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Woof. This book was heavy. It took me a while to read and ended on a down note. It is supposed to be the first in a trilogy. So, I think I will try the next installment. I can't definitively say I enjoyed this book, but it was thought provoking and I didn't want to stop reading it.


Movie Review: Gran Torino

Disclaimer: I am a HUGE Clint Eastwood fan. So, I will be biased when reviewing any Clint Eastwood film. Just being honest.

Gran Torino is the latest and apparently last film to star Clint Eastwood. Apparently, if his statements are to understood correctly, Clint Eastwood declared that this would be the last film he would act in. This does mean we may see more films directed or produced by him.

Due to the adult themes, violence, and language; I would not recommend this film for the youngsters.

This is an amazing drama with excellent acting from the entire cast. Eastwood carries his role as Walt Kowalski with the comfort of a man wearing a well-fitted suit. Anyone with who had a father or grandfather that grew up in the 30's and 40's will see a ghost of familiarity in his role. Conservative, work-oriented and hard-nosed; Walt is facing difficulties with his waning years. The supporting cast give a marvelous performance. Newcomers, Bee Vang and Ahney Her, who play nextdoor neighbors Thao and Sue respectively, give seasoned performances. I couldn't help but sympathize with the quiet Thao and cheer for the feisty Sue. Christopher Carey gives an excellent performance as the eager, young Catholic priest. Also, Chee Thao, who plays the grandmother of Thao and Sue, provided much amusement in some of the scenes she shared with Eastwood even though she never speaks a single word of English in the entire film. I cannot find any flaws in the performances of the entire cast.

This film being a drama set in current times does not have much to comment on for special effects or action sequences. However, the sets were well-thought out. Nothing seemed out of place. The scoring was understated and blended well with the mood of the film. The overall pace of the film was excellent. There was no feel of dragging or laboring of plot points.

I highly recommend this film. It is a classic. I give Gran Torino 10 out of 10.

Review Time: Bram Stoker's Dracula

Jumping all the way back to 1992.

This film is rated R with good reason: not for the little ones.

I remember seeing this film in the theater when it came out. However, it was quite a delight to watch it again through the medium of DVD. It was interesting to look back at Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, and Keanu Reeves from 17 years back. The acting in this film is good overall. Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder are give the best performances of the film. Keanu seemed a little stilted, and Mr. Hopkins felt a little bit over the top. The supporting cast were good. I would single out Sadie Frost for her excellent acting in the role of Lucy.
The sets and the costumes are wonderful in this film. Not surprising, considering the film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design. The special effects still look good, and the Sci-Fi channel could learn some lessons in make-up from the film. The various monsterous forms of Dracula were well done.
Now, this film is really not an action film, and I don't really think of it as a horror film (the story doesn't try to take you off-guard or freak you out). There are some fight scenes, but the driving force of this film is the drama. This film makes a good effort to humanize Dracula and presents a stronger love story than a horror story. I am not an expert on the original novel, so I cannot make an informed opinion on the accuracy vs the book. I would classify this film as a gothic romance.

Overall, it is a good film. I give Bram Stoker's Dracula 7 out of 10.

Expanding My Evil Influence

I just created a FB account. So, if anyone wants to connect to me there, it is under my RL name. I mainly plan to use it for friends who don't have paid LJ accounts, so they can share as many photos with me as they want. I also have a MySpace. I believe you can find me there under my RL name too.


