Am I Reading Too Much

As I sit at my home office (aka my bed) trying to figure out how to possibly write this week’s rant, I look over and see “Chain of Gold” by Cassandra Clare resting at the other side of the bed. I’m about 59 percent of the way through it. Picking it up, I marvel at how light the huge hardcover book is. Having never read any other books in Clare’s Shadowhunter universe, I definitely purchased “Chain of Gold” because of the beautiful cover. I know everyone saws don’t judge a book by its cover, but how ever actually follows that advice? Opening it up to the bookmarked position, I finish the section I’m on and replace the bookmark. I use a joker from a deck of cards because there’s no way I’m going to dogear a single page from this particular book.

The next thing I know, it’s a half hour later and all I have to show for it is a few pages down in by TBR (To Be Read) list. Which is always a good thing because I have a very large TBR List. To give you a frame of reference, I have an 18-gallon storage tub filled with books and my bedside table has 32 books resting upon it. Granted, most of the storage tub is an incomplete collection of Terry Brooks, but still there’s a lot.

Last weekend, I took a minute before starting a new book (“Camino Winds” by John Grisham) and pondered the question of “Am I reading too much?” Is that even a thing? At the time, I gave it only a passing thought before beginning the newest Grisham novel. I finished the book that same weekend, by the way.

It wasn’t until I read a quote Friday morning by novelist Ann Patchett that the idea came back to me. Patchett says that “Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone.”

As an introvert and divorcee, my skills at being alone are already quite proficient. After my divorce a few years ago, I thought I had to find another relationship to be in. I tried a dating app, went on a few dates, quickly deleted the dating app, had one really horrible “hey I like you moments” which turned into a painful/awkward moment, and resigned myself to living and dying alone.

It wasn’t until Indiana’s stay-at-home order that I realized that I liked being alone. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. With night meetings canceled, for the most part, and no where to go with friends or family I had an enormous amount of free time. I rediscovered a love for an old video game, read 13 books, and stopped obsessively thinking about what people (in particular one certain person) thought about me.

Whenever I began feeling depressed, lonely, or when the real world became…a bit too real…I’d go outside on the front porch and read. Sometimes, I’d spend hours outside with a thermos of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. Sometimes, I’d substitute that book for an audio book, close my eyes, and enjoy the wind and/or sun on my skin. It didn’t matter if it was raining, sleeting, windy, cold, hot. I’d sit out there through all weather conditions. I guess you could call me a literary postman.

Patchett, in her quote, goes onto say that reading “gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we’ve never met, living lives we couldn’t possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character’s skin.” Which makes sense now why most of my 22 books read this year involve characters with romantic conflicts (Team Gale all the way).

My hope is that, since Indiana has entered Stage Three in the reopening plan and a sense of normalcy will be returning, I don’t lose my ravenous hunger for reading in the weeks to come. I don’t want to return to the depressed/lonely/obsessive version of myself before the pandemic.

Too much of a good thing can be bad. Eating too much pizza for example, I’m both guilty and proof of that. Drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication. Addiction to video games is another example, I’d like to say I’ve never experienced that one, but I’d be lying. When it comes to reading a book though, I guess I have doubts. On the one hand, if you are harming yourself or neglecting others because there’s a book in your hands, then okay I can see that. For me though, and I’m sure for others, reading provides that escape from the real world.

If that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be write. And yes, I meant to spell that right.

Why I Hate Writing

As you read the headline, I know what you must all be thinking: “But Jim, you’re a writer. How can you possibly hate writing?”

In reality, hate is probably too strong of a word. I love writing and there’s nothing I would rather be doing. I’m so lucky and blessed to be able to do what I love for a living. With that being said, there are some negative side-effects to being a writer. Take, for instance, finding plot in everyday life.

Lately, I’ve begun telling myself to “shut up, stupid!” There are multiple problems with this. The first problem is that it’s become, as of late, a sort of mantra. I’ll be thinking something, which will be discussed further down, and I’ll say out loud “shut up, stupid.”

