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.

    
   

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Blu-ray Review: Fleischer Rarities: Treasures from the Fleischer Studios by Thunderbean



I love animation from the early days of film. There was no precedent, so the animators and filmmakers had to be trailblazers and experiment. Some of those experiments paid off brilliantly, and others are lessons in what NOT to do.

Fleischer Rarities: Treasures from the Fleischer Studios by Thunderbean is a 2018 blu-ray compilation of animation work by Dave and Max Fleischer for various clients. It is appropriate for all ages.

The Good


Restoration. When you consider how old these films are and that they were never meant to be viewed more than for their initial purpose, it's really incredible that they exist and that they were able to be restored to such a high-quality presentation. Thunderbean did an excellent job making these look just as good they they could.

Bonus Material. The bonus material was my favorite part of this set. The main group of people who would be interested in a collection like this are those who love film, animation, and their rich history, so seeing all these posters, trade ads, production photos, pencil layouts, and other behind the scene treasures is truly wonderful.

To the Moon. This was a short in two-color technicolor and using models for the backgrounds producing a 3-D effect behind the hand drawn animation. It is a really unique look, and I enjoy it on the rare occasions I can find a film that used it.

The Bad


Blu-ray only. This is blu-ray only which limits how one can watch it. I'm sure it was a cost issue, but I do like more flexibility with my movies.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I would love to see a print edition with all of the extras: layouts, posters, promos, ads, photos, etc.

Overall


Fleischer Rarities: Treasures from the Fleischer Studios by Thunderbean is a fun assortment of animation from the early days of film. Some of the films are great, others just interesting artifacts from another era. All are beautifully restored. But the real treasure is all of the bonus material from posters to trade ads to pencil layouts to production stills and much, much more. If you are interested in film history or animation history, this is an incredible collection. I give this blu-ray 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

   

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Book Review - Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen by Steve Sims

I enjoy reading what I call "business books", because they are usually filled with several case studies I've never heard of an interesting takes and approaches to looking at the world.

Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen by Steve Sims is a nonfiction book filled with stories and advice from master concierge Steve Sims. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read..

The Good


Stories. The first half of this book is filled with great stories of how the author got to where he is and how he's made amazing things happen. Some are almost unbelievable.

Advice. Steve Sims has some excellent advice on how to make things happen and how to improve ones communication that applies to all people in many different situations. He presents it in a very straightforward, simple way to understand and apply.

The Bad


Repetition. The author repeats himself word for word many, many times, and it just wasn't necessary. If you want to re-emphasize the points or make sure the reader catches the important ideas, repeat them with some variation.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the author had included more stories of what he's done and how. The beginning are filled with them, but then he stops and just gives advice with few illustrations. I also wish he'd go into more details with his stories and not just say he made it happen but show us how.

Overall


Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen by Steve Sims is an interesting and informative look at how to get things done, improve your relationships, make your dreams come true, and improve your communication dashed with interesting and almost unbelievable true stories of how the author did those very things. I give this book a solid 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.