Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Say, now I KNOW it's Christmas once again! Because I hear the pitter-patter of little elf feet...

What? Not Buddy the Christmas Elf, nor even the Gremlins of Kingston Falls, but Orlando 'Legolas' Bloom and Tauriel 'Kate From Lost' the Red-Headed Step-Child. Who doesn't want some light-footed elves prancercising their way across white-water Donkey Kong barrels? The Elf Driver's Waltz Pleases Nerds Completely!

I have to admit, there are times when 'The Hobbit Part 2' feels a little like Second Breakfast- a little too much of a good thing. But then it'll lurch back from its drunken wanderings and find the path through Mirkwood again. I'm consoling myself with the belief that they've left plenty of material for the third film, which I'm also as eager as anything to see in 2014.

This does what you paid for (and thanks again to my buddy Ron for the ticket!) with cunning action sequences, bombastic music, stunning natural vistas, strange and wonderful creatures, and more. It's a great way to kill an afternoon. See it with friends as excited as mine and you'll really be in for a swell time!

Stephen Fry as the Master of the Lake-Town of Esgaroth is a particular treat, because Stephen Fry doing ANYTHING- (including reading the entire indicies of 'The Silmarillion') would be a particular treat.

All the returning characters do great work- Bilbo, Gandalf, Radaghast, Old Dwarf, Fat Dwarf, Proud Dwarf, Hot Elf, Haughty Elf, and The Elf who Makes Pies and Raises the Dead. Plus you've got that lizard in a human suit Benny Batch delivering the creepy goods as the BIG BAD!

And lastly, I'll try my best, but I think I'm always gonna pronounce the titular dragon's name as "smog"... not "s-miaow-g".

Friday, December 6, 2013

Comic Review: Ranma 1/2

I just finished Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi and it was awesome. 36 black-and-white manga volumes of absurdity. Many thanks for the many months of book loans to Lorisia, daughter of Bookmonkey!
Although serialized for sixteen years between 1987 and 1996, the text itself takes place in less than a year (albeit a very busy, very timeless year) in a fantasy version of Tokyo. Sixteen-year-old martial artist Ranma Saotome has a life not unlike the famous Archie Andrews. If Archie Andrews was cursed with a body that swaps genders when doused with water. And if Archie had upwards of eight lady suitors running the cultural gamut from pancake vendors to Chinese amazons (and several clueless men) instead of simply Betty and Veronica vying for his attentions. And if Archie was a jerk.

Ranma comes by his prideful ways honestly: his father Genma is also a jerk. Genma Saotome, having set his son on the path of the mystic martial arts by various ill-considered methods often bordering on child abuse, is a self-serving, cowardly lout who mooches his way across the world, and barters his boy's betrothal at various times to various people, usually for the promise of a hot meal. Also Genma turns into a panda.

Genma's sensei, as you might imagine, was also a jerk. Wizened but not wise, Happosai's mastery of his craft serves primarily in the stealing of women's underpants. The tiny, goblin-like master is best kept under a rock, as his students attempted to do ten years ago.

Happosai's second student, the kindly widower Soun Tendo, hopes to pass on his training dojo to Genma's son... and one of three lovely daughters: homemaker Kasumi, mercenary Nabiki, or tomboy Akane. But Akane is no more eager to wed Ranma than the reverse. Complicating matters (like THAT was simple) is a slavering host of dashing idiots with crushes on Akane, many of whom turn into adorable animals when they get wet. Will the course of true love run smooth? Will Genma's estranged wife learn that her son Ranma has grown up *gasp*... less than manly? How many times must a girl kick a guy over the horizon?

I've never read anything like this. I'd venture a guess that there IS nothing like this, especially outside that Friendly Island in the Sea, Japan. The art is just amazing, with rich, detailed backgrounds peopled delightfully. The distinct characters have such fiendishly simple, wild, and hilarious facial expressions! Equal parts comedy, magic, action, romance, and fan service make for an all-time manga classic. There's no deeper meaning here- apart from life itself: complicated, unfair, stupid, sweet life. It's funny when it's not happening to you. I'm no expert, of course. I just know what I like.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A-Z Survey of The Best Ever Books

Earlier this week I was reading the blog "Wisdom of Bookmonkey" - which is an amazing read, sharing a lot of my own tastes (shameless plug), so I thought I would both send a thanks to that blog – a reading-themed A-Z survey – and fill some void in my own (by stealing it wholesale right down to the papyrus-coloured background I can't be bothered to figure out how to get rid of)- so here goes:

Author I've Read The Most Books From: I've never counted and I'll have to do it by the numbers later, but it's almost certainly Peter David. I spent many years tracking down his comics and novels in the sf and fantasy genres.

