Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Stardust App and Netflix addiction

A few months ago the Schmoes Know crew began promoting a new app, Stardust, on their podcasts.  It allows anyone who has an account to create a short video of twenty seconds in which they can give their thoughts on current or past films, reactions to trailers or review of a particular television series and individual episodes.  Fellow members can then Like the review. It sounded like fun, so I downloaded the app on my iPhone.

Now each morning and several times at night I'll log on and see what my fellow 'Dusters have to say.  They have made it easy to search either by the reviewer or by a film or TV show title, where you can get all the reviews previously loaded.  Initially, members would sometimes post a video in response, but recently Stardust has added a 'comment' feature that makes it easier and really does create a sense  of community. 

Each week members receive an e-mail and message in the app, recommending shows and films to which they would like members to pay attention.  These are usually new releases or popular series. There is also a weekly video where portions of member posts are shown to a larger audience.  A cool way to get more followers and find folks you might not have been aware of previously.

If this sort of thing interests you check it out. You can find me, if you want, at @Stevec50.

As I may have mentioned previously, the Ladies were kind enough to set me up with Netflix, and it wasn't long before I began watching a number of films and TV shows I'd never had a chance to catch initially.  There are also programs, like Stranger Things, House of Cards and several series based on characters from Marvel Comics. 

I've tried five of the six Marvel shows so far, only The Defenders, which unites the individual characters remains to be seen.  The current shows I'm watching are Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Iron Fist and The Punisher.  I find that I'm in agreement with my fellow 'Dusters and many other folks on social media regarding Daredevil. It's not bad, so much as lesser in quality when compared to the other shows, especially (IMHO) Luke Cage and The Punisher. All the series stay fairly close to the source, with only a few small references to the Marvel films or the bigger hitters in that universe.

The Ladies are having me watch House of Cards and I'm in the middle of Season Two.  Most folks seem to agree the show gets weaker after the third season, but I've got a way to go before I find out for myself. Of course, with the Kevin Spacey controversy it doesn't look like there will be anything beyond the current season. Unless Netflix decides to make some major changes, writing out his character in some fashion.  

I've go to admit that for me it's Stranger Things that make my subscription worth the money. I absolutely love the show (only in its second season) and really admire the acting of the mostly young cast.  Winona Ryder, as Joyce, the mother of one of the kids is amazing.  Easy to forget what a good actress she is.  The other main adult character being David Harbour as Chief Hopper.  Harbour can go from light comedic scenes to really being a bad ass, making both scenes believable.  Considering the horror and SF elements of the series, the fact that the writers allow for so much humor in some episodes helps to flesh out the characters.  

Sorry I went on for a bit, but it has been a while since I've done more than drop in a video or a review.  

I also want to wish everyone a very, Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Four-Color Fiend: A Graphic Novel Review - The Discworld Graphic Novels

The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic & The Light FantasticThe Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are already a fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series these graphic novel adaptations will be an additional delight. The two books here were adapted by Scott Rockwell, with wonderful artwork by Steven Ross. Even if the characters aren't exactly as you may have envisioned them it's still fun to see them.

These novels introduce the reader to the concept of Discworld, a place where magic isn't what it used to be and one has to be careful since you really can sail off the face of the world and into the void. Discworld rests on the back of four huge elephants, who themselves stand upon the back of the giant turtle, Great A'Tuin. Not a perfect place, but the Creator was running short of ideas and this seemed good enough at the time.

We follow the travels and adventures of the failed wizard, Rincewind and Discworld's first 'tourist' the sometimes clueless, Twoflower. Also along is Twoflower's magical luggage trunk, which will always find its owner, and is pretty able of taking care of itself.

Great for fans of fantasy, who don't mind a little humor and the poking fun of religions.


