BOOK: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009)

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters Year: 2009 Author: Ben H. Winters and Jane Austen Length: 340 pages After struggling my way through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I thought perhaps the next entry in the “Quirk Classics” line of books would be better. After all, it had a new co-author (alongside Jane Austen) and replaced the almost cliché zombie trope with the lesser-seen sea monster framing. Unfortunately, I once again found myself struggling through the archaic language of Austen’s time. Not only that, but I felt there was far too much talking and way too much nonsense, and that wasn’t even about the sea monsters. I’m starting to suspect that I just plain don’t like Jane Austen’s writing. Half of the book is practically filled with young women swooning over eligible bachelors, learning that these bachelors are engaged or married, and then becoming depressed because of this revelation. If they spent less time gossiping and more time communicating, perhaps they wouldn’t have these problems....
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BOOK: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Year: 2009 Author: Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen Length: 320 pages Back in the zombie heyday of 2009, the idea of combining one of the most feminine pieces of literature with the oft masculine-marketed gory violence seemed like an interesting idea. I, for one, didn’t particularly care to read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but this take on the romantic classic certainly piqued my interest. Because of the addition of zombies to this plot, I was impelled to read this story to see how these drastically different archetypes were combined. I certainly wonder if the book would have been more enjoyable if I had read Pride and Prejudice beforehand, or if I would have remained far abreast of it altogether. Partly due to the severe dichotomy of the original story and the zombie additions, there were certainly moments where I could tell what segments of Jane Austen’s plot were modified to fit the new, apocalyptic sensibilities. The two concepts worked together...
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MOVIE: Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight Year: 2016 Rating: R Length: 111 minutes / 1.85 hours Based on the surprise win of Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, I had high expectations for Moonlight (2016). There were some fantastic, motivational, and inspirational films in the running for this award, including the “follow your dreams” story of La La Land (2016), the “communication is key” story of Arrival (2016), and the “overcoming adversity” story of Hidden Figures (2016). So, what did Moonlight have to offer? In my opinion, not much; but maybe that was because I’m a straight white (you could argue, privileged) male and there was little to relate to in this film. Sure, the cinematography was impressive at times, but there wasn’t any story that I felt was impactful enough to warrant its award. I will give credit to Mahershala Ali, as his performance was certainly deserving of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. So, what lessons does Moonlight give us? Do we need to find good mentors in life?...
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BOOK: The Ares Weapon (2016)

The Ares Weapon Year: 2016 Author: D.M. Pruden Length: 268 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** The sci-fi genre is interesting in that it has almost limitless possibilities, but the physics of our universe usually constrains the stories, so they are at least somewhat believable. As a result, and in part due to our past and current space-travel capabilities, the genre has become rather stale. Unfortunately, this is also because a few franchises dominate the landscape and any work that seems similar to it are deemed derivative. Consequently, I have read a number of almost interchangeable sci-fi stories, and The Ares Weapon is just one of them. While the occasional proofreading or formatting error is distracting in this story, much of my qualms lie with the characters’ decisions and motivations. Instead of making sense, the decisions sometimes seem to merely exist only to move the plot along to a pre-determined path the author wanted to take. Similarly, the motivations don’t seem to make...
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MOVIE: Fences (2016)

Fences Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 139 minutes / 2.32 hours Before going into this film, I knew it was based on a play of the same name. Of course, even if I didn't know this, I could have told you it was based on a play. Perhaps that's what kept bugging me throughout this movie: it was clearly a play. I could see in my mind's eye how it would look on the stage, which wasn't helped by the actors' cadence and almost continual monologues. If I wanted to see this as a play, I'd see it as a play; I watch a movie to get a more well-rounded experience. So, aside from this film being an almost direct adaptation of the play it's based on, the next thing that caught my attention was how many tropes were contained in the plot. Honestly, with topics like mental health, marital infidelity, inter-generational conflict, and death, the plot didn't seem that original to me at all....
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BOOK: Lonesome Cowboy (2015)

