Media Reviews

Thoughts On Man Of Steel And Collateral Damage

Let me just say right off the bat I'm not a huge Superman fan. I have nothing against Superman, but compared to other superheros out there -- Batman, Iron Man, Plunger Man (wait, what?) -- Superman isn't high up on my list. When I first heard that they were making a new Superman movie, I didn't much care, even though I like Zack Snyder and thought he would do a good job. But then as more and more of the trailers were released, I started to get excited. In fact, I was so excited that I went with a friend to the midnight show of Man of Steel this past Thursday night. I can't even remember the last time I went to a midnight show, but I was super psyched to see this movie.


Unfortunately, I wasn't as impressed as I had hoped to be. Don't get me wrong, there are some cool things in the movie -- the scene with Kevin Costner on the highway is heartbreaking -- and the entire cast is great, but still ... there was just something about the movie that fell flat for me. Maybe it was the fact there was just SO MUCH STORY that they tried to fit into two and a half hours. Like, seriously, Clark isn't Superman very long before he needs to reveal himself to the world. In fact, he doesn't even do anything other than fly around (don't you just love in superhero movies when the hero goes through their "learning phase," a la Peter Parker clumsily jumping from building to building until he becomes a pro?).

Then, all of a sudden, bam, Zod and the rest show up and demand Superman turn himself over, and he does, and then he's headed up to space -- but wait, they need to take Lois Lane, too! To be honest, I forget what reason they had to demand Lois Lane come along, other than to help propel the plot with Superman's eventual escape.

Anyway, we end up in Smallville, Kansas, and the bad guys are there to face off against Superman, and Superman starts walking down the main street as scared townspeople scatter about, and he tells them to get inside, and that, I think, is the only time he ever shows any thought to the wellbeing of others. Sure, he's fighting these bad guys for the safety of the world, but that doesn't quite excuse the fact that he, along with the bad guys, levels nearly the entire town. And not once was there any thought to the hundreds or potentially thousands of people wounded or killed.

But wait -- it gets better!

Soon we end up in Metropolis, which gets hammered with destruction. Yes, at the start, the World Engine (really, that's the best name they could come up with?) destroys a good portion of the city, and in movies like this, you have to accept the fact that regular people are going to die because of the evil villains, but even after the World Engine is destroyed, Superman and Zod go at it, destroying building after building after building, all of which are, presumably, filled with people who either die or are greatly wounded. (IGN has even attempted to determine how much the destruction would cost -- spoiler alert: A LOT!)

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching these big blockbuster movies, and superhero movies are great fun, but at the same time I'm getting tired of the disregard for general human life. It's like, 100 million people died, but Lois Lane survived, so everything's okay! Um, I don't think so. At least in, say, Iron Man 2, Tony Stark purposely flies out of the pavilion to lead the machines away from everyone who could potentially be harmed. That isn't to say people didn't die or were wounded during the final climax of that movie, but at least there was conscious thought on the superhero's part to try to keep everyone else as safe as possible.

In Man of Steel, however, Superman does not once try to lead Zod away from Metropolis. Oh no. They just keep fighting and fighting and destroying and destroying, until finally Superman somehow manages to break Zod's neck -- which, let's face it, is pretty far fetched when you consider that Zod, too, has become a "man of steel." Plus, let's not even get into the fact that, primarily, most superheros try their best to defeat the evil villains without actually killing them if they can help it, but that's a whole different post for another time.

So did I like Man of Steel? I thought so at first -- I even tweeted right after the show that it was good -- but the more that I've been thinking about it, the more disappointed I become. Again, it had a great cast, and I really like Zack Snyder, and there were even some good scenes, but overall the whole thing just fell flat for me.

But hey, maybe I'm crazy. What did the rest of you think?

