Friday, November 22, 2019

Book Review - A Matter of Will by Adam Mitzner

I'm a big fan of mysteries, but it's hard to find one with a twist I don't see coming but should have.

A Matter of Will by Adam Mitzner is a mystery book with a little romance on the side. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Mysteries. This book has several mysteries that are all well thought out and engaging.

Characters. The author has created several really enjoyable characters that the reader will feel invested in and care about what happens.

Story, Plot, and Pacing. Aside from the mystery, the story is really entertaining and engaging and moves along at a great pace. Even without the mystery, the side plots are interesting enough that the book would have been great without them.

The Bad


...

What I Would Like to Have Seen


A few important points worked out just a little too smoothly making the characters feel just slightly less real than they could be.

Overall


A Matter of Will by Adam Mitzner is a great book filled with several well-constructed mysteries (one I didn't see coming),  enjoyable characters I felt invested in, an interesting story and plot, and strong writing and pacing that I couldn't put down. I highly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.


    

 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

TV Show Review - The Mandalorian, Episodes 1 and 2


I am a huge Star Wars fan and always wanted more adventures beyond the movies. I've read the books, comic books, watched the tv shows, and sat thru the four Disney-made movies, but none of them have satisfied me or felt like Star Wars. But when I hear Jon Favreau was behind this new series, I thought there might be a chance for it to be good.

The Mandalorian an 8-episode 2019 Disney+ original series based on Star Wars by George Lucas. It takes place five years after Return of the Jedi. It is rated TV-PG and is appropriate for most ages.



The Good


Storytelling. The storytelling is the strongest aspect of this show. The way the story is told is masterfully done and is what makes this such a great show.


Characters. The characters are all instantly likable even though we know so little about them, especially the Mandalorian himself. The way the show is shot, we feel like we are inside his head experiencing what he is experiencing. And I love how minor characters from previous Star Wars films have been included with a larger role instead of invention new, uninteresting aliens.

Feels Like Star Wars. This series feels like Star Wars, which is really rare for anything George Lucas wasn't directly involved in.

Story.
 The story is really strong and tight and holds your attention.

Action. There isn't a lot of action, but what little there is is very enjoyable.


The Bad


Pacing. The show moves at a very slow and deliberate pace and provides a lot of "quiet time" and "white space".

Content. The episodes feel a little sparse when it comes to content. They are 30-40 minutes each, but only contain about 18-22 minutes of actual story.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish more happened in each episode. The shows are very decompressed with a lot of "quiet time" and "white space".



Overall


The Mandalorian Episodes 1 and 2 are masterfully done with incredibly strong storytelling, great characters, pretty decent action, a great story, and--best of all--it feels like Star Wars, something none of the four movies Disney have put out has managed to do. The pacing is a little slow with too much "quiet time" and "white space", and the first two episodes were a little thin on content. But overall the first two episodes have been great, and I can't wait to see the rest of the series. I highly recommend this show and give it 4.5 out of 5 remotes.



    
  

 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Movie Review - Last Christmas

I really like Christmas films as a genre, but there are a lot of bad ones mixed in amongst the good and mediocre. Sometimes the Christmas spirit is enough to make a mediocre film enjoyable, and sometimes nothing can save a film.

Last Christmas is a 2019 romantic Christmas film based on an 80s song. It is rated PG-13 for language and adult situations and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good


Twist. This film has a very interesting twist that you almost never see in this kind of film. It was a nice surprise, but one I guessed about 20 minutes before the big reveal.

The Bad


Pacing. This film is a little slow and drags in places.

Likability. The characters in the film aren't all that likable, especially the main heroine who makes many bad choices that alienates nearly everyone in her life. It's hard to feel sympathetic for her or root for her.

Political Message. At the end of the movie they shoe horn in a lesbian relationship that isn't even hinted at before and does nothing to advance the plot or add to the story. It isn't even very long and feels like an afterthought.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the characters had been more likable and the comedy funnier.

