bobquasit: (Default)
A very nice weekend. On Saturday we took Sebastian to a penguin class at the zoo - he got to see them and draw them. I picked up a cap at the gift shop that actually fit my head, for a wonder.

Later, Sebastian and I drove up to Boston. We got choreg and lahmejun from a couple of Armenian markets in Watertown, then went over to my parents' place.

We had a nice family get-together at my sister and brother-in-law's new place (they have a harpsichord, which sounds amazing - I played the one song I know, and it came out great) and then drove home.

It was pretty late, but Sebastian stayed awake through the drive. He'd read the first Harry Potter book all the way to Boston, and finished it on the way home.

On Sunday we went to Foxwoods with Teri's mother. I hung out with Sebastian while they gambled. We went back and forth several on some people-movers (like the ones they have in airports). Then we spent some time at the arcade. After dinner at the Hard Rock cafe, we headed home.

I was pleased with myself tonight. Sebastian was watching a live-action Scooby Doo that he's seen before, but I insisted on a family movie night; we had Mary Poppins from Netflix. Neither he nor Teri had seen it before, and in no time he was laughing and laughing. Teri really liked it too, although she fell asleep before the end. Now Sebastian is interested in reading the Mary Poppins books.

Now everyone is asleep. My computer is still in the shop (I hope it will be ready tomorrow), so I'm going to sleep too. Good night!

Posted via LjBeetle
bobquasit: (Chris Elliot)
Sebastian asked me to read more of Cheaper By the Dozen this afternoon. I was happy to do it, since it meant that the TV wouldn't be on. So the three of us sat in the living room for several hours while I read. Teri slept for about two hours, but woke up in time to hear the last three chapters, as I hope she would.

It's a very fun book to read, but also physically challenging. The father, Frank Gilbreth, is a grand character, and I read him with a booming, hearty voice - it's really the only way to do it. After a while I started to feel as if I'd been lightly sandpapering my throat. But after a short break or two, I continued. I ended up reading the whole second half, and finished it.

He loves the book; he laughed and laughed. But I knew that the last three chapters would be tricky. While much of the rest of the book deals with the family members as children, in the two penultimate chapters the older girls have started to grow up. I knew that much of those chapters would go over his head.

And as for the last chapter...well, I don't want to spoil the book, so here's a spoiler warning. )
After that we watched the 1950 movie adaptation of Cheaper By the Dozen on Netflix - it was available to watch via instantly. If you don't know, let me say up front that the execrable Steve Martin movies that go under the same name have nothing whatever to do with the book - other than the title, and that they feature a family with twelve children. It's just another case of Hollywood taking something nice and crapping all over it, as they always do.

We'd all seen bits of the movie before, but never the whole thing. It was nice to all sit down together and watch it, particularly since we'd just finished the book. The movie was considerably more faithful to the book than any movie adaptation I've seen in the last twenty years; certainly far more faithful than Peter Jackson's inexcusably awful Lord of the Rings movies. The father was played by the slender and sprightly Clifton Webb, who was not a good physical match for the real Frank Gilbreth (he was tall and quite overweight, according to the book), but Webb played the part well enough. A romantic subplot was shoehorned in, but it's relatively minor and inoffensive. Likewise, a small running "suspense" plot was added too; it didn't really work, but didn't harm the movie much either.

The names of a few secondary characters were changed for no obvious reason, and much of the action in general was telescoped. The first half of the book was essentially cherry-picked and packed into the first quarter of the movie, with the more adult final sections being expanded quite a bit to fill in the remaining three-quarters of the film. Also, some lines were given to different characters than in the book, and a few key lines were slightly amended. But all in all, I was surprised by how faithful the movie was to the novel.

One annoying thing: our Wii's wifi connection completely failed with four minutes left to go in the movie, just after a very dramatic moment indeed. I had to run upstairs and pull the plug on both our cable modem and our router for 30 seconds. After that, we were able to finish watching the movie.

