Tomb Raider 2018; no-spoiler review except this spoiler: I loved it

I’d planned to take my little sister out to see Love, Simon tonight but it was nearly a sold out show, which rarely happens at our theater. So, rather than wait for a later show, we went to see Tomb Raider instead. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I’ve seem some pretty cynical reviews and some really shitty ones from manbabies that care more about the size of Lara’s chest than anything else in the movie. Taking everything I’ve heard with a huge grain of salt, I thought we’d check it out. I was never a fan of the early Tomb Raider games, they felt unnecessarily difficult and way too focused on Lara’s appearance (they were).

In recent years with the reboot of the video game series, I decided to check them out again. And I fell in love with Lara, the story, the game play. They’re fantastic games. A little bit open-world, a little bit puzzle-platformer, a little rpg. They’ve got good story, good puzzles and a great protagonist. I’ve never really gotten into the multiplayer aspects, but I’ve loved the single player content of both games and am eagerly awaiting the third.

I’m really pleased to be able to say that I loved this movie. It’s everything the rebooted games are but in live action. They follow a similar story path, we see the same younger, scrappier Lara the games have gifted us and plenty of room to expand. I do have a soft spot for the cheesier Angelina Jolie movies, but this movie is a world apart. The action scenes are really great, none of it felt like too much CGI for me and several of them gave me really great flashback moments to the 2013 Tomb Raider game.

There’s a lot of new stuff coming out soon (YES, I DID WATCH THE INFINITY WAR TRAILER AND GET SUPER EXCITED WHY DO YOU ASK?) but I’d love to go see this again if I get the chance. It’s not perfect — I wish there were more women for one — but it’s a really good place to start for a new series and I hope that we get the chance to see where they take it. Alicia Vikander is a great Lara Croft, playing up the athleticism and the feisty sarcasm as her video game counterpart. I think she could make something great out of this series. 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick; reading different and switching up genres

Typically I read a lot of fantasy, modern (read: urban) and low-magic, but I also love a good historical fiction or horror novel. As not picky as I am about music, I tend to be pretty particular about the stuff I read. But lately, I’ve been a little tired of fiction, finding it difficult to get through the ends of books if it slows down even a little. I talked a little bit about it when I talked about reading Mamrie’s book. But since then I’ve picked up a few other memoir/non-fiction/celebrity kind of books to read. They tend to be a little short reads, but since they’re typically set up in short chapters/stories as well it feels like they’re faster too.

I finished Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick today. Memoir isn’t really the right word but it’s sort of a collection of her stories of getting into show business and the business of being a sort of an anxiety-ridden misanthrope. I’m a fan of her work both musicals and movies, I even saw Camp, which is … recommended only if you’re a fan of musicals and can stomach a poor teen comedy.

Anyway, I enjoyed her stories and honestly, it was just kind of nice to be grounded in stories about places and things that are recognizeable. It’s less work for my stressed brain. It might be one of the reasons I’m enjoying podcasts that are less about adventures and fantasy as well. As much fun as escapist fantasy can be, personally I think it requires more thought on my part that I’m not in the mood for lately. Especially on busy or stressful days.

I don’t know if anyone else is like this too. I doesn’t happen to me very often at all but this is lingering a little. Next up, I picked up I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee.

Music: Rolling in the Deep by Adele (Cover by Scary Pockets with Sarah Dugas)

As big of a fan as I am of music, I’m not the sort of person that hates on covers. Obviously I’ve recommended at least one here before. But lest that not accurately portray my love of covers, let me make it clear here and now. I LOVE covers, even bad ones, even cheesy ones. I love hearing someone else’s take on music I know really, really well. Sometimes they bring a sound to the music that I find interesting, sometimes they change the music in a way that brings out lyrics I hadn’t noticed before, sometimes it’s just a new way for me to fall in love with the song all over again. Sure, not ever cover is great and I might just listen to it once and pass by. But sometimes I might decide that I like the cover better than original. It’s all good in the cover game.

So then let me tell you how much I love Scary Pockets. They’re a funk band doing what Scott Bradlee did with Postmodern Jukebox (if you ask who? um… go figure that out and come back to me). They’re taking popular songs and make funk covers out of them. And listen, if you’re not into funk music, or maybe if you’re not sure if you like funk music, Scary Pockets is a good way to check it out. I mean some of the ‘funk’ is questionably true funk, but listen… they’re doing good at what they’re doing.
Plus, they’re giving all these great voices a chance to shine by not having one official Scary Pockets vocalist. 
Their most recent video is Rolling in the Deep by Adele, but funkified. The singer, Sarah Dugas, has an amazing voice and does the song justice. It’s worth a listen. 
HOWEVER, that’s not what I want to leave you with. While that’s good and shows you where they are now, I want to show you one of the ones I love the very most. Darren Chriss (of Team Starkid and Glee fame) has sang for them a few times. And the below is my favorite, a cover of Wonderwall by Oasis. Give it a listen and then check out the rest of what Scary Pockets has for you. If YouTube isn’t your thing, they’re on iTunes and Google Play and Spotify too. 

