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Unreality Junction: Goodies for the Holidays!

I’m still dealing with the fallout of this last part of the year, but here are the book goodies I got (not that I necessarily need an excuse to get them, but you know, it looks better when you have a handy gift giving seasonal cover.)

1. White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland

The third novel in Rowland’s contemporary fantasy series about Louisiana morgue attendant and zombie Angel. I read the first one of this series, My Life as a White Trash Zombie, and liked it, though I thought the ending seemed a little rushed and overly heightened. But then I got the second book, Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, where Angel starts to find out a lot of info about being a zombie and the ending of the first novel made more sense from that. This third installment ups the action even more than the first two as Angel has to deal with a zombie film shoot, mysterious deaths, the local zombie syndicate, the return of various antagonists, rain and flood, taking the GED, etc. Rowland is great at combining her small town frame with Angel getting her life together, with essentially a spy thriller. This novel has a bit less humor than the first two, but also an increasingly confident Angel. My only complaint is that the heavier spy thriller aspects meant less cop and morgue time this go round. Rowland is a former cop and morgue worker, so she does that stuff very well, as well as a really interesting take on zombism and the strange mix of pathos and advantage therein.

2. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines

Moving on to the new titles I haven’t read yet, is the second novel in Hines’ new contemporary fantasy Magic Ex Libris series about a libromancer, Isaac, who can pull things from books and helps guard the world from magical threats. The second book focuses more on Lena, the dryad dragged from the pages of an old pulp fantasy novel, who is Isaac’s bodyguard and sometime lover. New enemies are after Lena’s powers, and that can mean some very bad things for everyone. The first novel, Libromancer, made quite a big splash, has a lot of humor and interesting stuff, and also let Hines bring in his fire spider from his Jig the Goblin novels, so I’m looking forward to this one.

3. Nysta: Duel at Grimwood Creek by Lucas Thorn

Continuing with the sequels is book two of Australian author Lucas Thorn’s Nysta series, a secondary world western, D&D epic, satirical dark fantasy revenge quest mash-up of awesome cussing proportions. I featured the cover art for the first volume, Nysta: Revenge of the Elf, on my blog, by artist Amir Zand, then got the first book and featured the next two covers. The Nysta books read exactly like westerns, except they are about elves, wizards, gods and magical forces in really interesting landscapes. The first book was violent, rough, slyly funny and quite moving all at the same time. Nysta, the central character, is an elven destroyer out to get the gang of elves who killed her husband. In the second book, she is closing in on the Bloody Nine but dealing with strong magical forces and monsters in the Deadlands. (I’m hoping that Thorn and Zand can get some sort of comic book spin-off going on this world sometime — great fun.)

4. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Not a sequel, but a continuing world novel, and a western to boot, in this novel Abercrombie expands his First Law world by traveling to a new frontier land in which presumed dead Northern barbarian king, the legendary Logan Ninefingers, has been hiding out on a farm under the name Lamb. The central character is Shy, his stepdaughter, who sets off after her kidnapped brother and sister with Lamb/Logan in tow. Other characters from Abercrombie’s previous novels make appearances and probably there are clues to the mysterious past of wizard battles that seems to subtly affect everything in Abercrombie’s secondary world. You probably don’t have to read the First Law trilogy and standalones Best Served Cold and The Heroes first, but it would help to get the full effect. Abercrombie’s mix of brutal war, black humor, and fascinating mythology is a hoot but it’s his characters who sing — each has a distinct voice that lets him try out one type of story after another. Interesting to see what he will do with the western one.

5. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Lynch broke on the scene with the first book in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, to much acclaim. The satirical dark crime thriller fantasy about con artists in a remarkable city had a few minor plot issues for me, but the writing was lovely with its dual chronologies and the scenery sublime. The sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, had some plot issues too, but expanded the world of the story in interesting ways, plus pirates! Lynch ran into some personal issues that delayed this third book in the series, and it may be the last, but I think it may also be the most interesting. A poisoned Locke has to become a pawn in a battle of mages that pits him against the long gone con-woman he loves — Sabetha, whom we finally get to see. So fun and I had to get.

6. Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

Wendig’s first book in this Miriam Black series, Blackbirds, was another book whose cover art first drew my attention to it. It’s a contemporary fantasy series about a sarcastic and desperate young woman who, when she touches someone, knows when and how they will die. In this sequel, Miriam is trying to do the settling down thing with her truck driver boyfriend and has achieved more control over her powers, but then she sees a death that may change everything. Wendig has a deft hand, a sensibility with looney and weird characters, and a central character with a great voice. It also has some genuine mystery to the suspense and interesting supernatural elements.

7. Feed by Mira Grant

I read Grant’s contemporary fantasy novel, Rosemary and Rue, written under her main name Seanan McGuire, and liked the writing (she’s a Campbell award winner,) but wasn’t quite as blown away by the world and focus of that story. So I decided to try her horror science fiction with this first book in her Newsflesh trilogy. Feed got a ton of attention and a Hugo nomination. It’s a near future zombie thriller that takes the mutated virus approach to zombies, with a dark satire of political campaigns and conspiracies, news media and blogging, horror films, medical research, etc. Grant has a very sharp eye, so I suspect I will like it.

8. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I am a huge Atkinson fan. She has occasionally dipped into fantasy, magic realism style, and her standalone bestselling novel Life After Life is a full out fantasy novel that has been nominated for the Orange Prize and probably will pick up quite a few of the major nominations for the year. The novel is about Ursula, who continually dies but in alternate overlapping universes lives as the world marches towards World War II and a fate that Ursula’s unique repeating life may affect. That’s going to be rich toffee, the way Atkinson writes, so I shall probably save it for a bit later when chaos declines a little, but I am looking forward to it, even though WWII is not my favorite era.

9. Shadow’s Sun by Jon Sprunk 

Technically this wasn’t a new goodie for the holidays, but it was a book temporarily misplaced in our move last year, so now I’ve got it recovered finally and can tackle it. It’s Sprunk’s debut secondary world fantasy novel, with divine cover art, about an assassin named Caim, who finds himself, as assassins frequently do, a pawn in a complicated and high stakes plot. But this particular assassin has some unusual aspects to his life — ever since he was a child damaged by tragedy, Caim can call shadows to cloak him, a magic that haunts him and he distrusts, and he has been visited by a ghostly, mercurial and mysterious spirit named Kit who sometimes helps him out. The writing style has a traditional, grand feel to it, but with bickering, a combination I think I’m going to like. It reminds me a bit of some of Glen Cook. Sprunk has started a new series, The Book of the Black Earth, which sounds interesting, so I will have to catch up over time. But I think I will enjoy Caim’s tale first.

My mother was astonished that my husband and daughter were watching the end of How to Train Your Dragon, a favorite animated film of ours. I was astonished that she hadn’t seen the movie, as it’s tailor-made to be the sort of movie my mom would like. So we sat down and watched the film and she did indeed love it. There is also a cartoon spin off; if you’ve got young kids you might as well try it out. And the sequel film, How to Train Your Dragon 2, comes out next year; we’re looking forward to it. Here’s the trailer:

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A Little Video-ing

Still correcting the flight path of the spaceship here, so enjoy some video offerings:

1) Satiric mock film trailer: Hell No horror film:

2) Singer Jeremy Passion‘s single “Suddenly”:

3) A pretty tune, “Bring Me The Night” from Internet sensations Sam Tsui and Kina Grannis for Tsui’s “Make It Up” album, produced by Kurt Schneider:

4) A nice parody with well done little touches (especially the outfits,) called Black Ops: Disney Princesses:

 

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It’s May! It’s May! The Month of Great Dismay and Movie Previews

Climbing out of my sickbed stupor slowly, I will be getting to the SFF novels out there, but in the meantime, along with the tulips, the summer movie season is in full swing, and this year, it’s a super sized comics edition with something like 50 comic adaptation movies coming out. Okay, maybe not 50, but if Marvel and DC Comics keep it up at this pace, I can see things getting ugly in the next few years, not to mention all the graphic novels like Cowboys and Aliens.

