Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the RainThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Enzo. I never would have thought that a book written in the first-person with a dog as its narrator would be so damn entertaining, but this one surprised me. It's a wonderful oxymoron, deep and simple at the same time. The simple joys and complex musings of this particular example of man's best friend bring the reader to heights of elation and depths of sorrow. Seriously. Enzo had me alternating between laughing out loud, smiling broadly, and holding back tears as he narrates the struggles his family went through while he watched, most of the time feeling helpless while knowing and noticing more than anyone would ever expect. He really is the best puppy ever. The only detraction I could make is that there was a little too much racing jargon and history for my liking that felt to me like a chore to get through, but it's a necessary evil as it ties everything together at the end into one misty-eyed bow.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Shows Review: One Out of Four Ain't Bad...?

I'm back with what is going to be my penultimate review of new shows for the 2013 Fall Season. I'm a bit late on a few of the shows included here because for one thing I didn't have enough to write about any of them to give them a blog of their own really and, for another thing, life has been pretty busy lately. Plus, out of these four shows, only one was any good, so there wasn't any motivation to devote a whole lot of time to them.

So yeah, this is going to be pretty short. And away we go!

We start with a spin-off of an actual good show that seems to be a spin-off in name only as nothing I saw in the pilot or set up has anything to do with its parent show, Once Upon a Time. In fact, this show sort of defies that show's entire set-up; OUaT is about fairy tale characters moving back and forth between our world and the world of fairy tale. But, Alice is a fairy tale character who moves in and out of the fairy tale world and the "real world" in the fairy tale, so how does that affect the rules of the OUaT universe? It isn't addressed. If you can ignore that confusion in narrative logic, you get to the plot: Alice returns to Wonderland to find the man she fell in love with while she was there: the Genie from Aladdin's lamp who is apparently being held captive by the villain team of the Red Queen and Jafar, who are hunting for Alice because she's keeping the three wishes the Genie granted her in a hole in her shoe in the form of little rubies.

If that doesn't sound like bad fucking fan fiction, I don't know what does. Pass.

Here we have the CW version of a 1990's Nickelodeon remake of a 1970's British show that was on the face of it nothing more than an X-Men rip, right down to calling the people with powers "the next stage of human evolution, Homo Superior." Knowing all this ahead of time (and even somewhat remembering watching the Nickelodeon version twenty years ago), I gave the show a shot, and was confronted with a generic plot, bland acting, bad special effects, and a cardboard cut-out villain with a plot twist that will surprise only someone who has never watched a show or movie or read a book before, all of which adding up to equal a show that makes the worst episodes of Heroes look like Shakespeare.

Pass #2.

A legend is reborn... as Dracula is reawakened by Van Helsing, his reluctant BFF, so he can pretend to be an American captain of industry faking a really bad accent so he can use a new form of technology to destroy a group of people whose ancestors killed his family. Or something. It was a muddled, boring mess that hit as many cliches as possible while telling a story that has absolutely nothing to do with Dracula other than the character names. And yet, as bad as this was, there are only nine more episodes so I'll probably end up hate-watching the hell out of all of them. Maybe it'll turn around and surprise me at some point... but if it does, I'll shit in my hat. Pass #3.

I just realized something. Not only is The Originals the second spin-off on the list, it's also the second CW show on the list AND the second vampire show on the list. So apparently if you take all the shit shows I talked about above and make a Venn Diagram out of them, you get a middle full of win. This Vampire Diaries spin-off is just as good as the original (and if I haven't convinced you yet that you should be watching TVD, fine, sit there in your ignorance and miss out. Enjoy your bliss, you heathens.) The show follows the surviving members of the Mikaelson family, the first vampires of that universe, Klaus, Rebekah, and Elijah, as they return to New Orleans, a city they founded, and try to reclaim it from the vampire who usurped it while they were away, Marcelle, and his army of vampires and secret weapon. These are three great characters who balance each other out really well and the show is already a hit in my book, making it only the third new show this year I'm actually enjoying (Sleepy Hollow and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. being the other two). In fact, I might go so far as to say it's the best of the new batch. It has great acting, drama, twists and turns, fatalities... much like TVD, it's like True Blood, but consistent in quality.

One more show to go and I'm done with these posts for another year. In the meantime, some reader participation would be nice: have you watched any of these shows and agree/disagree with me? Or have any you think I missed that you think I might enjoy? Let's talk about it!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

3 Favorite Doctor Who Specials: Countdown to the 50th Anniversary 2...

We're exactly one month away from the airing of the Doctor Who Fiftieth Anniversary Special, an episode we now know is titled "The Day of the Doctor," which makes today the perfect day to publish the third in my countdown series honoring this amazing show. In August, I counted down my five favorite stand-alone episodes and in September I counted down my five favorite two-part episodes. Tonight's new countdown is for the specials, a collection of episodes which consists of all the Christmas specials and the set of specials that rounded out David Tennant's run as the Tenth Doctor. Unlike the other countdowns this one will only have three entrees instead of five since there are only ten specials to choose from.

