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.



      

 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Movie Review - The Addams Family (2019 film)

I first heard of the Addams Family when I watch reruns of the old black and white TV series. I really enjoyed the kookie dark nature of it, and it had a killer theme song. Later I discovered the original gag cartoons it was based on and really enjoyed the line work.

The Addams Family is a 2019 cgi comedy film featuring gag comic characters created by Charles Addams. It is rated PG and is appropriate for all ages.

The Good


Visuals. From the character designs to the production design, this film looks really nice. It's faithful to the original comics while being very contemporary.

Story. The story was pretty good and well paced. All of the twists were obvious as was the ending, but there was enough charm and cleverness that that was okay.

Cleverness. The filmmakers spent some time thinking up some clever gags and charming twists to put into the film that make it fun.

The Bad


Heavy Handedness. The message of this movie is so heavy handed. There is even a song in the middle that literally spells out the message. People are not that stupid, not even little children. The filmmakers need to give the audience some credit.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


More cleverness and less preaching.

Overall


The Addams Family (2019 film) is a clever and fun film. From the character designs to the production design, this film looks really nice. It's faithful to the original comics while being very contemporary. The story was pretty good and well paced. All of the twists were obvious as was the ending, but there was enough charm and cleverness that that was okay. What wasn't okay was the heavy-handed message that different is good. They literally have a song in the middle that spells it out multiple times. The audience is not that stupid--not even the 5 year olds. Have a little faith in your audience, filmmakers. I give this film 4 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


   

 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Book Review - Relic (Pendergast, Book 1) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Sales on Audible are a great chance to try out new books and new authors without risking too much. I've both found some new favorites from this and lost precious hours from my life I will never get back. But how else are you going to discover new gems?

Relic (Pendergast, Book 1) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is a science fiction monster thriller. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Twist. This book is about a monster that is loose in a museum, and the authorities have to both get everyone out and subdue the beast. The twist comes in the nature of the beast and the revelations at the end. They are worth reading thru to the end for.

Pendergast. It's funny this character is the name of the series, because he plays such a minor role in the story and has less page time than the main characters. And yet he is the most interesting character somehow.

The Bad


Pacing. This book moves slowly. The pacing isn't so slow the reader becomes bored, but it does take effort to pay attention to the story.

Characters. The characters are really bland and formulaic. They read like copies of common characters I've read before with nothing new added and the execution of the characters not as well done.

Story. The story is good but nothing special.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the authors had put as much thought into the story and characters as they did the twist, because THAT would be an incredible book I couldn't put down.

Overall


Relic (Pendergast, Book 1) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child has a really great twist and take on the science fiction monster genre, but isn't as strong in the interesting characters, intriguing story, or exciting action departments. The story is a little slow throughout, even during the "intense" action scenes. None of the characters are all that memorable or elicit much of a reaction as they are fairly common stereotypes with fairly common motivations and character arcs. The saving grace is the twist on the monster and epilogue where the repercussions are explored. I give this book 4 out of 5 eReaders.


   

 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Book Review - I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen

It's always nice to find someone who knows what they are talking about and can educate me on a subject I'm not as familiar with as I'd like to be.,

I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen is a non-fiction book of advice on how to improve relationships thru listening and validation. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Advice. This book offers great advice about how to validate others and truly listen instead of jumping to solutions or judgement, something we naturally want to do. The author provides many examples to help illustrate the point and teach the lesson.

Length. The author wisely chose to make this a short book and avoid padding it with unnecessary filler to make it look bigger and more authoritative.

The Bad


Narration. The author narrates this book himself. He does a good job, but could put a little more enthusiasm in his voice so it wasn't so flat.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


A few more examples in other situations. He tended to stick to very similar situations.

Overall


I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen is a quick read that offers excellent advice on how to listen to others and make them feel important. It provides great explanations and examples both what to do and what not to do and why. I highly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.


    

 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Book Review - Young Mozart by William Augel

I'm a big fan of independent comics, music, and clever jokes. So to find all three in one book was a HUGE find!

Young Mozart by William Augel is a graphic novel featuring daily and Sunday comics about a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is available as an eBook and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Jokes. The jokes are pretty funny. While they are specific to Young Mozart and his challenges in a previous century, they are relatable to a modern audience, even a non-musical one.

Artwork. The artwork is really fun and cartoony. It's got a great rhythm.

Design. Being a designer myself, I always notice the design of a book, and this one is so well thought out and clever with musical staffs covered in whatever trouble Mozart is dealing with and full page illustrations with a clever concept.

The Bad


...

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I'd have liked some of the sequences to go on a little longer.

Overall


Young Mozart by William Augel is a fun, well-drawn graphic novel containing both daily comics and Sunday comics featuring a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The jokes are pretty funny. While they are specific to Young Mozart and his challenges in a previous century, they are relatable to a modern audience, even a non-musical one. The design of this book is so well thought out and clever with musical staffs covered in whatever trouble Mozart is dealing with and full page illustrations with a clever concept. I highly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.


   

 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Movie Review - Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery

I've been a Scooby-Doo fan for as long as I can remember. I haven't been a fan of all his incarnations, but they have been fun to see different ways he and his gang can be reinterpreted.

Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery is a 2014 direct-to-video action comedy film featuring Scooby-Doo and the gang. If it were rated, it would be rated G and is appropriate for all ages.

The Good


Visuals. This movie has really nice character designs and background designs. It has the right balance of cartoony and realism to make the WWE wrestlers look like real people but still like they fit in Scooby-Doo's world.

Story. The story is one of the strongest for a Scooby-Doo tale with some real thought to motivation and twists. It's still not going to win any awards.

Action/Animation. The animation is really well done with the wrestling looking smooth.

The Bad


Opening Titles. The song wasn't great and there was no logic or reason to show the villains from the first season. They don't make an appearance here. It looked more like an anniversary title sequence than WWE.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


A little more wrestling.

Overall


Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery is a fun direct-to-video movie appropriate for all ages--safe for the youngsters and entertaining for the older crowd. The animation is very smooth and fluid, the character designs are both cartoony enough to be Scooby-Doo and realistic enough to make the WWE wrestlers look like actual people, and the story is much stronger than most direct-to-video cartoons with actual thought put into motivation and twists. While nothing groundbreaking, it is a lot of fun with the usual troupes one expects from this kind of movie. I give this film 4 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


   

 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Book Review - Liquid Rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives by Mark Miodownik

I love well-written science books, which are hard to find. I had read a previous book by this author and enjoyed it, so I decided to try another.

Liquid Rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives by Mark Miodownik is a nonfiction material science book. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Storytelling. The subject of liquids, or any material science, could get pretty dry and pretty academic pretty quickly. The author used a trip in an airplane across the ocean and discussed the different liquids he encountered to form an interesting narrative.

Information. This book has a lot of good information presented in an interesting and easily digestible form.

The Bad


Sidetrips. The book is pretty short, and yet the author wastes a lot of time on side trips that don't relate to the subject but the author wanted to talk about anyway. I wish he'd used the time to discuss more liquids.

Narration. The narration was good, but not great.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the author would have stuck to the subject matter instead of drifting off onto unrelated topics.

Overall


Liquid Rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives by Mark Miodownik is an interesting look into liquids, their properties, and how humans use them. The author uses the framing device of an airplane trip across the ocean to move from liquid to liquid, which was pretty clever. The author can't help but push his Climate Change biases down the reader's throat even though they have almost nothing to do with the subject of liquids, which was kind of annoying. If you are interested in learning more about liquids in a random order, I recommend this book and give it 4 out of 5 eReaders.