Posts by Elpie

I'm a big fan of crafts, writing, nerdy shows, and tea. When I grow up, I want to be happy. Or a rocket ship.

One Piece : Romance Dawn

I debated putting up a review for this, but our scope for reviews is labeled as book and media, and well, I needed to tell someone about how disappointed I am. Because I’m needy like that.

For those of you (likely quite a few of you) unfamiliar with what a ‘One Piece’ is, it’s an anime. In this case, it’s the latest installment in the relatively successful gaming franchise springing from that anime.

While I’ve drifted away from that particular interest since I was younger, I still enjoy a few shows and a whole lot of games. I’m just not a big fan of slapstick comedy, which a lot of stories engage in.

Anyway–

Let’s talk about Romance Dawn.

When I read the back of the package, I was excited. One of the labels boasted, “Experience the first One Piece RPG! Level-up your crew, improve their abilities, and craft new items and accessories!” It sounded like a pretty well-rounded game with lots of things to do.

The box is lying. 

Sure, those features are in the game. They’re just mind numbingly flat. I was tired of the crafting system in less than ten minutes. About every level or so, you get a blueprint to make one thing, you make it, whoo.

You spend points to level abilities. Behold, Zoro stabs people in a slightly modified pattern of sword swings. Is it not glorious? Are you not impressed? (Guh.)

But perhaps the most obnoxious feature is the way they guide you through the storyline. For people who’ve watched One Piece, the story is a bizarrely vague outline with no context. Most of the details that would accompany a half-decent narration are gone, and while there are a few cutscenes from the anime, they’re few and far between. This leaves the player to watch icons of the characters banter in dialogue that is often disembodied, causing yet more confusion. You may find gems to the effect of a sourceless,

“Hiya!”

“What did you kick me for?!”

Who? What? Where? What’s going on???

The gameplay is also incredibly linear. In this respect, it’s a lot like the straight line dungeons in Final Fantasy XIII, without any of the graphics, events, or interaction to keep it interesting. There’s no world exploring. Just dungeon map after dungeon map. No NPCs, just mindless button-pushing.

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That’s it. That’s the game.

I’m very, very close to giving up on this game entirely, because I got to the Baratie stage, and the developers saw fit to give players the gift of a ridiculously overpowered fourth boss. Everything else in this game has been a cakewalk. You go in with your party, you beat some mook down, profit.

Then they throw you at Krieg with one player and laugh while you die horribly. I did an internet search to see if I was doing something wrong. All suggested ‘strategies’ involve running for the hills and using a truly insane quantity of healing items, because while most battles in the game are turned based, Krieg ignores everything, poisons you, and then hits you over and over for a disgustingly excessive amount of damage before you can say, ‘bull’.

But really, there’s no reason for me to feel as frustrated as I am by this game, because there’s no point to it. After maybe fifteen minutes of gameplay, I felt like I was wasting my time performing some useless task. I’d rather play some village management game on my phone, it’s more rewarding and infinitely more interesting.

Also less repetitive attack yelling.

This game was such a major disappointment after all the other OP games I’ve played and enjoyed. The ones I’m still playing, because they haven’t gotten old.

1/…eh. I don’t even care.

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Lucy

All right, I’ve been having mixed feelings about writing this review, which is coincidentally exactly the same way I feel about the movie itself. I’m talking about Scarlett Johansson’s recent action(?) film, “Lucy”.

I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s action. There was a lot of gunfire and car pileups between loopy science and squicky stuff, so we’re going with action. Why not?

We begin with the titular character and her jerk boyfriend, and I use the term loosely. I don’t think they’ve been together that long, or else Lucy might have noticed that her boyfriend was doing some less-than-legal business in his silly cowboy hat.

Don’t worry. He doesn’t stick around long. (Guh.)

While the beginning of the movie accesses some very real adult fears (the film is about a woman who is kidnapped abroad and forced to become a drug mule), it seems to shove the audience into a spiral of science fiction-y confusion pretty quickly.

Don’t get me wrong.

I really enjoyed the first part of the movie.

The increased brain function Lucy receives through her misadventure is, at first, the source of some real insight into human feeling and a little bit of humor. I loved watching her break down and diagnose her roommate’s medical conditions with a helpful little fact sheet.

