Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done – June 27, 2022

You know, I feel pretty busy, but maybe that’s just because I’m watching so many movies and television.

I even got to the cinema a couple of times.

Jurassic World: Dominion

For some time now, by golden standard of stupid movie has been Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the second “Jurassic World” film which has included multiple moments of such unbelievable dopiness that I could barely believe it. It’s with this in mind that I went into watching Jurassic World: Dominion, a movie I might not have bothered to go and see except my friend Josh wanted to take me out for my birthday, and this movie was conveniently hitting the cinemas (plus I’d already seen Top Gun: Maverick).

To my mildly pleasant surprise, the filmmakers stepped up a bit with Dominion, and created something that while as ridiculous as ever, was not so egregiously senseless. A big part of the appeal of the movie is the return of the franchise’s original stars–Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum–in major roles, and not just cameos. I was a little worried that we’d have to watch one or more of them die (something I’ve been conditioned to expect from the Star Wars sequel trilogy, I guess), but fortunately there was none of that. The movie had to work hard to balance out their roles with those of the “modern” stars, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, along some newcomers. It pulled it all off, but as a result the movie is a bit spread thin and doesn’t always feel that strong or focused.

Still, I had fun. It was good to see the original stars, the dinosaur effects are amazing, Bryce Dallas Howard is the best she’s been in these movies, and there’s a particularly exciting action set-piece with some raptors chasing Pratt and Howard around Malta which ends with the movie’s greatest fist-in-the-air Hoo-Yah!! moment.


My other recent cinema visit was Lightyear, the Toy Story spin-off. This was another nostalgia-driven story that was well put together, but felt a bit bland.

Before this movie came out, I had word a strange rumor (from more than one source) that Lightyear was going to be about the “real” Buzz Lightyear in the world of Andy and Toy Story. I thought that sounded ridiculous–how could there be a real space ranger named Buzz Lightyear in the world of Andy and Toy Story? Well, it turned out that wasn’t the case. Instead the movie was supposed to be the fictional movie that exists in the world of Toy Story, which is what I assumed from the beginning would make a lot more sense (even if the film doesn’t really feel like a plausible 90’s action movie).

The most memorable part of the movie is for sure Sox the robot cat, who will for sure someday make its way onto a list of Fictional A.I.’s that I came to love after I had already made my lost of Top 60 (which I started back here). But though the movie is good, more or less, it never really sparks.

Hey, what do Zurg, Superboy Prime, Darkseid and Rex from The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part have in common? They’ve all at times lost because they were defeated or sabotaged by younger versions of themselves from earlier in the time stream.

How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World

The third How to Train Your Dragon movie is the only one I’ve actually seen in the cinema, back when it first came out. We watched it again because a couple of my kids decided this was the thing to do one night. The movie is okay, but I don’t love this franchise. I remember being a bit bored in the movie initially, but found my interest picking up in the middle because of some very beautiful animation during some of the flying scenes.

Re-watching the movie didn’t change my opinion, though actually I was so tired while we were watching it that I fell asleep for 20 minutes in the middle. One thing the film does do really well is bring the whole franchise to a pretty strong and emotionally-satisfying conclusion, with Hiccup and Astrid getting married and having children, and then going to visit Toothless and finding that he has done the same. To me, it’s a pretty happy ending, but my youngest daughter finds it terribly sad because it means that Hiccup and Toothless aren’t hanging out together every day anymore.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

The latest Disney+ series in the Star Wars universe is Obi-Wan Kenobi, starring Ewan McGregor as the Jedi Master, set roughly halfway between Episodes III and IV. It’s the Star Wars series I was most looking for in the recent spate of shows, but it was pretty disappointing, especially at the start. It picked up toward the end when Obi-Wan began to act like a Jedi again.

The series is a strange hodge-podge of familiar Star Wars elements (a disillusioned Jedi caring for a precocious child from the Empire who at one point allows them to escape so they can track them, etc) and is at time atrociously paced and edited. Maybe the worst is in the second episode when Obi-Wan is being chased by multiple bounty hunters, but everyone pauses to allow he and young Leia to have an emotional moment. And then later in the third part, a badly injured Obi-Wan escapes from a raging Darth Vader in the most implausible way.

