Movie Review: Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my love for Studio Ghibli and the works of acclaimed artist and director Hayao Miyazaki here on the blog before. If not, it’s never a moment too soon to start. Hubby and I even cosplayed as No Face from the Academy Award winning movie, Spirited Away. For pics, head over to that post.

That said, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is not from Studio Ghibli. But, ask any fan of the studio and they’ll tell you that the most beloved elements of Ghibli are present from the gorgeous art style, the sweet orchestral scores, and the weirdness of the creatures and characters.

This is not by chance. The director of Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, worked as an animator on many of Ghibli’s best loved films including Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo.

The Story

Mary, a girl of perhaps twelve or thirteen, is sent to the beautiful flower filled countryside to live with her grandma while her parents relocate for work. She feels out of place and that she can’t do anything right. One day she spots a cat and follows it into the nearby forest where she finds a rare fly-by-night flower.

This flower is magical and allows whoever crushes its blossom to fly on a broomstick. Mary finds this out by accident and the broomstick whisks her away to Endor College, a school of magic where all of Mary’s many wants and wishes could quite possibly come true.

But, as all stories go, Endor College harbors a dark secret. Terrible things are happening behind the scenes and Mary finds herself right in the middle of it. She must risk everything to try to set it right and save both herself and her new found friend.

My Review

Compared to many of Miyazaki’s works, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is far less weird. Some of the usual environmental themes still come through, in this case, a lesson on why one shouldn’t meddle with nature or create unnatural creatures. But, there’s no heavy handed harping about the evils of pollution or man’s tendency to destroy – which is a nice change.

Mary herself is actually a little irritating. They paint her character as unnaturally clumsy and awkward and not particularly kind to the neighbor boy who, compared to her, seems responsible and good natured. The story is meant to teach her that there is a world of things to care for and she should stop being so self conscious, and it succeeds.

Like I said before, even if you aren’t crazy about the story, the art style and music are fabulous and make up for a lot of the weirdness found in the story. My kids loved the movie and I thought it was excellent.

Recommendations

The movie kicks off on a fairly intense scene where a young girl is desperately trying to escape from creepy cyclops creatures amidst explosions and peril. My 8 year old was fine with it, but he’s generally okay with reasonable amounts of action and tension. If your little one is sensitive to dangerous situations and creepy images, then this might be too much.

Other than that, the movie is squeaky clean. No offensive language, no drinking or smoking, and no romantic elements. In addition, there are lots of good role models and positive messages about accepting yourself the way you are

I give Mary and the Witch’s Flower 4/5 stars for being fantastic but still a touch weird.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a free goodie from me!.

Book Review: Muse of Nightmares, Laini Taylor

When you fall in love with a story, it’s always a delight to know there’s a sequel. Muse of Nightmares is the sequel to Strange the Dreamer, a beautifully written fantasy that I gushed about in my review posted a few weeks ago.

There’s also a worry when it comes to sequels. If the first book was intended to be a standalone, then sequels never feel quite like they belong. The story conflicts tend to feel out of place or engineered. This isn’t so with Muse of Nightmares. If anything, my guess is that both books were originally intended to be a single volume, but the story was simply too big and had to be broken into two parts.

And it totally works.

Mind you, because this is a sequel I can’t help but divulge a few details from the end of the first book which gives clues to how it ends. Should you be the type that hates having the ends of books revealed – don’t read this review.

The Story

At the end of Strange the Dreamer, we left the charmingly awkward Lazlo as he makes a life-changing discovery. He is godspawn and has the rare magical gift that allows him to control mesarthium, the indestructible blue metal that makes up the citadel. His love, Sarai, has changed as well. Due to the events at the end of Strange the Dreamer, she is now a ghost held in the world by her sister Minya, a hateful, spiteful woman stuck in the body of a 6-year-old child.

Minya would destroy the world to save herself and the other blue-skinned godspawn and she’s holding Sarai as leverage to force obedience. Should anyone wish to move against her, she’ll release Sarai’s ghost and let her disappear forever.

Lazlo is torn. If he saves Sarai, he allows his world and friends to be destroyed. If he let’s her go, he can prevent untold carnage. It’s an unwinnable situation.

But, there are other forces at work and other questions that need to be answered. The world of the Mesarthim is a mystery at best. These mysteries are slowly exposed as the past and present collide to create not only new problems, but present a new solution.