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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ultimatum: March On UltimatumUltimatum: March On Ultimatum by Aron E. Coleite
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Maybe if I had read the Ultimates titles when Marvel was publishing those books this would have meant something to me. I frankly never got further than the first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, so the versions of the characters that appear here don't have an impact. Let's face it, if you don't know or care about a character than their death (sometimes in multiple incarnations) doesn't mean anything.

I was never really sure what the point of the Ultimates were, except that some of the characters (Nick Fury, in particular) more closely resembled the ones we saw in the MCU films. As this hardcover is a compilation of several annuals the writing and artwork varies depending on the creators. The artwork is never bad, but some artists are certainly better than the material they work on here.

If you are a total Marvel Zombie (I think there's a trademark on that now) or a fan who loved the Ultimate titles, you're bound to get more out of this than I did. Really glad I could borrow this from the Library and not have to pay for it.


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Friday, October 20, 2017

Batman/The Flash: The Button Deluxe EditionBatman/The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition by Tom King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to admit that when I first heard about this I was going to give it a pass. I don't want to give anything away, but older fans might immediately pick up on the 'major reveal' from just the cover of the collection.

I can't say that the merging of the DCU with that of the other world seems like more a spit in the eye of one of the creators of that group of characters. It's still enough to catch my interest, but there really is no great mystery, as I say, just a series of events that get the Flash and Batman from one point to another. Tom King does what he can with this plot, but I can't say that he does enough for me to get me to come back.

With Batman now in the midst of the Metal cross-over event, I don't know when or how this will be resolved. To be honest I don't know at this point if I care if it does.


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Monday, September 25, 2017

A Book Review - GHOSTS a graphic novel

GhostsGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Telgemeier, known for her graphic novel adaptations of The Baby-Sitters Club, as well as the original books Sisters & Smile, here tells the story of Catrina, a typical young teenage girl whose parents take her and her sister from sunny, Southern California to a windy and foggy seaside town in the norther part of the state. The move is due to the cystic fibrosis with which her younger sister, Maya, suffers. As much as she loves her sister and is concerned about her, Cat can't help but feel some anger as she is separated from the friends and their social activities. Slowly she becomes adapted to her new school and makes friends, but in doing so cuts Maya out of her life.

One thing that both sisters discover is that the town believes in and celebrates ghosts, especially at the annual Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. It seems that here in this town the dead truly do return to party and feast with their descendants. Can the fearful Catrina finally accept the possibility that spirits do survive? Also, why do some of them become so welcoming to young Maya, who understand all too well how brief life can be.

While Telgemeier's artstyle is easily accessible to kids, I'm not sure that this book would not frighten some younger children, with the concept of death, especially of children their own age. Lovely book, but parents might want to read it before letting their child read it or reading it to them.


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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Book Review: Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters, #1)Girl Waits with Gun by Amy  Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book in a series based on the real life of Constance Kopp, an early female Deputy Sheriff in Bergen County, NJ. She and her sisters, living on their own on a farm, became involved in an accident with a local business owner who refused to pay for the repair of their buggy. From that point on the lives of all three sisters took a dramatic turn. Eventually leading to Constance entering a profession quite unusual for women in that era.

Told from the viewpoint of Constance, Stewart (using a mix of real and fictional characters) presents a wonderful, if old fashioned story of three very, different women and how their lives were changed by what should have been the simple repayment of a debt. Throwing in a fictional account of a child kidnapping, the book consists mostly of material taken from newspaper articles, letters and journal entries, plus interviews with the descendants of some individuals.

All three of the Copp sisters, along with other secondary characters in the book are well developed and I'm looking forward to reading the other books in the series.


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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

It's almost time for Comic-Con 2017

Hard to believe that it's already that time again.  Doesn't seem like a year has passed since the last one.  Hell, I think I still have some books I picked up there that I haven't read yet.

