Micro Reviews

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January 2009

The Hudsucker Proxy (Theatrical Film) - This was a fun film. Newman was a great villain. Jennifer Jason Leigh was great as a fast talking reporter.

Lie to Me (TV Series) - This is interesting. Supposedly the ideas of the show are based on real science. It a another variation of the smartest man in the room show which was pioneered by House. The characters , with the exception of the guy who is completely honest, are interesting.

Saturn's Children: A Space Opera by Charles Stross - Reviewed in the February 2009 Event Horizon.

Cool Hand Luke (Theatrical Film) - The classic rebel film. Luke is a man who can not be crushed.

Loving Leah (TV Movie) - This was a sweet little love story. I like the fact Ricki Lake played a reformed rabbi. People with strong religious beliefs were treated with respect.


February 2009

Coraline (Theatrical Movie) - A great adaptation of the book. The use of 3D was not distracting. Definitely one of the best films of the year.

The Long Lavender Look by John D. MacDonald - On their way back from a wedding, Travis and Meyer nearly run over a young woman. Travis' truck, Miss Agnes, is stuck. While getting help to get his truck out, Travis is accused of a local murder. Travis investigates the murder while out on bond. A good action adventure. It is nice bringing Travis back to Florida.

Goin' Fishing by Walter Mosley - We see of Easy Rawlins past in this book. As a teenager he goes to help Mouse get his inheritance from his stepfather. Easy knows this is trouble but goes to help his friend. The plot moves quickly. It is an interesting picture of pre-World War II Texas.

Fanboys (Theatrical Film) - Reviewed in the March 2009 Event Horizon.

Dollhouse (TV Series) - Its a very interesting concept. I want to know where Whedon and company want to take it. I hope they get the chance. Eliza Dushuku does a good job of portraying different people. The rest of the cast is also interesting Topher is irritating. I hope they tone him a bit. My only question given the fact the name of the actives are from the phonetic alphabet, are they on 26 of them at the time?

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Reviewed in the March 2009 Event Horizon.

March 2009

Ashes to Ashes (TV Series) - A worthy successor to the British version of Life on Mars. Keely Hawes is great as Alex Drake.  She has good chemistry with Philip Glenister.  Hunt and Drake is very interesting partnership.  It fun to look back at era I have memories of.

A Tan and Sandy Silence by John D. MacDonald – An acquaintance comes to Travis McGee asking about his wife.  He comes armed.  Travis decides to look into the wife’s disappearance. There he finds a complex business scheme which people are willing to die for.  As always a fun adventure.

Watchmen (Theatrical Film) - Reviewed in the April 2009 Event Horizon.  

Bad Boy Brawley Brown by Walter Mosley – Easy Rawlins is asked by a friend to finds his stepson, Brawley Brown.  Brown has gotten mixed up with a radical political organization.  This group may have more than politics on its mind.  Easy has to figure out what is going on before Brown is in too deep.  This is a good mystery with some social commentary thrown in.  Easy has to deal with his feelings over the disappearance of his best friend Mouse.   Mouse is a still a powerful force in Easy’s life even when he is gone.

Through the Looking Glass by John Ringo – An explosion destroys the University of Central Florida in Orlando.  A series of portals to other worlds open up all over the United States.  Some very unfriendly entities start coming through these portals.  Dr. William Weaver, a physicist, and a team of soldiers and scientists try to figure out how to shut down the portals before the hostile forces overwhelm us.  An engrossing read.  Ringo does a good job depicting the action and the military response.  Itis great to have a story set where I live despite the fact my graduate university and workplace gets destroyed.

April 2009

Six Easy Pieces by Walter Mosley – A collection of novellas/novellete which tell self contained stories about Easy Rawlins.  These stories also provide set ups for the remaining novels.  Mosley handles the short form very well.  It nice to see someone outside the science fiction field using the short forms of fiction.

