Archive for the Review Category
Famed “Bush Ranger” Ned Kelly returns from the dead to participate in a frankly fictitious interview where he reveals the issues he cares about most.
PEOPLE OF EARTH: Mr. Kelly –
NED KELLY: Call me Ned, cobber.
POE: Okay. Ned. It is a true pleasure and a real thrill to be speaking with you today. I don’t mind saying that you are one of my all time biggest heroes.
KELLY: (Laughs, phlegm rattling in his bronchia, followed by a small cough) Hero? You don’t know anything about me, do you?
POE: Actually, I know quite a lot about your life.
KELLY: Don’t come the raw prawn with me. You ain’t even Australian.
POE: True, but I’ve spent time drinking heavily with Australians.
KELLY: Oh, okay, that explains it, then.
POE: Ned, on 28 June 1880, in Glenrowan –
KELLY: I don’t want to talk about that.
POE: What? What else is there to talk about? That’s when –
KELLY: I know what happened. I don’t want to talk about it.
POE: But the shoot out, the armour you made and wore, it is legendary.
POE: It was possibly the most important moment of your –
KELLY: Yeah, yeah. I’m sick and tired of hearing about it and I don’t want to discuss it.
POE: Well, then what do you want to talk about?
KELLY: I want to talk about the film.
POE: What film?
KELLY: The one with Mick Jagger.
POE: Ah… eh… what?
KELLY: I want to talk about that awful film where Mick Jagger played me.
POE: What about it?
KELLY: Awful film. Jagger was terrible.
POE: Yeah, okay, so?
KELLY: Jagger was nothing like me.
KELLY: Know what I want? I want that movie made again, with a different cast.
POE: Do you have anyone in mind?
KELLY: As a matter of fact, I do. I want Daniel Craig to play the role of Ned Kelly.
POE: Daniel Craig?
KELLY: Or Johnny Depp.
POE: Johnny Depp?
KELLY: Yeah. Did you see him in Ed Wood? Incredible performance. Me and my mates were shocked he wasn’t nominated for the Academy Award. Fucking tour de force.
POE: Mr. Kelly –
KELLY: Or a Golden Globe, although, between you and me, I suspect that show isn’t really on the up and up. I think the fix is in, if you know what I mean.
POE: Thank you so much for –
KELLY: Don’t get me wrong. I love Ricky Gervais. That munter is comedy gold, he is.
POE: I thank Ned Kelly for spending quality time with us.
KELLY: That was quality time?
POE: Next time, my guest will be Mary Watson, and I will finally get to ask her what animal she would be if she could be any animal at all.
Let’s face it: most of what is created to tempt us into wasting time and spending money, with the hope of being entertained, is crap.
It wastes our money. It insults our intelligence. Books, movies and television are engendered more often than not with the foundational assumption that the consuming public is composed of people with very low Intelligence Quotients and very, very low standards.
And so much of it is fraudulent. How many times have you seen a movie preview, grown excited by the prospect of a new movie, only to discover that the preview previewed a movie that doesn’t exist, like emphasizing characters and plot points that are incidental in the actual movie? It happens all the time.
I often encounter media, the excellence of which surprises me. I’ll watch a television show, read a book, listen to a radio play, watch a movie and ask myself “why didn’t I hear about this sooner?”
When I look into it, I often find out that virtually no one has seen or heard of what just surprised me.
I call it Forgotten Media – popular entertainment that wasn’t popular enough to make it into the popular conscience. And there is a lot of it. I was thinking that my legion of blog visitors might be interested in knowing more.
Today, quite by accident, I saw a movie entitled The Core.
The Core is a science fiction adventure film, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. The plot is based on the simple question “what would happen if the earth’s core stopped rotating?”
If that question doesn’t create both interest and terror, then you probably don’t know how important the question is. Simply put, all life on earth is possible only because our planet has a molten iron core that spins in the opposite to the earth’s rotation. So if the earth rotates from right to left (east to west) the earth’s molten iron core spins left to right (west to east).
Not all planets do this. Mars doesn’t do it, which is why it will never be possible for humans to live on Mars.
