Mel’s 5 Second First Impression: The Shannara Chronicles

The Shannara Chronicles (2016-present)
(Season 1 cast) Austin Butler, Poppy Drayton, Ivana Baquero, Manu Bennett, John Rhys-Davies, Aaron Jakubenko, Daniel MacPherson, Marcus Vanco, Emilia Burns, Brooke Williams, James Remar, Jed Brophy

the-shannara-chronicles

I read about half of the first book in the series more than 12 years ago. I don’t remember much about it, nor do I know why I stopped reading it, since I was really enjoying it. I do remember enough, however, to know that this series takes place in the second generation of books. Wil, our hero, is the son of Shea, the youngster in the first books (of which there are 3, I think). I’ve recently re-bought The Sword of Shannara, and plan to read it soon, which has me wondering how much more of this show I want to watch before I do so. But for now, let’s talk about the first episode, the two-hour pilot, called Chosen.

They certainly packed a lot of info into that 2 hours (or hour and a half, once commercials are removed). There are no less than 5 characters that seem like they’re going to be important, although with already one unexpected death under their belts, it may be that this show is going to be more surprising than anticipated. Which is good. The acting is pretty good all round, if a little melodramatic at times. The effects look pretty stellar so far, the makeups on the demons are great. The only thing I’d have to say about it is that it seems to be the same old story again. There wasn’t much that happened in the show that wasn’t in The Lord of the Rings and other such titles. But, this was only the first episode. I’ll definitely continue watching, and hopefully it’ll grow it’s own two legs to stand on.

M.

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Mel’s Books: December

Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs
Written by: Barbara Mertz
Read by: Lorna Raver
Notes: Super interesting, fun read.
Score: 10/10

The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World
Written by: Robert Garland
Read by: Robert Garland
Notes: I’d always wanted to read a book about this, and I’m glad I finally did. The lives of the normal people back then is just as interesting as the lives of the leaders, and it’s time they got some love. The lecturer talks like Sid the Sloth from Ice Age, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might at the beginning of the class.
Score: 9.5/10

Serial Killers Abridged
Written by: RJ Parker
Read by: Me
Notes: Short snippets on 100 different killers. The writing was very amateurish, but I still enjoyed it.
Score: 8/10

Masters of True Crime: Chilling Stories of Murder and the Macabre
Written by: Various, edited by R Barri Flowers
Read by: Tara Ochs
Notes: The narrator was a little meh, but the stories were very well written and interesting. Many cases I hadn’t heard of in this book.
Score: 8/10

Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval World
Written by: Robert Garland
Read by: Robert Garland
Notes: 24 lectures about 24 different moments in history. Very cool approach to broad history. There were a few of the lectures that were kinda boring, but on the whole, a very interesting course.
Score: 8.5/10

The World’s Most Evil Psychopaths
Written by: John Marlowe
Read by: Eric Meyers
Notes: A good mix of famous killers and obscure ones, this book was well written, well read, and interesting.
Score: 9/10

M.

Mel’s 5 Second First Impressions: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones (2015 – )
(Season 1 cast) Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, David Tennant, Mike Colter, Carrie-Anne Moss, Erin Moriarty, Eka Darville, Wil Traval, Robin Weigert

Jessica-Jones

So, I didn’t want to watch this. I saw the previews, and meh. I love a lot of stuff to come out of the Marvel Universe, but the tv shows have all left me cold. But then I realized David Tennant is in it. Playing the villain, no less. So after talking to a few friends about it, I decided to finally go ahead and give it a shot. I’m 3 episodes in, and here’s what I think so far:

– My friend was right; David is much too rapey for me to find him yummy in this show.
– Unflinchingly shows what it’s like to have PTSD, hard to watch at times.
– The acting is pretty good all round, which I really wasn’t expecting from anyone save David.
– While Krysten is doing a good job in the role of Jessica, the character is a little abrasive sometimes, and hard to like or care about. I hope she changes a bit as the show goes on.
– I really hope we see cameos of other superheroes. So far we only got a mention of The Avengers (“the green guy and his crew”), I hope we get more.
– Kilgrave’s powers are so awful, especially in the hands of a psychopath. But it did make me daydream for a solid half hour at least about what I could do with power like that…

So, all in all, I did enjoy the episodes, but I’m not 100% sure that I’m going to like the show as a whole. I guess I gotta keep watching to find out!