I enjoyed that first suggestion of an increased capability of interacting with the world.

…But then it got creepy.

Soon after achieving higher percentages of brain function, Lucy becomes superhuman in an eerie way, seemingly beyond human emotion. After that, it was pretty much an hour or so (?) of watching Johansson kick butt and break things in monotone.

And then we get to the dissolving and evolving weirdness, with a nice dash of the space time continuum and a handy dandy flash-drive. I was confused. I didn’t know if I enjoyed it.

I’m still not sure if I enjoyed it.

The ending felt like “2001: A Space Odyssey” crossed with the closing narration from X-Men United and American Beauty. It indicates that “Life was given to us a billion years ago. Now you know what to do with it.”

No, I don’t!

I don’t want to be kidnapped and have wacked-up pregnancy chemicals sewn into my stomach, I don’t want to rapidly lose touch with humanity. I don’t want to kill a bunch of people and go on an automotive rampage on the streets of France, and I definitely don’t want to do whatever it is she did at the end when she somehow became Hal.

 

WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO LEARN FROM THIS, LUCY?

 

I’ll be honest here.

It was…entertaining to watch? It was something I didn’t mind spending the money to see, but I would only rewatch it to see the reaction of whoever I saw it with.

Scarlett Johansson did a great job with a frankly unsettling script, and for that I’ll give “Lucy” one extra point.

3/5

“Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie Hatter is a sensible girl, reasonably kind and not necessarily unattractive. The problem is that she had the poor fortune to be born the eldest of three daughters. All that awaits her beyond the doors of her family shop is failure and an awful lot of noise. She’s content to grow old this way, trimming hats by candlelight—until the Witch of the Waste decides to speed the process.

To break the curse, Sophie seeks the aid of Wizard Howl, a powerful man rumored to devour the hearts of lovely young girls. He turns out to be a powerful man indeed, if not necessarily the cold, monstrous creature of rumor.

All right—by now, a lot of people are probably quite familiar with the title—it was made into a beautiful film by Hayao Miyazaki and the talented staff over at Studio Ghibli. It also happens to be one of my absolute favorite pieces of animation, but enough of that.

I first found out about the novel because of the brief ‘based on’ byline citing the original work, and for years I wondered about it. Was the book any good? Did it explain the—admittedly numerous—things that the movie threw at viewers with absolutely no explanation?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Howl's Moving Castle by D TAILOR

Spoiler : It’s smaller on the inside.  (Photo credit: DrJohnBullas)

If you’re a fan of the Studio Ghibli adaptation, you need to read this book. The characters are just as (if not even more) lovable and far more well-rounded, the action is more detailed and fulfilling—in fact, the plot line of the book veers off very pointedly from the plot of the movie, resolving into a far richer experience and a deeper understanding of the universe’s development as a whole.

If you’re not a fan of the Studio Ghibli adaptation, guess what? You still need to read the book. I went in expecting a slightly more detailed account of what was going on with all of the falling stars and paper doll people that popped in and out of nowhere for absolutely no reason, and I was not disappointed. The book took my expectations for a brief foray into a flower shop and gave me a cotton candy fairy world of explanations and a whole mess of new plot and wonderfulness that even now makes me want to pop but I can’t because I have to write this review IT IS THAT AMAZING.

            To begin, Sophie is a brilliant heroine. Though initially resigned to her lot in life, she is not in any way a weak character. Once challenged by the witch, she exhibits her first spark of self-confidence, which propels her through the rest of the novel. Transformed into an old woman and no longer sensitive about, well, anything but her aching bones, she becomes a force of nature.

During her stay at the castle, her relationship with each resident allows her to build that confidence and use her innate charisma and kindness to bolster their interactions. She is clever and takes absolutely no nonsense, quickly forcing her way into a ragtag family that is instantly better for her inclusion. Sophie’s relationship with Howl, also, expands and gains new life. There is inter-dimensional travel, jealousy, and housecleaning most foul in a sort of domestic circus that leaves you with a smile on your face and laughter ringing in your ears.

