MOVIE: Kong – Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 118 minutes / 1.97 hours Given how incredibly groundbreaking the special effects in the original King Kong (1933) were, I can understand why they keep re-using this character. Of course, while King Kong (1976) was mislabeled as “original” in its advertising, the advancements in CGI made King Kong (2005) at least as visually stunning as its 1933 predecessor. Still, the story has remained the same: humans visit Skull Island, humans find Kong, humans bring Kong to New York, Kong climbs the tallest building, and humans kill Kong. Consequently, I didn’t have much of an expectation of Kong: Skull Island (2017), since I thought I knew what the plot would be. I can honestly say that Kong: Skull Island is the best adaptation of this character since 1933. A few choices helped to create an original story that deviated from the norm. Sure, humans go to Skull Island to find Kong, but the other creatures they find there...
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BOOK: Winter Witch (2010)

Winter Witch Year: 2010 Author: Elaine Cunningham Length: 368 pages Years ago, after completing my first NaNoWriMo, I received this book as a prize. Seven years later, as I try to read all the “unread” books on my bookshelf, this book finally made its way into my “read” pile. Full disclosure: I haven’t ever played any tabletop Role Playing Games (RPGs), be they Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. Because the Pathfinder universe defines this book's setting, I didn’t have any of the prior background to help me understand the setting better. Still, as this book was a conventional example of the “high fantasy” genre, it was relatively easy to get up to speed. Of course, partly because it is a conventional example of the fantasy genre, Winter Witch didn’t have that many surprises. Characters going on adventures to prove themselves / save someone / avoid responsibility seem to be pretty typical in this genre and this book certainly had all of them. While I did...
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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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MOVIE: Aliens (1986)

Aliens Year: 1986 Rating: R Length: 137 minutes / 2.28 hours While I’m sure a Ridley Scott sequel to his smash-hit, Alien (1979), would be fantastic by any stretch of the imagination, the choice to go with similarly-successful James Cameron in the director’s seat helped to keep the franchise from becoming too stale. Of course, with a sequel appearing seven years after the original, Alien had plenty of time to rest on its laurels before the follow-on film came along. Watching Aliens (1986) with the knowledge of James Cameron’s other work, it soon becomes apparent that this movie is all his own. After all, if I told you there’s a James Cameron film about space marines invading an alien world to eliminate an alien threat, many of you would think I’m referring to Avatar (2009) and not Aliens (1986). In the original Alien, much of the focus of the film is on survival, let alone how to defeat such an unstoppable creature. For Aliens, the...
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BOOK: The End of Desire (2007)

The End of Desire Year: 2007 Author: M.R. Sellars Length: 340 pages Much like 7th Son: Descent, I picked this book up at a convention without knowing anything about it. Consequently, while this is the third book in the Miranda Trilogy, I must admit that I have not read the two prior books in the series. As such, I have tried to make my review of this book as it stands by itself, and any confusion from lack of prior knowledge is merely my fault for not having started at the beginning. Of course, after reading this book, I certainly had trouble understanding how there could have been two books before it. First off, the plot was as slow as Louisiana molasses. So many words were spent on practically meaningless interactions that didn’t add anything to the narrative. The few scenes of action were too long in coming and too short in duration. Add to this the stupidity of the characters and you can see...
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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: Alien (1979)

Alien Year: 1979 Rating: R Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours Science fiction in film has faced an uphill battle in terms of being taken seriously. Up until the late 1960’s, most sci-fi was low-budget, B-movie schlock more likely to be Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fodder than Oscar potential. This all changed in 1968 with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now that sci-fi could be considered art it took almost a decade for other films to capitalize on Kubrick’s groundbreaking work. Star Wars (1977) expanded on the special effects and made sci-fi a fun, action-filled ride. Regarding the horror aspect of sci-fi, Alien (1979) remains the founding film of these combined genres. Not only does Ridley Scott do a fantastic job directing this movie, in particular through the use of elaborate sets, puppetry, and just plain spectacular cinematography; but the fact that Alien has an incredibly strong female protagonist (Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley) puts it leagues ahead of its time in terms of character-driven plot....
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BOOK: The Lighthouse Keeper (2017)

The Lighthouse Keeper Year: 2017 Author: Cynthia Ellingsen Length: 380 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** I’d love to call this book “cute,” but I’m afraid Kip would toss me into Lake Michigan. That being said, part of me now wants to go out, get a nautical compass tattoo on my arm and buy a dilapidated lighthouse to restore. I don’t usually read “romance” novels. Of course, I'm not sure I could even consider this book in that genre since it had so many other aspects to it, but I almost immediately fell in love with the characters and the setting. The story came to life in my head, even to the point where I started mentally casting the movie (probably Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Evans, and Reese Witherspoon for starters). While the main premise that started the plot seemed a little unbelievable (why would this insurance company have a lien on a house that isn’t insured by them?), the story has a ton...
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BOOK: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1994)

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Year: 1994 Author: Haruki Murakami Length: 1,572 minutes / 26.2 hours A coworker of mine suggested this book to me a few months back. The title sounded interesting, so I put it on my Overdrive wish list and waited for it to become available. Both he and I have a somewhat thorough understanding of Japanese culture, so once I got into this book, I found myself imagining it as an anime. Of course, because The Wind-up Bird Chronicle was originally written in Japanese, there are plenty of cultural idiosyncrasies that might be hard to understand from a different cultural viewpoint. At times, the content is a bit weird, the sex awkward, and the violence strangely surgical. What was quite refreshing with the narrative in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, was its timelessness. Written in the early 1990’s and set in the mid-1980’s, only a few technological items (i.e. a land line, an early computer, etc.) haven’t held up well over time. Everything else...
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MOVIE: Power Rangers (2017)

Power Rangers Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 124 minutes / 2.06 hours In one of the many gritty reboots of a nostalgic 1990’s franchise, I didn’t have much expectation for Power Rangers (2017). The original show was pretty campy, with a tried-and-true plot structure that didn’t change much from episode to episode. In fact, I probably couldn’t tell you the specific plot of any of the episodes. They’d usually follow this format: the main villain would go about trying to obtain some goal via their minions/henchmen, the Power Rangers would morph and fight the minions/henchmen, the minions/henchmen would grow large and start destroying everything, the Power Rangers would call their Zords out to battle, and (finally) the Zords would combine into the Megazord and the foe would be vanquished. While Power Rangers did follow some of the structure of the television show format, it also managed to create characters with some depth and background to them. From a disgraced football star to an autistic teen...
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