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: The Martian

The Martian
(2015) Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Aksel Hennie, Benedict Wong, Donald Glover, Mackenzie Davis

martian

So I went to see The Martian at the cinema tonight. I was hopeful yet wary at the same time. The book was so amazing, and I know how Hollywood loves to change things up, so I was a little scared. I also was iffy about the casting of Matt Damon. I thought he might be too “big” for the role, too good looking. Mark Watney was described as being a little geeky, and Matt’s not the first name to come to mind when I hear “geeky”. But my fears were all unfounded, this was a great piece of film. Matt easily pulled off Mark’s geeky charm and sense of humour, but was also there when he needed to be serious and more dramatic. There was a lot missing from the film that was in the book, but that’s to be expected, there’s no way to fit everything, but everything important was there, and they didn’t add any useless Hollywoodized crap. There was just one thing that pissed me off a little, and that was that they changed a character’s race and first name. In the book, one of the NASA people is called Venket Kapoor, and he’s Indian. In the film they made him black and changed his name to Vincent. The rest of the racially diverse cast is right, so why change that one? It’s ridiculous. But that’s really the only bad thing I have to say about the film. Everything was great, good acting all round, great story, nice visuals, even the usually annoying 3D was alright. And so it gets an almost perfect 9.5/10 from me!

M.

Mel’s 10 Things About… Poltergeist

Poltergeist
(2015) Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements, Jared Harris, Kyle Catlett, Jane Adams, Saxon Sharbino, Susan Heyward, Nicholas Braun

poltergiest-2015

 

{SPOILERS INCOMING}
1. The beginning was really slow, and really boring. *yawn*
2. There were one or two good scenes, but on the whole the acting was pretty terrible.
3. Are we meant to believe that a poor family, with neither parent working, can buy a house? Especially one of that size? “Bad neighbourhood” my ass! Film-makers seem to have no concept of what bad neighbourhoods really look like. Poor people don’t buy big houses, they get crappy little apartments. Why make them poor, anyways? It added nothing to the story.
4. The film got better as time went one, but really, that’s not saying much.
5. There was also nothing scary about the film. Every time they tried to scare, I found it funny.
6. The only part that was even a little scary was the toy clown scene. Cause yeah, I hate clowns.
7. Considering that almost everything else is identical, why change the family’s names? Oh, cause the kids had to have “cool” modern names like Madison and Griffin. Ugh.
8. The only thing remotely interesting in the film was the depiction of the “other side”, even though the bad CGI made it look like a video game.
9. Carrigan’s last moments and sacrifice were made meaningless by the fact that he didn’t stay dead, which they said many times during the film would happen should anyone living go to the light.
10. Now to compare it to the original for a bit. The story was all there, but it simply didn’t have the interest-holding power of the original. The family was so obnoxious that I really didn’t care what happened to them. Why did they turn Tangina into a dude?? I think this pissed me off the most, even though I generally do like Jared Harris. And making him a ghost hunter on tv just added to the level of obnoxiousness that was already pretty high. So… no, I didn’t like this film.

3/10

Mel’s Readings: August – September

SIGNS OF THE GODS?
Written by: Erich von Däniken
Read by: Peter Berkrot
Notes: A lot of what was in this book they’ve talked about in Ancient Aliens, but it was a fun read nonetheless. Crazy as all hell, but interesting.
Score: 8/10

SERIAL KILLERS: TRUE CRIME ANTHOLOGY 2014
Written by: Various, including Peter Vronsky and RJ Parker
Read by: Me
Notes: Enjoyed this one much more than the 2015 one, but that’s just because I didn’t have to listen to that droning voice reading it.
Score: 8/10

MAYA TO AZTEC: ANCIENT MEZOAMERICA REVEALED
Written by: Edwin Barnhart
Read by: Edwin Barnhart
Notes: Awesome, awesome, awesome! If you have even only a passing interest in the Mayans and/or other Mezoamerican cultures, I highly recommend this set of lectures. It was over 23 hours, but I absolutely inhaled it, and got sad when I had to turn it off.
Score: 10/10