I was enamored with the development between them in the book–of watching Sophie observe and understand Howl and, as a result, him beginning to understand himself. I won’t spoil it for you–but the final result of all of their back and forth in the book culminates in a much more understandable relationship for all parties involved. And no schizophrenic hair morphing just for giggles.

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If teenage girls could dye their hair as much as the characters in this adaptation…

The castle’s residents, too, receive far more development in the book, rather than their prescribed ‘sidekick’ roles from the film.

I fell in love with the characters, thanks to this book.

The Witch of the Waste receives far more depth and intrigue, taking a much deeper and darker turn than the one displayed in the film—as well as a decidedly better motivation. It was as if everything suddenly became much better rounded!

On that note, I wanted to point out that the supporting characters—Lettie, Fanny, Sophie’s stepmother whose name escapes me but whom I would readily look up if I knew where exactly my copy was—they are all such wonderful, well-used characters. I wouldn’t want to spoil it, but it becomes very obvious to the reader that Hatter women—no matter their age or order of birth—are simply not a lot to be messed with.

This book, beyond being an amazing and engaging fairytale perfect for any age, comes equipped with the best rolemodels ever, more sass and magic than you can shake a walking stick at, and a fire demon! What’s not to love?!

You may well disagree, but for me, curling up on the bed with my copy was an experience that reminded me of when I first became really involved with reading. I loved every word, every new twist and turn, and every twitch of Sophie’s bony fingers.

This is one book that needs to be read by every person who has ever carried a fairytale in their heart, by each and every one who’s ever wondered what it means to learn, with a little bit of magic, what it means to be unapologetically true to oneself.

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And yes, this still happens.

Final Rating : 5, a very nicely trimmed 5.

If thou be’st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where,
Lives a woman true, and fair.

–          John Donne

Sexy Evil Genius

It may seem like this review is horrifically late, but in reality it’s right on time for you to notice it. It was creatively timed, rather.

All right, I’ll say it—I’m sorry.

Recently, Eleanor and I had the opportunity to do some visiting in sunny South Florida, and on a time-honored jaunt to Target—because everything you will ever need can be found at Target—we took a peek at some bargain-priced DVDs and were surprised to find an absolute gem.

I’m talking, of course, about Sexy Evil Genius, and no, it’s not a slutty Halloween costume. For everyone who’s spent hours reminiscing about how great 90s TV was, the inclusion of Michelle Trachtenberg and Seth Green is a real treat.

For anyone who doesn’t, well, they’re a treat anyway. Shut up and let me fangirl.

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Sexy Evil Genius

Genre: Black Comedy, Mystery

Main Cast: Seth Green, Michelle Trachtenberg, Harold Perrinau, Katee Sackhoff, William Baldwin

Trailer:

Rating: 4/5

Don’t let the trailer fool you. The film plays out much more like a black comedy than a thriller or action flick, and therein lies its strength and ultimate value.

The cast works very well together, and the chemistry and hurt feelings are all very apparent from go. Past relationships are explored with all of the sensitivity and wry humor that we ourselves employ looking back upon our misspent youth.

Each failed relationship is brought to light, expounding on our expectations of Nikki—a manic pixie dream girl gone horribly realistic. And more than a little in love with My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult.

(No, seriously. The songs are a major plot device.)

There’s very little I can tell you without spoiling at least some of this film, but I’d definitely urge you to at least give it a shot. Nikki is every bit as clever and manipulative as her former lovers give her credit for, and even if you don’t come out on the other side just the tiniest bit in love with her, you’ll have to respect her.

That’s just the kind of woman Nikki is.

When I wasn’t busy laughing, I was muttering disbelieving expletives and shivering at the careful weaving done in an immersive and subtly impactful screenplay. It’s a great ensemble. It’s a great movie. Easily one of my favorites in recent memory.

There’s not a lot of action, and really, there doesn’t need to be.

The film plays with stereotypes—Green’s stifled workaholic, Trachtenberg’s bisexual goth, Perrinau’s hep jazz cat—but the focus is on the tiresome world behind each one. Their backgrounds are clearly all tired and gray, tainted with sorrows and failures. Their lives just aren’t as interesting as they seemed when Nikki was involved.

