Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Review - Mad Mouse (John Ceepak, Book 2) by Chris Grabenstein

I picked up the first book in the John Ceepak series, because it was on sale. I'd never heard of the author or book, but it sounded interesting. And I wasn't disappointed. It was a solid mystery with a few twists, had interesting characters, and was well written. What stuck out most was the casual pacing of the book, something I've never seen in this type of story.

Mad Mouse (John Ceepak, Book 2) by Chris Grabenstein is a mystery novel with a bit of romance and is the second in a series.

The Good

John Ceepak. John Ceepak is a main character, but he isn't the protagonist. This actually makes him more interesting, because you never get inside his head to see what he thinks. Instead you only see him how other characters see him, and that is up on a pedestal.

Motivation. Every crime needs a motivation behind it, and the motivation behind this one is pretty unique. It's a little weird, but believable and one I didn't see coming, at least not the specifics.

Pacing. This book has a pretty chilled, laid back pacing for a mystery, but it doesn't slow down the narrative or bore the reader. It gives it a unique vibe I don't find in most crime or mystery stories.

The Bad

Twist. Every great mystery has a great twist. The first part of the twist was great, but the second part was kind of out of left field and felt like a cheat. There were no clues, no indication what the complete final answer was, and it seemed like a really random thing to keep readers from guessing. I think the author could have done better.

Clichés. Some of the characters, the reactions, and the speech patterns were bland cliches that sound like a teenage amateur trying to write like the big boys. The author should have pulled from more real life experience and less TV or books he's read.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the twist had been better thought out and foreshadowed so it didn't feel like some random idea pulled out of left field to surprise the reader. It wasn't satisfying. It just barely made sense. It took away from an otherwise enjoyable read.


Mad Mouse (John Ceepak, Book 2) by Chris Grabenstein is an entertaining mystery with a laid back pace, interesting motivation, and almost successful twist that starts out great but pulls the rug out from under the reader with a strange, random answer that really doesn't fit the rest of the story. I give this book 4 out of 5 eReaders.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Movie Review - Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold

I loved Batman: The Brave & the Bold and was really sad when it was cancelled and replaced by that joke Beware the Batman, which didn't even last a season. (Who honestly thought THAT was a good idea? Even the concept stunk. Let's not even get into the execution.) Batman: The Brave & the Bold was a love letter to the Silver Age of Comics, Dick Sprang's weird cartoony style, and Jack Kirby-style action. It was probably the closest to a direct translations of comics coming alive on the screen possible. And I love Scooby-Doo and all the crossovers and adventures he and the gang undertake.

Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a 2018 direct-to-home-video superhero animated movie. It is appropriate for all ages.

The Good

Premise. The Scooby-Doo gang is invited to join a secret mystery solving club consisting of several DC Characters. They end up working on Batman's only unsolved case. Cool idea!

Action. This movie is filled with heroes and villains from the DC Universe with lots of fighting and other superhero action, which is exactly what a fan wants to see.

Characters. This movie included a lot of DC characters, some we haven't seen before and others in versions we haven't seen before, which was one of the things that made Batman: The Brave and the Bold so much fun.

Animation Style. This movie was in the style of Batman: The Brave and the Bold which was basically the Dick Sprang and the Silver Age of Comics. Even the Scooby-Doo characters were redesigned to match this style, and they work incredibly well in it. It's one of my favorite interpretations of them.

The Bad

The Story. While this movie had a great premise, there wasn't a lot to the actual story. It was mostly a clue leading to a new location so the gang could fight a handful of villains, find another clue, go to another location, and fight more villains.

Pacing. Most of this movie moved at a decent pace, but there were times when the story lagged and I found myself looking at the time.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the story had been stronger. This movie was little more than an excuse to showcase a bunch of villains, which was cool, but could have been cooler.


Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a fun movie featuring over a dozen of Batman villains from the heavy hitters like Joker, Penguin, and Riddler, to the lightweights you probably wouldn't recognize the names of. The animation style, the action, and the premise are all solid and top notch. The story is a little thin and the pacing slow as the gang travels from one clue to the next mostly so a new group of villains or characters gets screen time. This movie is exactly what you expect it to be. I give this film 4 boxes of popcorn out of 5.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 3

I really enjoyed the first two pitch perfect movies. I thought they were fun, funny, and had great music. I wasn't sure where you go with a college singing group after you leave college, but this movie found a place that made sense.