Darth Vader feels more like a pouty Anakin Skywalker than he has ever before (which is either good or bad, depending on your point of view), young Princess Leia is cute and mostly not annoying, and in the later episodes Obi-Wan becomes pretty cool to watch when he gets his Jedi mojo back.

Young Justice: Phantoms

I got my kids HBO Max this year so that we could watch Season 4 of Young Justice. The latest run of this young adult superhero show was still a fun watch, but it wasn’t as deft at its storytelling as it has been in the past. The show made the decision to organize the season into six story arcs which each focused on a different set of characters (led by Miss Martian, Superboy, Zatanna, Aqualad, Artemis, Rocket and Nightwing), still tying it all into an overall plot.

That plot involved the Phantom Zone villains (General Zod and so on) and once that plot kicked into gear, it was pretty awesome. Prior to that, when the flow was plodding around with the politics and family structures of Atlantis, it was a bit more of a struggle.

One of the coolest aspects of the show for me was the presence of the Legion of Super-Heroes (my favorite comic book). Though we only had Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl and Chameleon Boy (and a little bit of Brainiac 5), they were cool to see.

Nightwing remains my favorite Young Justice character, and he’s pretty awesome here, but out of all the lead characters he is definitely the most neglected.

Justice League – Season One

Another offering from HBO Max that I dove into was the first season of Justice League, the animated series from producer Bruce Timm back in 2001, starring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), the Flash (Wally West), Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl.

That’s just seven characters but for some reason HBO Max is a bit confused by this, based on this cast list:

Wow! George Newbern in a triple role! That’s awesome!

The storytelling is less complex than Young Justice, but is more focused as a result, and delivers some very cool action sequences. Basically, the Justice League are the greatest superhero characters ever, and seeing them doing their thing in four-color animated glory is awesome.

Miss Marple: The Moving Finger

After our success watching and enjoying The Body in the Library the last time we were here, we went on to watch the second Joan Hickson-starring Miss Marple mystery from the 1980’s, The Moving Finger. This one’s about someone writing slanderous “poison pen” letters in a small town, and how one of them eventually leads to “suicide”. Of course, Miss Marple knows better, and soon, there’s another death, this time an obvious murder.

It’s a good mystery, but with perhaps more characters than I could easily keep track of. The solution made sense, but I’m not sure if there were really the clues to “prove” it presented clearly in the story.

Like The Body in the Library, I’ve read this book by Agatha Christie, but didn’t remember anything about it. In this case, that’s perfect, and I think is true with any Miss Marple novel that I’ve read (except for The Mirror Crack’d).

Birthday Stuff

It was my birthday a little while ago and before too much time passes I wanted to remember some of the cool stuff that came my why thanks to birthday money and the rest. Most of these things haven’t arrived yet but hopefully will before too much time passes.

Orion (Book One) by Walt Simonson

I’ve been a fan of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World concepts for a while, but have read very little of the ways the characters have been used outside of Kirby himself (or Paul Levitz in the Legion of Super-Heroes). So I was curious to try something else and have decided to give Walt Simonson’s well-regarded take on Orion a go.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes The Quest for Cosmic Boy

I love the Legion of Super-Heroes, and am slowly acquiring the trade paperbacks that are available for that series. The “Threeboot” wasn’t my favorite take on the team at the time, but going back and re-reading it all these years later has been fun. This volume covers the first run of the title after Mark Waid left the title and so is a little bit less exciting, but still I’m grabbing this one off of Ebay.

I’ve also bought another comic, but I don’t want to go into details about that because it’s sort of a surprise for a couple of people who sometimes read this blog.

Wild Wild West – The Complete Series DVD

In the late 1960’s, there were four seasons of a TV show called Wild, Wild West (which was remade to a pretty unsatisfactory movie in 1999). It was basically a “Spy-Fi Western” about two Secret Service agents in the Old West. It’s been years since I’ve seen this show and so I can’t warrant how good it actually is, but I’m keen to find out with the DVD set I’ve just bought.

