Sat, Jul 04, 2015

: The Maze Runner

Not what I expected. It’s a strongly gimmicky film, with a bunch of kids in trapped in a glade with no memories of who they are, and seemingly the only way out a giant maze with walls that move each night and strange monsters that roam the paths. Clearly the kids have been placed here by some unknown people, and their situation is enforced, but we have no idea who or why.

That becomes the central mystery that doesn’t get explained until the very end, and even then it brings more questions than answers. I won’t spoil that twist, but just say it wasn’t very satisfactory. It does set up for the sequel (which I belief comes out this summer), and it promises a different sort of challenge, which is promising.

Despite the movie’s annoying flaws, it’s not terrible. There’s action, conflict among the boys, and some puzzles are solved. Still, the weak ending ruined a lot of the good of the rest of the film, and the middle part was tediously long. The whole thing is like a long joke with an unfunny punchline.

Topic: [/movie]


Thu, Jul 02, 2015

: Terminator Genisys

Not quite the reboot I was hoping for, but fun and not bad. Nothing like the classic original one and two, though. The new cast does a decent job, but it always feels a little awkward and weird, like watching a re-enactment of a scene from your favorite childhood sitcom with different actors.

The plot is convoluted and doesn’t make much sense, nor does the new “tech” that’s supposed to be hip, but I do like the way the old timelines have been obliterated and now we have an all new future for the Terminator series. The action is over-the-top and pretty good, as always. Don’t expect too much, but fans should have fun.

Topic: [/movie]


Sun, Jun 28, 2015

: The Enemy

Author: Lee Child

This is another Jack Reacher book, more recent, but it’s a prequel, set back in the first day of 1990 while Reacher was still in the army and his brother and mother were alive. That’s rather cool.

Unfortunately, the plot is… unsatisfying. The story involves an army conspiracy, but Reacher’s not in a position of great power, so he’s forced to wade through a ton of government bureaucracy. We see hints of classic Reacher personality as he cuts through some of the red tape, but not nearly enough of it (as his “just do it” attitude in the other books is what makes him such an awesome character). A huge part of the book is us learning about how the army works, which, while interesting, isn’t drama.

A side effect of this plot — which involves several murders happening and Reacher investigating — is that be don’t learn what’s going on until the very end. Worse, nothing at all connects until about the 80% mark, which means for the majority of the book we don’t have a clue what’s going on, who the bad guys are, or where the story is going. That makes it a bit of a slog. It’s still interesting with side storylines and personal stuff, but the main plot feels almost like an afterthought.

Things do tie together in the end, though the whole thing is a stretch and a rather strange conspiracy, but I wouldn’t put this up there as my favorite Jack Reacher novel by any means. I do like the series and plan to read more, though.

Topic: [/book]


: Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

This was my favorite book as a kid; I actually had it memorized and would recite the whole thing. I was curious to see how they were able to turn such a short story into a movie.

The previews didn’t look that good — mostly showing slapstick comedy and silliness — but it’s only got some of that (though it’s still more than needed). I initially liked how they added in the twist of the boy wishing a bad day on the rest of his optimistic family so they’d know how he feels, but then that means the whole movie is really about the rest of the family’s bad day, not Alexander’s, which is… not what the book’s about.

The film still has some good moments and is quite pleasant with good lessons for young kids, but it leaves out some of the best parts of the book. For instance, in the book the key line — repeated throughout — is the boy wishing he lived in Australia. In his mind, that’s as far away as he can get, so he’d rather be there than having a bad day at home. In the movie they that turn that concept into him being obsessed with Australia (with kangaroo posters on his walls, etc.), with zero mention of why (which is the only thing about his obsession that actually matters). Rather bizarre.

Another criticism which touches on a pet peeve of mine since it’s an industry I know something about: the whole plot point about the mom’s book company somehow printing a book with a bad typo after she’d given the okay on the final proof is just absurd. It might have worked if they’d offered some explanation for how it happened, but they never did, and just blamed it on the printing company. Ridiculous.

