Posts Tagged Entertainment

Movie Mayhem – The Meg

The Meg

The Meg — 2018; Directed by Jon Turteltaub; Starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy and Shuya Sophia Cai

What made Jaws so great when it first scared audiences away from beaches (and subsequently made the rest of the series so underwhelming or bad) was that it felt so authentic. It’s been widely documented that Steven Spielberg had major technical problems with the shark during production, limiting its exposure to the audience. This “problem” provided much more tension because we could sense a danger lurking in the depths of the water, but couldn’t see it. Ever since then, filmmakers have tried to replicate that sense of fear to varying degrees of success.

The problem is, as technology evolved and became more accessible, that authenticity devolved. Filmmakers jumped at the chance to use computer effects to create more menacing sharks without the hindrance of technical issues, but in doing so, made them less scary. Not only that, but by focusing so much effort on making the shark more frightening, they stopped caring about the characters, which is another ingredient Spielberg nailed to precision. And when the characters simply become a source for food (and the only goal of the filmmaker is how many people die, and how gruesome their deaths will be), we lose that connection and, thus, our ability to relate to what’s happening. The genre, therefore has either embraced the stupidity of shark attacks or have failed to live up to the promise of being the next Jaws. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Spy Who Dumped Me

Spy Who Dumped Me

The Spy Who Dumped Me — 2018; Directed by Susanna Fogel; Starring Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan and Gillian Anderson

In small doses, Kate McKinnon can be very funny. On Saturday Night Live, for example, she has a knack for infusing characters with just enough manic energy and quirky characteristics that juxtapose perfectly with her straight-laced counterparts within the same sketch, and with her ability for perfectly-timed, over-the-top expressions, she can both make a sketch work from the beginning or bring life to an otherwise dying sketch. But this works best in four-minute bursts. It doesn’t work as well when she tries to extend this personality over the course of a two hour film. I have yet to see a movie featuring McKinnon where I didn’t find her overly aggressive, annoying and off-putting, mainly because it’s clear this type of extreme shtick is all she knows. This perception doesn’t change with her new film, The Spy Who Dumped Me, where she plays the hyperactive yin to Mila Kunis’s frazzled yang. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

MI Fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout — 2018; Directed by Christopher McQuarrie; Starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin

In my review of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, I compared the M:I franchise to the Fast and the Furious franchise, in which the films really found there voice with their fourth installments and haven’t let up on the gas since, each one producing fun, inventive (sometimes wholly outrageous) pieces of entertainment. My viewing of each series followed the same basic trajectory, where the first in the series was just okay, the second worse, prompting me to skip the third altogether (and still have yet to see). When the fourth entry came around, I reluctantly went to see them (Fast & Furious because my friend wanted to see it and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol mainly because of Simon Pegg). To my surprise, both franchises upped the ante and turned what could be considered singular, stand-alone projects into a continuous story where each new entry could stand on its own two feet, but as a whole felt as if they were part of a much bigger world, breathing life into the plots and the action by way of new characters that stuck around beyond their first appearance. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth installment of the M:I series, it almost feels like the end of an era, wrapping up story threads going back as far as the third film for one last hooray. Read Full Review

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IndieBooks Review – Shot Through the Heart: A Faerie Tale

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Shot Through the Heart: A Faerie Tale by C.A. King

Readers love myths, legends and fairy tales. Whether it has to do with vampires, werewolves, Greek gods or little red riding hood, mythical creatures and tales of magic and happy endings allow our imaginations to run wild while teaching us lessons in morality. More to the point, fairy tales have a legendary sensibility to them, which is why a lot of writers continue to re-envision these stories with a fresh eye, helping new generations believe in something otherworldly (and maybe teach them a lesson in life, love and friendship). Vampires were given sparkles in Twilight; King Arthur and Robin Hood have seen many  an iteration, and the most prominent re-imagining of fairy tale characters was in the television show Once Upon A Time. In Shot Through the Heart: A Faerie Story, C.A. King brings a new spin to a character not many have tackled, taking us behind the scenes of Cupid and adding a fun twist on the classic god of love and attraction.

