Category Archive: Reviews

Reviews of all kinds

Mar 15 2015

Neil Simon’s Murder by Death

I’ve seen this movie as a kid but only in part and, being a kid, did not know who the characters were supposed to be and couldn’t really enjoy it (interestingly, I did remember a good deal of it including the fact that the DVD that was lent to me of it had one missing scene, and it wasn’t even included on the special features!). It is a cute little story about thinly veiled great detectives of fiction put to the test to solve a murder. Still, probably cause it is dated, it isn’t hysterically funny, and the mystery involved isn’t clever enough for those who read enough mysteries to find the meta-contextual commentary particularly interesting. Not bad, but certainly not good enough to fully recommend. 

 

Mar 14 2015

Rex Libris (vol 2): Book of Monsters – James Turner

The second collection of the adventures of the titular character. In his never ending mission to protect the books of his library, Rex gets sucked into a book of monsters and has to navigate past (without a proper categorization system!) the various beasts in order to rescue a library patron. There are also other, shorter stories–even one with Cthulhu! The work of a librarian is never dull nor done! This was a fun romp, if not very deep in plot, which might be due to the series ending (low sales and knowing you’re being canceled can easily take a creator’s energy away). I’m sad to see it go.

Mar 13 2015

Lenore: Pink Bellies – Roman Dirge

It is long past time there was another Lenore comic, and while I’m furious about the delay, Pink Bellies is absolutely hysterical. If you haven’t read any of these comics before this may not be the best collection to pick it up, but with its delightfully silly art–coupled with images that show just how talented Dirge actually is as an artist–wonderfully colored, and just nonstop hilarity in terms of an insane action adventure romp, fighting super-soldiers and ancient gods, it is hard to beat. Lenore is about a little dead girl, roughly based on the poem on by Edgar Allan Poe, who is more than a little nuts, and a collection of friends–for lack of better word–that don’t so much go on adventures but deal with nonsense that tends to happen to them, not that they’re completely innocent of these happenings. I realize I keep using terms akin to hilarious and insane to describe this comic, but I think you will find them very apt. 

Mar 12 2015

Agent Carter

Peggy Carter, if you recall, was the love interest of Captain America before he disappeared at the end of WWII, now it’s 1946 and she is trying to make it on her own in the American spy agency the SSR. This first season has the future father of Iron Man accused of treason with only her (and his butler) to prove his innocence, but can she both unravel the mystery and fight the stereotypes against women? I can’t say I’m particularly moved by the show. It’s trying not to get too wrapped up in the world of Marvel and be just a good spy show that also deals with women’s inequality issues, but I can’t say it is very good at that, so why not give us a little more in terms of Marvel hints (don’t tell me you can’t due to the time distance)?

Mar 11 2015

Better Call Saul

I didn’t think I’d care much for the spinoff of Breaking Bad, which takes place after that series ends but is a prequel giving the story of the shady attorney, Saul, (best line in Breaking Bad “you don’t need a criminal attorney, you need a criminal attorney”), and yet even though I’ve only seen a couple of episodes, I am greatly enjoying seeing how Saul became the man he is (or “was”? it’s tough with the time flow). Strange, considering the lack of suspense that prequels have, I suppose that is a credit to the writing and acting.

 

Mar 10 2015

Marco Polo

This Netflix original series it is often very pretty to look at and has quite a degree of action and naked breasts, but for a story about the historical explorer, it has much to be desired, such as historical accuracy.

 

Mar 09 2015

Parks and Recreations

While I have vaguely known about this show for a while, it wasn’t until I was at a Popular Culture Association panel, wherein its comedically anti-librarian stance was discussed, that I first really learned about it. Since then it was espoused by both CEJ and Katie, so I finally decided to give it a try (and I was desperate for 20 minutes breaks in-between phD study). The first season, which is a paltry six episodes as opposed to the 20+ of subsequent seasons, introduces us to Leslie and the parks department, run by an Antigovernment libertarian/tea party-ist, but quite the manly outdoorsman, and an array of various incompetent but lovable government employees. Leslie is the deputy director, has energy, motivation, and upbeat personality of the perfect government employee, basically allowing her to single-handedly run the entire department. The show is quite enjoyable, filled with zany moments of a government overwhelmed by absurdist citizens and foolish employees with plenty of moments for laughter, character development, romance, and all the stuff that makes for fun lighthearted television. I especially enjoy where they subtly but not so subtly but too subtly for my own taste interject real world government nightmares to illustrate a point or make a political commentary. If I had to lodge a complaint (and which department would I lodge that with, please?) It would be the typical one of all successful shows: budgets increase and therefore secondary cast members get replaced with better looking versions (for a town that is supposed to be the fourth fattest in America, there’s a lot of hot people there) and the once goofy absurdist bad luck that happens to various characters gets replaced into upbeat happy ending stories. Why? Because we come to love the characters and we want them to be happy as opposed to our original feelings which were that we enjoyed their buffoonery and the floundering around that is typical of life (although I guess Jeff is exception to this change). I am impressed that I managed to keep up-to-date somewhat on my PhD work as well as watch six seasons (now in its final 7th) of the show within the semester. The show has shifted a little too much from its roots (the original plot was to build a park), which, again, I guess is to be expected, yet season six was really all over the place and none of those places were very good (there is always a problem when you shuffle cast members and bring in babies). Give it a try.

