Thursday, May 23, 2019

Avengers: Endgame review warning: possible spoilers

It all started in 2008 with Iron Man. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) seemed to come out of nowhere and dominate the superhero genre. Now 22 films in, The Infinity Saga is coming to a dramatic end with Avengers: Endgame. The anticipation has been high, and the fan theories have been flying around since last year’s Avengers: Infinity War. And how the world can see what happens to the heroes. With a runtime of 3 hours and 1 minute, Endgame proved to be an exciting, emotional ride with a satisfying ending to this saga and opens the door to new heroes and new stories. What is the basic story of the film? What did I like? And what am I looking forward to?


The film opens 23 days after The Snap, the Avengers are searching for Thanos and the Stones in order to undo everything. Fast forward 5 years, the world is struggling to move forward. Monuments have gone up to honor the disappeared and governments are being pieced back to together as the world moves on. The Avengers are scattered, barely together as they deal with the aftermath and trying to find a way to bring everyone back. When a plan comes together, they must travel to uncharted territories and face new challenges they couldn’t train for and fight for the hope that they can restore the world’s population to what it was.


There is so much about this movie and in order to avoid as many spoilers as I can, I will discuss a few aspects that I enjoyed about the film. First, to see how everyone reacts differently in the aftermath of The Snap. Captain America tries counseling a few survivors. Thor sinks into a deep depression. Black Widow takes a leadership role in the Avengers and tries to keep everything running. And Tony runs from it all and makes a quiet life in the country. Second, I liked how the writers dealt with the time travel aspect. With many Hollywood films using their own version of time travel and Endgame discusses many of them and why they don’t work, I liked how they use the Quantum Realm and the Pym Particle. Third, I loved Hawkeye’s character in Endgame. He has been one of my favorite characters in the MCU since his quiet introduction in Thor (2011) and I loved how he has evolved. Even turning into a vigilante after his family vanishes, he still wasn’t willing to let his best friend sacrifice herself in order to get the Soul Stone. They battle over it. Despite his loss, despite the face they were trying to get everyone back, he was still willing to sacrifice himself to accomplish their mission.


This is usually when I discuss what I didn’t like about a film. However, there was very little I didn’t like about Endgame. So instead, I’m going to discuss what I’m looking forward to as the MCU movies into its next phase. First, Spiderman: Far from Home (opens July 2, 2019). I look forward to seeing Peter as he deals with the events of Infinity War and Endgame. How does he move forward? I am interested in seeing how the MCU will introduce the multiverse as the movie trailer hints that they might. Second, the other film featuring Marvel characters that I am not familiar with such as The Eternals and Shang-Chi. No exact dates have been set for these films yet. It will be exciting to see new characters and new stories in the MCU. Third, the sequels to the other films like Doctor Strange 2 and Black Panther. I am even looking forward to the Black Widow standalone film. I am also looking forward to the streaming shows that are planned for the Disney + service. The next phases of the MCU will be exciting.


In conclusion, Avengers: Endgame is a great ending to the 22 film, 11 year build up that has captivated audiences around the world. While it has been bittersweet to say goodbye to the storyline and even some of the characters that I have watched in action for 11 years; however, the future looks bright for the MCU. My only hope is that they keep up with the quality of stories and characters as they did with the Infinity Saga. One piece of advice though, if you have not seen the majority of the MCU films, then there will be much of Endgame that will be missed. I recommend watching all the MCU films. It will be worth it. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Young Guns and the Lincoln County War


I love history and I love historical films. I also enjoy discovering what the films got right, what it got wrong and what it twisted for dramatic effect. Most everyone is familiar with the 1988 film, Young Guns starring Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland. Through the years and many viewings, I didn’t realize until recently when my husband and I were watching it again that the events in the movies were inspired by actual events. I realize that I didn’t really pay attention to the historical aspects or just assumed it was a fabricated conflict set in the American West. The Lincoln County War is an Old West conflict between two rival factions: the Murphy-Dolan faction and Tunstall-McSween faction. Beginning in 1878 in the New Mexico Territory, it would drag on until 1881. The feud became famous due to the participation of Billy the Kid. What started the war? Who were some of the key figures? How accurate was the movie, Young Guns?


