Category Archive: Reviews

Reviews of all kinds

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.”   

 

Jun 02 2014

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier – Ed Brubaker

I was disappointed by this tale of Captain America, perhaps because Rogers isn’t Captain America anymore and his quest to discover if the grandson of the scientist that made him a super soldier is making more super soldiers just wasn’t all that super. Feels like Brubaker really phoned this one in. 

May 28 2014

Snow White and the Huntsman

I enjoyed this retelling of the Snow White legend, although I can completely understand why most wouldn’t. While visually beautiful, the pacing was very slow and it was too dark for little kids and not dark enough for adults. It is also rather long and could use more characterization. I’d rather see the integration of more fairy tales into this one to flesh out the world, not merely the specific story.

May 27 2014

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome

Considering how much I both loved and hated the various TV shows of BSG, I was pleased with this prequel to the latest incarnation of the show. It takes place ten years into the original war against the Cylons (AI robots that rebelled against the humans that created them) and puts the future commander of BSG/current neonate on a special mission against the enemy. Exciting and intriguing with good F/X, it’s hard not to like this.

May 25 2014

Oblivion

Did I miss something here? The film about a pilot/soldier/something who is overseeing the removing of Earth’s last resources after an alien invasion devastated the planet and population (PS the only commercial I saw gives away a hunk of the plot) doesn’t seem to have much point to it. There just isn’t anything groundbreaking, action packed, or profound, and yet I think that it might have had all that if there was maybe just another rewrite or better directing or something that could have put it all together better. After watching it I kind of wanted to like it, but just…. Anyway, here’s the IMDB link maybe you’ll see that special something clearer than me.

May 23 2014

Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics – Margreet de Heer

So there is something other than pot bars in the Netherlands, and it is this comic. De Heer attempts to give an introduction to Western philosophy and throw in some modern ideas as well, but it does not really work and she admits to getting lost as to what to do next a couple of time in the comic. Nicely illustrated and well colored by her husband, Yiri, the comic falls short as to really presenting much as to the history of philosophy or how/why it might be useful (great first draft, though).  

May 22 2014

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

After years of popularity on The Daily Show and a successful summer of filling in as host, Oliver has his own show. Ah, I remember first seeing him and his cute British accent taking part in a Civil War reenactment whereupon he fell and broke his nose; yep, you’ve come a long way baby–or has he? This new news show recaps the week’s events in the same comedic style as The Daily Show but it is just him and thus lacks for any back-and-forth banter or diversity in style. After a month of watching I’m not sure how impressed I am (yes I am, not very), especially since this isn’t basic cable and the show could go bat sh!t crazy.

May 21 2014

Dread

Based on the comic Judge Dread, about a cop (who is judge, jury, and executioner) in a dystopian future, Judge Dread and the telepathic rookie, Anderson, attempt to foil a drug ring. For a movie that was really all action scenes and shooting, it is hard to rectify that I kept falling asleep.

 

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