Friday, February 14, 2020

Movie Review - Sonic the Hedgehog

I love classic video games and think they could make great movies and TV shows if someone would just do it right. Someone? Anyone?

Sonic the Hedgehog is a 2020 action comedy film based on the Sega video game of the same name. It is rated PG and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good


Solid Story. The story is fairly simple and straightforward, but for this kind of movie and the younger audience it's targeted to, that's okay. It's solid, logical, and for the most part makes sense even if it's not the most compelling or original.

Characters. While most of the secondary characters were very flat and generic, the main characters were very likable and fun.

Action. The action was great! It was fun, fast, and lots of it. It did a good job mimicking the action and feel of the video game.

Comedy. This film had some pretty good jokes, although most of them were aimed at and would only be appreciated by a younger audience.

The Bad


Young Audience. This film is definitely aimed at a younger audience and feels a little juvenile with much of it talking down to the audience, which was unnecessary. The core audience will be adults who were kids when Sonic came out on the Sega who loved the game and are adults now with a lot of nostalgia. There's no reason it couldn't have been a little more intelligent and appeal to all ages.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish this film hadn't been mainly targeted at a young audience, but instead had something for all ages.

Overall


Sonic the Hedgehog is an entertaining flick with great action and visuals and a few pretty funny jokes. The main characters are likeable and do a good job. The story is solid. The main flaw is the movie is targeted for a young audience with a overly simple story and many jokes only youngsters would laugh at. The core audience will be adults who were kids when Sonic came out on the Sega who loved the game and are adults now with a lot of nostalgia. There's no reason it couldn't have been a little more intelligent and appeal to all ages, especially considering that is the trend right now. I give this film 4 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


    

 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Book Review - The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

I've been impressed with how Bob Iger has run Disney since becoming CEO of the company. I worry what will happen when he retires. I was curious to hear his insights and behind-the-scenes stories about his time guiding Disney thru so many acquisitions (Marvel, Pixar, LucasFilm) and the launch of Disney+ as well as so many new animated hits.

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger is an autobiography of Bob Iger and his career. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Organization. This book is really well organized. He tells his story both chronologically, but also by lessons he learned from those he worked with. It's easy to follow, one section naturally leads to another, and it holds your interest the whole time.

Perspective. I really enjoyed Bob Iger's perspectives on so many of the major events I've heard about from the news and other people involved, but never an insider. He revealed details I was unaware of that slightly alter the narrative I've been told. I also appreciate how honest and respectful Bob Iger was of all parties he included.

Depth. This book isn't an exhaustive, detailed history of everything that happened in Bob Iger's career, but he went into enough detail to clearly tell the story and give you a good understanding of what went on.

The Bad


Name Dropping. I do not like a name dropper, and Bob Iger likes to drop certain celebrity names that have nothing to do with the story simply to include them in his book, especially the name of a former president.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


...

Overall


The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger is one of the best biographies/autobiographies I've read in a long time. It tells the story of Bob Iger's career from his first job at a local TV station to his move to and rise at ABC to the merger with The Walt Disney Company and his eventual time as CEO. It is organized both chronologically and by lessons he learned along the way. He's very honest about what happened and very respectful of all parties involved. Being an insider personally involved in so many recent big stories, he has an interesting insider's perspective I hadn't heard before and appreciated. I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 eReaders.


    

 

Friday, January 24, 2020

TV Show Review - Star Trek: Picard, Episode 1

I am a huge Star Trek fan and have enjoyed most of the series. Until Star Trek: Discovery which has been so disappointing. Needless to say I had mixed feelings about a new Star Trek series by the same network.

Star Trek: Picard is a 10-episode CBS All Access original series based on Star Trek: The Next Generation by Gene Rodenberry. It takes place decades after Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is rated TV-PG and is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good


Concept. The story takes place several years after a major change in the Star Trek Universe and deals with the ramifications of those changes. It is a smart move, because it gives the series a reason to exist and a way to stand out from previous series.


Story. The first episode does a really great job to catch the viewer up on the changes to the Star Trek Universe and introducing the current situation. There is a lot going on, but it is presented clearly so the viewer isn't confused.

Feels Like Star Trek. The last few Star Trek films and Star Trek: Discovery just have not felt like Star Trek. This does.

The Bad


Picard. Picard is pretty old and sluggish. I really like the character, but it's a little unbelievable that he'll be able to accomplish the mission he needs to.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I would like to see a few more new elements. This show uses the Romulans, the shipyards on Mars, the Borg, and so many other elements we've already seen. I'd like to see some new aliens and villains that are instant classics like the Borg and the Romulans were when they were introduced.


Overall


Star Trek: Picard is off to a great start with a really wonderful concept and a strong first episode that introduces the current state of the Star Trek Universe, reveals the major events that happened in the past resulting in the world we're now seeing, and introduces a few interesting new characters. Picard is a little old and sluggish, and it's slightly uncomfortable and unbelievable that he'll be able to accomplish the mission he's set out on. There's also very little new in this version with it relying on so much of the beloved old. That's not bad, but it is limiting. I am excited to see the rest of the series and where it goes. I highly recommend this show and give it 4.5 out of 5 remotes.



