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Mirrors review

I saw the trailer to Mirrors when it was first released at the theaters, and thought to myself, "That movie looks horrible." So you're probably wondering why I watched it, and the answer is because I saw a TV commercial that the horror fan in me couldn't pass up (without spoiling too much it involves a girl and a jaw). I'm glad I did watch it because this movie was great.

Now, I don't mean great in the sense that it rivals Lord of the Rings or 2001: A Space Odyssey, I mean great in that it's a mystery/horror/thriller that is not meant to be taken too seriously; it made me jump a few times, but really kept me guessing until the end. I was literally on the edge of my seat for most of the second half. The kills were all very cool (see note), though the plot and the "fight" at the end was...uh...different. The ultimate ending didn't have much explanation, but I think it was pretty neat.

Note: I watched the unrated version, I don't know what's different about it but it's likely a few (violent) scenes were extended.

Resident Evil: Extinction - book and movie review

So everybody's (or at least my) favorite female action star returns in Resident Evil: Extinction. Cool! Sounds great! Sorry to say that it does not necessarily end great. If you are a really big geek, like me, and take the time to read the novelization of this zombie action flick you probably won't be so disappointed. Unfortunately, if you are like most people you will just skip right to the movie, which wasn't as good. Everybody knows that the book is usually better than the movie, but in this case, I was surprised to find the book-which is based on the movie-was still quite a bit better. Keith RA DeCandido, who I had never heard of prior to picking the book off the shelf, is a good writer in his third novelization of this series. He gives multiple characters believable and sometimes comical backgrounds, none of which comes through in the movie.

The main character of Alice is literally above what an average human is capable of. This one thing which comes up multiple times and is well panned out in the book; where in the movie the director just seems to flip a switch and turns from a soft-spoken average woman into a comic book superhero. Boom. Pow! She's not supposed to be Zombie-girl. Latter parts of the movie, especially with Carlos, come across as very cheesy. The one positive thing is that this series was able to include the traditional slow zombies and the new-age remake "fast zombies" as well as the possibility of a cure, which rarely happens when the dead stop walking around. It goes beyond simple survival which is a positive move for the series, I just hope Alice can end it all before the undead start to falter in their performances too.

Chaos In Motion is jawdropping

Chaos In Motion 2007-2008 is probably the best music DVD that I've ever seen. If you are a Dream Theater fan then you should probably have it already, if you don't have it, don't even wait for Christmas, just go buy it. It is a compilation of Dream Theater's Chaos In Motion world tour (hence the title) in support of their 9th studio album, Systematic Chaos. However, with all Dream Theater live releases Portnoy has nicely included many songs from other albums. If you aren't a Dream Theater fan, this would be a good thing to check out: If it blows you away then you'll probably like most of their material, but if you don't like it then it would also be a pretty good indicator as well.

It's an ongoing debate as to which member is really the most talented and the winner of this round is Rudess. He has the most amazing solo yet, combining Continuum, keyboard, and the new Zen Riffer. I didn't have a chance to go through all of the bonus material until today and I'm pleased to say that it is pretty great as well (even Myung talks a good deal); I really hope there is a Making of documentary about album number ten, which is currently being recorded.

NOTE: If you can still find a Special edition (with three CDs of the concert in addition to the 2 DVDs) then go for it. It was limited to 5,000 copies and from what I saw sold out pretty quickly, but if you get lucky enough to find it on the shelf at $50 it's $10 per disc, and who doesn't love driving down the street jamming with live music blaring?

Book review: On Writing

I've known for quite some time that Stephen King is at least a good fiction storyteller, but after reading On Writing it is pretty clear that he can tell a darn good non-fiction story as well. I know it's pretty much become a cliché to say "I couldn't put it down" when referring to a good book, but that's honestly how I felt when it was time to read this book-or try to stop reading. Basically, it's three sections: (1) Stories of King's early life, most are short, a few are funny, all are well written. (2) A "How-to-write" guide from likely the best-known writer of our time. (3) The tale of King's run in with a vehicle (no pun intended) which I did not realize was as serious as it actually was- he was inches away from death more than once.

I enjoyed the first and third parts more than the middle...although I have done some fiction writing and probably will continue I don't have any plans to have it published, but the advice will help me some, I'm sure. King states that this is not his autobiography, which gives me hope that that book is still to come.

NOTE: You do not have to have read any of King's stories to understand or enjoy this book; my father who rarely reads fiction and I don't believe has ever read King enjoyed it very much.

