Saturday, January 31, 2009

Movie Review: Defiance


Featuring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos

Genre: drama, war

Plot: Jews’ survival in a forest during war.

Acting: great

Drama: war, Jews, hiding in a forest, so plenty

Action: war scenes, attacks, etc. though it’s not the main part of the movie

Funny: some funny lines, it’s not really meant to be funny

Visuals: outstanding, that forest is amazing, makes me think of a Hallmark movie and that is a good thing

Soundtrack: appropriate and really nice

Official website:

Comments: Let me say first that I don’t care for movie inspired by true stories, war drama, and especially Jewish war drama. This being said I only accepted to see this movie because it had Live Schreiber in it. I wasn’t expecting much and I definitely didn’t expect to like it. I’m glad I was proved wrong. The visuals are breathtaking, and I don’t mean by that gory but simply beautiful, I wouldn’t mind living in that forest too, the soundtrack just enough not to disturb but enhance the atmosphere, and the acting was solid, including Daniel Craig’s who I can’t say I liked much up until now. Their accents were way off but it didn’t bother me that much since I didn’t understand what they were saying anyway. And a bit of a nit-pick, no matter how good the movie is Liev Schreiber’s acting is still too good for it.

Rating: 8/10

Defiance Trailer

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Take That - Up All Night

We're starting the year with a new Take That video. After the heat received on top of a skyscrapper in LA last fall, this time we're treated with a frozen middle age street party. The concept is fun and it can fit the theme of the song if done write, only that unfortunately it wasn't. The protagonists don't look like they're having fun at all, there are way too many shots of people we don't care about and the boys are barely there, not mentioning the fact that Gary Barlow is missing from the entire second half of the video. The reasons are known, he had to rush home because his wife was in labor, but really we expected more professionalism from the guys and not just throw something there and make do with what they had without making any extra effort to get it right. The whole feel of the video is cheap, rushed and poorly edited. We're actually this close to be embarrassed for them.

Still, Up All Night is a fun song with a lot of potential. Just take a look at this recording from Take That Come to Town ITV show and tell me am I right or am I right?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Book Review: Frank Herbert – Chapterhouse: Dune (1985)

Published by

Being closely related to the previous book, Chapterhouse: Dune should be read right after Heretics of Dune, otherwise neither of them will make much sense. As it happens, up to this day Chapterhouse: Dune is the only book that is still missing from my Dune collection. When it was first published here it had taken a while since Heretics of Dune had appeared in the stores and I was so anxious to read it that as soon as I discovered that my cousin had it I couldn’t wait any longer and borrowed it from her. After that, the way it happens with most good things, I neglected acquiring it and I still regret that. Whenever I happen to enter into an used book store I look for it, I want one with the first edition cover to fit my collection and none of the new covers because I don’t like them, but so far no luck.

The story picks up right from where the last book left off, the same conflict being at the order of the day and led by the same major players. Again most action is taking place in the Bene Gesserit world of which we get a pretty good insight. The two rival Sister clans, Bene Gesserit and Honoured Matres, lead a ferocious fight for supremacy, determined to extinct one another and become the supreme leader in their field.

With the Bene Tleilaxu taken out of the equation for the time being, two new groups are introduced to join the conflict. First are the Jews, descendants of the original Jews from Earth, who had survived in hiding over the millenniums. It’s a bit puzzling that exactly they had made it that long, or maybe not. The others are the Futars, half-man half-cat people, and their handlers. The reasons behind their actions aren’t exactly clear but they are brought together by a common cause, fighting against the Honoured Matres who are like a plague for what is left of the Empire.

The key character is a Honoured Matre captured by the Bene Gesserit and rehabilitated and trained in their way. Duncan Idaho and Sheena aren’t missing from the scene either, and of course the sandworms.

The story ends with a major battle worthy of an Oscar special effects award, which reminds us in some way of the ending in Dune. The big difference is that, once again, there is no real ending. It becomes clear that Frank Herbert was saving the answers and part of the plot for future novels that he didn’t have time to write anymore.

