Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dystopia Abounds!

I've got to admit that I enjoy the odd dystopic vision of the future. Judge Dredd, Children of Men, even that silly dragon movie with Christian Bale. But that's what they should be: movies, and books and comics. And of course, that love even extends to some of Mr. King's novels. The one I'm thinking of is The Running Man. This is one of his "Bachman books" and the 1999 mass market paperback edition has the following as a back-cover blurb:

The runaway bestseller about the ultimate reality show

The year is 2025. The Running Man is America's favorite television game show. Ben Richards is the program's latest contestant-and the Hunters' latest target in a rigged game of death...
It's a good blurb and concept for a story set in a dystopian future. About a runner, being chased by hunters, on national television.

Now, imagine my shock and surprise when I saw it advertised on television. And no, I'm not talking about the silly mid-eighties movie. I'm talking about Cha$e.
My jaw about fell to the ground when I saw this ad. The about page describes the show as thus:
Cha$e is an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat reality-competition show that pits a group of contestants against each other in the quest for cash prizes, while being stalked by relentless "hunters." The action takes place in real time over 60 minutes throughout various Los Angeles landmark locations including San Pedro Harbor, Universal Theme Park and Descanso Gardens.

As the clock counts down, the competition gets harder as more hunters appear on the "game board," the perimeter changes, and tasks are assigned that test fraying nerves. Contestants earn money for every second they "stay alive." If they are overrun by a hunter, they lose everything. Once the exit point is revealed, the first person to find the location wins up to $50,000.

Cha$e is executive-produced by Rick Telles for Buena Vista Productions, Realand Productions and Fujisanke. Telles was the co-executive producer on Who Wants to Be a Superhero? for SCI FI and producer on MTV's Fear.

Allison Chase Coleman serves as co-executive producer, and was recently the supervising producer on The Amazing Race.
Sure, it's not quite the same as the Running Man televison show in the novel of the same name, but it's nigh upon the same (I wonder if they just couldn't get the licensing rights while brainstorming names for this game show).

As I said, I love my dystopian futures, but that doesn't mean I want to live in one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Review: The Dark Knight

Eek, I was looking through my Google Docs the other day and discovered that I had yet to post this review. So, without further ado, here's my review of The Dark Knight (with a few modifications).


I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight, and the overriding, simplest concept that I feel is: yipppie! Much like Anakin in TPM, I was just floored by the sheer fun of this particular ride. Was there drawbacks? Sure, I can always nitpick SOMETHING, but overall it was a great film: both for the comic geek in me, and the more standard SF geek which is my beautiful wife.

Anyways, the plot for this movie goes something like this (taken from IMDB.com):

Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham as The Joker.
Now, anyone stumbling across this blog of mine, is going to know about that--after all, there's a high likelihood that you too are a geek. And as a geek, you more thank likely saw this movie: after all, everyone else saw this movie. It raked in record setting amounts of money; and it did it for good reason.

Those reasons are:
  1. A Great Story
  2. Wonderfully dynamic characters
  3. Awesome explosions
And in that order.

The story, despite my proclivities towards escapism, was dark, and gritty as only a batman story can or should be. It's an incredibly "Batman" concept that at what is his greatest hour, in the eyes of the city he loves, he becomes the proverbial dark knight; a counterpoint to the white knights of the GPD and the other public servants.

This was Batman; doing what he needs to in order to both be himself and to save Gotham City.

Of course, what's a story without characters?

And here we have a wealth of primary characters, and an assortment of secondary ones. The primary characters are of course, Batman, the Joker and Harvey Dent. They are a triumvirate of the concepts which are fundamentally at the core of the Batman concept: revenge, insanity, and justice.

Of course, the big question then becomes which one is which? Is Batman revenge or justice? Or is he insane? After all, he's a grown man running around dressed as a bat beating people up. The thing is that all three of these characters are all three (as all good characters have multiple aspects to themselves) but each of them also has a driving force behind them.

Batman is driven by his need for vengeance, the same way that The Joker is driven by his insanity and the need for justice pushes Dent into his role as Two-Face.

