Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Tomb Raider" (2018) -- Initial Thoughts

I've never played the game Tomb Raider is based on.  I've seen both of the Angelina Jolie movies based on it at least once, maybe twice?  But that was back when they came out to video, so it's been a long time.  I only remember bits of them.  I liked them okay, but they weren't something I wanted to watch over and over.  Not the kind of action movie that appealed to me, somehow -- I think Jolie's Lara Croft felt superhuman, yet wasn't technically a superhero, and that never exactly worked for me.  Also, I'm not a huge Angelina Jolie fan.  I don't dislike her, but I don't dig her, you know?

But I'm a big fan of Alicia Vikander.  Last year I put her on the list of my top ten favorite actresses as #8.  After watching Tomb Raider in the theater yesterday, I'd say she's more like #5.  She's definitely my favorite under-40 actress working today.  Yes, she's THAT good in this movie. 

I went to Tomb Raider yesterday under very unusual conditions.  I had not seen any trailers for it.  I had not read anyone's reviews or thoughts on it.  I didn't know who else was in it besides Alicia Vikander.  I just knew it was her playing Lara Croft.  That's it.  I basically never go to a movie with that little information.  Just doesn't happen.  But for whatever reason, nothing about this movie crossed my path before I went to see it.  Which made for a very fun viewing because everything was a surprise!

Like, I didn't know that Dominic West was in it.  I was so surprised and excited when he showed up as her dad!  (But I must admit it's been so long since I saw him in anything, I spent like 5 minutes of the movie trying to remember what his name is.)  I've liked him ever since I first saw him in A Christmas Carol (1999), and he's one of those solidly enjoyable actors that I know will give a fun performance no matter what he's in.

(There are almost no pictures online of him in this movie.  It's like a conspiracy
trying to keep me from knowing that he's in it or something.)

I also didn't know anything about the plot.  Basically, Lara Croft is a 20-something girl living almost on the streets, struggling to make enough money with a delivery job to pay her dues at the boxing center where she trains.  And then it turns out that actually, she's almost very rich.  Almost because, if she wants to inherit her dad's money, she has to declare him legally dead since he disappeared seven years ago.  And she doesn't want to do that.  So she's just scraping by instead. 

But then she discovers that her dad was secretly searching for this mysterious island where this freaky Japanese goddess of death is supposedly buried.  He wants to keep these other people from finding her and unleashing her powers of destruction on the world.  And that's where he went seven years ago, on a quest to protect the world from an ancient evil.

Lara, being extremely clever and good at solving puzzles and riddles of all sorts, figures out where he went.  And she goes after him.  She wants to at least find where he went, some sign that he was there, maybe even find his remains so she knows once and for all that he's truly gone.

She enlists the help of a boatman (Daniel Wu) to find the island, and once there, of course there's a tomb to raid and so on.  The movie as a whole has a very Indiana Jones vibe to it, WAY more than I remember the other two Tomb Raider movies having.  There are lots of traps, vague riddles, creepy ways to die, skeletons, and so on, plus gobs and gobs of Bad Guys.  Including one main bad guy played by Walton Goggins who was, to be honest, boring.  But at the same time, kind of interesting in his boringness because he wasn't some megalomaniac or obsessed fortune hunter or arch nemesis.  He was just a dude doing a job and wanting to go home.  He reminded me of a tame and boring Bruce Dern, actually.  Like, Bruce Dern on a non-spicy day.

And this Lara Croft is not super-human.  She fails at things.  She gets very hurt.  She gets tired.  It's altogether awesome and refreshing and... not entirely believable, but more believable than a lot of action movies, really.  Like Indiana Jones in that way too.

So anyway, it's a really fun movie, and I might actually go see it again if it's still playing in a few weeks.  I'd like to see it over now knowing all the twists to see how it works with that knowledge, because I'm pretty sure it will slot together beautifully like one of the puzzles Lara Croft has to solve in the movie. 

Is this movie family friendly?  There's a lot of Danger and Action and Scary Situations.  Lots of shooting and other violence, but it's non-gory.  A little bad language, some innuendo in dialog maybe?  No nudity, no love scenes.  Lara does run around in a tight tank top for most of the movie.  For teens and up, in other words.

Friday, March 09, 2018

"Hurt" and "Hamlet"

A word of warning: I just got back from seeing the encore presentation of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch and CiarĂ¡n Hinds at a movie theater with a friend, and it's 11:14pm.  I am, as usual following me imbibing in Hamlet, a little... widgety.  Weird and fidgety at the same time.  Drunk on immortal prose, basically.  It happens.  I marinate myself in Shakespeare for 3 hours and then I can't help but view the world in a different way for a while.

