Category Archives: review

Our Trolls Are Different

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Just like The Passage had a Backdoor Pilot, I found a book exemplifying Our Trolls Are Different! Though it’s almost more of a variation on Our Elves Are Better. (And no, it’s not Twilight, ’cause c’mon, we all know their vampires aren’t Better, nor are they really vampires.) A while back, I downloaded the free sample of a book called SwitchedBook 1 of Trylle Trilogy, to my Nook.

And be warned, here there be spoilers.

“Trylle” is a fancy word for troll in this book, and the main character Wendy is a troll — excuse me, Trylle — princess who was switched at birth with a human. The problem came in when her human father killed himself and her human mother went nuts, convinced Wendy was not her daughter at all and tried to kill her at her sixth birthday party. The mom went to the looney bin, and Wendy and her older brother live with their aunt. Apparently due to Wendy’s attitude and scholarly problems, they’ve had to move around a lot because she keeps getting kicked out of school. And she’s also learned she can persuade people into doing things she wants them to do when she concentrates on it hard enough.

Now, this is a pretty interesting premise. That’s all a great set-up for a really f*cked up life and some serious issues to explore through an urban fantasy setting. But the author, Amanda Hocking, gets in her own damn way too much with cliches, poor writing, and an abundance of tell don’t show. Taken as a whole, it adds up to a big fat case of Twilightitis.

Enter the mysterious handsome boy, Finn, who catches Wendy’s attention. Cliche, but fair enough–these YA paranormal books are expected to have a

I KNOW I've heard this one somewhere before...

romance plot or subplot. It’s not like I shirk it in the one I’m working on, after all. However, and stop me if you’ve heard this one, the handsome boy is unreasonably weird and rude and stalkerish towards Wendy, while Wendy is whiny, bitchy, and ungrateful to everyone around her, and obsesses over the guy who’s being a dick to her.

There are a few other points where it could, again, be a better book: Wendy confronts her not-real-mother in the asylum and it’s a decently interesting scene. Wendy and Finn get attacked by rival trolls in the street, and at this point she finally agrees to leave her aunt and brother for her ‘real’ family because these attackers will continue to come after her. And she does realize, on leaving them, how much she loves and misses these two people who have stuck by her through everything.

Then she finally gets to the Trylle homestead and troll society completely sucks. Since my sample ended a handful of chapters after she got there, I wasn’t able to see how this panned out. And while Wendy is a princess, her mother is an ice queen, and she learns that trolls as a species make a regular practice of stealing rich human children so they can be replaced with their own kids, and then when they hit 18 more or less, they steal their kids back, expect them to integrate and hand over their inheritance to the troll society. Not that her troll mom has made any effort to check in on her in the last 16 years, or make sure she was okay, or just check to see that no one else noticed her female troll baby had replaced an expected male human baby and that her human mother hadn’t tried to kill her or anything. Nope! Nothing of the sort. Oh, and trolls also have a hierarchy that places those stolen human children (who live with them, but are not regarded as family, or returned to their rightful ones) only just below the breed of trolls who are able to find the scattered troll children when it comes time for it.

To her credit, Wendy seems to find this all pretty despicable, and quietly promises that her troll mom will not see one cent of that money, which she’ll make sure goes straight to her brother and aunt.And she wanders around Trolltown (my name, not theirs) with no one really telling her a whole lot about who she is, what that means, etc. She’s just…seeing some pretty plants, and expected to know everyone around here without anyone telling her. Basically it’s like she just went and arrived at her destiny to sit around like it was any other day.

There was some build-up happening to some debut ball and her possible death being foretold, but I wasn’t interested enough to buy the book and keep reading to find out. Which shows how there were some serious flaws here–there were a dozen or more plot points that could have made this fascinating but it just wasn’t. All of the interesting things were ignored in favor of a Twilight-romance rehash, trolls who really should’ve just been called elves, the boring details of every day activities, and the awful headspace of the whiny Wendy.

Overall, not a book I’d recommend. Trylle’s trolls may be different, but they certainly aren’t unique.

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Bridesmaids is a Bad Movie

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Spoilers ahead, if you care.

I finally saw the movie Bridesmaids last week. Brandon and I were both fairly excited to see it at last, having heard so much about how it was hilarious, etc, all summer when it was released. It stars a number of talented and funny ladies. It had a premise we can all relate to–the stress of being in a wedding, planning things, spending money you may not have, and dealing with the rest of life at the same time.