That’s the one advantage to the stay-at-home order. Wearing masks in public prevents people from seeing me talk to myself. The problem though is when they think you’re talking to them and not yourself. Try telling yourself to shut up when there’s a six-foot tall linebacker looking type standing next to you in the frozen pizza aisle at Walmart. Luckily, I had an earbud in my ear. When he looked my way, I smoothly transitioned into talking to an imaginary friend over the phone via earbud. If this writing thing doesn’t pan out, I might have to consider a life in theatre.

I really don’t like using those three words so instead of not using them, like a sane individual, I decided to come up with different terminology to express myself. You know, a workaround.

Some examples include: “Be quiet, ignoramus” or “Silence, you son of a silly person” and others of the same ilk.

Because when you’re a fiction writer, you tend to overthink things. You tend to view yourself as the main character of a story. And when you start thinking your life is a story, then you start seeing objects, dialogue, life changing events, as elements of storytelling.

Or at least, I have that problem. I’m not sure if other authors/writers/creators have that problem. Maybe I’m just that self-centered. If that’s the case, and nobody except me experiences this, then that’s another problem for another rant.

When it comes to literature, nothing is random. Any storyteller that is decent in his/her craft writes characters/dialogue/narrative/etc… into the story for a purpose. Unnecessary elements will eventually get weeded out in the editing process. It may seem to be a random or unnecessary element, but the writer (hopefully) is simply setting up for a bigger payout later on in the book or in a sequel. A few weeks ago in another rant I had mentioned Chekhov’s Gun.If you didn’t read my prior rant then I won’t hold it against you. It’s not like I’m obsessed with myself or anything. If you did read it, then you’d already know that Chekhov’s Gun is a foreshadowing technique that states that if there’s a gun in the first scene, then by the end of the final scene that gun will go off. That’s just one item to prove that nothing in literature is random.

There’s another problem with overthinking about one’s life and how something interacts with it. If you’re a Christian, as I am, then you know that God is the author of your life and that he’s got everything written out. If that’s the case, then nothing in life is random. Everything has a purpose, everyone is the main character of their own story/life. If that were the case, theoretically, you could try to guess what will happen next because every main character follows a character arc, a storyline, or is on some kind of quest. And there’s my biggest problem right there. Trying to understand God’s will. Of course, there’s the looming debate on whether or not humans have free will since God’s in complete control. I don’t have the space in this rant to possibly attempt to explore that issue. I guess you could view things like a character in a story. Does the main character know there’s an author plotting out his/her life? Nope, not at all (unless the main character purposely breaks the fourth wall).

Even if I were to attempt to guess at the next plot point, I’d be completely wrong. Every stinking time. Oh, I may be self-centered, but I’m not arrogant enough to presume that I understand God’s will. Nope, not gonna try.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths,” states Proverbs 3:5-6.

So I guess I should stop overthinking about a conversation I had a week ago or what a strange encounter might be interpreted as and just trust that my Author has got everything under control.

In other words… “Silence, unintelligent dummy!”

Hopefully reading

Ever since the coronavirus officially entered Indiana, the state I live in, I’ve been reading books that had a post-apocalyptic and/or world spreading virus theme. For instance, I’m a little under 200 pages left in Stephen King’s “The Stand.”

At first, I thought I was reading it out of sheer morbid obsession. Reading a book about 99.4 percent of the world dying from a super flu while the actual world is living through a pandemic with flu-like symptoms. But then I got to page 904. For those that don’t know, “The Stand” starts with a super flu that kills off most of the population. The survivors are pitted in a battle between God and Satan. The prophet that God has chosen to lead His people is Mother Abagail. Spoiler Alert: She instructs some people to travel to the heart of evil, Las Vegas, and stand up to Satan’s prophet, Randall Flagg.

