Category: review

Television Series Review: Perry Mason

Denisa and I finished the new season of the Perry Mason prequel last night on HBO. I’d been excited for the show. Matthew Rhys (of The Americans fame) is a solid actor, and I wanted to see what they did with the character. I watched a whole ton of the Perry Mason made-for-TV movies that came out in the 80s, though I’ve never seen the original TV show. What would an HBO version of the character be like?

Pretty excellent, it turns out. As a prequel set in the 30s, they went full noir with the material, and that’s a genre I’m already very inclined to like. The season focuses on several main character arcs and one central trial. It shows how Perry went from being an embittered private detective to a slightly-less-but-maybe-more embittered defense attorney. It fleshes out the back story of his supporting cast (Della Street, etc.), diving into some of the racial tensions that would have been present at the time, but not doing it in an overly preachy way. (I prefer it when a show or a film trusts me enough to be able to reach conclusions on my own without being hammered over the head with them, something many historical pieces just can’t seem to hold themselves back from.)

Beyond the main characters, there are some great side arcs as well. There’s Perry’s lawyer mentor, played by John Lithgow in another good round of acting. There is a revivalist-style church that’s swept through Los Angeles, with a vibrant woman at its center. And then there’s the main case: a kidnapping gone wrong, with a dead baby at the middle of it all.

It’s a pretty bleak series,which is very fitting for the noir tone to it all, something that is heightened by the trumpet soundtrack. I mean, all it’s really missing is Bogart giving a voice over, and you’d be set. Perhaps this would be too much for some. I loved it.

Being an HBO show, it (naturally) has to prove how gritty it is with the inclusion of adult material. For the most part, however, it refrains from anything gratuitous, and it keeps the entire thing character-driven. That’s what I enjoyed the most about the series. I found the characters to be complex and riveting, able to surprise me in good ways and not gimmicky twists. While the central case may not leave you guessing all the way up to the final episode, the narrative arc will keep you hooked to the end for sure.

Of course, if what people really wanted was a Perry Mason encore, they might leave disappointed. This feels much more noir than Mason, and while that might be perfect for me, I did wonder if some might object. (It was a nice touch that they threw in the old theme music at the end of the finale, though I didn’t particularly care for the jazzed up version of it.)

All in all, it made for a thoroughly entertaining ten episodes. If you’re in the mood for some noir and you’ve got an HBO account, this is a great season, and I’m looking forward to more in the future. 8/10

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

Video Game Review: Slay the Spire

I love me some video games, even though I don’t get nearly the amount of time to play them these days as I used to. (Though I wonder how much time I ever really had. Maybe it just felt like I had a lot of time because I played an hour or so a day, and an hour or so felt like a longer amount of time when I was 16 than when I’m over 40 . . .)

That said, I’ve had some time at home for some strange reason the last few months, and I’ve taken that time to explore new things. One game that was suggested to me was Slay the Spire (now available on iOS). I tried it out, and I’ve really become hooked. It’s a great single player card game, so if you like drafting a deck on the fly, then this is the perfect game to scratch that itch when you have to be socially distant.

What does it mean to “draft a deck on the fly”? The concept behind Slay the Spire is that you’re working your way through various levels of a tower. You use a deck of cards to beat enemies. The cards either give you defense for the turn, or they attack for the turn, and you can only play a certain number each turn. Once you beat an enemy, you get to add a card to your deck, choosing between three random options. So bit by bit over time, you do your best to create a deck that will be successful in a variety of fights.

Better yet, the game’s difficulty scales. Once you beat the game, you’re able to increase the challenge, and when you’ve beat that harder level, you can do it again, up to 20 times. And on top of that, there are four different character classes you can use, each with their corresponding strengths, weaknesses, and card sets. I’ve put in many hours on this game, and I’m still not past the fourth difficulty level on all four characters.

Even if you manage to beat all of that, the game has daily challenges: custom made games you get to try to get a high score on. (And then you get to see where your score ranked compared to all the other players who tried that day. I’m proud to say I’ve gotten one day when I ended up #1 at the end of the day. It’s tough.)

