2017 has been an incredible action-packed year for movies. 2018 isn’t looking too bad, either (especially for Marvel fans. *squeals!*)
But before we look ahead, let’s look back on the best movies of 2017. These are my personal top picks of the year:
February feels like forever ago. I had to fact-check to make sure that, yes, Get Out did indeed come out in 2017, not 2016 like I thought. Or maybe that’s just me. I’ve done a lot of crap this year: graduate from college, got a new job, new apartment, learning all the horrors of having an adult life...
Anyway, Get Out as a horror movie is great, but it’s the social commentary on race that really makes it shine. Being unapologetic without being crass is a rare skill, one that Jordan Peele definitely has.
Otherwise known as the movie that made every superhero geek cry. Many times. And not just because it means we won’t get anymore Hugh Jackman in our favorite movies for a while.
Marvel definitely veered off-course with this very serious, gritty film, but they did it very well. It’s an excellent end to the original X-Men saga, and it sets the stage for a possible new Wolverine in the form of Laura, a.k.a. X-23.
Click here for the review I wrote on its opening weekend.
Angelic choir: llllaaaaahhhhhh!
This. Was. So. Overdue.
There’s a reason so many women were in tears during the action scenes, and that’s because seeing a woman kick ass in an action movie is so rare. And when it does happen, they usually hold back so the male lead can be more powerful and impressive. Not so with Wonder Woman. There was no holding back, and it was like opening a bottle of soda that's been shaking since the dawn of cinema.
This was the first female superhero movie directed by a woman. The historical significance alone is enough to bring the sniffles. But what makes it truly special is that it was a really good film. It has complex characters we are emotionally attached to, great acting, and a plot that actually makes sense (unlike some other DC films, *cough cough* Dawn of Justice *cough*).
Click here for the review I wrote on its opening weekend.
If the guys who write South Park decided to do a horror movie, this would be the result. It is both terrifying and hilarious. Not only is this in the top seven movies of 2017, this is easily one of my top five horror movies period. The acting was superb and the story intense. Once again, I wish I could read Stephen King novels.
(It's nothing against you, Mr. King. I love the stories. There's just something about the writing style on the page that doesn't mesh with me.)
If nothing else, it's a good PSA on why children shouldn't play in sewers. Or with clowns.
Blade Runner 2049
I've only ever seen bits and pieces of the original Blade Runner movie, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Whatever bar I might've put, though, got shattered.
I'm not saying it was perfect. Frankly, I'm annoyed at the role of the women in this story and the non-existence of people of color. (Insert usual rant about equity in the film industry here.) Still, it's an amazing movie and one of the greatest films of science fiction. What brings it to the best movies of 2017 is the driven story, the intriguing mystery, and the complex themes it tackles. And let's not forget the acting and cinematography. Simply stunning.
I have officially annoyed my family to the point of insanity by how much I've raved about this movie. It's probably my favorite film of the whole year. (Yes, even more than Wonder Woman.)
Pixar always delivers. Even its worst movies (The Good Dinosaur and Cars, in my opinion) are good films. Its best movies (the Toy Story franchise, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., etc.) are instant classics.
They have officially outdone themselves with Coco. You will laugh. You will cry. You will learn a lot about the dynamics of Mexican families and how terrifying grandmothers can be.
If you can, see this one in theaters. They really went all out with the cinematography, and it shows on the big screen.
Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Click here to read the review I wrote on opening weekend.
I really, really don’t understand the hate for this movie. The biggest problem audiences have with The Force Awakens is that it doesn't have any new material. It's a legitimate complaint, even if most of us maintain that The Force Awakens is a good movie regardless.
Well, The Last Jedi has plenty of new material while staying true to the story, and they still don’t like it! It makes absolutely no sense.
Let the haters hate. The Last Jedi was spectacular. Easily one of the best of 2017, and a fantastic way to wrap up the year.
That's it for me! I don't know about you guys, but it was tough narrowing this list down to seven. There were so many other amazing 2017 movies: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spiderman: Homecoming, John Wick: Chapter Two...
What were your favorite movies of 2017? Comment below!
Sovadron Graphic Novel Series
I’ve got some exciting news! As some of you already know, I’m self-publishing the start of a graphic novel series named Sovadron in 2018:
“A priest with a dark past.
A young lord seeking his sister’s killer.
A shaman with a vision.
A sorceress on the run.
And a soldier with a terrible secret.
These five unlikely heroes are pulled together on a dangerous quest. An ancient evil is rising, and only they can stop it.
If they don’t end up destroying each other, first.”
This series will be written by me and illustrated by John Hawkins. If you recognize, the name, it’s because he did the gorgeous drawings in my illustrated novella Homestead Hunts.
He also did this killer poster for Sovadron:
Sovadron Book One: The Battle of Greywater is scheduled to be released in November. But I need your help to make it happen.
Marketing and illustrators are not cheap. So I will be running two crowdfund campaigns in 2018. The big one will be in May, with the goal of $10,000.