All the critical elements come together, love and hate, revenge and redemption, salvation and destruction, to create a fulfilling story with a satisfying ending.

My Review

I cannot say this enough, but Laini Taylor’s writing is glorious. Her use of poetic lyrical language is a delight and utterly delicious. More than that, she’s created a complete world with depth and history that’s unlike anything that exists on earth or seen in other fantasy universes. That, in itself, is incredible.

As a writer, I can see the sheer amount of work that’s gone into the development of this world and the characters, cultures, and history that makes it unique. Each element has been given loving attention so that it doesn’t only exist, it comes alive off of the page.

One of the challenges of any sequel that ends the story is tying up all the loose ends of ideas presented in the first book. Strange the Dreamer presents lots of ideas that we are given tantalizing glimpses of, but aren’t fleshed out enough to be well understood. In Muse of Nightmares we dive into those ideas and finally see the truth of Sarai’s past and why she and her siblings were abandoned. Like I said, it’s satisfying to finally see the truth of what had only been hinted at for so long.

So, yes. I love this two book series. Everything about it makes my fantasy loving heart sing.

My Recommendations

While this is a wonderful fantasy, it requires attention to detail and an appreciation for lyrical writing. With this in mind, I don’t recommend this for younger readers and believe it’s best meant for high school age and up (and those they let play). Compared the the first book, there’s less intimacy but more violence and graphic description.

That said, for those of you who like traditional fantasy with a twist, this one should definitely scratch that itch.

I give Muse of Nightmares 5/5 stars for bringing a wonderful ending to a fantastic story.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list. (I’ll even give you a free story!)

TV Review: Lower Decks

This might flag me as a super nerd, but my little trekkie heart couldn’t pass this one up. Lower Decks is a officially liscensed Star Trek cartoon where instead of following the top brass as they brave strange new frontiers, we follow several lower deck crew members as they struggle fervently to not totally screw everything up.

Bravely going where no man has gone before. Or woman for that matter.

The Story

Ensign Mariner is a tough talking, utterly unambitious, oddly street smart member of the USS Cerritos crew. The goal of the Cerritos is to make second contact, meaning they follow around the more important discovery missions to do all the paper work. Mariner is also the daughter of the ship’s captain, Captain Carol Freeman, a fact that drives both of them a little crazy.

Each episode the crew is assigned to complete a new mission, much like any traditional Star Trek, and with each new mission we get to see how the different characters perform under pressure. Mariner’s friends represent different life philosophies, and as such react to all these bizarre events in very different ways.

Mariner’s closest friend, Brad Boimler, is desperate to get into command to the point that he will literally do anything to gain attention. This gets him into trouble, as his efforts are entirely misguided and shallow. Instead of being excellent at his job, he tends to seek out shortcuts instead. This makes him Mariner’s polar opposite. She is excellent at her job, despite being an inappropriate loud mouth while she does it, and she also has a knack for getting people on her side, something essential for a commanding officer.

There are also Tendi and Rutherford, two thoroughly geeked out engineers who fixate on how wonderful it is to do tedious engineering tasks. When it comes to real issues and dangers, the two are completely useless.

Mariner (center) has Boimler in a headlock as Rutherford and Tendi watch

My Review

Lower Decks is an irreverant and super amusing look at an industry that has prided itself in being serious since 1966. The whole feeling of the show feels as if someone took the attitudes from either Rick and Morty or Futurama and smashed it together with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Is it a perfect fusion of the two? Nah. Of course there are areas that could use tightening. Is it an entertaining show? Absolutely.

Much of the joy of this show is that it takes all the expectations of a traditional Star Trek – all the stiff stoicism, all the adherence to the Prime Directive, all the space ship utopia – and pokes fun at it in a fresh new way.

The one thing that’s missing from Lower Decks is a deeper meaning hiding beneath all the slapstick and violence, like we find in Rick and Morty. There’s no real message or theme that pulls the season together. Although it’s not strictly necessary, it would have turned something fun to watch into something that’s also interesting to think about.

Even with all that, I thought Lower Decks was fun to watch because of all the fun it pokes at traditional Star Trek all while carefully staying faithfully close to the franchise image and ideology.

And yes, they even snuck Q in there for his obligatory episode.

