Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Book Review - The Last Monument by Michael C. Grumley

I am so sick of stories that use World War II or Nazis in their plot that I've pretty much stopped reading or watching them. I'm not sure what possessed me to pick this book up, but I'm sure glad I did.

The Last Monument by Michael C. Grumley is a science fiction treasure hunt. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Characters. The characters were really likable and each had a good personality while the group had great chemistry.

Story. While this is a pretty standard "quest for the McGuffin"-type story, the path it took and the interactions with the characters were different and really compelling.

Scifi Twist. While this wasn't the first time I had seen this particular scifi twist, it was handled really well with a great build up and a satisfying payoff.

The Bad


Cliches. With the amount of thought and care put into the rest of the story, I think the author is capable of coming up with a villain other than the Nazis and a past other than World War II.


What I Would Like to Have Seen


I was very satisfied.

Overall


The Last Monument by Michael C. Grumley is a science fiction treasure hunt. While this is a pretty standard "quest for the McGuffin"-type story, the path it took and the interactions with the characters were different and really compelling. The characters were really likable and each had a good personality while the group had great chemistry. The pacing was just right. While this wasn't the first time I had seen this particular scifi twist, it was handled really well with a great build up and a satisfying payoff. With the amount of thought and care put into the rest of the story, I think the author is capable of coming up with a villain other than the Nazis and a past other than World War II. I am so sick of stories that use World War II or Nazis in their plot that I've pretty much stopped reading or watching them. I'm not sure what possessed me to pick this book up, but I'm sure glad I did. I highly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.


  

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086G6FKRV/





Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Blu Ray / DVD Review - Batman: Death in the Family

I really enjoyed Batman: Under The Red Hood and wished they had spent more time on the Death in the Family part of the film. Well Christmas came early this year because that happened.

Batman: Death in the Family is a 2020 animated superhero film. It is rated R for violence and gore and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good

Concept. The concept is pretty clever. This is a choose-your-own-adventure style story where the story branches off and you can choose what happens. What I like about this is it really explores several of the what ifs which is really fun and opens up new story possibilities.

Stories. The storytelling was really strong and really engaging. This story went in a lot of different directions, many of them ending very differently.

The Bad


Corner Cutting. My biggest complaint is the filmmakers didn't go far enough. A lot of the footage was recycled from Batman: Under the Red Hood with the new footage at a much lower quality. Much of it was still frames or very limited animation with voice-over narration. While this wasn't necessarily bad and still provided a lot of entertainment, it was a sign of the whole approach to this. Many of the stories ended too soon not fully exploring the possibilities, and a few went in directions that were too similar instead of exploring a wider set of possibilities.

Additional Shorts. I like the characters they chose for the additional shorts, I just wish the filmmakers had chosen better stories to tell that weren't so dark and generic. I wish the stories better reflected the nature of the characters and what make them unique.

 

What I Would Like To Have Seen

I wish Warner Bros had put more money and resources into this project to fully realize it, because what they did do was really well done.


Overall

Batman: Death in the Family is a 2020 animated superhero film. The concept is pretty clever. This is a choose-your-own-adventure style story where the story branches off and you can choose what happens. What I like about this is it really explores several of the what ifs which is really fun and opens up new story possibilities. My biggest complaint is the filmmakers didn't go far enough. A lot of the footage was recycled from Batman: Under the Red Hood with the new footage at a much lower quality. Much of it was still frames or very limited animation with voice-over narration. While this wasn't necessarily bad and still provided a lot of entertainment, it was a sign of the whole approach to this. Many of the stories ended too soon not fully exploring the possibilities, and a few went in directions that were too similar instead of exploring a wider set of possibilities. I wish Warner Bros had put more money and resources into this project to fully realize it, because what they did do was really well done.  I give this film 4 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


    

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086G6FKRV/

Monday, December 28, 2020

Book Review - The Mighty Return of Ric Hochet 3. How to Commit the Perfect Murder by Zidrou and Van Liemt

I love superhero comics, but I think I enjoy humor comics and slice of life mystery comics even more.

The Mighty Return of Ric Hochet 3. How to Commit the Perfect Murder by Zidrou and Van Liemt is a mystery graphic novel and a reinvention of the classic Belgium Ric Hochet title. It is available digitally in English.

The Good


Art. Van Liemt is a great artist and does the perfect job of capturing the look and feel of the old Ric Hochet comics from Tibet while still looking modern. His figure work is both anatomically accurate and cartoony enough to have great flow and emotion. The backgrounds are all well rendered, and the colors only add to the beautiful line work.

Story. The story is a really clever concept--someone commits murder by planting a how-to guide on murder in amongst books and magazines. People pick them up and follow the instructions leading to a rash of crime. Not only is the concept great, but the execution is so well done. The story flows so smoothly and moves at a great pace. And it is long enough that the entire story is told in these nearly 60 pages so you don't have to track down another issue to see what happens.

Characters. This graphic novel has some really fun characters who are not characteratures nor exaggerations, yet they aren't boring or unmemorable. The balance the creators struck between realism to ground the story and cartoony fantasy to take full advantage of the medium is truly incredible.

