Review of Bird Box

bird boxI only picked up this book because of the Netflix film, of the same name. I’d seen the film and thoroughly enjoyed it. Having seen the Netflix film, I knew what I was getting into when I started the debut novel written by Josh Malerman. Having said that, I’m glad I picked it up. Both versions of the story are equally great.

The story begins with the main character, Malorie, standing in the kitchen thinking. It’s been four years since the apocalyptic event that swept across the earth killing untold millions. What follows is a forty-three chapter game of tennis. Malerman switches from the present to the past almost every chapter. In the present, Malorie is gearing up to travel on the river with her two children, Boy and Girl. The destination is a promise of a safe place from the insanity inducing creatures. In the flashbacks, the reader gets the full story of why Malorie is alone and why she has two children of the same age with her.

This is one of the charms of the novel because when a chapter ends, it’s typically a cliff hanger and the reader won’t figure out what happens until a few chapters later. There were moments when I would reach the end of a chapter, look at the clock knowing I need to be somewhere, but couldn’t wait so I continued reading.

Another charming thing that Malerman does in his novel is never show the monster. The apocalyptic event is this creature that causes insanity in those that view it. So, reasonably, the reader never gets even the hint of a description other than it might smell bad. Even when the characters see the creatures, they don’t see the creature. For some writers, that might be a hindrance, but for Malerman he writes it really well. The way characters live in the world where vision is a danger, they wear blindfolds. This natural isolation makes even a leaf falling on the characters shoulder spooky. Is it a leaf? Is it a crazy person taunting the character? Is it the creatures? The characters don’t know and that’s when their imagination is the enemy. Even though it’s a leaf or a random twig breaking is intense to a reader because they don’t know either. They are, literally, in the dark like the characters.

The one thing that bugged me about the story was the lack of technology it employed. Presumably set in 2014 when Malerman wrote it, there isn’t much use of technology. Characters use phone books to call numbers using a landline. They don’t access the internet even though their power is still on. There is no GPS and the characters have to use mileage on their cars to judge distance. It felt like I had picked up a book from the early 1990’s. Which isn’t a bad thing, but for younger readers it may not be a relatable literary experience.

Bird Box is an interesting tale of survival and what a mother would do to protect herself and her two children. It’s an intense novel that’s a true page turner. Even though you know the fates of the characters, you’ll be cheering for the ill-fated characters during the flashback chapters. If you’ve never seen the Netflix film, give it a watch because it’s really pretty good. If you’ve never read the novel written by Josh Malerman, give it a read because it’s equally as good.

If you want to read an apocalyptic novel that doesn’t include the normal amount of blood and gore that is commonplace in most books of this genre, Bird Box is the novel for you.

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The Legends of Luke Skywalker

The_Legends_of_Luke_Skywalker_final_coverKen Liu writes an interesting anthology of tales that center around the myth of Luke Skywalker. The story is centered around some passengers on a transport barge on its way to Canto Bight. If you’ve seen the film Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) then this destination will be familiar. In fact, it really shouldn’t be a surprise because the book is included in part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

To pass the time, the passengers tell tales of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. This novel falls between Episode VI and Episode VIII as far as the timeline.

The first thing that I enjoyed about this book is the structure in which it was made. There are six stories about the Jedi Master with interludes in between. Also, the edition I read had fully colored illustrations of the story about to be told that were beautifully drawn by J.G. Jones.

The next thing that I enjoyed about the book was the fact that not all tales about Luke were true. Told by many different characters, the tales of Luke and the Rebellion vary from being saviors of the galaxy to just a bunch of con artists as told in the short story “The Myth Buster.”

If you’re a fan of Star Wars but have never really delved into the cannon/non-cannon books, then this one might be the one to try out. This book is considered cannon, but like I said earlier don’t really count on the legitimacy of what’s being said about Luke Skywalker.

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Just one example of the artwork in this book crafted by Artist J.G. Jones.

Overall, the book is great in terms of writing. Author Ken Liu does an amazing job crafting these stories and making each sound different in terms of the tones of the narrator that’s telling them. My favorite story is at the very end. It’s titled “Big Inside” and is about Luke and the narrator being trapped in the belly of gigantic monster. In order to get out, Luke and the narrator must accept the sacrifice from another trapped group. “Big Inside” contains the most wisdom in the anthology stating that:

“It was one thing to sacrifice yourself for something you believed in, but how much heavier was the burden of accepting someone else’s sacrifice?”

The genius of this concept for a Star Wars book is that since each story is told by different people, nothing can be considered “true” even if Luke did the things that he did in the book. The writing trick of “the unreliable narrator” is used here to make the reader ponder what really happened in each tale.

