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Sunday, December 25

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 25

Happy holidays from our (new) home to yours!

Wednesday, December 21

Last call! | 2016 Curtismas Card Exchange

Wednesday, December 21

If you haven't already—and want to, of course—don't forget to sign up for the 2016 Curtismas Card Exchange!

Fill out the form on this post to join the fun.

Monday, December 19

Ideas for the 2017 Man Calendar

Monday, December 19

As 2016 draws to a close, I find myself thinking of what might be in store for the new year. The state of politics in America, how we can hermetically seal older celebrities in safe rooms, and our new house (more on that soon!) certainly top my list.

But, perhaps most importantly, I also find myself thinking about who will grace the pages of the 2017 Man Calendar.

There are certain gentlemen who've been a part of the calendar since the beginning—I'm looking at you, Mr. Gyllenhaal—and others who were new for 2016. I haven't yet made up my mind on who all will be included next year, and would therefore love if you'd help me whittle down the many worthy contenders.

As a refresher, here's what the 2016 version looked like:

Have someone you think I should add? Leave their name in the comments. Photographic evidence to back up your claim isn't required, but it is appreciated.

Thursday, December 15

5 on 15 | Galaxy

Thursday, December 15

Learn more about the 5 on 15 project.

Monday, December 12

Nerd News | The Fate of the Furious

Monday, December 12

Vin Diesel and The Rock presented me with an early birthday gift last night:

It looks utterly ridiculous and hilariously over the top, which means that I'm going to love it. I don't love the whole "Dom being the bad guy," thing, but I'm positive there's a "good" reason behind his actions. And really, there's only so much this franchise hasn't done.

I mean. The title is The Fate of the Furious.

Also of note:

I'm so happy this doesn't seem to be another origin story. I adored Tom as Peter in Captain America: Civil War, so I'm very excited to see what Marvel does with his first "solo" movie.


Thursday, December 8

Haiku Revieu | Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Thursday, December 8
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Welcome back wizards
Not so much about the beasts
I want a Niffler

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

As a long time Harry Potter fan, I was excited about the possibilities of new movies set in the same wizarding world. At the same time, I was hesitant, as I think fans often are in cases like these. Will the new movies be good? Will they do the franchise—both books and movies—justice? Or will they be terrible, childhood-ruining events from which I will have to run, sobbing, and turn to drink to forget?

Thankfully, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them fell squarely in the "this is good" camp. I'm not entirely sure that it did the Harry Potter books/movies justice, but that's more because it felt like an entirely new animal rather than not living up to expectations. In fact, I had very little in the way of expectations going in, other than the hope that I'd enjoy it.

Fantastic Beasts is a darker, more adult movie than its Harry Potter predecessors. Although things got dark when Harry and Co. were battling Voldemort and his Death Eaters, Fantastic Beasts touches on themes of child and animal abuse and racism. But it's not a total bummer of a film, the titular fantastic beasts are for the most part adorable, and you can't help but root for the main quartet of Newt Scamander, Tina and Queenie Goldstein and Jacob Kowalski.

I particularly enjoyed the quirky way Eddie Redmayne portrayed Newt. His mannerisms were somewhat bizarre, but watching him with his beasts was heartwarming. And I loved that this was the first Harry Potter movie that made it a point to talk about how wizards work with muggles—I still don't love the Americanized "no-maj" term—going so far as to have a completely non-magical main character in Dan Fogler's Kowalski.

I would have liked more about the beasts and where to find them—I'm hoping for a buddy movie where Newt and Jacob (along with Tina and Queenie) go on adventures to rescue beasts. And I didn't really love the Graves plot line, nor his creepy sexual predator vibes, but I understand that it was necessary to set up future things. And (highlight for spoilers), I am really on the fence about Johnny Depp's Grindelwald. As much as I used to adore Johnny in roles and years past, he hasn't been truly great for a while, and I worry that he'll turn the character into a too-weird joke.

But really, what I wanted most out of this film was to be able to forget about the real world for a couple of hours, and my experience was exactly that. I look forward to revisiting this world in the movies to come.

