Monday, December 11, 2006

Capsule Review Day

Next by Michael Crichton
I picked this one up in hardback on my Saturday morning jaunt to Costco. It's your typical Crichton scientific thriller, exhaustively researched and blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. This time around, he dives into genetics, gene therapy, and the controversies surrounding the patenting of cells as well as stem-cell research.

What I Liked: Crichton doesn't write amazing characters or evocative text, but he has that unerring instinct for pushing the narrative forward and keeping the reader interested in what happens on the next page. I always learn a bit whenever I read one of his books.

What I Didn't Like: There's no real "main character" although there are a few characters that show up on the page more often than others. Every other chapter seems to introduce a new name and face, to the point where you might as well just go along for the ride and stop trying to remember if you've already been introduced to this character before. The plot payoff isn't too great, though the subplots are interesting enough. Crichton obviously has an agenda and his opinions colour the story far too much (I had the same problem with State of Fear). It would have been a better work of fiction if he had placed the story first and allowed the reader to draw his own conclusions without the heavy-handed lecturing.

Bottom Line: It's an entertaining read that's over quickly, but it won't change your life. B-

Alias: Season Five
I had to get the last season for completeness, and I'm in the process of watching them again. Plus, it was cheaper than getting the $200 magical Rambaldi box version and probably fits on my shelf much easier.

What I Liked: Though the series had its ups and downs, the fifth season aged surprisingly well, and stands up to some of the ridiculously good episodes from the golden years. The series as a whole mostly ends as it should (though the final Irina plotline was stupid and seemed as if the writers couldn't think up anything better for her to do), even though an argument could be made that the entire fifth season is just an appendix.

What I Didn't Like: The box and all its packaging looks like a fifth-grade collage assignment on a fourth grade budget. Several plotlines end up abandoned (since the fifth season was cut short by five episodes) and one character's final shift of loyalties happens too quickly as a result (it's a good thing he owned a glass coffee table). Talking ghosts were unnecessary, but not as bad as the Slimer goo blob from the third season.

Bottom Line: If you were ever stranded in a ski lodge and there were no snow bunnies, watching all five seasons of Alias would be a well-spent use of seventy-two hours. B+

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
I never did get around to seeing this in the theatres, so I picked it up this weekend and watched it in between work.

What I Liked: The action-y parts are fun and well-executed. The movie as a whole has a sly understated humour to it, though they do overdo a few bit parts from the first movie.

What I Didn't Like: This movie breaks the "no movie should ever be more than two hours" ass-falling-asleep rule. I actually watched it in two parts, because nowadays my time is a precious commodity like diamonds or ranch dip on wing night. I just couldn't justify sitting in one place watching a movie for three hours when there was so much other stuff to do, like earning money or seeing how many balls of masking tape I can stick to Booty before she wakes up. Had it been streamlined by about twenty minutes, it would have been a much stronger movie. Also, the reef-dwelling pirates were very creative, but there was so much CGI in the movie that it felt like overkill. Finally, why are all pirates so dirty or sooty?

Bottom Line: If you liked the first movie, you'll still like it better than this one, but this one's just as good. A-

Clerks 2
I watched this a couple weeks ago but forgot to write about it.

What I Liked: The movie's a nostalgic nod to the original and is fun to watch if you're a fan of any of the characters. Some of the mini-scenes are hilarious, like the geeks arguing about which trilogy is better: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings (with guest appearance by Kevin Weisman, Marshall from Alias). You can watch that scene on YouTube (swearing in the audio). Sadly I agree with Randal's summation of the Lord of the Rings (but I think Star Wars was stupid too).

What I Didn't Like: Eventually the movie just felt too familiar. It's obvious that Kevin Smith used these characters up to their original potential long ago. Obscene dialogue for the sake of obscenity is so 1994.

Bottom Line: Watch it if you like Kevin Smith movies and you're bored. C+

Happy Birthday Scott Elliot!

Tomorrow is 12 of 12!

$200 for a naked bathtub session
Mapmaker puts tiny towns on road to oblivion
Four-year-old accused of sexual harassment

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