Excerpt From the Novel “Year of the Songbird”

The following is an excerpt from my novel, Year of the Songbird, written in 2012 that I felt extremely relevant to what is currently happening in the world today. The story takes place several years in the future and follows a young blind girl who is lured away from her home with the promise of sight, only to learn about the horrific history of what lead to World War III. I wrote the novel based on the political climate at the time and where I thought things might go if nothing changed.

CAUTION: The following speech/account is made by a character in the novel who is meant to be a hard-core racist, bigoted SOB (one who only became this way after watching what happened to his family during the war for which he speaks). It includes language that may be inappropriate for younger readers, as well as derogatory terms and generalizations that, taken out of context with the entirety of the novel, may feel insensitive to some.

READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

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Movie Mayhem – Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl — 2020; Directed by Kenneth Branagh; Starring Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Nonso Anozie and Colin Farrell

It’s been almost three months since my last movie review due to the coronavirus pandemic shuttering theaters back on March 17. Although there have been a handful of movies (Trolls, Scoob! and The Lovebirds) that skirted their big screen release dates to premiere as streaming service rentals over the last couple of months, the price for entry was a bit too high for my blood for these particular films.

Had Artemis Fowl followed suit, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second look either, despite the fact that I would have gone to see all of them in the theaters. Disney, however, decided the already delayed film about a young boy who learns that the world of fairies and other magical creatures he’s been studying from a young age is actually real when his father is kidnapped, was best suited to help bolster Disney+. Thanks to The Mandalorian and all the upcoming Marvel series, I’m already a subscriber to the fledgling streaming service, so this was a perfect opportunity to get back on the review train.

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Movie Mayhem – Bloodshot

Bloodshot — 2020; Directed by Dave Wilson; Starring Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Eiza González, Sam Heughan, and Lamorne Morris

Vin Diesel’s got the perfect vocal range for supplying voices to animated creatures like an iron giant or a massive tree, but as an on-screen personality, he just isn’t all that captivating to me. I didn’t care for the Riddick or XXX films, nor do I find much of what he does outside of fast cars worth watching. (And let’s face it, the Fast and Furious franchise didn’t get interesting until they added a Rock with a dose of logic melting, physics shattering action sequences.) Bloodshot is yet another attempt for Diesel to appear relevant. And though the film is better than most of his non-Fast adventures, it’s only because the supporting cast makes the whole intriguing premise pass muster.

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Movie Mayhem – Onward

Onward — 2020; Directed by Dan Scanlon; Starring the voices of Tom Holland, Chris Proatt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Kyle Bornheimer and Tracey Ullman

When John Lasseter started Pixar, he made a commitment to only make movies that had a strong foundation. That meant he would only put films into production that had a great script. Some may say this hasn’t always been the case (see: Cars 2 or The Good Dinosaur), but for the majority of films produced by the animation stalwart over the last twenty-five years, the promise for strong stories and characters has flourished, even after Lasseter was forced out of the company. This tradition continues with Onward, where everything that’s made Pixar the king of animation is on full display.

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Movie Mayhem – The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man — 2020; Directed by Leigh Whannell; Starring Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman and Aldis Hodge

The invisible man has been around since H.G. Wells first gave him life in 1897, an idea which has culminated in dozens of film and television iterations throughout various genres. The most famous are of course the original 1933 version (part of Universal’s original monster universe that spawned two sequels), Chevy Chase’s comedic-oriented Memoirs of the Invisible Man, and Kevin Bacon’s horror/thriller Hollow Man. Other than the main character somehow becoming invisible, the only thing that connects most of these iterations is the heavy focus on the trials and tribulations of the person that becomes invisible.

This is where writer and director Leigh Whannell smartly separates his version of The Invisible Man from the rest of the pack. Instead of putting the spotlight on the person who becomes invisible, Whannell focuses all of his attention on the victim of the invisible. By doing so, the film becomes more atmospherically chilling, adding a heavy psychological element that raises the level of the story to fresh, new heights.

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Movie Mayhem – The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild — 2020; Directed by Chris Sanders; Starring Harrison Ford, Omar Sy, Cara Gee, and Dan Stevens

As a big proponent for the use of practical effects over computer-generated effects, I was highly disenchanted by the trailer for The Call of the Wild. When filmmakers use CGI as a crutch, it tends to make the viewer numb to the emotional stakes of the film. There is a place for CGI, no doubt. When used to enhance what physically cannot be created or to perform tasks that may be too dangerous otherwise, it can be quite effective; when used for no other reason than because it’s there, even though something real or practical could do the job just as well (and sometimes even better), it becomes unnecessary imitation.

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Movie Mayhem – Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog — 2020; Directed by Jeff Fowler; Starring James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Lee Majdoub and Ben Schwartz

Movies based on video games have gotten a bad reputation… and for good reason. When you try to translate a video game to a film, you inherently strip away the ability to tell the same expansive story that a video game can encompass as well as what makes the game so much fun — interactivity. For Sonic the Hedgehog, the latest video game adaptation to hit the big screen, it didn’t help that early trailers for the film got massive push back because of Sonic’s less-than-stellar character design. Paramount listened, though, and made the necessary changes to give fans what they demanded. So how does Sonic the Hedgehog hold up against its small-screen counterpart?

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Chaos Movie Awards 2020

The 92nd Academy Awards are mere hours away, and the biggest news coming out of this year’s awards nominations is Netflix’s instant emergence as a heavy hitter among the major studios. Between The Irishman, Marriage Story and a handful of other prestige pics, Netflix garnered 24 nominations in their first major run at Oscar, beating all other studios (Sony came in with 20, and Disney rounded out the top three with 17). And from what I’m guessing, the Academy is going to show Netflix some big love tonight.

But enough with the numbers. Below are my picks for who will and should win at this year’s Academy Awards, as well as a few of my own awards just for the fun of it.

My Picks

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Movie Mayhem – The Rhythm Section

The Rhythm Section — 2020; Directed by Reed Morano; Starring Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, and Raza Jaffrey

The Rhythm Section is a bit of an enigma. If the title doesn’t immediately throw you as having nothing in particular to do with the actual film, the movie will. The whole way through, I couldn’t figure out if I liked the film or was somehow utterly disappointed by it. There are moments that are enticing and drive the narrative quite well, but everything else about the film — the editing, the direction, the writing and the atmosphere — all seem to contradict themselves, essentially putting up a wall to keep you from fully engaging in the exploits of this casual revenge thriller.

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Movie Mayhem – The Turning

The Turning — 2020; Directed by Floria Sigismondi; Starring Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Brooklynn Prince, Barbara Marten and Joely Richardson

Wait. What? Um… huh? Is that it? Wait. Huh?

This is what I felt as the end credits scrolled across the screen of The Turning, the new psychological thriller/horror movie that spends plenty of time building up the odd, sometimes creepy relationships between its characters, just starts to get interesting (and a little weird — in a good way), and then abruptly ends as if the filmmakers forgot to put the last ten minutes on the reel. The more I try to put the pieces together, the more confused I am about what actually happened — and whether there was actually some clever twist at the end or if the writers just didn’t know where they wanted to go with it.

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