Review: Locke & Key season 1

We just finished watching Locke & Key, the new netflix series and… I’m torn on what I think about it.

I have the complete series of Locke & Key graphic novels, though I have only read the first one. I found the whole idea of keys that magically unlock things to be fascinating. A key that you can unlock the mind and step inside the memories. A key that allows you to step through a doorway and separate soul from body. Each key a new experience and wonder.

So watching the new series was a must for me. And I have to say I do love the way they did most of the keys. You put them in a key hole, and unlock, or lock something. Except the fire key, that one is odd because all it does is light things on fire. No locks to go with it, just fire.

The story, itself, started interesting as well. It starts with three children and their mother moving to an old mansion left to them by their deceased father, but no one knows much about this house, or their fathers past. The father kept it all a secret. Then when the youngest starts finding keys with magical abilities they start to find a dark secret that they have to unravel before things go terribly, terribly wrong.

The secret of their fathers past is locked together with the traumatic way their father was murdered, and the emotional scars it left on each of the family members. Each of them blames themselves for different aspects of the death, and each of them have to come to terms with that perceived blame.

Where I think the story falls short for me is the lack of a cohesive plot. There is an ancient evil, a “bad guy” per-se, but the reason you are given for them to be at odds with the Lockes (the desire to get specific keys) falls apart in the end. They finally have access to the key they were searching for all this time, but they don’t take it for some reason. It left both my boyfriend and myself staring at the screen just wonder… but why? What was all of this for?

So, yes, I did enjoy it. I liked the mystery, and the magic. I didn’t like the ending. It was a bit too much of a cliff hanger with the family getting closer to one another, but the over all plot left hanging. And if you’ve read many of my reviews you probably already know I hate cliffhangers for the sake of cliffhangers.

Will I watch the next season? Probably. It wasn’t a bad series, and I would like to see what it does. However, I can say that if the second season doesn’t at least give the series a purpose, and some overarching plotline, then I probably wouldn’t go for a third season.

I will give them a little credit through, adapting a comic book series to TV can be challenging, especially with some of the visuals inside the graphic novels. They managed to do some interesting things with the mind key, letting us get a glimpse inside of several characters memories. They also simplified some of the plot between comic and tv series, so I will probably go back and read the comics now just to find those differences.

Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

Just came out of Sonic and… I loved it!

I’m actually not the target market for this movie. I’ve never played a Sonic game, though I did watch the cartoon with my kids when they were young. But all of my kids are grown up so I didn’t go to the theater with a gaggle of children, either. It was just me, my boyfriend, and our room mate. Everyone well over 30. And we all enjoyed it.

This was just a fun film. The action was great, the jokes hit home, the heartwarming parts made me feel for Sonic. I became invested in what happened to this little blue hedgehog, and even if certain parts were a bit predictable it still made me want to see it through to the end.

The Sonic movie first came into the lime light by producing a trailer with a hedgehog that stepped too close to the uncanny valley. Fans were upset. YouTubers made videos, tweets rang out, and everyone agreed that this abomination needed to be stopped. The studio listened, and the new hedgehog looks much closer to the video game models.

Bigger eyes, smaller body, the customary red shoes, and, most important, no human teeth. It was an incredible improvement. Let’s hope listening to the fans pays off, because I know I am a happy movie goer.

Jim Carrey gave a fantastic performance as Dr. Eggman. It felt a lot more like his original films, Mask, and Liar Liar, if a bit toned down. Some slapstick comedy, and some funny lines to really drive home the character.

The only odd thing about the movie is the awkward product placements. Zillow was a little less awkward, but Olive Garden really took the show. I don’t know if their line about never ending pasta was written by Olive Garden or the writers of the movie, but it was really over the top. At least the two main characters played it off as if they were in on the joke to help offset it. I do wonder if they had all the sponsored products because they were counting on the movie not pulling in many viewers. It is geared more to a younger crowd, and it may have been the fan uprising about the terrible CGI critter that finally clued them in that adults might like it as well. And it appears they may have lost a shoe sponsor by switching out the fancy foot wear.

Overall this was just a lot of fun. Sometimes that’s all you want from a movie, and Sonic paid off in spades. Plus! The ending hints at a possible sequel. I’d watch it.

 

Star Trek Picard – Four Episodes in and what is this?

I just watched episode four of Star Trek Picard and…If it wasn’t for the fact that my boyfriend and our room mate were watching this I probably wouldn’t watch another episode.

To be fair, I don’t think it’s awful, just not interesting enough to keep watching. There have been a number of scenes that make me uncomfortable (like the brother and sister that get way too physical) or annoyed (why is she calling him JP?), or just plain angry (ya, let’s reinvent the timeline again.) But while those scenes detracted from my enjoyment they were just a few scenes of the whole. The vast majority of it has been…. meh.

