May 29, 2012

The Great Gatsby: Baz Luhrmann is doing it again.

Before Baz Lurhmann's name appeared in the above trailer, I knew The Great Gatsby was from the director of Moulin Rouge. Lurhmann's crazy use of colour and music immediately gave the game away. Apparently a lot of people still love Moulin Rouge because both my review of it and my posting of a video of "Come What May" continue to draw traffic to Musings by Starlight every day. Lurhmann hasn't done a lot since Moulin Rouge in 2001, so fans like me have been waiting on the edge of their seats for more magic from him.

Personally, I'm reading The Great Gatsby for the first time right now, so it was as very pleasant surprise to see such a crazy and fearless director take on the project. I have very high hopes, and higher expectations. Lurhmann had better just do it again!

May 24, 2012

Of course Ringer gets cancelled as soon as I watch the pilot!

Some things the Ringer pilot had going for it: good cinematography/direction/filming and all that jazz. Bad exposition. Good suspense. Bad pacing. Good acting from Sarah Michelle Gellar. Bad... stupidity from her character Bridget Kelly. Ok, I guess I should back up my accusations.

May 22, 2012

Game of Thrones: Who will sit on the Iron Throne (Season 2 episode 8)?

Wouldn't it just be like Cercei Lannister to find a way to get her ass onto that throne in the end?

Of course, as of "The Prince of Winterfell" Cercei is in no position to move for the throne, but she seems to have realised that putting Joffrey there was a mistake. Maybe once she's done pouting about how Joffrey is such a terrible king, she'll get back to plotting for power and become the adversary we used to know and love. Right now she's just being a thorn in the side for her brother Tyrion when he's the only one who's actually trying to do something to protect King's Landing.

But who will it be, then?

May 21, 2012

So you think Star Wars is Science Fiction, do you?

classic Star Wars A New Hope poster art

Could Star Wars Really be Fantasy?

If it looks like science fiction, is that the end of the story? Is the entire genre of sci-fi really only defined by the presence of props like spaceships, robots and laser-gun technology? By intergalactic travel and alien life forms?

The genre of sci-fi is a bit more complicated than you might think and is commonly misinterpreted, even by authors such as Margaret Atwood, who said one of her novels is not science fiction because “It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians." I would like to argue that the elements Atwood is talking about are central to aesthetic, not genre. But why would I call Star Wars fantasy? Here are some good reasons:

1. The definition

Sci-fi and fantasy are so similar that they go under one umbrella genre called Speculative Fiction. (Sadly they can also go under the category of formula fiction, but I digress). Science fiction is future-oriented and presents a world that is speculated to be possible, and is presented as within the realm of scientific possibility, where fantasy presents the purely impossible.

Star Wars takes place “A long, long time ago.” It takes place in the past. You could argue that it’s still the past in our universe, just in a galaxy “far, far away,” but there’s one problem. The Force is not in any way possible in our universe’s past or future.

2. What is The Force?

Magic gets called a lot of things in the world of Fantasy. In The Wheel of Time, it’s the One Power, the source, saidin or saidar (it’s called a lot of things in The Wheel of Time). I’m sure if you look at some of your favourite fantasy tomes, some of them will use the term magic, and others won’t. It’s ‘power’ or ‘energy’ or um ... 'the Force'.

The Force doesn’t even look like technology. The only counter-argument to this that I could think of is that the Force could be considered physics with different rules, which would make it somewhat scientific... but then isn’t that what magic is? Only certain people can use it, some people don’t even believe in it, and it’s a way of manipulating the world around you according to certain rules. And if Star Wars takes place “in a galaxy far, far away...” then it’s supposed to be in our Universe, so how would there be different rules of physics? (and how would there be magic that doesn’t exist in our world... oh shit.)

3. Conventions:

Star Wars, unlike most science fiction, isn’t about the effects of a new technology on a given society.

Star Wars is a story with a hero on a personal quest, facing a personal battle. It’s about said hero's struggles, relationships and accomplishments. The war here is basically good vs. evil. How is this so different from Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?