As far as what I didn’t like about the book, there wasn’t much. If I had to nitpick and find one negative in this book of positives, then I would have to say that one of the stories dragged on and didn’t really capture my attention. “The Tale of Lugubrious Mote” was about the true brains behind the comedic genius in Jabba the Hutt’s palace. That story didn’t quite accelerate until Luke showed up which wasn’t until thirteen pages into the story.

This book can be read by children of all ages. As far as swear words, I didn’t catch any. If you’re looking for a Star Wars book that doesn’t really add to the canon of the films, but does provide some good tales to read then The Legends of Luke Skywalker written by Ken Liu is your book.

If you’re wondering whether or not to purchase the book in hardback or ebook, I would recommend hardback. There is not a book sleeve on it and therefore is just a glossy cover, but the book is extremely durable and has a great feel to it.

2018 Review of James Master

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” – John 8:7 (NKJV).

I like to judge and criticize books, movies, people, and even the State of Michigan. Upon reflection, I really shouldn’t though because I’m just as flawed as the things I critique. Except, maybe, for Michigan. I mean really guys, get your act together.

See? There I go again.

As 2018 comes to a close, I’ve taken an inventory of my accomplishments as well as my failures. I believe most of us, humans, do that. It’s only natural to look back on the year and feel proud about what we did. Sometimes we feel guilty or remorse over actions. So I thought, as recompense for all of my judging this last year, I’d remark about some of my accomplishments as well as my failures.

Accomplishments:

  • unnamedI lost 88.4 pounds (total) in 2018. On January 1, 2018 I weighed 452.2 pounds. Today, December 31, 2018 I stepped on the scale and saw 360.8 in bright blue numbers. Even though I had gained 7 pounds since Thanksgiving, I wasn’t disappointed. You can’t see me as I write this right now (hopefully because if you can then that’s plain creepy), but I’m wiping away a few tears. It’s been a long year in terms of losing the weight. Peer pressure isn’t something you should give into, but in May I finally succumbed. My sister and brother-in-law (who actually is more like a brother, but for the purposes of clarification I put “in-law” there) had for months tried to get me to try the Keto Diet. I’ve come to realize that when they tell me to do something, I should just do it. It’s been the key to my weight loss this year.
  • I had a book, The Book of Mark, and the short story The Haunting of Divine Hearts Seminary, in Crossroads In The Dark IV: Ghosts, published this year. I’ve also edited a book that was published in December. Another anthology I helped with was also published this year. It’s been a very productive and interesting year for me as a writer/editor/storyteller.
  • I became the editor of The Starke County Leader. The Leader is the weekly paper that covers all of Starke County, Indiana. Sure, it’s been a bit of a learning curve because it’s a tad different setting and atmosphere from my prior paper, The Pilot News, but I’ve come to really appreciate the people and the county. Growing up in the county to the north, I’d always heard jokes about Starke County. I’ve even made some of those in my youth, I’m ashamed to admit (I’m trying to be brutally honest in this review of myself). However, since becoming the editor, I have gained respect and appreciation for the people and the county. It just goes to show that you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
  • IMG-7745My website, the one you’re on now, has surpassed my expectations in terms of viewership. In 2017, I had a total of 197 views. As of this writing (it’s about 11a.m. here) I’ve had 939 views. I attribute that to you, my readers, and I can’t thank you enough for your time and attention. Sure, I could say that I put more effort into constant content and made sure to promote that content, but if it wasn’t for you all this wouldn’t be in the Accomplishment section. It’d be in the Failures. So… thanks. I’ve got some plans for growing the site so hopefully so all stick with me.
  • I grew as a Christian. If you couldn’t surmise from the quote at the top of the page, I am a Christian. But I never used to be. To be brutally honest with you all, there was a time in my life (not that long ago) that I would say that I believed in God, but I didn’t. Or I would go to church on Sunday, but then never pick up the Bible or act like a Christian during the weekdays. Ironic, isn’t it, that a horror author lived his life as one of the Walking Dead. It wasn’t until earlier this year, maybe around March, that I decided that I needed to make a change. Two years prior to that moment, my wife had left me, and I was living life in a fog. Reflecting back on that period now I can’t really tell you what happened. I was depressed. I was guilt-stricken. I was at my rock bottom. Maybe it was the weight loss, the looming finality of divorce, or sudden realization that I needed to get my life back on track. Either way, God brightened my life and burned away the fog of guilty and depression.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not the perfect Christian. I still judge and criticize at times (I’m looking at you Michigan). My mouth still spouts a swear word every now and then. And I’m struggling about whether or not to continue my career as a horror genre author. Regardless of those faults, I am making an honest attempt to walk the walk. That moment in March, I decided that since I’m becoming physicallyhealthier, I also need to be spiritually healthier.