Cally’s War by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane - Cally is an agent working for an organization which is running interference against alien influence in Earth’s affairs.  She is entrusted for finding the leak in her organization.  The action and the characterization is great.  Its an exciting story with some nice twists.  May follow up with the sequels.

The Unusuals (TV Series) -  An interesting quirky group of police officers.  It feels plausible mainly because I believe truth is stranger than fiction.  It also nice to see Amber Tamblin in a good role. I do wonder what area of New York the precinct covers.

Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi - Reviewed in the May 2009 Event Horizon.

Little Scarlett by Walter Mosley -  The Watts riots are winding down.  The police find out about a dead African-America woman.  The suspect is white man.  The police ask Easy Rawlins to help sort this out in order to prevent further rioting.  Mosley does a good job brining the tension of the times to life.  Mosley also does a good job promoting his Fearless Jones series in this book.  Make me want to read the series.

Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosley – Easy's daughter is sick and needs expensive treatment. Easy is thinking of joining Mouse on payroll robbery.  Easy is hired by Robert E. Lee, a mysterious private detective,  to find a missing person.  The job can cover Easy’s daughter's medical expenses. This case leads Easy to the counter culture of San Francisco.  It is interesting to see the clash of styles with Lee and Easy.

Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley – It has been several months since Easy has broken up with his girlfriend Bonny.  Easy’s heart is still sore.  Both Mouse and Christmas Black have disappeared.  Easy sets out to find them. This is Easy’s last case and does have a sense of finality of it.  It is a pity. I would have liked to have seen Easy in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. 
 

May 2009

Wonder Woman (Direct to DVD) - A great retelling of the origin story. Keri Russel and Nathan Fillion are great in their roles. It is pity that the Dini/Timm team never got to do a Wonder Woman series.

Star Trek (Theatrical Film) - Reviewed in the July 2009 Event Horizon.

Tigerheart by Peter David - Paul Dear is a special child. Tragedy strikes Paul's family. To set things right Paul is drawn to the adventures of the Boy on his magical island. Can Paul face the dangers there? A modern take on Peter Pan. If you had reservations about Peter Pan, you can get into this book. David looks into the work and finds what makes it work.

Futurama: The Wild Green Yonder (Direct to DVD) - Fry gets telepathic powers and must save the universe again. Leela is trying to stop evil developers. This was fun. This would have been a great ending for the show but it is just the stepping stone for a new season.

Up (Theatrrical Film) - Pixar does it again. The opening sequence is beautiful. Ed Asner is great as Carl. I love the talking dogs. It should be nominated for either best picture or best animated picture.

June 2009

Land of the Lost (Theatrical Film) - The mistake in this film was having Will Farrel and Danny McBride in it. It bugged me that they made Enik the villian. The design on the film was spot on. Now we have to wait several years before we get a good movie version.

Anathem by Neil Stephenson (Hugo Nominated Novel) - On the planet Arbre, science has taken almost religious like trappings. Scientists live and work in monastic like environments. When a strange object is found orbiting their world, many must leave their concents (monastaries) so they can figure out the nature of the object. There is a a lot here. It gets dense at times but it is interesting. It is a glorfication of the scientific process.

Merlin(TV Series) - It is fun. There are times it seems like Smallville. Given what I hav read at least the story is going somwhere.

Virtuality (TV Movie) - It nice to see a show which is very tight on the science. The only big extrapolations are the virtual reality technology and their interstellar drive. It seems like a great concept. Hopefully it will be made into series.

July 2009

Transformers: Rise of the Fallen (Theatrical Film) - A mess anyway you look at it. Bay is not good at humour. Unfortunately it was a big hit so we will see more of our favorite robots soon. Maybe they cacn tone it down for the next one

Mental - Interesting. Another House clone. What is cool that it is prodcued in Colombia.

Enemies and Allies by Kevin J. Anderson - Reviewed in the August 2009 Event Horizon.