I can tell you what it’s not similar to. It’s not similar to sci-fi staples such as The Matrix, TerminatorDonnie Darko, or Bladerunner. Is the evil a person or an entity? That’s a pretty good hint as to what genre it belongs to. In Minority Report the antagonist is the software that tries to predict whether someone is going to commit murder. In Terminator, like in A.I. or I Robot, it’s artificial life. Same with Battlestar Galactica. Click the "sci fi" label at the bottom of this post for more examples (including new flicks like In Time, Timer and Limitless). On the other hand, I've heard the same argument I'm making about Star Wars used against Dune by Frank Herbert.

The enemies in Star Wars include the Empire (an organisation of people), Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine. Harry Potter has Lord Voldemort and Lord of the Rings has Sauron. Tolkien was very anti-industrial revolution (late as he was to the game), and rampant deforestation was one of the evils Sauron threatened, but it wasn’t the development of chainsaws that Frodo journeyed to Mount Doom to counter. It was a person. Kind of like Darth Vader.

Fantasy conventions also tend to include, sadly, archetypes. Obi Wan Kenobi is Luke’s Dumbledore/Gandalf. Name a Fantasy that doesn’t have the magical guide. Now name a sci-fi that does. On my comment board. Go!

Star Wars A New Hope movie poster High Quality HQ

May 17, 2012

Should you watch the Once Upon a Time pilot on ABC?[Review Time]

Emma Swan is a bail-bondsperson, a loner, a mother who gave up her child for adoption, an orphan, and the daughter of Snow White. Or at least that's what her son Henry tells her when he shows up ten years after being put up for adoption. 

The story really begins at Emma's apartment after a birthday wish to not be alone. The doorbell rings, and there is the son she gave up, as well as the first hint of magic in a very mundane life.

Even when the wish comes true, Emma keeps her distance from Henry, and she certainly doesn’t believe him when he tells her she needs to come to his home, Storybrook Maine, to save our favourite Fairy Tale characters from the terror that is life in the real world, where they’ve been put by the Evil Queen. That's right: the Queen's curse is to live the kind of daily life we live, with no happy endings.

Emma is resistant to staying with Henry, but of course, he's a meddling kid, the kind we all love that can always find a way to get what he wants.

May 15, 2012

Why Only Writers should watch Limitless [Review Time]

Your deductive powers are a gift from God or chance or a straight shot of sperm or whatever or whoever wrote your life-script. A gift, not earned. You do not know what I know because you have not earned those powers.
You're a writer. Well, you're a person with an idea for a novel and it's all tumbling around in your brain even if you can't really call yourself a writer because you haven't written a word yet. But you're going to be a novelist, it's just not coming out. Enter NZT, a dream drug that will unlock the 80% or so of your brain that goes unused every day. This pill doesn't make you smarter; it's YOUR potential that's being unlocked. That book you've had bouncing around in your head comes pouring out onto the pages and it's brilliant. Your editor can't put it down.

That's where Limitless begins. It ends somewhere a little far-fetched but we'll get to that. Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is an aspiring writer, but in the words of Stephen King, "writers write." Eddie's more accurately described as an alcoholic and a soon-to-be bum because he's suffering from severe writer's block. Every writer ever should check out at least the beginning of this movie so you have something to laugh about when you find yourself in this position. Laugh yourself right out of it. The beginning of Limitless was rather brilliant. Brilliantly shot, directed, acted. It really starts off on a good foot, raising the expectations you had for it entering the theatre. It's got a neat sci-fi premise and a great foundation. Oh where did it go wrong?

May 14, 2012

Game of Thrones on HBO: It's the sex! [Review Time]

It grew on me. Judging from the hype, I’m probably alone in that I wasn’t blown away by the Game of Thrones television adaptation from the beginning. Although the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, is going on close to two decades of readership, it wasn’t until HBO gave it a primetime slot that the whole world starting raving about A Game of Thrones and the book sales skyrocketed. It definitely got my attention, but also left me wondering, how is this so different from all the Fantasy that’s rotting on the bookshelves at Borders, the piles of crappy generic, poorly-written re-tellings of The Lord of the Rings? The pilot of Game of Thrones answered my question relatively quickly: it’s the sex.

