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Keith W. Johnson RSS Feed (Summerville, SC United States)

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I, Jedi (Star Wars)
I, Jedi (Star Wars)
by Michael A. Stackpole
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.82
183 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I, Rogue Jedi with an Ego, August 12, 2012
`I, Jedi' tends to be recommended as one of the best Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. I disagree. While ambitious, I found the novel to be too flawed to be considered a masterpiece.

`I, Jedi' ambitiously attempts to bridge several of the early series of the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy (beginning with `Heir to the Empire'), Kevin Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy, and the author's own X-Wing series. I believe it is for this reason (as well as the novel's first person perspective which is a nice diversion in a Star Wars novel) that many Star Wars EU fans point to this novel as one of the best. Like the series themselves, Stackpole's adherence to previous Expanded Universe plot-lines and characters tends to make the novel parts brilliant, parts frustrating, but mostly entertaining.

The plot in a sentence: Corran Horn, famed X-Wing pilot, decides the best way to find his missing wife Mirax is to follow his Jedi heritage and learn the ways of the Force at Luke Skywalker's Jedi Academy.

The first half of the novel more or less retells the plot of Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy from the first-person perspective of a member of the Academy. This allows Stackpole to get into some philosophical discussions of the Force, tackle the plot-holes of the Academy trilogy from the inside, and give the reader some insight on what it is like to train as a Jedi. Based on some of what Horn says, clearly Stackpole had noticed the failings of Anderson's novels, and Stackpole has Corran Horn address them in `I, Jedi'. However, this makes Skywalker's Jedi Academy look like a good intentioned mistake and for me, weakened the Luke Skywalker character in future EU novels.

The second half of the novel contains the best scenes after which Horn leaves the Academy to finally attempt to find and save his wife. While Horn remains way too adept at pretty much everything, these scenes have a little more life to them, and Stackpole does what he does best: writes lots of cool space battles. Horn's villain is a sexy space pirate, and he does a good job of making her dangerous and seductive while not turning her into a caricature (*cough* Admiral Daala *cough*). Once unshackled from the confines of the Jedi Academy plot and the obligatory cameos from other Star Wars characters, Stackpole opens up the story and really has some fun.

The biggest frustration of the novel is the seeming infallibility and arrogance of Corran Horn. Horn out-duels Luke Skywalker (with a lightsaber, no less); lectures Skywalker about the failings of the Jedi Academy; becomes friends with original Star Wars and Expanded Universe characters such as Han Solo, Leia, and Mara Jade without really having to try; and is desired by nearly every female character in the book. I've found that the Expanded Universe authors sometimes try to give their own characters credibility by having them "one-up" characters from the original films. For me, this is an annoyance, only weakens the original characters, and is a lazy way of validating new EU characters.

Come at it also from an entertainment standpoint: Horn never seems to misstep which ruins the suspense for much of the novel. Things go his way much too easily. You're never worried he is going to sincerely slip up from beginning to end.

All in all, `I, Jedi' is good way to channel a fan's frustration at the lackluster Jedi Academy books with a character who thinks Luke's choices in those novels are as dumb as many readers do. Once Stackpole completes his alternative take on the Jedi Academy plot, and Corran Horn goes "Rogue Jedi", the novel `I, Jedi' makes itself worth reading... but not a masterpiece of science fiction.

Rogue (Unrated)
Rogue (Unrated)
DVD ~ Michael Vartan
Price: $5.99
46 used & new from $0.01

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Be Fooled By the Cover... this is a good movie!, August 9, 2008
This review is from: Rogue (Unrated) (DVD)
At first glance, the DVD cover of 'Rogue' brings to mind Saturday programming on the SciFi channel... giant CGI monsters wreaking havoc on bad actors shrieking lines like, "Look at the size of that thing!"

Don't be fooled. 'Rogue' is not that movie. It's a much, much better one. Director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) has created a movie with more similarities to 'Jaws' to any of those straight-to-cable movies on SciFi. The emphasis is on suspense rather than gore. McLean then focuses on characterization rather than tank tops barely restraining C-cups or muscle-bound special ops teams.

The plot in a sentence: While investigating a mysterious flare shot into the sky during an Outback river tour, a group of tourists are attacked by a giant crocodile and stranded in the middle of nowhere.

McLean entwines a credible Outback flavor to the setting. Refreshingly, the animal acts more like a true crocodile than the manic monsters of most creature-features. For the most part, the characters act like real people. None of them are ex-Marines and there are no automatic weapons or female scientists wearing short shorts and tanktops for no discernible reason. The actors are good, including Radha Mitchell from 'Pitch Black' and 'Silent Hill.'