Here is how it works: the earth’s molten core, spinning in the opposite direction to the earth’s rotation, generates a huge magnetic field that surrounds the earth like a force field.
This force field prevents solar radiation from hitting the earth and killing every single living thing on the planet.
So, if the earth’s liquid iron core stops rotating, it would cause the earth’s magnetic field to collapse, allowing solar radiation to hit the earth. And if that happens, everything from the smallest microbe to the largest blue whale dies.
Very early in The Core, the main characters learn the earth’s core is slowing down, and the rest of the movie is a race against time to save the planet.
The cast – put together by the best casting director in the business, Tricia Wood – includes Aaron Eckhart, Hillary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci and Alfre Woodard, with a stand out performance by D.J. Quails as a computer hacker whom the US government asks to “hack the planet” to keep the whole thing secret to avoid worldwide panic.
The Core is directed by Jon Amiel, who also directed another of my favorite forgotten movies, Tune in Tomorrow.
So what you have here is a well-written, well-acted, well-directed adventure film that nobody but me has seen (and maybe a few of you) and, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you do.
My wife and I just saw the new movie Cowboys and Aliens. We went despite the fact that it has received poor reviews.
Afterwards, I asked her what she thought of the film, and she said:
“Cowboys. Aliens. Indians. Handsome men. Pretty women. A kid and a dog. Good guys and bad guys teaming up to fight a common enemy. What’s not to like?”
I very much agree. It isn’t the best film ever made, but it was not a waste of time and/or money. A lot of fun. My wife and I recommend it.
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I just watched the latest episode of Stargate Universe, entitled “Sabotage.” If you haven’t seen it, you must. It was one of the finest pieces of science fiction I’ve ever seen.
My personal relationship with art is centered in recognizing balance. In my view, all art embodies at least two kinds of balance: the first is the balance of the genre it is part of; the second is the balance unique to the particular work itself.
In general, the evolution of science fiction as an art form has been a struggle to achieve artistic balance. The early science fiction of Jules Vern and H.G. Wells was beautifully balanced, partly because Vern and Wells were not science fiction writers. They were authors who used science fiction as a story-telling delivery mechanism. It was the story that was important to these writers; science fiction provided the structure to tell those stories.
These early science fiction stories also benefited from the fact that so few people could read and write. Those who could were automatically better educated and cultured than those who could not and, consequently, Vern, Wells and those like them were part of a “high art” literary tradition.
Such status was short-lived. Industrial societies depended on mass education that included reading and writing, which became common even among the uneducated and uncultured. And it was these great unwashed masses that began both writing and reading science fiction. Through pulp magazines, Sci Fi moved from high culture to popular culture.
And what a load of crap gushed forth – garbage written by amateur hacks with no story sense and poor vocabularies, using science fiction as a means of adolescent male masturbatory wish fulfillment that really couldn’t get very far past rocketing off to a place they might encounter space chicks needing rescue from bug eyed monsters.
In other words, this pulp rubbish lacked artistic balance and focus. If “ray guns are cool” is the reason a story is written, and if the writer lacks the talent, skill and educational foundation to reach beyond their fingertips, then the story is going to suck.
I believe that has changed. Kim Stanley Robinson and John Birmingham are proof that SF has changed for the better.
Robinson and Birmingham are serious artists who, like Vern and Wells, use science fiction frameworks to tell stories that resonate beyond mere fantasy escapist wish fulfillment. Their work is artistically balanced in the same way any good novel worth reading and remembering achieves artistic balance.
Science Fiction cinema followed the same progression from early greatness - e.g., Fritz Lang’s early silent work -
to adlolescent escapism – e.g., the Flash Gordon serials -
to artistically balanced, nuanced good works that are cinema first and science fiction second – e.g., 2001, Alien and 12 Monkeys.
The same is true for science fiction television – from high art of the Twilight Zone –
to the idiocy of the Adventures of Buck Rodgers -
to the retooled, reimagined excellence of Battlestar Galactica.
