Nov 30, 2017

[Books] Battletech: Hearts of Chaos Review

When things get to crazy, it's nice to retreat into familiar book worlds, and thus I keep returning to the war-torn Inner Sphere of the Battletech novels. I'm still working through all the Classic era novels and I don't know when I'll get around to the Dark Ages books, but hey it makes for a fun challenge.

Hearts of Chaos is one of those fun books that is linked to other titles in the series. With so many authors having contributed to the franchise, a lot of books end up being one-offs that feature a particular group here or there and then that's the last we'll ever hear of them.

But this book taps other characters introduced into the Battletech universe by this same author, who did go on to being one of the more prolific authors tied to the franchise. It's not quite as polished as some of his later books but it does show a bit of ambition in terms of tying things together into a larger story. And that's something that deserves to be appreciated for what it's worth in the long term.

Nov 29, 2017

[TV] Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 Review

My continued explorations of the Disney-enhanced content library of iflix. And that led me to the odd single season if the Ultimate Spider-man animated TV series. Wikipedia tells me that the show ran for 4 seasons but we only get 1, but beggars can't  be choosers, eh?

This is not to disparage the show right off the bat, but I have to consider the fact that there have been a LOT of Spider-Man cartoons over the years. He's right up there for sheer variety of animated incarnations over the years. And the target demographic wildly between the very young child to the very hormonal teen.

This version of Spider-Man, as is the case of many Disney-Marvel ventures since the acquisition, definitely feels quite kid-centric. And so I was prepare to dislike the show as going full kid means that it's going to dumb thing down and reboot his continuity again.

And while that did happen...I didn't quite hate the show as much as I thought I would have. But it was hard to like it as well.

Nov 28, 2017

[Books] The Bullet Catcher's Daughter (Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire Book 1)

So I'm majorly playing catch up with my book review queue, particularly all the great genre fiction from Angry Robot Books. I've been a member of their review group for some years now but they certainly do a great job of releasing more books than I can read comfortably. But hey free geeky books deserve some love.

In the case of The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter, it has actually reached a point that the books came up on sale as part of an Amazon Kindle Deal and I ended up buying an official copy of the book even before getting around to reviewing the advanced copy I had been giving. This is far from ideal but I do hope that this review helps the book's continuing success in the long run, even if terribly late.

And there's a lot to be excited about this title as it's an interesting venture with a steampunk setting but it doesn't let the trappings of the genre distract you from the story.

And what an interesting story premise it is.

Nov 27, 2017

[TV] The X-Files: Season 2 Review

I'm glad that iflix has the full original run of The X-Files as I'm really enjoying revisiting the show and going season by season. Similar to my challenges with the various Star Trek  shows, the nature of broadcast television meant that I had missed out on the odd episode or two during times when other activities would run love or when I had forgotten to set the VCR to record the show in my absence.

I had totally forgotten that the show's meta-plot had escalated so much in this second season. While going through the episodes there were a lot  of familiar episodes but I had figured that they were from much later on the show. Just reminds you how unreliable memories can be at times

But the re-watching contninues whenever I can squeeze in the time and there's still so much to be rediscovered. This is definitely one of those cases when I feel like I may have forgotten more than I had known about the show and with luck I'll be able to jog my memories.

Nov 24, 2017

[TV] Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 2 Review

We initially got on board watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend because of the music. The show is pretty much what happens when you turn a musical into a long-running romantic comedy television series in a great way. But initially there wasn't much else to enjoy apart from those musical interludes as the protagonist had lot of problematic moments and everyone seemed to be enabling here.

The second season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is when things really get serious and they get down to business in terms of presenting a more realistic story. The music remains as awesome as ever but now it really feels like the show is going somewhere serious and is using its viewership as a platform for something bigger. And it's all amazing.

Don't get me wrong - this is still a comedy and the show is crazy fun (I keep using the word "crazy" that it's starting to get weird) and the music really adds a special dynamic to things. But it's the writing that really brings things home into a truly special place.

Nov 23, 2017

[Theater] Hair (Repertory Philippines) Review

Hair is one of those musicals that I had only seen as a movie up until this point. The 1979 film is a classic in its own right but of course it had a somewhat more controlled (and perhaps focused?) narrative as it was meant for commercial release bu even then a lot of what made the story such a representative of the era still sang through clearly.

