Category: review

TV Review: Moon Knight

We live in a pretty crazy time, when it comes to television series. It feels like there’s always something new coming out that I really want to see, and if I miss out on one show, then there’s a good chance I won’t get back to it, just because there are so many other things coming down the pipeline. I’m not really complaining; having a wealth of riches is a problem you like to have. But one of the consequences of this is that I tend to rely on word of mouth when it comes to deciding what I want to spend my time on. If I hear enough good things, I watch. If the buzz turns sour, I avoid.

Moon Knight was a show I’d been looking forward to. I’ve enjoyed the other Marvel offerings on Disney+ so far, so why wouldn’t I give this one a shot? Except then I heard some decidedly bad things about the show. It had been billed as being grittier than the other Disney Marvel shows, and fans were loudly decrying that claim. To listen to some of the loudest, the show was too tame, with bad special effects, and a boring plot.

Seeing as how I had some issues with some of the Book of Boba Fett’s pacing and story choices, this buzz around Moon Knight was definitely believable. For a while, I debated even watching the show at all, but I finally decided to go for it, and we watched it with Tomas and Daniela.

I’m very glad we did. I enjoyed it from start to finish, and I have no real complaints about the show. The effects were great, the story was strong and mysterious, and the acting was top notch. It wasn’t hyper violent or anything. In line with most Marvel movies, really. Perhaps it got some people’s expectations to go in a certain way, and when it didn’t do that, there was a backlash.

It’s basically the Egyptian flavored Marvel movie. Thor among the pyramids, though that’s not really accurate at all. The show runs in part on mystery, so I don’t really want to talk about the plot too much. Oscar Isaac plays a down on his luck museum gift store attendant. He loves the exhibits on ancient Egypt, but he doesn’t have the qualifications to work outside the gift shop. Also, he’s been having issues sleep walking . . .

Isaac does a really great job in the show, and watching him navigate the hand that’s dealt to him was one of the best things about it. Overall, I gave it an 7.5/10. It tends to suffer from Marvel-itis, a disease similar to Pixar-itis. When a company has a lot of experience making good, solid shows and movies, you stop really being able to appreciate just how good the shows and movies are.

So why all the hate on the show? Some of it is likely because some people were expecting over the top violence and were disappointed, but I think another significant part of it is that the show actually tries to break Marvel into some more diverse casting and locations. Other than Black Panther.

It’s sad and depressing, but it seems like there are some very vocal pockets of fandom that are dead set against diversity. Any attempts to diversify a franchise are met with cries of derision and outrage. Black characters in Star Wars? How dare they! A black Heimdall? Sacrilege! And then there’s the following Twitter screeds and social media attacks on the actors behind those portrayals. The hissy fit some people had over Rose in The Last Jedi is just ridiculous.

In the end, I’d say give the show a shot if you like Marvel. It’s only 6 episodes long, and it’s a fun ride. Don’t listen to the naysayers, and just enjoy yourself.

Isn’t that what pop culture is all about?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Diablo Immortal: First Impressions

Last week Blizzard released a new Diablo version for mobile phones. (They’ve actually also released a PC version of it, but I haven’t tried it. The game is designed for mobile.) Being a pretty big Diablo fan, I had low expectations (because it’s a mobile game), but I checked it out anyway. The word on the street heading into it was pretty negative. Diablo fans were dismissive of the game when it was first announced, saying they wanted a “real” game. And then it came out the the game would be funded through micro-transactions, which are far from popular among the gamer crowd, even if they’re often par for the course on mobile.

But hey: it was free! It was worth a download and a quick run around the block.

Honestly, I’ve had a complete blast with the game so far. At its heart, Diablo (for me) is pretty straightforward. You go around fighting and killing enemies, hoping to get cool items, that will help you kill more enemies and get better items. The cycle repeats, and that’s it.

