Happy Holidays and All That


I've been extremely busy moving into the new house and bingeing on Christmas movies, which is why I haven't posted anything here in a while. As I do every December, I've written dozens of reviews over on Mainlining Christmas - it's a good resource if you're ever looking for advice on what to watch and what to avoid like the plague during the yuletide season.

A few highlights include the absolutely amazing holiday album from one of my oldest friends and his collaborators - you can download it free here and read my take here). Also, check out my write-up of the Adam Ruins Christmas special and the pictures of the custom Krampus action figure I put together, if you get a chance - I'm especially proud of these two articles.

If you're looking for something longer to read this Christmas, I'm making my 2009 fantasy novel For Love of Children available free on Kindle between the 23rd and the 27th. It offers an alternative look at holiday icons and modern mythology - grab a copy, if you haven't already.

I haven't made it to the movies much recently, but I did make time for Rogue One. My full review is up at The Middle Room, but the short version is that I loved it.

Interesting Times


The experience of the past month has placed me in a position of being able to offer a piece of advice. It is extremely specific, but in the off chance it's ever relevant to anyone reading this, I'd like to share what I've learned:

For the love of God, never buy a house in the middle of a presidential election.

That's not to say we didn't get a nice house - we ended up with a beautiful place at a good price. However, watching your country flush its future down the toilet really takes the wind out of your sails when you're trying to move. The past few weeks have been among the most exhausting of my life, and we still have to unpack.

As if that's not enough, Christmas is upon us once more, which means it's time to dust off our annual holiday blog and start pumping cheer into our bodies. We briefly considered taking a year off, but... Mainlining Christmas is tradition now. Besides, if we quit the stop-motion villains win. So head on over for an near-endless string of reviews, articles, and perhaps a couple holiday stories.

Now if you'll excuse me, I still have several pieces of IKEA furniture to reassemble before I binge watch seven seasons' worth of Christmas episodes.

Now Available: A Unique Sickness of Spirit


Book 3 of The Citadel of the Last Gathering is now available in paperback and for your Kindle!

A Unique Sickness of Spirit finds Alaji and Phaesha in an era of sprawling cities, horrific apparitions, and flying ships. They discover a place where the undead have become mundane, and once commonplace magic is the stuff of legend.

The world has been waiting for them for thousands of years... but it's no more prepared for their arrival than they are for what they find.

You can buy a Kindle edition here for just $2.99. Print copies are available for $9.99 here.

If you haven't read the first two installments, pick them up first - I'll even make it easy. From now through the end of this weekend, the Kindle version of A Count of Five is FREE, and A Tide of Ice is just $0.99!

Overview of The Citadel of the Last Gathering


With the third novel about to come out, I thought I should throw together some sort of explanation for what this series is and why you might want to read it. I figured an FAQ would be more fun to read and write than a rant, so I went with that.


What are these books?
The Citadel of the Last Gathering is a series of novels I've been working on for several years and plan to stay with for quite a few more. Unless my plans change, there will eventually be nine novels in total, along with a handful of short stories.


What's the genre?
Well, that gets complicated. First and foremost, these are fantasy, but that could mean a lot of things. In this case, it actually does mean a lot of different things: because the books incorporate time travel, the sub-genres change from novel to novel. The first book is essentially ancient world, the second is sword and sorcery, the third is an amalgamation of Victorian fantasy, steampunk, and some related genres... you get the idea.

If you're inferring elements of SF from the presence of time travel, you're on the right track. While the mechanism is magical in nature, I'm not treating it as a throwaway concept. I've put some effort into crafting the rules of time travel and taking it seriously. In quite a few ways, I'm treating this as a science fiction story occurring in a fantasy setting, rather than a fantasy story with a couple SF tropes.


Oh, you mean this is really happening on Earth
No! I promise, the last book won't end with them going back in time and destroying magic or something. This isn't occurring on Earth - it's a fantasy world.


