Category: sci-fi

Revisiting The X-Files

I mentioned the other day that Daniela and I are now revisiting the X-Files. We’re still really early on in the show, but I had a couple observations already, and since what I really want to write about (the impeachment trial) is something that I don’t feel up to writing about today, I thought I’d focus on something lighter instead.

When I was in high school, The X-Files was one of the first shows I viewed as event television. Something that you’d get together with friends to watch, and that you’d all be talking about the next day. (Or, since it aired Fridays as I recall, the next Monday at school.) In many ways, it was a show that broke ground for the sort of television that’s so common now: big plot arcs, compelling mysteries, hints handed out bit by bit over time. It’s the kind of show that would have a mass following online if it were to come out now, with people all dissecting the little clues they noticed in each episode.

Of course, as a pioneer in that type of television, it’s got many aspects that don’t necessarily stand up as well to modern scrutiny. For one thing, it’s a bit hard for me to watch the series, since I know full well that many of these mysteries will just never be answered. That’s been something that’s held me back from watching a number of TV shows over the years. I watched the first bit of Heroes, for example, but then heard that it got significantly worse later on, so I just lost interest. In many ways, it feels like someone tells you “The first five chapters of this are incredible. Then it gets worse.”

There’s no way I would read that book. Bit then again, isn’t that what television has sort of been like all along? The difference is that now we’re often consuming it a season at a time. Maybe I’m just getting much more demanding, or maybe there’s more good television out there, which makes it harder to find shows that are as good.

(Something else that’s hard to wrap my head around? Gillian Anderson was 25 in season one. Duchovny was 33. When I watched them in high school, they were indubitably Old. What does that make me now? It’s almost been 30 years since the first X-Files aired. Showing it to Daniela now would be like me watching The Beverly Hillbillies or The Dick Van Dyke Show with my parents when I was her age.)

Then again, from what I remember, the X-Files also did a great job of “episode of the week” deliveries. Sure, there were the episodes that advanced the big plot forward and dribbled out additional hints and clues, but there were also just flat out funky episodes where cockroaches invade a town or there’s a monster Scully and Mulder have to fight. That’s something that I haven’t watched as much of recently, and it’ll be interesting to revisit it. (Doctor Who is pretty much completely in this vein. You’ve got the cool premise, and so you use that as a vehicle to do cool things.)

So far, the shows have stood up well, but like I said, we’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ll be interested to see where it goes from here. (Especially since I’ve never seen all the episodes. I mean, back when I was watching them, you either saw it live, or you didn’t see it. Talk about the stone age.)


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Book Review: Unforgettable

UnforgettableUnforgettable by Eric James Stone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve always heard about quantum physics, but up until I finished Unforgettable (by Eric James Stone), it was just a general abstract thought to me. It didn’t really mean anything other than “something really difficult to understand.”

How strange is it that this science fiction book helped me to completely understand the concept in a way I’d never been able to before?
The story is pretty simple to describe: The main character is a person who no one can remember for longer than 60 seconds. Once he’s out of sight and ear shot, 60 seconds later, your brain just pretends he wasn’t around at all. And he’s a spy, because why in the world would you be anything else?

The great thing is, he’s just a normal guy for the most part. No ninja assassin skills. No elite training. He’s just this guy who has a special power, and he’s using that power to do some good.

Stone takes this character and throws him into a fight for the future of the world, using quantum physics as the battleground. And somehow, it all works wonderfully. I found myself learning things and turning pages at a frenetic rate–a combination you just don’t find every day.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It sounds like a concept that would be really hard to pull off, but Stone did just that. Maybe this is a “great for Bryce” kind of book, since I’m a sucker for sci-fi and a sucker for learning new things, but if any of this sounds remotely appealing to you, you should give this book a shot.
Well done.

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Jurassic World: The Movie Review

I’m not sure why I’m even writing this review, as it appears that the entire globe saw this movie before I did, but at the same time, I’m often entertained by reading reviews of movies I’ve already seen, to see if I agree with the review or not. So here goes.

Over 20 years ago, I went to see the original Jurassic Park in the theaters with my two great friends, Becky and Nikki. I still remember the experience quite vividly. Becky watched most of it with her hands over her eyes, and Nikki progressively chewed all the heads off the gummy bears she’d bought as a snack. It was scary, thrilling, and fantastic.

I haven’t watched it since.

So when I went to see Jurassic World, I was sort of in that same frame of mind. I wanted to be entertained on an epic level. To be scared and enthralled. I had to see it in 3D of course. This is the sort of movie 3D was made for. I didn’t really care about being moved by the movie. I didn’t care overly much about plot, either. It’s a movie about people who decide ti build an amusement park around ginormous predators that have been extinct for forever. Any movie with this premise doesn’t have to worry about things like “solid character building.” Give me some explosive dino vs. dino action, peppered liberally with some dino chomping on human scenes, and we’re good to go.

Houston, we have lift off!

Make no mistake about it: this isn’t a highbrow film. It’s predictable from a mile off. Characters in the movie consistently make the dumbest choices possible. Every. Time. And the movie seemed to make a game out of seeing how many articles of clothing it could persuade Bryce Dallas Howard to remove before the credits. (Spoiler alert: let’s just say that if she were playing strip poker, she didn’t come close to actually going bankrupt, but she was only a few articles shy by the end.)