Review Time: Transporter 2

Well, I finally got around to watching another DVD. A quick disclaimer: I am a fan of Jason Statham, so I tend to enjoy all of his films. Now, that that is out of the way, on to the review!
Transporter 2 is a fun action flick for all those who enjoy all those typically hero-chasing-bad-guys-beat'em-up-good-guy-wins action flicks and just want to sit back and watch some cool fights and action sequences. Honestly, the plot is not complex. No sudden twists or surprises. So, if you want something edgy or thought provoking, I would not suggest this film. Also, the violence and partial nudity (very brief) don't lend this film towards the family set.
Jason Statham and the rest of the cast do a decent job playing their characters. No one really shines with a stand out performance, but at least I can't trash anyone for stinking-up the screen either.
The best parts of the film are the various fight scenes. Statham and crew are well choreographed. The fights move quickly and for the most part do not look staged. However, I did find the last fight sequence between Frank (Statham) and Lola (Kate Nauta) anti-climatic.
There were a few stunts with the car that were over the top. Jumping the car from a parking garage into a building under construction and flipping the car to use a crane hook to remove the magnetically-attached bomb from the bottom of the car. Yeah, right.
I also have to question some of the medical science used in the plot. I'm not a doctor, biologist or well-versed in any sciences, but I do question the reality of a 24-hour-killer-flu and the ability to extract the curing serum after it has been transfused into a person's bloodstream.

So, over all, fun, but not a real thinker. There are better Statham films out there. I give Transporter 2 a rating of 5 out of 10.
Let me start by saying, this is definitely not a family-friendly film. The violence, gore and simulated sex scene are not for non-mature audience members. However, this is a excellent film for someone looking for a dark, action-packed film which has a decent amount of drama too.
Bill Nighy, reprising his role as Viktor, continues to delight me with his excellent portrayal of a vampire elder. Michael Sheen, reprising Lucian, and Rhona Mitra, as Sonja, did very well in roles that could have been camped-up too easily.
The fight scenes were well paced. Most of the hand-to-hand combat was staged very nicely. The weapons and armor were for the most part realistic for the time-period from my humble point of view. (I'm an amatuer historian, but not a heavy-duty recreationist. So, I tend to cut movies a little slack on these details. Though I do question the triple crossbows and the spring-loaded throwing-disks in the sword). I appauled the wonderful use of ballista in the film.
The dramatic scenes did not drag or lose my attention. Monologues were kept to a minimum. Thank goodness the script was not loaded with tedious expostulations on the dynamics of the coven culture or the feudal nature of the land. That is what movie-merchandised supplemental books are for! The supporting cast filled their roles wonderfully adding to the overall quality of the film. No scene stealing.
In the technical aspects, the CGI was done very well. I have a very critical eye for this, and some highly-touted films with "masterful CGI work" have left me flat. This film did an excellent job of blending the CGI. The lighting, weather effects, and sound were well done. Scoring was effective but subtle and not memorable. I doubt I would recognize any of the scored music from the movie by itself.
I, personally, would advise watching the first Underworld film before watching this one, but it would probably be fine the other way. I do not think this prequel ruins any of the drama of the other two films.

I give Underworld: Rise of the Lycans a rating of 7 out of 10.

Greetings and salutations to all

After much prodding from some of my RL friends, I decided to sally into LJ. At this point I have to ask myself, why? I have never been motivated to blog, IM, tweet, etc. I have been satisfied with the simple e-mail and RL contact with my friends. Yet, I discovered that I have a greater desire to have more constant contact with some of those friends who have moved on to places where regular RL contact is not feasible. This was in part brought on by the apparent demise of a convention I have attended for 22 years.
However, I realize my one of my own flaws: I procrastinate. I tend to let e-mail accounts go unchecked for days. I don't check my accounts on other "group" systems for weeks. How will I keep myself from not falling into those same habits here?
Well, I have decided to motivate myself with a project. I know this is not original, but it will get me to log-in at least once a week. I have a good collection of movies on DVD. So, I am going to write a personal reviews as I watch them. Yeah, I know, just what everyone needs, another movie critic. However, I hope I will maybe have a new aspect for your enjoyment. I intend not to review movies in the theater, only ones out on DVD. So, I will be reviewing movies from across many genres and across many years. I hope I will not bore you.
Hopefully, this will make me be a little better in staying in contact here.

Wish me luck!