That’s a scary number. So, baby steps. There will be a mini-campaign starting January 3rd, 2018, with the goal of $700. And that’s the one I’m asking you to help me with.
Besides my undying gratitude and eternal happiness, there will be special perks for investors! They range everywhere from sneak peaks, to a printed copy of the poster, to even having a character named after you!
This giveaway will last from January 3rd to January 31st. So please, if you want to see this series become a reality, subscribe to the newsletter form below so you don't miss it!
I can count on one hand all the times I've walked out of a theater and thought Wow. There is almost nothing I would change about that movie.
The Last Jedi was very nearly perfect. I do not use that word lightly, especially in regards to movies. This thing gets 9.5 out of 10 stars. At least two of the stars are just for Luke Skywalker's sass. The man is cranky in his old age; it's beautiful.
One of the few things I would change is Snoke's very poor choice of clothing. Andy Serkis's performance and the drama of his scenes were enough for me to forgive the golden disco-dress his character wears, but still. That pulled me out of the movie for a moment.
But the biggest--most would say only problem--with this movie is the lack of LGBTQ representation. We heard rumors in the months between The Force Awakens and now that there would be a gay character in this film. Given Disney's abysmal track record with this community and the lack of LGBTQ representation in media as a whole, we all had our hopes up. Maybe the bromance between Finn and Poe would drop the B. Maybe a whole new character would be introduced and they'd be in a steady same-sex relationship.
Well, we do get a new character. But while Rose is amazing and adds gender and racial diversity to the film, we get nothing in terms of queer representation.
I'll stop the tangent now. This is an incredible movie that deserves waterfalls of praise, and more importantly, we have another episode after this one. With any luck, I'll be able to say, "Wow, Episode Nine has an awesome LGBTQ character in it" in a couple of years.
Rose Tico deserves her own section here. She's very similar to Rey, yet different enough to be her own person, and I think I like her more than the young Jedi.
While they're both good with ships and engineering, Rose (being a mechanic) is better at it. They're both passionate, compassionate, and eager to jump into the fight with both feet, but Rose takes a bigger risk because she's not a soldier and doesn't have Rey's powers. And while they both deeply care about Finn, it seems one of them is getting the romantic relationship while the other is getting a brother/sister relationship.
That, or Disney is setting us up for a love triangle. Which would almost be enough for me to boycott this whole series, because no.
While Disney has so far failed with LGBTQ representation, I'm very glad they cast someone like Kelly Marie Tran to play the part. It's not every day you see a black man and Asian woman--who many directors would turn away simply because she has a thicker waistline--get as much screen time as the two main (white) characters. And more importantly, Tran rocks the role.
I could go on and on about how great this movie is: the fight between Finn and his former captain, Rey meeting Snoke, Luke's showdown with Kylo Ren, it was all incredible. And that's without getting into the gorgeous cinematography, the throwbacks to the original, the surprising and skillfully implemented complex themes running through this movie...
Just go see it. If you call yourself any kind of sci-fi or movie fan, then you need to see this movie.
What did you think of Episode VIII? Let me know in the comments!
Writing Women in Your Stories
Female characters have a bit of a bad rep. For most of Western literature in the last two thousand years or so, we’ve been cast as either vicious villains or virginal damsels. Recently we’ve gotten a third option: the “Strong Female Character” (SFC). But as I’ve explained in a previous blog post, the SFC tends to be two-dimensional, sexualized, and ends up as the damsel in distress more often than not.
Let’s be honest here: most women authors don’t have this problem. It must be said. For some reason, male authors throughout the centuries seem to think that our lives revolve around their dicks, and it shows through their poor storytelling.
The Two-Step Process
Generally speaking, this problem can be solved by a simple two-step process. Many of you have already heard this bit of advice when it comes to writing women:
Four out of five times, it really is as simple as that. Is there any reason Iron Man can’t be Iron Woman, or Harry Potter Harriet? Why not make the president in your novel a woman? Why not make the main character a woman?
This is great for those writing contemporary novels, sci-fi flicks, or any setting where gender is not an issue. But what about historical or history-inspired pieces?
Steps Three and Four
While it’s never explicitly stated, Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings is a very clear patriarchy. Eowyn’s gender--or rather, her people’s attitude toward her gender--is a major hurdle between her and her dream of fighting for her country. So if Aragorn was genderbent into a woman, how many people would take her claim to Gondor’s throne seriously? How would she get the soldiers to follow her orders? How did she learn how to use a sword in the first place?
Then there’s the flip side: say you’re writing about a matriarchal society, like the Amazons of Themyscira. Diana’s gender in Wonder Woman had never been an issue or seen as a negative while she was on the island, so she grew up used to female authority being unchallenged and respected. This made for some tense and awkward situations when she went to Europe to fight in World War One.
With writing women characters in patriarchal societies, you still end up following the two-step process above. You just have to ask yourself some extra questions to fully flesh out her personality. The biggest questions are these:
3) Assuming the setting is patriarchal, how did she (or how will she) overcome the systemic hurdles designed to destroy her?