May 11, 2012

In Time, Should you waste your Time? [Review Time]

For a few to be immortal, many must die.
I really didn't want to say the same thing as everyone else about this, but it seems the consensus is entirely correct. In Time has an incredible concept which was beautifully timely (heh) considering the film came out right in the middle of the Occupy movement, and it was even well-executed from the start. There's no bad exposition here and it's not even a heavy-handed metaphor. You'll be surprised how naturally money becomes time and time becomes money. I loved the first half hour so much I watched it twice. I recommend that you watch this movie for that first half hour or so, but then you can turn it off. The timer will make you feel like you shouldn't be wasting your life away, so don't.

May 8, 2012

TiMER [Review Time]

Of course when I sign up for Netflix and start rating a few of my favourite movies, they invent for me a category called "Sci-fi Romantic Comedy". I don't even like romantic comedies so I think they just got that part from the gender on my profile. Do not be sceptical. While it seems like combining two formula genres together could only create disaster, that's only if it's not well done; TiMER proved to be well-written, well-acted, funny, thought-provoking and enjoyable. So there.

May 7, 2012

Planner's block [Ranting by Starlight]

Every writer has their own planning style. No one can tell you how to plan out the plot of your novel because, like most things in writing, you just have to do it your own way - which is very frustrating if you don't know what your way is. Or, as in my case, if you discover what your style is and it totally sucks.

Some people plot everything out on a flow chart before they write their first sentence. Or so I've heard. That would be very nice, to have a roadmap. Wish it worked for me. I've started way too many outlines and never finished a single one. So I've got this nifty story I'm working on and the beginning is awesome and interesting and I'm just reading it over and over again and adding to it until it's a more bloated and less awesome monstrosity because I have no clue where I'm going.

Turns out my style is to worry and stress out over where my plot will take me for about a year, then finally have the pieces click into place of a sudden while I've been writing all over the map for months. Anyone have a time-turner I can borrow to give my roadmap to my past-self so she knows where to go?

What's your planning style?

May 3, 2012

Cover Released for A Memory of Light [Breaking News Musing]

How relevant. Since I just finished Towers of Midnight.

This cover, by Michael Whelan, was released today, May 3rd.

I hope I don't piss too many people off or hurt any feelings by saying this, but I think this may be the first Wheel of Time cover I've even close to liked. Someday I want a hardcover set of the Australian editions. I think they look very nice.

I really, really did not like Darryl K. Sweet's unfinished cover art. I have a question for WOT dedicates actually; it has been a long time reading to get through this and I don't really remember every detail, but should the flame of Tar Valon and the Dragon's fang make a full yin yang, with a dot of black in the white part and a dot of white in the black? I don't remember the dots being there in the early descriptions. In fact, I don't think it would make any sense.

I get that it's unfinished but I don't like the concept at all. That's supposed to be Elayne, Avhienda and Min? Could be any three women in the bloody world. Again, it's unfinished, but I don't think Sweet could have accomplished bringing our girls to life anyways.

I had the same issue with almost every Sweet cover. He never depicted the characters the way I saw them. He would give Perrin his axe and Mat his hat and ashandarei and think that was all there was to making the characters identifiable. Where's the mischevious expression on Mat's face, the worried one on Perrin's? And why does Rand look like the least interesting hero of all time? I found Sweet's images to be cartoony, which is probably really bad, generic marketing for a Fantasy series, and uninteresting. Don't judge a book by it's cover; this series is very interesting and imaginative, unlike Sweet's work.

May 2, 2012

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson [Review Time]

In the prologue of the last of the currently available Wheel of Time books, Jordanderson show that they can make things happen in a mere 20 pages. They move plots. They develop characters. They twist, turn and shock. The only problem is that this novel is one thousand two hundred and eighteen fricking pages in the American paperback edition. That's like The Lord of the Rings plus The Hobbit. If you've hung in for this long and read up to book 13, then it's worth it to wade through the sea of this book, against the current at times, just to get to this prologue where things actually change, but you have to go through about 1200 pages to get there. It's insanely long, but what have we come to expect from Robert Jordan, and did you really think Brandon Sanderson could change anything? Naive.