Micro Reviews

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January 2014

Space Pirate Captain Harlock (Anime series/DVD) - The classic 70s series which had one of the most iconic character in anime space opera. It shows its age in some places but it is a great adventure storu. I hope we can get the Endless SSX series licensed.

Matter by Iain M. Banks - A king is murdered on an artificial world. His surviving son searches help from his sister who is now living in the Culture. The new regime is searching for something powerful. What happens when they find it. Can a former princess and former Special Circumstance agent find out. Another great tale about people and big ideas.

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal - Jane and Vincent honeymoon in Belgium and experiment on new glamour techniques. Unfortuntely, Napoleon escapes Elba and returns to power. This is problematic. Can Jane and Vincent get back to England? Another great story of love and intrigue. The magical world fits in the real world of early nineteenth century.

Punk Singer (Theatrical Film) - A documentary on singer and feminist Kathleen Hanna. This film has a very tight focus on the subject. One understands her importance in music and feminism at the end. It is also cool the fanzine for another area of interest.

The Eccentric Family (Anime Series) - A family of tanuki (shapeshifters) live their lives in Kyoto. The father was eaten one New Years Eve and the family is stilling with it. The third son,Yasaburo tries to keep his family together, but forces conspire against his family. Can they pull it together or will they be in pot on New Year's Eve. This has great plot, well developed characters and a great ending. One of the best series of 2013.

From the New World (TV Anime Series) - In the far future, humans have tremendous telepathic abilities. In order to keep an orderly society drastic measures are taken. A group of 5 children learn about the harsh realities of their world. Can they survivie in this world as adults. This is a very edgy serious. There is great exposition scene early which helps define this world. This story embraces the unfamiliar. A great Science Fiction story.

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks - Y'breq is murdered by her tyranical owner Veppers. Her consciousness was saved thanks to technology given to her by a Culture citizen. Another world sends some its people to simulated hell. There are forces which wish to end this. Y'breq wishes to return to her planet and get revenge. This tow stories connect in a volatile confrontation. There are some really interesting details with the virtual Hells. There is great action sequence at the end. A great story with big ideas.

Ender's Game (Theatrical Film) - A great adaptation of the novel. The cut some parts which needed cutting. The ending had the necessary impact.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Theatrical Film) - It was OK but the need to make three films are still questionable.

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire - A changeling child is stolen. A child with tremendous power. She must be found and Toby is asked to find her. Toby is still recovering from lost. There are some surprises in this one. Like the direction the series is heading in.

Silver Spoon (TV Anime Series) - a boy goes to an agricultural high school to get away from his family. There he finds friends and that he is capable of more than just academics. This a great look into the agriculture. If you want to know where your food comes from, this is the show for you.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Theatrical Film) - A great realization of terrible world of Panem. It is a wonder why the film has not been nominated for techincal Oscars in production and costume design. The acting is great.

February 2014

Winter's Tale (Theatrical Film) - A great love story. This was a great film about love and heroism. The relationship felt real in this book. The villians are really ebil but still believable.

Her (Theatrical Film) - What is it like to fall in love with an AI? How would AI relat to us? To each other? This films looks at those questions and presents with gripping answers.

Frozen (Animated Film) - This film is about empowerment. Its about two sister helping each other. It breaks tradtional Disney tropes.

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain Banks - A race is about to go to another plane but something is off. A ship is destroyed on route visiting the Gzilt, the race Subliming. The Culture inevstigates. Again a great combination of action and that sense of wonder. It is sad this is the last Culture novel.

Kyōsōgiga (TV Anime Series) - Interdimensional travel and family. This was a wonderfully weird and surrealistic story. Nice use of visuals to give one the sense of an alien environment..

Free (TV Anime Series) - A high school swim learns to come together. A nice celebration of the sport. Good art and animation.

Flowers of Evil (TV Anime Series) - This feels like a surrealitic Eurpoean story. A boy makes an impulsive move and a young woman makes face his actions. I wonder why the animated this since it has no real fantastic elements. I hope they more becuase the moral quandries are quite intriguing.

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (TV Anime Series) - A mecha pilot and his mech lands on a flooded Earth and bonds with the locals. Great mech action and some interesting conflict/

March 2014

The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – A story of a family that dealt with the horrors of the Trujillo dictatorship of the Dominican Republic. Oscar Wao is fan who cannot escape the past.  Diaz does great job of incorporating the history of the Dominican Republic to the story.

