Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Magician King

The Magician KingThe Magician King by Lev Grossman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book started off kind of slow, with the main character, Quentin, just as completely unlikeable as he was in the first installment. However, as the story goes on and picks up speed, it becomes very engrossing and Quentin begins to slowly undergo a process of self-discovery that not only does he fail to realize he's going through but even I failed to realize it until the book barreled to it's conclusion, an ending that actually made me sad for Quentin, a character I thoroughly hated for an entire book and a half or so. Plus, being taken on a journey through Julia's back story is both an entertaining diversion and a great character study as it reaches its climax. I've seen a lot of reviews complaining about the snark present not just in the dialogue but in the narration, saying that it was overwhelming and distracting, but I felt it wasn't as bad this time as in the first book; it felt more organic and justified this time around. In any event, while I said at the conclusion of The Magicians that I wouldn't really recommend that to anyone, I would definitely recommend this one... so I guess that makes its predecessor a necessary evil, huh?

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Thirty-three books down and I can definitely feel the challenge winding down. Technically I'm still supposed to do this for another two months, but unless I get a few good book recommendations to get me through, I don't know if I'll be able to make it...

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Oscar Scorecard

How's everybody's Oscars hangover doing? I have to say, I enjoyed the hell out of the show last night. I liked the idea of the Oscars having a theme, and enjoyed all the love for musicals... because I guess Les Mis turned me into a musical queer, maybe, I don't know. And how about Seth Macfarlane as host, huh? I don't know about the rest of you, but I thought he was the best host the show has had in a long time.

And he had the most awesome back-up ever.
Before the show yesterday, I posted my prediction for the categories I actually care about, so I thought today I'd check the scoreboard and see how I did.

I was wrong about both Adapted and Original Screenplay, picking Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, respectively, when the winners were Argo and Django Unchained. Some writer I am, huh?

I got Best Animated Feature wrong, expecting Frankenweenie when the nod went to Brave, and I was equally wrong about Best Director, expecting Spielberg and getting Ang Lee (who I still haven't forgiven for Hulk. Someone needs to put him on the list of people who should give their Oscars back, along with Cuba Gooding, Jr.).

None of those instances of wrongness particularly surprised me, as I spend half my time incorrectly talking out my ass anyway, but I was surprised by Argo going over Lincoln for Best Picture. I'm sorry, I saw Argo and I just don't get all the love. I mean, it was alright and all, but Best Picture? Pfft. As far as I'm concerned, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django Unchained were all better movies. But what do I know, right?

So if I got those five categories wrong out of the total nine I predicted... well, it wasn't a very good night when you consider the only ones I got right were the acting categories, and three out of the four of those were total gimmes. The only category of any suspense there was Best Supporting Actor, and I figured Waltz would win because the rest of the creepy and/or old men would cancel each other out. Anyway, the only wins I really cared about were for Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence, because they both really deserved it and I adore them both (although not in that order; J-Law has stolen the top spot in my actress book at this point).

But that doesn't mean I can't laugh at her spastic ass, right?
Now that it's all over, it's time to start watching some movies and looking forward to next year's show, right?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

2013 Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are upon as once again, so of course I'm here to give you my predictions as to the night's big winners so that we can all laugh at just how wrong I probably (and usually) am. When the nominees were first announced, I posted some knee-reactions, but now that I've seen all the nominees I'm back with the list of who I want to win and who I think will win in the big categories... I'd do all the categories, but I just don't have that kind of attention span!

Starting at the bottom and working our way up...

Best Adapted Screenplay
I'd love to see Silver Linings Playbook come away with this one, because I think the writing there was almost at an Aaron Sorkin level of brilliance, but I have a feeling the big winners of the night will be Lincoln and Argo, and I think Lincoln will snatch this one up.

Best Original Screenplay
I'd give this one to Zero Dark Thirty, and I think the Academy might just agree with me on this one.

Best Director
I loved everything about Silver Linings Playbook but I realize the directing had nothing to do with why. I'd give this one to Spielberg... like he needs another one... for Lincoln and I'd be terribly surprised if anyone else comes away with it.

Best Animated Feature Film
By far, I think Wreck-It Ralph is the best of them all, but I think Frankenweenie... which, by the way, I found to be the worst of the bunch except for that godawful Pirates movie... will probably win.

Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway. No question.

Best Supporting Actor
This is the one category I really can't make my mind up about. Not because they were bad performances, but because none of them really strike me as better than any other. Three of them were cranky old men basically being cranky old men, which I think will just negate each other. I guess my personal favorite was Tommy Lee Jones, but I'm thinking Christoph Waltz grabs this one.

Best Actress
If you think I'd pick anyone but Jennifer Lawrence for this one, you're nuts. And if you think anyone but here is winning, you're even nutsier.

Best Actor
Much like Best Actress, this one is in the bag for Daniel Day-Lewis, no question.

Best Picture
As much as I think Silver Linings Playbook was easily the year's best movie, Lincoln has this category all sewn up. Argo has an outside chance, especially considering all the love it got at other awards shows, but I still think it'll be all about Abe.

I know I half-assed this a bit, but I'm hungry and my food just got delivered so i need to go eat. I'll be back tomorrow to tally up just how wrong I was... enjoy the show everybody!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Tumblring Stormtrooper

For some reason, I went and got myself a tumblr. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it or how I'm going to use it in conjunction with this blog and Twitter and every other kind of social media I'm already on, but I'm going to try to make it entertaining. So if you're interested, it can be found here: Straight Shootin' Stormtumblr.

Goodreads Book Review - The Prisoner of Heaven

The Prisoner of HeavenThe Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the third book by this author I've read. It wasn't as good as the first, The Shadow of the Wind, but it was better than the second, The Angel's Game. The reason for this is that while it didn't have the kind of gripping, compelling mystery the first book had, the plot was much clearer than the muddled mess that was the second book; in fact, some of the reveals found within actually made the second book better. Also, it was nice to revisit the strong characters I really liked from the first book like the Semperes and Fermin. I would have liked it more if this book had more of a mystery to it instead of being more or less a straightforward retelling of Fermin's time in prison, but the story was still well-written, and it's easy to see the main purpose of this book was to catch us up with the characters and better align the first two books to set everything thing in place for the coming fourth and final book in the series. Of course, now the author has his work cut out for him, as expectations for that book are very high...

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So there goes the thirty-second book in the Recommended Reading Challenge, with a little over two months left to go. I'm about to start the next book today, but after that my well runs dry a bit, so I could use a few more good books to get me to the home stretch... so let's see what you got, people!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fiction Friday - I Had a Dream

It's been a long time now since I posted a short story on here... and that streak isn't going to be broken today. But, while I'm not posting a story, I am going to tell you guys about a dream I had two weeks or so ago that was so vivid it's still with me, and it's a dream in which I think a pretty cool story resides, provided I can find it.

The dream was about a large family of vampire hunters. There was a father, an older brother, three younger brothers of varying ages, and one deceased younger sister was mentioned. A mother was mentioned too, but she was never seen. They were in a little town... you know, the kind of Bavarian-looking joint you always see in vampire movies? The father and older brother... who was, like, 8 feet tall, which I guess came in handy with the vampire-hunting... were hunting for one particularly nasty vampire, the one who had killed the daughter of the family, and who looked like Gary Oldman. Not just any Gary Oldman, mind you; Sirius Black Gary Oldman.

But, y'know, nastier-looking.
In one part of the dream, the father and older brother (I got no names for any of these people) were fighting him, trying to stop him from resurrecting his master, and he was soundly kicking their asses with the help of a witch who was casting the spell to revive his master, until another witch appeared out of nowhere and took them out (we'll call that the Tuxedo Mask effect). The dream then switched to what the younger three brothers were doing, which was disobeying orders and sneaking out into the town after dark, where they were attacked by the Gary Oldman vampire and his somehow resurrected master, who basically looked like a rotting corpse slowly regrowing his flesh.The kids didn't stand a chance, and at one point the Gary Oldman vampire turned into a large bat that grabbed the youngest brother and flew away with him... until the eight-foot-tall older brother broke through a wall out of nowhere and grabbed the bat by the wings and smashed it into the wall, making it release the kid, while the father showed up and fought the master vampire.

And that's where I woke up.

The whole dream has stuck with me pretty vividly since I had it in a haze of medication, pain-killers, leftover birthday intoxication, and blood loss, and I think there's a story to be told there aside from the obvious.

