The Best And Worst of 2018

Besides my annual Halloween post, one of the other constants is my year end review of the best and worst in film, music, and books of the year. The only criteria is they had to have been released during the year 2018. In some categories I have put a Best, Worst, and “Surprising” category, which was I felt needed to be noted for whatever unique reason (mainly something I thought would not be good that ended up being wonderful).

So here are my Best (and Worst) of 2018:

Movies

The Best:

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  1. Halloween

My experience with Michael Myers stopped after the first three films (Halloween 3 doesn’t have Myers in it, but is still a creepy awesome film), and the Rob Zombie remakes. I was more of a Freddy Kruger fan growing up. When the news was out that a new Halloween was being made with Jamie Lee Curtis, with the setting 40 years after the original, I had to see this.

One aspect that I enjoy in having some of the original actors replay their roles (such as Rocky Balboa) is that the directors can make them tough, but still give limitations and faults in the characters. Laurie Strode is living in her home isolated pretty much from everyone and has become a hermit of sorts away from her family, preparing for Myers’ return. The film has the classic horror feel to it, without being dated, and Curtis shines throughout the film. The other great thing of the film is one doesn’t have to follow all ten other films in the series to get what’s going on. This has a classic horror feel throughout, and was enjoyable from beginning to end.

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  1. Aquaman

Some people will just hate any movie put out by the DC Universe. I personally liked Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad ,and really enjoyed Justice League-all films that were bashed by critics and fans. I am one of the people that think CG has destroyed a lot of the films, where the director rely on too much of it. However, you know going into Aquaman that there will be plenty of CG- I mean 90% of it is underwater. This is a film that is just fun to watch- there are comical moments, good acting, and great visuals. When you think the scene is going to have tied down language, something happens that kicks the action up again.

Nicole Kidman shows in this film that she is still a wonderful actor, and Jason Momoa has found his character in films. The cast is full, with Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe, all who help make the film exciting and entertaining. The underwater visuals are astonishing. This is a film that reminds me of past summer films, where you just go watch and be amazed, regardless of those critics that want to dissect every plot point.

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  1. Mission Impossible: Fallout

          One would think after 6 movies, this series would get stale (I’m kind of burned out of the Marvel Comics movies, especially The Avengers series-although End Game was great, but had some slow parts to it), but Tom Cruise still creates ways to keep this series fresh with magnificent stunts (which he did himself at age 50, and broke his ankle while filming!) The crew is back for another mission, featuring Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and the obnoxious Alec Bladwin (in real life and in acting) along with Henry Cavill, who was filming this while doing the Justice League re-shoots. Cavill shows a depth to his character that those who only see him as Superman may be surprised. The basic themes are still here- breathtaking stunts, great fight scenes, creative camera work, and character swerves. Cruise once again shows that one doesn’t need tons of CG in the films to stay with the times. I have always been a Cruise fan and Fallout may be the best in the series.

 

The Worst:

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  1. A Wrinkle In Time

Even though I had problems struggling through the book, I still decided to see how the book would be changed into a film. Although I had my doubts with the casting of people like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, I decided to be open about the film. I should’ve been opened to what I could have been doing instead of watching this disaster. Not only were most (if not all) the religious aspects of the book taken out (which has major importance in the story), but the other changes of the story were plain awful. I get that sometimes movies change characters and ages (like hair color, etc) but this was almost nothing like the book. Not even Chris Pine’s acting (who is great in the Star Trek and Wonder Woman films) made this enjoyable. His cardboard acting made me wonder how he was talked into this film. Oprah has been viewed as a champion for literature (I’ll keep my views on that silent here), so you’d think she’d have a problem the changes in the film from the book-I’m sure the director would listen to her views. Besides all of the changes made from the novel, nothing could save the bad acting throughout, along with the casting choices, and pathetic special effects.

2018 had some dud movies, like Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence (who needs to stop preaching her politics and spend more time reading scripts after several flops in a row), Samson, and Tomb Raider, but A Wrinkle In Time made me want to time travel back and get the 109 minutes back from my day. This film has it all: bad acting, bad script, and bad effects. The basic plot from the book was taken , kept the names of some characters, and was destroyed to offend book readers and film watchers all at the same time.