Overall, I’d give this a C+: a decent effort, well-done for the most part, harmless, nice morals, but somehow falls flat and doesn’t do justice to such a classic book. The key flaw is having the bad day be about everyone else, not Alexander, which is just weird.

Topic: [/movie]


Sat, Jun 20, 2015

: Gone Girl

I missed this last year and wanted to see it, though I was puzzled at all the great buzz about it. It seemed to tell a very familiar story and I couldn’t figure out what was supposed to be innovative or surprising about it.

Well, there are a few surprises, mostly at the direction the film takes for the resolution, but it’s an unsatisfying conclusion. It left a bad taste in my mouth and basically ruined the movie for me. What makes the rest of the movie good is the acting, pacing, and script, which, while a predictable story, is done extremely well.

But all that is moot if the ending doesn’t work, and it doesn’t for me. Others may feel differently. I applaud that the film is trying to do something different and unusual, but it fell flat for me. It’s “poetic justice” didn’t feel like justice at all (more like a scam, with me the victim).

I also thought the psychological problems of the main characters were too severe to not be noticed earlier. (You could argue that the problems were developed later, but that doesn’t fly since part of the plot is proof that the behavior was part of a trend and similar characteristics had happened several times in the past.)

Oh well. Decent film, but not as good as the publicity made it seem.

Topic: [/movie]


Fri, Jun 19, 2015

: Inside Out

I was not expecting much with this as the premise (personalized emotions inside a little girl’s head) seemed old and used to me (it’s just like the old Herman’s Head TV show), but once again Pixar surprises.

The key for me is that there’s a lot more innovative stuff than just talking emotions. The world inside the girl’s head is vast and well-done, with clear rules of its own. For instance, each emotion (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust) having their own color (yellow, blue, red, purple, green). There are “memory balls” — colored spheres that contain a video of key memories — that roll into as they are created, with the most special ones becoming “core” memories that define the girl’s personality. The spheres take on the color associated with that memory (happy ones are yellow, sad ones are blue, etc.). There are different places in the brain where the balls are stored (long-term, short-term, core, etc.), while less important memories are thrown away for good.

There are wonderful places inside this internal world, such as Imagination Land, and fun things like the “train of thought” which runs around rather randomly.

But all of this would be pointless without a good story, and here the writers have done a great job of keeping the outer story simple. Riley, the little girl, has moved with her family from Minnesota (where she played ice hockey all the time) to San Francisco. She’s lost all her friends, her house, her hockey, and is stuck in a new school. Her dad’s over-busy with work and stress, and their moving truck is stuck in Texas, so she doesn’t even have her things.

As these things make her sad, we see panic inside her head, where Joy, who’s usually in charge and always keeps Riley happy, is struggling to contain Sadness, who seemed to bumble everything and is turning everything blue. Then when Joy and Sadness get separated from Headquarters, that leaves Anger, Fear, and Disgust running the ship (er, Riley), with hilarious and predictably bad results. As Joy and Sadness wander around in the brain trying to get back to control things, Joy has to learn that there’s a place for Sadness, who she thought was a useless emotion. It’s a pretty cool concept as both Riley (outside world) and Joy (inside world) have to learn new lessons.

There are aspects of the film that weren’t perfect. The resolution is too easy-peasy (and we don’t get to see how Riley actually adapts and makes new friends in San Francisco, we only see that she does).

The film also violates one of my biggest pet peeves, which is showing memories from the camera point-of-view. (When you remember something, say a favorite birthday party from your childhood, do you see yourself in the video playback in your head? Of course not: you remember what you saw, not what other people saw.) But this film repeatedly shows memories of Riley ice skating and such — views she wouldn’t know. I do realize there’s a practical element to deciding to do it this way: if all we see is Riley’s viewpoint as she spinning around on ice, it’s hard for us to tell what’s going on, that’s she skating or whatever, but still. The film does open with her viewpoint, seeing her parents for the first time, etc., so it does mix both viewpoints.

