably just get another unnecessary love story.

I give this book a 3.5 out of 5.

World Development: 4 out of 5
Writing: 3 out of 5
Main Character: 5 out of 5
Side Characters: 4 out of 5
Plot: 3 out of 5
Pacing: 3 out of 5

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. As always… Io remains my favorite character.

“Hey, I’m not judging. I’m familiar with IT-relations. Just wait until you meet our spaceship. She’s a riot.”

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

TheWrath.jpgShazi’s best friend is dead and the Monster that killed her and many others is the king. To avenge Shiva, Shazi volunteers to marry the king in hopes of staying alive long enough to kill him. But, all it takes is a single dawn before she realizes that this new world is more complex and dangerous than she imagined and that monster…is kind of hot.

I had heard a lot of good things about this book and that’s why I decided to read it. That and the concept of a retelling of Arabian Nights intrigued me. However, I am having a hard time deciding where to start with this book. I want you to know that I really did enjoy this by the end but I had my doubts at the beginning.

This story begins suddenly and you feel like you are thrown in the middle, which I did not appreciate. There is also an aggressive amount of descriptions about outfits. I wonder if Ahdieh was a fashion designer in another life. Although I appreciated her word-based painting…I didn’t need any more descriptions of colorful pants.

The biggest concern for me though was Shazi. Ahdieh took a risk with her main characters, Shazi isn’t an underdog, nor a princess–the usual YA tropes–and really her backstory is limited. There is a reason so many YA books star the underdog .You can forgive character flaws of an underdog, but a wealthy teenager with a handsome man and a cushy life…is much harder to forgive. So when Shazi comes up with a rather ridiculous and naive scheme, I just wanted to shake my head and groan.

By the middle of the story, Ahdieh has rescued her main character by highlighting the basic challenges of being a woman in this society and thus providing us with underdog-like qualities. Shazi is brave to the point of reckless, strong to the point of rude, and so direct it’s dangerous. This all means that she plays a good game and wins the heart of the reader by simply being an independent woman in a man’s world.

This man is Khalid who, while quick to anger, is insanely sexy for a book character. Ahdieh is careful in writing him which I admire she makes him angry, strong and brooding without being abusive to Shazi, a careful line that cannot be crossed without ruining this character.

The direction of this overall storyline is completely opaque. There are few surprises and no major twists but the way it unfolds is masterful. Ahdieh shows us that we can know the end and still enjoy the middle. The only minor surprise is the true cause of Khalid’s monstrous nature. While reading this, I knew the general direction that was going in, but the details were unique and heart wrenching.

This storyline knowledge can even be extended to the second book. I had hopes of where Shazi’s path would lead but was scared that the sequel to this story would focus on new characters. I was relieved reading the book two teaser, when I discovered that it too would focus on our king and queen. Following an already revealed relationship is unique for a YA novel, whether it’s friendship or romantic, final or not. Often times, the relationship development parallels the plot. While the relationship and climax of this novel are directly entwined, I believe book two will lead us to new territory for the YA genre where feelings are known and yet the story isn’t over yet.

Overall, I would give this a 4 out of 5. It would be a 5 out of 5 if not for the slow start.

Main character: 5 out of 5
Side characters: 3 out of 5, Khalid is great but the others are thin.
Plot: 4 out of 5
World: 5 out of 5 thank to detail in the writing
Pacing: First half, 2 out of 5, second half 5 out of 5
Writing: 5 out of 5

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. “Get up, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. You kneel before no one. Least of all me.”

The 100: “Stealing Fire”

Okay, I’m just going to start with the elephants in the room.

  1. I am still VERY upset that Lexa is dead. It was a waste of a character and a disappointment to the LGBTQ-ally community.
  2. When did the clans become The Hunger Games?
  3. When did The 100 become The Game of Thrones?

Really Pike has become the ultimate bad guy, complete with executions timed at dramatic intervals that allow just enough room for people to get away.  I guess the writers did kind of get this correct in that I hate him entirely, especially for what he does in this episode. This show really is all about the drama. I think that’s why the cinematography over-uses the over-the-shoulder close-up.

I have to say, while the bad guys and the individual plot lines are rough, there are some individual scenes that are wonderfully well written. In this particular episode there are several touching moments between Abby and Cain that basically resulted in me not hating Abby as much. Anyone who has been following my blog knows that not hating Abby is a really serious feat for me.

Really, while I’m very annoyed with this storyline, and frankly ready for this show to hit a peaceful end, they did a lot of thing right with this episode. The emotion has returned and while the final death of the episode left me heartbroken, I know that it’s because the actor is moving on to do another show, which makes me happy.

