Monday, August 27, 2018

Movie Review - Crazy Rich Asians

I had heard nothing about this film until a week before it opened I happened to catch a trailer in the box office of a theater while leaving another film. It looked like a lot of fun, so I was hoping it would get a wide release so I could see it.

Crazy Rich Asians is a 2018 romantic comedy drama based on the book of the same name. It is rated PG-13 for language and is appropriate for most ages.

The Good

Characters. The characters were really fun. While they fit a lot of the stereotypes one expects in a romantic comedy, because of the heavy emphasis on southeast asian culture, they were different enough to feel a little fresh. And the writers did more with the characters than make them the usual plot devices.

Visuals. The look of the film was beautiful. From the sets to the costumes to the locations chosen.

Pacing. The film moves at the perfect pace. I never felt bored or confused.

Freshness. The film tackles a culture I wasn't that familiar with, so there were some new situations and ideas I haven't seen too many times.

The Bad

Racist Opening. The film opens with a scene to show why the mother distrusts foreigners, but it's little more than the typical "hate on while people" racism of the the current milieu to show "open mindedness" and an acceptance of "diversity".

Cousin's Story. The main male lead of the film's cousin has a similar story that goes in a very different direction that feels shoehorned in. I understand the point the filmmakers were trying to make, but it wasn't well executed.

Credits/Graphics. The credits and graphics looked like a cheap 90s TV production. Maybe that's what films in southeast asia look like and they were emulating that.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

The film was great and I didn't feel wanting for anything.


Crazy Rich Asians is such a delight to watch from a great cast to great visuals to a great story and acting. I laughed, I felt sad, and I walked out of the theater satisfied. I haven't enjoyed a film nor been this entertained in a long time. There is enough of the familiar romantic comedy American audiences will feel comfortable, but there is enough of the southeast asian culture and ideas that it feels fresh and different. It isn't a perfect film and has several areas that could be improved, but overall I loved it. I give this film 5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Book Review - Thrawn: Alliances (Star Wars) by Timothy Zahn

I enjoyed Timothy Zahn's original Thrawn Trilogy, but I thought it could have been better. The classic Star Wars characters were close, but not quite right. His first Thrawn book in the new series corrected that by getting the Emperor's character right and showing us new sides to Thrawn's character. I was curious to see how he would follow up that story.

Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn is a science fiction, action, adventure Star Wars storyIt is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and one of those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good

Darth Vader. I find it rare for anyone but George Lucas to get his classic characters right. I've read a lot of Star Wars novels, comic books, comic strips, and even watched those awful new Star Wars films, and no one seems to really capture the original characters. Even Timothy Zahn in his first series of Star Wars novels couldn't pull it off. Until now. Darth Vader felt like Darth Vader, spoke like Darth Vader, and acted like Darth Vader.

Interesting Stories that Parallel. This latest novel is actually two stories that take place in a similar part of space with the earlier story affecting the latter one. While the story wasn't as good as the first Thrawn novel in the series, is was still interesting and added to the Star Wars mythos.

The Bad

Small Scope. When I think of Star Wars, I think of Galactic Opera that contrasts the big galactic events against the everyday lives of ordinary people. This story forgot the galactic events.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish more had happened. I wish the aliens had been more interesting.


Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn wasn't as good as the first Thrawn novel in this series, but was still an enjoyable read and continues the story adding more to Thrawn's backstory and motivation. Zahn did a masterful job of capturing Darth Vader's voice, thoughts, and actions. The parallel stories was handled well and helped make two less interesting stories more impactful. I give this book 4 out of 5 eReaders.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Movie Review - Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

I loved Mamma Mia! when I saw it live, but was a little disappointed in the film version because of who was cast: most of them couldn't sing, and most of them were too old for those roles. I was a little hesitant to watch a sequel, because I wasn't sure there were many places worth going, but I loved the first one so much I went and saw it anyway.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a 2018 musical comedy drama based on the music of ABBA. It is rated PG-13 for language and is appropriate for teens and up.

The Good

Story. This movie had a great story. It parallels Donna's journey to the island and meeting the three guys with Sofie's journey to restore the old place to a great hotel. It was really interesting and well told and definitely deserved to be told.

Young-version Actors. The actors cast as the young versions were really well cast, They looked and acted like their older counterparts, but could also sing which was great.

The Bad

Music. The music in this film felt like a Side B to the first. There were a few good songs and good performances, but most of them paled in comparison to what we've seen before.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the music had been better.


Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was a sequel/prequel that deserved to be made. It parallels both the backstory with what happens a year later. The story is really interesting and well told. The casting for the young versions of the characters is very well done. The music sounds like the B Side to the first movie's soundtrack and was disappointing. I give this film 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.


Monday, August 6, 2018

Book Review - Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten

I recently finished another book by this author, The Loch, and really enjoyed it. I was excited to read more. I picked up his first big hit, and soon realized he has grown as an author since then, a fact I was reminded of with each and every page.

Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror 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

Well-told Story. The author is a competent writer who knows who to tell a story. While it wasn't anything new or original, it was well told.

Science. This book presents some well described science about prehistoric animals, the bottom of the ocean, and how extinct species could still be around.

The Bad

Not Original. This story is one you've either seen, read, watched, or all of the above several times. It's your typical monster story that proceeds along the usual, expected route.

Unmemorable Characters. The characters weren't particularly memorable or likeable.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish this story had offered something really cool, new, or unique like the Empire State Building in King Kong or the genetics of Jurassic World.


Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten is just another retelling of the classic monster story: Jaws, King Kong, Jurassic World, etc. but unlike those stories, this one didn't add anything new or unique. The book is competently written and well paced, but the story precedes how you expect it to and loses some of the suspense because of it. I give this book 3.5 out of 5 eReaders.


Friday, August 3, 2018

Movie Review - Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

I'm a huge Genndy Tartakovsky fan. I loved Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Sym Bionic Titan. His television work is as good as it comes. His movie work … not so much.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is a 2018 cgi animated film by Genndy Tartakovsky. It is rated PG and is appropriate for all ages.

The Good

Premise. This movie did a nice job mixing up the premise by taking the characters from a hotel and putting them in a hotel on the ocean, which was really clever, because it stayed true to the premise while providing something new for the characters to react to.

Closing Credits. The closing credits are traditionally animated in the classic Genndy Tartakovsky style, which was really wonderful to behold. I would love to see a series animated like this (the Disney XD series looks too computerized).

The Bad

Animation. The animation is fine, but really looks like cheap 2-D movement which doesn't translate well. Also the visuals are very plastic looking.

Cleverness. While the premise offers a nice twist to the classic formula, the film never rises to the level of brilliant, just mildly amusing.

Story. The story is nothing new, and it proceeds exactly how you expect it to with all the expected twists and turns and no surprises.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the movie had been more clever.


Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation delivers exactly what the audience is expecting. If you enjoyed the first two and want to see more of the same, you'll be happy. If you were hoping for something different, something new, something more original or clever, you'll be disappointed. The premise of setting the film in a hotel on the ocean allows the movie to stay true to the series while offering something a little different. The movie is entertaining, but, like the first two, doesn't offer anything really special or wonderful. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Movie Review - Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

Unlike a lot of comic book fans, I actually like the idea of Teen Titans Go! even if I don't think all the jokes are that funny or all the things they try are that successful. I'm impressed how they've managed to have a new episode every week for years. I was curious what they would do for a major motion picture, whether they'd step up the game in all areas, especially the story and cleverness.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a 2018 animated superhero film based on the tv show based on the DC Comics characters. It's rated PG, but is appropriate for all ages.

The Good

Art Direction. The film looked really nice. The animators definitely stepped up their game on the backgrounds and animation. The fight scenes also were bumped up a notch.

Inclusion of the DC Universe. I really like how many characters were included, even obscure ones like the Challengers of the Unknown. I wasn't a fan of the voices they used (sorry, Nick Cage, but you are no Superman), but I did like the roles they played.

Story. The story was really fun and filled with a lot of stuff that held my interest, provided a lot of variety, and covered a lot of different ideas to keep the action from getting stale.

Jokes. There were a lot of bad jokes, but there were also several good jokes, references, and commentary. I liked the Stan Lee cameo parody,the inclusion of Marvel and Mirage comic characters, and the references to other movies.

The Bad

Aimed at Young Ages. This movie was definitely aimed at a very young audience with a lot of low level jokes and uncomplicated plot. I with they had included a little more for the adult viewers.

Not Super Clever. They had some clever ideas, but none of the ideas reached the level of brilliant, which I've come to expect in kids' movies.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish this movie had been more clever like The Lego Batman Movie, Marvel movies, Dreamworks films, and other films aimed at the whole family.


Teen Titans Go! To the Movies was better than I thought it would be. There were some great jokes, clever ideas, nice nods to other movies, good looking animation, and a story filled with a lot of variety to keep things interesting. This film is aimed at a young audience and isn't as satisfying for older viewers as other family films, but it's still very entertaining and fun. I give it 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.