Still, this is a minor gripe. Overall, the film’s more original than it sounds, has an interesting world, and a solid story, and is worth your time.

I will add that though it’s not related directly to this film, I was seriously disappointed with the opening short, Lava. Usually Pixar’s shorts are one of my favorite things about their films (and sometimes I like them better than the main feature). But this one was shockingly lame.

The premise is neat — a humanized volcano island in the ocean seeking love — but the execution is abysmal. The main volcano looks great, like a rock but with eyes and a mouth. But his love interest looks like a woman and only vaguely volcanoish. Top all that with an over-long talky “song” that narrates exactly what we’re seeing onscreen, and you have a tedious short that feels like it’s five-minutes too long. The music is weak, and the art is worse. I’m shocked this made it off the rough draft table, let alone got approved to precede a major film. Very strange.

Topic: [/movie]


Thu, Jun 18, 2015

: San Andreas

You go to this kind of movie for the special effects and these are pretty good. It actually gives me a headache to think of all the work required to make a movie like this. Just a crazy amount of destruction.

But the actual story, while stereotypical (a man in the middle of divorce tries to rescue his family), is decent enough that we actually care about what’s going on.

Ultimately this is about non-stop action, about peril after peril (such as when the characters reach a breathing point and think they’re safe, and suddenly there’s a new threat of a giant tsunami hitting San Francisco). The film’s good at that, though certain aspects are too predictable. Still, it’s a fun ride: over-the-top, a bit silly, but surprisingly watchable.

Topic: [/movie]


Sun, Jun 14, 2015

: I Origins

Strange and fascinating film. It involves a scientist who is into eyes, searching for “eye origin” gene, which he could use to grow a worm without eyes into a seeing creature and therefore prove Creationists wrong (since their argument against evolution is that the eye is too complex to evolve and must have been designed).

We don’t get much into the man’s motivations or why he hates religion so vehemently, but we do get some interesting debates on spirituality versus science. This leads up to the key premise of the film where his scientific research leads him into a direction that seems to prove reincarnation.

Unfortunately, we aren’t really taken to a place where the man has to confront such a thing — the findings are ambiguous — but it’s still an interesting ride. I wouldn’t call this a great film, as it is slow in places and not enough happens, but it is thought-provoking and worth watching if you like your thinking to be challenged.

Topic: [/movie]


: A Walk Among the Tombstones

This looked like an intriguing Liam Neeson action movie, but it is not. It’s so boring I fell asleep and didn’t care that I missed part of the film. Even with a nap in the middle, it felt like a 6-hour movie.

The premise sounds good: a somewhat shady retired cop who does private investigation work gets hired to find the men who kidnapped and killed a drug dealer’s wife. The bad guys are really sick and bizarre, but not particularly interesting. No one is. The homeless kid who helps Liam’s character is about as enticing as it gets, while Liam himself is such a stone wall that we don’t even care much about him.

While there are a few good scenes and the atmosphere of the film is good, the story is sluggish, and there are many unexplained plot holes. Worst of all, little happens and there’s no action. It’s just tedious and boring. The thing felt like watching a lit firecracker for two hours only to have it fizzle out into a dud with no bang.

Topic: [/movie]


Fri, Jun 12, 2015

: Jurassic World

I loved the original and while this can’t possibly match that, it’s definitely the best of the sequels. It’s set 20 years after the previous movies and the “Jurassic World” theme park has been opened for many years. I loved that idea, and it’s great seeing a real park in operation. We see tiny kids riding dinosaurs in a petting zoo, an aquatic center with a giant dinosaur sea monster splashing the audience, and much more. The place feels real, down to the Jurassic World drinking cups and Starbucks and other franchises in the tourist trap’s main street.

Into that setting we let loose some wild dinosaurs, with chaotic results. Pretty cool.

