Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Kingdom – movie review

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

I have to admit that I can’t remember when The Kingdom came out in theaters or if I’d even heard of it at all before I read the back of the DVD box at the local rental shop.  I thought it sounded interesting so Muse picked it up yesterday for the weekly $10 Tuesday rental deal.  And then we watched it at dinner.

After the first ten minutes I had to pick my jaw up from off the floor.  Twice.

The kingdom starts and finishes strong and Jamie Foxx shows once again that he was meant to play dramatic roles in movies.  The movie is powerful, emotional, action-packed and very suspenseful.  And when I say action-packed I don’t mean like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie or the latest super-hero from Marvel Comics.  I mean devastating explosions, realistic gun fights, painful car crashes….  Everything you could want in a movie I think.

As I’ve never served in the Middle East I can’t vouch for it’s true realism but this movie shows things that no other movie touches and everything seems more real than I could imagine.  This shows both sides of terrorism and the challenges that our people face in dealing with the every day trauma from a personal, political and physical point of view.

I don’t think I can recommend this movie enough.  It’s not for people who can’t handle some blood and suspense but it should be watched for those people because they probably have the most to gain from watching scenes like this.  This movie doesn’t seek to shield us from life or glorify the trvial; it puts everything right up on screen and lets the horror of it all make a lasting impression on you.

Indiana Jones and the what?

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Warning: contains some minor spoilers but seriously, have you seen the previews?

Muse and I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull [omg could that title be any longer] at the theater in Tung Chung last Sunday.  We laughed our butts off, usually for the expected reasons, for the first half and then it kind of shifted gears somehow.  It was a great movie and I’ll buy it when it comes out on DVD but I think it was just too late to keep up appearances with the previous movies.

Harrison Ford is just as good in this version as he always has been although his character seemed to fluctuate quite a bit between an old man constantly thinking “I’m getting too old for this shit” and a hero that can do anything.  In the first three movies he was a lot more consistent.  The idea of him having a son was a cute idea even if the character was a little annoying.  Short-Round had more personality.  Him showing up looking like Marlon Brando was a bit odd and really set the tone for two hours of cliches and stereotypes.

We re-watched the first three movies prior to going to see this new one so we would be ready.  One thing I noticed for the first time was how over the top, campy and completely unbelievable they were.  I never got that from these movies before.  Sure they all three showed some form of mythological magic in action against evil Nazis or evil Indians but they always seemed different.  I guess now that I’m older (and wiser? nah) I had to suspend my belief in everything that happened so much more than in the past.

So when the new movie makes fun of itself or things in the previous movies it’s a nice hommage now and then but sometimes it was just too much.  It seemed to ride on the hopes that the cliches and stereotypes it showed would carry it through and in some ways it did since all four movies are basically made in the old pulp fiction style of the Golden Age.  I suppose the idea of aliens from another dimension are nothing new when thinking about the Azteks. And truthfully is that any harder to swallow than a box that melts faces, a man who can pull out a still beating heart from a human with his hand or a knight living forever drinking from a magic cup?

The special effects were very hit and miss.  The ending sequence was pretty cool.  However, as Abraxus pointed out in his post, the cemetary model that was used was really pathetic.  Like him, I assumed we were supposed to be looking at an intentional view of a model and not the “real cemetary” as we were supposed to think.  It was a total amateur presentation from one of the best special effects companies in the world which just made me shake my head in wonder as to what they were thinking.

I know it sounds like I’m bashing the new Indiana Jones movie and that’s really unfair.  I’m a huge fan of the original movies and against my better judgement I still had extremely high expectations for the new movie.  It was a fun, funny and entertaining movie.  I would watch it again.  It’s just that the Indiana Jones movies basically created the current Action/Comedy genre of movies that we have been evolving with since the early 1990’s and this movie just feels very retro and un-evolved.  Not that that is a bad thing – it’s just not what was expected.  I have no idea why.

Book review: Mr. Murder

Friday, May 9th, 2008

The other night I finished reading Mr. Murder by Dean Koontz and I can definitely recommend it.  Even though at about page 100, I was unsure if I wanted to continue reading the book.  Not because it was bad.  No, it was because my heart was racing so much and my blood pressure was so high that I wasn’t sure I was going to live through the rest of the book.  To call this novel suspenseful is a grave understatement.  If you enjoy Dean Koontz as an author or just like good suspense stories with a little supernatural or science fiction thrown into the mix, then you may enjoy this book.