But the movie had everything I wanted out of it. Giant dinos fighting giant dinos. Spectacle. This movie is the modern day equivalent of the Coliseum. ARE WE NOT ENTERTAINED?

I gave the movie an 8/10, and that’s about the limit a movie like this can expect to get. That’s okay. It was worth the price of admission, and worth seeing sprawled across the big screen. It was worth seeing with other people, because something like this demands to be shared. My only real regret? That Nikki and Becky couldn’t be there to watch it with me. Then again, Becky sort of gave up on my movie recommendations once I forced her to watch Tim Curry in It, and Nikki is all the way in Denver, so such a reunion was probably too much to ask.

I saw this one solo. I’m looking forward to my kids being a smidge older. In a year or two, TRC will be able to watch the kids, and I can take Denisa to movies like this. As long as she doesn’t talk to Nikki or Becky first. They might try and persuade her out of it . . .

Ender’s Game: When Adaptations Go Wrong

I love me some good film adaptations. I studied them as part of my Masters in English at BYU. If you’ve been reading my blog and my reviews for a while, you’ll know I’m no simple “the book is always better than the movie” sort of a guy. I fully realize that books and films are two different mediums, and as soon as you make the transition from one to the other, you’re going to have to make some changes. Got that? I get it.

Ender’s Game is a terrible movie adaptation because it tries too hard to be a “good” adaptation. And by “good,” I mean the dreaded F word:


Movies that try to be too faithful to their corresponding books almost always end in wailing and gnashing of teeth, and Ender’s Game is a prime example of this principle at work.

I love the book. Let’s get that out of the way right off. I read it when I was 10 or so, and I’ve loved it–and reread it–ever since. Why do I love it? Because of the believable journey Ender goes on. I loved how Card was able to convince me that this child became the leader for the entire military force of Earth. I loved the way he moved up the ranks in battle school. The innovative approaches he had. The struggles he overcame. The friends he made along the way. I loved Command School. I loved Peter and Val and the way they gamed the system.

It’s a fantastic book.

And when it came time for the film to be done, they tried to cram all the best scenes from the book into the movie. The end result is what feels like a “best of” compilation on fast forward. The book was Danny Kaye in the Court Jester Knighting scene. It started out somber and cool and got me thinking that things might really be awesome–and then the king said “Faster!” and it all fell apart.

Yes, there’s the giant’s riddle. There’s the messages on the tablets. There’s some battle training. Dragon Army. Bean. Petra. Rackham. But they’re all rushed so quickly across the screen, we never have a chance to get to know them. To like them. Ender feels like he’s in the school for a few months. He’s in Command School for a few weeks.

It looks like the military of earth put a kid in charge who’d had less than a half year of real training. And worse yet, he was somehow able to earn all their trust in that half year.

It doesn’t work at all. It hits all the scenes, but by skipping the parts that set those scenes up, the scenes don’t work at all. The characters feel flat and forced, no matter what the actors try to do to breathe life into them.

Is the book unadaptable? Nope. But it certainly needs a different approach. In this case, I would have recommended ditching Val, Peter, and Earth life altogether. Start off at Battle School. Focus on that. Make us see it and understand it and see Ender overcome it. If that’s in place, then Command School is going to work much better. Also, doing all of this in under two hours? Not going to happen. I think you’d need another half hour or so to really make it snap.

Ideally, I think it would work best as a television series that lasts one season. Give it a good 13 hour HBO adaptation, and you could have a whole lot of awesome on your hands. Unfortunately, this film makes the possibility of that ever happening remote at best. It’s got some good effects and some good scenes, but it lacks any sort of an emotional punch. Five out of 10 stars for me, and considering the book is a 10/10, that’s quite the fall. Sad.

Good thing a bad adaptation can’t do anything to a great book.

Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Yes, I’m late to the party on this one. Sorry about that. But when the local theater offers a free matinee showing of a movie, how can I say no? So I took TRC and DC and headed off to see Big Hero 6 on Saturday. I’d heard good things about the movie, and I had some high hopes going into it.

For 2/3 of the movie, my hopes weren’t just met–they were easily surpassed. The movie is about a robotics genius of a boy who’s trying to find his way in life. He’s only 14, and he’s already graduated from high school and isn’t sure if he wants to actually go to college or not. He makes an awesome robot invention, tragedy strikes, and he deals with that tragedy as best he can–largely through the help of a giant inflatable robot doctor. I’ve already talked about the plot more than I’d like, but since the general description on IMDB discusses the fact that the boy becomes part of a super hero team . . . I guess I’m not giving anything huge away by mentioning that.

Which is also where the film falls apart a fair bit for me. Don’t get me wrong–it’s still a good movie. It’s just that when the super hero stuff kicks in at the 2/3 mark, it stops being an original, inventive, unique film and morphs into a movie that’s playing largely to the tropes of the genre it settles into. Why settle for a two star movie plot when what you were doing just minutes before was 4 star territory?

The first 2/3 of this movie are fantastic. They’re playing on multiple different levels, dealing with a wide range of emotions in a way that’s very Pixar-esque. And then it just give up on all of that and goes with the simple straightforward approach.

I still really enjoyed myself, but I couldn’t help leaving a bit disappointed. Still, a 7/10. Just wish it were higher. Was I the only one to feel this way about the movie? I’d really like to hear some other opinions on it.

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