Tuesday, June 24, 2014

TUESDAY TRAILERS: Lucy

Luc Besson is pretty high on my this guy is pretty cool list. He’s made some of my favorite films (Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita, Angel-A, and The Big Blue) and has his hand in many others either as Producer or Writer (District B13 and the recent Netflix gem of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec). Now I am not normally a ScarJo fan, but I like her as Natasha Romanov and she just looks badass in this trailer. What do you think? Plans to see it?


Summary: A woman (Scarlett Johansson), accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.…Opens July 25th, 2014.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Breakfast of Champions: A Review

Breakfast of Champions
Written by: Kurt Vonnegut
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Language: English
March 1973
Genre: Fiction

In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.

+++++++++++++

Every month for book club a new member chooses a book. We all have varying tastes and niches we go to so it has been interesting to read books that are outside of my comfort zone. But that is what we wanted to do, read books we normally wouldn’t read. Now it’s not that I don’t like Kurt Vonnegut, I just have to be in the right mood. Kathleen loves him to little itty bitty pieces. Breakfast of Champions is her favorite book and she cannot count the number of times she has read and reread the book. Everyone probably has a book like that, you know the one I am talking about…the one you go to when nothing else sounds good. Its dog eared and well loved, that go to book when you are in a particular mood, the one you could talk about for hours, and the one you wish you could be part of. For me that book is Beauty by Robin McKinley. For Kathleen it is Breakfast of Champions.

Breakfast of Champions follows Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover – and the events that lead up and follow their meeting. Trout is a science-fiction writer, and one who believes his work to be completely unknown within the community. But after he receives an invitation to the Midland City Arts Festival he is not so sure. Dwayne is a businessman in the Midlands Area is going insane. This is made worse when he meets Trout, reads one of his books, and becomes convinced that not only is the book real but that he is the only one in the universe that has free will and everyone else is a robot.

On top of this crazy little tale you also have the storyteller who is telling you Kilgore and Dwayne’s tale as if you may not be from Earth. For example when speaking about Columbus he tells you, “The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them.” He even draws pictures on occasion for you dear reader.

Things I loved: Breakfast of Champions is not the average book that I read. We’ve gone a little meta, but in a good way. There are things I really like about the book and then others that are just too quirky for my tastes. But let’s go back to the good stuff. For example the way the story is told. Not only do you have the story of Kilgore and Dwayne, but you have the narrator who may or not be Vonnegut. The narrator is not only telling the story, but he inserts himself into the story…he has control over it. We all want to be stories. We think of ourselves as having beginnings, middles, and ends, but then again life is never that neat. It’s chaos. It doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t have an ending. It is all a bit of etc. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, one that breaks the fourth wall and kind of makes you think…or maybe that was just me. There is no end. And you don’t get the whole story, but do we ever.

It also brings up some ideas about free will, life, and history as we may or may not know it. I did find myself laughing at many different parts. This is good. It also tackles racism, war, sex, politics, and pretty much of every other hot button topic. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it falls flat, but mostly it works especially when he describes things as if you, the reader, are an alien life form and don’t exactly understand how things work down on Earth.

Things I didn’t love so much: There are some things that I didn’t like about it. It took a while for me to get into it and I found myself wanting more cultural and Earth insights than I did about Dwayne and Kilgore. I wanted more of the meta. While watching someone descend into utter madness should be fun, Dwayne was boring. I didn’t care and that was unfortunate. And let’s face it, sometimes, it was just too quirky for me. I can see why Kathleen absolutely adores the book, but there was something a little too odd for me. I think it is one of those books that you have to be in the right mood for. Kind of like how I feel about country music. Unfortunately, I am rarely in that mood for something that quirky. I respect Vonnegut as a writer. I think he certainly has earned his place among the greats. I just wish I felt the same fangirlyness for him as Kathleen does.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. This is hard because I think in the right mood I would have loved it and you have to appreciate Vonnegut as he is an amazing writer, but I recommend some of his other books first.

Part of: Stand Alone though it does feature a character from other books.

Also Recommended: For more Vonnegut books please give Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, Welcome to the Monkey House, and God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater. Plus many more.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

WEDNESDAY WHAT IFS: The Female Expendables

As E and I watched a trailer for another Expendables I started thinking why isn’t there a female version as there are some bad ass chicks out there that I have looked up to throughout the years. And to be honest I would love it if they were on my side. I am going to go with the characters rather than the amazing actresses that play them because let’s face it I want Starbuck, Ripley, and Sarah. Here is my version of the Expendables.

Who: Ellen Ripley (Alien)
Played By: Sigourney Weaver
Why: She told the Xenomorphs to back the frak off and I love her for that. There is a strength to Ripley, but a vulnerability as well. She can be caretaker and bad ass at the same time. If I am running an awesome female merc team I would need someone to head it up. This would be my choice. Plus she’s tall like me.

Who: Sarah Connor (Terminator)
Played By: Linda Hamilton
Why: Anyone who has seen the Terminator franchise especially T2 understands why she needs to be on my team. I think she would work well with Ripley, maybe they could be friends and my leader does need a right hand. Seriously Sarah is amazing. And on her down time she can do tons of pull ups.

Who: Mallory Kane (Haywire)
Played By: Gina Carano
Why: Having a covert freelancer on the team would be great. Not only do I know that she can kick ass, but she’ll do the things that others will not. Which is why she would work well with my other freelancer/former assassin.