Despite the fact that Batman is the titular character, he's actually the least interesting in this film of the franchise. Also, despite the sheer amount of marketing love given to the Joker's character (and that whole "why so serious?" viral campaign) The Joker doesn't really float my boat either.

The thing is that we KNOW what they're about. We know that the Batman is going to do what's right. We know that the Joker is utterly insane, and will do pretty much anything (especially if he thinks it'll get Batman to laugh).

No, the character that I thought had the most to offer here was Harvey Dent. The things that drive him, the forces which push him through out this film are real, and vibrant.

What's more they aren't really the manic insanity which drives either the Batman or the Joker. Sure, as Two-Face he's nutters, but that's because he simply cracked. You can't say the same about the other two characters.

But, enough about that. Let's talk about what's really important now. After all, this is a Batman movie, and if you take away all the detective mojo and the world-class martial arts moves, you're given what makes Batman rock: the gadgets.

After all, what's Batman without his utility belt? The Immortal Iron Fist? How boring is that...

Anyways, in Batman Begins, we were given the Tumbler: and we loved it. This time out, we were given the batpod, and while much love has to be given to motorcycles, I'm less than thrilled by the thing.

Why? Because it has guns.

This is BATMAN, he don't need no stinking guns. Plus guns are what killed his parents. Part of his whole shtick is that he didn't use guns.

But that's not the most interesting technology that they pioneer in this film. That title goes to their extrapolation of the echo-location, GPS, and report-back capabilities of cellular and other smart devices. You know those little doohickeys which we all carry around with us everywhere we go these days. It actually kind of scares me because I see how the technology is possible.

After all, a decade ago, my boss wrote the software which would pinpoint a cell phone's location within a few meters by utilizing tower triangulation.

That was a decade ago. Before our phones were more powerful than my first home computer. Before our phones came standard with faster internet access than a good portion of my extended family uses for home access.

Scary huh--and I think it's a good time to plug Doctorow's Little Brother again here.

Anyways, to sum things up, this movie rocked. It had an awesome story, great characters and nifty, but scary, techno-babble. I for one, can't wait for this to come to DVD (which is scheduled for December ninth) just so I can watch it again.

I give this a 4 out of 4.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

ToraDora Episode 2

My Thoughts
I'm still a tad hesitant about this show, as it's shaping up to be a fairly formulaic romantic-comedy. Nothing that we haven't seen before. But what gets this one the most points is the simple fact that it is funny.

Yes, I can admit I actually laughed at this episode. Out loud.

So, from that simple thing (that it made me laugh) I think I'll continue watching. Plus it should be interesting to see who ends up with who at the end. Which is why these things keep getting made.

Episode Summary

The episode starts out with the classic misunderstanding when Minori sees Taiga and Ryūji walking to school together. Later on, the two begin their plan to get Taiga and Kitamura together, and their first effort involves Ryūji beaning Kitamura's gym partner wtih a ball.

Which doesn't go well.

Their next bit is cookiees.

Which again doesn't go well.

So, while Taiga is being all emo over these failures, Ryūji cheers her up. An action which has the unforeseen consequences of the class coming to the conclusion that they're dating now.

Once that rumor gets into play, Taiga tells Ryūji that she'd confess in the morning, and that they no longer have to be friends. An action which depresses Ryūji's mom, and bothers Ryūji himself. The next day at school, Taiga takes the initiative and fusses at everyone for the rumor, then goes to Minori to tell her that the rumor wasn't true before finding Kitamura and confessing to him.

Ryūji happens to overhear the confession, and the resulting turn down from Kitamura--mainly because Kitamura also sees what everyone in their class BUT Ryūji and Taiga see. The episode ends with those two skipping school so that Ryūji can make Taiga a meal.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tora Dora! Episode 1

My Thoughts
As far as first episodes goes, it does a great job of setting things up. Ryūji's character is really well-defined. It's hammered in quite nicely his issues with the fact that everyone around thinks him a delinquent--despite his actions to the contrary.

And Taiga's surliness goes a long way to defining her character as well.

