Dec 15, 2014

Music A to Z - part two - "A"


Pop-stars


People often ask, "what type of music do you like?" If pushed, the first thing I'll say is pop, but that's like saying I read books with words in them.

Pop is generally interpreted as the colorful, shallow, but totally catchy stuff that dominates the music charts.

Pop-stars are seen as empty shells with pretty faces, unable to play their own instruments and programmed to generate screaming fan-bases. The songs are written by mysterious, faceless, mole-people and shared out amongst the talent, turning all music into one nebulous, well-choreographed mass of annoying howler monkeys.

Pop Music


Well, that's not really fair. Pop is just popular music. Taylor Swift and Beyoncé are pop artists. Miss Swift arrived via country music and Mrs Z is often considered R&B, which nowadays incorporates everything from Hip-Hop to Soul. The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Rod Stewart, Queen, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac are all basically pop-stars. They write four-minute songs with a "hook" in an attempt to appeal to the widest possible audience.

From time to time, these artists don't follow the song-writing format (Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody is a great example, which ironically turned out to be one of their biggest chart successes), but the bulk of why they are so famous and POPULAR is the fact they write pop songs. They sing about love and breaking up...and sometimes they even play their own instruments.

Just for the record, I like several styles of music, but pop is probably the main one. Which should serve as ample warning as we start our journey through the alphabet.

A is for...

A-Ha - "Take On Me" (1985)


Music videos were not invented in the 1980's but the advent of MTV meant that bands could no longer just rely on their music to get airplay. By the mid-80's everyone made videos so only the best stood out. Norway's A-Ha came onto the scene all guns blazing. Armed with a catchy tune (don't lie, you'll totally sing this in the car if you hear it) and a groundbreaking video, Take On Me was a colossal hit, selling upwards of seven million copies worldwide. A-Ha went on to become Norway's biggest ever band although their subsequent singles never quite recaptured the success of their debut.



I remember going to a friend's house and recording his copy of the song on my portable tape recorder. The recording was awful, of course--full of hisses, clicks and background noise--but it worked until I was able to buy a compilation album that had the song on it. Being twelve had certain financial drawbacks.



Anggun - "Saviour" (2005)

Jason Statham is perhaps not the first name that springs to mind when considering music choices, but without him and his barmy and completely ridiculous movie franchise The Transporter, I likely would never have heard this song. Anggun is well-known in her native Indonesia, her adopted home of France, and across Europe. Making music since the early-80's when she was only twelve years old, she's slowly built a fan-base that's allowed her to have a long and successful career.

I heard "Saviour" whilst watching The Transporter 2 and was immediately taken with Anggun's husky contralto, so my thanks to "The Stath" and his flying scissor-kicks.




Just for the record, the song was originally written and recorded in French. So, Anggun is better than most of us at singing AND languages.


Fiona Apple - "Criminal" (1997)

Apple became well known at the same time I was in the process of emigrating to the United States. After getting settled, I happened upon a piece of junk mail from Columbia House - Get 6 CDs for $1 or somesuch. Of course, after you sign up they never leave you alone, but I had left my music collection behind in Scotland and figured I'd start rebuilding. One of my cheap CDs was Tidal by Fiona Apple. It had good reviews, but I'd never heard a track of it. I figured I'd give it a try for a buck.

Apple possesses a deep and husky voice and a poetic slant to her lyrics that sometimes, upon first listen, make her songs a little opaque, but never boring. And Apple herself isn't afraid to court a little controversy, making people a little uncomfortable with her persona. The video for "Criminal" was deemed too sexual, her adolescent appearance (she was 20) making an uneasy juxtaposition with the song's theme of getting something easily using sexuality. Others condemned her for her skinny appearance and for promoting anorexia. Apple revealed in an interview that she developed an eating disorder after she was raped at age twelve, believing her body was "bait" and brought her unwanted attention from men. The video for "Criminal seems counter-intuitive to this stance since she appears in various states of undress.

Either way, what she created with Tidal is indelible. I could've included any one of six tracks I think are fantastic, but here's the most notorious.


That's A. I'm always interested to hear your opinions so feel free to let me know what you think. Come back again for the next letter of the alphabet.


