Everyone’s a critic. Including me! I've been writing reviews for books, games, and movies off and on for a long time now. Lately I've found that I actually kind of enjoy writing reviews and will be doing more of them in the future. So, to give the blog a bit more activity I thought I would begin cross-posting or sharing links to my reviews here every now and then. This first post will be a review roundup of the first two months of the year (with some spillover from 2014 just to add more content). . . and because I don’t review everything but I still want to pass on a good word about stuff that deserves some attention, I’ll be sharing some general recommendations, too.
If you're interested in purchasing any of the books or films featured here, I'd appreciate you clicking the corresponding artwork which has an Amazon affiliate link to the product. Thanks!
Books & Comics
Wool by Hugh Howey – I’d been hearing about this book for a long time and maybe some of the hype delayed my eagerness to check it out for whatever reason. Well, it lives up to the hype, my friends. A great piece of post-apocalyptic sci-fi. It's very, very cool. Check out my (short) review at Goodreads.
Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig – Gritty, tough YA crime thriller. It’s not often a pleasant experience, but it’s well-written and full of interesting characters. The lead character Atlanta Burns is one of my new favorite heroines. My review.
Drood by Dan Simmons – Listened to this as an audiobook. It’s a strange, dark tale of obsession and madness with Charles Dickens as one of the lead characters. Think Amadeus meets Nosferatu and you're pretty close to what to expect from this one. I was also highly impressed by the audiobook’s narrator Simon Prebble – great performance. My review at Goodreads.
Uzumaki Vol. 1 by Junji Ito – This one’s a manga, a Japanese comic book. It’s so strange. It's about a town cursed by spirals -- spirals are everywhere, don't you know?! The twisting shapes cause insanity and all sorts of bizarre body transformations. I don’t believe the book is always successful at what it tries to do, but the imagery and ideas present here are truly unforgettable. I hope to read Vol. 2 soon. My review.
Godzilla: Cataclysm by Cullen Bunn & Dave Wachter – So, if you know me at all, you might know I’m a Godzilla fan. And as a fan, I’m always happy to check out new stories with my favorite characters/monsters. Godzilla: Cataclysm actually got me a bit worried when it was announced last year... for purely selfish reasons, you understand. Cataclysm is a post-apocalyptic Godzilla comic that was set to release at around the same time I was hoping to launch my post-apocalyptic kaiju novel. Well, my novel’s still not available (soon!), and the Godzilla: Cataclysm comic has released its final issues. I'm slow. But you know, I gotta say I really liked this graphic novel. It’s dark and menacing and it brings new ideas to the Godzilla series (plus it gives Biollante her best role since the creature's original film). I’m also relieved to note that it’s not too terribly similar to my novel – the basic concept is the same (monsters had a hand in destroying the world), but the ideas and themes are different. I suspect that this rambling means nothing to anyone but me, but hey, thought I’d share. Anyway, the graphic novel is really good and one of the better Godzilla comics released by IDW. The collection will be available as a trade paperback in late March. Here’s my review at Goodreads.
Godzilla: Legends by various writers and artists – More Godzilla! This is an anthology of single issue Godzilla comics, each focusing on a different kaiju from the Toho roster. And like most anthologies, Legends is very hit and miss. Some really good stories, and some not so hot. My review.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell – This is so not my type of book – a romantic comedy of sorts with a magic telephone at the center of it all – but I decided to check it out based on the love it was getting over at Goodreads. And what do you know? I liked it. I really liked it. Fantastic dialogue, fully realized characters, and an interesting little story. I still prefer books from other genres, but a change of pace never hurt anybody. Here’s my review.
Revival by Stephen King – I feel like Revival is a victim of misrepresentation. The novel has its moments of horror – and it has King’s name on the cover – but this isn’t a horror novel. Not really. It’s a dark character drama with themes of obsession and the dangers of a curious mind. It’s not one of my favorite Stephen King novels, but I enjoyed the read. My review at Goodreads.