None of these dresses were even IN the movie, either, for that matter.

It should have been so good, but I sit here now wondering what the hell everyone saw in this movie. Look, I know we’d all love a female version of The Hangover. It was a really funny movie. And it was way better than this drivel, so why was everyone rushing to hand out that title to Bridesmaids?

The sequence in the movie that clearly had THE most thought put into it in terms of the steps to the joke, the build-up of the joke, and the “payoff” of the joke was the food poisoning joke. Yep, that’s the one where every pukes or sh*ts themselves in a ritzy fancy dress shop. Yep. THAT is the joke that had the most attention given to it. That should tell you something about how “good” the rest of the movie is.

The main character, the Maid of Honor played by Kristen Wiig, is a mess of a woman who at no point both realizes she’s a wretched person who got herself into her own hole and tries to dig up out of it. When Melissa McCarthy’s character shows up to literally slap some sense into her, Wiig seems to understand that she is where is because she hasn’t done anything to prevent it at this point. (A few things were not her fault: the food poisoning was not her fault but the restaurant’s; and I’d say her acting out on a plane when the Rival Bridesmaid gave her some unidentified pills and scotch to relax is at the very least shared blame.) She’s driven away her friends, lost her job, her apartment, everything because she’s let it happen to her without trying to change and do better. So in a tried-but-true pacing challenge, what she should do here is go to her estranged BFF who’s getting married (who booted her from both her life and wedding and rightly so) and apologize profusely, right? Or at least do something to make up for it? Hey, she’s a baker, maybe she should, y’know, bake the wedding cake free of charge! That would be a good start on making up for what’s happened.

Instead, she bakes a cute little cake for the Nice Guy she slept with and then blew off. And…drives by his house a lot. And…that’s it. That’s ALL she does to try for redemption. Makes a passing gesture to the person she knows the least and owes the least to of all the people she’s been wretched towards. She does NOTHING to make amends to her friend who’s getting married. Except for when the wedding day comes and the Rival shows up not knowing where the Bride is, and Wiig harasses the Nice Guy (he’s a cop) into helping her find the friend at…her own apartment. The Bride was at her apartment. No calling, no checking, I realize it was meant to be a joke, but seriously? Are you freaking kidding me??

One review I read afterwards claimed this movie gave some kind of insight into how women really act around each other, that the idea was we’re just as raunchy and gross as boys when there aren’t any boys around. Sorry to disappoint, but we’re not. Oh, maybe some ladies are, it takes all types, but generally speaking? Almost NOTHING in this movie represents how women act around each other and how we treat each other. In fact, I’d hope this movie represents not a shred of how anyone treats each other ever, quite frankly.

The female Hangover may yet come, but this, folks, was not it. It wasn’t even close. It was a poor comedy and a poor movie, and we can do better, ladies. And gents.

Feed by Mira Grant

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Feed, by Mira Grant, Book 1 of the Newsflesh Trilogy

Feed, Book 1 of the Newsflesh trilogy,  is the post-apocalyptic zombie novel I’ve been waiting for. I love post-apocalyptic stories. They fascinate me; The Walking Dead is one my favorite tv shows and graphic novels for its excellent extended exploration of what happens after the world ends. The stories of the world wiped clean and regressing into the Dark Ages is old news now; even the story of how the world ends has gotten stale. You’ve got zombies? That’s cool (though my friend Auston will argue otherwise). But they aren’t really that interesting, they aren’t characters, they’re just a plot device. I’m not as interested in how your apocalypse happened or how you survived it, tell me what happens next. After The End, after Happily Ever After (or not), because that’s the interesting. Not how the world ends, how it changed.

Penned by Mira Grant, Feed takes place in 2039, after the zombies have risen, and the world beat them more or less back, but still lives and functions with the constant threat of outbreak. Because every living person is already infected, and it’s a matter of time until they become the undead themselves. In this novel, we follow Georgia and Shaun Mason, bloggers dedicated to the goddamn truth, as they and their friend Buffy are selected to become the dedicated press attachment of Senator Ryman’s bid for the presidency.

This novel came out in May 2010 in paperback, and I think I’ve had it sitting on my nightstand since about then. Shame on me, I know. What made me finally pick up and start reading Feed?

