The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (tv show)

THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA

DETAILS:

Created By: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Stars:  Kiernan ShipkaRoss LynchLucy Davis
Based on: Sabrina Comics (1962)
Original Network: Netflix
First episode date: October 26, 2018
Number of Episodes: 10
Number of Seasons: 1

OVERALL: A darker reimagining of the original tv series, and more closely following the original comic follows Sabrina as she approaches her 16th birthday and must choose between the human world of her friends or the witch world of her family.

STORYLINE

This adaptation of the “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” tale is a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror and the occult. In the reimagined origin story, Sabrina Spellman wrestles to reconcile her dual nature — half-witch, half-mortal — while standing against the evil forces that threaten her, her family — including aunts Hilda and Zelda — and the daylight world humans inhabit. Kiernan Shipka (“Mad Men”) leads the cast in the titular role of the show that is based on a comic series of the same name.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

Currently we have only watched season 1. There will definitely be more seasons coming.

SEASON 1

I absolutely loved this show and its take on the world of Sabrina Spellman. Netflix is using the fact it doesn’t have to script its shows based on advertisers means they can delve into topics that might scare those advertisers off.

One of my favorite parts of the show is the fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Set as a show in the same world as Riverdale, I was reluctant to watch it. However, while it does focus on the teenager, there are enough things that even an older person would enjoy watching. I enjoyed the revision of the witch trials and how witches are portrayed.

No longer the “Charming” version of the 1990s, witches worship Satan, but still have regular lives, loves and desires. They have normal family units and to be honest are no worse then most Christian friends I have seen in their mores, the only difference is signing in the Book of the Beast in exchange for their powers.

Kiernan Shipka was great as Sabrina and shows how she herself is coming of age as an actress. Supported by great actors such as Lucy Davis as the awesome Aunt Hilda Spellman, the kooky but nice witch and Miranda Otto as Zelda Spellman the more serious but turns out to be extremely caring leader of the Spellmans. My favorite though was Chance Perdomo, playing Ambrose her cousin and definitely one of the most interesting for me.

The rest of the cast were great, the action scenes were fine and the special effects worked and weren’t too much. I even thought the orgy scene with teenagers (not graphic) was something realistic for that world. After all I knew of similar happenings with normal late teens when I was growing up, so don’t be that surprised parents.

One good aspect was female empowerment. I felt the show did a fairly good job of not only empowering women, but making it seem normal, something that should be taken for granted.

The one glaring problem that to be honest I didn’t see when actually watching the show due to my white privilege was the race card. The show operates as if its in a vacuum for racial problems and that is a mistake. Casting Prudence as the bad witch and who is also black, along with the imagery of hanging people (something commonly done to black people even to this day) seems to strike the wrong tone. I have read that the producers/writers acknowledge this failing and I hope they change it. 

While I think Prudence is a great character, now that I have understood the issues I hope they alter her character’s course (they did accidentally in season one as she didn’t start killing with her cohorts, but that was accidentally). I would go more into this issue but to be honest I am not qualified except to say I recommend reading other sources including https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-chilling-adventures-of-sabrinas-characters-of-color-1830083708 but especially look for people of color writing about it.

I liked the show a lot, but I hope after season 2 they do make the changes on their race questions (they already filmed season 2 so I expect it won’t be much different).

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Marching with Caesar: Birth of the 10th Legion (book review)

Marching with Caesar: Birth of the 10th Legion (Marching With Caesar, #1)Marching with Caesar: Birth of the 10th Legion by R.W. Peake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great historical fiction novel based around two men entering the 10th Roman Legion!

To be honest I was very surprised. When I first heard of the book I thought it would be a mid-grade pulp novel at best and that was what I was prepared for. Fortunately that wasn’t the case and I was happy with the surprise.

The story keeps itself tight. Starting with an older Roman Commander who relates to his scribe his life on joining the 10th Legion. I was a little worried, I have seen this trope before, but it didn’t feel cliche and it seemed to work. Starting with his childhood and working into the first battles of his career and returning home for the first time.

Overall the characters are well fleshed out and you can see growth in them. The action scenes aren’t overwhelming and it just feels like the author followed historical events about the formation of the 10th close and he does it well enough that it doesn’t annoy people who like history itself.

It was great to finally get a fictional book that I enjoyed, instead of dreading every page turn I gulped through the book like a man starving. I am definitely going to be picking up his further novels in the series and I can’t recommend it enough.

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Venom (movie review)

DETAILS:

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Stars: Tom HardyMichelle Williams,Riz Ahmed
Runtime: 90 minutes
Categories: comicbook, superhero,  action, franchise
Runtime: 
1 hour 52 minutes

Release Date: October 5, 2018

OVERALL: It is a lot better than I expected. It was enjoyable, more so then even some of the Avenger movies. Just don’t have huge expectations.

STORYLINE

Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom — leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.

