Hey there

I am launching a new effort. Once a week I will blog about something I have read, listened to, watched, cooked or eaten. I'm doing this in an effort to help people discover new things, help me discover new things and to help myself as a writer. Too often I'm looking for new and interesting things, so I am making the assumption that others are too. Sit back, stay tuned and make suggestions.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

This week, I took a look at Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Now, I decided early on that when I am going to look at various movies I am going to try and stay as far away as I possibly can from other people’s reviews and criticisms. Luckily, PoP fell into an elegant category of movies I both wanted to see and I had heard little about.
The general overview of the movie is pretty simple. Take one part Lion King, mix in a little Aladdin and add a touch of Stardust and you have the gist of PoP’s plot line. While comparing it to other movies, I can’t help but bring up Indiana Jones, which is most likely to director Mike Newell’s work on the Young Indiana Jones television series. Newell recently has come into some “big name” properties, having, not too terribly long ago, directed the Goblet of Fire. But, I find his style and sense of directing a little too campy at times.
Another name that needs thrown out, is Jerry Bruckheimer. His company produced the film and it smells heavily of Johnny Depp’s sweaty pirate shenanigans. That is to say if feels like a Bruckheimer production. From the very first action sequence you feel like this movie could be titled: Pirates of Persia: Raiders of the Lost Sands.
This isn’t a thinker’s movie. You will know what is going to happen. It is more laden with tropes than it is with sand. Yet, I get the distinct feeling that the movie knows that. It’s not trying to be some film that is digested in late night conversations or presented in some stuffy film classrooms fifty years from now. This film is simply trying to be a movie that people watch and enjoy for the fun of it.
And you know what, it succeeds. PoP is a romp through what was once a video game and has now turned into a big budget production.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s character is surprisingly deep and offers a few complex glimpses into the realms of higher thought. But, mainly what he does throughout the movie is run, jump and run some more. It’s a bit like a medieval Persian freerunners dirty fantasy, but it’s fun to watch.
The action in the movie made me think heavily of the better Prince of Persia video games and a bit of Assassins’ Creed, and I count that as a success. If a movie based on a video game makes you think of video games that’s a win, right?
Now, I did find the female character abrasive, but that could just be me. Perhaps, she is meant to resonate strongly with a younger generation of ladies seeking a strong confident role model. She reminded me a lot of Clair Danes in Stardust, minus the charm, or attraction or character growth.
However, some of the secondary characters were truly well played. I openly laughed at a few parts. When Dr. Octopus talks in this movie I grinned. Quite frankly I found the character charming (kind of like a Jack Sparrow’s old fat uncle who moved to the desert to pursue his love of ostriches). The eldest brother I actually found myself drawn toward half way through the movie as his character gave good some glimpses of interest, and by the end of the movie he is actually a character to be cared about.
Uncle Scar…I mean Nizam is a pretty good character if not a little too predictable. His character tries to teach the audience that if your brother is in line for the crown and you have the chance to save his life, don’t. You will become a twisted old bald man who wants to time travel (almost as bad as I want to go back in time to stop Lindsay Lohan’s conception, the end of the greatest television series of all time Firefly or come up with World of Warcraft before Blizzard and reap the sweet life destroying power that the wield… wow got a little off topic) Anyway…
All in all, the movie is pretty darn good if I say so (although I recently am recovering from watching Jean-Claude Van Damme’s The Quest. So, my standards might be considerably lowered. But, that is neither here nor there)
 This was an entertaining watch, and I’m sorry, but sometimes I think that’s all a movie needs to do to be fun. I would recommended if you are in the mood to just sit down, turn your mind off and watch a movie that is going to keep you interested and entertained throughout. It is currently streaming on NetFlix for those of you with the capacity.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, February 03, 2011


