Friday, December 15, 2017

Movie Review: The Space Between Us

I rarely watch romantic dramas, but every once in a while one looks like it might be something I'd enjoy. I usually wait for it to come out on DVD so I can watch it at double speed and not waste too much of my time if it disappoints.

The Space Between Us is a 2017 romantic, science fiction drama. It is rated PG-13 for language and sensuality but is appropriate for tweens and up.


While traveling to Mars, an astronaut finds out she is pregnant. Her son is born on Mars. Because of the difference in gravity, he can't safely come to Earth, yet falls in love with a girl on Earth over the Internet and travels to see her. Drama ensues.

The Good

Main Characters and their Chemistry. The main two characters are fairly interesting, and they have good chemistry. That is what makes this film enjoyable. Everything else is pretty clichéd and stock.

Straightforward Storytelling. I appreciate how this movie gets out of the way and lets the story unroll. It was a smart move, because the story was solid and the actors did a good job.

The Bad

Predictable. This movie takes the obvious course, offers the obvious conflicts, resolves them with the obvious solution. It would have been nice to have something unexpected happen.

Slow. Because the movie is predictable and goes exactly where you expect it to go, it feels a little long and slow. Editing this down to a 90 minute flick would have helped pacing.

Big Reveal. The big reveal at the end is so obvious that is almost seems silly and melodramatic when they finally get around to it.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish there had been more to this film. It's exactly what you expect it to be, which was a little disappointing.


The Space Between Us is an enjoyable romantic drama that is well told but very predictable and plays out exactly how you expect it to. The actors do a great job and have good chemistry and are the strong point of the movie with everything else being lackluster and mediocre. I give this movie 3.5 boxes of popcorn out of 5.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Movie Review: Lucky Luke (2009)

European comics have been around for decades but haven't made much of an impact on American readers despite the quality art, writing, and stories other than Peyo's Smurfs. But I enjoy reading them and watching foreign adaptions even if they have a different sensibility than American audiences are used to.

Lucky Luke is a 2019 romantic, comedy, action, foreign film starring Jean Dujardin (from the recent silent film The Artist) based on the European comics of the same name. It is unrated but is appropriate for tweens and up.


Lucky Luke is an expert gunsman who is quicker than his own shadow and lives in a fantasized version of the American West battling scoundrels and other villains.

The Good

Capturing the Tone of the Comic. The comic book is what Cartoon Network would call a "cartoon cartoon" with squat, cartoony proportions and silly gags that would never work in real life. The filmmakers did a great job bringing that surreal comedy and nonsense to life in a way that was fun, silly, yet believable enough that it didn't distract from the drama or tension. The only other movie to really capture a comic strip and put it on screen was Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. The movie even manages to include a lot of different characters and incidents from the dozens of adventures.

Lucky Luke.
 Jean Dujardin perfectly captured the look and feel of Lucky Luke as well as created an interesting character someone who's never read the comic will like.

 The first third and last third move along at a great pace and are filled with a lot of fun, surreal action/comedy that is a joy to watch.

The Bad

'Lost His Powers' cliché. The reason superheroes are popular is because of their superpowers. Take those away, and they are pretty uninteresting characters. And yet writers and filmmakers love to do that: Flash loses his super speed; Green Lantern loses his ring; Superman loses his super powers; Spider-man runs out of web fluid for his webshooters. It's not interesting, and the middle third of this movie had Lucky Luke lose his luck and will to live. He is a mopey cowboy no different than any other mopey cowboy. It almost ruined the movie it dragged on for so long and was so boring.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish they had skipped the middle where Lucky Luke lost his luck, or at lest shortened it considerably. It was SO BORING. This movie would have gotten 5 boxes of popcorn if the filmmakers hadn't forced me to watch that.


Lucky Luke is a fun western flick filled with surreal action and comedy straight out of the comic. The middle third is deadly boring when Lucky Luke loses his luck, but the beginning and end are so fun, enjoyable, and well done that it's worth sitting thru. I give this movie 4 boxes of popcorn out of 5.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Book Review - The Drug Hunters The Improbable Quest to Discover New Medicines by Donald R. Kirsch and Ogi Ogas

A lot of people hate "Big Pharma" calling them the devil and blaming them and their greed for so much of society's woes. If you know nothing other than the price of your medications, I can see how you might mistakenly think that. But if you understand the realities of business and the process of developing new drugs, you can't help but change your attitude.

The Drug Hunters The Improbable Quest to Discover New Medicines by Donald R. Kirsch and Ogi Ogas is a history of the development of the drug industry and a look behind the scenes at why it is the way it is including the high costs and the reason cures for certain diseases and other treatments haven't been developed.

