Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

BOOK: The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

March 13, 2012

My husband recommended this book to me, and when I saw it was written by the same guy who wrote Codex, a novel I read many years ago and loved (as one might assume, given the fact I’m a librarian and it’s a mystery involving BOOKS), I was absolutely game.

Happily, I can report that the first 2/3rds of this novel are a real kick. (Unhappily, there’s that pesky final third — but more on that in a minute.) The Magicians is being called  “Harry Potter for grown-ups,” and the first 2/3rds make the reason why absolutely clear.  It’s got the same appealing-to-the-kid-in-you magical elements, but it’s also got the added complexities that go with becoming an adult — drinking, sleeping around, screwing up your future, and all that crappy, hard stuff those of us over the age of 18 can more or less relate to.

The characters are a bunch of college-age students who have been recruited to attend a hidden magic university called Brakebills.  How they each got there varies, but our hero, Quentin Coldwater, was summoned by a letter he received after mastering a few gimmicky card tricks — card tricks he didn’t even realize he was working ACTUAL magic on.

Once at the school, Quentin knows he’s found his true calling.  School is grueling — ten times the academic challenges of Hogwarts — and it takes Quentin some time to fit in with the others as well.  But it’s not long before he’s got the hang of studying and made a tight group of pals as well, and that’s despite the fact he’s openly a huge fan of the famous “Fillory” novels, a group of children’s books similar to The Chronicles of Narnia that most other young adults his age have long since given up interest in.

The first 2/3rds of this novel are set at Brakebills and are all about what it’s like to be a student there.  It’s everything you’d expect from a novel about college life, with the added twist that these students are learning how to do things like turn themselves into birds and fly.  There’s also an interesting theme about the ways in which learning about magic sort of takes the magic right out of magic, too — a clear metaphor for the transition from childhood to adulthood, which is loaded with realities that can suck all the life right out of living.

Unfortunately, the last third of the book is where the novel loses its way — it starts when (and this doesn’t feel like a spoiler to me) Quentin and his friends discover Fillory is a real realm and find a way in, only to discover it’s in trouble — threatened by a Big Bad of some magical kind.  Oddly enough, it’s when Grossman tries to tell us an actual STORY that he kind of loses his touch.  The opening bulk of the novel is mostly description — of magic stuff, of the school, of the characters, of the professors (some of whom are just as much fun as their Hogwartian counterparts) — and because it’s so amazing a world, it’s very entertaining and engaging (though also about 100 pages too long, easily).  As soon as everybody drops into the good vs. evil in Fillory plot, though, the book takes a massive nosedive down into the boring and predictable.

Is this Harry Potter for adults?  I’m going to say not quite.  Harry Potter is not as deep as this novel tries to be, though it certainly has its moments of realism — but it’s got ten times the storytelling, that’s for sure.  And while I did get a kick out of Grossman’s hat tips, scattered throughout the book and noting its own similarities not only to Harry Potter, but to Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and more (plus, the very name “Quentin” is a hat tip to Faulkner, and anybody familiar with Faulkner’s Quentin Compson will see the similarities here), the cleverness of the writing didn’t QUITE make up for the totally lackluster final pages.

There’s a sequel to The Magicians out right now in hardback — The Magician King.  My husband will probably read it at some point.  I might just go back to good ol’ Harry.  We’ll see.  If you’ve read the sequel and loved it, tell me so and why, yes?  Yes.  Merci buckets.

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MOVIE: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II (2011)

September 2, 2011

Now that it’s finally over — all the books, all the movies, all the everythings — I just wanted to say one last time:

From the bottom of my deep story-loving heart, J.K. Rowling, I thank you.  Because that?  Was one HELL of a ride.

(For those of you who are afraid the last movie might be a disappointment, by the way:  it isn’t.  Good goddamn, it was grand. Fare thee well, Mr. Potter.  It was a pleasure getting to know you.)