My Desk is a Wonderland

I really dislike having a boring desk at work. I have to actually WORK there for 8+ hours a day, every now and again I like looking around at my work area and finding something that’ll make me smile. And let’s be honest, Funko Pop figures have sort of changed the whole game when it comes to desk or cube decoration. Here’s my basic set up:

From L to R: Loki (from the first Thor movie, Superman, Maleficent, La Muerta & Harley Quinn.
In front is a smaller lip balm Maleficent.

If you think it’s odd that picture has more than one Maleficent in it, you don’t know me very well. There’s always at least one near me at all times (except the bathrooms — someday that might change). I’ll have to go into my love for Maleficent another day. Anyway, yes. I purposefully arranged them in a villain, hero, villain, hero format. To look around my cube there’s a few other smaller figures: a wendigo (the Hannibal Wendigo specifically from the ended-too-soon tv show), the evil queen (Grimhilde) from Snow White, and a Riddler.

Today, I remembered that when I switched cubes at the office, I’d stashed a smaller Doctor Who and a dalek figure in a cabinet and never put him out again. He’s one of my favorites (and a non-pop figure). It’s a figure of Ten and when he was on my desk before I made a bunch of cut out word bubbles with quotes from the seasons with David Tennant. These were a little like mood reflectors for me, I could change them out depending on how I was feeling in the morning. So I pulled them out today, found as many of the word bubbles as I could and set him back on a shelf near me.

The day suddenly felt 100% more manageable, because I could look up at him and laugh when I needed too. “It goes ding when there’s stuff!” is one my favorite Who quotes maybe ever because it’s so completely absurdist. It never fails to make me smile. The episode it’s from, Blink, while giving us one of modern Who’s most memorable villains, the Weeping Angels, also gave us the really adorable romance between Billy and Sally. And it’s one of the rare episodes where the Doctor isn’t really the main character — and it still works to give fans a really compelling story. I’m all for those. Much like I still can’t hear ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” without thinking of the episode, Love and Monsters.

As I was putting Ten back up on the shelf I realized how much comfort I put into my cube so that there’s something enjoyable pretty much anywhere I look. I took a few extra pictures to show off how packed with stuff I keep my cube. And yet, I managed to forget to photograph the biggest, most noticeable thing about my cube decorations. It doesn’t have a name but I know for a fact that people use it as a landmark in the sea of cubes on my side of the floor. So it’s pretty special. I’ll have to talk about it another day too.

I think I’m pretty lucky to be able to deck out my desk area as much as I do — not everyone has more than maybe a family picture or two in their work area. But personally, I think it’s how I make it through really tough days. It’s not just boring family pictures, it’s the pictures that’ll make me laugh, it’s the gifts from friends or family that make me smile.

Do you have an area at work that you can decorate? What do you — or would you — put in it to keep you going?

Where and how do you run?

This is one of those sort of doomsday/apocalypse kind of thoughts. But due to some of the story in Jessica Jones, I’ve been thinking about how and where I would run if the worst happened. Like if you ABSOLUTELY have to go somewhere because your personal FBI guy decides to turn you in or you commit a crime you want to get away from or there’s a super-villain after you (or a superhero, who am I to dictate what kind of super you want to be)…. whatever, we all have our reasons.

Specifically, I’m talking about the sort of running where technology works against you and where continuing to use your own identity is not an option.
Where do you go and how do you get there? I’m pretty much of the thought that in this day and age, the average joe has no real choice but the streets in a major metropolitan city. I mean, it’s sort of the sad conclusion of modern society that it’s easiest to hide in a crowd of people that people actively look away from. 
There’s someone in season two of Jessica Jones that she goes to for fake identification more than once and I couldn’t help but think how unrealistic that is. I don’t know, maybe in New York City everyone knows someone who knows a guy that can get you a new identity. But that’s not the case in the suburbs, or for normal people. Not too mention, even if that is a plausible option because somehow you know someone, unless they owe you a really big favor that shit isn’t cheap. And if you’re about to run, every cent counts. 
You can’t rent rooms anywhere without id, or travel and even buying things in cash is a tricky proposition if it’s expensive enough. And then, for funsies, pretend you’re starting this new life with no cash whatsoever. For whatever reason you can’t grab any before you leave, there’s nothing left to take, or you didn’t have any to begin with. Maybe you can scrounge up a few dollars but that’s not going to last long. 
With some time maybe you can grab things to sell before you leave. Or maybe there’s something on you worth selling. Chances of having something expensive enough to sell on me at any given time is pretty low. Unless pawn shops have started dealing in lipstick (because usually that’s all I have on me at any time of any value), I’m sort of out of luck.
These thoughts haven’t really gone anywhere — I live the sort of life where I’m more likely to need to run from a zombie apocalypse than some sort of hitman, but it’s an interesting thought experiment anyway. And not completely without its uses. Knowing where the nearest libraries, soup kitchens, domestic shelters or homeless shelters are in your town or city is pretty useful. In cities where public transportation isn’t a priority for suburban neighborhoods figuring out where the nearest bus stops are and what it costs, is also good information. 
My neighborhood for instance has a bus stop but it would take me a bunch of stops and changes to get anywhere useful, I’d have better luck walking toward downtown. But then I’d have to consider the best time to make that walk, on flat land anyone walking on the road is easily spotted… I’d be better served trying to float down the river and that has its own host of issues. 
No plan is perfect. But I’m curious what other people have come up with, if anything. Have you ever considered what it would take for you to run without money or technology? And where would you go?

