Tag Archives: series

Review: Ocean’s 8

I kept meaning to watch the Ocean’s franchise, and then either something would annoy me within the first few minutes or I’d get distracted and blah. The fact it was an almost entirely male cast probably factored into this, since at this point of my life, I am highly reluctant to invest in male-centric franchises, I don’t care how much I love George Clooney. But Ocean’s 8 is an all female main cast, they didn’t cast the Bitch Who Shall Not Be Named (as I shall refer to the actress who got given the opportunity to PROVE A POINT and to fight for representation and turned it into a fat joke), and while it was in theaters, I was in desperate need of a distraction. So I went. And while it makes my heart heavy to remember what happened that night, I can’t regret getting to see a good movie out of it.

A heist comedy, Ocean’s 8 centers around Debbie Ocean (the late [or better be] Danny Ocean’s sister) as she is released from prison, and falls back into the family business. Her plans are ambitious, her old partner Lou is ride or die though with a touch of emotional concern, and Debbie has spent years making sure everything will work as long as the right people are in the right places at the right time. And without the help of a single man…aside as a fall guy, that is. And she has the perfect one in mind. A diverse cast makes up Debbie and Lou’s contacts and newcomers to their types of games, and in the end, revenge is served best cold as ice.

So the movie starts off in a very subtle way that I think is supremely powerful. It shows exactly how experienced Debbie is at these types of cons, and how she takes control of any situation she is. It proves to us that this Mastermind has the skills to back up her plan. Now cue the character meetings and setting up the bare bones of the heist. Each character, in their handful of scenes, had plenty of time to establish their situations, their personalities, and their own goals, as well as their skill sets. Were some of the backgrounds hokey? Yes, but it wasn’t just the ethnic characters. I mean, how hokey is a stay at home mom who is a fence? The Indian character dealing with a mother being pushy about marriage seems hokey to us because it’s a common trope, but it’s also a common trope because it is important to their culture and the character played with it a little at least.

We also started to establish some back story for Debbie and Lou without it being some giant info dump, it was relevant to the job. There are also plenty of secrets still remaining for the women to dive into later. The heist itself was amusing, with just enough tension to keep the story moving (no spoilers!). I was trying to figure out where the ending was going and where a missing piece went, so the end reveal to me was actually pretty satisfying, even if it was predictable. (It’s a heist comedy, I don’t go in expecting to be super-duper surprised, here.)

With any kind of ensemble cast, you always have to juggle your balls in the air carefully to make sure nothing goes horrible wrong or static. This is especially difficult with an already established franchise, depending on how tightly you want to link back to it. Now, the writers did a very smart thing for Ocean’s 8. They divorced themselves almost entirely from the main group, splintering off after a sister of a main character, and building up around here with a deliberate focus, and then they kept the numbers down. So rather than trying to expand or grow a character, they got to focus the entire movie on these different personalities shifting to slot together as a team, so no one character had to be the end-all-be-all, or worse, all of them having to grow to prevent comparisons. The weakest ones to my memory are Constance and Nine-Ball, but I think both have room to grow and develop further. I also liked how two of the characters weren’t the type we normally expect for their actresses.

Helena Bonham Carter has been pretty type cast to Belletrix and Tim Burton type characters, so getting to see her in an almost bubbly (if frail) and ditzy character was a very welcome change. And I love how Anne Hathaway’s character was trying to sell the image of who we know Anne to be, but actually was a much stronger, more assertive personality type, not to mention much smarter than initially expected by the team. Now with sequels, theycan build on this core group or add or take away, depending on the job. Personally, I hope they tie in with some of the women from the main franchise.

The setting is harder to comment on due to it being set in the real world, but I did like the different shots they used, and I thought Nine-Ball’s comments on the headquarters really was cool commentary on heist clichés. Why are they always set in old abandoned warehouses? I know, out of the way and lots of room, but still, points to the hacker that the cyber security for those places is usually awful. I also loved the different styles of gala dresses that they did for the Met scenes, and actually during the movie, I had a thought. Based on Sandra Bullock’s line about her dress being old, I thought they’d actually had the actresses pull old dresses that they had previously worn to events. Bullock has been blonde before, pulling from her wardrobe at that time would make sense to me, and I thought it was a cool touch about one-time-only dresses and getting a chance to wear them again. (Ya’ll can imagine my vivid disappointment when I found out I was wrong, I was heartbroken. It was such a good idea!!!) I did like how celebrities were there playing themselves except for our main cast, and it really helped add a touch of viewing a world that we normally only get to see on television.