But Hair as a stage musical is a completely different animal with a drastically different story. If the movie already felt rather fun and free, the musical is all that and more as it's certainly turned up to eleven. And that is both a great thing and possibly a confusing thing depending on your perspective.

It was interesting that a play that involves depictions liberal recreational drug use and a message of freedom and peace has been staged during a time when the government has been cracking down on illegal drugs with rather lethal results. Whether or not the message of the play directly applies to our country's situation I'll leave to you to determine for yourself.

Nov 22, 2017

[Movies] Reservoir Dogs (1992) Review

It was watching a not quite recent Nerdwriter video that I was reminded that I had yet to watch Reservoir Dogs, the movie that helped put Quentin Tarantino on the map for many. And thus an exploration of the iflix library led to a sudden viewing session as I wanted to scratch this particular itch. This was especially pressing given how often I had encountered references to movie in so many other works of fiction.

Despite the mentions and how long this movie has been around, I largely had no idea what the movie was about apart from everyone having a color-based alias and that's it. I went in with a general expectation of violence and something somewhat akin to a heist and I suppose I wasn't too far off the mark in the end.

It's interesting how he movie in itself didn't feel too old but the way it was directed sort of did, at least with respect to Tarantino's body of work. And that was rather striking about it as well, I suppose. There's a lot of pick apart in this movie.

Nov 21, 2017

[Books] Loving Lakyn Review

As much as any creative work has a message that it hopes to impart, it was the movie Ang Araw Sa Likod Mo that proudly proclaimed itself to be an "advocacy film" in its marketing and that term really captured what it was. It had a story to tell but it was also very proud of its message and it wanted to make sure people knew that it wanted to tackle its subject seriously.

Loving Lakyn is a similar work in the sense that its also a story with a strong message empowering it. More than you're typical LGBT coming-of-age romance story, this book was also made in cooperation with The Trevor Project - LGBT crisis intervention and suicide prevention services.

I wasn't expecting an easy read given the book did intend to address suicide and other mental health concerns. But it's a book with a good cause and I wanted to see how they'd address which is quite typically a complex subject to write about. The resulting was better than I had expected and quite the strong piece when it comes to tackling suicide in a work of fiction.

Nov 20, 2017

[TV] BoJack Horseman: Season 3 Review

If the second season of BoJack Horseman had given me a more solid reason  to watch the show, the third season  make me fall in love with the show entirely. And that was a totally unexpected turn of events for me given my initial resistance to the show when I first started exploring it on Netflix.

In these reviews I always concede that BoJack Horseman is not an easy show to get into and it's not even a show I could universally recommend to people. It features a lot of negative behaviors that  some may consider to be triggers including foul and hurtful language, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and other negative forms of escapism.

But when you get past all that and the fact that the show features anthropomorphic animals of an odd sort, then what you'll get is a show that is more than just a silly shits-for-giggles comedy but is in fact a fairly thoughtful show that has a strong message hidden in a very coarse and bristly packaging.

Nov 17, 2017

[TV] Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season 5 Review

With the end of Star Wars Rebels just around the corner, I thought I'd go through my older reviews for the preceding animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. But I was surprised to find that I had somehow missed out on reviewing the fifth and final full season of that show. I suspect I had totally forgotten about it because of my displeasure at the show's sudden cancellation after Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise.

Like with Rebels, I was prepared to dislike Star Wars: The Clone Wars at first since I was a bit more dedicated to the first animated Star Wars: Clone Wars (no "the") series that had come out before it. Also like Rebels, the show eventually won me over given how great the stories became.

This last season had a lot going for it and it was still preparing plot threads for two additional seasons they had sort of expected to still happen before the show was canned. And so it ends on an odd note, but remains a great show.

Nov 16, 2017

[Videos] So Much Star Wars News!

So a number of announcements were made recently about new developments for the Star Wars franchise. First, Rian Johnson is involved in a new trilogy of movies set in the Star Wars universe. Then there's plans of a new live-action television series, which sounds pretty cool.

But I'll save time and let this recent Star Wars Explained video run through the updates for me to save time. But yeah, this is a pretty exciting time to be a Star Wars fan as Disney is really pumping a lot of money into making the most of their acquisition.

MAJOR STAR WARS NEWS - A New Trilogy, A Live Action Show, and More!