4) How does her upbringing (patriarchal, matriarchal, gender-neutral, whatever) influence her relationship with the other characters?
Something that failed to do this was The Hobbit movies. As we said earlier, Middle Earth is a male-dominated society. And yet Tauriel managed to become one of the finest warriors in the elven ranks. Not only is she a woman, but it’s also implied that she comes from a lower class of elves, which is the main reason King Thranduil doesn’t want Legolas marrying her. That doesn’t stop her from giving orders and challenging authority. She’s confident, she breaks rules, and she’s a hell of a shot.
So how did she get there?
We don’t know. The Hobbit never goes into her backstory, instead focusing on the romance between her and Kili. This is one of the biggest mistakes authors make when writing women characters. Tauriel is a token. Take her out, and the story is virtually unchanged. Worse, her narrative revolves around a man. She’s not her own person. She’s defined as “Legolas and Kili’s crush.”
A successful case study would be Avatar: The Last Airbender. Yes, it’s a kids’ show. That doesn’t make it any less of a masterpiece. For the most part, gender is not an issue in the world of the Avatar. There’s a wide variety of girls in this show, but the only one who is treated harshly specifically because of her gender is Katara.
This happens at the end of season one, when the main characters reach the North Pole. Katara has always wanted to learn how to fight with waterbending (re: water magic), which is half of the reason she made this perilous journey in the first place. But the waterbending master, Pakku, refuses to teach her because she’s a girl. Only boys are taught how to fight. Girls with the gift of waterbending are forced to become healers. Katara balks at this, because her home, the South Pole, has no such rules.
This leads to an intense battle between her and Pakku, who is convinced to teach her not because of her fighting ability or passion, but because she’s the granddaughter of the woman he loved and lost. Katara’s grandmother fled to the South Pole because she rejected the North Pole’s gender rules, which makes Pakku realize the horrendous cost of a strict patriarchy. He ends up teaching Katara, and she becomes the greatest waterbender in the world.
If all else fails, try this:
Get yourself some women beta readers.
I am now on Patreon!
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So if you like what you're reading, click here and help me continue to write for you!
Nova (Spectre War Book 1) by Margaret Fortune
The clock activates so suddenly in my mind, my head involuntarily jerks a bit to the side. The fog vanishes, dissipated in an instant as though it never was. Memories come slotting into place, their edges sharp enough to leave furrows, and suddenly I know. I know exactly who I am.
My name is Lia Johansen, and I was named for a prisoner of war. She lived in the Tiersten Internment Colony for two years, and when they negotiated the return of the prisoners, I was given her memories and sent back in her place.
And I am a genetically engineered human bomb.”
Lia Johansen was created for only one purpose: to slip onto the strategically placed New Sol Space Station and explode.
But her mission goes to hell when her clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go. With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia has no idea what to do next. Her life gets even more complicated when she meets Michael Sorenson, the real Lia’s childhood best friend.
Drawn to Michael and his family against her better judgment, Lia starts learning what it means to live and love, and to be human. It is only when her countdown clock begins sporadically losing time that she realizes even duds can still blow up.
If she wants any chance at a future, she must find a way to unlock the secrets of her past and stop her clock. But as Lia digs into her origins, she begins to suspect there’s far more to her mission and to this war, than meets the eye. With the fate of not just a space station but an entire empire hanging in the balance, Lia races to find the truth before her time—literally—runs out.
This made my list of top ten sci-fi and fantasy books. It has the drive and tone of YA novel, but all the critical detail-work of George R. R. Martin and a twist to rival M. Night Shyamalan.
One of the strongest points of the book is Lia’s character development. She starts off so cold, having no memories and no purpose but to blow up and kill everyone around her. She even meets Michael, one of the sweetest guys on the station and eventual love interest, before the bomb in her head turns out to be a dud, and she just doesn’t care. She starts out very unlikeable.
But then the bomb fails and she goes through a week of oh shit, now what? That’s when she starts to become a person, getting to know Michael (and the standard romantic subplot that goes with him), his family, the other POWs (who aren’t bombs) that are with her, and a bunch of other characters. She faces the desire to want to be Lia and have her life warring with the guilt of deceiving everyone around her.
At the same time, it has a bit of a Bourne Identity storyline. There's a war going on: humans have expanded throughout the universe and have divided into two massive empires that are now fighting over a new planet ripe for colonization. Lia was sent by one side to strike a blow to the other, but she has no idea why. Why is this station so important? Why hasn’t anyone tried to contact her when the mission fails?
Lia eventually figures everything out, though by the time she does, it’s almost too late. She’s smart and capable, but she’s not a genius, she’s not Wonder Woman, she’s a sixteen-year-old kid in way over her head.
If anyone is into mystery and/or sci-fi, I highly recommend this book. It’s one of the best you’re going to read.
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!