Diablo Immortal offers a slew of different ways to do that basic formula. There are quests. There’s a storyline. There are rift runs (which are self-contained dungeons that take about three minutes to beat). There’s a PVP system. And then when it comes to upgrade, there’s a ton of other ways to do that. Upgrade items. Upgrade gems. Upgrade things items go into. Upgrade your PVP skills. Basically, you can hop on the game and have a fun time in just a few minutes. It’s great.

Now, it’s true that the game has a pretty heavy pay to win side to it. You can buy items that will get you better stuff, using money instead of your time. And (obviously) that’s much easier and quicker than killing lots of things over and over. So there are already players out there that are much much more powerful than my character. However, that was always the case for me. No matter how powerful your items are, you’re still just doing the same thing: running around killing monsters that are just difficult enough for you to kill. Paying money to fast forward that process . . . doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It might make a difference in PVP, but we’ll see. I guess if they have characters of all levels playing each other, then it’s an issue, because free players will get steamrolled. But if they do it based on item level, then that’s not an issue.

But even assuming PVP is a mess, it was always a mess for me. I never played PVP, because I didn’t have time to make really strong builds. I just would go on and play for fun. For that, Diablo Immortal is pretty perfect.

The other significant change is that they’ve made it more of an MMORPG, so you see other people running around killing stuff while you’re out and about. That took a bit of getting used to, but in the end it doesn’t have a huge impact on me. If you want to find a group of people to play with, the game makes that very simple. (Playing with more people means you get better loot.) But you can also just ignore it and be fine. I haven’t seen any griefing yet.

Will I stick with this game for forever? No clue, but if they release updates regularly, then I could see me doing it. The free model of the game is pretty much exactly what I want from Diablo. One could make the argument that the “pay to have a chance of winning cool loot” model is preying on people who are prone to having bad gambling habits. But let’s be honest: my other game of choice (Magic: The Gathering) is built around the same thing. If you’re playing this game, I encourage you to just not pay for anything. I did buy the battle pass for $5, because I like those, but that’s $5 every month or so. I’ve heard of some people who have already spent tens of thousands of dollars on the game.

Don’t do that, and if you think you’re the kind of person who might do that . . . don’t play this game.

But if you just want casual Diablo fun wherever you go, then download Immortal and enjoy. (And let me know–maybe we could kill some monsters together.)

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: Gilded Age Season 1

For all its frustrating flaws, I remain a big Downton Abbey fan. When it was really at its best, it was a delight to watch how different classes lived and interacted in areas that seemed commonplace to them, but were anything but to me, a middle-class white guy in 21st century Maine. (Of course, there were the other plot lines that focused instead on bizarre things like murder investigations, which always just seemed so idiotic. But let’s not talk of those.)

So when I heard Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, had created a show around late nineteenth century America, I was intrigued to say the least. The Gilded Age was on HBO, though, and I wondered it they’d just take Downton and give it an “adult” twist. It was TV-MA, after all, but Denisa and I decided to give the first episode a shot. We blazed through the rest of the season soon after, finishing the final episode last night.

Like Downton, it follows people of multiple classes, from servants to the middle class to the noveau riche and the established families. It adds in a Black character as well, allowing the show to explore race relations back then. The central plot is how the Russell family moves to New York City and tries to insert itself into the established upper crust circles. The Russells are filthy rich. The husband is a railroad tycoon, and quite ruthless in business, though he’s much nicer when it comes to personal matters. His wife, on the other hand, is desperate to be accepted by the upper crust, and the upper crust are just as set on ignoring her. Drama ensues.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The TV-MA rating is a bit baffling. Over the course of the entire season, there was one risque scene, and one scene with brief nudity that had no real reason to be there. It was almost like HBO told Fellowes they wanted the show to have a TV-MA rating so that people would take it seriously, so he threw in a short scene to justify it. You can skip those parts easily and not miss anything significant.

It’s well plotted, avoiding some of the obvious lines that it could have taken, so that you’re never entirely sure what will happen with any of the stories. I won’t go into spoilers, but there was one plot that seemed very clear would go one way, but then when the time came to go that way, it veered off in an unexpected, refreshing direction instead.

