MOVIE: Passengers (2016)

Passengers Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours I have to admit that the plot presented in the trailers of this movie intrigued me. However, in its execution, Passengers (2016) left much to be desired. Of course, this was mostly due to the film using just enough “physics speak” to be partially accurate, but incredibly wrong. Those parts stuck out to me in this movie and I kept scratching my head while watching it and saying, “Wait a minute . . .” That being said, not all of Passengers was bad, just a pretty big chunk of it. I did appreciate the moral conundrum that Jim (Chris Pratt) encountered in the movie’s first act. It did add a bit of predictable drama to the characters, but depicting his struggle highlighted his humanity. In this plot with a clear three-act structure, this first act was the highlight that eventually devolved into a ridiculous setup for the final reveal. With each new character introduced,...
Read More

BOOK: DreamLync (2015)

DreamLync Year: 2015 Author: K.A. Black Length: 122 pages I initially had my doubts about this book. There have been plenty of stories written about the challenges and cautions of a simulated society. From The Matrix (1999) to Sword Art Online, the blurred lines between the real world and a digital one are well within our reach as a global community. And while books like Ready Player One certainly have a nostalgic feel to their plotlines, DreamLync manages to flip the concept on its head and show how hard it is to pull oneself from a heavily digital social experience. While I would argue that the timeline for this book would be in the next 20-30 years, instead of more than 100 away (just look at Her (2013) for example), the same interpersonal problems will likely still exist. Told via the almost forgettable "everyman" John Adams (not to be confused with either U.S. President), DreamLync shows the reader a world that could easily be ours (without...
Read More

BOOK: Goldfinger (1959)

Goldfinger Year: 1959 Author: Ian Fleming Length: 509 minutes / 8.48 hours For many years, I was aware that the James Bond series of books did not follow the same order as their respective films. Given the action/adventure spy thriller genre these books were written in, it is possible to mix them around and still have a good understanding of what’s going on, even if some of the references made within the novels could only be understood by having read the previous books in the series. In some respects, it is disappointing that the film franchise didn’t capitalize on a continuous narrative that the books provided. If the stories are out of order, then it 's hard to build up the constant battle between James Bond and the Soviet spy agency, SMERSH. Fortunately, since I had read a few of the first books in the James Bond series, I could appreciate Auric Goldfinger’s connection to the organization. That being said, I seemed to have jumped...
Read More

MOVIE: Moana (2016)

Moana Year: 2016 Rating: PG Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours Let's get one thing straight: computers are incredible. Each successive year that passes, I find my eyes blown away at the amazing capabilities of computers to create the kind of imagery found in movies like this. From hair and water effects to some of the more supernatural aspects, the visuals of this film are quite commendable. Sure, Zootopia (2016) looked good too, but since its characters weren't human or in a "human" environment, it was difficult to see just how amazing the visuals could be. But this was likely due to Zootopia having more focus on an interesting plot instead of stunning effects. I am impressed that Disney has taken the leap to another non-white "princess" with Moana, but much of the cliche trappings of this type of film are out in full force. If I were to tell you Disney made a coming-of-age movie featuring the main character with an animal sidekick, a mute...
Read More

BOOK: Dragon Airways (2016)

Dragon Airways Year: 2016 Author: Brian Rathbone Length: 202 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** A book filled with equal parts fantasy and steampunk, Dragon Airways delivers on the promise of flying the skies on the back of a dragon. Brian Rathbone does an expert job of fusing diesel engines and magic stones in this exciting story. Not only is the setting interesting, but most of the characters are quite engaging as well. Because of this, Dragon Airways was a pleasure to read, and I voraciously read every page that was available to me. While I did thoroughly enjoy reading this book, there were a few things that made it a little difficult to follow along. First, some of the minor characters weren't that well-developed (or non-existent after the first few chapters), which made it difficult to know who they were, especially when some of them had multiple names and titles assigned to them. Secondly, I minimally understood the layout of the world...
Read More

BOOK: Robopocalypse (2011)