What's the world called?
Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed I haven't named the planet... and there's a reason for that. With very few exceptions, I hate it when SF and fantasy authors create cutesy names for their worlds. While I appreciate it from a branding perspective, it just doesn't make sense.

Historically, people on Earth have typically assumed their world is the only one and just named it accordingly. That's why our planet is still called a synonym for dirt. I'd expect cultures of a fictitious world to act similarly.

I considered having a few cultures do something like this early on in the series, but I decided too many people would assume that just meant it took place on our Earth, which... see the last question.


Is it YA?
Kind of. The main character is sixteen in the first novel, which - by many definitions - makes it a YA series. On top of that, the content tends to lean towards a PG-13 level.

That said, she's going to grow older. The content may get a little darker at times, but not exceedingly so. Also, a lot of YA books follow a pretty standard formula. It should be pretty obvious from the first book this does not.


Who's the main character?
Alaji, a young woman from the distant past, who finds herself on an adventure spanning countless eons. Along with the spells known to her people, she has developed the ability to skip back in time a few seconds, a simple-sounding effect which makes her a lethal foe.

She is an outsider everywhere she goes, both in appearance and customs. As she travels, she will need to determine her place in a vastly complex world.

Other major characters will come and go - some may even overshadow Alaji as the primary lead for a book or two - but the series will tell her story. She'll also be the only character to appear in every novel.


How about romance? Is there a love interest?
There will be some romance eventually, but not for quite a while. It'll be a factor in the later books, but it's never going to be the primary point of this series.

I like a good love story as much as the next person, but I'm a little tired of a couple meeting and discovering they're soulmates. That can be a fine premise, but it's been done to death.


Will I like these books?
I hope so! Most reviews I've gotten have been very positive. The few tepid exceptions generally cite time travel as the element the reader disliked.

I don't think genre fans familiar with the trope will have an issue, but if you've never encountered a time travel story you enjoyed, this probably won't break the pattern. I don't think I've made the books too complicated, but I do assume readers will be familiar with the concept of time travel and will be willing to explore some unusual spins on the idea.


Why should I read them?
The settings are dynamic, shifting from book to book, as the world is transformed by geological changes, a shifting climate, evolution, and catastrophic magical events... not to mention Alaji's actions, which will leave a lasting mark on humanity, the world, and history.

It's fantasy at a very large scale, filtered through Alaji's changing perspective of the world she's altering. All of that on top of the action, comedy, and suspense you'd want from a genre series - these books are both philosophical and fun to read.

It's by far the most ambitious project I've ever undertaken, and I'm extremely proud of how the books are coming together. I hope you'll give them a shot.


Where can I get them?
Amazon. I publish the paperbacks through Createspace, Amazon's print-on-demand service. The digital versions are only offered through Amazon, as well, formatted for Kindle:

Book 1: A Count of Five
Book 2: A Tide of Ice
Book 3: A Unique Sickness of Spirit

If you're a fan of a different e-reader format, I apologize. I used to offer other books on other platforms, but the sales never justified the effort. When Amazon started offering promotional options in exchange for exclusive access, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to reach a larger audience.

Sneak Preview: A Unique Sickness of Spirit

A Unique Sickness of Spirit, Book 3 of The Citadel of the Last Gathering, will be available for the Kindle on October 6th. You can pre-order now and get it delivered to your device the moment it's out.

Here's a short passage to hold you over until then:


*

Eventually, the path came to the remains of a stone bridge, which reached only a third of the way across a chasm several hundred feet wide. Alaji approached to examine the stonework.

"Careful,” Yemerik said. “I’m not sure that’s sturdy.”

“I won’t go far,” Alaji promised, taking a few steps onto the structure. Vines hung from the edges, and moss grew everywhere. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

“It’s a bridge,” Phaesha said dismissively. “Or it was one.”

