Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Rabbit Redux

Rabbit Redux (Rabbit Angstrom, #2)Rabbit Redux by John Updike
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It may not be as enjoyable as Run, Rabbit, mainly because of the characters this time around, but Rabbit Redux is a solid progression in the saga of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. Taking place ten years after the events of the first book, Rabbit is an older man, beleaguered by a boring job and problems at home. It begins with an affair and escalates to some pretty major events, but my main problem with it is two primary characters, Skeeter and Jill. I just don't like them. I'm not really sure what that says about me as a person, as I get the feeling that Updike was painting them to be characters with flaws, but, at the same time, sympathetic characters with flaws, but they just rub me the wrong way. Their chapters weigh down the entire book and I think they reveal less about Rabbit as a person than they intend to.

That said, there are some great moments in this book, and we get to know Rabbit's son much better since he's older. He's definitely a product of his time. I also liked the commentary on Vietnam in this book. I'm sure this was a pretty relevant novel upon the time of its release, and it's interesting to see the various opinions that were swirling around about the war while it was actually occurring.

Overall, though, I just liked and didn't love this book. I'm looking forward to the next two, though, since both of them won the Pulitzer.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Reviews: Hercules and Lucy

(Image taken from: www.forbes.com)

Busy weekend for me. I got to see not one, but two, count 'em, two movies at the theater this weekend. The first was Hercules, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (I'm sorry, but no matter how many movies you star in, you will always be "The Rock" to me). Was it good? Well, it wasn't terrible, which is saying a lot since it was directed by Brett Ratner. It could have been a lot worse, I'll just say that.

Its key problem, for me anyway, was that it didn't have the 12 Labors in it, despite the fact that the trailers led you to believe that it did. The fact is, though, is that the boar, the lion, and the hydra that you saw in the trailers are all you get with this movie. In other words, you already saw the best parts. The rest of the film involves some war and betrayal and a lot of lame jokes that some of the brain dead attendants in my theater couldn't get enough of. One girl next to me almost choked on her popcorn when there was a speech about an invincible sword piercing invincible armor. She said, "He was all like, uhhhh, duuuuh. HEE HEE HEE!"

As for The Rock himself, well, he was fine. It's not all that hard to portray Hercules. Put me in a body suit, spray me with some tan, and give me a wig, and voila, I'm Hercules. I was more concerned with the fact that the movie didn't know if it wanted the characters to believe in gods or not. The movie, Troy had a similar conundrum, but it handled it better. In this film, a lot of it was based on the perceptions people had about the myths of Hercules. But you never quite feel like the gods are totally absent in this movie and that the people are just basing their beliefs on simple misconceptions. In the end, it just felt awkward. The fight scenes were cool, but the rest was a bit of a slog.

Two out of four stars

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

Lucy was the second film I saw this weekend. And while the concept was stupid (Humans only use about 10% of their brains? Uh, no. We use pretty much all of our brains. I use 10% of my brain just taking a dump), the film was harmless enough to be fun. Scarjo did a good, "I know everything, I'm a walking computer" monotone impression. And Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional), who always makes batshit crazy movies, delivered in full force yet again with this one. Though, I wish it was more The Transporter, Luc Besson, and less, The Fifth Element, Luc Besson this time around. Some of this film got a bit too crazy with her abilities (Especially the ending) once she tapped into her brain's full potential, and I actually wish Besson showed some restraint. Still, I feel like this is the movie that Transcendence wanted to be, and it's at least enjoyable throughout. I was definitely never bored.

Two and a half out of four stars

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: Crash by J.G. Ballard

CrashCrash by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I'm pretty sure I've never disliked a book more than I've disliked this one. It's not that I was bothered by the idea of getting your rocks off to car crashes or infidelity or homoerotic thoughts associated with the melding of steel and flesh. Don't be ridiculous. Nothing bothers me. I just found it all so boring and repetitive. How many times do I have to read about erect penises and exposed nipples and vulvas? I mean, good Lord. It gets tiresome enough in a porno flick after awhile. Reading it is just insufferable.