Who: Nikita (Nikita)
Played By: Maggie Q
Why: Nikita knows what it is like not only streetside, but also about shadowy corrupt organizations who build super assassins. *grin* At the core Nikita is a good guy and I would be silly not to have her join the crew. Mallory can be my bruiser (badaboom) and Nikita can be my ninja sniper (stealth).

Who: Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Battlestar Galactica)
Played By: Katee Sackhoff
Why: I am going to need both a pilot and a wiseass because there is always at least one in the group. I need someone to bring the levity and the snark. She can teach me how to play Triad. And she can be our leaf on the wind (her aerial tactical skills are kind of bad ass). Plus drinking buddy.

Who: Letty Ortiz (Fast and the Furious)
Played By: Michelle Rodriguez
Why: If I am going to have someone who kicks ass in the air, I might as well have one who is kick ass on the ground. Letty is my fast and furious driver and mechanic. She also handles herself just peachy with the melee and has street connections that the other ladies do not.

Who: Parker (Leverage)
Played By: Beth Riesgraf
Why: Any proper team needs a thief. She is mine. I mean this the woman that stole the Hope Diamond just for fun. Parker has no fear and she is a little off center. I like that. I think we’d have fun.

Who: Leeloo (Fifth Element)
Played By: Milla Jovovich
Why: Supreme Being. Enough said.
In the sequels: Sarah (Chuck), Sydney Bristow (Alias) Hellen Mirren’s character from RED, Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown, and Hanna (Hanna).

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TUESDAY TRAILERS: The Maze Runner

Now I haven’t read the book, but it has been in my to be read pile for a bit now. The trailer looks interesting and I am always up for a little Greek mythos. What do you think? Plans to see it?


Summary: Thomas wakes up in an elevator, remembering nothing but his own name. He emerges into a world of about 60 teen boys who have learned to survive in a completely enclosed environment, subsisting on their own agriculture and supplies. A new boy arrives every 30 days. The original group has been in "The Glade" for two years, trying to find a way to escape through the Maze that surrounds their living space. They have begun to give up hope. Then a comatose girl arrives with a strange note, and their world begins to change. There are some great, fast-paced action scenes, particularly those involving the nightmarish Grievers who plague the boys…Opens September 19th, 2014.

Monday, June 16, 2014

John Dies at The End: A Review

John Dies At The End
Written by: David Wong
Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: Permuted Press
Language: English
August 2007
Genre: Fiction/Horror/Comedy

STOP. You should not have touched this flyer with your bare hands. NO, don't put it down. It's too late. They're watching you. My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you'll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it's too late. You touched the book. You're in the game. You're under the eye. The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.

The important thing is this: The drug is called Soy Sauce and it gives users a window into another dimension. John and I never had the chance to say no. You still do. I'm sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: None of this was my fault.


+++++++++++++

“Are you one of those priests who can shoot lasers out of their eyes? Because that would be really helpful right now.”

How does something garner a cult following? I have loved my share of little cult gems (Eraserhead, Rocky Horror, Hammer Horror Films, etc) and larger followings such as anything Joss Whedon, Doctor Who, Twin Peaks, etc. Of course cult following occurs is a little more now that it is okay to express all of that pent up fangirl/boy geekness and express your appreciation to a far larger audience (thank you interwebs and cons). It still always surprises me how quickly a phenomenon can happen though. What is it about that particular book, story, song, movie, etc that people just grab a hold of?

I heard about John Dies At the End several years ago when a friend had managed to get a copy of the story (Which was just a bound home printer sort of version). He had received it from someone else. Later that year I got him a first edition. He was ecstatic. Now 7 years later I am finally reading it myself though I have to admire how the book became so popular. David Wong (pen name for Jason Pargin who is an editor over at Cracked.com) started writing a web serial online in 2001. Some people read it and then a lot did. They began printing out the novel and passing it around. When it finally came out in print in 2007, an estimated 70,000 people read the free online versions before they were removed in September 2008. That is a cult following especially when David didn’t expect anyone to really read it. Now he even had a film made of it that has Paul Giamatti starring. Crazy. So what is it about exactly?

Dave and John are best friends, slackers, and saviors of the world from an evil that no one else could possibly understand. But Dave really wants someone to know his story so he meets up with a reporter named Arnie to tell his story. You see it all started at a party when Dave meets a strange Jamaican dealing a drug named Soy Sauce and a dog named Molly. What he doesn’t know is that John has already taken the drug and is now seeing things…strange things. Things that Dave cannot see. Thinking that John is just having a bad trip he tries to take him to the hospital until he gets a phone call that is completely impossible. And yet it is possible. When Dave cuts himself on a syringe that had John’s dose of Soy Sauce, he starts seeing things too. Maybe John wasn’t tripping. You see Soy Sauce can do a lot of things for you including the ability to time travel, see things from another dimension, learn really obscure info about people you’ve never met before, dimension hop, etc. But it also allows things from the other side enter into our world, through you. Nothing’s for free right?

In the events that follow John and Dave become unwilling saviors of the world, take a trip to Vegas, have a car chase with a man made of cockroaches, someone watching them through a television and lots of death.

Things I loved: I will be honest it took me forever to be in the mood for how utterly absurd this book is. You would think with the question posed at the beginning of the book about the ax being the same ax that I would be over the moon. But I wasn’t. Perhaps this is because I am reading a fairly sad book, a more grounded in normality, and a crime thriller at the same time. Perhaps they do not mix well. And then suddenly I was in the mood and I loved it. I loved it because of how it came it to be. Of the absurdity of it all. And how clearly Dave and John are both afraid of dicks and like to talk about them far too much.