 

The Bad

 
Only three issues are available.


What I Would Like to Have Seen


One hundred issues.


Overall


The Mighty Return of Ric Hochet 3. How to Commit the Perfect Murder by Zidrou and Van Liemt is a mystery graphic novel and a reinvention of the classic Belgium Ric Hochet title. The story is a really clever concept--someone commits murder by planting a how-to guide on murder in amongst books and magazines. People pick them up and follow the instructions leading to a rash of crime. Not only is the concept great, but the execution is so well done. The story flows so smoothly and moves at a great pace. And it is long enough that the entire story is told in these nearly 60 pages so you don't have to track down another issue to see what happens. Van Liemt is a great artist and does the perfect job of capturing the look and feel of the old Ric Hochet comics from Tibet while still looking modern. His figure work is both anatomically accurate and cartoony enough to have great flow and emotion. The backgrounds are all well rendered, and the colors only add to the beautiful line work. This graphic novel has some really fun characters who are not characteratures nor exaggerations, yet they aren't boring or unmemorable. The balance the creators struck between realism to ground the story and cartoony fantasy to take full advantage of the medium is truly incredible. The only negative is only three issues are available. I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 eReaders.


  

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086G6FKRV/

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Movie Review - Wonder Woman 1984

I've loved Wonder Woman for as long as I can remember. She is my favorite superhero. I loved the Lynda Carter TV series and never understood why Wonder Woman never had a theatrical film or animated series. Then Gal Gadot came onto the scene and started in an amazing movie and I thought, "Finally! Wonder Woman is getting the treatment she deserves. I can't wait for the next movie." Oh, how dreams can be so quickly dashed.

Wonder Woman 1984 is a 2020 live-action action superhero film. It is rated PG-13 for violence and intensity and is appropriate for most ages.

The Good

Gal Godat. GalGodat is excellent in this film. She perfectly embodies Wonder Woman just as well as Lynda Carter. She is flawless in this.

80s Nostalgia. This film feels like the Lynda Carter series was brought back as an 80s TV movie of the week. I really enjoyed that.

Concept. The concept is similar to that of the short story The Monkey's Paw. Characters in the film find a magic wishing stone, and it grants wishes but at the price of taking what you value most. This is pretty original for a film and offers so many great directions to go. It's too bad the filmmakers didn't do that.

The Bad


Story. While the concept was great, the story was really weak. The director did not choose to explore any really clever or interesting story possibilities but decided to go with the obvious and tired nuclear war, Armageddon, blah, blah, blah.

Execution. This movie was not well filmed, the dialogue was stilted and forced, the acting was over the top, the message wasn't clear but was still shoved down the audiences throat in a very heavy-handed manner. The action scenes were slow motion on wires that defied the laws of physics so none of them looked cool or were engaging.

 

What I Would Like To Have Seen

I wish someone else had written the story and screen play. Patty Jenkins can direct, but she can't come up with interesting stories.


Overall

Wonder Woman 1984 is a 2020 live-action action superhero film. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen all the best parts, all the actions scenes, and almost all of the jokes. GalGodat is excellent in this film. She perfectly embodies Wonder Woman just as well as Lynda Carter. She is flawless in this. This film feels like the Lynda Carter series was brought back as an 80s TV movie of the week. The concept is similar to that of the short story The Monkey's Paw. Characters in the film find a magic wishing stone, and it grants wishes but at the price of taking what you value most. This is pretty original for a film and offers so many great directions to go. It's too bad the filmmakers didn't do that. I really enjoyed that. While the concept was great, the story was really weak. The director did not choose to explore any really clever or interesting story possibilities but decided to go with the obvious and tired nuclear war, Armageddon, blah, blah, blah. This movie was not well filmed, the dialogue was stilted and forced, the acting was over the top, the message wasn't clear but was still shoved down the audiences throat in a very heavy-handed manner. The action scenes were slow motion on wires that defied the laws of physics so none of them looked cool or were engaging. I wish someone else had written the story and screen play. Patty Jenkins can direct, but she can't come up with interesting stories. I give this film 3 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


    

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086G6FKRV/

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Book Review - Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators, Father of the Adventure Strip by Brian M. Kane

I absolutely adore early newspaper comic strips by the great masters like Milt Caniff, Roy Crane, and Hal Foster. And I find the story behind the comics and their creators tend to be worth exploring.

Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators, Father of the Adventure Strip by Brian M. Kane is a biography of the man and his work. It is available in both hardcover and paperback editions.

The Good


Telling of the Story. Biographies can be incredibly fascinating or painfully dull depending on who is doing the storytelling, and this author did a good joy of keeping the story moving while including a lot of information, details, and background information to set the story in the proper time and frame. While there is a ton of info, I never felt bogged down by it because of the quick page, conversational tone, and numerous visuals.

Artwork. This book does an incredible job of including a lot of photos and artwork, especially photos and artwork that have probably never been seen outside the family or since they were produced. I was really impressed with all the Christmas cards, sketches, doodles, advertisements, paintings, etc. and the quality of their reproduction.