    
  

 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Magazine Review - Mystery Weekly Magazine (December 2019)

I love short stories and short story anthologies. When I bought my first Kindle, I purchased a ton of short stories and read them each night with such a thrill. But it's hard to find good short stories even though there are so many out there.

Mystery Weekly Magazine (December 2020) is a monthly mystery anthology of excellent crime and mystery stories that delve into the normal, the supernatural, and the science fiction realms. It is available as an eBook and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


The West Texas Rookie. This story involves a rookie reporter investigating four murders and finding out details the local authorities didn't bother to ask about which leads to her solving the crimes. 3.5 out of 5 eReaders.

Exposure. This is a story of murder and revenge with a slight hint of horror. The title refers to the cold weather that serves as the setting. This one was the best of the bunch. 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.

The Job Interview. This story is about a bank robbery gone awry and a young man looking for a job at a hardware store. It's a little cookie but entertaining. 4 out of 5 eReaders.

Rachel's Place. This is another bank robbery story, but takes place after the fact and mostly involves two people talking about it and the solution to the mystery unfolding. 3.5 out of 5 eReaders.

A Really Great Team. This story involves two married couples and an extramarital affair that has a couple of twists. 4 out of 5 eReaders.

Taking Debbie Rabbit. This story is about a hitman and a job he has moral qualms about. The story is entertaining, but the ending a is a little disappointing. 4 out of 5 eReaders.

A Minute to Murder. Each issue has a "you solve it" mystery where a situation is set up and you have to figure out who the guilty party is. They're usually pretty short and not all that interesting. The solution is in the next issue. This one is closed room murder mystery. 4 out of 5 eReaders.

The Bad


Peat. This is murder mystery with an odd twist. The twist was unique and the story was fairly entertaining. 3 out of 5 eReaders.



   

 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Magazine Review - Mystery Weekly Magazine (January 2020)

I love short stories and short story anthologies. When I bought my first Kindle, I purchased a ton of short stories and read them each night with such a thrill. But it's hard to find good short stories even though there are so many out there.

Mystery Weekly Magazine (January 2020) is a monthly mystery anthology of excellent crime and mystery stories that delve into the normal, the supernatural, and the science fiction realms. It is available as an eBook and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Fast Forward. This is a science fiction story meets classic private eye story. It has a great concept, great characters, and moves at a great pace. 5 out of 5 eReaders.

The Beresford Case. This is a ghost story. While it isn't an original concept, it is very well told with nice characterization. 4 out of 5 eReaders.

When the Circus Almost Came to Town. This is a bank heist story with a slightly different twist. The characters are fairly interesting. The story is enjoyable, but nothing to write home about. 3.5 out of 5 eReaders.

Murder in the Workplace. This is a murder mystery that is mostly told in interviews. The story is enjoyable, but nothing to write home about. The solution isn't all that surprising. 3.5 out of 5 eReaders.

Murderer Bill. This is a boogeyman story meets a coming of age story. The characters are interesting. The concept is pretty original. The twist at the end was different, and I'm not sure how much I liked it. The pacing and character development were great. 4 out of 5 eReaders.

The Bad


A Siege of Herons. This is a missing person story and was hard to get thru. 1 out of 5 eReaders.

Bare Billfold. Each issue has a "you solve it" mystery where a situation is set up and you have to figure out who the guilty party is. They're usually pretty short and not all that interesting. The solution is in the next issue. This one is an office place robbery. 3 out of 5 eReaders.



    

 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Movie Review - Knives Out

I love classic murder mysteries and whodunnits, but it's hard to find something fresh and new to add to the mix without drastically altering the formula.

Knives Out is a 2019 murder mystery film. It is rated PG-13 for language and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good


Daniel Craig. This is probably Daniel Craig's best role, and this coming from someone who though Casino Royale was a near perfect Bond film. He totally sells it as a southern gentleman. I hope they make another film in which he can reprise this role.

Characters. This film features an all-star cast, and they all play their parts well. Each of the main characters is interesting (except the nurse).

Story/Mystery. The story was interesting and had enough going on to keep it interesting. The mystery was good with a satisfying resolution.

Pacing. This film moves at a good pace. It's quick enough you don't get bored, but slow enough you don't get lost.

Comedy. This film is not a comedy, but there are some really well placed jokes that are pretty funny.

The Bad


Art Direction. A lot of times mystery films are visually rich, but this one was a little strange, and not in a good way.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


This film was about what I expected.