It's going to be strange not having my friend, Dan, here this year.  He's going to be taking care of some personal business and so couldn't attend. If we try again next year, maybe things will work out. I've also heard that Dick's Last Resort is no longer open, which is a bummer, as it had become a tradition to grab a burger and brew there at least once during that week.  There are lots of other places in the Gaslamp, but Dick's had it's own unique personality and the place was always full of fans & pros having a great time.

Not sure what I'll be up to this year, since I'll be on my own, plus as I'm not going to be trying to get into Hall H I'll have more free time to check into some of the smaller rooms and just wander the main floor.  I will be spending part of Thursday at the San Diego Public Library attending the 2nd Annual Educators & Librarian Comic Conference.  Very interesting last year and the inspiration for the Comic-Con we had here at Orange Public Library in May.  We had close to 600 folks in attendance and hope to make it an annual event.  I have to thank the folks at SDCC for allowing us to license the Comic-Con trademark and also the Free Comic Book Day organization for sending us dozens of free comics that we were able to hand out to attendees of all ages.

Can't close without admitting that one of the best parts of my visit is getting to spend time with my step-daughter, Kristina and her lovely bride, Sarah.  They always find some new place to take me to and we never fail to have a great time.

This year I actually hope to complete the SDCC coverage of my day-to-day adventures.  I never finished it last year, but plan to be a better blogger this time out. One of the highlights was meeting and getting a selfie with actor Nyambi Nyambi, probably best known as Samuel on the show Mike & Molly. Really a nice guy.

You can probably keep better track of me on Facebook or Twitter, or even my occassional Instagram posts. If I ever figure out Imgur I might try to post there, instead of just checking out other folks.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Book Review - Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

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When a private plane crashes in the water's off Martha's Vineyards nine of the eleven passengers and crew are killed. Last minute boarder Scott Burroughs and the young son of wealthy parents are the only survivors. Initially declared a hero for saving the boy, Scott soon finds himself not only suspect in the crash but also the target of a Bill O'Reilly like TV anchor with his own agenda.

What happened to the plane to cause the crash and just who were the people on board? What led them all to be on that plane on that particular night? Writer Hawley (Screen writer and executive producer of several TV shows, including Fargo & Legion) does a great job here introducing us to some realistic and flawed folks who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time on one fateful night.



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Monday, May 15, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 - A Popcorn for One Review

Let's get the most often asked question out of the away at the beginning. No, this film is not as good as the first movie, but not all sequels are.  Of course, you do have some where the second film in the franchise is better.  Sadly, this is not the case here, but I did enjoy the film, only glancing at my watch once.

The Guardians are doing what they do best. Taking on some big bad for a reward.  The opening scenes of the film are a lot of fun and show that the movie is going to go even more for laughs than the first.  Maybe there is even a little too much humor, as setting up some jokes really does take away from the main story.  Which happens to be the discovery of Peter (Star-Lord's) true father and where he has been for all these years.  Kurt Russel is wonderful, as usual, playing the human appearing projection of Ego, the Living Planet. An entity millions of years old, who had been seeking his true purpose.  Having fallen in love with an Earth woman, who was to give birth to his son, Ego moved on for a while.  I'll not give anything else away at this point, but there were some wonderful scenes between Russel and Chris Pratt throughout the movie.

While this is going on we have the "B" plot, involving the race called The Sovereign, who believe themselves the ultimate in evolution. A golden skinned (and eyed) race who consider themselves superior in every way.  Feeling that some of there property has been stolen (and you can guess by whom) they set out to destroy the Guardians.  When one attempt fails they turn to Yondu and his band of cutthroats, who may have their own reasons for wanting to meet again with the Guardians. While Yondu (played with obvious glee by Michael Rooker) was fun in the first film, his role here is much larger and very central to both story lines as they merge.

I think I can give this movie a solid "B" without much effort.  The jokes mostly hit, the acting was good by everyone, with Dave Bautista just great as Drax.  It was nice seeing some new Marvel characters appear, some fun cameos and two actors that I was surprised to see, but enjoyed. One of them I hope to see reappearing in some future movies.