DEAD EVER AFTER
Written by: Charlaine Harris
Read by: Me
Notes: So I finally got around to reading the last of the Sookie Stackhouse books (that’s the books that True Blood was based on… in the beginning, anyways). And it was a fine conclusion to the story, all ends neatly clipped and taken care of. While she didn’t end up with the person I’d hope she’d spend her life with in the end, I can’t dislike it just for that (like I’ve read from other readers).
Score: 8/10

DEAD ICE
Written by: Laurell K Hamilton
Read by: Kimberly Alexis
Notes: Finally, a strong entry from the Anita Blake series. The series, now at 26 books, has been in steady decline, but looks like Hamilton is finally listening to her readers, and took Anita’s head out of her ass, and gave her stuff to do other than complain and have power-gaining orgies. In this book, Anita goes back to her roots, and Hamilton delivers a fine book filled with zombies, magic, and crazy bad guys. It would have had a perfect score, but Hamilton tends to repeat herself… a lot. A good 2 or 3 hours could have been shaved off the 20 hour reading time easily, I’m sure, and we’d have lost none of the current story.
Score: 8/10

GREAT PHARAOHS OF ANCIENT EGYPT
Written by: Bob Brier
Read by: Bob Brier
Notes: A little disappointed with this one, not because it’s uninteresting, but because it’s an almost word for word redux of certain lectures from his The History of Ancient Egypt, which I’d already listened to. Still gets a perfect score, though, because it is still an excellent set of lectures.
Score: 10/10

THE VIKINGS
Written by: Kenneth W Harl
Read by: Kenneth W Harl
Notes: Awesome beginning, meh middle, good end. The middle was meh because they went on and on about the Viking’s conversion to Christianity. The first lecture about it was fine. But then there were more; how Sweden converted, how Finland converted, how Norway converted, how Iceland converted, how… we get it, they converted, move on. And the, um, lecturer, uh, always seemed to, uh, need to, um, search for his, er, words. I got used to it, but it was annoying at first. There were also people occasionally heard in the background, and there was a constant humming sound, like he was right beside an AC or something.
Score: 7/10

THE HISTORY OF ANCIENT ROME
Written by: Garrett G Fagan
Read by: Garrett G Fagan
Notes: I really want to give this one a perfect score, cause it was so very interesting, but I can’t. Not with this lecturer. I did finally manage to get used to his way for speaking, but it took me half the course. He’d pause right in the middle of……. a sentence, for a real long time sometimes, too. But the course was so amazing that I’m only going to knock him half a point for it.
Score: 9.5/10

LOST WORLDS OF SOUTH AMERICA
Written by: Edwin Barnhart
Read by: Edwin Barnhart
Notes: Not quite as good as Maya to Aztec, but still very, very good. You can almost never go wrong with The Great Courses.
Score: 10/10

RED LAND, BLACK LAND
Written by: Barbara Mertz
Read by: Lorna Raver
Notes: Absolutely stunning portrayal of life in Ancient Egypt, told with perspective and humour. Excellent!
Score: 10/10

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Written by: Stephen Hawking
Read by: Michael York
Notes: Excellent, but rather repetitive if you, like I, have already read A Brief History of Time. Still, the man is brilliant, no denying that!
Score: 9/10

Mel’s 5 Second Review: The Hunt for the I-5 Killer

The Hunt for the I-5 Killer
(2011) John Corbett, Sara Canning, Tygh Runyan, Andrew Wheeler, Matt Bellefleur, Mike Dopud, Kirsten Robek, Garry Chalk, Bo Derek

i5-killer

This movie has been on my pvr for probably over a year, so I finally decided to watch it. I was a little leery (ok, a lot leery) at first because it’s an IFC film, and those tend to be pretty awful, but I do love me a good serial killer film, so I decided to give it a go. And I was pleasantly surprised. It was so much better than I’d been expecting. The acting was pretty good all round, Corbett doing a great job as the harried detective in charge of the case, and the killer, who was surprising when we found out who he was, was suitably creepy. I’ll be curious now to read up on the case now (it was a true story), since at the end there was a disclaimer that said some things were fictionalized, to find out what actually happened. Maybe it wasn’t so bad in real life..? No, I guess that’s just me dreaming again. I’m really glad that the cops were finally able to nail the fucker who did it to the wall though. Sicko. All in all, a pretty entertaining true crime film. I just wish it wasn’t on IFC. I hate bloody commercials…

7.5/10

This film isn’t currently on Netflix, but if you can find it, it’s worth your time 🙂

M.

