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August 24, 2009

Terminator Salvation: Does it "save" itself?

CoverGoing into the recent Terminator film, I wasn't expecting much. After having just seen the new Star Trek film, and being disappointed by the film's altering of Star Trek history (if you seen the film, you know what I mean), I didn't expect Salvation to do justice for the Terminator franchise. The first two Terminator films were James Cameron masterpieces in the sci-fi and action genres, and the 3rd film wasn't bad either. Was Salvation going to going to screw up this franchise or actually be an entertaining addition to the Terminator mythos? Well, in my opinion, Salvation does save itself; it was a pretty damn good flick.

Picking up a few years after the infamous D day, a small group of humans survive and attempt to battle Skynet, the machines that have taken over the world. John Conner, now a revered leader of the resistance movement, is still listening to the tapes his mother left him, and is believed to be the Messiah to some of the remaining humans. (Note John Conner's initials, J.C., and the Christ parallel becomes pretty interesting). There is also a very great character in the film named Marcus Wright, and he has a very important role to play. The plot follows the band of humans in battle against Skynet and its early versions of Terminators, and the action and post-apocalyptic setting does not disappoint. In the film, John Conner is very concerned about his future father, Kyle Reese, and his safety, and this works very well for the plot of the film. In the first film, it was Kyle who had to protect an unborn John, and now the roles have become reversed and John must protect his young father. To my surprise, the film remained very true to it’s franchise, and this one thing that I enjoyed in the film. Though Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not have a starring role in this film, like the previous films, the film was able to create a worthy addition to the Terminator franchise, and it even had many great homages to the previous films. It was apparent that the filmmakers had great affection for the previous films, and also a great vision for directing sci-fiction and action.

Not only was the plot interesting, the action very entertaining, the film true to it's original, but the characters weren't bad either. Marcus Wright is an exceptional character, and Christian Bale's John Conner wasn't bad either. The biggest complaint I hear about this film is about Bale’s low, raspy Clint Eastwood-type voice, which Bale also used for the Batman character in the recent films of that franchise. This voice of Bale, however, did not bother me at all, and I actually liked it. Even if I did find the voice to be annoying, which I didn't, it couldn't take away from the overall awesomeness of this film.

Something I like about Terminator: Salvation is that truly withholds it's brand name. The new Star Trek, albeit somewhat entertaining, was a "Star Trek" film. This new Terminator film, however, was a "Terminator" film.

It works as a great new adaptation of a great story that has been around for along time. It adds a modern flare and vision, but retains the same qualities that made it predecessors, like Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a great film. If you are in the mood for a good action film with a great science- fiction plot, the I would recommend Terminator: Salvation, especially if you enjoyed it’s predecessors. This franchise, in my opinion can say, "I’ll be back" a couple more times, there is still much space left for future films in the series. Terminator: Salvation is a saving a grace for it's franchise, at least in my opinion.

August 21, 2009

Missing in Action

t's been near a month since I posted, and that's just plain sad.  what could have caused this you might ask?  a mixture of weather that's so beautiful i couldn't bear to sit inside, weather so hot and disgusting my braid couldn't do anything but attempt to stay cool, a growing video game addiction, an overwhelming pile of library books, and a bit of burn out.

Hopefully all that's passed. what's most unfortunate is that overwhelming pile of library books? not a lot of winners. sigh. Just like last summer, all I wanted to do was read favorites that I already own. so i did.

and cooking? sure, been doing plenty of that when the mercury isn't boiling out of the thermometer, but not much in the way of recipes: whirl up some pesto in the food processesor, toss it with some pasta and grilled chicken or shrimp. my Basil plant is out of control, I've made pesto 3 times already!  and next week I'll be swimming in ripened tomatoes. Can you say Caprese?

I don't enjoy saying that books weren't winners, and maybe they just weren't winners for me. so many losers in a row however, got me mighty discouraged.  Lessons learned: don't keep saying "add that to my ILL list" in conversation with the nice librarian, and what your buddies at the library like you might not like.

Declare, by Tim Powers - a cold war spy story with some occult thrown in. Powers does occult far better than he does spy. The book takes place in 1941, when Andrew Hale is a British Agent who infiltrates the ComIntern in Paris, meets up with Kim Philby, and all sorts of strange things start the happen, and in the 1960s, when Andrew is reactivated to find out exactly what happened to Philby. A metal ankh Andrew wears saves his life more than once, a strange half human creatures he meets around Mt Ararat begin to expose the truth to him. If you know your biblical mythology, you know where this is going. and it is, but it isn't.  Powers has the gift for turning pockets of forgotten time into the best story you ever heard. unfortunatly, Declare is not the best example thereof. The beginning of the book was great, the end was excellent, but the middle was muddled and suffered from putdownableness.

