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You have spent several seconds reading this post when you could be watching The Avengers.
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Guys, did you like Taken?

Did you wish it was a TV Series starring Ashley Judd?

Well, you're in luck!

Seriously, Judd has this way of going from "normal human" to "Jack Bauer" in about half a second. It's really, really creepy.
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Light the fuse.

I really, really like the idea of an action movie where the main character never fires a gun.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how good Brad Bird is as a live-action director. There are just some lovely set-pieces, and less of a focus on Hunt. The conceit here is that not only is the team working without resources, the entire agency has been disavowed, so they can't even get covert backup. All they have is an old supply cache full of things that malfunction all the time. And that's not the only place Murphy's Law applies. The team actually feels like a team of diverse individuals with their own motivations, not Hunt and Sidekicks, and even the villain feels vaguely sympathetic. And he's absolutely insane.

So, yeah, go see it, if you can suspend disbelief about little things like Hunt spending months in a Russian prison, yet still having perfect absolutely hair. I think it's even feathered.
mcity: (exclamation mark)
It's a game, dear man, a shadowy game. We're playing cat and mouse, the professor and I.
Victorian Europe, international intrigue, and daggers in the dark. How we've missed you, Holmes.

Remember what I said about hats in my Sucker Punch review? The three main female characters, all very lovely women*, all wear hats. Sim spends the last 40 minutes or so in what looks like a rumpled fedora.

Moriarty is quite chilling, and indeed Holmes match. He threatens murder and worse as easily as most people would ask the time.

The cinematography has been turned up to eleven. WB apparently went ShutUpAndTakeMyMoney.jpg to Guy Ritchie, and boy does it show, especially in one sequence I can't say any more about for fear of spoilers.

Holmes himself, as Watson observes, seems more manic. Between Watson leaving and pursuing "the biggest case of [his] career" while living on stimulants and very little sleep, it's no wonder. Everyone seems very capable, even Mary. There's an underlying sense of urgency that makes the slowdowns all the more important, more treasured.

Also, Holmes deductive sequences? He doesn't explain those anymore. We just have montages of the things he saw and we missed or thought nothing of. No explanation, the audience has to figure out themselves, drawing them into the movie. Not that this slows down the pacing. If your jaw isn't dropping, you'll be giggling.

TL:DR; If you liked the first movie, it's more of the same, but bigger and louder and better and more bromantical. Which is a word now. Every time you use it, you have to pay me a nickel.

*All with rather nice cheekbones, as it happens. The director was previously married to Madonna. I'm noticing a theme here.
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Imagine someone distilled the minds of Michael Bay and Neill Blomkamp, ran them through a blender, added some of Gaiman's love of classic literature, and then put them into a book.

Basically, it's fantastic.

I love it when Sci-Fi doesn't try to refer to "spacey" things just to remind the audience that it's sci-fi (*cough*HonorHarrington*cough*), such as in this case, where the main cast consists of a vat-grown soldier and genetically engineered rats and bats with implants in their heads to make them smart. And Irish, apparently. The implants came with several different old books, and they identified with the underdogs, and now they act Irish.

Anyway, characters also refer to an operation reminding them of something from DVDs from old Earth. Not "pre-holo" or "pre-dispora" or whatever Honor Harrington characters would say. DVDs. I had to stop and make sure I was reading a Baen book.

Get it if you like several hundred pages made up almost entirely of banter and crude humor. Like I said, Michael Bay. It would help a little if you were passingly familiar with Bronte. Like I said, Neil Gaiman.
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It's you. You have all the weapons you need. Now fight!
This was actually quite good. It's actually more cerebral than anything. The pretty women in hot clothes are there to make A Point, not mere fanservice, though I still felt embarrassed checking it out from the library. I don't have any of the fetishes on display—okay, I think girls in garrison caps are cute, is that so wrong?—but one element really surprised me.

Movie: Oh, David Krumholtz is the Big Bad.
Me: You mean the guy from Numb3rs? Well, I suppose he could have untapped dramatic depths, so I gue—AHHHHHHHHHHH

EDIT: It's not Mr. Universe, it's an actor named Oscar Isaacs. Downright uncanny.
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Both very good movies. Go see 'em!

HP7Pt2
Don't go see it if you didn't see the first half (I didn't) or you haven't read the books (I have). After a certain point in the film, it was like a rollercoaster reaching the top of the first hill, and you just have to hang on all the way to the denouement. I found myself dabbing at my eyes at one or two points. In a suitably manly fashion, of course.