Kindle Paperwhite Review

I've had my Kindle Paperwhite for a couple of weeks now. It's the Wi-Fi model, because I don't think I'll ever be on the move so much that I'll require 3G. If I'm going anywhere, I'll just download a bunch of books on the Kindle so it will be good to go. The Kindle I had before was the basic one, which doesn't really explain it well because there have been a lot of basic ones out since the Kindle's initial launch. But the thing I liked about that one is there were buttons on either side to click to the next page. There aren't any buttons like that on the Paperwhite. In fact, the only button it has is the power button on the bottom.

I got the actual Kindle case with the Paperwhite, opting to spend a few more dollars instead of going with an eventual knockoff. I'm sure the knockoff works just as well, but I'm very happy with the case. The Paperwhite fits snugly into it, and when you open the front (assuming the Kindle isn't powered off), the screen will wake up and prompt you to swipe the bottom of the screen to unlock the Kindle. Then, once you're in, it takes you either to the page you stopped reading on, or to the home page.

I have the ad supported Kindle, because the ads don't bother me -- either a small ad at the bottom of the home screen, or on the entire screen when you wake it from sleep, and that's it. Not once is my reading experience ever hampered. In fact, sometimes the ads include special sales on ebooks and mp3s, which is a plus.

The touchscreen is extremely well responsive. I don't remember ever having any issues.

What strikes me the most is the pixelation of fonts -- there isn't much of any. It's quite sharp, especially when compared to the previous generation. You also have the option of changing the font itself, though some publishers restrict this option for some reason (Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, published by HarperCollins, for instance).

The Kindle's name Paperwhite comes from one of the biggest features: "Patented built-in light evenly illuminates the screen to provide the perfect reading experience in all lighting conditions." For starters, the light isn't nearly as bright and white as the pictures on the product page make it out to be. I generally keep the light on high while indoors, though outdoors, in the sun, you don't need it at all. I will point out there is a slight shadowing on the very bottom of the screen, as seen here (and in the previous two pictures, if you hadn't noticed):

Again, it's slight, and I'm not even sure if it comes up as well here, but at first I thought the Kindle was broken. But then, after doing a few quick Google searches, I found others had this same problem, and that it is, in fact, a standard problem, but one that Amazon doesn't readily announce. Still, once you get used to it, it's no big deal.

In terms of battery life, Amazon claims "8-week battery life, even with the light on." That, I think, is a stretch. Like I said, I keep the light on most of the time, and I might get through a week before having to recharge it. Which really isn't that bad, if you think about it. Plus, most of that time I have the Wi-Fi on, so there's that.

Anyway, am I happy with the Kindle Paperwhite? Yes, very much so. I'd give it 4.5 stars out of 5 because of the shadowing issue, which I'm sure they'll perfect next year for the next generation.

What did I end up doing with my old Kindle? I donated it to E-books for Troops, a great non-profit that provides ebooks to military personnel deployed overseas. If you have an old Kindle sitting around collecting dust, I encourage you to donate yours. It's the least you can do.

Some British TV Shows I've Been Watching

Thanks to Netflix and Hulu Plus, I've been watching and enjoying the following shows.

The first, Downton Abbey, everybody has probably seen by now. It took me an episode or two to really get into it, but then I was hooked. Really looking forward to season two, which from what I understand is available on DVD now.

The second, Whites, is a British comedy that I've only watched two or three episodes of so far. It's funny, but not as brillant and hysterical as ...

Spy is one of the funniest British shows I've ever seen (granted, besides The IT Crowd and the original Office, I haven't seen much). All the actors are perfect for their roles, especially the kid, who's like a real-life Stewie from The Family Guy.

Finally, Misfits, is a show a friend of mine told me about awhile back and which I thought sounded okay but then sort of forgot about despite adding the first episode to my queue. Then not too long ago I figured I'd check it out and I can't believe I waited this long. This show is amazing. Truly, it might sound hokey at first -- a group of young delinquents come in possession of super powers during a freak storm -- but the show is very well done. At least, I'm halfway through the second season (or series, as the Brits say), and it's great. But from what I understand my favorite character, Nathan portrayed by Robert Sheehan, leaves after the second season, so I'm hoping they do the departure of his character justice and that his replacement is just as good, if not better.