Failures:

  • My marriage of nine years ended in 2018. Might as well get the biggest failure out of the way first, right? My wife and I married July 11, 2009. We divorced on June 22, 2018. Even writing that, even now, is tough. In fact, I’m thinking about deleting this entire section and only focusing on the Accomplishments. Sure, that would be easier and portray me in a better light, but that wouldn’t be an honest review of myself.

    I won’t go into detail on why we separated. I have my own explanations and so does my ex-wife. When the final straw in our marriage broke, she ended up leaving in July 2016. The first and last time I saw her after that was at the divorce hearing two years later.

    Even though I know that blame could be attributed to both parties, I blame the divorce solely on myself. I could have driven to where she was and stood outside her window holding a boombox blaring some Peter Gabriel. I could have flooded her voicemail box with calls. I could have sent flowers and letters begging for her to come back. I could have fought for our marriage.

    I didn’t do any of those things. The only thing I did was give her what she said she wanted: space. It was that simple action, or rather inaction, that sealed our marriage’s fate.

    When I was a child, my parents divorced. I’ve talked about this subject a bit in previous rants. To be blunt, it tore our family apart. It’s been years since my siblings and I have been in the same room. In the years that followed their divorce, my father would remarry several women. With each new family I was forced to integrate with, I couldn’t help feeling a bit neglected. I spent every other weekend at my father’s house, and it seemed that he’d rather spend that time either working, sleeping, or with his new family. Now, let me say that I don’t resent my father or have any ill feelings towards him. I have always loved my father and will always love him. I was a teenager back then and I didn’t know anything about how the world works.

    Fast forward a few years to 2009. I was adamant that I would never get divorced. I never wanted to put my children and other loved ones through what my siblings and I suffered. I didn’t want my children to feel neglected when I remarried. I didn’t want my kids to have to choose between their mother and father. Strictly speaking, I didn’t want to become my father.

    The point in all of this is that when my wife left me, my worst fear had come true. I knew my wife would never come back. She was, and probably still is, someone who follows through with what she plans to do. No one can deter her for long.

    I fell hard. I didn’t really care about anything other than keeping up the appearance that I was fine. I went to work, paying the essential bills, wrote at home, fed the cat, showered, hung out with friends and family, and drank coffee. I became heavily addicted to video games. As soon as I got home after work, I’d hop onto the PS4 and play Smite (it’s this third person League of Legends) until it was time for bed (typically 1 or 2 a.m.). Rinse and repeat.

    When I did go to church, friends would ask me how I was doing to which I’d say “Oh, I’m fine.” I’d sit in my usual seat (fourth row from the back, second seat to the left end). I don’t know if it was habit or the hope that my wife would come back, but I’d leave her seat vacant.

    I hit rock bottom. Hard. Like I said earlier. I was in a fog of depression and guilt.

  • My dear readers: There are many other failures I’ve dealt with this year. None of them compare to the one I just wrote about. Maybe next year.

This was just a snapshot of my year. There were other events that were accomplishments and failures, but I didn’t touch on them because I felt the ones listed were enough. Please understand that none of these things were easy for me to write about, especially the divorce. If you know me then you know I’m not much of an extrovert so when (“if” is probably the more accurate term) I post this, please know that I’m uncomfortable putting it out there.

Thank you all for your support during the year. It could have been buying one of my books, a kind comment, a visit to my website, a Twitter follow, or maybe you saw me at church/work/somewhere else and asked how I was doing.

By the way, if you were to ask me today how I am doing I would reply: “I’m fine, but I’m getting better every day.”

When the End isn’t really the End

So here we are at the end of 2018. For me, it’s been a year of some really great moments. Of course, like the roller coasters at Six Flags once taught me, what goes up must come down. Fortunately, it seems that 2018 was filled with more ups than down.

Side note, I’d like to apologize to the people in the row behind me for that incident I had during the ride. Turns out roller coasters and chili dogs when you’re a ten-year old kid don’t quite mix.

The good thing about the end of the year is that there’s another one immediately as soon as the prior year ends. You also don’t have to wait for it to come out. The same can’t be said for books.

I have this friend (despite the rumors, I do have friends) that buys books as presents. We were walking through Barnes and Nobles before Christmas and he was looking for a book for his father. He ended up getting two or three from the same series. When I asked if his father liked the series, my friend said he’d never read the series. He went on to say that when he buys books, he often purchases the whole series or a few books from the series because if they like the book then they can immediately continue on with the next.

I’ve come across another issue with series. Specifically my own book series. Sometimes when I’m trying to get people to buy my book, they ask if they’re part of a series. When I reply that they are, they often say the following: “Well, I might read them when the entire series is published. That way I don’t have to wait for next one to come out.”

So, for this last Mastering the Craft of 2018, it’s Dec. 27 when I’m writing this, I’d like to discuss some advantages/disadvantages of writing a book series.