In this short story, Cupid isn’t just one being; it’s an agency of faeries who travel from their unseen realm to our world with a pair of names they are tasked with helping to fall in love. I thought it was quite interesting to see this concept as a regular job, where one misstep could get you fired, or worse, demoted to troll duty. Some of the lore that King sets up is a little on the light side (meaning it doesn’t dig too deep into how all of this was established or what the rules are), but she provides just enough to understand how the world works and how it affects the characters.

The main character is Adelia, a new recruit for the Cupid agency. Her first job upon her promotion is to pair a man named Ricky Sage with a girl named May. Another new recruit, Junapree, is also tasked with pairing a couple named Dean Sage and Mary. When Janapree accidentally targets May instead of Mary, things get a bit sticky. Adelia returns to the agency to report the mistake and is soon tasked with fixing the issue by finding another match for Ricky. To do so, she needs to enter the mortal world, which leads her to learn that the faerie’s mistake goes a lot deeper than anyone first believed.

The story is quick and breezy. With only twelve chapters (each with about two to six pages each), it’s easy to get through. The tone is light and airy, matching the core of the characters that inhabit the world. The stakes may be high, but they also feel inconsequential in so far as that everything will more than likely work itself out in the end, a fairy tale trope that works well for the story King is telling. This isn’t supposed to be a dense, dramatic or tense story. You’re supposed to fall in love with Adelia as she seeks to produce love in others, and that’s what happens.

So much so that you want more than you’re allowed to have. There is so much content that could be mined from this idea, that you always have the sense something is missing. I yearn to learn about this world in more detail and travel along with these characters as they try to fix their mistakes. It was a great story, with some interesting characters, it just wasn’t enough, which seems to be a trend with King’s story (see my review of Tomoiya’s Story: Escape to Darkness) — there isn’t enough meat on the bones to satisfy you. Some stories are meant to be short and sweet. I don’t think this should have been one of them, and I would love to see what King could do if she allowed herself to develop her stories beyond the simple short narrative.

My Grade: A-

Born and raised in Halton County, Ontario, Canada, C.A. King is proud to be among the list of Canadian-born authors. King wasn’t always a writer; it wasn’t until her husband and both parents passed that King found her passion for the written word. After retiring from the workforce to do some soul searching, she found she could redirect her emotions onto the page, and in 2014, decided to follow that passion and publish some of her works. She hopes her writing can inspire a new generation of Canadian authors and add to the literary heritage and culture Canada has to offer.

Check out all of C.A.’s social media platforms:

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C.A. King

Author Blog

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Twitter

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If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list. Not all requests will be accepted.

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Movie Mayhem – The Equalizer 2/Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Equalizer-Mamma Mia

The Equalizer 2 — 2018; Directed by Antoine Fuqua; Starring Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Ashton Sanders and Pedro Pascal; Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again — 2018l; Directed by Ole Parker; Starring Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan and Christine Barinski

It seems sequel-itis has officially hit theaters this week with not one, not two, but three follow-ups to semi-successful films that most people weren’t hankering for. This comes on the heels of Tom Cruise’s sixth go-around as Ethan Hunt in the Mission:Impossible series and follows a week after the third installment of Hotel Transylvania 3 graced us with its unpleasant summer vacation. I understand that brand recognition can drive sequels, but if that’s the only thing studios are banking on, then they are doing not only the audience, but themselves a disservice. Producing a sequel is one thing; producing a new story with interesting character development within the same world is quite another, and it isn’t hard to see the difference. Where Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, a follow-up ten years in the making, finds a way to feed off of its predecessor while maturing into its own delightful song, The Equalizer 2, the next chapter to the semi-successful 2014 film about a man with a past who anonymously helps those less fortunate, does nothing but set itself on repeat. Read Full Review

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IndieBooks Review – Necrotic City