Overall


Last Christmas is an entertaining movie with an interesting twist that was unexpected in this kind of movie. But the unlikable characters and slow pacing will keep this from becoming a classic. And the shoehorned political message at the very end felt very forced and had nothing to do with the rest of the movie, nor did it affect the story except to slow it down. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


   

 

Friday, November 8, 2019

TV Show Review - Cobra Kai Season 2


I loved the first season of Cobra Kai, and could barely wait for the next. But would it live up to my expectations  

Cobra Kai Season 2 is an 10-episode 2019 YouTube Originals series based on The Karate Kid film and continuing the story three decades later. It is rated TV-14 for language and is appropriate for tweens and up.



The Good


Story. The story continues right where the first season ended and introduces several great new elements while continuing the stories already begun in the first season. The writing is just as good.

Action.
 This season offers one of the best fight scenes in cinematic history at the end of the season and beginning of a new school year.

Pacing. The story is paced just right. It never drags and is never rushed.



Contrast. This series does an excellent job of showing the contrast between 80s culture and 2018 culture and how far society as regressed and how weak and cruel modern youth have become. It is really fascinating from both a social perspective and an entertainment one.

Cliffhanger. This series ends with several cliffhangers, only one we know how it will be resolved.


The Bad


...



What I Would Like to Have Seen


More episodes!



Overall


Cobra Kai Season 2 continues to be one of the best shows I've ever seen. It continues the story of The Karate Kid in a perfectly logical, relevant way being true to the original but brining in so many new elements that all fit. The pacing is perfect with each character given the appropriate amount of time to see his or her story progress and interact with the others. There is a lot of drama, conflict, and misunderstanding along with great action, comedy, and romance. This season introduces several new elements that fit into the existing storyline perfectly and sets up the third season in a big way. I highly recommend this show and give it 5 out of 5 remotes.



      

 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Movie Review - The Grudge (2004 film)

I don't watch a lot of horror movies, because they tend to be more gore than spine-tingling terror. But a few years ago I saw one that was everything a horror flick should be.

The Grudge is a 2004 supernatural horror film based on a 2002 Japanese film of the same name. It is rated PG-13 and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good


Acting. Sarah Michelle Gellar is one of the greatest actresses ever, and she doesn't disappoint in this film. She really conveys the proper emotions at the proper times. And the actress who plays the ghost is incredible. You'd think she was an actual spectre.

Terror. This movie is truly terrifying without resorting to gore, Nazi death camps, or other overused devices. This movie creates so much terror with just a little music, great production design, and brilliant cinematography.

The Bad


Story & Pacing. This film doesn't have a lot of story which makes it feel long and a little slow. It's a brilliant experiment in filmmaking, but not so brilliant in the entertainment department.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish there had been more story. Developing Jason Behr's character and his story would have helped.

Overall


The Grudge is a a terrifying supernatural horror film that does so much with so little. The filmmakers are able to generate real terror in the viewer without resorting to gore, Nazi death camps, or other overused devices. Instead it relies on just a little music, great production design, and brilliant cinematography. Sarah Michelle Gellar is brilliant in this. The story is a little thin with other characters being underdeveloped which makes the movie feel a little long and slow. If you're looking for a film that is terror without the gore, I recommend this one and give it 3.5 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


  

 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Movie Review - Metropolis (2001 film)

Back in the day, Suncoast (and it's associated stores) had a membership program. A short-lived part of this program was a monthly magazine promoting the latest media. One month they featured a movie I had never heard of and knew nothing about, but I was intrigued.

Metropolis is a 2001 Japanese science fiction anime film based on the Fritz Lang film of the same name and the manga by Osamu Tezuka, the God of Manga. It is rated PG-13 and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good


Visuals. This movie is so beautiful. Every frame is a masterpiece you could hang on your wall. It was an early experiment to mix traditionally hand-drawn characters with digital cgi backgrounds that worked better than any other attempt. The filmmakers actually went in and recolored the rendered 3D with traditional colors to give it such a natural look. And the Blu-ray really makes the visuals shine.

Music. This movie has great music that fits the unique modern/retro look and feel. It's jazzy and fun.

Characters. This movie has a lot of characters, many of them very flat and undeveloped. But the few main characters they do develop are fleshed out so well and their interactions are so natural and human. When they get it right, they really get it right.