Mar 08 2015

The Count of Monte Cristo – adapted by R. Jay Nudds

Ok, you know I had to read a comic version of the story after I read the original. This adaptation isn’t bad, and gives a relatively good summary of the events. However, there are many characters and a reader can lose track of them not having spent fifty pages on any one of them and instead simply remembering who is who by their illustration. Additionally, the power and depth of Edmund’s revenge plans and the feeling of empathy for him (and even the “victims”) are difficult, again due to the necessary shortness of the comic version. 

Mar 07 2015

The World’s End

The duo who brought us the quintessential zombie parody, and a very funny cop buddy parody, bring us this exceptionally bad parody of sci-fi alien invasion bodysnatchers etc. etc. It revolves around a group of friends, one of who has never really grown up, that get together to do a pub crawl and inadvertently discover replicants amongst us. I could go on but the movie is just really pretty poor so why bother talking more about it?

 

Mar 06 2015

Samurai Jack

Stylishly drawn and beautifully painted, this cartoon by Genndy Tartakovsky who points out that cartoons people like us grew up with (I’m looking at you Super Friends) actually had very little action, so he wished to make one with plenty of it, but at the same time not being a spastic mess. He definitely succeeded. This is a story of a samurai with a magic sword dedicated to destroying a great evil named Aku (Japanese for evil). When originally fighting the creature, the shape changing alien Aku used his magic to send the young samurai into the future, thereby ensuring there was nothing to stop him from world domination. Now the samurai, who goes by the name Jack, travels the world righting wrongs, fighting the forces of Aku, and seeking a means to return to him own time and defeat Aku, thus undoing all his evil.

Here are the huge problems I have with the cartoon: Jack often sacrifices himself to do good deeds at the expense of accessing time portals, but the whole point is that if he can return home the future he is in will not exist, making the sacrifices meaningless. But hey, it’s a cartoon. That’s what brings my second problem and I don’t remember seeing this now common trope before this point. Just about all the bad guys on the show are robots and Jack chops them up relentlessly. All that’s fine, after all, they are just robots and so violence against them doesn’t really mean anything. The trouble is that these same robots have personalities and survival instincts much like anyone else (and often look more human than the life forms now running around our planet), so doesn’t that make them “real”? I wonder if seeing constant violence done again others under the excuse that they aren’t “real” as it’s just a cartoon might have negative consequences. It reminds me of the Star Wars’ prequels wherein robots and clones die en mass but they all have distinct traits just like any individual. Anyway, it is a fine cartoon and I wonder why it ended.

Mar 05 2015

Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United

Or should it be Heroes United: Iron Man…? Anyway, it seems that Marvel is making a series of poorly computer animated, straight to video (is that even the expression any more?), films (is that even the expression any more?). This one takes our title characters and pits them against (besides each other (which is a staple of Marvel)) the Nazi/Hydra leader Red Skull and Taskmaster (who can copy anyone’s combat moves). I do like that these films seem to include some lesser known characters–although Taskmaster is the main, behind the scenes, villain in the cartoon Ultimate Spider-Man, so maybe he has risen to B lister. The obvious problem is that these low budget movies are sort of thrown together in, I suspect, a day, at least the writing seems to suggest that, which mean that the movie just isn’t very good, but, again, with a low budget, I’m sure no one in the industry cares. I do like that Drs Fump and Cruler seem to be comic repeat characters for this series.

Mar 04 2015

Cast Away on the Letter A: A Philemon Adventure – Fred

Apparently, Fred is a big shot in France but this is the first of his works that I read. It is an absurdist comic about a young boy that gets sent to a magical world and must figure out a way to get back home. There’s obviously more to this plot, and the art is quite good; however, I can’t say I was particularly moved by it. The very factors that would make someone enjoy this comic are the things that kept me away, such as the surrealist storyline and the over-stylized art. It’s not for everyone but it may just be for you. 