Advantages:

• The story you write can be much longer than if it was a single book. By stretching your plot out between six or seven books you can develop characters and include more detailed side plots for characters. Book series like The Dark Tower comes into mind. If Stephen King had written one single book about Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower, King might not have been able to really develop the characters Eddie, Jake, and Susannah. Which would have been a shame because those characters really are intriguing and only help to enrich the overall story.

• You really shouldn’t be in the writing business for the money. Strictly speaking, being an author isn’t that profitable unless you’re a King, Patterson, Rowling, etc… Writing should be about loving what you do and not loving the money you may gain from it. However, if you’re able to profit from your books, then writing a longer series may be worth it. Look at J.K. Rowling. She’s published seven books in her series. Mathematically, she earns more money from seven books than she would if she’d written one to three novels.

• Publishers tend to look more for series than single books. The reasoning I said above applies here as well.

Disadvantages:

• You could die before the series is completed. Sure, I could have built up to this disadvantage, but I thought I’d begin with the absolute worst. So fans of Game of Thrones are waiting for George R.R. Martin to keel over at any moment and leave his series incomplete. I’m sure if you search on the internet there are many articles that have been written on the subject. Shoot, Weird Al Yankovic even involved this in a parody of his. Stephen King almost died in 1999 when he was struck by a vehicle. If he had died that day, his Dark Tower series would’ve been incomplete leaving fans with only questions.

• You could have your series completed by another author. I know some of you might think this is worse, but the first one involves death. Of course, if the author that takes over your series is awful, then that would mean the death of your series. So… maybe that’s worse. An author’s books are his/her legacy. Having another author taint your legacy with their writing style is equal to dying and not completing it yourself. Tom Clancy is a great example. You’ll notice that even though Clancy is long since dead, his series goes on with “Tom Clancy’s” in front of every book. Disclaimer: I’m not stating that all those books are rubbish. I’m only questioning whether or not Clancy would want this happening. You’ll notice I didn’t include a James Patterson joke. I’ve grown up a bit.

• So you’ve decided to write a book series. Awesome! Except, you don’t really need to write a series. Your plot could easily fit into one or two books, but you’re determined to stretch it out into five or six books and call it “The (fill in the blank) Chronicles” or the “(fill in the blank) Series).” The outcome is that all your books are pretty short in length and even shorter in character/plot substance. If you ever do get the books accepted by a publisher it’ll be a miracle. But then again, James Patterson gets his books published so publishing miracles must be a dime a dozen. 

Hmm…. Guess I didn’t grow up that much.

Remember folks, when you’re writing a book and decide to make it a series you need to do two things. The first is to consider where your characters want to go, do, and how they’ll grow as characters. If your characters are the same as when they began then it might prove as a boring book series. The second thing you have to ask yourself is: Is my story meant to be a series? Ask yourself if you have the mental fortitude to lock yourself in for a few years as you write all the books in your series. If you don’t know the answers to these questions then maybe a book series isn’t right for your story. Try writing just one book and if you have plots incomplete then go forth with another book.

Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you all in 2019! Unless, of course, assassins from Patterson and/or Michigan don’t get to me first. I tend to make enemies whenever I write these rants.

It Ends at the Beginning

“Ka is a wheel.” This saying can be found throughout The Dark Tower series written by Stephen King. The saying basically means that everything that goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. If you’ve ever read the full series by King, I’d suggest it, you know that this simple saying has more meaning behind it.

There’s a type of plot that’s pretty similar to this saying. This style is actually very, very old. Like a couple centuries ago. Well, maybe a bit longer than that, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s really ancient. Written at the tale-end of the 8th Century B.C., The Odyssey was written by Homer and is the second-oldest extant work of Western literature. For those Jeopardy fanatics out there, the answer to what is the oldest is “What is the Illiad, Alex.” 

Just so you know, if you win the gameshow because of this answer, I’d like more than just a copy of the home game. To me, I think 10 percent of the overall winnings sounds pretty fair. Checks can be mailed to James Master or made out to cash. I also accept PayPal.

The plot centers on a person, our hero or protagonist, that leaves his/her home in order to accomplish something and when that’s done he/she has to come home.Typically when they come home, if the story is written well, the hero will have changed in some way.

There are so many stories out there that still utilize this type of plot. Not satisfied with that statement? What, you want some proof? Fine, here you go:

The Lord of the Rings (Overall book series): Sure, it took awhile but J.R.R. Tolkien finally got Frodo and Sam to Mordor and tossed that little ring of evil into the lava. Oh, oops, spoiler alert. If you’ve not read or watched it, then I’ll spoil another thing for you: all Sam and Frodo can talk about is returning home to the Shire. Now, that could just be because they were in Mordor which isn’t the typical vacationing spot. I sympathize with Frodo and Sam every time I visit Michigan. And when they do return, they’re more appreciative of the Shire. They’re changed Hobbits that realize that the world is larger than they thought.