Now, here's hoping there's more to her than a typical tsundere character. Not that I'm really expecting much beyond that, but it would be nice for something new on occasion.

Anyways, this promises to be a decent romantic comedy anime, so I'll see where it goes from here.

One thing that I am a tad hesitant about is the artwork. It reminds me a lot of the art from Code E and Mission E (I admit that it's the lack of a nose on Ryūji that brings up that comparison). But this is the same studio that produced Sky Girls so I expect it to pick up at least somewaht.

The final thing that caught my attent is: What exactly is up with Ryūji's mom?

Her first appearance she's drunk on the floor, and she acts more like a older sister than a mother. I'm actually wondering if that'll be something that gets "discovered" later on in the anime. But hey, she does support the family, even if it's by working at a hostess-bar.

Episode Summary
Ryūji Takasu who is frustrated at trying to look his best as he enters his second year of high school. Despite his gentle personality, his eyes make him look like an intimidating delinquent so he does not have many close friends.

Ryūji goes to school and is happy to find that he gets to be in the same class as his best friend Yūsaku Kitamura and the girl he's crushing on, Minori Kushieda. However, it is then that he unexpectedly runs into "the school's most dangerous animal of the highest risk level" — Taiga Aisaka — who just happens to also be in his class, and is a good friend of Minori.

Ryūji has a teacher conference, and when he goes back to his classroom to retrieve his bag discovers that Taiga's still there. He grabs his back, an action which Taiga tries to stop, and once she storms off, he cleans up the mess they had made.

That night, Taiga sneaks into his house in an attempt to steal back the bag, which contains a love letter to Kitamura. Once again, Ryūji and Taiga fight, with the end result that Ryūji makes Taiga a meal.

The next morning, he goes to her apartment (conviently next door) and cleans up her apartment for her.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Shhhh, Don't tell anyone I'm posting again...

Well, after way too long between actively blogging, I'm back, with renewed commitment to actually putting more words out there on the internet.

Because we all know that there's not enough folks with superiority complexes exclaiming the rightness of their own viewpoint on the internet.

And in case you happen to be wondering just what it has been that I've been doing with my mounds and mounds of free time, I present to you, the flowchart which I apparently live my life by.

No, seriously.

Anyways, I've once more have gotten on the SF bandwagon, and feel that I know have time to actually write interesting, to me at least, articles on things that... well interest me.

Now, before I get any further into this, I've got a confession to make. It's something so dark, dreary and despicable, I'm almost ashamed that I done it in the first place.

I've read Twilight.

I know, hard to believe, but yes, I've actually managed to snicker through read all 4 novels.

I mean, it's like the worst FanFic written by 14 year old girls out there--all over the top mush with no true bearing on reality or relationships in general.

And that's even BEFORE I get started on the climatic battle at the end of the fourth, and final, novel of the series.

This is one of those things that one wishes they could unread. Which is saying something, because I didn't feel that way about Where the Heart Is or any random Nicholas Sparks novels I've read through the years.

Oh well. In other book news, I've read the second of that unalterably boring book series, Coruscant Knights, and will try to generate a review when that portion of my brain finally wakes up.

Then my brother-in-law was kind enough to hand me over his entire set of the Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest and the new novel, Brisinger). The lucky dog got a Kindle--though I'm still not certain that I'd want one just due to the DRM involved. You'd think that Amazon, and their DRM-Free music store, would sell DRM free eBooks that would work on any eBook Reader out there, alas though.

But that's off-topic, or at least a rant for another day.

On the proverbial idiot box, we get the first of the Clone Wars cartoon episodes this Friday. I'm still hesitant over these, as the movie really, really reeked. Then that's coupled with the whole thing that we already know what's going to happen and it's a nice recipe for absolutely no danger for the characters.

Of more importance, is the new SciFi series Sanctuary. This I'm somewhat excited about--but then again, I was kind of excited about Fringe as well, and was left really underwhelmed by that series. For those who don't know Sanctuary stars SG-1's Amanda Tapping, and started life as a web-based episodic video series. Which is utterly cool on just the geek principle involved.

Anyways, that's enough rambling for one evening. It's time to go watch some anime.

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