Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie review: "Shutter Island"

I did a stupid thing. I watched the last fifteen minutes of "Shutter Island" trough sleep. I wasn't actually sleeping, but I wasn't really awake. I was conscious enough to know what is going on, but not enough to fully appreciate it. It was not because of the movie (on the contrary, movie is very good), but I was lying under blanket with my girlfriend, it was very cozy and warm and I was sleepy. Those who watched the movie will understand how stupid my falling asleep was, and you who didn't will just have to take my word about it being a very stupid idea.

Although I don't plan to reveal any spoilers, conception of this movie is such, that less you know, the movie will be better. So think twice before reading this review.

Now, back to the movie... The movie starts with Teddy Daniels, US Marshall, meeting his new partner on a ferry to Shutter Island. Two of them are going there to investigate disappearance of a woman, patient of mental institution for violent criminals. This institution is actually the only building on the island and the ferry is only way from it. Immediately after arriving, they will start to suspect something is amiss: guards on the edge, cowed patients, sneaky doctors... But even their wildest imaginations will be far from the truth!

"Shutter Island" is very disturbing movie: atmosphere is dark and stormy and all people are very nervous. Especially patients, who look like they are in fear; some of them are deformed or show signs of physical abuse. Events in movie are taking place in fifties and scenes from WWII are very often, showing Teddy's coming to Dachau concentration camp. All this serves to make viewer a bit uncomfortable (it was a bit inappropriate to watch this movie from bed). Combine that with pictures of lobotomy, electro-shocks....

Cast is good; Teddy is played by Leonardo DiCaprio; movie also stars Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow. Somewhere at the middle of the movie you start guessing what is going on. I had two theories, my girlfriend also two different ones; in the end, we were both very, very off. It is just this kind of the movie.

I liked this movie very much, but it is not for everybody. It is a serious and violent movie dealing with psychology, and it asks concentration from viewer.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book review: "Daggerspell" by Katherine Kerr


Key word in his paragraph is "passion"... If I noticed this before and gave it attention, I probably wouldn't buy this book. Few months ago I was browsing Amazon and looking for a new series I could start. WoT and MBoF are close to finish line and who knows when next ASoIaF book will come out... All other series I am currently reading are trilogies and quadrologies. I plan to start "The Stormlight Archive", but that's only one. So I am constantly in look for long epic series and have few candidates already: "The Second Apocalypse" by R. Scott Bakker (6 books; I read first two but own none), "Wars of Light and Shadow" by Janny Wurts (11 books), "Saga of Recluce" by L.E. Modesitt (16 books), "The Three Worlds Cycle" by Ian Irvine (14 books) and "Shadows of the Apt" by Adrian Tchaikovsky (at least 8 books). I prefer series that are near the end, so I don't have to wait long for next books.

"Deverry Cycle" by Katherine Kerr was one of such candidates. It has 15 books, all published. When I did the research (on Wikipedia), I found out that it was set in world based on Celts. It sounded quite the ordinary setting: barbaric humans, long-lived and rare elves, some dwarves and something like orcs. Also, short synopsis didn't sound very innovating. But the comments looked good and the name Katherine Kerr is quite famous in fantasy circles, so I decided to give it a try.

First I want to complain about the price! Smallish paperback edition I bough, 450 pages long, was priced at 13 GBP (20 USD). "Toll the Hounds", a brand-new top-seller book, in really good paperback edition 900 pages long cost the same when I bought it.

As you can assume from my complaints, I didn't like the book. It is a story about Jill, who after her mother's death starts to travel around with her dishonored father Cullyn, best fighter in the kingdom of Deverry. At the same time, Jill is being sought by sorcerer Nevyn, who wants to help her to discover her own magical skills and thus repay the debt he owns her from their prior lives. They will meet while helping Rhodry, a young noble who was connected with them in past lives, to break the rebellion in his mothers county.

Past lives have a large role here: in their first life Jill was Nevyn's fiancĂ©e whom he left because of his wish to learn dweomer (magic). She then ended tragically, being in incest relationship with her brother (now reborn as Cullyn), who because of her killed his best friend, past version of Rhodry. Nevyn never died because of his magical (or dweomer) vow to repair the evil he was root. This scenario played few times between first version and present Jill, always unfortunately.

