Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Writing Fortress!

Merry CHRISTmas! 

Thank you for reading my blog in 2016! 



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Arrival movie is a fascinating look at how we communicate with each other

This blog is reserved for my random ideas about writing.  As an author, I'm fascinated with communication, so I simply had to share this movie review I just posted on my movie blog!

Movie Title:  Arrival

Grade:  A

Rating:   PG-13, 116 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Earning 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, this intelligent sci-fi thriller features an outstanding performance from Amy Adams that already has garnered Oscar buzz.  This fascinating film will tickle your brain and warm your heart.

I didn’t want to post my review right after I saw it, because I wanted it to percolate in my head and process it for a while first.  The more I thought about it, the more I loved it.   It’s hard to write a review without giving too much away, so I apologize for the spoiler alerts below.  It’s better to see the movie “blind”, so to speak, so that you get to experience the unfolding of the story.  

"Arriving" at the end of the movie and understanding it is a satisfying journey when you have to work it out in your own mind.

You know a movie has done its job when the audience claps and then slowly walks out of the theater, as they try to contemplate what they have just experienced.  That’s what happened when I sat in a packed theater Friday night.  I can’t wait for you to see it and read your comments!

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Language is complicated and messy and sometimes it can be both.” – Dr. Louise Banks
  • This is less about aliens and science fiction, but instead, more about humanity and working together.
  • “If you could see your whole life start to finish, would you change things?” – Dr. Louise Banks    I loved the movie City of Angels and how, despite life being hard and even heart-breaking at times, it’s still worth living….every minute.

Things I liked:
  • Director Denis Villeneuve usually makes violent, profanity-laced Rated R movies like Sicario and Prisoners, so I was happy to see him offer something else more family-friendly and cerebral. 
  • The cinematography is fantastic.  One of the best takes is when we first see the alien spacecraft in a field in Montana with fog drifting over the ridge.  Gorgeous. The camera rolls in almost a 360 degree span that is absolutely stunning.
  • It reminded me a little bit of the movie  Signs , which I loved, because of the lingering uneasiness that lasts throughout the entire movie.  The tension is handled very well.  It also reminded me of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Contact, because of the lessons we learn about humanity and our connection to the universe.
  • I loved the no-gravity chamber inside the spaceship, especially when the people inside could look far down below at the people walking around.  Super cool. 
  • I’m such a nerd that when Dr. Banks’ lecture on the Portuguese language was interrupted, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to hear it.   Ha ha 
  • We’ve never seen aliens like this before.  We’ve never seen a spaceship like this before.  We’ve never seen a written language like this before.  Three cheers for creative writers!
  • I was mesmerized with how the spaceships left the atmosphere….soooo cool. 
  • Did you catch Louise’s earrings at the fancy event when she was talking to General Shang of China (played by Tzi Ma)?  If you look closely, you’ll also see that same image repeated on her daughter’s notebook.  Pay attention to other places you see a bird in a cage too.
  • There is a little bit of humor, which audiences always appreciate.
  • SPOILER ALERT.  As a university professor who teaches English, I LOVE that the film revolved around language and trying to communicate with the aliens, yet was really about how we humans communicate with each other.  Amy Adams’ character (also a college professor) wrote, “Language is the cornerstone of civilization.”  The gift that the aliens brought was perfect. An intriguing idea in the movie is that language shapes the way we think more than the way we think shapes our language.
  • HUGE SPOILER ALERT!!!!   I LOVED the way that time was used in the movie.  Because we’re human, we view time as linear.  That simple fact makes us believe that what we’re seeing at the beginning of the movie is the beginning of the story.  The movie folds over on itself, just as the language of the aliens does.  Once Louise realizes that, we also realize what is happening in the story.  Very cool.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Some viewers have complained about the slow pace, but I didn’t mind, because it gave my brain a chance to consider all of the different story angles and messages.
  • Each encounter with the aliens cut off too soon.  I wanted them to last longer.
  • Jeremy Renner delivers a good performance.  Unfortunately, his character doesn’t contribute much and he admits that they wouldn’t be anywhere without Louise.  He figures out one thing without her and he makes a really strange decision in the end that I didn’t like. 
  • What was the deal with Forest Whitaker’s weird accent?
  • There is a lot of quiet mumbling, making it often difficult to understand what people are saying.
  • Sometimes things were out of focus, which was annoying.  I recognize that was an artistic choice, forcing us to focus on a specific thing, but sometimes it just annoyed me; I wanted to see everything!

