Posts made in June, 2013

World War Z

Posted by on Jun 30, 2013 in Books, Geek Culture, Movies/Music/TV | 2 comments

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I’ve spent the last couple of days a) reading the book and b) seeing the film. I’m sure everyone has seen the Venn diagram showing the similarities between the two. Sadly, it’s pretty accurate.

The book is written from the perspective of a reporter who travels around the world interviewing key survivors/leaders of the zombie war (World War Z). It is told in chronological order, from the outbreak through the panic through the planning stages and then through the defeat of the zombies. Each person’s interview is sectioned into pieces, so you get multiple perspectives from places all around the globe during each timeframe.

The movie focuses on a reporter who (for some reason that isn’t well explained) is God’s Gift To Reporting and the military will do anything to secure his family from the ruins of Philadelphia in order to get him to use his reporting skills to help the only doctor left in the world figure out if they can make a Zombie cure. Yes, the movie acts like a mental run-on sentence. During the film he travels to South Korea, Israel and Wales in search of information. Eventually a type of cure is discovered.

The only positive thing I can say about the movie is that the zombies are really well done. The sense of growing dread at the speed and viciousness of the zombie plague is conveyed very well.

The movie missed so many moments that would have been AMAZING from the book to put on screen. The battle of Yonkers. The rise of the plague in China. The disappearance of all inhabitants of North Korea. The fortifications of Israel & Cuba (who, for all intents and purposes, “win” the Zombie war because of their locations/planning). The horrors of the undersea zombies. The nuclear strikes between Iran and Pakistan. The Chinese sub that goes rogue. The astronauts who decide to remain on the International Space Station. The tactics which eventually allow the military to effectively exterminate the zombie plague. All of these things would have been incredible on the screen. None of them were part of the movie. And, wow, Brad Pitt’s kids and wife are so annoying and useless. They are the classic “reason not to be burdened down with family when the apocalypse happens” characters.

There is no vaccine in the book. Why can’t Hollywood translate a compelling story to screen when one is provided to them? There HAD to be a vaccine?

I highly recommend the book. It’s engaging, well written and researched, and conveys a realistic sense of what a real zombie outbreak would be like. If you like zombie effects and Brad Pitt, go ahead and see the movie. Otherwise, it is entirely missable.

For another great set of thoughts about the film, check out Felicia Day’s comments about World War Z.

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Tabletop Thursday – Formula D Extended

Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in Games/Video/Board, Web Shows | 0 comments

Today is Tabletop Thursday, and Geek & Sundry released the extended version of Formula D, the first episode from Season 2. It’s nearly 2 hours of film, which is closer to the duration of an actual game of Formula D.

 

We played Formula D at a Game Night party at our house and we had 8 players. We used the basic rules (not the advanced rules that you see them use in the video) which means we didn’t track specific damage or use the character cards. Despite the fact that not everyone at the party was interested in racing (at all) or Formula One, everyone found this game to be an absolute blast. The strategy involved in gear selection and the number of stops through a turn proved quite challenging when you have 8 drivers on the track.

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Superman: Man of Steel

Posted by on Jun 26, 2013 in Comics/Webcomics, Geek Culture, Movies/Music/TV | 0 comments

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I saw Man of Steel today. I had not heard very good things about the film going into the showing, so I had reservations. I’m happy to report, they were unfounded. I thought it was a good movie that could have been a great movie. [spoilers ahead]

The previews that played before the film included:

  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (This preview looked better than the entirety of An Unexpected Journey.)
  • 300: Rise of an Empire (I wanted the two hours of my life back after seeing 300. I’m certainly not motivated to see the sequel.)
  • Turbo (Looks cute, but I’m not sure how motivated I am to shell out money to see a racing snail.)
  • Despicable Me 2 (I loved the first one and this one looks hilarious. Definitely going to try to get to see this one ASAP.)
  • The Lone Ranger (Sigh. Johnny Depp as Tonto? I’m so worried this film is going to be horrible. Which makes me sad, because I really liked The Lone Ranger TV series.)
  • Paranoia (A film I hadn’t heard of before this preview. Harrison Ford vs. Gary Oldman? Sounds like a must-see, if only on Blu-Ray and not in the theater.)

