Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Road (book)

I actually read this book before I started blogging, but it was a good book and I wanted to put my short review out there.

This was an Oprah book of the month, which made me really hesitant to read it. But the premise behind the book (post apocolyptic world) made it interesting enough for me to pick it up.

It was very strange how the whole book was written without any quotation marks. But after a few pages I got used to it.

It's just a father and a son, trying to survive in a world where it rains ash and people would kill you if you had two beans in a can. It was very real and I really got to know the characters. There was one really touching scene in which the two find an old storm cellar full of food. I never thought I would cry when I read that a 10 year old ate a canned peach, but I did.

I would say that the style of this book is more for the literary fiction crowd and not so much the sci-fi crowd. But I do think both parties would enjoy the book.

My Rating: 4.5/5 (minus half a point for some drag, and seemingly repeated scenes)
My Rating: Get it. Read it.

Empire (book)

I have now read thirteen books by Orson Scott Card. Next to Dean Koontz, he is my most read author. I think I've decided that will change after reading Empire.

First, let me give you my rating. When it comes to fiction, I think you should know what I thought of a book before reading why.

My Rating: 2.5/5
My Recommendation: Skip It

Okay, now that you're going to skip this book (because you hang on my every word and recommendation), you won't mind a few spoilers.

This book started off great. Terrorists, presidential assassinations, guns, explosions, etc. And to top it off there was some great insight into how our democracy in America is devided between blue-staters and red-staters. Actually very interesting stuff.

And then the mechs came in. There is NOTHING in this book to suggest that it is in the future. As far as you, the reader, are concerned, this is modern day. There is no mention of anyone having any kind of superior technology, but suddenly men in ROBOT COSTUMES start destroying New York City. Are you KIDDING ME? It was like Robot Jox suddenly jumped into an up-until-then great book.

Okay, so the rest of the book had been good so far, maybe I can overlook the absurdity of mech warriors. So the main character drives away and looks in his rear-view mirror, only to see that he is being chased by HOVER BIKES. WhAt?!?! Where did those come from? Since when do we have the technology for hover bikes? There was no mention of this sort of technology existing in the world Card created. Not to mention that the fact that they hovered played NO part in the plot.

These two outrageous things made the book cheesy and absurd and I found it difficult to digest the rest of the book. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that after half the book was done, he killed off the MAIN CHARACTER (sorry, I told you there'd be spoilers)! You don't just get a reader invested in someone and then kill him off. After that it was difficult to keep reading because you just didn't care about the rest of the side-characters who were now taking over the remainder of the plot.

On the lighter side, Card had some great political isight. His whole idea about how America just might end up in a civil war seemed fairly plausible and intreguing. Along with that, I really enjoyed his layers and layers of stories. This was not a one-dimensional story (this happened, then that happened), but it was deep and intricate, even if often predictable.

It took me 6 months to read this book. I think I read 2 or 3 complete other books while reading this one because I couldn't seem to get through it. I blame Christmas for making me finish it finally--I got some new books and I wanted to tie up loose ends before starting on the new stuff.

Another thing that I have noticed with Card lately is this (warning, blatant bragging and pride about to come forth): I feel that I can write as good as or better than OSC. He's not a terrible author by any means--I wouldn't have read 13 of his books if he was--but I do feel that his writing is inferior to other authors I've read, Dean Koontz, Stephen Gould, Stephen King, to name a few. There are so many times that I read a passage and find myself jarred out of the story thinking "I could write that so much better." When that happens, I've stopped reading, I've stopped believing the book is temporarily real. I don't profess to be the best author on earth, I mean, hey, look how many novels I've published. But this is a recocurring thing with OSC: when I read his books, all I can think about is that I can do better.

So why 2.5 stars? Like I said, it wasn't ALL bad. There were quite a few redeeming values and parts of it were somewhat entertaining on some levels. I've read MUCH worse books. But remember, 2.5 is still 50%. That's an "F" in my line of work.

My recommendaiton: Skip this book. If you like (or want to like) OSC, go read the Ender's series. While I'm unhappy with OSC at this moment I still claim that the Speaker for the Dead series are some of my most favorite books I've ever read.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Flight Before Christmas

Worst. Kids. Christmas. Movie. Ever.

This isn't so much of a movie per se, but a one-hour kids "movie." It's cgi animated and is the story of a little raindeer whose dream it is to fly someday and join Santa's team.