The conflict began over control of dry good and cattle interests. John Tunstall arrived in Lincoln County in November 1876 and started a business with Alexander McSween, a lawyer, and John Chisum, a cattleman, to develop a cattle ranch, store and a bank. They became competition for the general store called “The House” owed by James Dolan and Lawrence Murphy who economically and politically controlled the town. According to historians, one main event which led to hostilities was the controversy over the disbursement of an insurance policy. Emil Fritz was a partner of Murphy and when he died in 1874, the executors of the estate hired McSween to collect his insurance policy. After collecting, McSween refused to turn over the money to the executors because The House claimed the money was owed to them for a debt. “McSween also knew how badly strapped for cash the House was and as a business competitor was likely loathe to see the money go to them, whether their claim was legitimate or not” (Nolan, 1992). A court order was later issued to seize all McSween’s assets and included Tunstall’s assets as well (Nolan, 1998). Sheriff Brady formed a posse to seize Tunstall’s ranch and Dolan would hire various gangs including the Jesse Evans Gang to harass and rustle the cattle from the Tunstall and Chisum ranches (Harden, 2012). Tunstall would be murdered on February 18, 1878 bringing the hostilities to full steam. Various battles and skirmishes would occur leading up to the Battle of Lincoln on July 15-19, 1878, a 5-day gunfight and siege resulting in the death of McSween and scattering the Regulators. Surviving Regulators, including Billy the Kid, would continue hostilities and would end in 1881 when the last of the Regulators were gunned down.


Billy the Kid was born Henry McCarty on September 17 (or November 23), 1859 and used the alias William H. Bonney. He would be gain notoriety from his participation in the Lincoln County War. He was shot and killed by Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881. However, in the decades following his death, many men would claim to be him which is the basis for the story of Young Guns II (1990).  John Tunstall was born on March 6, 1853 and his death would be the catalyst which would ignite the Lincoln County war. His death deeply his associates especially Billy the Kid whom he had always treated well. Alexander McSween was born in Canada and after attending law school, made his way to New Mexico. He originally worked for Murphy and Dolan but left to form a partnership with Tunstall. James Dolan was born on May 2, 1848 in Ireland and would immigrate to the US and serve in the Civil War. He would be a key instigator in the conflict. Lawrence Murphy was born in 1831 in Ireland and would serve in the US Army before moving to New Mexico. His store with Dolan charged high prices for their goods to the local farmers and ranchers, making them hated among much of the local population. When Tunstall and McSween opened their competing store, which enraged Dolan and Murphy supported any means necessary to end the competition. William Brady was born on August 16, 1829 in Ireland. He was elected sheriff of Lincoln County in 1876 and become close friends with Murphy and sided with the Murphy-Dolan side of the conflict. He was killed in an ambush with the Regulators on April 1, 1878. Billy the Kid would be tried and convicted of his death and sentenced to death; however, he escaped before the sentence could be carried out.


Most Hollywood films based on historical events are not known for their accuracy and Young Guns is no different. First, the movie portrays John Tunstall (played by Terrence Stamp) as an older English gentleman. Tunstall was only 24 years old when he died. Tunstall also wasn’t trying to civilize the rough and tumble youth of the area. He was looking for hired hands who could protect his interests. Second, the movie portrays Lawrence Murphy (played by Jack Palance) as the main villain. In fact, Murphy was dying of cancer by 1878 and left most of the business to Dolan, the real rival of the Regulators. Third, speaking of the Regulators. The movie portrays that there were six members: Dick Brewer, Billy the Kid, Doc Spurlock, Charlie Bowdre, Jose Chavez y Chavez and Dirty Dave. In fact, these six were just a part of dozens of Regulators as well as Mexican supporters who participated in the events. Third, in the film, a character remarks that none of the Regulators are over 21. From the Regulators portrayed in the film, Billy the Kid was the only one under 21. Chavez was 26, Charlie was 30, Doc was 29, and Dick Brewer was 28. Lastly, the movie portrays the primary motive for the building hostilities was money. While money was a main issue as both sides were vying for a military contract with nearby Fort Stanton; however, it was only one factor. Another factor was ethnically based. Dolan, Murphy and many of their men were Irish immigrants or of Irish decent and Catholic. Tunstall, McSween and their allies were mostly English Protestant. And it came down to class too. Tunstall and McSween thought they were better than the lowly Irish men as they were better educated Englishmen.


