Category Archives: Reviews

Movie- and Book Reviews

Big Movie Short Review List

Watched some movies recently…

  • Alien vs Predator 1: Watchable, if you like Aliens or Predators. Switch off your brain first though. The Weyland tie-ins are neat.
  • V for Vendetta: Well filmed, a bit too predictable and hard to suspend disbelief in a few places. Good message I guess. Definitely watchable – once. Not a classic.
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars. Actually the movie is just the first few episodes of the show added together. Once you understand it, it becomes cool – the show is definitely better than the prequels. Recommended for any Star Wars or Science Fiction fan.
  • Iron Man: Fun bubble-gum movie. Definitely one of the entertaining comic superhero movies. Recommended.
  • The Dark Knight: It could be an excellent movie, if they had left out the half-burnt guy’s subplot at the end; it was, overall, about a half-hour too long. Also, the cellphone sonar thing was dumb. Keith Ledger really did do a good job, the Batman actor was too wooden.
  • Chicken Run: Watched this years ago, still a fun movie. It’s an Aardman animation (of Wallace & Grommit fame). Awesome movie, too, if you like Wallace & Grommit, you’ll love this one.
  • The Mummy: Another movie I watched a long time ago; good, straight-forward Indiana-Jones style fun. Highly recommended.

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.

Donnie Darko (Director’s Cut)

I bought the Director’s Cut DVD of Donnie Darko a long time ago and wanted to *finally* post the review. I didn’t know this movie before I saw the DVD; but it sounded interesting so I shelled out the money.

Donnie Darko is about time travel and parallel universes, and mixes a dark atmosphere and scary imagery with what almost seems like a typical high school flick (but really isn’t).

The Director’s Cut is 128 minutes and thus 20 minutes longer than the original version. The package includes 2 DVD’s, one with the movie itself and one with extras.

Continue reading Donnie Darko (Director’s Cut)

Three Movies

Watched three movies on my way to Detroit.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Not the worst movie I ever watched, but hardly a piece of art – or even very original. If you’re a guy, the blond female lead will keep you watching because quite honestly she’s very cute. Watchable.

Rush Hour 3: Crime comedy action movie with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Boring story, action scenes were okay. I think the only reason I did not hate this movie was Jackie Chan who’s pretty fun to watch even in his old age. Chris Tucker should be banned from making movies, on the other hand. Most annoying actor ever. They threw in a lot of France-bashing, which was just stupid, and the plot was the most predictable I’ve seen in a long time. (Hint: When you think “oh this guy has got to be the evil villain” you are correct.)

Transformers: Oh, where to even begin. This movie SUCKED. Bad. Not so much the premise, giant robots slugging it out is always a good thing to me. The plot was contrived and stupid, but it wouldn’t have been a huge problem. No, what got me was all the small, tiny errors. For example Air Force One almost certainly doesn’t look like a huge bunker from the inside. I have been in an empty 747 cargo plane and it’s not that huge. The defense secretary states that the US is on “Defcon Delta”. Defcon levels are numbered 1-5. I guess they feared that the average dumb audience member would have said “Gee golly, Defcon One sounds kinda low”. Idiots. And don’t even get me started on the portrayal of hacking in the movie. Only watch Transformers if you’re a fan or if you are stuck on an airplane for nine hours and have nothing else to do.

The Simpsons Movie

I watched The Simpsons Movie last night. I liked it, but I thought it wasn’t spectacular. On the good side, it’s a long, long episode of The Simpsons. But on the other hand, unfortunately it’s a long, long episode of The Simpsons. But let’s look at the story first:

Warning: Heavy Spoilers

In the movie, Homer ruins Springfield’s attempt to clean up its environment. The EPA moves in and puts a huge dome over Springfield. The citizens are outraged and attempt to kill Homer in a classic example of mob justice, forcing The Simpsons to flee to Alaska. However, when they learn that the EPA wants to blow up all of Springfield, Marge and the kids wish to go back to save their town. Homer, on the other hand, wants to stay in Alaska. Marge leaves him to save Springfield anyway.

All alone, Homer gets stranded on an ice floe and is rescued by an Inuit woman. After he has a vision, he decided to follow Marge and – in the end – does save Springfield.

End of Spoilers

So, what’s so bad about this? Or good, for that matter? Well, it’s an overly-long Simpsons episode. So all the elements people like from the TV Show are in the show as well. There are some great gags in there. But on the other hand, the movie is hardly original. The entire time I had the feeling that I had already seen the movie.

One of the best things about the movie is that they did some things that I had never thought they would get away with. They made fun of creationism. They showed Bart naked (and yes I mean you get to see his penis). In the end, Homer gives someone the finger. Gotta love it.

So, should you watch the movie? If you’re a Simpsons fan – chances are you already did. Anyway, if you like the show, you’ll probably like the movie. But do not expect a revolution in animation movies.

Harry Potter and the Somthing of Something

So I have a (small) confession to make. I actually watched a Harry Potter movie in China. I have no idea what it was called. If they displayed the title during the intro, I missed it. Or maybe it was Chinese.

What, may you ask, drove me to such insanity?

Clearly I had no desire to actually see the movie. Nor had the lady who accompanied me. But when we got to the cinema in Beijing late in the evening, it was the movie in English that had not yet started. Tickets were 50 Yuan each, if I recall correctly.

The movie’s plot is fairly simplistic. Potter’s school gets taken over by a headmistress who, for no real reason, begins to enact all kinds of totalitarian rules and tortures the pupils. When she cancels the practical use of magic in class, the kids band together, and Harry Potter becomes their substitute teacher. (“If we don’t learn how to use magic, how can we defend ourselves from the evil villain?”).

The kid’s voluntary studies are uncovered by the school’s staff, and their secret classroom is betrayed by Potter’s romantic side plot, a Chinese chick. (Why is it that the foreigners are always the traitors? It doesn’t help that the betrayal is explained much later as not the girl’s fault; Harry never looks at the girl again, and there’s hardly any closure of the issue.)

But t doesn’t really matter because, uhm, something happens (the movie doesn’t really explains any of it; the characters act basically on pure divine inspiration in the form of Potter’s nightmares) and a small group of children (and later adult wizards) confront whatever-his-name-was in a magic ministry. Epic battle and all. Whatever.

So there’s a lot of problems with the movie. I’ve already mentioned the Chinese girl. And I shan’t get into the idiocy of the basic storyline (kids with little twig wands… meh). But there are other issues. The plot has no real beginning or ending, and there’s hardly any substance to it, the climactic battle sucks too. The adults take over from Potter; nothing gets resolved, and when the movie ends we’re basically back to where we were before it started. And did I mention that the characters are incredibly annoying? All of them; there is not a single character that doesn’t get on the viewer’s nerves after about three seconds of screen time.

There are of course also some highlights to the movie. The imagery is quite nice in several scenes (the magical school / castle’s well designed, especially the aerial views). But that is hardly a reason to waste money and time on the movie. No, the real highlight of the movie is that it eventually ends.

I guess I have seen worse movies. But I’d be hard-pressed to name one.

The bottom line is: Yeah, I was right, Harry Potter sucks cold donkey balls.