“They had ones like this in Hathari, but they were smaller. The stones were less… smooth.” Alaji said, kneeling down to run her fingers over the rocky floor. She rose and returned to the others, who were peering into the ravine. “I’m sorry. It’s still new to me.”

“It’s a good sign. Even in this state, it means the area is important enough to warrant attention. There are likely other roads nearby. We just have to get across. Fortunately, the slope looks gentle enough. We’ll have to be careful, but I think we’ll make it down alright.”

“I can barely see the bottom,” Phaesha replied. “I’d expect you’d want to wait for morning.”

“I didn’t like the look of those tracks,” Yemerik explained. “I’d rather not wait around for whatever made them to find us.”

“You’re assuming it’s not waiting for us down there,” Phaesha said.

“Well, I don’t have a better idea.” He turned to the others in case they did, but he was only met with blank faces. “I’ll go first then.” He lowered himself over the edge and slid down in as controlled a manner as possible, knocking several rocks loose as he did so. “I’m alright!” he called up, once he’d reached the bottom. “The smell is awful, but other than that it looks fine.” He stood up and began brushing the dust from his back. Behind him, he heard the sound of stones shifting. He stepped forward to give Alaji or Phaesha room.

“Yemerik! Look out!” Alaji screamed.

He turned to see something emerging from beneath the ruined bridge, crawling from a hidden cavern cutting into the hill. He could tell it was large – at least twice as tall as he was – but beyond that, it was a dark shape shifting in shadows.

Yemerik started away across the bottom of the ravine. Then, ahead of him, he saw a large rock lift up as something pushed it out of the way from underneath. He turned back. The thing coming from the bridge was joined by another, slightly smaller but still more than eight feet tall. Now that they were in the open, he caught a bit more detail in the moonlight: long slender limbs attached to fat, round bodies.

With a quick incantation, Phaesha hurled a blast of fire at the two by the bridge. They shrieked and covered their faces, though they’d barely been touched by the flames. In that instant, the light revealed green flesh spotted in warts. Alaji stepped into the chasm and began sliding down. One of the creatures heard her and turned.

Alaji jumped as she slid and stepped back in time mid-leap. Once again, the creature’s back was turned to her. She buried her knife into the pale green skin on its back. It cried out in rage and pain and whipped around, throwing her off to one side. Alaji struck the loose stone hill and skidded down to the bottom. The creature turned toward her, baring its teeth.

With a twist, Alaji arced her hand upward, trailing fire behind. Once again, the creatures shielded their eyes and leapt back with a cry.

Phaesha gave a shout and charged down the hill, kicking her legs forwards as broken slabs of rock slid under her. One of the creatures turned to meet her. It swung a clawed hand at her head, but she ducked beneath the attack and sliced into its side with her sword. The monster screeched in pain but gave no ground. Instead, it grabbed for her. Narrowly, she avoided its reach and stabbed into its elbow, catching it in the joint.

The creature growled, then lifted its arm, throwing her backward. It lunged after her, but was turned back by flame.

“They’re afraid of fire!” Alaji cried out, a moment after hurling the flame that pushed back the creature.

“Not fire!” Yemerik yelled, running towards the two women. “Light! They’re trolls! Afraid of light!” He almost reached them when a hand caught his ankle and pulled him off his feet.

Pre-Order A Unique Sickness of Spirit! Also, Other News!


The Kindle copy of A Unique Sickness of Spirit, the third novel in The Citadel of the Last Gathering, will be released on October 6 and is now available for pre-order. As usual, we're not 100% sure when the paperback copy will be finalized. It all comes down to how the cover and map look in print and whether adjustments are needed.

Also, the first novel in the series, A Count of Five, will be free if you pick it up on the 1st or 2nd of September. If you haven't already gotten a copy for your Kindle, do so then and save a few bucks!

In other news, I wrote a pair of reviews over at The Middle Room that you might be interested in. First, I saw Kubo and the Two Strings, a beautiful movie I wish had focused a little more on tone. Nonetheless, it's absolutely stunning, and you should check it out on the big screen before it's too late.