I just haven't found it yet.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Following the Following

Here's another blog I've meant to write for a few weeks now, but between recovering from my birthday party and fighting off another bout with bronchitis, I just didn't have the time until now. There aren't too many mid-season replacements I plan on watching on TV this year, only two that I can think of (three if you count Touch, but since that started last year, I don't count it). One of them, Cult, starts on the CW next week, and the other is the topic of today's blog: FOX's new hit, The Following.

Here's a short summary of the premise: Kevin Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent who is pulled back into service when Joe Carroll, a serial killer he caught played by the brilliant James Purefoy, escapes from prison, intending to finish what he started by killing the victim Hardy saved from him, capturing Joe in the process. Normally, I'd say it's a spoiler to tell you Joe succeeds in killing that last victim, but considering this is all part of the set-up that happens in the first episode, it really isn't. Yes, Joe succeeded in killing her, but Ryan also caught him again. Sounds like the show is over, right?


Getting caught again was all part of Joe's plan. He's got a grudge against Hardy that goes beyond just the fact that Ryan caught him the first time. Ryan also schtupped Joe's wife, and then wrote a book about the case, making himself famous, while the book Joe, an English professor, wrote was a complete failure. So Joe broke out just to get Hardy sucked back into all of this... because Joe has himself a cult now, people that are doing his killing for him, all while Joe taunts Ryan from his place behind bars. And the best part for a literary nut like me is that because Joe was obsessed with the works of Edgar Allan Poe (he cut his victims' eyes out because of Poe's own frequent ocular themes), all his followers are obsessed with Poe and his works are all over every episode. It amuses me to no end.

The show is pretty damn intense, filled with twists and turns left and right... some better than others. For example, the fact that two of Joe's followers who were pretending to be gay but are really straight actually had gay sex once was a pretty obvious twist, whereas the recent reveal that the victimized wife of one of his followers really is one of his followers, but a more diabolical one than the others, caught me completely off-guard.

The real strength of the show is the cast, and specifically the two leads. The supporting cast is capable but for the most part not noteworthy (although Shawn Ashmore is pretty good as a young FBI agent who is trying to befriend the completely uninterested loner Hardy). No, the show rests pretty squarely on the shoulders of Bacon and Purefoy. Bacon is driven and intense, perfect as the angry, self-destructive Hardy who just wants to stop Carroll so he can get back to drinking himself to death. And Purefoy is even better as the charming, seductive, manipulative Carroll. Whenever he interacts with, well, anyone onscreen, it's clear he's mindfucking them and enjoying the hell out of it, and you can't help but love watching him do it. When Bacon and Purefoy are together, though, the energy positively crackles, and their scenes are must-watch.

I told a friend on Twitter last week that with two different leads, The Following might not be nearly as good as it is, and I stand by that. But with Bacon and Purefoy on top of things, The Following is... well, it's a must-follow., I don't feel good about that ending, but I got nothing else. Just watch the damn show.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good

Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did GoodTough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good by Kevin Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to admit, while this book was funny, I was expecting more of the behind the scenes stories, candor, and humor we saw in the "An Evening with Kevin Smith" videos and less the self-congratulatory, "I changed things" Kevin Smith stories we got here. Which, to be fair, was all my unfounded expectations. He did change things, so it's only to be expected he'd talk about it. And there are behind the scenes stories, but they're less funny and more just factual. Still, the book did make me laugh. I just wish there were more topics covered... seriously, three long chapters on Red State is too much focus on one thing for a man whose career is twenty years long now... and I wouldn't have minded if the whole "Too Fat to Fly" topic was left out completely; that story has been covered to death already. Still, he writes with an honesty about everything that can be both enjoyed and appreciated, as can his self-deprecating comments about himself. More than anything, it seemed to me the main goal of the book, above information and comedy was inspiration; Smith wants to inspire a new generation of not just filmmakers but creators, and that is to be commended, respected, and supported.

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Thirty-one books now. Being sick has helped me burn through a few pretty quick the last few days. I'm going to need more to get me through til the almost-end of April when this is over with, and people have stopped making recommendations. This could be problematic...

Farewell to Fringe

I've been trying to write this blog for quite awhile now, but between recovering from the drunkenness (and the nearly-lost-an-eariness) of my birthday party the day after the finale aired followed by a nasty bout of bronchitis that I'm still fighting off... well, the writing of it has been problematic at best. But the passing of the best pure science fiction show in years deserves at least a little something, and by Jove that's what it's going to get.

