nebroadwe: (Books)
I never got into the whole Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons crossover thing. I like all those canons individually, but mixed together ... eh.

And then I saw that Tobu Ishi, one of my all-time favorite FMA writers (and probably my first fandom writing crush; dear heaven, s/he can drabble), had a new story up: Victorious Children, which is a Rise of the Braved Tangled Dragons 'fic ...

... set in the Hunger Games universe.

And it works.

This has everything to do with Tobu Ishi's fantastic grasp of characterization and narrative voice and the kind of fanficcer's inventiveness that sees exactly how to take a set of characters out of their established plot and set them down in a new one that's just as entertaining. Did I say entertaining? How about gripping, amusing, startling and plangent by turns? Each chapter is a more or less self-contained vignette that together add up to one heck of a story.

And not enough people are reading it. So here's my recommendation: give it a shot. The odds are in your favor ...
nebroadwe: (Books)
Accompanying her salesman father on a business trip, college student Brenda Morris discovers that he's one of the Thirteen Orphans, exiled from their otherworldly Chinese homeland for their support of a fallen emperor. They've lived on Earth in peace for three generations, but now someone is hunting them down. When her father falls a victim, Brenda must join forces with the other Orphans to save him and them.

I'm not sure how to describe this book. I read it in a day and am interested to discover what transpires in the sequel, but that's possibly because nothing much really happens in this installment. Our main characters are introduced, of course, and while I find them reasonably sympathetic, there's something slightly ... overbroad? caricaturish? ... about them and their interactions. This might have something to do with the co-point of view character, Brenda, being a callow and sheltered south-eastern American white girl tossed off the deep end into a Foreign Environment (a Chinese-derived magical heritage via California and the Southwest). She (and we) are on the receiving end of lots and lots and lots of exposition; the action, particularly the few encounters between the protagonists and their mysterious antagonists, intersperse the set-up rather than the other way around. I do like seeing a non-western floorplan for this adventure and am kind of intrigued by the ways Lindskold has the various Orphans, all descendants of the original thirteen, deal with their inheritance as a result of the various tacks their fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers took in the process of assimilating to American culture. Still, if the plot doesn't pick up steam in Nine Gates, I'll probably drop this series.
nebroadwe: (Editor)
All her life, it seems, Princess Merida's tomboyishness has been indulged by her father, King Fergus, while her mother, Queen Elinor, attempts to mold her into a lady. No points for guessing whom the princess gets on with better. But when the queen announces that it's time for Merida's hand to be awarded to one of her father's vassals' sons for the good of the kingdom, Merida has had enough. Running away into the forest, she finds a woodcarving witch who gives her a spell that will change her fate by changing her mother. The problem is, Merida didn't specify the change she wanted; the witch has a thing for bears; and King Fergus has been planning his revenge on the bear who bit off his leg for years ...

I enjoyed this movie, but I have two problems with it that I need to get out of the way.

Problem One )

Problem Two )

That said, I had a great deal of fun watching this film. Pixar's animation improves by leaps and bounds with each feature: the fishing trip to the river full of salmon had me gaping at how so many difficult elements (light, water, stones, fish, bear, human) came together in a single, gorgeous scene. The voice acting, as one might expect from such folks as Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson, was top-notch and Patrick Doyle's score was nicely hummable. I laughed at all the jokes and enjoyed the comedic action sequences (Merida's little brothers are a riot, when one shuts off the part of the brain engaged with problem one above) and was pleased to note that Merida's bow was not, in fact, portrayed as an effective close combat weapon. The climactic battle in the stone circle was also very nicely choreographed and its redemptive ending effective. (I love me a good redemption.) The post-credits scene is not only amusing, but ties up a dangling plot thread, which warms the cockles of my writerly soul.

Recommended with reservations. That it gives us a female empowerment tale that doesn't require a dead mother or evil stepmother to work is a plus; that it does so using gender stereotypes is a minus; that it's Pixar and therefore lovely to look at and reasonably clever with its storytelling is enough to satisfy me at the moment. Now that the ground has been broken, however, I expect better in future ...
nebroadwe: (Bear)
Okay, here we go: live-commenting the two-part Legend of Korra season finale as downloaded from iTunes! (Okay, and subsequently editing the comments to actually say something coherent, rather than just Wow! Eek! Nnngh!)

"Skeletons in the Closet" -- that's not an ominous title or anything.

Read more... )

Well, that was great fun! Now I can marathon the whole thing in reruns while I wait for Nickelodeon to schedule season two (and pick up a season three? Please? Please? Not to mention RELEASE A SOUNDTRACK, DAGNABIT!).
nebroadwe: (Books)
Madoka is a cheerful middle-school student, despite the ominous dreams about the end of the world. Then she discovers that the suicides and disappearances that plague her hometown are actually caused by witches, which is bad. And that the witches are opposed by heroic magical girls, who gain their powers from a cute animal mentor in exchange for a wish, which is ... worse?

