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Filtering by Tag: Science Fiction

Book Review - Cryptonomicon

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson - A B&N browse and pick. The story is a few years old (I think 1999) and jumps back and forth between World War II and the turn of the millenium. It centers around a few main characters in WWII and their descendants, and it's focused on the cryptological (then) and information security (now)business. The cast of characters includes a kind of cryptological savant, a marine grunt, spies, treasure hunters, damsels in distress, lions, tigers, you get the picture. Ok, mostly it's about the spy business from the side of cryptographers (go figure with a title like Cryptonomicon) Stephenson shows quite the touch at handling the science (which he appears to be quite versed in) as well as offering a plausible and interesting plot. He also does a good job of handling multiple plot lines as he jumps back and forth between past & present and between different characters. This is often a risky venture and very few pull it off while maintaining the urgency of the story (George R.R. Martin has very succesfully written his entire Song of Ice and Fire series with this technique). Perhaps best of all, he is very funny in the most geeky sense of the word. Some of the metaphors he uses to describe a painful or exasperating experience are laugh out loud funny. I don't know how much of the technology described is real, but it all sounds convincing when he describes it. I really like his writing and will be reading his other novels when I get time.

Movie Review - Spider Man & Shrek 3

We saw Spider Man and Shrek 3 this weekend and in both cases, I suppose the third time isn't as charming as hoped for. If you liked the first two of each, then these aren't completely forgettable, but they both suffer from where they occur in the series. I think we've seen all we need to see of both these series now (although I'll be surprised if there isn't a least one more sequel for each). Spider Man 3 - a little too long and too many villains. This movie suffers from trying to do too much and thereby gives too little attention to anything, leaving you wondering at the end exactly who was that Sandman guy, and where the hell did the black gooey stuff come from? And why couldn't it wait until the next movie? I'd say it's worth a rental, but you may want to save your theater money for something else. It does look great, though.

Shrek 3 - is at least visually impressive as they have managed to continue the graphics improvements with technology to the point that some things in the movie look very convincingly real. Unfortunately, the charm of the first two movies gets a little lost in this movie in which Shrek and Fiona are much more mainstream characters, reminding me of some sitcom roles as opposed to the rude and abrasive (and more entertaining) Shrek from the first two movies. The best roles (and lines) in this movie are for the minor fairy tale characters;  Donkey and Puss-n-boots are also underutilized.  It's still worth a rental (in about 6 months) unless you've got kids who will probably demand to see it in the theater. I really wish they could do an R-rated Shrek. If you pushed the vulgarity, sarcasm and exploited the twisted fairy tale idea to its limit this could be really funny. Sadly, that'll never happen.

A common theme in many sequels now is that they all benefit from the newest technology and manage to surpass their predecessors on some audiovisual level, but that is often the only objective goal they seem to have in mind. Look at the Star Wars prequels, for example. They all surpassed the original trilogy from a tech standpoint, but they all were found lacking in script, dialogue and characters. I'm unashamedly a techno geek and I will often watch a movie that is otherwise forgettable if it looks cool, but I'm really starting to tire of the tendency to treat story and dialogue as secondary. Why can't we make great looking, epic movies that also remember the importance of storytelling at it's most basic level?  The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an example of how you can do both although they had the benefit of a great story to start with.  I often wonder if all the tech advancements have been a positive for the movie industry. A great story begins and ends with words and unfortunately in a visual medium this is sometimes an afterthought.


Popcorn season commences

There are some decentish movies coming out this summer, the overwhelming majority of which are franchises. Hollywood knows how to ride a horse until it drops. That being said, I am looking forward to the following corntastic flicks: Bourne Ultimatum, Evan Almighty, Oceans 13, Spider Man 3, Pirates 3, Harry Potter 5, Shrek 3, Fantastic Four 2. We typically watch dramas, comedies (and the less spectacular) on our big screen at home as you don't necessarily lose much compared to the multiplex. 

Those listed deserve at least one theater viewing.  We watch most movies at home and typically enjoy the experience more without the added multiplex frustrations (noisy kids, tiny seats, rigoldarndiculous food prices, etc.), but there still is something special about a screen so big you can't take it all in without panning your eyes left and right. I'm a big fan of IMAX, and I would probably go see more regular films in that format but they never offer them in the markets where I live (thanks Army, no really, thanks).


I’m Anakin Skywalker

…at least according to the Star Wars Personality test. When they asked what I lusted after most I chose power over money and love. They didn't count for the fact that I have love already and don't need more. But I do want to control the universe, so there's that. I don't think I'm quite as bratty as he was though. (Anakin: "Obi-Wan never lets me do anything!!" Mope, sob, whine. Throws miscellaneous spacey thing)

Update - 10 March 2008. Now I'm Boba Fett according to the test. I think this reflects my current work environment, as it indicates I would prefer to go alone and I'm willing to commit criminal acts to further my goals…

Movie Review - Children of Men


a near future sci fi thriller about a time when the human race is headed towards extinction with no human births in nearly twenty years. A dark view of the future, similar in tone to Blade Runner, and reminiscent of the golden age of science fiction when writers like Asimov and Heinlein wrote stories with adult themes that provoked thought and discussion and not purely for entertaiment value.