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.

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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

Mel’s 5 Second Audiobook Review: The World’s Most Bizarre Murders, True Stories That Will Shock and Amaze You

The World’s Most Bizarre Murders: True Stories That Will Shock and Amaze You
Written by: James Marrison
Read by: Drew Campbell

bizarre murders

(Questions from Audible’s reviews page)

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I’d recommend it to anyone who likes true crime stuff, with a cautionary word about the reader. I was able to get used to his voice, but it is rather strange.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The World’s Most Bizarre Murders?
It wasn’t a fiction book, so it’s really hard to answer this question. Audible should differentiate the questions for fiction and non-fiction, really :-p

Have you listened to any of Drew Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
This was the first book I bought of his, and it’ll probably be the last (save the one I already bought, I got two at once). It’s not as horrible as some other reviewers have said, but it is weird. His accent is very weird, like it’s not real or something. That’s really all that’s wrong, though. He does a good job with the reading part.

Any additional comments?
All in all, it was a pretty great book. A few cases I already knew, but mostly stuff that I haven’t, which is getting rarer and rarer with all the true crime stuff I read about and watch on TV. It gets a very good 8/10 from me.

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: Killer Legends

Killer Legends
(2014) Joshua Zeman, Rachel Mills

killer legends

A bit disappointed in this one. Made by the team who brought us Cropsey (which I’ve wanted to watch for forever, but just haven’t gotten around to it), it promised to be good. But the first thing I noticed was that the man, Joshua, seemed to be more interested in having his face on the camera than his guests. If he wasn’t in a particular frame, he’d actually lean forward so that he was. His feigned sadness was also a little grating, because it was very obviously fake. He’d stand at a murder sight, talk in a mournful voice, shuffle his feet, sigh, etc. The girl, Rachel, also did it, but to a much lesser degree. Joshua’s voice-over voice was also grating, much different from his normal talking voice, and slightly ridiculous.

Now that we’ve got all the bad aside, we can focus on the good. The subject matter was very interesting, the premise being that urban legends always come from some truth. They take four famous legends (The Hook Man, Killer Clowns, The Babysitter Killer, and Deadly Halloween Candy) and dig around to find real life cases that might have been the beginning of these legends. They travel to the towns where the murders happened, talk to the locals, and, if there are any left alive, people who were there when the crime happened. It was quite interesting. Despite the fact that I spent the entire film wanting to punch the guy in the face, I still give it a 7/10, because the content was very interesting. But dude, if ever you read this (which I doubt), here’s a little advice: Unless it’s an autobiography, the audience isn’t interested in seeing you. The focus should be on the subject of the documentary.

This film is currently playing on Netflix US and YouTube. Although I should probably warn you, there are crime scene photos. Pretty graphic too. So if real dead bodies scare the crap out of you, stay far, far away.

 

M.

Mel’s 5 Second TV Review: Born to Kill?

Born to Kill?
(2005 – 2012) Christopher Slade, Katherine Ramsland, Louis B Schlesinger, Helen Morrison, and David Wilson

Born to Kill

This show, in my opinion, is one of the very best of it’s kind. Along with details of the horrible crimes, a lot of the focus is on the killers themselves, and that age old question: was it nature or nurture that drove them to kill? We’re treated to Forensic Psychologists and Psychiatrists, Criminologists, plus the police and detectives who were assigned to the various cases, who give us facts of the cases and their opinions on the killers. We’re shown locations of murders, and even a few pictures, but never the really disturbing ones. Well, I mean they’re all disturbing, but… bah, you know what I mean! :-p As far as I know, there are 25 episodes, and only one which I still haven’t seen (edit: wrong!! hehe). Killers included in the program are well known serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, Aileen Wournos, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacy, and some lesser known, like Beverly Allitt, Donald Neilson, Donald ‘Pee Wee’ Gaskins, and Dennis Nilsen. You can see the whole list (edit: nope, a partial list) here. On the whole it’s a very well made and informative show, and I give it a well deserved 9/10.

