Category: Reviews


It’s no secret that I have a love-hate relationship with Agents of SHIELD, a show I had high hopes for which turned into something I abandoned, continued with again because of a friend’s insistence, and then would have abandoned again if it weren’t for how it gives me stuff to blog about. (When I remember to update the blog, that is.)

I rarely try to suck up every single bit of information about shows that I can. Part of it is because I don’t have a regular TV-watching schedule, and so sometimes I wind up taking in several episodes at a time and would prefer to avoid spoilers. Sometimes I just don’t care. Sometimes it’s just that I’d rather take it in as the story itself, as it was meant to be viewed. It’s somewhat of a treat for me to do that, actually; well, if it’s a good story, that is. I honestly should write a blog post on an editor’s perspective of stories both published and in draft form, but suffice for now to say that it’s hard to not feel like I’m working.

With Agents of SHIELD, even when it stopped sucking, I was still working. Even when it was good enough that I could enjoy it, it was still short of something I could sit back and enjoy on its own, without being an editor the whole way through. That’s probably why I wrote so many articles about Agents, but not about Flash or Arrow.

Last night, the season premiere of Agents aired, and I enjoyed myself. I had to remember to pause to take notes every so often. Last season, I cautiously opined that this was starting to live up to the hype when the show was first announced; now, it is the show that they announced. And apparently all they had to do was say “Hey, X-Men is a cool story.”

Oops, I need one of those spoiler banners before I say stuff like that, right? It’s been all summer. I’m rusty.

Spoiler Warning

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If you haven’t seen it already, Netflix released a teaser for Jessica Jones over the weekend. It is a thing of beauty.

As my friend and fellow blogger (over at The Catholic Geeks) Andy Hauge observed, it sums up the tone of the show perfectly.  Continue reading

Star Kingdom - A Beautiful FriendshipA few years ago, I read A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber. It’s really two novellas in one; the first was originally one of three in Worlds of Honor, the first Honorverse anthology; that novella (also titled “A Beautiful Friendship”) detailed the first meeting of a human and a treecat, the latter being the native sentient species of the planet Sphinx, fifteen hundred years in the future. The second half of the novel version deals with the immediate fallout of the story.

While the original short story was aimed at regular readers of Weber’s Honor Harrington series, the novel version began a new spin-off series (taking place four centuries before the main series) that was being marketed as YA. This summer, I read the next two books in the series, co-authored by Jane Lindskold: Fire Season and Treecat Wars.

The series almost manages to be stand-alone with regards to the main Honorverse books; I say almost, because I feel there’s something a bit lacking to it. Unfortunately, to explain why, I have to describe some of the parent series. Continue reading

ant-man-thor-poster-1In my review of Ant-Man, I mentioned how the movie couldn’t make up its mind as to whether it was a caper film or a superhero origin story. I laid out the reasons why those two types of stories are, if not incompatible, then at least problematic to mix together. I also mentioned I might do a post on how I might have adjusted the movie if, for some strange reason, they came asking for my advice.

So how would I have done the movie differently?

This is actually a more dangerous question than it might appear. I’m a prose editor. I’m a pretty good one. I’m also pretty good at analysis, developmental/structural rewriting, and closing plot holes. None of that means that I’m good at scriptwriting. Visual media is a very different ballgame. I know just enough about the differences to talk about them, and not enough to actually put them into practice. I’m a professional editor, but I’m an armchair amateur when it comes to script-doctoring. I know my limits and I’m not going to pretend that expertise in one form of fiction extends to another.

So, disclaimers aside, here’s my armchair amateur opinion about what I’d have done if I’d been asked to give a developmental edit (also called structural editing) on the film.

Spoiler Warning Continue reading

Ant-Man

Ant-Man_posterSadly, I haven’t had much time for blogging lately (at least about writing); but I can’t pass up a review of Ant-Man. Particularly since so many of you enjoy me writing about the Marvel franchise.

I went to see Ant-Man last night at the Alamo Drafthouse, because who can pass up the chance to watch superhero films while eating fried mozzarella and hot wings, washed down with an alcoholic root beer? All movie theaters should be restaurant theaters.

Anyway, it was a good experience. The service was prompt and good as always, and the movie was decent. Yes, decent; not incredible, not outstanding. Decent.

As I said before, I expected this movie to disappoint me by comparison to the others. On a scale of Marvel films, this is the third-worst, beating out Thor: The Dark World and Incredible Hulk, though Dark World had better visuals. That may sound disappointing, but remember what I said before: a bad Marvel movie is, so far, better than an average movie.

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Inside Out

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_posterThis past Tuesday, because I am a highly influential member of the media because Disney was providing early access, I got to see the latest Pixar film early.

Continuing my recent trend of being supremely unimpressed by previews, I didn’t have very high expectations. They raised a bit by the time of the showing, though, because the buzz I was hearing wasn’t tinged so much by fanboyish/girlish enthusiasm as it was by an anticipation of something new and exciting. Still, I wasn’t expecting something huge. After all, the “little people running your body” concept has been used a lot. Pixar is known for being innovative, but still . . . what exactly would be new here?

Answer: everything. Holy cannoli. I think this is their best installment ever. Yes, better than my previous favorite, The Incredibles.

The basic concept seems simple. Little people controlling someone’s thoughts and actions, with the inside of the brain represented by a control room where pulling levers and pushing buttons makes stuff happen. In this version, it’s the five most basic emotions: joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. They manipulate the person’s reactions to the world, collect memories, and attempt to regulate mental health.