It feels very episodic which makes sense as that is what it was originally. This both helps and hinders the novel overall. The pacing moves along once it gets going and though the tone again is a bit uneven (other than being sheer lunacy) it overall works for me. Dave and John are great. They are snarky, self-deprecating, completely unreliable, but hilarious. They are flawed and realistic characters with just the right amount of heroism that makes you hope they get out of all of this alive. Dave is a great narrator other than the fact that you cannot trust any words that actually come out of his mouth and the fact that he is a borderline sociopath. It’s weird, but you can kind of relate to him and hate him at the same time. He’s a coward, but a hero. Loves his best friend, but hates him at the same time. Wants normality, but continues to Soy Sauce. Overall he tries to do the right thing, whatever that means. And let’s face it we all either knew a guy like John or had a friend that you felt responsible for and no matter how many stupid things they got themselves into and how much you wanted to wring their necks, you were there for them.

I enjoyed Dave and John’s notoriety for being amazing supernatural guys (a nice little parallel to the insane cult following the episodic tales gained in such a short time), but they are a bit hapless and would rather just chill. And above all I totally dig the corner of your eye spook story. The one where your friend is convinced there is something behind you, clinging to the wall in the corner. You turn around but cannot see a damn thing, until you change your perspective slightly look at the spot from the corner of your eye. Once you see it, know it is there, you cannot un-see it. It’s the unseen horror angle that I love. The creeping horror that is around us all of the time, but we don’t notice it which is probably just fine because once we notice it, it notices us.

Things I didn’t love so much: Of course the book does have some flaws. As I said before the episodic version could have been good thing once upon a time as it would have felt like an episode in a series, but in chapter form sometimes it is easy to bring things up in one chapter (episode) only to never really talk about them again. It happens.

Where are my ladies at? You pretty much have Amy, Jennifer Lopez, Krissy, and Molly. Of the four Molly is around the most with Amy a close second whom Dave thinks might be a retard because they went to the same behavioral school, but who ultimately becomes his girlfriend. And most of the women other than Molly are your typical damsels in distress though that is how Dave likes his women. Urgh. I guess sometimes it was clearly evident that it was written by a man (not that men cannot write female writers and in saying this I am sexist in my own way I suppose), but it just reminds me of fanboy college humor at times. This isn’t always a bad thing mind you, but sometimes I was annoyed by the utter lack of ladies that I could relate to while reading this.

“And watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.”  

Buy or Borrow: Buy. There is a reason why this is a cult hit.

Part of: Part of a series.

Also Recommended: This Book is Full of Spiders also detailing John and Dave’s adventures. For more horror that makes you smile at the same time try anything by Chuck Wendig, or A Lee Martinez.

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

X-Men Days of Future Past: A Review

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Directed By: Brian Singer
Written By: Simon Kinberg and Jane Goldman
Genre:ACTION ADVENTURE/SCI FI
Rated: PG-13
Time: 131 min
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, and Evan Peters
Plot: The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

Comments: I grew up with the X-Men as a kid. I wanted to be Storm or Shadowcat. I fell in love with Gambit. I watched the cartoon. I read the comics. Life was good. But as a fan let’s just say we have been a bit underwhelmed when it comes to the movies. Sure it is great seeing your favorite characters, but you kind of walk out of the theater wishing you could go back to the old days. Some of the movies were okay while others have just been abysmal. However things kind of changed for me with X-Men First Class (save for Emma…January you phoned that one in). I dug it. I was excited to see how they were going to make me love the X-Men films again. When I started seeing Days of Future Past trailers I got excited again and so a group of us happily headed to the theater 6 months later.

It’s great to see a superhero film that has some great storytelling (betrayal, heroism, defeat, friendships, family, etc) and doesn’t rely on the superhero gimmick alone. The film begins in the future where mutants and humans with the potential for mutation have pretty much been wiped out by the Sentinels (a favorite Baddie of mine from the comics). You see a lot of your favorites die early on and things are so bad that Xavier and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan) have renewed their bromance. Their one hope, send Wolverine’s future consciousness into his past body and have him knock some sense into the younger versions (including Mystique) and stop the Sentinels from ever coming into being.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is actually quite likable and Jackman does a great job of reminding us why people love Logan. Then again so do James McAvoy (Young Professor X), Michael Fassbender (young Magneto), and Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique). Mutant politics can be a tricky thing as anyone who has read Civil War or a variety of other Marvel verse comics. And the cast does a great job navigating those tricky lines. In a way it is helping fix what Last Stand messed up because it is a great theme and storyline to develop.

While I may be a bit biased when it comes to James McAvoy (I have adored him since he was Leto II in the Children of Dune miniseries) he does a great job with Charles. Hank has been using the serum he uses to keep the Beast at bay on Charles. Good news: it allows Xavier to walk again. Bad News (or maybe it is double good news): he no longer has his powers. But it also means he is a defeated, bitter, drunk. He has lost his family of Raven and Erik and after the events of First Class you kind of can’t blame him for being a bit bitter. Betrayal is something that people never really deal with well. Redemption can be tricky. Charles spends a good deal of the film trying to find himself and slowly becoming the Professor X we all know and love.

Raven (Mystique) has her own journey, but it much more of a grey one. I have always loved Mystique as she has played both sides. And I think she understands both sides. This movie’s central plot also kind of revolves around her actions. Because she kills Trask and is captured, the future Sentinels have the power to mimic and combat any mutant power. This is what Wolverine is trying to stop, but he knows Mystique not Raven. We remember the teenager from First Class, one who made friends with others who were just like her. A young woman who finally felt like she belonged, but who was led astray. She’s seen her friends be killed and turned into trophies. She has seen people make her be afraid of who she is and others like her. Understandable that she might be a bit angry. Where Raven/Mystique goes from here, who knows. She’s set to forge her own path and I am curious on which side she will come up on in the next film.