And what annoys me the most about this book is that I was really looking forward to it. I was intrigued by the very real sickness that this book's premise is based upon, and the fact that I hated this book really pisses me off. Cool concept, interesting metaphors, and decent pacing. But my God, it just goes on and on and on with the same sexual imagery and ideas. I get it. Or at least, I think I get it. Back in 1973 when this book was released, the future was bleak (It's still bleak), we were fetishizing over technology and uncomfortably melding with it (Still doing that, too. Even more so actually), and sex was becoming pedestrian after coming off the hippy-dippy free love of the 1960s. We were entering a new age. This one, less about sex and more about the absence of its importance. At least, that's what I get from the book. But I got that in about the first 50 pages. I didn't need another 170 of those same themes again and again and again.

But then again, maybe you'll like it. It's a polarizing novel to be sure. I'm just on the "hated it" side, unfortunately.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Ten Worst Movies I've Ever Seen In My Entire Life

Plan 9 From Outer Space. Manos: The Hands of Fate. Troll 2. These aren't bad movies, mainly because people derive great enjoyment from them year after year. And isn't that the ultimate point of movies in the first place, for people to enjoy them? I think so, and that's why I can't include them on this list of the ten worst movies I've ever seen in my entire life. So, without further ado, on with the list.

(Image taken from: imagesdb.net)

10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

It takes a pretty terrible movie to ruin not one, but two fan favorite Marvel characters, but X-Men Origins: Wolverine managed to do it. Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds (Groan), was an absolute disaster, and Gambit, played by Taylor Kitsch, couldn't be any less like the ragin' Cajun. To add insult to injury, it probably has the very worst CG in any of the X-Men movies. The scene where Wolvierine is in the bathroom is particularly awful, as his claws look TERRIBLE! How did they mess that up so badly? His claws looked fine in all the other X-Men movies. Gawd! I mean, jeez Louise. A movie so bad that its sequel, The Wolverine, pretended like it never even existed, as it shouldn't have. What a mess.

(Image taken from: www.godzilla-movies.com)

9. Godzilla (2014)

It's my hatred for movies like Godzilla that makes people think I have terrible taste in movies. Either that, or they think I'm too hard on movies that are only meant to be fun. But no, Godzilla is a f**king train wreck. Everything about it is terrible. The tone is off (Dark film equals evil Godzilla, lighter film equals hero Godzilla), the main character is that kid from Kick-Ass, and when Godzilla is finally in the movie, he's only there for about ten minutes. And he sucks. As a massive Godzilla fan who has seen every last one of his movies, I find all of this inexcusable and an insult to Godzilla's name. I didn't think it could be possible to find a Godzilla movie even worse than the one that came out in the 90s, but this is it. This is that turd.

(Image taken from: www.crankycritic.com)

8. Madea's Family Reunion

All of the Madea movies suck. Every last one of them. But while each one may have at least one funny thing that happens in them (Madea takes out her gun, Mr. Brown does a little dance), this movie is devoid of any humor whatsoever. I mean, there are absolutely NO laughs in it. Not a one. I don't think I've ever sat through a "comedy" where I didn't chuckle at least once, but I didn't with this movie. I couldn't even crack a smile. Out of all of the Madea movies I've seen, this is by far the worst. When it was over, I shouted "Hallelujar!"

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

7. 2012

Roland Emmerich makes garbage. Some of it is tolerable garbage (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) And some of it is even good garbage (White House Down). But the fact is, Emmerich makes the kind of loud, obnoxious movies that you can turn your brain off to and veg out to for a good couple of hours. I think of him as a slightly more talented Michael Bay. He's not so bad. But, reaching Michael Bay levels of awfulness was 2012, which is such a massive waste of time that I probably spent half of its run-time looking at the ceiling from rolling my eyes so much. This movie is so bad, that when the audience started clapping during certain scenes, I booed as loudly as I could to drown them out. I'm usually not that much of a jerk, but I felt compelled to be one watching this movie. 2012 really did bring out the worst in me.

