If you haven’t heard of Katrina Hill, who goes by the name of Action Flick Chick online, you’d expect someone with writing credits on notable geek oriented websites (such as MTVGeek and GeekNation) and who, based on her numerous online handles, seems to refer to herself as an action movie authority to produce a really slammin’ book about action movies. Unfortunately, Katrina’s debut title, Action Movie Freak, is the Batman and Robin of books. Hilarious to the right audience, but meant to be a serious take on the genre.
Now, I have read some of Katrina’s reviews on her website and for some reason, I had this modicum of hope that an honest-to-Old/New-Gods book would differ in quality from the posts at over actionflickchick.com. If you were expecting a well thought out book delving into the intracasies of the action genre, I’m sorry to say that this wont be the case. The entirety of Action Movie Freak runs off a metaphor that action movies are like perfectly cooked hamburgers, (because everyone obviously likes their hamburgers prepared the same way) with action subgenres referred to as various ingredients or food pairings, such as bad action being gristle, martial arts as the lettuce, or sci-fi as a side order of french fries. Rather than learn any new information, Action Movie Freak just left me itching to go to Steak ‘N Shake. Book review concluded.
…What? You need more than that? And I can’t just do a reaction gif post? Sigh. Fine.
If you happen to be one of Katrina’s 150,000 or so followers on Twitter and have ever wondered where the vague questions she posts about her fan’s opinions on action movies go, you’ll find that all of the answers from various uncredited Twitter followers make up the bulk of Katrina’s book. Action Movie Freak reads as a copy/pasted grocery list with no real depth. There was nothing engaging about Action Movie Freak, and I felt the entire time that I was being talked AT rather than TO, as a reader. Which is immediately off putting and my personal biggest no-no for the first impression of any book.
Within the first seven pages, the target audience of Action Movie Freak was extremely unclear. We were told in the ‘Introduction’ that this book was for all action lovers, however, I disagree. I couldn’t gather if it was for action n00bs, casual fans, or the hardest of core. Entirely too much of my time was wasted reading facts I’ve already learned about movies I’ve already seen. Other than the nostalgia factor of “Yeah, I was this young when I watched that,” or “Man, it’s been a bit since I’ve seen this one, maybe I should pop it in!” as an intermediate-lvl action fan, I can’t claim that I came away with any newfound knowledge after reading Katrina’s book.
And Kindle, Nook and various tablet owners: Beware! Action Movie Freak has an extemely annoying layout for e-readers. My poor Nook kept spazzing out and attempting to switch me to a different story every time I would attempt to open Action Movie Freak. Though minor things like layout can be ignored for the sake of a good read, there was nothing else prevelent enough to distract from an already lackluster experience. To borrow Katrina’s hamburger metaphor for a second (because I think that it is hilariously basic), if the layout is the bun for Katrina’s Action Movie Freak burger, let’s get to the real meat. Or imitation tofu, whatever the case may be.
“I want to see Chuck Norris roundhouse kick someone in the face for no reason!” – Katrina Hill, Action Movie Freak.
Though a character’s “Motive” is listed in Katrina’s top three ingredients to make a perfect action movie, there are more than a few times where Katrina simply contradicts those previous statements by not bothering to flesh out her argument at all. By that logic, any cringeworth crotch shot on YouTube classifies as “good action.” And based on the amount of times I’ve watched, “GO BWAHH” is leagues ahead of the pack as my number one ranked action flick of all time.
Call me crazy, but I really enjoy knowing the why’s. Since no one with a soul wants to see another human being hurt, it makes Chuck’s roundhouse kick that much more sweet when you as the viewer are going against your moral instincts and rooting for that kick to connect to the bad guy’s smug face. But no, great villians don’t care who they hurt, and the viewer doesn’t need to know his reasons, since they clearly have nothing to do with the character development involved that pushes them to make those decisions. We just wanna see generic dime a dozen baddies! Really, why bother having a writing team at all? All this talkin’ is gettin’ in the way’a my ESPLOSHUNS! /sarcasm
“As much as the hero should be loved, the villian (or baddies as I often refer to them as) should be hated.” – Katrina Hill, Action Movie Freak
Katrina spices up her otherwise simplistic statements with little quips like this to chuck into her bland narrative… as if no one on the face of the planet has ever referred to a villian as a “baddie.” Nope, she’s the first. There is another author I know of who made a habit of recycling the same adjectives over and over, and unless Katrina wants to go the route of the bedazzled vampires, I’d suggest Thesaurus.com become her new BFF.
More than a few of my favorite films were given the Lord of the Rings treatment and dumbed down the most basic of battles that everyone already knows about. This oversight could’ve been corrected by adding an opinion or some sort of new information to the otherwise dreary mix. Even the Star Wars saga, a franchise that has millions upon billions of researchable information at the very tips of Google, was only given an entire three paragraphs. I think I’ve heard writing like this before, from little Billy’s third grade essay about his cat, Mittens. “I have a cat. His name is Mittens. Mittens is black with blue eyes. Blue eyes are rare for a cat. Mittens is awesome. He is my best friend. The end.” While that kind of expose may reward little Billy for his attention to detail with a shiny gold star, for adult non-fiction it brings on the Zzz’s faster than a swig of Nyquil and listening to someone gush over what a great book 50 Shades of Gray is.
My dislike of Action Movie Freak was solidified when I reached the chapter (were they chapters?) on kung fu films. Though Bruce Lee got an entire mini section all to himself, his entire portion of space was just a vague fact list that could be found anywhere on the Interwebs. Coming from someone who has seen almost every Bruce Lee movie, fan site, documentary, and may or may not have a framed poster of his iconic stance from Enter The Dragon in my room, none of the points Katrina listed were things that I didn’t already know. As a kung fu fangirl, I was blinded by hope in the fact that Katrina would go beyond the normal factoids and maybe, oh I dunno, throw in a new opinion? Bruce Lee is a motherfucking icon, and you can’t manage to list more than his hometown or notable roles? Not even a mention of the conspiracy around which he died? Yeah, I’m done here.
Needless to say, Action Movie Freak reads like a horoscope. A bunch of vague statements that are so worried about being right that they end up giving you little-to-no real information, and leave you feeling more confused than you were in the first place about things you already knew. Toss in a bunch of blanket action statements followed by an exclamation of “awesome!” or “badass!” and you’ll find that the interest just seems to fizzle away. Maybe next time it can be packaged more like a fortune cookie… at least part of that is digestable.
Bottom line? Action Movie Freak was legitimately painful to read, though one will never know if the fault for that lies within Katrina herself or the Twitter followers she seems to get all of her generalized information from. If you want a well thought out review of your favorite action flick, head to IMDB. The authors there may not be published, but they give more credible information than Action Movie Freak, and they’re free.