Author: Michael Cook

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

An actor is murdered! Then, nothing much happens as the mystery unravels. (REVIEW: “Act One, Scene One—Murder” by A.H. Richardson)

31368681What happens when you take the central premise of loads of murder mysteries – a group of people who end up locked in a house as they start dying one by one – and replace that group with a group of actors/theatre people? Well, you get Act One, Scene One – Murder, the second novel in A.H. Richardson’s mystery novels starring Sir. Victor Hazlitt and actor Berry Beresford.

(From the Publisher): Talk about drama! To celebrate the opening of his new play, the playwright invites the entire cast to his mysteriously medieval mansion for a gala dinner. As the curtain rises on this festive feast, a scene of chaos occurs when the leading man is murdered. Who could have done it? And why? Old friends — Inspector Stan Burgess, Actor Berry Beresford, and Sir Victor Hazlitt — question an outlandish cast of frightened actors and household staff. The plot thickens with yet another murder occurs, and the intrigue continues until…

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History is More Magical Than You Think (“Harry Potter: A History of Magic book/BBC Documentary REVIEW) 

Harry-Potter-A-History-of-Magic-CoverI’m only a month late in talking about this, but what’s a month or two between friends? Two books, a BBC Two documentary, and an entire museum exhibit. These are the latest developments in the Harry Potter universe (as of October 2017) as the British Library launches its look into the real-life history of magic and how it intercepts J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. As a fan of both the Wizarding World and really great museum exhibits, I have to say that this excited me. I haven’t been able to go to the actual museum exhibit (as it’s in London and I am not), but I have read the official book of the exhibit: Harry Potter: A History of Magic and see the accompanying BBC Two Documentary. And it’s fab. Harry Potter: A History of Magic explores the intersection of history and fantasy. It’s common knowledge that much of J.K. Rowling’s world-building in the Wizarding World series originates from real history and myth, but just how much of it was real? Harry Potter: A History of Magic seeks to answer that question, and answer it, it does – with lots of panache. (more…)

Time To Wait for the Ultimate Cut of Justice League – Because It’s Clear There is One (“Justice League” (2017) REVIEW)

mv5bndgwnjmwnjm1ov5bml5banbnxkftztgwnja2njk5mzi-_v1_Man, I desperately wanted to like this. I will go to my grave defending Batman v Superman (particularly the Ultimate Edition, where the story actually made sense), but Justice League is, unfortunately, a bit of a mess. A fairly enjoyable – at times – mess, but a mess, nonetheless, and I’m not sure whose fault it is. Directed by Zack Snyder (with substantial reshoots and editing supervised by Joss Whedon) and written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Justice League is the DCEU’s equivalent of 2012’s The Avengers (also directed by Whedon). It brings the mightiest DC superheroes – Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Superman (Henry Cavill) – together for the first time as they team up to defend the earth from an intergalactic – and multi-dimensional? – threat: Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). (Mild spoilers ahead)  (more…)

The Next Fantastic Beasts Film Will Explore “The Crimes of Grindelwald”

FNBST2_First_Look_3000x1800-R01We finally have a title for the second film in the Fantastic Beasts series: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. That, alone, is a lot to unpack. But Warner Brothers marketing, never being one to skimp out on goodies for fans, also unveiled a new promo image for the film featuring our first look at the new and returning characters! And, oh boy, it’s a doozy. I wish WB had released a trailer today (it would have made smart marketing sense; Justice League, another WB film, releases in theaters this weekend and it would only make sense for WB to attach the trailer for next year’s blockbuster for the studio with this year’s blockbuster for the studio, but, alas, I do not head the marketing team). Either way, finally having a title and a first look at the cast is a really nice thing and I’m eager to break it all down. (more…)

Someone Stop Ryan Murphy From Undermining His Own Stories (American Horror Story: Cult – REVIEW)

dohxigpumaexbpxHas nobody talked to Ryan Murphy about his unfortunate habit of completely undermining the great stories he frequently begins telling? It seems to be the case with every season of American Horror Story that by the time the finale comes around, the season has built itself up to be a pretty good story only for the finale to let it all down. Unfortunately, Ryan Murphy doesn’t break this trend with AHS: Cult. He comes awful close to succeeding, too, though. The finale was nearly a perfect cap to a truly great season – my favorite since Asylum, but then that final shot of the episode happened. In Great Again, written by Tim Minear and directed by Jennifer Lynch, the events of the season come to a breaking point as the mole in the cult is revealed and Kai’s (Evan Peters) kingdom comes crumbling down around him while Ally (Sarah Paulson) makes a bid for Michigan Senatorial race. (Major spoilers ahead!!!)  (more…)