Sebastian liked both the book and the movie very much, and gave them both five stars. All in all, a very pleasant night for the family!

Our next step will be to read AND watch "Belles On Their Toes", the sequel to Cheaper By the Dozen. The movie can be ordered as a disc from Netflix; there's no streaming option, unfortunately. Our local library doesn't have a copy of the book, but the Rhode Island library network has many. I've requested a copy, and I imagine it should arrive soon. I'll put the movie at the top of our Netflix queue in time to have it just when I finish reading the book to Sebastian.
bobquasit: (Default)
First, I have to say that as a long-time Bostonian, it's really good to see a movie set in Boston that was actually FILMED in Boston. It was a real kick to see my former workplace and other old familiar spots in the background. Attention, Hollywood: Toronto is NOT a dead ringer for Beantown!

It was also rather a relief that none of the actors in the film attempted the obligatory and almost always lame imitation of a Boston accent.

As for the movie itself: the concepts aren't new. Keith Laumer could probably have sued the author of the original comic book miniseries that the movie was based on for plagiarism. The series (and therefore the movie) has much in common with Laumer's 1966 story "The Body Builders". By coincidence, the story is available online, legally, as part of the Baen Free Library; Google "Baen free library Laumer", and it will come up as "Keith Laumer: The Lighter Side". The story starts on page 31.

But the idea of a remote robotic body is probably new to most non-science fiction fans. And in any case, complete originality is certainly not mandatory. The movie is paced nicely, the acting is pretty well-done, and although there's not much that's terribly surprising in the plot, it is handled well.

If it weren't for the Boston element, I might have given Surrogates three stars - but the authenticity of the setting gave it just the extra boost needed to move it up to four.

[Netflix doesn't allow URLs, annoyingly - but the direct URL to the Laumer book is]


Aug. 23rd, 2010 10:44 pm
bobquasit: (Laszlo Late)
So we signed up for Netflix a few days ago. I hadn't realized that we could stream movies to the Wii and my computer! Pretty cool...
bobquasit: (Default)
We saw "Despicable Me" tonight. Sebastian laughed so hard I thought he might throw up - he really loved it. Teri really liked it too. I thought it was quite good, but somehow it didn't quite carry me away. Very enjoyable, but not a classic like The Iron Giant. I'd give it somewhere between seven and eight stars out of ten.
bobquasit: (Default)
We saw The Last Airbender today. I'd read all the reviews, and expected a cinematic atrocity. But the movie turned out to be much better than I expected. It wasn't great, but it surely doesn't deserve all the insults that have been thrown at it. And as for Roger Ebert saying that it looked as if it had been filmed through a dirty sheet, I can only guess that something must have been wrong with the projector in the theater where he saw it - either that, or his glasses were dirty.

Though I must admit that we saw it in 2D rather than the upconverted 3D. Maybe that made a difference.

Anyway, although it changed a number of elements from the series (which I'm a fan of), it wasn't brutal about it. The actors who played Aang and Katara were much better than I expected, from the reviews. Noah Ringer, who played Aang, captured the sweetness of the character rather well.

Some of the casting was a bit jarring, racially, and that's coming from someone who thought that the complaints about it were mostly annoying whining; but seeing such a very Caucasian-looking woman (she looked Swedish!) playing Katara's grandmother shook my suspension of disbelief. And there were other moments when the odd assortments of ethnicities within tribes and nations was just a little...distracting.

The actor who played Sokka didn't work for me; or, perhaps I should say that the character was written with virtually no humor, and that was a sore lack. In fact, that's something I missed very much: the humor of the original series was almost entirely missing.

Dev Patel, who played Prince Zuko, could have done a better job I think. I liked him a lot in Slumdog Millionaire, but he was too over-the-top here - he overdid the character's rage. Ironically, his scar was much too understated. It may be worth noting that in my opinion, the character of Prince Zuko was the worst-acted in the original series, and has always sounded rather wooden. At least Patel avoided that pitfall.

