Posts Tagged ‘reviews


Goodreads Review: The League of Regrettable Superheroes

The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book HistoryThe League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable trip down the darker corners of memory lane that many comic book fans would probably have preferred to leave alone, The League of Regrettable Superheroes has a few winners, cast from the limelight for reasons that have nothing to do with their ridiculousness – Rom the Space Knight comes to mind – but is mostly chock full of folks like Dr. Hormone – with magical hormone powers that let him live forever and become a giant Nazi-crushing machine – and U.S. 1 – who can psychically command his big rig to fly into space.

Organized by the various ages of comics, and never short on laughs or glances of shame, this book will make you glad the assorted comic giants decided to stick with folks like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and Captain America. Because lame as some of them have been over the years, they’re at least better than Doll Man, Thunderbunny or Fatman the Human Flying Saucer. (And yes, those are all real.)

Worth a peek if you have any interest in comic books, their culture, and where they’ve been in the last several decades.

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Good Reads Review: The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet, #1)The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the first word to the last, The Black Dahlia grabs you, drags you down into the murky underbelly of police corruption and old money grudges, and won’t let you go until you’re covered in filth and feel at least partially responsible for the death of Elizabeth Short.

In case I wasn’t being clear, that’s a good thing. The Dahlia murder is one of the great mysteries of our time, frequently taking a sideline to Jack the Ripper’s work but just as intriguing; Ellroy’s fictional trip through the investigation and fascinating truth (at least so far as the novel is concerned) brings a loving detail and amazing atmosphere to the mystery, and in a way that very few books have managed to do, makes me feel like an active witness to the events told in the novel.

Among the high points include the detail that most note about Ellroy’s LA Quartet; there are no angels. Even the “good” guys are dirty, and the “bad” guys occasionally have legitimate grievances that were not addressed properly or perform what might be construed as decent acts because their personalities drive them to it and not out of some attempt to maintain cover. Bucky, our narrator, is no exception; he’s almost as disgusting as some of the folks more intimately involved in the chain of events that led to Ms. Short’s demise… though at least he does what he can to make things right.

The second thing to note is the language used. The words Ellroy picks to craft his vision are important, more than you might think, even given the written medium. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the Dahlia case, or are unaware of the timeframe the book occurs in, the words that Ellroy uses, whether they’re coming from the mouths of his characters or just the descriptions provided via Bucky’s viewfinder of the world, set the stage perfectly in a blend of film noir and post-war false optimism, and ground the reader readily into the right mindset and era. They also serve quite admirably in forging a connection between Bucky and the reader, bringing you a sense of triumph or discovery when he does right… and rubbing your nose in the revulsion he feels – most especially towards himself – when he does wrong, or digs up someone else’s dirty laundry. The conflict he feels as regards the book’s leading ladies – at least the living ones – Madeline and Kay is well done, and even without any helpful thought bubbles, going only off the descriptions of the conversations Bucky has with them, you can get a clear picture of them and their opinions of each other… again, merely by the words chosen.

All in all, an excellent read, and one I would recommend to anyone with an interest in crime, noir, or the Dahlia case in general – though the last camp would likely be offended by the way the book “solves” the crime. It is obviously a labor of love that cost Ellroy a great deal personally – and if you have the edition that came out shortly after the film, with his extended Afterword, that is made even more clear. Give it a shot.

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Goodreads Review: UFOs, JFK and Elvis

UFOs, JFK & Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to BelieveUFOs, JFK & Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Believe by Richard Belzer

Richard Belzer is well known as a comedian, an actor, and a conspiracy theorist; sometimes all three at once, as is frequently the case with his character Detective Munch across many television series and seasons. If you’ve listened to him talk, you’re aware that he brings a signature blend of dry wit, distinctively Jewish-themed self-deprecating sarcasm, and a fierce intelligence to nearly any party.

This book is no different. Belzer is on point in his attitude from the first to the last page, formulating an immensely enjoyable read. For those who choose to take it as comedy, you certainly can; for those looking for a more intellectual exercise, even if you don’t necessarily see the world through the black lenses of conspiracy everywhere that he does, there’s still plenty of interesting ideas to chew on.

If I had one complaint about the book, it’s that the title is a trifle misleading; while there’s plenty of material about UFOs and related phenomena, and more than half the book is dedicated to assorted JFK tidbits, there is a notable lack of Elvis within the tome, short of a couple of brief comparison remarks made near the beginning. Kidding, really; I can do with less Elvis in my life.

A worthy addition to any conspiracy theorists’ (or those who are interested in them) shelf, perhaps the biggest highlight is the extensive bibliography lurking innocently at the end. Worth running down some of those sources to see how far down the rabbit hole it goes.

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Film Review: Lights Out

It’s out! It’s out! Hooray!

But first, watch this:

Pretty freaky, eh? Well, if you enjoy that and enjoy something resembling “purer” horror, that goes back to the plain old fear of what may be lurking in the dark, you might want to give Lights Out a try. The plot bay bludgeon you over the head with simplicity, and the acting won’t be winning any awards, but the straightforward simplicity and easy-to-grasp presentation makes it quite a joy to watch. The fact that it’s mostly done via practical effects instead of digital while still looking suitably disturbing is just a bonus.

Overall high points? Diana is creepy. The actors are, while a little bland, doing at least a passable job, and the interrelationships between them work well enough. The ghost has rules and abides properly by them at all times with no noticeable “But how come it worked that time moments?” that I could detect.

The downsides? The plot is sometimes a little heavy handed. The characters are just plain stupid at certain points. (Notably regarding the absence of a father figure and the use of a UV lamp.) At least one character (we’ll call her Cop #2) falls into a plot hole and never returns. There were a lot of unanswered questions at the end (though, to be fair, that sort of may be the point.) And I want more. I would love to see a prequel centered around Diana and Sophie’s interactions as children. A sequel’s not out of the question, though I don’t know how one would do it without violating some of the rules set forth in this film. Still, I’d probably go see it anyway.

Final word? Best horror film I’ve seen come up in a while. Really the first I’ve been able to enjoy since the Poltergeist reboot. Infinitely better than It Follows, which showed such promise. So go check it out, if horror is your thing. Let me know what you think about it down below.

Until next time, kids.

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