I didn’t realize that the book was a reprint of a much older story when I started.  The copy I have is from 2006, but the original was published in the early 90’s.  Some references make this very obvious, but for the most part Koontz keeps the details and pacing at a level where nothing really feels dated or so jarring that it doesn’t work today.  It’s well written and  the end is a bit of a stretch but it all works well.

I’m not saying anything about the story because I don’t want to give anything away.

Next up is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  Not sure if I’ll make it through that monster classic but I figure I owe it to myself to try.

Long weekend

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Not that it was longer than the standard two days, but this did end up being a nice long weekend. I would tell you all about it, but my wife has already gone through all the trouble of writing it all out, so I will just ask that you go read the details at her site.

On Friday night I spent a little time finishing up the last chapter of American Gods by Neil Gaiman so I could start on a new book on Monday’s commute. I’d heard from a lot of people that American Gods was a good book and it definitely did not dissapoint. I’ve been a big fan of Neil Gaiman since the Sandman comics series first came what seems like forever ago. If you are a fan of his and have not read American Gods, I highly recommend it. I really can’t say much about it because I don’t want to ruin any of the details for anyone. I’ll be checking the used book store for Anansi Boys since it has a few of the same characters although I understand it’s not actually a sequel.

On Saturday, Muse had a nice long nap so I finished playing Bioshock on the XBox360. Considering all the hype and glowing reviews surrounding this game I have to admit that I had pretty high expectations for this game. Especially since the creators were some of the same people that created the classic System Shock and System Shock 2 games many years prior. For a lot of the game I felt kind of disappointed and even a bit bored with the repitition. However the mechanics are decent and the story is somewhat interesting so I kept playing and I’m glad I did.

I’m guessing that the reviewers that gave it the good ratings that they did had completed the game because it just doesn’t work until you’ve finished the game and seen the whole picture and the whole story (or at least as much is available in this game). Some parts of the game are tedious or annoying ( I lost count of how many Little Sisters died on my watch in The Proving Grounds) but the overall look and feel of the game is perfect. It’s not a flawless game though and I encoutered the typical errors that are found in most games in regards to graphics, AI and physics. It’s a good game and well worth playing all the way through but I don’t think it was deserving of all the hype that it received.

It has been mentioned that perhaps I need to take a break from playing video games because I seem to be getting jaded in my opinions of new titles.  Which I think is untrue as well as impossible.  Untrue because there have been a number of games that I have played recently that I have absolutely loved (or at least really liked).  Impossible because video games are a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine life without them.  That may change but not today.

I Am Legend book review

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Here’s something I didn’t know when I bought the book I Am Legend: it’s a short story collection.  I Am Legend is only the first 159 pages and then the rest of the book is all additional short stories by Richard Matheson.  Nowhere on the front or back of the book does it say that.  The only way I even knew was once I started reading it and saw the odd table of contents.  Why does it matter?  Because most of the other stories were kinda crappy.

As good as the story of I Am Legend is, it’s not as strong as the legend the book itself has become.  Richard Matheson’s writing does not age well.  The namesake story was written in 1954 along with about half the other stories in this book.  And it reads like someone from the 1950’s wrote it.  It is hard to future proof any creative work of course but for those people under the age of about 30 will probably have a hard time understanding many things in this book.  For the baby boomers out there, you will be right at home.

The reason I say this is because in the “future” of 1976, the protagonist must deal with Willys station wagons with 3-speed manual transmissions and a choke.  What’s a choke you ask and what does it have to do with cars?  Then stick to the updated Will Smith movie, you will probably be disappointed by the original story.  The other stories in the book fare no better and there are some glaring problems with continuity and editing even in this re-release of the legendary story so I can only assume that these are Matheson’s actual mistakes at this point and no one will ever correct them.

The story of I Am Legend is good.  It’s extremely dated and the pacing is slow and deliberate but it’s good.  Most of the rest of the book is fluff that was probably written for various low-rent magazines at the time of their writing.  One stand-out is the story called Prey which if you’ve seen the classic 1970’s movie Trilogy of Terror, you will recognize right off.  The story of the homicidal Zuni fetish doll is much better in print than the version in the classic movie.

I’d still recommend reading I Am Legend if only for the namesake story but with the caveat that you may not be old enough to get all the outdated references and terminology.  If that sort of thing doesn’t bother you though and you don’t mind a few confusing edits here and there then by all means pick up a copy and read it.  It may not age well but it’s still potent enough.