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Exodus: Gods and Kings – Epic Title and Epic Fail…

This film is another retelling of one of the most famous Biblical tales of all time. Moses (played by Bale) rises up again Ramses, the Egyptian Pharaoh, to free 600,000 slaves on a journey of epic proportions to escape from Egypt’s clutches and its cycle of terrifying and deadly plagues.

What I Liked: The special effects were well done. I also enjoyed the cinematography.

What I Didn’t Like: Unfortunately, there was very little to enjoy as a whole for me. The pacing was terrible. The film has a 2.5 hour run time and I still wonder why.

The 3D was pointless. It wasn’t distracting at all, but it could have been incorporated much better, especially during battle scenes. Its PG-13 rating held it back for sure, especially when it comes to portraying their struggles as well as the violence. I believe it could have been done without being gratuitous while still being effective for the viewer. The Bible is brutal. Certain films should be too.

Certain scenes made it come off as borderline satirical and part of the problem is the casting. It was very difficult for me to suspend my disbelief in a few instances. Sigourney Weaver for one. She is one of my favorite actresses. She makes one hell of an Avatar (that was honestly my favorite part of that film), but a believable Egyptian she is not. It honestly felt like she and other cast members were playing dress up. I’m as much of an Aaron Paul fan as the next person who knows anything about Breaking Bad. But I honestly found myself giggling inwardly at his portrayal of Joshua. I am not saying he should be type cast, but in the moment I could only think of him as Jessie Pinkman transported back to BCE. And of course we can’t forget the main man himself, Christian Bale. He does not come out of this one unscathed either. Obviously he has iconic roles and is a fine actor. But we all have our misses and this is definitely one to file away in the “miss” pile, along with his John Connor. While I like his acting, he is just not suited for everything.

The romance was super rushed too. I don’t even think Moses and Zipporah interact for not even five minutes before they are married. No, romance is not at the forefront of the story, but I didn’t find it believable and couldn’t buy into their chemistry, or lack thereof.

Overall: Exodus: Gods and Kings lacks depth that hinders it from being a truly epic retelling. The time was right for it too, so I can only chalk it up to an unfortunate missed opportunity. The best film portraying the story of Moses for me remains The 10 Commandments (1956) with Charlton Heston. That has withstood the test of time. This version won’t even withstand the test of the year.

**This review is also a guest post for my friends over at The Grand Shuckett.

Cyber Monday STEALS! The Undead Pool for $1.25 and The Witch With No Name for $4.00

If you’ve been holding out for that last Hollows novels, then hold out no more! You can own The Undead Pool (Hollows #12) TODAY for $1.25.  Buy it here.

the undead pool, kim harrison, rachel morgan

And if you’re holding out for a good deal on The Witch With No Name, then it will be a while before you see it at $4.00! Buy it here.

I still can’t believe my eyes at these prices!!

Mockingjay Part 1 Review

Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is back for the penultimate installment of the Hunger Games franchise. Split into two films, Mockingjay Part 1 sets the stage for the final show down. After Katniss once again foils the plans of the Capitol in Catching Fire, District 13 recruits her as their final hope, as the symbol of the rebellion.

What I Liked: Let me preface this by saying that Mockingjay was my least favorite book in this franchise. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read it and I can barely remember all that happened, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. It was boring, Katniss was annoying, and it almost soured me on the series as a whole.

Needless to say, I didn’t go into this very excited to begin with, but I must admit that the movie churned out a better product that was at least watchable. One benefit is that the film does not limit us to Katniss’s POV like the book does where she literally stays in one place while everything else is happening around her.

I thought it was emotionally stirring at times to see the destruction play out on screen. The effects were well done.

I also found myself laughing more than I remember doing while reading the book, and those moments were much needed to lighten the mood somewhat.

What I Didn’t Like: The film also does a good job with Katniss, but that’s not really a good thing. I found her every bit as annoying as I did in the books. She is very whiny and childish yet again. Yeah, I know she’s only 18 but she’s been through some things and I wanted to see more character growth. I wanted a more admirable heroine. I wanted a personality.

This is the only installment without a portion focused on the games and you could argue that the film suffered for it. All the cool and brutal action is a part of what made the first two films so appealing. It’s missing that element in significant doses so the film has more slow moments than the prequels. Not to mention, most of the time when a final book is split into two films the pace tends to suffer for it. Of course because this is part 1 of 2 we have a cliffhanger so that annoys me because the story isn’t complete, but I know that comes with the territory when these book-to-film adaptations decide to ride on Harry Potter’s coat tails for more money.

Overall: I still like the Catching Fire film the most out of this franchise (yep, more than the book), and so far I think Mockingjay the film is worth more attention than Mockingjay the book is. That said, it is not the most exciting entry in the franchise making me think they are saving it up for Part 2.