Muppets Most Wanted (Theatrical Film) – The Muppets go to Europe!! I like the fact Animal can tell the Constantine is not Kermit.  It has all the goofy bits that we want from a Muppet film.

The Wind Rises (Anime Film) - Jiro Horikoshi is an engineer who dreams of building airplanes. This is about the joy of creation. This is supposedly Miyazaki's last film, it is a great ending to a great career.

World Conqueror Zvezda Plot (TVAnime Series) – A young girl recruits a teenage boy to help conquer the world.  There are some interesting idea in this.  It is like seeing a traditional spy thriller/super hero story from the villains point of view.  Are the Zvezda villains?  The show sometimes uses some of the dopier traditional anime tropes.  Ending could have been stronger.

Witchcraft Works (TV Anime Series) – An ordinary Japanese high school student, Takamiya Honokais a target by some hostile witches.  He gets help from the school’s star student, Kagari Ayaka who is a very powerful witch.  They build a friendship between the boy and girl.  The boy wants to be more proactive and not be just a victim. 

Wizard Barristers (TV Anime Series) – Wizards and ordinary human exists side by side with the help of the law.  Half Canadian/Japanese Cecil becomes the youngest Wizard Barrister in Japan.  While taking on criminal cases she tries to clear her mother of murder.  There is a good supporting cast with the other barristers, paralegals, and police officers.  I would like to see more of Cecil and her friends.

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha (TV Anime Series) - A teenager makes a hasty choice and gets shapeshifting powers. She helps out a powerful being and learns how to be a good person. A real feel good anime.

Words and Pictures (Theatrical Film) - What is more effective words or pictures? The question is thoughtfully explored in this film.

April 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Theatrical Film) – This a great tribute to the Captain America stories from the 1970s comics.  Cap has to face a murky ethical problem.  It is great how they tied in this film with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.

Curtsies and Conspirace by Gail Carringer – Sophronia prevents Dimity from being kidnapped.  The action ramps up from there.  Again flirting and steampunk action. A great combo.

May 2014

Wolf in Shadow by John Lambshead (Readers’ Group Selection) –Two government agents, a man and a flighty vampire, investigate the paranormal. A young woman with werewolf like tendencies moves to London to escape her past.  A vampire on the moral sidelines and a conspiracy of world destroying levels brings themtogether.  This was fun as a thriller and it has an interesting take on vampire and werewolves.

Jodorwosky’s Dune (Theatrical Film) – The story of a never produced version of Dune.  Had it been made it could have been one of the greatest films of all time. Jodorworsky would had half of fandom angry at his ending but the other half would have given him a Hugo.

Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross (Hugo Nominee) – Set in the same post human future as Saturn’s Children. Krina Alizond-114 is investigating a possible economic con.  This make her a target of certain interests.  She goes to ground and continues her investigation.  Stross, like Doctorow, makes economics interesting and figures out a great con in an instellar community.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Theatrical Film) - It was great that Spidey tried to talk down Dillion rather than fight him outright. The Green Goblin seemed to be extraneous.

Parasite by Mira Grant – SymboGen has created an artificial life form that is implanted in the human body.  This organism assists in maintenance of the health of its host.  A few years after the organism is introduced, a strange side effect manifests.  We follow Sally Mitchell who was one of the first users of the organism and is monitored by the company.  There is some interesting science here.  Would people be willing to go with this is better health is achieved?  You also get some great action when fighting those with “malfunctioning” organisms (or are they?).

Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time (TV Anime Series) - It was always fun to see what Seki comes up with and how Rumi reacts to this. Long live robot family.

The Lunchbox (Theatrical Film) - A romance with food. A mistaken lunch delivery changes the life of man and woman in Mumbai. It is funny and moving. A great romance.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Theatrical Film) – A fun romp in the tacky 70s.  A nice use of the events of the time. Dinklage is great as Trask. He dominates when he is on screen.  The conflict between Xaiver, Mageneto, and Mystique is fascinating.  

June 2014

The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black (Young Readers Award Nominee) – A teenage girl name Tana escapes from a party that was infiltrated by a vampire.  She fears being infected.  If Tana can avoid blood for a few weeks she will remain human.  She goes to Coldtown, an area where vampires and possible infectees are confined.  Can she save herself?  I like that this deglamorizes vampires.  Vampires and scary and becoming one is not desirable.

