Category Archive: Reviews

Reviews of all kinds

Jul 09 2014

Daredevil (vol 8-10) – Brian Michael Bendis

So I had written a very long, very negative review of these comics. Something happened to the point that not only was my review not saved, but not even the titles in the heading got saved. Maybe that is for the best. I really, REALLY didn’t like this run of comics. I read comics because I want to see the juxtaposition between art and language, not to read poorly written speeches with some odd ball illustrations. I honestly can’t remember the specifics of these volumes, and that is fine. I wish I hadn’t read them and urge you not to, at least some tech problems have saved you from reading this review.

Jul 08 2014

Orphan Black

What a role of a lifetime. Tatiana Maslany plays a woman who is a series of clones, that is she gets to play (so far about) a dozen different personalities that all look just like her, well, with cosmetic differences. The show is rather over the top in its ridiculousness, with clones from all different walks of life getting caught up in various conspiracies of cut-throat groups trying to unravel the secrets of the cloning process (and more), but that is part of the fun. While it is annoying that the clones are so much more capable than, well, just about everyone else, what really disturbs me is the idea that one of the clones is a lesbian. The inadvertent implication behind this is that homosexuality is determined by one’s upbringing, since, after all, the clones are all biologically the same, but all have unique upbringings. Therefore, narrow minded homophobes might be correct when they say that a gay couple will produce a gay child, or that gays might influence straits, or that a gay person can be made straight. I realize that this is far beyond what the creators were thinking, but I do want to point out the dangers of sloppy writing.

Jul 07 2014

Vikings

When I first started watching this show about Ragnar Lothbrok, a famous Viking (that means Norseman who raids (that means plunder, rape, and kill)), I greatly enjoyed it. It was bloody, brutal, and had epic fight scenes, so I overlooked the lapses in historical accuracies to just enjoy the insanity. Unfortunately, the show has shifted into foolish soap opera nonsense with silly plots within sillier plots mainly revolving around people being mad at each other for not being nice to them. As the show continues, the passage of time seems to mean nothing, as not only do some people not age, but they actually lose grey hair, while others seamlessly abandon lifelong dedications, and we all forget about the various murders, rapes, slavery, torture, and other unspeakable acts because the writers want us to like the characters rather than make them real. Viking “culture” and exploration is amazing and it is a shame the show doesn’t remain focused.

Jul 06 2014

Daredevil (vol 6-7): Lowlife & Hardcore – Brian Michael Bendis

Thank goodness these collections of stories about the blind but super-powered vigilante had lots of boring talking and very little action or it might have been a shock to my system. I was glad to see Bendis use such D list villain like the Owl and Typhoid Mary, but so little happens in his stories it is killing me. Ok, volume 7 was a little better as there were fight scenes to break up the pages of conversation (even if people would never speak like that), but why does Bullseye have to look like the crappy movie version of the character and wasn’t the Kingpin blind a minute ago? Why does he look like the fat Brando? Why does the art radically change in issue #50? Why does it take 4 trades to tell a story that would be long winded in 3? 

Jul 05 2014

Captain America: No Escape & The Trail of Captain America – Ed Brubaker

You might want to read Cej’s review here although I have a slightly different take, mainly because I enjoyed it more. The son of Nazi Baron Zemo wants to mess with former and current Captain America by forcing the the new Captain/Winter Soldier/Buckey to face the wrongs he’s done and his clear inferiority to his mentor. Of course Zemo could simply kill him, but where’s the fun in that? In The Trail of Captain America, our hero has to deal with the legal fallout of Zemo and the Red Skull’s daughter (Sin) as they continue to mess with the Captain. They are interesting stories with good focus of heroes and villains, but I feel that it is leading up to something that hasn’t happened yet, but should happen soon. 

Jul 03 2014

Daredevil (vol 4-5): Underboss & Out – Brian Michael Bendis

Cej lent me some of his trades about the blind lawyer slash vigilante with heightened senses. Sadly, these should have been skipped. Trying to be like Frank Miller before he went totally nuts, Bendis has DD outed, not to the Kingpin but to the world and now he has to deal with the fallout. These books are Bendis at his worst: panels chock filled with monologues that go on for pages without interruption, about a dozen guest appearances of villains and heroes that amount to little at best, and the fact that in these two trades nothing really happen. These shouldn’t be called “The Man Without Fear!” but the books without action. 

