Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph

This movie is better than I expected.  It's as good as a Pixar movie without the Pixar animation.  It's funny, appealing, exciting, well-animated, and a really good story.

Wreck-It Ralph is a bad guy who's tired of his job.  He just wants people to appreciate him.  He decides to go visit other games in search of a medal, but this causes all kinds of problems.

This movie is full of "cookies" or references to several different video games and that whole culture.  For example, in the trailer above, you'll recognize several of the villains.  So, if you keep your eyes open during the movie, be prepared to laugh.

The game "Fix-it Felix, Jr." itself is fictional.  Though, by the end of the movie, I was nearly convinced that it was a real game I had missed in my childhood.  But alas, it is only a spoof of Donkey Kong.  Even though it's not real, you can still play it here.  You can also play the fictional "Sugar Rush" and "Hero's Duty" here.

I watched this in 3-D, and it was pretty good.  There were no 3-D gimmicks, which is okay with me.  But there was plenty of good depth and variety of distances.  To compare, I didn't get much out of the 3-D in "Toy Story 3."  And the 3-D in "Avatar" was amazing.  "Wreck-It Ralph" was somewhere in between.

I highly recommend watching this movie while it's still in theaters.  It's been out a while, so catch it while you can.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Skyfall - Bond At His Best

Skyfall was a thrill ride from beginning to end.  If you're a Bond fan, don't miss this one.  If you're not a fan, this would be a good story to enter the franchise.

The last two movies featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond were both good movies, but a little slow on the action.  In fact I fell asleep during Quantum of Solace.  Those two movies spent more time exploring a different kind of Bond ... one who isn't perfect, but rather often makes mistakes.  He's more human.

Skyfall continues with the edgy not-quite-so-perfect Bond.  Since his character had been well fleshed out in the first two movies, the writers could spend more time immersing us in action.

I watched this in IMAX, something I haven't tried in years, and it was worth it.  The movie has several breathtaking cinematic shots, with wonderful color contrasts, and playing with light on glass and water.

What exactly is "Skyfall"?  You're going to have to go watch the movie and find out for yourself.  I was expecting some cool science-fictiony device that would destroy the world ... but ... well ... it's something a little more subtle.

You can expect the normal James Bond formula--start with an action sequence, then opening credits, then some kind of exposition followed by an explanation, then find a cute girl, then the introduction of the bad guy, ... and well, you know the rest of the formula.

Javier Bardem effectively pulls off a fun and creepy villain.  He's almost as good as Heath Ledger's Joker.

How does this rank with other Bond movies?  I've seen a little over half of them--every one since Pierce Brosnan, a couple of Moores, a couple of Connerys, and the Lazenby one.  My favorite still remains GoldenEye.  I'd put Skyfall second, followed by Lazenby's On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

If you haven't seen Skyfall, I highly recommend seeing it while it's still in theaters.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Fall of Hyperion - A Worthy Sequel

Dan Simmons' The Fall of Hyperion picks up right where the first book Hyperion leaves off.  Though, the storytelling is a little different. 

In the first book the Consul is the first person narrator, except for when the other characters tell their stories. 

In this second book, we meet a new character: Joseph Severn, an artist living in TC^2, who has the ability to view our Hyperion friends in his dreams.  During the first part of the book, we see things unfolding from Joseph's POV through a clouded lens.  At first this was annoying, but it turns out that Joseph is a very important person.  (If it's any hint, the "real" Joseph Severn was a good friend of the poet John Keats.)

But then starting with Part 2, everything becomes a little clearer with the author switching to normal third person limited.  Events unfold.  We get to see what happens to each of the pilgrims on Hyperion.

I can't say too much without giving away the plot of the first book, but I can say the following.

This second book is almost as good as the first book.  Where I would give the first book 10 stars.  The second gets 9.  There are some parts in the second where the writing seems a little sloppy, while the first is a masterpiece from page 1 till the end.

The second book ties up nearly all loose ends from the first book.  While book #1 ends in a cliffhanger, book #2 gives a satisfying end such that you don't feel like you need to read the last two books (though I probably will eventually).

Book #2 has a lot of "No way!" moments, and is a very exciting read once you get past Part 1.

Book #2 doesn't waste any time reminding you what you should remember on your own from Book #1.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Well--Simmons might do it a little, but it flows so naturally.

After reading Book #1, it's so easy to say, "I don't see how everything fits together."  But book #2 will hit you over the head with the explanation and when you're done reading you'll say, "Wow!  It makes sense.  Why didn't I see that earlier?"

There are still a few small things left unrevealed--gotta keep things open for books 3 and 4.

Dan Simmons really, really seems to like John Keats.  I don't share this great love, and I usually skimmed past all the verse in italics.  Though I gather that the whole Hyperion story seems to be heavily inspired by some specific Keats poems--as if Simmons read them and said, "Wow.  I could make a great story out of that."

And the Consul still never gets a name.  Aaaaagh!  I know ... major spoiler.

But notwithstanding, Simmons is an excellent storyteller and I thoroughly enjoyed reading these two books, and I highly recommend them both.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

National Novel Writing Month - 2012

I have begun the 30-day self-inflicted joyous torture that is NaNoWriMo.  That's short for "National Novel Writing Month."  The goal is to write 50,000 (unedited) words.  I've already accomplished this wonderful feat in 2007 and 2010.  Back in 2005 (I think) I tried for the first time and fell flat on my face having only written about 10,000 words.

Right now, I am only at a mere 3,000 words, which puts me behind schedule.  Each writer should average 1667 words a day.  So at the end of Day 4, I would need to be at 6,667 words.

But hey -- I just took an actuarial exam a few days ago, and I always need a while to chillax and play NotDoppler games and unwind.  It's amazing that I got out 3,000 words.  You can see the first 1,000 words (I did say it was unedited - just to warn you of its terribleness) and visit my profile.

This year I'm going to use the 50,000 words to spit out several short stories, which I will then crank out through the big edit/critique machine over the next few months.  My goal is to sell something in 2013.

But first to survive this month ... here is my schedule (2,200 a weekday, 4,250 over the weekend, and some time off for Thanksgiving).

Week #1 = 3,000 words.  --already past--
Week #2 = 15,250 words.
Week #3 = 15,250 words.
Week #4 = 5,500 words.
Week #5 = 11,000 words.

If you haven't done NaNoWriMo yet, I belatedly invite you to join.  We can be behind together!