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Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Word of the day: Sunk

Long Story Short: Owen hurt the feelings of an ineffable monster in another dimension.

As a general principle the second novel is more important than the first. Anyone can write an interesting book, given enough effort and time. The amount of people who a second interesting book is much smaller. (Of course Larry is far beyond this at this point.) If The Empire Strikes Back had been a flop we would not have Star Wars as a thing these days. Vendetta succeeds at this. Many of the writing bad habits that bothered me from the first book have been ironed out. (Although, Larry still used “Stated” for about a third of dialogue tags. Just one of my pet peeves.) The gun lingo has been dialed down but is still ever present. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, every writer loves their own expertise a little more than their readers. I do remember a time or two where I felt I was missing something by not know what the gun a particular character pulled out looked like.
Pacing is less breakneck than the first book. It was nice to have time to puzzle out the mystery before revelation.
Vendetta isn’t shy about hitting the emotion button.

Last Word: Smile.

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Word of the day: Shoot.

Long Story Short: A guy who likes to shoot gets to shoot monsters.

One of the all time great opening lines. The language is rough, this was Larry’s first published book. I recommend people start with either Hard Magic or Son of the Black Sword if you want to see what Larry Correia is all about. But really, you read Correia for the action. Some of the best action scenes I’ve read. This is really heavy in gun terminology I hear that he backs off on that in the later books as he is aiming for a wider audience. (Scatter damage is better against

I read this in the Monster Hunters Omnibus so I didn’t know when the end was coming. As things were ratcheting up near the end I kept finding myself going, “Okay, this is it he can’t get bigger than this.” and kept being wrong. I’m not sure if I can recommend this because the book is heavy, it makes it harder to smuggle into work.

There is a slight language advisory, Larry swears like a dairy farmer, but there isn’t too much in this book. (Although it was more than his other worlds.)

Last Word: Pitt.

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True Talents

True Talents by David Lubar

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Long story short: The consequences of having psychic powers starts to hit the group.

This is a different animal from Hidden Talents. We get the POV of various characters and the stakes are much higher. It is less focused because of this but Lubar manages to tie all the threads together. My favorite part of this book is that the boys have ambition, well most of them. They are working toward a goal, they have a plan.

The great thing about the Talents series (of which I hope we get another book so we can figure out what this “pattern” stuff is all about) is how lowkey it is about the powers. They aren’t flying around saving the world. They are just kids trying to figure crap out.

Major Bowdler is an interesting character, he’s motivated by pride but thinks he is teaching people lessons. From all I’ve read of Lubar his major project is exploration of pride. (Even the gameboy Frogger Adventures he wrote for.)

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Trigun #1

Long story short: On a inhospitable planet colonized by humans, the force of nature known as Vash The Stampede tries to save everyone who is trying to kill him, while being pursued by two intrepid insurance adjusters.

I luckily found this and volume 2 at a thrift store. There was also a whole shelf of Narutos, but Naruto is kinda the point of no return. (Don’t worry I looked away for a second and the Narutos had disappeared, they are off running at a tilt somewhere.) I’m not sure if I would have picked it up had I not already seen the animation. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on, if the pacing were pulled back a little I think it would have worked better.

One interesting thing here is that they reveal the nature of Vash and the Plants much earlier than in the show. This is a good thing I think. My position is that if you have a cool idea it’s always better to give your readers that cool idea as soon as possible. Nothing is more annoying than a story chanting, “I’ve got a secret.”

Anyway, depending on your tolerance of manga this is a great one.

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I’m going to be spoilery so go see Amazing SpiderMan 2. I personally forbid you from reading any further if you haven’t seen it. Not that I have any power over that. At the end of the day you have to make your own decisions. Just in case you don’t want spoilers but are one of those people who can’t control themselves and feel compelled to read past warnings I’m going to ramble a bit before I get to any real spoilers. Also I’m a rambler, do with that what you must.

It’s too much to ask that a story be the same when it is told in a different medium. It is even too much to ask that a story is the same when told in the same medium to different people. Even the same person approaching the story at different times will see it differently. It isn’t too much to ask that the spirit of the story remains across mediums. Yes, spirit is hard to codify. Impossible to universalize. Difficult to understand and reproduce. We can tell when they don’t even try though. (Cough Shamelion’s Last Airbender movie cough hack.) Adaptation is a form of scholarship, when you make a movie about something you are also making a statement about it. The whole point is to show the initiated a new side to it we haven’t seen and to advertise the rest of the story to those new to it. Also the point is to make money, don’t forget the money.