The Summer Prince by Alya Dawn Johnson (Young Readers Award Nominee)  - In a post apocalyptic Brazil, young men are picked to be Kings for a short while and then sacaraficed. June Costa is blossing artist. She meets Enki the new Summer King and her life changes forever. The books does not offer easy answers but does gives its characters agency to find their own solutions.

Zombie Baseball by Paolo Bacigalupi (Young Readers Award Nominee) – Some young boys uncover a dangerous secret in the town’s meat packing plant.  People are getting sick and the plant is doing whatever it takes to keep what is happening under wraps.  Can they survive to get help?  Can they win their next baseball game?  Social commentary that may helpful to young readers is mixed with an action adventure story.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell (Young Readers Award Nominee) - A crippled princess dreams of writing a book. She gets involved in some intrigue and finds herself in a dragon hunt. Cool that a princess wants to do something academic.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Young Readers Award Nominee) - A teenager is able to make dream objects real. he and his school firends explore the paranormal existing near there school. There were parts of this that were good but it felt like a middle novel.

Warbound by Larry Correia (Hugo Nominee) – In alternate world some people have magic powers. In earlier books the existence of these individuals were revealed to the world.  In 1933, Japan is under control by a magic user.  Germany has become a pit of zombies.  America is trying to decide how to handle the existence of these people.  There is a lot of action and you do not need to read the previous novels in the series to understand the current novel.

No Game, No Life – A brother and sister are NEETs who are also good video game players. A mysterious force recruits them to another world where games control everything.  They quickly take over the human empire in this world.  There are some interesting ideas about game play but there are some of the more obnoxious anime tropes that are distracting.  I wish they would have played it more seriously.

The Comic Artist and Assistants(TV Anime Series) - I thought this would be about the manga industry. It turned out to e a mildly amusing harem show.

Heroman (TV Anime Series) - Joey Jones action figures is truck by lighting and becomes a superhero. Joey names him Heroman and they go out to save their home town Center City and the world. Classic superhero stuff written by a master, Stan Lee. This should have been shown on US TV. I wish they adapted more of the manga.

July 2014

All You Need is Kill by   -Kejei is reliving a day in an alien invasion.  With the help of an American soldier he might be able to end the war. The idea of resetting the idea is great.  H explores this quite well.  The ending is hot a happy one but works for the story.

Edge of Tomorrow (Theatrical Film) – The film uses the book idea well but then we get a traditional Hollywood ending rather the book’s sharp ending.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Theatrical Film) – A great continuation of the previous film.  The motives of Caesar, Koba, and Dreyfuss are well explored. Everybody wants the best for their people, they are willing to risk it all for appears to be security.  I was hoping would lead in to the Ape society a certain spaceship will encounter when it returns to Earth.

August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (Theatrical Film) - Marvel goes galactic. This was fun. Some nice suprises. The scene in the prison where Groot is taking out the alarm while the other was great since it is a very comic book like scene.

Spider-Man:The Darkest Hours by Jim Butcher - Peter has coach high school basketball. Mary Jane gets a great part but needs a car. The Rhino and Molrun's siblings attack Spider-Man. Some our friendly neighborhood webslinger deals with these problems. Butcher does great job capturing Spider-Man of the Strazynski period.

Tangled (Theatrical Film) - A great take on the classic tale. Frying pans are cool.

The Frog Prince (Theatrical Film) - Disney shows that it can use a traditonal fairy tale and set in a modern setting.

September 2014

Severed Streets by Paul Cornell - The squad is invetigating a new killer. There some surprises in this one. Not all is as it seems. People have to make hard decisions. Some questions need to be in the next book. I will be there.

Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey - Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer solar episode, is attacked. Chrisjen Avasarala, a UN official, tries to keep the situation under control. Martian Marine Gunnery Sergeant Bobbie Draper sees the action up close. Jim Holden and the crew of ship the Rocinante are looking for a missing girl. Is this connect with the attack? The action continues in The Expanse series. It is very satisfaction.

Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn - Anna is the granddaughter oof superheroes. She has telepathic powers. She finds oither teen with powers and train to be superheroe team on their own. Anna's mom, the non power Celia, is concerned. Will these teens become the next generation of heroes. A great story about a family and good mix of superheroics.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett - A young girl, Tiffany Aching defends her home against monsters of fairyland. There are some scary and funny bits. Tiffany has a first great outing.

Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey - An alien artifact is on the edge of the solar system. All the powers wish to explore it. Holden and his crew are also there and become the target of frame up, A minister sent to be part of theological party examing the artifact. An old acquitance talks to Holden. The action continues. The minister was a great character, they explored themes of forgiveness and redemption in this one.