But here's the thing: the reindeer asks who his daddy is and his mother tells him, in more words or less, that she had a one night stand with someone on Santa's team, and BAM he was born.

Great, so now we've glamorized adultry to kids.

The little reindeer finally makes it to the north pole and finds Santa's reindeer where he is quickly shunned and belittled because he can't fly. He's a nobody and the other reindeer leave him, sad, all alone in the snow. But then he jumps off a cliff after a friend, only to find that he CAN fly, and BAM suddenly all the other reindeer are his best friends!

So aside from adultry, this movie has now taught my daughter (who LOVED this "Bambi" movie) that you should shun people and reject people if they're not as "cool" as you and only accept them if they're as "good" as you.


In reality this was a cute movie on some levels. In spite of these HORRID lessons taught in a KIDS movie, it was cute. That said, however, there are many better holiday movies you can show your kids this year.

My Rating: 1/5
My Recommendation: Skip it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

James Bond: Quantum of Solace (movie)

I love Bond flicks. Who doesn't? No matter how many they make, they are always entertaining and somehow, suprisingly, they manage to drum up newer and newer ways for action scenes to be at least somewhat original.

This was the "chase" movie in my opinion. They had some pretty good chases on foot, in cars, on boats, and even one in airplanes. These writers didn't let any idea pass over thier desks without snatching it up.

Daniel Craig did a great job, of course. But I do miss the nonchelant, nothing worries me, suave smile of Pierce Brosnan. I didn't start watching Bond movies until Pierce's first movie so for me, he is my Bond in the same way that Christopher Reeve is my Superman. I love Daniel Craig, but he just seems so emotionally distraught by everything around him. It's like a new side of Bond: inner termoil.

Now for the negative stuff. The movie took place in La Paz Bolivia, where I lived for 2 years. The problem is that none of the movie was actually filmed in Bolivia, and it was very apparant to someone like me who spent so much time there. Thankfully these things would not be noticed by others. The hats the "Bolivian" women wore were so obviously peruvian. The streets in the movie were all paved (95% of Bolivian streets are stone or dirt, rarely do you find a paved road).

And one more thing: What the heck is "Quantum of Solace" and what does it have to do with this movie? It was never explained (or if it was, it was brief and not obvious). I would have rather this movie been called: "Bond Blows Up Bolivia." That would fit nicely.

My Rating: 4/5
My Recommendation: Rent it. Buy it if you're a Bond fan, Rent it if you want a good popcorn flick for a night.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Incredible Hulk - 2008 (movie)

Well let me start out by saying that this film far surpassed its 2003 predecessor--but I expected no less from Edward Norton.

The Incredible Hulk did something AMAZING in the first 5 minutes of the movie. It did something that Superman Returns sorely lacked. This was, in fact, a sequel to the 2003 film, which I was not expecting (I thought it was going to be a reboot). But instead of just assuming that everyone knew the back story and going on (like Superman Returns did), they spent about 5 minutes flashing newspaper headlines and flashbacks to remind (or even tell) audiences what the upcoming move was based on. After seeing this superbly played out, I sincerely believe that if Superman Returns had used this same tactic, it would have been twice as successful as it actually was.

The Incredible Hulk was super entertaining, had pretty good (though not perfect) cgi, and some awesome action and fight scenes, but it was not without its flaws.

Edward Norton is pretty much great in every movie he's in, and while this was no oscar-worthy performance, he did a fine job. The movie was complete with a great King Kong scene on the cliff in the rain, a cameo by Lou Ferrigno (original Hulk from the 1978 TV series), and of course a cameo by Stan Lee, and even paraded Liv Tyler's pouty-face, slow-walking, teary-eyed poor excuse for acting.

If I had to find flaws in the movie (other than Liv Tyler), it would be, one, why on earth can't the Hulk talk when he becomes the Hulk? He suddenly becomes Frankenstein or something. Weird. And two, the plot. While a pretty awesome movie, the plot was basically: "Me am green monster, Army chase me. The End." Aside from VERY small side stories here and there, that was basically the premise of the movie. Oh well, guess you can't win them all.

My Rating: 4/5 (for poor plot and some bad cgi -- though most of it was good)
My Recommendation: See it! Great movie. Maybe rent it. I'm on the border between rent and buy. I guess it depends if you're a super hero fan or not. If you're not huge into super hero movies, then just rent it, you'll still like it. If your a hero-nerd like me, buy it.