The main thing wrong really just comes back around to Lexa’s death. I cannot believe they killed her and I am still VERY angry about it. Frankly, I despise this new leader just for existing let alone the fact that she is evil to the core. I really wish we could just get Clarke back in the main game and done with these ridiculous side-missions. She’s more of a Grounder than anyone at this point…including Octavia.

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. Glad the Grounders are at least continuing with the Screw the Patriarchy approach to government.

Review of Game of Thrones S6E1: The Red Woman

game-of-thrones-s6e1

The Day has finally arrived.

The Day when book readers no longer have the smug superiority of knowing what happens.

The Day where we officially have no basis to say whether the book or show is better.

The Day where we have to address all the problems GRRM created in book five.

Crap.

For the record, I’ve read all of GRRM’s books, so watching this episode felt very strange to me. It’s kind of exhilarating not knowing what happens, and I look forward to some real suspense this season.

On the other hand, well. We’ll get to that.

Let’s start with the things I liked:

  • The Stark girls continue to be a highlight. I’m so glad we’ve finally gotten to blind Arya, and I hope the Faceless Man plotline speeds up. And yay, Sansa is finally away from Ramsay and maybe can actually become her own woman now, you know, with more agency and less rape. I was so glad to see her reunite with Brienne and accept Brienne’s service.
  • Tyrion in Meereen with Varys is wonderful. Just wonderful. I could do an entire show of this. I love seeing Tyrion back in charge, and having Varys there with him is a great change from the books that allows the two of them to play off each other.
  • Seeing Dany back among the Dothraki is also a wonderful change of pace. She was a much better Khaleesi than a Queen of Meereen, and seeing her shock the Khal and his wives with her knowledge of Dothraki and her position was a highlight of the episode – as was seeing her shock and anger when they told her she was going to Vaes Dothrak (as we all guessed).
  • I’m a fan of the Jorah/Daario buddy cop show, even if they found Dany’s ring way too easily.

And now the not-so-great:

  • Dorne. WHAT THE HELL. Dorne was bad enough last season, with all the characters turned into caricatures of their book-selves and the death of Myrcella. My desire to shoot the Sand Snakes hasn’t changed, which is unfortunate because I really liked them in the books. And it was PAINFUL to watch Doran and Areo Hotah die. The two of them are wonderful and nuanced in the books, and their undignified deaths in the show were just the shit icing on a shitty Dornish cake.
giphy

My feelings on Dorne

  • Get Jaime away from Cersei already. Jaime’s arc was the main reason I liked Feast for Crows – I loved that he had finally realized what a horrible person he had been and what a horrible person his sister still was. I really want Show!Jaime to get with the program here.
  • My soul cries for lack of Petyr Baelish. I simply MUST know what shenanigans he’s up to.

And in the category of things I don’t know how to react to – that last scene. On the one hand, it was a nice reveal that Melisandre is not as she appears and that she has more power than one might guess. On the other hand…I did NOT need to see that. A shoulders-up reveal would have been fine. Really. I promise.

Overall though, this was a solid start to the season.

Unanswered Questions

  • IS JON SNOW DEAD FOR REALSIES AND FOREVER AGHGHGHGHGH?
  • Seriously though, where is Baelish?
  • What was Drogon doing while Dany was captured?
  • How are they going to reintroduce characters that have been off the show for over a season?
  • BUT IS JON DEAD BECAUSE I NEED TO KNOW DAMMIT

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

ScarletCinder is on the run with a thief and a Captain following along. Meanwhile, Scarlet’s grandmother is missing and no one wants to look for her until she meets, vicious, quiet, young man named wolf who speaks like a priest and fights like a demon. Eventually, these four heroes realize they share a common goal when worlds collide and secret codes are unraveled.

While Cinder’s story is a Cinderella re-telling mixed with Sailor Moon, Scarlet’s story combines Little Red Riding Hood and a wonderfully fresh version of Beauty and the Beast.

It didn’t take long for Scarlet to become my favorite character. Her feisty take no shit attitude aligns with her fiery hair. I love how complex Meyer makes her characters and she does so without using belabored backstory. Scarlet is smart, angry, and wild, but has a deep love of her land that adds character-depth. And, of course, there is her love for grandma.

Meyer is also very skilled at writing attractive men that aren’t irritating. Despite his many secrets, I like Wolf as well and am excited to see where his character goes.

Because everyone knows things must come in threes, the third thing Meyer has done well is her action scenes. I hate when writers make their characters too powerful. Wolf is just enough and Scarlet, while rough and tumble, is realistically adept. One of the best parts of this book for me was the train scenes. I like how Scarlets story feels like a Western movie and yet is smoothly from the same world as Cinder.

