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shades of magic. [a month of happy.]

If you’re looking for something fun to read, I highly recommend this trilogy.

I warn you, every time you sit down and start reading you might lose the next few hours of your life jumping around between Londons with Kell and Lila. Good writing, immensely fun world building, thrilling story, and believable and interesting characters make these are the sorts of books that grab you and don’t let go until you run out of pages. Although, once you do run out of pages you’ll just wish there were more pages.

I’m on my way through the third book now. Its release Feb. 21st was too tempting for me and I broke a self-imposed book buying hiatus. It was a great decision! Shut up, you have a book buying problem.

The only bad news about these books is that apparently Gerard Butler just came on to produce the adaptation after Sony won a bidding war for the adaptation rights. That certainly dampens any excitement I might have had about seeing these characters travel from the page to the screen.


icheckmovies. [a month of happy.]

There are very few things in this world that make me happier than movies.

When you take movies and add in lists and achievement trophies to the mix you have a tailor made obsession machine for me. That’s what they do at iCheckMovies

iCheckMovies is a film nerd’s dream. An aggregation of list after list of history’s greatest and most important films according to various websites, critics, publications, film groups, and sundry.

It’s a great way to fill in blind spots and omissions in film knowledge, gleefully charge down rabbit holes of genres and subgenres, or even just decide what to watch next.

The first thing I do whenever I watch a new movie is head over and check it off. It’s super fun and I highly recommend it.

If you love movies and you don’t have iCheckMovies, you should remedy that and start checking movies immediately. If you do have it and we aren’t friends yet, you should find me and let us join movie nerd forces.


cinefix: 10 best uses of color.

I’m sharing this because, while the video essay played out, I just kept worrying, “Please don’t leave In the Mood for Love off this list.” And then, they go and make it #1, those smart, charming bastards. And there is sense and justice and meaning in my world again.

Long live Wong Kar-wai! Long live international cinema!

I really need to pull the trigger on my planned deep dive into cinema. Fair warning to my friends who read this blog, once I go down that rabbit hole I might not be around for a while.


guess who’s… er… what’s back — it’s five things!

The fact that 2016 has been terrible is no secret. If the only bad things that happened this year were losing Bowie, Prince, Leonard Coen, and Phife Dawg in the same year it still would have sucked, but somehow that is just the tip of the giant shitberg this year has been.

Fortunately, there is still awesomeness to make me feel better, and I wanted to share a few of those things with you — ‘Five Things’ style.

1. Baby Fucking Groot

The second trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy — released a week ago at this point, this post took me way too long to get around to finishing — showcased more of the comedic energy fans expect from the series. I’m assuming anyone who cares about this at all will have already seen it at least once. Still, it’s too great to not have it up on RtM, just for posterity. I loved the first Guardians so much, and this one continues to look like it will easily win my heart next year.

A growing baby Groot is even more amazing that I could have hoped.


2. Awaken, My Love!


Is Donald Glover the messiah? He might be. I just don’t see how an ordinary human can give the world Atlanta and Awaken, My Love! in the same fucking year. HOW?! There are plenty of talented people who might release two things that good in their career… but in the same year?! Say what you will about 2016 — it was fucking awful — but Donald Glover certainly did more than we could have hoped in an attempt to salvage it.

Have you listened to this album yet? Did anyone see this coming? Were we aware Childish Gambino was capable of creating a neo-soul masterpiece?

When Questlove — a bonafide pop music historian with an encyclopedic grasp of all things soul — freaks out and wakes D’Angelo at 4 a.m. to listen to an album, you should take note.

Here is a fun interactive video of Gambino performing “Me and Your Mama” at his Pharos concert event.


3. The Girl Who Drank the Moon


The people who live in the Protectorate believe a witch lives in the woods. They believe they must sacrifice a baby to her every year to avoid her wrath.

A witch does live in the woods, but is nothing like the blood thirsty monster she is imagined to be. Confused why babies are annually abandoned in the wilderness, she rescues them and takes them to loving families far away, feeding them starlight to nourish them on the journey. During one of these trips, the witch accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, enmagicking her.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a book about identity, about the power story has to nurture or destroy, and it is about truth and lies and the way the powerful distort the narrative to maintain the status quo. It’s also about love and family and the way courage and compassion can change the world.

It’s lovely and well-written, full of wisdom and lines I wanted to go back and reread multiple times.

You should read it.

Good news: The guy who wrote the screenplay for Kubo and the Two Strings is supposedly the one adapting this book into a screenplay. More on Kubo if I get around to making my own 2016 lists.


4. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

I know, I know — I barely write on RtM anymore and when I do, half the time it’s about how much I love Taiki Waititi. Well, what of it? I do love Taiki Waititi.