Anyway, that's some of what I've been watching recently. How about you?

Wild Fire By Nelson DeMille: A Lack Of Suspense

Scott Brick is one of my very favorite audiobook narrators, which is why not too long ago I picked up the audiobook of Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille. Scott Brick, as usual, does a great job, but the actual novel itself? Well, it had potential. Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Welcome to the Custer Hill Club, a men’s club set in a luxurious hunting lodge whose members include America’s powerful business leaders, military men, and government officials. The club is a place to relax with old friends, but one fall weekend, the club’s Executive Board gathers to talk about 9/11 and finalize a retaliation plan, know by its code name: Wild Fire. That weekend, a member of the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force is found dead. It’s up to Detective John Corey and his wife, FBI Agent Kate Mayfield, to unravel a terrifying plot that starts with the Custer Hill Club and ends with American cities locked in the crosshairs of a nuclear device. Corey and Mayfield are the only ones who can prevent global chaos form being unleashed.

Okay, so it sounds pretty interesting, right? Well, again, it had potential. But here's my main problem with the story:

John Corey is assigned to check out the club but a friend and coworker of his, Harry, goes in his place. And Harry then is caught and brought before the club's "Executive Board" where he listens to the men discuss their ultimate plan, which is to nuke two U.S. cities and start off a military program called Wild Fire, which is basically an unspoken understanding between the U.S. and the Middle East that if nuclear weapons are ever detonated on U.S. soil, then the U.S. will immediately strike back with every nuclear weapon they have. Sort of like a new Cold War. So Harry listens to this plan -- the men speak right in front of him, after all, and the top bad guy even eggs him on by asking him his opinion at times -- and the entire time I'm thinking, This guy better not somehow manage to escape and then end up stopping them after he's already learned their master plan.

Well, Harry doesn't. Instead he's killed and his body is left out in the woods to be made to look like a hunting accident. Enter then John Corey and his wife Kate Mayfield, who begin to look into Harry's death. They believe it may not have been a simple accident -- something that we, as the reader, already know. They begin to investigate and learn that the Custer Hill Club may not be just a simple rich men's club -- again, something we, as the reader, already know.

And really, that's my entire problem with Wild Fire -- we, as the reader, already know everything that is going on, and we're just watching and waiting for our heroes to connect the dots. And because of that, there is no suspense. Also, let's not forget the scene in the end when the bad guy who plans to nuke two U.S. cities decides to bring our two heroes, whom he's captured, along for the ride so they can witness the destruction. Because -- surprise! -- our heroes then manage to get away at the last second and stop the bad guy from nuking those U.S cities. It reminds me of the scene in Austin Powers where Dr. Evil captures Austin Powers and keeps him alive so he can tell him his master plan and all the while Dr. Evil's son Scott is saying how they need to just kill Austin Powers and get it over with and Dr. Evil tells Scott to be quiet and then, of course, Austin Powers manages to escape.

Unfortunately for anyone who reads the entirety of Wild Fire, there isn't any escape. Because, despite it being a large book (the audiobook is 15 discs), not much seems to happen. Just a lot of talking as our heroes try to solve a mystery we, as the reader, already know the answer to. So when, at the end, they do finally uncover the truth, you think, What took you so friggin' long?

Being French, Dead, And Elmo

Remember my post from yesterday? Well, it's already here. There's a new review of The Dishonored Dead over at this blog for their October Zombies Event. If you like zombies, you might want to check out the review, as well as all the rest so far this month.

Also, while I'm in no hurry to see this documentary, I still think it looks pretty cool:


This upcoming thriller, however, looks intriguing. I feel like it could really be awesome or it could really suck. It certainly doesn't hurt that Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in it.


That's it for me right now. Have a great weekend.