In conclusion, while Young Guns is not historically accurate, and it should not be viewed as such, it can be the jumping point to discover the true story of the Lincoln County War and the Regulators. It has brought to my attention a small piece of historical events of the American Wild West. In the film, there was clear cut bad guys and good guys. However, there were no real good guys or bad guys. Both sides were motivated by greed, religious and ethnic prejudice. While the events helped spur Billy the Kid’s reputation and the beginnings of his legend, many of the individuals involved in this conflict have been left to a small portion of American history that many people are not aware of. After watching a film that is based on a true story or historical event, take the time to learn more. Find books or documentaries to discover the story beyond the Hollywood version. You may discover hidden gems of history.




References

Harden, Paul (September 1, 2012). "Cowboys and cattle rustlers". DC Chieftain.

Nolan, Frederick (1992). The Lincoln County War: A Documentary History. Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press.

Nolan, Frederick (1998). The West of Billy the Kid. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.


Friday, May 17, 2019

The Scent Keeper: one girl's discovery of her father's secrets


The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister is the story of Emmeline, a young girl who lives with her father on an isolated island. She listens to her father’s stories especially the ones about Jack the Scent Hunter and she’s curious about the mysterious bottles with blank pieces of paper in them that her father stores in drawers. When her life on the island abruptly ends, she must adjust to life in a small town and struggles with who she really is as the information her father gave her seemed to be far from the truth. She slowly learns her father’s true story and leads her on a journey to discover who she is and the mother she thought she didn’t have. Will Emmeline be able to handle the truth? Will she be able to tell who is telling her the truth and who is still hiding behind lies?


From the opening lines, The Scent Keeper pull you in and doesn’t let you go until the final page. I was instant engrossed in Emmeline’s story with the beautiful imagery of their island, the stories her father told and the mystery behind who he was and the reason they lived on the island. At the end, I was speechless and in awe at this beautiful story. There were a few moments that I gasped with realization and tears filled my eyes at the pain and truth that Emmeline discovers. It is a gripping story from beginning to end. I didn’t notice the length as I read page after page until I finished it in a several hours. It is a story you will not want to put down! I highly recommend The Scent Keeper!

The Scent Keeper
will be available May 21, 2019
in hardcover and eBook



Monday, May 13, 2019

Secrets of Wildflower Island: a great mystery that will keep you guessing!


Secrets of Wildflower Island by Michelle Files is the first book in the Wildflower Mystery series. The story opens with the Carmichael family, Tim, Roxanne and their 15-year-old twin daughters, Mary and Piper, as they sit down for a family meeting. They own the Wildflower Inn and CafĂ© on the island off the coast of California. Tim and Roxanne have employed girls who need a place to stay after leaving a bad home situation or after getting in trouble with the law. The locals affectionately call these girls, “The Wildflowers” and the current girls, Frankie and Anna, are working well with the family and the community. Suddenly everything goes wrong after an earthquake and tidal wave which wreaks havoc on the island and in the aftermath and clean up, the body of a teenage boy is found. Soon accusations are flying, and fingers are pointing at the less than reputable individuals in the community. Will the killer be found? Will the residents be able to restore their once peaceful and beautiful community?


Secrets of Wildflower Island is a fast-paced mystery will no clear clue as who the killer is and the reader will be kept guessing until the very end! It has an abrupt ending but since this book is the first in the series, I assume the aftermath of this case will continue in the next book along with a new mystery. The main characters are the teenage girls at the center of the case and each one has a secret to hide. I enjoyed each character and the tension and fights between the girls feel very realistic. I could easily imagine these girls in a real high school or community somewhere. I highly recommend Secrets of Wildflower Island and I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

Secrets of Wildflower Island
is available in paperback and eBook

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Aquaman: an enjoyable superhero film from the DCEU


The DCEU films have been hit and miss for me. I enjoyed Man of Steel (2013) and Wonder Woman (2017) while having a hard time watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017). So, when Aquaman was announced, I was skeptical and wasn’t in a hurry to see it. The film opened in the USA on December 21, 2018 and went on to gross over $1.1 billion worldwide. It is the highest grossing DCEU film and highest grossing film based on a DC character, surpassing The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Recently, my husband and I were given the opportunity to watch it, so we decided to give it a try. Aquaman was directed by James Wan and stars Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Amber Hera as Mera and Patrick Wilson as King Orm. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film.