Of course, Marvel fans know they need to stick around for some post-credit fun, but here we even get some cuteness during the credits.  One of the later bits sets up a character who will probably be introduced in the third Guardians film.  I'm a long-time fan and immediately realized who this was going to be even before the name was revealed.  If you read the Kirby issues of Fantastic Four, you'll be just as excited.

The trailers preceding the feature were mostly for comics related films coming up later this year, with only Christopher Nolan's DUNKIRK standing out as not fitting into the SF or comics genre.  It was a fun few hours and even with the movie being in its second weekend the 11:40 AM showing on Sunday was still half full.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

In A Dark, Dark Wood - My review

In a Dark, Dark WoodIn a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While well written and entertaining, I can't say that loved the book, since it had a too familiar feeling about it and the murderer could be guessed at before the last few chapters.

A small group of people , consisting of friends of the bride-to-be, are invited to a 'hen' or what we could call in the states a bridal shower of sorts. It is to take place in the isolated home of a relative in the titular dark, dark wood. Once they arrive it is discovered that there is little if any cell phone reception and the only landline seems to have gone out at some point the first night. Tempers begin to flare and old grudges come out as time passes, eventually leading to an event that is hinted at from the beginning.

I think my biggest problem with the book is that I was reminded, not in a good way, of both Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train. By which I mean that the book is peopled with folks who are generally unlikable and whose ultimate fate, for the most part, doesn't really effect me. In this book, as in Girl On The Train, the main narrator is suffering from a temporary loss of memory which allows the 'mystery' to gone for longer than it otherwise would.

If we can judge from the other two best-sellers, we'll soon see this one headed for the big screen.


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Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review - Ambassador of the Shadows (Valeian & Laureline series)


I wanted to like this book more, but really found it more confusing than fun. Originally published in 1975, maybe I've just seen so much that similar that this has lost the charm it once had. It seems that a Valerian & Laureline film will be released later this year, and the trailers look pretty cool. If it's successful I'm sure that the graphic novel series will be doing quite well.

In a distant time and space, 'spatio-temporal' agents Valerian, the clean cut hero, and Laureline, his beautiful assistant (and really the brains of the operation) move through time and space as the only humans in a very, alien environment. A mix of Barbarella and pulpish space opera, it's amusing and maybe in a better frame of mind I'd have enjoyed it more.





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Monday, April 03, 2017

Review - Girl On The Train

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reminded me in a way of Gone Girl, in that there really isn't a character I found likable. You might sympathize with them but, as the killer states at one point, they brought it on themselves to a degree.

Rachel travels by train each day to London and back, imaging the life of what she wants to believe is a perfect couple she glimpses as she passes. One day she witnesses something unexpected that shatters her illusion. When the woman disappears shortly thereafter, Rachel can't help,but to,try to insert herself into the investigation.

Told in the words of not only Rachel, but also by two other women effected by the unraveling events. The book is well written with believable characters, but it does seem padded a bit and seeing the same events from different perspectives doesn't always add to the suspense. Once the killer is revealed the book actually drags on for several more chapters before the inevitable resolution. As with Gone Girl, I'm at a loss as to why this was such a huge hit.


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Review: Adam Strange/Future Quest #1



You don't need to have read either the Future Quest mini-series, featuring the Hanna Barbara action character, or the recent Adam Strange/Hawkman adventure to enjoy this stand alone story.  Writers Marc Andreyko and Jeff Parker give us enough backstory so that we don't feel lost. Adam Strange really fits into the Quest universe quite well.

Hurtled by The Zeta Beam into this alternate world, Adam finds himself in a lost valley where young, Todd known as Dino Boy and his Neanderthal pal, Ug search for Todd's parents. Able to contact Dr. Quest, aid arrives to try and help Adam return to his own world. A fun story that would have fit right into the old Jonny Quest series.