Overall Story. Overall this film has a great story with several separate but connected plots going on that all connect and add to the message of the movie. Unfortunately, the actual telling of the story is a bit garbled.

World. This film creates a wondrous world filled with so many amazing buildings and people and conflict and intrigue. It is a lot of fun just to admire the world and explore it with the main characters.

The Bad


Story Development and Pacing. This movie has story problems with certain important plots underdeveloped and other less important ones labored over. The pacing is good in parts, too quick in others, and too slow in others.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish they had developed certain parts of the story more and ignored some of the stranger parts that felt like side trips.

Overall


Metropolis (2001 film) is a breath-taking visual feast with the perfect marriage between hand drawn animation and computer-generated backgrounds. Almost every frame is a masterpiece you could hang on your wall. The overall story is great with several separate but connected plots going on that all converge and add to the message of the movie. Unfortunately, the actual telling of the story is a bit garbled. When the character development is done right, it is masterfully done creating characters with such depth and humanity you can't help but love them. But many other important characters serve little purpose beyond being plot devices. The music is unique and fits the mood and vibe perfectly. I highly recommend this film and give it 4 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


   

 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Movie Review - The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Recently a friend suggested I review horror movies for the Halloween season, and I thought that was a good idea. I'm not much of a horror movie fan (although I love horror TV shows for some reason) but there are a few I thought were well worth watching.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a 1920 German Expressionist silent horror film. It is unrated and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good


Visuals. This movie is gorgeous to look at from the sets to the costumes to the cinematography to the title cards. It has such a strong artistic look and sense that has been borrowed and copied by numerous artists and filmmakers ever since.

Terror. Even though this movie is nearly 100 years old and silent, it is truly terrifying. The antagonist of the film, Cesare, is so creepy and so terrifying that he made me jump more than once.

Mood. This film has such a strong mood created by great organ music, impressive acting by the actors and actresses, and of course the visionary production design.

The Bad


Ending. The studio forced the director to change the ending to a strange "it was all a dream" nonsense. While it doesn't ruin the film, it does take away some of the punch.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


....

Overall


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a brilliant and disturbing horror film from the silent era. It is one of the most gorgeously shot films from the brilliant sets that defy physics to the costumes to the amazing cinematography to the creepy title cards. This movie is so terrifying, and it accomplishes it without the gore or profanity of modern horror films--just solid storytelling and acting. I highly recommend this film and give it 5 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


    

 

Friday, October 18, 2019

TV Show Review - Cobra Kai Season 1


I loved the original The Karate Kid movie, so I was both excited and horrified at the idea of a continuation. Excited because I wanted more Karate Kid action, horrified because of how poorly the remakes of it and other 80s properties had been handled. 

Cobra Kai Season 1 is an 10-episode 2018 YouTube Originals series based on The Karate Kid film and continuing the story three decades later. It is rated TV-14 for language and is appropriate for tweens and up.



The Good


Story. This series has such a great story. It is perfectly paced and focuses on each character letting their story be told and their character be developed.

Action.
 While there's not enough martial arts action, when there is karate, it is pretty exciting and a lot of fun.

Pacing. The story is paced just right. It never drags and is never rushed.



Contrast. This series does an excellent job of showing the contrast between 80s culture and 2018 culture and how far society as regressed and how weak and cruel modern youth have become. It is really fascinating from both a social perspective and an entertainment one.


The Bad


Romantic Development. Most of the movie is developed just right, but the relationship between Johnny's student and Daniel's daughter is rushed a little too much. A couple more episodes would have fixed that.



What I Would Like to Have Seen


More episodes!



Overall


Cobra Kai Season 1 is one of the best shows I've ever seen. It continues the story of The Karate Kid in a perfectly logical, relevant way being true to the original but brining in so many new elements that all fit. The pacing is perfect with each character given the appropriate amount of time to see his or her story progress and interact with the others. There is a lot of drama, conflict, and misunderstanding along with great action, comedy, and romance. And the subtext of the difference between 80s culture and 2018 culture and how far society has regressed in three decades is brilliant! I highly recommend this show and give it 5 out of 5 remotes.