Tag Archives: Review

Clash of the Titans

Watched Clash of the Titans last week, in the non-3D-Version. I didn’t expect much going in, and I wasn’t disappointed. The movie tells the myths of Perseus, and is based on the 1981 movie of the same name. Except, it severely messes up the Greek mythology. In my eyes the worst offenders here were the idea of painting Hades as some sort of betrayed creature (Zeus did not betray him; he chose the underworld for himself) and the Kraken.

The Kraken, you say?

That’s right. Hades uses “the Kraken” to terrorize humankind. I mean – come on! Hades isn’t the god of the sea (that’s Poseidon), the Kraken is about as un-Greek as Godzilla.

There are less offensive points, too. Like making the Pegasus a brown/black horse. I actually had to laugh out a few times over these screwups, and my Greek mythology is decidedly rusty.

Another criticism I have are the characters. They’re not well developed and most of them are fairly annoying. Especially Perseus’ attitude gets on your nerves after a while.

Getting that out of the way, the movie was fairly entertaining. Some of the CGI shots were neat – I loved the Olymp’s “miniature Greece” that the Gods walk over, clouds swirling around their ankles. The big scorpion beasts were neat, too. Some of the scenes were obviously created in an effort to “wow” the audience of the 3D version, such as stingers and stuff that probably shoot out of the screen in 3D.

Yeah, I avoided the 3D version, since I don’t have depth perception anyway, and those glasses are just annoying. I also feared that the glasses would just discolor the movie. Unfortunately, the non-3D wasn’t exactly crisp. The image was blurry and stuttered in many locations: It looked like many places it wasn’t more than 10 frames per seconds. While the blurry image could have just been a badly adjusted projector, the “stutter” wasn’t. Quite honestly even a regular DVD would produce better results, nevermind the Blu-Rays I have recently come to appreciate. Maybe this does explain the recent problems of cinemas I heard talked about. If even a fairly standard Playstation3 + Full-HD TV combo can produce a better image than a cinema, then why go to the cinema? The ticket price for 2 persons (14 Euro total) is about what most of the cheaper BluRays cost, and no doubt cover many rentals.

I wouldn’t want to recommend Clash of the Titans. You can watch much better movies. Is it a terrible movie? No, there’s worse. Is it really worth-while? No, it’s not. But if someone else wants to see it, at least you won’t be bored in your seat for two hours. 2/5.

Ultra-Quick Wrath of the Lich King Review

Bought the second World of Warcraft expansion, played it for a while, and feel confident enough to post a super quick review.

The good:

  • Zone design is great, the zones look really nice.
  • Quests are much less annoying – there are of course still FedEx- and kill-ten-grue-type-quests, but over all it is MUCH more imaginative, and has many nice extras (for example there’s a quest to free Murloc babies, which has got to be ones of the cutest things in a video game ever).
  • Death Knights are actually a fun melee class, which I had not thought would ever happen; their starter “campaign” is also really well designed.
  • Less reputation grind… it seems.

The bad:

  • It’s more of the same. Really. If you have played WoW at all, you have played the expansion. Unless you are a WoW ultra-nerd, you should get tired of it really quickly.
  • Inflation got knocked up another notch. My mage made 500g profit, just by questing, in three days of game-play.
  • It absolutely sucks to be a new player at the moment, or to play a low level character. Unless you are level 70 or higher, and thus able to consume the WOTLK content, you will play this game alone for a long time.

Bottom line:

Wotlk gets 3/5. This is what the first expansion should have been like – Northrend totally puts Outland to shame. There’s enough to keep the old timers happy for a while, and some of the new additions are quite nice, but it is not compelling enough to warrant anything more than a “for fans” recommendation.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a movie I watched a long time ago, but it seems I never gave my opinion here, so without further delay…

Spirited Away DVD Cover

The young Chihiro moves to another town with her parents. As her father takes a short-cut, they end up in a decommissioned amusement park – something that isn’t very unusual in Japan. It’s deserted, but yet there are food stands, and the parents gorge themselves despite Chihiro’s wish to go. Things begin to go really weird at this point: The parents turn into huge pigs (literally), and Chihiro is trapped in a weird fantasy land. She ends up in a bath house for gods, and has to work there while trying to save her parents and escape.