GSY

Nov 17, 2014

Music A to Z - part one - Numbers


Music is a thread that has stitched together my entire life. From my dad playing "Moonshadow" on his acoustic guitar, to my mum cranking up Earth, Wind and Fire on the hi-fi. From my P4 music teacher making the class tap out the rhythm of "Mars: Bringer of War," to learning "Sur le Pont D'Avingnon" during piano lessons. From 70's disco, to 80's pop, to 90's alternative, to movie soundtracks, to the songs I wrote in my bedroom, music has always been a massive part of my life.

After sharing some song selections on Facebook, I thought I'd dive further in. I've decided to go through the alphabet A-Z, sharing favorites and maybe introducing some interesting or little-known artists along the way. And I promise it won't all be disco music. :)

It occurred to me that not all bands start with a letter; some have numbers. I figured that would be as good a place as any to start...

10cc - "I'm Not in Love" (1975)


If you were one of the hordes who went to see Guardians of the Galaxy earlier this year, you would've heard "I'm Not in Love" playing on young Peter Quill's Walkman. I first heard this song on the radio in the 70's and was reintroduced to it in the mid-80's on a boxed set of vinyl dubbed "The Sensational Seventies." 10cc had other hits in the 70's, but this remains their most well known hit.



For further listening, check out the songs "Dreadlock Holiday", "The Things We Do for Love" and "Rubber Bullets."

Kevin Godley and Lol Creme left the band in the 70's and a decade after "I'm Not in Love," they released their biggest hit: "Cry." The video, also directed by the duo, showed faces morphing into other faces and is seen as a precursor to Michael Jackson's groundbreaking "Black or White" video. The second last face you see in the video is Trevor Horn, prolific producer of acts like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Seal, Tina Turner, Genesis, and Paul McCartney. He was also a member of the groups YES, The Art of Noise, and The Buggles, who had the first video on MTV: "Video Killed the Radio Star."







1 Giant Leap (feat. Robbie Williams) - "My Culture" (2001)

This is a "better than the sum of the parts" type song. I know nothing about the group or if they are even around anymore. I'm not a fan of Williams particularly, or songs where words are rapped or spoken, but this one I enjoy. The theme of the song, that we are the culmination of the generations before us, is interesting to me.



One line in the song - "Lace up your boots, we're going back to the roots..." -  is a doff of the cap to a well known 80's hit "Going Back to My Roots," sung by the band Odyssey. My mum was a fan of the band, so I heard the song often in my house, except Odyssey sang, "zippin' up my boots."

And this is something I love about music, following the threads of songs and bands. History.

Odyssey's disco-infused hit is a cover of a nine-and-a-half-minute song by Lamont Dozier from his 1977 album Peddlin' Music on The Side. Dozier was part of the powerhouse writing trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland who helped define the Motown sound in the 60's, penning numerous number 1's for artists like The Supremes and The Four Tops.

I love that a 2001 song about culture can reference a song made famous in the 80's, which ties it to the original in the 70's, and to the writer who wrote hits in the 60's. We are just a culmination of those who came before us.

Since I'm blethering a bit about music history, it's also worth noting that Graham Gouldman of 10cc was, like Lamont Dozier, a writer for hire in the 60's. Gouldman wrote "For Your Love" which was a big hit for the Yardbirds in the United States. (They followed the Beatles over as part of the British Invasion.) The song wasn't a hit with everyone though. The Yardbirds' guitarist at the time, a Mr. Eric Clapton, quit in disgust and returned to the blues, joining John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, which in turn lead to Cream, etc., etc.

Meanwhile, The Yardbirds had to make do with hacks like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page as replacements. I guess they muddled through.

That's all for the numbers. For now. Perhaps I will come back to them. There's 11, Four Non Blondes, Five for Fighting...

...but next time, we're gonna talk about "A."

Let me know what you think and what your favorites are as we go along.

