Saturday, July 14, 2018

Movie Review - Maze Runner: The Death Cure

I did not enjoy the first two Maze Runner films, so I was hesitant to watch this one. But I like Dylan O'Brian and was curious if there might be a twist and the end. (Spoiler alert: There isn't. It ends exactly how you expect it to without any surprises.)

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a 2018 future dystopian, science fiction, action movie based on the book of the same name. It is rated PG-13 for violence and language is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good


Action. The action is really fun. It's exciting, intense, well filmed, and there's lots of it. It kept me at the edge of my seat. If you watch this purely as an entertaining action movie, you'll enjoy it. If you are expecting anything else, you'll be disappointed.

Special Effects. The special effects were solid. Everything felt believable (at least as believable as a dystopian future film that is utter nonsense can feel.

The Bad


Everything Else. As a film, this one is mediocre: mediocre story, character development, plot, twists, and overall point. It's very generic sci fi, very predictable, very prosaic.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the story and overall point of the movie had been more interesting and original.

Overall


Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a really fun action movie. It's exciting, intense, well filmed, and there's lots of it. It kept me at the edge of my seat. If you watch this purely as an entertaining action movie, you'll enjoy it. If you are expecting anything else, you'll be disappointed. I give this film 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn as an action movie. I give it 2.5 boxes of popcorn as a film.

     

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book Review - Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

I really enjoy learning new things and discovering how things work. I also love to learn new ideas, tricks, techniques, and the such that will benefit my life. I also love to learn the tricks people use to manipulate each other so I can better guard myself from such underhanded schemes. This book has all of the above, and more.

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini is a nonfiction analysis of how to prep an audience for a message so it will have more impact. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read..

The Good


Information. The author does an excellent job presenting, explaining, and clarifying different techniques that increase the influence a message will have. This is very practical both to persuade others and to defend yourself from being manipulated.

Clear Explanations and Examples. The author is a scholar, but this is written for the consumer with everything put in very clear terms and not academic speak.

No Obvious Bias. Too many of these types of books are written by liberals trying to force their political leanings down the readers' throat. This author showed no obvious political agenda. It was refreshing to read a book that wasn't part political manifesto.

The Bad


Unsupported Conclusions. Most of the claims the author makes have some scientific backing, but there are a few, especially towards the end, where he just throws out opinions and explanations with nothing more than it sounds good to him to back it up. I wish he had been consistent in his scholarship.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


A little more rigor in the science and testing to make sure the cause was likely what the author assumed it was.

Overall


Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini discusses how to prep an audience for a message so it will have more impact. The author cites many examples of when these techniques have been successfully used and many studies to back them up. The explanations are all very clear and easy to understand. This is an excellent book to help one become more aware of techniques others use to influence and manipulate others and guard against it. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.

    
   

Monday, July 9, 2018

Movie Review - Ant-Man and the Wasp

When the first Marvel movies debuted (Spider-man, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Captain America) I love them and couldn't wait to see the next one. Then after Captain America: Winter Soldier, the movies took a very dark turn and the fun, humorous movies that looked like comic books come to life was gone as was my enjoyment and excitement for the films.

Until now.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a 2018 science fiction superhero movie based on Marvel Comics characters. It is rated PG-13 for mild violence and language and is appropriate for most audiences.

The Good


Fun. It's so refreshing to watch a movie that feels like a comic book come to life. It was fun, it was funny, it was exciting, there were great scenes of superhero powers, and the story was solid and stood on its own instead of being a small piece of a much larger story. This film is everything we love about Marvel movies and have been missing for the last several years.

Use of Powers. Unlike most recent Marvel films, this movie actually shows the characters using their powers, and all their powers, throughout the movie in a variety of ways so the audience never got sick of it.

Humor. It's been a long time since I've laughed this much as a Marvel movie. There were so many jokes, and they were all so funny and not clich├ęd.

Action. The action is awesome! And the best part is how unique it was to the characters' powers. The first movie (and most Marvel movies) have very generic action and fight scenes that would work for any character. But these action scenes could only happen for these characters.

Credits. The credits were very clever. The filmmakers staged several scenes from the movie using action figures, which is very appropriate for these characters.

The Bad


Villains. The villains were boring and weak. Neither was interesting. The filmmakers tried to give the main villain a tragic backstory to make her more sympathetic, but she was too unlikable so we didn't care.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the villains had been likable instead of blah because the filmmakers were afraid to make them very villainous.

Overall


Ant-Man and the Wasp is everything we love about Marvel movies and have been missing for the last several years: it's fun, funny, action-packed, has awesome scenes of characters using their powers, has a complete story, and looks like a comic book come to life. This is a return to the Marvel movies that were so exciting and entertaining (like Iron Man, Captain America, Avengers, Spider-man) instead of the dark turn the films have taken where each one is little more than a depressing chapter in a long, overly drawn-out story. I give this film a solid 4.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

    

Friday, July 6, 2018

Book Review - The Loch by Steve Alten



I love mysteries, but it's hard to find one that is exciting, suspenseful, keeps you guessing until the end without cheating, and has likable characters who are as interesting as the mystery. I was lucky enough to find one such book.