Quicksilver surprised me as we all saw what he looked like months ago and shed some tears for a beloved character that just looked ridiculous. Now Pietro still looked ridiculous with a bad wig and fashion sense that I really don’t get, but I dug his character. Even Peters does a great job and I actually think they completely underused him. He is snarky, bored with the regular speed of life, and perhaps a bit too smart for his own good some times. While I still don’t understand why Magneto sent him away (he did break you out of a maximum security prison at the Pentagon, but sure could be no use to you as he saved your life from a bunch of bullets), I was pleasantly surprised how it all went down with him.

I also loved seeing Blink (she looked amazing…cosplay anyone and her effects were great), Bishop, Warpath, and so many more cameos that I was happy to see again and then not so much (looking at you Scott). The pacing was nice throughout, the CGI effects not too distracting, and while the film has its faults and glaring plot holes even as it tries to further tie together these last two films with the other X-Men films, I enjoyed it. I was entertained for two hours and may have let out a giddy little squee as we see Apocalypse and his horsemen in the end credits. If that is where they are headed in the films then you know my Amazon butt will be in the theaters when it comes out.

Rent/Cinema? Cinema. I loved X-Men: Days of Future Past. And as I’ve mentioned, although the film is nowhere near perfect, it is one of the best.

4/4 popcorns

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TUESDAY TRAILERS: Wish I was Here

Has it really been ten years since Garden State? Holy cow. Well Zach Braff is back. Based on a screenplay he wrote with his brother Adam, it has a great cast and looks interesting. And will probably have a kick ass soundtrack. What do you think? Plans to see it?


Summary: "Wish I Was Here" tells the story of a thirty-something man who finds himself at a major crossroads, which forces him to examine his life, his career, and his family. Starring: Zach Braff, kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene, and Joey King…Opens July 18th, 2014.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

SUNDAY SEVEN: DRAGONS IN FILM AND FICTION

Berk is back in a couple of weeks and with the new How to Train Your Dragon sequel Hiccup and Toothless will be back as well. Of course I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss my favorite dragons in film and fiction that aren’t the loveable little guy in the previously mentioned film. So I have to ask, what are yours?

Draco (Dragonheart) He’s got the voice of Sean Connery, he’s awesome looking, compassionate (he gave a piece of his heart away after all), and has a sense of humor. Despite having the reputation of being a killer and even though humans have hunted him, Draco isn’t a monster and he deservedly earns his place among the stars.

Falkor (The Neverending Story) I recently watched the Neverending Story as some of you have read from last week’s Sunday Seven and there were two things I wanted as a child when I watched this film: a luck dragon and the Empresses castle. And maybe a speed snail. Falkor is gorgeous to look at, loves to be scratched behind the ears, hates needles like I do, and lets you ride him and scare bullies into the dumpster. He is loyal, intelligent, helped save Fantasia, and is a luck dragon. I could always use more luck.

Smaug (The Hobbit) Smaug is a great dragon, kind of jerk, torches cities for giggles, a complete hoarder, and in the most recent cinema version voiced by Sherlock. Kind of a great little mix. I remember my dad reading the descriptions of Smaug, how he had spent so many centuries sleeping atop his treasure that it had become embedded into his flesh. Great picture. Of course even big bad dragons like the glorious Smaug have an Achilles heel…his is a small bare patch where a scale has come free. Thankfully Bard the Bowman shoots an arrow before the big bad can do any more damage. Still I love the big guy. He’s a great villain and how I pictured dragons for many years: sly, manipulative, and deadly.

Lockheed (X-men) Once Upon a Time Kitty Pryde aka Shadowcat told a little girl a story about an SR-71 Blackbird that was a Giant Black Dragon. Shortly after Kitty meets an adorable cat sized purple dragon that resembles the dragon in her story. He becomes her companion and they have been rarely parted since. As a Marvel fan and X-men fan I loved Lockheed. Who wouldn’t want a cat sized dragon to cuddle with?

Haku (Spirited Away) In Spirited Away Haku is a young boy (though something more) that tries to help Chihiro as much as he can. He often shows up as a dragon and Chihiro’s love for him breaks the curse he was under (along with cleverly feeding him a dumpling which makes him throw up a black seal). She realizes toward the end of the film that Haku is actually the spirit of the Kohaku River, a river she almost drowned in as a child, but was safely washed ashore. They vow to meet one another again. He was just pretty as most Eastern dragons are. Plus I love that movie.

Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegel (A Song of Ice and Fire) Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon children will be the key to taking the Iron Throne. They each have their own personalities. My favorite is Viserion, the white dragon. He is described as being a creamy white with molten gold eyes. I also like him because of the three brothers, he is the nicest…for a dragon. When Dany has to chain him up he seems hurt considering he has been the calmest around her. As I am only on Season 3 of HBOs Game of Thrones, I cannot wait to see what he looks like all grown up.

Uncle Deadly (The Muppet Show) The Phantom of the Muppet Show, Uncle Deadly is part of my childhood. First introduced when Vincent Price hosted, he is blue, haunts the Muppet Stage on the days that the Phantom of the Opera has off. Whether he is a dragon or not (he certainly looks like one) he was quite memorable. Loved seeing him in The Muppets even if he was an evil henchman. He is a dragon after all.

