Movie Review: Dunkirk

Posted August 7th, 2017 by Devin and filed in Review

My brief review of Dunkirk. In short: amazing. The story, told from four tight points of view, are shown in different time sequences. Over the course of the film, you get two people’s story of their time on the beach over the period of a week, one POV where you spend time on a small boat over the course of a day, and finally, one POV from inside the cockpit of a Spitfire that lasts one hour. The three timelines are cleverly cut together, and while it took me a couple of scene changes to figure out what they were doing, in the end it works brilliantly.

The cinematography and sound are beautiful. Dialogue is sparse and at times the film seems to go on forever without anyone speaking. Gunfire sounds like it’s coming right at you, the drone of marine diesels and aircraft engines that, meshed with Hans Zimmer’s unceasing soundtrack – literally, the music does not stop for an instant — creates an all-encompassing background dirge. One of my minor quibbles with the film is that I’d have liked to have some moments without the music, but seeing as the film isn’t about respite, even for an instant, it’s fitting as-is.

The acting is first rate. Cillian Murphy is as good as ever. Tom Hardy, as always, owns every scene he’s in, even though here most of his work is done behind an oxygen mask in a Spitfire’s cockpit.

This isn’t a typical war film. Continue Reading »

Review: Black Shoe Carrier Admiral

Posted May 13th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Review

Black Shoe Carrier Admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Seas, Midway, and GuadalcanalBlack Shoe Carrier Admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Seas, Midway, and Guadalcanal by John B. Lundstrom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I initially wrote this review for cv5yorktown.com, a website I maintain about the history of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5). Black Shoe Carrier Admiral covers the career of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, a man closely tied to U.S.S. Yorktown and her career. He moved his flag to her in early 1942 and stayed with her until her loss at Midway. Lundstrom’s book focuses heavily on the first year of the war in the Pacific, and does so at a very high command level. Unlike many WWII histories, this book is much less of the day to day of maintaining and fighting a ship, and a lot more about the intelligence and decisions that brought the ships to the battles. I have to admit that when I first started reading the book, it didn’t hold my attention too well. I like books about specific characters, and while Fletcher is the man followed in Continue Reading »

Review: What Stands in a Storm

Posted April 12th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Review, Writing

What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado AlleyWhat Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley by Kim Cross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s odd, but I have a thing for tornadoes. I grew up in southern Indiana in the 1970s and 80s when Tornado Alley still ran through the area, (did you know Tornado Alley moves about over the years like a wandering river?), and we had no shortage of incredible thunderstorms, filled with no end of tornado watches. Fortunately I and my family never had direct experience with the devastation a tornado brings, but we came close during the massive outbreak in April of 1974. A tornado went right through our area that day, blew a hole in our neighbor’s garage, destroyed a tool shed in our front yard, tossed about the trailer park a quarter mile down the road, and destroyed a few houses a mile away. We weren’t home at the time, were on our way back from town. My mother stopped the car alongside the highway and made us lay down in the back of the station wagon. I can still remember the green and orange sky. That’s as close as we came. We got lucky. Up until my parents moved out of our childhood home ten years ago, you could still walk the woods behind and see trees that had been snapped-off by that funnel cloud all those years ago.

That 1974 Super Outbreak, as it’s called, was the largest tornado outbreak on record, until the 2011 Super Outbreak came along. WHAT STANDS IN A STORM is a story of that Continue Reading »

Review: IPP Lacquer WWII Navy Hobby Paints

Posted April 5th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Modeling, Review

This is part of a review of a new product line by IPP out of Korea. The original post, as below, that I did on the US Navy colors, and the follow-up review if the IJN colors can be seen HERE on the Modelwarships.com website.

bottlesMatt of Kraken Hobbies sent along some samples of the new lacquer based ship paints from IPP of Korea. The range is mostly made up of USN WWII colors at this point, but does also have some WWII IJN colors, as well as modern colors. The lineup as of now is, per Matt’s ability to order:

IJN: Sasebo Grey, Kure Grey, Linoleum Brown

USN: 20B, 5-O, 5-L, 5-H, 5-S, 5-N, 5-P

Modern USN: Deck Matt, Flight Deck Matt, Freeboard Superstructure Matt

JMSDF: Freeboard Superstructure Matt, Deck Matt

Per Matt, they also offer their own brand of thinner and leveling fluid, which I would recommend. More on why later.

The following paints were tested by myself and IJN expert Dan Kaplan. I’ll comment on the three USN colors, Dan will chime in on this thread with his thoughts on the IJN offerings. Testing was done by spraying the paints on white styrene, unprimed, to match as close as possible the Snyder and Short paint chip cards (hereafter S&S) that both Dan and I possess. Continue Reading »

Review: Chronicles of the Black Company

Posted March 1st, 2016 by Devin and filed in Review, Writing

Chronicles of the Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company, #1-3)Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed books so much that I have so many problems with. I’ve rarely been so lost as to what was going on with the plot as I was initially with these books. At the same time, it didn’t phase me as the characters and the pace of action more than made up for it. It’s not a combination that’ll work for everyone, but it did for me. Cook has a great reputation as a fantasy writer, so this style must work for a lot of people.