In the comics category in May, we have:

1) First up Marvel’s Thor, where the arrogant Norse god of thunder ends up on Earth to be a superhero and save humans and Asgard from the apocalypse. It stars very big Chris Hemsworth and the very small, Oscar-winning Natalie Portman. And because Kenneth Branagh directed it, he also got Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgard, as well as Colm Feore and Rene Russo. Thor is a rather humorless superhero in the Marvel universe, but the trailer does indicate that maybe they jazzed it up just a tad.

2) Priest, adapted from the Korean comic of the same name, and starring Paul Bettany and Maggie Q. It’s a post-apocalyptic alternate world in which humans have battled vampires for eons, living in walled cities under the protection of the Church. Bettany plays a priest, a warrior against the vampires now told that he no longer has a mission. When his niece gets kidnapped by vampires, however, the priest breaks his vows to go after her. I’ve done the trailer before, back before I really knew anything about the film. It’s basically a martial arts film with gooey vampires, but I’ve been known to like stuff like that:

Next up are the sequels:

3) The biggie is of course Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, in which Jack Sparrow goes in search of the Fountain of Youth. I might not be as interested in this one except that they cannibalized Tim Powers’ historical fantasy novel On Stranger Tides to serve as plot for the film and it’s good stuff. Plus, I like seeing Ian McShane and he’s playing legendary pirate Captain Blackbeard and Dame Judi Dench is doing something in it, and it has killer mermaids. Killer mermaids is worth a look:

4) Also on the sequel plate, for the kids and kids at heart, Kung Fu Panda 2, wherein Po the Panda and his crew take an important road trip:

5) And for the grown-ups, the gang suits up for The Hangover 2, in which the most inept wedding party ever wakes up not knowing what’s gone on in Bangkok, Thailand and having to find this time the brother of the bride:

Then there are the additional summer comedies:

6) Everything Must Go, in which Will Farrell plays a drunk, depressed man who loses his job and has his wife leave him, changing the locks on their house and putting his stuff out on the front lawn. So he has a yard sale, which just might save him. It’s based on a short story by Raymond Carver, so it’s even erudite, with beer:

7) Bridesmaids aims to be sort of a The Hangover with women, starring SNL vets Maya Rudolph as the bride and Kristen Wiig as her in over her head maid of honor:

And lastly, we have the quirky, strange, indie projects that have debuted at various film festivals and used to seldom launch in the summer season but now regularly do:

8) Passion Play is a fantasy movie starring Mickey Rourke, Bill Murray and Megan Fox. Rourke is a traveling musician on the run who discovers Fox, an actual winged woman, in a carnival and tries to help her, landing her in Murray’s clutches:

9) Beginners stars Ewan McGregor as a troubled guy falling in love and Christopher Plummer as his widowed, newly out of the closet gay father who develops cancer. The dog gets the best lines:

10) In Jumping the Broom, an African American couple from two different economic backgrounds are getting married in Martha’s Vineyard and their families clash. This seems maybe a little dated to me, but on the other hand, when the Smith family seem to be the only black actors to get major movie roles these days, this does allow a showcase for some great acting talent, and it looks to be a mix of funny and bittersweet:

11) And lastly, Hesher, in which a troubled young boy with a dead mother and grieving dad (Rainn Wilson) makes friends with a timid store clerk — played yet again by Natalie Portman who accidentally ended up the year’s MVP actress — and a messed-up vagabond named Hesher, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, getting his long haired freak on:

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Movie Trailers For A Lovely Sunset

Since the summer movie season officially begins in March now, kicked off with Sucker Punch and Paul, April is kind of like the way that  May used to be long ago and belongs to the comedies and less big action films. Besides the very dark, quirky superhero Super, starring Rainn Wilson, April brings us:

1) An Arthur remake. Okay, yes, first initial question is why do this, but by gender switching the butler and handing the role to Dame Helen Mirren, and letting Jennifer Garner explore her crazy side, the new flick manages to make some yucks on its own. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is his clowns:

2) Ceremony, a quirky comedy about a young guy, played by Michael Angarano, trying to break up the wedding weekend of his older ex-girlfriend, played by Uma Thurman, gets a wider release in April. The supporting cast looks like it runs away with this one, particularly Lee Pace as the groom. (We still miss Pushing Daisies, Lee.)