If you have Amazon Prime, you may have heard you can watch the pilot for the new live-action spin on The Tick. If possible, I'd suggest doing so before reading my review (or anyone else's for that matter). It's nothing like I expected, but it's one of the most intriguing starts to a superhero show I've ever seen.

And speaking of streaming TV shows, I wrote up a few thoughts on the use of holiday tropes in Stranger Things for Mainlining Christmas. Lindsay and I both enjoyed the show quite a bit, though we felt like it leaned a tad too heavily on its references. If it had worked in an element or two that felt wholly original or uniquely realized, I think we'd have loved it. As it was, we just really liked it.

Updated Cover for A Count of Five


We're still putting the finishing touches on the cover for A Unique Sickness of Spirit. In the meantime, I thought I'd share an updated cover image for the first book in the series, A Count of Five. This won't alter the print version, but new copies of the digital will now feature this image.

In other news, we saw Pete's Dragon last weekend. It was a decent movie, but Disney made a serious error in releasing it so soon after the far superior Jungle Book. It's impossible not to look at this and be underwhelmed - the genres are similar, but they're just not in the same league. You can check out my review of Pete's Dragon here, and - because I'll take any excuse I can think of to link to my review of The Jungle Book - you can read about one of the year's best movies here.

Medieval Pony Squad Weekend

Not a lot to update this week, but I've got a few things. Lindsay and I had a nice weekend: we swung by the Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake, WA. While we were there, we caught a couple fun acts and bought some costume pieces. It was nice, though a tad smaller than the ren faires we're used to. Growing up on the East Coast spoiled us, I guess.

Pivoting from a faire to Walmart, we came across these figurines. Friendship is Magic is one of many animated series we both enjoy, and these might be the nicest collectibles I've seen from the show, at least at this price point.


I threw together a very brief review with some additional pictures over here, if you're interested.

Shifting gears to movies, we caught Suicide Squad on Sunday. While I can definitely appreciate why the vast majority of critics tore it apart, I had a much more favorable reaction. The movie's got flaws - major structural ones, in fact - but unlike its dour predecessor in the DC Expanded Universe, this one was actually fun. If you want more details on that, check out my review at The Middle Room.

July Ends; the Madness Continues

It's been an exhausting 58% of a year so far. Exhausting, but productive. I wrapped up the first draft of the sixth book in the Citadel of the Last Gathering a few days ago - SIXTH. That's three novels this year alone: a personal best.

Don't expect much more between now and the end of December, because I've still got to get the third book prepped for release this fall (we're targeting October), and I want to start going over books four through six. Plus we've got Mainlining Christmas to think about, and we're considering moving to a bigger place.

Busy, busy, busy.

What else is up? Well, speaking of Mainlining Christmas and quotes from Frosty specials, we just finished up a month of Christmas in July over at the holiday-themed blog. Check it out if you haven't been following along.

Since my last update, I saw Star Trek Beyond, a movie I far underestimated from its trailer. This did a fantastic job blending the new films with the series they're based on - it was an absolute joy to watch. I go into more depth over at The Middle Room, if you're interested.

Beyond that, I've been making the most of the summer toy-collecting season, when clearance is at its best and new toys are coming out constantly. Among my favorite acquisitions is this trio of Barbie figures paying homage to Classic Trek.


These are showing up at Toys R Us, if you're interested, at $35/each. That's not cheap, but it's a fraction of what you'll pay for high-end figures.

Religious Artifacts


If you live in Seattle and have the time, I highly recommend you swing by the EMP Museum before their Star Trek special exhibit closes. The collection is drawn from every iteration of Trek - every series is represented, as are most of the movies. It's mesmerizing. If the Vatican threw open the doors to their archives, I'm guessing this is what it would feel like.


On top of that, there's a special exhibit on "Wearable Art" taken from a New Zealand-based competition. If that sounds dull to you, you're likely making the same mistake I made and are forgetting that WETA is based in New Zealand.