REVIEW

We went into the movie expecting it to be horrible. I have seen a couple of reviews that they didn’t like it at all. With that said, from when we sat down, to the moment we got up I enjoyed the whole thing.

I understand overall on Rotten Tomatoes gave it 30%, but the consumer score was 88%. I think that shows the disconnect between reviewers and what the audience wants. To me that means the critics don’t understand what other people like.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t an academy award winner. It isn’t Black Panther, but it is entertaining an action packed the entire way. The reason though I felt it was so good was the bits of humor tossed in, and the interaction between the Venom symbiote and Tom Hardy’s character. That was the best part.

The action and relationship scenes are pretty standard. Good special effects, a tight story and not exceeding two hours all fed into something enjoyable. The best part for me was the internal monologue. I truly wish they had put more in there. The banter between Tom Hardy and Venom was incredibly funny. I would tell you my favorite interaction but since I don’t want to make my website adults only you will have to see it when you watch it, its the one involving an elevator and the roof.

The movie isn’t the best, but it was good enough for me (and better then some of Marvel’s other stuff) that I will go see the sequel if they have one. I recommend you do the same.

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Giovanni’s Room (book review)

Giovanni's RoomGiovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Type: Audible
Length: 6 hours 49 minutes

Baldwin’s writing is as impactful now as it was 60 years ago.

In 1956 Baldwin had traveled to Paris, believing racism would never end in the USA. He also was a gay man and he felt if that was found out while in America he would never be able to write, a two strikes and you are out situation.

His words are as impactful as his writings in “The Fire Next Time” but instead of dealing with racism in America he was dealing with the emotions and sexual connection between two men in 1950s Paris.

What is unique for me is that it isn’t truly about being homosexual, but about being bisexual. It is the earliest novel I have seen about a man who has relations with both women and men, once again Baldwin is ahead of himself.

The story itself is hard emotionally. Baldwin packs every sentence with details and emotions. The novella is dark, and don’t expect yourself to walk away not feeling the pain of the whole situation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, just that it is one of those stories that will haunt you for a while after you read it, and will stick in your head permanently.

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Lost in Space (2018) (tv show)

LOST IN SPACE (2018 REBOOT)

DETAILS:

Created By: Matt SazamaBurk SharplessIrwin Allen
Stars: Molly ParkerToby StephensMaxwell Jenkins
Based on: Original Lost In Space tv show (1965)
Original Network: Netflix
First episode date: April 13, 2018
Number of Episodes: 10
Number of Seasons: 1

OVERALL: There are some great points, but sadly the Dr. Smith storyline turns this into just a “meh” show.

STORYLINE

After crash-landing on an alien planet, the Robinson family fight against all odds to survive and escape, but they’re surrounded by hidden dangers.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

Currently we have only watched season 1. At this time I am unsure if there will be more on my part.

SEASON 1

I really wanted to like this show. I had only ever watched the original show in passing as a child, but something about this made me want to like it. For the first few episodes they had me on board as well. That is until Dr. Smith.

The show itself isn’t the best written show. Rather than being about a family lost in space it has more to do with CW’s the 100 then about the family. There was just a little too much politics for my taste, but even then I still was enjoying it.

The interaction between the children was ok. You get a general idea of what happened between the parents and kids, but it really is just a rehash of archtypes you would see on a dozen other shows. That being said it wasn’t bad and I didn’t mind.

The parents I liked a bit more. It was interesting to see what Maureen did to get the family on board, and I enjoyed seeing John Robinson trying to reacclimatize himself into family life from a strongly special operations life.

The problem comes in with Dr. Smith. I only vaguely know the original Dr. Smith storyline, but my memory suggests he was a selfish, cantankerous person, but someone people could live with. This Dr. Smith is purely evil to be evil and crazy. Her storyline jumps around and I think the actress is great, but the writing sucks. It is a shame too because I liked they made Dr. Smith a woman.

Funny enough, what I had anticipated to be the Dr. Smith influence in the series was more closely associated with Victor Dhar. A person thinking they are doing the right thing but are being selfish and underhanded. I liked his representation and really did wish that was the kind of character Dr. Smith was.

I realize a lot of people focus on the robot and Will Robinson, but after the first few episodes that just became a buzz at the edges of the show. Not sure why, but I didn’t really feel a connection between the characters and I absolutely hated the Dr. Smith inserting herself between them. It felt really formulaic and honestly stupid.

By the end of the season I had to force myself through the last two episodes. It isn’t horrible, it just isn’t good. If you have nothing else to watch, maybe it is a good option. However, with so much more out there I don’t think I am going to put anymore time into after this review.

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Eastern Expansion (book review)

Eastern Expansion (Wild Wastes, #2)Eastern Expansion by Randi Darren
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 12h 32m

If you read my review for the first book review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…, it shouldn’t surprise you that we are on a downward spiral. Not worth the time.