Although the plot is not bad, it's too straightforward and simple. Also, it is the only one; there are no multiple plots, hidden meanings, sense of wondering what is going on.... There are few characters and you have no problem following them. You know who is who, what is going on, and it is not hard to guess what will happen next. As I said, world is based on Celts, but in advanced Dark Age: complex hierarchy between nobility, feudal system, no science, strong influence of church, constant feuding between nobles... Magic and other races are known only as terrible legends among humans. Only partly they are present in this book; I understand that they play much larger role in later books. World-building is nice and one of better parts of the book, but I am accustomed to much more complex worlds and setting. Also, Kerr's insisting on using Celts words is a bit off-putting.

Characters are what probably ruined this book for me. They are too simple and one-sided. All men in this book are occupied by only one thing: their honor. Including Nevyn, who is half a millennia old wizard and should definitely know better. Even while giving over to sin, they are lamenting inside how terrible persons they are and how they have no honor. And women... In one scene, Jill is "feeling like a slut" because she has sexual desire while object of her desire has smarter things to do (in this case fight). This is not a first book I have read where women are in inferior position, but this is the first book where everyone (including characters, narrators and the writer) are acting like this is OK.

While it is true there is passion in "Daggerspell", it is a passion that belongs in cheap love-stories. Main characters are having worst times of their lives and it leaves me completely indifferent - this is not a mark of a good book. Only surprising thing for me was Cullyin's conclusion.

This book was simply not good enough for me and I am sorry that I bought it. On the other hand, series is well known and sounds like it gets more complex later. So, if you like this book, I can only presume you will like sequels even more. On the other hand, I double I will continue reading this series; it belongs to category with "Sword of Truth" by Terry Goodkind, only other series I gave up. I don't recommend this book to fans of epic fantasy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Movie review: "Inception"

This weekend I watched "Inception". It was one of the most-talked-about SF movies this year, so I knew quite a lot about it. I knew that main actor was Leonardio DiCaprio and that movie was something about memory theft and implanting new memories. All of my friends that watched it said it was worth watching.

And it turns out they were right. This is one very exciting movie; it doesn't matter if you are SF fan or not - this movie is generally good. Main character is Cobb (played by DiCaprio), who is a criminal specialized in extraction of secrets from his victims' mind. His and his partner Arthur's last job is stealing information from mind of Saito, rich Japanese business man. After this job fails, it turns out it was only a test: Saito wants to hire them for something else. Although inception (implanting an idea; opposite to extraction) is considered impossible by most, Cobb decides to take the job...

First twenty minutes of the movie are very confusing: gunfights on come cruise, not much is explained, two abrupt changes of scene... But it is exciting and it only makes the audience more curious. Later in the movie all concepts are explained in much detail, but easy understandable at same time. Time in the movie is present or very close future. Although there exist advanced technology, in this case device for entering person's mind, it is not widespread. This subject is very nicely elaborated, although there were some things that confused me. I am talking about those multiple "kicking" (or dunking, I forgot which term did they exactly use for forceful waking) near the end of the movie. I think the writers got a bit confused there as well. But this was singular case; rest of the movie fits very well.

All characters get good part of the movie, so you get to know them all (cast is not super-stars, but they are all very good). After thinking about it a bit, you realize that main characters are actually bad guys. It's easy to forget it. From one side, no one is actually evil, they just have different intentions. On the other side, they are doing something equivalent to rape, maybe even worst. Maybe the director could have made this point more noticeable, but then the movie wouldn't be so likable. Cobb is definitely the main characters. Even though movie sports much of action, main theme of the movie is about the difference between dream and reality. And Cobb definitely has problems with it. Best part of the movie is that he is aware of that and he actively fights against it. I really liked the final confrontation with his wife. I must say I was surprised and impressed with maturity and clear-headedness Cobb shows while dealing with the biggest challenge of his life.

There is one more flaw I can note: action scenes in later stages of the movie get a bit boring. Even though they are done nicely, they are secondary and not in a least important to the plot. Movie wouldn't lose anything by dropping these five or ten minutes of unimportant shooting.