Sounds kinda boring, doesn’t it? If it weren’t for it being Pixar, I wouldn’t have gone. But I did go, and I’m delighted. If you’re wondering if this movie is worth watching, then this is your notice. You don’t even have to read the rest of this. If you’re capable of reading these words, you are the target audience. Go watch it and thank me later.

. . . still here? Okay, I guess I can talk some more. Very mild spoilers ahead. In fact, it’s almost not worth it, but I’ll put up the cool graphic anyway.

Spoiler Warning Continue reading

Hugo-Award-e1422355571917Things have been very busy on my end, as I deal with a few major projects at my other job and launch a new collaborative blog site (more on that later), and also prepare for my presentations at AwesomeCon.

I’m just dashing off a quick post here to cover a bit of Hugo news: the Hugo Awards Voter Packet is out. Continue reading

Editor’s Note: Welcome, once again, the lovely and talented Lori Janeski in another Novel Ninja guest post. This time, we present her debut fisk, as she decides to tackle the massive Social Fiction Warrior response to Avengers: Age of Ultron by targeting a particularly egregious essay.

I should add that Lori is Texan — and yes, even fisks are bigger in Texas. This one clocks in at over 13,000 words, enough for a good-sized novelette. Strap in, grab some popcorn, and warm up your mouse-using fingers, because you’ve got some scrolling ahead of you.

Enjoy!


If you ever want to learn how to make a complete and total idiot of yourself in front of the whole internet, just read this essay I found: “Age of Robots: How Marvel Is Killing the Popcorn Movie.”  If you’re not into being an idiot, you can go ahead and read it for its entertainment potential, because it is so utterly ridiculous, and yet trying to be completely serious and intellectual and failing miserably, that it will make you either laugh your head off, or crawl under a rock and weep for humanity.  Maybe both.

Now, the author, Sady Doyle, is allowed to have any opinion she wants.  That’s part of life.  I don’t have to agree with her, and she doesn’t have to agree with me.  But when you’re being this stupid while pretending to be smart, those of us who are not stupid have to say something to make sure you aren’t successful in convincing people that you are smart.  To borrow a quote from one of my favorite TV shows, “I respect your right to free speech, but not your stupidity.”

Omar

Normally, I try very hard to disagree with the argument, not attack the person.  This article, however, is such a piece of trash that my politeness went right out the window.  Doyle is so far beyond stupid that she has reached the status of “contemptible,” and doesn’t deserve a polite, intellectual discussion about the merits, or lack thereof, of Age of Ultron.

If you don’t want to read an angry article about how stupid someone else is, complete with the occasional vulgarity, then don’t finish reading.  Go elsewhere now.  You have been warned, so there better not be any nasty comments on the blog or Facebook about how mean I am.

Oh, and if you can’t guess, there are spoilers ahead.  I know Matthew has a spoiler graphic somewhere around here . . . aha!

Spoiler Warning

There.  If you missed that, you deserve your spoilers. Continue reading

MCU Expectations

In my review of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I said that I had some speculations that I decided to cut and turn into a separate blog post. It isn’t just about predicting future plots, but there’s some of that too.

We all know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a blowout success. Even the shaky installments (we’ll ignore Agents of SHIELD season one for right now) have been “bad” only in comparison to the top material. It’s also been successful at introducing these long-beloved characters to new audiences who may have known nothing about them or their stories. That’s impressive all on its own, considering the depth of the Marvel Comics storylines, many of which go back half a century now.

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It started with Iron Man, which updated Tony Stark’s story to fit a modern audience’s expectation. A great deal of the success comes from Robert Downey Jr., of course. He’s the Tom Baker of not just the role, but the whole universe; and one of the best things about it is that he’s also aware of how close he came to outright disaster due to drugs and other self-destructive behavior, and I firmly believe that this fuels the way he throws himself into the role. Not only does he know what it’s like to completely doubt yourself, but he clearly sees each day as part of a second chance on life. Continue reading

Avengers: Age of Awesome

avengers-age-of-ultron-alternateWas there any doubt that Avengers: Age of Ultron would be a fun movie? Was there any doubt that the existing fanbase would love it? Was there any doubt that the movie would be a hit success? No, indeed. The only doubt was how good it would be on a scale of 6 to 11.

Rest your doubts. It’s at least a 10.9.

Note: This is not a spoiler-free review. However, unless you’ve been avoiding the trailers, you’re safe until you come to the big spoiler graphic. After that, you’ve been warned.

Superhero stories have traditionally been plot-driven. Things happen in a particular way to have a particular end, and that’s the only important thing. We all know how annoying that can be. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s horrible. However, the MCU has mostly stayed true to character-driven stories. There have certainly been ones where plot mattered more (Thor: The Dark World and Agents of SHIELD season one come to mind), and others where character and plot intertwined to the point where you don’t care that a story had to go this way to set up something later, because the characters still had their day (Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

Of course, character-driven stories aren’t automatically better, because character without consistent plot is unsatisfying. Think of Iron Man 3, which was a fantastic movie from the perspective of Tony Stark’s character development, and rather sucky for the rest.

The first Avengers movie remained a shining example of a character-driven story, as Ross explained earlier this week. My biggest worry about Age of Ultron was that it might not live up to that standard. In point of fact, I think Age of Ultron actually exceeds its predecessor in that regard. While the movie actually lacks a little of the stand-up-and-cheer of the first, Age of Ultron is now a new go-to example for true character-driven stories.  Continue reading

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