Sunday, June 26, 2011

"The Adjustment Bureau" [B+]

This is a thoughtful science fiction film about people and their situation, rather than explosions. It's somewhat comparable to Stranger Than Fiction in that it examines free will and choices and does so without being too preachy or maudlin. In fact, there are some scenes of genuine suspense and tension. And there are cool special effects. Recommended.

The Adjustment Bureau (IMDb)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"X-Men: First Class" [B+]

Interesting approach, giving us an origin story as the fourth entry in a film series. But it kind of works here. We didn't need all this information for the first few films and by adding it at this point the experience is actually that much richer. I really liked the retro 1960s setting.

Good writing, directing, and acting all around. There are some very good scenes. It gets marked down a little because there are a bit too many scenes, perhaps because there are a few too many characters to cover with the story. The whole thing could have benefited by one more round of editing on both the script and the film. That would have probably taken out a couple of slower spots. And perhaps done away with the a couple of extraneous strikes to the head with the "us versus them" two-by-four. I think most people got the message well before the middle of the film. You don't have to keep going on about it.

All in all a fun flick for a rainy summer afternoon.

X-Men: First Class (IMDb)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Super 8" [A]

Super 8 is one of those films that just keeps firing on all cylinders. When it's not making you jump, it's breaking your heart. When it's not tearing up the town, it's giving you down-to-earth drama. Everything about this movie just worked for me, from the script to the directing to the acting to the visual effects. This isn't a science-fiction movie with story elements tacked on. This is a story about people and the effect the science-fiction elements have on them.

Yes, there are a few stereotypes thrown in here and there. And there are plenty of explosions and gratuitous, anonymous carnage. But at it's core it's a story about kids at the cusp of growing up and how they are thrust into an almost literal crucible and come out the other side. The film is true to those characters and their situation and pretty true to the time period and setting. Those of a certain age will recognize songs and cars and events of the time. I loved every minute of it.

Super 8 (IMDb)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

read: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games,  #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book grabbed me on the first page and wouldn't let go. The voice of the young first-person narrator was just right. It showed great inner strength, yet also demonstrated the right amount of innocence. Set in a future America that is familiar, yet terrifyingly different, the plot offers both high-concept sci-fi adventure hooks and down-to-earth living, seasoned with occasional self-examination. And it always keeps moving. Every twist is a surprise. Yet most of them feel 'right' and not set up. Adults as well as older youth will enjoy this book, even if it paints a picture that is predominantly bleak, sort of Logan's Run meets Survivor meets Lord of the Flies.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 3, 2011

read: Serenity: Those Left Behind

Serenity: Those Left Behind (Serenity, #1)Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pretty solid Firefly episode. The art and continuity were a bit uneven. But it was a pleasant return to this universe.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

read: We the Enemy

We the EnemyWe the Enemy by Ray Rhamey

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ray warns that this is provocative and it's for good reason. It's raw. and it's bleak. It reminds me of film noir. I had to set it aside after two and a half chapters. When I picked it up again, I still could not finish it. Maybe I'll look at it again some time.

View all my reviews

read: The Diamond Age

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated PrimerThe Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Diamond Age is an ambitious book full of rich descriptions of life in an imaginary future based on the perfection of nanotechnology. That dense world-building is the joy of the novel. Stephenson does an admirable job of creating a future that extrapolates from our present and imagines the changes that certain technologies might have on society and relationships. There's also a story in there somewhere, but I had a hard time picking it out of the dense language, sparse dialog, and long exposition.

There were many sections of this book that really clicked for me. They drew me in and had me turning pages. But there were also long sections, where I no longer cared at all what was happening to the characters. I'm fascinated by the fact that so many people, including several awards committees, think so highly of this book. Stephenson is quite a writer. But quantity and quality of words aren't enough for me if I can't identify with the characters and their story. [More]

View all my reviews