The film starts on Krypton. The technology the film envisions for Krypton is really neat – it’s very Mass Effect/Halo-like in terms of the look of the ships, guns, armor, etc. I really liked the interplay of Zod and Kal-El and the ruling council. I wish there had been more explanation of why Jor-El is such a naturalist, flying around on animals (rather than spaceships) and having Kal-El via natural childbirth when the rest of his entire civilization is dedicated to mechanical/artificial ways of doing things.

The natural childbirth decision is explained, but you get the impression Jor-El and his wife are the only people on the entire planet who feel this way.

The storytelling of Clark growing up is beautifully done. You jump around in time, out of chronological order, seeing him perform various acts of good from young school age through his early 20s. The various scenes are well strung together in terms of pacing and theme.

I have an issue with how Pa Kent is written. There’s nothing wrong with Kevin Costner’s portrayal of him, I simply don’t agree with the direction they went. The Kents are supposed to raise Clark to be the truly Good person that he grows up to be. However, Pa Kent has this whole “don’t reveal yourself to the world, they aren’t ready, they will hate you — even if it requires you to let some people die” philosophy that we see him repeat to Clark at various times while Clark is growing up. Pa Kent’s self sacrifice in the tornado was… absurd? A meaningless death? Yes. That’s how I felt about it.

For Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series) fans, I felt like Pa Kent’s death reminded me of General Zhao’s refusal to accept Zuko’s hand to save him from the Ocean Spirit.

I am not a fan of Russell Crowe. That being said, he does a fantastic job with Jor-El. The use of Jor-El throughout the story is very well done, and I love that Jor-El works with Lois to escape Zod’s ship and get Superman the information he needs to defeat Zod’s forces. I honestly wish there had been more of him in the film.

Henry Cavill is a great Superman. I never thought I’d say that about anyone other than Christopher Reeve, but he really does a great job. He’s heroic without being arrogant; thoughtful without being weak. If I have any criticism about Superman, it’s not with Cavill’s portrayal. It’s, again, with how the character is written. He’s oh-so-concerned with saving lives so it’s supposed to mean something to us when he kills Zod. However during the course of his fight with Zod, thousands of people must have died in Metropolis (New York). I guarantee you people died in the little town where he has his knock-down-drag-out with Zod’s henchmen. His concern over personally killing Zod left me a little flat, given all of the collateral damage deaths that he caused.

Amy Adams does a solid job with Lois Lane, and Lois is written marvelously. She’s strong, confidant and never the screaming woman-in-distress. She has her own career, and pursues reporting with passion and skill. She drinks straight bourbon (mad props). She rolls with the punches of alien technology, outer space, and threats to Earth with aplomb. I like the fact that she knows who Superman is at the end when Clark takes his job with the Daily Planet.

Michael Shannon as General Zod (does he remind anyone else of Bill Hader?) was over-acted at parts, but for the most part he was a competent villain. Again, my complaints are with how the character was written. Why couldn’t Zod be given a bit more depth? He needed more explanation of his viewpoint and rationale for his stance that Kryptonians were worth the extermination of another people other than “I was born to be this way”. He needed to be less megalomaniacal and xenophobic. If he had been a character that one could even slightly empathize with, it would have made his villainy less two dimensional and improved the film.

Why was Laurence Fishburne in this film? He was given absolutely nothing to do as Perry White. Every time I saw him on the screen I thought “Hey, there’s Laurence Fishburne. He’s a really great actor. I wish he was doing something other than sitting at a desk or dodging buildings.”

To be honest, I would have been ok with the film ending with the implosion of Zod’s ship (assuming Zod had been on board). I felt like the Zod/Superman fight at the end was entirely unnecessary. Though I did laugh when Zod grabbed Superman’s cape and swung him around by it. Did anyone else think of Edna Mode in The Incredibles?

All in all, I enjoyed Man of Steel. I think if the script had been a bit tighter, the film could have been a truly great superhero film. As it is, it is a good film and worth seeing.

