Category: Reviews

Overdue updates

OK, so much for my updating at least once a week idea. Work has been a little busier lately and Michelle hasn’t been feeling 100% all the while Kira seems to be developing a temper as a couple more teeth start ripping through her gums.

I’m glad I don’t remember that process.  They say that is one of the worst pains ever but truthfully how would you know?  Babies can’t tell you how it feels or how it compares to childbirth, root canals or drawn and quartering.  You can’t hook them up to a meter and see the pain on a graph.  I guess it’s like most things… a guess.

Michelle and I took a little time last weekend away from the baby and went to have lunch at Red Lobster and then off to see Zombieland.  If you haven’t seen Zombieland yet then you are truly missing out.  It’s funny, goofy, scary (stupid clown), self-deprecating, a bit gory and full of action.  There’s even a touching moment so there’s something for everyone.  Meaning emotionally touching… not inappropriately touching…  you know what I mean.

I’ve got a bunch of vacation days that need to be taken before the end of the year so I am figuring out how to plan that out.  Everytime I think I have it all sorted something new comes up.  It happened again today.  Urgh.

Oh, I have a Playstation 3 now!  Yay!  Although I really don’t have any games for it.  I got it used on eBay and it did come with Street Fighter 4 (which I really don’t like surprisingly) and Singstar (which is kinda fun but quite limited compared to other music games).  So I don’t count those.  I’m hoping to get the Game of the Year edition of Little Big Planet for Christmas because that just looks fun to me.  Maybe I should download the demo and try it out first but it seems interesting.  Plus God of War 3 will be out eventually although since the main guy involved in the first two is no longer part of the franchise I’m not holding my breath.

I got the old 60GB PS3 which is why I got it on eBay instead of going to the store.  I picked that one specifically because it is the only model that has the hardware emulation for both PS1 andPS2 games built-in.  So of course the first thing I did was play We Love Katamari.  Because I just can’t get enough of rolling stuff into balls.  Don’t ask because I don’t know.

District 9: Humans Suck

The wife and I went to go see District 9 last night since we had sent Kira off to live with the gypsies a bit ago (she’s at Grandma Stinky’s, don’t you fret none).  I’m not sure exactly what I had expected but I know that the movie has been getting some strangely good reviews and some interesting hype.  I knew it wasn’t a typical alien invasion movie but that was about it.  Obviously I hadn’t read the description from the link above.

First off – and to sum up – the movie was great.  I see now what all the fuss is about.  But the movie really should have gotten a sub-title.  You know, a little extra title following a colon.  It’s all the rage.  And this movie would then have been titled District 9: Humans Suck.  That also sums it up well.

The movie starts strangely enough in an almost Discovery Channel style documentary but don’t let that fool you.  After some interestingly vague setup, the humans go about being assholes in general to the aliens.  Then some strange things happen and some violence and then the movie completely shifts gears.  I don’t want to give any details because I think the less you know going in to see this movie the better you are.  Just take along an open mind with your five gallon bucket of soda and wheelbarrow of popcorn.

I say that because you probably won’t like some of the things you see.  I’m not talking about the increased level of gore towards the end of the movie because the way it’s portrayed makes sense in the movie.  It is never out of place and only strengthens the real horror of what you are seeing.  That someone wrote a story that is probably the most honest depiction of how humans in general would react to aliens appearing on Earth.  Some of you may disagree and you are entitled to that opinion but I think those who do need to take a look at the news.

What the story is really about is racism at the heart of it all.  Sure there are awesome alien weapons and other things that had me saying “ohmygawddidyouseethatthatwasawesome!” like a five year old.  But, in my opinion, the take-away from this movie is that humans can’t stand minor differences in people of our own race.  How could those same people ever cope with dealing with another intelligent race that is thrust into our society?   Bigger picture themes such as corporate greed, corrupt government agencies and a complete disrespect for life in the search for power also shine through at the appropriate times and bring it all together.

If you are squeamish, you may not like all that you see.  That’s OK.  That’s nothing compared to how the movie  might make you feel about the ethnically different person sitting next to you.

Haibane Renmei

Haibane Renmei DVD box art

Haibane Renmei DVD box art

I just finished watching the last few episodes of Haibane Renmei. It’s not the typical anime that would normally appeal to me and I hadn’t even heard of it till I happened to see clips of it from an anime music video. It’s only 13 episodes long and it’s a sad but sweet story that I really enjoyed.

The pacing of it and the feeling I got while watching this show was similar to how I feel when watching My Neighbor Totoro for the ump-teenth time. Which is a good thing because I absolutely love Totoro.  Haibane Renmei just seems similar to me for some reason.  There’s no real action, no bad guy, no ‘obvious’ conflict. I wrote more but deleted it. If anyone is actually inspired to watch this short series, I’d hate to give away any clues as to what happens.  All I want to say is that this is the type of story that will have the more sensitive types with at least a few tears.

And for those who see the characters in this have halos and feathered wings and immediately dismiss the show then it’s your loss.  The characters may look something like angels but there’s nothing religious about the series.  It has its own mythologies and beliefs that, as far as I could tell, should offend no ones sensibilities.

If this sounds like something you’d like, I would definitely recommend at least a rental.  I watched it in Japanese with English subtitles.  I know some people are put off by subtitles but they aren’t bad at all here.  The dialog is easy to follow.

Last King of Scotland – movie review

It’s actually been a few weeks since I watched The Last King of Scotland on DVD.  I wasn’t even going to write about it but it’s just been kind of nagging at me.  To say that I had no idea what it was about before Muse and I watched it is a huge understatement.