If any of this sounds remotely up your alley, you should give it a shot. (It costs $10 on iPhone/iPad, $20 or so on PC.) It definitely plays better on an iPad screen than an iPhone screen, so take that into consideration. Honestly, as far as deck building games go, I think this is one of the best ones out there. An easy 10/10 in my book (because I love deck building games.) Tons of value for a pretty cheap investment. If you end up playing on iOS, add me as a friend. I’d love to compare scores!

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

Netflix Series Review: Dark Season 1

Denisa and I finished the first season of another series last night: Dark. The best way I can describe it is “A more adult, German version of Stranger Things.” It has a tremendous learning curve involved in watching it, but if you can get over that, I’ve found it to be one of the best hard science fiction shows I’ve ever watched.

The premise is very timey wimey. In a small German town in the present day, someone has been abducting children. This may or may not have something to do with another series of abductions 33 years ago. Worse yet, bodies begin to be found, but not necessarily the bodies of the children who went missing . . .

I don’t want to say too much about the premise, because a lot of the fun of the series is figuring out the connections and who’s doing what where when and why. Denisa and I had to pause the show multiple times an episode to remind ourselves who the person was we were following at the moment, and why they were doing what they were doing. Under normal circumstances, that would definitely be a problem for a television show, but Dark is that sort of show. It would be like critiquing a crossword puzzle for having clues that were tricky to understand. This show is very much a puzzle, and (better yet) it’s a puzzle that fits together extraordinarily well. (I can’t imagine how much effort went into getting all the pieces hashed out properly ahead of time on the page.)

Obviously this is going to appeal to some people more than others. For me, it was a great way to delve into a show and try to figure out the mysteries. We guessed some of them ahead of time, and some were complete surprises. I’m really looking forward to getting into the second season soon. (There are three seasons total at the moment. I can’t speak for how good the other two are, but the first works well as one frustratingly whole narrative, with a cliffhanger at the end. Because of course.)

What might cause you to not watch the show, if it’s intrigued you so far? It’s TV-MA, but there’s not really a lot of blood, and the profanity is actually much worse in English than in German (I found some of the translations to be odd that way), but even then it’s hardly profanity-laced. There are a couple of steamy scenes, but they’re short and you can see them from a ways off, and you don’t really miss anything by skipping them. (Warning that the most graphic is in the first episode.) That said, this is definitely not an HBO TV-MA.

Anyway. If that sounds intriguing to you, I really encourage you to check it out. I’d give it an 8.5/10. It’s the #56 ranked show on IMDB at the moment, so I’m clearly not alone in my assessment. Let me know what you think!

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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: Alone

A few weeks back, I heard good things about a new-to-Netflix show (that originally airs on the History Channel) called Alone. The premise is straightforward: bring 10 people into a remote area of the world, and drop them each off in corner of their own, where they won’t be able to meet up with anyone else. Then, leave. They’re allowed to bring ten items of their choosing with them, along with an emergency medical kit and a satellite phone. (Items can include knives, fire sticks, bow and arrow, a tarp, axes, etc.) No shelter. No food. They stay out and rough it for as long as they can. Each person can give up at any time. Just get the phone and call it a day.

The last person standing at the end wins $500,000.

It’s really a fantastic show, mainly because it does a few things really well. First of all, it picks people who all seem to be supremely qualified for the show. People with extensive experience living outdoors with minimal supplies. I mean, it’s not like they took ten people like me who you’d figure would last all of two days before they’re eaten by a bear. No. These are all really rugged individuals. People who you really don’t know how long they’ll last. Who you think, “Man. They sound like they’ll be able to last for an entire year.”

But they don’t put them just anywhere. In the only season on Netflix, they take them to the arctic in September. Just in time for them to hit some autumn and then get the full blast of winter as it sets in. Food is scarce, and they’re competing with other predators like foxes, bears, and wolves. So you’ve got really competent people competing in a punishing environment.

That makes for some fantastic television, especially with so much money on the line.