Nov 15, 2017

[TV] Breaking Bad: Season 2 Review

As we're late to the game for Breaking Bad, we're enjoying exploring this story via Netflix and it's quite the ride. While we're not exactly new to such serialized storytelling, the fact that it was still pretty much created during the more episodic broadcast era makes it clear why it stood out so much when it came out. This doesn't even touch on how great the story is.

I didn't expect to get into a series focused on a high school chemistry dealer who becomes a drug "cook" but here we are. And the way they've crafted the series with all of its nuances and complexities does make for pretty powerful storytelling indeed.

The serialized story is not a new concept and we've seen it come and go over the years. But I guess the binge-watching behavior supported by services like Netflix have helped make shows like this even more powerful since it's pretty intense to watch the show in quicker succession instead of a weekly basis.

Nov 14, 2017

[Videos] CinemaSins Takes on Baby Driver

As much as many celebrate Baby Driver as a near-perfect movie (myself included!), there will always be the little mistakes that get glossed over as the rest of the movie is just that awesome. But comedy channel CinemaSins always reminds us that no movie is truly perfect and has a lot of fun poking fun at all the little things that get missed. And while it's a lot easier for them to tackle bad movies like After Earth, but it gets a lot more interesting when they try to pick at movies everyone loves.

This is done in the name of humor and I totally enjoy these things. This video just reminds us of what we miss because of a great soundtrack, snappy editing and excellent directing.

Everything Wrong With Baby Driver In 14 Minutes Or Less

Nov 13, 2017

[Movies] Batman and Harley Quinn (2017) Review

I grew up on Batman: The Animated Series and fell in love with that particular incarnation of the character. If anything, the show gave many previously silly characters a much better spin and thus giving characters like Mr. Freeze and Clock King a greater sense of dignity and purpose. Plus the whole thing was just super cool.

Batman and Harley Quinn was a movie that banked on the nostalgia of the Bruce Tim animated shows, particularly the old Batman ones. After all it had Harley Quinn at the very center of things, which is all the more awesome given she's a character originally created in the animated series and later adapted to the on-going comic books.

This movie follows the other DC releases that feel a bit more adult in tone given they're not limited by the restrictions of broadcast television regulations. This is either a good or a bad thing depending on your personal preferences for this sort of content, but it did result in a weird bit in the middle.

Nov 10, 2017

[TV] The Good Place: Season 1 Review

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from The Good Place but it was featured as an iflix exclusive, so that got me a little curious. It wasn't until a friend mentioned that she was pretty into the show that we decided to give it a shot as well. And since we had a standing iflix subscription, it wasn't that hard to get on board.

The Good Place at first seems like an overly traditional comedy with a clear enough setup and even the odd addition of Ted Danson. And initially the show just follows the natural progression of this premise and that's already pretty funny. But then it just pivots into something else entirely and well...that's just good television.

This is not the sort of show I would have expected to feature the odd combination of Kristin Bell and Ted Danson. But it works quite well and I am glad that I was honestly surprised by how the clever the show gets. I'm glad that we gave the show a shot.

Nov 9, 2017

[Movies] Coco Final Trailer

We've had quite a number of trailers for Coco, the upcoming Disney Pixar movie starting with that adorable short film about Dante the Dog. Since then we've learned that the movie is set during the Mexican Día de Muertos festival period similar to what was tackled in The Book of Life.

But this movie has music as a start of its own and it's looking quite sharp and definitely vibrant. The final trailer came out this week and it's gorgeous.

Coco Official Final Trailer

And in case you missed them, here are all the other trailers that led up to this moment.

Disney•Pixar’s Coco presents “Dante’s Lunch - A Short Tail”

Coco - Official US Trailer

Coco - Official US "Find Your Voice" Trailer

Nov 8, 2017

[Books] Shockaholic Audible Review

I kind of went all in with these Carrie Fisher books because of a deal I got on Audible book credits. It was that plus not really knowing what other books I wanted to read and so I ended up with sticking with her and got all of her memoirs in one go.

Shockaholic is her second memoir and quite the heavy one at that which is more focused on her mental state and not so much her history as Princess Leia despite the figurine on the cover. It's just as brutally honest as Wishful Drinking was but also rather serious yet somehow comedic at the same time.