The Good

Great History. This book begins with early prehistoric man using herbs and plants for their medicinal value and follows the development of this branch of science to the present day. It covers each era in good detail describing what happened, why, what influenced it, what were the results, and who some of the major players were. It was incredibly informative.

Good Detail and Explanation. This book has a lot of information and a lot of science, but it is mostly digestible for the educated reader. I appreciate the authors didn't dumb anything down, although they weren't very skilled at making science accessible to the average reader and would have benefitted from an additional co-author.

The Bad

Cultural / Historical References. The authors make several pop culture references and historical parallels that aren't exactly correct. Steve Jobs did not invent the iPhone, and it was as much of a happy accidental convergence at the birth control pill.

Author Bias. The authors make it very clear they are devoted followers of the mainstream media and think that's the only educated course of action. At the beginning they offer a completely reasonable explanation to why plants and animals contain helpful substances for humans, but completely dismiss it for the rest of the book, because they can't entertain the idea there may actually be a guiding force behind the creation of this planet.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the authors had been a little more educated on history outside of their field so their examples and cultural references hadn't been so glaringly incorrect. It made them less credible and made me question if their other information might also be inaccurate.


The Drug Hunters The Improbable Quest to Discover New Medicines by Donald R. Kirsch and Ogi Ogas is a fascinating look at the history of the drug industry, how it works, and why it does what it does, and why it develops or doesn't develop what it does. The authors work in the industry, so they have a lot of first hand knowledge on the specifics. They doesn't seem to have spent much time learning anything else, because their incorrect references to pop culture and other history make made them less credible and make the reader question if their other information might also be inaccurate. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Book Review - Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

James Garfield is largely forgotten today because of his short time in the White House, but in his lifetime he made quite a contribution. I only became aware of him when I visited Mentor, Ohio and saw the museum dedicated to him.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard is a biography of James Garfield, 20th President of the United States.

The Good

Well Written. This book flows very well. The words don't get in the way, it moves at an entertaining pace, the events are well described, and the information is complete so the reader isn't left wondering about anything.

 This book deals with a period of history between the Civil War and the beginning of the 20th Century, a period that is rarely written about or explored. There were a lot of important figures, events, and discoveries in this period that were fascinating to read about. That alone makes this book worth reading.

The Bad

Not Dramatic. Often the historical figures and events that get written about do something extraordinary or spectacular in a flashy sort of way that makes one go wow. James Garfield was a great man who did great things, but they were more low key things and not so flashy. If you read many biographies, this one may feel a little anti-climatic because of the smaller more subtle ways James Garfield affected history instead of some dramatic turn in the course of events.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

The anti-captial punishment rant at the end was annoying and out of place. Otherwise this book covered the topic well and in an interesting way.


Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President is a well-written biography about a great man whose contribution to history was more subtle and is largely forgotten today. His accomplishments aren't as dramatic as those of others most people read about, but important nonetheless. This book deals with a period of history between the Civil War and the beginning of the 20th Century, a period that is rarely written about or explored. There were a lot of important figures, events, and discoveries in this period that were fascinating to read about. That alone makes this book worth reading. I give this book 4 out of 5 eReaders.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Movie Review: Your Name

I enjoy anime. Most of it is mediocre to boring, the good stuff is REALLY good. Anime is known for being original, experimental, and breaking new ground. It is film first, animation second. That's what I like so much about it.

Your Name is a 2016 romantic adventure anime involving time travel. It is rated PG and is appropriate for most ages.

The Good

Animation. This film is gorgeous. The visuals alone are worth watching this movie for.

Exploration of Themes.
 This film tackles very common ideas of identity, time travel, and love, but does it in such an original way that I was truly inspired by it. It' so original and fresh.

 This movie started off slow (like most anime), but it picked up the pace and felt like a western film early on.

The Bad

Exposition & Setup. This film began a little slow and confused. I wasn't sure what was happening. The director could have shown what time it was to better orient the viewer. Also, the characters figured out they were switching bodies pretty quickly and just accepted it. As realistic and the characters and motivations were, that part was a little far fetched. No rational person would ever think that or accept that without mountains of evidence.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the beginning had had more development, showed how the characters discovered they were switching bodies, and explored the differences of boys and girls. All of that was rushed thru.


Your Name is a fascinating, beautifully animated film that after a slow start had me at the edge of my seat. It explored relationships, identity, and time travel in ways I've never seen before. I give this movie 4.5 boxes of popcorn out of 5.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie Review: Justice League (2017 film)

I love the classic DC Universe. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, The Green Lantern, and others are icons for a reason. I've been wanting to see a live action SuperFriends flick my whole life. I never understood why Christopher Reeves, Adam West, and Lynda Carter didn't team up. I'm not a fan of what DC has done to their characters over the last 15 years, so I was very nervous for this movie.