Captain America
This is the first movie to actually feel like an Avengers movie, which is ironic, since there's only one Avenger. Between this, Iron Man 1/2, Thor, and Incredible Hulk, Marvel is 5 for 5 with their movies. Now if only DC would pick up the ball and figure out what the other guys are doing right.

Also, I like how unapologetically pulp-sci-fi the movie is. Why does Hydra's stuff glow? Because their power source glows, is why. You have a problem? DealWithIt.gif. These action figures ain't gonna sell themselves.
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First Class
See it if you like superpowered bromance and sideburns.

Super 8
See it if you like lens flares, Spielberg circa 1982, and/or have a childlike sense of wonder and optimism.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
See it if you like explosions and giant robots and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's butt.

I'm not joking. That is literally her first shot in the film. Carly's a fairly decent character overall, but cripes, Bay, there are better ways to make up for The inadvertently racist-seeming Twins. The plot turned out more complex and mature than I expected from a Bay film (explosions, giant robots, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's boobs), so...that's a plus. And the climax was forty minutes. Again, not joking. The entire third act is the climax.
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A young man with a dead dad falls in love with a young woman named Elizabeth in the Caribbean. He takes up with a cynical, older pirate to save the life of his lady love, and there's magic and ghosties. Someone named Jack S. is involved, as a is a lot of backstabbing.

When the Pirates of the Caribbean writers said that they were inspired by this book, they mean they grabbed great greasy handfuls in their greedy fists, yanked it away, and deposited on their plate. The reason the fourth movie is subtitled "On Stranger Times" is because Disney finally decided to pay the guy whose excellent book they've been ripping off for, lesee, eight years.

The book is excellent, by the way. Moral ambiguity, complex characters, conflicting motivations, extreme attention to detail, very atmospheric. I highly recommend it. Heck, it's probably better use of your money than seeing the movie.
mcity: (omg onoz)
When I got my copy of Kathy Reichs "Break no Bones", there was a blurb on the inside cover stating that it was may have dethroned Patrica Cornwell as the queen of forensic fiction. The copy I got from the library of "Cross Bones" has not one, but two blurbs about Reichs ascendancy, the first specifically comparing her to Cornwell.

I checked out Cornwell's "Predator" to see what the fuss was about.

It's some sort of given in modern detective fiction that female protagonists can't be happily married, under any circumstances. Men are rarely married either, but even that is a lot more likely. In that, Reichs' Tempe Brennan and Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta are alike, both in long-term relationships with men. In Tempe's case, it's a cop, and Kay likes a shrink. Both authors are blonde women, and Kay is an ME while Tempe is a forensic anthropologist, so the courses are already starting to diverge.

And then there's Lucy.

Cornwell likes girls and is happily married. Kay's niece Lucy likes girls too. This isn't all that unusual, really, since authors tend to be liberal, but sometimes it's easier for people to handle certain sensitive issues gracefully if they're not directly involved. Such as Doctor Who's Stephen Moffat's occasional gay jokes vs Russel Davies' Look at the Alternative Sexuality Character Look At How Cool He Is Look How He's An American Which Is Unusual For The Doctor Look He Gets A TV Show Look.

I am talking, of course, about Rose.

Cornwell, incidentally, is a registered Republican and close friend of Billy Grahm. Also, she had an affair with an FBI agent, just like Lucy.

Lucy spends a lot of her time having one-night stands. This is because she is angsty because of a recent loss. Or it may be another, spoilery factor, and the book never bothers to make which is which clear. Also, Lucy is a gajillionaire because of Internet search engines. And created a prestigious forensic academy so well-funded that any real forensic scientists would give their left arm to work there. And it frequently co-operates with local authorities. And Wikipedia says she joined the FBI at 18, despite the age limit of 21, and she carries a handgun at all times. Speaking of which, she is an excellent shot, even with her extremely expensive Beretta Cx4 Storm from a moving bicycle.

TVTropes indicates that the older books are better, but I strongly doubt that Cornwell turns down on the mess of technical stuff. Reichs talks about autopsies, and anything else germane to the plot. I do a lot of research, but will happily drop it like it's hot if it doesn't develop the plot, setting, or characters. Cornwell beats you over the head with details about Lucy's bike, the occasional gun, phone systems, and citrus canker.

Citrus canker.

This wouldn't be so bad if the technical detail was matched by the actual character development, but it's not. We are repeatedly Told what the characters are feeling, not Shown. We are told Lucy feels sick about the possibility of something, instead of Cornwell describing the hollow in the pit of your stomach you get when you're worried. Of course, it would be easier to have some sort of emotional involvement in the characters if there were really any good ones. You get bad people, and horrible people, and then you get the middling, unsympathetic people, and the horrible people are often easiest to relate to. It says something that the serial killer doesn't seem as bad as Kay's jerk protege, who's mostly only guilty of a few thousand worth of fraud. and being a jerk.