Wizard of Oz: “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto.” You know, I identify with Dorothy. Sometimes I’ll be driving with my friends and it’s dark, but since we’re dudes the stereotype is never to admit that we’re lost. You know, that old chestnut. Anyway, when we see a sign for Niles, MI then that’s when I feel lost like Dorothy. I’m not sure if my friends identify with a dog, a heartless tin man, a cowardly lion, and a brainless scarecrow. I just know I’m the Dorothy in the group. Hmm, in retrospect, claiming that I’m a little girl might have been weird. However, she kills witches so there you go. She’s also torn from her home, whisked away by a tornado, survives, kills a witch with her house, and then goes on another quest to kill yet another witch. Why does she do this? Oh that’s right, she wants to return home and face the consequences of Toto chowing down on that lady that looks like the witch that she just killed. With water. Say what you want, Dorothy is the Sam Jackson of 1900.

Taken: Before you stop reading, just go with me here for a second. Imagine you’re a retired CIA agent that used to be really awesome, but then retired so he could try and piece back the family life his old job helped to shatter. Now, his daughter gets kidnapped while backpacking through Europe. Side note, that’s why I don’t go backpacking. I don’t want to be kidnapped and sold to human traffickers. That’s another reason I don’t travel to Michigan. Everybody I know tells me it won’t happen to me, but they don’t know man. They don’t know. Anyhoo, now once that agent learns about his daughter’s disappearance, he has to take matters into his own hands and dust off those “particular set of skills” and return home with his daughter. How she was able to return home without a passport is beyond me though. You know what that agent receives on going home? A hug from his daughter. Everything he ever wanted.

So, if you’re writing a story that has this theme of a hero leaving and then returning back to his/her old life just make sure they learn something and grow as a character. Because you don’t want to have them experience all that pain and suffering without some kind of reward. Like when I last traveled up to Kalamazoo….

I’m not too sure why I’m bashing so hard on Michigan. Maybe’s it’s because I’m sick and tired of hearing Tim Allen talk about how “pure” the state is. If it’s so pure Mr. Allen, then why’s the water like that!?

2018 Movie Review: The Mediocre

Welcome back to my 2018 Movie Review. Last week I covered the worst of the movies I watched this year. This week I’m covering the films that I deemed just okay. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re the ones where you watched them and thought “Well, it could’ve been worse.”

If I had to rank them from one to ten, ten being the best, then these films would rank anywhere from five to seven. If you read last week’s review I stopped at number 22 so I’m starting at 21 and making my way to 11. So here they are, the Mediocre Movies of 2018:

Oh, I should warn that here there be spoilers! Now onto the show.

i think we're alone now21. I Think We’re Alone Now

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 62%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 46%

IMDB Score: 5.6/10

When I purchased this film, I did so primarily because it was a post-apocalyptic film starring Peter Dinklage. The plot of the film is focused on Dinklage who plays a library custodian who is the sole survivor of a city. Apparently, before the beginning, a disease wiped out everyone else. So you know what Dinklage does? He decides that he’s going to clean each individual house, swiping batteries and family photos. What? If it was me, I’d be doing… well… anything other than that. The plot thickens when a strange girl played by Elle Fanning drives into town. The reason why this film is so low on my list is that the end is just so weird and anticlimactic. I understand what they were trying to do, but come on. Another reason why I thought the film was just okay was that they never once played the song, “I Think We’re Alone Now.” What a waste.

the meg20. The Meg

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 45%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 47%

IMDB Score: 5.8/10

Based on the book by Steve Alten, this film is like Jaws but only on steroids. Think like a really roided up great white shark and then add a couple thousand more teeth and you’ve got the monster in this film starring Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, and Rainn Wilson. This film wasn’t great because after Jaws, you really can’t improve on the Shark Attack Genre. There was decent character development, but people only go to these types of films for two reasons. The first reason is they want to see the shark eating people. The second reason is that they want to see the shark eating people. Shark Attack Fans don’t need a fancy plot, character arcs, or an intriguing bad guy that wants to erase half of the universe. Maybe that’s why Sharknado does so well. Sad but true.

overlord19. Overlord

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 82%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 72%

IMDB Score: 7.1/10

Zombies in Nazi Germany. HOW COULD THIS FAIL??? Simple: They’re not really zombies. My expectations going into this film were ruined when I found out that they aren’t going to release zombies onto the battlefield. They’re going to keep them locked up in this underground makeshift German WWII bunker. Sure, the characters were interesting and the battles were pretty action packed, but I really wanted to see zombies marching across Europe munching on the Third Reich’s enemies. Is that too much to ask? Plus, this was basically a rip-off of Captain America’s origin story. Ya, you read that right.

peter rabbit18. Peter Rabbit

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 64%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 57% 