Awesome.



Amazing.


Bad ass.

It feels like you're walking through an exhibit drawn from the greatest nightmares. There's an eight minute video presentation there that's worth every second: sort of a carnival of these costumes in motion.

Let's see... what's else is going on? I was quite happy with the new Ghostbusters movie. We can quibble over details, but this has the potential to mean as much to the next generation of geeks as the original meant to mine. Hell, McKinnon's character swipes the award for all-time best Ghostbuster right out of Murray's hands.

As always, there's a full review up on The Middle Room if you want the long version.

Also, just a reminder but my wife and I are running a special July edition of the holidays over at Mainlining Christmas. We took the Christ out of Christmas and left him on an abandoned island in July. Honestly, I think he's probably happier there anyway. Click the link to learn more about Christmas specials set in the summer than you probably ever wanted.

I think that's about it for news. I'll check in again when I've got more to say.


July's Fine and All, but MERRY CHRISTMAS

I've got a lot to cover in this update, but I'll try to keep it fast.

First, we're still on track to have A Unique Sickness of Spirit (book 3 in The Citadel of the Last Gathering) out this fall. We're still putting some finishing touches on it, but it's looking good.

In other news, IT'S CHRISTMAS! Well, it's Christmas in July, or at least it is over at our holiday-themed blog. Lindsay and I are planning to post once a day in July. We'll be reviewing movies, episodes, and other media fixated on this bizarre pseudo-holiday.

To celebrate, we're also going to be giving away digital copies of my novels! Between Friday, July 8 and Sunday, July 10, go to Amazon to grab your free copy of each of the following:

What else? Since I last updated, I've watched and reviewed X-Men: Apocalypse (flawed but under-rated), Finding Dory (basically flawless and rated about right), and Warcraft (just weird as hell). I also finally got around to last year's Fantastic Four in my series reviewing the lowest rated and least-loved superhero movies of all time. I thought the first half was intriguing, but it quickly fell apart.

In addition, I wrote up a brief article looking at what's becoming an odd trend in movies: while most of the industry's stalling, Disney has been putting out an almost shocking rate of critically acclaimed, financially successful films. You can read that here.

Lastly, I wrote up a toy review at my old site, The Clearance Bin. I rarely post there these days, but I couldn't help it: NECA's 8 inch Weird Al figure just demanded a write-up. The review might not conform to the norm, but it was a hell of a lot of fun to put together.

Cover Reveal: A Unique Sickness of Spirit


We're still working on getting the third novel in The Citadel of the Last Gathering ready, but I just finished an early version of the cover image and wanted to share. This isn't finalized - I've got a few more adjustments to make - but I'm extremely happy with how it's coming together.

Incorporating elements of Victorian horror and steampunk, A Unique Sickness of Spirit begins just moments after the conclusion of A Tide of Ice.

Alaji, Yemerik, and Phaesha arrive in a time very different from the one they left. Here, ships sail through the air, the lines between the living and the dead have blurred, the poor sell their very blood and spirit to survive, and a nation at war is splintering into factions. Alaji finds herself becoming a symbol for revolution, whether she wishes it or not.

A Unique Sickness of Spirit will be available in fall 2016.

News, Updates, and Stuff


I know, I know - I don't post often enough here. But I've got a great excuse: I've been writing.

The first draft of book five is now done. You read that right - book five. That's two complete novels written this year, and we're not even halfway through 2016. In case anyone's curious, this is definitely the most productive I've ever been in my life.

Of course, I've still got a ton of work to do on book three, A Unique Sickness of Spirit, between now and the fall. So I'll be taking some time off of writing to revise that and work on the cover before I dive into book six, which is an installment I've been dying to tell since I started this series.

Lindsay and I went hiking a few times already. We didn't go anywhere we've never been before, but we did get to one of our all time favorite trails: Lake Serene (hence the pictures).