Overall


Knives Out is an entertaining murder mystery that keeps enough of the classic whodunnit mix to be recognizable but adds a few fresh elements to keep it interesting and not stale. This is probably Daniel Craig's best role, and this coming from someone who though Casino Royale was a near perfect Bond film. He totally sells it as a southern gentleman. The rest of the main characters (except for the nurse from South America) are all well cast and well played. This film is not a comedy, but there are some really well placed jokes that are pretty funny. The story was interesting and had enough content to keep it interesting. The mystery was good with a satisfying resolution. This film moves at a good pace. It's quick enough you don't get bored, but slow enough you don't get lost. I give this film 4 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


    

 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Book Review - The Wrong Side of Goodbye (A Harry Bosch Novel 19) by Michael Connelly

I had never heard of Harry Bosch or Michael Connelly when I picked up my first Harry Bosch novel. It was one of the last in the series, and I absolutely loved it. I picked up a couple more, also pretty late in the series, and loved those as well. So I decided to start at the beginning and read them all. It's a good thing I didn't begin with the early novels, because they were not nearly as good as the latter ones. Micheal Connelly has gotten better as a writer. Now I've finally caught up to the later books, and boy has the ride gotten good!

The Wrong Side of Goodbye (A Harry Bosch Novel 19) by Michael Connelly is a mystery police crime book in the Harry Bosch series. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Mysteries. This book contains two main mysteries that are unrelated to each other but unfold at the same time. One is the search for a lost heir to a fortune, while the other involves searching for a serial rapist from years past. Both are different types of mysteries. Both have a lot of unexpected yet perfectly fitting twists, and both are completely engaging.

Story, Plot, and Pacing. Aside from the mystery, the stories are really entertaining and engaging and both move along at a great pace with twists spaced at just the right intervals.

The Bad


Main Character. Bosch is such an uninteresting character. I'm still not sure why I enjoy these stories so much when the main character is so unlikable, but somehow it works.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


...

Overall


The Wrong Side of Goodbye (A Harry Bosch Novel 19) by Michael Connell is one of the best books I've read in a while. This book contains two main mysteries that are unrelated to each other but unfold at the same time. One is the search for a lost heir to a fortune, while the other involves searching for a serial rapist from years past. Both are different types of mysteries. Both have a lot of unexpected yet perfectly fitting twists, and both are completely engaging even if the main character of Harry Bosch isn't very interesting. I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 eReaders.


    

 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Movie Review - Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I love Star Wars, and it makes me so sad to see Disney consistently get the franchise wrong. Other than The Mandalorian (which is pretty good but not great), they've produced one disappointment after another, and the falling box office returns are evidence of it. But are declining revenues enough to get Disney to correct their course?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a 2019 science fiction action film based on George Lucas' masterpiece. It is rated PG-13 for violence but is appropriate for most ages.

The Good


Timothy Zahn. If you've ever read Timothy Zahn's original trilogy that basically relaunched the Star Wars franchise, then you'll recognize a few elements such as using science (perhaps cloning) to preserve a Jedi Master (or Sith Master) and a dark fleet of Star Destroyers. Those elements were pretty cool and should have been the focus of the trilogy.

Entertaining. Unlike The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi which were both painfully dull and hard to sit thru, this film is actually entertaining. It doesn't make much sense, and if you start to think about any of the plot points you'll scratch your head. But if you can shut off your brain for 2+ hours, it's a fun ride.

Pacing. This film moves at a good pace.

The Bad


Characters. This movie has the most blah characters of any Star Wars story I've ever seen. George Lucas gave us two great, lovable casts in his two trilogies. This one didn't even produce a single really likable character, and made several of the old beloved characters a little less beloved.

Storytelling. This movie is basically a whole bunch of scenes and incidents stuck together without much logic or sense. There is little emotional investment. There is little peril, because the movie goes exactly how you would expect. There are so many characters and scenes stuffed into the 2+ hours that no one and nothing gets much development. It's a whole lot of ideas that are just thrown at the audience.

Art Direction/Visuals. Star Wars is known for its amazing visuals and gorgeous designs. This film once again fails to deliver anything memorable or amazing to look at. I can't see anyone taking inspiration from this trilogy, which is a shame.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish this movie had been the trilogy, and they had spent three films developing the story instead of just throwing a whole bunch of interesting ideas together without much development. I also wish the filmmakers had focused more on casting an interesting group instead of checking all the boxes on their diversity checklist and failing to cast a single character the audience will care about.

Overall


If you are looking for a mindless action flick with subpar action, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is your movie. There are a lot of good ideas in this movie (mostly stolen from Timothy Zahn), but they are just thrown at the audience and never developed. I wish this movie had been the trilogy with the filmmakers spending three films developing the story. That would have been worth watching. I also wish the filmmakers had focused more on casting an interesting group of actors as the main characters (George Lucas gave us two great, lovable casts in his two trilogies) instead of checking all the boxes on their diversity checklist and failing to cast a single character the audience cares about. It robbed the film of any peril or sense of accomplishment when you care so little for the characters. The film is very entertaining as long as you don't think too hard about it. The storytelling is weak. The visuals are disappointing. But the pacing is good. And the filmmakers threw everything in this including the kitchen sink to make it a"big ending" but it's more spectacle than anything else. It's not a bad film, but isn't far from a good one. I give this film 3 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.