Friday, January 06, 2012

A Few Of My Favourite (Genre) Things of 2011

As some of you might know, I also contribute to a geektastic website called (HcN).  Recently I wrote a post of my favourite genre things from 2011, and I thought, hey, why not share it with my blog readers too!  And that's what I'm doing.  Just FYI, the stuff I talk about in this post has nothing to do with books and writing, it's rather the thoughts of my alter ego as film reviewer and general pop culture consumer :) .


(the links in the post lead either to film reviews of said movies, most of them by yours truly, or to my Manly Monday column where I spend time admiring the most delightful qualities of certain male actors in genre films - in case you feel like clicking through :)  Also, minor spoilers ahead. )

So the year has come to a close, and as usual it was filled with . . . my opinions. What better way, then, to wrap up 2011 than by having me share my favourite genre things from the year. Why did I choose the things I did? Because I felt like it.

Favourite Genre Movies:

The Muppets
– arguably my favourite movie of the year. It was laugh out loud funny, the songs for the most part were sincerely catchy, and the pathos hit me right in the emotions, you know? Sure there’s some nostalgia here, and likely some bias – am a fan of both Kermit and Jason Segel – but it also meant that this could have turned out to be one of the most disappointing movies of the year for me. In the end, it not only met my expectations it exceeded them. Most importantly Segel kept true to the essence of what makes The Muppets so special: heart. And I think I needed to see a movie about people/frogs/bears/pigs/ etc being nice to each other this year. A little dose of dreams coming true never goes amiss either. Also, I give brownie points to any film that makes jokes I haven’t heard before. And has an 80s Robot.

XMen: First Class
– the movie no one wanted aside from the major studios is up there with my favourite films of the year. Sure there are some frustrating sexist tropes (why oh why must all the female characters at some point be half naked?) but the 60s setting and the two leads, James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender, combined with some truly creative storytelling and action sequences (hello, best change of perspective ever at the beginning there) elevated the film and brought back our excitement about this franchise. Then word of a Wolverine sequel brought us back down to earth.

Thor – poorly advertised it is a miracle this film did as well as it did. First of all Thor? Not exactly the most popular or empathetic of superhero characters. Second of all, man did those trailers make the movie look cheesy and everything Kat Dennings said, dumb. But the movie itself is awash in charm, from Chris Hemsworth’s amazing ability to make us like the cheeky fellow at the beginning, and believe his not really well written reformation at the end, to Tom Hiddleston’s surprisingly moving performance as a lunatic god, to Kat Dennings not actually being dumb at all but a perfectly timed comedienne, to Kenneth Branagh not afraid to give us pomp and circumstance, this movie really was fun. Sure the storyline on Earth was slight and the emotional resolution seemed to come far too easily and quickly, but did you see Hemsworth without his shirt on? Also: “I need a horse!”

Super 8 – this movie, like all movies this summer, had some serious flaws, but what holds it up above the other movies are the kids. While the monster might have disappointed some, I think the kids and their home made zombie film more than make up for it. Besides, the point of the movie wasn’t the monster, it was how a boy was affected by the death of his mother and how he comes to terms with letting go.  Great performances all round from the kids, especially Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning. And some great action sequences too. In a summer where planets are being blown up and world wars were waged, nothing came close to being as terrifyingly terrifying as that train crash. Also that single shot following the kids as they run through the neighbourhood while the army’s equipment goes haywire? Awesome.

Honourable mention goes to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Hugo and Mission Impossible IV. I enjoyed them, a lot, and I’m not really sure why they aren’t quite up there on the favs list, all I know is they weren’t the first films I thought of when I started making that list and I gotta trust my gut instinct.

Biggest Surprise Movie of the Year:
Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It wasn’t a work of art. But I actually had good time watching it (even more impressive considering how I absolutely loathed the second film). Even surprising-er? That the 3D actually worked and added to the fun-ness.