My Recommendations

There is a lot of gory freakish cartoony violence in this one, more than expected or strictly necessary. As the violence is usually used as part of a joke, the severity of it all doesn’t really register. It’s just kind of gross. The general subject matter of each episode also tends to skew into adult topics that often border on the inappropriate. There are plenty of mild swears, anything more serious is bleeped out. As for nudity, I think there are a few naked butts in there, anything else is blurred. There is talk of romantic interest, such as flirting, kissing, and dating and is at times a bit rude.

To put it short – this one’s for the adults and the teens they let play.

I give Lower Decks a 4/5 stars for being a fun romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my fantasy reader community – there’s a free story in it for you!

Throwback Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides

This one’s the forth movie and the one with the mermaids, just in case anyone was struggling to tell the difference between one adventure to the next. Heaven knows I can’t keep them straight either. Ok, where were we?

Right.

In the continuing effort to indoctrinate the kiddos in all things nerd, we continued our quest down the rabbit hole that is the Pirates of the Caribbean universe, and this time both Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann have been left out of it.

I’ll take your Keira Knightly and raise you a Penelope Cruz!

The Story

Jack Sparrow is on trial in London for crimes against the crown. No surprise there as he is a nearly famous pirate captain and all that. But, instead of finding Jack under the prisoner’s hood, we find his first mate Gibbs instead. This sets us off on a long, arduous journey of deception, impersonation, and misplaced trust that continues throughout the rest of the movie with each of the major players.

Angelica impersonates Jack, using his legendary status to hire a crew out of London. Jack impersonates a judge to save Gibbs. Captain Barbossa changes teams, and gives up piracy to become a privateer of the crown, ridiculous wig and all, and the mermaids can shift to human form. Angelica lies to Jack saying she’s pretending to be Blackbeard’s daughter to reach the fountain of youth. This is a bit of a double cross, as she actually is Blackbeard’s daughter, but creating the lie made getting Jack to join the crew easier and their chance of success greater.

To say things get complicated feels redundant at this point, as every Pirates movie so far seems like it tries to out do the prior in complexity in some way or another.

The real story is about the legendary fountain of youth and each pirate’s captain’s reasoning for needing to reach it. Angelica wants more time with her father after their lifelong unexplained estrangement. Blackbeard wants to defeat a prophecy that he’ll be killed by a one legged man within a fortnight and continue being the most famous pirate ever. Jack, well, Jack never really is sure what he wants, but there is an inkling there that he wants to protect Angelica because they used to be together. And the Spanish – did I mention the Spanish? They’re in here as well, because needless complexity – they think the fountain of youth is an ungodly abomination and want it destroyed.

I mentioned mermaids. There are also freaky killer mermaids who’s sole purpose is to drag sailors down to the icy depths and, eat them? It’s not really clear. Part of the ritual of the fountain of youth is to drink a mermaid’s tear from one of the twin silver chalices found in the wreckage of none other than the 200 years missing Ponce de Leon.

Still following me? Why? Even my kids threw up their hands at this point and called the writers some not very nice names. I tried not to take it personally. In all honesty, the writers they managed to get all this stuff in there that I’ll stake money the producers wanted and still created an okay-ish storyline. Kudos to them.

After lots of swash, swash, buckle, buckle in every moment possible, although strangely enough no epic ship battles with cannons in this one, we draw all the different forces together at the fountain of youth and the various captains battle it out in their own ways.

I’d tell you who wins, but that would be all spoilery of me – which isn’t very nice.

Meet our star crossed lovers, the mermaid and the missionary, who are currently sitting in a pile of broken glass.

My Review

This one is probably my least favorite of the five movies only because there are so many elements that don’t need to be there and don’t make a whole lot of sense, like the Spanish fleet. While it’s okay to introduce a new pirate captain, if you’re keeping track there has been a new significant captain in each movie( and a small hoard of insignificant captains in movie three), having the extra Spanish fleet and captain in this movie felt underdeveloped.

The only reason he had to be there is to add relevance to Ponce de Leon being a famous Spanish explorer. Adding them in was a way to tie a few of the many trailing plot threads together. That, and the Spanish costumes and aesthetic were kinda hot. So, there’s that.

I would have liked Will and Elizabeth to have been part of this movie because they were significant parts of the first three. However, if they are supposed to now be in a safe and committed relationship, it doesn’t make sense for them to be in there unless yet another story line was introduced. The single female role of Angelica couldn’t have been swapped for Elizabeth by any stretch of the imagination. Will could only appear if the story needed the Flying Dutchman to make an appearance. So it was a good thing they got left out. I guess.

