Films of the Month – May

I watched quite a lot of films in May, partly because there were a lot I wanted to watch, and partly because I got into the habit of watching a film each week with my friend Sam, which was nice. We mostly used Netflix Party to have a chat while we were watching it. It was very companionable and ideal while in lockdown.

Here’s what I watched:

Lee and I watched Ocean’s 8, which I think is brilliant. I love a crime caper and an all female one is so amazing
echointhecanyon - Films of the Month - May
I watched Echo in the Canyon which is a documentary about the musicians living near LA in the 60s, like Bob Dylan and the Mamas and Papas. I really enjoyed it, I would recommend it
liamasitwas - Films of the Month - May
Sam and I watched Liam: As It Was, a documentary about Liam’s life post-Oasis. We both liked it – he is pretty funny and engaging throughout and it’s nice to see him with his mam and ALL his kids (including Molly Moorish). I’d recommend it if you’re even just a casual fan like me
misscongeniality2 - Films of the Month - May
I wanted to see Miss Congeniality 2 as I’d never seen it and I like the first too much, but I thought it was just rubbish unfortunately
asecretlove - Films of the Month - May
A Secret Love is a Netflix documentary about two women who were together for years, but who weren’t out to their families. It’s a lot about love and family and also about getting older and what that entails. It’s really good, watch it
sunday - Films of the Month - May
I watched this, about the events of Bloody Sunday in Ireland, and I – well, I won’t say liked it – but it is good
T2 - Films of the Month - May
Lee and I watched Terminator 2, which for my money is better than the first film. 
totoro - Films of the Month - May
Sam and I watched My Neighbour Totoro which neither of us had ever seen. We both really liked it
bookclub - Films of the Month - May
I don’t quite know why Netflix recommended Book Club to me, but I watched it and thought it was quite fun. A bit of Monday escapism. The cast is all great
thehalfofit - Films of the Month - May
I watched The Half of It on a Netflix Party with some friends and liked it, it’s a cute teen movie and I’d recommend it if that’s your thing
lionking - Films of the Month - May
I’ve been meaning to watch The Lion King (the original cartoon one) for absolutely ages. I’ve only seen it once, way back when it first came out when I was TEN! It’s alright, I suppose. Not my favourite Disney
brideshead - Films of the Month - May
I haven’t ever seen the film of Brideshead Revisited, although I have of course seen the 1980s TV series and I loved the book when I read it twenty years ago. I quite liked it, Matthew Goode is great, but I can’t ever quite warm to Ben Whishaw. Still, I’m glad I saw it, and I do love the story
weekend - Films of the Month - May
Sam and I watched Weekend together, which is about two men who hook up on a Friday night and fall in love over the weekend. I didn’t love it, it left me a bit cold, but it was interesting enough to watch
dunkirk - Films of the Month - May
Lee wanted to see Dunkirk as he hasn’t seen it. I love it, I find it stressful to watch, thanks to the truly unnerving soundtrack. It looks amazing
napoleon - Films of the Month - May
I finally watched Napoleon Dynamite, which I’d never seen. I thought it was okay, I feel like I missed out culturally way back in 2004 so at least I’ve put it right now!

cripcamp - Films of the Month - May
A few people had recommended Crip Camp on Twitter and it’s on Netflix so I thought why not. It’s about a camp for teens with disabilities and the ensuing fight for the rights of disabled people in America in the years that followed. It’s REALLY good, definitely watch it

socialnetwork - Films of the Month - May
Finally, Sam and I watched The Social Network which she’d never seen. I have, and I like it because I like Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield. Sam thought it was quite ridiculous, which it is! I have such a soft spot for it, though
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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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