Continuing my tradition of reviewing entire series like George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire and Stephen King's The Dark Tower, I now the present to you: The Harry Potter series, books 1 - 4

(Dripping with spoilers, so don't get wet)

And the Sorcerer's Stone: The info dump. The first book in the series was famously rejected many times (although real writers know that a dozen rejection letters is nothing), and I can see why.  Plenty of amateurish writing: Rowling loves to use adverbs with dialogue tags, "which is a literary no-no," Jim Heskett admonished gravely. The opening chapters of this first book are stuffed with exposition, which prospective publishers likely also saw as a strike against. But what they didn't know was that all the exposition was to become the basis of a massive mythology, the main element that makes Harry Potter such a hit with both grownups and kids. And I've already established that Story Trumps All.

 
 
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this right here is the mad face
Why we forgive certain types of bad movies: a review of The Man With The Iron Fists

There aren't kinds of good movies. There may be levels of greatness, but not varieties. Some movies are bad, and we can categorize them as awesome bad, or truly bad. For some reason that's not readily apparent, we can still find pleasure in the awesomely bad movies. 

I credit Mystery Science Theater 3000 with teaching us how to extract fun from terrible cinema.

No denying that Snakes on a Plane was a bad movie, but there's an awesome quality to it that's hard to describe. It goes beyond the simple joy of hearing Samuel Jackson scream motherfucker or watching a snake bite a dude in the balls. Like fine wine and aged cheese, there's an inexplicable je ne sais quoi that can only be appreciated, not dissected.

That being said, I think I've found the formula. Let's explore why we can forgive and even enjoy certain types of bad movies.


 
 
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I liked the White Stripes. let me rephrase that: I really liked Jack White in the White Stripes. Meg White, with her off-tempo timing and severely limited repertoire of beats, made the Stripes often unbearable.

 
 
Editor's Note: I had a choice between seeing this and The Fault In Our Stars, based on the John Green book of the same name. I liked the book, and was tempted to see that movie so I could review it and toss in a rant about the recent Slate article which claims adults should be ashamed for reading Young Adult books.

All I'll say about the snooty reader-shaming Slate article is this: eff you, Slate. There are some great and thought-provoking YA books out there like The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and More Than This by Patrick Ness. You wanna shame people for liking books? Go after Twihards and their ilk. Leave the generalizations about the entire category out of it.

Now, about Edge of Tomorrow...

 
 
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Yes, J-Law is all kinds of nekkid here
Ever since the Ashton Kutcher epic The Butterfly Effect, time travel movies have been struggling to live up to a certain standard. X-Men colon the future days of the past shoots and scores. It ticks all the boxes of a superhero movie that will please the hardcore nerds plus have the general appeal of an explosion-based film.

 
 
You’re sick of zombies, just like you were sick of vampires three years ago and ironic mustaches two years ago. I get it. The basic premise of any zombie story is this:

Zombies: BRRAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIINS!!!
Humans: We must escape with our lives!

In The Walking Dead, the king of all zombie media properties, it’s a little more developed and intelligent:

Zombies: BRRAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIINS!!!
Humans: We must escape with our lives! And also, not lose our humanity in the process!

 
 
George R.R. Martin... where have you gone?

Here’s a quick, spoiler-free review/summary of the previous four installments in this series:

Game Of Thrones: The first book in a series is usually the best. Like the tv show LOST, about which everyone claims the first season is the best because it establishes the whole world and at that point, the possibilities are endless (and about LOST, that’s incorrect. The second season is the best because we begin to learn about the Dharma Initiative. I’ll fight you if you say different). A Song of Ice and Fire is a rich world, filled with interesting characters, and it’s more a political thriller than a fantasy series. Yes, there are dragons and undead things, but they're essentially for flavor, more than anything else. This is the first fantasy story that could have wider mass-market appeal. Then, near the end of this book, there’s a plot twist that is so unexpected (but believable), now we know that this is storytelling as we've never seen before. We’re hooked.

 
 
Dreamcatcher, directed by Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark), written by William Goldman (All the President's Men), and starring Morgan Freeman (that one movie about penguins), flopped like a chubby kid on a diving board. The craptacularness of the final product baffled me, because with so much talent shoehorned into one project, how could it go wrong?

Fast forward a decade, and we have Dreamcatcher's spiritual successor. Take Cormac McCarthy, author of two of my totes fave novels (No Country For Old Men, The Road), add Ridley Scott (Bladerunner, Gladiator), throw in some talent like Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem... sounds amazing, right?

 
 
If you're a fledgling writer and you want to know how to write "voice," read this book. Chbosky throws you inside the head of teenager Charlie, and as a reader, you feel what he feels, see what he sees. I haven't before experienced an author who does this with the same level of skill.

The story evolves through a series of letters from Charlie, and they sound like an actual teenager wrote them. In the early letters, there are run-on sentences and awkward phrasing, then as he progresses through the school year and works with a mentor/english teacher, his writing improves and he starts to use more complex words. The meta here is so thick you could sop it up with a biscuit.


 
 
When I first heard of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, I was surprised that the studio was releasing it in early March, given that Jan-March is the dumping ground for shit movies. Then, when it was being released only in small theaters (The Harsh had to drive 10 miles to see it. Not cool.), I was even more worried. Why aren't Anderson's movies released during awards season? Why doesn't it get a chance?