Aasif Mandvi always makes me laugh on The Daily Show. He did a very credible job here as Commander Zhao, although I wonder if I may be biased; he didn't seem very different from his Daily Show persona. But it seemed a waste to have a talented comic actor in what should be an out-and out "heavy" role. It makes me think of the criminal waste of casting a comedic genius like Hugh Laurie in a role like "House".

The "they wave their arms, strike some poses and then the elements react" effect that I'd read about was noticeable some of the time, but nowhere near as intrusive as I'd been led to expect. I'd been warned about the changes in pronunciation of names, and was ready for it; it was a stupid thing to do, but it didn't ruin the movie.

I've liked Shaun Taub ever since I saw him in Iron Man. But whenever he was on the screen I badly missed Mako, who played Uncle Iroh for the first two seasons of Avatar. Taub didn't try to imitate Mako's voice, and isn't stout at all. I love imitating Mako's version, his voice is just so fun! Plus I hate to lose a stout (or fat) hero. There just aren't enough of them in the movies these days!

The effects weren't bad at all - in fact, I thought they were pretty neat. The writing wasn't bad either, a little overdone but respectable. More humor would have helped. I can't help but feel that a lot of the critical community is slamming the movie because they just like to kick Shyamalan when they think he's down. It looks as if they may have succeeded, too; we saw an afternoon matinee, and the three of us were the only ones in the theater! Pity, I'd have liked to see the sequels.

Sebastian gave it nine out of ten stars, but then revised that to eight. I gave it six or seven. Teri gave it three because she felt it was too unfaithful to the original series.

Tomorrow I think we're going to take Sebastian to his first drive-in movie to see Despicable Me, which should (I hope) be good.
bobquasit: (Default)
Pretty funny, and it captures a number of things that irritated me about Peter Jackson's cinematic abortions of TLOTR.

bobquasit: (Default)
Ghost Rider was on TV tonight. I was a fan of the comic books, and I'd wanted to see the film when it came out - although the reviews were bad.

Jeeze. I can't believe what an incredibly bad job of acting Nicholas Cage is doing. His hair looks fake, his teeth look fake, he's not doing a credible imitation of a human being, and it's utterly ludicrous that we're supposed to believe that he and his love interest have less than twenty year's age difference between them, much less that they're supposedly the same age. World of Warcraft, here I come!
bobquasit: (Default)
Two people over on Goodreads now suspect that my post about Lewis' novelization of Prince Caspian was serious. I had to clear that up:

Actually, the whole post is pure sarcasm. I was half-way through reading Prince Caspian to my son while we were on vacation recently, when he saw that the movie was available for rent at a local supermarket. I was stunned at how many liberties the movie took with the book - C.S. Lewis must be reaching truly astonishing RPMs in his grave.

Even my son was outraged at how untrue to the book the movie was, and he's only seven! He did like my sarcastic rendition of Caspian's dialog in an extremely cheesy Spanish accent ("Susan, I am so hot-blooded that when I see you shooting that bow, my lips tremble with passion.")

He also cracked up when Aslan breathed on someone - I forget who - and I said "Hey, Lion. Have a breath mint." So that gives you some idea of his sense of humor.

I'm very familiar with Lewis and Tolkien, which is why I get so annoyed at how badly they've been represented in the films of their work. I must admit that it also annoys me that so many people don't seem to notice the abusive, unnecessary, and essentially disrespectful nature of many of the changes that Hollywood has made to the original plotlines and dialog.

I'm reminded of an old joke:

There was an idiot whose lifelong dream had been to star in a play. One day, he unexpectedly inherited a large sum of money. He immediately arranged to put on a huge production of Hamlet with himself in the starring role.

No expense was spared; the production was held in the largest and fanciest playhouse in town. The best supporting actors were hired, as was the best director. All the critics and leading citizens were invited to opening night.