Heck, even Reichs' infodumps are explained in as comprehensible a matter as possible, often simplified into layman's terms. Reichs teaches. Cornwell informs.

Bottom line, Reichs is better, from the, oh two books I've read of hers vs. the one of Cornwell. Maybe Cornwell's earlier works are more palatable, but I won't be trying to hard to find out.

Admittedly, the book has a heck of a plot twist, which I had already half suspected, and dismissed, though it was a lot more intensive than I had thought it was going to be. Still, going from that book--which I finished out of nothing more than a desire for closure--to Reichs' "Cross Bones" was like getting out of a sensory deprivation tank and promptly dropping LSD.

Hypothetically, I mean.
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Pretty good, actually. Don't bother with 3D, unless thirty seconds of a diesel-looking Chris Hemsworth shirtless are worth the money to you.

I do like the Shakespearean stuff, and how Kenneth Branagh managed to make Thor's arrogance entirely different from Tony Stark's.
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You'd think I'd learned my lesson the first time.

After spending the better part of an hour wandering back from Thor (great movie, BTW) —including one montage-worthy moment when I realized I had just gone in a half-mile circle when I thought I was taking a shortcut—and was standing on one of those little wedges of grass in between the freeway and its onramp, trying to figure out if I recognized the overpass ahead, when a complete stranger stopped and asked me if I needed directions. Turned out the pedestrian ramp I was staring at was indeed the route I was looking for, and I was home inside of ten minutes.

In other words, my foolish pride/social anxiety/a little from columns A and B had me going around in circles, but the friendliness of the locals saved me a few seconds of staring when I was nearly home anyway.

Quite nice, these Brits.

PROTIP:

Apr. 22nd, 2011 11:01 pm
mcity: (amazing)
If you haven't already, watch "Gran Torino".

...Juuust not in public.
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If you're not familiar with the Halo universe, ODSTs are some of the most h4rdc0r3 d3wd5 around, second only to those big guys in faceless armor who keep appearing on the games' covers. The job description requires them to be thrown at a planet in a drop pod, and the survival rate is so low that it's all-volunteer. In fact, you have to be a Special Ops veteran just to have a shot at joining.

The main narrative of Isolation starts with our main character, a random Marine, punching an ODST in the neck.

You know how when people start writing fanfic with original characters, their first urge is to have their OC punch canon characters in the snout to establish dominance? That's what I thought it was. The ficcer makes a big deal about how special Gui Montag is; he doesn't react like the other Marines when coming out of Cryo, escalates from the ODSTs rather caustic request to move to the aforementioned neck-punching, and when the ODST is about to retaliate, pulls a gun out of his locker, even while the narrative states that regulations say guns are supposed to be in the Armory. However, the story makes it clear that Montag isn't special because he's just better than everyone, he's special because he's a borderline psychopath with a death wish.

The story itself isn't without problems, though. It seems like every other paragraph is the author scoffing at the way "Hollywood" portrays Marine life. If could just be Montag--who is kind of a jerk--but it seems more like the author sniffing at how "unrealistic" the games are. The story takes place during Halo, yet there's no sign nor mention of the Master Chief, though SPARTANs themselves have been mentioned. And the author seems reluctant to swear. When I hear a Marine going "durn" it really messes with my suspension of disbelief. I don't swear in my writing either, but I try to eliminate the place where the swearing would be entirely, or at least come up with a decent substitute. (And yes, I noticed the hypocrisy. Thank you.) At least Montag's peers actually dislike him for his dickishness.

Bottom line: it's decent, but with a few minor irritations.
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I bought the game as part of the Humble Indie Bundle #2, and took a while to get around to playing it.

I normally hate adventure games. They tend to have a lot of contrived nonsense that makes no sense withing the context of the game world. In Resident Evil, f'r example, apparently get custom locks that use large, bulky pieces of metal instead of normal things like keys or keypads. In God of War, by contrast, anyone with any knowledge of mythology at all should be fully expecting the key to open the door to be half-a-mile away on the other side of a boss fight. Also, the key is probably someone's head. It takes a certain type of mind to enjoy adventures games, and that mind simply can't comprehend why someone might not find a fake moustache puzzle with a dozen odd, illogical steps fun. And any pitiable fool who's played text adventures has tried to figure out the exact verb to get ye flask.

