Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Review: A Game of Thrones puts the Epic in Epic Fantasy

Hi everyone. I’ve been reading a book that has been entertaining, but long. Now it is finished. That book is the story A Game of Thrones

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Enter the world of Westeros, a land with a heavy medieval culture and seven kingdoms are ruled by a monarch who sits on the Iron Throne. After years of not seeing each other Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark is visited by his old friend Robert Baratheon, the King of Westeros, and is made the new Hand of the King. Reluctantly Ned follows Robert to King’s Landing with his daughters Arya and Sansa. On the way Ned starts to uncover facts that led to the death of the past Hand, Jon Arryn. As he searches for answers he uncovers a secret that could plunge all Westeros into chaos and war.
Online friends have told me that George R. R. Martin is the new king of fantasy, and it’s easy to see why with A Game of Thrones. Significantly more toned down than the HBO series the book focuses more on the politics of the world than on magic and monsters. Martin is an imaginative writer who brings you into the wondrous, and oft times, violent world of Westeros. Westeros is not a place where gallant princes and fair maidens dance with each other at the ball until midnight, or legions of orcs are trying to wipe out the kingdoms of men. The real threat comes from within, from the people themselves. The characters are well rounded, there is some serious development for many characters and you don’t have to worry about the pages being filled with clich├ęs. In other words, no elves, no centaurs, no guiding wizard companion and counsellor. Magic is in Westeros, but it's very subtle to the point where if you blink you'll miss it. Martin steps away from many of the stereotypes of fantasy and makes Westeros seem like a place that could exist in reality. A gritty yet engrossing tale of the food and fashion of the dark ages. Also has magic and dragons and sex (sadly) and stuff. If you want a serious upgrade in fantasy worldbuilding you should pick up this book. The multiple characters the story follows helps to show the epicness of this world and once you start reading you won’t want to put this book down.
Martin does an incredible job of developing his characters. Cersei is so evil she makes the Evil Queen seem as gentle as a lamb. Sansa starts out as a silly love-struck girl lost in ideas of what stories paint the world to be, but as the book progresses she gets a serious wake up call that the world is often cold and cruel, and doing the right thing can get you killed. The Dothraki people that Daenerys Targaryan ends up with are seen as animals by many people, but as she spends time with them she sees a human side to them. Martin has said that when it comes to doing his female characters he thinks of them as people, and his writing proves it. The characters feel fleshed out and real with shortcomings and faults that many people have. More impressive is the immense political system Martin has created for Westeros. Most people in fantasy just have the king do everything when it comes to politics. In Westeros the king has a council that helps him govern and rule the land. Each man has a certain job  that they do when it comes to ruling the land. One's in charge of the treasury, the other rumors that abound in the land, etc. This suggests the king doesn't hold absolute power in this world. It makes a nice and well needed change from the stereotypes that have engulfed modern fantasy.  
People swear, a couple of times f-bomb someone. Jaime and Cersei Lannister have incestuous sex with each other. Daenerys Targaryan's wedding night has too much detail. Characters are raped. Tyrion mentions sleeping with whores, and one instance has too much detail. Privates are mentioned. Sometimes it takes paragraphs, but other times you have to skip pages to avoid it. Not a book for younger readers. Battles break out and people die, sometimes in a gory way, more so than in The Lord of the Rings or The Inheritance Cycle. If this book were adapted into a movie the content could go beyond a PG-13 rating into NC 17. 

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Sometimes doing the right thing means going against the popular opinion. Family can be a source of strength and comfort. Our choices define who we are.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Movie Review: Jurassic World brings the franchise back from extinction

Hi everyone. Sorry it's been so long. I'm still trying to get that book read and reviewed. I got back from seeing a movie that I've been waiting all summer to see and I've decided to blog about it. Those of you who know me can tell what it's going to be about, but I'm going to tell you anyway: Jurassic World.
Rating: Five out of five stars
            It’s been years since the initial disaster of Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. Now, thanks to Simon Masrani, the park has finally come under control and is a popular attraction for families all over the world. While the brothers Zach and Gray Mitchell have come to Jurassic World to visit their workaholic aunt Claire Dearing, the staff behind the park is keeping an eye on their next attraction: a hybrid dinosaur dubbed the Indominus Rex. What they don’t anticipate is the skills this new species of dinosaur has, which it uses to escape and cause mayhem across the park. With the help of Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady they must stop the Indominus Rex from killing everyone and everything on the island.
            I am a big fan of dinosaurs and have loved all the Jurassic Park films. Each one keeps to the theme that the dinosaurs are animals, not monsters. This one, however, takes it all to the next level while keeping the formula that made the past films great. The majority of the original actors don’t appear, but we do get to see B.D. Wong reprise his role as Dr. Henry Wu, the geneticist who helped create the dinosaurs. Chris Pratt did an excellent job as Owen Wilson, providing humor and the voice of reason to the film. While moving on from the events of the first Jurassic Park films, this movie does contain plenty of Easter Eggs and references to the rest of the franchise. Most people were complaining about how the training of the Veliciraptors took away from the appeal, but that only helps to make them more realistic. Many animals, like lions, tigers, wolves, and bears, can be trained to do certain things and still be a wild animal at heart. Jurassic World takes that concept and incorporates it into one of the most popular dinosaurs of all time, which only became famous thanks to the films. One of the shocking things to me in the film was that we see a female character die for the first time. I had a feeling it was going to happen, and foolishly hoped that it wouldn’t. Still, to see it happen, it shocked me and weighed heavy through the film.
            Anyway, continuing on, we do have to bid good-bye to the Brachiosaurus. However we get to see a dinosaur that was written in Michael Crichton’s original novel but had yet to appear in the films: Apatosaurus. We also see other classic dinosaurs like Parasaurolophus, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus. Dinosaurs like Pachycephalosaurus and Dilophosaurus are discussed and make cameos. I was really excited to see something that used to swim in the oceans finally make an appearance in the films, and it was one of the ocean’s apex predators: the Mosasaurus. The Indominus Rex, due to being a hybrid dinosaur, is quite literally insane. That does correspond to science because hybrid cows that have been created have been reported to be a little crazy. The film also sets up for potential sequels, which I have to say thanks to this film will certainly happen. If you haven’t seen it yet, then you should. It stays loyal to the spirit of the films, and evolves so much to the next level of prehistoric entertainment.
            Dinosaurs attack people, and blood is seen plenty of times. A dinosaur attacks several other dinosaurs and kills them. Some Apatosaurs are seen injured and dying. Pteranodons carry off a woman who is eaten. Carnivores fight a hybrid dinosaur. Some mild swearing. A woman takes off her jacket while a man watches in shock.

            Our families can be a source of comfort and love when we are in our darkest moments and need strength. Animals are living, breathing creatures like us and deserve our respect. The only monsters are the ones we create. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Our actions have consequences, and if we’re not careful others will get hurt.

I realized too late I could've been using this month to blog about dinosaurs before the film was released. I may still do that. If I have time I'll update more and share with you more information about dinosaurs. Until next time, enjoy the film.