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Since writing this post, I’ve learned that the Marquis De Lafayette hunted La Bette as a boy.  Talk about your weird coincidences. 

–Tracy

No one is sure what the beast was, but it probably wasn’t a furry.

 It sounds like the premise of a bad Fox Network Special: A large creature springs out of the woods, attacking local farmers before melting back into the underbrush, disappearing until its next attack. 

But this isn’t some shameless grab for ratings by a major network. Instead, the animal attacks occurred over a series of four years in rural, eighteenth century France. Before they would end, la Bête du Gévaudan, or the beast of Gévaudan (an area near present day Lozère) would grab the attention of all of Europe.
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Questions surrounding the beast still persist today: Was it real? And if so, what was it? And why did the attacks grab the public’s attention so?

The first recorded incident that can be linked to the beast occurred on June 1, 1764. A young woman was tending to her cattle when a large beast emerged from the nearby woods, and charged directly for her. The woman later said that the dogs that were with her fled from the beast. However the bulls in the pasture charged it and drove it away with their horns. 

She claimed she saw a large wolf-like animal, about the size of a cow.

The woman would prove to be the first, most fortunate survivor in an encounter with the beast. No doubt her story was remembered as the summer progressed into autumn and the partially-devoured corpses of men, women and children began turning up all over area. 

The beast was most often described as a wolf, or wolf-like creature, but experts of the time (and now) were baffled as to what the beast actually was. For one thing, its description didn’t fit with any known predator. While descriptions varied widely, the beast was consistently described as being wolf-like, approximately the size of a cow, with protruding fangs, red fur, a tail like a lion and a head like a greyhound. 

For another, it behaved unlike any creature they had ever seen. 

It seemed to posses a kind of cunning, predatory intelligence in that it avoided armed groups of men. Instead its prey of choice was women, children, and unarmed men traveling alone. Additionally, its favorite method of attack was a lightning strike to the head, as opposed to the legs or throat that most predatory animals favored. 

The beast’s grisly string of murders would capture the morbid fascination of the general public in a way that no other string of murders had before, and would not again until 100 years later when Jack The Ripper would terrorize London. 

As more and more people were killed, and even greater numbers saw the beast, it became clear that there was something very real in the woods of the Gévaudan area. 

As the years rolled by, the beast took an impressive toll. Official records list almost 200 encounters, with 33 wounded and 88 dead. However, some sources put these numbers much higher. 

Meanwhile, a sort of mass hysteria fell upon the people. After the creature survived numerous encounters with hunters, word got around that it was impervious to most weapons. Rumors began spreading that the creature was a werewolf, demon, or something conjured and controlled by a sorcerer. 

Multiple sightings of beasts fueled fears that there were entire packs of the creatures hiding in the bogs and woods surrounding the region. 

Entire villages would be abandoned, seemingly overnight, if the creature was spotted nearby. Local officials sent appeals for help to King Louis XV. The king responded by sending in the army. Specifically, capitaine-aide-major Duhamel and fifty-seven dragoon soldiers. 

Since the beast hunted primarily women, the soldiers put on dresses to try and draw the beast out. Although they slaughtered hundreds of wolves, they proved unable to stop the attacks.

As the creature’s presence stirred up political and religious unrest in Southern France and made the country look weaker abroad, King Louis XV took a personal interest in getting rid of the beast.

Plan B involved replacing Duhamel with professional wolf-hunters Jean-Charles-Marc-Antoine Vaumesle d’Enneval and his son Jean-François. The men arrived in the region with eight bloodhounds, and spent the next several months exterminating even more wolves.

But when the attacks continued, King Louis went with his third back-up plan: his personal gun-bearer and lieutenant of the hunt, François Antoine de Beauterne.

Accounts conflict over what happened next. Some say that the king’s lieutenant killed the beast. Others say that he simply killed a large wolf. Still others claim that he killed several members of a pack of beasts.

At any rate, François Antoine de Beauterne killed something. Or several somethings which may or may not have been stuffed, mounted, skinned, or paraded around in front of the king and then buried when it began to rot.

And then, the killings began again.

Finally, in June of 1767 the Marquis d’Apcher assembled hundreds of hunters in the hopes of dispatching the problem once and for all. Under his direction, the hunters formed smaller parties and fanned out through the region searching for the monster.