So for those of you, who like me have no idea what this movie is about, let me tell you what it isn’t.  It takes place in Africa, not Scotland.  [Umm.. OK.]  It’s about a tyrant who takes over a country in Africa but used to fight for the British and has some bizarre love of all things Scottish.  [What?]  There is a young Scottish guy in the movie who moves to this country but he is not a king.  He’s a doctor. [So confused.]  The tyrant considers himself to be the titular last king of Scotland because… well I have no idea why frankly. [Honest.]

It is a pretty good movie though.  I don’t think it was as great as it was made out to be.  The character of the young Scottish doctor is a complete moron and deserved far worse than what he got.  It was hard to sympathize with anyone in the movie because most people got what was coming to them.  But the story was decent and the acting was great.  There was quite a bit of nudity, sex and blood and gore as well which was unexpected.

So, fair warning, this movie is not about some bizarre story of a black king ruling Scotland.  I suppose that sounds more like a Martin Lawrence movie anyway.  But really I had no idea….

Atlas Shrugged – book review

Ever since my commute changed from being an hour long to an hour and a half to two hours long each way, I have been burning through some books.  This is definitely a silver lining to an otherwise sucky situation.  However, at 1,074 bible thin pages of tiny type, I thought that Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand was going to kick my ass and it actually intimidated me a bit.  Not because of it’s subject matter but because of the sheer volume of words that a book like this contained.  It is, by far, the longest single book I have ever read.

Luckily, this book is so old that I had no real pre-conceptions of what this book would be like because I had no idea what it was about.  I vaguely remember the ‘pseudo-intellectuals’ of high school and college talking about the book (and dismissing them as I usually did) but I never knew what it was about and never bothered to find out.  Then I played BioShock on my XBox 360 and read the reviews for that game and noticed that this book kept coming up in the comments and comparisons.  I was mildly intrigued.

Then it just happened that Muse was asked to collect a stash of books from a family that was leaving Hong Kong and donating all their unwated books to the local used book store and its charities.  Of course I helped.  I noticed and battered and taped up copy of Atlas Shrugged in that stash and knew that no one would miss it and that it wasn’t worth anything in decent condition much less the state I found it in.  So I stuck in my pile of books to read.  And then proceeded to avoid it like the plague.

So when I ran out of easy reads I broke down and tried to fit this thousand page beast into my messenger bag.  It barely fit so I figured I was stuck with it.  From the first day I started reading I was enthralled.  I had no idea where the book was going for the first few hundred pages and no idea what was going to happen.  Considering when it was written, it has aged quite well and is not written in an arrogant quasi-intellectual way like I had always feared it would be.  I guess you could say it’s actually the most arrogantly written book ever written in a certain view but not in the ways I feared.

THIS is the book that I wish I would have read in high school or college and that it might have had some profound effect on my life.  However I say this now knowing full well that no matter how intelligent I was then, it wouldn’t have meant nearly as much to me then as it did now.  This book deals with life and it’s experiences and they way those experiences are managed and dealt with.  For all those high school kids who say they read and understood this book, I say “I doubt it.”  Maybe on some level, but I doubt they understood the gravity of what was presented.

Sometimes the dialogue can be a bit forced or cheesey like watching an old movie from the time period.  Sometimes the theories and morales can be a bit (read extremely) heavy-handed and repetitive.  However, even in it’s repetitiveness, the book seems to be reinforcing instead by introducing slightly new or vaguely different situations or moralities to really drive the point in.  I do have to say that the monologues are completely out of control though.  When I got to one part where a non-stop monologue was over four pages of tiny text, I thought “Wow. That was insane.”  Later in the book there was a 56 page monologue.  I shit you not.  No one could talk that long.

But this book didn’t deal with common people.  They are the backdrop to this story that takes place over many years.  This book is more like a story of supermen and the evil villians who oppose them.  All the “good guys” are described as gods or goddesses with perfect features and tall bodies and muscular frames and boundless passions.  All the “bad guys” are sniveling backstabbers and fat whiners and ugly losers.  Ayn Rand seemed to idealize more than the premise of the story.  But this alone with that sometimes cheesey dialogue just helps to reinforce the feeling of watching an old black & white movie from the Golden Age.  Back when celebrities were noble and graceful instead of the pitiful excuses we have today that can barely stay sober long enough to complete an interview.

This is a book that I will encourage my children to read; but only when they think that they are ready to tackle it.  This is not the sort of book that should be forced on someone.  If this would have been assigned to me as a reading assignment in school I would have probably burned the building down and taken my red stapler with me.  This is a book that is to be read in appreciation of a time long past that could be more prophetic than expected.  This age of everyone being too scared to be “politically incorrect” is kind of what this book warns against.  Among many other things.

Atlas Shrugged is not a difficult read as I thought it would be.  It’s just a very very long read.  It does not play to the lowest common denominator and it may not be understood by everyone.  I’m not trying to say that you have to be an elitist asshole to grasp this book.  Quite the opposite, really.  You just have to take it with an open mind and accept that this is not an action filled story in the modern sense.  The ‘action’ is in the mental dueling, the wit and deceit, the double-crosses and the acts of resolve in the face of evil.

If you have a chance to read this book – especially if you have never done so – take the time.  It’s worth it.  But make sure you’ve got some years of life experience under your belt first.  Or if you read it when you are young, try reading it again now and see if its changed at all for you.  If so, maybe you’ve changed as well.

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