I’ve been watching Star Trek since I was little, right there with Captain Kirk flying off to various planets and defeating the problem of the week. There are so many of them that I love, from Spoke and the flowers that made him feel, to the disease that attacks anyone hitting puberty. Then there was The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space 9,  Enterprise, and every single movie (even the new ones). I’ve watched them all. I enjoyed them all. From the convoluted plots of the Cardassians, to the tribbles, and the invisible monsters only Data could see.

(I do admit I skipped Discovery, I didn’t want to pay extra to watch it on yet another streaming service. I’m only watching Picard because I’m not paying for it, or room mate is.)

So when I come to Picard I am there as a fan of the franchise. Sure, there have been episodes of the old series that I didn’t like, or I felt could be better, but on the whole I loved them and I kept coming back for more.

I think the biggest problem I have with Picard isn’t even the story, or the pieces in the plot that take me out of the world. It’s the way they are choosing to film it.

Every season before (minus Discovery, since I didn’t watch it and I don’t know) was in an episodic mode. That is: each episode was a self contained story. There was a beginning, a middle and an end revolving around a specific monster or problem. Sometimes the episode would be cut into two or three pieces, and often there was a larger story that connected all of the episodes together, but on the whole when you got to the end of an episode you felt like it had a satisfying conclusion.

Now Picard is here, and it does not have a structure to it. The first episode may be the only one that had a whole story, but even that felt incomplete and unfinished. It was the opening dragging you into the series, but it wasn’t satisfying. There was no conclusions, just questions.

Then the second episode happened, and there were even more questions, and only a few small answers. It gave them a direction to head in, but again it wasn’t a self contained episode, just a piece of the whole.

Episode three happened and I hated the new character introduced the first time she called the admiral “JP”. Who does that? Even in the flash back while he is still an admiral she is calling him JP instead of Admiral, or Jean-Luc. It felt entirely disrespectful. And again…. no satisfying conclusion, just more questions (like how did the scientist get the disrupter from the trained secret assassins? Is she a double agent, or is it just bad writing? And how did an old man and two older Romulans take out a group of highly trained assassins? But lets just wave the wand and forget about that.)

Episode four attempted to have a base plot. They went to a planet to get help from an assassin nun, and go on their way. But again it wasn’t very satisfying. It didn’t feel fleshed out, and every persons motive on that planet just feels…off. Picard is a shadow of the man he used to be, unable to command a room. Unable to use words to fight for him like he once did. Instead he stumbles over himself, and his past, and ignores the pain that he caused others. A man who used to be good at reading a room, and figuring out what to say, who respected the customs of other species, now walks right over theirs. It isn’t until someone else takes charge and kills the “bad guy” that Picard finally admits he screwed up…sort of. It was such a half assed apology.

Next episode looks like a casino planet episode. All I can think of is the casino planet from Last Jedi, and how absolute trash that section was. I hope it isn’t as bad. Mostly I hope there is a satisfying episode with a beginning, middle and end. I don’t have hope.

I expect all episodes to be pieces of a the whole instead of self contained episodes. That makes me wonder why they bothered to release it as a weekly episodic series instead of just releasing it all at once. If they did release it all at once then at least we could watch it all and evaluate it as a whole. Instead we are getting episodes that feel disjointed and separated, that don’t really feel satisfying. (The answer is money, they wanted subscribers, and that’s why they released it this way, but I digress.)

If I were the only one watching this I would just wait until the full thing was out and watch it then if I got really bored and couldn’t find anything else to watch. Because I live with two guys who want to watch it… I’ll watch it with them. Also of note is they didn’t grow up on Star Trek like I did. I know our room mate saw Discovery (and liked it) but he hasn’t watched all of the other series. My boyfriend has only watched part of TNG. Neither of them knew who Seven of Nine was, and most of the lore is going right over their head. I find it interesting that they are enjoying it more than I am, but not surprised really.

It doesn’t feel like Star Trek. It almost feels more like Roswell, actually. Teen drama that just happens to happen in a star ship. But….we’ll see how next week goes.

Top Reads of 2019

I read a lot in 2019, and I enjoyed…almost everything I read. I stuck to a lot of series, with a few random books thrown in, and almost entirely novels this year. Unusual for me since I like short stories, and comics, but that’s where my time reading went this year.

I also read quite a bit of litRPG. Fitting since I was writing more of it. This may be one reason I haven’t been reading short stories… there aren’t any in litRPG. I managed to find two, and that was difficult, though there are a few novellas, but even they are rare.

Some of my tops!

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The Dark Herbalist series. I only read the first two so far, but the next two are on my list. I love the swash buckling nature of it all. I started the third book, but got annoyed with the first few chapters. I’m still going to push through and see what happens with it though.

