Well, I am straight up disappointed by the
ultimate final novel in Marvel’s Ultimate continuity. See, the other times there have been big crossover events, I’ve read all of the affiliated books (in publication order, natch) because they were crossed over in, y’know, the same publication line. Whereas Secret Wars is a crossover among multiple Marvel continuities, none of which I am current on other than this one.
Which means that I was reading a sideline on the main story, without any context for what was supposed to be going on. I’m not saying there wasn’t any emotional impact; Bendis knows his job. But when I don’t know why things are happening, it’s hard to get involved enough to really get it. So, that was lame.
Bright side: I’m only 37 years behind on catching up with the other continuities so I can reread this with the proper context! So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
 Example: An army of Thors flying around enforcing God’s will. Um… what? Why? Who? So, yep. Also, the entire final issue was predicated on something a character learned in a different book. Sigh.
A quote from my review of the first Uncharted game, lo these many years ago: Pretty much, it’s a Tomb Raider game where they reduced the budget on breast motion physics and invested that money into storyline and dialogue. It was, I think, a good trade.
I have a feeling that someone paid attention to that sentiment, because just a few years later Eidos rebooted the Tomb Raider franchise with exactly those modifications to the bottom line. And while I like the Uncharted series quite a lot, Lara Croft is a character I’ve been following for decades. Seeing her in the game she’s deserved ever since her inception was a pure joy.
Tomb Raider charts her progress from young archaeologist on her first big historical search to seasoned fighter of enraged beasts and evil men, not to mention world-class gymnast, expert mountaineer, and well, tomb raider. Which is to say, yes, it’s kind of silly if you don’t willingly blind yourself to that kind of thing. But the game solidly scratched my exploration and collection itches, redeemed a character that had always deserved better, and told a really good story along the way. I look forward to snagging the sequel.
Mary picked Horns for movie night, a film about which I knew very little. Basically, just an image in my head (not dissimilar to the one in front of you) of Daniel Radcliffe with some, y’know, horns growing out of his forehead. It turned out to be pretty interesting, though! Mainly by that I mean that its philosophical / religious underpinnings were thought-provoking. If your very presence brought out people’s darkest secrets and basest impulses, who would you hang out with? Who would you avoid?
Unfortunately, the actual story above said underpinnings was not really worth holding up. What started as a moody murder and identity mystery quickly lost track of itself in an admittedly compelling relationship history, and by the time it found its way back, all of the moodiness had been lost in a generic anti-feminist fist fight between two guys over the fate of a dead girl.
It’s too bad, though. The principle actors were solid, and I think there’s a really excellent movie buried in the premise. This just wasn’t that movie.
I saw The Hateful Eight at the Alamo Drafthouse this weekend, partly because I want to see all Quentin Tarantino movies but mostly because that was the best of the buy one get one deals this week. (I still need to see Star Wars there.)
Here are the things this movie definitely delivers on: 1) Title accuracy. It is probably almost a spoiler to say that I do not know for sure which eight characters the title refers to, but there’s no doubt that there were some extremely hateful bastards up in this film. 2) Being a Quentin Tarantino movie. Somewhat stylized despite it being a period piece (the period is the post-Civil-War West), ultraviolent, as obscenity laden as it is probably possible for a movie to be, and full of detailed but meaningless digressions.
I don’t want to get into the plot, because it works pretty well coming in cold, but what it most reminded me of was Tarantino’s version of The Canterbury Tales. I’ll say this in its favor: I did not feel like I was in the theater for three hours.
The only upside of accidentally reading the newest Vlad Taltos book a year late is that it probably indicates a proportionally shorter wait before the next one. Well, no. There’s also the upside that it’s even harder than in most long series to discuss the Vlad books without spoilers, so yay that anyone I know who cares about them has read this ahead of me, right?
Anyway, Hawk. Some Vlad books are about wars or gods or really amazing dinners or the dissolution of relationships, but my favorite ones (and, I think, the author’s favorites as well) are the ones where Vlad gets to wax rhapsodic about how very clever he is, doling out bits and pieces of his plan timed for maximum effect. You know how, if Holmes rather than Watson were tasked with writing down all his stories, people would think him a huge asshole? Vlad’s narration is just like that, but since he’s obviously an asshole from the start of things, it somehow works.
So yeah, it’s a caper book, and you know by now if you like Taltos books, so you’ll either read it or not regardless of what else I’d say, so I won’t say a lot more. Thing one: obviously if for some reason you don’t know if you like Taltos books, don’t start with this one. (I’ve covered this ground before.) Thing two: I am always most pleased when the story moves forward instead of jumping back, and this was one that moved forward. Thing three: There were hints of previous stories that I either don’t remember or haven’t been written yet, and both options itch maddeningly at my brain. It may be nearing time for a reread? At least they go fast. Thing four: The itch puts lie to my thing two; the real truth is that I am most pleased by whatever Vlad book is in front of me at the time. …except maybe Teckla.