I mean it when I say Fringe is the best pure sci-fi show in years. Each week for a full one hundred episodes we would get a plot that revolved around some weird leap or advancement in science that had disastrous results: time travel, dimension-hopping, genetic mutation, shape-shifters; you name it and Fringe covered it, always in a mature way with an eye towards explaining how things like that could actually be scientifically possible. In fact, I'd say that if Fringe had one drawback, it was that it could be too devoted to the science, with the plot sometimes threatening to buckle under the weight of all the sometimes incomprehensible science babble and the plot holes it caused. Whenever that happened, though, the real strength of the show shined through: that it wasn't really about the science at all.

How was the best pure science fiction show in years not really about science at all? All good science fiction is about something more than what it is, and Fringe was no exception. Underneath all the parallel worlds and mutated creatures and diseases and saving multiple worlds, what Fringe was really about was family. It was about Peter Bishop (played amazingly well by Captain Duck himself, Joshua Jackson) reconnecting with his slightly crazy, drug-addled mad scientist father Walter (John Noble, who was absolutely brilliant week in and week out... for my money, there was no one on television the last five years more fun to watch than him), a father whose love for his son was so strong it caused most of the problems they faced in the first place. It was about Olivia Dunham, (Anna Torv, a brilliant leading lady in sci-fi, something that is pretty rare) the lead FBI agent assigned to work with the Bishops on all these weird cases, a woman who started out the show alone with no family except for a sister and niece she barely saw, and ended it with a husband, a daughter, another sister, and both a surrogate mother and surrogate father.

Fringe was always about the love of a family, never more evident than in the end of the three-season-long alternate reality storyline, where it was Peter's love for Olivia that saved all their lives and led to his sacrifice, which saved all of reality... and it was Olivia's love for Peter that defied all logic and brought him back into the show's new timeline in season four. And it was their love for their daughter that drove the fight against the Observers in the show's final future season.

Built on a balance of strong science fiction and even stronger emotions, Fringe really was the perfect sci-fi show, and now that it's gone there's definitely something missing from television. I don't know if anything will ever really be able to replace it, but whatever show that might come along to try has its work cut out for it.

After all, what other show will ever be able to bring the great Leonard Nimoy out of retirement... and have him co-star with a cow?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - I Am the Messenger

I Am the MessengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am utterly astounded at how much I liked this book. I'm generally really not the guy to fall for these sweeping testaments to the power of the human spirit, books filled examples of how the smallest moment of connection between two people... two strangers, even... can change lives forever. Honestly, I tend to think stuff like that is hokum at best, and absolute bullpucky at worst. Yet this book, with its wonderfully developed main characters and its simple yet beautiful prose hooked me into all that and made me believe in it completely to the point that, at the end, my eyes teared up a bit. This book really did take me by surprise more than anything else I've read in a very long time. My only complaint is the ending; the story itself ends wonderfully but the denouement goes on just a few pages too long, bypassing what would have been a very beautiful final sentence for a very ham-fisted one instead, choosing to beat the readers over the head with the book's final message. Still, I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to anyone.

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I've gone through thirty recommended books now, and I'm really starting to run out. Help a brother out, someone.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped BoxHeart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I didn't enjoy this as much as Horns (which is fine, a writer's second novel should be better than his first, after all), it was very close, so I'm giving it the same rating. What struck me most about this novel is that, underneath all the horror trappings and really effed-up things that are discovered, at its heart, I feel like it's a love story, and that's pretty awesome, considering how well-crafted the characters of Jude and Georgia are. They're both incredibly likeable, even for all their flaws. Even more well-crafted is the ghost, Craddock, who... well, for fear of spoilers, I'll just say he's a real sunovabitch and leave it at that. I'd give this a more in-depth review but I'm pretty sick and my brain isn't working all that well, so, you know, you should just read it for yourself.

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Twenty-nine books down, with two-and-a-half or so months to go til I'm done reading only books other people have recommended. I have a stack of books I want to read for myself waiting for me, and it's very tempting to dive into them now... but that's why it's called a challenge, right? Anyway, recommend something, please. Kgo.