Book review: The Long Walk

This was the first Stephen King book that I read since my completion of his Dark Tower series and it was definately a change in pace from that story. It was one of his early "Bachman books" and though I didn't think it would make much of a difference, you can detect a slight difference in the writing. Basically this is how it goes: 100 boys are choosen to walk, they must walk at least 4 miles per hour or they get a warning, three warnings and they shoot you, last one alive gets anything he wants for life; pretty simple. You quickly learn that walking-which is the genius of the story as it is something practically everyone does daily-is more of a mental activity than a physical one. I was a little disappointed by the ending, but the story itself is pretty solid entertainment. I hesitate to call it "fun" because there are obviously people getting shot throughout, but other than a few scenes it's not really grusome persay. It's a pretty quick read at 360 paperback pages and I got through it in about four days (many of which I stayed up late to keep reading). So if you need that last thing for your Christmas list, put this on there, it's worth reading.

Book review: Tom Clancy's EndWar

I got this book because the game looked cool and the Splinter Cell books under the same Tom Clancy umbrella are pretty cool. Unfortunately this one doesn't meet those expectations. The story juggles about five different plotlines throughout as part of a rehashed plot of: Russians = Bad, US (and Euros) = Good, Canada = Neutral. Of course Russia attacks Canada who wants to stay out of it and the US has to protect their borders so they send troops to defend Canada from the evil Motherland. You can guess who wins. Roll credits. The Russians were like those early WWII movies where the German guys are visually represented as the top of a gray helmet.

The reason this story fails is in the plot, not the writing. It was written by UbiSoft's "David Michaels" which is the pen name for all authors of Tom Clancy video game books; though very few were written by the same person. This incarnation of Dave's writing was not too bad; for the most part the action was exciting. It was simply difficult to juggle so many diverse plots-few of which interact-and keep the story feeling intertwined. Sure they're all in the same war, but most are happening thousands of miles apart and have little in common (One's a ground war, another follows the president, the best one follows a submarine crew). The video game, when you control all, looks to be fun (I have not and do not intend on playing it) but when you aren't in control it's like watching somebody else play-with no input-for ten hours.

I'd say skip this book and buy the game, or go for a Sam Fisher Splinter Cell novel adventure this holiday season.

White House doc looks cool

Since 2006 C-SPAN has been working on one of the largest productions ever made about the home of the US President. A 90-minute documentary will kickoff a full week of programming about the White House on December 14. As a new president moves into the House, it should be interesting to get a feel for how he-and all presidents-will/have lived. A short interview with the executive producer, as well as a hour long sneak peak can be seen already. The official site is at http://whitehouse.c-span.org/ and has lots of videos to be found. This should give us a great way to learn about something that is extremely recognizable and yet little is known about. I'll try to post something as the premiere gets closer.

Horror movie reviews: High Tension and Slither

I am a big horror fan and now that we're nearing Halloween I figured it was time to spend my night alone with a couple blood-baths. I think that the key to a truly great horror movie is a film that doesn't purposely try to scare you with stuff jumping out of the shadows, but does scare you in un-obvious ways. At this point The Blair Witch Project is my favorite horror movie, though Jason is the coolest slasher. If you've seen those, here's a few you might like.

High Tension

Well, it's ain't something you sit down and watch with grandma, but it's worth watching. I kept thinking this movie was somewhat slow paced, but then I looked at the time and realized I had been watching for 50 minutes already. It does start sort of slow, but the ending is no doubt worth staying around for. This movie is very worthy of its title. I have no clue what the motivation behind releasing the theatrical cut as half dubbed in English and half in French with subtitles, but I usually watch with subtitles anyway so it didn't bother me (features are included to have all French or English, but like I said the theatrical was half-and-half). Overall, good movie, definitely recommended for the Halloween season.

Slither

Wikipedia bills this film as a "horror-comedy" and I would say that's about accurate. The only problem is that the comedy was pretty funny, but the horror wasn't so horrifying. Kind of a nod to Alien meshed with a B-horror movie. Acting was alright, and it was truly funny, but that was unfortunately overshadowed by the fact that the story was just dumb. If you want a good horror-comedy go for Shawn of the Dead instead.

Book review: The Martian Chronicles

My first Ray Bradbury book, The Martian Chronicles, was terrific. The book is comprised of short stories, some a paragraph or two, others almost 15 pages in length; but ultimately the book reads like a short novel (185 paperback pages). It is a commentary on a wide variety of things from how important books are to how destructive humans can be. That having been said, they are not difficult stories to understand and when taken at face value, they are just fun entertainment to have a good time with. I also purchased Fahrenheit 451 and plan on reading that soon. The Martian Chronicles is available in many different versions, with various stories included or excluded for various reasons. I read The Grand Master Edition, but I highly recommend any version of this collection.

If you really want to get full enjoyment out of "Usher II" then read Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" or atleast a summary. My two favorite stories were "Usher II" and "There Will Come Soft Rains"