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The Trench
The Trench
by Steve Alten
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.41
77 used & new from $1.96

3.0 out of 5 stars A perfect read for the beach, October 5, 2015
This review is from: The Trench (Mass Market Paperback)
I was quite impressed with Meg when I read it several years ago. I enjoy reading shark fiction on the beach before going into the water as it makes me feel extra hardcore. It had been a while since I had a beach holiday and thus my reading of this, the first sequel, had been delayed. Shark fiction is never going to be high quality literature, but the Trench is very enjoyable and fast-moving.

Set 4 years after the first this novel is now "only" 14-years-old but feels way more dated due to references to film cameras, VCRs (already 4 years obsolete at this point) and a pre-9/11 Osama Bin Laden as an obscure terrorist rather than the worldwide "celebrity" he became. It's weird to think of a novel from the 21st century already being so dated.

Jonas Taylor has become a worldwide celebrity since cutting out the heart of the giant shark first time around and has been integral in opening up a Sea World-type aquarium featuring "Angel" one of the captured off-spring. The plot splits in two fairly early on as Jonas' wife goes into the Mariana Trench with a diabolical villain to mine for precious ore, while the man himself stays behind when Angel escapes and goes on a killing rampage.

The plot within the Mariana Trench itself seems like it's from a different novel and is quite unnecessary. Like I said, it's very fast-moving, but it feels like a heavy deviation and it is extremely convoluted. Meanwhile the plot of Angel gobbling up everything she encounters on the west coast is darkly comic and very macabre. The two stories eventually converge but the incongruous nature of them leads to a fairly unsatisfying climax. Still, I won't let this put me off and I look forward to reading the 3rd in the series.


Space Dumplins
Space Dumplins
by Craig Thompson
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from $14.34

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just buy this book, don't even read this review, September 3, 2015
This review is from: Space Dumplins (Hardcover)
I rarely buy books off the shelf these days. Before discovering Space Dumplins at the Edinburgh Book Festival the majority of books I have bought straight out of stores have been second-hand out-of-print titles. But upon seeing the title and cover I was curious, upon seeing the wonderful artwork on the inside I knew that this was something I simply had to own.

Set in an eccentric and infinitely imaginative universe filled with Space Whales, evolved Superchickens, Lumpkins, and a whole range of cute and funny aliens young Violet Marlocke lives in a cosmic trailer park with her working class parents. Her life is caught in a whirlwind when her dad goes missing on a top secret mission. She loses her friends, makes newer and better ones, and hurtles off across the stars on a crazy adventure that never stops giving. The level on inventiveness in Space Dumplins will blow your mind. The characterization and plot will keep your hooked from page one all the way to the end, but it's the gorgeous art that will bring you back for more. Every panel of this graphic novel is a work of genius with so many puns, Easter eggs, and in-jokes to demand your attention. Craig Thompson is an immense talent, and now that I have discovered him I want to read more of his work.

Do not disregard this as "just for kids". It's an allegorical tale of population expansion, pollution, and living in harmony with other species while maintaining an astronomical equilibrium with the heavens. I cannot recommend this book enough. I hope there is going to be a sequel, a movie, a TV show, a video game. I absolutely love this.


The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy)
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy)
by Denise Mina
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.97
77 used & new from $14.81

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Girl Who Sat in a Room Pretty Much the Whole Time, August 28, 2015
Since this awful novel (nawful?) was published after Stieg Larsson's death I can only assume that it was a work in progress as I have long maintained the opinion that it's a rambling, incoherent mess with far too many tangents and completely unable to focus on a single intelligible plot.

The main problem with TGWKTHN is that it's simply not a theatrical story. Neither the book, the TV movie, nor indeed the graphic novel have been able to tackle this lumbering bore and bring it to life. The whole thing is people sitting in offices and reading documents, then they go meet with someone else in an other office and talk about more documents. Nothing visual happens in this at all. On top of this the artwork is frequently extremely confusing. Virtually ALL of the male characters have chin beards and identifiable characters (in the rare instances where you can actually tell who you are looking at) seem to transform between panels.

The original story is the only one worth investing your time in. It is self-contained and easy to follow. Everything that follows after it is a jumble of confusion and boredom. It's probably why the David Fincher movie will remain as a stand-alone.