The credit for the ultimate kill goes to a local hunter named Jean Chastel – although it is hotly debated whether what he killed was the beast, or it’s remaining offspring. According to popular tradition, Chastel assumed that the beast was a werewolf and took all the required precautions: carrying a gun blessed by a priest, loaded with silver bullets and praying all the proper prayers.

The legends say that Chastel was kneeling in prayer when the beast emerged from the woods to stare at him. Rather than take action, Chastel finished his devotions before standing and firing on the beast and killing it.

When the monster was subsequently gutted, human bones were found in its stomach.

Since the time of the monster’s rein of terror, a mountain of literature almost as tall as the creature itself has been written about it. Theories on what it was, as well as examinations of the impact it had on politics and religion in the region have been reexamined over the centuries. And over and over again, the same questions have been asked.

Was it real?

There is no doubt that there was really something terrorizing the Gévaudan region. The large number of eyewitness accounts, along with the very tangible evidence in the form of body count attests to that. 

What was it?

In the two centuries since the attacks have ended, explanations for the beast have been wide ranging and increasingly creative. Early doomsday prophets claimed that she was sent by God to punish the wicked. Others claimed that the beast was part of an entirely new species. With the recognition of serial killers such as Jack the Ripper, the idea has been put forward that the beast was perhaps a serial killer taking advantage of the local wolf population to hide his grizzly activities.

The most widely accepted theory of the time was that she was a werewolf. Another was that it was a wolf/dog hybrid that was bred for hunting and then got out of hand. Or perhaps a lion, bear or hyena imported from Africa. 

Speculation will always remain as to what exactly was killing the people in the Gévaudan region. Of the beast or beasts themselves, only the stories remain. 

However, to quote the story “A Prowl With la Bête, or: When Twigs Crack Don’t Whistle”: The true tale of La Bête du Gévaudan is like a Shakespeare play, loving a plain woman or being a member of parliament – the more you put in the more there is to take away. 

 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

This is my favorite story from my time at Firefox News.  For the people involved, I’m sure it’s not funny.  But from the outside looking in, it’s morbidly hilarious.  If you like pitch black comedy. 

–Tracy

 

Not a mausoleum. Actually a pig iron smelter. Because? Less morbid.

This is a ghost story. Kind of. It’s also a cautionary tale: be careful who you argue with in life, because the results can come back to haunt you. 

Our story starts in Ironton, Ohio, with a dead doctor, missing organs, a murder investigation, and a shifty undertaker. 

During the turn of the century, Ironton, Ohio was to America what Silicon Valley is now: the heart of a thriving industry that supplied the world with needed goods. From 1850-1890, countries such as England, France and Russia bought iron ore from the busy iron foundries of the Hanging Rock region. This iron was shipped through the riverport town of Ironton. 

Drive through Ironton today, and you can still see evidence of the city’s glorious past: a pipe organ donated by the Carnegies here, a stained glass Tiffany window there. 

It’s slightly after this prosperous time that our story is set. 

The spirit of the story is one Dr. Joseph W. Lowry, who is said to haunt the Briggs, Lawrence County public library. The library is built on the site of Lowery’s old home. 

Is the library haunted? Hard to say. In 2000, I visited the library looking for Lowry’s ghost and came up empty. But the library staff say that Dr. Lowry keeps them all busy by rattling keys, closing doors and playing with the computerized card catalog. 

Pretty tame stuff for a spirit. Particularly once you know Dr. Lowry’s story. 

To hear the tale, Dr. Lowry was a well-respected physician who practiced in Ironton his entire life. However, this well-respected physician had a sticky reputation in the local courts system. 

According to the Ironton Register, in June of 1896, Dr. Lowry sued the Ironton Board of Health for $500 (quite a tidy sum) for services rendered throughout the previous year as a city medical examiner. The city council refused to pay the bill, on grounds of its illegality. 

Dr. Lowry was again in court in February of 1899. This time the doctor was being indicted for making false statements as a medical examiner. 

But whatever Dr. Lowry’s character, the story actually begins in 1931, when Lowry’s wife died.

 It’s said that the grief-stricken doctor ordered a custom-made casket for his petite wife.

That’s when the trouble started. When the casket arrived, Dr. Lowry was unhappy with it (or perhaps with the bill), and refused to have his wife buried in it, or even to pay for it. Instead he stuck the local undertaker with the bill for the costly casket. 