The Loch by Steve Alten is a suspense, mystery, monster hunt storyIt is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and one of those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Characters. The characters are fun and interesting. Even without the mystery, their story is worth the read.

Unique Take On Nessy. I'm a Loch Ness Monster fan, but most of the stories tend to be very similar. This book offered a very different take with what the beast was, how it related to nature, and why it was in the Loch. Tying it into ancient knights templar was a nice direction to go.

Mystery. This book contains several mysteries that tie together nicely and are each interesting to explore.

The Bad


Pacing. The book moves at a pretty good pace, but it does drag in areas.

Reveal. The mystery and solution are really good, but the author takes so long getting to them and gives the reader so many clues and repeats those clues so many times that by the time you get to the reveal, the reader has long since figured it out.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the main character hadn't been so clueless and the author hadn't had to spell out the clues to often and so clearly. It would have made for a better reveal.

Overall


The Loch by Steve Alten is a suspenseful tale of several interrelated mysteries that keep you guessing almost to the end without cheating AND has likable characters who are as interesting as the mystery.  It's unfortunate the author has so little faith in the reader that he has to spell out the clues and review them often making the solution easy to guess before the final reveal. I give this book a solid 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.


    

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Movie Review - Incredibles 2

I am not a fan of Pixar films. They've made a few good ones (Cars, Cars 2, Monster's University, and Ratatouille), but most of them feel like they came from the same cookie cutter or were just well done derivatives of other films and genres. The first Incredibles movie felt like this: a fan fiction version of the Fantastic Four.

Incredibles 2 is a 2018 cgi, science fiction, superhero adventure film from Pixar. It is rated PG for violence, killings, and inappropriate language and is appropriate for older children and up.

The Good


Not Derivative. Most superhero films feel like a fan fiction version of some previous film, a parody, or homage. This film was fresh and original. It was its own thing. If I were describing it to a friend, I can't think of another superhero film that I could compare it to.

Dark and Serious. This movie has a much more serious and dark tone. I see you murder on the screen, death, much stronger violence than previous film, and inappropriate language. This helped to set this film apart from the first and made it more exciting to watch.

Characterization. The main characters all had a lot of development and felt very fleshed out.

Action & Pacing. This movie had a lot of well constructed action and was excellently paced. It never dragged or seemed to move too quickly.

The Bad


Dark and Serious. I know I said this was a strength, and it was, but it's also a real departure for Pizar away form the all-ages appropriate family film. I think this has to happen to keep the movies from getting stale, but it could also mean the magical era is over and future films won't have the appeal as older films. Only time will tell.

Supporting Characters. While the main characters were really interesting and well fleshed out, the supporting characters were little more than one-dimensional plot devices. I think the filmmakers could have developed them a little bit more.

Surprise Twist wasn't a Surprise. I'm not sure if the filmmakers meant the reveal of the real villain and their motives to be a surprise for anyone over 8, but it was hinted at so strongly from the beginning that I was waiting for it to happen. It wasn't a surprise, and so the shocking reveal was blah.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the villain had been stronger. It wasn't a bad villain, but it wasn't much of a challenge and the least interesting conflict of the movie.


Overall


Incredibles 2 was much better than I thought it would be. It was its own, unique creature and not a cheap rip off, parody, or homage to an early superhero film. It was also very different from the first while still retaining all the qualities of the first that made it so endearing. The villain was the weakest conflict of the film and could have been more interesting. The pacing, action, and animation were all very well done and held my attention from start to finish. I give this film a solid 4.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

    

Friday, June 22, 2018

Radio Drama Review: The Adventures of Superman (Episodes 1-27)



I've been a fan of Superman for as long as I can remember. Some incarnations of the character and his adventures work better than others.

Superman on Radio collects the first 27 episodes of The Adventures of Superman radio show first broadcast in 1940. It's available on Cassette, CDs, and Digital Downloads both paid and free.

The Good


Bud Collyer. Bud Collyer portrayed both Clark Kent and Superman. He was the first to give both characters different voices. He portrayed both characters as intelligent, ambitious, heroes--a huge departure from the weak milksop of the comics and later adaptions. Clark Kent was as much the hero and as impressive as Superman, which made the adventures much more fun.


Lois Lane. Most portrayals of Lois Lane either make her a sappy, love struck accessory whose only contribution is getting into trouble so Superman has someone to save, or a feminazi who is such an obnoxious, irritating witch the viewer has no idea why Superman has any interest in her. This version of Lois Lane is strong while still being feminine. She is capable but not overbearing. She is a perfect match for Superman and someone listeners are rooting for.