Necrotic City Cover

Necrotic City by Leland Lydecker

Science fiction as a genre is very vague in its identity. The reason being, there are a plethora of sub-divisions within the sci-fi umbrella, which include space travel, time travel, alien planets, futuristic technology, altered states, multi-verses, wormholes, gritty noir, action, drama, comedy and of course realistic science. With Necrotic City, author Leland Lydecker adds political intrigue to that list, tackling a sub-genre that if done incorrectly, could damage a book’s popularity among particular groups of people. Lydecker, though, balances the heavy political material with enough tension and foresight as to allow each reader to utilize the lens of their own predilections to guide them in how the story unfolds and how they ultimately feel about the characters, what they do when confronted with certain decisions, what to take away from the story, and how it relates to the society we currently live and society as a whole.

The story revolves around Adrian, a genetically- and robotically-enhanced human, known as a Hero, bred to protect the citizens of Necrotic City. Controlled by the Company, the city has been divided into several “tiers”, the top tiers of which are designated for the wealthy and most affluent members of the community, while the lower you go, the more downtrodden the public becomes to the point in which a wall was built to exclude a number of tiers because they were no longer worth their time, money or influence.

During a routine patrol of one of the lower tiers, Adrian is caught in the destruction of a housing complex. At the same time, due mostly to the amount of citizens he’s saved, he’s also one of five heroes nominated to become the Prime Hero. Griffith, his main competitor, though, wishes to change the structure of the city, merging the Hero division in with the Enforcers — those that are able to arrest, judge and terminate citizens when necessary. After losing the election to Griffith, and seeing the widespread dissent and destruction, Adrian is reassigned to private citizen protection, and must decide whether he wants to continue living under the new rule of law, or discover something new hidden in the depths of the city.

Lydecker does a good job in setting up our hero, giving us someone we all can relate to while showing us how he operates on different levels, both physically and emotionally. With a heightened level of integrity, Adrian would die to protect any citizen, no matter their station, he has a high level of physical and mental strength, as well as a heart that shows he’s not so by-the-books strict that he must follow the rules by the letter, but will allow some leeway in situations he deems insignificant. Lydecker also sets up a lot of well-crafted secondary characters that are fun and interesting and fit well into the story.

What Lydecker doesn’t seem to do as well is set up the structure of the city itself. There are a lot of terms that are used to differentiate the classes of people, but how the city is actually set up was never quite clear to me, so trying to visualize how things are built in order to follow the action correctly did get a little frustrating. The good thing is, because the characters are set up so well, after awhile, it doesn’t seem to matter as much because you’re so invested in what’s happening and what will happen to these characters that the layout of the city becomes inconsequential to what’s actually happening.

The pace of the book is also a bit of a mixed bag. There is so much mundane action that set up the characters but don’t do much else in the first few chapters, that the story gets a bit sluggish and I kept wondering if anything important was ever going to happen. But then Adrian is nominated for the Prime Hero role and the political intrigue begins to really take over, adding a new level of intensity that was missing from the first third of the book. Then, halfway through, Lydecker begins burning through a lot of meaty ideas to try and reach the end quicker, making everything feel far too rushed.

Characters get in and out of situations quicker than they should and the setups take more time than the payoff, as if everything is gearing up for something big and then it’s just over and moving on to the next big event that will end just as abruptly. This happens with a few character developments as well, where double-crosses are turned on a dime without much exploration for why they were set up that way in the first place, with one character in particular dying without much fanfare. They’re here, they cause havoc and with the snap of a finger, they’re gone.

Necrotic City isn’t the most well-written sci-fi novel (how many times is Adrian going to wake to begin a chapter?), nor is it a perfectly captured political thriller, but because of Lydecker’s knack for creating a set of interesting and compelling characters (some, like Vey, who Adrian meets late in the novel, I wish I could have seen more of), Necrotic City seamlessly blends the two genres, and I believe that if Lydecker finds a way to balance his pacing a bit better in the future, this is an independent author I would try again to see what’s next in the exploration of genetics, robotics, and political corruption within our society.