What else? Well, I've been to the movies a few times recently. In April, I saw Jungle Book, which was a major achievement in both technology and storytelling. If you want more details, check out my full review over here.

If you thought I'd wait longer than opening day to see Captain America: Civil War, you don't know me all that well. It was my second favorite movie in the MCU, behind only The Avengers (and even then, it was close). After the poorly constructed Batman v Superman, it was a joy to see a superhero movie on this scale made by people who understand what they're doing. You can find more of me using Civil War as an excuse to bash Zack Snyder in my review.

Just this past weekend, my wife and I went to see Shane Black's 70's comedy/noir, The Nice Guys. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, though I was a little disappointed to find it staying a little too close to Black's earlier work.

We're also experimenting with a new review format over on Mainlining Christmas. Our test subject is Home, a CG comedy/SF kids movie that came out last year. It had just enough holiday elements to earn a spot on the site but not enough to take up our time in December. If you have a few minutes, head on over and let us know if you like the "discussion" format.

That's it for now.

True Story About Movies

This happened five, maybe six years ago, back when I was still in New York. If you've ever visited the city, you probably know the subway system can be daunting, even for those of us who lived there. I won't take you though the details, but I wound up missing a stop, grabbing the wrong train, and - long story short - I found myself in a space beyond space, sort of a nexus between parallel worlds.

Right. If you're not up on your quantum mechanics, the reality we know is but one of many sharing a multiverse of... you get the point. This isn't a physics lesson - this is about movies.

There's a bunch of us there waiting for different trains; mostly people in the same situation I was in, but we were all from different worlds. So while I'm waiting for an N train, I run into this guy, a little older, but kind of nerdy like me, and we get to talking, like you do. We realize pretty quickly we're from similar worlds, but not exactly the same; like, his New York has four boroughs instead of five, and conspiracy nuts say there's a monster in Lake Michigan but he's never heard of Loch Ness. That kind of thing.

Then, out of the blue, he says to me, "I've always wondered if it was just my world, or if others had this happen. Back in the late seventies, there was this movie that came out, called, 'Star Wars'. The trailers looked amazing. Well, they did to me, at least. I guess not everyone thought so, but there were space wizards and lasers and robots. It just looked incredible.

"Anyway, I made sure to go see it the day it came out, even though I read a review that said it was a waste of time. And I loved it. It was just... it was something to behold; a sort of jumble of different story types and ideas. It was part space opera, part adventure, part fantasy, a lot like those old serials from the 30's. I'd never seen anything like it.

"I remember thinking this was going to change everything. That a generation of filmmakers was going to be inspired by it, that there'd be sequels, and this was going to be all anyone talked about.

"The theater was maybe half full, and most of the audience really seemed to like it. Then, I don't know. Nothing happened. There were more negative reviews, not a lot of people went to see it, and it just kind of quietly left the theaters. Years later, it came out on VHS, and a few more people saw it. It sort of picked up a cult following, but mostly it was just forgotten.

"Every now and then, I wonder what could have happened. I'd have loved to see a sequel or two or something. I don't know... you have anything like that where you're from?"

I glance up at the sign and see I have three minutes before my train's going to pull in. Not a lot of time, but just enough to answer his question. So I smile, nod, and say, "Let me tell you about a movie called Speed Racer...."

Two Day Book Sale and One of the Worst Superhero Movies Ever Made

If you want to save a few bucks on my novels, the Kindle versions will be $0.99 each this Friday and Saturday (April 1st and 2nd). Just go to Amazon after 8AM PST on the first, and enjoy the discount:

A Count of Five
A Tide of Ice
For Love of Children
Facsimile

My collection of short fiction, Tending the Fire, is normally $0.99, so I've marked that down to $0.00 - completely free - for those two days.

Other news - I'm hard at work on more novels in the Citadel of the Last Gathering series. I've got drafts of books three AND four now, and I'm getting ready to start on book five. So don't think I'm slacking!