The book continued its decline. There were really no positives in the book. The writing of the women and the “shipping” between characters declined. Mostly in an attempt to distance him from his current women and to add additional women.

The cons from the first big are still there, but even more evident. The relationships are stale, the plot line veers from Vince being all powerful to not being able to stand up to a strong wind. There was no real world building here, just Vince thinking he could threaten everyone and they should follow him.

It is a shame, the world is interesting, even the portals he finds, but just not enough to keep it going. The relationship scenes are very much written by rote, and not worth the time.

Overall, this is where I jump off the series. I am fairly certain I won’t pick up more of his books either. I don’t think he has bad ideas necessarily, just doesn’t go anywhere with them, and gets more and more plot bloat as we go.

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The Addictive Brain (book review)

The Addictive BrainThe Addictive Brain by Thad A. Polk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Type: Audible
Length: 6 hours 19 minutes

A simple but informative book.

This book is a decent, informative book on how the addiction process in your brain works.

The author covers all of the different addictions, not just drugs or alcohol. He delves into junk food, gambling, pornography and gives a small snippet on each. I found some of it very interesting, and the rest was informative.

It wasn’t the most exciting book of its type, but it is a good solid generalist book about the generic categories of addiction and how they effect your life. It wasn’t a bad read at all.

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Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection (book review)

Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman ProtectionAndrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection by Alexander C. Kane
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 8h 49m

I really did want to like this book.

First, I should disclaim that funny, non-serious books like this have never been my thing. The only series I liked close to this was the Xanth series in the 80s. I wanted to branch out though, as I get close to 50 I feel its only fair to try something again.

That being said, some people I knew really liked it. After all it is about superheroes, but not government funded or vigilantes, rather its about corporations who own them. It is funny, but it wasn’t funny to me. The author indicated it was supposed to be funny, I could logically see what they were doing, but nada, zilch, bupkis. Not funny at all.

It was a long slog for me, which is funny because I eat up 30+ hour audio books about history, or fantasy/urban fantasy. This just didn’t do it.

None of the characters were likable, the plot itself didn’t really do anything for me, and this might have even convinced me not to read superhero books overall.

That being said, I think the author themselves are not bad. However the whole genre, theme and characters really didn’t work for me. I suspect though if you like discworld, or other books like that, maybe this would work for you.

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History’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach (book review)

History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They TeachHistory’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach by Gregory S. Aldrete
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 12h 11m

Hubris, stupidity, or just bad luck. It doesn’t matter when you lose.

Another great class from the Great Courses. This time is an in depth look at 24 different blunders made by different militaries/leaders from ancient history to more recent times.

Whether its mistakes made by Roman commanders, or British Army officers in India it doesn’t matter. Bad leaders get moved up the ranks and cause the result you expect. Often times without permanent injury to their own career (barring people like Custer of course).

Each 30 minute lecture is an excellent overview of a specific event. The details of each blunder is precise, and Dr. Aldrete gives a lot of support and explanation of the surrounding circumstances. There were a few blunders I knew about, and a lot I didn’t.

He presents an intriguing class, with a well worded, well performed voice, without being too distracting. I enjoyed the whole thing. I definitely recommend this great course, and I also am pretty sure I recommend Dr. Gregory Aldrete, at least for historical courses.

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The Predator (2018) (movie review)

DETAILS:

Director: Shane Black
Stars: Boyd HolbrookTrevante RhodesJacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn
Runtime: 90 minutes
Categories: sci-fi, action, franchise
Runtime: 
1 hour 47 minutes

Release Date: September 14, 2018

OVERALL: A not horrible, not great sci-fi update of the Predator franchise. It wasn’t something I regret seeing in the theater, but unless you have a close personal relationship with the series, it can wait until netflix/redbox.

STORYLINE

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist can prevent the end of the human race.

REVIEW

First and foremost, Shane Black really messed up by hiring on a convicted sex offender and having them work with the crew. Unacceptable and not at all forgivable. That being said, the movie itself is better than most reviews show, but doesn’t hold a candle to the original, or the 2010 Predators with Adrienne Brody and Walton Goggin.

The story suffers from trying to do too much. Too many storylines, too much detail of the universe, and honestly Shane Black (and the actors/actresses involved) wouldn’t be up to updating the franchise with so much in so little.

I wonder how much of the problems though were Shane Black and how much the studio. I have read that they reshot a ton of film, edited, etc after the studio saw the movie. Maybe the original version would have been worth it.

I do like that it isn’t a reboot, but a continuation. I think the franchise definitely has more life in it, but that is because I love that kind of sci-fi. Unfortunately I don’t think Shane Black should do the next movie.

It was worth the matinee price I paid, and yes I will go see the next Predator movie that comes out. Although that is partially because it is just something I do. I go see all the Aliens, Predators and Friday the 13ths that come out. Blame it on my horrible 80s childhood.

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