Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America Winter Soldier PosterWhen I reviewed Captain America: The First Avenger, I noted that the big lead-ins to The Avengers all do a little bit of genre-blending rather than being “pure” superhero movies (if such a genre could be considered pure in the first place.) Thor is fantasy (no matter what sci-fi trappings they tack on), Iron Man is sci-fi, and the first Captain America movie was a war movie. The Winter Soldier holds true to this rule, but shifts its genre. Instead of being a superhero war movie, it’s a superhero spy movie.

It’s probably a necessary change, with the modern setting, and it makes for a better movie than it otherwise would be. Though not quite as good of a film as the first one, it’s still quite solid. Continue reading

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Some Thoughts on the Hugo Debacle

The Hugo Awards are, arguably, the pre-eminent awards in Science Fiction and Fantasy literature. There are others, such as the Nebula and the Locus, and those are certainly nothing to be sneezed at… but the Hugos are the oldest (as far as I know) and the best known. There’s a certain cachet for an author in having a Hugo Award attached to their name. Or at least… there used to be.

That’s in serious question now, as this year there is a lot of controversy about the voting process, thanks to a group of disgruntled writers who set up a voting bloc to influence the outcome. Continue reading

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Thor: The Dark World

Thor 2 PosterThe first Thor movie came out a few months before I started blogging, so I never had a review of it up here. But I found it to be a fun, exciting film and its generally light-hearted tone made it very enjoyable. I consider it one of the better films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was greatly anticipating the sequel.

I enjoyed Thor: The Dark World, but alas, nowhere near as much as the first film. There’s a rather sharp drop in quality between the two movies. Continue reading

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Winter’s Bone

Winter's Bone Poster2010 Best Picture Nominee

In Winter’s Bone, Jennifer Lawrence plays a young woman named Ree living in the Ozarks. Though she is only 17, she essentially lives alone and has sole care of her two younger siblings. Her mother lives with her, but is mentally ill and apparently catatonic. Her father has been missing for weeks, after getting arrested for cooking methamphetamine, and disappearing once he posted bail. This act comes back on Ree when the bail bondsman tells her that her father put up their home as part of the collateral for his bail. If he skips his court appearance, they’ll lose the property. And so Ree has an additional responsibility to keep her family safe: find her father before his court date, or find proof of his death. Continue reading

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Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

F13P7 PosterI’ll give the producers of the Friday the 13th series credit for one thing: they seem to have been at least somewhat aware of the need to do something to keep the series fresh. Even though “Jason Voorhees chopping up campers” is what the series is all about, there needs to be some sort of variety, or there’s no reason to watch Part N instead of Part N-1.

In part 7, directed by John Carl Buechler, the writers have taken a page from the Nightmare on Elm Street playbook and introduced an element of the supernatural (well, besides Jason’s continued existence.) In fact, it was apparently originally intended to be a crossover between the two franchises until plans fell through. Those plans would eventually come to fruition 15 years later, but in 1988, the “new blood” the writers came up with was to focus the movie on a young woman with telekinesis. Continue reading

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Farewell, Terry Pratchett

Reaper Man CoverTerry Pratchett, author the Discworld series and various assorted other novels, has passed away at the age of 66 from a chest infection. One of the most successful and prolific contemporary British authors, Pratchett wrote over 50 novels in his career.

I first started reading Pratchett’s work when I was in high school. I’d already seen from some other authors that fantasy could be written comically. Pratchett showed me that comic fantasy could be written for grown-ups… and more impressively, that comic writing could also be serious at the same time. Continue reading

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching Fire PosterThere’s an art to doing sequels, and there are enough critical essays on the subject to be classified as their own genre. One common topic in such essays is a sort of “sophomore slump” for series, where the second movie is notably weaker than either the first or third entry, largely because it has to serve as a bridge between them. The Empire Strikes Back is a famous exception, and there are a few others, but regretfully I can’t classify Catching Fire among them.

It’s not the fault of director Francis Lawrence, who takes over the reins from Gary Ross. Rather, I have to assume the blame lies with novel writer Suzanne Collins. When I reviewed the first film, I wrote “I haven’t been reading the novels. I don’t know where the next part, Catching Fire, takes the characters — presumably they don’t have to re-enroll in the Games themselves.” But that presumption was, as it turns out, entirely incorrect, and therein lies the problem. Continue reading

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