Saturday, June 27, 2015

Review: 2010: Odyssey Two

2010: Odyssey Two (Space Odyssey, #2)2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Boooooring. Having read the first book many years ago, one thing I remember with that story was just how dazzling and daring it felt. Much like the movie, certain images will forever be ingrained in my head. That Odyssey I loved journeying on. But this one, not so much. I mostly think it's all the characters, none of whom are interesting. Their voyage doesn't really seem all that harrowing in this story, and even if it was, I was so uninterested with the characters that I probably would have appreciated it more if they had all died. As it stood, I couldn't make a connection with any of them.

I also thought the questions left by the last book, like what happened to David Bowman, and was HAL really insane, didn't have satisfying answers. Yes, those characters were probably the most, if not only, interesting part about this book, but even they couldn't salvage this yawn - inducing mission. I won't be investing time in the third book, 2061.

Oh, and PS. Arthur C. Clarke really liked the word "myriad." It's all over this book. So much so, that if one were to make a drinking game every time they saw the word here, they would probably go blind and died. He used it SO much.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Top Five Worst Pixar Movies

Inside Out is probably Pixar's best film yet. In fact, it's pretty hard to pick out many stinkers from the company that Lasseter built. But there are some stinkers, and I don't think many people would disagree with (most of) my choices below. Honestly, I would put Wall-E on this list, since I hate that film, but I know that's more of my own personal taste. Deep down, I know it's a good picture. I just can't muster the energy to care about it.

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5. Brave

This Oscar-winning picture isn't really bad per se, as much as it's disappointing. With a kickass heroine who can take care of herself and decide her own future, it's kind of shitty that the second act involves her mother turning into a bear. There's a lot to like in this film, such as the theme and setting, but I just can't get over how stupid that second half is. A bear? Really?

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4. Cars

The concept for Cars alone is pretty stupid. Cars with lights for windshields have problems and do things. Sure, Paul Newman is in the movie, and sure, Larry the Cable Guy's jokes aren't THAT bad, but overall, there is little, if anything, to like about this picture. If there was ever a Pixar movie that was made to sell toys, it's this one.

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3. Monsters Inc.

A lot of people might put Monsters U. on this list, but I actually liked the sequel much more than the original, as it had more personality and spunk. For all its cuteness and creativity, though, the original picture is quite stale and doesn't hold up well. The jokes, even with Billy Crystal, don't usually land, and besides the tremendous final act with the legion of doors, the overall storyline is just missing something. A controversial pick to be sure, but it's one I'm sticking with. Monsters Inc. is not a great film, and worse all the more so since it had so much potential (Which Monsters U. ran with).

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2. A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life is a terrible, terrible movie that both feels too long, and yet, too short at the same time, which is weird. The protagonist is annoying to the point of being unlikeable, and the antagonist, played by the brilliant Kevin Spacey, doesn't feel menacing enough. Overall, it just feels like a third-rate Disney movie that's not even good enough to go straight-to-DVD. There's a reason why the Monsters Inc. poster above says "From the creators of Toy Story" and doesn't even mention this clunker. It was only Pixar's second film, but it really brought you down from the high that was the first Toy Story.

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1. Cars 2

Oh, man. The grand turkey of them all. If you thought Cars was bad, then you ain't seen nothing. Cars 2 is such an abomination, that within 45 minutes of the picture, I turned to my wife and told her to please wake me up when it was over. Larry the Cable Guy, who is ok in moderation, stars in this spy caper that ends up being so insufferably terrible that longtime fans of Pixar were convinced that the company had lost all of its magic. Inside Out is of course proof that that's not true, but Lawdy, this film gave us some doubts. Please never make another sequel to this franchise.

Review: Rabbit At Rest

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

Whew. Finally finished. In this fourth and final book in the Rabbit saga (though, I think there may be a short story or novella after it or something like that) everything comes full circle. Rabbit is a bit older (though, only in his 50s. I thought we'd meet him again in his 60s) and just as selfish as ever. You know, reading through this series, I don't think I've ever encountered a character more oblivious to other people's feelings. Perhaps Updike was making a commentary on the average American, but then again, Rabbit doesn't really feel like an average American. Maybe an average and bored Pennsylvanian. Either way, this story, just like the former Pulitzer Prize Winning book, Rabbit is Rich, brings drama in everyday life and does a very good job of it. if I have one complaint, it's that the last 50 pages just drag on and on. It's a fitting conclusion, but a drawn out one. Either way, I think the series was worth the read.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Review: Amendments

AmendmentsAmendments by H.M. Lynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amendments is the kind of dystopian fiction I like. It's fraught with questions that make you wonder how you would decide if a world such as this existed. At the age of 21, Emelia has choices, two to be exact. She gets them in the form of Amendments, which she can use to alter her life. I really enjoy the Orwellian feel of this book, and the idea that to make a life better, you might have to sacrifice your own happiness to make that happen. If I have any complaint, it's Amelia's sister, Finola, or Fi. She's really annoying, and I can't stand the choices Emelia has to make because of her. But otherwise, it's a pretty quick book (It's over 300 pages, but I read it in about three days on my computer since I got a free copy), and there is definite room for a sequel. An interesting, engaging novel.

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Review: Christ Recrucified

Christ RecrucifiedChrist Recrucified by Nikos Kazantzakis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful, and at times, even funny, this is the third book I've read by Kazantzakis, and it's quite possibly my favorite so far. In a nutshell, this is a story of Christ reimangined. The cast is set, and the villains are the clergymen who only "love" Christ because it gives them power. But when a true representation of Christ comes along, it scares them, just as Christ did back in his era. What follows is an unorthodox novel that has a lot to say, and an elegant way of saying it. The ending will make you angry, but how else could it possibly end with a title like that? A masterful achievement.

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Books NJ 2015 Panel

Next Sunday, June 14th, I will be at Books NJ on the grounds of the Paramus Public Library. There, I'll be selling copies of The Darkness of the Womb and A Boy and His Corpse. I'll also be doing a panel on comics with comic book writers Buddy Scalera and Don E. Smith. I'm on the panel because of the comic I did for my first book, The Darkness of the Womb, which you can find here. Hope to see you there!