Now, SpiderMan is huge, it’s a concept and a story that has more words and pictures about it than most other things. When you go and make a SpiderMan something you are adding to an already large body of work. It is multi-faceted and has had many authors. The only reason we can say it is the same thing is it shares the title. I find it funny when people talk about cannon as if it were a real thing when it comes to things like this. There is no one real SpiderMan. Different versions hold different treasures for different people.

ASM 2 is the most SpiderMan movie ever made. The scholarship into the earliest issues of ASM shows. They hit on all the points that made SpideMan a top tier hero from the earliest days of Marvel. He’s not just strong he’s a scientist. He’s not just a nerd but he’s also good with women. (That was a part sorely lacking from the Maguire movies.) He climbs walls and builds gadgets. His fighting style is half psychological half tactical. He has to save the world and struggle to pay the bills. He’s both warrior and detective. Andrew Garfield’s interpretation is spot on for the SpiderMan who lives in my head.

Jamie Foxx gives a whole new angle to Max Dillon. It’s great that he was already fixated on SpiderMan before gaining powers. The original Max Dillon was a jerk of a lineman who wouldn’t climb a power pole to save a man’s life till they paid him to. Then after gaining powers decides to rob banks, because why not? I love that this interpretation is a terminally lonely dude who is so lonely that he doesn’t know how to interact with people anymore. I feel for him because I’m much the same way. A good villain is a tragedy.

It did disappoint me that what put him over the edge was a sniper with an itchy trigger finger. Those don’t really come in that variety. Snipers are the most disciplined shooters in the world. It’s a terribly overused trope. I’d rather have had SpiderMan make the mistake, being caught in a lie or making an ill timed aggressive move. It would have been better for the hero/villain symmetry.

A major issue the movie has which didn’t bother me in the least is the fifth act tacked on to a four act structure. The movie really ends when Electro is defeated. That’s the yay moment where we can all go home happy. For many kids the movie Bambi ends with Mom hitting the eject button at a certain happy point. The second the screen turns green is when the setup for the Sinister Six movie starts. I don’t blame them for doing it this way, it gets some major plot points out of the way so they can hit the ground running next time. I think this will be less of an issue when a person can sit down and watch them together. (Unless they screw up the Sinister Six which is going to be tricky considering Too Many Villains Disease.)

Also I don’t think this particular movie suffers from TMVD as I have read from other sources. It has two villains and a bunch of henchmen. The Rhino is just a henchman and was there in the end to show us that SpiderMan got his groove back.

Gwen Stacy didn’t have to die.

Emma Stone has the speed and delivery to keep up with Garfield which was important in their exposition scenes. I want more of her being Gwen. I want more Gwen running around being smarter than SpiderMan keeping him grounded in reality.

People who love the early SpiderMan comics have a Gwen shaped hole in their hearts. Now hopefully they pulled it off well enough in these movies that people who loves these movies will have a similar one. Not because I think it is good to have holes in your heart, but no I do think it is good to have holes in your heart. Good holes I mean, not the surgery-needing kind, metaphorical ones make you a person who cares about things and people.

Anyways, ASM 2 is my favorite movie so far this year and I foresee it being one of my favorites in the future. 2 has turned out to be a good number for Spidey. You have to understand that I’m a hardcore SpiderFan. “With great power comes great responsibility” is in my code of honor. Know that I am seeing this through the eyes of love, and love forgives.

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Yes there is something after the credits, and it’s worth waiting for.

Monsters University may just be the best University/Sports movie of all time. Hyperbole out of the way it does many things right. I heard a great deal of groans when it was announced, despite the beloved classic Monsters Inc. was, people are weary of sequels. Disney sequels especially. The presence of the sequels included with the recent Blu-ray releases of the Disney films makes some people not want them at all. Planes comes out soon, Finding Dory is on the horizon. We may even get Wall-S, Braver, The Uncredibles, or perhaps even . . . A Bug’s Death. (Cast after A Death of a Salesman, as A Bug’s Life was cast after The Seven Samurai. Poor Flick is old and never lived up to his great potential. Flick Jr. and Biff don’t know how to help him. You get that one free Disney/Pixar if you promise not to actually make it.)

