Friday, May 25, 2012

The Dork Review: Men In Black 3

Let's keep this short. Men In Black 3 is a fun movie and you should go see it. There, done.

Not enough? Sigh, okay, I'll continue.

I have to admit, going into MIB3 I was a little worried. The first movie was awesome, but number two, well, smelled a little bit like number two if you catch my drift. Not like a fresh pile, but one that's been sitting around in the sun a bit and still smells a bit if you get too close. A pile of meh if you will.

MIB3 doesn't have this problem. It takes all the elements that worked in the first movie, the otherwordly weirdness and Will Smith's physical comedy, and dials them up to eleven. Add in a truly threatening villain, an unexpected scene that's both heartwarming and heartwrenching at the same time, and Josh Brolin doing a superb Tommy Lee Jones impression and you get a fun movie. And really, that's all I wanted when I wen to the theater tonight.

As I said, this is a fun movie well worth the ticket price. Oh, and keep an eye out in the background for a nice little callback to a well-loved character. You'll know them when you see them.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Dork Review: At The Sharp End

At The Sharp End: Canadians Fighting The Great War 19-14-1916 by Tim Cook is actually a few years old. The copyright on it is 2007, and I've actually wanted to read it for a few years now. Usually I prefer to review books closer to their release dates and that come from smaller presses cause, hey, the big guys have marketing departments and there are tons of other outlets that will talk about them.

So why did I chose to review At The Sharp End? Two reasons. First, it's really, really good. Second, it covers a part of history that more Canadians should be aware of since a lot of our identity came out of the conflict the book covers.

Sometimes it can be hard to read history books, especially military history. They can be dryer than most deserts, thick, and mired in minutia. At The Sharp End is definitely a thick book, but it never feels dry and presents minutia is such a way it isn't a morass of detail sucking the reader in and clubbing him over the head until he falls asleep.

The book moves at a good clip, covering a wide variety of subjects, with vivid descriptions and the actual words of Canadians serving on the front lines of the conflict. For such a thick book I was surprised how quickly I got through it, even considering I'm already a pretty quick reader as it is.

For anyone interesting in the Canadian contribution in the First World War, this is an important book. For any military history buffs, this is an important book. For any author needing to know how to depict life in the trenches and what the troops suffered, (the reason I finally got around to picking this up), this is an important book.

I hope you have a chance to read it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Even With An Outline, Things Still Manage To Sneak In

I've probably mentioned before I'm writing a book. Right now I'm about nine chapters in and over 20,000 words written in the last 4 weeks, which for me is a good pace. Fast enough that I'm getting words on the page but not so fast I feel overstressed. It's working.

I'm an outliner when it comes to writing, meaning for anything over a short-story, (and sometimes for those), I start by putting together a detailed outline for each chapter down to the scene level. So you'd expect that writing the book after that would just be filling in the blanks, so to speak.

Well, no. And here's why.

Even with an outline, my writing process is still pretty fluid. As I go along, especially this early in the project, I'm finding scenes I don't need that I plotted and cutting them out, scenes that I'd put in later need to be moved forward a bit, and material I never expected to fit in sliding into the most unexpected places.

Let me give you an example along with a bit of background on the book.

My main character is going to be an eastern-style, Shaolin-and-Japanese-Buddhist-influenced monk, and the order he's in shave their heads. My character being a curious sort, he asks why and the monk teaching him answers. Seems reasonable, right? What I didn't expect was that the answer that made the most sense, to me at least, ended up dragging in some background material that I didn't think would fit because a lot if it involves the different "races" I'd created to fill the empire that surrounds the tiny section of land my story takes place on. Characters of those differing ethnicity are unlikely to come up as the section of the world my story is set in is rather homogenous and were more or less created when I was world-building because I wanted a diverse population inside my fictional creation, but still, it's nice to know they're out there.

(How diverse things will be still remains to be seen. If this turns into a series, editors and publishers willing, the second book will have a much more diverse cast as the main character moves on to a wider world.)

It remains to be seen whether or not this scene will survive in its current form when I go to edit the book later on and if (hopefully when) I get editing requests from an editor prior to publication. I hope it does, as I think it builds on the world and gives it depth and has is a great piece of showing how a certain character thinks without drubbing the reader over the head.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Dork Review: Above

Above is the last of my Ad Astra reads, and I may have well saved the best for last. Unintentional of course.

(Oh, and don't worry. I won't be making any puns with the title. I'd like to think I'm ABOVE such behaviour... oh wait... whoops. Nevermind.)

How I understand it is that Above is supposed to be aimed for the Young Adult audience, and I can see that. Young protagonist, no graphic sex, and it's published by Scholastic who put out Harry Potter and The Hunger Games (At least in Canada they do). That being said, I still think it can be seen as an adult book as well.

Now, I don't mean adult in the sense that most do. Adult does not have to mean a work contains excessive swearing or sex (or is pornographic). No, Above is adult in the sense it has beautiful language and is told by an unreliable narrator. The author, Leah Bobet, has crafted an exceedingly gorgeous book that is told to us by a home-schooled storyteller (identified as a Teller in the book) that actually sounds as if it was told by a home-schooled storyteller and not an English student high on absinthe. The writing is amazingly consistent and transparent. It never feels artificial, never feels forced. As a writer myself I understand how hard that is to achieve, so I must tip my hat to Miss Bobet for doing such a superb job.

The best part is, that after finishing the book, I'm still not sure if the narrator was crazy and the whole thing was a delusion. It's almost of if this is Schrodinger's plot. It can be both real and unreal at the same time.

If Above is what kids are reading these days then there is hope for the future. If you have kids, please go out and get them a copy. You'll be doing them a huge favor and expanding their minds greatly.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Dork Review: Marvel's The Avengers

I just got back from seeing this movie, and while I'd normally wait and think a bit before posting a review I just couldn't with this one. I don't think my opinion is going to change if I take eight hours to sleep and have my subconscious work on it.


My friends and I left the theater raving about this movie, going over our favorite scenes, repeating some of the best lines. It's been awhile since I've enjoyed a movie this much.

So why should you go see it? The Avengers is the big payoff from all the other Marvel movies. This is what they've been building up to these last few years. This is what a superhero movie can truly be.

None of the heroes played second fiddle in this movie, and I mean none. Joss Whedon is a master of working with ensemble casts and it really and truly shows with this movie. Even characters one would deem minor, such as Agent Phil Coulson, get their time in the sun and have a real and true effect on the story.

There was action, drama, humor, and complete and utter heart. Sitting in the theater I believed in this world, in these people. Each and every one of them was a complete and real character, and each one was truly a hero in their own way.

The highest compliment I can give this movie is that even the parts I saw coming a mile away were still awesome, and never left me sitting smugly in my seat saying to myself "Yeah, saw that one coming."

Go and see this movie. Then see it again and catch the bits you missed because you were laughing or cheering too hard. At the end of the movie the entire audience I was in actually started clapping.

Oh, and there are two stinger scenes at the end, one near the beginning of the credits and one at the very end. Both are worth waiting for.