Mi cro Rev iew s


January 2005

Men of Tomorrow by Gerald Jones -  This is the history of the comic book industry, how it was influenced and influenced American culture and the men responsible for it.  The focus is on four men.  Harry Donnefield, small time hustler who built DC Comics.  Jack Leibowitz, Donnefield's right hand man who would take the business to great heights and crushed anyone in his way.  Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two dreamers whose creation would launch an empire and nearly ruin them.  We also hear about the stories of Will Eisner, Bob Kane, Jack Kirby,  Stan Lee and others.  This is compelling.  A must read for any serious comic fan.

Man of Two Worlds: : My Life in Science Fiction and Comic by Julius Schwartz and Brian M. Thomsen - This is a history of the golden age of sf and the silver age of comics by a man who was there.  Schwartz discusses his times as an agent to some of the biggest names in speculative fiction.  He also explains how he created a new era for the heroes of DC.  Another treasure of information for any fan of  SF and comics. 

Very Bad Deaths by Spider Robinson -  Newspaper columnist Russell Walker is still trying to come to terms with the death of his wife when his old college roommate Zandor "Smelly" Zudie comes to visit.  Zudie asks for his help to stop a brutal murder.  With little information can Russell with the help of  Nika Mandic, a Vancouver policewoman prevent a gruesome crime.  Spider really shows his range here.  Although the traditonal humor is here, Spider creates one of the most scariest villians ever.  There is some great nail bitiing moments in this one.   Hopefully this is the beginning of a new series.

Elektra (Theatrical Film) - A good movie.  True to character as I remember her (I have not read any recent comics with Elektra).  Terence Stamp is great as Stick.

Medium (TV Series) -  This is interesting.  I like the fact the fact the character has a family and they play an important part in the stories. There is some real potential here.

Battlestar Galactica (TV Series) -  The show continues the quality established in the mini series.  Ron Moore continues telling a well thought out story.  This show was everything the original should have been.  Richard Hatch does a great job as a guest star.   

February 2005

Nostrilia by Cordwainer Smith -  Rod McBan, a farm owner on the planet Nostrilia, was facing legal troubles.  To solve them he had a computer help him buy the Earth.  Then a wild adventure starts while forces try to use Rod for their own ends.   A fun little romp in the world of Cordwainer Smith, full of intrigues and cats.  Always interesting.

Mirrormask (Theatrical Movie) - Helena, a young girl in circus family, dreams of running away to real life.  She gets into a fight with her mother who soon gets sick and is hospitalized.  She then finds herself in a fantasy world where the white queen is also sick and the dark queen is gaining power.  Helena decides to try to restore balance to this world which requires finding the mirror mask.  This is a film by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.  I got to see this at the Sarasota film festival. Its beautiful.  Made with the techs at Jim Henson Productions its right up there with Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.  Hopefully it will get a wide release.

The Thief Lord by Cynthia Funke (Readers Group Choice) -  Two orphans, Prosper and Bo, run away from an oppresive aunt to Venice, Italy.  The join up with some local runways who are led by the mysterious Thief Lord, Scipio. They are pursued by a comical detective.  Scipio is asked to do a job which will change them forever. The fantastic part comes at the end and it is well used.  There are some good characters and a great locale. Funke makes Venice comes alive.  The good get taken care of and the bad get the just desserts.  A good YA novel.

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett -  A fairy godmother dies and leaves her godchild in a mess.  Margrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg need to go Genua  to straighten things out.  Along the way they encounter some very similar situations involving  dwarfs, vampires, wolves,  and falling houses. They also have to deal  with being in foreign countries.  Can they stop Emberella from marrying the prince.  I really like the fact  I can enjoy a Discworld novel without having to read the books previous to it.  The jokes are great.  The trio of witches are great.  It is always fun reading Pratchett.

March 2005

Stan Lee and The Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book by Jordon Raphael and Tom Spurgeon - A history if the American comic book and Stan Lee's role in it.  It is all of Stan's strength and weaknesses. Something magical happened in comics in 1961 and Stan was a key player in it.  Another must read for comic fans.

Robots (Theatrical Movie) - Charming.  A fun little story.  Good cast.  A worthy Oscar contender.

Steam Boy (Theatrical Movie) - A very good steam punk alternative history.  The battle for the future takes place in 19th century London's Great Exhibition.  Issues are presented and argued.  One hopes that Ray and Scarlet worked to make a better world.  A lot of food for thought here.