This new video excellence was only possible because the popular audience is older and smarter, and cable television makes it possible to reach a smaller, smarter audience and still be profitable. Battlestar Galactica was not just an artistic success – it was a commercial success.
And nothing succeeds like success. All commercial successes spawn imitations. Those behind Stargate Universe want to repeat, if not exceed, the BSG‘s commercial success and they concluded the way to do it is to imitate BSG‘s artistic success – i.e., focusing on story, plot and character and complex themes that resonate emotionally and intellectually.
Which created a different balance problem: too much focus on story, plot, character and complex themes is just as bad as too little.
Stargate Universe‘s first season suffered from this imbalance, resulting in slow, ponderous, boring television. For me this imbalance was so annoying that I actually watched the show only because I was hoping to witness some of the more boring characters die and the slowest, most ponderous story lines end.
Which is why this last episode so delighted me. It is a demonstration of perfect balance between plot, character, theme, special effects and action. It isn’t boring in the slightest and when it was over I wanted more and cannot wait to see the next episode.
I so hope this isn’t an aberration. I so hope this is a sign the series as finally found its voice.
Last Saturday my wife and I ate at Ming Tu’s – a restaurant located at 1158 “L” Street in Downtown Sacramento. Ming Tu’s serves Asian” inspired” food in a casual setting.
Many people have eaten at Ming Tu’s. Some of them have written reviews that can be found at http://www.yelp.com/biz/ming-tus-asian-diner-sacramento. For example, Karina of Elk Grove writes:
“I’ve been here twice – with coworkers and with friends. The food is definitely an Americanized version of Chinese food, but far better than Panda Express. Love their Mongolian beef over brown rice.”
Moo N of Sacramento writes:
“I work a couple of blocks from here so I have had opportunity to eat here often. Each time I have eaten here, I have been quite happy. The teriyaki chicken with rice is my fave and I love the fried rice too! I love rice so if you do too you should definitely partake :-)”
My dining experience was a little different from Katrina’s and Moo’s. My meal was not as good as theirs. So this is going to be a negative restaurant review.
Over the years I’ve written plenty of restaurant reviews, may of them negative, and when I write a negative review I spend a lot of time describing what I ate and how it was served. Then I complain a lot.
I feel this is a special case. The usual descriptions of the food and service and the usual complaining just wouldn’t be enough to properly express how I feel about this dining experience. So I’m not going to describe the food or the service. I’m not going to make fun of the owner’s funny accent. I am not going to mock the handicapped busboy. Instead, I will simply describe what I did after I left Ming Tu’s.
After I paid the bill and my wife and I left the restaurant, I immediately walked to a nearby church and prayed that God would reach down with His mighty hand and, with a fist of divine fury, smite Ming Tu’s, crushing it down to the bedrock, destroying it utterly.
I know what you are thinking. You think I over reacted. You are thinking: “Aw, come on, Paul. The meal couldn’t have been so bad that you would call upon the Creator of the Universe to smite those responsible. “
If you are thinking this, you are wrong. You weren’t there. You didn’t pay good money for really bad Chinese food. It was so bad that I felt, and still feel, within my rights as a God fearing Christian to call upon the power of Almighty God to send down destruction upon Ming Tu’s and punish all those responsible for my mediocre dining experience.
Now you are thinking: “Okay, Paul, let’s assume for the sake of argument that the meal you were served wasn’t very good. Is that sufficient reason for calling for divine retribution? Isn’t being served a bad meal at a restaurant a trivial reason for calling upon the divine power of God Almighty to smite those who displeased you?”
Not at all. And if you think that, then you probably are not a Christian.
Or you might be a Socialist.
A Socialist Atheist, that’s what you are, if you think there is anything wrong with me asking God to smite anyone I don’t like or destroy any business that has provided less than acceptable service.
Every day, ordinary people from all walks of life call upon the power of the Lord to avenge them – often for seemingly trivial reasons. My own Aunt reads the Bible every day and goes to church every Sunday – and every single day she prays to Baby Jesus that her neighbor die of a heart attack.