Granted, there’s much that’s silly and generic: the idea that the scientists have to play God and create their own hybrid dinosaur is dumb, as is the stereotypical military colonel who wants to turn the dinosaurs into weapons, not to mention the strange billionaire park owner who one moment is criticizing the scientists and the next encouraging them. Even the woman who runs the park and changes character because her visiting nephews are in peril is a bit too on the nose, though it actually was my favorite part, simply because Bryce Dallas Howard is such a good actress and pulls it off. (Chris Pratt, as the heroic animal trainer, is also surprisingly excellent.)

But this series was never about deep characterization. It’s about dinosaurs, and here the film entertains. There’s lots of fun, good action, and amazing special effects. Just enjoy it and don’t think too hard.

Topic: [/movie]


Fri, Jun 05, 2015

: Spy

I was leery of this because Melissa McCarthy, though I like her, tends to be in really raunchy movies. This has a bit of that, but it’s mostly in language (the F-word is used half a billion times) rather than gross-out scenes.

What I really liked is that the plot and events are realistically done. McCarthy’s character plays a CIA analyst who goes out in the field for the first time, and everything about why she has to go and how she does the job is reasonably realistic. There’s still tons of humor, including Jason Statham’s crazy ultra-spy character (which mocks every spy cliche in the book), and the marvelous villain, played by wild Rose Byrne, who stole the movie for me.

The bottom line is that though the film is vulgar, it’s tamer than most, and it has its charm and is quite enjoyable and funny. Plus the spy stuff is cool and there’s some good action.

Topic: [/movie]


Thu, Jun 04, 2015

: Mad Max: Fury Road

Now this is a Mad Max movie! Awesome action from start to finish, with over-the-top sets, characters, and craziness. Just awesome.

Even the plot’s nuts: Max is caught by some weird group who turn him into a human “blood bag” (his blood keeps one of their sick warriors alive). Then one of the group’s leaders, a woman, goes rogue and it turns out she’s stolen the “breeders” (mothers). A host of warriors in crazy cars goes after her and it’s a race to the death against ridiculous odds, with Max in the middle of it all.

I can’t even begin to describe all the bizarre characters and events. You just have to see it. It’s wild and a lot of fun, and no doubt the best of all the Mad Max movies.

Topic: [/movie]


Mon, Jun 01, 2015

: Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire

Author: Ruth Downie

Strange book. It mixes genres in a way that’s both intriguing and incomplete. For instance, despite its historical setting, it’s not really a historical novel, and the bulk of the story seems to be a mystery, with our hero, a Roman physician (Medicus), acting as a detective, searching for who has been killing several prostitutes.

The problem is that he’s a terrible detective, the mystery takes forever to solve, and in the end seems to be resolved on its own, not by anything he did in particular. It’s also not a mystery the reader is very interested in solving, since the dead girls are already dead at the start of the novel and no one we knew and cared about. Their deaths also seem trivial in light of life in Roman times, where much worse things are happening all the time.

Most of the book is about the man’s financial problems as he juggles debts, and his rebellious new slave girl, Tilla, who keeps running off on her own and disobeying him. I really didn’t care about his finances, and there really was very little about his supposed medical skills.

Also, the tone of the book is very modern. Except for a few bits of Roman jargon and some missing technology, it could have set today. Some aspects of Roman life portrayed surprised me, such as the detailed ledgers and accounting books that were kept, and how a doctor’s pay was calculated and distributed (with deductions that sound remarkably like the way it works today). I would have liked more of an explanation for that kind of thing (the same goes for the medical practices, which aren’t explained at all).

But a bigger issue is that the main character has such modern sensibilities that the whole novel feels preachy and forced. There’s no explanation for the man’s beliefs, no reason he should be that way, or defense of him being that way. He’s basically considered normal except that he doesn’t think like any of the other Romans. For instance, he seems to think slavery is bad, despite being an upper class citizen in a society dependent upon slave labor. I’m find with him being anti-slavery — but for his character to be complete, we need to understand what makes him that other. Since we’re not told that, he feels out of place, as though he’s a time traveler from our day.

