Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More Deadliest Warrior Zombie vs. Vampire

Just thought I'd share this link.  Comic Con panel discussing The Deadliest Warrior Zombie vs. Vampire.

Book Review: The Lost Fleet Beyond The Frontier: Dreadnaught

Welcome back, Black Jack!  Before I get into any nitpicks, let me open with the fact that I finished this book in record time.  I have limited time to read, so some books can take me 2 months to finish.  I was done with this one in a couple of weeks.  Now I have to wait.

This story was fast paced and very entertaining.  I liked that Jack Campbell didn't rush Black Jack and the fleet through Syndic space and into alien space.  The time to get the fleet ready, problems found with the ships due to their design/combat life-expectancy, character relations...  All seemed credible and helped build up interest in the characters.  Especially since I haven't read anything about them in about a year - nice to get a reminder.

Here are some things I wasn't as fond of.  This book was too open ended.  I know it's part of a series, but in the first Lost Fleet series, I remember the books each ending with a significant event - something came to a close. 

For example - Dauntless went through the story with Black Jack getting use to being in command of a fleet suffering from hero-worship while dealing with his own issues and losses.  The book ended with a climactic battle.  While the reader knew the series would continue, there was a feeling of closure for that part of the story.

The trickery/politics involved were entertaining.  The concerns that the end of the war with the Syndics causing a rift within the alliance seemed completely credible.  I was actually drafting a short story for a Star Trek fanfic contest that followed this (with the Romulans friends, there are no major threats, so some worlds would likely pull out of the Federation).

The return of Victoria Rione was expected.  I love her comment "I'm a bitch, and I have to stay in practice." in reference to provoking Captain Desjani.  There's a lesson here.  Profanity can highlight a scene, but I think profanity is overused in literature, especially military sci-fi/space opera.  Jack Campbell crafts an excellent story with good dialogue without profanity.  When he uses it, it's because there's no better way to phrase it.

I would have preferred if this book ended with the fight against the aliens they sought.  The good part of that was the development of an effective battle strategy.  Saving some prisoners was good too.  Maybe hint that there was another species possibly involved, but DON'T bring them in yet.  I would have preferred the Death Stars wait until the next book.

I'm mixed on the development of Jane Geary.  Good captain and pulled off a good strategy (deliberately disobeying Admiral Geary), but I'm not sure if I like how defiant she seemed to be.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Review of Captain America - Minor Spoilers

In a rare circumstance, I was actually able to be able to see a movie before it goes to the cheap theater or DVD.  I think it's funny that SyFy's been running marathons of The Greatest American Hero (loved that show) followed by a group of old second rate (or worse) Craptain America movies from the 70s and 80s (maybe early 90s, but they sucked).

Personally, I enjoyed doing my review of Transformers:  Dark of the Moon.  In that review, I made comparisons with the novel.  Well, the only book I could find for Captain America was for kids.  Oh well.

Bottom line is that if you aren't looking for Oscar calibre acting, screenplay or anything like that, you'll be entertained.  Not one of the best superhero movies, but certainly not the worst. 

  • There was plenty of action without it really seeming too gratuitous.
  • A couple of fun twists.
    • Howard Stark's involvement throughout the movie.  Remember in Iron Man 2 that Nick Fury told Tony Stark that his father, Howard, was a founding member of SHIELD. 
    • In the beginning, Captain America is a bit of a joke (More in the spoilers).
  • Captain America's final line.  Not to sound too much like a spoiler, but there were a few references to finding the right dance partner between Steve Rogers and Agent Peggy Carter.  What's the line?  You'll have to see the movie.  It may not seem like much to most, but I liked it.

  • None of the characters seemed to have enough personality.  I've got nothing against Chris Evans, but he was a mediocre Captain America.  I really couldn't sympathize with the character when he was down.  I just didn't see the mastery of the attitudes you want like I found in Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine, Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark/Iron Man, or even Eric Bana's Bruce Wayne/Batman.  Just not much personality.
  • Hugo Weaving's German accent.  I love Hugo.  He's awesome, but a bit underwhelming as Red Skull.
  • Fight between Captain America and Red Skull.  A bit anticlimactic.  In all actuality, I'd expect Cap to beat Red Skull much easier.  Why?  You get the impression Red Skull was always considered a tough guy.  Steve Rogers was the 89 lb weakling always getting beat up.  He was use to getting hit by bigger and stronger guys but he always got up.  I'd just say that he can take a punch better than Red Skull.
  • Opening scene.  It takes place in modern day.  This and the ending scene are typically the scenes snuck in after the credits.