 

Surprisingly:

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1.Winchester

This horror film is more psychological in nature about the widow of gun manufacturer William Winchester, who builds a huge mansion after being convinced she see ghosts from people who dies from the firearms. This 1900s story line has wonderful acting by Helen Mirren (who plays the widow Winchester), and was at one time supposed to be a Hammer Film. This is not a gore slasher film, which gets over saturated in the horror genre. If you want something that is a good throw back to earlier days of horror, check this out.

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  1. The Strangers: Prey At Night

This sequel to the 2008 is a fun ride if you like humor added to your slasher films. The story is common- a group of masked strangers attack a trailer park where a family is visiting relatives- but just like the Deadpool movies, the music in the film help make this enjoyable. The film takes two of my favorite songs from the 1980s, by Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler, and put them into key parts of the film where they become almost laughable, but in a good way. I have never seen the 2008 film, but it is not needed to enjoy this entertaining film. This film will be a guilty pleasure for many for years. Sometimes films don’t need a major plot , and just need to get the audience to relax and enjoy. This is one film that does just that.

 

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  1. The Least of These: A Christmas Story and God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

            Sometimes Christian films are just bad. Some religious people will not admit this fact, stating that just because a film is Christian based, means it is a good film. Samson was just awful, and I Can Only Imagine was pretty dull when converted to a movie. This years installment of the God’s Not Dead series brings some nice humor to the story with John Corbett playing a lawyer brother to the preacher in the film, played by David A.R. White. Even though this movie did worse than the other two, it is the second best one, behind the original. This is a more complete film that people need to check out.

The Least of These is a Christmas themed film, based around a homeless woman and her daughter trying to make ends meet during the Christmas season. This is a more darker themed movie (it’s not a Hallmark happy love story), but has some humorous parts and a great overall theme in the film on forgiveness and overcoming odds while keeping faith.

One of the  bright spots of the film is the breakout debut of Duane Allen of The Oak Ridge Boys, whose character plays an important role towards the end of the movie. His scenes are just as good as one of the lead actors G. Michael Nicolosi’s character (who believes he is Santa Claus). The movie may take some searching to find, but it is well worth it if you like holiday films with a faith based story.

 

Books 

The Best : (TIE)

  1. The Boy Is Gonna Rock by Bobby Rock

The current Lita Ford drummer takes his reader through the journey of playing in local bands to major arenas with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. This wonderful read is one of the best music biographies I have read in years, filled with humor, honesty, and regrets on the inner workings of the music business. Rock’s take on why the Invasion band did not reach its expected levels, along with covering his time with the Nelson Brothers and currently with Lita Ford. This book was written by Rock, who shows he has another skill besides drumming. This is a must read for music fans.

 

  1. Death of The Territories by Tim Hornbaker

There are many great wrestling books that have been released, but Hornbaker’s book is the best one this year. Filled with a historical look at how Vince McMahon Jr. went to the many wrestling territories in the 1980s, bought up the major stars, and turned them into household names in the wrestling boom. The book is easy to read, and has information that I never knew to top. Classic wrestling fans should get a copy of this book, because it is an entertaining look at how the territories crumbled. Hornbaker takes the popular theme of classic wrestling, which is all over pod casting right now, and puts it in a nice package that you’d want to read over and over and keep on your shelf.

 

Surprisingly:

1.Creating The Mania by Jon Robinson

Most WWE sponsored books tend to deny the history of the company’s past, along with keeping those interviewed in character at all times. Robinson’s book takes the reader through a year of building up to Wrestlemania, the biggest card in wrestling, and how storylines and the behind the scenes events are created. If you think there is not that much work into putting a wrestling show together, read this book, because it is filled with interviews and stories by wrestlers, production people, writers, and public relation workers that are expected to put on the best show for the company, while working a year on the build up (along with their weekly and daily duties in between). This book is not only wonderfully written, but was a surprise at how honest and behind the scenes Robinson was allowed to get to get his story. This is different than the old WWE books from the past.

