Tuesday, June 25, 2013

World War Z ... The Movie

How do you take a book such as World War Z with its multiple plots and heroes and villains, and turn it into a successful movie?  Simple ... throw away the entire story and write a new one.  And wouldn't you know it?  It seems to have worked.

The movie is similar to the book.  After all, there's a worldwide zombie pandemic and each nation reacts differently.  North Korea does have its secrets and rumors that one hears about but never sees.  Israel does end up being a little more successful than other countries.  And there is that one UN guy who now has a name ... Gerry Lane.

However, not even one story from the book survives (except for perhaps quick random snippets in the prelude and postlude).  There is no Battle of Yonkers, or valiant Japanese guys or Chinese submarines or chicks lost in the woods, and all those cool stories from the book.

In other words, don't go in there expecting to see your favorite story from the book, because I guarantee it's not in there.  As a fan of the book, I was a little disappointed and left with a feeling of "that's it?".

As a standalone movie, though, it does pretty well.  There's plenty of action.  For a PG-13 movie, it still successfully kindles suspense and a sense of doom.  Though I laughed a couple of times when something gory was moved off screen -- such as when one guy kills himself, it happens just as he moves off the screen.

You do end up spending the whole time with Brad Pitt, but I'm okay with that.  He had some cool parts.  I know many can't stand him (like many can't stand Tom Cruise), but I always try to turn off any dislike for the person so I can admire the craft ... and Pitt was good.

I recommend catching this one in the theater.  Stay away from the 3-D version.  They didn't pay to shoot it in 3-D, so don't pay for the glasses.  If you're not a fan of the book, you may have a better chance of enjoying the movie.  (Then go read the book.)  If you are a fan of the book, just realize up front that: yeah -- they should have called the movie some other title.

... And if you liked the movie, good news for you!  A sequel is now in the works!  Maybe they'll bring back parts of Straczynski's script, and give us some of the book.  We'll see ...

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Man of Steel Rocks

I should first admit that I'm a huge fan of Zack Snyder's films. The Man of Steelis no exception. As you watch, prepare yourself for Snyder's usual comic-book style of directing ... his epic scenes ... his cool special effects ... and of course the one guy who likes to yell like that one Sparta dude.

Add in a little Christopher Nolan and David Goyer, writers of Batman fame, and you have an epic film that nearly blows away all Superman movies made before.

The cast is very strong. The plot is strong. The fight scenes are epic. Hans Zimmer's score rocks, as he explores new musical ideas. (In fact I thought it was someone else trying to imitate Zimmer's style ... I laughed when I saw it was indeed Zimmer.)

If I had to complain, it would mainly come from comparing with earlier Superman films. A lot of stuff feels missing, and sometimes things happen that could make one say, "That's not how it's supposed to go!" Some may find this movie darker than all the rest. But don't worry ... our hero, Kal'el, stays pure and true to the American wave. (Well, it's now more like the worldwide wave.) In fact I would venture to say that despite the PG-13 rating, I think it would be safe and enjoyable to kids down to say 10 years old.

Also, a couple of times, the fight scenes were so epic that it actually felt a little too much to take in. Then again ... that's why you need to watch the movie again. One thing's for sure, though. After watching this movie, it's hard to watch any of the fight scenes from Superman II with Christopher Reeve:

In all, I say ... well done! I'd recommend not watching it in 3-D. It's awesome all by itself in good old-fashioned 2-D, and since they didn't pay the extra money to film it in 3-D (instead resorting to the cheaper conversion method), why pay the extra dough for the glasses?

I look forward to the sequel and the upcoming Justice League movie.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Warrior Girl: A Charming Book

I would have missed reading Warrior Girl entirely, had I not been approached by the publishers to read it and write a review.  Their description of the book pulled me in instantly, so I agreed to give my honest review.

The story features Sun Hi, a Korean, during her first year at Oxford.  While dealing with some not-so-nice and very competitive colleagues, she often retreats into the World of Warcraft.

At first, the plot may not sound so exciting ... another coming of age story set at some English university.  But I couldn't resist the World of Warcraft angle, being a gamer myself.  When the game is first introduced in the story, it feels like something coming from left field.  It also feels like a major character flaw ... retreating into some imaginary world when she can't handle things.  However, it later becomes central to the whole plot.  I believe the authors pulled it off well.

I was also impressed with how much the authors got right about Korean culture.  Having lived there for two years, I found myself nodding in agreement throughout the whole book.  There are certain things that Sun Hi does (or doesn't do) that you might not expect from an American/English person, but are actually common among the Korean people.  After reading the book, I wonder what the true origins of the story are.  Is it the result of major research?  Or is it a retelling of something that really happened?

The other characters are sufficiently interesting and believable.  My favorite was Miles, the captain of the rowing team.  He's mostly a good person, but he makes his shares of mistakes.  My least favorite was Sun Hi's roommate, Marina, who seemed a little over the top in her arrogance.  But then again, those kind of people really do exist.

The British "flavour" is as charming as Sun Hi is.  At times the book seems to have a "Hogwarts" feel, though without all the magic.  Again, it feels like the authors did their research on English university life.

I found the end to be very satisfying, and I'm happy to have come across this book.  It is targeted for YA readers, but I would recommend this to almost anyone.  I believe it has wide appeal, and that anyone who reads it will find it difficult not to love Sun Hi.