Never minding these two minor flaws, "Inception" is a great movie for all types (well, not kids) of audiences. It requires attention while watching it, but you will be rewarded with one of better movies of this year. A recommendation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anime review: "House of Five Leaves"

After finishing "Towers of Midnight", I decided to take a short break of reading. I have read four books in a row and while I like reading better than anime or movies and TV series, I can't read all the time. One reason is that I don't have money for buying more than one or two books per month. And even though my private library counts more than sixty books now, that is not enough unless I want to reread half my books every year. Second reason is more important: I tend to neglect everything else when I am reading books I really like. So combining work, PhD and multiple hobbies gets hard sometimes.

Anyway, after ToM, I started watching "House of Five Leaves". I have been waiting long for this anime, since last spring. I haven't watched a good samurai anime for long time. In the end, it turned out this is not a samurai anime, not in the way most consider as such. It's true; there are samurai in this series. Also, it's true that there is swords-fighting here and talk about honor and samurai code... Just not in the way I would expect it. But nevertheless, this is one of better anime I watched this year.

Masa is a young ronin staying in Edo. He comes from province and he is totally unsuitable for samurai; he is shy and unimposing, which results in him being easily pushed around. By coincidence, Masa gets employed by member of criminal group called House of Five Leaves. The group is composed of four somewhat peculiar people and is centered on charismatic young(ish) man Yaichi. Yaichi gets intrigued by Masa's straightforwardness and innocence and invites him to join them, just for fun of it. Rest of anime consist of Masa's deciding to join or not while he explore past and motives or other members, but especially Yaichi's.

As I said, there IS swords-fighting here; I think there are three fights: one is off-screen and two consist of two or three moves. This is very infuriating, because it is implied on beginning (and orally confirmed later) that Masa is "unparalleled with his swordsmanship". Well, I don't actually object this, but I would have liked being able to see it. There is talk about honor and samurai code, but it consists of Masa musing whether he should join House of Five Leaves or not. He comes to see that these are actually good people (well, in some degree), but they are doing bad thinks and he is not sure can he incorporate being a professional kidnapper in his system of honor.

Personalities, pasts and motives of other members are gradually revealed by smaller arcs where they get in trouble and Masa tries to help them (and vice versa). Yaichi's story is implied throughout the series and finally revealed in last few episodes. Setting is historical and I would say mostly accurate: medieval Edo, wages in rice, whore-houses... Important motive in series is adopted children in richer houses. Main strength of anime is character-growth and unexpected turns this anime takes (I really didn't expect most of this anime).

Anime features very original animation. First two episodes I thought that characters are quite ugly, but now that I finished it, I get used to this design. Although I think that character are intentionally done a bit rougher in the beginning, just of the effect. I can't say anything on music and sound effects, but I am pretty sure they are decent.

In summary, "House of Five Leaves" is one very good short (only 12 episodes) anime with historical setting. It includes a bit of action, lots of mystery and anticipation, but mostly concentrates on exploring its eccentric characters. Definitely a treat for all seinen fans.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Book review: "Towers of Midnight" by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Finally and thankfully, I have found some time to write my review of "Towers of Midnight". Almost two weeks passed since I finished reading it. But never mind, better now than never. First, as in "The Gathering Storm" post, I plan to do this without any spoilers for ToM, and spoilers for other books will be kept to minimum. Of course, I will presume that reader has read at least few of WoT books. If you are looking for spoilers and talk about particular events in the book, go to this page. It is a spoiler-review of ToM by Leigh Butler. I agree with her in all points, in various degrees (except third point; I read the glossary after reading the book).

Best recommendation to this book I can give is to say that I have finished in minimum time. For me, that is. When I was in college, I could afford to spend two or three days solely on reading. I remember finishing "A Clash of Kings" in two days when I read it first time. But in last two or three years, my time per book rose to week or two (depending how much I like the book and its actual size). ToM I finished in four days: Saturday afternoon (4-6) hours, Sunday (13 hours - this definitely isn't good for my neck anymore), Monday evening (4 hours) and Tuesday after work (2 hours - I tried to finish it at Monday, but I read till 1 AM, and I wake at 6 AM). I JUST COULDN'T PUT DOWN THE BOOK!