 

Mar 03 2015

Gravity

So here’s a movie I should have seen on the big screen due to wonderful F/X. Dr. Stone is on her first space mission while commander Kowalsky is on his last, and just when everything seem fine, utter disaster strikes destroying their station and leaving them trapped in space. Very strong and disorienting visuals coupled with some fine acting makes it worth watching, and makes me second guess any desire to go into space.

Mar 02 2015

The Punisher (vol 8): Widowmaker – Garth Ennis

I liked this collection about the vigilante, The Punisher, better than most. Probably because Ennis had to work with his secondary characters to make them have motive and personality to explain why one group of women are getting together to take out The Punisher, another woman who appears to be crazy is tailing them, and a cop who should be a hero is caught up in the middle of it. Still, typical Ennis Punisher stories have to have the following: black people speaking Ebonics, women have to be almost exclusively crazy and/or slutty, rape victims, most of the backstory has to be given in exposition, and there must be a major body count. 

Mar 01 2015

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch – Joseph Delaney

Book one of a series of who knows how many young adult tales about 13-year-old Tom, a boy who, like his mother, has supernatural gifts, such as being able to hear and see the restless dead. Being the seventh son of the seventh son in classic fairy tale lore, makes him a fine choice to be sent off to be trained by a Spook, a person whose job it is to deal with ghosts, witches, and other supernatural problems. The story itself is fine enough, decently written with interesting characters, drama, suspense, and enough problems and actions to keep you interested. Can I say that I’m intrigued enough to want to continue reading the series? I haven’t decided that. 

Feb 28 2015

The Spectre: Tales of the Unexpected – David Lapham

A former cop is now the human inhabitant of the spirit of vengeance, The Specter, and is tasked in Gotham city to kill various people involved in a gruesome murder. I just made this comic sound much better than it was. It was very short and I still did not enjoy it. 

 

Feb 27 2015

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Papa Midnite – Mat Johnson

What a long title for a book that didn’t do what it should have. It is a great idea to tell the 1700’s origin of the Voodoo hood, Papa Midnite, and to learn about his powers and immortality, within a historical context. However, I am uncertain if the NY slave uprisings Johnson writes about have a factual basis (and I need to feel it in the text, not by looking it up), but more to the point the story itself was all over the place, never painting a full picture or truly providing depth of character. 

Feb 26 2015

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell’s book is based on the idea that most decisions can and are made unconsciously and correctly almost instantly. Don’t misunderstand, the reason why this can and does happen is largely due to training and certain universals. If a person spends their entire life working in art history, there is a good chance they might recognize a forgery instinctively before they are able to communicate why they consciously believe a work is a forgery. This is due to an abundance of training. Likewise, it is suggested that all humans have certain facial expressions in common and some people can instinctively recognize these expressions and thus learn information about people without ever actually having to meet them or interact with them (such as just seeing a silent video of a person). While the information is very interesting in this book, I’m also concerned about it. It seems like people could hear about these theories and decide that instincts will serve them better than thinking through various processes (like how Republicans appeal to gut reactions to promote their agenda despite evidence to contradict their claims). Additionally, there seems to be an awful lot of examples of where these instincts go horribly, horribly wrong, to the point where I feel the examples used are rather hit or miss, in that you can look at any situation and find evidence to support this theory and find evidence of where this theory has gone wrong through “inappropriate” use of instinct. (And since this is my gut feeling about the situation I must be 100% correct.) There is also a section in the text wherein he discusses how the mind can be manipulated, for example how making margarine the same color as butter allows the mind to think it taste the same as butter. But later on he gives the example of how people’s biases made them think that women do not play classical music as well as men. But based on his earlier example, isn’t it then possible the people’s minds did actually make them hear women playing worse than men because their minds have been conditioned and not simply due to some silly bias? He seemed to have missed his own concept.

Feb 24 2015

Luke Cage: Noir – Mike Benson & Adam Glass

Luke Cake, AKA Power Man, the man with steel skin, gets out of prison just in time to investigate the murder of a white woman in Harem during Prohibition. I enjoyed this noir tale of Power Man, and agree with Cory that it is the best of the series, even if I thought there were a few points where the story slipped (eg you can’t dent a metal door by pulling a man’s face into it by his nose, the nose would rip off first). 

Feb 23 2015

Mike Tyson’s Mysteries

Yes, you read that right. It’s a 60s style cartoon about a gay ghost, a human in a pigeon’s body, an adopted Chinese girl, and of course Mike Tyson himself, who all go around and solve mysteries (sort of). Yes, it is ridiculous, and not particularly great, but do I laugh out loud during this 12 minutes show? Yeah, and that’s what makes it worth it. Take a look at the show here.

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