(Image taken from: www.imdb.com)

6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3

This one still stings. TMNT3 is such an insult to my beloved turtles, that I've tried to repress the memory of it for countless years. But the fact is, it still exists. I could say more, but James Rolfe, better known as The Angry Video Game Nerd, complains about it better than I ever could. Watch.

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

5. Sucker Punch

I'm pretty sure Sucker Punch is the only movie I've actually gotten a headache watching. Directed by Zack Snyder, this loud, colorful (Too colorful) mess of a movie has a stupid plot, terrible pacing, and characters you don't give a flying f**k about. If only this were the only Zack Snyder movie I would consider one of the worst movies I've ever seen...

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

4. 10,000 B.C.

Another bomb from Roland Emmerich, this movie is so bad that I decided within only five minutes of watching it that I was going to take a $10 nap. This alone should put this movie even higher on the list, but one scene in particular keeps it from hitting rock bottom, and it's so bad, it's actually good. I've derived countless laughs from it. My friend even woke me from my nap just to see it. He knew I would laugh my ass off. He was right.

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Oh, God. Michael Bay. It's actually pretty surprising that I don't have any of his other movies on this list. The man is just awful. He started out well with movies like Bad Boys and The Rockbut he has sunken so low in quality that I don't even bother to expect his movies to be any good anymore. They won't be. All of his recent ones suck. And out of these recent films, I find Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to be his very worst. That said, I haven't seen the recent one and I don't plan on it. And I would probably say the third one is his worst if I hadn't fallen asleep during it, so I really can't make the call. But two is just terrible. Not only that, but it's also offensive with Mudflap and Skid, or, as I refer to them as, the "Nig bots." Every time they came on the screen I became infuriated. Here were these two autobots that were obviously supposed to be black, and Michael Bay played them to be complete idiots. I couldn't take it. I just couldn't. And then you had the rest of that bombastic trash vomitted on the screen, and what you ended up with was a marathon of nonsense that was very difficult to sit through. Definitely one of the worst experiences I've ever had in a movie theater.

(Image taken from: www.wayland.ws)

2. Man of Steel

I mean, talk about a load of garbage. Man of Steel is unbelievably bad. The whole time, I couldn't understand why it had to be so dark or why Superman had to KILL General Zod. None of it made any sense, and it was even super corny. When Amy Adams says, "Welcome to the Planet" at the end of the movie, signifying both the planet Earth and the Daily Planet newspaper, I pretty much lost it, I was so angry. It was so stupid and boring that I was pretty close to calling it the very worst film I have ever seen in my entire life, but there is still one worse...

(Image taken from: www.listal.com)

1. Rollerball

Oh, man. You have no idea how lucky you are that you've never seen this movie. I mean, the original with James Caan is great, and it still holds up today. But the remake...well, words cannot describe how much I detested it. I usually give films I hate a second chance, like Man of Steel. The second time through, it's still terrible. But Rollerball is on a whole other level of awful. It's all a blur, really, and all I remember about it was Paul Hayman, Jean Reno, and the very last line of the movie, which involved Rebecca Rominjn suggesting that all problems could be solved, "IN BED." This, my friends, is the very WORST movie I have ever seen in my entire life, and I will never watch it again. You couldn't pay me to sit through it a second time. Oh, God!

Honorable mentions: Van Helsing, The Happening, Elektra, Jeepers Creepers, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Cool Video Game Related Video

Hey, check this out. It's pretty cool. I can count all 27 Easter Eggs. They're actually pretty easy.

Interview With Women's Lit Author, Pamela Jones

Your story, “Tomorrow Never Comes” is quite short. Why the decision to keep it so compact?

I wanted readers to get acquainted with my writing ASAP. This story was the perfect solution. The story I’m currently working on will be longer; thus, taking months to complete.

Your story tackles a lot of family issues. If you don't mind disclosing, is there anything biographical in this book?

My grandmother, who gave me this idea, was in an abusive marriage. She also was from Alabama. However, Marlena’s story isn’t a biographical account of her life.

Otis is a really interesting character. What was your inspiration for him?

I had a close relative who was abusive. However, this isn’t a biographical account of his abusive actions.

What do you want readers to take from your story?