Preston Sturges – The Filmmaker Collection DVD

Last year as part of a film-watching challenge that I undertook, I tried to see a movie called The Great McGinty by writer-director Preston Sturges, but I couldn’t find it anywhere.

So I went ahead and bought this collection, which includes not only the movie I was specifically looking for, but also Sullivan’s Travels, Christmas in July, The Lady Eve, The Palm Beach Story, The Great Moment and Hail the Conqueror’s Hero. These are all new to my collection except for The Palm Beach Story, and many of them I have never ever seen.

Better Off Dead DVD

Another movie that I’ve been trying to watch (again) but not having any success in finding is Better Off Dead, a quirky comedy with John Cusack. So I’ve grabbed this one on DVD as well.

Blue Bloods – Season 1

I received an iTunes voucher from some family members and have used part of that to get the first season of this police procedural. I’ve only seen a spattering of episodes so in the past, but I really liked it.

Max Headroom – The Complete Series DVD

In the 1980’s, a bizarre character called Max Headroom started showing up in a variety of media, including a short-lived TV series in America. I remember watching a couple of them back in the day, and they were unlike anything else that I’d seen. Will I still feel that way when I watch it again? We will see!

Another Tomorrow

This is an app from Glitch Games that I bought with some of that iTunes voucher I mentioned above.

This is a company that does some of the best point & tap mystery / puzzle / escape games that I have ever played. They’re most popular releases are the Forever Lost series of games, but they’ve done a bunch of others that I have enjoyed. Another Tomorrow is their latest and is the first thing on this list that I have already enjoyed and finished with. It was pretty good, with some clever puzzles–although the ease of accessing hints proved tempting from time to time and meant I got through the game a little quicker than I wished.

The game’s story ended in a way that is unfortunately a bit typical of Glitch Games, in that it features a twist where the player realizes that they are really responsible for all of their problems. But still, I liked it

Another Mystery Game

I also bought another mystery game–this one a play-at-home set of clues that you look at on your own or with your friends to solve a murder. It’s a neat idea which includes a police report, phone records, medical records and other documents, plus a series of videos that contain video logs made by the victim on the day he died, and by the police of their interviews with all the suspects.

I bought this game online as part of my birthday celebrations–I had five of my friends over and we worked on solving it together. The game material even included pictures of each of the suspects that I was able to enlarge and print and stick to a whiteboard, so we could write notes and draw connecting lines in order to try to make sense of things, just like every episode of Death in Paradise that I’ve watched.

It was a pretty cool thing to do together but ultimately a frustrating story–as the game did not do a good job setting up its solution. With mystery stories, you always talk about means, motive and opportunity, right?

Well, the motive was extremely flimsy–basically, the idea was that the murderer was jealous of the victim’s business success. And that is more or less it.

The means was straightforward but unhelpful–the victim was poisoned and our murderer did indeed have access to that poison. But the game had set up a mechanism by which all of the suspects had access to the poison.

The most frustrating aspect was opportunity. The game had this hinge on some reports from traffic cameras, but this evidence seemed to support the idea that the murderer did not have the ability to be where he needed to be to commit the crime. It wasn’t completely conclusive, but basically it purposely obscured information about the guilty party to a greater degree than all the parallel information about the other suspects. In other words, the info on the non-guilty suspects was less vague than the information that would have pointed to the guilty party, but not in a way that was justified by the story. So it felt like the game was cheating.

Plus it was messy, full of inconsistencies and stupidity. There were multiple types of poison involved in the story, spread across three different murder attempts. One guy planned to stab the victim and then give them an anti-coagulant so they’d bleed to death (for some reason, he didn’t just want to stab him a couple of extra times to make sure he died). There was also a clue about characters who were seen together unexpectedly, which completely sent us down rabbit trails, but turned out to never be explained or referenced again–was that supposed to be a red herring? Or was it just an editing mistake?

Anyway, as you can see, the story was annoying even though we had a fun time together. It’s inspired me to think about writing my own games again, which is something I haven’t done in a while.

Though when I did, that was also because I experienced or played other people’s mysteries, and found them to similarly annoying.

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