Nov 29, 2010

Movies: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

So, where did the degradation of the Harry Potter movie franchise start? The most common answer would be "after The Prisoner of Azkaban", and it would be mostly accurate. After all, Cuaron's dark vision of Hogwarts is a very high bar to compete against, especially considering how anal Rowling is about altering her books. However, truth be told, The Goblet of Fire was still a pretty decent movie, if more mundane than its predecessor. No, my friends, the mortal wound was dealt by the hiring of one David Yates. A TV director of middling talents and no vision whatsoever, he was not the bold artist that a franchise of this caliber needed, but the timid servant that Rowling wanted in her paranoia that her words of wisdom might somehow be lost in alteration.

Thus were we left with the profoundly mediocre Order of the Phoenix and Half-blood Prince. Movies with no thrill, no spirit, and even worse - ones that followed the books so precisely that they were just bad cinema. At the same time Yates seems to lack any sense of priority, and important scenes/events were consistently glossed over in favor of slow and dull minutiae which - with main cast comprised of actors with actual talent - might have presented some nice character development, but which were instead utterly pointless. I've had numerous people who hadn't read the books prior to watching the movie, tell me that The Half-blood Prince's plot just didn't make sense to them.

So, where am I going with this long introduction? Sadly, not towards a playful plot-twist. The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 is every bit as bad as its predecessor. It is slow, unimaginative, uneventful, and - nauseatingly for a fantasy movie - ultimately very, very boring. The narrative flows with the speed and elegance of a freshly castrated fetus, while characterization is practically non-existent. The latter is utterly ridiculous since - even though nothing actually happens and people just stare with empty eyes into the aether most of the time - no character actually gets enough time for any development. Even previous movies' strongest point - the support cast, comprised of Britain's finest actors - fails in The Deathly Hallows. It's just that nobody has anything interesting to perform.

The single good moment in the mind-numbing two and a half hours of this dullfest is the tale of the three brothers and Death, which is designed like a Guillermo del Toro or Dave McKean puppet vision and looks positively beautiful.

That lasts about three minutes.

No, seriously, I am not going to bother making this look like a real review. The effects were ok as usual (although rather bland, considering we're out of Hogwarts for this one), music was completely forgettable even though it was done by the amazing Alexandre Desplat, the main trio are disgusting both in terms of acting, and appearance (with the cherry going to Ron/Rupert Grint who has kept hitting the gym hard and the gym seems to have hit back...), and yada yada yada.

If you are bummed by the lack of detail in this review, just know this - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was so catastrophically bland, boring and uninspired, that it took me a whole week to actually force myself to write even as much as I have managed. How's that for a review?


Nov 21, 2010

Nausicaa of the Valey of the Wind Blu-ray release on Mar 8

Disney announced that Nausicaa of the Valey of the Wind - one of Hayao Miazaki's greatest classics - will be released on Blu-ray on March 8, 2011. After Japan got the BD edition last year, and the UK - a few months ago, I was beginning to wonder when the US distributor will get the hint. This is one of my all-time favorite animes, and I just can't wait for this release!

Nov 18, 2010

New promos from the upcoming TV show A Game of Thrones

Entertainment Weekly has released on their site a "first look" gallery with ten new promos from the upcoming A Game of Thrones, based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Nothing mind-boggling, but enough to whet the appetite.

Nov 16, 2010

Movies: Skyline

I have a soft spot for Alien Invasion movies. Seriously, I do. It doesn't matter that I can think of only one I've actually liked (that one being War of the Worlds), or that if they had only one more plot they'd be an amazing half-way. I just like them. There are shiny lights, gorgeous-looking HUGE motherships, pewpewlaserbeam and all the joy someone who grew up with SF and always wanted to see an actual space opera on the big screen could wish for.

That said, I went to see Skyline with the clearly defined expectation to watch garbage. I mean, come on. First of all, it's amazingly penile to sign your movies as the "random name brothers", and second - the Strauses are the losers who gave us the gloriously bad Aliens vs Predator - Requiem. How much lower can you get? Still, the motherships had an adorable resemblance to a Protoss Carrier, plus the trailer looked flashy. Ticket sold.

Skyline is not gloriously bad like AvP-R was. It's not a "let's pin the whiny cheerleader to the wall with a three-foot diameter shuriken" kind of bad. It's "oh my God, I'd rather chew off my own rectum!" kind of bad. The plot is that of every Alien Invasion movie ever - aliens come to harvest this or that valuable resource we seem to be the only ones in the universe in possession of (in this particular case the rather ironic choice is the human brain...). The military fire a lot of useless weapons, and since this isn't anime, nobody is smart enough to put an angsty teenage boy with ambiguous sexuality in a giant robot, so the aliens either die by themselves, or get killed through some gaping all-night-gangbang-style hole in their plan, or just wipe out everyone.

I'm not gonna tell you which ending the movie has, because I just can't deprive you of the utter hilarity that ensues around the last few minutes. Unfortunately, Skyline doesn't stop at the evil aliens, and makes us suffer together with some very harvest-worthy humans. After the initial ten minutes of character set-up that we know will not matter at all throughout the movie, we have the main cast - Smoking Hot Douchebag (Eric Balfour), Stunningly Blue-Eyed Female (Scottie Thompson), Token Buff Black Guy (Donald Faison), Annoying Blond Chick (Brittany Daniel), A Girl Who Just Happens To Be There (Crystal Reed) and Middle-Class Menial Who Gets Shit Done (David Zayas). That really doesn't matter too much, as we basically know exactly who is going to die, and also at what point of the plot.

