January 30, 2014

After Earth Movie Review

After Earth (2013)
By Lindsey Pogue
Rating: PG-13/100 minutes

Genre Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi 

Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

LP's Rating: 3/5 stars

*DISCLAIMER- Generally I wouldn't post a movie review if I wasn't super into the movie, but this particular film left me conflicted, which can sometimes be a good thing for people, so I figured, why not?

Basic Overview: A crash landing leaves Kitai and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, a millennium after man ruined Earth and therefore humanity was forced to escape. With Cypher injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help. Fear is Kitai's greatest weakness and becomes the tipping point between life and death.

My Review. This is one of those movies that left me going, "hmmm." The moment it started, I wondered what I got myself into by agreeing to watch it for reasons I explain below. However, by the end of the film, I was much more engaged and was left with a muddled opinion. Doesn't that happen a lot after watching movies? Is that a sign of a good movie, that it leaves you contemplating more than when you started it? Doesn't that mean you enjoyed it? The answer is probably yes to all of those, but...still I'm conflicted. As many aspects as I liked, I disliked, and by the end I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, even if I can only try to articulate why below.


What I didn't like. 
No connection to the characters. My favorite character was the dead sister and the giant eagle (or maybe it's a falcon) that saves Kitai's life when all hope was lost. I nearly teared up when the damn bird died, but never really felt any connection to Kitati or Cypher who were the two main characters. Shouldn't it be the other way around? My fiance would argue that it's a movie about trying to rid yourself of emotions and thinking rationally so to act without fear. While those intentions are clear throughout the story, the delivery comes off too flat, and as a result isn't not relatable and becomes disengaging.

The Acting. While I'm generally a pretty big Will Smith fan, I found this movie to be missing something from him--personality or passion I'm not quite sure. He was so one-dimensional that I felt I didn't understand him or really like him much. He's generally such a huge personality that demands center stage. His hard-ass, detached, no-nonsense character was borderline too unrealistic for me. Someone can't be so completely in control and devoid of outward emotion, especially when they think they're child is dead or dying...right?

The dialect and names. The way Kitai spoke in general was sort of jarring. In the beginning I heard nerdy kid from the south who isn't sure how he feels. Then, when you see how's talking it's like...that was weird. In the beginning it seemed forced and unnatural, but thankfully I did sort of forget about it after a while. The character names were also very singular and difficult to keep track of. I didn't even know Jaden and Will's character names until I looked them up. 

What I liked
The production. The scope was huge, imaginative, and thought provoking. The cinematography was really beautiful. Plus, it was sort of filmed in my own backyard of Norther California, so that might be why it resonated so much with me. 

The concept and themes. I liked the basic story idea--a famous General who's traveled the galaxy for years forgets how to be a father and through their journey, father and son are forced to reconnect and rely on one another to survive. I also liked the fact that it was a story about facing your worst fears. How poetic that Kitai is running from a monster that hunts him because he's afraid--literally tracking by his fear--and thus Kitai must overcome his "cowardice" if he's to save his life as well as his father's. 

**Intriguing Fact. Will Smith wrote this story. I didn't know that until the end credits. Smith wrote it, and he had M. Night Shyamalan direct it, and then put himself and his son in the starring roles. It seems appropriate, actually. Smith's been in many Sci-Fi movies, including Men in Black, Independence Day, I Am Legend, and I, Robot. So, it's interesting that this movie didn't do so well. You have to wonder why. Was it because of the story--his story? How it was adapted to a screenplay? Was it the directing or the lack of connection between father and son--real life and off screen? I personally wonder if Will Smith is happy with this movie. Just something I've been musing over.

Overall. I was entertained by this movie, but I was also obviously frustrated by it. It was just...strange, and I wish it would've been better. Although I'm hesitant, I would recommend this movie to people who like science fiction. Again the basic story idea is really great actually, but there was just something lacking in the acting I think. If you're watching it because you love Will Smith movies, you'll probably be disappointed. 

January 16, 2014

The Ending Beginnings: Mandy

The second novella in The Ending Beginningsthe prequel series to The Ending Series, is available to read on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble!


The second novella in the prequel serial to The Ending Series.

A virus changed everything. This is how it began.

22 years ago, Mandy struggled to find her purpose in life. Purpose, however surprising, found her. Now, the arrival of a deathly ill young man stirs painful memories of the past. Who is he, and why does he look so familiar?