Jessica Jones Season 2 — AKA I’m not sure how I feel about it

I managed to finish Jessica Jones Season 2 tonight and as the title might suggest, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I didn’t watch The Defenders (maybe I’ll get back to it, but it’s not a priority) so I’m not sure how well any of it ties in, or doesn’t, to what happened there. Although I feel like it’s probably pretty stand-alone from it, given that the only real ties I saw/heard in season two related to Jeri.

For a pretty spoiler-free review I can say that I both enjoyed Jessica’s progression in this season and what the focus was for her with Kilgrave out of the picture. I can also say that it’s pretty freaking cool that they employed female-only directors for Season 2, however there was also a long way they could’ve gone to improve some of their diversity issues. Black women specifically got an unfair shake on screen and in ways that absolutely could’ve gone any direction. It’s not enough to cast black actors, there’s no excuse from writers not to be more cognizant of the roles those actors will be playing and what it’ll look like on screen.

What I’m not really happy about (again in a way that’s the most spoiler-free I can make it) is the direction they took Trish in this season. I understand the progression from her interests in the first season that this is one of the directions that could’ve gone. But, I felt it was really predictable in the beginning of season two and by the end, it was tiring and played out. To be a little more specific that’ll only be spoilery once you get a few episodes into the season — I really hate that she gets rewarded for that, even if we don’t see it explicitly by the end of the season, it obvious enough.

One of the other things that’s sort of holding back my complete enthusiasm for the season as a whole is the very cyclical nature of the arguments that start to happen in every episode about half-way in as Jessica makes the biggest discovery of the season. I don’t have to say what it is to say that the way she talks herself in and out, or other people talk her in and out of the same decision in almost every episode gets old fast. And then to have the decision taken out of her hands entirely by the end of the season, undid part of the work of the first season. I get the character choice that was made and what that could set up for a third season, but it didn’t have to go that way. It could’ve ended a dozen other ways and season three wouldn’t suffer for opportunities to rehash the outcome.

I’m not really going to address Jeri’s story line. I feel the same way about the whole season as I feel about her story. I do like Carrie Ann Moss as an actress though and I really feel like she and Robin Wright and she need to have some show where they play high-powered lesbians with great hair and expensive clothes. Or just give me some President Claire Underwood/Supreme Court Justice Jeryn Hogarth fanfic and I’d be good.

Music: New Rules x Are You That Somebody? by Pentatonix

I’m happy to see new music from Pentatonix that isn’t Christmas, or personal projects. Not that they’re not all extremely talented on their own, but after Ari left, I wondered what new music from them might look like. Their cover for Havana is good, but this new song is a little bit of a return to some of their older sounds – new music mixed with an old beat. It also helps that I really, really dig New Rules from Dua Lipa right now. Putting the beat from Aaliyah’s Are You That Somebody? just hits me where my teen-self lived, knee-deep in R&B. This is real good.

First We Feast: Hot Ones with Charlize Theron

If you’ve never watched Hot Ones before, you’re missing out on a great interview show. In it the host, Sean Evans, interviews a celebrity while they both take down ten chicken wings made with hot sauces of increasing intensity on the Scoville scale. Between each wing, Sean asks questions of his guests that are usually a little unique (like the format) and always entertaining. It also doesn’t rely on 10-15 minutes of a guest plugging their latest project like on so many night time talk shows. Even at the end when Sean offers his guests a moment to plug whatever it is they want to — rarely do the guests actually do so in a way that feels played out.

The video below is the most recent episode where Charlize Theron takes the heat (like a champ) and is as charming and personable as I’d hoped she’d be. If you’ve never watched an episode, start with this one. Then, you’ve got more than a 100 episodes to watch back if you like the style.