What we don't know is that the budget of Skyline is probably comparable to my semester tuition, because a good half of the movie is set IN AN EFFIN' APARTMENT! I kid you not. Basically, the aliens are so bad-ass that the characters can't even make a run for it. Therefore, the entire 100 minutes of this abomination are set in one building, alternating between the apartment, the garage and the roof.

That is not to say that Skyline doesn't have a few mildly redeeming qualities. The special effects - when present - are pretty cool. The aliens are, disappointingly, not Protoss, and not even humanoid, but the concept of the mesmerising light is cool and well executed. Plus - it makes Smoking Hot Douchebag and Stunningly Blue-Eyed Female look really cool when it disfigures their faces. Smoking Hot Douchebag and Stunningly Blue-Eyed Female themselves are kind of a plus too, being respectively smoking hot and stunningly blue-eyed, but it is sad when you have to justify your ticket price with the attractiveness of random B-list actors...

No, seriously. There is absolutely no reason to watch Skyline. Most of the really cool moments are in the trailers anyway, and the rest are few and far between, separated by gory vortices of vomit-inducing boredom and lines/behavior right out of the cliche factory. And not the one in China or Pakistan, but a very low-budget cliche-factory operating illegally out of the Ukrainian countryside... AVOID!


Nov 15, 2010

Synopsis for China Mieville's Embassytown

Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.

Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts – who cannot lie.

Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.

Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts.

And that is impossible.

Sounds awesome to me. I am ashamed to say that I am yet to read anything by China Mieville, but I'm getting really hyped about this particular book.

Nov 9, 2010

New Mistborn novel!

Branden Sanderson has confirmed via Facebook that a short Mistborn story he was writing "went out of hand" and Tor has bought the new novel, scheduling it for publication some time next year. It will be set halfway between the original trilogy and the planned second one, where technology is advanced to a level reminiscent of 20th century Earth. We are promised "gunpowder and allomancy". I am so excited about this one!

And just like that - a mirracle! The Wise Man's Fear is done!

Golancz has announced that they have received the manuscript for The Wise Man's Fear - the long, long, LONG! anticipated sequel to Patrick Rothfuss' wildly successful debut The Name of the Wind. Personally, I'm really excited about this book. Without being able to articulate why exactly, I was thoroughly enamored with TNotW, and even though Rothfuss took his sweet time with the second part of his trilogy, I expect he will deliver. So here's to quick editing!

Nov 8, 2010

A Profound Personal Tragedy!

I just got an e-mail from Subterranean that the deluxe edition of China Mieville's Kraken is out and shipping. And that made me realize with painful clarity that none of those gorgeous hardcovers is shipping in my direction. Thought the world should know of my pain. I mean, what else are blogs for?!

Nov 5, 2010

Comics: The Walking Dead, Volumes 10-12

The tenth Volume of The Walking Dead marks a sudden change in pacing. Now that the story is more of a quest and therefore has actual direction, there is a sense of urgency that I really like. The concept of Herds, introduced in the previous tpb, is developed further and it's just as cool as it is chilling. There is little in the way of story, except for a potentially very disturbing scene involving attempted rape, but What We Become develops further not only Rick and Abraham, but also little Carl, who is slowly turning into a more serious, more one-track and colder version of his dad, which I find rather awesome.


Fear The Hunters
is an aberration in the usual pacing, as it is a complete six-issue story-arc. And a very cool one at that. While the survivors are making their way towards D.C., somebody is following their movements. Shadows in the trees and noises in the night keep them on edge, while the arrival of a suspiciously clean-looking priest who claims to live in a nearby church does nothing to relieve the tension.

Volume 11 is a dark and gruesome piece that reminded me of a single-issue Spawn story I once read. Just like in What We Become and many of the latest volumes, it focuses on the true monsters of this new postapocalyptic world - the humans, unshackled from the norms of society. Ultimately, it is nothing amazingly original, but I'd still put it among the best volumes in the series.


Looking at the title, and not knowing what it's about, one would get exactly the opposite idea to what this
volume actually introduces. Things turn rather abstract for Rick, Abraham and the rest of the survivors, when a young man appears out of nowhere and offers them life in a peaceful community that only asks of its members to pull their own weight. Too good to be true? A year among the zombies has taught Rick to think of nothing else. And yet, it all seems genuine. Rick becomes Alexandria's constable, but secretly he works on securing the town. Could it be that this time he will be the one, trying to take something good from others?

The new development is interesting and promising. Sadly, this is the last volume so far, and I am not into single issues, so I'll have to wait for Volume 13 to see how the story progresses. I only hope Kirkman doesn't loose the speed generated in these three tpbs, because they are way above everything else in the series so far. The Walking Deadb finally started to show its true potential, and I'd hate for it to go back to directionless soap opera. So here's hoping...


Nov 3, 2010

More Daniel Abraham goodness

Orbit has revealed the cover art of Leviathan Wakes - space opera, co-written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pen-name S. A. Corey due to be published in May 2011. The cover is all kinds of awesome, as you can see. There is a post on Orbit's blog about it, as well as a wallpaper page, if you're into that kind of thing.

Nov 2, 2010

RIP Realms of Fantasy

I just found out that Realms of Fantasy has folded. As much as the death of any hard-copy magazine pains me, I can't say that I was an avid follower of that one in particular. Still, it is sad. I am a firm believer in paper publications, and I don't think online ones could or should replace them completely. At the same time, reading reviews about books published half a year ago rarely makes me supportive either.

So anyway, here's a "Note From the Publisher" Warren Lapine. There are also some interesting ruminations on the subject on Pat's blog - check it out if you're interested.