April 2005

Steel Beach by John Varley - In the future humanity has been forced of the Earth by aliens.  They have relocated to other planets in the solar system.  They have all they could ask for.  For some it is not enough.  Hildy, a reporter on Luna, is bored with this life.  He tries to deal with it by switching his sex to suicide.   Hildy's attempts at suicide are prevented  by the central computer CC.  There are plots within plots.  Can Hildy find the answers.  Will Hildy find life worth living.  The plot rambles on occasions. The novel explores what is like to live in world where you can get anything.   Its  interesting to see the effect of Hildy's sex change has on his/her outlook.  I like there sect on the moon called the Heinleiners.  A good exploration of ideas.

The Companions  by Sherri Tepper (Reader's Group Choice) - In the future Earth is overpopulated.  The local floral and fauna are being evacuated to other planets to make room for off world retirees.  Jewel Delis a member of animal rights group get involved with an expedition to the planet Moss.  Moss has unusual life forms which Jewel's brother  Paul a linguist maybe able to communicate with. Jewel tags along with some dogs needing sanctuary.   There plots within plots and twist a plenty.  It is a page turner. New things keep happening such hostile aliens and extra dimensional portals.  I am little weary of Tepper's world view.  She seems to blame men for the world's ill (I missed it here someone had to point it out to me). I may pass on next one.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diane Wynn Jones -  Sophie Hatter is the oldest of three sister and apparently in this land doomed to failure.  She soon is the victim of the Witch of the Waste and is aged 80 years.  Sophie ends up in the moving castle of the wizard Howl.  Howl has a wicked reputation but is more vain than evil.  Sophie becomes his cleaning women.  She tries to find the connection between Howl and the fire demon Calcifer.  If Sophie can find it she maybe to regain her youth. Its a fun novel.  Great characters.  Great world and a lot of wit.  The King's logic to employ slacker Howl despite Sophie's attempt to dissuade him is priceless.  Cannot wait to see Miyazaki's take on this in June.      

May 2005

Tori Amos: Piece by Piece by Tori Amos and Ann Powers -  An interesting look in the mind of one of  the great musicians of our times.  This books gives Tori's view on myth, religion, art, image and the music industry.  Well put together.

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Theatrical Film) -  Went to this with some apprehension but came out with a big smile on my face.  There is no true interpretation of Guide so the film version is bound to be different from other incarnations.  The added parts that seem like things Adams would have thought up.  Nice touch to have Simon Jones, Douglas Adams (still picture) and the original Marvin costume.  Hope we get the to more.

Full Metal Alchemist (TV Series) - Another thing I had some apprehension over the first time I saw it.  It turns out to be an excellent series.  Great characters.  Mustang rules.  Another great series presented on the Cartoon Network.  Hope we get more epsiodes soon.

Batman: Dark Detective (Comic Mini-Series) -  You can go home again.  The team of Englehart, Rogers and Austin take up where the left Batman in the late 70s.  We get to see one of the best Batman leading ladies of all time Silver St. Cloud (right up there with Selina Kyle and Talia).  We have some of the great villians in the mix.  We are in for a great ride.

Hercules (TV Movie) -  A less Disneyfied version of the hero of Thebes.  I am rusty on my Greek myths so I am hazy on the deatils.  I do remember that while Hera and Zeus were not on the best terms I do not remember them competting for followers.  Some of the CGI could have been better.  A mixed bag.

The Iron Council by China Mieville (Hugo Nominee) -  The third journey in the world of New Corbuzon.  Years ago workers on railroad revolted and escaped to parts unknown on a train.   In New Corbuzon there is great unrest becuase of the war with the Tesh.  Judah Law, who was with rebels on the train, goes to search for the Iron Council (the rebels on the train).  While Law goes on the search, rebellion erupts in New Corbuzon.  Can these rebels hold out till the Iron Council reaches New Corbuzon?  This book was hard to get into.  As usual there are some interesting bits.  I may be wary of another trip to New Corbuzon.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Theatrical Film) -  A satisfying conclusion to the series.  Worth waiting for.  I like how Anakin was manipulated by his fears into falling into the dark side.  Best perfomance was from McDiarmid.  Cannot wait to get the whole series in one boxed set.  Hope one of the new TV series explores how the Alliance rises to oppose the Empire.

June 2005

Howl's Moving Castle (Theatrical Film) - Studio Ghibli does it again. It does take some liberties with the book but they work. Its great that the castle looks better at the end since it is built on a pure foundation.  Must get on DVD.

Batman Begins (Theatrical Film)- You can do a Ra's Al Guhl story without Talia.  This film makes one forget the travesty that was Batman and Robin.   While we do not have the great design of Burton this works as well.  If anything the film's design is less distracting.  Everything about this was great.  A new era of Batman.