The Stress of her Regard, by Tim Powers - far better than Declare, and the enjoyment faults were all mine. Taking place in the early 1800's, we start with Michael Crawford who is about to marry the beautiful Julia.  Julia is thrilled to leave behind her provincial family and her clingy yet antisocial twin sister. The couple is married, and in the morning, Crawford is horrified to find bloody Julia, brutally murdered, lying beside him in bed. Knowing he will be found guilty of murder, Crawford runs.  Meanwhile,  Percy Shelley and Lord Byron are up to their regular shenanigans, wooing women then leaving them, enjoying themselves in Europe, and getting involved in secret societies.  Crawford eventually hooks up with them only to learn that Julia was killed by a lamia, or vampire, and who now sees Crawford as her legal husband. And she is very jealous, and will kill anyone who shows loves for Crawford. Already involved with Shelly and Byron, the Lamia is slowing killing their families and loved ones. The only way to kill the lamia is to do so while the Graie (remember them from Mythology? three old hags who shared one eye?) are awake, but blind.  I wish I had paid more attention to literature class in high school, so i could have known more about the livse of Shelley and Byron before reading this. Sure, i know Mary Shelley, who doesn't, but I never read her husband. The Stress of her Regard is a great book for students of literature and mythology, and a good book for everyone else.

Hominids, by Robert Sawyer - the easiest, quickest, and least cerebral read of the group. It's not an insult to Sawyer when I say this book isn't cerebral, it's just that unlike Powers, Sawyer connects all the dots for the reader. All you have to do is read, he'll do all the thinking for you.  THe premise of Hominids is great - through a quantum computing experiment gone wrong, a portal is opened to a parallel universe in which Neanderthals are the primary hominid, and homo sapiens were wiped out generations ago. The Neanderthals lean towards hunting gathering rather than agriculture, which along with a strictly maintained population size, makes their world very much in peace with nature and the earth. The Neanderthal earth is Sawyer's ideal world: everyone is happy, everyone is safe, no one is unemployed or hungry, no one is cruel or greedy, there is very little crime, there is culture, but no religion.  A perfect vehicle for Sawyer to preach about all that is wrong with homo sapiens and our society. This is where no thinking is required on the place of the reader, because Sawyer will bash you over the head with his "Neanderthals are the perfect peaceful creature, and you horrible disgusting humans killed them all and did a million other horrible things!" again and again and again, until you are blue in the face.  All that said, this was a good, easy read, which was much appreciated after those two Powers novels that made my brain nearly melt. This series has three books, and I might just read the next one, just to see the damage Sawyer can do. Not the best reason to read a book, but hey.

speaking of my brain melting, I borrowed a copy of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver from a friend, and I'm already running into familiar names: Enoch Root, the Waterhouse family. . . not to mention a 10 year old Ben Franklin.  This book is going to kick my ass, and I verily think I'm going to enjoy it.  Having survived his Cryptonomicon, at least now I know what to expect with a Stephenson style brain melting ass kicking.

August 18, 2009

Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen

CoverTransformers, Revenge of the Fallen, was all in all, a fine movie, with a few issues. One of the issues, however, was not the story line.

The story begins with Sam Witwicky leaving his parents home, to go off to college, without his guardian Autobot, Bumblebee. He is trying, in effect, to lead a normal life.

That goal becomes difficult, however, when he finds a shard of 'the cube,' from the first Transformers movie, on his jacket. When he touches the shard with his bare hands, he is inflicted with images and symbols that he does not understand.

With the newfound, and unwanted information in his head, he goes off to college, only to be pursued by Decepticons, who desperately need the knowledge, to create more of their kind. The Autobots, along with our human characters, set out on a mission to find the source of power that Sam's symbols are leading him to. Unfortunately, no one can read them. This is when they learn about the Primes. They also learn that transformers have been on earth for a lot longer than anyone could have imagined.

I would like to have only good things to say about Revenge of the Fallen. And it is very true that there are plenty of good things to be said about the movie. I watched the original show as a child, and really enjoyed the first movie. Being a huge fan of Shia Labeouf didn't hurt matters either.  However, there were some glaring issues with the movie, that I feel must be acknowledged.  Hopefully they will fix them for any future movies to come.

The writing of the story line was wonderful. The story was true to the original series, and to the previous film. However, whoever was in charge of dialog was awful. There are a few truly great lines, but they are few and far between. I suspect they were an accident. And I'm not complaining about the use of lines from the old cartoon. Some things, like Optimus Prime saying "Let's Roll," are overused and trite, but to be expected.

Of course, the biggest issue I had with the movie was 'The Twins,' a set of annoying, racist Autobots, that were intended for comic relief, but were nothing more than a wince-inducing example of harmful, and untrue ethnic stereotypes.

I was also disappointed to see that the three new Autobots that were women, in the form of three incredibly cool looking motorcycles, were barely in the movie at all. I would have liked to see a great deal more of them.

The one thing about the movie that I could not find fault in was the acting. Every actor did a superb job, especially Shia. And the music was fantastic. The new song by Linkin Park, New Divide, is incredible, and I've been playing it nonstop.

All in all, the movie is worth watching.  It's not thought provoking, but it is a lot of fun.

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