Tag Archive: Best of 2022


Review by C.J. Bunce

First of all, by all accounts McDonald’s has never sold onion rings.

My favorite works by popular creators are the ones that are frequently what the multitudes rarely put on a greatest hits list.  Like Philip K. Dick’s In Milton Lumky Territory or Stephen King’s Joyland.  Now we have Donald E. Westlake′s last novel Call Me a Cab (available now here at Amazon) a heretofore unpublished novel from 1977 (unpublished except in a briefer version in a serialized magazine edition ages ago).  It’s a novel ahead of its time full of 1970s attitude, with realistic, thoughtful characters, without cliché or canned, artificial controversy, and, although it’s from Hard Case Crime, there’s not a single crime in sight for 3,000 miles.  And it’s as riveting as any of his previous brilliant works.

So what about the onion rings?  Back to that in a moment.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In its second season, Scotland’s crime drama Traces is continuing down the path where other great British series have missed the mark.  Unforgotten betrayed its heroine in its last season, loading on so much darkness, challenges, and losses, the writers let the forces of evil and real-life struggles beat down what was a superb, brilliant detective.  Traces is challenging its two masterminds of mystery solving: Laura Fraser (A Knight’s Tale, Doctor Who, Breaking Bad)‘s arson expert and professor Sarah Gordon, and Jennifer Spence‘s (Supernatural, Continuum, Stargate, Tru Calling) equally brilliant professor and scientist sleuth Kathy Torrance.  But in this series it’s the challenges that make its lead characters really shine.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In a pre-pandemic world we all would have seen Free Guy in the theater by now and everyone would have been raving about it since August.  Now it’s arrived for a wider audience on streaming platform Disney Plus.  Is it worth your time?  Absolutely.  It’s so much better than advertised, you’re certain to be surprised at the layers of storytelling found in this mix of Ready Player One (but 50 times better) Tron: Legacy, Mr. ROBOT, The Truman Show, The LEGO Movie, Elf, Sleeping Beauty, and lots of other great shows.  Yes, it’s another video game movie, but it’s bigger.  It’s another Ryan Reynolds action movie.  But lots more fun.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This year on January 1 I reviewed the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett, the show about the Star Wars bounty hunter’s return, 38.5 years in the making.  The series’ first season had a bit of a tepid start, but over the next six episodes Star Wars fans learned what was happening.  This was never intended to be a separate series, but the third season of a Boba Fett/Mandalorian hybrid, Saturday morning Western serial like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas created with Raiders of the Lost Ark.  This may be Disney’s best amusement park ride yet.  Maybe it would have made more sense to some if it were called some Western title like Star Wars: The Outcasts and didn’t have those two separate titles.  Criticisms of this season have all been like that, all of it form over substance (or maybe it’s just people who forgot to have fun).  In my first review I identified what I thought the series needed to do in its next six episodes.  So how did they (and I) do?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Dread.  That’s what you’ll feel in the first two episodes of Netflix’s new series, Archive 81 And it only gets worse (or better?).  It’s about a man repairing destroyed videotapes.  So immediately you’ll think it could be like the supernatural horror of The Ring.  It’s about a small community of isolated people.  So is it like Wicker Man or The Stepford Wives?  It has a freakish cult, so is it another take on Rosemary’s Baby or Devil’s Advocate or Midsommar?  You Should Have Left, Vacancy, 1408, and other recent creepily surreal voyages will come to mind, but it’s certainly suspense and definitely a thriller.  But how much horror lies ahead and how chilling will it get?  Is it a throwback to 1970s mainstream horror or trash B-movie slasher horror, or based on real-life horror, like The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel?   Is it more possession or body swapping like Fallen or Skeleton Key or Intruders or Get Out?  Science fiction like The Man in the High Castle?  Surreal supernatural fantasy like Doctor Strange?  Weird rituals like Eyes Wide Shut or The Watcher in the Woods?  Or is it The Lost Room or John Carpenter’s The Prince of Darkness?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Not many books give you goosebumps as they take you back to a moment in time.  How do you create not only a new game, but a new industry?  Your next time travel adventure needs to be Arjan Terpstra and Tim Lapetino’s giant look back at not only Pac-Man but the rise of video games.  It’s Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon, simply an incredible, deep dive into the development of the video game and all its incarnations from its beginnings as Puck-Man, almost called Paku-emon (sound familiar?).  From development via pinball, coin-op, and theme park companies Namco, Bally, and Midway (and side-dances with Atari), fans of 1970s and 1980s nostalgia will see how a few key players in Japan created Pac-Man, and even more around the world expanded it into an icon–all out of 111 yellow flashes of light on a computer screen.  The giant book is full of vintage photographs, marketing materials, corporate and engineering design notes, and much more.  Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon might be the best video game history yet, and it’s now available here at Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the greatest living writers is back with something different.  Although his horror prowess shines through, Kim Newman (interviewed here) has penned a story that would make anyone think he has spent his career writing noir stories.  His new novel Something More Than Night takes its title from a line from a Raymond Chandler novel (Trouble is My Business).  It’s a story that takes real-life commonalities of the 1930s lives of Chandler and monster movie actor Boris Karloff and weaves them into a moody mystery far better than anything Chandler ever wrote.  Newman, master of horror as evidenced in his Anno Dracula books and stories, delivers a worthy sequel of sorts to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, featuring dazzling, powerful writing that is not only the best of its genre, its as masterfully penned a novel as in any genre.  Newman’s literary works have been studied in colleges since the 1990s, and this mash-up illustrates why–it’s a showcase of his knowledge of history, Hollywood, and writing styles that will leave you wanting even more.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You know Kevin Hart because of his big laughs in stand-up comedy, and as a comedic actor who over 20 years moved from supporting roles to starring in great movies like the Jumanji series.  But you probably haven’t seen him lean so much into his dramatic side as you’ll find in the new one-season Netflix series, True Story In seven episodes Hart takes the audience inside the world of a comedy icon that is a mirror of his real life, if that life were blindsided by a manipulative brother and a string of murders.  Add in top genre actors like Wesley Snipes and Theo Rossi and you have a huge winner.

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