MOVIE: Alpha (2018)

Alpha Year: 2018 Rating: PG-13 Length: 96 minutes / 1.60 hours I’m not sure what surprises me more about this movie: that nobody had made a film about the domestication of the wolf or that anyone needed to make that film at all. Consequently, Alpha (2018) seems a little unnecessary and highly predictable as the “hero’s journey” plays out. The trailer doesn’t leave much for the imagination, as a lot of the events in this film don’t have any significant twists that the astute viewer wouldn’t see coming. And maybe I’m biased because I’d be more of a cat person than a dog person—despite being allergic to both. Visually, though, Alpha does provide some fantastic shots of wilderness that one can only find in places like Canada and Iceland. Plenty of the flat silhouette shots of characters traversing huge distances and the stylized slow-motion events made this movie feel a bit like 300 (2006), which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The real trouble is that it takes these characters so long...
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BOOK: The Currents of Space (1952)

The Currents of Space Year: 1952 Author: Isaac Asimov Length: 475 minutes / 7.92 hours For the first time, it seems that I’m reading a series backward. Of course, it was also written a bit backward, which explains why I’m going about it this way. While Pebble in the Sky was the first book in this series, it actually comes at the end of the narrative. A year later, Isaac Asimov would write the prequel, The Stars, Like Dust, which was then followed by a book that fit between the two. The Currents of Space is that book. Fortunately, there isn’t much tying this book to Pebble in the Sky, other than the universal setting for the events to take place. It is encouraging that Asimov’s writing was able to improve in two short years between his first ever novel and this follow-on prequel. The Currents of Space has a distinct main character, apparent conflict, and well-timed plot revelations. The focus of this book helps to describe a somewhat interesting and thrilling scenario,...
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MOVIE: Solo – A Star Wars Story (2018)

Solo: A Star Wars Story Year: 2018 Rating: PG-13 Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours Most superhero franchises start with an origin story. Sure, sometimes the franchise gets to this foundational plot after its first set of films (a la X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)), but these movies are usually pretty rare. Unfortunately, they’re also hampered by the source material that preceded them. While not necessarily “prequels,” these films need to fit within the canon of the franchise while also telling a story that expands the canon as well. Star Wars is not a superhero franchise, but it has its fair share of prequels and origin stories. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) is the first to focus on a specific character, though. With Han Solo being such an iconic and fan-favorite character, there was plenty to pull from to expand out his backstory. Unfortunately, most people will only recognize Harrison Ford as the “true” Han Solo, and this film gives them some ammunition for that. Sure, Alden Ehrenreich does a...
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BOOK: Timeline (1999)

Timeline Year: 1999 Author: Michael Crichton Length: 912 minutes / 15.20 hours It’s been a while since I read any Michael Crichton. I thoroughly enjoyed Jurassic Park—and to a lesser extent, The Lost World. I enjoyed the action and the science that went into creating these stories, helping to educate as well as entertain (kind of like my own writing style, if I do say so myself :D). For Timeline, the science in question is more quantum in nature, but I felt the explanations given were sufficient to arrive at a time-travel narrative, even if it did require a small amount of scientific hand-waving. Also, a lot of my perceptions about the dark ages were completely flipped around through this book’s meticulous details. Even though I liked the scientific and historical sections of this book, there were undoubtedly some weaknesses I cannot overlook. First of all, Crichton seems to like hammering home the idea that science as an entertainment business is a bad idea (a la...
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BOOK: Smothered (2018)

Smothered Year: 2018 Author: Autumn Chiklis Length: 288 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Even though I'm a Millennial, I never experienced the embarrassing situation of having to move back in with my parents after college. Of course, my degree was in Mechanical Engineering and not the degree the main character received from Columbia University that left her with no job prospects. If I were to describe the style of awkward comedy presented here, it would be "schadenfreude-esque." I suppose it's funny to watch someone fail in the ways presented here, but it's more of an amusing chuckle than a laugh-out-loud series of situations. In the end, this is still your basic "romantic comedy" where the main character can't communicate worth a darn and leads her to learn hard lessons about life. While I did like the interweaving of social media and technology into the narrative, I don't think it went far enough. Who were the journal entries for? If they were for the main character to...
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BOOK: Monster (2005)