~ GSY 

Sep 15, 2014

Comic Book Chaos #2 - Ann Nocenti's Daredevil

part 3 of the Born Again story arc by Miller/Mazzucchelli
One of the most thankless tasks, in any profession, is following someone regarded as the best. In comic books, following Frank Miller in the 80's would be like following Einstein at a comedy club after he's finished his set with the punchline: E=mc². Or something. You get my drift. Either way, Miller moved from Marvel's Daredevil to write the career defining Batman series "The Dark Knight Returns" for DC. He also left after writing probably the most well known and loved Daredevil story ever: Born Again.

Ann Nocenti, editor of Uncanny X-Men, got the call to take over from Miller. Often forgotten, sandwiched between superstars like Miller, Kevin Smith (yes, Kevin Smith the movie director) and Brian Michael Bendis, I believe Nocenti wrote some of the best Daredevil stories ever. She moved away from Miller's noirish crime stories to tackle more societal issues, managing to broaden the scope of the character while not losing sight of who he was and what he stood for.

Matt Murdoch formed a free law clinic with his recovering addict girlfriend Karen Page. He tackled things like slumlords, the illegal dumping of chemicals and aligned the character more with the residents of Hell's Kitchen. Nocenti's liberal political ideas did not sit well with many fans, but it often took the character in interesting new directions.

Hot town...summer in the city...

The status quo did not last long as the giant Marvel crossover event "Inferno" hit Daredevil too. With John Romita Jr now providing regular art, this is where the series hit its stride. As New York is devoured in the Inferno, Daredevil battles demons, both real and imagined, as he fights for his life. He crosses path with new villain Typhoid Mary...

Crossing paths with Typhoid Mary. Ahem.

...his clinic is destroyed and his girlfriend runs away. He is battered and broken. He becomes a drifter in upstate New York as he attempts to put his life back together.

Throughout Nocenti's four and a half year run, she never shied away from difficult subject matter or confronting her hero with himself. During Matt's sojourn in upstate NY, he crosses paths with Blackheart and Mephisto who try to corrupt him, then break him and when that fails, just kill him. DD is literally dragged through hell and eventually ends up back in Hell's Kitchen believing himself to be Jack Murdoch (his own father) and a boxer. A blind boxer. Meanwhile, someone is masquerading as Daredevil in an attempt to sully his reputation. Nocenti concludes her run with Daredevil trying to win back his good reputation.

Yeah...THAT Mephisto...
It's hard to encapsulate Ann Nocenti's tenure on the book without going into much greater detail. Often, Nocenti would tackle the metaphorical side of the Daredevil, taking a human with extraordinary skills and having him face off against demonic entities in a battle over his own mind and his own beliefs. Other times, Daredevil met people who believed differently from himself but were put in peril where he had to pick a side. Often, the line between right and wrong was obfuscated.



#242 - "Caviar Killer" was the first issue of Dardevil I owned and the reason I picked up more. Perhaps no surprise that I rate Nocenti's run so highly.

Ann Nocenti

Ann Nocenti wrote Daredevil (vol 1) #236, #238-257 & #259-291.





GSY

Sep 1, 2014

Comic Book Chaos #1 - One of the Lucky Ones


One of the lucky ones

Superheroes used to be better-known for their four-color shenanigans in comic books than their hi-definition antics down at your local IMAX theater. In fact, comic books almost faded into obscurity as comic book shops closed, print runs declined and the only people who cared about them were a generation of fans hanging onto their childhoods. I don't deny I am one of those people. I am one of the lucky ones, born at just the right time to see comics change from kids entertainment to mature, grown-up storytelling.


The Golden Age


Yours for a paltry $3.2 million...

The first appearance of Superman (1938) is regarded by collectors as the beginning of The Golden Age of comics. Batman (1939), Captain America (1941) & Wonder Woman (1941) were also born during this period. The recent $3.2 million sale of the "holy grail" copy of Action Comics #1 shows that interest in these characters is still through the roof, although most people know these characters through television, movies or more modern versions found in today's comic books.


The Silver Age


Spidey didn't even have his own comic book...