**This is post is also a part of my guest review for my friends over at The Grand Shuckett.

Giveaway Winner Selected! The Getaway God (Sandman Slim, #6) by Richard Kadrey

Thank you guys for entering and thank you for your patience! My first term is almost over so I’m looking forward to catching up on reading and reviewing! But I know what you’re all waiting for, the winner of this giveaway! And I won’t delay any further. The winner was randomly chosen to receive a copy of The Getaway God (Sandman Slim, #6) by Richard Kadrey is:

Michelle Willms

Congrats! Please keep an eye out for an email from me so that I can get your contact info.  Again, thank you all for participating.  More giveaways are to come! I’m keepin ‘em comin’!

Foxcatcher Review

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As a fan of Olympic sports, I was looking forward to this one.

This film is based on a true story centering around 1984 Olympic Champion Wrestler Mark Schultz and his quest to pursue another gold medal with the help of a new coach and sponsor, millionaire John du Pont. In his training for the 1988 games in Seoul, the presence of Mark’s revered brother and Olympic Champion, Dave Schultz complicates matters.

What I Liked: I went in knowing very little regarding the background of this story, which became essential for a few elements of surprise toward the end. I think the film did a decent job of portraying how a one-sided sibling rivalry can work. Though Mark (played by Channing Tatum) is the star and you feel bad for him because he wants to do nothing more than to overshadow his brother.

Dave (played by Mark Ruffalo) is very likeable so you find yourself rooting for the brothers to find a common ground. I liked that Dave’s intentions were always pure and that he worked to manage what is best for his family vs. what is best for his brother.

I thought it was interesting to touch upon how having achieved everything is still never enough for some people. An Olympic gold medal for a gymnast or a figure skater means guaranteed millions and instant fame, but other athletes tend to struggle financially. The story does a good job of expressing the importance of the need for success beyond only the medals. At the heart of it it’s a story behind the characters’ different needs for acknowledgement. John du Pont (played for Steve Carrell) has everything financially, but even as a middle-aged man he seeks approval and acknowledgment from his mother.

What I Didn’t Like: I thought the story ran a bit long for my tastes in the middle portion. I think the run time could have remained under 2 hours and the impact would have been just as effective. Channing Tatum, while I do love him as a personality, didn’t command the screen quite as well as Ruffalo or Carrell do. I think Carrell did a fine acting job at John du Pont, but the prosthetics were distraction occasionally. Nevertheless it was an effective departure from his typical comedic roles. I also feel like a bit more needed to be done to understand his character.

The ending didn’t actually resolve enough for me. I don’t know if this happened because it was based on a true story or not, but I was left with several questions that maybe have exceeded my knowledge.

Overall: The story had a few interesting moments, but there was an intensity missing to completely bring me in. I would have liked a better moral to the story. If you don’t see it in theatres, it’s at least worthwhile to read about. It is certainly not a film that will leave you feeling inspired though; in fact by the end I was left feeling fairly Hollow. But I suppose not every tale can be a fairytale.

Rating: 3/ 5 Stars

Note:  My review will also be posted to The Grand Shuckett.

Interstellar is Stellar!

interstellarHey guys! My review can also be found at The Grand Shuckett for this film.

A vulnerable earth with its people on the brink of extinction leads to a group of NASA explorers seeking out a newly discovered wormhole to find the next best viable planet for the people of earth.

What I Liked:
The best part of this film for me was that I went in with fairly low expectations. I didn’t seek out a lot of information about it in the press and there hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of publicity for it either. So going in with those expectations led to the film exceeding them drastically. Clocking in at nearly three hours leaves room for a lot of story and a with a surprise all-star cast (at least it was for me), it takes full advantage of this. While I don’t pretend to be the next Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I did enjoy how well it appeared to tie in Einstein’s theory of relativity as well as other advanced scientific concepts. Unlocking the potential makes the impossible possible and that’s what they are chasing. I thought the film was ambitious and layered and found it plenty suspenseful as it walked that fine like between confirming whether or not the phenomena are a result of man, another species, or a divine higher power.

The film in IMAX doesn’t look incredibly impressive on the screen, however the sound is what you’ll benefit from as the most immersive experience. All of the scenes in the spaceship are incredibly loud and it literally shake the room. You feel like you’re right there with them in the ship.

What I Didn’t Like: The story itself I liked quite a bit. However many of the characters themselves fall a bit flat for me sometimes. Matthew McConaughey delivered a strong performance as Cooper, and his young daughter does too. Everyone appeared to have a purpose, however I could have done with less to make the story even tighter. The pacing was okay, but for me it did start slowly. I wasn’t gripped until after the first hour. But what it has in its corner is that it builds to the point where by the end you are on pins and needles about what will happen next.

