Nerdcore Rising

April 7th, 2008

So this is not going to be one of my more usual reviews, although there will be one down-post aways. Be patient. See, late Tuesday night I got an e-mail from the Nerdcore Rising mailing list, telling me that the film was going to be shown at the AFI Film Festival here in Dallas and that mailing list members could possibly be gotten into the afterparty by RSVPing to the film’s “gracious sponsors Reel FX.” Thankfully, I didn’t consider that it might be an April Fool’s joke and immediately sent an e-mail to ask if the party was Thursday or Friday night. Wendy from Reel FX confirmed that it was Thursday…and then a few hours later she e-mails me again asking if I want interview time with Negin and MC Frontalot for my blog. I am not an idiot, dear readers; of course I want interview time! She lets me know that they can probably get me in before the sound check for a few questions, so…wait sound check! MC Frontalot will be performing? I didn’t think this story could get better, but read on for the interview, the review, and the betterRead the rest of this entry »

Stargate SG-1: The Ark of Truth

March 23rd, 2008

So I’m reasonably sure this is the first time I’ve reviewed a Direct-to-DVD feature.  I’m also sort of live-blogging it, which is another first, but I really feel like my book backlog is too absurd to tackle right now, and I’d like to get something on this site before too much more time has passed. This is a continuation of the Stargate SG-1 Ori saga that occupied the show’s last couple of seasons before it ended last year, and there’s a “Prelude” recap that does a decent job summing up the relevant events if you feel like you’ve been away from the show for too long.  The movie opens with a lot of helicopter shots of majestic snow covered mountains, backed by the still stirring strings and chant of the original movie’s main theme.  It then reveals that this is not earth, but a world populated by the Ancients long ago and far away.  They have developed a weapon called the Ark of Truth that could force the Ori to capitulate, but refuse to use it for (not unreasonable) ethical reasons. Flash to present day on Dakara, a sacred world to the Jaffa, and the capitol of their fledgling government up until the Ori blew it to bits, and apparently the final resting place of the Ark’s shipping crate, which SG-1 has discovered.  Vala is bitchy because she hates the desert…something which I sympathize with, but she’s still obnoxious.  Whoops, here come the Ori!  Oh, and Sam is with SG-1.  So I guess this is set some time ago, seeing as she’s “now” the commander of Atlantis in the Pegasus galaxy. Read the rest of this entry »

Beowulf

November 14th, 2007

All hail Gaiman and Avary! All hail Zemeckis! All hail these men, these wizards of men, for they have made Magic! Beowulf is a stunning accomplishment. A computer animated film that pushes past the Uncanny Valley into beauty that often surpasses what reality could produce and film could capture. A story that has captivated for over a millenium, realized in new depth by artists who appreciate both the mythic nature of the tale and the realities of the culture that originally sang it in mead halls and firelit gatherings of all sorts. And what artists! By the end of the film, my mouth was dry from my jaw hanging open and my eyes were watering from the sheer wonder of it! First, the 3D is astonishing, and gave not a hint of the cheap, sloppy-layered appearance that so many 3-d features have. Images have depth in every dimension and texture, not simply depth separating one element from another. I am certain that this movie will blow you away if you see it on a regular screen, but in my opinion you would be doing yourself a disservice if you have any opportunity to see this in 3-D and accompanied by IMAX sound and never make that attempt. Second, the setting…immaculately detailed in both its beauties and its harshnesses. This is a story set in, and told about, a world of men whose culture is not our own. They had different values, different expectations and mores, standards for what is acceptable and what is admirable that might surprise some, but should make the heartstrings of any medievalist swell and thrum (particularly in the portion where the original Anglo-Saxon is sung). Third, the acting and animation, two features that cannot be separated. Never before have digital characters been so expressive of the analog motions and emotions of the human beings they portray. Flawless voice acting is matched to flawless motion capture and layered over and over in amazing art of astonishing detail. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. I feel privileged to have been able to see it, and privileged to live in a time when it could be made.

Tales of the Dying Earth

November 2nd, 2007

Long, long ago I (somewhat glowingly) reviewed Kage Baker’s Anvil of the World, and was recommended, as having a somewhat similar style and tone, to the works of SF luminary Jack Vance. Dutifully, I picked up the omnibus collection of 4 of his novels set in the Dying Earth universe he created, Tales of the Dying Earth, but…well, I can’t write quite so glowing a review this time. Vance’s setting is interesting enough, in concept. Presumably billions of years in the future, the Sun is dying. Mankind, the environment, and the Earth itself have been through so many traumas and evolutions that it can seem quite alien, especially as humanity’s control of its environment has advanced technologically, or psionically, or spiritually, or some combination of all of these, to the point where Magic in the traditional sense is very much in the world and readily perceived. Vance does a fascinating job presenting a world with billions of years of human history, and his environmental descriptions are almost Tolkien-esque at many points in their vivid paintings of his eerie world. Unfortunately, while I found much to admire in these books, like Tolkien I often thought his characterization and dialogue sometimes lagged far behind his other skills, although I wonder how much of that is simply the choice of stories included in this collection. Read the rest of this entry »