Her neighbor is a liberal who plays that jazz music much too loud. And he voted for Obama. Who is a secret Muslim.
But I digress. My point is that it is perfectly okay to call upon the power of God to right any wrong, no matter how trivial the wrong may appear. The Bible shows us that God responds in dramatic ways to correct what seem to be trivial wrongs.
For example, in 2 Kings 23-25, the prophet Elisha, who had a bald head, cast a “curse unto God” at a bunch of young boys who were making fun of Elisha’s bald head. Now, you non-Christian, socialist liberal secret Muslims will say that what those kids did was no big deal. Well, God didn’t think so. In response to Elisha’s curse, God sent two female bears to kill forty-two of those boys.
So Elisha called upon the divine power of the Creator of the Universe to punish a bunch of boys who made fun of him. I am calling upon that same power to smite a restaurant that served me a lousy meal. I honestly don’t see the difference. I fully expect to see a big hole in the ground where Ming Tu’s used to be when I next drive or walk by that place.
I’ll let you know if it happens.
I have been flamed (but not defamed, as you will see). Over at the the Blunt Instrument, one of my favorite blogs, a gentleman who goes by the name of Greybeard said:
Mr Boylan: you Sir, are a vulgarian and a snob.
Now, isn’t that the nicest way of calling someone a jerk you have ever seen? It is beyond cool. The gentility and elegance of that insult lifts it beyond cool to the rarely achieved level of cugat (as in “that is soooo cugat, dude!”).
PEOPLE OF EARTH has been granted a preview of James Cameron’s new film Avatar, the first block buster, high budget studio film shot in 3D.
Cameron’s prior films – including Terminator, Aliens, the Abyss and True Lies – have been some of the biggest money making movies in cinematic history. His prior film, Titanic, remains the largest grossing film of all time, earning a mind-boggling $2.8 billion.
POE was offered a sneak preview of Avatar on the condition that no “spoilers” were provided to POE’s readers. So I won’t be describing the film’s plot or revealing the surprise Hollywood dance routine ending, so I will restrict my review to one subject:
Space Chicks, man! This movie is all about Space Chicks!
Alien Space Chicks with tails!
So, go for the 3D. Stay for the Space Chicks.
And for you ladies out there who, perhaps, are not as interested in Space Chicks, this film – like so many of Cameron’s prior films – is all about relationships – which makes it a chick flick.
A chick flick with Space Chicks! What on earth could be better?
I know I’ve been fairly critical of Stargate Universe.
I’ve complained about how it is too much soap opera
and not enough space opera.
I am watching the latest episode of SG-U and I just got to the part where that guy from the spaceship switched bodies with the Lou Diamond Philips character and went back to his wife and she took him back and they were getting busy and then the body transfer reversed for a moment and that guy from the spaceship was back on board the spaceship and the Lou Diamond Philips guy was under the other guys wife and then the body transfer kicked back in and the first guy was under his wife again – and his wife was acting like she never got it that way before – which has to make her husband (the guy from the spaceship) fell a bit awkward – and the Lou Diamond Philips guy was back on on earth and asks “what the hell just happened?”
It was great! I love this show now!
And there is even a chance fat nerd may score with the Senator’s drunk daughter!
It’s back on. Gotta run-
I haven’t been around here for a while, but something just happened that compels me to update this blog: I saw District 9.
I cannot say anything about it other than “go see it.” You will be glad you did. I will pay money to see it again, and that hasn’t happened for a while.
If you don’t usually like science fiction, go see it anyway. This isn’t your typical science fiction movie any more than Citizen Kane is merely a movie about an old rich guy who died.
I predict it will be the surprise run-away hit of the summer – not because it is a great movie, but because it is an utterly unexpected pleasure.
My nare-do-well liberal son has a knack for summarizing complex systems into simple language. In Hollywood, we call that “high concept.” Late last night he saw Watchmen. This morning I asked him what he thought of the film and he said:
“There were too many good things about it to be disappointed but too many bad things about it to be happy with the result.”
Fair enough. I am no longer in any hurry to see Watchmen, but do look forward to seeing it eventually.