Not a problem for our mortician. After all, he was the only game in town. Sooner or later, Lowry would need his services again. At that point, all bills would come home to roost. 

As it turns out, the funeral director didn’t have long to wait. Barely two years later, Dr. Lowry passed away under suspicious circumstances. He was found in bed at home, in the middle of summer, with his heat turned on. 

Suspicion fell on Dr. Lowry’s heirs, but the case was ultimately deemed a stroke and the doctor’s remains were turned over to the undertaker. 

This was the moment our wily mortician waited for. Not only could he settle his old grudge with the good doctor, but in the process, he could also get back all that money that Dr. Lowry had cheated him out of two years prior. He would simply bury the doctor in the casket, and charge the bill to his estate. 

If the doctor was too tall for the custom-made casket, well he wouldn’t exactly need his legs, would he? And if he was too fat for the lid to close, he wasn’t using those internal organs, anyway. 

The undertaker would have gotten away with it too, if not for the growing suspicion that Dr. Lowry’s heirs had offed the old man for his money. An investigation soon followed. And when the authorities exhumed the body, our mortician had quite a few disturbing questions to answer. Like why Dr. Lowry’s legs were broken? And while we’re on the subject, where were his organs?

Unfortunately for Dr. Lowry, (or perhaps fortunately for his heirs), by the time the undertaker led the authorities to the place where he had hidden the doctors internal remains, they were so badly decomposed that they could not be tested for signs of poison. 

These days, it’s said that Dr. Lowry roams about the halls of the library and Woodland Cemetery, searching for his missing organs and possibly regretting that he got on the wrong side of the one man who could get the last word in the argument.

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

A few years back I was a folklore blogger for Firefox news. Last month, the site’s owner finally decided to take everything down.  Since there are a few articles from my time there that I’m proud of, I’m going to repost them here in the coming weeks. 

— Tracy


The Heavener Runestone – probably not an ancient Viking billboard, but crazier things have happened.


These days you could say that Heavener Oklahoma is off the beaten path. The town, which sits nestled under the Poteau Mountain, is a little out of my cell phone range. So risking breakdown without the help of Triple A feels like an adventure. But if I feel a little lost in the wilds of Oklahoma, how much more lost would the Vikings have been if they had indeed settled here? 
 
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It sounds a little bit like the plot of a Hollywood movie starring Antonio Bandaras. But residents of Heavener maintain that around 900 A.D, Vikings paddled their longships down the Eastern Seaboard, around the tip of Florida, through the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers and then traveled overland into Eastern Oklahoma – where they put up a billboard. 

Okay, they may have built settlements and planted crops, but none of those things have been found. What has been found is a large flat stone – twelve feet high, ten feet wide, sixteen inches thick, rectangular in shape and sitting in a mountaintop ravine – with six-inch high Norse runes carved deeply into it. 

Translations of the runes vary. Some people maintain that they’re a date – November 11, 1012, while others say that they read “Glome’s Valley,” as either a land claim or a kind of early Viking graffiti. 

Glome’s Valley

Whether Vikings actually were in Oklahoma, they came and left long ago. And the evidence that they were here might have lived on in obscurity if not for a few key events. 

Flash forward in time to 1838, when thousands of Native Americans were forcibly moved from Tennessee into Eastern Oklahoma. The new arrivals noticed the stone, which became known as Indian Rock by European settlers – even though the carvings were not recognized by anyone as either Native or Latin writing.

In the 1920’s a Heavener resident sent copies of the runes to the Smithsonian for identification. The Museum wrote back to say that the writing was Norse, but that it didn’t make sense for Norsemen to have made them. In all likelihood, museum officials reasoned, a Scandinavian settler must have made the carvings by working from a primary school grammar book from his homeland.

As settlers moved into the area, they found more and more of these engraved stones. However most of them were destroyed by treasure hunters. The same fate might have befallen the runestone, if not for the efforts of Gloria Farley, a local school teacher. 

Farley researched and wrote extensively about the stone. Through her efforts, the name of the stone was changed from Indian Rock to The Heavener Runestone, and the Heavener Runestone State park was established. Eventually, she found four more examples of Viking Runes carved into the Oklahoma landscape. Some of these are now on display in the Heavner Runestone State park. 