Vacation (2015) (BD) [Blu-ray]
Vacation (2015) (BD) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Ed Helms
Price: $11.99
45 used & new from $5.24

62 of 77 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the hate, it's hilarious, August 28, 2015
When John Hughes wrote Vacation (based on his own experiences as a child, as was Christmas Vacation) he created an iconic character in Clark Griswold and a signature role for Chevy Chase. Clark was the everyman middle-class father who just wants to have fun time with his family. His naÔve optimism never wavered in the face of adversity. The series however did, after a strong first out things took a dip with the less-inspired European Vacation, then soared again with Christmas Vacation, then nose-dived with the diluted Vegas Vacation. The less said about Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure the better. Also, the "National Lampoon" branding is gone since the name is pretty much mud by this point.

Now, 18 years after their last big screen outing, the Griswolds are back. Sort of. Rusty is all grown up with a family of his own. His bored wife and warring sons are sick of the same old family getaways so he plans to recreate his famous trip to Walleyworld. Sadly for Rusty, he has inherited the Griswold disaster gene. As a child he was the perfect foil for his dad, the straight-man, the REAL adult in the household, but now he is a walking calamity zone.

Their pilgrimage to visit Marty Moose is a non-stop laugh riot. I was surprised at how savage the critics and audiences reacted to the new Vacation. I went in fully expecting to hate it to the core. But I've never laughed so hard at a movie in a long time. Chevy might be reduced to a bit-part but Ed Helms really does soar as Rusty and Christina Applegate is way funnier here than she was in those overrated Anchorman movies and Chris Hemsworth also proves he's apt at comedy as Audrey's overbearing husband. Many have critisized the low-brow humor and in a way they are correct as the clever darkness of Hughes/Ramis is missing, however the jokes as so numerous you'll still be grinning for ear-to-ear for the entire running time. It's one of those movies that will keep you laughing long afterwards. I have to admit that the marketing of this film was pretty pathetic though. What happened to the Boris Vallejo art of the original and the first sequel? Even Christmas Vacation has recognizable poster art (again copied by Vegas). The poster art for this movie is so generic and unimaginative. They really dropped the ball there and completely failed to separate the film from any other generic comedy in that regard.

Give the movie a chance. In a summer featuring dismal failures like Fantastic Four and Pixels there's no real justifiable reason why Vacation is being rated so low. It's funny, it's a good time. I place it in the middle of the five films in the series, ranking it above Europe and Vegas, and it really does get the series back on course.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 1, 2015 12:23 PM PST


LEGO Movie 70801 Melting Room
LEGO Movie 70801 Melting Room
Offered by The Game Capital
Price: $19.84
160 used & new from $11.79

2.0 out of 5 stars A messy, chaotic set. I don't like it, July 3, 2015
As with the Getaway Glider this melting room set (which I don't even remember from the movie) is very ugly to look at and feels flimsy. There's no order or solid architecture to it. This one is basically just good for spare parts once you pick the minifigures out of the box. There are some awesome sets inspired by the movie, but this is most certainly the poorest of them all.


Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011 - Playstation 3
Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011 - Playstation 3
Offered by ElectronicsDirectPlus
Price: $10.79
143 used & new from $0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Death on Earth: Desolation Planet, July 3, 2015
I am not sure that there is a more morally dubious game than this. To think that people complain about Grand Theft Auto. Dangerous Hunts 2011 (yes, I know I am 4 years late to the party) as you take on the role of a hunter and it is your job to bring mass extinction to the world. You must kill, kill, kill every last creature that you encounter. Turn the Earth into a bloodbath. Make a massacre happen. If there is life, make it death. Just kill, kill them all, kill everything. Isn't it fun? Now go get a gun and start killing things in real life. The story to the game is absolute porridge so there's no point in recanting. It also gets very boring towards the end and I wished I was playing something more fun and wholesome.

The controls are awful. You need both the PlayStation Move controller and the Navigation Controller to operate this game, and it ain't easy. It's clumsy and difficult, it can be painful on your joints when the fatigue sets in.

I felt unclean playing this game. I don't understand how hunting is a noble sport in the fictional or in the real world. I'll never touch anything like this again.


Robocop (The Criterion Collection)
Robocop (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Peter Weller
12 used & new from $1.82

4.0 out of 5 stars Stay Out of Trouble!, June 25, 2015
RoboCop could have been the start of a great franchise. Instead the brand name piffled-out after the sequel and has since languished in the hell of TV shows, animated TV shows and mini-series crap. Paul Verhoeven's multi-layered original provided a platform for so much potential and possibility, it's a shame we only got 2 good movies out of it.

