REVIEW: “Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol” (Episodes 1-3)

After five books and three movies, Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series is finally hitting TV screens. Or, more accurately, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock. Adapting the third Langdon novel, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol proves once and for all that Robert Langdon belongs on TV. The first three episodes offer a promising start to this series – though, there’s also a lot of room for improvement. The central mystery is captivating enough. But some questionable pacing choices and underdeveloped characters and ideas hold the series back a little. However, with a total of ten episodes, there’s a lot of room for the show to develop into something deeply enjoyable. (3 out of 5 wands.)

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol
Developed for TV by: Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie
Based on Dan Brown’s international bestselling thriller “The Lost Symbol,” the series follows the early adventures of young Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who must solve a series of deadly puzzles to save his kidnapped mentor and thwart a chilling global conspiracy.

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REVIEW: “Poison for Breakfast” by Lemony Snicket

Like many adults of a certain age, I grew up on Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. To say that book series had quite an impact on the world of children’s literature feels like an understatement. Sure, it didn’t have the wild, uncontrollable fervor of Harry Potter or Twilight at their heights. But it still left a sizable impression on many young people. And now, after 13 A Series of Unfortunate Events books, 4 All the Wrong Questions books, and a handful of picture books, Snicket is back with a new novel, aimed at a more mature audience – Poison for Breakfast. While on the surface, Poison for Breakfast looks like Snicket’s past books, it bears little in common with them. Poison for Breakfast is not a mystery novel, even though there is a mystery at the heart of the story. Instead, it’s a leisurely stroll through Snicket’s thoughts on various topics – including how best to prepare an egg, various philosophical ideas, and the very concept of literature. Fans of Snicket’s voice will adore the book. But those looking for a mystery with a bit more meat on its bones should, perhaps, look elsewhere. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. All thoughts are my own.)

Poison For Breakfast
by Lemony Snicket
Over the course of his long and suspicious career, Mr. Snicket has investigated many things, including villainy, treachery, conspiracy, ennui, and various suspicious fires. In this book, he is investigating his own death. Poison for Breakfast is a different sort of book than others we have published, and from others you may have read. It is different from other books Mr. Snicket has written. It could be said to be a book of philosophy, something almost no one likes, but it is also a mystery, and many people claim to like those. Certainly Mr. Snicket didn’t relish the dreadful task of solving it, but he had no choice. It was put in front of him, right there, on his plate.

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REVIEW: “Cult of Chucky”

And now, we reach the end of the Chucky franchise—until this fall’s TV continuation, of course. If 2013’s Curse of Chucky was a soft reboot, then 2017’s Cult of Chucky is a celebration of the franchise. Combining elements from all three eras of the Chucky franchise, Cult of Chucky takes the best parts of the series and turns them into something new. Acting as less of a finale and more of a prelude to future stories, Cult of Chucky is a promising look into the future of the Chucky franchise. Once again led by a captivating performance from Fiona Dourif, a bonkers-yet-entertaining storyline, an atmosphere to die for, and many creative kills, Cult of Chucky is a deeply enjoyable watch. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review contains spoilers.

Cult of Chucky
(written and directed by Don Mancini)
Chucky returns to terrorize his human victim, Nica, who is confined to an asylum for the criminally insane. Meanwhile, the killer doll has some scores to settle with his old enemies, with the help of his former wife.

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REVIEW: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” Season 8

After nearly a decade, a cancelation scare, a network change, and a whole host of shenanigans, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is coming to an end. But not before taking one final ride, of course. And if the first five episodes are anything to go by, fans are gonna be pretty happy with how this final season brings the show to a close. Managing to balance its usual absurdity and fun character beats with some more serious, topical storylines, the final season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets off to a solid start. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good reminder of why the show is so beloved.

NOTE: There are spoilers for episodes 1 and 2, “The Good Ones” and “The Lake House.”

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 8)
Created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” follows the exploits of hilarious Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and his stoically ever-professional Capt. Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher), along with their diverse, lovable colleagues as they police the NYPD’s 99th Precinct. In this final season of the series, Jake and the squad must try to balance their personal lives and their professional lives over the course of a very difficult year.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “The Suicide Squad” (2021)

James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad delivers exactly what it promises: an enjoyably over-the-top, bloody, and funny adventure. It’s exactly what you’d expect to get when you give a former Troma director a bunch of money and free reign to make whatever he wants. And, in that regard, the film is very successful. Though, if you’re not a fan of films that push the boundaries of what’s tasteful as far as possible, this might not be for you. Like, I’m dead serious. A lot of this movie pushes the boundaries on what’s funny and what’s in good taste. Intentionally, I might add. It feels like Gunn is purposely aiming for that borderline offensive territory. Mostly, however, I think the movie works pretty well. But there are definitely some super questionable moments. Particularly with a fair amount of the film’s humor and some of the plot/character beats.

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REVIEW: “Curse of Chucky”

At this point, I think the Chucky franchise’s greatest strength is its ability to reinvent itself any time its formula gets too stale. The first three films were pretty standard 1980s slashers. But Bride of Chucky successfully reinvented the franchise as more of a horror-comedy—a trend that was continued with more mixed results in Seed of Chucky. And 2013’s Curse of Chucky successfully reinvents the franchise once again, this time as a return to the realm of scarier horror films—now with a bit of a gothic flare. Curse of Chucky is a compulsively watchable film, led by a thrilling performance from Fiona Dourif, a solid story, some super fun kills, and a surprising amount of restraint. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review contains spoilers.