But Pixar is good at sequels. The trick to a good sequel that wasn’t planned from the beginning is to not try to replicate the first movie. To try to find a different story to tell with the same characters. Toy Story 2 could have been Buzz and Woody spending all their time coping with the new dog. Vying for Andy’s attention against a new, more compelling toy. It would have been the same story again. Instead we got a story about toys that aren’t played with, owned by a man who only see them as investments. Toy Story 3 gives us something new also, Andy moving on is an ineffable reality instead of the danger they were fighting against in the first movie. It was about coping with an unavoidable change of life. Not that they have a perfect record, Cars 2 seemed more like an extended CarsToon. (As some of the Disney “sequels” were just reprints of tv episodes.) They’ve earned my trust with sequels.

And another thing, “prequels” are usually actually just sequels. They just happen to be sequels that chronologically happened before the events of the quel. Rarely are they designed to be seen first. It angers me to find many omnibus versions of The Chronicles of Narnia putting The Magician’s Nephew before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Sure it happened before, but it isn’t the introduction to Narnia that LWW is. It is written to an audience that has already had much adventures in Narnia and knows Aslan. The Star Wars prequels mean much less when you haven’t seen Darth Vader’s redemption.

The thing about MU, is it treats the characters seriously. Yep, it’s silly it’s filled with all the Monsters gags, as well as the University gags. But the movie doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to consequences. Most movies do. The thing with consequences is they are vital to storytelling and it’s something that has been lacking of late. The more common way of talking about consequences when it comes to story is resolution. The ring falls into Mt. Doom and the movie is over after a quick “where are they now” montage, even though that happens halfway through Return of the King. They should put MU on the syllabus in film schools right away.

MU can also be seen as a treatise on the conflict between Talent and Education. There is a need for both, although Education — or better stated, Hard Work — is the more important. But it is fascinating when someone without talent works and works. (I guess that’s why they make movies about it.)

Yes, the film is hung on a frame. It follows the script of a University/Sports movie quite well. It’s plot has been seen so many times before. Why does a creator do that? Can’t they come up with something unique and new? My incomplete answer is: the reason to hang your story on a frame/form like that is because you want to 1. comment on said frame. 2. tell a story without worrying about the plot. There is more to story than plot. In fact the only time you don’t use one of the standard plots is when you want people to comment on what a wonderful non-regular plot you have. Heller . . . cough, cough . . . 22. Nothing wrong with that, but if you have something to say about education, as MU does then it is far easier to say that with a stock frame.

I think Monsters University strikes a wonderful balance between their high concept arty style (Wall-E, Up) and their gag-filled fun style (Cars, Rat-patootie). All of their movies have heart though, that’s why even the weaker ones are loved and successes.

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Art

I’m an art collector. I guess that would be the easiest way to blanket explain my many hobbies. There is plenty of discussion about whether a thing is art or not. The trouble with this is it makes ART a medal you hang on the things you like. It’s fine to have such a thing. Such medals are important to help us sort through the pile of stuff vying for out interest. This creates the need for taste makers (or as @howardtayler recently put it signal boosters) or more classically, critics. But the critic’s job isn’t to tell people whether a given thing is art or not. It is their job to tell us whether it is good art. You see making the word art mean whether something is good or not moves it a slot up in the language and leaves a void where art used to be. Once we make “art” the medal that we hang on . . . pieces, things, stuff . . . we then have to struggle to find a word to fill that void. So know that when I say art I use it in the broadest sense.

Anyway, yesterday I was long overdue to go grocery shopping. I had been down to ramen noodles and costco chilli. It was also my birthday so I was in the mood for something fun. I’m very impulsive (just part of the whole ADD thing) and so largely everything I wanted I already owned. I’m also suffering from a bulk of stuff at the moment and I’m trying to reduce. Still something fun and new is what a birthday is for, so I had to look a little while. I was also a little low on cash because of the Girl Genius kickstarter. (I’ll do more on kickstarter in general another day.)

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That is where this set caught my eye. I have a lot of Legos. I really should start a Lego photo comic just for fun. My large amount of legos can sometimes lessen my desire to buy more. Plus sometimes Legos can be expensive, and the cheaper sets can sometimes seem a little spare. This one was $12 and it was a fantastic deal because it is a great set. First off you get SuperMan and Zod. Usually these sets have a major character paired with a grunt, often a nameless grunt. You usually have to buy the big, major battle, 50–100 dollar set to get the major villain in a property. Second it comes with a sweet car. I think this is my favorite Lego car since the Knight Bus from Harry Potter. I think this car is going to get the honor of not being dismantled and sorted. (Which I do with most of my sets.) Zod has taste.

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