Best Sequel Ever: E.T. The Book of The Green Planet by William Kotzwinkle, because I couldn't put it down and read it all night instead of sleeping. That's nine years old for you. Probably my gateway book to Science Fiction.

Currently Reading: Doctor Who: The New Adventures: Human Nature by Paul Cornell

Drink of Choice While Reading: Raspberry Ginger Ale. For the stains! Actually, I don't usually drink while I read.

E-Reader or Physical Book: I still read more often from physical books, but my iPad and Kobo E-Reader have weight advantages for my weak and kittenish wrists, plus I get to imagine I'm Geordi La Forge having a replicated lunch break in the 24th Century.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated in High School: Ace McShane- but there's no way I would have survived the experience. (Also assumes the restraining order hadn't been invented.)

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, because the Vorkosigan Saga is cool, yo.

Hidden Gem Book: Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, which is probably very popular already and not hidden at all. So, Empowered by Adam Warren. Neither of these graphic novels is even SLIGHTLY suitable for children.

Important Moment in Your Reading Life: Finishing the bildungsroman (coming-of-age story) Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander because when I was eleven that's what I thought epic was. Also, Wikipedia is teaching me German!

Just Finished: Ranma 1/2 Vol. 30 by Rumiko Takahashi. 

Kind of Books I Won't Read: Technically none, but to be fair I am a giant whiny baby with no interest whatsoever in virtually anything outside "Geek Genres", and even there I don't have a great track record with horror, romance, tragedy, or tedium- essentially all fiction books set in real life, about real life.

Longest Book I've Read: The Bible. Although Steven King and George R.R. Martin have a certain heft to them. Their books are long, too.

Major Book Hangover Because: Two months later I still don't feel like going back to the rape and incest of A Song of Ice and Fire- but what can you do? Nobody else has read Dirty Pair by Haruka Takahciho and if they had what kind of conversation would that be anyway? "Do you like lasers?" "Hell, yeah, I like lasers!" "Awesome!"

Number of Bookcases I own: Two. One for the hundreds of books I own but haven't read. Because TV.

One Book I have Read Multiple Times: I love coming back to the DC superheroes graphic novel Kingdom Come by Mark Waid. It gives me the feels.

Preferred Place to Read: The La-Z-Boy.

Quote That Inspires You/Gives You All the Feels From a Book You've Read: JLA's Divided We Fall by Mark Waid page 163: The human half of Patrick O'Brien tells the Martian Manhunter "I Want My Soul Back". 

Reading Regret: I wish for a technology to download books directly into my brain so I could read as fast as that adorable Johnny Five from the Short Circuit movies. Where's my fiction mist, Steven Moffat?

Series You Started and Need To Finish (All the books are out in the series): Connie Willis' Time Travel series- unless there's more coming? So, realistically, the Doctor Who New Adventures series.

Three of Your All-Time Favourite Books: Have Spacesuit Will Travel by Robert Heinlein, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and Redshirts by John Scalzi.

Unapologetic Fanboy For: Media Tie-In novels. Yes, I have almost no classical knowledge and I'm bound to regret it every day of my life until I die happy surrounded by bargain bin Farscape and Thundercats pocket books. And, if I'm still very lucky, my wife and friends.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: The next volume of Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

Worst Bookish Habit: Using my precious reading time to watch TV... because it's infinitely easier.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the Top Left of Your Shelf and pick the 27th Book: DC Showcase Presents Booster Gold

Your Latest Book Purchase: Green Lantern: Revenge of the Black Hand by Geoff Johns

ZZZ-Snatcher Book- Book That Kept You Up WAY Too Late:
 A Semester in The Life of A Garbage Bag by Gordon Korman. Mercifully, I don't read all night anymore. I'm old.