27 April 2009

Amazon, you so silly

I just received an e-mail from Amazon.com stating that I had purchased The Dark Knight on Blu-ray, so I am probably interested in the Twilight Ultimate Collector's Set Blu-ray.  Hahahaha.

Fun fact - The Dark Knight is the only Blu-ray movie we own.  It is also the only physical media I have purchased for the PS3 in one year of ownership.

25 April 2009

Ender's Game

Let me start by addressing all of my friends who share a fondness for real-time strategy games and sci-fi.  I highly recommend Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game to you.  Many people will enjoy this novel, but if I had to guess, my love of those two interests made the book especially fascinating to me.

A brief, spoiler-free plot synopsis:  Earth has been twice attacked by a race of aliens.  The military has devised a plan to engineer young people capable of the strategy, tactics, and leadership to defeat this threat.  Their last hope is a six year old boy named Ender Wiggin.  

The appeal of the story is tangible.  What young boy never had the fantasy of being humanity's only hope against an alien race?  Heck, one of the reasons I play video games today is to constantly relive this fantasy.  Ender's education takes place aboard a space station battle school complete with combat simulators and student armies.  Think Hogwart's meeting West Point... in space.  Why wouldn't I want to read this?

Card did several things right for me in his writing choices.  I loved reading Ender's experiences right at his level of thought.  To see how he perceived his situations, think about them and arrive at optimal solutions.  Making the main character such a young age made empathizing with his physical and emotional struggles easier than say a teen or young adult.  Yet the character thinks and acts at an adult level.  It's a simple read, too.  Card only elaborates on details and physical description only when absolutely necessary.  Most of the book takes place in thought or in conversation.

The other thing that really worked for me was Card's pace. Paragraphs can move the storyline up days, months or years, while some entire chapters are a single important conversation.  It's a short book, but Card seriously doesn't waste much time.  I appreciated it.

I have only two complaints and they are minor.  One, there's no way that kids of this age could believably think and act the way they do.  I conjured up some pretty elaborate stuff from six to twelve, but I couldn't have even played a game of StarCraft well or survived a Nickelodeon obstacle course at that age.  Two, I couldn't help but feel that the Battle School sections got the most attention but didn't progress the character as much as the rest.  It's fun to read the battle simulations that Ender experiences, but they are similar to Hogwart's quidditch matches.  Engaging, but not where the meat of the book lays.  

One more thing about Card, he is quite the visionary.  Original publish date of Ender's Game pre-dates a lot of significant sci-fi and modern technology.  I wouldn't have blinked if I learned this book was written in the 90s.  Card displayed an amazing sense of zero-G environments and networked computer systems.  

I can definitely see myself reading Ender's Game again in the future.  The journey of Ender's psyche should still be interesting even when knowing the future.  Perhaps that will even lend itself to alternate interpretations.  I am, however, skeptical of reading future books in the series.  The ending takes a radical left turn towards a direction I don't feel will stimulate the same parts of my brain.

Have you read Ender's Game?  What are your thoughts on it?  Did you read any of the next books?  Does reading this post raise some interest in reading it for the first time?

05 April 2009

I Watched the Watchmen

This one should really be a video blog, to show how animated I am about this film, but I know I couldn't contain myself to the YouTube ten minute rule.  

Watchmen was incredible!  I can't remember the last time I enjoyed every single aspect of a film.  Cast, direction, cinematography, story, sound effects, soundtrack, everything.  Zach Snyder is officially on my Awesome List.  Dawn of the Dead was decent, 300 was quite good, but this was amazing.  

I can't believe this movie lived up to the hype and my expectations.  I want to see it again already, with a copy of the novel in my hand.  There were several scenes that I want to freeze frame and look up directly in the novel to make comparisons.  That's how authentic the film is to its source.

Were some elements of the novel left out?  Of course they were.  Many of the sub-plots and narrative devices Alan Moore wrote into Watchmen just couldn't be translated to film or were cut for time's sake.  I'm sure many purists are upset about this, including Moore who I've heard vowed never to see the film, but the end product is still everything necessary to tell the story. To be honest, the end of the film makes MORE sense than the novel. (very small tweak)

My favorite scene from a difficult-to-orchestrate point of view was from the prison scene where Rorshach pins down the midget in the bathroom.  The setup of seeing exactly what Snyder wants you to see as the door swings back and forth just enough to see into the room twice.  Exquisite.  

The guys who played Dan Dreiberg and Rorshach were intense.  The characters from the novel basically jumped off the page and into the screen.  They were EXACTLY how I interpreted them from my reading of the novel.  Well done to all involved who made that happen.  I got chills when Rorshach yelled at the prisoners, "I'm not locked in here with you.  You're locked in here WITH ME."

Gosh, I wish I could gush endlessly about the film... 

Beer Log: Defiant

I recently had the pleasure of trying some beer from Lisa's old stomping grounds, Pearl River, NY. Defiant Brewing Company had two truly delicious offerings for people who like sweet and sour beers.  The first one I had was their Grand Cru, which must go by some other name or just isn't listed on Beer Advocate.  The flavor immediately reminded me of something else I liked... but couldn't quite put my tongue on it.  After drinking half the brew, I realized that it reminded me of New Belgium's La Folie!  Not quite as strong or bitter, but the closest thing I've had to La Folie.  

The other brew I tried was the Abominal Snow Beer; a great name for sure.  This was one of the sweetest beers I've ever had, right up there with lambics.  Probably not for everyone, but as I said before, great for fans of fruity sweet beers.