Interesting lines:
  • “If all I ever gave you was a hammer…” – Louise
“Every answer is a nail.” – Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker)

  • Memory is a strange thing.  It doesn’t work like I used to think.  We are bound by time, by its order…” – Louise
  • “There are days that define your story beyond your life.” - Louise

Funny lines:
  • “You made quick work of those insurgent videos.” – Colonel Weber
“You made quick work of those insurgents.” – Louise
  • “When was the last time you did something stressful?” – Army doctor
“Does this count?  Just saying…” – Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner)
  • “Yeah.  That just happened.” – Ian Donnelly
  • “Trust me.  You can understand communication and still end up single.” - Louise

Tips for parents: 

  • Kids will think the aliens are cool, not too scary.
  • Yay for science and math!  
  • There are some subtitles your kids will need to read or have read to them.
  • The one and only person who dropped an F-bomb happened to be an Avenger…Jeremy Renner. 
The movie is based on a short story by Ted Chiang entitled 

Cool alien movies you must see:

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Roald Dahl's book The BFG hits the big screen

Here's another popular book that just hit the Big Screen as a summer blockbuster!  This post is from my movie review blog:

Movie Title:   
Grade:  B+

Rating:  PG, 115 minutes

In a Nutshell:     In an interview with Regal Theaters, Steven Spielberg said “This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.” It was a reunion of sorts with some of his old team from the E.T. movie days. 

Director Steven Spielberg and musical composer John Williams are both film legends, so it’s awesome to see a new film that uses both of their talents again.  They introduce us to a magical world based on the 1982 novel by Roald Dahl.

Uplifting theme: 
  • The world is more giant than you can imagine.
  • The healing power of friendship.
  • "Dreams are quick on the outside, but last long on the inside." - The BFG

Things I liked:
  • Mark Rylance truly shines as the Big Friendly Giant.
  • John Williams’ musical score conjures a magical spell that rests lovingly on this old-fashioned tale.
  • I love all the fun words the BFG makes up.  He says, “I cannot be helping it if I saying things a little squiggly.”   English teachers will be delighted and frustrated.
  • Ruby Barnhill is fantastic and one of Spielberg’s best child talents ever. She is extremely entertaining with a bright future ahead of her.
  • Technically, this movie is stellar, mixing CG and motion-capture images as one.  Of that impressive blend, Steven Spielberg said, “Motion capture makes you believe a little girl and a big giant can exist in the same shot.”   The animation itself was incredibly detailed and realistic-looking.
  • I have never read The BFG by Roald Dahl, but I hear that there are some darker elements in the book that Spielberg and writer Melissa Mathison decided to leave out in lieu of a more family-friendly, feel-good flick.  You don't have to read the book to enjoy or understand the movie.
  • Some of the conversations are pretty funny.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The movie definitely takes its time to develop, but the second half of the movie got bogged down a little bit.  The breakfast scene with the queen was fun, but definitely slowed down the pacing of the movie even more.
  • Exactly what The BFG does for a living is a little fuzzy.  I mean, was he self-appointed to his job and who is he going to pass his trade on to?
  • No women giants.  The BFG explains that giants don't have parents, so apparently, female giants aren't needed.
  • Am I monster to admit I was a little bit bored a few times?