It’s well acted, though most of it is “stuffy nineteenth century,” which feels a lot like Downton. Trying to convey the whole range of emotions in people who made it a point never to show emotion is a trick and a half, but the show pulls it off.

But really, the star of the show is the set design and costuming. It’s simply a pleasure to look at, one scene after the other. The time period comes alive in a way Downton Abbey never really was able to pull off. We see different parts of New York, and the city itself feels far more alive than Downton ever really got. In that show, you’d have the village life come up now and then, but the city plays just as much a part of this as the characters do.

Overall, I gave it a 9/10. It’s not necessarily for everyone, but if it’s for you, you likely already know it after reading this, and you should give it a shot if you have HBOmax. Any of you already seen it?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Metroid Dread Review

I’ve been playing Metroid games since the first one came out when I was 8 years old. There’s a whole lot to love about the genre: exploring a new world, gathering power ups as you go, and figuring out boss battles so that you can take them all down one by one. In many ways, Metroid games are a great fusion of puzzles and side scrollers all in one. The worlds are often massive, and you can spend hours and hours exploring as you look for all the secrets.

True, sometimes this also leads to some frustration, as you might miss something and end up spending hours trying to figure out what it was you missed. If you’re not into that sort of thing, then Metroid games might well not be for you. (Or maybe you’ll just want to go through them with a walkthrough close to hand. I’m not here to shame people for playing a game however they want to play it.)

There have been some riffs on the Metroid theme over the years. The Metroid Prime series on the Gamecube was particularly different, since it went more for a 3D immersive world feel, which was also a ton of fun. For the first game on the Switch, however, Metroid has returned to its 2D roots, though in a way that feels fresh and fun.

Metroid Dread follows the tried and true approach when it comes to the set up. Samus is off exploring a new planet. Something happens to her that takes away all her power ups, and she has to spend the rest of the game finding them again, one by one. (You’d think she’d have learned to keep better track of those things by now . . . ). The whole thing is side scrolling, but the graphics are done in a way that every now and then it has more of a 3D feel. The planet feels very lived in, if that makes sense, and getting power ups continually gives you a real feeling of upgrades.

Overall, I’ve loved the game. (Full disclosure: I haven’t beaten it yet, but I’m getting close. The fact that I’m getting close says a lot about what I think of the game.) I’m around 9 hours played on the official time, and I’m sure it’s much more than that, since I keep dying, and it doesn’t keep track of that. I’m hardly an expert player, so I’m sure someone who’s better at all of this than I am would be getting through this much more quickly. That said, I also feel like . . . what’s the rush? I paid for the game. Getting through it faster would feel kind of like watching a movie in fast forward. Might as well enjoy the ride, right?

If you’ve got a Switch and like Metroid games, this is a no brainer. Buy buy buy. If you don’t have a Switch still, and love Metroid games, then this would be a very good reason to get a Switch. If you don’t love Metroid games . . . then why are you reading this review? 🙂 If they’re new to you, give them a shot. This is an easy 9/10 in my book.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Media Consumed in 2021

This wasn’t a perfect year for reaching my goals, I’m afraid. Everything fell off the wheels in the fall, and instead of getting to 52 books for the year, I only made it to 45. That said, it’s still 45 books, and being able to keep that up even during a pandemic is something I’m still proud of. As usual, I’m here today to let you know the best (and worst) of what I watched and read. I’ll anonymize the bad books, so as not to point any fingers (out of professional courtesy). Ready?