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Genre:  Drama, Fantasy
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, John Hurt, Robbie Coltrane

BOOK: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

January 16, 2011

I don’t know how this happened, exactly, but I somehow managed to get into my late 30s without ever having read this book.  Which is odd, because I absolutely devoured the Lord of the Rings trilogy several years ago (about a year before the films came out) and fell madly in love with Middle Earth and all its various creatures (especially Samwise Gamgee, obviously).  Why I didn’t follow all that up with Bilbo’s book, I have no idea.

Of course, the story is great.  It’s obviously great.  I remembered a lot of it from the animated film I saw about 100 times as a kid, which I assume means that was a fairly acceptable adaptation.  But I will say I was kind of surprised by how not-great the writing is.  Compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in any case.  It definitely seemed more like a children’s chapter book than the trilogy did, and maybe that’s how it was supposed to be, too.  I dunno.  I’m sure Tolkien fans will school me on this in the comments.

In any case, you certainly have to read this novel if you haven’t already.  It’s required.  And I’m off to reread the trilogy again next, so if you don’t see many book reviews up here for a few weeks, that’ll be why!


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BOOK: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (2006)

August 17, 2010

You know what I hate?  I hate it when really entertaining fantasy/horror novels have covers that are as embarrassing to carry around as the cover of this novel is.  Really?  That chick is an auto mechanic — she works on cars with that much cleavage showing?  That’s a really good way to burn your nipples off, lady.  I’m just saying.  Put on some coveralls, already.

But, bad art aside, did you catch the part where I said this book was really entertaining?  Because it really, really was!  And not only that, it was surprisingly well-written to boot.  I had nary a quibble with the writing at all, wonder of wonders, and I found the characters interesting, realistic, and easy to relate to, too — despite the fact they’re all a bunch of werewolves and vampires.

The story is about a female car mechanic (Mercy), who is a special kind of human who can change into a coyote.  In the beginning of this installment, the first in a series, Mercy meets a young man who has recently been transformed into a werewolf and doesn’t yet know how to control his urges.  She takes him under her wing, only to find him murdered a few days later.  As she investigates what happened to him, she finds herself mixed up with an old family of werewolves she used to be close to — before a romance gone bad — as well as a group of vampires, some of whom are nicer than others.

The story is engaging and well crafted, and I liked Mercy immediately.  I also thought the world Briggs invented — especially the way all these various types of creatures operate and relate to each other — was extremely thoughtful and original.  This is definitely a step above most novels of this genre, and if you can get past the damn cover (argh!), and you like these sorts of things, I think you’re in for an excellent time.



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BOOK: A Walk on the Nightside by Simon R. Green (2006)

February 22, 2010

Last year, a friend of mine loaned me a big stack of Simon Green’s books.  This was the first one in the pile, and though I actually finished reading it sometime before Christmas, I only just recently realized I had never gotten around to writing it up.  Let’s chalk it up to holiday scramble.  And/or to the fact it’s a fairly might tome — a big fatty containing the first three books in Green’s “Nightside” series: Something from the Nightside, Agents of Light and Darkness, and Nightingale’s Lament.

The series is about a private detective, John Taylor, who has a supernatural gift of sorts and spends most of his time solving cases in an other-worldly section of London known as “the Nightside.”  The Nightside is a dangerous, magical place, full of serious bad guys, all kinds of weird creatures, and a multitude of eerie sights and sounds.  As the series opens, Taylor, born in the Nightside, has finally managed to escape its pull, moving into an ordinary brownstone in the ordinary city and making a fairly satisfying life for himself as an ordinary PI in the ordinary world.

Everything’s all woo-hoo-normalcy! until a new client walks through his door.  Joanna Barrett is a no-nonsense, type-A, hot momma, and she wastes no time with pleasantries.  Instead, she sits down in a chair, crosses her dashing gams, and announces she needs his help and she needs it now.  As it turns out, Barrett’s teenage daughter has run away again.  Only this time, instead of the usual treks to the big city to get into everyday sorts of trouble, Joanna is convinced she’s managed to get herself into the Nightside — no mean feat, since there isn’t exactly a door.  Not wanting to get sucked back into that place, where Taylor was born and spent most of his life erasing and redrawing the line between good and evil, he first refuses her case.  But Joanna Barrett is a hard woman to say no to, and that’s why Taylor soon finds himself returning to the place of his birth, Barrett right there at his side (refusing, as you’d expect her to, to maintain a safe distance).

