Movie Review: Justice League, directed by Zach Snyder (Three Stars)

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Movie Review: Justice League, directed by Zach Snyder

Three Stars

“Without reason, without love, [science] destroys itself.”
Like most DC and marvel offerings, it’s good, clean fun. Don’t expect too much, and you won’t be disappointed.
“To lead, you step into the light and say to people, this is worth your life.”
The plot was–dare I say it–comic book-ish; the acting was fair, and the special effects looked like special effects. It is what it is.
“I believe in truth, but I also a big fan of justice.”

 

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Book Review: The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter by Michael J. Sullivan (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter (Riyria Chronicles #4) by Michael J, Sullivan

Four Stars

“Are you two always like this?” “He is,” they both said in unison.

Perhaps the best Riyria book yet. Both Royce and Hadrian have more depth. Their relationship is more complex. The storytelling, especially the inner dialogue, is superb. Several distinct and distinctive female characters. Sullivan clearly signals changes in point-of-view character. Why not five stars? See my quibble.

“You just hate being happy.” “I have no idea. What’s it like?”

For those unfamiliar with Riyria (Royce and Hadrian) the fourth book of the second series seems the wrong place to try them out. Not so. Winter’s Daughter is a self-contained, rich Continue reading

Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh

Four Stars

“If it were easy, I would not be famous.”

Excellent period piece movie. Meticulously staged and photographed. All-star cast. Lots of fun.

“The criminal act is the anomaly. It takes a fractured soul to kill another human being.”

Inevitable comparison with the 1974 version: this one has a bigger pallet. Scenes set in Jerusalem and Istanbul as well as outside the train give the cinematographer a bigger canvas on which he painted with impressionistic color and drama. Branagh makes a better Poirot than Finney, but no one could take those mustaches seriously.

“Romance never goes unpunished.”

Why not five stars? The movie seemed too aware of itself. Bordered on melodrama.

“Did we die?”

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, written and directed by James Gunn (Three Stars)

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Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, written and directed by James Gunn

Three Stars

“Sometimes that thing you search for your whole life is right by your side all along; you just don’t know it.”

Now this is popcorn for the brain. Mindless, comic book-style action. But … wait, there’s more there’s an understrata of subplots about relationship, especially familial ones.

“I can only afford to lose one friend today.”

Love the music, but then I was just out of college when Looking Glass’ “Brandy” topped the pop charts.

“You’ll be just like everyone else.” “What’s so wrong with that?”

We Veterans Thank You

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In 1973, GIs returning from the Vietnam War landed at Travis AFB, CA. From there most of us were bused to San Francisco for connecting commercial flights to home or our next duty assignment. Before we left Travis we were warned about the treatment we’d receive in San Francisco. Public opinion was greatly against the war in Southeast Asia, and we would be cursed, ridiculed and even assaulted by people who found us to be convenient targets for their dissension. And we were.

Today thousands of us veterans enjoyed a pleasant free meal–in my case at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Glen Allen, VA. As I ate that fine steak, I remembered other wars and other homecomings. And of course those who didn’t come back or who have since died.

War is an unpleasant business. Some wars are necessary; some are not. Regardless, Continue reading

Book Review: Solar Express by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Solar Express by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Four Stars

“Too many people get too passionate about too little, and not excited about what matters.”

First contact, sort of. Good, hard science fiction. The type that encourages the reader to reflect on the science, rather than the fiction. Don’t reflect too long, however because there are a few technical groaners. (see quibbles) Wanted to give it five because it’s so good, but between Modesitt’s pontificating and the orbital dynamics, couldn’t. Gets an “A” for effort.

“Human beings talk about sharing knowledge while doing their best to hide it or get it first.”

Both protagonists are well-drawn, engaging people, who have different backgrounds and interest, but who from a chance meeting end up making both a scientific breakthrough and a chance to save mankind as well as themselves.

“Truth is a judgment placed on the facts, not the facts themselves. True scientists try to avoid using the word ‘truth.’”

Quibbles: Way too easy. Decides to intercept Continue reading

Movie Review: Ender’s Game, written and directed by Gavin Hood (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Ender’s Game, written and directed by Gavin Hood

Four Stars

“The way we win matters.”

Hard science fiction; hard message. Sometimes we become like what we hate, even as we seek to defend ourselves from it. At the same time, to defeat a foe, we must understand him; as our knowledge becomes complete, it gets complicated.

Based on the book of the same name by Orson Scott Card. I prefer the book; your mileage may vary. The movie ends looking beyond the end of the first book toward Ender’s quest for redemption.

Proclaimed by Variety as among the “Biggest Box Office Flops of 2013,” unlike popular popcorn burners like the Marvel movies, this takes reality seriously. It also understands that consequences are real and not always favorable. When you weaponize children, you abuse them. You abuse humanity.

 

Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi
Four Stars

 
A comic book re-imagining of Norse mythology. Fun, action, some redemptive purpose. It’s a good fit for modern superhero stories because the Norse (and for that matter Greek, Roman, Celtic and Hindu pantheons) were more superheroes than divinity.

 
Par for any film she’s in, Cate Blanchett stole every scene she was in. Cameo’s by other Marvel comic heroes.

 

Book Review: Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Tyrant’s Throne (Greatcoats #4) by Sebastien de Castell

Three Stars

“The time for preposterous heroics has passed.” “Preposterous heroics were the only thing we were ever good at.”

Good summary and conclusion to the series … maybe. Despite several inconsequential subplots, de Castell brings all the threads together in the end. A Greek-tragedy-like appearance of the gods at the end is turned on its head; good job.

“The best we can hope for is one chance to prove ourselves, to turn our death into a sacrifice for what we believe in rather than a fate that was set upon us.”

Quibble: A face recognized by its reflection in the blade of a rapier? How wide are your rapier blades? (The very presence of rapiers in this medieval fantasy is a non sequitur, but explained in the first book.)

“Why must you always be clever after the fact, Falcio?”

Not Dumas quality, but a fun read.

“Death, like life, cares nothing for poetry.”

Book Review: And Then There Were Nuns by Jane Christmas (Four Stars)

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Book Review: And Then There Were Nuns: Adventures in a Cloistered Life by Jane Christmas

Four Stars

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” G. K. Chesterton.

What might a wantabee-nun have to say to us normal people? A lot, and not all of it about faith or religious institutions. An honest, introspective foray into the contemplative life in the twenty-first century by a woman of the world. A good starting point for a lay person wondering how the other half–no, not half; a vanishingly small percent–lives and worships.

“You don’t rewrite Shakespeare’s sonnets to make them more understandable, you grow in your understanding of the words.”

Folksy, but wordy prose. Her narrative sucks the reader in and propels you along, but Continue reading