Monthly Archives: December 2015

Movie Review: The Night Before

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: A solid Christmas movie. One of those irreverent, just this side of uncomfortable funny movies.  Seth Rogen trips balls throughout most of the movie.

My brother and I decided to be Jews for a day and hit the movie theater on Christmas.  It was the most crowded I have ever seen a theater for a matinee showing.  Not that “The Night Before” was crowded, given it’s on its last legs at this point, but much of everything else was sold out already.  Craziness.

The craziness that occurs in “The Night Before” stems from a touching story of friendship and loss that is really quite beautiful and well thought out for a movie that you just know is going to be one of those stupid men get into stupid predicaments and have to make up with their much more grounded significant others movies.  When Ethan’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents are killed, friends Chris (Anthony Mackie) and Isaac (Seth Rogen) comfort him and make sure he’s never alone on Christmas Eve by throwing together an epic night on the town.  This tradition continues for many a year until the three are well into adulthood and have changing responsibilities and decide to have just one more epic Christmas Eve together.

The movie works pretty well.  There’s nothing groundbreaking, just a solid buddy comedy like almost every other movie Seth Rogen has ever been in.  The man is the undisputed master of movies like this.  Mackie, Gordon-Levitt, and Rogen have real chemistry together and you can just tell that they and the other cast members had one hell of a good time filming the movie.  One has to wonder, though, if Rogen was just portraying a person tripping balls throughout the movie or if he was 100% in character so to speak when performing.

There’s nothing much else to say about “The Night Before”.  It’s a fun movie and probably one that you could watch once a year and enjoy every time.  Which is saying quite a lot, but it’s not even close to being a classic.  It’s more just solid.  If you like this type of movie, you’ll like this movie.  How’s that for circular logic?

Book Review: Constitution by Nick Webb

Jean-Paul’s rating: 2/5 stars

Never trust Amazon book reviews.  Or maybe online user reviews on any generic website.  I finished my previous book and needed something to read at short notice so I decided to take advantage of Amazon Prime’s Lending Library and the reviews for this book were pretty high with the caveat that it followed very closely to “Battlestar Galactica” the TV show.  I can deal with that.  Nope.  To say that “Constitution” follows “Battlestar Galactica” is like saying that “Romeo Must Die” follows “Romeo and Juliet”.  Sure, there are similarities to the story, but how the heck do you eff up the source material so bad?

The truth is that “Constitution” is just your standard pulp military sci-fi book and nothing more.  If it can be said that someone has plagiarized a genre, Nick Webb has done so with this book.  There is not a single original idea and every character and plot point is a cliche.  This doesn’t necessarily make for bad reading, but it definitely doesn’t make for good reading.  If you decide to read this book, “Constitution” will forever be in the “books you have read” category, but not much more.

As the story went on and I knew there wasn’t going to be much enjoyment to be had, I changed my reading style from “enjoyment” mode to “guess the author’s political bent” mode.  I came to the conclusion that Nick Webb is either a libertarian or decided to make his main character attractive to libertarian fanboys by having him casting dispersions against the incompetent government that happened to create the very ship he is in charge of and which will certainly save the human race but only if the captain can do what he wants when he wants with the tools that are given to him by that government.  Libertarianism in a nutshell.  I assume the former,though there is little Nick Webb information out there.  I still give some credence to the latter as being possible as military sci-fi seems to be inundated with libertarian readers and they would certainly explain all the good reviews given to this simplistic book.

The best things I can say about “Constitution” is it’s not bad and it’s a very quick read at 362 pages, half of which are taken up by chapter titles.  I kid you not.  There are 71 chapters in this book.

Book Review: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

“Seveneves” contains everything that is wonderful about Neal Stephenson and everything that is frustrating about Neal Stephenson.  It starts with a bang.  Or an explosion.  Or something.  Regardless of what it is, the moon is now broken up into many large chunks.  No one knows why it happened and what starts as a curious search for answers quickly becomes a desperate fight for survival as pieces of the moon continue to ping pong off of each other and some tear through the atmosphere to collide with the Earth.  Thus is the story of Part One of “Seveneves”.  Neal is on very solid Stephensonian territory here.  Good story.  Good characters.  Lots of dense science grounded mostly in reality.  It’s a very fun read but there’s all sorts of minutiae seeded throughout that, if you don’t make sure you understand and remember, will make latter parts of the book mostly incomprehensible.