The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford - Paramedic Danny Holman is heading to Chicago for a new life. On the way, he saves a woman from a gunshot wound. As a reward, Mr. Patrise gives Danny a new name and a job in his organization. Patrise is the head of an Elf clan. Danny or Doc Hollow, as he is now known, falls into a world of magic and intrigue. This was a fun urban fantasy. It still feels like our woorld with an added element. Its a bit episodic but you want to know what happens next.

January Dancer by Michael Flynn - A spaceship crew find an alien artifact. An artifact which can compel people to do anything. It rapidly changes hands. Groups are determined to get it. It is a great space opera. We go to seedy port dive, to the places of power and the ward room of a great spaceship commander. This is what space opera is.

Wolverine (Theatrical Film) - The opening credits were just great. The story is great. Its nice to have an action adventure film that does not go over the top. Everything feels natural. Jackman is Logan. Now lets go to to Japan in the next one.

August 2009

GI Joe: The Revenge of Cobra (Theatrical Film) - The Paris sequence was good. The rest of the film was ho hum. Sienna Miller was great as the Baroness. It was also fun seeing Christopher Eccleston being villainous. I wish they had not watered down the Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes story.

Ponyo (Theatrical Film) - This was beautiful. A good story. This is a film which makes you feel better.

Shorts (Theatrical Film) - This was cute. A good kid's film. The idea of telling it non-linearly was interesting.

500 Days of Summer (Theatrical Film) - One of the best romances of all time. These are good people trying to deal with a relationship and themselves. Zoey Deshchanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were great.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith - The Bennet sisters try to find love while fighting the undead. This was fun. I always liked the idea of something incredible intersecting with the mundane.

September 2009

Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro – Del wants to be a singer.  He is also an heir to a Galactic Empire.  In order to fulfill his dream, Del must face challenges from all sides.  His family is uncomfortable with his career choice.  His backers are worried about their investment.  Del also has to deal with his empathic abilities which performing in front of large crowds can get complicated.  It is interesting to see the detail Asaro puts into describing what pop music will be in the future.  Del is great character.  He has great raw talent which gets refined as story progresses.  He also has do deal with a lot and meets the challenge.  The book is part of Asaro’s Skolian series.  The book works as a stand alone.  Asaro gives the reader enough information about the universe to appreciate the story.

District 9 (Theatrical Film) – One of the best science fiction films of the year.  This a has a good science fiction problem.  It has a great flawed main character.  The documentary footage was great.  This film shows that what you need to succeed is a good story not a series of explosions, stunts and optical effects.

17 Again (Theatrical Film/DVD rental) – A nice film.  An interesting premise.  Zac Efron does a good job channelling Matthew Perry.  I think the fanboy steroetype was a bit much but fun at times.

Green Latern: First Flight (Direct DVD film) – This was epic.  Christopher Meloni does a great job as Hal Jordan.   This had the right combination of past Green Lantern storylines.  This should have been released as a feature.

Declare by Tim Powers (Readers’ Group Choice) – Andrew Hale gets caught up in tale of intrigue that takes place in World War II and the Cold War.  Hale must stop a supernatural force before it is misused by hostile powers.  This is a complex war/spy thriller mixed with fantasy.  The combination works well.  There are some factual errors but too small to derail the novel.

The Scarlett Ruse by John D. MacDonald – Travis McGee has to help a friend who may have been scammed.  The scam involves valuable stamps.  MacDonald does a good job explaining the problem which is complicated. 

FlashForward by Robert Sawyer – While an experiment is conducted at the Haldon particle collider, everyone in the world passed out and saw 20 years into the future for over 2 minutes.  This causes an incredible calamity all over the world through car accidents and plane crashes.  Some people are disturbed by what they see in the future.  The team which caused the experiment try to figure out what actually happened.  Some of the team are trying to prevent unpleasant futures.  The novel did a good job presenting a worldwide catastrophe. This is especially impressive for a pre-9/11 book.  It also presents a classic argument: is the future set in stone or can we change it.

