Monthly Archives: September 2012

Movie Review: Looper

Genre fans have pinned a lot of hope of Looper, an action thriller with a clever sci-fi twist.  The good news is the movie not only meets but it exceeds those expectations.

Sixty years in the future, humanity invents time travel and them immediately outlaws its use.   However, criminal elements have set up a clever system where victims are captured, sent back in time thirty years and killed by hired thugs called loopers.  Since the person hasn’t been born yet, it’s technically not murder and not crime to dispose of the body.

The catch comes when it’s time to close your own loop.    The looper is sent back in time and killed by the younger version of himself.   You then get a big payday and are out of the business, free to live your life for the next thirty or so years until it’s time to be popped back in time and die.

However, in the future it appears a new crime boss has appeared on the scene, called the Rainmaker and he’s closing all the loops.

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Movie Review: Hotel Translyvania

Coming out of Hotel Transylvania, my wife turned to me and said, “You’re going to give it a good review, right?”   She was then disappointed when I said, “Probably not” and she’s been after me for the last couple of days to say nice things about the movie.

She really liked it.  The kids we saw it with at the preview screening really liked it.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t overly impressed by the film.  It had some nice isolated moments, but overall the picture feels a bit flat when compared to the work being done by Pixar and Dreamworks Animation.

Maybe I expect too much from an animated feature.  Or maybe it’s my own predisposition against Adam Sandler comedies.  Because that’s what Hotel Transylvania is at its most basic level–an animated Adam Sandler movie.

Sandler has assembled his usual cast of friends from other comedies to lend their voices to some of the great Universal monsters.  Sandler plays Drac, who years ago built a huge castle hidden from humans where he could raise his daughter, Mavis.  Approaching her 118th birthday, Mavis is eager to head out into the world and see if humans are really as bad s her father says they are (he’s got good reason to mistrust them–they killed his wife).  Using an elaborate ruse, Drac tricks Mavis into believing everything he’s told her about humans is true and she decides to live her life in seclusion and safety along with Dracula.

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Reading The Batman: Three Influential Story Arcs

After seeing The Dark Knight Rises, I realized that while I’m aware of certain aspects of the Batman mythology, I’m not familiar with much of the source material surrounding the Caped Crusader.  I dabbled a bit in Batman early in my life–he was an early favorite before I discovered Spider-Man via the Electric Company.  And while I’m an ardent fan of the animated series (still the best super hero series–animated or otherwise–of all time), I didn’t have as much exposure to some of the more respected and cited story arcs from the comics.

Seeing some of these influential stories in graphic novel form at my local library, I decided I’d pick them up and give them a chance.   Here are a few thoughts on three big story arcs from that influenced not only the Nolan films but also were pivotal in the world of comic books.
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TV Thoughts: Revolution — Pilot

Watching the first episode of Revolution, I was mildly intrigued but just couldn’t help asking myself one big question–just how long can they sustain this before they’ve either a)provides resolution to all the relevant and interesting questions or b)strung out those answers to the point that I’m frustrated and tune out?

I kept getting this strange feeling that this would work better as a limited run series (in which characters could or would die or be put into more significant peril) or a mini-series.

I’ve heard the show will try to keep interest up with flashbacks to the days between the power going off and the events we’re seeing now.  It sounds a bit like Lost with the flashes with one big exception.  In Lost, I was interested enough in the characters after the initial episodes to want to find out more about them.  So far, there aren’t a lot of characters on Revolution that I find myself wanting to find out more about what they did in the days following the loss of power and where events are now.

I couldn’t help but feel a lot of times during the pilot that this show was an heir to Jericho.  That feeling was further underlined by the tease at the end, where it’s revealed some people have power still and can use it.   It does answer the big question I had during the pilot–namely if the answer for bringing the power back on is on a thumb drive and there’s no computers to read it, is it really of any use?

Of the myriad of characters we met in the pilot, I’ll admit I’m most intrigued by Billy Burke as Miles.   It will give the show credit that the idea that he was once connected to the guy in power on the other side of things is interesting and one I hope will be explored well.

Of course, the show’s big stumble is that I found myself less than interested in the lead of Charlie Matheson.   All during the episode, I kept feeling like the NBC promo department is missing a huge opportunity to tie in to The Hunger Games mania.  Because the character of Charlie really isn’t that far separated from Katniss and it seems like you marketed this show that way, you might draw in some of those rabid fans to your new series .  This is likely while I’m not part of a marketing department, though.

For now, I’ll give Revolution a couple of more episodes and see how it goes.   It could be good addictive fun or it could peter out and frustrated me like Jericho did.

I’m hopeful but not overly optimistic about this one.