READ THE BOOK! SEE THE MOVIE! FROM NOVEL TO FILM VIA 20TH CENTURY-FOX (HARDCOVER EDITION) by Gary A. Smith

 

 

  1. Read The Book! See The Movie! by Gary A. Smith

Gary A. Smith has become one of my favorite movie writers, and his latest is just as well written and researched as his horror film books. His latest deals with novels that were turned into movies by 20th Century Fox. Books such as Dragonwwyck, Anna and the King of Siam, and The Robe that were turned into movies are covered, along with others. I was not sure I’d enjoy this book as much, because it did not deal with horror films, but it still has the things that I love about Smith’s writings; well researched material in which I learn something new on every page, which keeps the pages turning until I am done reading. If you are a film fan , but do not know his work, check out Smith’s writings.

(A future in depth review is coming soon on Smith’s book, but you can find his other books reviewed here, along with my Q&A, in the archives)

 

MUSIC

17th Avenue Revival- The Oak Ridge Boys.

This is a no brainer for me. This is by far the best release of the year in ANY genre. The Oaks have proven not only that they still have the vocal chops in their older years (they are in their 70s) , but have put a new spin on their music, thanks to producer Dave Cobb. This album is filled with an old country/rockabilly take on Gospel songs in the vain of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and Johnny Cash. The songs are brief without unnecessary fillers, and contains the classic harmonies that The Oaks have been blessed with throughout the decades. In an era where most of older artists are refusing to bother with releasing new music, instead just relying on the Greatest Hits packages, The Oaks are putting out quality, wholesome entertainment. Michael Buble’s “Love” and Judas Priest’s “Firepower” are my other top picks in the music genre, but if you’re looking for an album where EVERY single track is quality, get 17th Avenue Revival. Just like the title says…..after listening to this, you will be revived!

(An in depth review of 17th Avenue Revival can be found in the archives)

 

Thanks to everyone who have followed my page throughout the year, along with all the writers and publishers who have allowed me to review their books. Hopefully 2019 will be just as great (hopefully greater), and hope everyone has a safe New Year. Now go seek my picks out and tell what you think!

Classic Book Review: The Original Teen Idol’s Rise and Fall

Cover photo: A publicity photograph of Rick Nelson in the 1960s (Photofest)

I remember listening to Rick Nelson’s songs when I was in junior high and high school, especially since I loved studying the early rock and roll music as a drummer. It wasn’t until around 1995 or so, when I started playing drums for a classic rock band, when one of my guitar players got me hooked on Nelson’s later work from the 1970s. I was always a fan of his sons Matthew and Gunnar’s music (named Nelson, who had hits in 1990), but there was something about Rick’s music from his album In Concert, Live at the Troubadour, that made me go back and buy some of Rick’s CDs.

One surprising thing to me was the lack of books covering Rick’s career that are in print. Here is a guy who is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was the first labeled teen idol, and influenced many artists in creating the early country/rock music that later inspired bands like The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt. When I found out that publishing company McFarland had a book on him, by Sheree Homer, called Rick Nelson: Rock ‘N’ Roll Pioneer (McFarland, 2012), I had to get a hold of it.

Homer’s work is a history book that covers Nelson’s rise as a television star from his father’s show, to his music career. The book is a nice description of Rick’s life, along with several photographs from Kristin Nelson’s (Rick’s wife) personal collection.

The book covers Rick’s career with some interesting topics covered, like how he would hide his lines in cookie jars and in drawers around the set because he did not study his script on the The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet show (and later, it is described that he had a photographic memory which is why he didn’t study his lines for films), to how Rick would keep musicians like Glenn Campbell in the studio for hours, taking forever to cut a record because Nelson knew the guys needed the money , so he would tie them up for hours so they could get a bigger income.

Homer details the famous night at Madison Square Garden when Nelson was supposedly booed at the concert for not playing his hits, which led Nelson to write the song “Garden Party.” In the book several different takes are covered at the event, from Kristin Nelson saying that it wasn’t because of how Rick looked or sounded, but because of the police security treating a drunken fan, to the more famous story that there was not many people booing him. Several stories are detailed via interviews with former management and band members about how several members quit Nelson’s band throughout the years over management’s lack of pay raises that were promised, to the intense traveling Nelson did later in his life, to the problems with a faulty plane that the band was taking on tour.