To make it short, I totally love this move. It’s well-drawn, in a great style that just screams “mystical fairy tale land”. The characters are nicely-created as well, even though there are some bits in the second half of the movie that betray its Disney funding. The atmosphere is one of sense of wonder, and I kind of wish that we could explore this strange world further.

If you like fantasy movies and/or Japanese anime, you should definitely watch this movie. Even if you are not into Anime, Spirited Away is fairly mainstream… so give it a try anyway. It’s also very appropriate for children – there is some blood, but nothing truly terrifying I think.

Two thumbs up – this is an awesome movie.

Riverworld (TV Movie)

Watched the Sci-Fi Channel “made for tv” movie Riverworld the other day. Oh boy did that suck. I mean they butchered the characters, the backstory and the setting, the plot, pretty much everything. About the only thing it had in common with the book were some of the character names, and the fact that there was a river in it. Any lengthy review of this piece of utter and complete garbage would be a waste of bandwidth. Avoid at all cost: If someone threatens to kill you with a gun if you do not watch it, choose death. I am quite serious, this has got to be the worst book adaption ever filmed. And I have seen Starship Troopers.

Jumpers and Spiderwick Chronicles

Watched two movies on the way to SFO:

Jumpers is an action movie about a guy who discovers that he has the power of teleportation, as well as his subsequent run-in with a secret government-sponsored organization that is set up to kill his kind. There are really not many surprises in this movie, the action is passable, and I did kind of like the premise. This is one of those movies that’s very watchable when you are stuck iun a jetliner for 12 hours, but otherwise it would be a waste of money to rent it.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is an action/fantasy movie about a house plagued by goblins. The owner, Arthur Spiderwick, wrote a book about faeries, and now the evil ogre Mograth is trying to get that book (an obviously has been for 80 years, the poor bastard needs a life). When the great-grand-nephews of Arthur move into the house and discover the book, all hell breaks loose.

As you’d expect, the premise works out to another crummy Hollywood fantasy movie. The beginning is alright but it deteriorates quickly. The design of the monsters in the book shown in the first minutes – is pretty neat and reminds me of Brian Froud’s work, but the ones in the movie itself are normal CGI fare. If I had to sum it up in a few words, I would describe Spiderwick Chronicles as a cross between The Gate and Labyrinth, and it fails at it. Again, it’s watchable… barely.

Annals of the Heechee by Frederik Pohl

I read “The Annals of the Heechee” while I was in Detroit. *Annals* is the fourth book of the “Gateway” series by Frederik Pohl.

As you may or may not know the Heechee series centers around the story of Robinette Broadhead who escaped the nasty life of lower-class workers in a dystopian future to become a prospector on the Heecee asteroid, “Gateway”.

The astroid was discovered years before the story begins to contain working space-ships left there by a mysterious race, the Heechee. Using them is extremely risky, however, as the humans don’t know how to control them at all. By sheer luck, Broadhead strikes it rich and becomes a prominent figure who shapes Earth history when mankind finally do encounter Heechee. Things don’t go quite so well for Robinette, as he is killed in book three and converted into a digitized person.

Book 4 picks up some time after the Heechee technology has solved most of mankind’s pressing origin. However, book three had left one loose end that Pohl had to tie up: Namely the reason for why the Heechee ran. This “Foe”, the so-called Assassins is a race of energy beings who have been known to eradicate all intelligent life in the galaxy, and to introduce so much additional matter into the universe to cause its expansion to slow down. Broadhead and the other characters speculated that the Assassins aim to cause a big crunch and to re-create the universe to their liking afterwards.

