Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: The Gunsmith: Andersonville Vengeance

Andersonville Vengeance (The Gunsmith Giant, #15)Andersonville Vengeance by J.R. Roberts
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is the second Gunsmith book I've read, and man, is it a stinker. While the first one I read was decent, now that I've read a second book in the series, I think it will be my last. The book is a "Gunsmith Giant Novel," but all that really means is that even more time is wasted with dead ends and little payoff. Plus, the writing is poor, the sex scenes are terrible, and for a western, there really isn't that much action at all. I hate the characters and I hate the series. Don't even bother reading them.

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Review: Blood Meridian

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the WestBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blood Meridian is probably the most horrific and terrifying novel I've ever read, and made even more so by the fact that most of it really happened. The story, which has the subheader: "The Evening Redness in the West," should really be called, "White People Acting Terribly to Others," because that's what it basically is. The plot concerns a group of horrible individuals scalping Native Americans for profit, which really happened. The cast of characters are mixed with real, historical figures, like Judge Holden, and characters who may or may not be fictional, like the protagonist of the story (If you really want to call him that) "The Kid."

One of the things that makes this book such a masterpiece is the way it's written. I have never read a book with so many stylistic risks that actually worked. There are a multitude of characters who all have speaking parts, and there are no quotation marks or punctuation besides periods and scant commas whatsoever. Even so, you fall into a sort of hypnotic spell seeing the sprawling page so barren of any clues as to what's going on. It's almost like you're being read a bedtime story and piecing it altogether in your head. It's magnificent.

The other thing that makes this sickening book a masterpiece is the overall scale of it. I've heard many compare this book to Moby Dick, and for good reason. The madness, the journey, and the sheer breadth are all there. But that's where the similarities to the two books end, as Blood Meridian is a sickening novel. Bloodshed and violence are sprayed over almost every page, and it's the most horrific story you will ever read. At times, it made me sick. None of the characters are likeable, and all of them do terrible things to others and also one another. It's an elusive story where you're not supposed to be happy or care for the characters. You're just meant to sit and read and watch, and I've read very few books that can be of that nature and still entirely captivating at the same time. Fear the Judge.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: The Gunsmith (The Last Trail Ride)

The Last Trail Drive (The Gunsmith, #342)The Last Trail Drive by J.R. Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was good enough. Having never read a Western, besides Shane, of course, I didn't know what to expect with this book. What I got was some cheesy romance, a bland protagonist, and a lot of the tropes that come with westerns. Still, it was a fast read, and it seemed to be from the three pages a chapter, James Patterson school of reading, so it had that going for it. I might read a few more in the series (This was book 342!) when I have the time. It wasn't bad.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: We Are What We Pretend To Be

We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last WorksWe Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Being a Kurt Vonnegut fanatic who has read every work of fiction by the author (Or so I think), I was super psyched to get my hands on my favorite author's first and last works, both unpublished. Well, after reading the two stories, the best word I have for the book is "uneven," which is to be expected since neither story was ever published. I can say this--his first work, which preceded Player Piano, "Basic Training" is much better than his last work, "If God Were Alive Today," which was part of an unfinished novel. "Basic Training" concerns a young man who becomes a farmhand on his uncle's farm, and while that may seem boring, the story is actually quite brilliant. "The General" is a fun character in the story, as he's part John Wayne, part Patton. Quite frankly, I loved it.

I wish I could say the same for "If God Were Alive Today," but I just can't. It's a jumbled mess. The story is about a comedian who...well, I don't know. Most of it is just rambling and bad jokes. I'm sure if it was worked on and hammered out more, it would probably be a good, and even funny novel. But as it stands, it's a colossal misfire that I wish I never read at all, as it does nothing to further Vonnegut's career in my eyes. What is interesting though is the glimpse we get into Vonnegut's writing process. With this unfinished story, we get a sense of just how Vonnegut pieced together his stories. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Vonnegut is spinning in his grave now that we're able to see such an unedited piece of Doggerel.

All the same, if you're a completist like myself, then you have to read this book. Now, if only I could get myself to read "Letters," which is just what it sounds like, a series of letters written by Vonnegut and others, I would have read EVERYTHING by the author. But it's just so boring, and I'm not sure that if even I, a devout Vonnegut reader, can get through it. Ay, caramba! What a cash-in.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ten Comic Book Characters Actually Done RIGHT In the Movies

I'm sorry, but Hugh Jackman sucks as Wolverine. He always has, and he always will. Besides being WAY TOO TALL (Wolverine is only a slight 5'3), he doesn't have the bottled up rage that makes everybody's favorite 'ol Canucklehead such a fan favorite. He's just kind of bleh. But you know who's not bleh? These next ten picks. Rookie.

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10. Michael Chiklis as The Thing

Both fairly recent Fantastic Four movies were abominations, but the one thing the flicks got right was Ben Grimm, otherwise known as The Thing. The costume was great (for the time), and the acting and mannerisms were spot on. You really felt for the big guy, and that really says something when the rest of the movie was a flaming train wreck.