The Ending Beginnings:
I - Carlos
II - Mandy
III - Vanessa
IV - Jake (April 2014)
V - Clara (May 2014)
VI - Jake & Clara (June 2014)



Mandy trudged through the snow toward the sole parked car. Despite the substantial amount of weight she’d gained over the last decade, she still loved walking around the campground. Her campground. With Lake Tahoe on one side and the snow all around, she could almost lose herself to the beauty of the winter wonderland. She could almost forget everything she’d done over the past 22 years.

She laughed. It was a harsh sound, at odds with the soft white puffs of air that marked it. She’d hurt a lot of people, not that they’d minded. The more she thought about it, the clearer the truth became; even if she could erase the past—forget it, or even do it over—she wouldn’t. Every single act of wretched devotion she’d enticed out of her followers had shaped her into what she was. A queen. A goddess. The most adored person who’d ever lived. Who wouldn’t want that?

The car had pulled into the small parking lot of the picnic area the previous evening. It was a newish, black Honda Civic with muck from the slushy roads crusted to its lower half. When one of Mandy’s followers had pointed it out, Mandy opted to wait and see if the driver, a man who appeared to be the only occupant, would emerge. He didn’t, indicating he was probably sick and would likely die. It was the virus, of course. Even though she’d known it was coming, Mandy still found the sheer, devastating volume of death caused by the virus awe-inspiring.

Against the odds, the driver had yet to perish. It had been nearly twenty hours since he’d parked, and the last person to check on the him—Kevin, one of her followers who’d been with her the longest—said he was still breathing. He’d vomited all over himself, but he wasn’t dead. It looked like he would be one of the few to survive. Whether he would be one of the chosen few or the tainted others was yet to be determined.

Mandy approached the driver’s side of the car and bent down to peer through the window. The man was slumped against the door, his face turned away from her. But yes, despite the pervasive below freezing chill and the vomit coating the front of his jacket, she could see the steady rise and fall of the driver’s chest. Kevin had been correct. He was alive.

Mandy stood beside the car for a few minutes and studied the unconscious man. After a while, she figured it was safe enough and raised one plump arm to wave for Jen and Cole, two of her most valuable companions, to join her.

“Well, what do you think—chosen or tainted?” Mandy asked the slender young woman.

Jen crunched a few steps closer and removed her right glove. She pressed her hand against the window so the glass was the only thing between her skin and the driver’s dark hair. Closing her eyes, she wore a look of deep concentration and held her breath for a protracted moment. Finally, she exhaled and opened her eyes, focusing on Mandy. “It’s too soon to say for sure, but I think he’s chosen.”

Mandy nodded. “Good enough for me.” Again, she raised her arm and waved two more of her followers over—the strapping young men she’d acquired during the last set recruitment trials five months ago—and watched as they approached. She really was quite pleased they were both among the chosen; they were quite attractive. “Move him to one of the cots in my cabin,” she told them as they neared. “Clean him up and make sure he’s warm. You know the drill.”

“Of course,” the taller of the two said. He reached for the door handle and pulled, but it was locked.

His companion looked to Mandy. “Do you want us to break a window?”

Mandy sighed and shouldered them out of the way. They may have been strapping, young, and easy on the eyes, but these two weren’t the brightest of her followers. Mandy crouched low enough that the driver would see her face when he woke and looked out the window. It wasn’t a comfortable position, considering the bulk her leg muscles had to hold up, so she didn’t waste any time. She knocked on the glass.

The driver started awake, sitting up straight in his seat and turning his face to the window. He was young, in his early twenties, and his skin was a tan that complimented his dark hair and warm brown eyes. He was quite average-looking, and at the same time, his hard-featured face was the most shocking, remarkable thing Mandy had seen in a very long time.

Her breath caught. “My God,” she whispered.

Cole sidled up beside her and peeked through the window. “Is that—it’s not possible. Is that—”

“If you say his name, I’ll kill you.” Mandy turned her livid gaze on him, daring him. Though his value was unquestionable, he was also one of the few people who could be in her presence and not adore her. He was also the one who made her into what she was. Queen. Goddess.


She despised him almost as much as she needed him. If those scales ever tipped just enough in the other direction, she really would kill him.


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