There's no way to summarize this fascinating, Faustian deconstruction of the magical girl genre without spoiling its best features. Let's just say that if Stephen King had written Cardcaptor Sakura and Madhouse had outsourced the production design to Tim Burton, you might have gotten something like Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The fact that Kajiura Yuki is responsible for the soundtrack doesn't hurt, either. Recommended.
nebroadwe: (Books)
Well, that was appropriately epic.

Spoilers ho! )

Next week, the finale ... [pads chair against tenterhooks]
nebroadwe: (pic#1047247)
Once upon a time, a beautiful princess lost her mother to illness and her father to a femme fatale with a Freudian excuse. She escapes from prison and joins forces with a huntsman, eight dwarves, a childhood playmate, and an army. Together they defeat the femme fatale and the princess is crowned queen. Everyone lives happily ever after, except the eighth dwarf, who gets killed. The end.

Oh, my aching brain. Do not see this movie. Do not pay money to see it; do not buy or rent the DVD; do not watch it on television. I have never been so bored and irritated in a theater in my life. This film has no plot -- things just happen, one after the other. The characters are pretty or gritty (depending on the lighting) meat puppets spouting portentous dialogue that doesn't convey any sense of inner life. The actors' talents are criminally wasted: Charlize Theron has two gears, glare and screech; Chris Hemsworth's accent is so thick I had trouble understanding him; Bob Hoskins must have been taking Valium in his coffee for the entire shoot; and Kristen Stewart is a complete cipher. (Ian McShane as the head dwarf seems to be the only person actually enjoying himself.) Thematically, the piece is a mess; it's unclear how or why Snow White's Incorruptible Pure Pureness allows her to defeat the wicked queen, whose backstory of abuse and revenge is frankly the most coherent and compelling piece of storytelling the film manages to put across. It's not unusual for villains to be more interesting than heroes, but when I can't root for the heroes ... well. Eight words, Universal: I DON'T CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO THESE PEOPLE.

Bletch. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Thank goodness for a new episode of The Legend of Korra to take the bad taste out of my mind ...
nebroadwe: (Books)
Lucky American Nina Martin has been accepted as a scholarship student at an English boarding school. But she arrives at Anubis House in the middle of a mystery: another student, Joy, recently left the school without a word of farewell. All signs of her presence have been erased and the teachers seem to be encouraging everyone to forget she was ever there. Her roommate, Patricia, suspects that Nina's arrival has something to do with Joy's disappearance and disrupts every attempt Nina makes to settle in. Meanwhile, Nina helps an elderly woman from a nearby nursing home and receives in return a pendant marked with the Eye of Horus and the injunction to find and protect a treasure hidden in Anubis House. With the help of her ditzy roommate Amber and sympathetic bookworm Fabian, Nina sets out to find the treasure, dodging Patricia, the teachers, and Anubis House's strange caretaker, Victor, who is hiding secrets of his own.

A US/UK co-production based on a Dutch-Belgian original (which also has a German recension with a catchy opening theme song), House of Anubis follows in the tradition of E. Nesbit, Enid Blyton and J.K. Rowling: a group of minimally supervised young people uncovering the clues to solve a (possibly ancient, possibly occult) mystery in the teeth of opposition from their adversaries, the only adults to pay much attention to them. Read more... )

House of Anubis is tasty mind candy -- not as imaginative as Dark Oracle, but an entertaining ride. I marathoned season two over the course of a week, staying up well past my bedtime to watch just-one-more-episode after just-one-more-episode. If you know any twelve-year-olds who haven't seen it, introduce them to it, and perhaps lurk about in the background while they're watching. If it pushes your buttons as it did mine, you're in for a treat. Season one is currently streaming on here, except for the penultimate episode and season finale, which for some odd reason aren't included on this playlist. Season two's playlist is here. A third season is beginning production, probably for broadcast early in 2013.
nebroadwe: (Books)
This week on The Legend of Korra ... another show I like fridges a female character. Sigh.

I was mildly spoiled for this week's big reveal by the Spoilers ho! )

Still looking forward to next week, because I know that once the production staff gets all its ducks in a row, the resulting grand finale is going to blow my doors off ...

