Archive for Reviews

The iPad

You can search all over the Internet and find out about the specifications and tons of opinions on it.  Here are mine.

First, I think the name is silly.  The people guessing that Apple was making a tablet came up with dozens of better names.  Does no one at Apple have access to Google?  It would have taken less than five seconds to search “iPad” and find the years old MadTV skit.

Next, I am not impressed.  They showed nothing in their presentation that made me want to have one of these over a netbook.  However, I see potential.  To me, the ultimate success of this device will depend on two things:

  1. What applications get designed to fully use this device.  The best idea I’ve seen floated so far is a “cash register” type application since one of these plus a couple of peripherals is cheaper than most computer registers.
  2. The next revision of the hardware.  Apple is notorious for withholding features.  They like to put just enough in a product to make people want it, but hold back enough features to be able to also make revision two, three, and four worth buying too.  Expect the next version to have the front facing camera most people feel is missing, and more memory.

Lastly, I think they priced it almost perfectly.  The only way it gets better is if AT&T subsidizes the price of the 3G version in exchange for a 2 year contract.  Personally, I wouldn’t want the 3G, so it is priced right as it is.

To me, at the moment, the deal breaker is the keyboard.  The virtual keyboard looks like it would only be comfortable using if I can manage to have the device at a 45 degree angle allowing me to type and see the screen.  This means that I’d either have to be hunched over the device, or to be lounging on the couch with my feet propped up allowing my lap to hold it up at a usable angle.  But that’s because the biggest feature of a portable computer for me is writing, and the iPad seems to be aimed more at people who are more interested in reading and watching.  This could be saved if someone makes some sort of clip on keyboard and screen protector (i.e. – the keyboard folds up over the screen, kinda like the clam shell design of a laptop).  But it would also have to more than double the weight of the device because you can’t have the screen be heavier than the keyboard in that sort of design.

Another missing element for me that I don’t think will ever make it into the Apple design is the ability to use a stylus.  I like to do digital art (doodling more than anything) but I don’t like doing it with my finger.  Perhaps, if the iPad sells well, Wacom will decide to make the Cintiq into a full blown art tablet.

Overall, as I said before, I see potential, I even see this as being a device that plenty of people could put to good use, but just not me.  And that’s okay.

The Host

There is a special place reserved in hell for Stephenie Meyer.  Her Twilight series has destroyed vampires.  Only, her vampires aren’t vampires at all.  They drink blood, I think, because I honestly can’t remember any of them drinking blood in the movie.  Maybe they drink blood in the books.  I don’t know.  I’ll never read them.  The wife, who now denies ever saying this, told me that her other book, The Host, was more Sci-Fi and post-apocalyptic and she thought I would enjoy it.

I can’t say I hated the book, but I can say it definitely was not a “can’t put down” read.  I mean, I might instead say it was an “always put down” read.  During the two months it took me to plow through her 600+ page novel, if I was ever presented a choice between reading the book or doing something else I always chose to do something else.

The story of the book is this… aliens come to Earth.  These aliens are a form of parasitic being that can only live in another host body and when they do so they “take over” in that the person who was there is imprisoned deep down inside and never comes back.  These aliens aren’t hostile, in fact they are so peaceful they insist that they decided to annihilate mankind (without actually killing anyone) because humans were flawed and killing each other anyway.  They did it “for our own good”.  We get to follow one soul (what the aliens are called) who is implanted into a woman who was previously resisting the aliens.  Essentially, if a person is aware of the aliens before implantation they are more able to resist being mentally squashed.  So Melanie (the human) remains conscious inside as Wanderer takes over.  There is a lot of touchy feely stuff and eventually Wanderer decides to go out into the desert to see if she can find Jered (Melanie’s boyfriend) and Jamie (Melanie’s brother).  She does find them, and thirty five other people, hiding out there and the two of them (Melanie and Wanderer) try to find a place to fit in among the rebels.

This is definitely a “chick” book.  Most of the action happens between chapters or off screen.  Because Wanderer is our point of view for the entire book, we stay with her while she stays inside and other people run off to steal supplies and fight the bad guys.  There are a lot of emotions and feelings and crying and love and …. and a bunch of stuff that really I found I could not care less about.  Not because I’m some heartless person, but because I had no desire to care about the main character.  You see, the point of view is Wanderer, the alien, and from page one of the book I felt that the aliens were arrogant smug assholes.  At best, our heroine is an ignorant useless waste of space who has never bothered even considering that by taking over other bodies they are, in effect, killing people.  It takes nearly 600 pages for Wanderer to come to the same conclusion that I had drawn in the first chapter, and it was the most tedious and boring journey I’ve ever partaken of.