If you're looking for a fairly intelligent, well-acted, and suspenseful film, pick this up. It is a fun way to kill two hours, and 'Rogue' is probably much better than you think it is. I can attest to the appeal of this movie due to the fact that my wife (who HATES SciFi and horror movies) actually liked this one. And that is saying something. Trust me.

Batman: Gotham Knight (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Batman: Gotham Knight (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Corey Burton
Price: $12.29
65 used & new from $1.47

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot of Bat-style, not much Bat-substance!, July 17, 2008
Similar to the treatment it gave the Matrix sequels (remember Animatrix?), Warner Bros. has released a new dvd of Batman-inspired, anime-styled shorts in anticipation of "The Dark Knight" with mixed results. Here's a quick rundown:

"Have I Got a Story For You"- a group of teenage kids share their stories of having "met" Batman. Basically, this is an excuse to see a few varying incarnations of the ol' caped crusader as a Most Batman fans have seen this kind of thing before. Not much to this short, actually. Rating: * out of ****

"Crossfire"- Two Gotham detectives find themselves in the middle of a gang shoot-out. Batman shows up and kicks a lot of butt. I particularly admired the animation in this violent short. This was also the short where I learned that Batman is apparently fireproof (??). Rating *** out of ****

"Field Test"- We get a glimpse of Lucius Fox in this short. Batman tries out a new gadget while busting up a bunch of gangsters at the Gotham City docks. After one of the criminals is mortally wounded, Batman races to save his life. Rating ** out of ****

"In Darkness Dwells"- Batman goes head-to-head with anime-version of Killer Croc then is infected with a dose of Scarecrow's scare toxin. The look of this short is very different to the two that preceded it, and it certainly focused on style over substance. I gave this one an extra star considering we're treated to a double-dose of villainy with both Croc and Scarecrow. Rating *** out of ****

"Working Through Pain"- An injured Batman flashbacks on being trained on how to deal with pain. The slower pace of this short makes it seem twice as long as most of the others, but some fans may appreciate the insight into Bruce Wayne/Batman's character. Rating ** out of ****

"Deadshot"- Batman must defeat an assassin with incredible aim. Personally, I thought this was the strongest entry on the dvd. Great animation, interesting premise, a good villain, and plenty of Batman kicking villainous booty. Rating **** out of ****

Don't look for continuity here; there's really none between the shorts. Each is a 12 minute mini-movie of its own right.

The voice work was fine, and fans of Batman: The Animated Series will certainly be happy with the inclusion of Kevin Conroy. Other than the first short, I thought the animation was quite good, but if you're not a fan of anime, this will not change your mind. I liked the design and style of some shorts more than others. The shorts are... well, too SHORT to really engage you in plot or characterization.

The double disc version is worth getting for the extra episodes of Batman: The Animated Series alone. Sadly, there is no commentary or introductions for these episodes.

Overall, Gotham Knight is a mixed bag. It certainly won't blow you away, but for serious Batman fans, it will serve as something new and different to add to your collection.

by Jack Ketchum
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
67 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick, dread-laden read, June 13, 2007
This review is from: Offspring (Mass Market Paperback)
I've read some reviews here that mention that Offspring contains the same basic plot as "Off Season", and well yeah, it sure does. But so does about a thousand other horror offerings from Richard Laymon's "Midnight's Lair" and Tobe Hooper's classic "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

What makes Ketchum's "Off Season" and "Offspring" different is Ketchum's strong prose and great characterizations. Ketchum can make characters come alive with a few simple sentences enough to make an impact when bad things happen to the good people in the novel. And when bad things happen to bad people, you're both satisfied that justice has been served but repulsed by the horrors that happen.

"Offspring" may not blow you away some of Ketchum's other work does (i.e. "Girl Next Door"), but it is an exercise in mounting dread and quickly turned pages. If you enjoyed "Off Season", there's more than enough here to keep you entertained.

King Kong - Extended Cut (Three-Disc Deluxe Edition)
King Kong - Extended Cut (Three-Disc Deluxe Edition)
DVD ~ Naomi Watts
Offered by Drennor
Price: $7.25
112 used & new from $0.01

175 of 193 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review for 3 Disc Extended Edition, November 14, 2006
The biggest problem most people had with King Kong was its length, so there's no surprise that reaction by the general public to the release of an extended edition of another 3 hour-plus Peter Jackson film was almost the equivalent of a collective groan.

The surprise is that everything added to the Extended Edition of King Kong should have never been cut. More dinosaurs and more creatures and more action on Skull Island only improves the film, and one wonders if these scenes were cut mostly for time and pacing, why wasn't a little bit of the 51 minutes of pre-Skull Island snipped or perhaps a few overly drawn scenes of Kong and Anna gazing into each other's eyes?