Ghosted Could Be a Truly Good TV Show if Only it Had a Longer Run Time (Ghosted S01E06 – “Sam” REVIEW)

ffghosted_ep106_sc5_0004_f_hires1_fullThere’s a good show somewhere deep inside of Ghosted just waiting to reach the surface. The obstacle in its way: Ghosted‘s runtime. The problem with the show lies in the fact that it doesn’t have enough time to properly explore its case of the week plots and its character development. Tonight’s episode, “Sam“, perfectly demonstrated this. The episode was a perfect example of everything good and everything bad about Ghosted. Written by Ryan Ridley and directed by Jamie Babbit, “Sam” is the sixth episode of the new FOX comedy GhostedWhile Captain Lafrey (Ally Walker) is out, Annie (Amber Stevens West) installs a smooth-talking Artificial Intelligence, “Sam,” (Dax Shepard) to manage the office, but Max (Adam Scott) and Leroy (Craig Robinson) are put to the test when “Sam” turns out to be an evil and powerful force trying to take down the Bureau Underground. All the while, Max is jealous when Leroy makes a new friend. (Mild spoilers follow) (more…)

REVIEW: Thor Ragnarok

mv5bmjmyndkzmzi1of5bml5banbnxkftztgwodcxodg5mji-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Better late than never, I suppose. At least Thor: Ragnarok ended up being the best Thor film that Marvel has produced thus far. Directed by Taika Waititi and written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost, Thor: Ragnarok follows our favorite God of Thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), as he faces off against his sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), and the imminent threat of Ragnarok: the ultimate destruction of Asgard. Thor’s world is about to explode. His devious brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has taken over Asgard, the powerful Hela has emerged to steal the throne for herself and Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe. To escape captivity and save his home from imminent destruction, Thor must first win a deadly alien contest by defeating his former ally and fellow Avenger – The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). (As always, spoilers may follow)  (more…)

Disney Just Doesn’t Know When to Stop: A New Star Wars Trilogy from Rian Johnson AND a New Live Action Star Wars TV Series for Disney’s Streaming Service

1200px-star_wars_logo-svgSigh. In case anybody really had hopes that Disney wouldn’t turn Star Wars into an oversaturated MCU-style franchise of movies and TV series, consider those hopes dashed.

Today, Disney announced an all-new trilogy of Star Wars films from Rian Johnson. This new trilogy will be complete unconnected to the Skywalker Saga films (aka the main “Episodes”) and will be in addition to the seemingly endless onslaught of stand-alone Star Wars films (which really didn’t get off to a great start with the utterly mediocre Rogue One and doesn’t look to be getting any better with the utter catastrophe that was the production of Solo, what with the firing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as the directors of the film and the reshooting of essentially the entire movie).

And, if that wasn’t enough, it was also announced that Disney would be premiering a live-action Star Wars TV series on their upcoming streaming platform (think along the lines of CBS All Access) in 2019.

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REVIEW: Lore (2017 TV Adaptation)

mv5bmja3odqwnzm0of5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjy5mtczmzi-_v1_Lore does the cool thing where it mixes dramatized accounts of real stories with documentary footage while Aaron Mahnke narrates the background of some aspect of folklore. It surprisingly works, really really well. Lore, based on the podcast created by Aaron Mahnke, is a horror anthology that explores the real-life events that spawned our darkest nightmares. Blending dramatic scenes, animation, archival footage, and narration, Lore reveals how our horror legends – such as vampires, werewolves, and body snatchers – are rooted in truth. The first season runs six episodes and covers topics that range from vampires, werewolves, lobotomies, ghosts, fairies, and creepy dolls. It’s worth noting that Lore is a nonfiction series; it’s not one of those shows that tries to convince the audience that ghosts are real or anything. It presents the real-life history behind some of our most famous folklore. How did the modern image of vampires and werewolves come about? What is the significance of Irish fairies? It’s questions like these that Lore seeks to answer. (Mild spoilers follow) 

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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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