Oh, what the hell, let's throw in an honorable mention too.

Honorable Mention: Planet of the Dead (2009 Easter Special)

This special makes the list because it's a fun episode that gives the Doctor a great group of back-up characters and a great co-star, Michelle Ryan as the Lady Christina De Souza. Ryan's character, a master thief, is a great match for the Doctor in this episode and it's a terrible shame that she never appeared again. Plus, y'know, watching Michelle Ryan for an hour sure as hell ain't a bad thing.

It's a shame that Bionic Woman remake she starred in was such hot garbage.

3. The Snowmen (2012 Christmas Special)

Forget the mystery of Clara or the beginning of the Great Intelligence story arc. Forget even killer sentient snow, the joy of a cranky Eleven, or the voice talents of a certain special legendary actor. There are three simple reasons to love this special: Vastra, Jenny, and Strax.

2. The Christmas Invasion (2005 Christmas Special)

This special picks up right after the Ninth Doctor's regeneration, and the Tenth Doctor spends most of the episode unconscious and/or bedridden while Rose and her family watch an alien invasion of London. The greatness of the special comes when Ten wakes up, gets into a sword fight, scares the entire invasion off, and then in a fit of rage at an act perpetrated by the British government, starts a chain of events that takes that government down with just six simple words: "Don't you think she looks tired?" It's our first taste of just what kind of Doctor the Tenth Doctor is going to be... the Oncoming Storm.

1. A Christmas Carol (2010 Christmas Special)

My favorite Doctor. My favorite companions. An episode structured around the Dickens classic. Flying sharks. A paradox created by unintended consequences. There is absolutely nothing not to love about this special that I think is not just the best special the series has ever done, but really one of the best episodes. If The Day of the Doctor is even half as good as this special was, it'll be worth the wait and the hype.

Alright Whovians, use the comment box and let's hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular NowThe Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this book up because the movie adaption is probably my favorite movie of the year so far so I figured the book must be fantastic, and I wasn't disappointed. I enjoyed the hell out of this book. It's remarkably well-written. The main character's voice is enthralling and endearing, something absolutely necessary for a book written entirely in the first-person; however, for all that Sutter is enthralling and endearing, you also can't help but feel bad for him and all his delusions. The only complaint I have about the entire book is the depressing-as-all-hell ending. I much preferred the movie ending, but I can't hold that against the book. It's just a matter of personal preference and takes absolutely nothing away from just how damn good this book is.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Godborn

The Godborn (The Sundering, #2)The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a follow-up to The Companions, this novel is pretty week, but as a stand-alone, it's... well, it's okay. It's definitely not for the uninitiated; if, like me, you going into this without having read all the other Erevis Cale novels, you're going to feel like you're swimming in the Bermuda Triangle for awhile. That's one of the books big problems. The other is that it takes entirely too long to go anywhere. After a very riveting prologue, the book spends way too much time being about powerful people talking about their plans without really saying or doing anything. I mean, the titular character doesn't do anything for almost 120 pages! What gets it three stars though is that once it picks up, it really picks up. The action becomes riveting and the drama even more so as those plans they spent so much time talking about start reaching their conclusions. Add that to the enjoyable and mostly well-developed characters and you have a three-star book that, if not for pacing problems, would easily have been rated four stars, or maybe even higher.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Winter's Bone

Winter's BoneWinter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very visceral, powerful read. It's stark and depressing with characters that feel both real and a little larger-than-life all at the same time. This is all due to the way Woodrell commits to the writing style he chose to use. The rough mountain language used by the characters isn't limited to just dialogue; it's in every sentence he writes, and it leads to the reader feeling fully immersed in the story he's telling. And Ree Dolly is one of the easiest characters to root for I've ever come across, due to her "sand," as other characters say. She's tough and hardened but still full of love, and you just have to both feel for and root for her.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Insidious Chapter 2

I have a very trusted barometer I use for just how scary a horror movie is: how many sleepless nights it gives me. By that barometer, 2011's Insidious was easily one of the scariest movies I've seen in years, giving me three sleepless nights before I got over it. Following that, then, Insidious Chapter 2 wasn't nearly as scary as the first one, resulting in only one sleepless night for me, and that sleeplessness could also fairly be attributed to a night of drinking an abundance of cocktails made with a Red Bull substitute. But just because it wasn't as scary as it's predecessor in no way means it was a bad movie; quite the contrary, actually. And I'll tell you why, and stay almost entirely spoiler-free while I do so. You're welcome for that, by the way.