Funny lines:
  •  You is an insult to giant people.” – Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement)
  • “Well, what I says and what I means is sometimes two different things.” – The BFG

Tips for parents:

  • This is a sweet family film for most all ages.
  • Very young children might be frightened by the bad giants or the thought that a giant gives them dreams by sneaking into their room at night.  They might worry that, like Sophie, they could be snatched out of their beds at night.
  • No profanity.
  • The BFG calls farts “wiz poppers.”   There are several discussions and BIG displays of farts.  Kids will think it's hilarious.

Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan lives on in another movie

Authors are always hoping their books will become classics and live on with generations of fans.  Edgar Rice Burrough was able to actually do that.   Below is my movie review for the newest summer blockbuster: The Legend of Tarzan

Movie Title:     The Legend of Tarzan
Grade:   B

Rating:   PG-13, 109 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Director David Yates is most known for his work with the last four Harry Potter films.  This time he brings us a new take on Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan. 

One of Hollywood’s first silent films was the Tarzan story, shortly after the original book came out.  While the story is flawed, and many feel like there was no need for a remake, the lush, romantic images in this movie will make you feel like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bocall could float down the river at any minute.

Did you ever see the 1984 movie “Greystoke”?  I loved it and highly recommend it.  This story...sort of....begins where that movie left off.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “A normal man can do the impossible to save the woman he loves.  My husband is no normal man.” - Jane Clayton
  • Honor, friendship, loyalty, revenge, respect.
  • The value of human an animal life.

Things I liked:
  • The musical score sounded very exotic and mysterious from the very beginning.
  • Christoph Waltz is fantastic in anything.
  • Alexander Skarsgard makes for a perfectly believable Tarzan.  I loved it when he greeted the lions he had known since they were cubs.  So sweet.  Great CGI moment!  As a 6'4" hunk of muscle and abs, Alexander convincingly plays a kind Tarzan who can easily kick butt when needed.
  • Margot Robbie makes a lovely, spunky Jane Porter.  She's a British actress playing an American, while Alexander Skarsgard is an American playing a Brit.  
  • Samuel Jackson.  Ha ha  He looks like he's having fun.  His character is actually based on a real person.
  • Beautiful scenery and settings.
  • Tarzan thinks those pincer ants taste like bacon.  Ha ha
  • There is a lot of action and movement from start to finish. 
  • There are some emotional moments akin to Bambi losing his mother.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The movie jumps back and forth in time and could become confusing for some people.
  • Sometimes the apes and animals looked real; other times the CGI looked too fake.
  • There is a LOT of narration so that the audience can understand what’s going on.  The problem is that the movie almost talks down to the audience.  Show us; don't just tell us.
  • Samuel L. Jackson’s existence in the movie is merely for comic relief.  He represents an American emissary, which doesn’t make a lot of sense in the story line.
  •  You hear Tarzan's famous yell, but you never actually see Alexander Skarsgard do it.  You also hear him growl like lions and other animals, but again, it's a soundtrack behind him and you never see his face while he's making those sounds.

  Funny lines:
  • “I’ve already been to Africa.  And it’s hot.” – John Clayton (Tarzan)
  • “I never take the stairs.  I usually take the curtains.” – John Clayton
  • “You DO know that the right side of your mustache is just a little bit lower than the left?” – Jane
  • “How are we supposed to catch a train going 40 miles an hour?” – Samuel L. Jackson    “Gravity.” - Tarzan

Interesting lines:
  • “He’s Tarzan.  You’re Jane.  He’ll come for you.” – Captain Rom (Christoph Waltz)
  • “They say an elephant’s eye speaks the greatest language.  Who else can say so much without speaking a word?”  - Tarzan
  • “These are what you came for?  What will you do for them? – Chief Mbonga (Djmon Hounsou)
“Whatever is necessary.” – Leon Ron (Christoph Waltz)
* No man ever started with less.” – Jane
  • “Your husband’s wildness easily disturbs me more than I can easily express, whereas your spirit…” Captain Rom
  • “That woman!”  - Captain Rom
  • “What was that?” – Captain Rom’s assistant
“Tarzan, although it sounded different than I thought.  Better.” – Captain Rom