The more noticable scenes are that of a rampaging Ceratops and a fun scene of an underwater monster attacking Adrien Brody and Co. while they are rafting down a river. A bit more character development with some seedy behavior by Carl Denham (Jack Black) and heroic deeds by Jack Driscoll and the shipmates add a bit of flavor to the male characters literally overshadowed by Kong in the film. The spider pit sequence is also a bit lengthened with some more lines by Jack Black. Overall, a worthy 13 minutes of added material, but the film still feels too long in the last act.

The special features to this extended edition are the special features that were missing from the first release of the Kong movie, including a commentary from Peter Jackson and extensive behind the scenes features, describing the making of Kong from concept artwork to the screen a la the performance of Andy Serkis.

I enjoyed the extended cut, but I don't know that this lengthy movie is better served with added material. It's not like the LOTR films where the additions enhance your viewing and understanding of Tolkien's world. But hey, I am not going to complain about more dinosaurs and the raft sequence I was disappointed was missing from the original cut.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 2, 2014 11:02 AM PDT

Night Wars
Night Wars
by Graham Masterton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
66 used & new from $0.01

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An imaginative diversion., September 23, 2006
This review is from: Night Wars (Mass Market Paperback)
Graham Masterton's "Night Wars" reads a bit like a combination of the cult 80's thriller "Dreamscape" and "Nightmare on Elm Street 3: the Dream Warriors" to mixed results. To those unfamiliar with Masteron's Night Warrior novels, this is a "fantasy-horror" novel rather than straight "horror." I think if someone would have pointed this out to me beforehand, I might have enjoyed "Night Wars" more.

The basic premise of the novel is this: unborn babies dream the secrets of the universe. When they are born, they forget everything they learned in their dreams. Two demons begin invading the dreams of unborn babies in hopes of discovering the secrets of the universe and then tearing it apart. The only people capable of stopping this from happening (and therefor, saving the world as we know and love it) are a group of individuals known as the "Night Warriors."

The premise was definitely interesting, if a bit farfetched, and Masterton injects several thrilling scenes and interesting ideas into his novel. His descriptions of the two demons (the Winterwent and High Horse) are probably the best parts of the book. On the flip side of the coin, the Night Warriors came off a little too "Dungeons and Dragons" for my taste in a novel, carrying names like The Zaggaline and Xanthys.

A few problems keep me from giving "Night Wars" a straight recommendation. Some of the characters don't seem terribly fleshed out, and the ones that have the least characterization... well, you have no difficulty in figuring out these are the ones who are most likely to die. The skills he gives his Night Warriors seem to make any challenge easily solved, and yet the characters in the novel take the long way in coming to a decision about any obstacle. For example, one character has the ability to create any kind of being that he can conceive. That power in itself should be able to easily overcome any problem set before the group of Night Warriors. Another Night Warrior has a seemingly endless supply of weaponry while another can turn back time. Masteron has a hard time finding challenges for his Night Warriors that come off like true challenges. More often than not, you're reading the book, thinking "Why don't they just ____!" until the characters finally come to the same conclusion. Then the ending felt anti-climatic.

Even with all these problems, "Night Wars" was a passable way to spend my free-time. I had problems with it, but the concept of the Night Warriors and especially of the two demons they have to face made it worth reading, if not wholly satisfying.

Offered by Phase 3, LLC
Price: $5.00
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars May not be what you expect... but it just might be better., August 22, 2006
This review is from: Idlewild (Audio CD)
Followers of Outkast know that Big Boi and Andre 3000 always push the envelope of what people expect of them, and Idlewild is no different. It's a dizzying, hypnotic and wild ride, taking listeners far outside the boundaries of what might be called traditional hip-hop. If anything, this is what makes Outkast so great. They can hardly be called a traditional hip-hop group as they consisently take their music to places no one in the industry has gone before.

If you're looking for more of the same, you may not like Idlewild. Most of the Outkast faithful already know better than to look for more of the same from one of the most eclectic, surprising music groups in the last twenty years.

Some tracks have the distinct "Outkast" flavor that makes them so popular: take 'Mighty O' or 'Morris Brown' but on the other hand, take a single like 'Idlewild Blue' which features both guitar and a little harmonica or the deep, soulful piano on 'A Bad Note'... how many hip hop songs do you know feature any of those instruments? Not many.

Rather than sell out and give us remixes of the same single or melody or rhyme or style over and over, Outkast makes enjoyable, original MUSIC. If only more hip-hop and rock and pop artists would do the same.