Ultimately, the novel’s mildly interesting, but the “mystery” is both weak and too convoluted, and the story rambles all over without any real focus. The author has potential, but this definitely feels like a first try.

Topic: [/book]


Sun, May 31, 2015

: November Man

This wasn’t what I expected from the promos. I thought it was about a super-spy training a young guy in the art of spying, but it turns out that was just the opening scene of the movie. The rest of the movie takes place a decade later, and it sets up a teacher-versus-student battle as the two fight each other.

That part is pretty good, but the giant conspiracy and cover up is a bit cliche. Still, it works, and there’s a lot of fun in this: great action, intelligent behavior, and a good resolution. Surprisingly good.

Topic: [/movie]


Sat, May 30, 2015

: Odd Thomas

I guess this is based on a comic book I never read. It’s an interesting take on the concept of a guy who can see dead people. In this case, our young hero uses this info to stop bad people. For instance, a dead girl leads him to her killer and he helps the police nab the guy.

The tone is more quirky and fun, though there are some gory death graphics. The main plot is about trying to stop a mall bombing. There are a few “twists” which aren’t surprising at all, and in that respect the film’s disappointing. But the plot’s not that bad, and the film really does shine in the clever banter between the main character and his girlfriend.

I wouldn’t say you need to go out of your way to see this, but it has a bit of charm.

Topic: [/movie]


Fri, May 29, 2015

: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

I knew this was a flop in theaters, but I wasn’t sure why. Now I know. The Jack Ryan character is supposed to be a desk jockey, an analyst, but the film tries to turn him into an action hero. It’s implausible (despite him supposedly having a military background).

Supposedly he’s recruited out of college and he works a cover job on Wall Street for ten years as a CIA mole, reporting back financial irregularities that might lead to terrorist organizations. The plot of the film is about him figuring out a Russian bad guy’s up to something, so he goes to Moscow to learn more. Then someone tries to kill him, his clueless fiancé shows up and becomes a hostage, while he tries to rescue her and stop the plot to destroy the US economy. It all goes horribly over-the-top and is ridiculous, with several “not quite done yet” endings.

Tedious and boring for the most part, it has a handful of really excellent moments (like when the girlfriend and the bad guy are talking), but mostly this is utterly forgettable.

Topic: [/movie]


Thu, May 28, 2015

: Killing Floor

Author: Lee Child

This is the first Jack Reacher book and it’s excellent. The actual mystery isn’t that mysterious (the big reveal at the end I predicted the moment I read that the conspiracy was about counterfeiting), but the way it’s presented is so good that doesn’t really matter.

The basic story is that Reacher’s a loner, out of the army after decades of service and growing up an army brat. He doesn’t have a job or a place to live, but just wanders. Thus he’s an easy suspect for a murder when he happens to pass through a tiny Georgia town and ends up stumbling into a massive conspiracy. It really sets up the one-guy-agains-the-world scenario, but Reacher’s such an awesome fighter (he was in the Military Police, so the bad guys he hunted there were trained killers, meaning he had to be even better trained) he just ruthlessly gets by anyone who stands in his way.

One aspect of that I liked is that the author doesn’t try and cripple Reacher in any way. A lot of authors are afraid of making their hero too heroic and therefore unrealistic, so they limit the guy. Reacher’s just deadly and there is no apology or limitation. It isn’t always easy for him — he’s not superhuman — but at least he’s not artificially limited.

The book’s excellently written, where we really get into the mind of the main character and understand how he does what he does, and the story’s interesting. I’ll definitely be reading more in this series!

Topic: [/book]


: The Machine

I wanted to like this, as I’m a big fan of artificial intelligence movies, but this one didn’t work for me. Either I didn’t understand it too well or it didn’t make sense. It’s about a lab trying to produce AI robots for use in war, but when a genuinely self-conscious machine is created, the authorities want to destroy her because she’s too dangerous. Ultimately it devolves into a sort of action film, but it’s not very good at that, either. Mildly interesting, but don’t expect much.