3) There have been many movies about high school proms, but this one may be the whackiest of them all, and from Disney no less. Prom, starring the next group of young ones to keep an eye on:

4) Hoodwinked was a terrific animated movie and a big hit across a wide age group.  It took them awhile to get the sequel off the ground, and so Anne Hathaway, who voiced Red Riding Hood, has been replaced by Hayden Panettiere, but the rest of the voice cast is back and joined by people like Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, etc. The gang, who have a cool new headquarters, have to save the fairy tale world from disaster when Hansel and Gretel are kidnapped in Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil:

5) The Scream franchise has gone through its ups and downs and the Scary Movie satire franchise, but now they’re back to end the thing properly in Scream 4, in which Sydney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, returns back to her hometown ten years after her ordeals, where her pain has become a lucrative tourist trade. And a new Ghostface Killer goes after younger stars like Hayden Panettiere (there she is again!) Emma Roberts and Kristen Bell, apparently not remembering that all the other Ghostface Killers met grisly ends. And yes, it is more fun watching David Arquette and Courtney Cox relate to each other as characters in the movie with an unraveling marriage, than in real life.

6) Dylan Dog is a famous comic book series from Italy that was set in London. This new film version adapted from the series moves the locale to Louisiana, characters have been changed and there’s still plenty of horror, but they’ve added a lot of comedy. Old fans will probably hate it, but for the rest of us, it actually looks rather fun with decent special effects for a B-level supernatural thriller. Brandon Routh, like a lot of actors, got a raw deal being cast in the weird Superman reboot and forced to stiffly channel Christopher Reeve. Since then, he’s shown more of what he can do in cameos in things like Chuck and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and here he plays Dylan Dog, a “nightmare hunter” private eye in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night:

7) Keanu Reeves plays a slightly dazed man who accidentally ends up in prison for a bank robbery, meets James Caan in prison, and when he gets out, decides to actually rob the bank he was accused of heisting in Henry’s Crime. It looks silly, in a good way:

8) Historical drama thrillers can vary, but The Conspirator, about the woman accused of being part of the assassination conspiracy of President Lincoln, looks kind of interesting and has a great cast:

9) I watched The Fast and the Furious and enjoyed it, but didn’t bother to watch the rest. But since they’ve now brought Vin Diesel back into the franchise and are upping the ante in the cast each time, the fifth one in the franchise, Fast Five, is looking kind of good. Watch the Rock deliver the killer line in the trailer:

10) I read Water for Elephants and it’s a lovely novel, but I’m not sure what made it special will translate well to film. Robert Pattison and cast attempt it, however:

11-13) Trailers I’ve shown before which have settled into April release dates: Rio, the animated comedy about parrots, a new trailer for that; Hanna, the thriller about a teenage girl who may be a secret government experiment trained to be an assassin by her father; and Your Highness, the stoner comedy gone medieval fantasy with a great cast:

And that’s April, a little something for everyone.

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A Little Pegg and Frost

Following the movie trailers, I’ve been waiting a couple of years for the film Paul, the latest affectionate spoof from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and in the last few days leading up to the wider North American release, the boys are doing their best promos to entertain us. Here is one they did for College Humor, and it’s a pip. Make that sophisticated beeps and whistles.

 

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Movie Trailers Packed in Slush

It’s Spring! Kind of. And evidently, the idea that the summer movie season should start earlier and earlier has not been discarded. A full slate of films is now running March to September. In March, we have:

1) A film I have long awaited: Paul from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and this time the director of Superbad. Having tackled the zombie oeuvre in the famous Shaun of the Dead, and the buddy cop thriller in Hot Fuzz, Pegg and Frost have now gone after the alien contact SF tradition, with a somewhat bigger budget and a great cast. Two British fans of all things alien come to the U.S. for ComicCon and go on a driving tour that includes Area 51, which happens to intersect with the escape efforts of an actual alien, voiced by Seth Rogan.  The film also stars Kristen Wigg, Sigourney Weaver, Jason Bateman, Jane Lynch, Jeffrey Tambor and many others. (Next up for the satiric crew, they’re going to do a disaster movie spoof, when Pegg finds the time off from Mission Impossible and Star Trek movies.)

