Monday, June 13, 2016

Saying Nice Things About Warcraft

As I mentioned last week, I really like earlier works of director Duncan Jones. I also played Warcraft, the first two games, hours upon hours about a decade ago.

So I went in to see Warcraft armed with all the negative reviews I had heard, and you know what? I actually enjoyed it. Duncan placed several easter eggs throughout the whole game, bringing back good memories. The story wasn't too terrible, and the plot was mostly easy to follow. There were actual characters that I could relate to, and the special effects were pretty decent.

The music caught the mood of the games, with drums, brass, and a plethora of minor chords, though I didn't recognize any specific tunes. The imagery caught the look and feel of the game. At one point we even get to see a battle from above, watching warriors raze a city.

With all that said, I can understand the negative reviews. If I had to sum up what I think the issue is, I would venture to speculate that Duncan was given the go-ahead on his first large project, and that he decided to go the uber-epic route. He wanted to create a movie so awesome that it would make Star Wars look like a Disney movie. ... um ... wait ...

A good epic movie has perhaps four or five really awesome scenes and some slightly boring, but important, setup. However, it seemed that Duncan wanted every scene to be epic, which didn't leave much time for setup. I thought there were some really cool scenes, but they were mostly hit or miss.

Either way I look forward to another project from Duncan. I would love another sci-fi movie that really makes you think. Please! Please! Please!

My recommendation: if you enjoyed playing the Warcraft games, go see this in the theater. Ignore the critics and go enjoy it. What's good for the Chinese is good for you -- right?

On the other hand, if you've never even heard of the game, you might want to sit this one out.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Jones: Moon and Source Code

Before paying good money in a couple of days to watch possibly the worst movie ever made, I'd like to first praise two really good movies made by the same director, Duncan Jones.

First in 2009, is Moon, starring Sam Rockwell. In this indie sci-fi movie with cheap but excellent effects, Sam is finishing up a three-year mission on the moon. With only a few days left, while longing to return to his family, things start to go wrong.

Before The Martian had even started to be written, this movie came out featuring a scientist using hard science to survive. This movie is a must for anyone interested in sci-fi in any way, shape, or form.

Be aware, though, that F-bombs abound. I'm not sure why, as the plot is really PG-13. Yet somehow, Sam Rockwell has a cute, funny way of dropping those gems. My more conservative friends may consider trying the movie out on for a dollar or two, which will silence all 35 bombs, and help you enjoy the story.

Then, two years later, Jones released Source Code, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. This movie takes on time travel with a cool twist. Not only does it provide fun action, but it's also very good science-fiction in that it actually finds a way to make time travel work. It really makes you think, even years after watching.

I'd say more, but the trailer attached above pretty much says it all. It's cool. It's fun.

I watched both of these movies about the same time back in 2011, and was impressed with the high level of intelligence, exciting action, effective exploration of human interactions with very likable characters, and very intriguing sci-fi concepts.

I was so impressed that I vowed to watch his next film, whatever and whenever that film would come out. I looked forward to that awesome third movie from an uprising and promising director. And that movie comes out in a couple of days ... Warcraft. Yes, you read that right -- the film that's panned by so many critics before it even comes out of the gate.

So, in a couple of days I'm going to watch, hoping to see a little of what I saw in these two great movies. It can't be that bad ... right?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Jim Butcher: Storm Front

After having watched the Dresden Files on Syfy a decade ago, I decided to give the books a try. Storm Front is the first in Jim Butcher's series.

Harry Dresden is a wizard, who also happens to be detective. Why one would want to be the other, I'd never guess, but it sure makes for interesting reading. It provides the noir feel mixed with fantasy, featuring vampires, fairies, demons, ghosts, and even a guild of wizards.

The book is nonstop, giving no time for boring bits. It has a perfect mixture of humor and action. It contains a full cast of characters, but don't expect too much in the way of character development, as seems normal in noir novels.

Butcher provides a very imaginative backdrop for an exciting case to solve. He goes into great detail to explain how the magic works, and often why it doesn't. However, I struggle to picture consistency in the rules. It seems that the characters are either too powerful at times, and impotent at others, much like those alien battle scenes we see in several movies where the good guys would be dead in a matter of minutes, but somehow seem to last hours. Then again, this has never really bothered me before - just a funny observation.

If you're looking for fun light reading that'll give you both noir and fantasy, then read this book. I promise an enjoyable read.