Machinarium is not like those games.

For one thing, the adorable robot protagonist is limited. He can get taller, shorter, reach out to things, store items, combine items, use items, and look at things. He can only interact with things that are in reach of his current position, which makes it easier to tell which of the dozens of absurdly detailed objects onscreen you should be trying to grab. There are a few times when you can miss something, but not often, and the game offers a robust hint system. You get one hint for free, and you can play not-Space Invaders to open up your Prima.

I'm not joking. There's actually a game guide in the game. I'm not sure if our hero can see it, but it's non-linear; since you might have multiple tasks in the same area, you might have to come back and play the game again to open the book. Or CopyPaste it into Paint or something. There are a few puzzles that seem unnecessarily complicated--such as a safe being locked with a puzzle instead of a combination, which is inside a room with a combination lock on the door--but most of them are problems, not puzzles.

That aside, the art direction is lovely, the controls are simple, the music is great (and I got the soundtrack for free! Yay!), and the protagonist endearing. And it's only $20 regular price. I recommend it.
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Stories written by geeks tend to have a higher amount of references than most. Shout outs in fanfics are pretty much expected, but they tend to crop up in original fiction as well. For example, open your copy of "The Color of Magic".

Where's yours?

Over four thousand miles away, and shut up, Rhetorical Device.

Those first two guys on the road are pastiches of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, tow famous fantasy novel characters you've never heard of. The very first characters we hear in Discworld about are from another series entirely.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. In that case, the characters are from the genre under parody, so their presence there makes sense. And there are load of refs in DW, most slipped in so artfully that you might not notice them. Given that most fanfic writers haven't been knighted for their writing, it tends to be a bit clumsier. Every time I read "I'll be in my bunk" in, say, a Harry Potter fanfic, I wince on the inside.

Which brings me to Charles Stross and "The Atrocity Archive". By volume, the book has more references than Shinji and Warhammer 40K. And it may be entirely justified.

Our narrator, Bob Howard, is the type of semi-hapless protagonist destined to be played by Simon Pegg. Several years ago, he was working with some advanced mathmatics and computer theories, and nearly wiped out a good portion of the midlands. Turns out math and computers can summon Things, and Bob finds himself working for Capital Laundry Services, the arm of the British government that deals with the supernatural, and is assigned a job in tech support and computational demonology. The pay is poor, the hours irregular, and the work soul-threatening.

In case you couldn't guess, he's a geek. Hence all the references. The question is whether they're in there because of Bob's character, or Stross's. I try and hold down my Shout Outs myself, but since Stross actually used to work in tech support himself, he seems to feel no such restraint. It doesn't exactly enhance or detract from the book, it's just...there.

The book itself is pretty good, though. Bob has a magic PDA, and the story reads like a "stale beer" spy novel with tentacles in. He's a wizard, not a fighter, and tries to keep his head down. Stross uses several historical events for background flavoring.

Caveat: It's downright opaque if you're not a geek or a nerd. You know how a lot of science fiction/fantasy fans seem to bristle at the implication that their choice of genre is less worthy than "serious" literature? Stross writes geeky sci-fan and doesn't afraid of anybody. If you want a story by Stross with several of the same themes, read "A Colder War".
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I got him at the swap for Christmas. I chose his name because he's made of stone, and he has legs.

Not trunkless, though.

The Doctor Who Christmas Special (A Christmas Carol) was awesome, by the way. And now, a bunch of links to pictures of mountains. And a cool sword. And a terrible snowman. And a rooftop.

Read more... )

Merry Christmas and stuff.
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It says something that a film I think was merely "decent" is one I am perfectly willing to write spoilery fic for. Of course, my opinion of it can't be improved by having to trudge a good way across town.

Too be honest, the movie is fairly good. More so if you're actually a tron fan, pretty lights and noises if you're not. In the latter case, you might want to catch up using this video. There's a lot of religious symbolism, and the acting is generally pretty good, and it's Jeff Bridged being Jeff Bridges, so he's automatically watchable. Really, it was worth the seven quid.

Though the hot dog wasn't worth the £4.50.
mcity: (amazing)
For a darker n' edgier sequel to a dark n' edgy Batman comic book, it's a great comedy.
mcity: (amazing)

Director: Edgar Wright
Rating: Awesome


If you have played a mainstream videogame-anything more complicated than Wii Fit will qualify-in the last ten years, go see this movie.

After Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright seems to have decided to have a little fun. And no, it's not part of the Cornetto trilogy.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time getting that little box up there to work right. I hope you appreciate it.

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