Favourite Newcomers (male):

Michael Fassbender – okay, come on, it’s so been this guy’s year. He’s been in every film and I think only Ryan Gosling beats him out as far as visibility goes. And why not, he’s sexy, he’s talented, and he makes amazing choices. He’s one of the reasons XMEN: FIRST CLASS is as good as it is.

Tom Hiddleston – fans of HcN won’t be surprised by this choice, I’ve developed a wee bit of a fan-girl crush on this lad. But for good reason, his performance as Loki totally blew me away. He really didn’t need to make the character as three dimensional as he did, but we as an audience were grateful. Further, we were also grateful that he didn’t go too artsy fartsy and still had fun just being bad. I am most excited to see him be badder still in THE AVENGERS, which I think will elevate his popularity even more so. On a personal note, the fact that he will be playing Hal (one of my favourite Shakespearean characters aside from maybe his nemesis, Hotspur) in a televised version of the two Henry IVs – well just makes me love him all the more.

Favourite Newcomers (female):

Jessica Chastain- the TREE OF LIFE star made some extremely wise choices this year, starring in one of the more artsy and odd films of the year (guys, there were dinosaurs . . .DINOSAURS), one of the most acclaimed yet unheard of films of the year, TAKE SHELTER, and one of the more popular films based on a massively successful bestseller films of the year, THE HELP. Not only did these films get her seen by everyone, it showed her incredible range. And of course how gorgeous she is.

Elle Fanning – stole every scene she was in in SUPER 8, and though she’d been on the scene a while, she’s suddenly making a splash this year. Plus SUPER 8 was the genre world’s introduction to her, so that works for this list in particular. What makes it all even better is that we’ve seen her older sister not fall prey to the evils of Hollywood and continue to work and make interesting films as she grows up. This bodes well for the talented younger sister. Please, Elle, please, don’t rebel.

I need to mention Elizabeth Olson also, simply because she’s been EVERYWHERE this year and I like to jump on bandwagons and make sure everywhere includes HcN.

Favourite ONCE UPON A TIME (yeah, it’s got me hooked) moment:
When Rumplestiltskin blew up Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother? That was awesome.


Like that.

Favourite GOOD WIFE (yeah, I know it’s not genre, I don’t care) moment:
That part of the show when it starts and then keeps going until the end.

Funniest Line in a Superhero movie:
From THOR: “Good.”

Funniest moment that doubles as “omg omg omg is he going to do it omg omg omg” moment:
Jeremy Renner (swoon) getting ready to jump down that computer shaft thing with a gigantic fan at the bottom with razor sharp blades and a pointy thing at the top to be impaled on in Mission Impossible The Fourth.

Thing I don’t have that I wish I did:
A computer shaft thing with a gigantic fan at the bottom with razor sharp blades and a pointy thing at the top to be impaled on.

Person I don’t have that I wish I did:
Jeremy Renner.

Best Fake Action Sequence:
The motorcycle chase in TINTIN.

Best Real Action Sequence:
The briefcase on the constantly moving up and down garage thing with the cars in Mission Impossible The Fourth.

Best Stunt:
A tie between Mission Impossible’s Dubai tallest tower skyscraper walk, and Transformer’s base jump off of a skyscraper. Whichever, they both work because of skyscrapers.

Performance that elevated an entire movie:
This is a tricky one because I feel most performances this year were what elevated otherwise okay films into the great category, but this one’s got to go to Andy Serkis in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Without his Caesar there wouldn’t have been a movie. Okay granted, yes, the movie is about Caesar so that’s kind of obvious, what I mean is, without an empathetic Caesar, a creature we cared about, worried about, sided with, this movie would have been pretty pointless.