Really, this is a great book! And one of best books in whole in whole WoT series; I don't like putting books (or songs) in absolutely ordered list, but one of the best. After very dark and straining TGS, this is gloriously bright book. That doesn't mean that everything goes in favor of the good guys. But many plots and themes started in previous books are concluded in this books (e.g.: an important prophecy long ago in "The Eye of the World"; satisfactory and sadly at same time). You really have to credit Jordan for his skills in for-shadowing events: check this link for examples.

While last book was mostly about Rand and then Egwene, in ToM all characters get their share. We get explanations of Rand's inner changes after TGS, although not from his point of view. Leigh Butler discusses the nature of these changes at greater length in her post; I will just say that while I agree with her in general view, I don't mind the present Rand. If I wanted character to behave as I want them, I would play Sims. I say this as WoT-fan; as objective reviewer I would understand her objections. I like Egwene's moves here, but I must say that I don't like her position in regard to other characters - she is too much removed from them. Although this is understandable considering her political position. Aviendha has two short appearances at the beginning and the end of the book, but second one is very important. This is one of best written parts of the book, but I can't imagine any WoT fan actually enjoying it - it is too much gruesome. Elayne and Nyneve also have some nice parts. Rodel Ituralde, who didn't have any major scenes (in length, not in quality or importance) has few extremely good scenes I really enjoyed. I also have to note Lan's two or three scenes, which are very funny but also very emotional at the same time. Gawyin, Galad, Morgase, Min, etc. are all present, but mostly as support-characters.

Although I wouldn't name them as central characters of "Towers of Midnight", I would like to separate Mat and Perrin. Mat is finally well written here, in contrast to TGS. While he is not as good as when Jordan wrote him, this is nothing that can be pin-pointed. Even if not best possibly written, his parts are still great. And most fans will forgive Sanderson any flaws in exchange for final deliverance of long-due promises (I am referring to prophecy I mentioned before). And Perrin, after being slightly vex in last few books, is at his best ever. He has great action scenes (really great!) but not just that. He finally finds his balance in both mundane and supernatural aspects.

As I said, this book is mostly positive (that why is said glorious), but this is not just the preparation for happy end. If you look careful, you will notice many things that don't bode well for the good side. Last book ("A Memory of Light") is bound to be intense and I already can't wait for it. It is announced for early spring of 2012.

In the end, I would just like to repeat that "Towers of Midnight" is one of best Wheel of Time books and recommend it to every fan!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Movie review: "Iron Man 2"

Few days ago I unexpectedly watched "Iron Man 2". I watched the first part two years ago when it was out and I remember liking it very much. So I have been planning to watch this sequel, but somehow it never got its turn.

To summarize my impression: the movie is good if you don't start thinking about it. Let's see the good sides: nice cast (Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Mickey Rourke, to name the most famous), nice special effects (as every other super-hero movie in last few years), good comments, nice background (the Iron Man franchise)... If you sit to watch this movie with no expectations and you just want to relax without thinking, this is a good movie for that. It has a lot of easy humor, very nice action scenes and straightforward plot.

But, if you pay any attention, flaws become evident. First, Tony Stark is very far away from stark! He is a spoiled rich child in his forties, having no responsibility; the fact that he is dying doesn't excuse him. Second: I am not really knowledgeable about the Iron Man world and its characters (I watched few cartoon series when I was a kid), but I don't remember that the fact about Tony Start being Iron Man is public knowledge. Maybe I am wrong, but this confused me a bit... Third, the technology and skills of Tony Stark are just too exaggerated! His hacking, engineering, driving, you-name-it skills are really too much! And forging a nuclear reactor?!?! Forging!!!

So, if you plan to watch "Iron Man 2", don't contemplate much about it; instead, keep attention on present and you will have a nice time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book review: "The Gathering Storm" by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

As I said, I started reading "The Gathering Storm" immediately after finishing "Crossroads of Twilight" and "Knife of Dreams". This was my second reading, first being immediately after publishing a year ago. Unfortunately, almost two weeks has passed since reading it and writing this blog. I feel like I will never be able to catch up... Nevertheless, this shouldn't hinder me too much, because I know my opinion of this book very well. I plan to avoid any kind of spoilers, but on the other hand I will presume some familiarity with the characters and concepts of Wheel of Time.