Best Movies/TV

I watched 129 movies or complete TV seasons, so . . . clearly I had some time to relax somewhere over last year. My average rating was a 7.71, which probably shows that I’m generally easy to please. Most movies get around that, and it has to be significantly good (or bad) to move one way or the other. Here are the films I gave a 10/10 to:

  • Groundhog Day (duh)
  • The History of Future Folk (Hondo! Such a great movie.)
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (Yes, Woody Allen. I wouldn’t have him babysit my kids, but the guy can make a great film. This is a favorite of mine)
  • Ted Lasso Season 1 (Just fantastic. So positive.)
  • In the Heights (Great music, great movie)
  • The Goes Wrong Show Season 1 (The worst thing about this is that I haven’t found a way to watch season 2 yet)
  • Mare of Easttown (Kate Winslet is phenomenal in this.)
  • Unforgiven (Fantastic modern Western)
  • Back to the Future (I really think it’s one of the best movies out there. Peak 80s, and practically perfect in every way)

Here are the 9.5s:

  • Mississippi Burning (Depressing to see how much of this still feels relevant today)
  • The Matrix (Though as I said, I was surprised to see how much more disturbing the violence was)

And then here are the 9s:

  • Master and Commander (Great stuff)
  • Bowfinger (So quotable, and some really funny scenes. Keep. It. Together.)
  • Ocean’s Eleven (the remake. Super heist film)
  • The Right Stuff (I’m a sucker for space movies)
  • Broadchurch Season 1 (The other seasons weren’t as good, but still a great show.)
  • Gaslight (The movie that spawned a word)
  • The Fugitive (Surprised to see how well this stood up)
  • You’ve Got Mail (Ditto for this)
  • Ted Lasso Season 2 (Not quite Season 1, but what is?)
  • Squid Game Season 1 (When you write pop fiction, you have to know what everyone’s watching. It’s a good show, but brutal.)
  • Great British Baking Show Season 10 (It started out iffy, but became one of my favorite seasons.)
  • Hunt for Red October (Still great)
  • Sleepless in Seattle (It’s a tragedy Hanks and Ryan didn’t make more movies together)
  • Encanto (I loved this, and I think I might love it even more when I watch it again)

How about the worst ones? Here’s what I’ve got that I rated 5 or lower:

  • Bridgerton Season 1 (See my comment about Squid Game. In this case, however, it stunk. 4/10)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (I will never (ever) do another Harry Potter movie marathon. Most are middling, a few are decent, and then there are some stinker 4/10)
  • Caravan of Courage (Ewoks, old school. Bad, but funny bad at least. 4/10)
  • Dune (the first one. No no no. 5/10)
  • The Tunnel Season 3 (Liked the first two. Hated the third)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (Yup. Still disliked it. 3/10)

That’s quite a number, isn’t it? How did I do with reading? My average rating for books was a 7.7 (at least I’m consistent). Here are the 10’s:

  • Way of Kings (Still excellent, even the third time through)
  • Boy’s Life (Absolutely phenomenal. Unknown to me, and I loved it)

Just two. Wow. 9.5s?

  • My Best Friend’s Exorcism (Grady Hendrix was a fantastic discovery for me this year. It’s a vein of horror that reads like candy. Love this stuff.)

Man. Just one. How about 9s?

  • Animal Farm (Classic)
  • The Inheritance Games (Daniela brought this one to my attention)
  • Jaws (Impressively good)
  • Oathbringer
  • Dawnshard
  • Rhythm of War (All Brandon, all great)
  • Project Hail Mary (Really liked the latest Andy Weir)
  • Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (More Hendrix)
  • Salem’s Lot (My first time reading. Love Stephen King as always. And the ending was even decent!)

And that’s it for the best. When it comes to worst I had some 6s and a few 6.5s. Only two books lower than a 5:

  • The third book in a series where I loved the first two entries. They were fast moving, really fun RPG fantasies. So disappointed in the third. 3/10
  • The first book in a sci-fi dystopian series. Thousands of great reviews on Goodreads. I really disliked it. Found it predictable and tiring. Had to slog my way to the finish.

Both books are very well liked on Goodreads. I’m glad there are people with such a wide variety of tastes.

Anyway–that’s it for this year. We’ll see how I handle the year to come. What did you see or read this year that you’d like to recommend (or recommend to avoid)?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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