The film opens in 1985, Maine as lighthouse keeper, Thomas Curry (played by Temuera Morrison) recuses Atlanna (played by Nicole Kidman) during a storm. Atlanna is queen of Atlantis and is running from an arranged marriage. They fall in love and have a son, Arthur, who can speak to marine life. Too soon, Atlanna’s location is discovered and she is forced to return to her kingdom. Fast forward to the present, several months after the events of Justice League, Arthur has developed the nickname, Aquaman, as he recues others at sea. Meanwhile, his half-brother, King Orm is attempting to unite the kingdom, claim the title of Ocean Master and attack the surface for their atrocities at sea. Mera knows King Orm as Ocean Master would bring terrible consequences for the ocean and the surface that she seeks out Arthur and urges him to find the Trident of Atlan and reclaim his rightful place as king. The trident is a magic artifact, once belonging to Atlantis’s first ruler, and gives the bearer the throne of Atlantis. Through a series of clues, they journey to the deepest parts of the ocean and the center of the earth. Arthur meets Karathen, a mythical leviathan and keeper of the trident. He must prove his worth to obtain the trident and claim control of over the seven seas and defeat Orm.


What I liked about this film, first was Jason Momoa as Arthur. Although I do not find him as attractive as many women do, he was perfect for the role of Arthur. Especially once the traditional Aquaman uniform was revealed, Momoa makes a usually mocked character, look like a formidable opponent. Second, one of my favorite line is Queen Atlanna’s response to Arthur’s question about what can be greater than a kind. She replies, “A hero. A king fights only for his own nation. You fight for everyone.” It acknowledges that Arthur fights for both sides of his heritage: his home on the surface and everything in the ocean. Third, Patrick Wilson as Orm. Wilson plays a terrific villain. He is very convincing as a man who will do anything to see his plan play out. Lastly, the soundtrack was a great addition to the film. From “Ocean to Ocean” by Pitbull to “It’s No Good” by Depeche Mode, the music was powerful for its scenes and added drama to the movie as music should.


There was little that I didn’t like about this movie and if I didn’t like it, it could be overlooked. For instance, there were aspects of Arthur and Mera’s journey to the trident that ignored science. However, it is a superhero film about a man who can speak to marine life. Scientific accuracy really isn’t a strong argument to dislike the movie, as many critics tried to use. I could see why buy seriously it’s a superhero movie, scientific facts are usually stretched. Second, there were times when the dialogue was very juvenile and failed as a joke. In one scene, Arthur and Mera are in the Sahara desert where they find an Atlantean artifact. When Mera realizes they need water to activate it and takes sweat from Arthur’s brow, Arthur responds, “Show-off. I could’ve just peed on it.” Really? Disgusting. However, I realize that the demographic that this movie is written for may have enjoyed this joke. And maybe not but it was a joke that I thought was inappropriate and wasn’t necessary.


In conclusion, Aquaman was surprisingly enjoyable and a movie I would watch again. It had all the elements of a good superhero story as well as an action film. The special effects were good. The battle scenes were enjoyable. I liked Jason Momoa as Aquaman and the overall story. While there were points in the story that were inaccurate and dialogue that seems inappropriate, I still enjoyed this movie. The DCEU has a long way to go to match the caliber of the MCU; however, if they look at the success of Wonder Woman and now Aquaman, they could be a strong competitor. I recommend Aquaman, even if you haven’t seen the rest of the DCEU films, you can enjoy Aquaman.

Aquaman is now available
on DVD, Blu-ray and various streaming services

Thursday, May 9, 2019

When Love Comes: a beautiful love story in a gorgeous setting


When Love Comes by J.H. Croix is the first book in the Diamond Creek, Alaska series. Hannah Gray is a young woman who returns to her hometown in Diamond Creek, Alaska. Her parents had died in a tragic plane accident two years prior and she had not been home since; but now it was time to come home. Hannah reconnects with her friends and community when she meets Luke Winters, a local businessman. There is an instant attraction, although both are reluctant to be more than friends. As time goes by, Hannah and Luke cannot resist their attraction and they begin to date until the past reenters Luke’s life. As Hannah is dealing with this surprise, she discovers a secret from her parents’ past. Will she allow her heart to open to Luke? How will she deal with this secret her parents managed to keep quiet all these years?


