Reviews of books, movies or video games.

Review of Orphan Black, Season 1

Posted by on May 9, 2015 | 0 comments

Review of Orphan Black, Season 1

This review contains spoilers. Orphan Black is a scifi television series created by BBC America. The show takes place in Toronto, Canada and features as its main character Sarah Manning, a British punk rocker sort of girl who has predictably fallen in with the wrong crowd. The show starts with her on a train platform with the sense that she’s running from something and trying to come home. After a frustrating phone conversation, Sarah is shocked to discover another woman on the platform who looks just like her, and even more shocked when that other woman walks in front of a moving train. This is a powerful first image that evokes so many questions that seem to have no possibility of being answered. After all, the woman with the answers has just leapt to her death. We find out very quickly that Sarah is adept at thinking on her feet and a bit prone toward ruthlessness when she snatches up the purse of the woman who has just committed suicide in front of her. Sarah then seeks out her foster brother, Felix Dawkins, who is a wonderfully built character that helps give life to Sarah’s backstory. The two have a playful sibling relationship that brightens even the darkest of subplots (and there are a great many very dark subplots ahead). In many ways, Felix acts as the embodiment of Sarah’s conscience. For example, when he finds out she stole the look-alike’s purse, he confronts her. He also tries to convince Sarah that her plan to impersonate Elizabeth Childs, the woman who killed herself, is wrong, but Sarah isn’t so good at taking advice. She wants to take Beth’s money in order to leave town to escape a violent ex and start over making a nice life for her, Felix, and Sarah’s daughter Kira, who is currently in the care of their foster mother, Mrs. S. All of this sets up the arc of season one very well for us. Felix sums it up nicely, “Sarah, who is Elizabeth Childs?” The answer to this question the biggest spoiler that I’ll offer you, although it is revealed by the second episode. (Turn back now if you don’t want to find out!) Sarah and Beth are clones. There are also a handful of other clones you’ll meet throughout the first season. Finding out how and why the clones were created, and who’s trying to kill them, is the engine that drives Orphan Black forward. Tatiana Maslany plays all the clones and at first glance this seems like a recipe for generic and boring characters, but the reality of the show couldn’t be farther from that assumption. Each clone has her own voice, her own mannerisms, even her own walk, making them all distinct and vibrant. To me, this is a triumph of both writing and acting working together brilliantly. There is never a moment when you confuse neurotic stay-at-home mom Alison with tough-as-nails street urchin Sarah, not even when they try, failing miserably and often hilariously, to impersonate each other. As you can imagine, this creates all sorts of great plot points regarding the nature versus nurture debate. Why are the clones so different when their DNA is the same? The overall message here is that free will is a big deal, bigger than any biological imperatives that might be associated with our genes. The clones are the people they are because of their personal experiences rather than some abstract dictated by genetic accident. The science, unlike many television shows and movies in the science fiction genre, is eminently accessible. There is...

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Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Only Lovers Left Alive is the vampire movie you’ve always wanted. You didn’t even know you wanted it, but you did. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are ancient, gorgeous, and shockingly human. Let’s get this out of the way: this isn’t a Hollywood vampire movie. There is no violence, very little blood, and all of the sex is off-screen. The vampires aren’t showy. They don’t run around doing vampire things like flying and jumping off buildings. It’s all about the characters and how they interact. In the way of many independent films, there’s no driving plot and the movie is very much about the aesthetics as it meanders through their unlives. Personally, I love that, and I love this movie. Adam suffers from ennui, like many old vampires. The world has gone on without him and he doesn’t like that much. He surrounds himself with old things, and shuns the world at large. He’s tired of the world of “zombies,” humans who can’t appreciate what they have. When it looks like he might be considering ending his life, his vampire wife Eve comes to his rescue, sharing with him all the things that he loves and revitalizing his will to live. It really is a beautiful story of long-time love. The vampires in this world have some cool powers. Eve has the ability to tell you the creation date of any object she touches. Adam is a tinkerer that has unlocked Nikola Tesla’s electric theories. There are hints that vampires in this world share telepathic links. There’s also something about the gloves that I didn’t quite understand, but was a cool touch. There’s a lot of intellectual humor that’s fun and thoughtful, with nods to many great scientists and thinkers. Jokes about who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays and who gave Schubert his music abound. Their long lives are filled with art, learning, and love. My favorite thing about this movie? Tilda Swinton. Her portrayal of a vampire is somehow both glamorous and shabby. Oh, and blood popsicles. Only Lovers Left Alive is romantic, and beautiful, and joyfully recommended. See the trailer...