Runners Up Include: Puff the Magic Dragon , Elliott (Petes Dragon), The Dragons from harry Potter, Albi the Racist Dragon (Flight of the Conchords) and Malificent (Sleeping Beauty).

Saturday, June 7, 2014

GAMER GIRL WEEKENDS: ARMY OF TWO - 40th DAY

If you had asked me a couple of years ago whether I would be as into shooters as I am my RPGs, I probably would have said no. As a woman with a very obvious lady moniker online I had so many bad experiences attempting to do multiplayer that I kind of just gave up. Single player stuff, that was more my style and since so many shooters often are more satisfying if you play multiplayer (CoD, Halo, etc) I just kind of stayed away. And then E came along and wanted to let the gamer flourish. Plus he loves gaming, why not try to game together? Some of my favorite date nights haven’t included Netflix, but rather our tv, an extra monitor, both 360s, and a multiplayer game. The same goes for spending times with the girls playing round after round of Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer. It’s fun when you can play your favorite games with a friend.

However, we starting to run out of ideas for new games to play together. We have gone through the Gears Trilogy. We have done Halo. We have played CoD, Borderlands, Fuse, and more. We may be running out of ideas. Every time we head to GS we scour trying to find a game to play together. Army of Two: the 40th Day looked interesting so we gave it a go after playing the most recent one in a demo.

IIt begins off with what seems like a simple job for two private military contractors named Rios and Salem who work for TransWorld Operations. A simple job, yeah right. And then everything disintegrates around you as Shanghai’s buildings begin to fall apart, aircraft falls from the skies, and the streets are full of panic. Rios and Salem have to stay alive and find out who is behind all of this.

I really enjoyed the modding system for weapons. While I was a little disappointed that my secondary gun had to be a pistol, I did love the variety of options I had for playing with the other two choices. Not only could I change the way it looked with skins, but everything is customizable from grips to magazines to barrels. You can add soda can silencers and a screwdriver bayonet. Some things are definitely more of an aesthetic, while others can be quite useful in game. I may not need to throw diamond encrusted grenades, but I did mod my sniper rifle to its fullest.

But as crazy as those diamond hand grenades may sound there is a point to it all. Army of Two works with an “Aggro” system which means that between the two characters one of you is going to be drawing their attention and fire (not hard to do with a blinged out gold AK) while the other sneaks around and flanks. I chose weapon choices that were low in agro while E chose all of the craziness.

And that was the thing. This game was made to be played with someone. In order to save hostages, you snipe together. At times one of you can mock surrender while the other has guns blazing away. If one of you takes an enemy officer hostage, the other can tie up the remaining baddies. If one of you gets hurt, the other can drag you into safety before healing you. It’s a great thing really and we had so much fun shouting out tactics to each other…okay maybe not shouting since we were on the same couch, but you get the idea. Heck during down time Rios and Salem can play rock, paper, and scissors and cement their bromance even more. The enemies use the same tactics as you do and didn’t always feel like predictable AI.

I really enjoyed the setting, though I wanted to interact with more than I could. A few environments stick out (the zoo) as leaving an impression. Though to be honest we didn’t roam about a whole lot which is where I am sure all the collectibles are. In fact though you can pick up radios that will further the story, we haven’t listened to any of them. That doesn’t mean that the story isn’t interesting. I really love the morality aspect of the game. Not only does it come into play with hostage situations (which may hurt or harm you later in the game depending on how you deal with the situations), but there are times in the game when you must make a morality choice.

Seems like a pretty easy thing right, you both make a choice…let’s say it is to save a tiger instead of shooting it and thus perhaps ending its life in a cage in an abandoned zoo. But not all good choices have a happy ending. Maybe the tiger gets out and kills someone else. Maybe it’s an innocent, but then again maybe it is someone not so innocent. While we thought we were choosing the moral high ground, quite often our choices usually ended up tragic and I have heard that the other choices sometimes have happier endings. It does make me want to play it again just to choose a different path and see where it leads. Granted it is not Mass Effect level morality choices, but it added to the game quite a bit for me.

Overall its been a great game and we had enough fun that once we both play through our new little collection of two player games, we will probably pick up the latest one.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Time Watching

Although I love being outside, or well outside long enough before this porcelain skin turns a lobster red, I still love my summer shows and movies. For movies, I love the escape, the big adventure, the explosions, the thrills…the air conditioning. TV offerings are usually just as epic, mini-series or genre shows that make me all warm and fuzzy. Here is my list of upcoming movies and tv series I might be a little excited for.

TV
Crossbones : John Malkovich, pirates, and insanity (NBC // May 30)
The Leftovers : Based on the book by Tom Perrotta, the Rapture comes and those left behind include Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston and Liv Tyler. (HBO // June 15)
The Quest : Oh yeah Animatronics, prosthetics, and actors make this fantasy themed Amazing Race something E and I want to watch. Also take part in. And possibly laugh at. (ABC // June 19)
The Last Ship : Another based on a book series. A pandemic kills 80% of the population and one Navy ship searches for a cure. (TNT // June 22nd)
Falling Skies : Anne and Alexis are back…except Alexis is now 6 and is magic. Fun times. (TNT // June 22nd)
The Strain : I enjoyed Guillermo del Toro's vampire series and so I am excited to see how well they stick to the books. (FX // July)
Extant : Halle Berry is an astronaut who comes back to Earth a bit different. Steven Spielberg is the exec producer. (CBS // July 9)
Penn & Teller – Fool Us : You try and fool them. Kind of it, but I am happy to see people try and fail (CW // July 30)
Sharknado 2 : Hopefully just in time for the Riff Trax version of the original in the theaters. (Syfy // July 30)
Doctor Who : Peter Capaldi is changing it all folks. I will be having a party. (BBC // August)
Masters of Illusion: Dean Cain hosts a magic show. I will probably watch as I did many David Copperfield specials in my youth. (CW // August 1)