Although you’re entitled to live your life as you wish, the decisions you make – if they’re wrong - can have a negative impact on your family … forever. Therefore, before you jump into a situation, think it through thoroughly.

What genre would you categorize your book under?

Women’s fiction.

What else do you have coming out the pipeline? Are you going to continue with some of these characters, or are you moving on to new ones?

I’m moving on to another story. In fact, I’m already working on it. It’s entitled “Her Married Lover.” This one will be about a single, lonely mother dating a married man. The twist is when the adulterer’s depressed wife finds out about their affair, the wrath of hell breaks loose.

Links: Blog




Amazon Author Central

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: Rabbit, Run

Rabbit, Run (Rabbit Angstrom, #1)Rabbit, Run by John Updike
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Was it John Updike's intention all along to make Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom the most repugnant character in literary history, or was that an accident? Being the master writer that Updike was, I'm sure it was no accident, but good Lord, I have never seen a more unlikeable protagonist in all my years of reading fiction. I mean, even Raskolnicov in Dostoevsky's, Crime and Punishment, is a more likeable protagonist, and he killed a poor, defenseless old woman with an ax.

Let me repeat that. A man who killed an old woman with an axe is more likeable than Rabbit Angstrom. I've never detested a character more than I have with this one, and I'm just so glad to finally be done with the book so I don't have to deal with him any longer. I don't think I could stomach another page of hearing him justify his rottenness.

And that's mainly because Rabbit never grows up. At 26, Rabbit thinks only of himself and doesn't understand the misery he puts everybody else through. And in the few moments where he actually does think, "Well, maybe I better shape up and do the right thing," he finds some little, nagging issue that, like the title says, makes him run away. Chalk it up to youth (Though, 26 is rather old to be acting like such a child), chalk it up to his upbringing, which seemed fine enough to me, or chalk it up to living in crummy Pennsylvania, I don't know. I can't see any reason why Rabbit is being such a selfish jerk or why we, as an audience, should feel anything for him but hatred.

I genuinely have no idea.

So why the four stars, then? Well, because Updike is a master storyteller. The fact that I hate Rabbit so severely just shows that Updike did a brilliant job of getting me invested in this world and these characters. Could he have added at least one redeeming quality to get me to understand why Rabbit is the way he is? Sure, I definitely think so. But the fact that I want to read the next book in the series just to see if Rabbit has matured any means Updike did a damn good job of hooking me in. It's little wonder that he received such praise while he was still alive. The man could write!

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Author Shout Interview

I did an interview with Author Shout. You can find it here. It's long. And informative!

To Be Engaged

(Image taken from: http://www.interstellar-movie.com/news/2212)

What does it take to get audiences engaged these days? A few years ago, Hollywood had an easy answer to that question…or so they thought. “3D! 3D!” the studio execs proclaimed after the seismic success of James Cameron’s Avatar. But the truth is, people kind of hate 3D now. And by “kind of hate”, I mean really hate. 3D ticket sales are at record lows (Declining Popularity of 3D Movies), and they don’t look to ever regain the kind of prominence they had just three years ago. So, no, 3D is not the answer.

So what is then? Well, that’s an easier question to pose than it is to answer, but here’s what I think. In an age where you have multiple ways to get your entertainment, it seems the best way for a company to engage you is by throwing as much content as possible at you on every platform imaginable. Now, while this may be extremely risky for Hollywood studios, it’s really the only way to go with so many options these days. Why see the latest Tom Cruise movie in the theater when you could just binge-watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix instead? They’re both entertaining, and who’s to say one is more entertaining than the other? That’s why Edge of Tomorrow should also have released on my cell phone the same day it was released in the theater. Sure, it may have looked like crap on my phone, but who cares? At least I’d be watching it. In this day and age, you’re not stuck with the entertainment that Hollywood shoves down your throat. You, the consumer, have the power. And Hollywood knows this. That’s why it’s so important for them to understand that to engage us, they need to give us options. Not only with the kind of programs and movies we get, but also in the way we get them. Because the truth is, I can watch most of my favorite programs and movies on Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go. If I want to be engaged with a new show or movie, I need to be able to watch it on my couch, in my car, or while I’m on the treadmill, and the connection has to be immaculate. I don’t want to sit through a movie that’s buffering on my phone for several minutes. That’s a way to get me unengaged.