Here’s the end of Mother Abagail’s instructions. “But he is in Las Vegas, and you must go there, and it is there that you will make your stand. You will go, and you will not falter, because you will have the Everlasting Arm of the Lord God of Hosts to lean on. Yes. With God’s help you will stand.”

Now, only one of those chosen four were religious. The other three were skeptical at best, but they all believed in Mother Abagail. And Mother Abagail believed and trusted God.
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I’ll be finishing the book this weekend. For those that have lost track of the date/time (I know I have on several occasions), it’s Easter. For those that don’t know the specifics, here’s a brief rundown of events.

Beginning in the Bible, Matthew 26:47, Jesus was betrayed by Judas. He was arrested, taken to the high priest Caiaphas, accused of false crimes, condemned to death, mocked, beaten, and crucified. Here’s the thing, Jesus knew this was going to happen. He knew Judas would be the one to betray him and that he would be put to death. Knowing all of this, he didn’t fight the Sanhedrin physically or try to escape (I imagine he could’ve if he so decided).

Now, I’m not saying that the Bible and The Stand are equal in importance. If there was one text, I would advise reading it would be the Bible.

Both have a great moral story to them and teach a valuable lesson. In fact, in each text, it’s the same moral story. The moral is that if you trust in God and stand against evil, you will prevail. Even if your results aren’t what you desire, you’ll eventually prevail.

And that’s why I’m reading the Bible and The Stand. Not for the doom saying or the plagues or the death and destruction. Trust me, there’s a lot of that in each book.
But there’s also hope.

In this time, the Era of Corona, we could use some hope. That’s why Easter is such an important time for those that believe in God. Jesus died and in three days he was resurrected. If we trust in God and are faithful to His instructions, then we will also live again in Heaven. It is my hope that you find something to read that inspires hope. For me, I find hope in the Bible and fictional novels like The Stand.

I wish everyone has a safe and happy Easter. Remain faithful to God, trust in the Word, and do the only thing we can in this harrowing time.

Stand.

2019 Film Recap: The Best

Last year I ranked the films I watched in three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This year’s film recap, I only watched 23 films that released during 2019. Because of that, I am categorizing this year’s list into two halves: The Worst and the Best. So, without any further ado, here are the top ten. Or as I like to call them… the best of 2019.
Since these films were released in the last year I will caution about spoilers.

Shazam10. Shazam
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 90%/83%

It’s strange, yet really enjoyable that Zachary Levi can such a great child trapped in a man’s body. Shazam reminds me of Tom Hanks in Big. DC Comics should stick to single hero franchises and not try to create a crossover like Justice League. Shazam, for those that don’t know, is about a kid that gets superhuman powers from a wizard. It’s just weird to me that the kid has to shout out the wizard’s name whenever he wants to use them. I know it’s magic, but, come on. Creepy. The movie has some heartfelt moments and some really sad ones when the kid gets rejected by his own mom. That’s cold. Overall, it’s a really nice, fun, and action-packed superhero movie with a strong family message. However, it suffers from a pretty adult themed bad guy that utilizes demonic seven-deadly sins smoke monsters. This has got to be one of my favorite DC superhero films.

brightburn9. Brightburn
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 57%/67%

What would happen if Superman went bad? What if it happened when he was a child? These questions are explored in this film by James Gunn. I’ve been a fan of Gunn’s since I watched Super (2010) and Slither (2006). Brightburn really is one of those films where you may or may not like it because it’s not about a good guy. It’s about a bad guy. A villain’s origin story. And it’s a great one too. By the end of the film, you start feeling that Anakin was justified in killing all of the younglings. The kills are gory and messy. There’s one moment where this shard of glass sticks out of a waitress’s eye and you see her pull it out. It makes me cringe even now remembering it in my head. Plus, it sets up for a combined movie universe of bad guys including Rainn Wilson’s character from Super using a J. Jonah Jamison type character. It’s like that meme with Fassbender… perfection.