Tips for parents:   

  • There is a LOT of violence.  Man vs. man.  Man vs. animal. 
  • Some profanity, usually out of the mouth of Samuel L. Jackson.
  • The issues of African slavery, mistreatment of the American Indians, and “blood diamonds” are addressed.
  • There is a before and after sex scene, but the audience doesn’t see what happens in between.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Immortal authors

As an author, I'd love to think my books are timeless and will live on long after I'm gone.  I'm also a realist and recognize that probably won't happen!  ha ha

Rudyard Kipling has definitely achieved immortality in the sense that his children's story has been loved by many generations.  

Below is my review of the newest remake of his story, which I shared on my movie review blog.

Movie Title:      The Jungle Book

Grade:   A

Rating:   PG, 1 hour 51 minutes

In a Nutshell:    What do you get when you mix 90% CGI with a Rudyard Kipling remake?  Surprisingly, a beautiful family friendly film.  

Director Jon Favreau gives a respectful nod to the 1967 Disney original, while crafting a new one that is fresh and full of heart.  See it in 3D if you can.

Uplifting theme: 
  •  Baloo says, “Everyone’s got a song.” A strong message that comes out in the film is to be yourself, your best self.  We all have our unique strengths and others around us will be blessed when we are true to ourselves and use our talents.
  • Another wise thing Baloo says is, “You say you want to go the man village.  I say you can be a man right here.”  We need to stop waiting for something to happen before we live up to our potential.
  • Friendship, courage, love.

Things I liked:
  • Neel Sethi plays Mowgli, the only human in the movie, yet there is great humanity in the film.  He does an excellent job and is completely adorable.  I love the realistic detail of some scars on his shoulder and chest.  
  • Even if we don’t get to see the talented Ben Kingsley, it’s a pleasure to hear his voice as the protective teacher Bagheera.
  • Who doesn’t love the carefree Baloo?  Bill Murray’s voice fits perfectly and provides plenty of comic relief, making the audience I sat with laugh almost every time the lovable bear was on the screen.  This ain’t no bear from The Revenant!
  • Casting Christopher Walken as the creepy, funny King Louie was perfect. Walken has that reputation in Hollywood.
  • Idris Elba voices the scary Shere Khan and provides a villain who is frightening, yet not so much that young children won’t be able to watch the movie.
  • Scarlett Johansson’s soothing, tempting voice was also a great choice for Kaa.
  • The wolf oath has been borrowed by the Boy Scouts of America, because it teaches some important principles still today!  The 8 year old boys in Cub Scouts repeat a somewhat different version each week in their gatherings.
  • Adorable, yet realistic creatures in the jungle.  The porcupine was an especially popular character for the audience.   
  • Pay close attention to this fascinating detail…there is a water scene where you actually see water splashes on the camera…but is there really a camera there or was it all CGI?
  • Honey IS actually good for scratches and bee stings!

Things I didn’t like:
  • There is nothing at the end of credits, so feel free to leave the theater after the last scene.  I was disappointed, because they could have easily added any number of fun nuggets to surprise and delight audiences.
  • Some of the CGI looks a little fake, but most of it is actually stunning.

Funny lines:
  •  “Bears don’t hibernate in the jungle.” – Bagheera 
“Not full hibernation, but I nap…a lot.” – Baloo

  • I realize you weren’t born a wolf, but couldn’t you just act like one?” - Bagheera
  • “If you can’t learn to run with the pack, one of these days, you’ll be someone’s dinner.” – Bagheera
  • “He’s walking on two legs!” – animal child at Peace Rock
“Don’t stare!” – animal’s shocked mother
  • “What did I tell you?  He’s special.” – Baloo talking about Mowgli
“I know.  I raised him.” - Bagheera

Interesting lines:
  • “If it’s meant to be, it will be.” – Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o)
  • “You have never been a more endangered species than you are in this moment.” - Baloo 
Tips for parents:   

  • There are some animal fight scenes that might frighten very young children.
  • Shere Khan has a scarred eye that makes him look scary.
  • No profanity.