If you want to know how the saga ends you have to read Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune. It’s a shame that Nemira didn’t get the rights to publish these two books. They aren’t better than the original books in the series but the way it is it feels unfinished. And maybe, just maybe, if it had acquired the rights they might have gotten published sooner. It would have been worth it even if it was just for that one great final closing line. But that's not the subject I'm writing about here so I’m not gonna tell you what that was.

* * * * *

Written for Nemira Fan SF campaign:
“Aceasta recenzie face parte din campania Fan SF”

Friday, January 23, 2009

Book Review: Frank Herbert – Heretics of Dune (1984)

Published by

Things are speeding up again in Heretics of Dune, book five from the Dune saga. This was a breath of fresh air after the tedious and somewhat depressing God Emperor of Dune. A new era, new generation, and lots of action.

We’re a millennium and a half after Leto II’s death. The Empire has collapsed due to the God Emperor’s reign. Famine took over making the humans leave in an extended Scattering beyond the limits of the known universe. The created situation has allowed the Bene Gesserit order, Bene Tleilax and Ixians to take over the control becoming the highest power in the hierarchy. Dune is under their control, the desert is spreading again and sandworms have reappeared. They control the spice.

Sounds familiar? At least we’re in the same universe as in the first few books. Of course something has to happen. This time the main focus is on the Bene Gesserit clan and a new threat, the Honoured Matres, presumed wild Sisters gone rogue during the Scattering who are now returning intending to take over everything. They’re more violent and base their tactics on sexual enslavement of men. Yes, sex is becoming an important issue in this book receiving quite a bit of attention. Apparently Frank Herbert had learned that sex sells and was catching up with his time. I wonder how much the book’s appeal has increased because of this aspect as far as some of the readers are concerned, it would make for an interesting matter to study.

Things seem a little strange at first in the absence of any familiar character and having just known concepts laying around, but then a ghola of Duncan Idaho, or at least one of them, shows up and we feel at home again. So on one hand we have Duncan, and on the other hand we have Sheena, the last in the Atreides line, a child who can control the sandworms. These two are the real heroes of the story, the ones who make the action move forward being less inclined to let themselves be controlled by it. Another interesting character is Bashar Miles Teg who pretty much saves the day and their behinds several times.

The main problem with this book is that, unlike the others in the series, it has no proper ending, not the slightest feeling of completion. Too many plots are left unfinished, too many questions still need answers. After reading the next book, Chapterouse: Dune, it feels like they are both volumes of the same novel split in two. From a reader’s point of view that was very disappointing, especially since it took a while until the next book was published here at the time.

* * * * *

Written for Nemira Fan SF campaign:
“Aceasta recenzie face parte din campania Fan SF”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Book Review: Frank Herbert – God Emperor of Dune (1981)

Published by

The fourth book in the Dune series stands out as the most different from the rest as far as plot, writing style and attitude as a whole are concerned. Three and a half millenniums have passed since the events in the previous book, and still the author manages not to just bring in an entire series of new characters but preserves some of the old ones too. We probably would have liked it less otherwise.

In fact, the book is a character study for the God Emperor, Paul Atreides’ son, Leto II. Starting from a baby who experienced the agony of life while still in the womb, then a child with prescient visions, a teenager symbiotic with the sandtrouts and becoming eventually the God Emperor of the known universe, Leto II has led no ordinary life.

It is interesting to follow the metamorphosis of this Tyrant as his people call him, see what makes him human, or better yet, discover how much of him is still human. He first lost his physical human form after the inoculation of the sandtrouts into his system. Only the face and hands are left of what used to be young Leto II, the rest of him has transformed into a giant worm-like creature, the advantages of this condition being that it made him practically indestructible.

On a personal plan, he lost his family. The Atreides line is not extinct but, as he’s lived longer than any other human ever had, he had to go repeatedly through the painful experience of seeing the ones he loves dying. It hardened him and emotionally distanced him from the ones around him. Still inside he is struggling with his condition and the solitude he has to endure. It is probably the reason why he is hanging onto a long series of Duncan Idaho ghola, an unique contact with the past and last reminder of who he used to be.