It chapter two8. It Chapter Two
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 63%/78%

Pennywise the Dancing Clown is back for a second round. This is the continuing chapter to the prior film, in case the title didn’t give that away. The first film focused on the children’s tale, but it also focused on physical terror. Now that the children have grown into adults, Pennywise is focusing on emotional and mental terror. This works out pretty well for the sequel. We already know what and who Pennywise is so there isn’t any use trying to mask what he can do in the film. The casting choices made were great and the CGI was too. However, I didn’t like the ending. It basically says that in order to defeat the bully you have to become the bully. Not such a good message.

 
captain marvel7. Captain Marvel
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 78%/49%
It seems in the previous article and this article my scores heavily differ from the audience score. Because I really enjoyed the origin film of Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. I thought that the nostalgia of the 90’s was present but didn’t bash the audience over the head. The twist at the end where the Skrulls were actually good guys was nice. I liked Jude Law being the bad guy. Even better, I liked his portrayal of Yon-Rogg and at the end when he was trying to goad Danvers into a fair fight and Carol just shot him into a wall. I’ve heard the critique about Brie Larson and her stony portrayal of the superhero. I’m alright with it simply because she was trained to suppress her emotions. The de-aging of Samuel L. Jackson was nicely done but having said that I chuckle because when you watch him fight it looks like an old man trying to perform an action sequence. Seeing Clark Gregg reprise his role of Agent Coulson was also a nice touch.

star wars episode nine6. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 55%/86%

Personally, I really enjoyed this last entry of the Skywalker Saga. It did a great job of handling the poorly received Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. I say poorly received because it received a 43% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. In reference to the rest of the episodic Star Wars films, that’s the worst audience score, even worse than Episode II: Attack of the Clones. I’ve always thought that when you’re making films like the sequel trilogy, Ghostbusters, and other rebooted franchises you have to be able to please your fanbase. Even if you liked Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, you have to admit it split the fanbase like Obi-Wan defeating Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. In my opinion, J.J. Abrams did the best he could do in what he was handed. The thing that I didn’t enjoy about the film was that it heavily lent from Return of the Jedi. Rey verse Palpatine had that “On your left” and “And I am Iron Man” scenes from Avengers: Endgame. Because of those two things, I couldn’t give The Rise of Skywalker a 9/10.

spiderman ffs5. Spider-Man: Far from Home
My Score 8/10
IMDb Score: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 91%/95%

Never in a million years did I think that Sony and Disney could strike a deal to share the Spider-Man property. But they did and because they did, we had five great movies that had an appearance of the web-slinger. Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man. Acting as the epilogue of The Infinity Saga, Spider-Man: Far from Home gives us a glimpse of the next Tony Stark. Maybe that’s why some people didn’t like this film as much as others, but I liked Peter Parker growing into his big boy webs and tackling global events. I get that Spider-Man is supposed to be the friendly neighborhood protector, but you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. Spider-Man is global now after the events of Endgame and Infinity War. Get used to it people. Plus, that end credit scene with J. Jonah Jamison.

Us4. Us
My Score: 9/10
IMDb Score: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 93%/59%

Who knew Jordan Peele could be such a great horror film director? After his debut film Get Out (2017), Peele proved that he could stand in the horror arena just as good as he could stand in the comedy one. The concept is a horrific one. Distorted clones rising up and killing their normal counterparts is crazy. What we find out by the end of the film is even crazier. It’s also more horrific and thought provoking. I knew going into the film that Peele would have some kind of twisty ending because of the twisty ending in his first film. That’s the curse that’s going to follow Peele in his next film. It’s the Shyamalan curse. Going back to Us, this film has such great acting and action that you’ll love this film.

doctor sleep3. Doctor Sleep
My Score: 9/10
IMDb Score: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 77%/89%