Unfortunately for Pohl book three not only suffers from the lack of the mysteries and powerful motives that had powered the first two – and to some extent the third – book; it is exceedingly difficult to relate to the protagonists who are all digital personalities. There are a few two-dimensional “special” children with the personality of cardboard. And there are two “former terrorists”, who escape their high-security prison and kidnap aforementioned children. These two antagonists are about as well-developed as the Whale in Hitch-hiker’s Guide. Pohl tries so desperately to build them up as villains that he has to resort to having one of them enjoy child-rape. This is never actually carried out in the book, except for the use of robots as substitutes, and then only hinted at; but it just reads as a cheap device.

The greater plot, however, is about mankind’s contact with the Assassins. These energy-beings use the children to travel to Earth, infiltrate the global computer network, and, oh-wonder, talk to Broadhead as he tries to free the children from their predicament. Unfortunately, Pohl also manages to screw up this villain: Turns out, and I am sorry to spoil this, that the Assassins aren’t really evil. The extermination of intelligent races was just a mistake, one they won’t repeat with mankind and Heechee, and anyway, their manipulation of the universe is a good thing because it will save the universe from the big freeze (when the universe expands so much that stars are extinguished and the entire universe literally freezes solid). By the time this will happen, Mankind and Heechee will have evolved to become energy beings too – because, what afterall are AIs and digitized personalities but beings made of energy?

I have to be honest here – The entire book is one long disappointment. Pohl has obviously lost whatever creative energies he had in creating the series; he thoroughly manages to end the series in one big anticlimax. He’s screwed up two good mysteries (Heechees and Assassins) with boring explanations. He’s screwed up his characters. He’s managed to go out not with a bang, but with a whimper. It’s not that the book is really badly written; it’ll just bore you to death. The only thing that kept me going was the determination to find closure to the Heechee saga. I did not find it, and fans of the series should just ignore the fourth part.

Sometimes leaving things open is better than finding a bad explanation.

I paid $1 for this book in a used bookstore, and I consider it a waste of a perfectly good dollar, not to mention my time.

Storm Knights

I did something this weekend that I have not done in a long time.

I actually read a book.

Yes, I know, it’s sad, but I haven’t read a book since my stay in the Novotel Kelsterbach. I know it’s sad, but I guess I have been so busy with all this other stuff that I didn’t really have the time for books.

Anyway, this changed on Saturday when some stuff arrived that I bought on eBay Germany. One of the books I got was “Storm Knights”, the first novel of the TORG trilogy. Since I had nothing to do on Saturday – I was supposed to go on a date but she asked me to meet on Sunday instead – I got lost in that novel and read from start to finish in one long session. Only 320 pages, so it’s not really an achievement.

“Storm Knights” itself is a fair book. The writing is okay, the story is okay, it’s not one of the best I read, but it’s not really horrible either. The main attraction is that the trilogy served as the introduction to the TORG game that was published by West End Games. If you know me, then you know that I absolutely love TORG. And “Storm Knights” does give some background and descriptions that really should have been in the TORG basic set.

So if you are a TORG fan like me, pick it up. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Spider-Man

We – a co-worker and I – went to watch Spider-Man yesterday.

Who or what is Spider-Man? Well, he’s a super-hero, created when a shy school-boy named Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider. When he fails to stop a criminal who subsequently kills his uncle, Peter Parker realizes that he must use his powers to fight injustice – Spider-Man is born. The radioactive spider is nicely updated to a genetically engineered one in this movie. We get to see Peter’s first attempts at using his superpowers, and so on. A goodly amount of the movie is spent on establishing the characters. But this doesn’t hurt – it’s fun.

What can I say, the movie is fine. It’s not boring (except the love scenes near the end, but hey, it’s just about still bearable), good action, drama, and appropriate comedy. The actors did a rather good job of portraying believable characters. I think the one thing I disliked most was the costume of the evil guy. The comparison to X-Men – the last modern superheroes movie – is favorably for Spider-Man: The story is not so much better as it is told better.

We paid 3 Euro, so I guess I can’t complain. If you haven’t seen Spider-Man yet, go watch it, you probably won’t regret. If you can catch a showing (or the DVD, once it’s out), you should give this movie a chance. If you like the super-hero genre at all, you won’t be disappointed.