Author: Michael Cook

A theatre kid dabbling in the art of reviewing the things he reads, watches, listens to, and sees.

REVIEW: “It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel” by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

81qpoictzilA friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and citizens keep disappearing, leaving behind nothing but pits of warm, scorched earth. This is the world of It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel. Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and based on the popular podcast, Welcome to Night ValeIt Devours! is a new page-turning mystery about science, faith, love, and belonging, set in a friendly desert community where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are commonplace parts of everyday life. It explores the intersections of faith and science, the growing relationship between two young people who want desperately to trust each other, and the terrifying, toothy power of the Smiling God.

Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different worldviews as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret.

Mild spoilers may follow…

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REVIEW: “Turtles All The Way Down” by John Green

24891b3120dc3336233f1bc146862f45759ab0e8Turtles All The Way Down is definitely a John Green book, with all the pros and cons that statement comes with. That being said, I did like it. Quite a bit. Turtles All The Way Down is the latest novel written by John Green. The novel follows the story of Aza Holmes, a sixteen-year-old girl with a pretty severe anxiety disorder. Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. (Mild spoilers follow)  (more…)

REVIEW: “Murder in Little Shendon” by A. H. Richardson

mils-3How does a small English town react after a murder is committed in their midst? A. H. Richardson’s Murder in Little Shendon seeks to explore just that. Being the first book in The Hazlitt/Brandon series of murder-mystery novels, Murder in Little Shendon is a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two.

Picture, if you will, a picturesque village called Little Shendon, suddenly caught up in dealing with a murder of one of its citizens — not a particularly well-liked one at that. Which makes it all the more intriguing because the list of suspects becomes very long. This tantalizing tale unfolds with twists and turns to find out whodunit to Mr. Bartholomew Fynche, the murdered shopkeeper. Fear grips the community as the investigation slowly progresses. Everyone is interviewed; everyone is suspect! Uncertainty, wariness, and terror reign as neighbors watch neighbors to discover the evil that permeates their upturned lives. No one feels safe in this charming little village. Who is the murderer? And why was this strange uncivil man dispatched in such a seemingly civil community?

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REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Trailer #2)

Just a bit ago, a new trailer for the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi dropped, and I have some thoughts about it. Directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi continues the story began in JJ Abram’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Picking up where The Force Awakens left off, The Last Jedi finds Rey (Daisy Ridley) having just found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on the planet Ahch-To. With Rey having taken her first steps into the larger Star Wars universe, The Last Jedi follows her as she continues her journey alongside Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). As always, further details on the plot are under lock and key, though this trailer seems to provide some more information on that front.  (more…)

REVIEW: Blade Runner 2049 (Spoiler free)

mv5bnza1njg4nzyxov5bml5banbnxkftztgwodk5nju3mzi-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_It’s certainly a Blade Runner film. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s even better than the first. May the internet mob spare my life. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, Blade Runner 2049 picks up thirty years after the first film. In those thirty years, the original Nexus brand of Replicants rebelled and a caused a massive blackout that led to the prohibition of al Replicants and the bankruptcy of the Tyrell Corporation. In swept Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), purchasing the remains of the Tyrell Corporation. Wallace invented a new line of Replicants, ensuring they would always obey their masters. Eventually, he got the prohibition lifted and things returned to the way they were. As Blade Runner: 2049 opens, Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a Blade Runner (who is also a Replicant) is on a mission to retire a rogue Replicant, Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), and uncovers evidence of a conspiracy that stretches all the way back to the events of the first film and its titular Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). (Very mild spoilers may follow)  (more…)

The Art of Adaptation – A Thoroughly Modern Essay

We’ve all seen good adaptations of things we love and we’ve all seen bad ones. But what, exactly, makes an adaptation good? For the past… pretty much forever… Hollywood, in particular, has been adapting anything it could get its hands on. From books, to tv, to theatre, to video games, Hollywood loves adaptations. The problem is that the adaptations are often not very good at all. You see this with books, like Eragon and the Percy Jackson series and TV shows like Dark Shadows and Video Games like Assassin’s Creed and musicals like RENT and even anime like Death Note and Ghost in the Shell.

The question becomes, why are there so many lousy adaptations? Especially when most of them are based on properties that are really well made in their original mediums? Where is the disconnect?

Contrary to popular belief, there really is an art to adaptation. There are four key things that a good adaptation must adhere to. Respect for the source material and characters, not being a slave to the source material, knowing what to change and what to keep, and telling a story in the most cohesive and interesting way that utilizes the best of what the specific medium has to offer.

Bad adaptations, usually get at least one of those key things wrong, if not more than one of them. So, let’s explore them more in depth and see if we can’t figure out how to go about making a good adaptation.  (more…)

REVIEW: People of Earth (Seasons 1 and 2)

mv5bmtuzmtcxnzg0nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdiwnzczmdi-_v1_sy1000_cr006671000_al_Who’d have thought that one of the funniest, most consistently well-written shows on TV would be a comedy series about a support group for alien abductees? Well, People of Earth is just that. Created by David Jenkins, People of Earth follows journalist Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac) as he is assigned to investigate a local support group for alien abductees, Starstruck. The deeper his investigation goes, the more seduced by the idea he becomes until he slowly discovers that he, himself, was abducted by aliens as a child. Everything Ozzie ever knew was a lie as his life unravels before his eyes and everything becomes a lot weirder than he’d ever imagined they could be. Meanwhile, on a ship orbiting the Earth, a group of aliens, Jeff, Don, and Kurt, continue making preparations for the upcoming invasion of Earth by their respective races. Little do they know that their plans may be about to be revealed to Ozzie by a traitor from their own ranks… (Mild spoilers ahead).  (more…)

REVIEW: FOX’s Ghosted, S01E01 – Pilot

ghosted-1x01-16You know how there always ends up being that one show that has a premise that you’re super into and a trailer that really gets you pumped and it ends up being disappointing as all get out? Yeah, Ghosted was that show for me. Created by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten, Ghosted is basically what you’d get if you made The X-Files into a sitcom, executed it as a buddy-cop story, and had it star two men. In the pilot episode of Ghosted, a key member of The Bureau Underground – a top-secret government agency – goes missing. Subsequently, Leroy (Craig Robinson), a cynical former detective, and Max (Adam Scott), a genius “true believer” in the paranormal, are recruited to find him. The two polar opposites must work together to find the agent while uncovering possible alien activity and chilling “unexplained” paranormal events in their own city of Los Angeles. (Mild spoilers follow)  (more…)

The Late Show, Episode 1: Shadows (A New Podcast from Thoroughly Modern Productions)

I just launched the first episode of a podcast I’ve been working on for a while. It’s called The Late Story, and it takes the form of an old-school late-night radio show in which a Storyteller tells a story to the radio audience. The thing is, his stories may not be entirely fiction. New episodes are gonna be released every other Friday on my YouTube channel (and on the podcast’s iTunes page) and I really hope you guys will check it out. This first episode tells the story of Jordan, an average worker, and his mysterious encounter with his shadow…  (more…)

Thoroughly Modern Productions YouTube Channel Launch

I’m relaunching my YouTube channel, in theme with this blog. In addition to my reviews on here, there will be video reviews on my YouTube channel, as well as other content (including a fictional podcast!).

New videos every Tuesday and Friday!

WEEK A:
Tuesday: Video Game Video
Friday: New episode of “The Late Story” podcast

WEEK B:
A new episode of “Thoroughly Modern Reviewer” and a new Video Game Video. (air dates will vary depending on what’s being reviewed)