By Peter Watts
I'd never heard of Blindsight or Peter Watts before Raja (writer of the Strobelight Review here at Sakeriver) posted his review of the novel in the forum. Like him, I found this book engaging and the ideas in it intriguing, but at the same time I also found it kind of disturbing. Watts presents some very interesting ideas about the nature and function of human consciousness--indeed, he says in the endnotes that the book is really a thought experiment on that topic--but the conclusions he presents are the sort that tend to push me into the kind of existential introspection that I really don't enjoy. Still, Watts is a good enough writer that he does make a real novel out of Blindsight, with rich characterization and a fascinating, if--to my mind, at least--bleak milieu, rather than the mere veneer of a story that is all many hard SF writers can manage. If you're a fan of hard SF I'd recommend this one. It's a little hard to keep up at times but it's good enough to be worth it.
Started: 1/8/2007 | Finished: 1/29/2007
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
I was pretty torn on whether or not to give this one a fourth star. On the one hand, there were a number of moments in the movie that made me cringe. On the other hand, there were far fewer than I was expecting and while I didn't laugh as often as Juliette and my friends did, when I did laugh I laughed harder than I have in quite some time. And, even more than cringing, I found myself just amazed that anybody would go that far with his comedy. I mean, he's not just over the line; he can't even see the line from where he goes. One things for sure: Sacha Baron Cohen has balls. And, as anyone who sees this film will find out, so does his co-star, Ken Davitian. I do recommend this one, but with the caveat that it's easily one of the most outrageous and offensive movies I've ever seen, so it's definitely not for everyone.
Viewed: 1/19/2007 | Released: 11/2/2006 | Score: B
By now this movie has already won three Golden Globes--Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress--so unless you don't own a television I'm sure you've already heard plenty about it. A lot of people love love loved it, including Juliette. For me, though, it was just good, not great. Yes, the music was great and I will admit that I was very impressed by Eddie Murphy's performance. The main thing that kept me from really enjoying the movie is that I absolutely hated one of the main characters, Effie. Now let me note that it was the character that I had a problem with, not the actress (Jennifer Hudson) or her performance. So it's really a writing problem, but for me it was a big one. I think it's pretty important to this movie that the audience sympathize with Effie's troubles, but I just can't bring myself to feel very sorry for a character that strikes me as a self-absorbed prima donna. I will say, though, that even I was moved by Hudson's performance of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," and considering what I thought of her character that's saying something.
Viewed: 1/13/2007 | Released: 12/14/2006 | Score: B
Children of Men
From a certain perspective it's a little surprising that I liked this movie so much. The reason I say that is that I see so many movies that it usually takes an unusual plot, interesting characterization, or at least a couple of scenes that really showcase a great acting performance to make me love a movie, and Children of Men didn't really have any of those. The plot was a pretty straightforward "damsel in distress" type of story and none of the writing really popped for me, nor did it allow the actors much room to maneuver. What was it that grabbed me, then? The direction. Director Alfonso Cuarón did an absolutely masterful job of presenting us with a dystopian future England that felt absolutely real. What's more, he managed to convey a truly remarkable amount of detail with almost no exposition. The end effect is that the movie actually makes you stop and consider the ramifications of its premise: what would the world be like if people stopped being able to have children? This one is definitely a must-see for any fans of science fiction. No, I'll go one further--it's a must-see for anyone who's a fan of good cinema.
Viewed: 1/6/2007 | Released: 12/24/2006 | Score: A
Bagombo Snuff Box
By Kurt Vonnegut
I'd say that this was an interesting read, but not a great one. It was interesting because I got a glimpse at Vonnegut's beginnings as a writer. Not great because, well, the stories didn't hold up that well. They were well-written, sure, but the mood and sensibilities were pretty dated. It actually kind of reminded me of something Heinlein might have done in his short or young adult fiction, minus the science fiction aspects, of course. Still, the stories were entertaining and easy to read, so if you're looking for some light stuff--maybe a bathroom book--you might check this one out.
Started: 12/18/2006 | Finished: 1/1/2007
Night at the Museum
There isn't really much to say about this one. It's wasn't a masterpiece or anything, but, of course, it wasn't trying to be. But even if it wasn't particularly stunning, it was cute and fun with plenty of chuckles and that's exactly what I was in the mood for when I went to go see it.
Viewed: 12/28/2006 | Released: 12/21/2006 | Score: B