Monday, September 26, 2011

"Morlocks" [C+]

Schlocky re-imagining of H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" with suitably bad dialog, cheap sets and costumes, and even cheaper (and bad) CGI effects. And automatic weapons. Go ahead and watch it. You know you want to. (from SyFy channel)

Morlocks (IMDb)

"Drive" [B+]

Drive is a smart, gritty film about a smart, gritty character navigating a city full of stupidity, violence, and greed. In that way, it owes a debt to the Spaghetti Westerns of Clint Eastwood. But it's also about cars and driving and heists and keeping your cool. Here we see the influence of Bullitt and all things Steve McQueen.

High marks for cinematic vision, cinematography, minimalistic dialog, great spaces and silences between characters, suspense, drama, and thrills. A couple of stars removed for some over-the-top violence and a script that could have been oh-so-slightly tighter. This is a great film.

Drive (IMDb)

read: Brief Lives (The Sandman #7) (5 stars)

Brief Lives (The Sandman, #7)Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman changes things up again, giving us one long quest in this volume. It is still made up of several intertwining stories. As usual, there are rich characters and deep thoughts about life, death, change, that sort of thing. The art ranges from sketchy to artistic and Peter Straub's afterword wraps it all in a neat bow.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

read: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream (4 stars)

RadicalRadical by David Platt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very good debunking of many commonly held views about Christian living and a rallying cry to a more Christ-centered life. The strongest arguments in the book are also its greatest weakness: Christians need to see themselves as ambassadors to an entire world full of unreached people, yet most of us tremble at the thought of even mentioning Jesus to a neighbor. If the only way to be a first-class Christian is to have a missionary mindset and a willingness to go anywhere, then most of us will probably settle for second-class and staying at home.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

read Bright's Passage (3 stars)

Bright's Passage: A NovelBright's Passage: A Novel by Josh Ritter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a sad little story about a World War I veteran from West Virginia with a rough upbringing and an even rougher adult life. It's no wonder he carries on conversations with his horse, whom he addresses as 'Angel'.

After his wife dies in childbirth, Henry Bright is on the run, with his infant son, from both a raging forest fire and his vengeful father-in-law. Along the way, the author weaves in flashbacks to childhood and the war and Henry starts questioning, ever more seriously, the wisdom of the advice offered to him by his 'angel'.

The writing shows that the songwriter/author has some serious storytelling chops. Many passages exude, as one might expect, lyric-like prose. It will be interesting to read his next book. Perhaps it will be longer and more polished, while keeping the heart and song shown in this one.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

read: Robopocalypse: A Novel (3 stars)

Robopocalypse: A Novel  (eBook)Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, but found it frustrating. While it tried for the same collected eyewitness style that Max Brooks used for World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, I didn't buy that indulgence for very long. But all of the accounts sound the same. And many use vocabulary and diction that I felt to be beyond the purported author/speaker. Many of the chapters are labeled as being assembled from video footage and communication logs from various devices. Yet these are still delivered in the same first-person voice as the other chapters. All-in-all, the framing device felt convoluted and tacked on.

On the other hand, the concept and the storytelling within the chapters was quite captivating and thought-provoking. Most of the prose was easy to read, even though it could have been easily overwhelmed by technical babble. There were even hints of character development that could have been quite compelling in the hands of a more mature fiction author.

With a different approach and more editing, this book could have easily gotten four stars. As it is, I can only give it three.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"The Debt" [B+]

A good suspense story makes you think you know what's going on, but then wonder if you're right, and keep you guessing about what's going to happen next. "The Debt" is a good suspense story. It has an interesting structure because it actually begins at the end, twice. Then it goes back to fill in the history, and the details, and then... telling more would be a spoiler.

The writing, acting, and directing are all first rate, up to a point. That point is the ending, which doesn't quite ring true to the rest of the film. Other than that, I suspect there will be some award nominations coming for this work.

(The two beginning-at-the-ends are the 1997 framing story and the 1965 post-mission arrival of the team in Israel, both of which give away what happened to the spy team, but not what happened on the mission.)

The Debt (IMDb)