Thursday, April 19, 2018

Book Review - Denslow's Illustrated Classics Volume 2: ABC Book, Humpty Dumpty, Jack and the Bean-stalk, Old Mother Hubbard, One Ring Circus, & Tom Thumb

I am a huge fan of the golden age of children's illustrated books, also known as toy books or gift books. The age began with Edward Leer and ended with WW Denslow and included such notable artists as Ernest Shepard (Winnie the Pooh), Walter Crane, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle, Caldecott, and so many more.

Denslow's Illustrated Classics Volume 2 is a collection of 6 classic children's storybooks by W.W. Denslow, the artist of The Wizard of Oz. It is available as one of those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Art. W.W. Denslow is a master artist. He took the best of design and illustration from Walter Crane and added his own touch. The drawings are fun, lively, and convey emotion.

Reproduction. The quality of reproductions is excellent. The illustrations are clear and the colors are mostly vibrant and correct.

The Bad


This is a print-on-demand title, so the colors are slightly different than if they had been printed on a traditional press, but the illustrations still look great.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I've got nothing.

Overall


Denslow's Illustrated Classics Volume 2 by W.W. Denslow is pure perfection. The illustrations are big and clear with nice colors. This is a print-on-demand title, so the colors are slightly different than if they had been printed on a traditional press, but the illustrations still look great. I give this book a solid 5 out of 5 eReaders.

    
    

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Movie Review: Ready Player One

I rarely watch romantic movies. They tend to be too melodramatic for me. But I saw the trailer for this movie and was really interested in watching it. There just seemed to be a good story and good chemistry.

Ready Player One is a 2018 science fiction action film based on the book of the same title. It is rated PG-13 and is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good


Action. The action in this movie is great! It's exciting, it's fast paced, and there is the right amount of it.

Pacing. This movie has a great pace. I never found myself getting bored nor getting lost. It moved quick enough to hold my interest but slowly enough I understood what was going on.

Visuals. This movie is beautifully shot with eye-popping visuals. Both the real world and the fantasy world are a treat to behold.

Story. While the movie isn't as fleshed out as the book and the stories aren't as well developed, it is still a solid story that introduces interesting characters and you get caught up in the quest.


The Bad


Puzzles are too easy. There were two really fun aspects of the book. The first was the puzzles the characters had to solve. They took a lot of thought and obscure knowledge of early video games and 80s nostalgia. The puzzles in this movie are completely different and very simple to solve.

No Nostalgia. The other fun part of the book is the 80s and early video game nostalgia. This movie instead uses random, unconnected pop culture references that while fun to see don't make any sense together or evoke any era of nostalgia.

Weak Villain. I'm not sure what the filmmakers were thinking. The main villain is a laughable, bumbling, cartoon character who would never become the head of any major corporation or present any real menace or threat. It took away from the conflict and made the quest seem too easy.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish there had been more video game references and more 80s nostalgia like the book.


Overall


Ready Player One is an exciting science fiction action flick with great action and great visuals. The filmmakers did an excellent job squeezing the essential elements of the book into a film without making it feel rushed or incomplete. The challenges are solved fairly easily and the villain was a laughably incompetent cartoon character which made the stakes seem low and the threat not very threatening. And the film lacks the nostalgia of the book. What pop culture references they do make appear too briefly and too randomly to really enjoy. I give this film 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

   

Friday, March 16, 2018

Book Review: Paradox Bound by Peter Clines

The first book I ever read by Peter Clines was really good, and the next one blew me away. I kept reading more and more by this author until I got to his Ex-Heroes series that was so awful I didn't dare read anything more from this author. This book had been in my wish list for a long time, before I decided to give it a chance.

Paradox Bound is an time travel mystery adventure. It is available as an eBook, audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Characters. The characters were so distinct, well developed, and likable, even those that appeared briefly.

Original Take on Time Travel. I love time travel, but most of the time it's the same half dozen stories being retold. This was a fresh and clever take on the idea that I've never seen done before. And yet it makes so much sense that I can't understand why I haven't seen it before.

World. The author creates a really wonderful world with clearly established rules he never breaks. Exploring the world was a lot of fun.

Twist. I never saw the twist at the end coming even though it was foreshadowed and made perfect sense.

Ray Porter. Ray Porter is a master of reading audiobooks. I buy audiobooks just because he reads them, and even mediocre ones he elevates to pretty good.

The Bad


I've got nothing

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I've got nothing.

Overall


Paradox Bound by Peter Clines is pure perfection. It is one of the best books I have ever read. The characters are all so distinct and so likable. The original take on time travel was both refreshing and clever. The twist at the end I never saw coming even though it was foreshadowed and made perfect sense. I give this series a solid 5 out of 5 eReaders.

    
    

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Movie Review: Forever My Girl

I rarely watch romantic movies. They tend to be too melodramatic for me. But I saw the trailer for this movie and was really interested in watching it. There just seemed to be a good story and good chemistry.

Forever My Girl is a 2018 romantic drama based on a book. It is rated PG and is appropriate for most ages.

Overview


A young man leaves his wife at the alter for a country singing career. Eight years later he comes home for his best friends funeral, meets his ex- fiancée and their daughter. Romance, comedy, and drama ensue.

The Good


Acting. Everyone does such an excellent job playing their parts. You feel like you are watching real people and not actors and actresses playing a part.

Chemistry. All the characters have great chemistry. There is great romance between the two leads, great feeling of family between the father and newly discovered daughter, and great father-son conflict and resolution between the lead and his father.

Romance. The romance was really well handled. It wasn't melodramatic or over the top, and there wasn't too much of it. When it did appear, it felt earned and realistic.

Comedy. There isn't a lot of comedy in this movie, but the funny parts are laugh-out-loud funny. They really pack a punch.