I haven't done a lot of online writing other than that (isn't that enough?), but I did find a few minutes to jot down my thoughts on Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Fair warning, though - I included some light spoilers in my review, so if you'd like to be surprised at the elements that leave you utterly disappointed, disillusioned, and pissed off, you should probably hold off on reading it until after you've sat through the excruciatingly bad movie.

Toys, Movies, and a Very Wet Winter

Sorry I haven't chimed in lately. I've been extremely busy working on the next few novels. The Citadel of the Last Gathering is by far the most complicated project I've ever attempted. I'm not setting an arbitrary number of volumes that I plan on sticking to, but I'm estimating this will be somewhere between nine and twelve books when complete. The current plan is to put these out at a rate of at least one a year. The third novel, A Unique Sickness of Spirit, should be available sometime this fall.

I haven't been doing much adventuring this year, largely due to the weather, which is still less extreme than the stories I heard prior to moving to Seattle. In the meantime, I've been checking out movies and indulging my fondness for action figures, toy cars, and dolls.

Yes, I said dolls. And, yes, some of them are Barbies. And, yes, I am absolutely comfortable with that, because there are some phenomenal dolls on the market these days.

For example, I've already picked up most of Hasbro's DC Superhero Girls 12 inch "Action Doll" line (the last one I'm missing should be arriving later this week). I reviewed the first two I bought, Supergirl and Wonder Woman over here, if you want my thoughts (spoiler alert - they are awesome).

And speaking of Wonder Woman, I also wrote up the new Barbie from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It's a good doll overall, but a little more mixed than the cheaper and brighter Superhero Girls line.

Moving on to movies, I recently put together my annual list of summer movies, complete with a set of guesses as to how good they'll be.

I've also seen a few movies recently. I don't think anyone will be surprised to hear I enjoyed Deadpool - more or less everyone else did, too. Mainly, I was impressed what how seriously they took the superhero aspect of the X-Men, something Fox has been slow to embrace until now.

I had a very mixed reaction to Kung Fu Panda 3, a movie I wholly acknowledge I was unable to offer a fair review. In many ways, I thought it was an excellent action/comedy, but I just couldn't get over where I felt like it betrayed the series. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a favorite of mine, and this definitely felt like a step backward. You can read my complete thoughts here.

By far the best new movie I've seen this year was Zootopia, which offered a fantastic look at some very complex issues. I was astonished by how seriously this movie addressed its themes, providing an honest look at bias, stereotyping, and racial scapegoating. The fact it does this without ever feeling preachy or moralizing makes it even more impressive. If you haven't seen this yet, do so before reading my review.

I also recently saw a few older movies that really caught me off-guard. I didn't review them (as a rule of thumb, I don't write up movies long after they've been released, with the exception of Christmas stuff). However, if you haven't seen any of these movies, I highly recommend remedying that as soon as possible.

Paddington, a film centered around a CG bear, was almost unbelievably good. Sweet, funny, poignant, and touching, it demonstrates that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with this genre. In the right hands, a movie featuring an anthropomorphic talking bear can be one of the year's best movies.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World caught me off guard for entirely different reasons. Arguably the darkest romantic comedy ever filmed follows a couple as they go on a road trip in the last days of civilization. The movie plays with tone and point-of-view, showing the humor of a situation before turning around and revealing tragedy. And, in its most touching moment, joy. It's a film about love and mortality, hope and despair. It's fearless in its approach, and shockingly honest.

Lastly, the Feig-directed Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy, might not have moved me emotionally, but I absolutely loved it. Funny, exciting, and suspenseful, it accomplishes precisely what it sets out to do: delivering an authentic spy movie that's simultaneously a hilarious comedy. If there was any doubt that Ghostbusters is in the right hands, it's gone now.

That's it for now. I'll try not to let so much go by between updates, but no promises: I'm busy these days, and I rather miss a few blog posts than fall behind on the novels. Until next time!