Justice League is a 2017 action superhero movie featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and other DC Comics characters. It is rated PG-13 for language and intense action and is appropriate for most ages.

The Good

Characters. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash were all well cast and fun to watch. I loved their interactions. The characters playing off each other and fighting together are the highlights of this film and what make it work.

Zach Snyder Visuals.
 Zack Snyder puts some amazing visuals in his movies, and this film is no exception. Some of the cityscape shots at the beginning with Batman hunting a Parademon looked like a painting come to life.

 This movie is an action movie, and there is some great action with all characters showing what they can do. It really looked like a comic book come to life.

The Bad

Villain. In the comics, Steppenwolf is a pretty cool hunter and general for Darkseid. Whoever came up with this version has obviously never read the comic. He's portrayed as some lumbering giant that spends the movie mindlessly destroying and conquering for no real reason.

Cyborg and Aquaman. Cyborg was annoying and Aquaman acted like he was high. Neither were interesting characters.

Story. This is an action movie, and the story is no deeper than that of a typical action movie or Saturday morning cartoon. As long as you don't think too hard about what's going on and just go with the flow, the gaping plot wholes and logical inconsistencies won't disrupt your enjoyment.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the filmmakers had chosen a really great story from the comics to adapt instead of coming up with their convoluted mess. I also wish they hadn't replaced real League members with Cyborg who works much better in the Teen Titans.


Justice League is an entertaining movie filled with some fun characters, great action, and many nice visuals. The characters' interactions and fighting together are the highlights that make this movie work. The story makes as much sense as a typical action movie or Saturday morning cartoon--as long as you don't think too hard about it and just go with the flow, the gaping plot wholes and logical inconsistencies won't disrupt your fun. I give this film 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Movie Review - Thor: Ragnarok

I really enjoyed the first two Thor movies and felt they were two of the strongest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (I know there are many of you out there with opinions to the contrary, but I think a couple of decades of time will change your opinions), and I loved The Incredible Hulk movie. So I really excited for the latest Thor film prominently featuring the Hulk. But would it live up to my expectations? Was I setting myself up for disappointment?

Thor: Ragnarok is a 2017 superhero, action, adventure film from Marvel Studios featuring characters by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby. It is rated PG-13 for language, some sexual jokes, and violence. It is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good

Chris Hemsworth. Chris does a great job portraying the God of Thunder. He's very likable, serious when he needs to be serious, and is very powerful in this role demanding attention like a Norse god should.

Planet Hulk scenes. I enjoyed the Planet Hulk animated movie from a few years back, and thought the producers did a great job integrating that with Thor and making it feel like both stories belonged in the same movie. And the scenes were fun, entertaining, visually delightful, and funny. This was without question the best part of the film.

The Bad

Plot and Pacing. This movie was thin on story and dragged until they reached the Planet Hulk scenes.

Hela. The villainess Hela was supposed to be this all powerful goddess of death that couldn't be stopped. Instead she was this shallow, prancing, two-dimensional character that was all talk and very little action. She just wasn't strong enough to provide real menace, nor interesting enough to be memorable.

Special Effects. I'm not sure if it is the director, the producers, or the special effects houses dropping the ball, but this movie felt very cgi and very cheap video game like. The leaps, flying, and fighting all looked badly rendered and cheaply put together. It took away from the film.

Humor. This movie had the usual Marvel movie jokes, except they weren't that funny. Every one you saw coming, and none were impeccably delivered.

Music. This film had some good music, but there were several different styles that didn't mesh well together, and several of them didn't fit the mood or feel of the film. I found myself conciously noticing the music, which you should never do. It should seamlessly blend with the visuals and other audio for a complete experience that you don't notice.

End Credit Scene. I don't expect a lot from the end credit scenes these days. The early ones always revealed something cool, but lately they've been desperate. The end credit scene for Thor: Ragnarok scraped an all new low that makes bottom of the barrel look elevated. Don't waste your time sticking around for it.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I would like to have seen more originality instead of following the Marvel Movie Formula so closely. Thor is a unique character with a unique backstory different than most superheroes that gives you options to break out of the Marvel Movie Mold and do something new. I also wish the villain had been stronger and that they had shown more Planet Hulk scenes.


Thor: Ragnarok is an entertaining film that continues the story began in earlier films and advances the characters and the story to the next chapter. The Planet Hulk scenes were so much fun and so entertaining and by far the best part of the film. The villainess Hela was weak and not a serious challenge. I give this movie 3.5 boxes of popcorn out of 5.