The mermaid bit also felt underdeveloped and forced. It was as if the producers were looking through pirate lore and noticed they hadn’t mentioned mermaids yet and did a brainstorming session of how to incorporate them into the film. Their whole contribution to the story was the single forced tear and a very light romance with a character whose entire reason to be in the story is to be the religious voice of reason – and fall in love with a mermaid.

In all, Pirates 4 has an ages old mystery to be solved, but it turns out finding the fountain of youth is kind of easy, so they threw in some extra action and romance to liven things up.

Did I mention the burning coal cart chase? They literally threw in a car chase in case the explainy bits got boring in the beginning.

Recommendations

If you’ve made it this far in the series you might as well keep going. The already established captains do a great job at what they are already good at doing and that’s pretty entertaining. The story, while weak in some aspects, has lots of interesting emotional elements going on, none of which feel terribly compelling, but are amusing nonetheless.

The violence, while still there, is notably less intense than the other movies and, since it’s a Disney, the cursing is non-existent. But, there are some lovely nekked mermaids who remain carefully draped and shadowed so you don’t see anything. Good thing they have long hair or they’d have to change the rating of the film. And get a different production company.

I rate Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides 2.5 of 5 stars for too many underdeveloped ideas.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a signup bonus of one of my short stories for free.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Movie Review: Ghostbusters, Answer the Call (2016)

When there’s something strange, in your neighborhood. Who ya gonna call?

Shout it with me now – GHOSTBUSTERS!

I grew up watching the original Ghostbusters and remember being both a little terrified and thrilled by it. It came out when I was only four and I most definitely saw it when I was way too young. It gave me nightmares for months, but even then I still wanted to watch it. Fun fact: it’s also the movie that taught me my first swear words. My parents were thrilled, I tell ya.

The newest reinvention of Ghostbusters takes the original movie and gives it a huge facelift – namely by swapping out the all-male ghostbusting team for a female cast and swapping the ditzy secretary to Chris Hemsworth. (Seriously, watch it just for that – so funny.) While the basic storyline stays the same, the locations and ghosts get an update as well, making the story more relevant to this decade of viewers.

The Story

Erin Gilbert is a recognized physicist working at Columbia college and is trying her best to fit in, and more importantly, be treated as an equal among her peers. Needless to say, this goal is challenged when her old friend and fellow physicist continues to push a book about ghosts the two of them wrote years before.

In a desperate attempt to get Abby to pull the ridiculous book down, Erin agrees to help Abby with a paranormal investigation of a haunted mansion where they witness and get slimed by a very real ghost. The footage is posted online and Erin loses her job.

With nowhere else to go and a new found excitement for the paranormal, Erin agrees to join the team and they start taking calls for other ghost sightings, significantly more sightings than what should be happening. As they work through the different cases, they realize that the sightings follow along ancient supernatural ley lines and there is something much bigger going on.

At the same time, the Feds join the picture trying to publicly denounce the Ghostbuster’s work to prevent a panic, all while still needing their help. Then, a famous ghost debunker, played by Dan Ackroyd, tries to prove them as phonies as well, only to be tossed out a window by a ghost that one of the Ghostbusters release to prove him wrong.

Turns out, our villain Rowan, has been planting devices around the city that attract ghosts in order to charge his mega device. This ultimately will give him power over all ghosts and earn him the respect and attention he failed to achieve on his own. The Ghostbusters must stop him before all of New York is swallowed into a vortex of doom.

If you want to know how it ends, you best go watch it.

My Review

I literally have avoided this movie because I worried that it wouldn’t do justice to the original, or worse, just be gross and stupid. I was wrong. In the end, I loved what they did with the story itself and how they crafted each of the characters to serve very different roles. It definitely helps that the entire cast is populated with amazing comedians and actors. The Ghostbusters themselves are entirely composed of ladies from Saturday Night Live.

The original Ghostbusters skirted some fairly adult material and I had concerns for this one possibly going down that route as well. Instead, it pulled way back on the weirdly sexual themes contained in the first and made the primary villain a social reject nerd who wanted attention – something far more relatable than an all powerful androgynous catwoman who needed a “Key Master” to open a portal. Yeah, I didn’t realize that was also a sex thing until way too late.

While the majority of the ghosts have also gotten a very cool CGI facelift, fear not – original Slimer does make an appearance.