Marvel Comics burst onto the scene in the early 60's with a plethora of (mostly radioactive powered) new characters. The Silver Age gave us Spider-man (1962), The Fantastic Four (1961), Thor (1962), The Incredible Hulk (1962), Iron Man (1963) and X-Men (1963), but the beginning of this period is normally marked by the revival of a Golden Age hero: The Flash (1956) by DC. The Silver Age marks the second big comics boom and importantly the arrival of Marvel comics on the scene.


The Bronze Age

I was born during The Bronze Age...not the ACTUAL Bronze Age...but the period marked by "darker" and more socially relevant stories that started in the early 70's. Marvel and DC both embarked upon bringing more diversity to their characters and comic lines. Looking back, some of these characters now seem horribly stereotyped, however, many of them have gone on to become well loved characters like Luke Cage, John Stewart (The Green Lantern, not the comedian), Falcon and Cyborg.

The X-Men revamped their team into a multinational, multi-ethnic group which would eventually be led by one of the most well-known characters from this period: Storm.



Storm kicking arse armed only with an awesome mohawk!

Spider-man dealt with the death of his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Anti-heroes like Blade, The Punisher and Ghost Rider emerged as comic books bolted towards the mid-80's and the Modern Age.


The Modern Age

I was thirteen years old in 1986 when DC Comics blew up the comic book landscape with the release of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's Watchmen.




Miller started his deep, psychological exploration of hero and anti-hero concepts with his run on Daredevil. He fudged the lines of good guy and bad guy and challenged the reader constantly with the shifting moral landscape. The Dark Knight Returns allowed him to challenge Superman's purity of purpose with Batman's moral ambiguity.

Alan Moore also took generally accepted superhero conventions and turned them upside down in his seminal work, Watchmen. Both Miller and Moore opened the door to edgier, more serious and complex storylines in comics.


DC continued to shake things up with their Vertigo line, which included Constantine, Swamp Thing and Sandman, while, over at Marvel, Wolverine quickly became one of the most popular characters in comic book history.


All I had to do was wait...

When Tim Burton's Batman hit the theaters, I thought it was just a matter of time before I would get to see Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus on the big screen, but despite Batman's box office, Marvel just wasn't in the right place to make movies to compete with DC/WarnerBros. So, a whole decade passed before I got to see the X-Men on the big screen.

What still amazes me, fifteen years after the X-Men movie, is that the comic book characters rule the box office. And what's most surprising of all, these movies are based on characters created between 35 and 80 years ago.







I started collecting comics at possibly the most important time in their history. In my lifetime, technology has advanced to the point that the four-color images of my childhood comics are now painted in digital brush strokes on a gigantic movie screen. I'm fortunate to be around to see the heroes of my childhood become movie stars. Sadly, many of their creators have passed away, some long before they were able to witness the full impact and reach of their creations.


GSY

Aug 12, 2014

Guest Post - Michael G. Munz - Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure


Today, author Michael G. Munz is stopping by on his book tour... 




...so, without further ado, heeeeeeeeere's Michael!!

Hi everyone! It's great to be here on 1000 Trillion Suns! In honor of the release of my new comedic fantasy novel Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, the powers-that-be have tasked me with giving you a list of five things you absolutely cannot leave home without when embarking on an adventure (monstrously inconvenient or otherwise). And so, in no particular order, because that's the kind of indecisive guy I am…

Some Manner of Companion-beast
What kind? It really depends on your particular needs. A dog, a dragon, a robot, a gardener, etc. Each has its uses. They can get you out of a jam (locked cell, socially awkward situation, Death Star trash compactor), they can carry your stuff, and the right ones can even go berserk at a comically appropriate time and kick three times as much ass as you ever could. Just make sure you treat 'em well.

Rope
Being a card-carrying geek (or I would be, if I could find where I'm supposed to get those cards), I've played my share of Dungeons & Dragons. If there's one thing D&D has taught me, it's this. In my groups, everyone always carried, especially after one DM showed us how much of a stickler he was regarding MUCH rope we had when we were needing to do things with it. (It's the only instance I know of a "rope lawyer.")
For extra utility, get a rope that can turn invisible! You can use it to trip pursuers or simply tie up any prisoners without anyone noticing they're bound!