I’d always flippantly said I wouldn’t read the Twilight books, even though, given time, I probably would have eventually.  Well, thankfully now I don’t have to.  After reading this pile of pages I have absolutely no desire at all to ever read anything written by Mrs. Meyer again.  Ever.  I am sure there are people out there who would enjoy this book, in fact I’ve talked to a few of them, but I could not in good conscience recommend this to anyone.

Movie Round-Up: January 22nd, 2010

Tooth Fairy:

I have absolutely no desire at all to see Dwayne Johnson in a tutu and wings playing the part of the mythical figure who takes teeth from under kids’ pillows and leaves money behind.  None.  Well, maybe if it is awful enough I’ll watch it for a laugh someday on DVD.

Extraordinary Measures:

Based on a true story of a man with sick kids who decides to help fund the research of a drug for a cure.  I got to see a screening of this a while back, and it was decent enough, but it was typical.  It tugged the right heartstrings at the right moments, it made me laugh now and then to lighten the mood, and I felt good watching it.  That said, it really isn’t worth the price of admission.  Not full price anyway.

Legion:

Angels versus humanity.  I got to see a screening of this last night and my opinion can be summed up in two words: wasted potential.  This movie isn’t horrible, but it also isn’t really good either.  The underlying ideas are fine, but the execution of them is lacking.  The film could have been staged better to be more exciting, the diner in the middle of nowhere felt way too cliche.  Every step of the way, every fight, every loss, every win, it felt uninspired.  The movie took no risks.  That said… there were some good lines and scenes.  I kinda enjoyed the movie on some level, but I wouldn’t pay to see it.

Movie Round-Up: January 15th, 2010

Now commencing, the week of “The” …

The Spy Next Door:

Our first “The” film is this little throwaway kid friendly family film starring Jackie Chan as a secret super spy who also babysits.  Or something like that.  Take the kids, sure, but don’t expect to be anything other than predictable.  Not worth my money, and I had the opportunity, three times, to see this for free and never did.

The Lovely Bones:

Our second “The” film is an adaptation of a very successful book.  I’ve actually wanted to read the book, however, I put that idea aside once I heard there was to be a film.  Films always have to excise content from the book, sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad.  If the film is good, I’ll read the book in a couple of years.  Anyway, if you don’t know, its about a girl who is raped and murdered looking in on the world after her death.  She follows her family and the man who killed her and she watches her family fall apart and the murderer prepare to go after another girl.  I’m not sure I’ll make it to the theater for this one, mostly because dramas don’t really benefit from the big screen (and often are hurt by people who won’t shut the hell up), but if I head to the cinema, this will be on my list.

The Book of Eli:

Our last “The” film is this post-apocalyptic tale.  I was lucky enough to get into a screening of this last night, and let me tell you, in my opinion, this is one damn fine film.  The Hughes Brothers have taken Gary Whitta’s script and painted it beautifully on the screen with excellent use of Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.  I know some people in the theater were bored, because their shuffling and chatting occasionally distracted me, but I was enraptured.  Even having already seen it, I may pay to see it again.  Well done, gentlemen.  Well done.

And here ends the week of “The”.

Movie Round-Up: January 8th, 2010

Skipped last week because, oddly, nothing opened on New Year’s Day…  anyway, onward!

Youth in Revolt:

Just as I’m getting tired of seeing Michael Cera play Michael Cera over and over, it looks like he finally decided to take a project which might prove he can act.  Sort of.  As Nick, he’s Michael Cera as usual.  But from the bits you can see in the trailer, when he’s Francois he’s actually not Michael Cera.  The movie looks entertaining, but as surprised as I am to see him acting, I’m not about to drop money at box office prices for another Michael Cera film.  I’ll see you on DVD, Michael Cera.  Perhaps I should revise this review, because I don’t think I said Michael Cera enough.  Michael Cera.

Leap Year:

Amy Adams in a romantic comedy about two people who are wrong for each other turning out to be right for each other.  The wife deserves a date night every now and then, and I can use it as an excuse to feed my addiction to chick flicks.  Yeah, I’m in.

Daybreakers:

It is really nice to see someone do something interesting with vampires now and then.  Hush, you Twilight fanatics… vampires who sparkle like diamonds in sunlight are many things, but interesting is not one of them.  Now, Daybreakers, on the other hand, takes us to a world where vampires run everything, and they hunted humans down nearly to extinction.  One vampire is looking for a way to make high quality synthetic blood to save his race.  But a group of humans have stumbled on something else: a cure.  In addition to just sounding cool, the movie looks cool, and it’s got Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe, all of whom I enjoy watching work.  I think this followed by The Book of Eli next week are going to be a nice one-two punch of awesome at the theater.  I’ll be there.

Michael Cera.

Patient Zero

It has actually been a while since I finished reading Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry, but I was waiting because I didn’t want to gush about a book I was giving as a gift to someone who might actually read the blog (as unlikely as that is).  Plus, I forgot.