FlashFoward (TV Series) -  This series takes the basic idea of the novel, for two minutes people see the future.  One change is that they only see six months into future.  The biggest change is the implication that this was done on purpose by an unknown group.  The series will find out the how and why of the FlashForward.  Hopefully the series creators have the show planned out.  One question though. Why set in LA rather than Washington or New York where there would be more resources to apply to the investigation.

The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald -  An old friend of McGee gives him a bundle of cash for safe keeping.  The friend dies under questionable circumstances several days later.  McGee and Meyer go to her town to investigate.  There they find a web of intrigue connected with the local drug trade and politics.  Can McGee figure it out before he is the next target.

The September Issue  -  This documentary covers the production of the mammoth September issue of Vogue.  It focuses on Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and Vogue creative director Grace Coddington.  This is the story of two very passionate professional women.  We get see what makes them tick.  The filmwill probably not change one’s a opinion of the fashion industry but it gives it a bit of depth.

October 2009

The Empty Copper Sea by John D. MacDonald - Hub Lawless is lost at sea. The captain of his ship, Van Harder, is blamed for Lawless death. Harder's friend Travis Mcgee goes to investigate what really happened. McGee and Meyer go to the Florida city where Lawless from. Is Lawless actually alive? Good straight forward fun and action.

Marsbound by Joe Haldeman - Carmen and her family go to the Mars colony to help get it established. There tour will last a few years and they will return to Earth. On Mars Carmen makes an extraordinary discovery. A discovery which will effect all mankind. A great SF story. It has good science and a good first contact story. There is a sequel in the works. I'll be there.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (Readers' Group Choice) - David is a young boy in England growing up in the days of World War II. His mother has died and his father has remarried. David is having a hard time adjusting to his step mother and half brother. He runs away to a world where the characters in fairy stories are real but with scary consequences. His journey in this world will be a test of character as well as strength. Its a great coming of age novel. The final conflict is a nice surprise. David will have to confront his own issues.

Where the Wild Things Are (Theatrical Film) - It is a film about childhood. It is a film about what is important in life. It is a film that reminds one that things can be broken and will stay with us forever. The film teaches us to be careful and not to hurt what is important.

The Green Ripper by John D. MacDonald - Travis McGee has found love. Unfortunately that is taken away from him unexpectedly. McGee goes off on his own to find those responsible. The action sequence at the end of this is top notch. Very intense for a McGee novel.

Star Healer by James White - Part of the Sector General series. Senior Physician Conway is up for promotion. He would a Diagnostician. This would require the copies of minds of alien surgeons to be uploaded in his head. Before that he is sent to a planet where the race cannot be healed by outsiders. After he returns, Conway agrees to accept the promotion. After the aliens minds are loaded, an emergency breaks out and his new skills are put to the test. This is an interesting series. The only thing that I thought was strange was that the facility is headed by a psychologist rather than a psychiatrist. There is good alien design. The aliens are exotic and they feel plausible. The needs of a interspecies hospital are well covered.

Freefall in Crimson by John D, MacDonald - A man of means dies under mysterious circumstances. The man's son asks Travis McGee to look into it. This brings McGee into world of motorcycle gangs, balloonists and independent filmmaking. Can he find the answers before McGee is the next target. Nice twists in this one.

The Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant - Interesting. Cresply and Mr. Tiny were interesting. Rebecca is a nice smart and cute love interest for our feckless hero. CGI was good for Ms Octa.

Astro Boy - This is good origin story. It seems to respect the original creation.

 

November 2009

Cinnamon Skin by John D. MacDonald - Someone blows up Meyer's boat with his niece and her husband. A South American terrorist group claims responsibility. Something seems off. McGee and Meyer go and find the truth. The husband of Meyer's niece may not have been what he seemed. McGee and Meyer follow the trail of a sociopath. Can they find him before he strikes again? An interesting turn of events. Good to see McGee and Meyer on the trail of a suspect.