Lost  (TV Series) - I can understnad why people are into this.  There something interesting stuff with the characters.  I am just not hooked.  Will catch when I can.

Paranoia Agent (TV Series) - Not a typical anmie, artwise and story wise.  The viewer is dragged in trying to find out what is going on.  Its great how the stories all seem to be tied in together.  What brings forth this force that comes when individuals are at the end of their rope.  This I want to find out.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Hugo Nominee) - In the early nineteenth century Mr. Norrell wanted to revive English magic on his own turns.  He succeeds somewhat. Norrell takes on a student Jonathan Strange.  Strange favor a more proactive approach towards magic.  Strange demonstrates his abilities by assiting Wellington in the Peninsular War.  Eventually Strange and Norrell quarrell on where English magic should go and how it relates to John Uskglass aka the  Raven King, once England's most powerful magician.  This schism takes on incredible dimensions as Norrell tries to discredit Strange.  This is an epic.  Clarke has a slow buildup which takes off in the end. One has to be patient for this one.  I also like the take Clarke has on faery.

July 2005

War of the Worlds (Theatrical Film) - An interesting combination of the novel, 1938 radio show and the George Pal film.  Its great to see the red weed realized.  I still not clear on why the tripod crews had to be "beamed" in.  There some really scary moments.  Tom Cruise did a good job playing a slacker trying to cope.  Pretty good film.

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay -  Five Canadians are recruited to go a medieveal fantasy world to help the locals. This is the first of triology.  I may read the rest of it.  What I like is that the people chose to come rather that being shanghaied.  It is also not a Tolkien copy.

Fantastic Four (Theatrical Film) - Not a great film.  Not a bad one though.  The characterization seemed to be right.   I think they script was tweekeed well.   It was great when Reed uses his brain to stop Doom.  Dare we hope for a sequel with the Silver Surfer and Galactus.

McLibel (Theatrical Film) -  An eye opening film.  It is the classic story of David and Goliath.   Goliath is played  by McDonald and David is to activist who refuse to be bullied.  I challenge anyone to see this film and eat a Big Mac again.

August 2005

The Tenth Victim by Robert Sheckley -  Imagine a future where there is is an international dueling game.  It is a life or death struggle.  One player gets randomly selected to hunt and kill another player.  Certain rewards and rights come with the the tenth kill.  American Caroline Meredith is on the verge of her tenth kill.   Italian Marcello Polletti is the target.  Who will win?  Aside from the serious action there is a lot of humor and satire in this one.  One can see why Skeckley is the one of the greats of humourous SF.  The opening hunt sequence is incredible.  Must read the rest of the series.

Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling -  Well there are quite of few surprises.  The big one I am not sure about.  I see plans within plans.  It is nice to see the characters settle down romantically.  The relatiosnhips make sense.  This is all preperation for the big climax in the next book.  I am sure there will be more surprises waiting for us in a few years time. 

Sky High
(Theatrical Film) -  Best live action Disney film in years.  The casting in this is just perfect.  Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Bruce Campbell and Lynda Carter are made for these roles.  The story is a classic John Hughes high school romp.  There are certain things in the plot that were pretty obvious.  Hope to see Ms. Carter playing Hyppolite in the Wonder Woman film.

Mindswipe by Robert Sheckley - Marvin Flynn wanted to visit Mars and saw ad for a Martian's desire to mindswap.  Marvin goes through with and discovers his body has been stolen by a criminal. He has to find work to support himself.  Marvin's only hope is a police detective with 158 unsolved cases.  Sheckley was said to be an inspiration to Douglas Adams.  Here you can see it.  There laughs on almost every page. 

Japan Sinks by Sakyo Komatsu -  A small island near Japan's coast dissappears into the sea.  An investigation discovers that a geologic catastrophe will fall on on the Japanese home islands.  A series of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions will sink Japan.  The Japanese face the lost of their home and possible their identity.  This novel sinks home after the recent disaster in New Orleans.   There are hard questions that people must face with the lost of their home.  At the same time there is a time for courage in the disaster.  The novel, now over 30 years old, is frighteningly relevant.  The only bad thing is according the copy of the book I read it is abridged.  Would like to read the full version.

Brothers Grimm
(Theatrical Film) - This a great visual feast.  I think the story is strong.  I like how all the classic plots and images of the Grimm's fairy tales are interwoven in the piece  Also nice to see the lead characters develop during the film.. 

