Category Archives: Movies

weekly rounds

  • This weekend I discovered that there is such a thing as gothic tribal bellydancing, and my life is enriched. Trust me on this. And if you somehow find yourself with a chance to check Naimah out live, just do it.
Naimah, cc by-nc-nd image by Chad VanPelt on Flickr
Naimah, cc by-nc-nd image by Chad VanPelt on Flickr
  • My catching Iron Man 2 this weekend was pretty much a given. It retained alot of the things that made the first movie great, while falling a bit short of the greatness of the first. That said, it was a thoroughly enjoyable flick, and still better than most “superhero” movie fare. Had they ditched most of the shoehorned-in Avengers movie setup to give Mickey Rourke‘s excellent Ivan Vanko more scenery to chew, as well as dropping some of the penultimate mass action sequences to extend the final battle, it might have been a near home run.

TIRMTPI2009BD #2 – G.I. JOE: Resolute

One of the summer “blockbuster” theatrical releases of the year was the live action G.I. Joe film. This garnered an initial amount of glee from fans who had been waiting a long time for said movie… which quickly turned to trepidation when it was discovered that it was a “reimagining” of the franchise, in much the same way as one might reimagine a Rolls Royce as a Hummer. I didn’t take the opportunity to see it myself, but sources I tend to trust in such matters found it to be fun and entertaining, if not a “good” movie.

G.I. JOE: Resolute DVD cover, via Amazon.com
G.I. JOE: Resolute DVD cover, via Amazon.com

Far and away the best result of the film’s existence was the creation of a limited animated series as a marketing tie-in, G.I. JOE: Resolute. This aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim segment throughout April, and is currently available both for viewing on Youtube (see below) and for sale on DVD. Produced in an anime style and scripted by the excellent Warren Ellis, Resolute is the most mature (and frankly, interesting) take on the franchise to date. As Ellis himself describes:

It’s a weird sort of telepod fusion of the cartoons and the comics, filtered through whatever I found interesting about the franchise. I altered a fair amount of stuff, including characters, to amuse myself and to meet the brief of producing a slightly more adult-oriented piece that used the franchise without being beholden to its other iterations (including the recent live-action film, completed and released after I finished writing this). Lots of people hated the changes I made, and many didn’t understand that I’d actually specifically made changes and moaned that I’d got the characters wrong. Hasbro, the client, have told me that they were very happy with RESOLUTE. So screw those other people. Heh.

The end result is a series that captures the universal awesome of the original cartoon, mixed with a more adult-oriented script. In the first episode alone, we have the deaths of two “name” characters, as well as Cobra Commander overcoming the perception that he and his organization are bumbling incompetents actually succeeding at a massive global-level terrorist event. While some of the episodes are hit or miss, the overall series is simply excellent, and represents the best thing to come out of the live-action movie.

All ten of the episodes are embedded below for your viewing pleasure:

2008 Hugo Award Winners

It would be remiss of me not to point out that the 2008 Hugo Awards were given out this past weekend at Denvention 3, the 66th World Science Fiction Convention. Here the results, from the official site:

  • Novel: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins; Fourth Estate)
  • Novella: “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s Dec. 2007; Subterranean Press)
  • Novelette: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean Press; F&SF Sept. 2007)
  • Short Story: “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s June 2007)
  • Non-fiction Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher (Oxford University Press)
  • Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman Illustrated by Charles Vess Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Paramount Pictures)
  • Semiprozine: Locus, edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi

While I will admit to great joy at the winners of some categories, and some disappointment at the winner of at least one other (don’t ask, because I’m not telling 😉 ), a hearty congratulations is extended to all for the recognition.

More linkage:

  • The final list of nominees in each category can be found here, and the the final tally of the breakdown of voting is here. The nominee page contains links to where all of the Novella, Novelette, and Short Story finalists can be read freely online.
  • Also, continuing what is now a Official Tradition, many of the nominated short stories, including four of the five final nominees, are available in free audio format in recent episodes of Escape Pod.
  • Finally, John Scalzi gives his irreverent take on his Hugo win and Hugo loss here, and io9 serves up a Hugo recap with pictures here.