Story. This film has a solid story that is well told. The pace is very gentle and could be a little faster, but I never felt bored or confused or cheated by a too-convenient twist in the plot.


The Bad


No Surprises. If you've seen the trailer, then you know what you're getting with this movie. It plays out just like you expect it would, which isn't necessarily bad unless you were expecting more.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish there had been a little more struggle. Everything was resolved just a little too easily with minimal resistance. It cheapened the ending.



Overall


Forever My Girl delivers exactly what the trailer promises--a solid, enjoyable, romantic drama with great acting, great chemistry, some very funny jokes, and a heartwarming ending. There aren't any surprises, but the film is so well crafted it doesn't detract. I give this film a solid 4.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

    

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Movie Review: Marvel's Black Panther

Black Panther is a second-tier superhero who is virtually unknown outside of comic books (until Captain America: Civil War), and yet Marvel Studios has managed to create a highly-successful major motion picture starting that character. That is marketing at its best.

Marvel's Black Panther is a 2018 action adventure superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is rated PG-13 for language, violence, and a vulgar gesture and is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good


Car Chase. In the middle of the film there is a pretty exciting car chase scene that presents action and other elements we haven't seen in a superhero movie before. It was pretty fun and way too short.

Accessibility. Black Panther is one of the lesser known superheroes having almost never appeared in media outside the comic book until now. The filmmakers filled in all the backstory information a non-comic book reader needed to understand the characters and story, and did it in a way that was interesting and didn't distract from the story or hurt the pacing.

Solid Story. The story was solid, easy to follow, and didn't have any glaring plot holes or problems. I felt very satisfied at the end that the major arcs were complete and the themes sufficiently explored.


The Bad


Played it Safe. This movie follows the Marvel formula and felt like the last six Marvel movies I've seen. They missed an opportunity to do something a little more original and unique.

CGI Characters. CGI was used to create the Black Panther during several action scenes and stunts, and it looked like a bad video game. Iron Man was so well done and set the bar so high for believable effects that it makes subpar CGI look even worse.

Villains. Like most Marvel movies produced by Disney, the villains were underdeveloped. This film has two main villains, and I think that was the mistake. It meant each only got half as much screen time as they needed to develop them beyond single-minded, two-dimensional characters. Klaue is presented as a lunatic who can't stop shooting and wrecking things, and Killmonger is focused on revenge and nothing else. Neither are likable or elicit much sympathy. Focusing on one villain would have given the movie time to develop one of the villains into a more fleshed out opponent.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


In the Jack Kirby run and Brian Stelfreeze run of the Black Panther comic book, both artists use a very weird, abstract style that is really quite stunning to look at. I wish the filmmakers had been a little braver and brought that look into the art direction. They missed a real opportunity to create a unique look for the movie that would have made it stand out from all the other superhero movies. This looked like almost every other Marvel movie.


Overall


Marvel's Black Panther delivers exactly what you expect from a Marvel film. If you liked the last half dozen films, you'll like this one, because it follows the same formula. There are a couple of great action scenes but not as much humor as we're used to. The filmmakers missed an opportunity to adapt some of the unique designs from the Jack Kirby and Brian Stelfreeze runs on the comic that could have given this film a really unique look and made it stand out from all the other superhero films. The story is solid and the filmmakers present a lot of new characters and background most viewers will be unfamiliar with in a way that is interesting and doesn't distract from the story or slow down the pacing. I give this film 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

    

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Book Review: The Cordell Logan Series by David Freed

I love finding a new series of books where each entry is as good as the last. Often books in a series get worse, or occasionally better. But once in a while you find one that starts great and never veers left or right.

The Cordell Logan Series is a series of action adventure mysteries sprinkled with a little romance about a pilot and former black ops operative who finds himself involved in life and death situations. They are available as eBooks, audiobooks, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Characters. The characters are so likable and so enjoyable to read. They're not all that unique (you will probably recognize people you know in them) but they are fleshed out in such a way that they feel real and relatable. I find myself caring what happens to them and feel like I know them.

Pacing. The books are all well paced. The mystery begins early on with a clear goal and steam forward full speed ahead. There are moments of comedy and romance to give the reader a breather, and then it's back on with the chase.

Romance. There is romance in these books, but it's more realistic than overblown and is never overused in the books. It helps to flesh out the characters and make them more human than literary figures.

Predictability. If you've read one Cordell Logan book, you've read them all. But they are so charming and

Ray Porter. Ray Porter is a master of reading audiobooks. I buy audiobooks just because he reads them, and even mediocre ones he elevates to pretty good.

The Bad


Second Story. The second story is NOT read by Ray Porter and so isn't as good as the others. I wish they'd release a new edition with the proper voice talent.

Death of an Important Character. In the fifth book, the author kills a major character. The sixth book is definitely missing that character and just isn't as enjoyable without them.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the author hadn't killed off a certain character in book five, because book six was lacking.

Overall


The Cordell Logan Series by David Freed is so enjoyable with fast-paced action, exciting adventure, a sarcastic protagonist who gives his jaded opinion about everything, and other great characters who feel so real and so human and so familiar. This series is pure entertainment with each book delivering exactly what you expect. I give this series a solid 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.

    
    

Monday, February 12, 2018

Quick Movie Review: Goodbye Christoper Robin


I love the Ernest Shepard art of the Winnie the Pooh books, so I was curious to see the story behind their creation. Goodbye Christoper Robin is not at all what I expected it to be. I was surprised by all the drama and domestic problems behind the creation of the beloved classic. The story was interesting, it just wasn't well told. The movie chose to jump around in time chaotically instead of presenting the story linearly, which made it a bit confusing. The actors weren't likable and the pacing was very slow. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.