Recommendations

This Ghostbusters is significantly more family friendly than the original. There are still instances of sexual themes and ogling and a splash of suggestive dialogue, but it felt far less icky. As for violence, there’s an exciting ghost fighting montage during the climax that’s more fun than intense and at one point I think a guy gets shot in the jewels. There is, however, a suicide by electrocution which some could find disturbing, but happens so fast that no one has a chance to dwell on it.

As for language, yeah, it’s a little worse than the original. While there’s still not a ton, it’s there. It’s mostly minor swears and a middle finger. I didn’t really notice it as a problem.

Should young kids watch it? My youngest was fine, although the first ghost startled him a little bit. No nightmare inducing traumas here. That said, he’s got two older siblings that make sure he’s seen and heard just about everything, so there’s not much that phases him. I’d recommend ages 10+ that are okay with mild swearing and moderate intensity scenes with ghosts.

I give Ghostbusters 2016 a rare 5/5 stars for being well written, well executed, and thoroughly enjoyable.


Thank you for stopping by! If you enjoyed this review and would like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a bonus of one of my short stories for free.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Movie Review: Edward Scissorhands

Crazy as it may sound, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the iconic Tim Burton film, Edward Scissorhands. If that doesn’t make you feel old, I don’t know what will. It made me feel old, and that’s saying something. I rewatched the movie to commemorate the anniversary and –

It was really boring.

The Story

Edward Scissorhands is a man who was created by an inventor who is every bit a mad scientist. The inventor lives in a castle on a hill overlooking 1960s iconic suburbia. Robots and machines fill this castle making salads and cookies. Before Edward was complete, his creator dies, leaving him unfinished. Instead of a pair of functioning hands, he has multiple pairs of scissors in place of fingers making him look a bit like Freddy Kruger.

Edward would have been content to stay up in the castle, isolated and alone, but is instead found by an Avon rep, Peg Boggs, who decides he needs to come live with her. As Edward has only known his castle world, the “modern” world comes as a bit of a shock.

All the nosy neighboring housewives start their gossip and a series of hijinks ensues where they discover that Edward is good at topiary, grooming dogs, and cutting hair. When Edward doesn’t give one of the housewives what she wants, she starts spreading rumors about him that he’s different and dangerous.

It all comes to a head when Peg’s daughter comes home with her complete dick of a boyfriend. When he discovers that Edward can open locks, he comes up with an idiotic plan.

Everything goes wrong, naturally, and Edward is chased out of the suburb back to his castle where he lives to this day.

My Review

I’ll admit, I liked the movie a lot more as a kid where the novelty of Edward’s scissor hands was still interesting and watching him be really good at a few unique things was fun. But like most movies rewatched as an adult, I found there were lots of really weird choices made by the writers.

First, it moves sooooo slowly. Granted, movies from the early nineties tended to spend more time building up the vague idea of ambiance, but this was a grueling sort of slow development that felt pointless.

As a writer, I get what they were trying to achieve. Edward is coming from one created world and being transplanted into another which is just as artificial. All the houses are painted in candy bright pastels and are uniformly boring. All the housewives have nothing better to do than gossip and paint their nails until their husbands get home. Edward is the only interesting thing that has happened or will happen.

Showing up far too late in the movie for any real meaning is a forced ethics discussion where Edward has to weigh what’s right over what is kind and he chooses kindness. This is important for the finale where he has to make another difficult ethical choice, this time choosing his own life and that of the girl he likes over the dick boyfriend’s life.

If there’s a moral to the story it’s that everyone should mind their own business or people get hurt.

Recommendations

If you love Tim Burton and his imagery, there are some fascinating bits where you’ll see his earliest style coming through. It’s all over the castle and its grounds. It’s in Edward’s original costume, and it’s loosely in the story as being different is explored.

If you are craving a hit of 60s nostalgia, that’s there as well from the styles of the homes, to the colors, to the stereotyping, to the glass grapes, and to the vintage cars. There’s even a rotary phone and corded land lines.

As one of Johnny Depp’s earliest roles, it’s really strange to see him playing a character with so few speaking lines. He literally spends the movie blank faced and being dragged around by other people.

After those few things there’s nothing in this film that’s terribly interesting. The story isn’t well developed, the characters feel like cardboard, and it moves beyond slowly.

I give Edward Scissorhands 2/5 stars for being slow and boring with only a few rare interesting or beautiful bits. Bonus point added for Danny Elfman’s music.