Check it out:

Tuesday, December 6

The 2016 Curtismas Card Exchange

Tuesday, December 6

Happy holiday season, friends!

For the past six years, I've held a holiday card exchange with friends—both online and IRL—from around the world. Receiving holiday cards is one of my favorite parts of the holiday, and I like to pay it forward.

If you'd like to receive a card from The Murtis* this holiday season, please fill out the form below. (International addresses welcome!)

And if you're willing and able to send a card to us in return, we'd love it! Just add your email address to the bottom of the form and I'll email you our mailing address.

Full disclosure: Due to current life craziness, cards might be sent out closer to New Years' than Christmas. But they will get sent!

I hope to see your name on the exchange list!

*The Murtis = Murray (my maiden name) + Curtis. It's a nickname that we were given before we got married, and it stuck.

Monday, December 5

Nerd News | BABY GROOT

Monday, December 5

OK, yes. We've seen Baby Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 teaser, but there's so much more of his adorable self in the longer trailer that dropped over the weekend!

I CAN'T DEAL. I've watched it at least five times now.

Question: Do y'all think they (meaning the movie's crew) planned to call Baby Groot Baby Groot before everyone (meaning the world) started calling him that? Not that it matters, but I kind of love the idea that fans inspired the choice.

Also of note:
  • A trailer for the live-action Beauty and the Beast released mid-November, and it looks fantastic. Beauty and the Beast was my fave animated Disney movie growing up, so I'm really hoping this new version does it justice.
  • Here's a teaser trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a new movie (based on a French graphic novel) from The Fifth Element director Luc Besson.
  • And a trailer for Kong: Skull Island, which looks way more comedic than I expected.
  • If you're super excited for Mass Effect: Andromeda, like I am, you might want to check out this gameplay trailer.1
  • FINALLY someone's realized the merchandising potential of creating actual—not "inspired by, not vaguely reminiscent of—jackets like those in the movies *cough*still waiting for a Pacific Rim bomber *cough*: Columbia is releasing a line of Rogue One jackets.2

1 Thanks, Colt!
2 Swiped from Rebecca's, FB.

Friday, December 2

Recently Read | September/October 2016

Friday, December 2
I'm not sure where November went, but ...

What did I read during the months of September and October?

Top Read

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

If you haven't read the first in the Six of Crows duology, Six of Crows, I implore you to do so. And although the books take place in the same "universe" as Bardugo's other series, The Grisha Trilogy, you don't have to read those to jump into this series (but I would suggest you do so as well).

Bardugo is a master at world building, and creating characters with both heart and spirit. The crew in Crooked Kingdom are glorious examples of her brilliant characters; they're misfits and criminals who do what they do for all the right reasons. And the story is wonderful, too. It's a heist tale with larger, life-changing implications plus a good dose of swoon.

I challenge you not to immediately fall in love with the characters in Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom, and Bardugo's unique writing style.

Honorable mentions

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Going into this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. It's a magical realism novel that deals with real-life issues of gender and sexual identity and family ties. Not my typical fare—that's more science fiction and fantasy novels—but something about the description intrigued me.

That intrigue stuck with me throughout the book, and after I finished reading, I had to sit for a moment and try to process what I'd just read. When the Moon Was Ours is an absolutely lush novel that both broke my heart a little and gave me hope.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition—the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Full disclosure: I have a love/hate relationship with Stiefvater. I find her kind of insufferable in person, but her writing is a gift. I adore her Raven Cycle, and had heard many good things about The Scorpio Races, but hadn't found the time to check it out.

Until, that is, recently (obviously), when I chose it as one of my "for fun" reads on a flight. And, not unexpectedly, the book was an absolutely delightful read. The plot is set out of time and place, but it's also familiar and believable. It's so magical, and yet feels like it could actually happen/have happened. I so badly want to attend the Scorpio Races and hang out with Sean and Puck.

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee

Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.

Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.

Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.

I love a novel about the power of books, and characters who love books are the kind of people I want in my life. (Even if they are fictional.) Sefia is definitely one of those people, even if she's only just learning how amazing books are.