Jul 01 2014

Mystique – Brian K Vaughan

I was disappointed with this first collection about the mutant shape changer assassin who gets forced to work for her do good nemesis Professor X. The stories aren’t anything special and the character development you’d expect with a book focusing mainly on one character is lacking. It also doesn’t help that all the tasks mystique is required to do could be done better and faster by Professor X and his mental powers to control minds.

Jun 28 2014

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear – Urban Jungle – David Liss

Wait, what? So The former king of the formerly rich and powerful African nation who formerly had super-powers has come to NYC to “find himself” and help the blind Daredevil (former lawyer, former gang leader, and formerly possessed by a demon) find himself by replacing him as vigilante of hell’s kitchen area of Manhattan (PS hardly the worst neighborhood in NYC). The “new” Daredevil tackles a crime lord called Vlad the Impaler who has some sort of electrical power, with rather mixed results. Oh, and Luke Cage shows up. Whatever.

Jun 27 2014

Plato and a Platypus

It can be difficult to take complex ideas and make them accessible, but in Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar Cathcart and Klein walk the reader through a first year philosophy course using an easy-breezy style and lots of humor. Okay, the humor isn’t that funny (most of it is pretty groan-worthy, in fact), but it does serve to reinforce their basic thesis: philosophy may be a bit nutty, but it shouldn’t be intimidating. Anyone can understand the basics—in fact, if you have a sense of humor, you already understand the most important concepts.

I’m always a little skeptical whether these types of books are better as a primer or as a refresher course, but Plato is an easy (and comprehensive) enough read that I’d recommend it to anyone who was interested in philosophy but had no idea where to begin.

Cathcart, Thomas, and Klein, Daniel. Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. New York: Abrams Image, 2007.

Jun 24 2014

Turn

During the revolutionary war there was a really bad farmer, husband, son, and father, Abe Woodhull, who gets convinced to spy on behalf of the patriots (mainly due to childhood friendship and a hot woman (not as hot as his wife)). I really want to like this show as I greatly enjoy American history and spy dramas, but this period piece just isn’t very good or believable–too much soap opera. I hope it might get better, but it seems too half hearted to get anywhere; shame since the real time period and events are amazingly interesting.

Jun 21 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

[No, I don't know why there are different font sizes here.] This review is really for people that have seen/read at least the first installment of the movies/books. You can look at my first movie review or jump to my review of the trilogy in order to get you started, but the end result is that I just saw the second movie of the Hunger Games series of the same name and did enjoy it–but with the same problems as before. As mentioned, the book has some difficulties packing in so much history and conspiracy as well as character development for people who, for the most part, are as DOA; movies, naturally have an even harder time of that, and I didn’t really get how anyone who didn’t read the books would understand or enjoy the movie when there are so many gaps to fill. Also as mentioned, I enjoyed it because (besides the F/X and other nice visuals and pretty good acting) I could fill in the pieces (even if it has been years since reading it). 

Jun 18 2014

Man of Steel

Fighting Jesus takes on Battlestar Galactica with guest appearances from some of The Matrix and HBO shows’ cast members. Ok, not really, but this movie of the last son of a dying world that comes here to help us all with super powers has too many spaceship and fighting random guys in battle suits and weird camera actions from BSG to really be called its own movie. I don’t see why this couldn’t have been a better movie with some more focus (heck, a remake of the original Superman II might have served better). I will give you that Superman talks and looks a lot like how I would imagine, although Lois… (to be polite) doesn’t.

I “like” how Jor-el, a scientists, seems to be able to take down military men in combat pretty easily, or how Pa Kent suggests that maybe children should die to protect his son’s secret. Clark seems pretty capable of forging documents that fool the government, and considering that there is at least a half hour of unnecessary film here, they might have wanted to explain that one, but whatever, seeing that there are so many jumpy points to the film, it might be that they had already cut an hour out. The end result is that for all its action and fighting, the movie is long, slow, and extremely limited in character development. Zack Synder and David S. Goyer really need to be beaten to death by fan boys in the name of truth, justice, and the American way.

Jun 16 2014

Brave

I was really looking forward to finally watching this Pixar (renown for great animation and stories) film about a delightfully wild girl who defies her mother’s wishes that she follow tradition and marry one of a group of (less than desirable) suitors, as she wishes to make her own choices in life. I guess I was hoping it was more centered on the Princess Merida rather than her relationship with her mom. The short, La Luna, that was on the DVD was pretty great. 