IMDB Score: 6.6/10

I didn’t see this one in theater, I waited until it got to Netflix. My niece and nephews were looking for something to watch and they asked me if I’d seen it yet. I hadn’t so they decided to watch that one. I was pleasantly surprised with the live action version of Peter Rabbit. Sam Neil as Old Man McGregor was really fun and the voice actors I thought were decent. My niece and nephews liked it and I thought it was a rather enjoyable family film about an old man trying to murder and eat these cute and cuddly bunnies but ultimately dies from a heart attack. You know, that old chestnut. 

annihilation17. Annihilation

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 88%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 66%

IMDB Score: 6.9/10

Some of you might be wondering why I’m including these scores and this film is one of the reasons. The difference between the critic score and the audience tells you something. It tells you that the film is visually stunning. It tells you that the acting is pretty decent. It tells you that the overall storytelling is adequate. It also tells you that the plot doesn’t make any dang sense and will have you scratching your head at the end thinking, “What did I just sit through?” If you’ve not seen this film and would like to, I’d give one piece of advice: Don’t get emotionally tied up with the characters. Trust me.

rampage16. Rampage

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 52%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 75%

IMDB Score: 6.2/10

Here’s another scenario where the scores really tell the story. Critics hate movies like this for one reason: it’s a film that only cares about destruction on a massive scale caused by gigantic monsters. And Rampage delivers just like Pizza Hut, on time and full of cheese. Don’t go into this film trying to find an Oscar nomination. You won’t find one. But what you will find is a fun, destructive, arcade game based film. Oh and the Rock’s in this. And Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Need I say more?

venom15. Venom

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 28%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 86%

IMDB Score: 6.9/10

I’m a comic book nerd. More though, I’m a Spider-Man fanatic. I absolutely love that character. When I saw Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, I was heart broken because Topher Grace played Venom and he wasn’t crazy big and bad. Jump to 2018 and I’m watching this film and thinking “Wait, where’s Spider-Man?” Sony has this crazy fascination about not making quality comic book movies. I didn’t like Tom Hardy’s interpretation of Eddie Brock. The movie wasn’t rated R, which I think it should’ve been. By all accounts, Venom needed to be viewed as a bad guy. He bit the heads of policeman. Having said that, at least Sony didn’t portray Venom like they portrayed Electro in that turd in the wind film in the second reboot staring Andrew Garfield. Oh, and why have four symbiotes if you’re just going to kill two of them off camera? C’mon Sony! 

jurassic park fallen kingdom14. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 48%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 51%

IMDB Score: 6.2/10

So originally, I had this film higher on the list, but as I started writing this I came to the realization that it wasn’t as good as I thought. For one, it seemed to erase the cannon of the second and third film. For the third movie that might not have been such a bad thing, but the idea of dinosaurs coming to the mainland it’s an old concept. How can you have Ian Malcolm talking in a senate hearing about the dangers of dinosaurs and not have him talk about the San Diego Incident in the second film? Plus the idea of engineering, breeding, and training Indoraptors to kill rebel insurgents is sooooo cost ineffective. However, the film explored the lore of how Jurassic Park came to be and even introduced the idea of human cloning. Plus, it had that really cool horror scene with the Indoraptor stalking people in the mansion. 

tomb raider13. Tomb Raider

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 50%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 56%

IMDB Score: 6.4/10 

Alicia Vikander was a decent Lara Croft. I think I liked her better than the OG Angelina Jolie. I’m not too sure why the movie was not as well received as it should be, especially in the age of the strong female protagonist. She wasn’t made into a sexual object like in Jolie’s films and she wasn’t a Mary Sue like Rey was made to be in Star Wars. The character had to work to get everything which made for an intriguing film.

the house with a clock in its walls12. The House with a Clock in its Walls

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 66%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 47%

IMDB Score: 6.1/10

I really enjoyed this film. Seeing Jack Black and Cate Blanchett throwing insults back and forth just as much as they flung spells was quite enjoyable. For those that missed this questionable “family” film, Lewis is recently orphaned when his parents die in a tragic accident and he has to live with his uncle who is the family’s black sheep. The uncle, Black, and the next door neighbor, Blanchett, are trying to figure out where a doomsday clock is located in the house that the uncle resides in. Not by a coincidence, the house used to be owned by an evil wizard named Lizard. Now, if this sounds like a film you could show your five and six year olds, I would precede with caution. The film is directed by horror titan Eli Roth and is written by Eric Kripke who wrote the CW’s Supernatural. I think that’s why I didn’t quite like it as much because I took my niece and nephews to see this film because it’s rated PG, but there is necromancy, zombies, and other dark magical stuff. Even though I enjoyed it, I thought that it should have been kicked up to PG-13.

mandy11. Mandy

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 92%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 67%