So did Vikings settle in rural Eastern Oklahoma? Authorities in history say no. What is known however is that Norsemen did establish settlements in Newfoundland and similar stones with Runic writing have been found in Minnesota. 

More importantly, stranger things have happened. In 1939, two fishermen pulled a small Bull Shark out of the Mississippi river near in Alton, Illinois, about 1,750 freshwater miles outside of its natural habitat. 

If a shark can be thousands of miles away from where it’s supposed to be, why not a Viking?

 

 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

French food (that was sort of Italianish.)

Back between my last big breakup and when I met Hubby, I watched this unlikely romance. (Kevin Kline as a scuzzy French thief with a pornstache?  How is that romantic?) But something about the plot spoke to me and it became my favorite romantic comedy.

Meg Ryan is Kate, a woman engaged to Charlie the Doctor.  Because she’s afraid to fly, hates the French and dosen’t want to mess up her application for Canadian citizenship, she refuses to go to France with Charlie.  But before he goes, she confesses to him that she’s built up a nest egg big enough to buy a house with.

Charlie the Doctor gets scared that his whole life is now planned out and dumps neurotic Kate for Juliet the French goddesse (Dr. Charlie says it’s French for goddess).

Kate jumps a plane, meets Luc the thief, accidentally helps him smuggle diamonds and gets her luggage, money and papers stolen. As you do.  This leads to her having her paperwork for Canadian citizenship rejected. Since the official at the American Embassy gets into a snit because Kate was trying to immigrate and won’t issue her a new passport, Kate is now without country.

In order to get close to Kate and get the diamonds back, Luc offers to help her win Doctor Charlie back. I’m sure you can guess the end.

I don’t typically love romantic comedies.  But this one resonated with me.  Probably because it was a right place, right time kind of thing. It’s about a girl who breaks up with the guy she thinks she’s supposed to be with and along the way finds the guy she’s really supposed to be with.  There is great banter, Meg Ryan is quirky, Kevin Kline is gloriously sarcastic.

And there is this:

Luc: Why are you chasing after him after what he’s done to you? 

Kate: Because I love him! And I’m afraid that if he doesn’t come back that I’ll… it’ll hurt so much that I’ll just shrivel up and I’ll never be able to love anyone ever again. 

Luc: You say that now, but… after a time, you would forget. First, you would forget his chin, and then his nose, and after a while, you would struggle to remember the exact color of his eyes, and one day you wake up and, pfft, he’s gone: his voice, his smell, his face. He will have left you. And then you can begin again.


What can I say about what that meant to me in that time and place? The idea of being able to leave the past behind and begin again?  The idea that someday it would get better?

And it did.

So if I have to choose a romantic comedy for Date Night that is not My Big Fat Greek Wedding (last month’s date night, that I forgot to blog a about) French Kiss is my favorite.

I planned to write about the food, but I guess my own introspection about the movie was more important.

Here are the recipes I used:

Easy Pie Crust

Sundried Tomato Pesto Quiche

Creme Brûlée 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

The James Bond date night was such a success, that Hubby ran to the gift box on February first to retrieve his gift. For February, I could have gone with a romantic date and not been out of line.  There are a huge number of romantic comedies out there, and we have our favorites. 

But why?  Everyone else on the planet is doing romantic couple-y things in February. Instead, I opted for something different.

Now, there are a lot of holidays in February.  So I had a lot of options:

Lincoln’s or Washington’s Birthday, President’s day –  There are a ton of really good presidential themed movies, tv shows and documentaries that hubby and I love.  The recent Lincoln movie, the less recent John Adams documentary, even the tv show Turn. Heck, for fun I could have chosen National Treasure.  But I decided to have a whole lot of fun, and chose the other well-known holiday:

Groundhog Day

Hubby and I both love the Bill Murray movie.  That movie is probably the reason many other people think fondly of the holiday, too.

In the movie, Bill Murray’s character repeats the same day over and over again (estimates range from 10-30 years worth of days) until he experiences enough character growth that he has a truly perfect day, and breaks the cycle. 

He spends part of many of those days in the local diner, pigging out on breakfast, because he no longer has to worry about calories or cholesterol. 

So for our second dinner and a movie date, we had breakfast for dinner.