A friend recently asked people on Facebook to give a list of their favorite films since 2012, and I listed What We Do in the Shadows; not just because of my affection for that film, but because I needed a representative of Waititi’s work.

His films are so full of charm and joy and sweetness, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople is no exception. Plus, I’m a sucker for stories about people who come together and make weird nontraditional families. It deserves all the inclusion it has gotten on various lists of underrated or underappreciated films of 2016.

Speaking of underappreciated, when people talk about Hunt for the Wilderpeople they always mention What We Do in the Shadows but not Boy. Watch Boy!!!

Taiki for life!

I bet some people are unreasonably disappointed when they visit New Zealand and it’s not actually Middle Earth. I’m probably going to be unreasonably disappointed if I ever go because everyone doesn’t talk like a character in a Taiki Waititi film.


5. End of Year Lists

Hopefully, I’ll find time to make some of my own this year, but either way I am so excited that it is time for people around the internet to curate lists of their favorite things of 2016.

I love curation, both doing it myself and when others do it well. There is so much to learn by experiencing what other people get excited about with an open mind. It expands my life and my perception and offers me new things to enjoy.

Some of the stuff won’t be for me, but I might find a new favorite thing. There might be an amazing album or movie or book I would have otherwise missed, or I might be inspired to finally check out some show I’m sleeping on, or I might be encouraged to look at something I didn’t enjoy in a new light. Either way, my world will get bigger and brighter.


black mirror, season 3 [trailer park.]

All year, as more info came out about the third season of Black Mirror, I’ve been worried.

My question: is it possible to maintain the previous quality after doubling the length of a season with the move to Netflix?

Even if it turns out that every episode isn’t a winner, the trailer for the new season has gone a long way in calming my fears.



If you were curious about Leviathan Wakes (and The Expanse series in general) when I wrote about it back in September, but you aren’t into the whole reading thing, you can soon take it all in via a new SyFy show.

Technically the show begins in December, but they’ve released the pilot online a bit early.

You can watch the entire episode here on YouTube.


The show could still go either way, there are things I’m not entirely sure about yet. Yet, the scope is huge, the source material is solid, and the pilot has enough going for it that this could be really good.

I’m assuming they’ll take the Game of Thrones route and that each season will be a book in the series.

Here’s the trailer.


halloween movie fest, 2015: nights 7-12.

The second third of this year’s HMF was a mixed bag. A few underwhelming films, two favorites I was revisiting, a trendsetting classic in the horror genre, and a film that will become that in time. Let’s just get right to the films:


Night Seven: It Follows


 “It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”

It Follows is a really great movie. It is also one of those movies that may be impossible to talk about with folks who have never seen it before. For one, the film is pretty spoiler-friendly. If I explain anything about the premise to someone who hasn’t seen it, then I will ruin the early build of tension and strangeness. And two, the film doesn’t have a clear narrative point. It has a lot to say, but not in simple allegory. It Follows engages many ideas concerning sex, death, relationship, family, absentee parenting, and coming of age. Yet it doesn’t engage any of those ideas in a way that offers answers or morals, but instead insinuates mercurial questions and open-ended thoughts.

David Robert Mitchell has created a film that is moody, atmospheric, and wonderfully creepy. Also, Maika Monroe is fantastic as the terrorized lead, Jay.

This is a film that will be a genre classic, and I expect to see this referenced, honored, parodied, and copied in coming years.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Yes. This feels like the sort of movie that can be watched again and again with varying takeaways and reactions every time.


Night Eight: Pan’s Labyrinth

pan's labyrinth

“Me? I’ve had so many names. Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce.
I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. I am… I am a faun. Your most humble servant, Your Highness.”

This was my third time watching Pan’s Labyrinth, but the first time in quite a while. The computer effects are certainly more dated now, but the film is still as darkly beautiful and moving as I remember it to be. This is Guillermo del Toro’s rendering of how story and imagination can sometimes be our only salve in a violent, often ugly world.

Escapism can get a bad rap when it comes to stories and art, but Pan’s Labyrinth illustrates the reality that sometimes escape into story is our only hope.

As Tolkien said about the scorn escapism faces: “Evidently, we are faced by a misuse of words, and also by a confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”

The escape story offers can function in two possible ways. In some instances, it can actually help us escape from our prejudices, small-mindedness, fear, anxiety, etc. In others, we are powerless to change our circumstances, like Ofelia. Then, story and fantasy might be the most sane way to respond and keep hope burning in a hopeless situation. Story might not always save us, but it may be the only thing that makes the impending darkness bearable. Pan’s Labyrinth remains one of my two or three favorite artifacts of this idea.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Obviously. Del Toro’s work is the sort that reminds me of the power of storytelling.