Throwback Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End

There’s nothing more redeeming to an okayish sequel than to get another chance and make a trilogy. For those keeping track, this is the third Pirate’s movie and the one where Jack Sparrow is stranded on the Bonneville Salt Flats, erm, I mean Davy Jones’ locker. We also visit the foreign and mysterious South China Sea and Chow Yun-fat. Yeah, I don’t know how they talked him into the movie either, but it works.

Behold, Davy Jones’ locker. If you squint, you can see the Wasatch Range in the background.

The Story

We left the second Pirate’s movie with several unresolved issues. Will still hadn’t saved his father like he’d vowed. Jack was eaten by a Kraken, which simply cannot be because he’s the reason we watch these movies. Barbossa continues to have an unhealthy interest in the Black Pearl and since Jack is interwoven into the Pearl’s fate, is still part of the story. Davy Jones corrupted himself and Flying Dutchman and it’s crew by not fulfilling his duty of escorting dead souls of those who died at sea to the afterlife. Elizabeth feels horrible guilt because she believes she’s responsible for Jack’s death – which she is. Shackling someone to a mast while a Kraken is attacking tends to do that.

Meanwhile Lord Cutler Beckett, the project manager of the East India Company, has angered pirates far and wide by executing anyone associated with piracy in all of the Caribbean – which is literally everyone. This compels the Brethern Court, consisting of the nine pirate lords of the sea, to convene and find a way to stop him.

The former crew of the Pearl, now under Barbossa and on a boat from the South China Sea, rescue Jack from Davy Jones’ locker in what can be only called a cinematic extravaganza of special effects. One of those is finding Jack and the Pearl in the otherworldly white expanse of Davy Jones’ locker. If you ever want to see it, simply head 40 min west of Salt Lake City on I-80. Bizarre place, the kids love it.

Back to the story, Jack is needed to cast a vote at the Brethern Court, as he’s the pirate lord of the Caribbean and never appointed a successor before getting mixed up in Davy Jones’ affairs. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Swann inadvertently becomes the pirate lord of the South China Sea. They, and the other pirate lords, argue about how to handle Beckett and after lots of dialogue choose to go to war. They believe they’ll win because they have Calypso to do their bidding. And…they’re wrong. It seems no one told her that her love, Davy Jones was the one responsible for trapping her in a human body in the first place.

She causes a maelstrom, another wickedly cool special effect which draws the two hero ships into it’s spiraling waters. A great sea battle ensues, lots of crazy happens, and at this point is where the spoilers will get me into trouble.

The cover for Keira Knightly’s new album (no, not really)

My Review

This is my second favorite pirates movie after The Curse of the Black Pearl. We see some incredible new places, I particularly love the visuals of entering the ice cave into the upside down world. Is this still a complicated Pirates movie? Yes. There’s a heck ton of different storylines happening and I still haven’t quite figured out what Jack’s deal was with Davy Jones that started this whole mess in the first place.

For being complicated, at least everything feels like it fits. We know what Beckett is up do thanks to the second movie, so having him expand this role and become an even greater threat makes sense. The new characters introduced served an important role and were woven into the stories of the characters we already knew, which is fairly important. It’s what makes a sequel not feel accidental.

The only really weird part that should have been given a lot more attention is the strange relationship between Jones and Calypso. If her anger was to become a key element of the climax, then it’s important for the audience to understand where it was coming from on a very relatable level.

Yes, that is Keith Richards.

Recommendations

This is a solid movie that’s easy to like. All our favorite characters return and do fun things. There is action and cool places and dramatic effects. Yes, there is complexity, but for the most part, all of it fits together. As with all the Pirates movies, this is not great for young audiences due to the violence, dramatic explosions, and the whole bit about Will having his heart cut out, which is thankfully off screen.

As for objectionable material, yes there is a bit of kissy kissy there at the end, but all clothes stay on and it’s fairly chaste. There isn’t any swearing and everyone keeps their clothes on, although apparently ample cleavage is now okay for Disney so proceed with caution if that makes you uncomfortable.

All-in-all it’s a fun adventurous romp.

I give Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End 4/5 solid campy goodness with only a few weak spots.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a signup bonus of one of my short stories for free.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Book Review: The Diabolic, by S. J. Kincaid

This book was recommended to me by a friend in the writing world when I told her what else I’d been reading and happened to mention my random foray into science fiction. She thought this would be a great fit as while The Diabolic is set in space, it’s more of a suspense thriller than anything else. Thanks DawnRay for the suggestion, it was certainly an entertaining read.

