Monday, September 27, 2010

read: Ancestor

AncestorAncestor by Scott Sigler

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"It was OK" sums up my reaction pretty well.

The author obviously put in a tremendous amount of work to get the technology and biology to a believable state. And it all makes a certain amount of sense within the world of the book. The problem is that it never came alive for me (ironic for a story about creating life). Everything and everyone is described in cold, calculating terms. The settings come across as laundry lists of geography, structures, or items, as appropriate. Likewise, each character comes with their list of identifiers and quirks, but they never quite make it off of the page.

I will give Mr. Sigler credit for creating a pretty slam-bang plot. There are plenty of thrills and the promised violence. Although I was skimming many pages, I did push through to the end to find out how things would get wrapped up. [More]

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"Date Night" [B-]

A nice suburban couple realize they're in a rut and try to add a little zest to their life. Forced to 'steal' another couple's reservation at a popular restaurant, they are soon paying for that indiscretion and running for their lives (and repeatedly criticized for it by cop and criminal alike).

Carell and Fey do a believable job as a married couple who love each other, but need some time to keep their romance alive. The script gives them plenty of moments to discover what's right and wrong with their relationship and work through it in a relatively believable fashion, given all the mayhem.

Not all of the jokes work and not too many of them are outright hilarious. But this is a funny movie.

"When In Rome" [C+]

This film's main issue is that it's just trying too hard to be funny and heartwarming. Occasionally, it succeeds. More often, it's either strained, boring or awkward. It's full of actors mugging for the camera, trying to do something with a script that's never quite sure where to go.

One place it doesn't really go is Rome. Most of the action happens in New York. And even many of the Rome scenes were actually filmed in NYC. I'd call that false advertising.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Resident Evil: Afterlife" [B-]

As expected, this didn't make a lick of sense and really wasn't necessary after the previous installment. But it was extremely well done. Even so, the 'bullet-time' sequences got a little old after the 10th or 12th time. I guess they probably looked pretty cool in 3D (I watched it in good ol' 2D).

Resident Evil: Afterlife (IMDb)

"Crazy Heart" [B+]

This film is highlighted by Academy Award-worthy performances (Jeff bridges won) and music (also won). And it gets high marks for keeping the audience guessing as to how things will turn out. Directing is solid. But the script and story are a little meandering, sort of like Bad Blake's life.

I'm happy to report that as hard as it is to watch even a fictional character throw their life away and hit bottom, this film is not as depressing as it might sound from the description. The characters are smartly written and feel solidly true. The ending is satisfying, if not the sort that Hollywood typically churns out.

Crazy Heart (IMDb)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

read: The Incredible World of Spy-Fi

The Incredible World of Spy-Fi: Wild and Crazy Spy Gadgets, Props, and Artifacts from TV and the MoviesThe Incredible World of Spy-Fi: Wild and Crazy Spy Gadgets, Props, and Artifacts from TV and the Movies by Danny Biederman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a fun fluff of a book that will appeal to anyone with fond memories of the spy films and television shows of the 60s and 70s. Built around photos of various props and costumes from these shows, the author briefly sets the context, history, and theme of each show, rundowns most of the main characters (and actors), and expounds on each particular item with amusing anecdotes.

Coverage is heavily weighted toward the James Bond films, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", "Mission: Impossible", and "The Wild, Wild West". Other shows like "Get Smart" and "The Avengers", along with more recent films like "Austin Powers", get good mentions, too.

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read: Quantico

QuanticoQuantico by Greg Bear

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first third of the book really had me wondering if the pages of my Greg Bear science fiction novel had been secretly replaced with the pages from some randomly average thriller about post-9/11 terrorism. Then the science started appearing and things got more interesting.

The realistic portrayal of the remote possibility of unknown parties acquiring and/or manipulating bio-terrorism materials is quite unsettling and thought provoking. This is not a great book. But it was ultimately satisfying and I will probably give the next one in the series a try. [More]

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