Locked In by John Scalzi - A disease sweeps the world. People are "locked in" their own bodies. Special robot bodies are made for these people so they can have functioning lives. The disease is called Haden's syndrome. Chris Shane joins the FBI and is partnered with veteran Leslie Vann. Theier first case together is the murder of Integrator, someone who loans out their body to the Haden's patient. The murder may be the tip of the iceberg. A great mystery. Vann kicks ass. Some great ideas.

Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey - A new Earth-like planet is discovered on the other side of interstellar gate. A group of colonist are trying to make a go of it. They get into a dispute with a company. They sent Jim Holden to arbitrate. This novel shows how even an Earth-like world would be hard to colonize.

Magic in the Moonlight (Theatrical Film) - Interesting but a little troubling. Stanley Crawford is horrible to Sophie at the end. Does he deserve forgiveness?

The Roosevelts (TV Documentary) - Ken Burns looks at one of this country's most famous family. Learned some new stuff about these great people.

Captain Earth (TV Anime Series) - The story was a mess. I was never sure what the antagonists want. The animation looked good.

October 2014

The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi - Alix is kidnapped by radical activists. She is told by their leader Moses that her father make it safe for corporations to sell unsafe products. He can put enough spin to confuse the people and delay action to be taken. At first Alix refuses to believes this, but as she researches Alix discovers the truth. What can she do help Moses. A good novel about social activism, its goals and pitfalls.

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley - A local kingdom is being invaded by one from a parallel universe. This will disrupt both place. This is a big complicated story and world. One needs to focus. This is going to be great series.

November 2014

Big Hero 6 (Theatrical Animated Film) - Great to see a group of diverse superheroes kicking butt.

Space Pirate Captain Harlock (Theatrical Animated Film) - The film does not make much sense. Why Harlock did what he did does make sense. I wish they would have used an older Harlock story.

Servant x Service (TV Anime Series) - A group of young bureaucrats on the job. One wants revenge on the civil servant that approved her name. It a great comedy about working in a government office.

Death Comes to Pemberly (TV Movie) - An adaptation of PD James sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Well shot and acted except for part of the ending that was over the top. Jenna Coleman was a surprsingly good Lydia Bennet.

Interstellar (Theatrical Film) - A glorious attempt at a big idea space SF film. The directing and images are OK. There are problems with story. It is a defeatist movie that we will trash the earth and move on.

Gotham (TV Series) - The Penguin storyline is great. There were some nice scenes with young Bruce and Selina. Gordon and Bullock are a great team. There are some things that can use work like Barbara.

December 2014

The Flash (TV Series) - A fine addition to DC TV universe. It is nice not to have a mopey superhero. It also nice all backs to the 1990 series.

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie - Berq is now a Fleet captain and takes command of Mercy of Kair, a completely human crewed ship, no ancillaries. She goes to Athoek Station to help secure the Empire. The series explores issue of class and gender. As in the previous book it has some great action in the mix.

Knights of Sidonia (Anime TV Series) - A generation starship faces deangerous aliens. It is a godd SF/Mech show. The art and animation is top notch.

Psycho-Pass 2 (Anime TV series) - A great continuation of the series. The Sybil system has a flaw that is exploited. Akane Tsunemori is a great lead. She is a bit insecure but stands up in a crisis.

Ascension (TV Mini-Series) - Great idea but falls apart. It might have been better if the twist at the end of part one did not happen and it was all real.

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Anime TV Series) - This was a surprise. It has its goofy moments but it has really profund moments. A worthy work from Trigger.

The Southern Reach (Annihlation, Authority, Acceptance) by Jeff VanderMeer - Area X is place where strange things happen. The Southern Reach send teams to investigate it. There is alot going on and deamnds a lot of attention.

Princess Jellyfish (Anime TV Series) - Tsukimi and her otaku apartment mates face the world with the help of Kuranosoke/Kurako, a cross dresser. Its fun. The bond and help each other. A nice positive show.

Star Wars Rebels (Animated TV Series) - A new contribution to saga. An interesting cast of characters. I hope to see some old friends some time soon.

Sword Art Online II (Anime TV Series) - This was a combinations of the latter light novels. The Gun Gale arc has some great action and an interesting problem I like that they allow the young woman to save herself in the end. The Mother Rosario storyline was very touching.


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