Oct 10, 2015

Comic Reviews

Promethea – This is an Alan Moore comic, I haven’t really read much of him besides Watchman. He has a long prose introduction that I actually thought was quite good. It is supposedly a history of this character Promethea in fiction which I had assumed to be true but turns out is all made up for the comic. The intro is not at all Alan Moore-ey, its reasoned and thoughtful. He makes up a terrible racist character in an early-1900s version of the story, which is weird to do when it’s not real. But he’s trying to make up a history of this character that reflects the world it was written in, which is actually pretty interesting. Unfortunately, to me, the rest of the book doesn’t live up to the intro. I only got Book 1, maybe the rest are better, but I wasn’t super into the story. The art is pretty good, bright and colorful and my style. But the mechanics of the plot were kind of sleepy. Not good enough to make me track down the other books.

Kill Shakespeare – This sounded cool, but ended up boring. It’s like Fables (or Once Upon a Time, for lame people), except with Shakespeare characters. They all exist in a shared world, interacting in various ways. I don’t know that stuff at all well enough to compare these versions of them to the classic version, but it’s kind of neat. And then there’s a mysterious Shakespeare who is maybe the creator or maybe a wizard or maybe a god and different people have different plans regarding him. That all sounds like a cool setup. But I read the whole first trade and I’m not interesting in reading the rest. It was okay, just not that interesting and didn’t keep me around.

Beautiful Darkness – This is one of the weirdest comics I’ve ever read. It’s an “anti-fairy tale”. Which basically means a dark and effed up story. A bunch of people, kids maybe, I’m not sure, get shrunk down to bug size and have to survive. There’s not much of a story, the pages feel kind of nonsequitor. But it does some pretty disturbing things, and the worst part of it is it’s very very casual about it. A person will die in an icky way, and then next panel, like no big deal. That is clearly on purpose, in contrast with its very cutesy art style. I guess it succeeds in what it’s trying to do, but what it’s trying to do is pretty weird. Not sure I exactly enjoyed it, though it was interesting.

Black Science – Read the first collected edition of this. It’s kind of a wacky scifi, other dimensions kind of story. The art style feels pretty frenetic, which suits the pace. It’s a little bloody, but not crazy. It’s very in media res, but you catch up pretty easily. It throws a lot out in the first 6 issues, and plows through its characters pretty relentlessly. Not sure how the next books will go, but I think I’m in to it.

Manhattan Projects – If I hadn’t also just read Beautiful Darkness, I would say this is a very weird book. It is still weird, just in a different way. It’s an alternate history of the Manhattan Project, wherein pretty much everyone is a psychopath. Einstein is some sort of evil version, some other guy is a skeleton made out of plasma or something, Oppenheimer is a replaced by his multiple personality, cannabalistic twin. So fucking weird. It feels like a really dark version of Atomic Robo, in that it’s set in the past, but there’s a lot of future tech, portals, lasers, etc. It’s pretty crazy, but I really like it, going to get more.

Book Reviews

Speaker for the Dead – I read this a few years ago, but I re-read a few months after re-reading Ender’s Game. The book is really really good. My faint, probably wrong, memory of my first reading of the two books is that I like them equally, for very different reasons, with the slight edge toward Ender. The second time around, Ender is very cool and still has the best twist around, but is just cool. Fun, interesting, actioney, cool. Speaker is really special, though. The idea of a speaker is very powerful. The idea of understanding someone so deeply you can accept even their tragic flaws, even their evilness. Ender is a bit of a superhero, and his superpower is borderline-omniscient insight, it’s a bit much. But otherwise it’s really good. The different perspective of different people and species, none of which are wrong, but which may be incompatible, that’s all very interesting. The idea of understanding why a person acts a way is valuable to me. I’m not quite so magnanimous in real life, there are still plenty of people who need to be dead, and plenty who I just don’t want anywhere near me. But I do, as a rule, try to understand where people are coming from and forgive brief transgressions. Everyone can have a bad day, the dude who cut you off could have just endured a tragedy. Or maybe he’s just an asshole. But neither reality will change your day, so let it float on past. That’s moving past the philosophy of understanding why people are the way they are and into how to be happier yourself, but it all seems related to me. Anyway, it’s a really good book with some really good ideas. How can such a progressive set of thinking be written by such a flaming bigot? I don’t get it.

Bean Quartet – I listened to the 4 books written about Bean, in the Ender universe. I did not really like them. I’m very unsure why I got all the way to the end of them, except that I mostly listened to them while I played video games and so didn’t take up too much of my life. The first one is just an echo of Ender’s Game, but not a very good one. The whole thing with Bean is extraordinarily dumb. People have been making genetically engineered super people for ever in science fiction. No one has made a genius baby that hides in toilets. So dumb. Him being a genius all through battle school is so annoying. I’m not at all on his side because I can’t stand him. It’s kind of cool to have an outside perspective on Ender, but not cool enough. A character who is just so ahead of everything and everyone because he’s so damn smart is really annoying. Then the rest of the books are a mess. The second one was okay at first because there was a lot of global politics stuff. Imagining a different world and the wars and such is a fun exercise. But then half the book is boring bullshit stuff with Petra. And the whole denouement is all about saving a girl? What? I guess there’s this whole arc where Bean learns to value love and family over the concerns of the world, but that seems remarkably dumb. And to end a book saving a princess is so ick. And then the next book is so much teenage angst and drama. The fourth book at least bothers to wrap up the story, but I could have read the short story outline and been just as happy.

