Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

Over the Top as only Baz Luhrmann could do

Let me start of with a confession; I've never read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I know to many people reading this, that may make me unqualified both to review this movie, and possibly to even claim myself an author. However, I might say that it makes me uniquely qualified to review this film on its merits as a film and not as an interpretation of the classic novel.

Mr. Gatsby is an amazingly rich and over the top gentleman living in the richest area outside New York City in the biggest house and throwing over the top parties every weekend. Everyone seems to know of Mr Gatsby, but no one seems to actually know Mr. Gatsby. That is until Nick Carraway moves into the small, nearly forgotten cottage next to Mr. Gatsby's mansion. Nick finds himself intrigued by the man and the mystery surrounding him. He finds himself personally invited to Mr Gatsby's home and hears the story of his life straight from the man himself. Finding it all too much to believe, Nick finds himself swept into the world of Jay Gatsby and becomes part of Gatsby's plan to regain the love of his life, Daisy, Nick's cousin, whom happens to already be married to another very rich, but very unfaithful man.

Even if that is not exactly true, this movie at least feels very historically accurate. Knowing the amount that I do about the time period in which it takes place, I feel like the film has captured the imagery, mentality, and romance of the time in way that can be appreciated by our current society. It is also visually impressive and just plain fun to watch. With it's modern day soundtrack, and colorful dream-like montage sequences, and has Baz Lurhamnn's stamp all over it.

Leonardo DiCaprio's performance is as great as all of his other takes on classic characters and historic people that America (and beyond) knows and loves. There is just something about him that allows you to forgot the actor entirely and see only the character in a way that few others do quite as well. I was also fond of Elizabeth Debicki's performance as Jordan and Isla Fisher as Myrtle because of their ability to bring a strength and intrigue to female characters that were not the leading lady. In fact, they may have even overshadowed Carey Mulligan's Daisy Buchanan. I don't feel this is anything against Carey's performance, just that the character was a lot less interesting which adds to the dynamic of the romance between her and Gatsby. 

Whether you were a fan of the book or not, I think this film has something to offer most movie-goers.

 See It Rate: ***.5 (partly because everyone else you know will have inevitably experienced this film and you wouldn't want to be left out, would you?)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meet Ruth

Mary Ruth Jacobson-Ryan: small town girl dreaming of something more

Born an in 1987 and grew up as an only child in Warsaw, MO. Her father left her mother when she was 15 years old and her mother did not cope well. Mother became fanatically religious and forced her extreme beliefs onto Ruth which pushed her away from her mother and the Church. In her rebellion, she found interest in nature based religions and started practicing a Wiccan/Pagan type spirituality.

At the age of 16, she met Jonny, the neighbor boy. They were married by age 18, and he left her to join the military while her few remaining friends went off to college. He spent most of his four years deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. She saw him only twice during this time. Meanwhile, she worked as a cashier, waitress, and babysitter and wrote letters to her husband daily. In her free time, she kept a blog full of her "dream vacations" and "virtual wardrobe" and dreamed of her husbands return. She made plans to attend college or study online but never followed through due to lack of resources.

When Jonny returned home for good, however, she found he was not the same person she fell in love with in high school. She knew he had endured many terrible things during his time away from her, but she could not break down the walls he had built around himself. Even when he became aggressive towards her, she was determined to be a faithful wife.  The night she learned of her pregnancy, she left her husband quickly and quietly. 

While she was finally free from her small town life, she found she was still trapped by her own circumstances. Pregnant, broke, and hungry, she was ready to resort to drastic measures to keep from returning to her previous life.

...until a she crossed paths with Julien.

Physical Description: 5’4” tall, curvy in a 1950s movie star sort of way, long dark hair with side-swept bangs, blue eyes, small hands/short fingers, belly button piercing, and double pierced ears with several cartilage piercings.

Personality: She can be impulsive and stubborn. Independent but naive given her background. Slow to trust. Dreamer.

Habits/Mannerisms: Chews on her lower lip when nervous. Stares at people when she is upset with them. Loves nail polish. Likes to try new things and have new experiences but is limited by her situation. Enjoys shopping online because she cannot afford to travel to any “real stores.” 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Excerpt 2 from Beyond the Reach of Judgement

“People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil. I don't know why. No, I do indeed know why. Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.”
- Anne Rice, Interview With a Vampire

Julien was alone in the stone cell. He paced its perimeter repeatedly until finally positioning himself seated against the unforgiving wall opposite the cell door. He stared straight ahead and tried not to think of her. Focusing on the cracks in the stone and the number of blocks stacked to form his enclosure, he memorized the angles and the dimensions. He struggled to think of anything he could to keep the despair from creeping in, anything to keep the memories of their final moments together out of his thoughts, anything but of her.