Again, Hubby wanted to tweak the menu.  (It’s his gift, so sure.). Ever since we had banana pancakes with coconut syrup on our honeymoon, he’s loved them.  To the point that I found a recipe to make the syrup myself.  And he wanted to add blueberry muffins. Again a favorite.

And because I wanted something for myself, cinnamon rolls from a can. 

So if you want a good coconut syrup recipe, I recommend  this one here.

And this banana pancake recipe, which makes great regular pancakes if you leave out the banana. 

Since dinner was so kid-friendly, we involved the kids in the food (but sent them to bed before the movie).

 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

Let’s Talk About the Bad Fairy

  I’m listening to my kids read Sleeping Beauty (or listening to their book read to them, since technically they are 4 and 1 1/2. But eh. Semantics. Whatevs.). It strikes me as very short sighted that the bad fairy is the one you forget to invite to a baby shower. 

Forget a good fairy, what’s she going to do?  Not give your kid “lips that shame the red, red rose?”  But the bad fairy gets forgotten, and it’s death by spinning wheel.  

Then again, what kind of present would an invited bad fairy give to a baby? Could you imagine that baby shower?  There are all the good and bad fairies standing around making awkward conversation, then it comes time to give out the gifts and the good fairies are handing out beauty, goodness, singing ability, little furry animal friends.  And just for giggles the bad fairy might hand out brains, independence and and the ability to spot logical fallacies in any arguement.  You know, things no medieval monarch wants in his daughter of marriageable age.

So maybe it’s not so short sighted that they left the bad fairy off the guest list.  Maybe they hoped she just wouldn’t hear about it and show up.

Then again, maybe she wasn’t a bad fairy.  Maybe she was just a normal fairy until she started handing out curses and other gifts that the king and queen clearly didn’t register for and can’t return to Buy Buy Baby. 

I mean, it’s very easy to say she is a bad fairy after the fact.  Just look at her behavior! Handing out curses.  Clearly she must’ve been a bad fairy all along. 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Dine!

My husband is one of those guys who is picky, discerning (whenever I point this out, he always points out that he married me, so being choosy isn’t a bad thing). 

So Christmas is always a nightmare challenging.  What do you get for someone who is very selective in his wants, and could pretty much buy whatever his heart’s desire (within reason, he’s not yet getting a Breitling).

But there are a couple ways I can’t go wrong:

1. He likes the buildup to opening the gift (sometimes more than the actual gift.)

2. He likes to watch moves. 

3. He likes good food. 

This year I planned a gift that sits right in the middle of that venn diagram. I planned 12 dinner and a movie dates. 

Remember the old TBS show dinner and a movie? Where the hosts cooked a themed dinner around the movie they played? This is something like that. 

So for our January date, I planned for us to watch Thunderball. (James bond date night in January is a bit of a theme for us.  The year after daughter was born, we dressed to the nines, got PF Chang takeout, ate it on the wedding china  and watched Casino Royale. last year was Dr. No.)

So this time around, the parameters were 1. Extravagant food (in the books, James Bond likes caviar, eggs and champaign at breakfast). 2. British theme.  The challenge being that hubby is not a drinker.  So the traditional martini, shaken, not stirred is out. 

Fauxtini.jpgMartinis weren’t a problem.  I made a reasonable facsimile of a dirty martini with sparkling soda water, cocktail olives and olive juice. Served in martini glasses for effect.  Hubby ate the olives and left the drink.  Oh well, they can’t all be winners. 

When I think of British food, I think of fish and chips, or Harry Potter’s treacle tart. (Whatever treacle is. In Alice in Wonderland, there is mention of a treacle well, and in the Discworld books, there is Treacle Mine Road.  I think Brit Lit is not a good source for answers to my treacle based questions. ) And something called Beef Wellington.  Which sounds British.  It shares a name with my favorite gardening boots, so it must be ok. 

So Beef Wellington. And custard tart.  Which is really just the egg custard pie like my grandma used to make.  Easy easy peasy  lemon squeezy.

 The menus set, I wrapped the gift. 

Hubby opened his January present, and immediately requested a menu change.  He’s had my grandma’s egg custard pie, and isn’t a fan.  So we switched to his favorite dessert: creme Brûlée.  Cest la vie! 

