REVIEW: “Truth of the Divine” by Lindsay Ellis

Alien first contact stories are a dime a dozen. They always focus on the immediate impact of extraterrestrial contact – how does humanity survive that first encounter? But what about the aftermath? What happens months later when the dust has settled and the shock dissipates? What are the long-term impacts of knowing humanity isn’t alone in the universe? This is the question at the heart of Lindsay Ellis’s Truth of the Divine. Picking up where the first book, Axiom’s End, left off, Truth of the Divine simultaneously expands the world introduced in that first book while delving even deeper into the psyches of its characters – human and alien alike. Truth of the Divine takes everything that worked in Axiom’s End and makes them even better. And it’s a thrilling, thought-provoking read that stays with you long after the first page. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

(Note: I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. Additionally, mild spoilers for both Axiom’s End and Truth of the Divine follow.)

Truth of the Divine
Written by Lindsay Ellis
The human race is at a crossroads; we know that we are not alone, but details about the alien presence on Earth are still being withheld from the public. As the political climate grows more unstable, the world is forced to consider the ramifications of granting human rights to nonhuman persons. How do you define “person” in the first place?

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REVIEW: Chucky (SYFY and USA Series)

After three decades and seven movies, the Chucky franchise has finally arrived on TV. Once again helmed by creator Don Mancini (this time acting as showrunner and director of some episodes), Chucky picks up where the previous film left off while introducing a whole new slew of characters for the killer doll to terrorize. Having seen the first four episodes, Chucky feels right at home on TV. These first episodes are heavy on the new elements, holding back many returning plotlines and characters until later in the season. But the new characters and stories introduced are more than enough to hook audiences. And the show lives up to its campy, gory reputation. Things get off to a slightly slow start, but as the show progresses, the tension only gets higher. And it’s so much fun. (4 out of 5 wands.)

Chucky
Created by Don Mancini
An idyllic American town is thrown into chaos after a vintage ‘Good Guy’ doll turns up at a suburban yard sale. Soon, everyone must grapple with a series of horrifying murders that begin to expose the town’s deep hypocrisies and hidden secrets. Meanwhile, friends and foes from Chucky’s past creep back into his world and threaten to expose the truth behind his mysterious origins as a seemingly ordinary child who somehow became this notorious monster.

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REVIEW: Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog

The moment I heard Warner Bros. was releasing a Scooby-Doo/Courage the Cowardly Dog crossover movie, I knew I had to watch it. I’ve loved Scooby-Doo for as long as I can remember. And watching Courage the Cowardly Dog was a foundational part of my early media exposure. So, the idea of combining these two franchises immediately grabbed my attention. And, honestly, it’s ludicrous that a crossover hadn’t been done already. Because Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog is an utterly delightful film. Sure, there’s not enough plot to fill out the runtime, and the mystery isn’t the most captivating. But the movie so openly embraces the absurdity of both franchises that it’s very easy to just go along with it and enjoy the ride. (4 out of 5 wands.)

Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog
(written by Michael Ryan, directed by Cecilia Aranovich)
An original animated feature so exciting it’s scratching at the door! Comedy is unleashed when Scooby-Doo, your favorite mystery-solving mutt, teams up for the first time with Courage the Cowardly Dog. The canine colleagues sniff out a strange object in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, the backwoods hometown of Courage and his owners, Eustace and Muriel Bagge. Soon, the mysterious discovery puts them on the trail of a giant cicada monster and her wacky winged warriors. Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy know that this job is too big for a flyswatter. They’ll need the help of the doggy duo to piece together the puzzle. Can Scooby and Courage overcome their jitters and defeat the insect army before the whole world bugs out?

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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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