Spoilers below

  • Finding Captain America's shield in the mysterious reckage during the first scene made it too obvious what would happen at the end.
  • I can't help but wonder if that power source is going to be part of the Avenger's movie.  You can assume it's alien tech throughout the movie, and I think the near-ending confirms that pretty well.  Think about it - the whole plot leading up to the cube falling from the plane to be found by Howard Stark.  What happens to the cube? 
  • Does anybody else thing Red Skull will return for Avengers?  It looked like he was teleported, not destroyed.  Why teleport him if you don't plan to send him back.
  • Bucky dying was no big deal.  Remember what I said about the characters not having enough personality?  I didn't really fell a sense of loss from Steve Rogers regarding his friend.  I felt more sympathetic that he couldn't get drunk!
  • I liked Captain America as a marketing tool for selling bonds rather than using him as a real soldier.  I don't know if that's how it worked for the comics, but I liked it.  When he's trying to entertain the troops and gets things thrown at him and the ridicule by the front line soldiers was, to me, one of  the best part.  It showed Steve Rogers that getting his new strength and power didn't automatically mean he'd gain the respect of those he wanted as his peers.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Not Your Typical Transformers 3 Review. (I Hope) WARNING - SPOILERS

This is a blog about writers/writing, so I thought I'd add a little about differences between the movie (which I saw last night) and the book (which I read last week).

First, I have to say that, as a Star Trek fan, I loved the casting of Leonard Nimoy as the voice of Sentinel Prime.  Old-school Transformer fans might remember Mr. Nimoy was also cast as the voice of Galvatron (a rebuilt Megatron) in the 1986 animated Transformer movie.  Those who weren't sure about the voice of Sentinel should have had all doubts removed during one scene in Chicago as the space bridge is being prepared when Sentinel uses a comment that Kirk and Spock used in several Star Trek movies starting with STII:  The Wrath of Khan, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."  I can't help but wonder if Mr. Nimoy came up with that idea or if it was the writers.

Anyway, back to the point of the post.  First, I found the movie fun, fast, and entertaining, but in no way was it Oscar-worthy.  That's fine.  I've seen Oscar winning movies that I thought were highly over-rated.  The turning of Sentinel Prime was an interesting twist.  When I first saw Sentinel in a preview, I had to ask myself why make his face look like it has a mustache.  It obviously highlights that he's older than Optimus Prime, but they're robots - they don't grow facial hair.  Same with Jetfire in Transformers 2.  Why do they have to sound older?  Maybe give them deeper and slower voices like you'd get from a toy when the batteries are getting low [chuckle to myself].

Another problem.  Why is Megatron so messed up?  In Transformers 2, Optimus ripped Starscream's arm off, and Starscream put it back on with no tools.  Why couldn't the Decepticons get parts to fix Megatron after part of his face/head was blown off in Transformers 2?  That was a bit annoying to me in the book and movie.

One of the big differences in the book was that the book had the Autobot Twins (the annoying little Autobots from Transformers 2).  In the book, when Sentinel turns and kills Ironhide, he then turns his weapon on Bumblebee, but one of the twins sacrifices himself, jumping in the way and takes the blast, saving Bumblebee.  The other twin goes absolutely balistic and attacks Sentinel.  While he doesn't last long, the sheer fury of his attack buys Bumblebee time to escape.  I understand why that wasn't in the movie.  Too many people would probably have watched that scene and labeled Sentinel as a cinematic hero for offing those two despite his evil turn and rooted for him to win the day.

Another difference, while not as big, is Que - the old-looking Autobot who helped design weapons (assumingly named/nicknamed after the James Bond weapon/techie Q).  In the book, it's Wheeljack.  Surprisingly when I looked up the credits to confirm the name, the voice credits all say "Que/Wheeljack."  I never heard the name Wheeljack being used in the movie or the name Que in the book.  While Que was just gunned down in cold blood/lubricant, Wheeljack went down fighting.  When the bridges went up in Chicago, Wheeljack went in the drink and was ambushed.  He took out one of his attackers, but was quickly overwhelmed.  The book also smartly pointed out that separating Wheeljack from the others and Prime from his trailer was deliberate - separate Autobots and humans from their best weapons.

When the space bridge control pillar is destroyed in the movie, it looks like Cybertron may have been destroyed - the book implies otherwise, that it's just sent back.  The movie effect looked like it was sucked into a black hole (not at all as it seemed to appear beyond Earth).

Finally (biggest spoiler below).  And this was a big twist.  After Carly (in her only purpose-related scene) pisses off Megatron to get him into the fight by calling him Sentinel's bitch (great line), Optimus and Megatron do destroy Sentinel together, but Optimus never kills Megatron.  In fact, Megatron tells Optimus he's tired of fighting and just wants to find a way home, to rebuild Cybertron without a conqueror's mentality.  Optimus is skeptical but lets Megatron go warning that he could become a target of other Decepticons.  Megatron seems willing to accept this risk.  This could lead to interesting future book storylines.  Following the book, Megatron could come back to Earth and ask Optimus for help.  Optimus would obviously go (eventually) but always wary of a trap.  Following the movie ending, it would just be another Decepticon.  I'd prefer a following of the book's ending.

Overall, I found both to be fun and fast.  I usually take twice as long to finish a book and need at least one bathroom break in a 2+ hour movie, so I'd say both are worth the time.