And how does Stephenson make sure that he loses most of his audience in the latter parts of the book?  By creating a Part Two that is a novel unto itself and mostly puts on hold much of what were introduced to in Part One.  Still, it continues to be a great story.  A desperate fight for survival in the kludged together space station filled with daring rescue missions and plenty of political intrigue as the Earth below burns.  By the end of Part Two, we finally learn why the title of the book is “Seveneves”.  It would have probably been wise to end to story here.  Stephenson is still on terra firma even if the Earth in the novel is still a molten hellscape.  It would be a little open-ended of an ending, but plenty of ideas are planted in the reader’s mind to make you think about what kind of a future, if any, the human population might be in for.  But then Stephenson decided to add another novel telling us the kind of a future he perceived that human population will be in for.

Enter Part Three.  Five thousand years later.  Imagine you were thrown back into Earth history five hundred years and had to put into words for that population how things worked in the present day.  Now imagine that you had to do it for the chimpanzees of that time.  A fairly impossible task.  Stephenson tries.  Boy, does he try.  There is page after page after page after page of descriptives as seen from the point of view of a single brand new character.  Inflatable gliders and bot-guns and flynk chains and bola-like space elevators and a slew of new races and an incomprehensible habitat ring with a Cradle and an Eye and Boneyards and somehow divided up between a Red and Blue faction.  I really have no idea if I got any of that right.  The descriptions are dense and thrown at you at a speed impossible to digest.  Much of this could be forgiven if the story that goes along with the descriptions were captivating or if the descriptions had anything to do with the story, but it is not and they do not.  What’s even worse, the ending is so incredibly disappointing.  It just kind of…ends.  There’s no resolution.  There’s no attachment to characters.  I’ve not seen an ending to a book this bad since every Michael Crichton book ever.

This is the first Neal Stephenson novel that I can safely say you should probably pass on.  Or maybe just read the first two parts, because they are worth it.  There aren’t any of those “wow, that’s just brilliant” moments that made his “Necronomicon” one of my favorite books or that made his “Baroque Cycle” still worth reading despite its ponderously slow parts, but the first two parts still tell a compelling story.  Thus three stars.

Death Doesn’t Discriminate, Part II

Kristin here. I’ve been avoiding this post for almost two months now, but following yesterday’s post, the timing seems appropriate.

Death is a bitch.

Eliot1

It just takes.

Eliot2

And takes.

Eliot10

And takes.

Eliot7

And takes.

Eliot8

And takes.

Eliot5

And takes.

Eliot3

RIP, Eliot. I’ve loved you since you were a kitty.

Death Doesn’t Discriminate

Between the sinners and the saints

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It just takes

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And it takes

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And it takes

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And it takes

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RIP Lindy

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Best. Cat. Evar.

Movie Review: Krampus

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 2/5 stars

Bottom Line: Tries really hard to be funny and scary.  Fails at both.

“Krampus” starts out decently with the whole “dysfunctional extended family getting together for Christmas” story.  It then does a pretty good job of building up the tension with scary snowmen and odd goings on right up until Krampus appears for the first time.  Then it’s all downhill from there.  This is disappointing on many levels, but what’s most disappointing is this is a great cast of C-list actors, probably the best ensemble of C-list actors ever, and their talents are wasted.

The movie starts to go off the rails when the cliche German grandma tells the story of Krampus visiting her home town as a child.  This can be a great storytelling arc as the grandma’s dire warnings of what’s to come are ignored or laughed at.  Which they are.  But the grandma’s story has almost no correlation to the events that happen to the family in the movie except for the fact that Krampus is involved.  The movie devolves into a grotesquerie of mindless comic monsters mixed in with vile, disgusting worm-creatures and bird-things.  The two creature types don’t mix together at all.  In fact, the only really effective monster in the movie is Krampus himself and he is oddly wasted by being portrayed mostly with foot stompings and glarings.

I will give props to the movie for a pretty good ending.  There can be much discussion on what it means and it will make you think if there were clues that might lead you to rethink all you’ve seen before. Well, except for one glaring fault.  The grandma again.

I had hopes for a good anti-Christmas Christmas movie and those hopes were dashed.  The Krampus tale is kind of awesome and deserves a good dark comedy/horror story.  This is not that story.  Save your money.

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line:  BA da da DA da da DA ddla da da da DA ddla da da da DA ddla da da da DA.  BA ba.  ba ba ba BA ba. ba ba ba BA ba.  ba ba ba BA.