Genius Party

I had the opportunity to see Genius Party last night at the Kennedy Center with Tom, who was generous enough to hook me up with his second ticket. Genius Party is an animated film anthology that made its American debut last night as a part of the Center’s Japan! culture + hyperculture Series. We arrived several minutes late, and so caught the tail end of a recorded video introduction from executive producer Eiko Tanaka, followed by a live introduction by the director of the last short in the anthology, Shinichiro Watanabe. The films:

  • Genius Party (directed by Atsuko Fukushima) – In hindsight, this is is difficult to describe. The program description calls it a “unique piece [that] expands from a theme based on the birth of an image.” I can tell you there were replicating spherical mud-sphere creatures, the chasing and consumption of glowing hearts, and a profound sense of whimsy. Good stuff.
  • Shanghai Dragon (directed by Shoji Kawamori) – A perpetually drooling, snot-nosed boy in a small village discovers he is the only human capable of using an alien artifact that summons into reality whatever is drawn with it. Then, giant robots attack. Yes. Very much an action-comedy piece, and great fun.
  • Deathtic 4 (directed by Shinji Kimura) – Undead child superheroes go on a quest to save the only living thing in their world, a frog, from hordes of tricycle-riding zombie police. I really don’t think anything else needs to be said. Hilarious.
  • Doorbell (directed by Yoji Fukuyama) – A high school student discovers that there is another him, that seems to arrive before him to his destinations. As a result, his friends and loved ones don’t detect his presence when he finally arrives. Gently philosophical and entertaining.
  • Limit Cycle (directed by Hideki Futamura) – We renamed this “Intermission,” because several people around us got up and left during it. Brilliant visuals and music, but a completely nonsensical mash-up of existential monologue and imagery that was far too long, and epitomized the phrase “bad poetry.” The only poor short of the bunch.
  • Happy Machine (directed by Masaaki Yuasa) – A baby discovers the falsehood behind the perceived reality of his home and mother, and the fantasy world that underlies it. And a loyal urine and defecate-consuming dog-plant. Bizarre, clever, and humorous, we both thought this was the best of the anthology.
  • Baby Blue (directed by Shinichiro Watanabe) – A love story about two high school students who skip class on the eve of a life changing event, and the childhood secret they share. Very touching and funny, and an excellent way to round out the films.

This was an excellent anthology, showcasing some brilliant storytelling, with the exception of Intermission. I’m hopeful that this is made available for purchase soon, as this collection is an great showcase of the medium for general audiences, and a must-see for animation enthusiasts. On the basis of this, I look forward to catching Genius Party Beyond at some point as well (a separate anthology world-premiering tonight at the Kennedy Center, that I’ll miss due to attending Farpoint).

Rating: a high **** (easily ***** if Intermission was purged from the bunch)

“Iron Man Lives Again”

I have returned from Dragon*Con, followed by a week-long infectious diseases board review course, and the first week back getting “plugged-in” at work again. There is much to tell. That said, I am compelled to comment on the recently released trailer for the upcoming movie Iron Man.

HAWESOME~!

Iron Man is, hands down, my favorite “superhero” character. This is due, I think, to several things: a combination of Tony Stark having to overcome his personal demons (alcoholism, among others) to both redeem himself and accomplish great things; the idea that his “powers” (armor) are self-made with great effort and constantly improved, as opposed to accidentally acquired or gained through a one-time event; and one of the most diverse menageries of villains of any comic book hero, ranging from the usual Marvel rogues gallery, to other armored villains (such as Iron Monger), to entities steeped in magic and mythology, most notably the Mandarin and Fin Fang Foom.

The ultimate truism of modern moviemaking is that one cannot judge anything about the final movie from it’s trailer. That said, I have been given hope that this adaptation may just fulfill the precedent set by the comics. Robert Downey Jr. plays Stark as an alcoholic prick. His “origin story” is updated to present-day Afghanistan from the original Vietnam, but appears to otherwise be intact. There are two iterations of his armor shown (the original low-tech clunky version and the “classic” streamlined version), with a third “weaponized” version rumored to make an appearance. For enemies, the main antagonist looks to be Obadiah Stane, the original Iron Monger, portrayed by Jeff Bridges. The effects, especially Iron Man in flight, appear to be stunning. And finally, at least for the trailer, someone had enough obvious brains to license the Sabbath song.