The Reader is a fun, engaging read that will take you on an adventure. And there are pirates involved!

Other reads


Disruption (Disruption #1) by Jessica Shirvington | Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas | Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer | Like a River Glorious (The Gold Seer Trilogy #2) by Rae Carson | The Masked City (The Invisible Library #2) by Genevieve Cogman | Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter


Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice (The Austen Project #4) by Curtis Sittenfeld | Aerie (Magonia #2) by Maria Dahvana Headley


Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway | Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl

If you've read any of these titles, I'd love to hear what you thought! And, have you read anything lately that you'd recommend?

Thursday, December 1

Hello, December

Thursday, December 1

Download this page of the 2016 Man Calendar for personal use by clicking on the image; it will open in a new window. Right/control click to save it. Then print the page on letter-size cardstock, and trim it to 6"x9".

Desktop version:

Download full-size version here.

The 2016 Man Calendar:

Mr. December: Jake Gyllenhaal
Mr. November: Bob Morley
Mr. October: Tom Hardy
Mr. September: Idris Elba
Mr. August: Chris Hemsworth
Mr. July: Benedict Cumberbatch
Mr. June: Chris Pratt
Mr. May: Henry Cavill
Mr. April: Chris Evans
Mr. March: Jensen Ackles
Mr. February: Tom Hiddleston
Mr. January: Lee Pace

Friday, November 18

Haiku Revieu | Arrival

Friday, November 18

Amy Adams shines
Aliens are not like us
This film gives me hope

A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

Before seeing Arrival, I was worried that this was going to be one of the type of alien movies I don't like, movies like District 9 in which humanity is The Absolute Worst and after watching I feel like utter crap about the entire human race. I know humans aren't the best, overall, but I prefer a little bit of "humanity" in my alien movies; i.e., there can be some bad guys, but their actions are balanced by the good ones.

Thankfully, I was wrong. Arrival is a stunning, hopeful movie that shows what we could do, "if only."

I won't go into too much detail, because this is definitely a movie I don't want to spoil for those of you who want to see it. But I might recommend not watching when you're having a particularly emotional day, because this is a heavy film. (We saw it the day after the election, and suffice it to say, I was a mess afterward.)

Amy Adams is glorious in the film, and completely steals the show. Her co-star, Jeremy Renner, is good, too, but Amy absolutely shines. The entire supporting cast, which also includes Forest Whittaker, could have been faceless mannequins and the movie still would have been wonderful. I truly hope she gets some sort of award for the role, because it's utterly deserved.

If you're in any way a fan of thoughtful science fiction, please do yourself a favor and see this film. (Side note: The trailer might make it seem a little scary, what with the alien hitting the glass with its appendage, but it's not like that at all. No jump scares, I promise.)

Check it out:

P.S.—Part of my brain kept confusing this movie with The Arrival, an alien movie from the 90's starring Charlie Sheen. It's terrible, but also worth a watch in that "SyFy movie of the week" kind of way.

Wednesday, November 16

Neville Longbottom: The (Not) Chosen One

Wednesday, November 16

Hey friends!

I recently wrote a piece for Birth. Movies. Death. as part of their celebration of Harry Potter prior to the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The piece was meant for a possible magazine, but was published online instead. Which is a good thing, all in all, since that means that I get to share it with a wider audience—including you!

Head over to Birth.Movies.Death. to read my piece, and check out the rest of the great Harry Potter Week content while you're there!

Tuesday, November 15

5 on 15 | Magic

Tuesday, November 15

Learn more about the 5 on 15 project.

Monday, November 14

A Nerdy World Turns Two

Monday, November 14
Today, this little ol' blog turns two years old. And, you might notice, I treated it to a makeover for the occasion.*

I'd love to know what you think of the new look—and, going into ANW's third year, I'd love to know what you'd like to see more of around here. Head to the comments and leave me some love and/or constructive criticism.