When Hamlet stepped on the stage, however, it was soon obvious that not only not only did he NOT have any talent, he actually embodied the opposite of talent; he was actively painful to watch. Within a few minutes, the audience was booing and throwing things at the stage. Stopping the production, the anguished Hamlet shouted out "Hey, don't blame me - I didn't write this crap!"
bobquasit: (Default)
I couldn't resist doing this riff, inspired by my previous complaint about The Lord of the Rings. It's posted over at GoodReads.

Who is this "C.S. Lewis" hack, and who did he sleep with to get the novelization contract for the brilliant Prince Caspian movie?
Read more... )
Maybe Lewis (or whatever his real name is) has compromising photos of key Hollywood producers. Or maybe he's just related to someone big. Either way, someone has to do something to stop him before he screws up another valuable novelization. Millions of dollars are at stake!
bobquasit: (Default)
David Carradine died in Bangkok yesterday. Apparently he hung himself.

By all accounts he was a very strange person, but I enjoyed his work in Kung Fu and Death Race 2000, among other things.
bobquasit: (Default)
I just wrote this as a comment over on my friend Steve's blog. He was writing about Monsters Vs. Aliens.

I saw it a couple of days ago with Teri and Sebastian. Then I saw "Bolt" with them on DVD tonight.

I won't say the two merged in my mind. But in both cases, there wasn't anything really new there; nothing that will last in my memories for long. The scripts didn't suck, but they also didn't have anything to say that hadn't been said a thousand times before, often better. Hell, they didn't even have one strong laugh-out-out-loud moment.

Okay, "Bolt" did manage to pull the heartstrings once or twice. But that's easy to do when you've got kids, dogs, and love to work with (even for a confirmed dog-hater like me).

MvA wasn't bad, and the 3D was okay. Since I had to wear me regular glasses under the 3D ones, the effect was probably not quite as impressive. Also, I couldn't help but think about a recent article that I read over on Slate claiming (in a fairly convincing way) that 3D caused headaches and had other inevitable problems ( Certainly I had a headache after the movie.

I don't seems to me that when you spend millions and millions of dollars to make a movie, it wouldn't be asking too much to have a script that really works...that shows real human emotion. Beyond greed and marketability, that is.

I'd given anything to see a few more movies as good as The Iron Giant.
bobquasit: (Default)
Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've read a lot of Neil Gaiman's stuff, so when my wife and I were on a rare outing to see a movie, Stardust was a natural compromise.

It wasn't bad. It seemed, somehow, a little light and flat; amusing and well-done, but not something we would pick up on DVD.

You're probably thinking that I've forgotten that this is a book review site, and not a movie site. Fear not! I'm getting to it.

I'm a voracious reader. Picking up Stardust at the library was a no-brainer. I had to order it via inter-library loan, and when it came in I was disappointed to see that it was the non-illustrated version. It turned out to be slightly less interesting than the movie; one of those semi-rare examples where a movie actually improved on the book.

Later, I saw the graphic novel version was available at my library. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, but I found it better than the text-only version, and roughly on par with the movie itself. There are differences between the two, of course, but it seems clear that Gaiman's strength as a writer really requires a visual aspect as well; he needs to be paired with a good artist to do his best work.

Not that Stardust is his best work, of course. For that you'll need to read Sandman or The Books of Magic. But it's an interesting, entertaining tale that makes use of what was once a fairly original idea: the juxtaposition of the "real" world and the rather specifically English world of Faerie. That sort of tale is in danger of becoming a bit stale, I fear, but Gaiman was...not a pioneer of that form (I think Lord Dunsany was probably the first), but probably the preeminent modern popularizer of it.

The adventures of Tristan in Faerie are a good way to pass an hour or two, both as a graphic novel and as a movie. You're not likely to be forever changed by the experience, but what can you expect? Not every book can be a classic, even from a good author like Gaiman.