Wool – This book is kind of a rollercoaster for me. It’s a post-apocalyptic thing people are living in an underground silo because the world has gone to shit. It starts out fantastic. The first 5 chapters are an amazing reversal of your expectations in this kind of book, and it totally had me going. Then it gets boring for a while, then some cool stuff happens. Then I get real frustrated with the characters, then it’s cool again. Then it’s boring for a while, then it gets exciting again, and then it ends pretty lame. I can think of a 1 page chapter that would have been a much more compelling end without really changing anything. I guess I don’t really like neatly tied up ends. Anyway, it sounds like I’m complaining, but it’s really pretty good, it just has some slogs in it.

The Martian – Well, this is exactly as good as everyone says. Funny, captivating, interesting, scientifically legit (at least to the extent I can judge, which is pretty limited). People have been talking about it since it was a little indie website thing, I just never quite got around to it. But with the movie people are freaking out and I didn’t want the spoils, so I finally read it. It’s pretty great. I guess it falls into a pretty predictable pattern of: holy shit! gonna die. But what if I. Phew, that was close. Holy shit! But that’s okay, that’s kind of the shtick, and it’s a fun one from beginning to end.

Movie Reviews

Nightcrawler – Wow, I really liked this movie. It’s about an aimless dude who stumbles into a job where you go to accident/crime scenes and film stuff to send to local news. That escalates to perhaps over the top levels, but it’s still really good. It’s a horrendously creepy job and Jake Gyllenhaal plays a horrendously creepy dude. I love the look of the movie, it feels like the 80s, dark and kind of grimy and lit by street lights. It’s a wonder how the movie is so captivating when everything about it is so gross. I was disgusted but totally taken.

The Kingsmen – Pretty cool movie. It’s pretty violent. The action is for the most part slick and cool. They push it too far in more than one instance. The people stretch and move in clearly digital ways and it takes you out of the badassery. It’s mostly good, but there’s at least 5 instances of meh. The movie walks a weird line, it’s mostly trying to be badass and cool, but then occasionally, and especially toward the end, goes totally campy. It’s funny, for the most part, but is kind of weird. But it’s pretty cool overall.

Extracted – This is an indie-ish movie about a dude who invents a machine that can go into people’s memories. It’s used for a not so nice reason and gets him stuck in a not so good situation. The rest of the movie is figuring that out and trying to get out. It’s a neat idea, and I can’t say there’s anything in particular wrong with the movie. At the same time, I was kind of bored. Not sure why, maybe the pacing was off, maybe the main dude was just too bland. I did like the end, and just the discussion of what memory really is, that was a cool aspect.

Man with the Iron Fists 2 – Holy crap is this bad. I thought I remember liking the first, but I could be wrong and I can’t find a review. But this is terrible. No one expects the acting to be good, and it isn’t. Probably the writing will suck, and it does. You might hope that the story is decent, but no dice. But it’s a kung fu movie, all those things are forgivable if you serve up some proper ninja shit. They did not. At first I thought maybe just RZA was terrible, he’s not a ninja anyway. But then everyone else is bad too. The choreography is so boring. So simple, it’s like they are running through practices they just learned last week, you can see them thinking about the next move. Really bad.

Blackhat – Holy shit. So, basically, some one read the headline for a story on Stuxnet and was like “woah, someone should make a movie about that”. And then they read LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE ABOUT HACKING EVER. Well, that’s not fair, they did google “top 20 hacking buzzwords”, and then used half of them wrong. Like straight up, did you even google how RAT is usually used, wrong. And then that’s all just a flimsy excuse for an action movie. Dumb.

Seventh Son – Okay, first of all I thought this was based on the Orson Scott Card book. It’s not, it’s based on another book of a different name. Kinda shady to name your movie the same thing as another guy’s book. But, OSC is an asshole, so I don’t care. The movie is terrible, btw. The effects are actually good, a lot of the setup seems like it should be good. But only if no one moves. As soon as they start moving, and especially when they start talking, yikes. Not good.

Starman – This is an old 80s movie I never saw. Alien comes to earth, takes the shape of a widow’s dead husband, then they have to get off the Earth before the big bad military stops them. It’s pretty good, I’m not sure why Jeff Bridges got an oscar nomination, it’s good but it’s not amazing, he’s mostly just trying to act like he can’t speak very well. But still, it’s a good movie, dated in lots of ways, but good.