My Grade: B+

As a writer and former airline employee, Leland Lydecker’s interests range from the natural world, to space exploration, to technology and medicine, emphasizing genetic engineering, cybernetics and artificial intelligence, all of which help support his preferred writing topics, including crime, extra-judicial justice, corporate corruption and the future of our societies.

Check out all of Leland’s social media platforms:

Leland Lydecker

Leland Lydecker

Official Site

Author Blog

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

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Goodreads

If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list.

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Movie Mayhem – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — 2018; Directed by J.A. Bayona; Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Justice Smith and Isabella Sermon

There’s been some controversy recently about producers and studios claiming that some movies aren’t made for critics; they’re made for the fans. For me, this claim is just an excuse to produce films without any effort. If critics weren’t fans of film, why would they subject themselves to hours upon hours of their lives watching them? And if studios don’t want to receive bad reviews, they should stop rushing films into production and do what Pixar does and take the time to develop a good, solid story. On the other hand, everyone will bring their own personal experiences with them into a film. Where one person sees a masterpiece, another sees boring tripe. You’re never going to please everyone; all you can really do is make the best possible movie you can and let the chips fall where they may. Somoene’s opinion should never be mocked or ridiculed just because it doesn’t line up with yours. I know not everyone is going to like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the newest entry into the dino-centric franchise. Some will think it’s a retread of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, some won’t be interested in the cast, and some will say it’s nothing more than a cash-grab. And that’s fine. As for me, I enjoy an array of different types of films, and as both a critic and a fan, I thought Fallen Kingdom was a welcome addition to the franchise. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2 — 2018; Directed by Brad Bird; Starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Sophia Bush and Samuel L. Jackson

When The Incredibles first made their way to the big screen in 2004, I really enjoyed it, as I do all Pixar movies, but I didn’t seem to appreciate it the same way I did  films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about it that didn’t quite click. Over the years, though, after several repeat viewings, the film has grown on me more, and I can appreciate what writer/director Brad Bird was able to accomplish. Fourteen years later, Bird returns with Incredibles 2, the long-awaited sequel to his superhero love song. Can it live up to what many fans of the original have been clamoring for? Or has the magic worn off due to the length of time it took to finally get this film off the ground? In many ways, it may be a little of both. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Hotel Artemis

HotelArtemis

Hotel Artemis — 2018; Directed by Drew Pearce; Starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista and Jeff Goldblum

Don’t be fooled by high-caliber casts. When the advertising for a film focuses heavily on the well-known, and in some cases, incredibly talented actors, it doesn’t necessarily equate to a particularly good film. Case in point — Movie 43. This 2013 film boasted about its extremely big names that all came together to have a good laugh. The end result, though, was a disgusting mess of a film that had almost zero laughs, took their premises way too far, and didn’t know what to do with their all-star talent. I can’t say that Hotel Artemis is near as bad as Movie 43, but it spends so much time lamenting over the caliber of its cast, that it completely forgets to give any of the characters or the plot any meaningful substance. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Beast

Beast

Beast — 2018; Directed by Michael Pearce; Starring Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Geraldine James, Shannon Tarbet, and Trystan Gravelle

Occasionally, it’s good to cleanse the blockbuster palette with a smaller movie that you’ve never heard of before, never saw a trailer for, and don’t know any of the actors involved. Sometimes, these types of movies can be brilliant pieces of thought-provoking art; other times, they’re mind-numbing snooze-fests. Beast, a British import filmed in and around the UK and distributed across the pond in 2017 (and originally titled Jersey Affair), falls somewhere between these two extremes. It has some very quiet, eloquent moments that keep you invested in the mystery that surrounds the plight of the characters, and yet, because its pace can be a bit on the slow side, and its message so subtle as to become confusing, it’s far more frustrating than exhilarating. Read Full Review

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