The Old Twentieth  by Joe Haldeman -  Immoratality was discovered.  Unfortunately its existance caused a war between the haves (immortals) and the have nots (non immortals).  This led to the wiping out of the non immortals and humanity was reduced to about 200 million people.  Some of these immortals decide to leave the solar system and to explore a newly discovered world.  Jake Brewer one of the immortals on this trip mans a time machine.  This time machine is a very sophisticated virtual reality device which takes persons to the pasts.  The past world are from the twentieth century, the last century beofre immortality.  Haldeman does a great job of making the past come to life.  However something is happening in the time machine.  People are dying and odd thing show up during seissions.  Cna Jake figure it out before its too late.  As usual the prose and characters are great.  The ending is a surprise and makes more sense when you think about it.  The book takes an interesting journey through the last century.

Jhereg by Steven Brust - Vlad Taltos is a professional assassin.  He worked his way up to the top.  Taltos had a talent for witchcraft which is looked down upon.  He also possess a jhereg named Loiosh.  Loiosh is a dragonlike creature linked to Taltos mentally.  Taltos has build up an impressive organization.  he has a vast array of resources and contacts.  Taltos gets a commission to kill an embezzler for for one of the ruling clans.  This puts him in the middle of intrigue.  All is not what it seems.  Taltos is on a deadline.    Faliure could make him a target.  This was great fun.  This fantasy is not a Tolkien rip off.  The characters and plot are very smart.  Taltos has a powerful mind which outshines his physical and even magical power.  Great to see a thinking hero.

September 2005

Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde -  Thursday Next is now part of Jurisfiction exchange program.  She is substituting for a side kick in work in progress.   Something however is afoot in the bookworld.  Grammer is running out of control.  A new book format is coming out.  A minotaur is on the loose.  Some agents of Jurisfiction are being done in. Can Thursday figure it out in time.  Will she forget her husband Landen?   Always a blast.  Just as good as any Bond novel.

Bones (TV Series) -  Interesting.  Great to see David Boreanaz again.  Like the lead.  Wondering if the premise will work as a series.  Then again this is based on a book series so it could work.

My Name is Earl (TV Series) -  Great.  Possibly the funniest show on broadcast TV.  Jason Lee is great as a slacker who discovers karma.  This feels very Kevin Smith influenced.

Supernatural (TV Series) -  First episode was OK. Still not drawn to watch it regularly.

Victim Prime by Robert Sheckley -  Another novel in the world of the 10th Victim.  In 2092, Harold Erdman leaves upstate New York for the Carribean island of Esmeralda.  There the hun is institutionaized.  Harold hopes to make a living with the Hunt and help out the folks back home.  Will he survive his first hunt?  Another fun romp with Sheckley.  The hunt TV show is hilarious. 

Ghost Whisperer (TV Series) - A Medium clone.  The protagonist powers are more clearly defined.  The camera just loves Jennifer Love Hewitt.  Its fun although first two episodes get weepy.  Could be a fun distraction.

Quest of Three Worlds by Cordwainer Smith -  Casher O'Neill is looking for aid to liberate his home world Mizzer.  Doing so brings him to some interesting places.  O'Neill eventually comes to world where he is asked to kill a young girl.  There O'Neill may find what he needs or his own destruction.  Like the title says a quest story.  There are some great twists.  The last part was fascinating even though it is loosely tied to the other parts.  Another intersting part of this universe.

October 2005

Stormfront by Jim Butcher -  Harry Dresden is a licensed wizard and private investigator who never seems to catch a break.  He is on probabtion from his fellow wizards.  Dresden is mistrusted in normal world.  He gets involved in case which may alleviate his financial situation but may also kill him in the process.  During this he will encounter an attractive occult reporter, a fairy, a vampire madam,  an obnoxious wizard council enforcer and a talking skull.  Can harry get through this without have to kill or be killed.  Like the fact they use Chicago rather than some other overused cities I could mention.   This OK as fantasy detective story.  I felt sorry for how things are just stacked against Harry.

(Theatrical Film) - Intense but it seems like a roller coaster. A lot of spectacle but a thin plot.  Like many films it is trying to top itself in every scene.  There could have been a real story of the turbulent life of Domino Harvey.  The makers of this film settle for an action romp.

Light by M. John Harrison - Michael Kearney is a scientist in 1999 who is killing people at random and trying to get back together with his wife.  In the future Seria Mau Genlicher is actually a spaceship, called a K-ship, named The White Cat.  She is trying to find a way out of her current state of existance.  At the same time Ed Chianese is living in his own virtual world.  He is trying to evade people he owes money too.  Chianese is forced to come out his world and escape his creditors.  Somehow all of these stories will eventually connect.  It is intresting to see how theses three very different story lines comes together.  The future worlds are really cool.  There is somebreathe taking stuff.  Need to look into some more Harrison.