One Last Thing

What is it about setting or deciding on a specific time to do something that seems to guarantee there’s always ONE MORE THING that needs doing? I’ve tried to go to bed a little early every night this week and each time I feel like there’s something I’ve forgotten to do. Last night I even tried to do it with plenty of time to finish what I was working on, let the dog out and take my meds — all the normal stuff I do. And then of course I knocked over my drink as I was getting up from my desk. Usually it’s the cats knocking my shit over. This time, my blanket knocked right into my open drink and spilled it all over my mouse and the books I keep by my computer at all times.

But having to clean that up got me thinking how often I’m picking up stuff or doing one last thing before I go to bed. It’s a little like playing The Sims or Civilization or whatever your RTS game of choice is, where you always want to take one more turn before saving and closing down your game.

I can’t be the only one that feels like there’s always one more thing that needs doing anytime you’re about to do something else? I’m sure it has more to do about our fallible human memories that makes us do this. Or at least my specifically horrible one.

Audible, Luke Daniels, and The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley

I’m not sure if I’ve learned my lesson about buying audiobooks just because I like the narrator. I picked up The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley after browsing through a bunch of the books narrated by Luke Daniels… which is not the first time I’ve picked up a book narrated by Luke Daniels just because. Let me back up.

Luke Daniels is a fantastic narrator whom I once described to friend thusly: “I hope he has little kids that reads stories to at night doing all the voices.” Not that his voice work isn’t lovely, but somewhere out there I’d like to know there are some super lucky children getting to hear him do a variety of voices for Where the Wild Things Are or Harry Potter, or whatever.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks — I got so fed up with the radio in Kansas City about five years ago and switched over to audiobooks for my commute pretty much exclusively. Although even before that when my husband and I could commute together, we often had audiobooks playing. But my Audible library is extensive these days, and I feel like that comes with a need to find books read by really enjoyable voices. I found Luke Daniels when I started listening to the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne (by way of the similarities in it and The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, which I loved for years). Anyhow. When you find a narrator that’s good, getting into the book is easier and I feel like the stories go faster because they’re into the characters in a way that makes them flow.

Davina Porter is another narrator I’ve grown to love through her work on the Outlander series audiobooks. I don’t have a lot of series I listen to on Audible necessarily, mostly because if the narrator is only so-so, I don’t have a lot of interest in picking up the next book. [And of course, Audible lets you return books you don’t like… which I’ve done, and is a very nice feature.] (Again, #notspon, I just really like Audible.)

So, I say all this to say that I like Luke Daniels as a narrator and have several times gone through his catalog to see what new things he’s read that I might like to listen to. He’s done Scott Meyer’s Wizard 2.0 series which is … just okay? But not through any fault on his part as the narrator. The writing has some issues.

I got off-track again.

The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley. It’s a stand alone fiction novel based very loosely on one of the author’s family members who went missing for a time in the fifties. The story takes place from the point of the missing character’s nine year old son, Jasper. Jasper spends the book desperately trying to learn more about his mother’s life: her childhood, her work, and most importantly where she went and why no one will tell him what’s going on.

Luke Daniels narrates from the mind of this poor nine year old who sees and reads and learns more than any kid should about his mother’s troubled past, and present.

By the end of the book I was eager to finish, not just to have it over so I could move on to something more fascinating, but I was finally finally interested in what was going on. That took more than two-thirds of the book to accomplish. I felt like so much of this story was unnecessary. Sure, everything is daunting when you’re a nine year old boy in the early fifties and everyone is always telling you to butt out, that you’re not old enough, that you can’t understand. And here’s where the book falls down for me.

The thing that most often takes me out of a story is if I feel, as a reader, that I’m being condescended to by the author. I won’t say that’s what happened necessarily, at least not in a way that made me stop listening before it was over. But I did get very annoyed by the book many times because it’s far more obvious to an adult reader than a nine year old what’s going on. So I felt that the pacing of the story was just awful, it plodded along, doling out information in the slowest manner possible.

When the end came, and thank goodness it’s not a super massive book (12 hours, I think… which is average for a normal novel length story via audio), I didn’t feel vindicated on Jasper’s behalf either. I didn’t feel like anything had been accomplished. The small bits of resolution that do happen don’t really happen to any of the main characters. They happen around them, as circumstance.

Not too mention, even my favorite narrator is going to run out of new ways to make the same gruff, farmer voices of the early fifties sound distinct. So it was kind of a lose-meh book for me. The only victory (for me) is in having finished it at last so I could move on. [I have a horrible time quitting books, even if I don’t like them. I’ve only done it twice since joining Audible, once was the narrator and the second time was the book itself. *shudders just thinking about it*]

Is anyone else a huge fan of Audible though? Do you do this too — pick out books because of the narrator? And please tell me someone else love Luke’s narration like I do.