Jupiter Ascending – Yikes, not so good. For some reason I put this and Interstellar in the same bucket in my head. Interstellar was pretty great, minus the end. This was pretty terrible, including the end. It’s really a teenie bopper fantasy movie, except in space. Princesses and evil villains and quests. Except all the CG is bad, and the acting is bad. The story is pretty bad. The universe is okay, it could have worked, but it ends up being kind of forced. Not so good.

American Sniper – This movie is hard to watch. I found it pretty impossible to separate my reaction to the movie from America’s reaction to the movie. I’m very uncomfortable glorifying a professional killer. And that’s no comment on him. I don’t know if it’s true, but I can imagine that a person in that situation is only interested in making the choices that save as many of his friends as possible, and that seems pretty reasonable. But so much of the reaction to this movie is what a bad ass killer of ay-rabs he is, it’s very icky. To be fair, the movie itself shows conflict in that role, he does struggle with the reality of both war and life at home, and I think that’s really valuable. But my brain can’t ignore the jingoistic blind patriotism that surrounded this movie and this man, and that’s hard to except. Separate from all that, the movie is done pretty well. Well, except the baby, yeah, that was terrible.

Kill Me Three Times – I didn’t get this movie. It’s very quirky, not in a cute way, more like a british gangster movie. But it didn’t catch me at all. I can’t say what was wrong with it, just that I was sufficiently uninterested that I didn’t even want to disentangle the plot, which wasn’t that complicated. Oh well.

Ex Machina – I like this movie. It draws things out too much, because you can see what’s happening faster than the people in it. But as an outline it’s pretty good. I don’t enjoy the end, but I can’t say that it’s bad, they didn’t make an wrong choice, I just didn’t like it! But that’s focusing on 5 minutes I didn’t like when I liked all the rest of the minutes quite a bit.

Dumb and Dumber To - Nope.

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Meh. I’m not really sure what the point of this is. It’s not an earnest biblical movie, it’s far too shiny (literally, it’s grimey shine, but it’s still shine), too flashy (metaphorically). If it’s an action movie, well, I don’t know, just make an action movie. Although, probably should make a better one than this. If it’s a biblical movie, it should feel a lot more biblical, less like a straight to DVD 300 sequel. I feel like the whole point was just to see the plagues, and then the red sea, and those were somehow underwhelming. At first I hated the representation of god, but then the idea of a petulant foot stomping child kind of grew on me. It might be my favorite part of the movie.

Hector and the Search for Happiness – This is pretty good, but pretty weird. Like that Walter Mitty movie, the mixing of reality and fantasy is more frustrating than fun for me. I know I’m supposed to just enjoy the story, but I kept getting distracted by how it would be realistic for 20 minutes, then be a little nuts for a while. But still, it’s fun, I like it.

Wet Hot American Summer – I had never seen this, but watched it so I could see the netflix show. I wasn’t not impressed by either. The ads for the show were hilarious, but I guess that was all their hilariousness. It’s meant to be extremely wacky, I guess racey. But it just seemed stupid for the most part. You can only get so funny by being crazy and “oh my god no they didn’t”. I guess that used to work, I guess that’s Anchorman. But this didn’t work at all. I was so bored by the end of the show.

Taken 3 – I don’t know, it’s even less interesting that the 2nd one. Him being a badass was only awesome because it was so unexpected and therefore cool. Continuing to do that for 4 additional hours is super boring.

Jack the Giant Slayer – This started out pretty bad. It never got good, but it got better at least. But at first it’s objective terrible. The acting, the writing, the CG, oh man. About half way through it gets a little better, maybe I was just distracted by the plot, simple as it was. The second half is just kind of an average kid-friendly action movie. Nothing much to it.

It Follows – I guess I see why this was received well. It’s not like the writing or performances are particularly wonderful. And the hook is just as lame as any other hook, maybe even a little lamer, trying to exploit our love of seeing people doing it. But the pace of the movie is good. Though it has it’s moments, it is by no means relying on scares or gore to keep your attention. It is more thriller than horror often, so it gets points for that.

Woman in Gold – It’s hard for me to judge this movie, because I disagree with the lady. I think the movie is pretty well done. They have a simple job, just tell her admittedly remarkable story and don’t fuck it up. They don’t fuck it up. I have a problem with her not because I think she’s crazy or bad. Her story is tragic and representative of endless tragic stories to come out of that war. I just have a problem locking pieces of art away in private collections. Not a lot can trump the suffering of a victim of that war, but, to me, iconic elements of the cultural history of an entire people should be shared, not in your living room.

The Theory of Everything – Pretty good. I didn’t know much about his story, just the broadest outlines. This filled it in pretty well, and everyone does a good job. You have to wonder how much of it is smoothed over. I guess it’s mostly based on his first wife’s book, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all truth. But whatever, I don’t care about all the salacious stuff. He changed physics. Someone else would have if he hadn’t, but as it happens he did it, so that’s worth something. Cool to see the story of how it happened.