Realistic Adventures. The first episode begins on Krypton, but beginning with the second, the adventures deal with problems that were a concern in that world--sabotage, kidnapping, extortion, etc.

The Bad


The Final Story. The final story goes into juvenile silliness. It involves an atomic beam machine, some nonsense sci-fi MacGuffin. It's a shame the producers changed tracks from the exciting, real-world problems to this silly work of fiction. The sense of danger and peril that made these shows so exciting was lost.


What I Would Like to Have Seen


The first 21 episodes are sheer perfection.


Overall


Superman on Radio is a wonderful collection of some of the best Superman stories ever told. The voice acting is excellent, the adventures deal with serious real-world dangers, and the villains are interesting characters that actually pose a threat. The portrayal of Clark, Lois, Perry White, and Superman are all spot on and as interesting as any version. The only downside is the last story that moves into silly sci-fi gimmicks. Otherwise this is pure perfection and entertainment. I give it 4.5 out of 5 microphones.


    


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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Movie Review - Solo: A Star Wars Story



I'm a big Star Wars fan, but I haven't really enjoyed any of the post-Lucas films. They all feel like fan films trying to redo the things the filmmakers love about Star Wars instead of trying to add something new to the mythos that makes feels like it belongs.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a 2018 science fiction, action, adventure film based on characters created by George Lucas. It is rated PG-13 for violence and deaths but is appropriate for all ages.

The Good


Adventure. This was a great, fun, exciting adventure. This is the kind of story I would love to see more of in the comics and TV series. The films hint at previous adventures the characters we all love had, but we never get to see them. Until now.

Story. This film has a solid story. It moves at a great pace, its exciting, it makes sense, and it keeps the audience entertained.

The Bad


L3-37. I'm not sure the purpose of this droid. It sounded like an angry gay protestor shouting for equal rights. I'm not sure if the filmmakers were trying to make fun of such characters or thought they had added a serious portrayal, because it was so annoying, pathetic, and unlikable I actually cheered when it was destroyed.

Doesn't Add Anything. Like all the post-Lucas films, this feels like a fan film that recycles a lot of the previous movies. Nothing new was added to the mythos. If this movie had never been made, the Star Wars Universe wouldn't be any poorer.

Too Many References to Previous Films. There were so many swipes from previous films that the movie felt more like a swipe than an homage.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish this movie had added something to the mythos. I also hope they make a sequel exploring more of the universe and the characters introduced, especially Han and Qi'ra's relationship.

Overall


Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun adventure film that is entertaining from start to finish. This is the kind of adventure I always hope to see when I watch a Star Wars TV show or read a Star Wars comic book. The Lucas films hint at other adventures the characters we all love had, but we never get to see them. This film finally shows one of them. It's little more than a well-made fan film that takes too many swipes from previous films to add to the Star Wars mythos. But as an entertaining adventure, it excels. The story is solid with no real surprises. I give this film 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

   

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Review - The Verdict by Nick Stone

I enjoy mysteries, but it's hard to find a good one that has a twist you both aren't expecting but also makes sense and doesn't feel contrived or like the author manipulated the carpet from under your feet. It's also hard to find one that is interesting as a story and not just how it all goes together.

The Verdict by Nick Stone is a mystery legal thriller novel. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read..

The Good


Characters. The characters all had a lot of back story and personality. Their story was as interesting for the shear drama of it as the resolution mystery and the legal trial.

Twists. This story had a lot of twists and reveals that I wasn't expecting but made me go, "Ohhhhhh." They all felt like they fit and weren't too contrived or forced.

Pacing. This story moves at a good pace. I never found myself bored or confused.

Legal Background. This story takes place in the UK, but it is clear the author had an American audience in mind, because he often explains how the UK system works and differs from the US system. The explanations are always quick, concise, clear, and interesting.

The Bad


Length. This book feels as long as it is. It contains so many different elements, and several have little to do with the story. While the story and pacing were good, all the different elements that weren't important to the story seemed to be put there more for misdirection than necessity or benefit of the story.

Final Wrap Up. The wrap up at the end is relatively quick, clean, and simply, which feels a little rushed and cheap after such a long and involved story.

Change in Point of View. The book begins with a prologue telling the story from the point of view of the victim, but purposely leaves out several important points, then switches to a completely different character for the novel itself never returning back to the first character. And when several important pieces of that story pop up throughout the book, the reader feels cheated at being manipulated so obviously and unnecessarily. The book could have completely left out the prologue and it would have worked just as well.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the story had been a little more compact and had left out the riots that really added nothing but took up a lot of time.

Overall


The Verdict by Nick Stone was an enjoyable mystery and legal thriller. The end wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was satisfying if a little too quickly wrapped up after a very long ride. The characters all had a lot of back story and the book was as interesting for the drama of their lives as the reveal of "who did it" and the verdict of the legal trial. I give this book 4 out of 5 eReaders.