Add on a short tale featuring Top Cat and Batman, believe it or not, this is a nice book that ranks as my third favorite in this cross over series.

Review - Jughead: The Hunger

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Jughead: the Hunger #1 by Frank Tieri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not a part of the Afterlife With Archie series but like the Sabrina book, it takes place in a darker, more realistic Riverdale where the supernatural effects the characters.

Here we learn that a killer is stalking the town and some of the characters familiar to readers have already met a horrible end. We learn who the person responsible is and the end hints that a sequel could be possible.

If you don't mind a different take on Archie and his friends you might enjoy this. Also, as it isn't part of the ongoing series a new reader won't be lost.


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Monday, March 13, 2017

LOGAN: A Popcorn for One Review

A pretty good way to say goodbye to two characters and two actors who helped make the X-Men franchise so popular.  Both Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine) and Sir Patrick Stewart (Charles Xavier/Professor X) say they are walking away from the roles they have become so identified with.  In the case of Jackman, these are the films that pretty much made him a star.  Of course, there have been rumors that he might decide to put on the claws once again to do a cameo in the second DEADPOOL film, but I don't believe that has been confirmed as yet.

The X-Men films have played fast & loose with time and their own continuity for a while now.  To be honest, you really don't have to have seen all the other films to understand this one.  There is even a small bit that implies that not everything we thought we knew was necessarily as it happened. Indeed, there is little reference to the other mutants who followed the Professor, except for the mentioning of an incident in the past where Xavier may have used his abilities, causing the death of the rest of the team.  Both Charles and Logan are ill, their hope is to get enough money so that they can purchase a boat and get out of the country.  Meanwhile, a corporation that has been experimenting on children in order to create a new race of mutants, is searching for one child in particular who has escaped.

Jackman and Stewart are the focus of the film and their relationship has become reversed, with Logan caring for the aging Charles, whose power has become hard to control, unless he is constantly being medicated.  The adamantium which was injected into Logan to make him into Weapon X is now poisoning him.  His ability to heal is becoming less reliable as time goes by.  Both men know their time is limited, but Charles has a secret.  He is waiting for the child, known as Laura (played remarkably by the young Dafne Keen) who has a link to Logan of which he is unaware.

Sort of a dark, 'road picture' with the two actors and their young companion attempting to get to safety and perhaps finally get that boat.

I don't want to give anything away and the trailers give you a taste of what you are in store for.  It is indeed deserving of an "R" rating, since Logan and others reveal a ferocity only hinted at in earlier films.  The only negative I can admit to is that there is a bit of a drag in the second part of the film, so a bit of editing could have taken out maybe 5-10 minutes without effecting the film badly.

Oh, and to save you the time, there are no post credit scenes so you can pack up if you don't normally stay through the lists of accountants and animal wranglers.  You might want to get there a bit early though, as there is a DEADPOOL teaser before the film begins.  Also, if you are anything like me you might bring a tissue or two.

Monday, February 06, 2017

MANGAMAN - A Graphic Novel Review


Writer Barry Lyga has created some wonderful characters and a great story. What if a boy from a world that looks and acts like a manga somehow came to a reality much like ours? How would he or could he fit in and what happens if he falls in love with a girl from this world? Ryoko was a teenager growing up in a world of speedlines, kaiju and giant mecha. When a warp opens he finds himself on a world where the physical restraints are quite different. However, he doesn't follow those new limitations. Marissa was the most popular girl in high school, dating the most popular guy, but one day she decides that it isn't enough. When the two meet it isn't a surprise that some folks, including her parents, aren't too happy about the situation. Also, the government is a little concerned that the kaiju that can also travel through the warp might decide to visit. I can't think of an artist besides Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil) who would have been a better choice. She not only brings her beautiful style to the characters of this world, but brilliantly captures the look of Ryoko and his world as well. I don't think you have to be a manga fan, or even a comics fan to enjoy this story of romance and tragedy.

Saturday, January 21, 2017