Visually it is not as impressive to look at, especially compared to the likes of Gravity, but the story is way more interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing it again to pick up on things I may have missed.

Overall: If you love Nolan films then this is a must see. It is right in line with his style. I was able to accurately predict a few plot twists, but that made it all the more fun. I think this is now one of my favorite films of his, though I’ll always remain partial to The Prestige, which is still my #1 favorite (hard to compete with Christian Bale AND Hugh Jackman for me).

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY! The Getaway God (Sandman Slim, #6) by Richard Kadrey

Synopsis: Sandman Slim must save himself-and the entire world-from the wrath of some enraged and vengeful ancient gods in this sixth high-octane adventure. Being a half-human, half-angel nephilim with a bad rep and a worse attitude-not to mention temporarily playing Lucifer-James Stark aka Sandman Slim has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya-the old gods. But their imminent invasion is only one of Stark’s problems right now. LA is descending into chaos, and a new evil-the Wildfire Ripper-is stalking the city.

No ordinary killer, The Ripper takes Stark deep into a conspiracy that stretches from Earth to Heaven and Hell. He’s also the only person alive who may know how to keep the world from going extinct. The trouble is, he’s also Stark’s worst enemy . . . the only man in existence Stark would enjoy killing twice.

Review: This was my first time reading a Sandman Slim novel as well as anything by Richard Kadrey despite hearing this series and his name pop up from time to time.  Yeah, I’m starting a little late in the game, but I’ll take what I can get!  Color me impressed!  I really enjoyed this world and characters. Kadrey has quite the imagination when it comes to the powers and abilities of his supporting characters and his central character, James, as well.  I started reading it feeling like there was plenty of back story given so I didn’t really feel lost. However, as I read a bit more I do think there were things I would understand better had I read the other 5 books when it came to species, their abilities, and their interrelationships with other species and James.  Even still, there is enough new material for me to follow along without much issue.  They do reference the past a lot so it’s nice to see another series that does a good job of building on itself.  I was intrigued enough by the plot and enjoyed this story enough that I do plan to go back and read the others! Candy (James’s demon girlfriend) is really cool. I like her personality a lot and can see how well it works with his character as well.  The world-building is fantastic, thorough,  and consistent. This particular book wasn’t very dark for me but I hear that this series takes a bunch of very dark turns in the prequel novels, so color me intrigued.

I am coming off of reading the complete Dresden files earlier this year so a few elements made me think back to that series, but this series has plenty to stand apart on its own as well. I was engaged from beginning to the end.  I feel like readers of The Dresden Files and Kate Daniels in particular would really like this one too.  There are plenty of quotable passages, very funny ones.  I’ll share one of my favorites:

“I throw back the cup of tea. It tastes like hot swamp water filtered through a baboon’s ass.”

So yes, overall I enjoyed it and look forward to reading the rest of the novels in this series. Looks like I have another marathon planned for 2015!

Giveaway

Do you want a copy of my book? Well, you might be in luck!  One lucky winner of my blog will receive a hardcover copy of the novel! Just tell me if you’re a Richard Kadrey fan or a new reader and what you like about his books, what I can look forward to in some of his other novels, or what you’re looking forward to as a new reader.

How to Enter (PLEASE READ CAREFULLY): My giveaways are only open to followers of Your Urban Fantasy who are 18 years of age or older. In order to enter YOU MUST COMMENT ON THIS ANNOUNCEMENT POST AND INDICATE YOU HAVE DONE SO ON THE RAFFLECOPTER WIDGET! If you’re a new member, sign up on the right panel to follow my blog via email. (Make sure to check your email to confirm your subscription. You should receive a notification immediately, so check your spam folder if you don’t see it right away). Current followers can just say so in their post. The next four opportunities are for bonus entries. Overall, there are up to 5 chances to enter:

  1. Follow this blog via email and comment based on my specifications mentioned before (THIS IS REQUIRED)
  2. Like my review on Amazon (bonus entry)
  3. “Like” Your Urban Fantasy on Facebook (bonus entry)
  4. Follow me on Twitter (bonus entry)
  5. Tweet about the giveaway (bonus entry – you can do this daily for more entries)

The more entries the better your chance to win! Good luck! And don’t forget to comment!  

The giveaway will run from 10/27/14 – 11/9/14. Good luck!
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Ouija Review

I did a guest review for my friends over at The Grand Shuckett for this one; however, I will post it here as well.

Halloween is right around the corner! And with that comes a string of scary films opening in theatres. With Ouija receiving the most promotion this was an easy pick for me.