First though, why wasn't it scary? The answer is through no fault of its own but instead due to what I call The Law of Diminishing Returns of Horror Sequels. What scares us about horror movies... and I'm not talking about the cheap jump scares here... is the unknown; we're afraid because we don't know what's going on. Freddy is terrifying in the first Nightmare on Elm Street because we don't know what his deal is. He becomes less scary once we know what's going on. The same can be said about just about any horror franchise, and Insidious Chapter 2 is no exception. We know the ghosts from the Further are trying to inhabit the father and son is this family so they can live again, and we know they're after those two because they have the power to "travel" into The Further while they sleep. That knowledge takes some of the fright out of it, and if you're anything like me, most of the rest is taken out by the knowledge that this can't possibly happen to you (because let's be honest, the reason The Exorcist is still to this day possibly the most terrifying movie ever is because, if you're remotely spiritual, you believe somewhere in your mind that shit can happen...). But again, just because the fear isn't there doesn't necessarily mean the sequel is bad.

And Insidious Chapter 2 isn't bad at all, partly because it seemed like the writers and director knew that with the mystery behind the fear gone they'd have to focus on something different to make a good movie. Instead of focusing on the question of what's going on and how it's happening, they focus on why and explore the mystery behind events. Instead of just trying to make us afraid of the spirit that was trying to possess the father in the first installment, they look into who, what, and why that is, and they tie it into the first installment in very tight ways some of them very surprising and satisfying. Which isn't to say the movie is perfect; they try to throw some humor into it in the form of two of the supernatural experts and in almost every instance it falls flat, serving not to amuse but to distract and it just breaks up the tension. But I can forgive that because the rest of the movie makes up for it.

It's probably obvious I really enjoyed this installment, probably more than I enjoyed any horror sequel in a long time. I just have one real gripe with it, and here's where the one spoiler I'll throw at you comes in: this horrifying, Tiptoe-Through-The-Tulips motherfucker wasn't in it...

...or was he? Insidious Chapter 3 is happening, after all.

And now, because I can't let that be the last image any of us sees, here's future Hollywood It Girl and star of my favorite movie of the year so far, The Spectacular Now, the adorable and amazingly talented Shailene Woodley.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings PlaybookThe Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those very rare times when I actually thought the movie was better than the book... but this review is about the book, so I'll stick to that. I enjoyed the plot and the characters, although as the story is told from Pat's perspective, all the characters except him and maybe his mother really get stuck with the short straw in terms of characterization. The other drawback to the first-person narration is that since it's Pat's and he's basically nuts, it's a very simple and very repetitive writing style that can get a little boring. The novel also has a very abrupt ending that is sort of anti-climactic after what comes before it, but overall it was still an enjoyable enough read... that was completely eclipsed by the movie.

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New Shows Review: ABC Wins, CBS Loses. Twice.

I'm going to keep this one short and sweet today. I've seen three new fall premieres since last time, two on purpose and one because I had half an hour to kill last night and there was absolutely nothing else on. So let's get down to business.

I'm not really going to review S.H.I.E.L.D. because the point of a review is to possibly sway the opinion of people who aren't sure if they want to see something. Let's face it, there really aren't any such people when it comes to this show. Everyone who wants to watch it already is and have been waiting for it with bated breath since it was announced, and the people who aren't already watching it never will. So Instead I'll just say that while I loved it, there is still room for improvement, and I'm sure it'll get nothing but better as time goes on. ABC wins.

I wanted to like this. I really did. I've given everything Sarah Michelle Gellar has done since Buffy a chance, and this was no different. And it really was no different as, just like everything else she's done since Buffy, it was just awful. Robin Williams overacts his way through the whole affair as is his wont. Comedy has never been SMG's strong suit unless she's playing against the right supporting cast, and this supporting cast just falls flat. Plus, it has Hamish Linklater in it, and I just have an irrational dislike of him now after his turn as Jerry Dantana in The Newsroom. CBS unfortunately loses on this one.

I had absolutely nothing to watch last night so I ended up giving this a shot, even though I hadn't planned to originally. I should have stuck to my gut. I didn't laugh once. From the inane and overdone voice-over narration to the caricatures they parade out as characters to the forced male camaraderie that just grates, there is absolutely nothing good about this show. CBS definitely loses here.

So far, out of five new shows, the only survivors are the aforementioned S.H.I.E.L.D. and the surprisingly good Sleepy Hollow. There are still a few more to go, but it's looking like a pretty weak fall season so far...