ETA: A colloquial analysis with pictures of the ship-nuttery WRT Asami and why it's problematic.
nebroadwe: (Books)
This week's episode of The Legend of Korra seems to have been a touch controversial ... Spoilers ho! )
nebroadwe: (Bear)
Diane Duane likes The Avengers. Phew. I will not have shelled out for a ticket in vain.
nebroadwe: (Books)
So the first season of Young Justice ended and rolled right into the second off a mild cliffhanger of a grand finale, so I must admit my first thought about the season two opener was, a spoiler ... )

I also caught this week's Green Lantern, which was one of the most cringe-inducing things I've seen in the Timmverse, honestly ... )
nebroadwe: (Books)
Nearly a century ago, the thirteen districts of Panem rose in rebellion against their Capitol and lost. Ever since, each district has been required each year to send a tribute of one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. In all that time, District 12 has seen only one victor, so when Katniss Everdeen volunteers in order to save her sister Prim from being selected, she knows her chances are surviving are slim. Slim, but not non-existent: she has the help of her cynical mentor, Haymitch, her Capitol-assigned stylist, Cinna, and perhaps even that of her fellow tribute, Peeta … despite the fact that to win, she'll have to kill him …

Read more... ) Worth seeing in the theater, but I'm looking forward to getting the right distance on those opening shaky-cam shots on a television screen once the DVD comes out.
nebroadwe: (Books)
N.M. Browne, Warriors of Ethandun
Dan has managed to return a dying Ursula to the twenty-first century in time to save her life, but finds himself arrested for her attempted murder. Ursula, recovering, refuses to implicate him and a timely visit from a disguised Taliesin presents Dan with the opportunity to escape by returning to the past. He refuses, but Taliesin leaves him with the means to do so in the form of a glass orb. Discovering this, Ursula begs Dan to use it, as her longing for magic has left her unable to readjust to her own time. When he does, they are swept separately into the attempted Danish conquest of an Alfredian England. Ursula loses herself to the magic, is captured by the Danes and worshipped by them as Freya, while Dan takes service with Alfred in the marshes, where his berserkrgang earns him the suspicion of Alfred's adviser, Bishop Asser, and threatens to overwhelm him utterly. Trapped on opposite sites of the war and unable to help each other, the two may be doomed, like their old frenemy Rhonwen, to live and die in a time not their own ...

Concluding the Warriors trilogy begun with Warriors of Alavna and continued in Warriors of Camlann, this is not a standalone. Read more... ) Recommended for fans of the previous books.
nebroadwe: (Books)
So here's me, live-blogging the premiere of The Legend of Korra. WHEE! I AM SO TERRIBLY EXCITED TO SEE THIS!

Aang and Zuko must have let Sokka name Republic City. Just saying.

"Book One: Air." Woot! (Implying ... at least a second book? Pleasepleaseplease!)

Read more... )

Can't wait for next week! [ profile] kanja177 is coming up to watch with me and our younger compatriots L and N. We will have such a good time! (I'm going to make a cake. This occasion deserves cake.)
nebroadwe: (Bear)
I wasn't planning to see Battleship, but I did read this review, which explains how a lot of action films deal with narrative:
[T]here isn’t so much a script as there are two word vats, one labelled "exposition" and one labelled "one-liners", the contents of which are ladled with a cheery splat on whichever character happens to pointing at the Loud Thing Happening At The Time.
And this, children, is why the Transformers cartoons, even the cheesy '80s ones, are so much better than the movies. Roll out.
nebroadwe: From "The Magdalen Reading" by Rogier van der Weyden.  (Default)
So last week, one of the most unpleasant weeks in the history of ever, was also one during which I discovered two truly awesome things.

Thing the First:
Dark Oracle is an Emmy-winning Canadian live-action fantasy television program for young adults that ran for two 13-episode seasons back in the mid-oughts. (It's currently broadcasting on the "This TV" channel on Saturday mornings, which is where I encountered it.) Protagonists Lance and Cally Stone are fifteen-year-old twins: she's pretty, popular and a driving force behind most of her school's fundraisers; he's a quiet gaming-and-comic-books geek. One afternoon a frog (yes, you read that right, but don't worry -- this isn't an anthropomorphized animal tale) inflicts the first issue of a comic book, the eponymous Dark Oracle, on them. The pages are largely blank, but seem to detail the adventures of fifteen-year-old twins Blaze and Violet in a dark, crumbling town filled with unpleasant magic, dangerous gangs, and teen angst turned up to eleven. In the first season, the comic book seems to predict or mirror potentially problematic or disastrous events in Lance and Cally's lives, the panels gradually filling in as the plot in both worlds unfolds. By episode thirteen Blaze and Violet have twigged to the connection between their world and ours and the second season has them attempting to cross over, possibly with extreme prejudice to their counterparts. There's trippy weirdness, adventure, narrow escapes, and enough shipping to fill a port. :-)