When Love Comes is a great love story. It was filled with drama and heartwarming moments. It also had great love scenes which were romantic and beautiful. I enjoyed all the characters from Hannah and her struggles to Luke and his own demons and their friends and family were rallying around them. It is a great picture of a community in a beautiful setting. I look forward to reading the other titles in the series. I highly recommend When Love Comes.

When Love Comes
is available in paperback and eBook

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Red Flags: what they are and why we shouldn't ignore them


Recently, I have been evaluating relationships and why they end the way the do. Sometimes it is because it has run its course and the individuals in the relationship no longer relate to each other and time begins to separate us. However, some relationships have red flags that something is wrong and we either ignore them or do something about them. Red flags are a signal for a problem that requires attention. It was first used in 1602 in the military as a signal to prepare for battle. It was also first used as a severe weather warning in 1777. Today, it is used in terms of relationships, usually romantic relationships but they can be signs in any relationship. What are the red flags? Why do we ignore them?


As I researched red flags, I found many articles which had long lists of red flags. I found that red flags fall into general categories. First, a lack of communication. The person gives you the silent treatment instead of discussing important issues. Second, he or she is irresponsible, immature and unpredictable. This person might be unable to master or maintain basic life skills. For example, they can’t take care of themselves or their personal space. They also may not be able to manage their finances and other responsibilities. They cannot hold down a job. They may also be unable to take responsibility for their own personal errors in past relationships. They blame others for their relationship failures. They are unable to evaluate why past relationships didn’t work out. Third, there is a lack of trust and they do not respect boundaries. In the terms of a romantic relationship, your significant other is weirdly possessive or secretive about their phone. Fourth, they refuse to spend time with your family or friends and may even try to drive a wedge between your and other significant people in your life. Also related to this red flag, is that your family and friends do not like this person and tell you that something is “off” about the person. Lastly, he or she may have trouble apologizing for even the smallest infractions.


We ignore red flags for many reasons. First, we are afraid that our intuition is wrong. Our gut tells us something is wrong; but we don’t want to admit we could be wrong about the relationships. Whether its pride or a fear of failure, we turn a blind eye to what is wrong. Second, we simply do not trust ourselves. When you sense that something is wrong; but you tell yourself that you’re overreacting and only focusing on the negatives. Third, the red flags seem minor. No one is perfect. No relationship is perfect. So, when we see something wrong, we tell ourselves it’s a minor flaw and ignore it or work around it. Fourth, we are so infatuated with the person that its hard to focus on anything else. Fifth, related with infatuation, we move too quickly into the relationship. The infatuation stage usually lasts between six and twelve months. When we intertwine your life with someone within this time period, it makes it harder to acknowledge red flags. Even when we see red flags, denial can be a powerful force when our infatuation overpowers our intuition. Lastly, we are stuck in wishful thinking. We want our relationships to work so bad that we chose to ignore the red flags. Our fantasies of what the relationship is or could be prevents us from seeing things as they really are.


When I decided to write about red flags and why we ignore them, I was thinking of someone close to me and a relationship that went wrong. While many of these red flags were present in that relationship. I realized that many of these red flags were present in a friendship of mine that recently ended. Looking back over the relationship, I realized that I ignored many of these red flags, either consciously or unconsciously, I chose to believe that my friend would never do anything to hurt me. I now realize that she did, not only did she, but she tried to place the blame on others in my life. She tried to drive a wedge between me and a family member. Why did I ignore these red flags? I think I saw the red flags as minor infractions. Until I realized that they weren’t minor. For example, I told her once that I do not disclose deep, personal information to just anyone and it takes a great deal of trust for me to talk about certain topics. I learned later that she was repeating some of these disclosures to others. People who had no business knowing these details. And when I finally had enough and established a boundary, she chose to shut me out and place the blame of our failed friendship on “my closed-mindedness and narcissism” instead of her own actions.


In conclusion, red flags are there to warn us and they should not be ignored. They signal a problem or issue that needs to be addressed. Their presence in our relationship doesn’t mean the relationship is bad, if we confront and deal with the issue, it could improve the relationship. And they can also signal that you need to end the relationship. In the case of my relationship, I admit my faults in the ending of the friendship and remind myself of what not to do in future friendships. We need to look at the red flags in our relationships, deal with them in the hopes to improve on the relationship and learn from them for future relationships.