Last week I posted about The Left Hand of Darkness, a novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. As a fiction author Le Guin has won so many awards that if The Purge was real, jealous Sci-Fi writers would make annual pilgrimages to her house to steal all the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus trophies, which I can only assume emerge from the factory already earmarked for her. She’s also the author of the Earthsea saga, as well as The Dispossessed and Lavinia. Continue reading
Ursula K. Le Guin, author of the Earthsea saga, has popped up several times during my search for good fiction. Yet I always pass her over in favor of more pulpy authors. Sure she’s won pretty much every award a fantasy writer can win, even turning down a Nebula once in protest. But her books don’t have naked vampires or clashing knights on the cover. And anyone who reads my book reviews will know, those are strict requirements of mine.
Ok, I’m exaggerating. But of the fiction I’ve skimmed in the bookstores hers never grabbed my attention, which is probably a mark against me, not her. Continue reading
With the recent demise of Saturday morning cartoons (RIP), it occurred to me that this might be the perfect time to start watching the spin-off to Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Avatar: The Last Airbender for those who aren’t familiar, is a show about four different types of gifted people. They have the ability to harness the elements: earth, fire, air, or water and use them to their advantage. However, there is a chosen one in each generation with the ability to master all four elements. They call him/her the Avatar. Each avatar is reincarnated from the previous avatars before, and is able to channel them to gain knowledge to help the people of the world. He or she fights crime and injustice. Continue reading
The premise of The Two Faces of January involves a look into the lives of two con men. Rydal (Oscar Isaac), a young man from New York, is living the life in Athens. He sleeps with the tourists and, while he is at it, tricks them out of their money. Sure, Rydal says to himself, $100 might not equal 100 drachma. But how will the ignorant tourists know? His personality is that of a charmer, with a hint of something tricky underneath the surface, a combination that makes his cons that much more persuasive. Using his acquired knowledge of the area, Rydal manages to happily get by on the combined income of a tour guide and what he gets from swindling the pretty visitors. Continue reading
In my quest to watch all the bad martial art movies in the world I ran into Man of Tai Chi, which stars Keanu Reeves as the villain, and a relatively unknown action hero; Tiger Hu chen. As a martial artist Tiger’s career has touched on Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, as well as Kung Fu Hero and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
So why is he an unknown in the movie world? He was a stuntman and a coordinator, which means he’s really, really good at martial arts. This explains his move from behind-the-camera to hero.
In 2013 Man of Tai Chi was advertised briefly in theaters, got a lukewarm reception by critics, and scored 50% by audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. This movie falls into the worst category a movie can fall into. It wasn’t good enough to pay money to see, and it wasn’t bad enough to garner a cult following. It was considered forgettable, and received a resounding “Meh” from moviegoers. Continue reading
The Fellowship heads deep into the mines of Moria. On their way, they see the evidence of life that was in this darkened place, now lost. The rooms are filled with abandoned armor and skeletons. The city that once echoed with the steel clangs of a thousand smiths is now eerily quiet. This golden hall of kings is now filled with shadows and death. As the heroes warily go deeper and deeper into the mine, past dusty rock and worn pillars, they find a journal. This Book of Mazarbul explains in vivid detail what happened to the last of the Dwarves before the end. Drums. Drums in the deep. “They are coming.” Continue reading
Around the time that I graduated high school, X-Men 2 came out in theaters. That movie has since been universally accepted as one of, if not the, best X-Men film adaptations ever created. It had phenomenal action, from Nightcrawler’s one-man attack on the White House to a desperate midnight battle at Xavier’s school. It was X2 that caused Hugh Jackman’s popularity to skyrocket, as he expertly showed us a Wolverine tormented by his past and searching for answers. The film skillfully explored themes on alienation and identity that are intrinsic to X-Men, yet had never quite translated in the shift to the silver screen. Finally, despite having an immense ensemble cast of mutants of all kinds, it felt like we managed to get an intimate look at each character. This is an impressive task for any movie with an enormous cast. That the director, Bryan Singer, managed to pull this off in a setting where one character can shoot flame from his fingertips and another can create tornadoes at will is an accomplishment that I don’t think many people give him credit for. Continue reading
For those of you who aren’t waiting with bated breath for the robot uprising (which I promise is any day now) here is your official update.
While I was hunting around for my next videogame purchase I ran into the Cleverbot mobile app, which is available at the Google Store for a buck. This app connects your phone to the growing Artificial Intelligence known as Cleverbot. And for those of you who are now rolling your eyes and groaning; “But Joe, there’s no such thing as real AI!” Allow me to correct you while simultaneously introducing you to our future overlord. Continue reading
Pop culture vomits forth an endless torrent of zombies these days. The stories have become so repetitive and similar that it was only a year or so ago that we got the zombie romance, Warm Bodies. Isn’t it a sign of desperation for a fresh story that now we have characters who have literally fallen in love with a rotting, flesh-eating corpse? Video games have followed this trend with as much fervor, offering zombie games of all flavors to those interested. You have the horror of The Walking Dead, if you are interested in a character-driven tale with powerfully emotive writing. If you’d prefer a comedic zombie slaying spree, then spend your time with Dead Rising, a game where you can use stop signs and parking meters to beat the ever-loving snot out of the shambling hordes. And, if you are unreasonably excited by the idea of simulating what life would actually be like after a zombie invasion, play some DayZ, a game where you can wander about, starve to death, and get preyed upon by the other survivors. Continue reading
The Pacific theater of World War II receives a fraction of the attention that the European theater does. My own interest in it stems from my experience visiting Japan when I was younger. For almost two weeks I roamed the busy streets, watching kids walk around them, showing off their latest designer clothing and phones. I climbed the stairs to lonely and windswept temples, and even snuck into the back of one. I marveled at the peculiar mix of eastern culture with western technology, a culture so familiar yet peculiar that it felt akin to walking through Alice’s Wonderland. The Japanese aesthetic and their mythology has always been fascinating to me, particularly given how different it feels from my Western background. Japan is a unique and contradictory blend of pride, pacifism, discipline, and adaptability that has, since World War II, embraced American culture while somehow remaining wholly separate from it. Japan has always been an enigma to me, both past and present, and I always find myself revisiting it and trying to learn more. Continue reading