I also recently borrowed from a friend and read the five books so far released in the October (“Toby”) Daye series by Seanan McGuire. This series is about a half-faerie private eye and knight living in San Francisco, solving all manner of fae-on-fae crime. While I once overlooked this series for the ridiculousness of the main character’s name–let’s face, ridiculous names tend to plague the fantasy genre–upon this recommendation I tried it out and devoured the books in the space of about a month. What McGuire does best is fantastic world-building: she has done her research and built her world of faerie mythology soundly, constantly adding in new tidbits and interesting twists. The latest book, One Salt Sea, took place half in an undersea realm still filled with Faerie denizens new to both the reader and Toby alike and it was just excellent. These faerie have rules, traditions, politics, a long list of intriguing and very different races, ties back to any and all faerie stories you heard as a kid and as an adult. They’re mean and quixotic, they don’t think like we do, and yet they have to try since they live half in our world, and it’s this thin line that Toby straddles.

Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire, Book 1 of the October Daye series

What’s this got to with a book about zombies and bloggers? Well, turns out Mira Grant is Seanan McGuire’s pseudonym for this particular series. Once I knew that, I dove into Feed, and it has just as much excellent attention to detailed world-building as her other novels, with a great deal of thought (and consistency!) put into a world where the zombies have come and redefined everything about how we live our lives. There are security measures that have been planned, sections of the country that are more dangerous than others, how we eat out at restaurants has been addressed, and blood tests abound freakin’ everywhere because you could quite literally just suddenly become a zombie.

While the story has a slow build that may frustrate some, it’s got very worthwhile pay off, good characters, and it’s not boring while its building, either. Feed takes some really great risks that pay off, too. If you enjoy these things, and if you really like or are looking for some great world-building, I recommend the Newsflesh and the October Daye series alike.

Terra Nova Episodes 3 and 4: “What Remains” and “The Runaway”

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A busy few weeks have happened, so here’s me catching up on Terra Nova.

Episode 3, the one about the virus that erased people’s memories? Actually wasn’t as terrible as I anticipated. Now, I’m not sure how accurate the science of this virus is (my guess, not very!), but here’s how it went: a scientist with not-Alzheimer’s (because why use a perfectly real disease that’s universally recognized as tragic and whose symptoms are very well known when you can make up one just like and give it a fake name?) is tampering with gene therapy to cure his condition at an outpost. It doesn’t work–the virus he creates regresses a person to a previous time in their life and then starts bringing them further and further back from there until they’re hysterical and then catatonic. Or something. I just realized they kept saying it affected short term memory first, but then how was everyone not acting like they were in Memento?

Doctor Wife gets whammied, as does her old college boyfriend Malcolm (let’s just call him Old Flame, shall we?), and General Toughguy. Cop Dad (who, FYI, has a cold, and in case you forget that when he shows no symptoms at all, he’ll remind you with horribly fake sneezes when the plot demands it) goes to find them when they don’t return from inspecting this outpost. Long story short, his cold is somehow incubating him from getting this virus, and they can then manufacture a cure for not-Alzheimer’s.

Gee, if only the common cold could cure regular Alzheimer’s, maybe science isn’t trying hard enough! Ugh.

"See, we're totally married!" "I want a restraining order."

So, I asked Brandon (my boyfriend, and a science guy) if this was likely to really work. In theory, he said, yes, because if you’ve got a cold then your body is primed to fight off sickness with T-cells and white blood cells riding high. I’m pretty sure the disease itself was still a load of bullshit, and how does one reverse brain damage like that anyways? But, I give them points for it kinda sorta being true, and also for NOT letting Doctor Wife magically get her memories back when Cop Dad returned her wedding ring to her. Smaller bonus points for Toughguy going Apocalypse Now on Terra Nova itself, thinking he was back in the ‘Nam (or future equivalent).

There was a side story about Rebellious Teen kissing Troublemaker Orphan then telling he really wanted to get his future girlfriend to Terra Nova. Since conflict doesn’t exist on this show, she was totally okay with all of this and hooked him up with a sketchy dude who claims to know how to get people here. No one seems interested in asking HOW. But we the audience know (a) because it’s obvious and (b) because the denoument of the episode shows Sketchy Joe (that’s his name now) taking to the Sixers about getting a girl from the future here. Because, duh, they obviously have some kind of gate of their own. This isn’t confirmed yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. So this storyline, which was given all of, hm, two minutes of screentime (Teen Wangst does not count towards that total), was the most interesting and lasting plot in the entire episode.

