Saturday, October 31, 2015

Patterson's Honeymoon

Why would a sci-fi buff such as I read a romance thriller book like Honeymoon by James Patterson and Howard Roughan? Because it was homework. I'm taking the new Patterson Masterclass course, which uses this book in examples. My reaction: I hope the course uses the book to show what works and what doesn't -- we'll see.

Craig Reynolds is an undercover detective investigating a series of suspicious deaths. Nora Sinclair is the black-widow woman who loves men and kills them. While this is all going on, the Tourist is trying to figure out what's in that suitcase that's getting people killed.

What works: the book is very easy to read. As one may expect from Patterson, it's a page turner. The prose is no-nonsense right-to-the-point English. That is, there's no flowery language to slow one down.

The well-planned-out plot is interesting enough to hold my attention, even though it uses many cliches.

What doesn't work: The book relies very heavily on "things aren't always as they appear." I love books that use this device effectively, but this isn't one of them. The writers withhold several details from the reader that are easily known to the characters. Thus the reader is the only one not in the know. Some reveals toward the end didn't even do anything for me.

Also, the characters are as shallow as they come. They exist, they do things, and it's hard for me to care when one of them bites the dust.

My recommendation: if you happen to be going on some beach trip, and you want to take a book to pass the time, and you don't want to remember the experience years from now, this is the book for you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Goosebumps: Good Scunny Fun

"Scunny" is a word my kids taught me. It's "scary" plus "funny," which is what the Goosebumpsmovie is. Well, maybe more funny than scary, but if you grew up with the books and TV show, you'll most likely know what you're going to get. There are scary parts, but nothing that should scar your children for life.

The movie is cheesy, though according to my kids, it was nowhere near as cheesy as the TV show. The bad jokes are in there, but the special effects and actual acting are on a much higher level. Jack Black is funny as R. L. Stine, and his fake accent is hilarious. Stine sounds nothing like that, by the way, but it's fun imagining that he does.

The movie is a tad bit slow getting to the monsters, but the delivery is worth it. It's nice to get to know the kids before they get into trouble, and they're not just placeholders, but rather they are distinct characters that the audience seemed to enjoy.

My only complaint, which goes for many of Spielberg, Lucas, and other action movies, is that the problem is so drastic that if it were to really happen, it would wipe out everyone in a matter of minutes--no, make that seconds. The good guys are just that good in holding off the monsters--I guess.

My kids seemed to complain that some of their favorite books were not well represented in the movie, but they loved the ones they did see. My favorite was the flying poodle. (I'm not sure what that says about me.)

Since it wasn't filmed in true 3-D, we skipped that effect, though it appears some parts could be a little more enjoyable in 3-D.

Overall, the movie succeeds in capturing the essence of nearly all R. L. Stine books. It's a perfect Halloween movie for the whole family. Go catch it in the theater and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Martian: Really Good Science

When they were casting for The Martian, they were looking for someone with experience playing an astronaut stranded on a planet doing the best they can to get home. When they sawInterstellar, they knew they had their man.

Sorry, couldn't resist the joke. The two roles are similar, but in The Martian, Matt Damon is given much more material to work with, and he delivers like he never has before. He's funny. He's emotional. He makes the role believable.

Even though Damon is alone on Mars, a full cast of characters works together to try and bring him home. There is even friction on Earth as different parties deliberate on how to bring the task to pass.

And get this. The science is awesome. It's by far the most accurate science I've seen in a movie -- possibly ever. Hopefully this movie will inspire and push science ahead.

My only complaint is that I don't have the option near here to watch it in IMAX (or IMAX Digital). It's been pushed out by The Walk. Nonetheless, I did watch it in 3D, which added cool depth in some scenes. Ridley Scott chose to film in "real" 3D and not the fake/need-to-be-converted 3D, so there aren't any anomalies like Sandra Bullock's disconnected foot in Gravity.

Go catch this movie in the theater. Bring your friends. Go science! Enjoy.