Alex Murphy is a deeply unlucky cop who has transferred into Detroit's (actually Dallas) worst precinct. On his first day on the job he is gunned down by the stupendously evil Clarence Boddicker (a brilliant turn by Kurtwood Smith) and his gang of nasty thugs. Resurrected as some kind of Frankenstein/Christ figure, Murphy returns as RoboCop-The Future of Law Enforcement.

In the world of RoboCop big business rules and public servants can be bought as stock (doesn't sound so unrealistic does it?). A super-conglomerate called Omni Consumer Products has entered into an agreement to fund and run the Detroit Police Force. Wishing to create a cop who doesn't need to eat or sleep they have a choice of pursuing the RoboCop idea or going with Vice President, Dick Jones' idea of ED-209, a mech-like twin cannon on legs. The CEO goes with RoboCop, leaving Jones with a personal vendetta against poor Robo.

It may have been satire back in 1987 but today we are all to used to doomsday news being delivered by smile by our news anchors only to cut to an ad feature some violent video game or movie. The violence, social commentary and horror of RoboCop can sometimes pale in comparison to real life.

When you're 7 years old, RoboCop is probably just the most amazing thing ever. I swear, I must have seen this film about 100 times when I was a kid. I was word-perfect on it. Even erm...note-perfect on Basil Poledouris' awesome, awesome score.I guess it's kind of unfair on kids these days that they are raised on braindead PG-13 crap while I got one bloody action movie after another back in the 80s.

RoboCop is no doubt a classic. It's a shame it had such an indignant death.


007 Legends - Playstation 3
007 Legends - Playstation 3
Offered by Green Lamb Trading LLC
Price: $15.11
157 used & new from $4.93

1.0 out of 5 stars The name is Bond, Ja...oh who even cares???, June 25, 2015
I think nailing my hands to my knees would be more enjoyable than this cheap, cash-grab shovelware. The Bond franchise has polarizing results when it comes to video games, but even dull fare such as James Bond 007: The Duel seems quaintly favorable compared to what I had to endure during my brief flirtation with 007 Legends. Much like GoldenEye Rogue Agent (still a better game than this) plot elements are taken from several Bond movies combined into one. Here we treated to Goldfinger, OHMSS, Moonraker, Licence to Kill, Die Another Day, and Skyfall. I couldn't even make it past OHMSS, no matter how much I like the movie or want to be a part of it in a video game world.

Presented as a first person shooter the game unashamedly rip-offs more successful games in the genre, most notably Deus Ex: Human Revolution and will make you long to be playing them instead. The whole shebang is lazy, uninspiring, generic-as-hell, conveyer belt stuff. And what is up with those load times? I've had Commodore 64 tapes load faster than this. It's utterly disgraceful that a game can take that long to load in this era. I don't even understand why this is so since the sound and graphics are very far from the state-of-art. I'm not kidding, this thing looks like it came from 2002, not 2012.

I bought this game because I wanted to play Licence to Kill as a video game, but it's so poor I couldn't make it that far. Besides, LTK is Dalton, not Craig. It would be like casting Val Kilmer in The Dark Knight. Craig himself sounds completely bored and is apparently phoning it in during toilet breaks. The only thing we're missing is the sound of a big brown splash as he catatonically huffs through his dialogue.

This is a new low for the franchise when it comes to video games. Check out Everything or Nothing, Nightfire, or even Agent Under Fire instead. They are all over a decade old by this point but they're still better games than this one.

007: Legends is low-rent throwaway trash that is not worth your time and money.


How to See Faeries
How to See Faeries
by Brian Froud
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.95
112 used & new from $6.53

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Faery Nice To Meet You, June 16, 2015
This review is from: How to See Faeries (Hardcover)
I do enjoy these gimmicky books like the "Ology" series were you have pop-ups, flaps, lenticulars, and other such tricks. Brian Froud has produced so many Faerie books over the years that a book in this style from his particular imagination is bound to pay off. It opens with a fictional (I am sure) account from John Matthews and Froud of their experiences with Faeries in real life. I want to believe it's true. The rest of the book is sort of a long poem with lovely, enchanting images and small details to linger on. I have no idea what that contraption contained on the last page was for however.

Froud wins again with this venture. A fine addition to your folklore collection.


