Tuesday, May 31, 2011

read: Mercury Falls

Mercury FallsMercury Falls by Robert Kroese

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Occasionally amusing is as apt a description as I can apply to this silly book. I think what the author was going for was something more along the lines of consistently hilarious in the vein of Douglas Adams. Alas, it is somewhat wide of that mark. But if the reader allows themselves to overlook the underdeveloped characters, contrived plot, Scripture twisting, and sometimes stilted dialog, the story and pop culture references are occasionally amusing. [More]

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

read: Fables and Reflections (Sandman #6)

Fables and Reflections (The Sandman, #6)Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good mix of alternate history fantasy and myth-making here. It's interesting that Morpheus, The Sandman, is a key character in each tale, but only shows up for a small portion of each. As with all Gaiman stories, characters are key, and we get a wide variety. We also get a variety of settings and plots, showing that he is no slouch in those areas either.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

"The Green Hornet" [C+]

The car was cool. It was nice to see that Seth Rogan had plenty of budget to get the props right on his vanity project. It's too bad he didn't use some of it to hire a good writer and a better actor to play Britt Reid/Green Hornet. I think my biggest problem is that Seth decided to write and play Britt as a grating dolt, rather than a sharp newspaperman creating an ineffective persona. This results in zero believability that Reid has any chance of confronting and bringing down any criminals whatsoever, except by accident or by the actions of his accidental almost ally, Kato. Disappointing.

The Green Hornet (IMDb)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"The American" [B+]

This film is about as dark and stark as they come. But it captures your attention and moves to its inevitable end like clockwork. It is stripped down, raw, and intense. It's hard to call the main character, Jack (or Edward?), the protagonist. He is cold and cruel and unbending. Yet by the end of the film, the audience has built up an affinity (affection?) for him, even though he is not that much different than when we first met him.

The American (IMDb)

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" [B]

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" proves there is plenty of swashbuckle left in the franchise. The first third of the film has plenty of action and humor and makes promises the rest of the film doesn't quite keep. That's only to say that things slow down a bit and the plot, such as it is, meanders and falters before coming back together for the final confrontation. I think my biggest complaint is that this entry does not have any true distraction from Captain Jack Sparrow. These films really need someone for the audience to identify with and have him bounce off. Other than that, don't bother to see this in 3D, but enjoy the ride.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (IMDb)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

read: Atlantis (Bob Mayer)

AtlantisAtlantis by Bob Mayer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good thriller has to have interesting characters, a good threat and plot that doesn't let up. Atlantis has all three. It also adds interest by bringing together the legend of Atlantis, the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, and a plausible response to the threat. All these ingredients kept me turning pages and should have been worth four stars.

But I have to mark it down because it also has plenty of typographical errors, a jumble of character viewpoints and confusing settings, and occasional cringe-inducing prose.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Thor" [C+]

Giving this movie a grade of C+ should not be taken as an indication that I did not like it. I actually enjoyed my time in the theater. But, grading it on the curve against other comic book movies, like Iron Man and The Dark Knight, I think a C+ is actually pretty generous. Thor is as bright and shiny and powerful, yet as empty and emotionless, as the Destroyer robot sent to Earth to kill him.

The plot and some of the acting is seemingly Shakespearean. Yet it only seems such. It borrows the pomp and swagger of the bard, but fails to deliver motivation for the characters. It is completely contrived and situation-driven. In that regard, this is just a comic book movie. The characters all behave with the shallowness of their comic book counterparts and bright colors and swirling action are an attempt to disguise it.

What saves the film from being a complete disaster is the obvious enthusiasm for the project by all involved. The actors and director are all in. The effects team does a bang up job. If one can ignore the emptiness below the surface of the silly story, as well as the unusual emptiness of the cities and towns of Asgard, New Mexico, and the Frost Giants world, one can have an amusing couple of hours.

Thor (IMDb)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Source Code" [B+]

Source Code takes its inspiration from the best episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits: ask a "what if" question about something just beyond the edge of our scientific understanding and explore the effect it has on the people involved. In this case, the "what if" sends an earnest and initially confused Army pilot on a new mission exploring the last memories of the victim of a terrorist bomb. Except he's not as convinced as the scientists that nothing he does will change the outcome of that explosion.

As he repeatedly experiences the victim's last eight minutes and repeatedly fails to either change the outcome or fulfill his mission to uncover the bomber and prevent another, more brutal, bombing, he becomes more and more convinced that he can make a difference for this train full of people. Even so, the audience wants to believe he is right, but becomes more and more convinced that the scientists know what they're talking about (even though the science is just as preposterous and under-explained as in any science fiction story).

Good acting. Good directing. Good suspense. The same big explosion seen from several angles. Decent special effects.

Source Code (IMDb)