MOVIES
Maleficent : Angelina Jolie as the vindictive fairy badass. (May 30)
Edge of Tomorrow : Tom Cruise fighting in a war with aliens who is also caught in a time loop of his last day in the battle with Emily Blunt. Fun times. (June 6)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 : More Hiccup and Toothless. I’m in.(June 13)
The Signal : A group of college students are lured to the middle of the desert by a hacker. Looked interesting. (June 13)
The Rover : 10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened, ruthless ex-soldier tracks down the men who stole his only possession. As he travels through the lawless Australian outback, he takes a damaged young man as his unwitting accomplice. (June 13)
Deliver Us From Evil : NY police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), investigates a series of crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest (Edgar Ramirez), schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the possessions that are terrorizing their city. (July 2)
Earth to Echo : After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help. Reminds me of the Explorers or the Stand but with a cute little alien guy that looks like he belongs in Batteries Not Included (July 2)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: I have no words other than is it July 11th yet. (July 11)
Jupiter Ascending : In the future, a young destitute human woman gets targeted for assassination by the Queen of the Universe, and begins her destiny to finish the Queen's reign. (July 18)
Mood Indigo: Michel Gondry’s odd little romance. Should be sublime.(July 18)
Hercules : Yep the Rock as Hercules (why do we never say Heracles…If Zeus is his dad then it is Heracles, if Jupiter was his dad then it is Hercules but you know, bygones). (July 25)
Guardians of the Galaxy: Never really read the comic until a month or so ago. Looks funny and any building of the Marvel universe kind of makes me squee. DC you need to catch up.(August 1)
Lucy: Luc Besson making another badass chick flick this time with ScarJo. Looks awesome.(August 8)
The Giver: Sadly I have never read the book. Looks interesting. (August 15)
As Above, So Below: A thriller centered on two archaeologists in search of a lost treasure in the catacombs below Paris. I am always up for a horror film and the catacombs are on my bucketlist. (August 15)
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For: Its been a while, but I will be happy to go back to Sin City.(August 22)
If I Stay: Based on a book, Mia Hall thought the hardest decision she would ever face would be whether to pursue her musical dreams at Juilliard or follow a different path to be with the love of her life, Adam. But what should have been a carefree family drive changes everything in an instant, and now her own life hangs in the balance. Caught between life and death for one revealing day, Mia has only one decision left, which will not only decide her future but her ultimate fate. (August 22)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

TUESDAY TRAILERS: Mood Indigo

I dig Michel Gondry’s films. They are quirky, beautiful and I kind of love them to pieces. Based on the book "L'Ecume des jours" ("Froth on the Daydream") it stars Audrey Tautou whom I also love to pieces. I will definitely add this one to my must see list and hopefully Bozeman will decide that it garners a place at the local cinema and this is one I would really love to see on the big screen. What do you think? Plans to see it?


Summary: Colin, a wealthy young man and inventor of the cocktail-mixing piano, wants to fall in love. With the help of his cook Nicolas and best friend Chick, he meets Chloe, the incarnation of a Duke Ellington tune. But soon after their wedding, Chloe falls ill. She has a water lily growing in her chest. Ruined by medical expenses, Colin resorts to increasingly desperate methods to save his beloved's life…Opens July 18th, 2014.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Dark and Hollow Places: A Review

The Dark and Hollow Places
Written by: Carrie Ryan
Paperback: 374 pages
Publisher: Delacourte
Language: English
March 2011
Genre: Young Adult/Horror/Zombies

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah's world stopped that day, and she's been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn't feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.

But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?


+++++++++++++

When we read zombie fiction quite often the stories are all about the undead being the big bad. They are the evil, that thing driving our characters to make the decisions that they do. But the story that has always interested me and a reason why I love stories like World War Z and the Walking Dead is what happens after the world is decimated? How do people rebuild? How do they survive? And in surviving do we become the monsters? Sure the zombies are still there to push the story along, but it’s not really about them. You could easily insert a hundred different calamities and tell the same story. So yes there are monsters that want to kill you and while I love a good turn of horror, I really care about the characters. I care about how a disaster like this changes you. The dead may walk, but what about the living?

There has been something about the Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy that I have really loved. It has been about flawed characters trying to heal themselves, trying to find their place in a world that has become unfamiliar. They are trying to make connections with the little time that they may have left and try to see something other than the dust and decay. They want changes. They want hope. They want to survive.

I wonder how I would really face the zombie apocalypse. Sure I can say that a few years of playing shooter video games and meticulously planning my defense strategy would keep me alive. But would it really? Would I isolate myself or try and help others? Would I panic? Would the years of E and I target shooting help at all? Would I be curious about the undead? Would they be monsters or people? A lot to take in I know. And what if society found a way to stay safe, what would my role be in that society?

Annah is moving on. It’s been three years since Elias left her when it was only supposed to be two. The Dark City has nothing for her and it is getting more and more dangerous every day. It’s time to leave. But as she is leaving she spots a girl with her face. Granted she doesnt have the same scars has Annah does, scars caused by an unfortunate accident with barbed wire. Could it really be her long lost sister Abigail, a sister she thought she and Elias had left behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth over a decade ago? There hasn’t been a moment that Annah hasn’t thought about her sister, felt the guilt eat at her. When she tries to get to Abigail, her doppleganger helps a young man escape from the guards at the gates. She has to follow. She has to know if it is Abigail. But once you are outside of the Dark City, it isn’t quite as easy to get back inside. And what happened to the man that Abigail was trying to protect?