All three of the novels in this single volume combine this type of traditional private eye story with the kind of characters and events we’re more used to seeing in stuff like The X-Files.  In other words:  it’s a fairly weird and decently intriguing combination.  Three books in, I do have to report that I don’t find these novels to be terribly well-written.  But they’re steadily improving, and even when they’re a bit on the clunky, juvenile side, they’re still satisfyingly entertaining.   The wife of the friend who loaned them to me recently referred to them as “brain candy,” and, well, yeah, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.  A good choice for those days when you just want to escape into a story without having to fire off too many synapses.

The Nightside series is definitely worth picking up if the combination of Sherlock Holmes and Fox Mulder sounds like an intriguing concept.  Don’t be too put off by the quality of the first two, though — as I said, though Green takes his time finding his stride, once he does, these books turn into a bizarrely engaging kick in the pants.  I’m definitely looking forward to reading more over the next few months.



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MOVIE: Avatar (2009)

December 31, 2009

Okay, look.  This movie is terrible.  It’s absolutely terrible.  The script, the dialogue, the characters, terrible, terrible, terrible.  It’s actually insulting to me — as it should be to you — that James Cameron spent so many millions and millions of dollars on this thing and yet failed to put any money whatsoever into the story and script.  A twelfth-grade creative writing student could’ve written a better movie script.  And you probably could’ve paid him about $500 to do it.

THAT SAID, this movie is 2 hours and 40 minutes of absolutely stunning visual spectacle the likes of which I have never seen before in any movie in my LIFE.  I didn’t even think the world Cameron created was very creative — it looks just like Earth but with neon blue flowers and dinosaurs, big whoop.  There wasn’t anything sophisticated or even very scientifically intriguing about the planet or the sentient beings or the avatars themselves — from where I sat anyway. But the 3-D effects, holy cow.  They are absolutely stunning.  I didn’t look away from the screen a single time during this film (except to roll my eyes at Sigourney Weaver, I should say).  I was completely mesmerized by the drops of water that appeared right before my eyes, the way the characters looked like they were really and truly standing there having a conversation six feet in front of me, and those little floating jellyfish-like things from the tree, flitting around so close to my seat that it felt at times like if I slowly moved my arm out, one might land softly on my hand.  That was pretty wow.  That was wow enough to be worth the torture of all the rest of it.

And so my advice is:  if you have any interest in seeing this film whatsoever, go see it right now, while it’s still in theaters.  See it in 3-D (preferably IMAX, if you can swing it), and see it right away.  Don’t wait for DVD.  If you wait for DVD, all you’re going to end up with is Dances with Wolves with blue Marfan-syndromed Native Americans and an actor only marginally more interesting to watch than Kevin Costner (Sam Worthington — he’s cute, but meh).  Does that sound like fun?  No.  No, it does not.  Trust me on this one.  Theater or bust.

And while I’m at it, Happy New Year!

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Genre:  Science Fiction, Fantasy
Cast:  Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez, Stephen Lang, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi

BOOK: A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle (1960)

December 5, 2009

It took me almost a week to figure out what to say about this novel.  And even now, I’m kind of at a loss as to how to begin.  This is a strange one — strange and wonderful.  And I don’t think any way I come up with to describe it is going to do it much justice.  But let’s see how it goes here.

On the surface, this novel is about an old man, Jonathan Rebeck, who lives in a cemetery and spends his days playing chess and talking to ghosts.  He’s lived at the cemetery for over twenty years, after going bankrupt as a pharmacist, and in all that time he’s never left the grounds, not even once.  He sleeps in a mausoleum and is assisted by a talking raven (metaphor with Elijah here not lost upon me) who drops by daily to deliver pilfered sandwiches and other items, and to fill Rebeck in on the latest news of the world.  It’s a simple life, in a fine and private place, and it has suited Rebeck very well.