So, there you have it. That’s how you engage viewers in the 21st Century. Give us options, and make them fun. Hopefully, Christopher Nolan’s new picture, Interstellar, will do just that, but I doubt it. Christopher Nolan is too much a purist for that. That’s more of a Steven Soderbergh kind of thing. Oh, well. Thankfully, Nolan is the kind of director who most of us will make the trip out of the house to see. He’s deserved the props.

You can find the article here. I only posted the full piece on my blog because my name wasn't on the article.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Top Four Most American Things In Recent Memory (That Came From Outside of America)

Happy 4th of July, everyone! Here are the top four most American things in recent memory!...That came from outside of America. Enjoy hot dogs, heart burn, and freedom today, everybody!

(Image taken from: www.vice.com)

4. Freedom Fries (Formerly French Fries)

(Image taken from: www.simoneguidi.info)

3. Jean-Claude Van Damme, who is from Brussels, playing the All-American hero, Guile in Street Fighter: The Movie

(Image taken from: www.washingtoncitypaper.com)

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger Being Elected as a Governor to a Major State Just Because He Was Once a Movie Star and People Liked His Movies

(Image taken from: www.huffingtonpost.com)

1. Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford's, Outlook on Life

Review: Grendel

GrendelGrendel by John Gardner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Usually, I hate books that tell the "bad guy's" side of the story. I find them cloying and stupid. But Grendel is different. All at once, it's poetic, thought-provoking, and even existential. It's more than just an other-side-of-the-story kind of thing, like Wicked. It's a work of art, and for that it stands out.

Grendel is not just a beast in this book. He's a thinking, feeling, boogie monster, one that's even more human than human at times. He's a monster that sees things, feels things, and thinks about things. Most importantly, though, is that he's a monster who questions things in a way that only the hunted and the hated could truly question them. He is the insecurity and the doubt within us all. What lies within these pages is the story of an outcast, a pariah. Most of all, though, it's a story about loneliness. That's what makes it a story that we can all relate to.

That said, as a big fan of Beowulf, I was a little disappointed that the hero of legend was saved until the very end, but that's a small complaint. A bigger complaint is that the philosophizing can be a bit too much at times. My favorite scenes were those where Grendel actually had to deal and talk to others. It provided a nice point, counter-point to Grendel's innermost thoughts on existence and religion. But there were far too few of these moments. My favorite chapter is when Grendel actually approaches the dragon that (spoiler alert!) will one day be the end of Beowulf. It's a deep and heady chapter, and just a glimpse of the ultimate potential that this good, but not excellent, book could have achieved if more of that was just added in. Check it out.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review: Dubliners by James Joyce

DublinersDubliners by James Joyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dubliners is a book I wish I had read back in college when I was actually analyzing books for their deeper meanings. Given that I read this book for pleasure, though, I feel like I missed some of the most important details that were spread throughout these pages. It's a book that is both simplistic and also incredibly deep at the same time. So despite its manageable size, it's not an easy read.

Told in a series of short stories, the tales I liked the best were the ones that I didn't have to think too hard to understand. "An Encounter", "Araby", "A Little Cloud", "Counterparts", and "A Painful Case", were my favorite stories. But other stories like, "After the Race", "Clay", and "Ivy Day In The Committee Room" made me rush to Wikipedia to make sense of what I just read. Again, if I was in the mindset of analyzing each story word by word, then I might have appreciated them more. But as it was, they seemed to go nowhere and to have little pay-off upon finishing them. It was only when I looked up their full meaning that I got a sense of how intellectually dense they were.

All in all, the story-telling in Dubliners is kind of like a really, really early version of The Wire. Just like The Wire showed different aspects of Baltimore and its people, Dubliners does the same with Dublin. It's a great read, and one that's worth multiple re-reads. And even though it's James Joyce, it's still not too daunting. Finnegan's Wake this ain't. Give it a try.

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