On the drive home, I was listening to this mix-CD I made myself back before I had kids in the car with me all the time.  One of the songs on it is "Hurt," the Johnny Cash version.  And as I was tooling along on the interstate in the dark, fueled with Hamlet's words and half a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels, it occured to me that wow, the lyrics of that song really speak to what's going on in this play.

And, because there is no way in Denmark I'm going to sleep for another 45 minutes or so, I'm going to attempt to share those thoughts with you in this post.  I haven't done poetry analyzation for a long, long time, but I'm pretty sure I still know how.

lyrics by Trent Reznor

I hurt myself today 
To see if I still feel.

Hamlet at the beginning of the play feels numb, so hurt by his father's death and his mother's hasty remarriage to his uncle that he's disconnected from those around him.  The man who meditates on self-destruction so poignantly is definitely a person who might hurt himself just to be sure he's still even alive.

I focus on the pain,
The only thing that's real.

Hamlet focuses on his own pain to an unhealthy degree, obsessing about his grief and anger despite the efforts of family and friends to pull him out of his funk.

The needle tears a hole -- 
The old familiar sting.

Okay, obviously Hamlet isn't a drug addict.  But he likes the familiar sting of self-reproach.  He's always yelling at himself for not doing the things he thinks he should be doing.

Try to kill it all away,

To be or not to be, that is the question.  Whether or not Hamlet can just rid himself of all the pain and angst by just killing himself.

But I remember everything.

Hamlet is obsessed with the fact that everyone else seems to have forgotten his father.  HE remembers everything.

What have I become,

Hamlet tries to figure out who he is now.  Son of a father murdered and a mother stained, nephew of a murderer.  What has he become?

My sweetest friend?

We, the audience, get to hear Hamlet unpack his heart with words.  In a way, we're his friend, the one who listens and tries to understand.

Everyone I know 
Goes away in the end.

Hamlet has abandonment issues.  His father left him by dying, his mother left him by marrying his uncle, his girlfriend broke up with him, and even his friend Laertes left him by going back to school, which Hamlet was forbidden to do himself.

And you could have it all:
My empire of dirt.

Hamlet calls mankind "a quintessence of dust."  He calls Denmark "a prison."  He doesn't want to be there, he doesn't want any part of those people or that rotten place he's trapped in.  He'd gladly be rid of the whole problem if he could.

I will let you down.
I will make you hurt. 

Hamlet hurts absolutely everyone around him.  He rants at his mother, pokes fun at Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Polonius to their faces, berates and derides Ophelia, denounces Claudius, sneers at Laertes' pain, and deals Horatio the cruelest blow of all by denying him the right to follow his friend in death.  

I wear this crown of thorns 

Does Hamlet have a savior complex?  He's pretty doggone convinced he's the only one who can fix this mess he's stuck in.  He never calls in outside help, never tells anyone but Horatio his suspicions.  And then he dies to free his people from the evils of his uncle's poisonous ways.

Upon my liar's chair,

Hamlet also lies throughout the play.  He tells Ophelia that he loved her once, and that he loved her never.  He tells her she should not believe what he says.  He pretends to be mad, he sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths with a lie.  He's so convinced of his own rightness, his own cleverness, that he's very careless with the truth.

Full of broken thoughts 
I cannot repair.

"These are but wild and whirling words."  Hamlet's very thoughts are sometimes broken, disarranged, almost impossible to follow.  His head is so full of broken thoughts he can't repair that it takes very little effort for him to appear mad.

Beneath the stains of time,
The feelings disappear.

Hamlet is very fixated on how Gertrude's love for her first husband seemed to die with him, to be forgotten within "a little month."  Her feelings disappeared, stained and painted over by time until they seemed to be erased.

You are someone else;
I am still right here.

Hamlet sees the world around him change almost overnight.  His mother becomes someone else by marrying his uncle.  The woman he loves suddenly repels his affection.  Guys he was friends with turn into spies.  It often seems like he's standing still and the whole of Denmark is caught in a whirlwind of change around him.

What have I become,
My sweetest friend?

These are the words he could very well address to Horatio.  Horatio knew him at the university in Wittenberg, and he would be able to see the changes in Hamlet.  Also, he's basically the sweestest friend anyone could ever have.

Everyone I know
Goes away in the end.

By the end of the play, every single person Hamlet was close to when he was growing up is dead.  His father, his mother, his uncle, his girlfriend, her father, and two of his friends, all gone.  Only his college buddy remains, and even he wanted to die too.