Topic: [/movie]


Wed, May 27, 2015

: Mad Max

This is the original 1979 film. I thought I’d seen it ages ago, but if so, I’d forgotten it. Much more in my memory were the sequels, which had a lot more action and a better setting. This one is not far enough ahead in the future and the world feels ordinary. It’s basically just a story about a bunch of drugged out biker maniacs go around killing innocent people and the cop who takes them on. It’s good, but it didn’t feel at all like a Mad Max movie to me, and that made it disappointing. Just not enough action.

Topic: [/movie]


Mon, May 25, 2015

: Tomorrowland

This was a totally awesome movie! I had high hopes going in, but this exceeded them. Not only is it visually interesting and well-acted, but it’s got a great story!

I was a little leery when a part of the story seemed to be about how the world is so terrible right now (global warming, wars, famine, etc.) as it seemed an odd distraction, but it turned out to be a key part of the plot. And I loved the resolution which was simple but not flippant.

It’s hard to describe much without giving anything away, but I’ll try. The movie theorizes that many years ago all the great scientists of the world created Tomorrowland, a place in an alternate dimension, where they could create and invent in peace. Supposedly we were all supposed to be invited in once the new world was ready, but something went wrong and that never happened. The main story’s about a teenage girl who discovers a pin that temporarily takes her to Tomorrowland, leaving her wanting more — and she tracks down an eccentric inventor and tries to get him to take her there. She’s apparently broken laws going to Tomorrowland and so bad guys are after them both, trying to execute them.

The film is face-paced, full of adventure and wonder, and really captures the whole idealistic view that the future was supposed to be better, not the end-of-days. What’s really impressive to me is that the film does this in a realistic fashion: all the “magical” stuff is explained (more or less) and the events in the story are plausible. So much of the time in movies like this the authors take liberties and shortcuts and the plot really doesn’t make much sense.

If I had to make one criticism it’s that very little of the film actually takes place in Tomorrowland — I wanted so much to see more of it! We catch intriguing glimpses, but the bulk of the story is about how to get back there, not actually being there. Just a bit of a bummer, but maybe that will open the door of a sequel.

In the meantime, go see this one. It’s really wild and fun.

Topic: [/movie]


Tue, May 19, 2015

: Ex Machina

This is by far the best film of 2015 so far. It’s amazingly deep with a lot of subtle depth that requires repeated viewing to grasp it all. The premise is simple: a young programmer has been selected by a reclusive billionaire inventor to come to his home/laboratory and perform a Turing test on an android and see if he can prove she’s actually a conscious artificial intelligence.

That sounds simple in principle — but proving something isn’t just mimicking intelligence is far trickier than it sounds.

Thus the plot is full of wonderful pretzel twists, turning over on itself. The film is remarkably similar to Moon in many ways: a tiny cast, claustrophobic atmosphere, and a bit of reality-bending. Soon you are questioning everything you’re seeing, just as the characters in the movie are doing. Is everyone lying? What are the real motives of each person?

The ending is absolutely fantastic: wicked and wonderful. This is a film that will have you thinking about reality, the nature of consciousness and intelligence, and so much more. So many films that portray supposedly super-intelligent people fail because the characters do such dumb things, but here the smart people are believable. They make mistakes, sure; but those mistakes are key parts of their personalities (we’re all blind to certain aspects of our flaws).

I just loved this and will definitely have to see this again many times. I can already tell it’s one of those movies that will just get better each time I see it.

Topic: [/movie]


Mon, May 18, 2015

: Avengers: Age of Ultron

While I liked this, it is disappointing. There are just too many Avengers and the plot’s way too overblown: nothing makes much sense and there’s too much going on for anything meaningful to happen. The fight sequences are nothing but blurs; perhaps impressive on a technical level, but numbingly boring.