This movie out of all the franchise has gotten a lot of ragging for being unoriginal or lacking in tension. And I’m just really confused. After the first Ocean’s movie, we all know the formula, there is no shocker to be had her. It’s the same as the old book serials–you know Holmes is going to solve the case, you know these set people are involved. The fun isn’t in the conclusion, it’s in getting there, like that missing piece I was hanging on to. (And I started slapping Aubrey’s shoulder over…I’m a violent movie buddy, ya’ll.) It’s about enjoying eight smart women getting to be eight smart women and getting one over a male dominated world. And even if it glorifies thieves and unethical characters… I’m okay with that, because at least it shows that we can do anything we set our minds to, a message that girls and women don’t get enough of, especially in today’s political climate. To quote Debbie, “Somewhere out there is an 8-year-old girl dreaming of becoming a criminal. Do this for her.”

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Writing: Updates and Arc Writing

So, here’s a new sort of thing… I’m talking my personal writing here, for those who care. It’s been a crazy time, with the move and changing from being a student to a full-time (if temp) job. I had a hard time finding the energy to write.

But then Thanksgiving break happened. I don’t know why my brain suddenly went, “Dude, dude, we should WRITE!” but it did. I pushed through the entire first act/arc at last. And then this last weekend, I’ve not only gotten all of the second act plotted, but I’ve got bits and pieces of the rest now figured in my head. Not to mention all the stuff that has to happen in later books because of time reasons that I’ve come up with. I think Caley’s series is working out to be a fun project. If I can’t get it to sell, I might publish them on Kindle.

Part of what I think is making this so much fun to write is every time I come up with an idea, I figure out a place where it can go. Everything is sticking to the walls, and I have enough story that it isn’t going to be rushed by doing it this way. I’m not even limited by age demographic as much as I normally am. Mind, there is a very clear dividing line where I go, “Okay, twelve through fourteen is now iffy for appropriateness,” and I’m keeping all the adult ideas on a list to do if this series works out well. It’s just…what I can come up with and making it all work. It’s exciting instead of editing myself, going, “Nooo, that’s silly, or inappropriate or just WEIRD.”

The big thing I’m doing different is how I’m doing my plotting. For the future books, I have…one paragraph. Maybe two, if I’ve just been exploding with ideas (which I have for the second and third). It’s really just the very basics: what’s my A plot, what’s my B plot, who are my villains, little ideas that I need to get written down SOMEWHERE so I don’t forget them… That’s it. For the book I’m currently on, besides my paragraph, I’m also plotting by arcs within acts, which is so different from what I normally do, but I’m liking it.

Explanation on what that last bit means: rather than plotting the WHOLE book out, chapter by chapter, I instead break the book into three acts: first, second, and third. First act is all set up for the novel, what the situation is before God (a.k.a. you the writer) throws a monkey wrench into everything. Third is the ending, the climax of the novel and the wrap up, which you want the wrap up to be as short as possible. The second is, put simply, everything in between. But an act is not the same thing as an arc. Why? Because of that silly second act. It actually has a mid-point, a turning point in the plot where things go weird, which divides it in half. So when I plot by acts, I have three…but by arc, I have four.

It forces me to stay with Caley and what her immediate goals are. It’s weird, because I only sort of know what’s going on in the third arc. (I used to not know what was going on in the ending either, but idea explosion and yeah.) Normally, I know down to the detail what happens in the book. But that’s the problem. I’m either so obsessed with my details or the overall picture, I don’t stay with the main protagonist and the scenes become…muddled. It’s easier this time, I think, even with a character like Caley.

Oh lord, Caley. I had to completely scrap one start to this book because she rubbed my proofreader the wrong way. It wasn’t necessarily her personality, but the way I was writing her. I wasn’t letting the reader get to know her under the bad attitude before I threw her worst behavior at them. So making sure I don’t throw my proofreader off again is going to be a continuing challenge, I think. Caley is very much her own person, so I have to handle her in situations the right way or she might go complete antagonist on me and that is not the plan. But she is well balanced by the unicorns… (Yes, there are unicorns. It is amazing.)