Pitch Perfect 3 is a 2017 musical comedy. It is rated PG-13 for language and crude humor and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good

Comedy. This movie was hilarious. While there were the obvious jokes you expect, there were quite a few I didn't see coming that had me making a bit of a disturbance in the movie theater.

Pacing. This movie moved at a great pace. I never got bored, and yet nothing felt rushed.

Music. The filmmakers picked some great songs, and they were very well performed by the Bellas and the other music groups.

Comradery. The Bellas have a great comradery and chemistry together. And the two members that are just fillers is finally acknowledged!

The Bad

Crude Language. There were a lot of crude jokes and crude humor that was meant to be funny, but it was so blatant it came off as more desperate..

Change of Direction. The first half of the movie goes in one direction, then in the middle the film introduces a new subplot that ends up taking over the rest of the film. While it was very entertaining, it wasn't anything original or special and meant the audience never got to see what could have been done with the rival music groups.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the filmmakers would have explored the story with the rival bands further. They were very different than the groups in the previous two movies and offered a good amount of new material. The direction with Fat Amy's dad was something we've seen hundreds of times before.


Pitch Perfect 3 is pure fun filled with great singing. It asked itself what worked with the first movie and focused on that. It took a strange turn in the middle and didn't follow up on the great music group conflict set up at the beginning which was a shame, but otherwise was pure entertainment. It understood what kind of film it was, who its fans were, and played to that. I haven't enjoyed a movie this much in quite a while. I give this film 4.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Quick Movie Review - Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi

I thought the new Star Wars movie would be a bad remake of Empire Strikes Back. Turns out it's a remake of Empire AND Return of the Jedi. The story is a mess, but there are a lot of cool fan moments that make it fun and exciting to watch. I'm not crazy about the left turn they've taken on the philosophical/religious views. And it still isn't as epic in scale as the first six, but it was a WHOLE LOT better than The Force Awakens. I give this film a 3 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Quick Movie Review: Gentlemen Broncos

I thought the overall story was really good. I wasn't a fan of the way it was told. The B-movie approach works well for things that are really clever or really fun (and can work better than the big budget approach), but I didn't feel this was fun enough or clever enough, but it could have been if they had pushed it a little further. The underlying story had the potential, but the pacing was very slow. I think young sci-fi and fantasy writers will probably really enjoy it, because they could see themselves and their creation so clearly in it. There were definitely moments I felt the main characters pain and angst. It was mostly entertaining. I give this film a 2.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Movie Review - Kong: Skull Island

I'm a big fan of what I call "forces of nature monsters" such as King Kong, Godzilla, or mythological creatures. There's something about the sheer power and force of such a being that fascinates me.

Kong: Skull Island is a 2017 science fiction action drama. It is rated PG-13 for language and violence but is appropriate for teens and up.


What if King Kong had been discovered during the Vietnam War instead of the 1930s because of sightings from World War II?

The Good

Concept. This is a cool way to reimagine King Kong. It was true to the original movie while being very different and entertaining. This doesn't always work so well.

Ending. I was really pleased with the way the movie ended. It tied everything together nicely and was a bit of a surprise, because I wasn't sure if the filmmakers were going to allow such a happy scene.

Action. The action was really exciting, varied, and well choreographed and rendered. It was a fun watch.

Story. This film had a really good story and explored so many different ways people could react to such a discovery from excitement to fear. While there were a lot of characters, the filmmakers gave each enough screen time to tell their story and express their particular view.

The Bad

Main Menace. Most of the monsters were rendered well, but the big threat of the movie looked like a bad video game and could have had a more interesting design.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I really have nothing. The filmmakers covered everything well.