     I recently finished the book Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. I have read a few of Kay's books before, and I tend to appreciate his blend of fantasy fiction and historic elements. Tigana is much of the same. For a fan of fantasy that breaks the "Forgotten Realms mold" the book will hit home. For those who stay outside the genre, you might be interested in the political play, thoughts of life and loss or conflicted and skewed love/relationships that line the book.
    While overall, I would describe the reading experience as above average a few blaring items jumped out at me that I had an consciously hard time getting around. The first isn't just a complaint against Kay, but rather a gripe with many of the fantasy writers over the years. I understand that names are important. They help the reader connect to a character and can carry a number of meanings that the reader can attach to the character  via his or her past experiences. In fact, in this book names are pretty much everything, but...
      During the course of this novel Kay has to repeatedly give a short description after a lesser character's name so the reader can remember just who that individual is and what purpose they serve. It seems to convolute the already slippery slope of fantasy character development.
     If I named a character Kyra odds are my interpretation of that name would be different from many others who would hear the exact same name. My qualm however is the use of names so exceedingly "creative" that they muddle the story and make secondary characters hard to differentiate from one another.
     This might also have something to do with his knack of introducing characters chapters into his book and then leaving that character to die a quick and forgettable, hypothetical literary death in the reader's memory only to bring them back 100's of pages later to make you recall just where they were and how they fit into the puzzle.
     He also allows a select few his characters to become too great. Their level of understanding, physical ability or perception sometimes boarders on supernatural...(crazy for a fantasy novel I know), but he tries for historical accuracy within the genre, an on its own that is both fine and creative, yet, to me, the trope falters a little with the glimpses of ultimate power that his characters seem to posses when the need arises.
     Where the book grabbed me was the main character development and the powerful messages that Kay hides underneath the layers of this novel.
     I know strong character development is an incredibly hard task to do well, and Kay's minor characters seem shallow and insubstantial only because of the depth he devotes to his main characters.
     Kay plays heavily on subtly and nuance. This is not a work that a person can read "half-ass." It takes a lot of thought to suss out all the heavier meanings to the piece, and when looked for they are lofty and frequent.
     His main characters possess a level of development that you truly feel their voice, and after a while their thought process. You, as the reader, begin to understand what character (A) would do in situation (B), and that is a lofty feat. It's more than that though. Not only can the reader know how that character would act, but why he/she is motivated to commit the act, and the reader can then impress their own feelings on the situation.
     By doing this Kay does what I believe to be one of the truest purposes of fantasy fiction. He takes a character that only exits in the reader's imagination and creates them so undeniably in their mental facility that the reader begins to associate parts of his/her mental process in the understanding of the decision, and therefor the reader is presented the opportunity to learn more about the deeper thought process we all undergo when making powerful decisions.
     All that being said, the novel Tigana renders a literary nerd like me weak in the knees for its powerful themes and motifs. Within the work Kay makes the reader question legacy, the power of history and the means someone (the reader perhaps) would take to justify a ends.
     At what point does a person need to let history die? Is that concept even possible? Within the book Kay takes a concept of someone/something being stripped of identity and made as if to have never existed. He calls into question the idea of names and places being lost to subjection and the fight that takes place between trying to preserve a history that has fallen by the wayside and moving on to forge a new legacy under an alien presence/language/leadership.
     He raises questions of what level would the reader (by following the characters' though process) be willing to violate their own morality to fight for a cause that he/she believes to be just. There are also ideas of a loss and grief fighting against reason, unification through adversity and in an amazing (at least to me) stroke of non-clicheness with a villain character who just might be the most uncorrupted individual in the whole novel.
     It's not the typical fantasy novel. It requires thought and a level of personal understanding to truly appreciate. It's a good read. A little frustrating keeping names straight and getting into plot lines introduced much later into the story, but the level of character development and the deepness of thought behind the ideas of the work make it a novel worth reading. To me it harkened SLIGHTLY to ideas from Frank Herbert's classic Dune, (btw Dune = as close to a perfect fictional novel that has ever been written in my opinion) but Tigana used a little less subtly and lacked the ground-breaking awesome that Herbert spews forth on his page.
     If you like fantasy/adventure and have the ability/need to process a written work at a level higher than the latest paper back dribble that lines the shelves of book stores this is a novel to check out. If you hate the truly fantastic; this is still an approachable book. The fantasy is subtle (in a relative comparison to most books in the genre) and carries enough other offerings that it should appeal to anyone looking for a challenge.