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9. Ray Stevenson as The Punisher

Here's another case of the movie being trash around an otherwise excellent performance. Out of the three (!) Punisher movies, Ray Stevenson has hewed the closest to the tough as nails, no remorse/no regrets killer, Frank Castle. He shoots people in the face with a shotgun and calls it justice. Now that's badass.

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8. Michael Keaton as Batman

Props to Christian Bale for making Batman dark and intimidating again, but the dude makes for a subpar Bruce Wayne. Michael Keaton, on the other hand, made for an excellent Batman and an even BETTER Bruce Wayne. Honestly, it's a dual role that only Michael Keaton has only truly pulled off. All others have been mediocre at best.

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7. Patrick Stewart as Professor X

If not for his portrayal as Captain Jean Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise, I'd say Professor X was the role Patrick Stewart was born to play. Besides the bald pate, Stewat brings gravitas to a role that truly deserves it. He takes his shit seriously, and he's the strongest part about the whole franchise. Magneto be damned!

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6. Ron Perlman as Hellboy

Both funny and a total tough guy, Ron Perlman was perfect for the role as Hellboy. He even kind of looks like him even without the red makeup and the trimmed down horns. Still hoping for another sequel.

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5. Mickey Rourke as Marv

Another tough as nails character, Mickey Rourke made for the perfect Marv. With his beaten up face, gruff personality, and fists used for smashing people's faces in, you truly believed Rourke. In fact, this may have been the role that reinvigorated his career, so he's got that going for him.

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4. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach

Personally, I wasn't a huge fan of Zack Snyder's Watchmen movie, but Jackie Earle Haley shined as Rorshchach, especially when the mask came off in the prison scenes. Those would be the hardest to pull off, but Haley truly made the diminutive man a real terror. If I ever see him in a line to get food, the last thing I want to do is piss him off.

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3. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Though we never actually saw him get drunk and become a raging alcoholic like in the comics (Which would have actually been perfect given RDJ's track record), he still played the part of the wealthy playboy who doesn't seem to care about anybody but himself, but then shows that he really cares for all of humanity. Plus, he's extremely funny and charming. He was the beginning of the long road of success for Marvel in the multiplex, and for good reason. He's perfect in the role. Absolutely perfect.

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2. Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man

Say what you will about The Amazing Spider-Man movie, Andrew Garfield IS Peter Parker. He's got the rhythm of the character, the build, and he can even deliver goofy one-liners with aplomb. While Toby McGuire wasn't bad as the ol' webhead, there was just something missing. It didn't help that Spider-Man was all but silent once he put on the mask, which was a directorial choice, but a bad one. But Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man really works. It reminds me of my childhood, and I can truly see the Spider-Man I always envisioned in my head when I watch Garfield on the big screen. Perfect casting!

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1. Karl Urban as Judge Dredd

I had my doubts after the Sly Stallone "impression" (That's the best I can call it), but Karl Urban truly pulled the deadliest and scariest Judge of them all, off. Utilizing a constant scowl, there's not a second that you don't feel the spirit of Judge Dredd in Karl Urban's portrayal. Now THIS is how you represent a comic book character, not like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. This is how it's done, baby!

Friday, April 11, 2014

I like the Idea of Highlander Much More Than the Franchise Itself

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"There can only be one." One what? One good movie in the entire franchise? Being a massive nerd, I've always wanted one science fiction/fantasy franchise to really cling on to. I like Star Trek and all, but I could never call myself a Trekkie. Star Wars has its merits, but I don't share the enthusiasm that its true blue (lightsaber) fans share. So what then? Stargate? Nope. Fringe? Ummm...nope. Firefly? Well, I want to love it, but I just don't (Does that make me a bad person?) The only show I've truly grown obsessive over is Breaking Bad, but it doesn't fit the sci-fi/fantasy quota I've been looking for. I'm a pretty big fan of Harry Potter, but I'm not obsessive about it, and I WANT to be obsessive for a fantasy/sci-fi world. I really do.

Well, a few years back, I thought I might have found what I was looking for in Highlander. The first movie was amazing. It featured Christopher Lambert (Raiden!), Sean Connery (James Bond!) and a theme song by Queen (Queen!). It had pretty much everything I was looking for in a fantasy/sci-fi world. Lightning, decapitations, and a pretty cool lore. I had finally found my series!

Or so I thought. After being totally jazzed after watching the first Highlander movie, I quickly watched its sequel, Highlander II: The Quickening, and my God! What the hell happened? For those who don't know, Highlander II basically takes a dump over everything you liked about the first movie and then vomits all over it for good measure. It is one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and the follow-up flicks (Highlander: The Source in particular) are all travesties. And the TV show, I'm sad to say, wasn't much better, either. Sure, it had its qualities (Adrian Paul being its prime one), but other than him, the series lacked in anything relatively interesting or groundbreaking like the first film did.

In many ways, the biggest problem with Highlander is that it never one-upped its first outing. It had, and still has, so much potential, but I much prefer the concept of Highlander to the actual franchise. We'll see what happens with the supposed reboot we're supposed to be getting sometime down the line.