Kong: Skull Island is an enjoyable action movie that actually tells a pretty good story and explores several different ways people would handle the discovery of something like King Kong. The whole approach setting it in the 1970s worked really well. And the ending made me smile. The main menace of the movie was kind of a cheesy, b-movie monster from the 50s, but otherwise the movie was well crafted. I give this film 4 boxes of popcorn out of 5.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Movie Review: The Space Between Us

I rarely watch romantic dramas, but every once in a while one looks like it might be something I'd enjoy. I usually wait for it to come out on DVD so I can watch it at double speed and not waste too much of my time if it disappoints.

The Space Between Us is a 2017 romantic, science fiction drama. It is rated PG-13 for language and sensuality but is appropriate for tweens and up.


While traveling to Mars, an astronaut finds out she is pregnant. Her son is born on Mars. Because of the difference in gravity, he can't safely come to Earth, yet falls in love with a girl on Earth over the Internet and travels to see her. Drama ensues.

The Good

Main Characters and their Chemistry. The main two characters are fairly interesting, and they have good chemistry. That is what makes this film enjoyable. Everything else is pretty clichéd and stock.

Straightforward Storytelling. I appreciate how this movie gets out of the way and lets the story unroll. It was a smart move, because the story was solid and the actors did a good job.

The Bad

Predictable. This movie takes the obvious course, offers the obvious conflicts, resolves them with the obvious solution. It would have been nice to have something unexpected happen.

Slow. Because the movie is predictable and goes exactly where you expect it to go, it feels a little long and slow. Editing this down to a 90 minute flick would have helped pacing.

Big Reveal. The big reveal at the end is so obvious that is almost seems silly and melodramatic when they finally get around to it.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish there had been more to this film. It's exactly what you expect it to be, which was a little disappointing.


The Space Between Us is an enjoyable romantic drama that is well told but very predictable and plays out exactly how you expect it to. The actors do a great job and have good chemistry and are the strong point of the movie with everything else being lackluster and mediocre. I give this movie 3.5 boxes of popcorn out of 5.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Movie Review: Lucky Luke (2009)

European comics have been around for decades but haven't made much of an impact on American readers despite the quality art, writing, and stories other than Peyo's Smurfs. But I enjoy reading them and watching foreign adaptions even if they have a different sensibility than American audiences are used to.

Lucky Luke is a 2019 romantic, comedy, action, foreign film starring Jean Dujardin (from the recent silent film The Artist) based on the European comics of the same name. It is unrated but is appropriate for tweens and up.


Lucky Luke is an expert gunsman who is quicker than his own shadow and lives in a fantasized version of the American West battling scoundrels and other villains.

The Good

Capturing the Tone of the Comic. The comic book is what Cartoon Network would call a "cartoon cartoon" with squat, cartoony proportions and silly gags that would never work in real life. The filmmakers did a great job bringing that surreal comedy and nonsense to life in a way that was fun, silly, yet believable enough that it didn't distract from the drama or tension. The only other movie to really capture a comic strip and put it on screen was Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. The movie even manages to include a lot of different characters and incidents from the dozens of adventures.

Lucky Luke.
 Jean Dujardin perfectly captured the look and feel of Lucky Luke as well as created an interesting character someone who's never read the comic will like.

 The first third and last third move along at a great pace and are filled with a lot of fun, surreal action/comedy that is a joy to watch.

The Bad

'Lost His Powers' cliché. The reason superheroes are popular is because of their superpowers. Take those away, and they are pretty uninteresting characters. And yet writers and filmmakers love to do that: Flash loses his super speed; Green Lantern loses his ring; Superman loses his super powers; Spider-man runs out of web fluid for his webshooters. It's not interesting, and the middle third of this movie had Lucky Luke lose his luck and will to live. He is a mopey cowboy no different than any other mopey cowboy. It almost ruined the movie it dragged on for so long and was so boring.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish they had skipped the middle where Lucky Luke lost his luck, or at lest shortened it considerably. It was SO BORING. This movie would have gotten 5 boxes of popcorn if the filmmakers hadn't forced me to watch that.


Lucky Luke is a fun western flick filled with surreal action and comedy straight out of the comic. The middle third is deadly boring when Lucky Luke loses his luck, but the beginning and end are so fun, enjoyable, and well done that it's worth sitting thru. I give this movie 4 boxes of popcorn out of 5.