A Seemingly Worthless Item™
It is guaranteed that a seemingly worthless item will turn out to be the precise thing for the most dangerous situation you will ever get into. Just—and I cannot emphasize this enough*—do NOT forget to show someone that you have it when you start so as to properly establish its existence. Also, if someone asks you WHY you're carrying it, be evasive. You'll cultivate more mystery that way: "Why are you carrying that Elvis Presley bobblehead?" "Why NOT carry an Elvis Presley bobblehead?"

*Seriously, I CAN'T emphasize it enough; this is a guest blog post and I have no control over font.

A Nice Set of Clothes
You never know when you'll have to clean up and have dinner with the king, president, or PTA-head whose kingdom/palace/high school gym you've accidentally stumbled into. Indiana Jones knew it. Thalia the Muse of Comedy & Science Fiction knows it. Now you know it, too.

Bonus points if they're made of some stretchy, fireproof material that repels stains. Because you never know.

A Laser Pointer
Use this to make people think you've got snipers covering you, shine a light to distant stars in order to call for help (please allow 4.367 to 2 million years for delivery), and keep yourself entertained (lasers are just neat). You can kill two birds with one stone here if you make this your Seemingly Worthless Item™, too!

Special bonus Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure uses: Laser pointers can also be used to deal with swarms of razorwings, the playfully feral, poisonous, bat-winged kittens that plague the American southwest.




HONORABLE MENTIONS:

A trusty weapon – the more unique, the better: Lightsabers are good, but hard to come by. A big ol' magical hammer that returns when you throw it is great, but usually requires a background check. Don't use a whip – it's been done, and you'll just hurt yourself. My recommendation? Some sort of bazooka that fires angry badgers.

A towel: Anyone who's ever read Douglas Adams knows this one. (Really, it's already such a given that you should bring along a towel that I didn't even think I had to mention it.) He said it far better than I, so I'll just quote him here:

"A towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have 'lost.' What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."

So that's my list. Fail to heed it at your own peril, and be sure to check out Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, which features Greek gods, muses, erinyes, and maybe even a hydra in Lake Michigan.


BOOK DETAILS:

Title: Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure
Author: Michael G. Munz
Genre: Contemporary Mythological Fantasy
Release date: July 21st, 2014
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Length: 446 pages (paperback)

Synopsis:

The gods are back. Did you myth them?

You probably saw the press conference. Nine months ago, Zeus's murder catapulted the Greek gods back into our world. Now they revel in their new temples, casinos, and media empires—well, all except Apollo. A compulsive overachiever with a bursting portfolio of godly duties, the amount of email alone that he receives from rapacious mortals turns each of his days into a living hell.
Yet there may be hope, if only he can return Zeus to life! With the aid of Thalia, the muse of comedy and science fiction, Apollo will risk his very godhood to help sarcastic TV producer Tracy Wallace and a gamer-geek named Leif—two mortals who hold the key to Zeus's resurrection. (Well, probably. Prophecies are tricky buggers.)
Soon an overflowing inbox will be the least of Apollo’s troubles. Whoever murdered Zeus will certainly kill again to prevent his return, and avoiding them would be far easier if Apollo could possibly figure out who they are.
Even worse, the muse is starting to get cranky.
Discover a world where reality TV heroes slay actual monsters and the gods have their own Twitter feeds: Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure!

Find Zeus is Dead on:




Or you could try to score a free copy here



ABOUT MICHAEL G. MUNZ

An award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Washington State in 1977 at the age of three. Unable to escape the state’s gravity, he has spent most of his life there and studied writing at the University of Washington.
Michael developed his creative bug in college, writing and filming four exceedingly amateur films before setting his sights on becoming a novelist. Driving this goal is the desire to tell entertaining stories that give to others the same pleasure as other writers have given to him. He enjoys writing tales that combine the modern world with the futuristic or fantastic.
Michael has traveled to three continents and has an interest in Celtic and Classical mythology. He also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though Michael prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none—except possibly Farscape and Twin Peaks.
Michael dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguine.
Find out more about him at michaelgmunz.com. While there, it wouldn't hurt to get a FREE copy of Mythed Connections, the spiritual prequel to Zeus is Dead.

