Sunday, November 26, 2006

Movie of the Week - Flushed Away

Flushed Away
Starring the voices of: Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Bill Nighy, Andy Serkis, Shane Richie, and more....

Premise: Uptown pet rat gets "flushed away" by an invading rat and finds himself down in London's sewers where he meets Rita and is accidentally immersed in a play for power.

Review: (Must make mention - the previews showed 2 hamsters in the house with Roddy, but in the actual film they are nowhere to be seen! Guess they changed their minds on that aspect.) The movie was a lot of fun and had TONS of in-jokes dealing with other movies or pop culture in the last 40 years or so. I am sure I missed a ton of them. Roddy ends up being like a clumsy Indiana Jones/James Bond, which was fun. The snails are a total hoot. No surprises in the plot, but still somewhat sophisticated for the age group. Lots of little things for the adults to keep their eyes out for though. I am sure someone somewhere has a list of all the in-jokes. There were things from movies/shows like The Fly, Batman, James Bond, and myriad others. Nothing overtly violent, so a nice piece for all the family. ***1/4!!

Movie of the Week - Casino Royal

Casino Royal
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, and more...

Premise: A young James Bond passes the qualifications to be upgraded to a Double O class of agent. His first case after his upgrade is to find out the mastermind of a set of seemingly unrelated terrorist acts.

Review: The James Bond franchise takes a step back and goes to its roots in this new telling of Casino Royal. Weirdly enough they kept the new M of the last few films almost like a bridge gap to give familiarity to those who've been following the previous films. Daniel Craig may not seem at first to fit the mold of Bond, but like Yun Chow Fat, it's not the looks, but the oozing charisma that get you in the end. There are many in-jokes in the film, fun making, and kudos to past films. The first chase sequence is utterly awesome and very reminiscent of Jackie Chan. Very fast paced, only slowing a bit toward the end when they try to get the audience into a feeling of complacency before slamming the hammer down. Overall a very nice piece. And by the end, when he does that famous line, you believe it. ***3/4!!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

SF and Fantasy - Playgrounds for Sexual Harassment?

Yes, it looks like it's Soap Box day! :P

A rather disturbing topic came up on one of my lists this week. One of the members posted a letter she sent to an institution she belongs to regarding cases of sexual harassment at functions held or in part sponsored by the institution. The sexual harassment itself was surprising, but more so was the institution with its members responsible for doing the harassment. (Sorry to be vague, but as some of this has not been posted to the general public, I can't disclose the name of said institution.)

Since I started reading Fantasy and Science Fiction way in my younger days, I had always thought of the genre as a progressive, humanitarian, think out of the box, type of genre. I always assumed those involved in it would also be progressive and far thinking individuals. So to find out after all this time that some in fact practice and at times even thrive on sexual harassment against their own peers--it was a big shock. I've been accused of being somewhat naive in the ways of the world before, but this truly threw me for a loop.

To make matters worse I have heard stories told of the repression of female writers by the good old boy network in the Sci-fi/Fantasy field and how it's been going on for years. I've even heard tell of others who did not approve of these actions, yet they either ignored what was going on, or did nothing about them as these practices were just part of how things were. And no one, seemingly, in such a future thinking field, has taken steps or brought up the subject as something which needs fixing.

I would have thought that Sci-fi/Fantasy writers and others involved in the field would be the spearhead in social reform and change, of open minds and attitudes, of community, and peace. And I am happy to say that in my own experience, I've not been subject to the contrary. Yet others have. And at times these individuals have been left with no recourse but to suffer through it--turning what should have been at times very festive and proud moments into experiences of dread and embarrassment. I would hope that something could be done. That those in the field can get together and support one another and not tolerate behavior which hurts others.

Can we have the bright future so many of us write about and hope for if we can't even manage to get along or protect our peers? How can we make others believe in our visions if we can't live by the very precepts we hope to establish? It is tragic that the very people who are at the forefront of imagination and the future, who inspire others on to what might be, would stoop to something so against everything they stand for. :(

End of Soap Box... - The latest thing for the MP3 Generation

I first heard about from a fellow writer.
Basically it is a free site of serialized audio books in MP3 format. For authors it is a means to have their books placed in a medium that can be used for promotional purposes. Which is why I took the plunge. The hope would be that if people listened to the book and liked it enough, they might go ahead and buy it.

Since I come from a small press, anything I could do for exposure was good by me! And it served a dual purpose as well, it would get me acquainted with the whole MP3 experience. (I don't even own an IPOD, let alone used an MP3 player before this. And I think I'm pretty geeky!)

This did turn out at first as the Cursed Project from Hey! Aside from having to set up certain parameters and criteria to the software, and starting out on my end without a clue on any of this stuff, some of it would not even work as it was supposed to. I was pretty sure for a while I would get dropped from the project just on my making them pull their hair out in frustration at my inability to get things right! lol.

Eventually though I got Audacity set up correctly and what it's limitations were, knew what to do and change in ITunes to get the MP3 to turn out correctly and have the correct standardized info, actually figured out how to record my readings and then edit them, and now finally have a modicum of confidence in what I am doing. (Despite more horrid problems like when I changed one digit in the title so they would not upload, when Audacity ate half of the final file and I didn't notice, plus a myriad of other little problems geared to drive one insane.)

Currently, In The Service of Samurai is up to chapter 28 and seems to be doing well. While I've sold probably a 100 or so copies of the book using regular marketing, at the moment I have about 737 who have now heard about it and have listened to at least some of the work. So though it does take a nice chunk of time to get the files done, it seems to be working. I hope people are also enjoying listening to the story in this different medium.

I would say MP3 readings are a nice up and comer as a marketing tool. reached over 1 million downloads a couple of weeks ago. It's mind boggling!

Movie of the Week - Santa Clause 3 - The Escape Clause

Santa Clause 3 - the Escape Clause
Staring: Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Eric Lloyd, Martin Short, Spencer Breslin, Ann-Margret, Alan Arkin, and Liliana Mumy

Premise: As Christmas once more approaches, Jack Frost is feeling left out of the lime light. So once he hears that there is an Escape Clause in Santa's contract, he aims to find out all he can take Santa's place as his own. Add problems with manufacturing, the fact Mrs. Clause is getting ready to give birth, and that the in-laws are coming and Jack pretty much has his work cut out for him.

Review: The plot has a lot of elements reminiscent of the old Christmas time favorite "It's a Wonderful Life" and hopes to teach the same lessons. Loved Tim Allen, but then I've always been partial to his work. :P The effects are decent and a lot of the subtle jokes are pretty good. Still something felt flat overall, though it is hard to pin down what it was exactly. The previous two films were definitely better. But it was still fun to watch. Good family film. ***
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