This show is unfortunately not on Netflix. It currently plays on the Identification Discovery channel, but it may take a while to see all of them, since they’re played in random order all the time. And never mind that, I just checked on YouTube, and there’s a playlist of 31 episodes! So that means there’s more episodes than I knew of, which means I’m not done yet! More grizzly horror for me to watch, yay!! Uh… yeah. Maybe I shouldn’t sound so enthusiastic about that…

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes audiobook

The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes (2010)
Written by: Robin Odell
Narrated by: David Shaw-Parker

Bizarre Crimes

(Questions from Audible’s reviews form)

If you could sum up The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes in three words, what would they be?
Fun, fast-paced, informative.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?
The narrator does a great job telling the gruesome stories in the most light-hearted way that he can. I wasn’t sure I liked him at the start of the book, but I grew quite fond of him quickly. He’s also one of the best I’ve heard at doing accents, he was pretty amazing!

Have you listened to any of David Shaw-Parker’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Nope, this was the first one. And will probably be the only one, unless he adds more books to his resumé. Of the 14 or so books he’s got on Audible, this is the only one that interested me. Too bad 😦

If you could give The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes a new subtitle, what would it be?
Or, The Depravity of Human Beings

Any additional comments?
This book gets a wonderful 9/10 from me. I’d have given it a full 10 stars, but I skipped the whole section on contract killings, mafia hits and assassins. That kind of stuff has never really interested me. But everything else was a great, albeit sometimes gruesome, read (or should I say listen? hehe). Only about half of the stories (of which there are 300) are what I would call truly bizarre, but maybe that’s just me being slightly blasé on the subject, after having read so many books and watched so many shows about it. I’d definitely reccomend this book to anyone who, like me, has a penchant for the macabre.

M.

Mel’s 5 Second First Impressions: Bates Motel

Bates Motel (2013-present)
(Season 1 cast) Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Mike Vogel, Olivia Cooke, Nicola Peltz, Nestor Carbonell, Keegan Connor Tracy, Brittney Wilson, Terry Chen, and W Earl Brown

Bates-Motel

I’ve wanted to watch Bates Motel since it came out, but I just never got around to it. But after finally finishing all 9 seasons of Criminal Minds that are on Netflix (and pissed off about having to wait months till season 10 is available), I searched through my watch list for something else in the genre. And I decided that I should finally start watching this show. And man, what a show! I could say I really should have watched it when it came out, but really, I’m kinda glad I waited. This way I have three whole seasons to watch before I have to wait, hehe. I’m four episodes in, and so much is already happening that it feels like each episode is the end of the season. Brutal at times, and skin crawlingly creepy at others, this show is definitely not for the faint of heart. The first episode alone boasts two murders, a rape, and a captive girl being drugged. Continue the story with a town thriving on corruption, icky incest undertones, and the first mentions of Norman’s “blackouts”, and it’s more than enough to keep me hooked. I’ve got 6 episodes left of season 1, and I absolutely can’t wait to see how it’ll all come together.

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: The Iceman

The Iceman
(2013) Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, John Ventimiglia, James Franco, Stephen Dorff, Robert Davi, McKaley Miller, Danny A Abeckaser and Megan Sherrill

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Amazing performances saved this films’ stars. Without it, I may have had to give it a lower rating, because in some places, the tempo slowed down to almost a crawl. If the performances hadn’t been as good as they were, I probably would have gotten too bored sometime during the film, and turned it off. But Michael Shannon is such a strong actor that he was able, along with Winona Ryder, to keep even the dullest parts of the film above water. 7/10

This film is currently on Netflix, and is worth a look despite it’s slow pace. Enjoy! 

 

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: The Frozen Ground

The Frozen Ground
(2013) Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, Radha Mitchell, Kevin Dunn, Kurt Fuller, 50 Cent and Jodi Lyn O’Keefe

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Pretty decent serial killer flick, if a little drawn out. The acting is a little sketchy at times, even from John Cusack, surprisingly, he’s usually so good, but never down-right bad, not enough to turn me off to the film. The fact that’s it’s a true story ups the ick factor, and I’d previously read about the case in one of my serial killer books. I’d have probably liked it more if were someone other than Nicolas Cage who was the lead, he’s not exactly the best actor out there. Little Vanessa Hudgens was doing s better than him, but anyways… :-p My score? 7/10, there’s an extra point in there just for seeing John Cusack as a serial killer.

The film is not currently on Netflix, but is well worth a watch if you can get a hold of it.

 

M.