Engines of Light

September 29th, 2007

MacLeod continues to create interesting worlds filled with interesting (if not always entirely believable) characters and wildly variable political and economic systems that always manage to trend towards socialist libertarianism. And I keep reading them, and enjoying them, which may or may not tell you something about my own political leanings and/or tolerances. This trilogy of books starting with Cosmonaut Keep, bridged by Dark Light, and concluded with Engine City, is one of those rare interstellar epics where the speed of light is inviolable. Travel, then is accomplished in ships capable of essentially transforming themselves and their contents into light itself; massless and timeless, the traveler arrives at his destination in the same subjective moment as his departure, while years (or decades, or millennia) pass in the frames of reference of the worlds in between. Turns out that extra-terrestrials and their servant species have been relocating life-forms from Earth to an area on the other side of the galaxy for many millions of years, for their own reasons and without much consultation of those being moved, and the primary thrust of these books is the tale of those displaced colonists, impossibly distant in time and space from their homeworld, trying to establish balance and trade with other worlds and species. Minor spoilers (necessary to describe the setting) await you after the cut… Read the rest of this entry »

The Transformers

July 3rd, 2007

The Transformers is the coolest movie I have ever seen. If I have to explain to you who or what Transfomers are, you’re in the wrong place, so I won’t try and do that. If I have to explain to you who Michael Bay is, or why some people raised a red flag when he took up the project of creating a live-action movie based on one of the most popular and influential cartoon and toy lines of my generation, well, you probably live in a cave. From the earliest reports, though, Michael Bay was hailed by people involved in the project as a True Fan, and this movie bears that out. Every element of how chameleonic robots whose every joint is reconfigurable and who have integrated wings, jets, wheels and weapons might move, both casually and at combat speed, has been lovingly imagined and meticulously realized. Autobots and Decepticons are distinct in their motivations and characters, and the unique qualities of the different vehicles and robots are exploited wherever possible. Read the rest of this entry »

The Face in the Frost

February 15th, 2007

I picked up the recommendation for this book from a Making Light comment thread looking for fantasy novels of a “literary” sort. Given some of the more recent discussion in that neighborhood, I’m not sure that label would be received so blithely these days, but it resulted in some excellent recommendations anyway. Unfortunately, The Face in the Frost is one of those books that, while I can’t deny the craftsmanship and quality of the work, still falls into the nebulous collection of works whose style is targeted at someone other than myself. Read the rest of this entry »

Spin

February 10th, 2007

Part of the reason this booklog has lain dormant so long is because troubled times in my personal life have consumed so much of my energy and drive, but part of it is because Spin was the next book in the review queue, and I just didn’t feel able to do it justice. And so, to get myself jumpstarted into writing again, I reread this book (for the first time, but what I’m certain will not be the last). By now, I’ve read all of the 2006 Hugo Best Novel Nominees, and they are all unquestionably excellent, but (IMO) likewise unquestionably, Spin (the winner of that award) is the best of their number, and one of the best books I’ve ever read. Read the rest of this entry »

Newton’s Wake

September 21st, 2006

Clearly subtitled “A Space Opera,” the first MacLeod book that I’ve read outside the “Fall Revolution” tells it like it is; Space Opera is the word, and the word is fun. Like Stross’ Singularity Sky, MacLeod is spinning an adventure yarn with lots of borderline silly speculative technology in a post-Singularity human-dominated galaxy consisting of occasionally outright silly extremist socio-political constructions. Newton’s Wake is peopled by powerful Glaswegian gangsters, theatrical producers whose works shake whole societies, incomprehensible and insane superhuman AIs, and a couple of misplaced folk singers from the 21st century, just to keep things at an…um, “Earthy” level… Read the rest of this entry »

Nerdcore Hip-Hop Compilation

September 9th, 2006

I guess you could say that I’ve been into Nerdcore Hip-Hop since before I knew what it was, and maybe before it knew what it was (just how long has MC Hawking been dropping phat rhymes, now?). I kept promising myself that I’d put together a collection of the best of the genre and put it on a CD, but the guys at Rhyme Torrents did us all one better by getting almost all the major artists in the genre to contribute songs along with a bunch of MCs and DJs I’ve never heard of, producing in total 4 albums worth of music, an astonishing amount of which is actually decent (and occasionally excellent) listening material. Nerdcore Hip-Hop, for the uninitiated, is rap about Nerd-friendly topics; programming, gaming (tabletop or video), and the trials and triumphs of being a social outcast are standards. Samples of video game music, science fiction television and movie clips, and synthesized computer voices and sounds are frequent accompaniments. Basically, anything that might get a story on Slashdot is fair game for a Nerdcore artist. Below the fold, I’ll review each of my favorites and least favorites from this four volume collection. Read the rest of this entry »