My third favorite film goes to the sequel to one of the most iconic horror movies of all history: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Adapted from the novel by Stephen King, the narrative follows an adult, troubled, and drunken Danny Torrance as he tries to find redemption. There are some scenes that are recreated from The Shining using different actors and it’s pretty decent. It’s nicely done. The narrative also introduces a new set of villains led by Rose the Hat, played by Rebecca Ferguson. The villains are a group of vampiric creatures that were once humans that feed on the Shine of others. As Danny and a young child called Abra Stone, played by Kyliegh Curran, develop an uncle/niece relationship, the vampires focus their attention on Abra forcing Danny, aka Doctor Sleep, to come to her defense. Admittedly, it’s not better than The Shining, but it’s a great sequel.

joker2. Joker
My Score: 9/10
IMDb Score: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 69%/88%

The second clown film released this year, but it was the better one in my mind. Directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the title character, this origin film does something that prior DC films don’t do. They hold nothing back. It’s dirty, it’s visceral, it’s bleak and dark, it’s also bloody and graphic. The Joker is a character that deserves an R rated film. Say what you want about comic book films entering into the R rating territory, but if there was ever a DC Universe character that was dark and gritty it was Joker. Phillips and Phoenix created such a great movie that makes you sympathize with the villain and also hate him at the same time. They did to Joker what Infinity War did for Thanos. It proves that Batman’s nemesis doesn’t need Batman to survive.

 

endgame2

1. Avengers: Endgame
My Score: 9.5/10
IMDb Score: 8.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 94%/90%

By far, the best film I’ve seen in years. There was such a huge expectation for this film because it was the culmination of over twenty films. It managed to wrap up multiple storylines of heroes and, at the same time, managed to cultivate future stories for newer characters. Like I said with my remarks about The of Skywalker, I love when a film pleases the fanbase. From beginning to the end, Endgame managed to payoff a plethora of fan moments. Cap wielding Mjolner against Thanos, Avengers Assemble!, and Cap’s dance with the love of his life. Those moments and more were what made Endgame such a fantastic movie and it’s what makes it my favorite movie of 2019.

endgame4
My favorite shot of the whole film. Captain America is my favorite character in the MCU and was happy to see him represented well in this film.

I can’t begin to tell you the impact movies have on me. The good, the bad, the ugly. Every film I watch has some sort of lesson. Because at the heart of a movie is the story. And that’s what I am: a storyteller.

What did you think of my list? Were there movies that you thought shouldn’t have made this list? What movies are on your favorite list of 2019? Let me know in the comments.

2019 Film Recap: The Worst

Last year I ranked the films I watched in three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This year’s film recap, I only watched 23 films that released during 2019. Because of that, I am categorizing this year’s list into two halves: The Worst and the Best. So, without any further ado, here are numbers 23 through 11. Or as I like to call them… the worst of 2019.

Since these films were released in the last year I will caution about spoilers.Dark Phoenix

23. Dark Phoenix
My Score: 2/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 23%/64%

You know, people complain about The Rise of Skywalker and all of its plot holes, but no one really talks about the horror that is Dark Phoenix. The bland alien invasion, the fact that it was forgotten that the Phoenix showed up in the previous film (how they defeated Apocalypse), the F-Bomb dropped by Cyclops, and the fact that Magneto was just allowed to exist after Apocalypse was killed. Most people will discount this film due to the fact that the entire thing is now pointless because Disney purchased Fox. The funny thing is that even if Fox hadn’t been purchased, the X-Men franchise would’ve been dead due to this garbage fire of a film.terminator

22. Terminator: Dark Fate
My Score: 4/10
IMDb Score: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 70%/82%

Sure… kill John Connor. Okay… erase Skynet. I would’ve been onboard with these decisions if they’d been for a purpose. I’d have been on board with it if they tried to go at things from a different path. However, Dark Fate is the exact same plot. A poor lady gets targeted by termination by robotic assassins sent back in time by a robot overlord that’s trying to eradicate the human species. The only thing that stands in between her and the assassins is a human that’s sent back in time by the future version of that lady. Sound familiar? Well, it should. Swap Skynet for Legion, John Connor for Danni (I honestly don’t remember her name), Reese for another person I can’t remember, and update some of the tech and you’ve got pretty much the same movie.alita