When two new ghosts enter the scene, however, Rebeck’s life begins a gradual shift.  He first becomes friends with newly buried teacher Michael Morgan, a man who believes his wife poisoned him and is extremely bitter about being dead.  As it turns out, death is not an endless stream of ghostly walks, spying on the living, and regrets — it is instead simply a gradual forgetting.  You begin by forgetting details:  names, places, events.  But gradually you forget everything else as well — how to make sounds, how to feel sensations, how to love someone.  Michael strenuously resists this forgetting.  Angrily resists it, in fact.  But then Laura enters the scene.  She’s the ghost of a young woman recently hit by a bus, and her take on death is a sigh of relief.  Life was hard, why remember it?  Why not just let go of all of this?  Just let it go.  Let go.

The more time they spend together, the more Michael and Laura begin to pull in from their two extremes (must not forget!  can’t wait to forget!) to meet somewhere in the middle.  And then they fall in love (“for as long as I remember love,” Laura says).  Meanwhile, Rebeck has also begun to experience love, in his case for a woman about his age named Mrs. Klapper who has started visiting her dead husband’s grave a few times a week.  Mrs. Klapper and Rebeck get to talking one afternoon, hit it off, and soon find themselves making more and more plans to meet, opening up to each other at last all the various pains and fears of their hearts.

And so it seems our characters are all headed towards happiness, until something happens that threatens to separate Michael and Laura for good (as if death weren’t bad enough!).  It’s their love for each other that finally spurs Rebeck into action.  But to save them, he’ll have to leave the cemetery for the first time in two decades.  Can he do it?  Yes.  Yes, he can.

This is a strange, offbeat novel with a surprisingly sharp wit and an equally surprising tenderness for its characters.  At times, it does feel just slightly first-novel-y (and it was, in fact, Beagle’s first novel — he later wrote The Last Unicorn, which, incidentally, was one of my favorite movies as a child); it can be a bit repetitive in places, for example.  But you’ll hardly notice it in between all the truly delightful conversations between characters (I was especially fond of the exceedingly sardonic raven) and the thought-provoking ideas about the natures of both life and death.  The title comes from a poem by Andrew Marvell:  “The grave’s a fine and private place,/ But none, I think, do there embrace.”  As it turns out, this is both true and untrue, and the various ways in which it is both, either, which, neither are an absolute delight to discover.

Definitely a book that will require another reading for me, and soon.  Clever, gentle, funny, kind, patient, compassionate, and fascinating — I absolutely loved it.  (p.s.  Thank you, Rook darling.)


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MOVIE: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

August 14, 2009

hphalfbloodI finally set aside the requisite 8 million hours (feels like!) it takes to watch a Harry Potter movie and got my butt to a theater seat for this one at long last Monday.  Now, before you get my tone wrong, it should be noted that I’m a big fan of the books, even the ones that sucked, and I’ve also really enjoyed all the movies so far, even the ones that sucked.  So, I was excited to see it; it’s just a big time commitment.  A two-and-a-half hour movie means no Diet Coke, after all, otherwise there will have to be a pee break.  And a movie without a Diet Coke is always a challenge for me, because those are two great tastes that just go so great together.  Kind of like peanut butter and cheese (hi, Dad!).

In any case, I have good news and bad news.  The good news is, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe are absolutely incredible in this.  I thought I couldn’t get enough Hermione before, but after this movie, I want to move her into my spare room so I can hang out with her all the time.  There is a scene in which Herm (I can call her Herm now that she’s my roommate) and Harry sit on a step together while she cries about feeling unseen by the boy she loves (Ron, for the uninitiated) as Harry sits next to her and just exudes this insane amount of caring-for-her coupled with the sort of awkwardness that hits you when you get to be an older teenager and realize your best friend is someone of the opposite sex.  It’s everything you could ever want in a friendship – that expression on his face.  It’s perfection.  You two crazy kids — you killed me with that, srsly.