As the season progresses, people you think are a surefire lock to go the distance end up making really stupid mistakes. Other people who seem like they’ll fold relatively soon end up surprising you. There’s run in with wildlife and natural dangers. You really don’t know what’s going to happen next, especially since the competitors end up being out long enough that they’re not just fighting nature, they’re fighting their own sanity, as some of them really crack under the strain of being alone for that long.

In any case, it’s a highly watchable show. If you’re squeamish about seeing animals get cut up and eaten, you might want to pass, but other than that, I can’t think of a downside. Check it out, and be glad you’re not quite as quarantined as some people . . .

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

Intex Inflatable Kayak Review

Back at Christmas, I made a fairly significant impulse purchase to surprise the family: three inflatable kayaks. There was a pretty incredible sale going on at the time (maybe there were just too many inflatable kayaks on the market?), and I picked up all three for just over $200, total. (Checking the prices now, it would cost me $970.) Of course, my family has never owned kayaks, and we’d only been kayaking once before, when we had some at one of the vacation houses we rented. Still, that seemed like a really good price, and when it’s Christmas, Denisa can attest to how itchy my index finger gets on that buy button.

So we had the kayaks. Yay. But we still hadn’t actually used the kayaks until Saturday. There always seemed to be reasons that kept us from going out. It was too cold. Too hot. Too buggy. But really, a big part of it was that I had no clue how hard or easy it would be to set them up and use them, so that was just a mental block that made it so other reasons seemed easy to listen to.

For the Fourth, we headed to Flagstaff Lake with some friends and took the kayaks for a spin, and I’m ready now to give an overview of how they went and whether or not I’m happy with the purchase.

First, a general comment about the kayaks. They were all surprisingly easy to set up. They each come with a foot pump that puts out a ton of air very quickly. We could inflate a kayak in five minutes or less, I’d guess. There might have been instructions somewhere on how to set them up. I did it on the fly, and it wasn’t difficult. (The one trick was that on one of them, there was an extra screw to tighten to make sure the air didn’t leak out. It was frustrating until I figured that out.)

They deflated easily as well. You just open up a large gasket, and the air rushes out. There’s still some toothpaste-tube-rolling to get the air out, but it’s nothing that’s too onerous. Really, all the things I was worried about related to using an inflatable craft didn’t materialize. Easy to set up and take down, and easy to use out on the water.

All of the kayaks come with their own case (though the quality of the bags leaves much to be desired) and paddles. We used the paddles exclusively for them. They weren’t incredible, but they were totally adequate, and I really appreciated that they could break down and be transported without problems. I fit all three kayaks (deflated) into my Toyota Prius trunk, plus five life jackets. These really are small, and they’re not that heavy.

As I said, I bought three of them. Each of them has their own pros and cons. Why did I buy three different models? Well, for one thing, I needed kayaks for 5 people. So that’s two 2 person and one 1 person. At that point, why not mix it up a bit? I wasn’t sure which one would be best, so I decided to go with the pokemon route and just catch ’em all.

The single person kayak was great. It was the most nimble on the water, and I had no complaints about it at all. If I were wanting to go kayaking just with Denisa, I think I’d honestly rather have two single person kayaks instead of a double, but that has more to do with the mechanics of learning to paddle in tandem than it does with the actual crafts.

The 2 person Explorer model was fine as well. Some more storage, and the same general quality as the one person. The 2 person Excursion Pro is a step up from the other models. A better build design, more rugged material, and so it’s a bit sturdier. I didn’t see such a huge difference that made me wish I’d bought two of it instead one of each 2 person, however. Maybe if I were planning on using them all the time, then that would make a difference.

Overall, I’m very glad with the purchase, and I think we’ll definitely use them again. They all handled very well in the water, and I never felt at risk of sinking or tipping. They were sturdy and just as reliable as the solid-sided kayaks I used before. (Again, though, this is coming from a total novice.) My kids used them all as well, with 12 year old and 16 year old taking turns with the single person.

Would I want to pay almost $1,000 for all of them? Well, no. That seems like a lot to shell out for inflatable kayaks. But if they were to go on a good sale again? Definitely. If I had a truck or an easy way to transport non-inflatable kayaks, that would be one thing. I don’t, so this seems like a great substitute.

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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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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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