21. Alita: Battle Angel
My Score: 4/10
IMDb Score: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 61%/93%

Granted, this film looks beautiful. I can’t knock the CGI. However, the weak storyline and the forgettable villains really just make this film forgettable in my opinion. I’m sure I’ll get some flack for my opinion on this film, but eh. And really, if you think about it, it’s just a CGI futuristic John Wick, dead dog included.

godzilla20. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
My Score: 5/10
IMDb Score: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 42%/83%

I’m not much of a Godzilla fan. I’ll go watch them, but I’m not one of those fanboys that will defend the film religiously. I understand that they were trying to make a giant monster film, but what I don’t understand is why they have to attempt a human-interest side of things. The audience goes into a Godzilla film wanting to see the King of Monsters rampaging through cities as it defeats other monsters. For the most part, this film delivers in this aspect. However, the parts of the film where the humans are trying to do their human-thing just drags the plot. Just let them fight.

detective pikachu19. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
My Score: 5/10
IMDb Score: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 68%/79%

I went to see this twice in theaters. The first time, I really liked it. The CGI was great, the plot was decent, and the humor connected fairly well. Then I went to see it with my nephews. The second time was not as enjoyable as the first. The humor was stale, the plot had holes I hadn’t seen during the first viewing. Yet it was still pretty decent because of the franchise’s nostalgia. Overall, it was not a bad film. Not a good film either, but just average.

zombieland18. Zombieland: Double Tap
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 68%/88%

When I heard they were making a sequel of my favorite zombie flick, I felt both excited and apprehensive. Excited because I wanted more of that comedy and action. Apprehensive because they could totally mess things up. I got that humor and that action, but they totally messed things up. The idea of anti-gun, vegan hippies surviving in a zombie apocalypse is nuts. Having Tallahassee not kicking their butts once is a big letdown. Add in the fact that the humor is sorta stale, the girls take off on their own with the dudes going after them (same plot point as the last film), and the introduction of cool evolved zombies only to have them be referenced maybe once or twice and you’ve got a subpar film.

men in black17. Men in Black: International
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 5.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 23%/66%

Another film that tries to compete with the prior films in the franchise. Overall, I liked this film. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth have great chemistry together. The pawn alien voiced by Kumail Nanjiani was the highlight of the film. Really, when you consider MiB 2, anything is better.

glass16. Glass
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 37%/68%

If this film came out before the superhero genre exploded, it would have performed better at the box office. Unfortunately, M. Night Shyamalan was a bit too late on this lackluster conclusion to his loosely linked trilogy. James McAvoy and Samuel Jackson are great, but Bruce Willis’ acting is as flavorful as a piece of dry white toast. Since it is an M. Night Shyamalan film, we know there’s some type of plot twist. This time around, the three main characters are murdered by a secret organization bent on keeping the fact that superhumans are real a secret. Of course, due to people’s obsession with social media, this secret gets out to the masses.

scary stories to tell in the dark15. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 78%/72%

I loved the book that this film was adapted from. It was a treasured tome of mine growing up. The film did a decent job of merging a lot of those stories into one cohesive plot. The acting was alright, but the ending was the thing that suffered the most. It was meant to end with a few more sequels to build off of. However, I doubt that we’ll get those sequels because of the lukewarm reactions of the fans/critics. The monsters were very creepy, one of the best parts of that movie.

pet sematary14. Pet Sematary
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 57%/34%