Now the bad news: the rest of this movie tooootally sucked.  I was stunned, actually, by how incredibly bad it truly was.  And I’m not referring to plot cuts — I’m one of the rare book lovers who doesn’t get all het up about movies in which half the content of the story is axed.  It has to be done, and I recognize that, even while I don’t always agree with the choices.  Tell your story — I’ll listen.  What I feel like you missed, I can always remind myself of with a reread of the (tome!) instead.

No, my problem wasn’t really with what got left out in terms of actual plot points.  Instead, it was about what got left out in terms of theme, and what wasn’t there at all in terms of inspiration or creativity.  First of all, it has some of the most subpar special effects I’ve ever seen, especially for a movie I know had a budget bigger than the GNP of half the world’s nations.  I could practically see the green screen this time, not to mention that stupid fake-looking bridge in the beginning that looked SO FAKE, MY GOD!  Plus, the scene with the horcrux necklace in the cave — what was up with the set for that?  It starts out like the Holy Grail cave in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade coupled with Superman’s 1978 movie version of the Fortress of Solitude (cheesy crystals and all), and then there’s this sudden influx of Gollums slithering around looking for their Precious.  What the. . .?  That was just bad, Mr. Yates.  BAD.  So bad.

But theme, lordy, theme.  The point of this installment in the series was to look at the impact or difficulty of making choices, right?  Harry is suddenly thrust into the same dilemma that wracked poor Spiderman — he’s got a lot of power and with that comes a lot of responsibility.  But at the same time, he’s just a kid, and he’s in love, and he’s confused, and everything he’s “supposed” to do as “the chosen one” seems to interfere with everything he wants to do as a kid.  The whole movie should’ve been framed around this central concept.

Instead, it all comes out completely disjointed and untethered, like everybody was working from an outline that only had Roman numerals.  It felt like they were trying to hit the parts they knew they had to hit to set up the next movie, bam bam bam check!, and then just threw in other stuff at random to fill the thing out.  But “setting it up for the ending” is not an acceptable excuse for sucking.  And this movie ended up having no emotional weight to it whatsoever, even when one of the most beloved characters in the series gets killed at the end.  Which, lame.

Also, where was Hagrid?  MORE HAGRID.

In any case, if you haven’t gotten your hiney in a movie theater seat for this one yet, I strenuously recommend waiting for DVD.  Now that I know the same director is in charge of the final two movies (they’re splitting the last book into two pictures, in case you hadn’t heard), waiting for DVD will also be my plan unless both films get a ridiculous amount of enthusiastically positive reviews that manage to convince me it’s worth the big screen committment and unpausable pee breaks.

Between now and then, though, let’s hope director David Yates is paying attention to the criticisms about this installment and taking them to heart.  Pay attention, Yates.  Pay it.  I beg you.

(Incidentally, this just in:  for 99 cents, you can download an iPhone application called RunPee that will tell you the best scenes during which to hit the loo in the most popular films playing in theaters.  It tells you what you missed when you get back, and also has a countdown feature that lets you know how much time you have to wait in line for a stall with a lock on it before you start to miss out on something important.  BRILLIANT!  Downloaded and installed, and Diet Coke, here I come!)

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Genre:  Drama, Fantasy
Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Helene Bonham Carter (HATE!), Jim Broadbent (LOVE!), David Thewlis

MOVIE: Reign of Fire (2002)

February 11, 2008

You guys are never gonna believe this, but guess what! I loved this movie! Now wait, don’t get me wrong — there are about 86,000 things about this flick that I found totally and completely stupid. However, unlike with other dumb movies I’ve seen recently (ahem, Equilibrium, ahem), the really stupid parts of this one weren’t intrusive enough to distract me out of enjoying myself. Lovely!