I'd give this a strong three stars. If it had been just a little better, I'd have given it a four. As it is, I enjoyed it...but not enough to go out and buy a copy. I might take it out again from the library in a year or two, if I can't find anything new that interests me more.

View all my reviews.


Nov. 10th, 2008 08:55 am
bobquasit: (Default)
Saturday was a busy day.

Now, I worry a lot about all the television that Sebastian watches. So after we dropped Teri off at the animal shelter, I decided to take him with me to buy the groceries I'd need to make calzones. But on the way, I asked if he wanted to stop at the library for a little while. Of course he did.

We ended up staying in the library for two and a half hours. He did a very cute little puppet show, singing quiet little songs from behind the puppet stage; a mother who was sitting near me smiled, obviously charmed by his show.

He also spent a lot of time playing with the large-sized lego-type blocks, building Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, and Jet Jaguar. A couple of pretty little girls were playing near him; one was perhaps five or six, while the other was certainly under two. The five-year-old kept asking me to play with her "Will you be a giraffe? An elephant?", while the two-year-old was simply fascinated by Sebastian. She kept coming over and trying to help him, bringing him pieces he didn't need and picking up things he didn't want picked up. But he was quite good about that.

We also ordered a number of books. And for the first time, he asked me to help him find a book on an educational topic: he wants to be a paleontologist, so he took out a book on dinosaurs. I also looked up and ordered books about drawing Avatar, and a children's book called "Meet Godzilla!". Finally, we borrowed a DVD of Mothra vs. Godzilla. He hadn't seen much more than clips of any Godzilla movie before, for all that he's a huge fan; Teri was worried that they might be too scary for him. But Mothra vs. Godzilla was made in 1964 - the year I was born, coincidentally - and wasn't really frightening at all.

He loved it. After he watched the English-dubbed version all the way through, he watched quite a bit of the subtitled Japanese version. I have a feeling we'll be watching a lot more Godzilla movies in the years to come! :D
bobquasit: (Default)
Rudy Ray Moore, AKA the "Dolemite" died today. I wonder, has anyone else on my flist ever heard of him?
bobquasit: (Lo Pan)
We had a gift card for the movies, so we saw two movies recently.

The first was Iron Man. Teri and I went during the day. It was good, but after all the great reviews I'd heard...well, Robert Downey Jr. is a very good actor, but most of the others in the movie simply didn't stand out - with the exception of Shaun Toub as Yinsen, who was really excellent. It wasn't a bad movie, but it's not like I'd be that interested in picking up the DVD. I don't know. Maybe I'd have liked it better if I hadn't read so much about it beforehand.

Contrariwise, I knew relatively little about Kung Fu Panda before going to see it. In fact, Sebastian knew considerably more about it than I did. But that wasn't the only reason that I found myself liking it quite a lot. The voice acting was outstanding throughout - I was particularly delighted that James Hong, one of my favorite actors, had a characteristically delightful role (you may remember him as Lo Pan in Big Trouble In Little China, among other roles). The movie was well-written, funny, exciting...the one possible complaint might be that it was too short. But all in all an excellent job, and I tend to be very critical of modern animated movies.

Sebastian totally loved it, of course. And Teri agreed with me that it was better than Iron Man. Which was, as I said, a pretty good just didn't have any really stand-out moments for me.

Iron Man?

May. 15th, 2008 11:37 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
I don't suppose anyone in the area would like to go see Iron Man with me tomorrow during the day?
bobquasit: (Default)
I was going to buy a copy of the Hogfather DVD for my birthday today. I have a gift certificate, and I was really looking forward to buying it and watching it with Teri; she hadn't been able to stay past the first hour or so at Arisia because she was too tired.

Itjust went on sale at Borders this week. Apparently it's a special Borders edition.