 

The Bad

 ...


What I Would Like to Have Seen

While I appreciate all of the extra matter included, it would have been nice to see a few more examples of the actual comics Hal Foster was so famous for. There were a few panels in black and white from his color comics run on Tarzan, but no full page comics which would have been really nice to see.


Overall


Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators, Father of the Adventure Strip by Brian M. Kane is a biography of the man and his work. It is available in both hardcover and paperback editions. Biographies can be incredibly fascinating or painfully dull depending on who is doing the storytelling, and this author did a good joy of keeping the story moving while including a lot of information, details, and background information to set the story in the proper time and frame. While there is a ton of info, I never felt bogged down by it because of the quick page, conversational tone, and numerous visuals. This book does an incredible job of including a lot of photos and artwork, especially photos and artwork that have probably never been seen outside the family or since they were produced. I was really impressed with all the Christmas cards, sketches, doodles, advertisements, paintings, etc. and the quality of their reproduction. I highly recommend this book and give it 4 out of 5 eReaders.


  

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086G6FKRV/





Monday, December 21, 2020

Movie Review - Lupin the 3rd: The First

Lupin the 3rd is an interesting manga and anime. It's been around for half a century and has had so many different interpretations for different age groups (everything from family friendly to mature adults only) and yet has not changed its essence or even style. And there have been so many adaptions from TV series to movies to live action movies to the most recent cgi film. The most modern and recent versions look very similar to the original. What other franchises can claim this?

Lupin the 3rd: The First is a 2019 cgi action adventure Japanese film. It is unrated, contains action and mild violence, and is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good

Characters. The characters in this film are true to the versions we've been enjoying for the past half century, and they're still interesting.

Action. The movie had tons of action. It's really well done and all of it advances the story and is fun to watch.

Visuals. This film looks really nice. The characters look just how you would expect them to look, the scenery is well designed, and the cinematography is well done with a lot of movement and different angles to keep things interesting.

The Bad

Concept. This is another film about former Nazis looking for a superweapon to resurrect the Third Reich yada yada yada. It's a very tired concept that while well done in this film is still a tired concept.


What I Would Like To Have Seen

A more original concept.

Overall

Lupin the 3rd: The First is a 2019 cgi action adventure Japanese film. It is unrated, contains action and mild violence, and is appropriate for tweens and up. The characters are classic and are true to the versions fans have been enjoying for half a century. The movie had tons of action. It's really well done and all of it advances the story and is fun to watch. This film looks really nice. The characters look just how you would expect them to look, the scenery is well designed, and the cinematography is well done with a lot of movement and different angles to keep things interesting. The main negative is the concept. This is another film about former Nazis looking for a superweapon to resurrect the Third Reich yada yada yada. It's a very tired concept that while well done in this film is still a tired concept. I recommend this film give it 4 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


     

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086G6FKRV/

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Merry Christmas 2020 - Joy

 Each year I create a Christmas card with an original illustration and poem. For many years I used the titles of Christmas carols as inspiration, but I eventually ran out of carols. So then I started going for themes, phrases, and words related to Christmas. This year's word is JOY. Enjoy!



Monday, November 23, 2020

Movie Review - Vanguard

Do you remember a decade or two ago when movies used to be good and going to the theater was enjoyable? I do, and now I don't have to just remember.

Vanguard is a 2020 live-action action adventure Chinese film. It is rated PG-13 for action and is appropriate for most ages.

The Good

Execution. The story is pretty basic: an international security firm has to protect one of its clients from terrorists and action ensues. What makes this film special is its execution. It was perfectly cast, scripted, acted, filmed, and edited. It was chuck full of fun and entertainment.

Casting. This movie couldn't have had a better cast. Everyone was perfect for his roles, and the cast as a whole had great chemistry together.

Fun. This film was so much fun! While most of it seemed pretty grounded and realistic, it had some signature Jackie Chan parts that were just fun and silly and you know would never happen, but you don't care because it's just so cool to watch.

Action. The movie had tons of action, and it varied so it never became stale or repetitive.

Visuals. This film takes place around the world from London to Dubai and several places in between, and each location couldn't have been shot better.

The Bad

...


What I Would Like To Have Seen

 A sequel.

Overall

Vanguard is a 2020 live-action action adventure Chinese film. The story is pretty basic: an international security firm has to protect one of its clients from terrorists and action ensues. What makes this film special is its execution. It was perfectly cast, scripted, acted, filmed, and edited. It was chuck full of fun and entertainment. It was serious but fun. This movie couldn't have had a better cast. Everyone was perfect for his roles, and the cast as a whole had great chemistry together. The movie had tons of action, and it varied so it never became stale or repetitive. This film takes place around the world from London to Dubai and several places in between, and each location couldn't have been shot better.This film was so much fun! While most of it seemed pretty grounded and realistic, it had some signature Jackie Chan parts that were just fun and silly and you know would never happen, but you don't care because it's just so cool to watch. I highly recommend this film give it 5 out of 5 Boxes of Popcorn.


     

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086G6FKRV/