And you could have it all:
My empire of dirt.

Hamlet leaves everything to Fortinbras, who gets to swoop in and take over Denmark at the end. 

I will let you down.
I will make you hurt.

There are times in this play where Hamlet lets me down, where he makes me hurt.  He gets very bratty at times, and he behaves very badly toward Ophelia.  I have diffuculty liking him in certain scenes, even though I love him so dearly.

If I could start again 
A million miles away,

If only he hadn't been born in Denmark, hadn't been born to set right this disjointed time -- or if he could have stayed on that pirate ship and sailed far away to begin life anew -- what would he have been able to accomplish, that sharp-witted, fascinating man?

I would keep myself.
I would find a way.

At the very least, he might have been able to keep himself alive, to find a way out of the nutshell-prison of his own mind.

Okay, it's 11:56, and I think I've exhausted my ideas here.  I hope somebody found it interesting -- probably about two people will actually read this all the way to the end.  If you're one of them, I hope you don't now think I'm an utter loony.  Really not, just obsessed with Hamlet, you know :-)

And now, to sleep...

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Spring 2018 To-Do List

Things I want to do before the end of May.


~ Be done with the major revisions on Dancing and Doughnuts and close to publishing it

~ Read Loving Isaac by Heather Kaufman

~ Read 2 titles from my Classics Club list

~ Read 3 other books from my TBR shelves

~ Read 3 books from the library

~ Watch 5 movies from my TBW shelves

~ Go see Paul, Apostle of Christ if it's playing anywhere near me

~ Go see Tomb Raider

~ Go see Avengers: Infinity War


~ Go see Solo: A Star Wars Story

~ Get back into a blog-reading routine so I quit falling behind on all my favorite blogs

~ Order photos

~ Have my plans for VBS crafts solidified -- it's my first year as leader for crafts, and I have soooooooo many ideas!  Need to pick the crafts and be well into prepping them, as VBS at our church is in early July this year.


~ Plant milkweed and chickory in the gully behind our house to feed butterflies and bees

~ Make a cute terrarium out of the old fish tank I brought home from my parents' house

~ Try to make a ruffled-neck shirt like these out of a t-shirt I have that has a really wide and saggy neck that I hate.

Okay, those are my spring ambitions!  Anything you're looking forward to accomplishing this spring?  Are you excited about any of these movies?

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Winter To-Do List Wrap-Up

March blew in like a lion this week, and my daffodils are blooming (although, thanks to the violent winds this weekend, they no longer look this pretty), so I'd say spring has arrived and winter is over.  Which means it's time to report in on what I did and did not get checked off my Winter To-Do List.

~ Be done with the first draft of Dancing and Doughnuts, my "Twelve Dancing Princesses" retelling, and into revisions  Check!  I got revision notes back from my editor last month, and am now working out my ideas for the additions and changes I'll be making.  I posted this to Instagram a couple days ago, but here's a picture of what I did the other night:

I need to add a whole new character and a new side plot, and I've been struggling to figure out how to wrap my head around how they'll get woven into the story.  So I made index cards for every chapter, based on an idea my best friend mentioned she was doing.  Then I used different index cards for the new chapters I'd need, and a different color pen for the things I'd be adding to or changing in the existing chapters.  It really helped me figure out where I need to put things, and tonight I'll start the actual writing of new stuff!

~ Start a mailing list so people can easily get updates about what I'm writing and publishing  Check!  You can sign up at my author website, or with the widget in my sidebar here.  I've sent out two monthly newsletters already :-)  If you want to keep up on the various books and articles I write, definitely sign up!

~ Read 3 books from my TBR shelves  Check!  I read SIX.  Which is kind of astonishing to me, considering I also read twenty Snow White retellings for the Five Poisoned Apples contest, and they were between 5,000 and 20,000 words each.  Anyway, I read The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay, Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, The Story People by Heather Kaufman, The Brass Compass by Ellen Butler, Torrents of Spring by Ernest Hemingway, and Rapunzel's Guide to All Things Brave, Creative, and Fun by Suzanne Francis.

~ Read 2 books from the library  Check!  I read four:  No Middle Name by Lee Child, Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery, Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George, and The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood.

~ Watch 3 movies from my TBW shelves  Check!  I watched Enchanted (2007), Drum Beat (1954), and Memento (2000).  I also finished off season one of Leverage and watched all of the Michael Palin documentary Around the World in 80 Days (1989).

~ Make owl Christmas ornaments with my kids, who are obsessed with owls right now.  Check!  I don't have any pictures, but we made them with plastic Christmas ornament balls and paint and glitter glue and buttons.  Good times.