(I updated the last few posts for the new look, but haven't gone further than the front page. So if your comments have something to do with cleaning them up, know that it's on the list of things to fix already. 😜)

*If you're reading this in a reader like Feedly or Bloglovin', click through to see the changes.

Friday, November 11

Haiku Revieu | Doctor Strange

Friday, November 11
Doctor Strange

Benedict is Strange
Marvel meets mysticism
"I've come to bargain"

A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Y'all know how I feel about Marvel movies (click if you're new here), so it should come as no surprise that I was excited about Doctor Strange. I'm also a fan of Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch, so the combination of the two was definitely enticing.

But before we get into my thoughts on the movie, I want to recognize the discussion that surrounded some of the casting in Doctor Strange. Many people called Marvel out for casting white actors—specifically Tilda Swinton—in roles that should have been given to an actor of color. I understand and respect the cries of cultural appropriation. (Read more about the situation here.) As a white woman, I can't empathize with this situation, but I can and do certainly sympathize with it. And I'm sorry that this continues to be an issue in Hollywood.

Casting issues aside, I thought Doctor Strange was a fun experience. It's very different from previous Marvel movies, but I love that Marvel is taking chances on such "out there" material. As Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) said in the movie, the Avengers protect the physical parts of Earth, and they (Mordo, etc.) protect the "other" parts.

I'm not familiar with any Doctor Strange comics, so I have no clue how the movie was in comparison to comic storylines, but the casting team did get one thing right: Benedict Cumberbatch looks so much like all versions of Stephen Strange I've seen (even the more emo/Criss Angel-looking ones from recent animated series). His performance, too, was great. It wasn't the most nuanced thing I've ever seen him do, but Strange's transition from self-centered surgeon to hero was wholly believable, and Benedict did well at both the more serious parts and the humorous ones.

I liked the rest of the cast too; issues aside, I loved Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One (but I love her particular brand of kooky in general); Chiwetel was intriguing as Mordo, and I'm very interested to see where his character goes from here; and Mads Mikkelson was fantastically maniacal as Kaecilius. (I'm sure he's tired of being typecast as a villain, but he's just so good at that sort of role!)

I really dug the Inception-like weirdness of the movie's graphics, but at times, the CG was really, distractedly bad. Thankfully, those moments weren't many, and didn't really detract from the plot as a whole. The plot itself wasn't overly complex, but served as a good introduction/origin story to the characters and how they intertwine with the rest of the Marvel characters we already know and love.

And I really loved the first post credits scene, which (highlight to reveal spoilers) has me thinking that we'll see Doctor Strange team up with Thor and Loki in Thor: Ragnarok. I am all about Benedict and Tom Hiddleston acting opposite one another.

All in all, a fun movie, and a good addition to the Marvel franchise. Definitely one to see in theaters, too, if only for the graphics.

Check it out:

Monday, November 7

Nerd News | Mass Effect: Andromeda trailer

Monday, November 7
Happy N7 Day, y'all! And a happy day it is, since the Bioware gods have gifted us this new trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda:

I've written about this before, but Mass Effect means a lot to me. The original trilogy is the first video game series I've ever played all the way through. The story sucked me in from beginning to end—yes, even the damned Mako missions—and I'll always have a special place in my nerd heart for Commander Shepard and crew. So saying that I'm a little excited for a new visit to the ME universe is a bit of an understatement.

After Colt sent me the link to the trailer, I responded thusly (in green):

Also, please notice his excitement, too. We make an excellent pair.

Learn more about the game, and the Andromeda Initiative, here.

Also of note:
  • Beauty and the Beast is my favorite of all the Disney princess movies, and the recently released photos of the live action version has Younger Mandy feeling quite giddy.
  • This new Wonder Woman trailer gives me hope.
  • I hadn't heard of the new Ryan Gosling/Emma Stone movie La La Land until recently, but after seeing this trailer, I am so on board.
  • Here's a trailer for John Wick 2, which also looks awesome. I loved the first movie—minus the incident that set John off in the first place, which still makes me choked up just thinking about it—and had hoped that we'd get to visit the the crazy, assassin-filled world again.