Really the only character I could do without is The Captain. I’m sure he will prove his worth at some point but right now his storyline seems like dead weight, an easy way for Cinder to acquire a ship and nothing more. He comes off as a bit of a pig and a loser, but that leaves him room for growth and redemption.

In addition to character growth Meyer makes a smooth transition from focusing on New Beijing to expanding to encompass the rest of the globe as well complete with nods to current landmarks and politics. I do, however, wish that the plot would progress as much as the world expansion does. As much as I love Scarlet and Wolf, this new storyline forces us to sacrifice pacing of the old storyline, especially back at the castle with Kai.

The new emperor is busy trying to keep Levana from destroying the world, and doing okay at it, but he comes off as daft with his lack of intuition when it comes to Cinder. My patience with him figuring out who Cinder is, is really wearing thin. Same for his general Lunar paranoia. Don’t get me wrong, he is definitely still my book boyfriend, but many of his scenes could have been cut without us losing much.

Overall, I give this a 4 out of 5.

Main Characters: 5 out of 5
Side Characters: 4 out of 5
Plotline: 4 out of 5
Pacing: 3 out of 5
World Development: 5 out of 5
Writing: 4 out of 5

P.S. I am definitely pro stories with bandit spaceships.

 

Zootopia Supplies All of the Life Lessons

zootopia_screenrantdotcom.jpg

Disney has done it again. It is impossible for me to name my top five animated movies because I love them so much, but this probably makes my top 10.

Judy Hops is a spunky bunny from small-town Bunnyton who has reached her dream of being a cop in the booming metropolis of Zootopia. And, there has never a bunny cop before. Judy battles on even though many doubt her along the way. When some of Zootopia’s residents go missing, Judy takes it upon herself to save them…even at the risk of losing her career. She finds herself with an unlikely ally in a tricky fox who introduces her to the seedy underbelly of Zootopia.

While not quite as good as Inside Out, I group them together because of their power. Inside Out was a groundbreaking kids movie that approached mental health. Zootopia widely tackles racism with the undervalued prey vs. the authoritarian predators. It approaches sexism by having the first bunny cop. It explains the damage of stereotypes and how we can rise above them through a fox who is as brave as he is sly. It even briefly shows that forgiveness goes a long way even when it come to childhood bullies.

On top of that, it is adorable, funny and full of surprises. The amazing part about Disney movies has always been that they make kids movies that are fun for adults and Zootopia is no exception.

This movie is a classic coming of age, rooting for the underdog, reaching for your dreams, action-packed hero, godfather, conspiracy theory movie. Really, I mean it. We get a little bit of everything. It’s even better because I love Judy.

Judy Hops, is a wonderful role model in that she fights for her dreams. Judy still makes mistakes though. She is far from perfect, but she teaches us that you can make mistakes as long as you try to set them right.

The jokes in this movie are top notch too. There is a host of hilarious side characters that provide a bulk of the comedy with jokes like the ever growing population of Bunnyton and the elephant in the room named Francine.

Additionally, the attention to detail lives up to Disney expectations. Zootopia contains many districts that we get to visit. Each of which is a different habitat providing homes to the great variety of residents in Zootopia, which boasts it’s own pop star and mafia. Not to mention how sneaky and perfect the big plot twist is. It’s so perfect, that you see it coming and don’t even notice, hidden in plain sight.

Overall, it is a wonderfully written and designed movie but the best part about it is the lessons and the heart. These classic themes of doing your best, fighting for your dreams and, maybe most importantly, that no one should be judged by the color of their fur or the shape of their ears.

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. Red Panda…is the best part of the movie even though he’s only in it for about five minutes with a total of three lines.

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

LibraryofSoulsIn the third and final installment of Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children, Jacob and Emma find themselves lost in London. Their friends have been captured, their ymbrine is still missing and a Hollowgast is hot on their tails. But, they power on to find where Caul is taking the peculiars.

With the help of a ghastly, stubborn man named Sharon, they traverse the worst of the peculiar loops, Devil’s Acre, a place where Peculiars are bought, sold, and addicted.

Ransom Riggs delivers yet again with a very creative and peculiar tale. Even more photos are used in this book and these may be my favorite set of images. We finally get to see the seedy underbelly of peculiardom and learn about the horrors within.

Riggs’s creativity runs wild with new loops, new roles of the ymbrines, new communities and The Library of Souls. However, I did finally have slight disappoint with one of Riggs’s tales.