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Pork Souvlaki

Posted by on Jun 25, 2013 in Food | 0 comments

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I love good Greek food. I was delighted to discover that it’s really easy to make your own souvlaki at home — and it tastes better than any I’ve had at a festival or restaurant.

This is the recipe I use:

Take 12 boneless pork chops (serves 4 with leftovers), remove all fat and cube the meat

Combine 1/4c olive oil, 1/4c red wine, 1Tbsp red wine vinegar, 2Tbsp lemon juice, 1Tbsp Tarragon, 1Tbsp oregano, 4-6 cloves of garlic, 1 bay leaf crumbled into tiny pieces, salt and pepper.

Place the pork in the marinade and let sit in the fridge overnight.

Place the meat on skewers and prepare a charcoal grill until the heat is ready.

Grill the skewers over direct heat to brown the meat, then move the skewers onto indirect heat and cover the grill. Allow to cook for 20 minutes, turning once.

When I serve souvlaki, I serve it on heavy Mediterranean bread (think gyro sandwiches) with a relish of tomatoes and onions in balsamic vinegar, local feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce (either homemade or store-bought depending on time). It is a favorite dish for kids and adults!

 

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The World’s End and The Zero Theorem

Posted by on Jun 24, 2013 in Geek Culture, Movies/Music/TV | 0 comments

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Usually I wait for a film to come out before talking about it, but I’m just so excited about these two pictures that I can’t sit still.

The World’s End is the third film in the self styled “Cornetto Trilogy” of films by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. As best as I can determine from the trailer, it’s about a group of friends who reunite 20 years after an epic pub crawl in order to re-create it. As luck would have it, that day is also the day the world ends. It looks like a combination of The Fellowship of the Ring, Village of the Damned, and a buddy comedy. If you liked Shaun of the Dead (the most amusing zombie flick ever made – if you haven’t seen it run out now and do so!) and Hot Fuzz (a British buddy-cop-meets-Stepford-wives comedy), I think you’re in for a treat with World’s End. I, for one, can’t wait. It comes out mid-August.

Here is a great article about the Trilogy from the fine folks at i09.com.

The other film I’m excited about is the upcoming Terry Gilliam film, The Zero Theorem. From IMDB, it looks like it’s tentatively slated to be released in early 2014. i09.com posted this article yesterday which contained a link to a trailer/preview for the film that was simply amazing. Sadly, it has been pulled from YouTube due to copyright infringement. I saw it before it was pulled. Christoph Waltz looks incredible. The look and feel of the film reminded me immediately of Brazil, quite possibly my favorite Gilliam film of all time. It looks visually, thematically and conceptually complex, which means it will likely be an amazing film as those are all areas in which Gilliam excels.

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John Hodgman at the Birchmere

Posted by on Jun 23, 2013 in Books, Geek Culture, Movies/Music/TV, Web Shows | 0 comments

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On May 3rd, I saw John Hodgman at The Birchmere. The opening act (as you can see) was Paul & Storm.

I’ve known of Hodgman for years, ever since he first appeared on The Daily Show to promote his book, The Areas of My Expertise, and then became an occasional correspondant. I’ve known about Paul & Storm mainly because of Wil Wheaton and W00tstock and their show on the Geek & Sundry channel on YouTube (Learning Town). Oh, and their fantastic Game of Thrones song “Write Like the Wind“.

Paul and Storm were the opening act and were positively delightful. They played “Write Like the Wind”, “Opening Band”, “Ten Fingered Johnny” and a host of other hits from their four CDs. They played for about an hour and I was sad to see them leave the stage.

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Hodgman took the stage and was not at all what I was expecting. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. I’d seen him do his “Resident Expert” character on The Daily Show so I suppose I expected something like that. Instead, he did 90 minutes of pure stand-up comedy. He was a riot. Some of his humor was geek humor, some observational humor, some political humor. Stellar stand-up.

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I would catch his act again in a heartbeat. If you have the chance to see him on the stage, you should catch his show.

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