His concentration wavered as something was slipped through the bars of the cell door. It was immediately recognizable to him, even in the dim lighting, as a medical grade pint of red blood cells. Although his hunger was freshly sated by the girl’s last remaining ounce of life, it called to him. The more he tried to ignore its presence, the louder its call became. Thankfully, it remained unopened because he doubted he was strong enough to resist the scent of what was within.

His jaw clenched, and his fists tightened as a pain started to build in the back of his throat. For distraction, he imagined himself back in France in the Church of Saint-Pierre de Montemartre. Staring up at the ceiling, he closed his eyes and began to chant.

AVE MARIA, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.”

Over and over, he chanted the words, repeating them until they became senseless in his mind. He could not allow himself to look in the direction of the blood bag. He place his head between his knees and squeezed his eyes tighter. When his mind started to wander, wondering what blood type was written across the bag in bold letters or to how fresh it may be, he changed prayers. When he started to reminisce about the sensation of his lips on warm flesh or the sound of a pulse echoing in his ears, he changed prayers. When he thought about her scent in his nostrils and her flavor in his mouth, he changed prayers.

When Agent Wolfe appeared at the cell door, he did not look up. He recognized her footsteps and her  smell. After a long silence, she finally spoke. “Mr. Durant, tell me, why should I spare you?”

“You should not.” He replied.

“And why is that?”

“I am a monster. I deserve to be ended. I wish to be ended.”

“And why should I give you what you desire?” Her voice hinted at genuine curiosity.

“You should not.”

She said nothing else as her footsteps disappeared down the long corridor. It was silent once again. He was alone; alone with the blood.

He imagined himself back in the Spiritual Exercises. He had conquered the evil and disorder within him once so many years ago. It could be done again. Ruth taught him that. It took losing her to prove to him that he had the choice, he simply needed to take it.

But now she was dead.

 Read more at : https://leanpub.com/beyondthereachofjudgement

(Note, this is not the finished novel but a "pre-final-edit version". Complete novel, post editing and formatting will be available this summer!)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

Young Love in the Zombie Apocalypse? Why not?

In a not so distant future, the majority of the world has been infected by a condition which essentially renders them mindless corpses surviving off the living. In this world our heroine, Julie, is the young attractive daughter of the Commander and Chief of what remains of the human world. She also happens to be one of the few, along with her alpha-male boyfriend and ditsy best friend, allowed outside the walls of the human city to collect the necessities for the rest of the survivors.

During one of these outings, unfortunate circumstances brings her face to face with our Zombie Heartthrob, "R." For some reason, which I won't spoil for you, he finds an attraction to her and decides not to ingest her brain. Instead, he saves her from the other would-be brain-eaters and takes her back to his "home."

In typical teen romance style, he charms her with his awkward geekiness and music collection, until she starts to see past the smelly corpse and into the soul beneath. As she does, R starts to find himself again.

I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by this film. The previews really just made me laugh it off as a wannabe box-office hit feeding off Twi-hards desperate for some new material. What I got instead was a clever film with somewhat tongue-in-cheek humor and a new twist on the Zombie Apocalypse. There was still plenty of cheesiness to go around, but I enjoyed every moment of it.

See It? Rating:  ***

See It? Rating Scale:
* Don't do it to yourself!
** Maybe worth a discount ticket
*** Enjoyable

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Meet Julien

Julien René Durant: Classy, charming, cultured, but always conflicted

Born in 1614 in Saint-Malo, France to a family with good resources. At seventeen, he joined the priesthood as a Jesuit.

In 1640, after completing his formation, he left to New France (Ontario, Canada) to mission to the Natives in the name of his God to whom he had dedicated his life and to escape the temptation of a certain female for whom he had developed feelings. 

After two years among the Natives, learning their language and customs and teaching them of his religion, he had an unfortunate run-in with their "Devil" which left him undead and forever hungry for the blood of humans. 

For the next four centuries he travels around the United States, Canada and England avoiding detection while trying desperately to find a solution to his need to kill and to ease his aching conscience. 


While he found creative ways to compromise his morals to help ease his guilt, he never could accept what he had become, and he wished for nothing more than his own demise. 

...Until he met "Magdalen."

Physical Description: 5’10” tall, slender/lean bordering on gaunt/waifish when he has not fed, dark hair slightly shaggy hair with thick dark eye-brows and lashes, ice-blue eyes, pale/sallow complexion except for times shortly after feeding, always well groomed, enjoys wearing fine/well-fitting and well constructed clothing,

Personality: Deeply conflicted and even slightly naive considering age/experiences. Can be giving and a good listener when necessary but can be impulsive alternating with indecisive at times especially when hunger at highest and energy at lowest. He knows how to turn on the charm to get what he needs.

Habits/Mannerisms: Soft spoken. Loner. Enjoys the taste of alcohol and the feeling of drunkenness - dulls his pain and quiets his thoughts. He is aware of his ability to charm when necessary