Planetes (TV Series/Anime) -Reviewed in November 2005 Event Horizon.

Mirrormask (Theatrical Film) -Reviewed in November 2005 Event Horizon.

Night Stalker (TV Series) -  There some real scares here.  Its the regulars I have hard time with.  Perry is too hard on Kolchak.  The man lost his wife and is trying to find answers.  She could give a bit more leeway.  Sponitz is trying to create a new Scully and Mulder.  He forgot that Scully always gave Mulder his head believing that they would the truth. 

Protector by Larry Niven (Readers' Group Choice)  - An apparent alien is coming into the solar system.  A belter tries to intercept.  He is not only captured by the alien but the alien food supplies changes him to an alien.  What will he do next.  Niven does it again with great alien design.  The pak is throughly alien yet understandable.  This is a great romp in the playground that is Known Space.

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde - Thursday Next decides to return home to Swindon.  She goes back to her old job.  Meanwhile one of her enemies is trying to run for dictador.  At the same time there is anti Denmark fervor in the country and Thursday is stuck with Hamlet trying to work out his agnst .Her father tells her to beware of assassins and to prevent a diaster with the election.  The fate of the world maybe decide by the a croquet match.  Can Thrusday save the day and find her husband who has been erased?  A satisfying conclusion the the Thrusday Next series.  A throughly humorous series and one which rejoices in the written word.

Anansi Boys
by Neil Gaiman -  Fat Charlie Nancy's father was fun to be around but an embarassment to his son.  Becuase of his father he got stuck with the name Fat Charlie.  His father dies a kareoke bar. Fat Charlie goes to Florda for the funeral and discovers he has a brother.  Back in London, fat Charlie has to deal with a hostile future mother in law and a obnoxious boss who is crook who speakes in cliches.  He calls on his brothe Spider who is a party animal and messes up Charlie's life. Charlie finds out his father was Anansi the trickster god. Charlie goes back to Florida and asks for help to get rid of his bother and that when all hell breaks loose. Then coems an ivestigation from the frauad squad, murder and a resolution in the island of St. Andrews.  This is the most humourous of Gaiman's solo novels.  Great British humor.  Its great how it all comes together at the end.  Did a good job of capturing small Florida towns.  Another Gaiman tour de force.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking (TV Movie) - The game is afoot again.  A very good original story told in the Doyle style.  Everet is agreat Holmes.       

November 2005

Good Night and Good Luck (Theatrical Film) -  An interesting look at some history.  Everything looks from that period Do not understand why the had the couple's storyline included.  Maybe as a sign of the times? 

Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Theatrical Film) -Brilliantly funny.  Though once I would like to a segment of the guys putting together their gadgets.  Once of the best animated films of the year.

Doctor Who: City of Death (DVD) -  One of the all time classics.  I think it was a great opportunity to discuss Douglas Adams contribution to the series.  Great commentary and documemtary, although wish Tom and Lalla could have contributed.  Like the use of the Adams style in documentary.  Great skit film about the second to last Jagoroth.

December 2005

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams -  Someone explodes at Heathrow Airport.   The fun starts from their.  Dirk Gently gets involved with a case which involves gods and a dead record producer.  Its weird.  Its Wacky.  Its hilarious.  After watching City of Death and reading this makes me really miss Adams.

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (Theatrical Film) -  They did a good job putting the essentials of the book in the movie.  It was scary where it was supposed to be.  Voldernot is the villian to beat.  They just keeping getting better.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (Theatrical Film) - Excellent.  faithfull to work and even adds to it.  The movie fills in the gaps Lewis had in the book.  There is some depth given too the kids.  This is well cast.  Good CGI and good songs on the soundtrack.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - OK I never got around to reading the books.  So I bought the whole thing in a big trade.  Its incredible.  Even though I had seen 4 of the books adapted  by BBC I was still turning the pages. Between the Space series and  Chronicles, there is great improvement in technique.  I am, like many upset about Susan's fate but still impressed by it overall.  This work is deserves its reputation.

King Kong
(Theatrical Film)  -  Good. Some things bugged me.  Driscoll going into the jungle unarmed to find Ann.  The National Guard shooting artillery rounds in the air in Manhatten.  Still we see a very realistic Kong.  I like the fact he has scars.  No pretty boy Ape here.  Effects pretty good.  At least the use the time to develop characters.  Worthy of Jackson.

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