I kind of wanted to see Limitless a good long time ago, because of how I like Bradley Cooper and the plot seemed cool in a wish-fulfillment kind of way, but I never did. Then recently CBS released a show about it, which I did watch, and it turned out a) to be good (and more importantly, fun) but also b) a sequel to the movie rather than a reimagining of it. So at that point, I had to watch it. Which I have!
And, yeah. Wish fulfillment is the name of the game. You just take this pill, and suddenly you can remember everything you’ve ever seen or learned, not to mention how easy it becomes to learn new things and make new connections. And the downsides are… well, fairly minimal. From there, high stakes cats and mice, criminal enterprises, stock markets, genius books that capture the public imagination: you know, the kinds of things people would do if they had, er, limitless potential.
Recommended to people who like brain wish-fulfillment or Bradley Cooper. Not recommended to people who like Wars on Drugs. Oh, and the show is definitely better, if for some reason you feel a need to choose between them.
 There are more realistic downsides in the show, which is early on often a remake of the movie after all, but smarter.
I’ll start off slowly, but with matters of import nevertheless. It was weird, the lack of 20th Century Fox fanfare. 38 years and six movies worth, you know? Plus, for ages upon ages, these were the only movies to play the extended fanfare. I could be in a Blockbuster any time in the ’90s and know to at worst a coin toss not only that it was in the trilogy but which specific movie was coming on, by halfway through the trumpets. So, definitely weird to feel the lack. That said, Disney had enough respect for the ceremony of the thing not to replace it with their own studio logo and jingle. I hope that carries through, but even if it’s only this once: good on you, $Disney_Exec.
For the rest… man, it’s hard to say what I want to say without spoilers. Maybe impossible. I’ll minimize the damage as much as I can until the comments, but if you want to leave now and see the movie (the 30% of America that hasn’t already by now, I mean) without reading the rest, all I’ll say is, damn. Yes. Go see it, and see it with no fear. The Force Awakens is a Star Wars movie, and if you like those, you’ll like this.
This is the first King short story collection I’ve really liked in quite a while. My first instinct is to claim it’s because the last couple, I had seen a lot of the stories in other publications, and so they were old hat to me. But then I think, no, I’ve read other, older collections lately and my familiarity with those stories bred no contempt. Plus, also, I’d already read a handful of these as well.
So, what makes The Bazaar of Bad Dreams a return to form? Man, I wish I knew. I’m so terrible at reviewing short story collections; it is pretty much my greatest weakness as a reviewer. But here’s what I’ll do. Looking at the table of contents to refresh myself, I remember and actively like more than half the stories. Ur (originally published as a Kindle exclusive and which only briefly flirted with being a paid advertisement, right at the beginning) has possibly the coolest conceit a consumer of fiction could imagine, but even the stories whose ideas did not blow me away, I am nodding in fond memory of.
Or maybe he caught me on a good day. But I’m pretty sure this is a solid collection instead.
 Well, besides inability to get paid and sometimes falling days or weeks behind on reviews. Not this time, though. I finished the book in line for Star Wars, and I’m writing the review in line for Star Wars. (This should not be taken as a contractual obligation to provide a timely Star Wars review. ….but maybe?)
 The book took me most of a month to read, which is a reflection on how well I’ve been reading lately and not on the book. I mean, short stories have natural breakpoints between them, y’know?
You know the drill by now. Some people trapped in a dystopic nightmare got tired of sending their kids off to the annual deathmatch, and once Jennifer Lawrence came along and showed them that the Capitol could be defied through the power of teamwork, they all came together to act on this new knowledge / long-standing grievance.
Other than mentioning the second act’s surplus of death traps, anything at all I could discuss about the plot would be a spoiler, so I’ll just say that the second half of Mockingjay’s adaptation continued to deliver on the promise of the rest of the series: to remain as faithful as possible to the original story while jettisoning everything that held it to the level of teen melodrama rather than realizing its potential greatness. I don’t know that I’ve ever said, “Naah, just go watch the movie.”
 Because if you can’t have teens killing each other, you can at least still have the environment trying to kill a lot of folks to make up for it; this is still a Hunger Games movie, after all!
Bavarian Alps folklore speaks of a being who, rather than merely dumping coal into stockings, takes a more… biblical approach to the annual judgment of naughty children. Fast forward a few hundred years and cross an ocean to where the super-jerky versions of the Griswolds and their in-laws are preparing to deck the halls and/or each other in stereotypical horrible family style, and who wouldn’t expect Krampus to drop in for a visit? Well, besides most of these folks, and boy are they in for a shock!
The confusing thing about this movie is that by all rights it should be terrible. It felt like, and bear with me here, because this next statement defies legitimacy. It felt like Troll 2, except if that movie had a talented acting pool and a script that made sense. To which there are three possible responses, I think. Lack of reference knowledge, disbelief in the possibility of those words existing in that order, or realization of what very high praise that is, in the unlikely world where it’s possible to be said. Mostly, if you’re lucky, lack of reference knowledge.
Long story short: as Christmas horror goes, this rises well above the pack. I don’t even resent the PG-13 rating, except for how it would have allowed more realistic language if rated R.