Settled on the Golden Path the way he is supposed to, Leto II is living a sentient life just waiting for the inevitable to happen. It is a fact he has accepted ever since the beginning, making the greatest sacrifice for the benefit of the human kind while supporting the risk of being hated by basically everyone. To quote a more modern character: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” (Harvey Dent) Of course, that only applies to those who have the capacity to become a hero in the first place.

The romantic aspect is also explored though to a lesser degree. A creature like Leto II has become still finds the capacity to love against all odds.

Of all the books in the series this one is the most dragging, Leto’s point of view regarding everything around him leaving space for many long essay-like speeches, some with pure philosophic ideas, some with pure rambling, intentional or not, most of them adding little to the plot.

Written for Nemira Fan SF campaign:
“Aceasta recenzie face parte din campania Fan SF”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Book Review: Frank Herbert – Children of Dune (1976)

Published by

Note: I got complaints that this is more like a synopsis than a review. I was merely enjoying going through the book again. So now I changed it back to the usual rambling that doesn’t tell you much about actual plot… :P

While following the adventures of the Atreides twins, Frank Herbert uses the third book in the Dune series to discuss global issues that are just as current today as they were thirty years ago when the book was written.

From a political, Paul’s abdication to the throne while his heirs haven’t reached the physical maturity age yet leaves the Empire in a difficult situation. There’s need of a regent to reign in until the twins grow up, but their aunt Alia is not the best choice for that part. Like every party in the story she has her own agenda, not mentioning the fact that she is possessed.

This state of affairs has deep implications on the economical climate. There are already signs on difficulties as the Empire is starting to fall apart.

Aside from that, the religious factor added by Alia, The Preacher and the cult evolved around them gives us a close insight on how religion can influence the masses and where it can lead if used for personal purposes that have nothing to do with the religious feeling itself.

It is understandable that in such precarious circumstances there are various parties, particularly those who had the most to lose when Paul ascended to the throne, who will not pass on the opportunity to fight back and take what they consider as rightfully theirs. The twins are under constant attacks no regular children would survive, but of course our heroes are far from normal.

When it comes to them social implications and family dynamics are studied. Orphans, whose closest relatives - their aunt, step-mother, and even grandmother – who are supposed to love them and protect them do not have their best interests as priority but behave like their enemies at times, their only chance for survival is to stick together and back up one another the best they can. In the process life changing decision have to be made and put into practice, which permanently affect the children.

Underlying all, the constant ecological theme is not absent this time either. Once covered in sand and nothing else, Dune is slowly changing as the flora takes over the desert menacing the sandworm population.

Character death is judiciary applied terminating some of the storylines, though this is not a true ending but the beginning of a new era. We are left with the feeling that there is more to know about Paul Atreides’ children.

* * * * *

Written for Nemira Fan SF campaign:
“Aceasta recenzie face parte din campania Fan SF”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Book Review: Frank Herbert – Dune Messiah (1969)

Published by

First impression regarding the second book in the Dune series is that Dune Messiah is an epilogue gone wrong. Remember how Dune ends rather abruptly with everything being quickly settled in the last chapter after the big conflagration in the end? We aren’t given the slightest hint about the future concerning Paul. We know what the others think but we don’t know anything for certain, not what the author himself foresees for him. That leaves us a little disappointed and disconcerted. It makes up want to be a sequel out there so we can continue our trip into that arid world accompanied by the characters we have become fond of. And, yes, there is a sequel. Brilliant marketing to sell another book? Who knows.

Most people I discussed the book with either love it or hate it. My mind is set something in between. I usually don’t care for epilogues, most of the time I feel they’re useless and not more than a filler. This time I strongly felt the need for one. Maybe the writer did too, and once he started writing he realized there is a whole story to say and he just couldn’t stop, until another novel-like story saw the light of day. Well, not quite.

As a stand alone novel Dune Messiah, while loaded with interesting concepts and analysis, is not as solid and powerful as Dune. Further more, it misses the intricate background masterly portrayed in Dune and, a personal objection, it’s rather short. If the fan fiction concept had existed at the time, I would have said that someone had taken only the needed element from the original work and used them to play at will. Of course, Herbert’s wisdom and personal views are recognizable although the book and no aspiring writer would have been able to produce such a finite work.