IMDB Score: 6.7/10

Well here we are at the final film on the Mediocre Movies of 2018. This one was supposed to be on the top films next week, but I watched another film that kicked it down to this level of trash. What film is that? HA! Find out next week. So this film stars Nicholas Cage and his wife is brutally killed by a crazy religious cult that’s led by a cooky singer turned cult leader. Taking place in the early 80’s, Cage must seek vengeance and destroy the cult and the demonic, drug addicted biker gang that protects them. To be fair, it’s not the craziest thing I’ve seen Cage star in. But I also wanted Cage to be a bit more outrageous. He’s actually pretty tame in this one. You would think that Cage’s character would just go off the rails when his wife is killed right in front of him, but he turns into a combination of Jason Bourne and the guy from Taken. I don’t really advocate that you go out and buy this film, but if a friend’s got it and you’re interested then sure, watch it. Just be warned, it’s a crazy film with even crazier cinematography to it. Just warning you all.

Well guys, as we come to the end of the year, I’ve come to realize that I may have wasted hours and hours of my life watching all of these films. The upside to this realization is that if you haven’t seen some of these films, maybe you won’t now that you’ve read this. Next week is the blog I’m excited for. The cream of the crop, the best of the best, and maybe even a few good films.

What made my top films of 2018? What was the best one? Want a few hints?

• You’ll just have to stick around… the neighborhood?

• Ranking these movies was…. a snap?

• When you read this next blog, make sure to find a ….. quiet place…. to read it?

• When you do read this, don’t keep it…. solo…. and make sure to share it?

• If you don’t read it, I’ll just keep…. bugging… you until you do?

• Winnie the Pooh and Deadpool too. (That was a two-for-one pun)

• Maybe when you… trick or treat… next you’ll want to dress up as a… black cat? (Also a two-for-one)

Make sure to stay tuned next week!

2018 Movie Recap: The Worst

It’s been a pretty interesting year for theatre patrons. We’ve seen the return of the Predator and Michael Myers, an actual solid performance from Nicholas Cage, grown men playing tag, nostalgia incarnate, and the decimation of half the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A good year overall, I’d say.

Originally, I had planned on writing one single article about all the movies I’ve seen that came out this year. Of course, that changed when I sat down and made a list of all of them. Thirty-two movies in total. For clarification’s sake, I’m writing this first installment on Tuesday, Dec. 11 and there a few movies this year I plan on seeing. However, for the purpose of this first section I don’t think those films will pertain to this part of the list.

Since the films I’m talking about are still relatively new, let me warn you: Here there be spoilers!

So without further ado, allow me to present to you my 2018 Movie Rankings from worst to best starting with:

a wrinkle in time32. A Wrinkle In Time

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 42% 

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 28% 

IMDB Score: 4.2/10

The absolute worst film I watched this year. And that’s saying something considering some of the garbage that I sat through this year. One of the reasons why it made the worst of the worst was that I don’t remember really anything about this film. Sure, I know the plot but that’s because I read the book when I was a kid. Going back to the review I wrote after watching the movie, I understood why I can’t remember anything. Nothing in that movie is memorable. The plot dragged on, the characters weren’t that interesting, and the action was nonexistent. Sure, the CGI was amazing but that’s expected from Disney. I also will not tolerate a beloved novel being twisted into this sad excuse of a movie.

slenderman31. Slender Man

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 7% 

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 20%

IMDB Score: 3.2/10

As bad as Slender Man was, at least I remember all the plot points of the film. There were even a few interesting things that were utilized in the film. The problem is that it follows a very generic plot. Stupid teenagers decide to enact an ancient ritual to summon an ancient being that will eventually hunt down and systematically kill or drive crazy each of those teenagers. By the end of the film, you’re rooting for Slender Man to do just that. By the way, if you think thin, faceless, old white dudes that wear business suits are scary then just go walk around Capital Hill. What? Sometimes real life is scarier than the fictional ones we create. Just saying.

patient zero30. Patient Zero

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 17%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 24%

IMDB Score: 4.3/10

Matt Smith. Natalie Dormer. Stanley Tucci. And that fat guy from the Night’s Watch. Oh, and zombies! How could this film be bad right? That was my thought process as I purchased the DVD. Then I watched it. First off, they’re not zombies. They’re infected with a mutated strain of rabies. Ugh. Then Matt Smith can understand and speak with these infected because he got bit and didn’t turn. Okay, that’s a bit interesting. Except that he speaks with an American accent. For those that don’t know, Matt Smith is famous for playing the Doctor in the British TV series Doctor Who. Dormer and the Night’s Watch dude didn’t bother to cover up their accent but through the entire movie I couldn’t get past how amazing Smith’s accent was. And that’s what pulled me out of the movie. Which wasn’t that hard considering the entire premise is rubbish. The last bastions of humanity are trying to find patient zero in an attempt to create a vaccine that would cure the infected. That’s right, you heard me right. They are trying to find 1 person in 7 BILLION. 