First, a bit of history. Robert Jordan, the author of Wheel of Time serial, died of illness in 2007. Sad as this was by itself, it was also unfortunate because he wasn't able to finish the last book. While it was announced even before, that in the case of his death someone else will finish it, it was all very uncertain; Who will it be? Will he/she be able to do it right? And not just right, but great? Then, at the end of 2007 it was revealed that Brandon Sanderson, a relatively unknown fantasy author, was chosen (by Jordan's widow Harriet) as the one to write the last book. Most WoT fans didn't know anything about Sanderson, including me. But, while reading his books (the "Mistborn" trilogy) and following his blog, I got a nice impression of him. It looked that he is a fine author, one dedicated to details (he got often referred as "the magic-system" guy, because of his strict and detailed, almost SF, magic systems in his books), although without experience in long, epic fantasies (he fantasy opus at that time was one stand-alone novel and already mentioned trilogy). He was also very funny guy, judging from his blog. And most important, he was a genuine WoT fan. Even though he wasn't able to finish the book, Robert Jordan was able to leave a large collection of notes about character and future events, even some already written scenes. After rereading of whole WoT series (with comments on his blog) and these notes (without the comments), Sanderson was able to finish first part of three of the last book. Although Jordan announced that the last book ("A Memory of Light") will be lengthy, but nevertheless published in one volume, TOR and Sanderson decided to split it in three volumes. While I presume that possibility for greater profit was part of that decision, I also believe that it was a good decision. Two already published volumes have together some 1600 pages, and I don't believe that they could have been written shorter and maintain the quality. So, at the end of October 2009, "The Gathering Storm", first volume of last part of Wheel of Time was published! I received it only few weeks later.

After reading it for second time now, my opinion is that this is a good book. Unfortunately, this is not one of the best WoT books. But let's go step by step. After several book where he didn't have much coverage (up from "Crown of Swords", I think), this book finally deals mostly with Rand. Because of great number of characters and plots, Rand wasn't getting many pages, even though he had very important moments on those pages (trivia: even though Rand is a central character, third book in series, "The Dragon Reborn", (almost) didn't even feature Rand directly). In TGS, he gets the deserved attention. Which is why many fans (including me) will be biased toward this book. Rand's parts are great: you can really dig into him, understand him... Sanderson didn't do any mistakes regarding Rand. So, the problem is not in the quality of these parts, but in the content. Meaning, Rand gets very unlikeable as character. In first few books (definitely till "The Shadow Rising", I think in "The Fires of Heaven" too) he is probably most interesting and very likable characters. You have to cheer for the guy with country background fighting against bad guys, good guys with different ideas and plans, and the world. In later books, he grows more mature, has greater responsibilities, which make him harder, but you still cheer for him: he is a good guy in though position. Even though he is getting crazy (literally, but he can't help it) and ill-tempered, you understand him; who wouldn't get crazy carrying the world and all Creation on your shoulders. But in this book, his problems get him. He is not anymore good guy with problems - he almost becomes a bad guy. A very bad guy! It is disputable whether or not he crosses the Moral Event Horizon, but he gets very close to it.

Second central character of this book (and one of central characters of series) is Egwene. Her parts are also marvelously done. She has similar background as Rand (they come from the same village): a young girl without experience, but with cool head and quick wits gets thrown in the world on political machinations and deadly traps. But unlike Rand, her responsibilities grow slower and are never as big as his. So I don't like how sometimes she has too big an opinion about herself: she is not the savior of the world nor she is responsible for it; just one part of it. But she has great sequences in this book: political maneuvering and manipulations at the beginning and superb action scenes at the end. I liked how her fear and anger toward Senchan (installed in her ten books ago!) show that she is still human, not just a manipulating machine.

Other characters don't get lot a attention. Nyneve gets some, but her parts revolve mostly around Rand, so that can't really count. Aviendha has few partial chapters, as does Min, but both of them are with Rand, too. Elayne and Perrin, I think they have no more that few mentions and short POV's.

Now, there is one part of the book that I (and number of people, judging from comments on various blogs) consider bad: Mat's POVs. While the Rand thing is not likable, I can appreciate the way it is done. Mat has few chapters in this book, but they amount to nothing, really. There is no importance in them, and book wouldn't be any less good without them. More so, I would be better, because Sanderson completely failed with Mat. Rand he got perfect, Egwene and the rest almost perfect, but Mat is way off. He looked childish and arrogant, which is not how Mat usually is (even though other characters see him as such). I don't know where things went wrong and why Sanderson did it, but I wouldn't miss that few dozens of pages not a single second.