Mel’s 10 Things About… The Calling

The Calling
(2014) Susan Sarandon, Gil Bellows, Topher Grace, Christopher Heyerdahl, Ellen Burstyn, Donald Sutherland, Kristin Booth, Kevin Parent

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{SPOILERS AHEAD}
1. Acting ranges from mediocre to good.
2. The main character, Hazel, is thoroughly unlikable, so it’s hard to care when stuff happens to her.
3. Super intriguing story, unfortunately delivered poorly.
4. There were some really good scenes, but they were surrounded by ultra boring filler.
5. The ex-husband sub-plot was completely pointless, it does nothing but make us like Hazel even less.
6. The very last scene is eye-roll inducing. Are we supposed to believe that the spell actually worked, in a film that had nothing supernatural in it till that point?
7. Was hoping to see some change in Hazel at the end, after what she went through, but when presented with booze at the hospital she just quips about not having ice and glasses. Her plea for a second chance? Wasted 3 seconds later.
8. Was expecting a whole lot more from such a cast. Sarandon, Sutherland, Heyerdahl, even Topher Grace for heaven’s sake! Totally wasted on this film.
9. The killer was nice and creepy though. I’ll give the film that much.
10. A minor quibble, but the title seems wrong to me. Simon wasn’t following some “higher calling”, he was trying to work a religious spell. The Disciples would have been better, or… well anything but The Calling, really.

4.5/10

Review Club #9 – The Theory of Everything

theory of everything

First up is my DH Francois, from over at FrankishNet:

I was actually very surprised by the twist of the movie. It really is about Jane, rather than Stephen. A very deep and emotional discovery of their relationship, and the constant struggle.

She signed for a 2 years trip, and the trip lasted so much longer. They present the duality of her feelings in a stunningly well played manner. On one side, she loves him and is incredibly happy that his life goes on. On the other side, she is consumed by needs and dreams she cannot live with Stephen, and the caring for him is draining.

Jonathan, Stephen, Jane, they were all very well played. Great acting!

It really was not the sort of movie I expected to see when sitting down for a movie about Hawking, especially with the name “The Theory of Everything”, but that is simply because I had not read the synopsis, and assumed it was like “Hawking”.

I really enjoyed it.

Up next is Rob, from over at MovieRob:

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are both amazing in this movie as Hawking and his wife. Their performances alone make this movie a must see.

I personally wasn’t even remotely aware of most of the history told here and it was great learning about their troubled lives and how they both worked together to realize his dreams despite his debilitating disease.

Excellent acting by the two leads elevates a good story to something even better. Very informative and eye opening biopic.

Redmayne truly deserved his Best Oscar win last year for this amazing and challenging role.

And finally, here’s mine:

Mel’s 10 Things About… The Theory of Everything
(2014) Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis, Maxine Peake, Christian McKay

everything_a

1. Absolutely superb acting, the two leads were amazing.
2. The film really captured the helplessness of a disease like this, and it hit a little too close to home for me in some parts. Even though my illness isn’t nearly as bad as Hawking’s, it’s still debilitating, and so it touched me greatly.
3. The film also captures very well the torment of loving two people at the same time. Easy, it’s not.
4. I was really hoping for more science in the film, and a little less drama. Was slightly disappointing on that end.
5. How hot is Harry Lloyd?? I mean really now! *fans self*
6. They captured Hawking’s wit wonderfully.
7. I can’t imagine being that smart, and being stuck inside your body like that. It must be absolutely horrible.
8. Hawking is such an inspiration to me. This film just cemented it even more. I mean if he can, in his state, become a world famous bestselling author, not to mention everything else he is, then I can certainly do something with my life!
9. Jane was an absolutely wonderful human being, sacrificing so much of herself to support and care for her husband. Not many people are so generous.
10. In the end, it was quite a lovely film, but I have to admit to like Hawking, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, better. Its focus was more on the science, and I enjoyed it immensely.

And that’s it! Stay tuned for next time, when we review Out of the Dark! 🙂