Night Nine: The Devil’s Backbone

santi“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.”

Revisiting another del Toro film. I saw this for the first time during a previous HMF, which I wrote about here. The Devil’s Backbone is the lens through which I see del Toro’s work, as it’s an early film for him, it took him 16 years to develop, and he described it afterward as the first time he was fully satisfied with the final product of a film (which is in itself an amazing thing to say when your first feature length movie was fucking Cronos).

There are so many similarities between Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, and I believe it is because they are the closest to the DNA of del Toro’s heart and his storytelling sensibilities. In both, we see the themes of violence, cruelty, power, innocence, gender, and humanity’s capacity for both monstrosity and beauty. In both we have scary supernatural elements that pale in comparison to the terror of what people are capable of doing to each other.

This time, rewatching both del Toro films, a primary thing that struck me was that each had a villain who was truly horrible, but complicated. Even though it doesn’t go into detail, each film’s villain had a rich subtext, the implication that a deep wound was the source of their ability to do evil things. It didn’t act as an apology or justification for their actions, but it made the characters richer and more satisfying. It made the fairly binary separation between good and evil in the films easier to buy into. The human ability to do monstrous things is so often rooted in our own fear and brokenness. 

Whenever I rewatch things I previously loved I’m worried I’ll see new cracks or weaknesses that will ruin it for me, but I was happy to see that The Devil’s Backbone stands up as a beautifully crafted story and film.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? See above.


Night Ten: Witching and Bitching


“What’s she doing with the broom?”

“Not sweeping up, that’s for sure.”

Witching and Bitching is a crazy film from Spain that I wish I liked more than I did. After a jewelry heist, some robbers and hostages are on the lam when they run afoul of some evil cannibal witches.    

It’s really weird and original. It has a lot of enjoyable energy. At times it’s hard to tell if the film is sexist, or challenging sexism, which I think is actually a strength.

In the end the storytelling just gets a little too cartoony for me to keep enjoying it. For example, two characters fall in love because they need to for the filmmakers to make certain jokes and points, even though those characters had previously only been in the same room for maybe twenty minutes, none of which involved believable emotional connection.

Witching and Bitching felt to me like they ran with the kernel of a good idea with abandon, when they should have spent more time solidifying things early on. The energy and craziness were good, but without the needed foundation and structure that makes films like Shaun of the Dead or the original Dead Snow work so well

Will I Ever Watch It Again? No, but I didn’t feel like once was a waste of time.


Night Eleven: The Wicker Man [1973]

Robin HardyÕs THE WICKER MAN (1973). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures/ Studiocanal

“Come. It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.”

The Wicker Man has been referred to as the Citizen Kane of horror films. Mostly, this is simply a hyperbolic way of praising it by comparing it to one of the few films that is always on the shortlist as greatest film of all time. However, there are ways this comparison is actually accurate. Citizen Kane set a new standard for visual storytelling, and The Wicker Man was a new way of making a horror film. Robin Hardy abandoned the horror sensibility of the time. Gone were the broad strokes and gaudy make-up and melodramatic overacting, replacing them with creepy subtlety and weirdness. The perfect microcosm of this is horror star Christopher Lee’s appearance as your friendly neighborhood cult leader.

The movie is definitely weird, for example it has a nude musical number by one character. It needs to be weird to throw the audience off balance along with the protagonist.

The plot definitely has a few major holes in it, and the main character is so hard to like that the stakes and danger never felt real to me. Yet, for the most part the film is still compellingly well-crafted in terms of visuals and atmosphere. From the slow burn of the film’s opening act to the impressive final shot, The Wicker Man is a solid movie that deserves its place in the cult film canon.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Eventually. This will be a good one to revisit for film and genre study.   


Night Twelve: Dead Snow 2


 “The operation was a success. We managed to put your arm right back on.” 

Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is so over the top and insane that it’s hard to fault it for being so empty and nonsensical. As a movie to watch with some friends to laugh at its ongoing self-aware absurdity it is worth the price of admission. However, it pales in comparison to Dead Snow and other similar films.

The movie revels in its over the top gore and cartoonish violence as much as the original, but it lacks all the internal logic and structure that made the first one so satisfying. The first film was full of fairly interesting characters, ultimately ill-fated but tough enough to be competent in a zombie fight, in part thanks to their film knowledge. The second film had mostly annoying characters who didn’t make much sense.

This was fun while it lasted, in the right context, but lacks all the craft of the first film.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’ll watch Dead Snow again, repeatedly. I imagine this will be my only viewing of Red vs. Dead.