Favourite Saddest Moment:
The end of a beloved series. I must admit that unlike many Harry Potterphiles, part deux this year did not impress me the way it did others. I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t adore it, not like I did Part Un in 2010. Still, I’ve been with this series a long time. First with the books, then with the movies. It’s been a decade. An incredible feat. 8 movies. No re-casting (aside from one actor who died). They stayed very true to the source material. Had some really genuinely funny, touching, impressive moments. And while the last movie wasn’t my favourite, it still was quite well done. Bravo, Harry Potter – and thank you again J.K.

Favourite Trailer that not only totally misrepresented the movie it was promoting, but managed to actually be the total opposite of said movie:
SUCKER PUNCH – okay, so technically this trailer is from 2010, but we didn’t know the truth until 2011.
Trailer: Empowered women kicking butt with awesome action and a sense of humour.
Movie: Dull, cliché ridden, derivative and if it had made any lasting impression whatsoever would have set back the women’s movement decades.

Favourite Tweet:
Seth Macfarlane:  “Unfortunately at no point during my workday does anyone ever have cause to shout my name and then toss me a sword.”

Favourite Moment for Adrienne with HcN:
Being complimented on my shirt by Kermit the Frog.

Favourite Moment for Adrienne in General:
That I continued to be totally fabulous for another year.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

In Which I Express My Love For Book Covers

 I have a thing for covers.

I think most people who love books do.

Yes we also know not to judge books by them.

But we also do.

I love covers. I go into bookstores not to check out what the latest releases are about, but what they look like. I go through the stacks not to discover some gem of a book that didn’t make it to table placement, but to discover some gem of a book cover.

And it’s not just the cover. Oh no.

It’s the packaging of the book itself. What is the cover made of, are the words embossed, is there foil? The way the back cover relates to the front, a gorgeous spine. How does each chapter start – is there a swoosh, an ink blot, a geometric pattern? Are there end plates?  How are the “parts” divided?

(This may be why I worry about ebooks taking over the world, I love books as art in and of themselves.)

I always check out an author’s new cover when she makes the announcement on her Twitter/Writing Forum/Blog. I frequent websites that analyse covers. I frequent designers’ websites.

This is currently my favourite blog about covers (of the YA variety).

I even designed the cover for a friend.

I love covers.

And I’m trying to figure out why.

A few weeks ago for no particular reason I shared some of my favourite works of art. I revealed I’d studied a fair bit of art history in University, and had a general passion for the subject. So clearly I love visual art. And covers are visual art.

But it’s not just that.

I think why I love covers best is that a cover artist/designer has to be creative but within a strict set of guidelines.

First of all the cover has to be a specific size.

Then a cover has to get across a wealth of information in a very limited space:

- Title
- Author
- Genre
- Tone
- And a little thing called Story

And sometimes a blurb has to find its way on there too.

I love that. I love that within a set of seeming rigid parameters so much originality can result. It’s the same way I feel about movies. Some of the best films happen through problem solving. The shark doesn’t work . . . I guess we’re not showing it then.  We have a small budget for a short film about aliens in South Africa? We’ll do it documentary style. That kind of thing.

I’ve always believed that the greatest innovations come out of problem solving. Being given free reign with a bottomless budget gives you The Phantom Menace.

Limitations make you think outside the box. Structure can make the imagination flourish. I have recently become quite interested in writing Shakespearean sonnets because of their rigid form. There is also something so satisfying about managing to surprise within the framework of something expected.

So too is it truly exciting to see a cover that seems wholly new and original but still does exactly what it is supposed to.  And it is also wonderful to see covers that pay homage to an old standard.

I also love this box of 100 classic Penguin book cover postcards I got from my publisher as a Christmas present:

I love the evolution of covers, what was popular in one decade and how that changes to the next, especially evident in reissued books.

And I wonder where covers will go now with the need to create covers that are easily identifiable as thumbnails.

It’s all so . . .cool.


I love covers.

Here are a couple recent YA covers that really struck me.  But of course, seeing as I love covers, there are many many more that I adore.  This is just a teeny tiny sample:

This book isn't out yet, the cover is courtesy of ThatCoverGirl's website.  Love!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Looking forward . . .