Curse of Chucky
Written and directed by Don Mancini
Out for revenge, Chucky (Brad Dourif) the killer doll infiltrates the family of a woman, her sister and her young niece.

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REVIEW: “SurrealEstate”

SURREALESTATE — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: Tim Rozon as Luke Roman — (Photo by: Derm Carberry/Blue Ice Pictures/SYFY)

Haunted houses are frequently the subjects of horror films, shows, and books. A family moves into a house with a shady, often violent past. Almost immediately, some unseen force begins terrorizing the family. And on and on it goes until the ghost/demon/spirit is expelled from the house. Or until the family finally decides to high tail it out of there. But what happens to the house afterward? Who takes care of selling these haunted, potentially violent places? That’s precisely the question SurrealEstate answers. If you needed to sell a haunted house,  you’d call a realtor that specializes in the paranormal. In this case, Luke Roman (Tim Rozon). And, naturally, that realtor would be surrounded by an eclectic team of ghost hunting agents – Susan Ireland (Sarah Levy), Father Phil (Adam Korson), August (Maurice Dean Wint), and Zooey (Savannah Basley). SurrealEstate is basically what would happen if Mulder, Scully, and the Winchester brothers all worked at the same real estate firm. It’s a clever take on the familiar paranormal procedural drama. Featuring a cast of unique – though occasionally underdeveloped – characters and creative “ghost of the week” stories, SurrealEstate is well worth a watch. Though, for a show about ghosts, it’s never quite as scary as you’d like it to be. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review is based on the first eight episodes of SurrealEstate. It will be as spoiler free as possible.

SurrealEstate
Created by George Olson
SurrealEstate” follows real estate agent Luke Roman (Tim Rozon) and an elite team of specialists that handle the cases no one else can: haunted and possessed houses that literally scare would-be buyers away. Researching, investigating and “fixing” the things that go bump in the night, the team works to create closure – and closings – even as they struggle with demons of their own.

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REVIEW: “The Final Girl Support Group” by Grady Hendrix

If you’ve ever seen a slasher film, then you’re familiar with the Final Girl. She’s the girl who makes it through the end of the movie, vanquishing the Killer and surviving the bloodbath. But what happens to a Final Girl after the credits roll and the story’s over? How does she cope with all of that trauma and survivor’s guilt? Is she ever able to move on and escape the shadow of the Monster that hunted her? Grady Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group explores all of these questions, acting as both a love letter to slasher films and a deconstruction of the genre and many of its tropes. It’s a fast-paced, thrilling read that you won’t want to put down. Hendrix delivers a novel that’s every bit as action-packed and horrific as the best horror films. But he also deftly explores the trauma of multiple Final Girls – all of whom are inspired by some of the most popular horror franchises. If you’re a fan of horror movies, The Final Girl Support Group is a must-read. (4.5 out of 5 wands)

(NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. All thoughts are my own.)

The FInal Girl Support Group
Written by Grady Hendrix
Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For decades she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece. But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and that no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife…they will never, ever give up.

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REVIEW: “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem”

Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is my favorite My Chemical Romance album. It’s this wonderful explosion of sound, color, and joy. All of the promotion that surrounded it built up this wildly creative world that was delightful to spend time in. I loved the original True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys comic, too—the one that came out a few years after the album and concluded the story that began in the music videos. Yes, it was a bit abstract, and the ending didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I loved it anyway. I say all of this because I wish I liked The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem more than I did. It’s a great premise, with some delightfully gritty and horrific artwork. But the story is just… disappointing. (3 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss and Dark Horse. All thoughts are my own.)

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem
Written by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon
Art by: Leonardo Romero
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
The Fabulous Killjoys, once a group of teenage exterminators determined to save reality, have lost their way—and their memories. After a period of mental confinement, former Killjoys leader Mike Milligram gets de-programmed and hits the road to bring the gang back together for a final showdown against an evil pharmaceutical corporation, their monstrous hitman, and savage gang rivals.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Seed of Chucky”

Look, Seed of Chucky isn’t my least favorite Chucky movie. (That honor is still held by Child’s Play 3.) But it is an absolute mess of a film. Half of it works as a sort of horror/comedy satire of early 2000s Hollywood. But the other half feels like a mixture of misguided ideas and extremely questionable jokes that straddle the line between good and bad taste. For the first time in the franchise, the dolls—Chucky (Brad Dourif), Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), and their child, Glen/Glenda (Billy Boyd)—are my least favorite characters. And that’s a bad sign for a franchise about killer dolls. (2.5 out of 5 wands.)

Seed of Chucky
Written and Directed by Don Mancini
Gentle Glen (Billy Boyd) is a ventriloquist’s dummy, the offspring of evil doll Chucky (Brad Dourif) and his doll bride (Jennifer Tilly), both of whom are now deceased. When the orphaned Glen hears that a film is being made about his parents, he goes to Hollywood and resurrects them in an attempt to get to know them better. He is horrified when Chucky and his lover embark on a new killing spree, and Chucky is equally horrified that his son has no taste for evil.

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