Recently I began writing reviews for the website cityonfire.com. City on Fire specializes in Asian action films, something I've always been interested in since being a big fan of Jackie Chan as a kid and growing up into a fan of films by masters like Akira Kurosawa, Shinya Tsukamoto, and John Woo. I’m enjoying the chance to share some thoughts on films I like – both old and new – and helping film fans discover movies and filmmakers that might otherwise go overlooked by Western audiences.
Again, if you're interested in buying any of these films, just click the posters/cover art for links to Amazon.
A Colt is My Passport, a film by Takashi Nomura – An underrated gem of the Japanese crime genre. The plot is fairly basic -- hitman on the run from rivals is sold out by his own boss -- but everything works marvelously. The energetic finale is one of the coolest shootouts ever filmed. Read my full review at City on Fire.
Snowpiercer, a film by Joon-ho Bong – I wrote this review a while ago, but it’s an awesome movie deserving of your attention. . . and I’m rather proud of my review for whatever reason. After a new ice age destroys the world, the last living humans survive on a train that rides across the frozen old world. It's an interesting look at class warfare, filled with offbeat moments and some wonderfully weird characters. Tilda Swinton is amazing in this movie. Check out Snowpiercer and check out my review.
Tokyo Drifter, a film by Seijun Suzuki – Seijun Suzuki is a one of a kind director. He took this cookie cutter script about an ex-yakuza on the run and turned it into one of the most colorful and original films of the genre. It’s a total blast. Check out my review.
Brotherhood of Blades, a film by Yang Lu – Here’s a surprising Chinese martial arts noir. The plot could easily be transplanted into a New York-based film noir about corrupt cops, hitmen, and doomed romances. But with Brotherhood of Blades you also get kung fu. I’m not often impressed by many recent Chinese films, but this one’s an exception. Here’s my review.
The Pirates, a film by Seok-hoon Lee – Somebody in South Korea watched all those Pirates of the Caribbean movies and thought they’d try their hand at it. The result is largely successful: both funny and adventurous. It’s not a movie for deep thinkers – and the CGI whale at the center of the story gets more banged up than some viewers would like – but for the most part it can be a lot of fun. Fans of Pirates of the Caribbean should consider giving it a look. My review.
Bushido Man, a film by Takanori Tsujimoto -- A silly martial arts film where the hero is taught that in order to defeat his enemy, he must first eat like his enemy. It gets pretty wild at the end. Weird but enjoyable little movie. My review.
Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge, a film by Wych Kaos – One of the worst videogame adaptations ever? Yeah, pretty much. You can read why here.
Recommendations & Stuff
Have you seen Boyhood? No? Then you’re doing it WRONG. Watch Boyhood.
What about Whiplash? You didn’t see that either? The hell? You should. Great movie.
Selma is brilliant. So unfairly overlooked at the Oscars this year. It’s an important and beautifully made film. I was going in expecting a by-the-book kind of retelling of the events, but it’s a much more somber piece than that, and director Ava DuVernay films it in an interesting way. I love this movie.
Let’s see. . .
Oh! Two very different films about the creative process that all creative types should consider giving a look: The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness and 20,000 Days on Earth. Kingdom is about Hayao Miyazaki and the making of his final film The Wind Rises. It’s perhaps the warmest, most honest behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking I’ve ever seen. Fans of Studio Ghibli should definitely check this out, but I think it should appeal to film buffs and artists of all sorts. 20,000 Days on Earth is a stylized documentary about musician Nick Cave’s creative process. I think it’s brilliant and really quite inspiring.
I think that’s it for today. Depending on how this goes and whether I like it, I may begin doing this more regularly. . . or never again! We’ll see. Even if reviews don’t become a featured thing on this blog, I will continue writing them regardless. So, send me a friend request on Goodreads to keep up with my book reviews, and if you're into international action cinema then keep checking City on Fire for more reviews by me and other writers.
Until next time!
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
Blog notice: mostly this blog is for sharing my thoughts and talking about my books. From time to time I will also comment on books, films, music, sports, and/or videogames. During these times I may use images of the creative works under discussion. I'm posting the images under the "fair use" allowance, for purposes such as criticism, comments, reporting, teaching, and research. If you have any issue with images used on this blog, please contact me and the images will be removed.
I am not paid for my reviews and I do not take book review requests at this time.