I don't know how to end this review, really, without going to spoilers, so I am just going to cut it trough. Even though "The Gathering Storm" will never be a favorite WOT book of many fans, I think it is a worthy addition to the series. Even if some fans will not the book in general, most will agree ending itself is good enough reason to read the book.

My next post, due in few days (I hope), will be about "Towers of Midnight".

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not a Book review: "Crossroads of Twillight" and "Knife of Dreams" by Robert Jordan

I have been somewhat busy last few weeks (I had some field work and a business trip), so I wasn't up to date with my blogs. All my free time was reserved for reading. I announced starting a reread of "Crossroads of Twilight" and I did read it. After finishing it, I immediately switched to "Knife of Dreams". And after it, to "The Gathering Storm". Currently, I am almost at the middle of "Towers of Midnight"!

After reading first two books and while reading "TGS", in the back of my mind I tried composing my reviews of CoT and KoD. And then I realized that I can't do it. I have read these books several times and I am so familiar with them that I am able to start reading on any random page. I don't know when or where they exactly begin or where do they end or the exact chronological order of plots, but give me a page or two and I will know where am I, what happened before and what will happen in few pages. Not that I know them by the word; I still find details I forgot or missed. It is hard to explain this to non-obsessive reader; for non-readers, this sound crazy (I know from first hand - most people don't see reason to read something they have read once). But I think that people who are able to gulp down a book in two or three days will be able to understand me perfectly.

Also, what is the point of recommending tenth and eleventh book in series to someone? If you have read nine previous books and liked them, you will probably like those, too. Even if you stopped liking the series, you will read them because you hope things gotten better or just because you want to justify the effort invested in reading first nine books.

Although many did just that, stopped liking Wheel of Time series after some five or so books, I was never one of them. This probably has much with the fact that I started reading this series very late. I think it was sometime in 2005. At that time, nine books were out, so I didn't have to wait long between the books. "Knife of Dreams" was the first book I waited for, and I was just a few months. Many people were distanced from the series because they waited few years for the next installation, and then the book would advance the plot for few inches and at the same time start several new plot-threads.

This is also true for "Crossroads of Twilight". I adore this book, especially because sequences concerning Mat (I presume you are familiar with the series if you got so far). Although other characters had their own moments, most (not all, but I think most) fans will agree that Mat's sections is what they remember best from this book. But, to be frank, I can see why this was something of a disappointment for fans who waited three years. There weren't any conclusions; this book just advanced plots started before, but haven't finish any.

On the other hand "Knife of Dreams" is where many fans came back to the series. Three major plots finished (Mat's, Perrin's and Elayne's) and two other presented fairly (Rand's and especially Egwene's), with much more focused writing, brought back old glory to WoT. For me, it didn't ever lose its shine.

After "Knife of Dreams", unfortunate illness and death of Rober Jordan, then choosing of Brandon Sanderson to complete the series, with strong marketing campaign from Tor, made me to never lose WoT from my mind for long. After long wait of four years, I was impatiently waiting with the other for first part of last book, "The Gathering Storm".

Join me in my next post, where I plan to do a normal review of TGS.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Movie review: "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows", part one

Last Saturday I went to movies with my girlfriend to watch "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows", first half of seventh book's movie adaptation. We both like Harry Potter books, but we are not really fans. I liked the fourth ("The Goblet of Fire") and the fifth ("The Order of Phoenix") book. Movies I liked all, except the last one ("The Half-Blood Prince"), but I did like the book. But the seventh book ("The Deathly Hallows"), I didn't like it at all. I read it only once (rest of books I read twice or more) and I don't plan to reread it. Not that I hate it, I just think it is weak and I am indifferent toward it. I don't think that previous books are fantasy masterpieces, but they were fun and interesting, which cannot be said of the last one.

On the other hand, I am happy to say that the movie is great. It lasts little less than two and a half hours. And of that, just a bit (some 15 minutes or so) is boring. I am talking about the part in woods. As I said, I read book only once and long ago, but I remember that being quite boring and much longer. In movie, they focused on interesting stuff and boring parts are elegantly (but not completely) avoided and reduced.