The Noobtown Series started with a man’s character creation being lead by a demon. After he gets control he rushes into the game world, and finds a starter village that is overrun by monsters. Loving this series, and can’t wait for more to come out.

The Divine Seed series is a different take on the dungeon core idea. A soul seed from the world tree of Norse mythology is sent to a distant realm to set down roots, and immediately things start going wrong. It’s a really good series that keeps upping the stakes, and this dungeon cares more about testing the metal of those inside than simply feasting. Book three is on my short list to read in 2020.

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Life Reset needs more books. I love this series! Human stuck as a goblin in a game? Yes please. The fact that he needs to keep upping his levels to get out of the game, and the humans who trapped him there in the first place keep trying to kill him, is really

The Crafer’s Dungeon is another one of those dungeon cores that do something different. This core just wants to craft and uses all her traps to try and make a crafting location. She only fights if those around her won’t let her craft in peace. Can’t wait for book three.

Alpha Company is another series I read. I’ve only got one cover up there but that’s because there were eight books, and I read them all. Now a complete series, I’m sad it’s over, but it was a fantastic world to visit. Also, this involves a harem so if you’re not into it maybe it’s not for you. (Though I really wish the author would go back and update his old covers so they all match. Come on Daniel!)

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Some of the stand along books that I loved this year include:

Bone Dungeon. The second book will be out this year. It is more in the traditional dungeon core style with a dungeon creating creature to fight adventurers, but it adds a dose of comedy to the mix and I really enjoyed it.

CivCEO is a civilization style game, and unlike anything else I have read in the litRPG area. Definitely portal fiction where the main character is transported to a magical land by a wayward goddess and dropped off as a mistake. But he quickly owns the situation, and makes the best of it in this new game of civ.

The Legacy Builder is actually a series, but I only read the first book. I will probably make my way through the rest of the series in 2020. This starts with the main character being robbed, and scammed, and he is absolutely thrilled about it! And doesn’t take long to get his own back. A really fun city builder litRPG.

And lastly, The Tower of Babel which is only on the bottom of my list because it is an abandoned series. The last book came out in 2017, and the author has said he doesn’t know when he’ll get back to it. A pity because the first two books were really good. They can, however, stand on their own. There just isn’t the satisfaction of the main character making it to the top of the tower.

I did read a lot of other books this year, but these were the top picks. You can find the rest of my reads, and the reviews, here.

The Mandalorian – AWESOME!

Cowboys in space, that’s exactly what we wanted and what we got. It’s an awesome show, and I am so glad I got free Disney+ from Verizon to watch it.

Will I renew my subscription after the year is over? Probably not. I’ll do exactly what I’ve been doing with other services. I’ll reup for a month once the thing I want to see is completely out, binge, then cancel. The only one we’ve been keeping an account with is Crunchy Roll and that’s just because there are so many anime’s to watch that it makes it worth it. Sort of like when Netflix had everything there. Now it doesn’t, and I’d just rather not watch most of what’s out there.

But as for Mandalorian, specifically, I loved it. Anyone who reads my blog might know that I wasn’t a big fan of the new trilogy movies, but Mandalorian feels like a return to classic Star Wars. They don’t make it complicated, or add in lots of social commentary, they just make it fun. And that’s what I wanted.

I liked it so much I did some fan art.

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Regardless, Baby Yoda is adorable. It’s fun to watch the father son dynamic of the series as Mando takes more responsibility for the youngling. I love seeing a good fatherly role model on tv for a change, and the bounty of the week sort of structure they have going is pretty good. Plus… BABY YODA!

And the season finally just opened up a whole bunch of possibilities for the future!

So if you, or a friend, have access to Disney+ I’d suggest watching it. It’s worth your time.

Review: Rise of Skywalker

Since the movie just came out today I won’t be writing any spoilers today, just an overview, and I’ll give my spoiler review in a week or so.

Okay, first, let me tell you where I’m coming from as a fan of the Star Wars movies.

I grew up in the 80’s, and I watched the original trilogy on laser disks that my parents had. I watched them a lot because they were some of my favorite films, and they shaped my view of science fiction (or rather science fantasy) going forward.

The second trilogy came out and we watched all three of them in the theaters. While there were parts I wasn’t a fan of I still enjoyed them. There was still decent story telling, even if a few characters weren’t that great, and the Anakin story arch wasn’t that strong. The clones, the large scale battles, and especially the beautiful sets and dresses for Padme all made me love Star Wars even more.

Then the Disney movies started. The first one gave me hope. Sure, Rey was a boring character that didn’t seem to have much direction or personality yet, but there were some great moments, and some call backs to the original series that gave me hope that they were taking their ownership of the Star Wars franchise to heart and really going to do it justice. They just needed time to get their feet under them and the next movie would be even better.