~ Go see Murder on the Orient Express quick before it leaves theaters  Fail.

~ Go see Star Wars: The Last Jedi Check.

~ Go see The Man Who Invented Christmas  Fail. 

~ Go see The Greatest Showman Check!  I loved it so, so much.  I took my kids to see it, and my daughters loved it so much themselves that I took just them to see it again.  So I saw it three times in theaters.  I could have seen it twice that often.  Cannot wait for it to come to DVD!  Meanwhile, I've got the whole soundtrack memorized, and so do my kids (though my son is tired of it now).  I got myself this shirt and got my daughters this poster and this one from RedBubble.

~ Go see Black Panther Check!  I really enjoyed it too.  It hit a lot of sweet spots for me and worked on so many levels.  I want to go see it again, though not sure if I'm going to manage it.

~ Finish the skirts and cape I'm supposed to be sewing for my kids  Check!  Sooooooooooo happy to be done with them, as I bought the fabric almost a year ago :-o

~ Repair/update the "mouse house"  Check!  Here's a picture:

I fixed a bunch of rips and drew on log-cabin walls.

~ Make "polar bear" marshmallows for our hot chocolate  Fail.

~ Make lavender hot chocolate  Fail.

~ Order photo prints  Fail.

~ Host an "I Love Superheroes Week" blog party in February  Check!  It was great fun, though I still haven't managed to read everyone's entries.  I'm getting to them, slowly but surely.  You can find links to them here.

Well, that was my to-do list.  Lots of checks, a few fails, but overall I'm pleased with how many goals I reached.  I'm working on new goals for this spring and will post about them soon.

How did your winter go?  Are you starting to feel spring in the air where you live?  Or maybe just in your heart?

Thursday, March 01, 2018

In Which I Take a Flying Leap Into the World of Instagram

Once in a while, I just jump off a cliff into a lake.  Metaphorically.  Usually I consider decisions for quite a while before making them, but once in a while, I do just decide to do something on a whim.  Three days ago, I joined Instagram.  It wasn't exactly a whim, as I've been curious about #bookstagram for a while, but when I read this post from Musings of Jamie, it really encouraged me to try Instagram out.  I considered it for about ten minutes and then went ahead and joined it!  Most of those ten minutes was spent figuring out if I should join under my own name or under Hamlette, and in the end, I decided it might be a good and fun way to interact with readers of my books, so I'm there under my real name.  You can find and follow me there @RachelKovaciny :-)

No sooner had I joined than I discovered an Instagram challenge revolving around J. R. R. Tolkien's stories.  #MiddleEarthMarch looks like it's going to be a ton of fun, and I've already done a post based on the first prompt today!  Here's a list of all the prompts:

I might not actually post something for each of those, we'll see.  But there's probably going to be a lot of Tolkien-related stuff from me this month, just so you know.  On a whole, though, I will probably end up posting about the same sorts of things I blog about:  books, my writing, movies, flowers, baking, etc.  I'm not very good at limiting myself to one or two subjects for things like this just because I have so many interests!

Anyway, if you're on Instagram and want to follow me, now you can :-)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

We Love Superheroes Week -- Giveaway WINNERS

Time to reveal the winners of the giveaway!  I maaaaaaay have gone just a little overboard with the prizes, as there were actually fewer people entering than there were prizes!  So I'm awarding all the big things to people, and I'll split up the random buttons and extra bookmark amongst the winners ;-)

Captain America: Civil War bookmark -- Kendra L.
Thor film cell bookmark -- Quiggy
Wonder Woman bookmark -- Gill J.
4 DC-themed buttons -- Amaris
Avengers-themed notebook + pin -- She is Modest/Sarah
Batman notepad + pencil -- John Smith
Wonder Woman notepad + pencil -- Eva S.
S.H.I.E.L.D. magnet + pin -- Liv K. Fisher
The Incredibles DVD -- Lois Tinuviel

Congratulations, all y'all!  I will email you later today to ask for your mailing addresses, so keep an eye out for that. 

And thank you so much, everyone, for all the fun we had all week long!  I know I'm really behind on reading everyone's posts, but I will get to them over the next couple days!  The ones I've read so far have been awesome :-)

We Love Superheroes Week -- Iconic Couples Quiz ANSWERS

Here are the answers to the Iconic Couples Quiz!  Scores are at the bottom.








Michelle G. -- 6
DKoren -- 5.5
Lissa -- 5
Gill -- 3.5
Amaris -- 3
Kendra L. -- 3

(I gave some half-points to people who described a character but didn't know their name[s].)