I have read few reviews where authors complain how movie would be confusing for people unfamiliar with the books. I don't see the problem with it: this movie is made for fans. You don't have to know the names of every character, curse and place, but a bit of familiarity with plot and characters is expected. This is the reason why I will not go in details on characters and plot; I will only try to relay my impression of the movie.

Movie does great in transferring the atmosphere to the audience. From the beginning it is filled with action, tension and depression. Things are not going well for our heroes and the times are dark; you can feel the stress and emotions of characters. On the other hand, there are lots of funny scenes and they are done very well. You don't feel stupid for laughing and humor is clever. Action scenes are intense and exciting but not too showy.

Good part of the movie is dedicated to emotional stress and the problem of accepting one's role. Harry is having problem with accepting his duty and the fact that people will get hurt in fight. I can't help myself and not to draw parallels to Rand's problems in "The Gathering Storm".

Regarding bad sides of the movie, I can't name one. Or better to say, flaws originate in the book, and they couldn't be totally avoided with greatly changing the conception of the movie. I think that stuff did a great job in focusing on brighter (in quality, not in context) parts of the book. Most flaws are connected to sudden and unbelievable plot elements.

I think that everyone who likes Harry Potter books or movie adaptations will like the first part of "The Deathly Hallows". So this is definitely a recommendation. I am looking forward to the last part, which is announced for July of next year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Movie review: "30 Days of Night"

This weekend I have watched "30 Days of Night", a 2007 survival-horror about vampires. It is somewhat older movie. It got mine attention after hearing few guys in gym talking about its sequel, "30 Days of Night: Dark Days". I was interest in the original and most of them told it was a good movie. Unfortunately, I heard them talking about the ending, but that didn't stop me. Before watching it, I checked it on IMDB as usually. I found out it was directed by Sam Raimi. For some reason, I thought he is director of zombie horror movies so I expected something like that. I was mistaken in first fact (about zombie movies and Sam Raimi), but the movie was like I expected.

The movie takes place in a little town in Alaska, where every year there is a period of thirty days without the sun. While the town is preparing for the long night, strange things start to happen. Someone kills all the dogs, burn satellite phones and then a peculiar stranger is arrested for causing unrest. But, when the night starts to fall, even stranger things start to happen... The town gets infested by a gang of vampires that kill the most of people during the first few hours. Small group of people hides in an attic and thus being their fight for survival...

Main characters of the movie are local sheriff Eben and his (ex?)wife Stella. There are also few more prominent characters (Eben's younger brother Jake, his partner Billy, town grump Beau...) but Eben is clearly the center character. Characters are not exactly deep and complex persons, which is to be expected from a survival horror, but they are quite nice surprise. Plot was also good; if I didn't know the end beforehand, I would be surprised.

Best and worst points of the movie were the vampires. Best, because they clearly have some complex back-story. They have their own language, hierarchy, plans, history... And interesting is that this back-story is very cleverly only implied (well, except the language, which is evident), but with no explanation. So the viewer is left to wonder what else can there be. Of course, I checked the Wikipedia (when I am already mentioning it, donate to Wikipedia!) and found out there is a comic book miniseries that movie is based on.

And the worst part was that these vampires were totally disgusting. I am not fan of Twilight-like vampires, but these ones are totally opposite of them: shark-like teeth and dirty long fangs. Also, when they are feeding, it looks like a piranha-attack! Also, movie is full of most explicit violence. I presume that zombie-fans are quite used to this, but I am not one, so this is a minus from my side.

All in all, "30 Days of Night" was quite nice (well, nice maybe isn't the word) movie for a Saturday evening. Probably intended was fans of zombie-movies, it is still a good watch for regular viewer. Just be sure not to show it to kids.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Not lucky!

Heh, I don't know to laugh or cry. I just got called that my order of "Towers of Midnight" just arrived. That is a month or more sooner that I had expected it! And I already started with "Crossroads of Twilight"...

I could leave CoT and switch to ToM, but it's been a two or more years since I have read these books, and I have read TGS only once, so I feel I need to refresh my memory. So, alas, my copy of ToM will have to wait on my shelf for few weeks.

At least I won't have to wait for it...