So there is where I’m at with my book! Hopefully the writing continues to flow so I can get it out there for you all to enjoy.


Review: The Dresden Files 12-Changes

Weee! Good times this week. I’m finally getting settled in a schedule, including getting back to writing. It’s exciting!

Changes starts off with a bang. Susan is back in Harry’s life, with news that shacks the foundations of his world. He has a daughter. Named for his mother, born from the woman he still loves, raised with no knowledge of who her parents are. Only she’s been kidnapped by the Red Court. Specifically by the Duchess Arianna, the wife of the Duke that Harry killed previously in a wizard’s duel. She might have bigger plans in place, though, as Harry discovers that the Red Court has its fingers in all sorts of pies. Secrets from the past are going to come to light and change the future forever. And for Harry? The most important thing of all is saving the daughter he’s never met. Even if that means making a bad decision or two. (Or several. It IS Harry Dresden, after all.)

Holy wow. Okay, so let’s break this down so I can approach this somewhat sensibly. Let’s go… Plot, characters, and world building/placement in a long series. I think that should work…

So plot. On one hand, it was possible the best and tightest book yet. Harry starts with one set goal, and stays with that one goal. Other bits and pieces might appear, but they all end up interweaving with his goal so you don’t feel scatter-shot like you normally do with a Dresden book. Even the introduction of new characters, or side characters we hadn’t seen much of, felt natural, like actors coming on and off stage at just the right moment. It was almost…elegant. But then he wrecks it completely. The ending got messy as he tried to bring in too many players for the final battle. I definitely get that this was supposed to be some great turning point for Harry, just completely bringing everything from the beginning of the series together. But the end result started to get a little clunky.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse… That ending. That wasn’t an ending. That was… That was a cheap marketing ploy to insure the next book would get bought (and I’ll get to that next week). I have never approved of those sorts of endings. I didn’t with Garth Nix and The Seventh Tower series, and that was back before I was even writing myself! It’s just rude to your readers not to give them just a smidge of satisfaction. Which is particular cruel, since Butcher actually was managing the prefect balance of satisfaction for the end of the book and yet wanting to see more. He could have cut off with Harry on the Water Beetle and been FINE. But nooo….

Character-wise, there were good points and there were bad points. Good points, oh my good gosh golly, Harry the overprotective Daddy was amazing. It really made the book for him. I just loved how he was struggling to be calm and collected, to be the detective to figure things out and to keep his powers under control. But at the same time, he was struggling because this was his daughter, his precious blood family, and she was in danger and he wanted to rage against the machine. I also felt like Murphy was particularly well done in this book, especially when she took up the sword of justice. It was a perfect touch.

On the other side…Susan and her little minion, Martin. Ugh. I don’t know if he even started with a real solid idea for Susan or if he’s just changing her with each book as he sees fit, but… No, I know what it is. She was so bland when he started, that it’s impossible to say anything is out of character for her, or at least that’s the idea. It never actually works that way. Instead, I have nothing about her that I like and so many things about her that I hate. And Martin… Martin doesn’t even have that to cling to. Realize, I like the cold characters. I like the serious bad-asses. But he didn’t have anything for me to grab on to until right at the end, and that’s just too late in the game. I also felt like the Red King was completely 180 from what we had picked up from previous books, which makes no sense unless Butcher forgot to make notes or didn’t convey clearly his image in the earlier books so we (or at least me) was led astray in the wrong way.

World building/series placement wise, I could definitely feel all the bits and pieces of his world building being pulled together for this one. And he actually did handle them well, keeping me from feeling completely overwhelmed with the information as it stacked together (until the clunking ending, of course). Plot wise, he was doing the same thing, and in the earlier parts of the book, it worked. All these happenings from earlier books weren’t a necessary part of the plot, but they helped add layers to it. But then he completely lost it in the last third and it started relying on you reading the previous books to know who was who and what did what. I get that in something this long, it’s hard to keep a book stand-alone-strong without linking to your earlier works. Really, just incentive for me to keep breaking up my worlds into smaller series so I can keep my focus. But since he came so close on this one, I wish he had made it to the end with a strong, mid-point book.