The Story

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a creature made to serve as a bodyguard for Sidonia, a galactic senator’s daughter. The two grow up together and have become close. Part of Nemesis’s creation process made her completely loyal to Sidonia to the point that Nemesis expects to give up her life to protect Sidonia.

Nemesis is given that chance when Sidonia’s father angers the Emperor by acting against the decree of the Galactic Court with his interest in science. As punishment, Sidonia is summoned to the court, a vast city-like space station called the Chrysanthemum. To protect Sidonia, Nemesis is altered to appear like Sidonia and is sent in her place.

It is there at the Chrysanthemum that Nemesis discovers not only that there is more to the ruling class of the galaxy, but more to herself as well.

My Review

This story has a super cool premise where the main character is not quite human but is forced to fit into a human world. She literally sees the world from an alien perspective knowing she’s different from everyone around her and therefore shouldn’t expect to be treated the same.

So, by forcing her to pretend she’s a human is quite possibly the most difficult thing that could be asked of her – a brilliant plotting choice. Everything from that moment forward encompasses that struggle of how to act “normal” when you feel so out of place, and that someone else’s life depends on how well you succeed.

Clearly, it doesn’t go well. Nemesis makes huge critical errors that put her in the spotlight in more ways than one. She not only draws the attention of those she’s trying to hide from, but she draws their hatred as well. It’s the opposite of what she was originally sent to do.

For a character who is supposed to be emotionless, this is an emotionally driven story which makes it all the more engaging. The settings created within the story are places that I would love to visit if they were real, including vast gardens with opulent salt baths and domes that reveal black endless space.

While it’s an exciting book, there are elements that as a writer I felt could be stronger. The settings were really cool but there were plenty of scenes where once the setting was established, there was no further mention of the character interacting with the space. There was also plenty of what we call “filter words” where instead of just showing the reader what was being seen or felt, it’s dumbed down by first saying “I looked,” or “I felt,” or “I tasted.” It’s a little thing, but it reminds the reader that they are in fact reading.

My recommendations

Yes, this is technically a YA adventure thriller. However, it’s hugely violent and there are some pretty graphic descriptions of people literally being torn apart. With the main character being a professional killing machine, this isn’t unexpected, but it’s enough that I feel it appropriate to warn off younger readers and leave this one to the older teens.

Within all of this is a pretty turbulent romantic subplot that never steps into anything more than a kiss, but there is plenty of teenage angst wrapped up all around this, so if you really can’t stand that, you’ve been warned.

As for language and swearing, I have the hardest time remembering specifics, especially when I listen to the story as an audiobook. Nothing shocked me, but I want to say there might have been some PG-13 swearing.

I give The Diabolic a 3.5/5 for having some fascinating worldbuilding and characters but also having way more political drama than I was expecting.


TV Series Review: Picard, Season One

I’ll admit I had some huge reservations about this new chapter in the Star Trek universe. Picard has always been my captain. The Next Generation was the Star Trek I grew up with. I had so many expectations that it would take nothing short of a minor miracle to fulfill them all.

Good thing I believe in miracles.

The Story

Time has passed since Captain, now Admiral, Picard has commanded the U.S.S. Enterprise. He’s retired and doing the thing he always envisioned he’d do, managing the Chateau Picard vinyard in La Barre, France.

And he’s bored.

He left active duty with the Federation with a bad taste in his mouth. One of his last efforts as Admiral blew up in his face when the Federation didn’t give him the support he needed. The resulting deaths still haunt him.

So when a mystery falls into his lap, he’s not only intrigued, he feels obligated to act. Back during the events of Nemesis, his dear friend, Lieutenant Commander Data, sacrificed himself to save Picard. This new mystery is linked directly to some of the more mysterious parts of Data’s past, namely where he came from and who created him.

If he can solve the mystery, he will not only save the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, but he might also find resolution over the death of his friend.

My Review

As with any long standing science fiction universe, you can expect the story to be complex and nuanced. There are several planets, species, cultures, and goals all colliding with each other. Add to this the emotional motivations of each playing character, of which there are many, and that’s a lot of information to track.

The writers handled this challenge well. They avoided the common pitfall of using massive info dumps, instead choosing to carefully present information one crucial parcel at a time. For me, it was not unlike putting together a jigsaw puzzle without being able to reference the picture. I enjoyed the challenge, but it was too complex for my teenager (and too mature for the younger kiddos).