Other great versions I loved of The Jungle Book :

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What's YOUR favorite chick flick or romance novel?

                         By Trina Boice

Happy Valentine's Day!
I wanted to feature a romantic movie on this special day.  Unfortunately, there are 2 mediocre chick flicks in theaters right now, nothing I can highly recommend.

One of them is based on the newest Nicholas Sparks books, and because this blog is all about reading and writing, I thought I'd feature this one below from my movie review blog.

One of my all-time favorite movies about true love is "The Princess Bride."  What is yours?

Movie Title:      The Choice

Grade:   C-

Rating:   PG-13, 1 hour 49 minutes

In a Nutshell:    My husband says that the definition of a Chick Flick is when two good-looking guys fall all over themselves for one spoiled girl.  If that’s true, then this is definitely a Chick Flick, although not a very good one.

One of the obvious choices in this formulaic movie isn’t just which guy to choose, but there are several others.  

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Life just keeps unfolding.  If you sit still, it’ll pass you by altogether.” – Gabby (Teresa Palmer)
  • “Life is held together by choices – all sizes.” – Gabby
  • “Opportunity is missed by most people, because it’s dressed up in overalls and looks a lot like work.” – Thomas Edison, as quoted by Shep (Tom Wilkinson)
  • “Every path you take leads to another choice.” – Travis (Benjamin Walker)

Things I liked:
  • Most of the movie takes place lakeside with beautiful views.
  • Cute puppies!
  • Teresa Palmer looks like the All-American girl next door.
  • Nicholas Sparks tries to add depth to his romantic stories.  His most recent tale-turned-Chick-Flick was “The Longest Ride.”  You can see my movie review of that film here.  That film did it much better than this one.
  • If you’re thinking about cheating on your boyfriend, you’ll see what a two-timer feels like.
  • There’s a funny proposal scene.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Everything about this movie is clichéd, even the clothing.  For example, he wears a tank top to show off his muscles and she wears a white t-shirt in the rain.
  • A lot of movie critics are begging Nicholas Sparks to stop writing such cheesy love stories that then get turned into sappy movies.
  • Benjamin Walker drinks bottles of beer in a weird way.  I know that seems nit-picky, but it bugged me.
  • They try to have clever chit-chat, but it comes out forced and predictable.  The actors look like they’re acting.
  • SPOILER ALERT:  A happy ending is an easy out.  The harder ending would have been to write something more interesting.
  • Both Travis and Gabby are too cocky for my taste.  They fight and bicker from the very first moment they meet, which is a clichéd, although not appealing, form of flirtation.
  • What kind of character does a girl have who jumps in bed with another guy when her boyfriend has only been gone a few days on a business trip?  Does true love excuse lack of integrity or morality? Um...nope.

Funny lines:
  •  “What are you doing?” – Gabby
“Walking towards you real slow.” – Travis
“Why?” - Gabby
“Cause if I ran, I’d scare you.”  - Travis
  • “Mama, he’s a walking cautionary tale.” - Gabby

Interesting lines:
  • “Has anyone ever said no to you?” – Gabby
“No.” – Travis
“Then, I’m making history.” - Gabby
  • “Your friends, family…that’s all you can count on in this world.  That’s what I believe.” – Travis
  • “I kind of fell into the Bible.  He wanted to burn it.” – Shep
  • “If you see a man sleeping on the cold floor, there’s sure to be a pretty woman nearby.” – Shep
  • “There’s no shame in being a broken man.  I should know. You just pick up the pieces and start rebuilding.” – Shep
  • “That’s all any woman wants…a man who’s going to fight.”   (for her)  - Monica (Alexandra Daddario)

Tips for parents:   

  • Girls falling out of their bikini tops.
  • One girl flips the bird.
  • Some profanity.
  • Two people jump in bed together on their very first date.
  • Take the opportunity to talk to your family about “Do Not Resuscitate” orders.