In the Black Company series, Glen Cook shuns almost all of the common themes and tropes of fantasy novels. There are no intricate histories read as if from a text book, no detailed descriptions of what people look like, no pages of descriptions of meals, nor involved descriptions of what the world looks like. There’s nothing other than what you Continue Reading »

Review: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

Posted January 14th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Review

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in HistoryThe Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Great Influenza” could be used as a text book for a class on the flu virus and the history of the medical community’s battle against it. It took me a while to get into the book, as the first 100 pages deal with the establishment of the modern doctor and the systems that were put in place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to train the modern physician. Honestly this bit was a little dry for me; not because it wasn’t interesting, but because it’s not my main area of interest in this topic.

I’d honestly hoped for more of a “life on the streets” tale, as entire cities such as New York and Philadelphia were effectively shut down during the height of the epidemic in late 1918. During that time, thousands died every single day, and bodies were stacked on porches and sidewalks to be collected much as they had been during the medieval days of the Black Plague. There’s a bit of Continue Reading »

Non-Spoilery Thoughts on The Force Awakens.

Posted December 18th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterI loved the movie. I walked home in a daze after seeing it. Now, 12 hours later, maybe I have a little perspective to write about what I saw.

There’s lots of talk of nostalgia in regards to Star Wars. As someone that saw the original Star Wars in 1977 as a 7 year old, nostalgia for these films is big for me. HUGE. The Force Awakens has this in droves. Just as the original Star Wars pulled from various Sci-Fi serials and samurai films, this film pulls from the original trilogy. Make no mistake, this is an original trilogy film, not a prequels film. There is action, depth, a lived-in-world feel, and humor. This film is funny in the same way that A New Hope was. The snarky banter and sarcasm is fantastic.

It’s not perfect. I can see where some come from saying that parts of the plot are recycled from the original trilogy. That’s true. Do I care? Not in the least. The parts that are recycled are done in a way that they make logical sense (in as much as military theory in a fantasy setting can make sense) and the themes that we’re familiar with that are here again are mostly used because they are EFFECTIVE. The biggest issue I have with the film has to do with the hardware. I love Star Wars ships, I became a model builder because of these movies. In this movie, I wanted more. This is something I’m only now realizing, though, because while watching the movie, I was too enthralled by the performances and chemistry between the characters to care about the ships.

And those characters. Finn and Rey have fantastic chemistry together. They just belong in this universe. Poe is fantastic. I want more. And Adam driver. He commands every scene he’s in, a wonderfully flawed villain. Sorry, R2, but I have a new favorite Astromech in BB8. There’s one scene with him (her?) that I still bust out laughing every time I think of it. And from the original movies, Han, Leia, Luke, Chewie, R2 and 3PO are back and have never left. They’ve been living in this universe, waiting three decades for us to get back to them.

The Force Awakens has brought us back to that galaxy far, far away, and it’s a wonderful trip. Enjoy the ride.

Book Review: Capital Navy

Posted October 13th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Capital Navy: The Men, Ships, And Operations Of The James River SquadronCapital Navy: The Men, Ships, And Operations Of The James River Squadron by John Coski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To say the Naval history of the American Civil War gets short shrift in most accounts is a massive understatement. Indeed, most people with a casual knowledge of the conflict have little idea how big of a role the Navy played in the ultimate Union victory. Some can name the Battle of Mobile Bay, know there was a battle between two ironclads named Monitor and Merrimack, and are aware that there was a blockade. That is usually considered the bulk of it, whereas the truth is that the naval units of the conflict shaped it profoundly. In Capital Navy, John Coski takes a look at a little known aspect of this in his study of the Confederate’s James River Squadron, stationed just outside of Richmond on the James River.

Coski gives a good overview of Richmond as a shipbuilding city before the war, and how it laid the foundation for what was to come. While the city built four ironclads and had a Continue Reading »

Book Review: Descent into Darkness

Posted September 24th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Descent into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941-A Navy Diver's MemoirDescent into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941-A Navy Diver’s Memoir by Edward C. Raymer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A memoir of the first year of the war, written by a veteran after the fact. Does a great job of filling in some of the “day in the life” of being a sailor at that time. This is the second book I’ve read by someone stationed in Pearl Harbor, and it’s odd to hear how the place was universally hated by military personnel. It wasn’t yet the paradise it is today. Continue Reading »

Book Review: Into the Storm

Posted August 20th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Into the Storm (Destroyermen, #1)Into the Storm by Taylor Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

INTO THE STORM is in some way pretty much exactly what I expected, and in other ways not at all what I expected. It’s a quick read that doesn’t go too far in to the explanation as to how a WWII US Navy destroyer ended up in a parallel and prehistoric universe — which I like — but deals with the actions of the characters and how they deal with their new reality.

The things I expected and did find in the book are the stock characters that make up the crew. All from varying backgrounds, they all have the typical hard-assed or meek or jokester personalities, that you expect in a book about the crew of a warship. While these generalizations are typical of military books and seem cliche at times, much of is actually on-track with what my own experience in the Navy.

In the “I expected more of this” area, I did expect more action in this book. Of course as this is the first of the series, the world building needs to be done, and here it takes up a Continue Reading »