Rogue One I loved. It seemed like a fully developed movie, with a great cast, fantastic story line, a lead actress with a personality and some character flaws to over come. By the end of the movie I was about in tears because I had grown to really love those characters and believe their friendship and camaraderie to the end. That, in my opinion, is one of the best movies in the series.

Then the Last Jedi happened. I did a whole review of that movie here, but suffice it to say that while there were some nice scenes I still think the writing was garbage, the pay out for the first movie fell flat, and I feel that it is one of the WORST Star Wars movies that ever existed. It was so bad I didn’t even care about Solo, and still haven’t seen it. Maybe I’ll watch it when it comes out on Disney Plus cause I’m still not willing to pay for it.

So when Rise of Skywalker was announced I wasn’t that keen on seeing it. If my boyfriend and our room mate hadn’t been going (and paying) I probably wouldn’t have. But we did… And I think I’m glad I did.

First, I didn’t hate it. I don’t think it was the best Star Wars, but it wasn’t the worst either. There were some parts I actually enjoyed, and I thought they did a better job of giving Rey a personality, even though I still think she (the character not the actress) was one of the weakest parts of the movie. The actress did what she could with the character, but from the start they billed her as an all powerful Christ like figure there to save the world who never fails at anything, and there isn’t a lot you can do with that except… well… succeed.

Still, when I look at the last movie and what Abrams had to work with I was surprised how well he put together a coherent plot. He had to deal with all the hype of who Snoke was and what he represented being utterly destroyed upon his death. He had to deal with a demoralized Poe, a broken rebel alliance, and a cowardly Luke Skywalker. And then he had to make a coherent story where the good guys win.

The general complaints I had were that the director, Abrams, had to cram so much into the movie that everything ended up being quick cut, and I at times I felt like I was getting too much information at once. And the ending. I hated the ending.

There will be people who absolutely love this movie. I know at least three of them, one of which has already watched it twice. There will be a small amount of people who hate it, though some of them are hating on it more because of how the fandom was treated after Last Jedi then the movie itself. I think if they had been treated better instead of being called all sorts of awful things then they may have had a kinder view of the movie, even with it’s flaws.

For me the movie was a 7/10. It was a good popcorn movie with a few cringy parts, but the ending made me never want to watch it again. Would I recommend it? Only if you’re walking in with lower expectations. If you go in with lower expectations and get an okay film I think you’ll enjoy it. If you’re expecting it to be the best movie ever then you’re more than likely going to be disappointed.

Review: Code 8

Code 8, this isn’t your parents super hero movie.

You know the super powered mutants that saved the world, and did good deeds? No, this is a world where supers are second class citizens, left to be homeless and destitute because the unpowered are afraid of them. A world where what you are matters more than who you are.

Code 8 is a dark, gritty film. Think outlaw X-men in a heist film and you’ll come close. And it’s all around fantastic!

Back in 2016 they released a short film of Code 8 where an electric powered man, Connor, tried to save one of his fellow powered co-workers, and ended up causing an EMP that knocked out power for several city blocks. That was a fantastic film, well received, and incredibly well done with both CGI and practical effects that gave you a window into a fully developed world.

After that short film they went to Indiegogo and got funding to make a full length movie. At 1.5 hours long they expanded the world, added some characters, and made a few changes to really set it apart.

First, in the original short film Connor had a son. In the feature length film he has a mother who is getting sicker as the film progresses. The lack of money, and inability to save his mother from a disease they can’t afford to treat is the driving force behind his character.

Next the scene from the original film wasn’t in the full length film. They kept only a few parts, like the fact they were on a construction sight, but went in a totally different direction. They built up the action, having Connor slowly work into his powers as he has been suppressing them all of his life.

When the local crew comes looking for an electric the need to save his mother gets him to join up, and he starts down a road with the local crime boss.

The full length movie was dark and gritty. The character development progressed in a believable manner. The CGI wasn’t overwhelming, but added to the film. If I had a complaint it may be the sound. The music was on theme, but the sound mixing at times didn’t do a great job of keeping the level of the sound steady throughout. Still, it wasn’t too distracting.

The other part that could have been better is the ending. There were several plot threads in the film, and the ending tried to wrap them all up, but I still had questions. One thread I really wanted to see fleshed out more was Agent Park, and his daughter, but I had the feeling the writers were focusing all of their attention on Connor and the cops story line was just a little flavor thrown in.

If they decide to make a second movie (which I hope they do) I would love to see Connor and Agent Park working together, even if Connor is still on the wrong side of the law. That would be an awesome story. However there are currently plans to make a tv series around the property. No dates on when that will come out.

Go, watch it. You can rent it on Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, apple TV and several other places. It was also playing in select theaters in LA.