The movie opens in London with a little boy named Quinn hanging out with his mom who works in a mine of some sort. He’s down there playing in the tunnels one day when he stumbles across, and I guess wakes up?, an enormous creature. At first, he has no idea what it is, but a few moments later, it emerges from the tunnel, flapping its wings and breathing fire, and to anybody who’s ever read a fairy tale, it’s immediately clear we’ve got a dragon on the loose. An hour later, everyone in the mine but Quinn is dead, including his mother, and man, do things go downhill quickly from there.

The next thing the human race knows, there are hundreds, thousands of dragons flying around the world turning everything they encounter into ash. At first, the humans try to kill them, but it soon becomes clear their conventional weapons are no good. At a loss for anything else to do, a few countries launch nuclear attacks. But, of course, as anybody with half a brain could’ve predicted (not that the government ever listens to anybody with half a brain, or a whole brain, for that matter), instead of wiping out the dragons, they pretty much finish off the rest of the planet.

Cut to about 15 or 20 years later, and now Quinn (Christian Bale) is all grown up and living in a stone castle (good idea — harder to burn your house if it’s made out of rocks) with a group of fellow survivors. He and his best friend Creedy (the utterly gorgeous Gerard Butler) spend their days struggling to keep their people clothed, warm, and fed, and their evenings reenacting scenes from classic movies for the entertainment of the group’s two dozen or so children (loved the Star Wars scene, by the way!).

For the most part, the group is muddling through. But they’re about to run out of food, and options, and they remain under constant attack by a group of local dragons that keep them from growing many crops or wandering too far from home.

However, lucky for the doomed Brits, they’re in a movie that’s clearly been modeled on World War II flicks, and soon the Americans are storming in with a group of tanks, a helicopter, a bunch of weapons, and a cigar-butt-chompin’, Southern-drawlin’ leader named Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey, totally having a blast with this role). Van Zan is determined to do more than just survive and he needs Quinn’s men to help him do it. At first, Quinn refuses to let any of his people risk their lives for what he thinks is a preposterous idea (killing the Germans — oops, I mean “dragons” — instead of just trying to stay away from them). But the more he sees Van Zan do, the more he starts to believe there might be a way out of this mess after all.

Now, there are a TON of things about this movie that made no sense whatsoever, and one of the primary ones was where in the hell they were getting all their fuel. The helicopter flies around constantly, not to mention the trucks, tanks, and motorcycles that are zooming around all the time, and yet fuel is never even mentioned, despite the fact it’s now almost 20 years after the apocalypse, and the dragons have set the entire planet on fire. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure fire is, like, really bad for fuel. And if the whole world’s been burned, where are they getting all this gasoline? They clearly aren’t storing it in huge tanks next to their castle, where the dragons are going to ignite and then blow it up. But there’s not exactly a functional Shell station down the street either.

Then there’s Van Zan’s plan to wipe the dragons out — he’s figured out that all the dragons they see are women, and that there’s only ONE male dragon, living in London, fertilizing all the eggs by himself. (Incidentally, Big Daddy Dragon is the same one Quinn awoke as a boy, the same one that killed his mother — so we know right away where that part of the story is headed, right?) Anyway, what this means is that if they can kill the Big Kahuna, they can wipe out the entire dragon race.

But, wait — there’s ONE MALE DRAGON for the whole Earth’s worth of dragons? Seriously? There were about 300 dragons alone in just one region of London — you’re telling me ONE MALE DRAGON is responsible for hundreds of thousands of dragons around the world?

No sir, I don’t believe it.

Not only that, but the way this storyline actually plays out at the very end also made no sense at all — I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody, though. For those of you who have seen the movie, I’m referring to the final final scene, set three months after the denouement. The scene in which there also needed to be kissing and wasn’t, by the way. Just another minor bone I wanted to pick. Not even a peck on the cheek to entertain the ladies in the audience? I was bitter.

Oh, and one more thing I just have to mention because it keeps showing up everywhere lately (including last week’s episode of Lost) — the word is CAVALRY, people, not CALVARY. Look it up.