Patient Zero follows Joe Ledger, a cop who has recently been offered a position with the FBI.  Just days away from his move he gets involved in a multi-agency bust of some suspected terrorists, one of whom doesn’t stay dead.  He is then approached by the Department of Military Sciences and told of a possible plot to release a virus that turns people into zombies.

Most zombie novels these days start after the end of the world, or are set within the fall.  Patient Zero is about trying to stop the zombie apocalypse from happening.  Another great aspect of the story is that it follows not only the people trying to stop the zombies, but also the people trying to start it.

This book was good.  Very good.  Couldn’t put it down good.  I blew through it, and so did the wife, and she’s not a fan of horror books or movies.  I’d gladly recommend it to just about anyone.

Movie Round-Up: December 25th, 2009

It’s Christmas, so these are going to be short and sweet…

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel:

No.  Just, no.  Not if you paid me.

It’s Complicated:

You know, reading the description of this movie, I wouldn’t mind seeing.  But I’m certainly not going to pay $10 to see it in the theater.

Nine:

Just like the movie above, it looks like its going to be decent, but not at the theater.  I’ll wait for this musical on Netflix.

Up in the Air:

I’m a big fan of Jason Reitman’s work, especially since Thank You For Smoking.  And George Clooney is great.  Everything I’ve heard about this film is good news, so I totally want to go see this.

Sherlock Holmes:

Oh, hell yes.  I’ve always liked Holmes, but not when he just stood around out-thinking his opponents.  I prefer Holmes to have a touch of action and adventure to him.  From the first trailer I saw of this I knew I was going to see it, and see it I will.

Movie Round-Up: December 18th, 2009

Did You Hear About The Morgans?:

Yes, I did, and I’m only interested in half of you.  Maybe its just me, but I often find Sarah Jessica Parker to be the weakest part of every movie she is in.  I even sat through the Sex in the City movie and loathed every scene she was in while I was only bored with the ones where she was absent.  Hugh Grant, on the other hand, I tend to always find charming and funny.  So, I half want to see this movie and I half want to never ever see it, which means I might catch it on Netflix one day when it is available for streaming and I don’t have to waste a shipped disc on it.

Avatar:

Oddly enough, I have the same 50/50 attitude for Avatar.  On one hand, if everything I have seen and heard about the plot of this film is true and its basically Ferngully or Battle for Terra or one of the many other films with the same plot, then not much about it will shock or excite me and I’d rather pass.  On the other hand, it is a special effects and action extravaganza, and I prefer to see those sorts of movies on the big screen where they really shine.  I guess I can only hope that the known plot elements so far are a giant head fake and the real plot of the movie will be different and new.  I remain on the fence about whether or not to see this in the theater.

Movie Round-Up: December 11th, 2009

The Princess and the Frog:

Pass.  I mean, the trailer for this didn’t exactly excite me.  It is more for kids, more for girls I think, and I just didn’t really seem to care for much of what I saw.  Maybe I’ll see it on DVD or something eventually.

Invictus:

I was completely unaware of Nelson Mandela’s attempt to utilize the South African Rugby team to unify his country behind a common love.  Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon are both incredible, and not knowing how things turned out made the sports parts exciting.  Thumbs up.

Me and Orson Welles:

Not a wide opening, but since I did see a screening I wanted to mention it.  Set during Orson Welles’ production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theater, Zac Efron plays Richard Samuels, a high school kid who dreams of acting, who runs to the city and talks his way into a small but important roll in Welles’ production.  Welles, played fantastically by Christian McKay, runs roughshod over his company to get the vision he wants.  Richard falls for Sonja Jones, played by Claire Danes, a production assistant, but she has her eyes on a future career in theater and movies.  There isn’t a lot of action here, but there is a lot of heart and humor.  However, the real reason to see this film is to see McKay playing Welles.  Completely worth the price of admission if you are in to that sort of thing.

Soon I Will Be Invincible

Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible is an interesting read.  It is a story set in a world where superheroes exist, but the two points of view you are given are that of an evil genius super villain and a female cyborg fledgling hero.  The story begins with our villain escaping from prison where he had been incarcerated after his twelfth attempt to take over the world.  You get to see behind the veil most comic books keep in place as Doctor Impossible tries to contact old allies and track down supplies and avoid detection while he pieces together his latest scheme.  On the other side, the cyborg, Fatale, has been invited to join the reformation of The Champions, a superhero team that broke up years ago, whose main priority is locating a missing hero, CoreFire – who also happens to be Doctor Impossible’s nemesis.

I found myself excited and entertained throughout the book.  I was amused quite often by the situations and interactions.  Dragging comic books closer to reality isn’t something new, but the humorous touch in this book makes it well worth the read.  I’d recommend it to just about anyone.