The story’s bizarre: Ultron’s an artificial intelligence Tony Stark creates that’s supposed to be a peacekeeper; for reasons never explained, it’s “evil” and wants to destroy humanity. While the special effects are crazy-good (an entire city is uprooted and raised into the sky), it doesn’t feel spectacular — it feels awkward and unrealistic. The solution is even dumber (another being is created).

The script tries to give each Avenger their own story, but all fail; there’s just too many. I’d have loved an entire movie devoted to the Hulk-Black Widow romance, for instance, instead of just the cheesy snippets we get here.

Ultimately, this still a fun superhero movie, but it has little of the heart that the original Ironman so good. The plot’s so convoluted that it requires far too much time to explain it all (and even then it makes little sense), and in the end, everything gets short shrift. Watch this for explosions, cool special effects, and glimpses of favorite characters, but expect little else.

Topic: [/movie]


Sun, May 10, 2015

: Vampire Academy

Normally I might not even write about such a terrible movie, but this one clearly had real potential that I find it a fascinating exercise in bad decisions.

The premise is decent: a school where vampires send their children. But these aren’t bad vampires — they’re mostly harmless, though they have magical abilities. There are two other races: the bad vampires (which are pretty much like the evil vampires in most legends), and a race of protectors, which are sort of like the good vampires’ bodyguards.

The story is mostly about one of these bodyguards, a girl, who tries to protect her friend, a vampire princess. They tire of school rules and run away but are hunted down and returned, while real threats from bad vampires loom. Eventually we uncover a conspiracy to kidnap and kill the princess, yada yada yada.

What’s great about the film is the bodyguard character. She’s a hoot, a sassy, smart-mouthed fighter who leaps before she looks. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing good in the movie. Everything goes downhill right from the convoluted start, where we begin a year after the girls have run away from school. They’re hiding out on their own, which all has to be tediously explained (as do the various magical races), but then they’re caught very easily by school guards and returned. So how did they survive for a year if it was so easy to catch them?

From there the film just goes downhill. The exposition is terrible, with narration to explain vampire society to the viewer, and while those details are critical to the plot, they’re presented in such a backwards manner that it makes them artificial. Let me give you just one example.

Early on in the film we’re shown the princess sucking blood from her bodyguard. This is presented as routine between the two of them. Later we learn that this is forbidden behavior for vampires, with the two girls mocked upon their return to school for engaging in such naughtiness. But this is all backwards: we see the behavior first, out of context, and only later are we told it’s not kosher. And it’s never very clear exactly how “bad” a thing this is. Is it merely rude, scandalous, or criminal? There are few consequences shown, so it’s very confusing. Ultimately, even though this turns out to be an important part of the plot, it feels silly and unimportant.

The whole movie is filled with stuff like that. Everything’s backwards. It’s like key details being filled in via flashback, except the flashback isn’t even interesting, it’s boring narration. Just terrible.

The basic idea isn’t bad at all and this could have been a decent flick, but the raw ingredients are put together in such a disjointed, awkward fashion that nothing in the film really works. Such potential wasted. Very sad.

Topic: [/movie]


Mon, May 04, 2015

: Guardians of the Galaxy

Not at all what I expected from the promos. I thought it was about space idiots who happen to do something heroic, but they’re actually pretty competent people (and creatures) who come from criminal and other backgrounds.

Some great action, fun dialog and characters, and a decent-enough plot. A bit strange in places, and not always consistent, but overall it works quite well and is a blast.

Topic: [/movie]


Sat, May 02, 2015

: Childhood’s End

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Intriguing classic science fiction from Clarke. The premise is that an advanced alien race arrives on earth and brings in an era of peace. All weapons and war are eliminated, hunger is cured, no one has to work, etc. It’s nirvana.

Or is it? The expectation is that the aliens have some sort of nefarious agenda, but Clarke goes another direction. I can’t explain without giving away the novel’s secret, but let’s just say it’s unusual and involves the human race’s next evolution.

It’s a fascinating idea, though quite out-there. I don’t really buy it, but the novel’s worth reading just for the concept. It’ll make you think and that’s rarely a bad thing.

Topic: [/book]