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.


   

 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie Review - Klaus (Netflix Original)

I'm a big fan of experimental animation, even though most of the time the experiment fails. But when it succeeds, oh how it succeeds!

Klaus is a 2019 animated Christmas film from Netflix. It is rated PG for rude humor but is appropriate for all ages.

The Good


Animation. The animation was gorgeous. It was 2-D animation shaded to look 3-D, but because it was 2-D it was very fluid and nice to look at and looked painted instead of plastic.

Story/Concept. The story is basically where Santa Claus and writing to him came from. This was a clever approach and story that was fresh but classic.

The Bad


Main Character. The filmmakers made the main character such an exaggerated caricature of a spoiled rich kid that was really difficult to care about him until he changed significantly halfway thru the film.

Feud. The filmmakers played it too same making the characters very bland. No one could have a strong personality or any real conflict for fear of offending someone, so the characters came off as very bland and unremarkable.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the main character had been more likable and the feud had been dropped. There was enough conflict and drama without it. This also would have helped make the first third less slow and less painful to get thru.

Overall


Klaus is an entertaining family film once you get thru the boring and painful first third. The animation is gorgeous. The story of how Santa came to be and why kids started to write to him is clever. Once you pass the first third of the film, the characters are interesting and you care about them and what happens to them. The ending was really nice. I give this film 4 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


   

 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Movie Review - Frozen II

The first Frozen film was pretty good, but I wasn't sure where they were going to go with that. Sequels tend to either be a repeat of the first film, or the next chapter in a bigger story. Frozen didn't seem to have a bigger story, so I was fearing a bad remake of the first film.

Frozen II is a 2019 cgi animated fantasy family film by Disney. It is rated PG but is appropriate for all ages.

The Good


Story/Approach. The filmmakers were really smart to make this movie completely different than the first one. Where the first one was a romantic comedy that make fun of Disney Princess film troupes, this film was a fantasy adventure exploring the origin of Elsa's powers.

The Bad


Pacing. This film was a little slow and dragged in places.

Character Development. The filmmakers played it too same making the characters very bland. No one could have a strong personality or any real conflict for fear of offending someone, so the characters came off as very bland and unremarkable.

Comedy/Age Range. This movie was made for small children with the humor being very silly and simple. The story and action were also geared for a younger audience so while the film had the potential to be great, it wasn't clever enough or smart enough.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the characters had been more developed and the comedy more sophisticated.

Overall


Frozen II is an entertaining fantasy adventure appropriate for the whole family. The filmmakers were really smart to make this movie completely different than the first one. Where the first one was a romantic comedy that make fun of Disney Princess film troupes, this film was a fantasy adventure exploring the origin of Elsa's powers. Unfortunately, the movie was made for a young audience,  with unsophisticated humor and a pretty obvious story and plot twists. The filmmakers played it too same making the characters very bland. No one could have a strong personality or any real conflict for fear of offending someone, so the characters came off as very bland and unremarkable. The music was good, but not nearly as classic as the original. I give this film 4 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.