Contact Michael on 

ORDERING INFORMATION
ZEUS IS DEAD: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure
By Michael G. Munz
Paperback price: $20.95
eBook price: $4.99
Paperback: 446 pages
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Publication date: July 21, 2014
Print ISBN: 978-1-62015-426-7
Epub ISBN: 978-1-62015-416-8
• Available on Amazon.com in Kindle and paperback versions
• Available on BarnesandNoble.com in Nook and paperback versions
• Title is available internationally – please contact us directly if you do not see it on your preferred book purchase website
• Discounts or customized editions may be available for educational and other groups based on bulk purchase
• For further information please contact info@booktrope.com

PRAISE FOR ZEUS IS DEAD: A MONSTROUSLY INCONVENIENT ADVENTURE

Zeus Is Dead is full of laugh-out-loud moments, lashings of sly wit, moan-worthy puns, and a complex, fastpaced storyline. There aren’t very many humorous fantasy murder mysteries out there, especially not as intricately constructed as this one. Michael G. Munz takes a ’What if,’ and runs with it like a toddler with Mom’s smart phone. He evokes a pantheon of characters including, well, the actual Pantheon, plus modern characters who will ring the bell of familiarity without being trite or clichéd. Munz knows his craft as well as his Greek mythology, pop culture, and dysfunctional family dynamics. The guffaw-worthy throwaway bits (stay tuned for the battle sundae) will remind you of Douglas Adams. A very enjoyable read.”
—Jody Lynn Nye, author of View from the Imperium and co-author
of the Myth Adventures of Aahz and Skeeve

“Not since the people of Atlantis predicted ‘low humidity’ has there been such an original twist in Greek Mythology. This book is also far more amusing.”
—Brian Rathbone, creator of the bestselling Godsland Fantasy Series

Zeus Is Dead is a book about the return of old gods, but Cthulhu is not in evidence, and it did not drive me to the very edge of madness. Instead it is a hilarious, satirical, page-turning romp through a world beset by plagues of monsters, egotistical gods, and reality television shows. I highly recommend this book to those who value both their sanity and a hearty guffaw. ”
—Seamus Cooper, author of The Mall of Cthulhu

“Delivering us from a sea of endlessly morose and self-important supernatural fiction, Zeus Is Dead understands that Greek mythology is more than a little bit insane and—rather than ignore the unseemly aspects—embraces them with the appropriate level of snark and style. Munz’s tale echoes the bureaucratic insanity of Douglas Adam’s creations, the banter of Grant and Naylor’s Red Dwarf, and the cynicism of Ben Croshaw in order to bring us a clever, hilarious tale of adventure and grudging heroism.

I guess what I’m saying is that unless you really like your supernatural fiction all mopey and dull, you’ll find
something to love here.”
—Jonathan Charles Bruce, author of Project Northwoods

“A hilarious mythological tale of god-like proportions. Munz has crafted a tale of bizarro comic fantasy that sits comfortably among the ilk of Gaiman and Pratchett.”
—Andrew Buckley, author of Death, the Devil, and the Goldfish


Thanks for stopping by, Michael. Good luck on the rest of your tour!

GSY

Aug 7, 2014

Movie Mayhem #1


Greetings, Earthlings...

So, this week I watched a handful of movies and thought I'd share some thoughts with you. If you follow me on TWITTER, you probably already know that I enjoy all kinds of stuff (and things) with movies being up there amongst my favorites. If you don't follow me on Twitter...why not?? You're missing the brilliant comedic styling of @Spartagus:
*instals calories* *updates mood* Thank for installing Spartan 3.0 *sigh of relief*



&


Watching #Noah ...and Noah has just been punched in the head by a rock monster...so...there's that.

The first tweet is me being...well, me. And the second tweet refers to the movie I watched last night...and I'll get to that in next week's post.

For now though, let's start with Guardians of the Galaxy...
So, you take Marvel's box of toys and Disney's marketing machine and what you end up with is a colossal $95M opening weekend for a movie with a talking Raccoon and a sentient tree who can only say "I am Groot." 



And I think it deserves all of its success.