Monster Year: 2005 Author: Frank Peretti Length: 679 minutes / 11.32 hours One of the challenges of the Christian author is being able to craft stories and characters that share their beliefs, but without being too heavy-handed about it. In Frank Peretti’s Monster, the author mostly succeeds, providing characters that can easily be identified as Christian, but also exhibiting the traits of normal humans instead of straight-up caricatures. The main plot of this book was only tangentially related to an argument against evolution, so that was also a plus. Still, the way the book was put together, it was clear where the author’s bias was. While some people might not appreciate the Christian undertones in this thriller, my qualms with it are more structural. Following a few different characters after a woman is abducted by an unnatural beast, the mystery of the disappearances and killings unravels to reveal a semi-plausible explanation. Unfortunately, the man and wife pair that are introduced at the start of the...
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MOVIE: Pacific Rim – Uprising (2018)

Pacific Rim: Uprising Year: 2018 Rating: PG-13 Length: 111 minutes / 1.85 hours I think the trouble with some sequels, no matter how much I loved the original films, is that there's almost an unspoken meshing of elements that made the first movie enjoyable but can be hard to reproduce a second time. That being said, Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) does a pretty good job of continuing the story that came to a mostly definitive end in Pacific Rim (2013). Unfortunately, it looks like they also took a play out of Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) and have teased at a further sequel past Uprising. I will admit that some sequels like Pacific Rim: Uprising have an easier time advancing the plot of the story since most of the exposition has been covered in the previous movie. There was certainly a creative and natural twist that helped bring back the Kaiju so that audiences could see giant robots fight them again. It was also fun to watch these...
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BOOK: Men and Manners (2018)

Men and Manners: Essays, Advice, and Considerations Year: 2018 Author: David Coggins Length: 192 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** In a world becoming increasingly modern and digital, it’s a little odd to find a book like Men and Manners, especially since its weird page colors make it seem like it was written in the 1950’s. While this book did have some pieces of advice, it seemed to be as specifically tailored (like a high-end tuxedo) to Manhattan, New York, instead of being general advice for men in Manhattan, Kansas. Many of the locations and businesses explicitly mentioned in this book were complete mysteries to me since I don’t live in New York City. These references made it seem like the manners advice wasn’t relevant to me at all. While I would have appreciated more thorough explanations of why particular manners should exist, this book seemed to be mostly filled with anecdotes from east coast elites about their opinion on certain matters. Sure, some...
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BOOK: The Clockwork Dynasty (2017)

The Clockwork Dynasty Year: 2017 Author: Daniel H. Wilson Length: 650 minutes / 10.83 hours If there's anything Daniel H. Wilson is good at, it's writing about robots. In his latest book, The Clockwork Dynasty, he takes a steampunk approach by setting the book, not in the future, but in the present and distant past. Returning to the origins of robots via the automatons created for the entertainment of the wealthy and royal, Wilson has crafted another workable piece of fiction centered on robots. Unfortunately, as is the case with some of this other writing, I didn't like a few of his stylistic choices. The Clockwork Dynasty jumps back and forth between flashbacks and "present era" actions, which can sometimes be distracting, especially if one of the storylines is particularly interesting at the time. I almost wonder if there could have been a better way to focus on the action in the present and to reveal the details of the past in more of a "show" instead...
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BOOK: The Carpet People (1971)

The Carpet People Year: 1971 Author: Terry Pratchett Length: 335 minutes / 5.58 hours Having now read one of Terry Pratchett's books, I thought it might be interesting to go back and read his very first work. Many authors don't manage to become famous with their very first book, and I think Terry Pratchett is no exception here. The Carpet People is an amusing book with his standard British charm, but I think it never goes far enough in its exploration of the idea. After all, I was expecting this book to be more along the lines of The Borrowers instead of just a straight-up fantasy with a few references to the fact that these creatures lived in the carpet. Part of the problem I seemed to have with this book was the incessant need for fantasy books to create new names for objects and creatures that already (mostly) exist. If you took away the carpet setting, I think this book could be practically indistinguishable from...
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