And again this audio book is a recording of Fisher reading her own work. She has a lovely cadence to her speech that is distinctly her own and one that we'll forever miss given her passing.

Nov 7, 2017

[Books] White Night (The Dresden Files Book 9) Review

The continuing adventures of The Dresden Files are the stories I look most forward to reading these days. A lot of my favorite authors are no longer in a position to write new books and thus having an on-going series to enjoy is a gift indeed. And these books really stand out in my reading queue such that I now use them as "rewards" for having read other books of different franchises as part of my review efforts.

White Night is another great addition to the series and yet another pun on Dresden being a knight of sorts. We've previously seen him drafted to work with the faerie courts in one way or another including performing the role of a knight. Here we have him in a different but perhaps more traditional role as he balances his individual investigation with the larger affairs of the White Council.

I'm liking Dresden's new status quo, and that's a statement I keep on saying given the many shifts in his life across the various books. But it just reinforces how these stories aren't just episodic bits and instead are part of a larger continuing narrative for Chicago's wizard at large.

Nov 6, 2017

[TV] BoJack Horseman: Season 2 Review

I don't know when precisely I got hooked on BoJack Horseman as a television series. It's definitely not my usual far despite how much his sarcastic, self-depreciating humor seems right up my alley. But there's a subtle authenticity to this show that really helps it shine and makes it a far more important piece of entertainment than any silly cartoon.

BoJack Horseman is an unusual cartoon, another entry in the collection of animated shows geared towards more adult audiences like Rick and Morty or Archer. Initially it's easy to think it's just another show that takes any excuse to have animated characters curse and drink for laughs. It's something else entire to present them as the sort of self-destructive behavior that people fall into under stress or while coping with depression.

So it's a comedy but one with a rather real depict of things. I don't quite want to call it a black comedy either since the humor isn't morbid just for the sake of humor.

Or maybe I'm just reading too much into things. Still a surprisingly complex show, though.

Nov 3, 2017

[Movies] John Carter (2012) Review

The stronger ties between Disney and regional streaming service iflix have resulted in a lot of interesting new TV shows and movies added to the streaming library. And thus I'm now able to play catch up with a variety of Disney programming that I didn't get to watch on TV or in the theater. It's a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the ugly, in a manner of speaking.

I didn't know enough about the source material that John Carter had been based on to be excited about the movie when it first came out, but it was hard to miss the promotional trailers given how hard Disney had been trying to market the movie at the time.

It's clear that Disney had a larger movie franchise in mind for John Carter based on the marketing efforts and the many stories they could draw upon for this franchise. But the actual movie was a little confusing and quite a narrative mess such that it's obvious why the franchise has no continued on beyond this first foray.

Nov 2, 2017

[Books] Star Wars: Crucible Review

As we are well within the realm of the new Star Wars canon, I'm still catching up with the old Expanded Universe books, now known as Star Wars Legends. And now that there exists a finite number of Legends books and how I have copies of most of them, it now becomes an odd geeky goal to try and read all of them sooner or later. Alas, I still have a fair amount of catching up to do.

Thus we get to Star Wars: Crucible, one of the last Legends books to be released. It's an interesting little adventure that features all the usual players but in a setting that is already rich with Legends back story. That's a good and a bad thing given just how much has happened outside the movies in the old Expanded Universe.

This book really felt like a nice wrapping-up book as is. The core story has all the usual beats we've all come to expect from a Star Wars book but then it sort of pivots towards the end to add a bit more value. It's not quite the be-all, end-all Star Wars book to wrap up your Legends adventure but it's a nice stopping point.

Nov 1, 2017

[TV] Rick and Morty: Season 3 Review

It's rather fascinating how Rick and Morty has continued to grow and develop into this amazing piece of culture in these modern times. It's an odd celebration of cultural memes and other pop culture artifacts powered by some crazy writing that manages to remain amazing. It's a show whose writing isn't bound by continuity and yet it demonstrates how to build up characters through crafty use of continuity.

Rick and Morty is a demonstration of what pure intelligence without the limitations of stringent morality or sentiment. This is not to say that Rick is without these things, but he just doesn't allow himself to be limited by them. Figuring out what really matters to him and what drives him is probably a key point to understanding his character and the larger story at work.

This has quickly become one of my favorite  TV experiences and yet I know it's not exactly one that I can readily share and expect universal appeal and appreciation.

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