Jun 13 2014

Any Empire – Nate Powell

Yes, there is some wonderful artwork here and Powell means well trying to present an almost silent narrative about some small-town kids (Lee, Sarah, and Purdy) who grow up together (and apart) and how they deal with concepts of power and violence, but this is another example of an artist who is focused on a dream-like quality to his story at the expense of, well, his story. I shouldn’t have to say “huh?” while reading and really wish the comics industry would spend more time editing work so that art can have meaning (or maybe comprehension is the proper word). This could have been very poignant, and sadly it is not. 

Jun 11 2014

Wreck-It Ralph

Just for the record, I was never much of a video game player past Atari and Q-bert, but this film is enjoyable on so many levels, nostalgia is the least of them. Ralph is a heel in a Donkey Kong-ish video game and one day just snaps. He goes off to some first person shooter Aliens-ish video game in order to get a medal that he is sure proves he is a hero. This, however, causes, a chain of mishap events that lands him in a seemingly benign kiddy racing game wherein events unfold that could leads to disaster for numerous video game worlds. Funny and clever with romance, hipster elements, conspiracies and mysteries, all rolled up into a light hearted romp of what it is to be a hero. Well played.

Jun 11 2014

All-Star Superman

This is the animated version of the comic and I have to say that I liked it better than the original (something about the pacing). Superman is in quite the pickle and decides he needs to do some things he’s been putting off for, well, forever. It’s a collection of short stories about the all powerful Superman (often) dealing with very human problems. Still, its a story for Superman fans and not particularly of value for those new to the scene.

Jun 09 2014

Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation – Wess Roberts and Bill Ross

The book is designed to appear as if Captain Picard is discussing advice for future Starfleet offices on how to handle various leadership situations. For the most part it simply summarizes select ST:TNG episodes and briefly and in bullet-points discuss take aways that might be helpful when dealing with real life situations. It really isn’t particularly good, but I read it in a day and wanted to see what the authors had to say since I gave a conference paper of a parallel subject years earlier. Note: Please don’t end every chapter with “Make it so.” too late. 

Jun 05 2014

Thor: The Dark World

Thor is back, defending the Earth and all the other realms, this time against evil elves who plot to return the universe to darkness. I wanted to like this movie and I can’t say it was particularly bad, I guess I just don’t want to see lasers with my Norse gods–call me crazy, but I don’t like this idea of Asgard being in the sci-fi and not the fantasy genre. And by the way, throw the ladies a bone and have a short sleeved Thor running around (it’s just good marketing) and more scene of  Kat Dennings, seriously, she has totally replaced my infatuation of Natalie Portman, which I didn’t think was possible. 

Jun 03 2014

Penny Dreadful

This is quite the fun idea in the vein of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with various literary characters (or more to the point characters related to literary characters) from the turn of the 20th century plus a couple of actual historical references. Characters are attempting to solve various mysteries and fight the forces of evil, plus engage in their own interests be them scientific or more personal. I have to say that what holds the show back is its incredibly slow pacing. Yes, the show is attempting to set up a certain ambiance, but that needs to be balanced with a degree of action if it really wishes to engage.

Jun 02 2014

Divergent – Veronica Roth

I accidentally published this when I was considering reviewing the entire series so here you go:

Divergent, the first in the titular series introduces us a futuristic Chicago wherein society is broken down into 6 castes: The selfless Abnegation who run the government due to their incorruptible giving nature, the peaceful Amity farmers, the truth dedicated Candor, the scholarly Erudite, and those obsessed with overcoming fear who make up the Dauntless, and then there are the outcaste faction-less; while you are allowed to pick your caste (which are called factions) upon adulthood, and a few change from birth faction–and some do not survive initiation. Beatrice is an Abnegation who joins the Dauntless and struggles to find the inner strength necessary to overcome her fears, but all that is secondary to the terrifying discoveries she starts to find. I wasn’t too thrilled with this one and often thought about giving up on it. Too much dedicated to stupidity fronting as bravery (jumping from a moving train is not brave (what about the old, very young, handicapped, etc etc are they simply not brave?! Oh, wait, they simply don’t exist in this book.) and neither is getting a tattoo or belly ring (apparently being a trendy looser is brave and I’m convinced Roth has no tattoos or she would have taken the opportunity to have her characters talk about the pain of the needle but being glad they went through with it etc, but then again I’m expecting halfway decent writing.)) and little beyond cliched romance. Still, the last few dozen pages did provide some excitement if not depth so I’m tempted to keep going and see if my old age is keeping me from “getting it.”   

 

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