Most Stephen King films will rank higher than most on my list. I’m a huge fan of the author and I love watching his books come to life on the big screen. I think I’m being a bit picky, but I really didn’t like Jason Clarke as the main character, Louis. In truth, I’ve never liked anything Clarke plays. He’s not my favorite actor. What saves the film is John Lithgow as Jud. Loved his acting. If you’ve seen the original, then this may or may not be your favorite. The original is hard to beat because it instilled that creepiness. Watching the new version, that creepiness has been dulled a bit. But it was still there, lurking in the background as the plot lengthened.

childs play13. Child’s Play
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 63%/57%

When you reboot a movie, you sometimes change some things about it to make it your own. In Terminator: Dark Fate they changed details but didn’t make things different. When Chucky came to the big screen in this reboot, just about everything was changed. Instead of a bad guy that wills his soul to enter a children’s toy, this time around it’s a doll that’s sabotaged and learns to be evil. It’s a great lesson about nature vs. nurture. Another lesson is to never make a child’s toy that can control all the electronics around him angry at you.

noelle12. Noelle
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 53%/59%

This was a film I didn’t anticipate on watching this year. It wasn’t one that I really wanted to watch this year. It does have the powerful acting chops of Anna Kendrick, Shirley MacLaine, and Bill Hader to make this Disney + original Christmas film a success. Watching Noelle travel to Arizona to find her missing brother, the next Santa Claus, in time to save Christmas was a rather funny experience. The humor was unexpectantly funny and I laughed more than I expected.

in the tall grass11. In the Tall Grass
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 5.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 38%/36%

For this last film on this list, it sort of surprised me. Sure, it’s a mediocre film with a confusing plot and some vague pseudo-religious relic and cult. But that’s what makes it intriguing to me. Watching this Stephen King short story come alive is not a masterpiece, but it does make you scratch your head and wonder what the heck happened. For those that are gluttons for punishment, it’ll make you want to watch it again. Can I just add that Stephen King has now forced me to put corn fields on my “don’t mess with” list. And I’m from Indiana so that’s pretty impressive. And a bit scary.

Soon, I’ll have my best of 2019 list showcasing the top ten films I’ve watched. Did you think my list so far is accurate? Which ones did you agree with? Which films do you think should’ve been higher/lower? Let me know in the comments!

A Decade Remembered

For my work, I was tasked in combing through ten years’ worth of Starke County Leaders to find highlights from the last decade. It’s only natural, while making your way through almost 500 editions of a newspaper, that I began to think about the highlights from my own life.

Dictionary.com defines highlight as “an important, conspicuous, memorable, or enjoyable event, scene, part, or the like.”

I think it’s important to consider the fact that a highlight can include negative events as well as positive ones. After all, you can’t take the good without taking the bad. For example, look what happens to the Jedi Order when you don’t study the Dark Side of the Force. You end up on the bad side of Order 66. Nobody wants that.

Here are some of the highlights from my own personal decade:
– I celebrated my one-year wedding anniversary on July 11, 2010.
– In March 2010, I wrote this joke: Q. What do you call a sleep walking nun? A. A Roaming Catholic. It was received with mild success.
– In 2011, I went back to school at IUSB. Instead of Computer Science, I began studying English.
– In December 2012, I wrote a 1,600-word paper on King Arthur’s court collapsing due Marxist Theory. It was pretty spectacular.
– My grandfather, James Norton, passed away on March 7, 2013. He was a great man, role model, and grandpa.
– Signed with Permuted Press to have my book series published in February 2014.
– Spent an amazing week in Seattle for the American Writers & Publishers (AWP) conference with fellow IUSB writing friends.
– In 2014 I got a mortgage for a home in Plymouth with my wife of five years.
– On March 2, 2015, I found out that Permuted Press cancelled the book contract.
– I finished my college education at IUSB in May 2015. It took me 11 years, but I did it.
– Left my job at IUSB and started work at the Pilot News Group, where I’m still employed and loving it.
– Found out I had a ginormous blood clot in my left leg. That was fun (sarcasm).
– November 2015 I signed a new book contract with Burning Willow Press for that series that was earlier canceled.
– In 2017 I became a published author. Since then I’ve published three books, four short stories, and a combined book with several other authors.
– After a two-year separation my wife and I divorced in 2018. This event ended nine years together.
– When BWP closed in 2019, my books were once again homeless. But only for a day when Random Evolved Media offered to pick them up.