The Lonely Silver Rain by John D. MacDonald - McGee is asked to find a stolen boat. He find the boat but with several dead bodies in it. This gets McGee tied up in the world of the drug trade. can he sort out the mess before he is the next target. This one is rather sad. MacDonald added a surprise at the end which implied this was not the end of the McGee stories. Unfortunately MacDonald died after this one. As a final story its OK but one wants more.

Capitalism: A Love Story (Theatrical Film) - Moore brings up some very important points. I wish he did not do the thing with the amored car at the end. It weakens the seriousness of the film.

Pirate Radio aka The Boat that Rocked (Theatrical Film) - Interesting but the trailer was misleading. We were lead to believe that this was a government versus the crazy DJs. It was more about crazy DJs on a boat. The film was watchable but I felt what the trailer offered was more interesting.

The Prisoner (TV Mini Series) - My brother once described the original show as "a weird guy in a weird place doing weird things." Well we get that. I think the show made a sincere effort to be worthy of the name. Ian McKellan is a great 2, right up there with Leo McKern. This needs rewatching.

Superman Batman: Public Enemies (Direct DVD film) - This was fun. A great action film involving our favorite DC characters.

makers by Cory Doctorow - Landon Kettlewell takes over Kodacell (merged Kodak and Duracell). He decied to invests in entrepreneurs. Lester and Perry are two of these entrepreneurs. In Broward County, Florida they are making art out of garbage and selling it. There are a success. This is covered by Suzanne Church, a journalist from San Jose. Kettleweel's concept is called New Work which takes off and then crashes. Lester and Perry make a ride in abandon mall which chronicles the New Work. They are helped by the inhabitants by a nearby shanty town. The ride succeeds and soon becomes a new business which copies all over the coutry. A Disney employee tries to sabatoge the project. This is a beautifully complicated novel. It sets forth new economic paradigms. One idea I like is lawsuits for profits. The idea is to invest in a lawsuit and pay the investors ater a successful judgement. This could make it easier people to sue big corporations. The characters are feel real. They are complex and flawed. This world throughs of the models of the old amd gets mixed results.

December 2009

Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer - Reviewed in Jan 2010 Event Horizon.

Alice (TV Mini Series) - Trippy. A nice science fictional take on Alice in Wonderland.

Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga - This is a sequel to The Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. Kyra Sellers comes back to school after six months in a Maryland's Hospital Mental Health Unit. She has to deal with with her father, friends and Fanboy. Like Fanboy in the last book, Kyra will use fantastic fiction to help her deal with her problems. Lyga does a good job getting Kyra's voice. A great sequel.

Avatar (Theatrical Film) - Reviewed in Jan 2010 Event Horizon.

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak - A Civil War veteran, Enoch Wallace is recruitedby aliens to run a teleport station on Earth in secret. In return for his work Wallace no longer ages. He continues his duties in his Wisconsin house into the mid 20th century. Then he will have to deal with several crisis. Simak makes the idea of a non aging man existing peacfully in Wisconsin plausible. We get into Wallace's head and see how someone would react to such a situation. The alien design is original.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - Susie Salmon, a teenage girl,. is raped and killed by George Harvey. Susie from heaven see the effects her death has on her family, firends and even Harvey. Susie's death pulls the family apart and then together again. It is a touching story. Each member of the family deals with Susie's death in their own way and not necessarily in a good way. The family has to sort itself out since Susie is only an observer. An interesting way to tell a story.

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett - The Archchancellor of the Unseen University finds out that the school must field a football team in order to get an endowment. The game is played on the streets by Ankh-Morpork lower classes. Lord Vetinari wishes to bring the game back in a more organzied fasion. While the Unseen University prepares its team there will be romance, intrigue, and twists. As always a romp in Discworld is always fun. The match and all the events leading up to it are great.

Sherlock Holmes - Ignore the critics. This is faithful to the original material. It is also great fun. Sequel eagerly awaited.
 

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