As a sequel, it comes with a slightly different vibe, familiar characters are left unused and contrary to the escalation known tendency for sequels it focuses predominantly on Arrakis and on a single person, Paul. In a way this can be considered a biography of a fictional hero, only that, again, the covered period of time is too short. The hero gets discarded way too soon, or so we’re left to believe, and frankly who would want to shoot the cashing cow?

So neither concept really works. For me though, I like to consider it an intermission, a bridge between the main body of work called Dune and the real sequel Children of Dune. From this perspective the whole array of books works for me. Each one is different in its own way having its particularities and you don’t have to love them all as long as you don’t skip any of it.

And what is it about? Oh, just Paul’s life on Arrakis, torn between the loved one and the path he has to take. But don’t let me get into details, read it for yourself!

* * * * *

Written for Nemira Fan SF campaign:
“Aceasta recenzie face parte din campania Fan SF”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review: Frank Herbert - Dune (1965)

Published by

For a new campaign let’s start with a new series…

I first read Dune in eight grade when my dad bought it for me. At the time I didn’t know the novel had won the Hugo and Nebula Awards and I hadn’t read anything by Frank Herbert before. It was all new to me. From the first reading I was sold. Dune became my favorite SF book, hell, favorite book all together, and it turned me into a major SF fan. So I guess Mr. Herbert gets the blame for it, or all the prizes, depends on how you look at it.

Imagine an Empire spread although the entire known universe. In this Empire imagine one

little planet that holds the key to the life as we know it. Dune. Or Arrakis as the indigene population calls it. A planet covered in sand, hiding an immense treasure in its depth. The Spice. The spice mélange is the energy that fuels all activities in this universe. It prolongs lives delaying aging and it enhances prescient awareness. Without it there would be no space travel.

In such circumstances the one who controls the spice controls everything, and in this case the Emperor Shaddam IV does. Laws prohibit the storage of spice and he has control over Arrakis so his position is secure. But there’s another major House that is making a powerful impression on the political scene. Duke Leto Atreides is highly respected by the other Great Houses and his fighting force is close to competing with Emperor’s Sardaukars. To top it all the Duke is a distant cousin of Shaddam and therefore first in line to the throne. Of course the Emperor is worried, he put too much work into getting to that throne to let Leto have it, regardless the fact that Duke Leto is well-known for his justice and loyalty and would do no such thing.

It’s time to setup a trap. House Atreides is awarded the honor to supervise the production of spice on Arrakis, a fief until then run by the Harkonnens, the long time enemies of the Atreides. Following the Emperor’s orders Duke Leto is forced to leave his home planet, the green Caladan, and move to Arrakis along with his concubine, Jessica, teenage son, Paul, and entire house. The wheels are spinning.

Fighting and ditching intricate plots we witness Paul’s raise to power in an environment where everything from nature to people seems to be working against him. The planet itself is used as a device to make a statement concerning the ecological threats, this being considered one of the first majors attempts made by a fiction writer to infuse his ecological views into his work.

The story ends leaving plenty of room for the novels to come. It is in fact the story of young Paul Atreides, following the path led by his father who also lost his father while very young and going far beyond that. We see the circumstances and reasons that led to major changes in the known and unknown future, in a world ruled by complicated political plots and strong and complex characters we do not wish to part with.

* * * * *

Written for Nemira Fan SF campaign:

“Aceasta recenzie face parte din campania Fan SF”

E-mail from Hugh Jackman regarding Wolverine

Hugh Jackman has had enough with all the rumours regarding the X-Men Origins: Wolverine reshooting currently taking place in Vancouver and he sent Ain't It Cool an e-mail to clarify the situation. He also attached a new promotional photo:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - An Unofficial Website

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Two New Terminator Salvation Photos

Check out two new Terminator Salvation photos at:

A Terminator 4 Bale - An Unofficial Website

New Wolverine Photo

Check out a new Wolverine photo from X-Men Origins: Wolverine at:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - An Unofficial Website