Episode 4, “The Runaway,” wasn’t great. Now, I’ve read a few reviews that are saying this episode was good because we found out more about the Sixers. We did, but we really didn’t. I personally learned their leader’s name is Mira, not Mila, and that they live in trees. Oh, and they send moppets to do their dirty work.

"Don't like pronouns."

So the Moppet is a runaway, supposedly, who wants to go back to Earth. She in truth is here to find something in Mira’s old house, some weird glass-ish looking box thing that has no discernible opening mechanism. Puzzle box time! But she’s doing this because Mira has said her Moppet Brother will be harmed if she doesn’t. Cop Dad hunts down the unfindable Sixers somehow, gets caught in a trap, and wakes up in a big treehouse. Mira says some cryptic stuff but never actually tells him anything. All we do is get more confirmation that Sixers don’t like the General, and that Terra Nova’s purpose is something other than what everyone’s been told. WELL, DUH. Thanks for restating what we already learned in the pilot, jackass. Cop Dad asks what this is and because the plot requires he remain in the dark until sweeps, Mira only says “You’ll see.” Then lets him and Moppet Brother go free. The Moppets are adopted by some other nameless woman which means we’ll never see them again.

Obviously, I find it an irritating problem that we learned nothing new at all. Mira and the Sixers had weird war paint on for some reason, and the Moppet’s poor excuse for “character development” was speaking with poor grammar and constantly telling us things she didn’t like. “Don’t like combs,” “don’t like chases,” “don’t like bad men,”– yeah, I “don’t like” your shitty excuses for lines! Girls her age can in fact speak in full sentences, writers! This is not making a character three-dimensional and interesting!

In the end, Cop Dad doesn’t tell Toughguy that Mira mentioned Terra Nova being a fortress lies. But why? Why doesn’t he tell him? What reason has Cop Dad got to not trust Toughguy, the man who let him live and gave him a job and has been nothing but great to him, other than a vague, unhelpful statement made by a woman who threatens kids into doing her bidding? None! He has no reason to hide anything from this man, other than that being what happens at this point in a completely predictable narrative.

Oh, and there’s a throwaway waste of time plot about Hermione not liking blood and her military boyfriend being more outdated than any reference I can possibly make by using terms like ‘courting’ and ‘call upon’. It’s called dating, Chivalrous Dumbass, and you were already in the middle of doing that, so why are you asking now? Was that intended to be him saying let’s make it Facebook official? Chivalrous Dumbass is too long. We’ll just call him White Knight, ’cause that’s the role he’s been given.

As Brandon put it, one thing that’s wrong with Terra Nova’s storytelling is that it’s the opposite of what LOST did right (mostly). LOST would tell you just enough of the story, show you just enough of the story, and not show you what you didn’t need to see. Terra Nova does exactly the opposite of all those things.

Terra Nova, Episode 2 “Instinct”

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This isn’t getting any better.

First things first: title cards/sequences are very important. They need to be interesting, speak to the content and character of the show, and do something to hook you. The trend of the last five years or so has gone from credits sequence to title cards. Though it started prior to LOST, I believe LOST is what made this so very popular. Among the shows that do this well: LOST, Supernatural,  and Gossip Girl. Each very different (heck, Supernatural’s changes each year, and that’s one of the best things about it), but simple, to the point, and you get a pretty good idea what the show is about.

On the flipside, check out the nine seconds of suck that Terra Nova has come up with. Okay, I know you guys put most of your money into your dino CGI (and definitely not into actors, writers, directors, cinematography, etc), but this is embarrassing. This isn’t much better than what someone could’ve come up with in the mid-90’s. I actually burst out laughing when I saw this! And it’s not the family walking shot–that’s fine, if not terribly inspired. The CGI of Pangaea reforming is obviously a graphic you tossed off to some student intern to complete, and then forgot to have someone else make it look good before you threw it up on screen.

Moving on, we get into the story. Remember how I got irritated at the overused call-out to Chaos Theory and stepping on a

Our manly hero, folks. Oh no you didn't!

butterfly in the pilot? Right.