There have been many other good and bad highlights that I won’t mention. From the list above, it looks to me as if my life has been filled with more bad memories than good. That might make some people feel depressed. Admittedly, there were times during the last ten years that I feel deep into depression. I still do sometimes.

Since I’m a nerd, I thought of this quote from the BBC show, Doctor Who. “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things,” says The Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith. “The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

There’s no way of knowing what the next ten years will throw at us. However, as long as we cherish that pile of good things while learning how to overcome the pile of bad things, I’m sure I’ll be writing another decade rewrap. And hopefully you’ll be here to read it.

Goodbye 2010-2019 and hello 2020-2029!

See you all next year.

Books make the best gifts

Okay, so maybe books don’t make the best gifts. I’ll admit that I’d rather be given a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ over a Stephen King book. One exception to that if the Stephen King book was a first edition signed copy. If my “Secret Santa” was looking to gift me one of those phones, then make sure it’s able to be on the Sprint network. Just saying. Now onto this week’s rant.

There are many reasons why books make the perfect gift. Here are some reasons why:

1. Books are easily transportable. You can’t take a 72-inch flat screen television with you to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and watch as you wait in line to renew your driver’s license. You also can’t take a Playstation 4 with you to a government meeting and play the new Star Wars game a few minutes before the meeting convenes. I’ve tried. You just end up with council members giving you weird looks as you try to plug an HDMI cable into the monitors. Books can be taken with you wherever you go. It doesn’t matter where you go: churches, meetings, the BMV, even the bathroom. All of those places and more, a book can be taken with you. Last detail about that: if you’re borrowing a book from the library or a friend, don’t take it into the bathroom. That’s common courtesy.

2. Books are cheap. If you’re like me, a writer, you can’t really afford to spend a bunch of money on Christmas presents. I mean, you could spend rent and bill money to buy that perfect, albeit expensive, gift for your loved one. You might be asking them for a place to stay while you catch up on bills, but whatever. Books are the perfect alternative. You don’t have to drop $400 dollars on a book unless it’s a signed first edition of Stephen King.

3. Books are personalized. Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction, etc. Everyone has a preference when it comes to works of fiction. Or non-fiction. Choosing the perfect book for that person tells you that you know them enough to know what types of books they like to enjoy. Televisions aren’t personal like a book can be. Just make sure you take in deciding which book is right.

4. Books require no assembly. Unless you buy a book from Ikea, you don’t need to assemble anything the night before Christmas. Plus, they need no batteries. I can’t tell you the money I’ve spent buying batteries for gifts that didn’t include them.

5. Books make the perfect re-gift. When you’re finished reading a book, you can pass them on as a White Elephant book. If you’re like me, you wear a book out in the first reading. I typically crack a spine of a book more than I crack my own. If it’s a hardback, then maybe that’d be an okay book as a regular gift. However, if you bend the edges of the pages like I do, then maybe consider buying a newer version.

6. Books don’t hurt as much as other things. Have you ever stepped on a bunch of Legos? Have you ever banged your head on a television? Stepping on the edge of a book, a pointy hardcover, is a pretty difficult thing to do. I don’t think I’ve ever done that.
Literature is something that I’ve tried to purchase for my friends and relatives for birthdays and Christmas gifts. Personally, I like hunting for the right book. Sure, it may take time but that’s what makes gifts so enjoyable. Remember that old saying, “It’s the thought that counts?” Books personify that sentiment.

Happy hunting and merry Christmas!