From the acting, to the effects, to the writing and dialogue, Picard delivers everything a true TNG fan could ever hope for. We have so many of our favorite elements coming into play. There’s the Borg collective, the friction with the Romulan Empire, Picard’s past as Locutus, and diving deep into the concept of synthetic life and what it means to be alive.

There are also plenty of other elements that come into play to add extra spice, such as using a non federation ship and seeing what happens when Picard must step outside the rules. One of my all time favorite Voyager characters, Seven of Nine, falls into the story in a way that’s both true to her character and essential to the plot. Win.

I can’t wait to see what direction they take as the story continues to unfold. As for me, I’m thrilled with the story so far.

I got my minor miracle.

Recommendations

This is a more mature Star Trek and definitely not for younger viewers. I recommend viewers be at least high school age considering some of the themes and situations. While the use of coarse language is fairly minimal, it’s still there as well as casual intimacy, graphic violence, and intense scenes.

If you loved TNG, and are okay with an increase in the intensity, you’ll love it. Easy as that.

However, if you’ve never been into Star Trek and want to start, this isn’t a good place to do so. There’s a lot of history behind many key characters that will be lost on you. The show might still be enjoyable, but I think you’ll miss out on many of the emotional notes.

I give Picard a rare and shining 5/5 stars for the amazing work that went into the story telling and all the emotional punches.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a signup bonus of one of my short stories for free.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

TV Series Review: Good Omens

I have a sneaking feeling that I might run across lots of mixed feelings on this one. While the two authors, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, both have huge followings, they also tend to push the boundaries of the expected into often dangerous territory. In Good Omens, what’s a more dangerous subject than the coming of the Antichrist?

Like I said, it’s loaded with ideas and history that plunges us straight into dangerous territory.

The Story

Like most good fiction, this one starts with a monumental “What if?” What if the child who was meant to grow up to be the Antichrist was accidentally switched at birth? What if the demon assigned to watch over him, has actually been watching over the wrong child?

The story centers on this demon, Crowley, and his angelic counterpart, Aziraphale. These two beings have been on Earth as representatives of Hell and Heaven respectively since the beginning of time, and have formed an unlikely friendship. Not only that, they’ve grown accustomed to the comforts of life on earth and aren’t thrilled at the prospect of the coming of Armageddon, which will end it all.

While the hosts of Heaven and Hell are eager and anxious for Armageddon to finally happen, both Crowley and Aziraphale are willing to do anything to delay it and possibly prevent it for as long as possible.

My Review

I’ll state right now that I’m a biased watcher. I’ve always enjoyed Prachett and Gaiman’s unique spin on stories and their deep dives into unique characters and what makes them tick. I’m also super biased because the two leading actors are none other than the exquisite David Tennant as Crowley, and the ever intriguing Michael Sheen as Aziraphale.

Honestly, the show itself gets forgiven a lot because of these two factors alone.

As a whole, I found the series fascinating to watch. The story is complicated and there are lots of twists and turns to keep track of, which for me is a perk. There are multiple driving forces to push and prod the story in different directions, and all of them are working against the goals of the other.

What I particularly liked is the sheer brilliance of the dialogue between Crowley and Aziraphale. The debates between them and the huge amount of history shows up in these little revealing snippets deepens their characters and the history of the world itself. They care for each other in a way that’s taken millenia to grow. It’s no surprise that most of the watchers who enjoyed the show want to see these two characters in a more serious relationship beyond friendship.

Overall, it’s a brilliant piece of work if you don’t mind diving into a story that centers around Armageddon and all its associated lore.

Recommendations

Obviously if you already enjoy Prachett and Gaiman, you are going to like this show. It has all the charm, depth, and humor you’d expect from a collaboration between the two. While it is complicated, so are most of their writings. Those who already like reading these two authors will be fine in keeping track of what’s going on.

I would warn those who have sensitive religious views to either watch the show with a grain of salt, or steer clear. It doesn’t shy away from this being an end-of-the-world type story and brings in enough theological material to support the differing world views surrounding the prophecy. This might make some watchers uncomfortable.

When it comes to objectionable material, there’s a wide but thin smattering of language, violence, and innuendo that some might find offensive but are neither remarkable or overblown. What’s there is appropriate to the situation.

I rate Good Omens a solid 4/5, a great show but you really have to pay attention.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a signup bonus of one of my short stories for free.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!