Lonesome Cowboy Year: 2015 Author: Frank Lowe Length: 284 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** The book with the generic cowboy on the cover contains a relatively generic story inside. I wouldn't classify it as "Action/Adventure" due to a pretty significant omission of fight scenes. "Drama" would probably fit it better, since that's the main, driving force of this book. I will admit that, while being about a country singer, it doesn't focus too long on the "losses" in life (i.e. the guy lost his dog, his truck, his girl, et cetera). Of course, the types and magnitude of the successes of the main character do make the story hard to believe at times. Told in the third person, Lonesome Cowboy suffers from having a "telling" narrator instead of the characters "showing" their emotions. Consequently, even if the characters do show their emotions, the narrator telling the reader these emotions before they happen makes the whole bit seem repetitive and redundant. In fact, there's almost...
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MOVIE: Matchstick Men (2003)

Matchstick Men Year: 2003 Rating: PG-13 Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours One of the lesser-known Ridley Scott films, Matchstick Men (2003) could have been just another heist film, and in some senses, it is. Upon watching the film again, one can easily pick up exactly when the "long con" starts up and which events lead toward the inevitable conclusion. So, perhaps it doesn't have the ability to demand repeat watchings (past about two) on its heist aspects. However, I believe the characters are what give this movie most of its charm. After all, characters make a story, and this one has some good ones. In one of his best "crazy person" roles, Nicholas Cage does an incredible job portraying Roy, a con-artist with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. His performance is often difficult to watch and is cringe-worthy in the opening act. If this is what it's truly like living with OCD, I never want to joke about having it . . . ever. I'm almost...
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BOOK: Robopocalypse (2011)

Robopocalypse Year: 2011 Author: Daniel H. Wilson Length: 759 minutes / 12.65 hours With the ever-increasing proliferation of “smart” technology throughout our society, the thought of a robot uprising remains fixed in the back of our minds. Since the introduction of the concept of robots decades ago, humans have feared their uprising to usurp us as the dominant sentient beings on our planet. Now, as we rely on our computers, smartphones, and connected devices to help run our lives, the threat of a full-on apocalypse resulting from their sentience seems more possible than ever. Author Daniel H. Wilson has certainly done his research on the “what if” scenario of a robot apocalypse (or the titular Robopocalypse, if you will). He manages to build the progression of a robot-themed doomsday scenario from the machines we know and use today. Many of the machines’ decisions and strategic moves mostly make sense. That being said, I did have a few issues with the book and its structure. First...
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MOVIE: Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Manchester by the Sea Year: 2016 Rating: R Length: 137 minutes / 2.28 hours Part of the trouble with the reputation of a film preceding it is the film rarely lives up to the hype. At least, that has been my experience. If I go into a movie with my own idea of what it will be and the movie delivers, I feel it is a good movie. However, if my idea of the movie is skewed based on what I’ve heard about it, then I might be disappointed if it doesn’t match what I was expecting. This is why I’ll likely watch a trailer for a film, but I won’t read any reviews of it until I’ve already seen it. For Amazon’s successful foray into filmmaking, part of me expected a lot out of Manchester by the Sea (2016). After all, they don’t necessarily have to ascribe to the same processes and procedures that hold down other production companies. Add to this my impression...
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BOOK: The Gods of Guilt (2013)

The Gods of Guilt Year: 2013 Author: Michael Connelly Length: 709 minutes / 11.82 hours Despite The Fifth Witness leaving the door open to an interesting diversion from the same defense lawyer story we've come to know and love from Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller, The Gods of Guilt puts Haller back in the hot seat as the counsel protecting a digital pimp from a murder conviction. Some of the depth of the Haller character developed in previous books in this series was eliminated after his unsuccessful District Attorney run, but there was still enough humanity in him to advance his story. After all, his coping mechanisms and needs are some of what we all deal with in our own lives. While I have come to expect a twist ending from Connelly, it was surprisingly missing from this book. For once, Haller's client wasn't as bad as everyone made him out to be, and that's saying something for the digital pimp of Andre La Cosse. Perhaps...
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