This movie is a LOT of fun. Sure, it suffers from the usual problems of summer movie bloat, featuring a third act that has everything but the kitchen sink thrown in, but all the Guardians are great, the humor irreverent and the effects top notch. A sequel is due in 2017, by which time I fully expect Marvel to be our evil overlords. The upside being there will probably be a really cool President/Emperor...probably Robert Downey Jr.

~~~

After the superhero fun of GOTG, I decided to try out Liam Neeson's new throat-punching extravaganza, Non-Stop.

Basically, it's Speed on an airplane, with Liam Neeson's air marshal up against a bad guy (or girl...let's keep some mystery here) who will kill passengers if he (or she) is not paid $150 million.

Liam has managed to get his second wind as a movie action star, but attempts to replicate the bare bones, muscular, voicebox wrecking, euro face-smashing success of Taken invariably fall short. Non-stop isn't bad, but it's hamstrung with an overly elaborate bad guy plot and some harebrained character decisions that left me thinking "really???"

This one is for a Saturday night when you've worn out your copy of Taken. Alternatively, you could watch the vastly superior "bad guys on a plane" movie Executive Decision with Kurt Russell and Halle Berry if only to watch ***SPOILER ALERT*** Steven Seagal get sucked out of an airplane halfway through the movie. Little has made me happier at the movies than that moment. lol.

~~~

Next, I watched 12 Years a Slave, further proof, if any was needed, that mankind has serious issues. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a free black man from New York who is abducted and sold into slavery in the South. It's an incredible story, and one filled with moments of sheer frustration and anger at the level of hatred, violence, indifference, greed and cruelty shown by the bulk of the white characters. Despite Michael Fassbender's character appearing to be borderline bat-shit insane, the bulk of the white people in the movie seem to be in full control of their faculties, so the violence perpetrated against Ejiofor's character Solomon, and the other slaves, seems even more brutal. The film is based on a true story which makes it all the more...powerful.

The cast is filled out with several well known actors in smaller roles, including Brad Pitt, but the accolades belong to Ejiofor as Solomon, newcomer Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey and Fassbender as Epps. The director, Steve McQueen and his director of photography deserve some accolades too for the look of the movie. Also, for the unflinching eye they cast on scenes as they play out. One scene, where Solomon has to balance on his tip-toes with a noose around his neck for hours, plays out in relative silence for much longer than other directors would allow. You aren't allowed to just look away, you are forced to watch and to shake your head and wonder why those who see him hanging there don't cut him down. Powerful scene.

This is not light viewing, but well worth a watch.

So, there ya go. That was this week's eclectic selection. I'll be back next week with some more, including Noah...a new take on an old story. Until then, take it easy.

Spartan out.

Jul 28, 2014

Cover Reveal - The Long Way Home by Regina West


My good friend, and editor, Regina West has a new romance novel - "The Long Way Home" - coming out in 3 days time (July 31st).


Regina West

The Long Way Home is Regina's debut as a romance writer and, to whet your appetite, I've been allowed to give you a sneak peek of the cover!

Drum roll...






Twilah Dunn has it all—an exciting life in Los Angeles and a thriving ad agency she owns with her fiancé. Then she learns that her estranged father has died and her business partner is sleeping with her best friend. In one day, her perfect life unravels and the city she calls home is now anything but.

She returns to her hometown in North Carolina determined to sell her father's horse farm in order to buy back her business from her cheating fiancé. But when she sees the farm’s dilapidated state, she can’t bear the thought of selling it that way. Against all reason, she puts her fast-paced, metropolitan life on hold and hires local cowboy Aidan Perry to help restore the farm to its former glory. She’s heard the rumors of his dark past, and she’s wary of mixing business with pleasure—again. But soon she can’t keep her mind, or her hands, off of him.

Can Twilah push through her fear and love Aidan? Will his past prove too dangerous? Has she really left LA behind or will it continue to haunt her?

For some, the path is straight and narrow, but others take The Long Way Home.


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Congratulations, Gina. Best of luck on the 31st...and beyond. I hope to see your name on the bestseller lists soon.

For more information on Regina, or her new novel, you can head over to her 

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And you can read MY review of Regina's book on GOODREADS