Yes, like many, I took the holidays off from blogging.  And then I got some temp work that made it very difficult to blog as well.

And really I can’t guarantee I’ll be back with any regularity for a while. I apologise for that. As someone who likes a good old fashioned schedule, well, I annoy myself with this announcement. Nonetheless I was able to compose three blog posts whilst manning phones at my temp job (I should add that everyone in the office was fully aware of what I was up to and probably quite happy that I was keeping busy as they all seemed guilty I didn’t have much to do). So we at least get blog updates for the rest of the week.

Thus . . .

In the past at this time of year I have been inclined to discuss resolutions etc. I realise this is a
staggeringly original idea of mine to do, and it would be absurd from me to divert from such an unusual and delightful path. But I’ve said a fair bit on the subject and I get bored easily . . . and I don’t wanna talk about that stuff right now.

I want to, instead, examine the year ahead. At least, what I know of it so far, on this the fourth day of the year 2012.

It’s a strange year that unfolds before me, and, I’ll be honest, it freaks me out a bit.

I have a novel coming out in the fall. This is kind of a huge deal for me as I haven’t had a novel out since 2009, and I’m new to YA. It’s a totally different world from MG, with different expectations (not better or worse, just different) and a different support system – the blogosphere is kind of insane when it comes to blogging about YA (insane in a good way, like “wicked” used to be when I was cool and stuff . . . wait, I was cool?  That can’t be right . . .). I just don’t know what to expect when THE FRIDAY SOCIETY comes out. Sure I’ve had books released before, sure I know the basics, but there is so much unknown around it too.

And the weirdest bit? That’s not happening till the END OF THE YEAR. Like, think about it. Dude, we’ve just STARTED the year now. Months and months are ahead of me, and honestly, my life isn’t really all that planned out. This time last year I was in a show and knew I would also be starring in another one come summer. I had a book to finish writing, a couple anthologies to promote.

But this year . . . it’s this weird blank canvas kind of thing.

And it freaks. Me. Out.

In a good way :) .

See I kind of think it's neat that I don't know what's going to happen.  I'm kind of excited to see what will be, and it will be interesting re-reading this post a year from now thinking, "Oh Adrienne from the past, have I got stories for you . . ." 

Now of course it’s not like I don’t have some plans.  Obviously I'll be starting to promote TFS before its launch. In fact the gears are already turning.  I’ve been working on the book trailer since October. By which I mean my director and DoP have been working on post-production since we wrapped in October and I’ve been offering my oh so "helpful" advice every so often.

I imagine there might be some contests and giveaways too.

Of course there will be edits. More just general kind of edits, but then copy edits, and galley edits, and a strong desire to throw up having read the book maybe one too many times.

There will be a cover reveal! And maybe just maybe a delightful story behind how it came to be (I’ve seen a sketch of it btw . . . just so you know).

There is con season which feels like it just wrapped but will be beginning in no short order, especially exciting as this year my good friend Lesley Livingston is one of the guests of honour at Ad Astra this year.

There is writing to do, settling on that next project.

There will be auditions, and hopefully acting work.

There will be temping.

My cat will be adorable and a pest.

But still.

Right now.

Looking forward. . .

It’s like looking at a city far away and knowing that eventually I’ll get there but not yet. I can see the publication date of TFS loom so clearly. I’m hoping that some trees and maybe some nice little towns will suddenly materialise blocking the view to distract me from that goal as I walk along the path towards it. I’d like that because that’s when suddenly you discover you’ve arrived at your destination without realising it.

And whatever pops up, you can be assured, dear blog readers, that I shall share tales of my adventures as we go along. 
So yeah.


But it’s kind of fun.

So now, it's your turn!  What does the year ahead look like to you right now?  What are you hoping for?  Etc. Etc. And so forth.