Robopocalypse Year: 2011 Author: Daniel H. Wilson Length: 759 minutes / 12.65 hours With the ever-increasing proliferation of “smart” technology throughout our society, the thought of a robot uprising remains fixed in the back of our minds. Since the introduction of the concept of robots decades ago, humans have feared their uprising to usurp us as the dominant sentient beings on our planet. Now, as we rely on our computers, smartphones, and connected devices to help run our lives, the threat of a full-on apocalypse resulting from their sentience seems more possible than ever. Author Daniel H. Wilson has certainly done his research on the “what if” scenario of a robot apocalypse (or the titular Robopocalypse, if you will). He manages to build the progression of a robot-themed doomsday scenario from the machines we know and use today. Many of the machines’ decisions and strategic moves mostly make sense. That being said, I did have a few issues with the book and its structure. First...
Read More

MOVIE: Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Manchester by the Sea Year: 2016 Rating: R Length: 137 minutes / 2.28 hours Part of the trouble with the reputation of a film preceding it is the film rarely lives up to the hype. At least, that has been my experience. If I go into a movie with my own idea of what it will be and the movie delivers, I feel it is a good movie. However, if my idea of the movie is skewed based on what I’ve heard about it, then I might be disappointed if it doesn’t match what I was expecting. This is why I’ll likely watch a trailer for a film, but I won’t read any reviews of it until I’ve already seen it. For Amazon’s successful foray into filmmaking, part of me expected a lot out of Manchester by the Sea (2016). After all, they don’t necessarily have to ascribe to the same processes and procedures that hold down other production companies. Add to this my impression...
Read More

BOOK: Nobel Peace Prize (2014)

Nobel Peace Prize Year: 2014 Author: D. Otter Length: 267 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** In a book about a random person potentially winning the Nobel Peace Prize, there’s remarkably little about the effects of this life-changing award on his life. The author even goes so far as to include this statement in the synopsis, “If ultimately the book fails to satisfy, failure to satisfy may be its motif, in which case it does satisfy in an unsatisfactory sort of way.” And what an unsatisfactory book it is. I’ll forgive the random missing spaces, which are probably an artifact of the e-book conversion process, but I will not excuse the run-on sentences inside run-on paragraphs comprising run-on chapters. I don’t know why the author chose to write this book in a fiction context (subtitling it “a political fantasy”). Considering the majority of the book is comprised of long-winded, unfocused rambling rants, if the author wanted to provide a true political fantasy to the...
Read More

BOOK: Where’s My Jetpack? (2007)

Where's My Jetpack?: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future That Never Arrived Year: 2007 Author: Daniel H. Wilson Length: 221 minutes / 3.68 hours Some of the best science fiction ever written was strangely prescient with its predictions on how the world would advance, technologically. One of the best examples of this was Jules Verne in his story From the Earth to the Moon. Not only did he figure out what it would take to get away from Earth's gravity, he predicted that the launch site would be in Florida. Ever since then, we have looked to the authors of science fiction to tell us what could be possible in the future of tomorrow. Unfortunately, some of these predictions weren't quite realistic. While jetpacks and moon colonies sound cool in the pages of a fictional book, they just aren't practical in reality. Still, our childlike wonder and innovation tried its best to create what the science fiction authors of yore dreamt up. In Where's...
Read More

MOVIE: Hell or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water Year: 2016 Rating: R Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours It's interesting to me to see how the current social climate in this country can mold a film into a Best Picture Oscar nominee. I've probably seen this same scenario a number of different times, but the reasoning behind it is what brings Hell or High Water (2016) into a different category. There have been tons of heist films, and often the robbers have a tight connection, like that of brothers. Heck, The Blues Brothers (1980) essentially did the same basic plot but with "putting the band back together" as their way of "saving the ranch." Partly because this film seemed so quintessentially Texas, I couldn't help thinking it was a toned down version of another Best Picture Oscar winner No Country for Old Men (2007). With last year's Best Picture Oscar nominee, The Big Short (2015), showing how many honest Americans were swindled by the greed of banks, it's no wonder that...
Read More