The title of the film, Ouija, leaves little to the imagination of the general plotline. For the most part we understand the purpose behind the use of a Ouija board; it’s to summon spirits that have passed on. That’s the premise of this film, except Debbie (Shelley Hennig from Teen Wolf) gets more than she bargained for when she uncovers an old one in her attic. She inadvertently summons a spirit at the cost of her own life. Her closest friend, Laine (Olivia Cooke), unable to wrap her mind around it seeks to figure out the circumstances surrounding her best friend’s death. She discovers the mysterious Ouija board and with it she recruits their closest friends to help summon Debbie’s spirit in order to find out answers. But is she summoning Debbie, or being that’s taken her?

What I Liked: I’m not really easy to scare, especially when it comes to horror films. So while I didn’t find this film particularly frightening, I did laugh quite a bit. To be honest, the audience in general was laughing a lot and that helped make it a slightly more entertaining experience. There were a few unsuspected scenes that made the audience jump in their seats more than I did, but for the most part I spent my time laughing at those moments.

What I didn’t like: If you’re interested in a compelling a horror story then this isn’t or you. This film treads no new ground whatsoever. As I said, I spent most of my time laughing at the film, and I don’t believe it was intentional, but it was the only thing that saved it from being a complete bore fest. The film is under 90 minutes so it’s short but it lasts long enough. To be honest, when the MPAA slaps a PG-13 rating on a horror film, what can you really expect? While there is a tiny short list of exceptions, in general these films tend to hold back a lot more compared to their R-rated counterparts and rely much more heavily on the standard clichés, especially when they star actors that aren’t well known. So far I would say The Ring remains the most effectively creepy PG-13 film I’ve seen, but that had Naomi Watts.

I’ve seen better horror films already this year, and apparently other audience members did too. Without spoiling too much, there is a certain scene in the film that caused one person in the crowd to belt out “Annabelle!! Annabelle!” That ended up being the best part of the entire evening, but I don’t know what that says about the creative merits of this film. I think viewers in search for real horror are better off perusing the horror section on Netflix, RedBox, or OnDemand than giving this one any of your precious time.

 

Giveaway Winner Selected! Chained by Night (MoonBound Clan Vampires #2) by Larissa Ione

Thank you guys for entering and thank you for your patience! Between wonky internet connections and grad school work it’s been a little hard to get around to blogging stuff but I have a few things coming up this week!  But I know what you’re all waiting for, the winner of this giveaway! And I won’t delay any further.  The winner was randomly chosen to receive a copy of Chained by Night (MoonBound Clan Vampires #2) by Larissa Ione is:

ezinwanyi

Congrats! Please keep an eye out for an email from me so that I can get your contact info.  Again, thank you all for participating.  And please stay tuned because I have another giveaway coming up this week! I’m keepin’ em comin’!

No Good Deed Review

Plot: An unstable escaped convict terrorizes a woman who is alone with her two children.

Review: There isn’t anything in particular that’s groundbreaking about the film. It was mostly predictable the whole way through. I think Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson brought the star power, but they provided little else. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its creepy moments. The film is suspenseful and the audience seemed to be buying it, but overall it’s rather forgettable. I’m sure many were more interested in Elba taking his shirt off. It was certainly met with cheers, hoots, and hollers. I’d love to see how some of those women would act while seeing Magic Mike 2; he was rather tame in comparison to that.

I do enjoy both actors and I cringe that the movie poster tries to market this film with their academy award and golden globe achievements. Idris Elba is attached to some of my favorite films and TV shows (ie: The Wire, Thor), I was looking forward to it because he doesn’t really play villainous roles often anymore. I wanted to see if he could branch out and be more dynamic than his character on The Wire. He isn’t really the problem with the film; it’s the material he has to work with. I was hoping for a more layered character because they make the best bad guys and they always have.

Taraji Henson, well she’s actually a cousin of one of my cousins (though I’m not blood-related to her directly myself), so I always wish her well due to that family connection. She has been attached to some great projects too (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button comes to mind), so I just feel like both of these actors are better than this. Her character was a little too meek for my tastes. She’s a lawyer turned housewife, so I think she should have been more argumentative and assertive, especially when dealing with her husband.

The climax of the film provides most nail biting moments. We finally see Henson attempts at gaining the upper hand. As a lawyer, it’s established that she’s supposed to be a highly intelligent person so she is a little craftier than your average victim in these types of romps. The were still a few “Don’t go in there! Don’t’ do that!” moments that we in the reading world have coined “TSTL” (too stupid to live), but those were relegated to supporting characters more often, likely to maintain some character consistency.

Home invasion films in general are hit and miss. I feel like this genre has been done to death so it’s hard to come up with anything fresh these days. Who can match Robert DiNero’s performance in Cape Fear? I’ll give you a moment to think about it.

The film is entertaining, but definitely not worth a full price of admission. I would recommend renting it at best, but you really aren’t missing much…except a shirtless Idris Elba. But rest assured you can probably find that in several other places.