2) In Win Win, Paul Giamatti plays a depressed, down on his luck attorney who moonlights as a high school wrestling team. A stroke of somewhat illicit luck places a star athlete in his keeping and a shot at redemptive profit, but the boy’s mother may derail everything. It’s a Paul Giamatti comedy and those are never bad:

3) Also in the quirky dysfunctional family comedy area is Peep World, about a fractious family whose star sibling writes an autobiographical novel about them and the subsequent fall-out. Stars Rainn Wilson, Sarah Silverman, Michael C. Hall, Ben Schwartz, Judy Greer, Lesley Anne Warren, Ron Rifkin, Kate Mara — a bunch of people who excel at chewing scenery in delightful ways.

4) Family oriented but more dramatic is The Music Never Stopped, about a father who tries to help his son’s memory problems from a serious brain injury. (Based on one of Oliver Saks’ case stories.) It stars the incomprable J.K. Simmons and a strong cast.

5) Last, but not least, a new trailer for Sucker Punch, which comes from Zack Snyder of 300 and Watchmen fame. A young woman is committed to an asylum by her wicked stepfather and creates an imaginary reality to free herself and other inmates. It stars Emily Browning, who was so wonderfully perfect as Violet in Lemony Snickett, and a great cast.

 

 

 

 

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Movie Trailers to Cheer Us Up in the New Year

There is sad news in the world today, and so we turn for a brief respite to movie trailers, because I don’t want to think anymore about the other stuff:

1) First up, this month in January, Thandie Newton and Hayden Christensen discuss how they have funky first names while starring in a supernatural horror post-apocalypse movie called Vanishing on 7th Street. The lights go out in Detroit, most of the population disappears, leaving clothing and objects behind, and then the sun doesn’t show up and the few survivors realize the darkness is eating people. Think Pitch Black meets the collapse of the U.S. auto industry and only those car headlamps can save us. Actually, it looks creepily kind of interesting:

2) Next, James Cameron is doing something weird in February producing the film Sanctum, and when Cameron likes to get weird, it’s often worth checking out. An adventure thriller about a cave expedition team who are in a really big, scary, largely submerged cave system:

3) Also in February, Ed Helms revisits Hangover territory in a comedy about an incredibly sheltered, messed up  insurance salesman who goes to  Cedar Rapids, Iowa to a convention to save his company and gets taken on a wild ride in the big city in the comedy filmCedar Rapids:

4) In March, Bradley Cooper takes the leading man role in the SF thriller Limitless, about a blocked writer who takes an experimental brain boosting drug and finds he can see every which way he’s in trouble with Robert DeNiro:

5) Also in March is the animated kids comedy Mars Needs Moms, which has Joan Cusack voicing a mom who looks scarily like Joan Cusack. Seth Green voices the boy who strives to get his mom back from the aliens and Dan Fogler, the Tony-winning singer who is fast becoming one of my fav character actors, plays a guy helping the boy out:

6) April brings us Hanna, a spy thriller about a rogue agent who trains his daughter to be an assassin, and he may have done that because of a secret experiment. Think The Professional meets Species. The teen girl, Saoirse Ronan, is another one of these scarily brilliant kid actors. Maybe they are breeding those in experiments. And Cate Blanchett does her ice queen best:

7) Also in April, on the other side of the axis, is a talent-loaded, very odd trash comedy, Your Highness from the folks who did Pineapple Express. It features Danny McBride as the ner-do-well brother in a fairy tale kingdom to James Franco’s more heroic prince. When Franco’s bride, Zooey Deschenel (yay! More funky first names!) is kidnapped by wizard Justin Theroux who wants to take over the world, McBride’s Thadeous has to saddle up and help his brother with the aide of an uber-competent warrior woman played by Natalie Portman, shaking off her ballerina blues:

 

 

 

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