Oven_wellingtons.jpgI didn’t quite realize how complicated Beef Wellington is.  You take a piece of tenderloin, roll it in a mix of chopped mushrooms and onions, and then wrap that in prosciutto and wrap it in puff pastry.  Then you try to bake it so that the meat cooks just enough and the pastry neither burns, nor gets soggy from the meat juices. 

Gordon Ramsey likes this dish.  In fact, he verbally guts lesser chefs for messing it up.

So, yeah.  There’s that. 

And because I can’t do things halfway, I also decided to make my own puff pastry. 

Wellington.jpgSo after a week’s worth of research (cook all the moisture out of the mushroom mix, wrap the package in phyllo dough to make a moisture barrier between the puff pastry and the meat. Bake according to internal temperature, not time) and three days of preparation (puff pastry isn’t hard, just long and involved), I pulled the whole thing together.

If you are interested, here is the recipe I used for Beef Wellington 

And just for fun, Gordon Ramsay losing his temper over a beef Wellington on Hell’s Kitchen

Et Voila: 



 

 

 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

My ConDFW schedule

I’ll be at ConDFW the weekend of February 12-14.  This is the first convention that I’ve done in a long time independently of my publisher.  So I’m learning how to convention anew. 

This year my panels are all on Saturday.  My  schedule is as follows:

Noon:

Creating your Fantasy Hero (programming 2. Madison). 

How do you build the perfect hero for your fantasy world. 

2:00:

reading alongside Melanie Fletcher 2:00 (Adams)

5:00:

Where do heroes go to die? (Programming 3. Hamilton (the musical?)

How do you write old heroes?

6:00

Autographs along with Scott A. Cupp
Since my programming schedule is light the year, I may have more time to be out and about to say hello and talk to folks.  At any rate, I look forward to Seeing everyone. 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

I Hit A Milestone and No One Told Me

This weekend I attended GlichCon along with Brad and Sue Sinor.  I collaborated with Brad on four stories in the 1632 universe. 

Brad let me know that one of our stories was in the collected hardcover Grantville Gazettes VII that were released about a month ago.

So, my first hardcover.  I guess I need to be on some kind of newsgroup, because I never got the memo. 

But cool! 

  

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

Weekend at the Movies

So this is going around:

Looks like I’m teaming up with a raptor trainer, Ant Man and Super Why. (Thanks to watching TV with a three year old.)  I think I might just live. 

I spent this weekend with Hubby at a business conference.  Because the kids weren’t with us, we slept a lot and we watched Ant Man and Jurassic World

I liked both movies, but to everyone’s surprise, I think I liked Jurassic World more.  I’ll review each, then go into why below.  So: spoilers ahoy! 

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Ant Man

I’m genuinely glad that this movie was good, and that it seems to be doing well.  I think partially because Marvel has been doing so well at the movies, the nay-sayers have been getting really nasty and really just want to see a marvel super hero movie fail.  

I always like to see nay sayers proven wrong. (No one seems to remember this, but a lot of folks called Firefly crap when it was on Fox.  This is why we can’t have nice things.)

Because of all the trouble with production, this one was an easy target to make digs at.  But, judging by things I’ve read about the movie, the change in director added things that I liked. (Haley Atwell’s Appearance as Peggy Carter, and the fact that some of the actors, like Evangeline Lilly were able to have input that expanded their parts.)

I really feel Marvel movies succeed to greater or lesser extent based on what they are trying to accomplish.  Captain America worked for me because it was trying to be a WWII movie. Also, I feel they succeed when the stories are smaller.  Iron man and Iron man III work best because it’s Tony Stark sciences the heck out of things, whereas Iron Man II is getting things set up for Avengers, and also here is Black Widow and Nick Fury again some more and also Tony Stark sciences a little and drinks a lot and eats donuts and there is a plot somewhere if you squint, we think.

(Avengers: Age of Ultron had some of the same problems.  It was trying to set up Thor: Ragnarok and the Infinity War. Plus I felt like Joss was trying to be too clever with us by giving us Clint Barton’s I have a family now, so I must die in the third act red herring family. And also what was up with the out of left field Hulk/Widow plot? And what ever happened to widow’s previous plot about having red in her ledger?  I feel like there was a black widow movie somewhere out there this is all built on, only it got swallowed by a black hole and no one remembers it.  But I digress.)