The plane is covered towards the end of the book and the events that happened which led to Nelson’s, his girlfriend, and band members’ death, where the pilots describe what happened in the crash of 1985. The media’s false coverage of the event is written about as well, as the media’s lack of a major retraction to some of the rumors that was spread about the crash.

Homer covers a section of Nelson’s career, which I was a fan of, when he recorded for Epic Records (a CD from this era was released a few years ago, with some of his great songs like “One X One, ” “Stay Young,” and ” Almost Saturday Night” ). Another section of his life is covered (which many historians skip over) when Nelson started to have a comeback with his hit “Dream Lover,” which was derailed by Epic’s lack of promoting the song after his appearance on Saturday Night Live . The label waited weeks until the song was released, waiting on an album, which killed the momentum of the appearance.

The book is a short read, with 149 pages of text, along with extra pages of Nelson’s Discography, Filmography, Radio and TV Broadcasts, and a listing of the songwriters of his songs in the appendixes. The photographs are nice to look at (in black and white) and even though the collection covers the music aspect of his career, it is a great have for Nelson fans to read, without having conspiracy theories and coverage of some of the rumors surrounding his life. This is a short read, with only 9 chapters, but it covers the music legend nicely. There is a brief mention here and there about Nelson’s children, actress Tracy, sons Matthew, Gunnar, and Sam, but it is more about Nelson and his music/acting career. Since there are not many books out about Rick Nelson and his career, this is a book that must be added to Nelson fans’ collection, or even for someone that wants to know a little more about who Rick Nelson was and his impact on music and television.

 

This review copy was given courtesy of McFarland.

 

Rick Nelson: Rock ‘N’ Roll Pioneer by Sheree Homer (McFarland, 2012 ISBN: 978-0-7864-6060-1 eISBN:978-1-4766-0019-2) can be found at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com, or by calling 800-253-2187.

The Overall:

Pages: 206 Pages

Language: None

Geared for: Junior high and up

For fans of: Rock and Roll History, Biographies, Film history, history.

 

Book Review: Souls Has Many Genres In Rock Road Trip

Cover design by Doogie Horner. Cover photo by Viorel Sima/ Shutterstock

Some time ago I reviewed Paperbacks From Hell, a history of paperback horror books by Grady Hendrix (the review can be found here in the archives). When I saw that Hendrix released new book, I searched out to get a copy to review. The themes of the book was very much up my alley; music (heavy metal music) and horror in a fictional setting.

We Sold Our Souls (Quirk Books, 2018) is a story about Kris Pulaski, who joined a heavy metal band in the 1990s, and toured with her band Dürk Würk, for ten years, not quite getting the big break needed for success. Once the lead singer Terry Hunt decides to take the band in a different direction, he offers the band a new contract in his new band Koffin, which all the members but Kris sign. Hunt’s career skyrockets while Kris is working a day job and does not play her guitar anymore. When Hunt decides to have a huge farewell tour, strange thing start happening to the band members, where she finds out that Hunt may have done more to the band than she thinks (NO SPOILERS).

The book takes Kris on a journey to find the other band members, along with patching up any ill-feelings that was carried over from that night the other band members signed the contracts. The tale is filled with many different themes, from Sci-Fi, horror, and adventure, while filled with conspiracy theory themes in between. Even though there are many themes combining in the arc, there are a little too much in it to actually put the book in one genre, which may be what Hendrix was trying to do (just like how musicians do not want their work to be in just one category).

The first part of the book keeps the reader engaged, turning every page to see what the mystery was in what happened on the fateful night, and how Kris will escape the dangers that follow her. However, once the reveal is given towards the end, the final chapters become a let down, along the ending of the book. Another problem I was how some of the characters talk in song lyrics of the past albums and create dialog where one of the unreleased albums track listings is part of the clues to unravel Hunt’s world domination (for instance, if track four had a title that involved something that happened to Kris, the characters start analyzing what track five is-Kris wrote the lyrics and music to it, so she should know exactly what’s going on). A few of the sections get boggled down with the in depth descriptions of the song lyrics for my taste, but it is not needed to enjoy the trip. At times the book reminds me of a supernatural version of the 1999 Kiss movie Detroit Rock City.

