January 26, 2004

Improbable Cause

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at January 26, 2004 9:20 PM The promised weekend media roundup:

  • Startide Rising by David Brin

    Finished it Friday night. First of all, it is an improvement over Sundiver in every dimension. The writing doesn't have the technical feel that its predecessor did, and the plot flows much more smoothly.

    While Sundiver was basically a detective story, Startide Rising is an adventure somewhat in the vein of a good Star Trek movie: the story concerns the crew of a starship, a large and interesting cast, which despite a disabled ship and hostile aliens on all sides still manages to conduct scientific research, and the science is just as interesting as everything else. The setting itself is very intriguing in its own right, and Startide is just one episode in what is potentially a much larger story. I've already started the third installment, The Uplift War, but after that I should probably make a dent in the other authors on my list.

    One semi-complaint I have is that Brin offers no visual description of aliens, at all, except when it's absolutely necessary to convey some action. This is only a "semi-complaint" because I can see the argument for letting my brain fill in the details. All I know about the Tandu, for example, is that they have six legs and hang out in webs, but I've developed a pretty good picture of what they look like based on this. He seems to be more descriptive in The Uplift War so far, so I should be able to figure out which style I prefer.

  • Gazebo Classic Movie: The Guns of Navarone

    Now I know what Samuel L. Jackson meant in Pulp Fiction when he said "I'm the guns of the Navarone." The climactic scene reminded me of that great line from The Editing Room's terrific abridged Armageddon script, "If it could be imagined that it might explode as a result of this nuclear weapon, it EXPLODES." (Replace "nuclear weapon" with "plastic explosive" for this film, obviously. I thought about doing an abridged script style review of this film, but decided I have other things to do with my evening.)

    Anyway, we watched this at Curtis' on Saturday. Despite the excessive explosions and a couple other easily mockable scenes, it was a decent movie. The highlight was definitely Gregory Peck's performance which, unlike the special effects, is still powerful.

    Anyone else think Anthony Quinn looks like Saddam Hussein on the movie poster?

  • The Cooler

    Another film in which the male lead's performance is the high point. In this case it's William H. Macy as a guy with luck so bad that a Vegas casino hires him to cool off its patrons' winning streaks, hence "the cooler". Macy is just as good as you've heard, and Alec Baldwin was also very good (by being very evil) in the role of Macy's boss. Also, Maria Bello was very attractive talented.

    In some ways the plot as implemented was less interesting than the premise; maybe I'm just more attuned to the laws of probability than the average person, but Macy's luck was obviously supernaturally bad, and yet this fact did not attract much interest from anyone in the movie. You'd think with this kind of mutant power he could join the X-Men, or work for the government, perhaps betting on hostile regimes to stay in power and thereby causing them to collapse. But maybe I'm thinking about it too much.

    Some reviews I saw complained about the ending. (I'm going to try to keep this spoiler-free...) I didn't have any such complaints; it seems to me that the ending was highly contingent on the particular mechanics of Macy's bad luck, and given what could be inferred about said mechanics the ending was the correct one - it was internally self-consistent, if you will. The ending the complaining reviewers had in mind would only have been possible with major changes to events in the middle of the movie, and I'm not sure the main themes would have survived. So I think the ending was done more or less correctly.

Anyway, that was my weekend. Maybe next weekend I'll review Super Bowl commercials. (Probably not live, though it's tempting.) Tags:
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