It's "special" all right. It doesn't include ANY of the many extra features that are on the UK version. The word is that a proper edition will be released in the US in May, with all the trimmings. But I really didn't want to wait, so I figured I'd buy it and give it to a friend or donate it to the library once I bought the more extensive edition. was offering it for $9.99. But I wanted it today. So I went to the Borders website. They listed it for $14.99, but had a note saying that different stores might have different prices. I called the local Borders to see if they had it in stock.

They did, the girl informed me, and asked for my name and phone number so they could hold it for me. I was just about to give her the info, when some impulse made me ask what the price was.

It was $19.99. $19.99!

"That's funny," I said, "it's $14.99 on the website. Why is that?"

She cheerfully explained that it was something to do with shipping and handling.

"That doesn't make any sense!" I answered. After all, the store doesn't do shipping and handling - and in any case that didn't explain five dollars difference.

"So should I hold it for you?" she asked.

"No. Please don't. Goodbye!" I answered.

Fuck it, I'll wait until May. I am NOT paying $20 for a limited version. Borders sucks!
bobquasit: (Default)
I was delighted to find one of the greatest episodes of MST3K ever over on Google video (it's not available on YouTube): Gamera vs. Guiron. The whole movie! It's downloadable in mp4 format, too.

bobquasit: (Default)
Two weeks ago I had a couple of days off, and on one of them Teri and I used some free movie tickets to see Stardust. If you haven't seen it, it's a fantasy film based on a novella by Neil Gaiman. If you want to see it in a theatre, you're probably too late.

But let me make a quick digression for a second.

Whenever I talk about movies, I often end up helplessly searching my memory for the last good modern movie I've seen in a theatre. Inevitably, I end up picking RoboCop. Why? Well, partly because I don't get to see many movies. But also because the commercials for RoboCop were just so terrible. I went into the theatre expecting a totally crappy movie, and was delighted to find that it was an unusually well-written, funny, and intelligent action movie.

Contrariwise I've gone into movies which have been critically praised as practically the Second Coming, and almost inevitably I find myself feeling let down at the end.

So what does that have to do with Stardust? Well, I first became aware of it when Teri and I saw a trailer for it at the most recent Harry Potter movie (which I thought was well done, for a Hollywood flick). I noticed Neil Gaiman's name, of course, which set off a few caveats in my mind.

He's a very talented writer (although I'd still place Alan Moore solidly above him in the comic book pantheon). I like a lot of what he does. At the same time, previous movies that his name has been tied to have been strangely lacking. Teri was interested by the trailer, and so was I, but I was prepared to be disappointed.

That expectation was increased by two other events: a review in Salon which started off with a spoiler of what was probably the high point of the film, and an overall rating from the film critic community of "B-minus" for the movie (according to Yahoo).

Plus, it was a love story. I badly feared chick-flickism.

Maybe all that's why it was so hard for me to decide what I thought of it when it was over. But looking back, I have to say: it was actually quite well done! There were some flaws - definitely some points which I think should have been re-written a bit, to make the story stronger - and overall, the film had a light feeling, not in that it was whimsical but in that somehow the flavor of it wasn't a strong as it should have been (if you know what I mean). But the acting, writing, and effects were all good. It didn't quite have the magic of a true classic, but it was a well-made, entertaining film.

I got curious, so I ordered the novella from the library. I'd hoped for the illustrated edition, but they got me the regular edition instead. It felt strange to be reading the book after seeing the movie; that's not the usual order of things for me! Over and over I found myself thinking that the movie had actually been better than the book (the screenplay wasn't by Gaiman, incidentally). I wonder if I'd have thought differently if I'd read the book first, but I doubt it; the book isn't bad, but it's not a classic. It wouldn't (and hasn't) stuck with me - so I wouldn't have been comparing the movie to it.

I had some specific ideas on how I'd have improved the screenplay, but since I suppose someone here just might still see the movie I'll hold off on spoiling it.


bobquasit: (Default)

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