Monday, July 30, 2018

Movie Review - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I love dinosaurs. I really enjoy Chris Pratt movies. I thought Jurassic World was a great movie. So of course I was excited for the sequel. But sequels have a bad habit of not living up to the first film, so...

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a 2018 science fiction action suspense film based on characters form the Jurassic Park novel by Michael Crichton. It is rated PG-13 for violence and is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good


New Premise. The premise of this movie is very different from the other four, which was really nice. The first half of the movie is a disaster movie, and the second is a chase that takes place in a mansion, both things we've never seen. Yet the filmmakers managed to put everything in (dinosaurs, chases, peril, etc.) that we want from our Jurassic Park films.

Beautiful Visuals. This movie was beautifully shot from the cinematography to the sets to the lighting. It really looked good.

Humor. This wasn't a comedy, but there were a few jokes and all of them were pretty funny.

Action. The action was a lot of fun, exciting, and well choreographed.

Special FX. The special effects were solid for the most part. I didn't feel like I was watching a video game.

Story. The story was solid, easy to follow, and yet didn't feel like a weak excuse to show dinosaur action. Things happened, ideas were explored, characters had some development.

The Bad


Illogical Movie Tropes. There was some lazy writing (such as lava next to Chris Pratt's skin that is hot enough to start grass on fire, yet there isn't a sing singe or blister anywhere on his arms or legs).

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish there has been more sense of peril. The filmmakers followed the formula for suspense, but you knew none of the main characters were in danger, so I was never at the edge of my seat.

Overall


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom felt like an old time jungle adventure film from the golden age of hollywood. It was beautifully shot, well acted, fun, and exciting. The premise was different from the other Jurassic Park films which was a nice change, yet everything we want from a dinosaur flick was included. The story and special effects were solid. I give this film a solid 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

   

Friday, July 27, 2018

Movie Review - Mission: Impossible – Fallout

I loved the first Mission Impossible film with Tom Cruise, then the second and third happened and I figured the franchise was over. Then the next two were actually good and got me excited again.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a 2018 action adventure film based on the Mission: Impossible tv series. It is rated PG-13 for violence and language and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good


Action. What's amazing about Tom Cruise is he does his own stunts, and the things you see on the screen are practical versus the CGI everyone else relies on. It's so nice to see real stunts. And these were pretty amazing.

Story. This movie had a lot more story than most Mission: Impossible flicks. It delivered twist after twist after twist and all of them made sense and were fairly grounded. All of them I saw coming, but they were still enjoyable.

The Bad


Pacing. This movie is 2 1/2 hours long, and it feels like it's 2 1/2 hours long.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish this movie had been as entertaining as the last two. I'm not sure what was different, but something was.

Overall


Mission: Impossible – Fallout was an exciting action flick with incredible stunt work and a much more elaborate, grounded story than I was expecting. While it contained all the action and troupes you expect from the series, it was different enough that I didn't feel like it was just another movie churned out of the same mold. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

   

Monday, July 23, 2018

Movie Review - Smurfs: The Lost Village

I've been a fan of The Smurfs for as long as I can remember. I loved reading books of their adventures and watching the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon in the 80s. I was very disappointed by their first movie, The Smurfs and The Magic Flute, and was equally disappointed by the next two movies that were live action and cgi hybrids. When I heard the latest film was more true to the comics and cartoons, I became very excited.

Smurfs: The Lost Village is a 2017 fantasy, cgi, family movie based on the classic comic by Peyo. It is rated PG and is appropriate for tall ages.

The Good


Animation. The animation was beautiful. The characters all looked like they should, the scenery was gorgeous to look at, and the movements were all perfect.

Story. The story was strong, well paced, had lots of good action, comedy, drama, and emotion, and was very linear and focused.

Focus on a Few Characters. This movie included many of the Smurfs, but wisely chose to focus on only a handful so they could be fleshed out and the story remained solid and focused.

Brainy's Smartphone Bug. The inclusion of Brainy's bug that can take dictations, take pictures, print, and more was really clever, fun, appropriate, and made this show feel very contemporary.

The Bad


Voice Acting. I just do not like most of the voices Sony chose for the characters, especially Papa Smurf and Gargamel. Granted, I am very bias towards the Hanna-Barbera voices, but the voices in this film aren't just different--they just don't fit. 

Female Smurfs. A lot of people don't understand what a strong woman is. They confuse that with witch (but with a "b") and think it's the same thing. But it's not. The female Smurfs were portrayed a lot more witchy than they needed to, and then they became weak flower children. They were unlikeable.

Gargamel's Incompetence. In the comic and cartoon, Gargamel is actually pretty competent and a real threat. He loses more because of the Smurfs' virtue, their teamwork, and his own bad luck. In this film, he was such an idiot that I had a hard time taking his threat seriously, and when he does manage to capture the Smurfs, it is so out of character and you know he's going to blow it quickly.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish this film had been a little more clever for the adults. It was a cute, fun, entertaining cartoon, but it really only had stuff for kids and those nostalgic for the classic Smurfs, which I enjoyed and was glad about, but there may not be more films like this because it didn't get better ratings and wasn't more popular.

Overall


Smurfs: The Lost Village is a fun family flick that reminds me of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons and the comics by Peyo. It has a solid story that focuses on a handful of characters, is beautifully animated, and has fun adventures and a clever smartphone bug gimmick. I give this film 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

     

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.