The funny thing about this movie for me, though, was that even though there were all these things (and more!) that made no sense — things no less dumb than, say, the stuff that made me crazy in Equilibrium — I still enjoyed the beheysoos out of this movie. Sometimes movies that are full of cheesy, lame stuff or plot points that are illogical are really hard for me to enjoy. I get annoyed and I can’t relax into the story because I’m so distracted by the flaws. But other times, the problems just don’t seem to get in my way, and that was really the case with Reign of Fire.

In short, it’s kinda silly, but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun. And, since I know you are going to ask, I’ll just come out and tell you that I also thoroughly enjoyed Bale in this flick, and realized halfway through that the difference was all about his accent. I think the reason he makes me nuts in all his other movies is that American accent he so often does — it makes him hold his mouth funny and both sound and LOOK funny, as though he’s trying to force the words out through a throat full of marbles.

But here, he’s speaking in his natural voice, and though his mouth was also partially covered by facial hair, I just never found anything about him distracting at all (well, you know, except for his naked torso — that was kind of distracting, I will confess. Mrrrrrowl!).

What’s more, I finally started to understand why it is you guys all love him so much. I was thoroughly charmed by Bale in this movie, and though I’m still nowhere close to wanting to make him a Boyfriend of the Week, I do suddenly find myself giving the idea a little more consideration. If you guys have any other favorite Bale movies in which he uses his natural accent instead of the American one, post them in comments and I’ll be sure to check them out soon.

All in all, major thumbs up for me on this one, and I thank you guys for finally talking me into giving it a try, because I truly had a great time chillin’ out with the fire-breathing beasts this weekend. Yahoo!

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Genre: Fantasy/War
Cast: Christian Bale, Gerard Butler, Matthew McConaughey, Izabella Scorupco, Scott Moutter

Final Four Movies from Thanksgiving

December 12, 2007

The four movies in this post are the last of the bunch I watched while on vacation over Thanksgiving (jeez, finally wrapping up this series at long last!).  I decided to group them all together into a single post because they were all ones I’d seen (and thus reviewed) in the last year or two.  Of the group, I think only Pan’shas a review on this blog — the rest would be in the Yahoo Group archives from back when I was sending out movie reviews to email subscribers. 

I’ve been ranking the movies from my vacation on a scale of 1-9, with 9 being the worst movie we watched (Nextwith Nic Cage!), and 1 being the best.  The numbers next to each movie’s title below represent their ranking numbers. 

#5:  Maximum Velocity (2003).  This is another one of Phillip J. Roth’s movies, a writer/director/producer whose name we always keep an eye out for when renting sci-fi movies, because in our experience, if Roth was involved, the movie is much more likely to be good-bad instead of bad-bad (as a matter of fact, sometimes his low-budget movies are even better than big-budget films about the same subject — for example, Roth’s flick Deep Core, starring the ever-awesome Wil Wheaton and Craig Sheffer, kicked the wussy butt of Hollywood crapfest The Core).  Of all the Roth movies we’ve seen, I think Maximum Velocity probably has the weakest science behind it, but it was still entertaining (both the first time we saw it, and this second time too).   In this one, Dale Midkiffplays a climatologist, Dr. Briggs, who is part of an experimental weather-related project that goes terribly awry and ends up causing the death of his wife.  A couple of years later, a terrible storm hits Earth, and scientists decide the only way to save the planet is to get that old project back out of the scrap heap and use it to alter the storm’s intensity and trajectory.  But, can they convince the project’s original scientist, Dr. Briggs, to come back and help?  It’s not brilliant, but it’s pretty fun, and fun is really the only criteria worth judging when watching low-budget sci-fi movies.  Besides, I’ll watch Dale Midkiff do just about anything, as evidenced by the fact I’ve seen Flight of the Living Dead.  Cast: Dale Midkiff, Michael Ironside, Wendy Carter.  [Netflix me]