The Library of Souls is a real place, a real underwhelming place, that possesses the climax of this tale. Riggs has delivered over and over again when it came to this story’s plot points and I had hoped he saved the best for last. I wanted a final shebang of Jacob’s ever expanding powers. I wanted an epic battle set in an even more epic location, but when Riggs finally describes his library the detail isn’t there. The locations in the book all came to life with Riggs’s words except for the key loop and it’s contents.

The book actually ends with an unofficial epilogue that reeks of realism and a professionally wrapped package. I wanted more for these characters. I wanted to be left with the sense that their wild battles and adventures would continue for ages to come. I got Hunger Games where I wanted Harry Potter.

Overall, Library of Souls was only half satisfactory. The storyline didn’t live up to the epic-ness of the world detail. That being said, I would appreciate more books exploring the vast reaches of this universe and especially the role of people with powers like Jacob. Thanks to the recent announcement of Tales of the Peculiar, I may get some of this satisfaction. I really do love the beauty of Riggs’s writing and his ability to weave these photos into a complete narrative, but the novelty could wear off and thus I want more.

With how beautifully written these books are I have to give it a good overall score though. Really this review is me nitpicking a tad and these are still good books. 4/5

World Development: 5/5
Main Character: 4/5
Side Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5

Points off on the following for the ending…
Plot: 3/5
Pacing: 3.5/5

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. Shoutout to the Con circuit….

“These strange-looking people weren’t peculiars. They were nerds. We were very much in the present.”

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

“‘Alice is missing.’ A sigh, a clink of porcelain on porcelain. ‘Again?'”

AfterAlice.jpg

So fair warning, Goodreads has informed me that my positive review of this book may not be a popular opinion and as such if you make reading decisions based on reviews I recommend reading a few different takes on this book before committing.

Ada is a compatriot of the famous Alice, who is briefly mentioned in Alice in Wonderland. Ada is quite the opposite of Alice, however. Where Alice’s head was always in the clouds, Ada’s feet are firmly rooted to the ground where she considers life with a discerning, scientific eye. While I love Alice, I may be more of an Ada. There is one other major difference between the two girls, Ada is sick and requires a metal cage on her spine to hold her upright and help her walk.

Shortly after Alice falls down the rabbit hole, Ada follows suit, unbeknownst to the former. Then, Ada chases her friend all over Wonderland, always one step After Alice.

I enjoy Gregory Maguire’s books partially because I love how he makes his fairytale retellings to really be for adults, but mostly I just respect his skill as an author. Each adaptation of Maguire’s is written as an homage to the writing style of the original story. Therefore, those that are only interested in this story because of a passing interest in Wonderland are unlikely to appreciate it fully. To those of you who, like myself, read Lewis Carroll’s original writing and loved it…this may be worth a try.

Continue reading

Shadowhunters: “Raising Hell”

I took a hiatus from this show because I just couldn’t anymore. If you’ve read my posts on previous episodes I’m sure you understand. But, as long as the show goes on I should continue my blogging quest. Bad reviews are more fun to write anyway.

My first reaction to coming back is that I really like Simon, even if he is hard-headed about where SAFETY is. Maybe it’s because he’s nerdy, maybe it’s because I know what happens, or maybe it’s because he reminds me of a better version of my high school boyfriend, but anyway, I like him. He’s pretty real, attractive and well-cast. My second favorite character is Jace’s abs…just his abs.

Speaking of which, part of me is happy that Jace and Simon’s relationship is so true to the books, but that means that their relationship is as irritating as it is in the books.

Really at this point most of this particular episode for me was about how true to the book they made these characters and while the main gang are all hits, there are a few misses for me. Wasn’t Hodge supposed to be some extra wise old guy? Not some 20 year-old who wishes he too had washboard abs?

And finally we got to really see Magnus, who I wish we had gotten to know sooner. For me, Magnus is just okay. The outfits and inappropriate looks are on point but as much as I loved Harry Shum Jr. in Glee, I just am not convinced he can play self-centered thoroughly enough to be Magnus Bane. My favorite part about Magnus is that thanks to him we get a break from the Alec <3s Jace crap, but he also provides some comic relief to break up all the whining.

“I was alive when the Dead Sea was just feeling a little poorly.”

It is great to have such an openly pan-sexual character as Magnus Bane. I always think of him as pan-sexual because while he seems more homosexual I have a feeling Magnus just generally appreciates a healthy sexual appetite. This kind of comfort level and depth in a homosexual character is really rare still both on TV and in Young Adult books and Magnus helps fill in that gap.

I am hopeful that Harry can pull off this character in future episodes, but then again I was hopeful this show would be good.

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S.

“It’s ever too early for Teriyaki.”

A quote to live by…