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Review of Chef

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 | 0 comments

Chef didn’t get a lot of hype, and I can’t figure out why. It’s the kind of movie that leaves you feeling good afterward, as if sometimes everything works out just how it should. Let me be clear: the plot is eminently predictable, and there are no explosions or twist ending. Chef is very simply a heart-warming movie about a man trying to figure out what to do with his life after a mistake threatens his chosen career. There are some spoilers ahead, but as I hinted to earlier, it isn’t anything you would haven’t figured out way before it happens. Jon Favreau plays Carl Casper, the eponymous chef. He’s a bit of a Luddite, and gets caught up in a Twitter battle without really understanding the ramifications. After a rather public meltdown in response to a bad review, Carl’s career is in trouble. No one wants to hire him. He also has his fair share of family trouble: his son is desperate for his attention, but Carl keeps him at a distance. His ex-wife eventually asks him to come along to Miami, where they met, to take care of their son while she’s working in the area. She also talks him into taking on a food truck, something she’s been pushing him to do for years. Basically, it’s your textbook mid-life crisis. I told you, there’s nothing surprising here plot-wise. I know what you’re thinking now: this doesn’t sound like a movie you need to see, but trust me, it really is. There are a few things that make this movie absolutely stellar. Let me run them down for you. First, the Cuban flare. Once Carl is in Miami, the mood of the movie changes entirely. There’s a Latin soundtrack that underscores every moment. It is a beautiful homage to a culture that has given us so much in this country, but is largely ignored when it comes to mass market entertainment. Second, the acting is first rate. I don’t just mean that the big name actors do their jobs when delivering lines, which everyone expects, but there’s also an emphasis on the quiet moments where characters really come alive. There are scenes where our trio of buddies (because this is in part a buddy movie) are just riding around in the food truck that sing with life. Third, it’s a wonderful example of storytelling. Favreau knows how to tell a satisfying story. He presents a problem, shows the character overcoming that problem, and then gives the audience a fulfilling ending. Just like the best meals are sometimes the simplest, the same can be said for the best stories. Sometimes what I really need is a character that grows and finds himself in the cluttered confusion of our world. This movie delivers that. Yes, I saw the ending coming a mile away, but somehow it still touched me, more than any other movie in recent memory. There’s also a bit of a lesson for every creative person out there. Carl follows his heart, and finds exactly what he was looking for in his career and his life. Don’t compromise and don’t give up on your dreams. I leave you with the trailer, and a hearty recommendation that you see this movie. -C Photos from...

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Review of Working for the Devil

Posted by on Aug 19, 2012 | 0 comments

Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow My rating: 5 of 5 stars Loved this book, with a capital L. In fact, I wish I had more stars today. I found this gem via the Dark Urban Fantasy Blog: So much good here, I barely know where to begin. Dante Valentine is a great heroine, maybe one of my favorites of all time. She’s foul-mouthed, sassy, and doesn’t take crap from anyone. That occasionally makes her a little hard-nosed, but the way her character is built up makes that fitting. Her relationships are frequently hostile and always amusing. Japhrimel is another great character. His growth throughout the book made me smile. Dante is “persuaded” to take on a job by none other than Lucifer himself–find a demon and return an item he stole to hell. Danny is reluctant until Lucifer explains that the demon is a serial killer she’s been after for some time. Plenty of action and some cool bits of magic make this an exciting and interesting read. Probably not the best choice for die-hard paranormal romance fans, but a must read for lovers of urban fantasy. View all my...

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Review for Ill Wind

Posted by on Aug 8, 2012 | 0 comments

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine My rating: 4 of 5 stars Ill Wind is the kind of book I love to read: sassy main character, interesting fantasy aspects, a sprinkling of romance. Unsurprisingly, I inhaled the book, and really enjoyed it. In general I thought Caine’s characterizations were brilliant. Jo is fun and independent, just enough girl power but not over the line into ridiculous. I adored David. There are a bunch of great side characters, Lewis, Star, Paul, and Bad Bob. The world building was just right for me. Enough detail to make things clear, but not so much that I feel like I’m wading through info-dumps through the first half of the book. There’s a lot I really like about this world and I can’t wait to read more. I was a little irritated about why all the Djinn were so circumspect when they didn’t have to be. The cop out answer, of course, was that’s just how they are, but I didn’t really buy that. Why not just tell her what she needs to know? Arg! View all my...

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Review for Slave to Sensation

Posted by on Mar 18, 2012 | 0 comments

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh My rating: 4 of 5 stars The setting of Slave to Sensation a not too distant future, with a slightly altered history. Human evolution has branched out into two distinct species, the Changeling and the Psy. This might sound like the set up to a Sci-Fi story, but really it’s much more firmly placed in the Fantasy realm than anything remotely scientific. Overall, I quite liked the book. I enjoy Singh’s writing style. She has quick pace with not an undue amount of description. There were a few places where the navel-gazing got a bit much, but that’s not unusual in this genre. The formatting of the Kindle version is quite a mess, but not unreadable for me. There are multiple carriage returns between paragraphs and the indentation is inconsistent. If you’re a format stickler, it might make you a little crazy. There are abrupt PoV shifts within scenes, as is pretty prevalent in the paranormal romance genre. I found the head-hopping in this book much less annoying than most, but I don’t know if that’s because it was better handled or I’m just getting used to it. I wasn’t sold on Sascha at the start, but I found her more compelling as the book went on. She wasn’t the usual plucky heroine, but she brought something interesting to the story as she learned how to deal with her emotions. In a way this was almost a coming of age story. Lucas is an alpha male with a haunted past. His character is pretty stereotypical, but since that’s one of my favorite kinds, I liked him. In summary, if you’re a Paranormal Romance fan I think you’ll like this one. I also think it’s a nice introductory book to PNR because the sex isn’t quite as overblown as some others in the genre. View all my...

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