The Overnight
The Overnight
by Ramsey Campbell
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
49 used & new from $0.01

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Horrors of Retail, May 9, 2006
The Overnight is not a slice-and-dice, blood-and-guts horror novel, and if that's what you're looking for, then this is not the read for you. Obviously, some previous reviewers were expecting precisely that, and they were disappointed.

Instead, The Overnight is a literate, creepy, psychological and intelligent horror tale. The characters are realistic, right down to the overbearing, insulting, and self-righteous store manager, who demonstrates all the worst stereotypes the British have of Americans. If you've ever worked retail, you've probably had a boss like Woody, which only makes the book that much more disturbing... so much of what goes on (besides the overtly supernatural) are the kinds of things that the reader can actually imagine happening in real life.

Consider the character who has overcome dyslexia only to struggle everytime an old aquaintance from school drops by to harass him. These passages had me squirming, the frustrations of Wilf (the dsylexic) described only too believably. Turning these everyday fears into something supernatural plays to Campbell's literary strengths.

The creep factor is all there too; the pages seem to drip with mud and fog at parts. The characters are literally and figuratively stuck at their dead-end job, until it consumes them, one-by-one: a circumstance that (again) anyone who has worked retail can relate.

The Overnight is definitely worth your read, especially if you need a refresher from all the blood, guts, and mindlessness flooding the horror market these days.

Salem's Lot, Illustrated Edition
Salem's Lot, Illustrated Edition
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
40 used & new from $14.86

79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illustrated Edition Literary Equivalent of SE DVD, November 7, 2005
The Illustrated Edition of 'Salem's Lot is set up much like a 'Special Edition' DVD. The book boasts over 50 pages of 'deleted or alternative' scenes, a new introduction, and two previously published short stories ("One for the Road" and "Jerusalem's Lot"). The short stories don't have much to do with the characters or plot of the novel but certainly flesh out the 'special features' that the Illustrated Edition has to offer. If you've never read 'Night Shift' (or maybe even if you have, and it's been awhile), then they'll serve as an added treat.

If one is a fan of Stephen King, this is a must own. A somewhat already infamous passage (mentioned by King before) where one character is offed by a gang of rats in a basement is restored in all its deliciously gory glory. While we're on the topic, the bonus passages are NOT inserted into the text of the novel but offered in a later section. This is not a 'director's cut' of the book but set up like a DVD where one can flip to and peruse the deleted sections if one chooses to do so. It's the same novel as before, so if you're looking for something completely new a la Revised version of 'The Stand', this may not be what you're looking for. However, if you are interested into further delving into the world of 'Salem's Lot or interested in what King and/or his editors decided to take out from the original text, then you'll be in Stephen King heaven.

The photographs are stark, chilling, and beautiful... though sparse throughout the book. Basically, they seperate the sections and serve as covers.

As for the novel itself, it is both a compelling and entertaining read. As mentioned in the Amazon review, all the King staples are here (i.e. small town, secrets, and darkness pervading the ordinariness of life). I read this when I was probably way too young to have read it, and it scared me for weeks and turned me into a King junkie for life. If you're a King fan, horror fan, or just looking for a great read, you cannot go wrong with 'Salem's Lot.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 11, 2011 9:10 AM PDT

High Druid of Shannara, Book 2: Tanequil
High Druid of Shannara, Book 2: Tanequil
by Terry Brooks
Edition: Hardcover
231 used & new from $0.01

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Suffers from "Middle Book" Syndrome, October 5, 2004
Terry Brook's latest series started off with a bang in Jarka Ruus, the first of his High Druid of Shannara triology. The action was plentiful and fast-paced, and the idea of sending a character into the Forbidden, the world of banished demons, was ripe with possibilities.

Unfortunately, Tanequil reads as though Brooks wasn't sure exactly where to go in his second book. It felt as though less time was spent with the characters from the first book than with characters and subplots introduced into the second. Grianne's adventures in the Forbidding seem hardly a part of the action as well as Penn's attempt to secure a "darkwand" to free his aunt from the demon world. How are we supposed to become attached to these characters if even Brooks seems disinterested in them?

Brooks places so many plot threads into his novel that none of them are satisfactorily developed before the book closes, including the anti-climatic death of one the villians I expected to give chase on the trail of the heroes until the very end of the third novel. It was as if Brooks had run out of things for this character to do and simply killed it off. Why was this character in the trilogy in the first place if it had nothing to do that couldn't have been done by another of the primary villians?

At times, I had to wonder if he merely felt the need to pad the novel with exta subplots if only to make it long enough to publish before getting on to the conclusion of the trilogy. This was the first time I came away from a Brooks novel disappointed. One can only hope the third book of the trilogy will make up for the second.

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