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Review: One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper

One Last Thing Before I Go

Once upon a time, Drew Silver was living the dream–a member of a rock band with a hit single who went home each night to a wife he loved and a daughter he adored. Fast forward a couple of years and the band was a one-hit wonder, Drew and his wife are divorced and he’s estranged from his daughter. Living in a by the week hotel with a lot of other divorced men, the highlights of Silver’s week are college co-eds in bikinis coming to lay by the hotel pool and Silver heading to a local independent bookstore to listen to a singer-songwriter he has a crush on but can’t quite work up the nerve to talk to her or even ask her name.

When Silver finds out he’s got a heart condition that could kill him at any time, he opts not to have surgery but instead to spend his remaining time on Earth trying to a better man, son and father. That task won’t be easy with his ex-wife marrying a doctor and his daughter telling him she’s pregnant. As Silver’s family tries to understand his decision and talk him into the surgery, Silver ponders his life as he passively attempt suicide.

Following the trail blazed by Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper once again mines the depths of flawed men and the people who love them. With One Last Thing Before I Go Tropper expands the circle of people who love these flawed protagonists from romantic partners to the entire family and the novel is richer for it. As Silver tries to be a better man to those he loves in what could be his final days, he has successes and failures along the way. Tropper writes some of best rounded and most human characters in fiction today and this novel is richer for it.

At times you’ll love Silver, at times you’ll shake your head and sigh as he can’t overcome himself.

As with his previous best-selling novel, This Is Where I Leave You, Tropper’s latest is compulsively readable and over far too soon. Like life, Tropper’s story doesn’t necessarily have a neatly packaged ending, but the stopping point for the novel makes perfect sense in terms of the characters. Tropper is wise enough to allow readers to fill in some blanks on the novel and to treat his audience and characters with dignity and respect. It’s a novel that’s over far too soon, but one I came away completely satisfied for the reading experience.

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Review: Doctor Who — Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Doctor Who and dinosaurs haven’t had the best history.   Just ask anyone who’s seen the Jon Pertwee serial “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” (it hit DVD earlier this year without the extra of enhanced dino effects).  Or look earlier in the Pertwee era to “Doctor Who and the Silurians” where a large dinosaur served as a watch-dog of sorts to the aliens of the week (or in this case, seven weeks).

Now as the series comes up on its fiftieth anniversary, Steven Moffat and writer Chris Chibnell seem to want to make up for previous dinosaur related faults with the fairly innocuous “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.”   In many ways, the story was exactly what I expected–a fun, entertaining story that’s a nice way to pass an hour or so of television viewing.

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Review: Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Dare Me

Cheerleader noir?

Is it possible to take the gritty world of noir novels and combine that the perceived fluffy world of cheerleaders?

It is, if you’re Megan Abbott.

Addy has always been head cheerleader Beth Cassidy’s second in command and best friend. But all the changes when a new cheer coach shows up–one who demands more of the girls than just shaking pom-poms and inciting the crowd at athletic contests. The new coach wants to take this team to the next level and it doesn’t matter how many stair runs, twisted ankles and shattered egos are left in the wake.

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Booking Through Thursday — Required Reading

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We all had to read things in school that we didn’t like … but what about something you read for a class that you ended up liking (or loving)? An author you discovered that you might not have found? A genre you hadn’t thought about?

I recall being pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading My Antonia by Wila Cather as a high school junior.

Growing up, I attended several different school systems due to family moves.  I found it interesting to see which books were used as curriculum at certain age levels.  Because of this, I read Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird on my own and I think I enjoyed them more.  Sometimes I look back and wonder what the class discussions on the books might have been like, though.

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Review: Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks

After a longer  the usual (for the new series anyway) hiatus, the Doctor is back, kicking off the lead-up to his fiftieth anniversary by facing off against his long time, lethal foes, the Daleks.

If you haven’t yet seen “Asylum of the Daleks,” I highly recommend you stop reading now.  I’m going to discuss the entire episode, including SPOILERS just as soon as I find some milk and eggs for my souffle.

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R.I.P. VII

Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII (RIP VII for short) during the months of September and October.  I’ve decided to join the celebration of all things “Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, Supernatural or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.”

I will be going for:

Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

Peril of the Short Story:

Read some R.I.P. themed short stories or a short story!  Sounds like fun and a good excuse to dust off the Poe and that collection Lovecraft I picked up a while ago.

Peril on the Screen:

This is for those of us that like to watch suitably scary, eerie, mysterious gothic fare during this time of year. It may be something on the small screen or large. It might be a television show, likeDark Shadows or Midsomer Murders, or your favorite film.

Looking forward to the fun!

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