The packaging of the book is perfect for a death metal music story, with the sides of the pages in black, and the cover all black and red. The publicity department did a great job in creating a cover that fits with the themes of the book, as opposed to just a fancy cover. The book is easy to read, but filled with strong language throughout. This is not for young teens.

Even though there is so much going on throughout the book where the ending becomes flat, and seems to lose its identity in what kind of book it is, readers that like fiction about music, propaganda, hidden messages, and conspiracy theories would like We Sold Our Souls. It is part mystery, part Thelma and Louise, part Aliens, and doomsday all tied into the theme of the power of music and the strange world of the music business.

 

Thank you to Quirk Books for the review copy.

 

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books, 2018) ISBN: 978-1-68369-012-2 (hardcover) and e-Book ISBN: 978-1-68369-021-4 can be ordered at  http://www.quirkbooks.com.

For information about the author, go to http://www.gradyhendrix.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 333pages

Language: Strong

Average Audience: 16 and up

For Fans of: Music, Sci-Fi, Horror, Mystery

 

 

Book Review: Wolfe’s Book Encourages Women To Sparkle

 

Cover photograph by Kate Moore. Cover design by Edward A. Crawford.

 

#Sponsored by Faithwords

 

Sometimes when I get emails from book publishers asking me if I’d be interested in some books to review, the list of books they offer may not seem to suit me , but the title brings something that I feel readers may enjoy. Kristen Dalton Wolfe’s The Sparkle Effect (Faithwords, 2018) is such a book.

I have never heard of Dalton Wolfe before this review, but the synopsis about a former Miss USA writing a Christian style book caught my eye, along with the title. What possibly could a former beauty pageant winner’s book geared to women have anything to do a male like me?

Surprisingly, I learned more than I thought in her writings.

Keep in mind, the book is geared towards young women (or women in general) and is designed as a devotional style writing, where the reader could read chapter a day (or several). The chapters has its commentary by the writer, along with a prayer and a Bible verses at the end for more insight on each topic she discusses. The main purpose of the book is to sparkle like God created humans to do, by using Dalton Wolfe’s life experiences as a background to encourage the reader to reach their potential.

The Sparkle Effect covers topics such as following your God-given dreams, know what your “style” is as a person (not just in fashion, but inwardly), making a goal list, and how a person’s speech and actions should reflect who they are in God’s plans for them.

Although there are many stories about Dalton Wolfe’s life in her journey of becoming a Miss USA winner, the book is full of references from the Bible, Disney characters, and other role models throughout her life, which is almost a guidebook similar to The Princess Diaries. One will not feel judged if they did not have dreams of beauty pageants or the national spotlight to enjoy this devotional.

Dalton Wolfe’s writing , and the layout of this book, is similar to another Christian writer (and artist) who I enjoyed reading in the 2000s, Rebecca St. James. Once again, just because I am a male, I took away several good thoughts from books by James, which one can do as well from Dalton Wolfe. Both James and Dalton Wolfe have an influence that can be achieved for women in the church (especially late teens and women in the 20s-30s), that can have a positive impact in society as a whole, not just in a church setting.

The positive outlook and encouragement that The Sparkle Effect provides is contagious and inspiring for women, not just those that have dreams in the fashion world. Dalton Wolfe’s writing is simple, honest, and exciting at the same time.

 

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Faith Words books, a division of Hachette Book Group Inc.

 

The Sparkle Effect by Kristen Dalton Wolfe ( 2018, Faithwords ) ISBN: 978-1-5460-3176-5 (Paperback) , 978-1-5460-2717-1 (ebook) can be ordered at: http://www.faithwords.com .

 

For information about the author, visit: http://www.sheismore.com or at: https://www.facebook.com/KristenMissUSA and Twitter at @KristenJDalton

 

The Overall

Pages:320

Language: None

Geared For: Female Readers (especially Teens and Young Adults)

For Fans of: Devotionals, Bible Studies, Christian Living, Women Studies.