Ex-cellent. I am stoked, and hopeful. 5/2/08, indeed.

Rounds for 5/24/2007 – Pre-Balticon edition

I’m leaving for Balticon today, with a plethora of gameage and libations in tow. Laura will be joining me this evening, upon return from her Colorado trip, and some degree of gibbering madness will ensue.

If you’re not going, be sure to peruse the website to check out some of what’s going on. Things I’m looking forward to? The biggest, for me at any rate, is going to be hanging out with people both podcastery and authory. Michael and Evo are special guests this year, and there’s a whole podcasting track lined up. Notable things include on-site recordings of Wingin’ It and Geek Fu Action Grip, among many others. I have the pleasure of contributing an “evil” voice to the Mr. Adventure episode being recorded there, as well!

Other notables include author guests of honor Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, as well as events surrounding our favorite sculpturist Lisa Snellings-Clark, and her PoppetPlanet project. The science track is pretty stacked as well, which is great to see.

It will also be great to see Ronnie and his wife Lora again, as they are coming out for the convention as part of a vacation trip. Hopefully we’ll get some of his local gaming friends to make the trip up as well. Not that there will be any massive time for gaming available, but one can always hope… I think we’ll try to get a group together to see the glorious mess that will be Pirates 3 on Monday evening, as well.

If you can make it out, do so! If not, we’ll be in touch on the other side…

Rounds for 5/13/2007, Mother’s Day Edition

For those whom it is appropriate, I hope your Mother’s Day has been excellent!

It seems that Laura and I were remiss as to blogging about what was going on over the past couple of days before they actually occurred, but such is the way of things. Today marks the end of Public Service Recognition Week, a component of which included exhibits on the national mall in downtown Washington, DC. NASA had a big presence there, and a big part of that involved the James Webb Space Telescope that Laura‘s been working on lo’ these many years. Northrop Grumman brought out the full-scale model on Friday and Saturday, and Laura was one of the volunteers to enhance the model with her radiant beauty, as well as answer questions and educate an eager public about the project. In a brilliantly cool outreach idea, there were also Lego models of the JWST that people could come by and assemble with volunteers, which Laura had the pleasure of working with as well. I feel like they missed an opportunity by not having said Lego sets available for purchase on-site, although they did have flyers available with information on how to obtain them online. Many thanks to everyone who came out and stopped by, including Thomas of the Command Line Podcast, as well as author Rich White.

There were also numerous other NASA related exhibits, as well as those from other areas of public service. The various military branches had a large area of tents, vehicles and equipment on display. Aside from basking in the glorious exhibits of armored death-dealing machines, including the M1A2 Abrams tank and M109A6 Paladin mobile Howitzer, I also had the pleasure of talking with a representative of the Marine Corps Systems Command about current research into new components of front line first aid kits, specifically anticoagulant dressings for major traumatic wounds. Excellent stuff!
Smaller and lesser known public service agencies were represented as well. I was particularly enamored of the Mine Safety and Health Administration booth, which included an informational booklet on mine disasters of the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as several disturbingly illustrated flyers warning children not to explore abandoned mines, ride ATV’s into sand and gravel pits, or go swimming in abandoned quarries. Venomous snakes, steep drops, and submerged razor wire and circular saw blades abound!

Expect plenty of images related to the above to crop up on Laura’s and my Flickr accounts within the next few days.

Last night we spent some time at game night at the Family Game Store at Savage Mill in Savage, Maryland. We were introduced to two games we had not previously played, namely Citadels and Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, which we both enjoyed and look forward to playing again… in part, because Laura trounced me at both. Well, at least at Carcassonne… I also spent some time with at the nearby Ram’s Head Tavern, with some good company in the form of several former coworkers from Sinai, and some good drink in the form of Fordham’s Oyster Stout.

Finally, we saw Spiderman 3 today… I’m going to do a combo post with it and 300, but for now I’ll say that it was good, and a worthy successor to the previous two films.

Now, to sleep, and the FFF of another week!