small foot29. Smallfoot

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 76%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 66%

IMDB Score: 6.7/10

Now before you all freak out. I understand that this is one of those, “what the heck is he thinking?” type of movies on my list. While this film was funny in parts, I just couldn’t get past the whole “religion is rubbish” message of the film. Being a Christian, this rubs me the wrong way and I just couldn’t look past it. Plus, have you ever really given any thought to why the Bigfoot don’t have a nose?

the possession of hannah grace28. The Possession of Hannah Grace

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 12%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 36%

IMDB Score: 5.1/10

This film had an interesting premise. Disgraced cop comes out of drug rehab and works as an overnight morgue attendant. Add a dead body that is possessed by a demon and you’ve got a potentially awesome psychological and religious film. Except, it was handled extremely poorly. The demon was too overpowered except when the main character was fighting it. There were so many points in it where the main character should have died. The demon is rejuvenating the host body by killing people in the morgue, but doesn’t kill the main character because… she’s the main character.

pacific rim uprising27. Pacific Rim: Uprising

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 44%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 41%

IMDB Score: 5.6/10

I’m getting to point where I don’t really hate the films, but I have to list them as the worst because they are on the bottom third of the list. Big Monsters fighting big robots. The Pacific Rim movies don’t slouch when it comes to that premise. The problem is that the films lack any character development. They don’t even mention the main character from the first one. They have returning characters but none of them talk about the main character from the first. I will applaud the really dark twist at the end that made the film interesting and more enjoyable than the first.

predator26. The Predator

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 33%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 40%

IMDB Score: 5.6/10

I know, I know. If you’re like me, you were waiting for Chris Hansen to rescue everyone and catch those predators. Sadly enough, that’s not what happened. Instead, we got comical mentally-ill war veterans fighting intergalactic hunters. There wasn’t even a reference to the Governator’s character. 2018 was a year of nostalgic reincarnation and this film was one such attempt. Except it failed miserably due to a horrible ending and a weak reason as to why the Predator’s have been hunting our species more frequently. I’ll give you a hint: Global Warming. Yup. 

red sparrow25. Red Sparrow

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 47%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 50%

IMDB Score: 6.6/10

I went to see this film for one reason: Jennifer Lawrence. Say what you want, JLaw is an amazing actress. But not in this film. Her acting is about as cold as the country the film takes place in, the Soviet Union. The plot follows JLaw’s character, a ballerina that can’t dance anymore due to a broken ankle, as she’s forced to serve as a spy. The rest of the plot is pretty predictable.

Tag24. Tag

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 56%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 56%

IMDB Score: 6.6/10

So Tag wasn’t horrible. But it wasn’t great either. The story is based from actual events about grown men playing a single game of tag for thirty years. It’s got a stellar cast and is actually really funny throughout the film. So why is this one so low on the theatrical totem pole? There are unnecessary nuggets of raunchy humor that just shouldn’t be in the film.

the first purge23. The First Purge

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 54%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 29%

IMDB Score: 5.1/10

There are several problems with this film. The first being that the main characters live even after finding out that the government sent mercenaries into the Purge to make it look like more people are being killed in order to have enough conclusive data to support an annual Purge. That’s right. Going into this movie, I fully expected one of those films where you’re rooting for the main characters and it looks like they might survive, but no they’re all killed at the end. Otherwise, the characters would just shed light on the fact that the government is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public. Except they don’t. They live and that’s where the film ends. Which means that they either don’t care about exposing the government, they were assassinated by the government anyway in order to hide the truth, or the American public didn’t care about a few more conspiracy theorists. How do we know this? Because this is a prequel film to a series about an annual Purge. Also, I dislike this movie because when I talk about the First Purge people aren’t sure if I’m talking about the prequel or the first film starring Ethan Hawke.

hereditary22. Hereditary

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 89%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 62%

IMDB Score: 7.3/10

The last film in my Worst category and you all might be thinking why. It was about a half hour too long. At 127 minutes, there were multiple times in the film where I pulled out my phone to check the time. The acting was great, the special effects were also great, and there were moments where the suspense built up really nicely. However, the filmmakers were trying to cram in a psychological thriller about death in the family with a typical demonic possession film. They took one and a half hours to build and cultivate the relationships of the family members, but the last half hour is where they just tear everything down with the hurried and forcibly awkward and confusing ending where the family is plagued by a cult and the demon they worship. At the end of the film you’re left yawning and scratching your head in confusion.

Well, that was quite the trek down the trash heap of my time in 2018. Do you guys agree with my list so far or do you think I’m wrong? Let me know in the comments! 

Join me next week when I count down the mediocre films of 2018!