Things I loved: I like damaged characters. I can relate to them. Maybe that’s why I have liked each of the leads in Ryan’s books. They are flawed. They are broken in some way, but it doesn’t mean you can’t mend yourself. Some wounds heal, some scars fade. Annah is probably my favorite rather than Mary or Gabry. She has always kept everyone at arm’s length, first from guilt and then because she found herself ugly…how could anyone want to care for someone so obviously broken. She has been alone for longer than she cares to admit, abandoned by the one man she loved (Elias) over three years ago. But she is also a survivor. And that is why I love her. She could have just laid down, cuddled up in the corner and waited to die. But she didn’t even if it sounded so easy. She fought. She is always fighting. Whether is it is the demons inside or the Mudo and Guard, she is always fighting.

Catcher understands that struggle. Understands not only what it feels like to feel broken and damaged, but what it is like to fight every damn day. Catcher knows what it is like feeling like no one else understands, knows how it feels when you push everyone away in order to protect them. That is why they are perfect. Not that two damaged halves, make a mended whole, but you can try. Love and hope have the power to do amazing things. While it is unfortunate that Annah fell for both of her sister’s lovers, I felt the chemistry between Catcher and Annah and they are my favorite pairing. They work. They fit.

In the Dark City, the undead are not the only things you need to fear. The tunnels beneath the city are easy to get lost in, hunger is a problem faced by many, and sometimes the monsters are the living. As I said before, I like the people stories, the ones where you discover how far people are willing to go to survive. But is surviving enough when you become the monsters?

I have seen it many other zombie fiction tales, but those in power becoming the monsters. The Governor from Walking Dead had zombie fights, so did Romero’s Land of the Dead, and now The Dark and Hollow Places. Strange how the gladiator arena always keeps coming back in one form or another. And you don’t just have kick ass fighters doing their best not to become unconsecrated, but you have the sacrifice of innocents. Fiction keeps going back to it, I wonder why? To show the brutality of man? To show that cards and Parcheesi aren’t enough for entertainment? I can see it as a form of punishment, a form of keeping the masses not just entertained, but in line. I liked the inclusion in here.

I also liked the ‘bad guys’. In a way The Recruiters leader was like a pirate ship’s captain. You had rules. You broke the rules you were punished and since there are more of them than there are of you, you kept them happy. No one wants a mutiny. You need them more than they need you. But you give them order. You give them authority. You keep them in check. Of course nothing comes without a price. While yes the Recruiters may seem overly evil, but in a disaster like the Mudo there does seem to be one group of people that excels in the zombie apocalypse, a group where morality plays it fast and loose. But these people survive as they know their way around weapons, are completely willing to do the things that most will not do in order to survive, and is there really anyone around to tell them not to? We see it in other forms of zombie fiction (The Walking Dead) for example. So yes they may be it a bit one dimensional and we don’t really get to see the other side of survivors, but it worked for me as the story was being told.

Things I didn’t love so much: Some quick edits could have made the pacing a bit more even, but other than that I loved this one.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. The Forest has come full circle. Sure we mortals are flawed creatures, but we fight for life, we love, and we hope. Tomorrow is a new day even with the hordes outside your door.

Part of: Series

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

SUNDAY SEVEN: DEATH IN FILM AND FICTION

Sometimes a death hits you pretty hard. You stop reading or watching, maybe fast forward convinced it was all a bad dream. But then they don’t get up. There is no magic to revive them. Its final and you sit there shocked, maybe you start to sniffle a bit. You hate the author and the writer even while you love them for affecting you this way…that they even can. And if they are lucky (or is that unlucky) their deaths had such an impact that even thinking about it now makes you want to go hug something fluffy. Sure this all a bit depressing, but after watching The Neverending Story this weekend, I am perhaps in that sort of mood. Come on, sob with me in remembrance. It is safe to say that this Sunday Seven will be filled with spoilers. Neverending Story, Futurama, Whedonverse, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Spiderman and more. If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading and looking right now. You have been forewarned. Anything I missed? Who would you have included? Which character are you still grieving or denying?

Artax (The Neverending Story) Neverending Story played an important part in my childhood. Of course it also ruined my childhood when Atreyu’s horse Artax gives up in the Swamps of Sadness. No, no don’t give into despair I screamed…possibly like Bastian as he sinks further and further into the Swamp. It wasn’t expected. Though none of these deaths were really expected I guess, that is why they gut you. Horribly. Makes you put Old Yeller in the freezer. Animal Runner Up: Seymour (Futurama). Seymour Asses was Fry’s dog. When Fry disappeared Seymour didn’t give up hope and waited for his master for years and years and years. Sniff.

Ellie (Up) Pixar why do you hate me? You gave me a perfect little taste of happily ever after when Carl and Ellie fell in love. But you didn’t give me that did you. Oh no, you had to take Ellie away just as Carl was getting around to arranging their perfect holiday. Carl has to say goodbye to the love of his life. You broke my heart Pixar. Damn you. True Love Runner Up: Solomon (Solomon and Gaenor) Boy meets Girl. They fall in love. Families try to keep them apart, but they persist. Boy does something stupid and they are reunited. Yea, I get my happily ever after…nope. Stupid Welsh movie….that I love to pieces.