Read more... )
Thing the Second:
So my friends and I road-tripped to Washington, D.C., for the Cherry Blossom Festival, but unfortunately missed peak bloom altogether. Thank you, global warming. On the other hand, we did catch the Kite Festival, which was a blast. There's nothing like being on the National Mall with hundreds of other people effectively reenacting the last scene from Mary Poppins. I hadn't put a kite in the air for twenty-five years, but in helping the small children in our group get theirs up, I realized both that I'm still pretty good at it and that I really, really enjoy it. It was hard not to hog the string, actually. As soon as I can manage, I'm buying a kite of my own and taking it over to the park of an evening to play. I had too much fun to let another twenty-five years go by without flying a kite.
nebroadwe: (Books)
Scott Westerfeld, Behemoth (illustrated by Keith Thompson)
Sequel to Leviathan. War has broken out among the Great Powers of Europe -- the Clanker empires of Germany and Austria-Hungary with their machines versus the Darwinist nations of Great Britain, France and Russia with their fabricated beasts. Caught in the middle on the British airship Leviathan are Alek, son of the late Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his morganatic wife Sophie, and Midshipman Dylan Sharp, born Deryn and masquerading as a boy to achieve her dreams of flight. After an indecisive engagement with a German warship armed with a Tesla cannon, the Leviathan limps into Istanbul (not Constantinople!), a hotbed of diplomatic activity as the British and the Germans each attempt to woo the Ottoman Sultan to their side. Meanwhile, Alek, escaping into the city to hide, discovers a democratic revolution brewing in the streets, while Deryn is given her first command, a sabotage mission to clear the way for the ship-crushing Behemoth. But secrets will out (especially with a clever Austrian count, a nosy American reporter, and a perspicacious loris or two sniffing around) and the thing about battles is that one squick of bad luck can make all your plans go pear-shaped ...

Cut for mild spoilers ... )

Excellent stuff; highly recommended. A further recommendation: the fanworks of Julia156, who writes very clever, very well-researched Alek/Deryn in a lovely pastiche of Westerfeld's style.
nebroadwe: (Books)
High-schooler Kenji just missed representing Japan in the Math Olympics, so this summer he has nothing to look forward to except working as a low-level moderator for OZ, the nation's premiere virtual reality social, business, and governmental networking site, with his friend Takashi. That is, until his classmate Natsuki persuades him to accompany her to her great-grandmother's 90th birthday party at the family's run-down country house, where he is unexpectedly introduced to the clan as her fiancé. Against his better judgment, Kenji goes along with the story, but matters take another unexpected turn when he solves a tricky math puzzle sent to his OZ account in the middle of the night. Next morning, he discovers that his account has been used to hack dozens of others, including those of government officials, with dire real-world results. But as Japan descends into chaos, Natsuki's great-grandmother picks up the phone and begins making calls to her own social network ... and her family once again finds itself on the front line of war ...

Spoilers ho! )
nebroadwe: (Books)
Strange game is afoot in the city of Meridiana. Upright citizens are kidnapped off the streets by hulking, green-skinned goons; monstrous creatures lurk in the subways and the sewers. So when Lucas Amato sees a woman's caped figure silhouetted mid-leap against the moon, he does what any curious high school biology teacher would do: he follows her, catching up just as she defeats one of the aforementioned goons in combat. She flees without identifying herself, leaving Lucas to witness the evaporation of her fallen foe. As evidence of his adventure, he rashly pockets a glowing green vial he finds among the goon's discarded clothes and with that makes himself the quarry not only of the goon's fellows, but also of their master José and of the mysterious woman whose cognomen is Cybersix. Despite the danger, Lucas isn't quite ready to take the advice of his colleague Adrian Seidelman and give up the vial ... not until he can discover what's going on and who Cybersix really is ...

This animated series ran all too briefly as part of the FOX Saturday morning lineup in the mid-1990s, where I saw and enjoyed two or three of its thirteen episodes. Adapted by a Canadian production team (led by Hervé Bedard) from an Argentinian comic book (written by Carlos Meglia and Carlos Trillo) and animated in Japan (by TMS/NOA), it was clearly doomed to failure in its time slot: Cybersix maintains her secret identity by cross-dressing as a man, a disguise sufficiently convincing to attract a teenage crush; her archnemeses, the scientist Von Reichter and his son José, are goose-stepping closet Nazis; and the narrative's forward momentum is provided by the romance which develops between Cybersix and Lucas amid their monster-of-the-week adventures. IIRC, Cybersix was pulled from U.S. television with a few episodes left unaired, but Teletoon in Canada ran the series in its entirety. A keep-circulating-the-tapes version of the Canadian broadcast is the only one currently available in English,* which is a shame, because this story deserves more love.

Read more... )

*A French dub, without subtitles, was released on DVD in region 2; copies are still available from resellers.


nebroadwe: From "The Magdalen Reading" by Rogier van der Weyden.  (Default)
The Magdalen Reading

August 2014



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