The Emperor's New Groove: The Ultimate Groove (Two-Disc Collectors Edition)
The Emperor's New Groove: The Ultimate Groove (Two-Disc Collectors Edition)
DVD ~ David Spade
Offered by Achilles' Reel
Price: $32.90
23 used & new from $4.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Kingdom of the Fun, June 16, 2015
Apparently there was this thing that happened in 1994 called "The Disney Renaissance". The Lion King brought back "Classic Disney" or some such nonsense. The implication is that mega-hits like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin were not good enough. Nope, it was the Lion King which restored dignity to the studio. Dignity which they then squandered on garbage like Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules. On top of this Dreamworks Animation was gearing up to be a serious competitor while Pixar was hogging all of the glory.

Such was the success of the Lion King that director Roger Allers was given permission to indulge himself in a vanity piece called Kingdom of the Sun. It was to be an epic, mystical spin on the Prince and the Pauper set in Peru during the time of the Incas as well as a romantic comedy musical with serious weight to the mythology.

Honestly, this sounds like the kind of movie that I would have hated. The Disney suits felt the same way, though were even less kind when it came to communicating that opinion to the creative team. The development and production of Kingdom of the Sun dragged on for years with innumerable clashes, arguments, and differences between Allers and Disney. None of the moneymen liked where the film was going. A half-finished version was screened and rejected. Production was shut down. Allers was off the project and Mark Dindal was brought in to replace him. In the process Dinal completely overhauled the movie and changed it into something quite different. And thus Kingdom of the Sun gave birth to The Emperor's New Groove. A serious, mystical epic became an archaic slapstick comedy more in the vein of Looney Tunes than Lion King. And it's all the better for it.

Throughout this shambolic development only three people remained constant: David Spade as the spoiled emperor Kuzco, Eartha Kitt as the conniving Yzma, and Sting, who would provide the soundtrack. The latter ended up only doing a single song "My Funny Friend and Me", but it did get an Academy Award nomination (which it lost to Bob Dylan). Sting's wife Trudi Styler was even commissioned to make a documentary on the production of Kingdom of the Sun and covered every torturous twist during those terrible times. What was supposed to be just an ordinary "making-of" became a rather notorious stand-alone documentary called "The Sweatbox" which was such a damning and difficult portrait of the House of Mouse that they have never allowed it to be officially released (and barely acknowledge its existence).

Make no mistake, The Emperor's New Groove did not have an easy journey from concept to screen. Far, far from it.

When the trailer screened in early 2001 in the UK I was immediately dismissive. I had become tired and jaded of the setting and tone. With The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado in the recent past I was not in the mood for more of the same. I was loudly vocal about how awful the trailer looked. But then something very odd happened...Kuzco turned into a Llama and it became surreal and hyper. I remember squinting and saying "Uh...what IS this?" I'd much rather take a chance on an odd curiosity than a self-proclaimed epic.

The final story sees Emperor Kuzco betrayed by his assistant Yzma who plots to kill him in revenge for being fired. Her lunkhead servant Kronk (perfectly voiced by Patrick Warburton) mixes up the poison potion and instead transforms Kuzco into a Llama. Discarded into the nearby jungle Kuzco teams up with good-natured peasant Pacha, whom he earlier condemned to homelessness. They make a deal - help Kuzco turn back to human and Pacha can keep his community. Together they fight their way through the wilderness back to the palace with Yzma and Kronk close behind, determined to finish the job.

TENG moves so fast it will make your head spin. This movie barely takes a breath, so much so that I don't think that the opening and closing titles even lasted a single second. It's just one wonderfully overblown set-piece followed by another. You'll be grinning so hard your face will be in agony. I can't call it anything other than my absolute favorite Disney animation (Big Hero 6 coming in at a close second) but I'm sort of annoyed that it gets such a bad reputation and that its often forgotten.

Released in the US in late 2000 the movie received little fanfare and had a horrible dated marketing campaign that was stuck in the mid- 90s. While most Disney movies are shoved in our face and pretty much demand that we go see them this one seems to end up merely being discovered by growing cult of fans. I guess that makes a unique and controversial movie all the more special.

The DVD sports a flawed 1.66:1 transfer with DTS 5.1 sound. Extras are pretty thing and weak. It would be amazing if Disney included The Sweatbox as an extra feature as the documentary is as symbiotic to TENG as Hearts of Darkness is to Apocalypse Now, but they have an image to uphold, so that's not likely to happen.


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