Ant Man is a heist movie. There have been a couple of really good heist movies in the past few years (Inception being the biggest), but I think the genre hasn’t been overdone.  It’s not stale or tired.  

You would think that the main character’s abilities to shrink and control ants would make the heist more simple, but that’s not the case.  The story has organic challenges and it’s tackled in a fun way. 

But I didn’t love Ant Man as much as I wanted to. (And I wanted to love it as much as I loved Guardians of the Galaxy).  It took me a while to figure out why, but I think I finally got it.  It’s that I predicted the entire third act.  

Being a writer, I have a bad habit of guessing where a story might be headed based on just knowing the craft of writing and how I would write a similar story.  But this is different.  

What happened was that based on one scene in the trailers, I guessed where the climax of the story would be, what the stakes were, who would be involved, and how they would resolve the plot.  Instead of having fun with the story, I kept wondering when X would happen.  

Bottom line is that I liked the movie.  I just didn’t love it as much as I wanted to. 

Jurassic World

I didn’t expect to like Jurassic World as much as I did.  But I liked this movie more than Ant Man.  

The summer before I started my senior year of High School, I spent a week with family in Tulsa.  One of my cousins and I went to see Jurassic Park.  And then I read the book, just to be completely fangirly.  Jurassic World captured the feel of the original movie better than any of the other sequels. 

For starters, there is an actual park.  The second and third movies don’t even take place on the same island as the first. And what a park!  People who have been to Disney or Universal Studio’s themed islands will feel a sense of familiarity. 

There are plenty of nods to the first park, such as the Mr. DNA mascot who gave us the info dump in the first movie.

The script has had 10 years to go through rewrites and development hell, and the result is something geared to please long-time fans. Several characters seem to be inversions of characters from the first movie.  You have the raptor trainer as opposed to the big game hunter from the first movie who wanted to kill all the raptors because they were too dangerous, the guy in the control room who stays at his post and loves the dinos instead of the guy who shuts everything down and starts all the problems, etc. 

There are messages about family and commercialization, but the plot as always revolves around man’s crippling hubris.  The park needs a new attraction, because visitors are losing interest in common dinosaurs. (An interesting parallel given that Jurassic Park kicked off the CGI boom, and now it takes more and more to impress us). 

Rather than try to make updated dinosaurs that match what science thinks dinos look like now, the park genetically engineers a new hybrid dino that isn’t based on any known species.  It’s DNA is made based on a t-Rex and other things the scientists won’t disclose. Predictably, it breaks out. Bcause dinosaurs in Jurassic Park/World could get into Harvard, while people are stoopid. 

As usual, there are kids menaced by the dinos and the adults go out to save them.  I’ve always liked that in The Jurassic movies the kids save themselves (even if how they do it this time stretches credibility).

And speaking of credibility: I wasn’t actually bothered by the heroine wearing heels through the whole thing, like a lot of folks.  Here’s a tip from a country girl who cleans up nice: you can avoid sinking in mud, and run in heels if you walk on the balls of your feet. It’s not practical, but neither is barefoot 

When the movie was over, I had to scratch my head.  Because essentially we’re left in the situation that was midpoint for most of the other movies.  Dangerous dinos are loose, and a lot of people have nowhere to run from them.  But just because the big threat is eliminated, everyone seems fine.  I’m going to assume that park security an handle things from here and not think about it too hard. 

So in conclusion: stupid people getting eaten. Two thumbs up. 

 

And the trailers:  

  • There seem to be a lot of based on a true story movies coming out. And a lot of them, I’ve heard of before.  I’m a walking true-to-life spoiler. 
  • I’m squeeing over Star Wars
  • Fantastic Four looks like it might be good.  I know a lot of folks are predicting that it will be terrible.  But I’m rooting for it based on that alone. 
  • Matt Damon used science as a verb.  
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan is Papa Wayne.  I may have to watch Superbat: Starring Everybody And Me just for that. 

 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

About Me

I'm the author of the Tranquility series, which is a series of urban, rural, urban fantasy mysteries that aren't really urban.

Think Green Acres meet The Hardy Boys, Jeff Foxworthy meets The X-Files or Eureka meets The Beverly Hillbillies.

The latest in the series, Bride of Tranquility is a murder mystery set in a haunted hotel during a Renaissance wedding.

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