Star Wars! Yay! “The Force Awakens” was a fun romp of a movie if completely derivative.  Yes, just like a certain J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie reboot that shall remain nameless (*cough “Into Darkness” *cough*), “The Force Awakens” is taken almost full cloth from “A New Hope”.  So there, I just spoiled the whole movie for you.

Fear not, mortal!  The movie is still a fun ride even if you’ve seen it all before.  Probably only if you’re a fan of the series (I-III notwithstanding).  J.J. Abrams is a genius when it comes to crafting a movie that will suck you in even if his basket of new ideas is sorely lacking.  His plan when rebooting series seems to be asking himself “What worked before?” and then cramming that all into a single movie.  You can’t argue with results.

Fans will love seeing old faces.  Fans and newbies will also love the new faces.  Rey and Finn (Daisy Ridley and John Boyega) are absolutely wonderful characters, though it took a while for Boyega to grow on me.  I think that’s mostly because of my main complaint with the whole movie.  There’s very little character development.  Ridley and Boyega shine through because there’s real charisma there that wins you over despite their lack of depth.  The same can’t be said for Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) who seems to be shoe-horned into the story.  And, in my estimation, the biggest strike against the movie is the lack of depth given to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).  Much of the surprise twists surround his character, but it’s hard to feel anything about them because there’s really not a developed character to feel anything towards yet.  They’ll all be back, I’m sure, and much of the backstory will be filled in, but the storytelling in “The Force Awakens” is only moderately above George Lucas level.

Yep, I’ll definitely be seeing it again because it really is a fun movie despite its recycled story line and lack of character depth.  If this were a stand-alone movie, I’d probably be a lot more unforgiving.  But Star Wars.  And for those keeping track at home, the official ranking from best to worst is V, IV, VI, I, III, I don’t like sand.

Stupid Effin’ Cat

This is Lindy:

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She is a stupid fucking cat.

She survived a flood that caused her owners to give her up.  She traveled 300 miles to be with another owner who also had to give her up.  Then came 2008, when Lindy began her ownership of me.

Stupid fucking cat.

She demands attention.  Whether it’s staring me straight in the eye while also blocking my view of the computer screen until I pet her or planting her feet firmly into my chest while I’m watching TV until I allow her to straddle my arm along my side while I scratch her throat or crawling on top of me while I’m in bed reading until I scratch her ass or never allowing me to close the bathroom door so I can, again, scratch her ass while she rubs her face on the corner of the bathroom wall leaving a permanent Lindy stain.

Stupid fucking cat.

When she pees, her tail wiggles back and forth quickly like a rattlesnake warning an adversary and then bobs down and up like she’s a man shaking before zipping up.  When she poops, her nose rhythmically wrinkles in concentration until you hear the plop.  This is invariably followed by the ritualistic scratching of the rim of the cat box for 50 or so hours followed by exiting the box only to finally go back in and paw at the litter.  Then, depending on her mood, the phase of the moon, how things are arranged on my counter, and infinite other variables that exist in her tiny cat brain, she will enter crazy cat mode and zoom back and forth around the apartment culminating invariably in a dead stop in a corner as she looks piercingly up at the corner of the ceiling staring down a bogey only she can see.

Stupid fucking cat.

Her food bowl is proclaimed empty if the smallest portion of the bottom is visible.

Stupid fucking cat.

She jumps up on high and looks over her kingdom while sitting above her servant clicking futilely at the keyboard.

Stupid fucking cat.

She waits patiently for me to both go to bed and get out of bed and races ahead of me up and down the stairs to meet me at my destination.

Stupid fucking cat.

She demands to be pet when I’m brushing my teeth or filling up my water glass or, really, wherever I happen to be at the time.

Stupid fucking cat.

She gets an ear infection and has to have some teeth removed and she tolerates it all like a champ.

Stupid fucking cat.

The ear infection comes back.  She stops eating.  She starts falling down.  She’s come to loathe the vet but she springs back.

Stupid fucking cat.

Another ear infection.  To the dermatologist.  Allergies.  Special food, Claritin, even more antibiotics.  Looking good.  Feeling good.

Stupid fucking cat.

More falling down.  To the neurologist.  Giant cancerous mass around her right ear.

Stupid fucking cat.

Months to live.

Stupid.

Fucking.

Cat.