In Episode 2, we appropriately have two big ones! First up, birds aren’t scary! I admit I’ve never seen Hitchcock’s The Birds, but I have no doubt it managed to make birds terrifying in ways this episode did not. Birds, on their own, just aren’t scary. Visually-speaking, that is. If a real eagle or hawk or owl was diving for my face, yeah, I’d be scared as hell. But the things we’re shown here just aren’t hitting that note, and here’s why: they are poorly-implemented CGI. Good CGI implementation means you can’t even tell that’s what it is, because they make the interaction of CGI and humans intricate and hands-on. These birds just dive bomb at people and those people fall over. Uh…seriously? This one guy flips ass over tea kettle in a crowd scene from a bird diving at him. It’s far too ridiculous to be realistic, and I never bought into the premise that these birds killed three armed guards in the opener.

Second, the eventual fix for this situation is stolen from a number of sci-fi movies, but among them is Mega-shark vs. Giant Octopus.

Unless you're borrowing this, because this is GOLD.

Great schlock for a drinking game, but something you want to draw parralels to on your prime time network show? Nope! The trope is this, that they can lead these millions of breeding birds away by reproducing their pheromones, spraying it and getting them to follow Pied Piper-style to a new breeding ground (because Terra Nova was built on their previous breeding ground). And it freaking works. Man, I sure hope THAT spot isn’t one they decide they want to settle on later.

The pheromone science storyline is…aggravating. Whatever movie or TV show dreamed it up first may have done it well, but it’s become a laughing stock of a trope at this point, and it’s use, especially this early on, does not reassure me that this show will improve.

One of the other two biggest issues with this episode is that all of the really interesting scenes take place off-camera. Cop Dad needs to go hunt down some samples of the supposedly-killer birds so they can be studied, so he and the Colonel head on out in the rainy night and…well, I guess that went just fine, ’cause they’re back and they’ve got some birds. Okay, uh, sure. Well, back to the humdrum of the market scene with Teen Boy and Every Girl and oh noes! The birds are attacking en masse, flipping over soldiers with nary a dive bomb! Every one ducks under cover while this happen, and we cut to commercial on people huddling for safety. When we come back, there’s…oh. There are no birds of the dozens who filled the air before in sight, crisis averted, and though there were some scraps and awesome prat falls, no one is dead. Guess they found a way to clear them out pretty easily after all.

Well, now Jim & the Colonel need to start spraying the pheromones, driving off into the brush and leading a flock of instantly horny-for-this-ATV bird reptiles with them. But will it work? Where will they lead them? How will they get back, surround by such deadly avians? This is going to be some tense driving…oh. Uh, nevermind. They’re back now, I guess that was no problem at all.

Terra Nova, I don’t know if you know this, but…you’re a show about people trying to live in a world of dinosaurs. HAVE SOME ACTION SCENES ON CAMERA.

World's Worst Scientist, pictured here with Poor Man's Michelle Rodriguez.

And finally, the pseudo-science continues to be full of crap. Terra Nova was intentionally settled on a spot where they found thousands upon thousands of egg shell fragments in the dirt, because it made the soil fertile. They assumed that whatever laid these thousands of eggs had moved on. I’m no scientist, and you seem to have a few supposedly smart ones on your staff, so if even I think that’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard all episode (prior to the pheromone plan, of course), you’ve been duped by a resume full of lies, my friend. Additionally, no one’s come up with a better tire that’s more resistant to plot-contrived flats by 2149? And it bears repeating, three armed men can’t stop these bird-reptiles from plucking out their eyes and killing them?

You know, here’s the real problem with Terra Nova so far. It’s plot twists are completely unoriginal. We need a flat tire to be what strands our pre-credits victims in the forest? Why not have one of the birds fly at the vehicle and bring it to a halt? Why not have a Sixer attack leave them bereft of transportation, and thereby forward two plots? Actually, make that one plot, because the A-plot of this episode has no signs of bearing any thing to come in the future, except that World’s Worst Scientist wants to steal away Doctor Wife from Cop Dad, which was the B-plot at best and in no way thematically reflected in the A-plot. Interrupted sexy times for Cop Dad and Doctor Wife lead to discovering the reptile birds…and not, y’know, science or anything.

But hey, maybe they wanted to take it easy in the first couple of episodes. Not get too plot-arc heavy because it’s a prime time show on Fox, and shows that display intelligence early on die quickly on this network. Maybe come Episode 3, we can finally sink our teeth into something new and interesting and…

“While investigating radio silence at a nearby outpost, Elisabeth, Jim, Malcolm and Taylor discover an outbreak of a mysterious and fatal virus that causes memory loss.”

Oh, f*** you, show!