Joyce Summers (Buffy) While I trust in Joss he has taken many a beloved character away from me. Some of them I adore at first sight (Wash) and then others I spend episodes trying to like and just as I fall in love with them, they are cruelly ripped away (Jenny Calendar and Tara). Buffy faced a lot of death being the Slayer. When you live on the Hellmouth you kind of expect to be taken down by one of Sunnydale’s more shadowy denizens (Vampires, demons, etc). You don’t expect your body to just fail you. But that is what happened to Buffy’s mom. She just died and there is nothing you can do about it. To this day “The Body” episode remains one of the best hours of television. Buffy couldn’t slay the brain tumor. The reactions from the cast are stellar and I still have to be in one of those moods to watch it because it affects me that much. Parental Runner Up: Marvin (How I Met Your Mother) When Marshall’s dad died it was sudden. Marshall was so happy, he couldn’t wait to tell his dad the good news and then he sees his wife’s face. His dad has died of a heart attack. "I'm not ready for this". And damn it that last cell phone message. I want to go hug my dad now.

Ianto Jones (Torchwood) Ianto was my favorite. Not just because he loved Jack, but because I related to him. He was sweet and quiet and charming. He drank tea. He made Jack better. As Jack holds his dying body, whoa nelly was I in utter and complete denial. He had to come back. I mean this is Torchwood (though I should have known better as main characters died). There would be an alien something or Jack would come up with something. I mean Jack is immortal. But he never did come back. This Cant Be Happening Runner Up: Wash (Firefly/Serenity). He’s my funny, Zoe’s honey, and the most devastating part about his death was there was no time to mourn. He was there making a funny and then…not there. His wife couldn’t mourn him because the Reavers were already cornering them. His friends had to fight for their lives. They had to leave his body. Damn it death sucks ass.

Fred Weasley (Harry Potter) Having Snape die sucked a lot, but losing the Weasley twin was devastating. It wasn’t just that he was a Weasley, that the Weasley family was finally back together, but that he and George were the snarky jokesters. They brought humor, but an odd little wisdom as well. Thick as thieves Fred and George always felt authentic, good natured despite their pranks and then one of them is taken away quite suddenly. For George losing that other half of yourself, that doppleganger…that other you that is always there for you. Sniffle. JK Rowling took a lot of characters away from me (Sirius, Remus and Tonks), but this death was so unexpected and hurt more than I ever thought it would. Fictional Runner Up: Gwen Stacy (Spider-Man) I may not be a huge Spider-Man fan, but Gwen’s death certainly had an impact on me. Peter loved Gwen, but sometimes you cannot always be the hero. When the Green Goblin throws Gwen off a bridge, Spider-Man saves her by catching her leg with his web. He thinks he has saved her, but when he brings her up she is already dead. Peter is left wondering if Gwen was dead before the fall or if his attempt to save her by breaking her fall snapped her neck. In the end we discover that in trying to save her, he killed her.

Data (Star Trek) Data spent an entire series and a couple of movies trying to become more human. He wants to understand love, pain, humor, sorrow…everything that makes him different than his fellow crewmates. He wants to know what it means to be human. In Star Trek Nemesis Data discovers sacrifice. We have watched him become an individual and when he is lost, you truly feel that loss despite his heroic end. We know that B4 will never be Data. He may learn what Data knew, he may look like him, but as we know from Orphan Black even if you are a copy you are different in your own unique way. B4 may have Data’s memories and learn what he knew, but he never went on that journey of self-discovery and he may take his own journey, but he will never be Data. It Isn’t the Same Runner Up: 10 (Doctor Who) This is mostly due to David Tennant and his awesomeness and it would have beat Ianto, but technically it is not a true death, but the Doctor will never be him again. 10 understands this. He doesn’t want to go. He hasn’t finished yet. Sob. I would put a picture up but then you would be sniffling like I am.

Kim (Miss Saigon) Damn Shonberg and Boubil, they just know how to get me. In Miss Saigon Kim falls in love with a US soldier, but is separated from him during the fall of Saigon. She hopes upon hope that they will be reunited once again and that she can have her true love back and together they will raise their son. But fate is a cruel bitca. Chris thought for sure that Kim died during the fall and eventually remarried. When his best friend tells him that Kim is alive and Chris has a son he and his wife go to Thailand. Kim, thinking that she is being reunited with Chris and can finally have her happily ever after, discovers that he is married and is heartbroken. Knowing that the only way her son can have a better life is to be with his father she pleads Chris’s wife to take her son, but Ellen wants children of her own. Kim feels like her only option is to take herself out of the equation and then Ellen will have no choice. She shoots herself and Chris runs in asking her why she has done this. Why is she breaking his heart? I blame this musical for having me sob all the way home on the tube after watching its premiere in London. Stupid musical. Musical Runner Up: Eponine (Les Miserables) She begins as a spoiled and pampered child, but then redeems herself. In the musical version she is very sympathetic and has been in love with Marius since she was younger as they have been friends for quite a while. However, he has fallen for her once ‘sister’ Cosette. Eponine pours out her heart, mourning an unrequited love, in her songs and they get me every time. After she takes a bullet meant for Marius, she dies in his arms telling him that she feels no pain. I am as devastated as Marius is by her death as I always liked her more than the perfect little Cosette. Sigh.

Honorable Mentions Fred (Angel), Rita Morgan (Dexter), Ned Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire)…heck all of the Starks, The Iron Giant (Iron Giant), Satine (Moulin Rouge), Augustus Walters (The Fault in Our Stars)