But when Nikki finally makes the scene, we discover, she may not have suffered quite so well in her madcap world. There’s always been something off about her, and it’s cutting and a girl can’t live forever by making scrapbooks out of other people’s lives.

The humor is real and easy to come to grips with, because while Nikki’s life seems to have done a spectacular series of tailspins into the foothills of one seriously grand kerfuffle, the heartache and the nostalgia dripping from every word and gesture is almost tangible.

I will definitely be watching this again.

“A Bad Day for Sorry” by Sophie Littlefield

Miss Stella Hardesty is not a dominatrix, but she is in the business of making men feel awfully sorry. When she isn’t battling menopause, Miss Hardesty tends to find herself occupied with championing the abused women of rural Missouri—a class from which she only recently graduated with a well-placed wrench to Ollie Hardesty’s head.

Now, she does little jobs here and there, ensuring that women like her have, if not a supportive shoulder to cry on, then a few hot cigarette butts to burn the mean out of their men.

But Stella herself isn’t such a sweet lady. I entered the book expecting a much more compassionate character than the one I ended up reading about. Miss Littlefield spends perhaps a bit too much time attempting to prove exactly how capable Stella “the Hardass” Hardesty really is.

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The end result is a character that is, to me, entirely inaccessible. All of her self-hatred and doubt is reflected rather unfortunately on the characters around her—even Chrissy, a sweet if slow-witted girl whose child she is attempting to recover!

While the descriptions that Miss Littlefield provides are rich and honest in a very refreshing and involving way, they are also often completely off topic or inessential to the point at hand. (I really don’t think I needed to know quite so much about the sheriff’s sexy eyebrows. Or the brief history of everyone Stella has ever known to chew tobacco.)

At times, it comes off as a bit of humor that’s been too enthusiastically attempted. At other times, the digressions are downright frustrating. The search for Tucker is instated early on, but Miss Littlefield spends much more time describing Stella’s ever-raging battle with her own dismal self-confidence than she does engaging in the description of anything of merit.

On more than one occasion, there is lengthy discussion of her chosen beauty products, her tasteful shoes, the dangly little earrings she pairs with a ‘night out’ outfit, or that little spritz of White Diamonds she dashes on just before going out. But concerningly little mention of the kidnapped baby.

I caught myself stopping every now and then to ask, But what about the BABY, Stella? Which is not a good sign. I cared more about a baby that was described in less than two sentences than I did about a main character apparently uninterested in actually improving her surroundings rather than just taking her pound of flesh from every abusive idiot in her rural county.

In the end, A Bad Day for Sorry is a book that I really wanted to enjoy, but even the action billed in the prologue was a false start. What seemed like a book prepped for action and intrigue unusual for a small town turned into something just as slow-moving and lazy as the typical rural stereotype.

The action was inactive, the protagonist was mean, and I found myself unable to make it all the way through the book. I appreciated the buttmonkey more than the heroine, and I’m guessing that’s just not the intended message of the book. Oops.

Final Rating : 2.5 cups of tea. Bitter tea. And you’d better pour some Johnny Walker Black in it, because I really don’t think Stella would have anything else. Ever. She talks more about the booze than the baby. 

I really wanted to enjoy this book. Some of the narration stands out, and I felt for Chrissy because, well, who else was going to? If you don’t mind waiting ages for the action to finally make its way to the page, you might want to give it a try anyway.

An Introduction

Welcome to Literatease, a review blog of (moderately) epic proportions. We say moderately because we’re not really going anywhere, unless you count the library, the tea shop, your occasional record store, and, okay, maybe we are a little more epic than we thought.

We’re happy to bring our reading and raving to a screen near you, and will hopefully be adhering to a steady Monday, Wednesday, Friday post rotation. I tend to have distracted giggling fits and put things on my head when people try to introduce me to the concept of structure, and Marisa gets distracted when I put things on my head, so Eleanor’s planning finesse is our collective best bet.

We thought it would be appropriate to start off with the ever so lighthearted theme of revenge.

Marisa will be reviewing Red by Dallas Mayr (Jack Ketchum).

Eleanor will be reviewing Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley.

Hillary will be reviewing A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield.

Regards,

H

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