#3 The Day After Tomorrow (2004).  Mom and I really enjoyed this movie the first time we saw it (right after it came out on DVD).  So, when both of us caught a scene or two of it on television in early November, it really put us in the mood to see the whole thing again.  Hence, rental.  As I’m sure you guys know, this flick is about a massive storm brought on by global warming that suddenly rages out of control, launching a new ice age and essentially freezing to the core the entire Northern hemisphere.  Struggling to survive the initial wave of the storm are a group of teenagers holed up in the New York City public library, while down in Washington DC, one of their fathers, a climatologist who had predicted the whole disaster, is attempting to walk his way through the blizzard to save his son.  It’s your standard big-budget Hollywood flick, with lots of special effects and a fair helping of cheese (and also, I will confess, an extremely silly scene involving some wolves).  But the science, though exaggerated, is actually not that far off track.  So, yes, it’s a little on the hokey side (okay, okay, a LOT on the hokey side), but it’s still really fun to watch.  See above, re: criteria.  And, of course, it’s always nice seeing Jake Gyllenhaal play a kid who ISN’T a mopey grump.  Way to break out of the mold, Jake!  Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward, Ian Holm.  [Netflix me]

#2 Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995).  I had been planning to rent the NEW Die Hardmovie while I was on vacation, but as it turned out, my mom still hadn’t seen the third one.  So, we rented it instead.  I actually saw this movie in the theater — rare for me — and the reason I remember that is because on the drive home, my husband and I spent about ten minutes trying to figure out just how they solved that fountain problem in the movie.  You know that scene where McClane (Bruce Willis) and his reluctant civilian partner Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) get to a big fountain in a park and learn from the bad guy (Jeremy Irons) that they have to put exactly four gallons of water on a scale he’s left there in order to defuse the bomb stashed underneath it?  He’s left them a 3 gallon jug and a 5 gallon jug and they have to somehow get exactly four gallons?  In the movie, they sort of whip through the solution to this problem really quickly, and we hadn’t quite caught how they managed to do it, so we had worked out the solution ourselves in the car ride home, feeling extremely smart once we had it figgered out.  Watching it this second time, I had forgotten our solution (that WAS 12 years ago, after all!) so we paused the movie right at that point and Mom and I worked it out together.  Took us a solid few minutes, too, despite the fact that once you have the solution, it seems really obvious and you feel like an idiot for not having come up with it sooner!  In any case, I love puzzles like that (in fact, I love logic puzzles so much I took the LSAT in college just so I could spend half a day working on them — nerd alert!).  So, for that scene alone, this is a movie worth watching.  But beyond that, it’s just a lot of fun.  I love Jackson’s character — or, more accurately, I just plain love Jackson (I’ve often wanted to make him a Boyfriend of the Week and have the entire write-up simply consist of the word COOL in twelve-inch letters).  And there’s a nice twist to the plot of this one as well.  Recommended! Cast: Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson, and who cares who else after that?  [Netflix me]

#1 Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).  When I first reviewed this movie last June, I predicted it would be ranked at #1 on my annual top-ten list of favorite movies from the past year.  After seeing it a second time, I not only predict that’ll happen, I knowit will  (I’ve written the top-ten list for the movies — still working on books — and it should be going up on the Boyfriend site next week, so stay tuned!).  I’m not going to bother describing it here, since I already wrote about it on this blog (see original review here!) and will be writing about it again for the Top Ten Movies list.  Suffice it to say if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you are REALLY missing out on an incredible experience.  Go rent this movie RIGHT NOW.  Seriously.  Right now.  Go.  I’ll wait. [Netflix me]

Okay, this wraps up the Thanksgiving Vacation Movie Fest!  Coming up next, reviews of a couple of newly-on-DVD flicks I watched this week, plus the annual Top Ten Favorite Movies, Top Five Favorite Bad Movies, and Top Ten Favorite Books lists on the Boyfriend of the Weeksite.  I also, incidentally, have the first Boyfriend for 2008 picked out — my hiatus from the Boyfriend site ends this January, so expect to start seeing a fresh crop of cute guys showing up in the new year!  Woot!

p.s. You know what’s ironic?  When you run the spellcheck here at WordPress, it highlights the word “blog” as a word it doesn’t recognize.  For some reason, I’m amused by this.