Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stephen Bond says "Ender's Game" is pornography!

Here's an entertaining, overlong review of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I haven't read Ender's Game, although many of my science fiction-loving friends have encouraged me to do so.

The reviewer Stephen Bond thinks that because this novel encourages its readers to persist in their immature notions of the way the world should work, it's pornography. Following this logic, anything Robert Heinlein ever wrote would have to be considered pornography. Also, the entire Sherlock Holmes canon, the Encyclopedia Brown stories, the complete original three-season run of Star Trek, and the films Top Gun and Days of Thunder.

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with him...pornography means "recorded prostitution", if I remember any of my Latin. In truth, I don't remember any of my Latin, but I still think pornography means "recorded prostitution". This means that although Ender's Game is not pornography, Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, Scary Movie 3, Epic Movie, and American Idol are all equivalent to Debbie Does Dallas. And that's the truth.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Clive Thompson Dives Into the Netflix Problem

The New York Times published a nice little piece on mathematicians and computer programmers who've taken on the $1 million Netflix challenge.

Personally, I think the million dollars Netflix is offering is chump change compared to what they'd get out of it.  Those who've taken up the challenge have been caught up by the magpie effect that business owners have used to exploit puzzle-solvers for hundreds of years.  See how long that million lasts, suckers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Oh, the High School Musical series. Someday, I'll consider watching one of these, but then I'll think better of it, and maybe make a sandwich and play a little Tetris. Of course, if some newspaper or TV show was going to pay me to watch it and write about it, I'd be all over that action with neither a bitch nor a moan. Let's see if the folks who do get paid to do it did their jobs.

Here's what Metacritic opted to pull from today's cast of critics:

First up we've got Owen Gleibermann of Entertainment Weekly, who tells us, "These are standard youth-movie dilemmas, but they're brought to life by the high-energy cast and the musical numbers, which Ortega shoots with electrifying pizzazz."

Owen, this would be a fine review if it didn't evoke images of Sandinistas gunning down high school students. Which, one must assume, would make High School Musical 3 a very different movie indeed.

Tasha Robinson of the Chicago Tribune says, "What it lacks in narrative ambition, it makes up for in dazzling choreography."

So, in other words, we really should just watch That's Entertainment again, right? Sorry, Tasha, you're not really explaining the HSM phenomenon at all. I'm pretty sure the words "beautiful people" and "non-threatening boys" should be thrown in somewhere...but hey, I'm just guessing from seeing one print ad.

Catherine Dawson March of The Globe and Mail (Toronto) writes, "Disney raised the stakes by turning its hit TV-movie franchise into a feature film – and the bet has paid off."

Catherine, is this a review? A financial report? Empty copy for an undeserved paycheck? Congratulations on not offending anyone. By the way, the job title is "Film Critic". On the other hand, if this is your way of hiding the fact that you didn't actually watch the movie, hats off to you!

Finally! Look, it's a well-written review! Perry Seibert of TV Guide says, "It's a well-produced yearbook that will one day bring back sweet memories for the cast and fans, but probably won't be of interest to anyone who wasn't part of the scene."

Thank you, Perry. You're the only published critic who clearly states the film's purpose and notability--or, in this case, lack thereof. Great stuff.

Lawrence Toppman of the Charlotte Observer calls HSM3 "A sweet, innocent look at an impossibly idealized high school world."

Hmm. "Impossibly idealized" must mean "everybody is gorgeous, and there's one token overweight girl". You know, I really feel bad for the future self-images of girls who look at pictures from these movies all the time.

These next two reviews, first from Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, and the second from Stephanie Zacharek of, form such a wonderful pair when taken together, I'm just going to present them one after the other:

Anthony: "They give excellent value for money, launching into song the way that normal folk go to the bathroom--regularly, politely, and because, if they didn't, well, darn it, they might just burst."
Stephanie: "This is a movie that offers simple, buouyant pleasures."

It's these happy accidents that really make this project worthwhile. Let's wash our hands and move on.

Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle says: "Teenthrob Efron will be missed in future episodes by both adolescent girls and their moms who are only too happy to accompany their daughters to the theatre, but he's a handsome talent who's graduated to bigger projects."

Marjorie, you're a grown woman. It's time to cancel those subscriptions to Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, and Bop. Men interested in Marjorie, be warned...I suspect this is a woman who likes "manscaping".

Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News gives us: "It's hard to complain about a pop culture phenomenon built on unabashed innocence. And anyway, we might as well get used to it: Neither the movie nor the passionate tween squeals at a recent preview leave any doubt that "HSM 4" is on its way - or that the inevitable "College Musical" will be far behind."

I disagree, Elizabeth. It's not hard to complain. After all, you just did.

Helen O'Hare of Empire writes: "If you're under 12, you won't be disappointed. If you're over 12, the fact this is as funny and bright as it is insipid won't stop you from avoiding it like the plague."

Now come on, Helen. I know you work for Empire and all, but believe it or not, there are some people over twelve who think about things other than science fiction, zombies, video games, and gangster flicks. Some of them are even straight single males!

Scott Tobias of The Onion A/V Club says, "Efron is the epitome of sexless Disney heartthrobs, but he's an electrifying song-and-dance man, so much so that his castmates (Bleu excepted) look like they have concrete shoes by comparison."

Well done, Scott. You actually said something about the I know this Efron guy really is a good performer. And the rest of the cast...not so much. Good review!

Ella Taylor of LA Weekly writes, "Set against a production design seemingly inspired by the American flag, director Kenny Ortega's choreography is industrial and efficient, if haplessly stranded somewhere between Michael Jackson and the Village People."

Ella, I have a book recommendation for you.

Michael Sragow of the Baltimore Sun phoned in this: "High School Musical 3 wore me out, but I'm not the target audience. My favorite high school musical was "Hamlet 2." "

Look, Michael...this is not an Internet forum, or a little armchair chat with your movie buff friend. You're not allowed to play the "I'm not the target audience" card. You're a professional movie critic. You're supposed to understand all genres and be able to analyze entries on their own merits. And to cover it up with a joke about a non-existent musical from a recent, poorly-received comedy...bad form, indeed. Boo, Michael. Boo.

Kyle Smith of the New York Post observes: "There is also something surgically sterile. The movie sounds as though it was recorded in a padded chamber instead of a bustling school, and it looks like it came from some alternate world, one that basks in the eternal sunshine of the spotless skin."

Oooo! I like it. Fact-stating, and entertaining. Keep up the good work, Kyle.

And finally, we get this from our old pro Peter Travers of Rolling Stone: "If you're gay and/or eight years old, HSM3 is the movie event of the year."

Yeah, that's right, Peter...all gay men love High School Musical. And our new President-elect loves fried chicken. What, do you think you're Seth Macfarlane and this is "Family Guy"? You're a journalist, and a famous one at that. Clean up your act.

Marc Savlov's Quantum I get it! Simon Templar.

Yeah, Marc...nobody got that reference. At least, not on Metacritic.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Quantum of Solace...for you!

Ah, make it too easy. Here's my infinitessimally small commentary on the criticism of the new Bond:

James Jung from Premiere vaporware magazine: "Quantum, thanks to a deft blend of exotic escapism and bare-bones modernism, is more than strong enough to be judged on its own. In fact, it's the perfect Bond film."

Jung, in a deft blend of two juxtaposing statements, asks us to believe that since he's judging QoS on its own, it's a perfect part of a series. Hurrah, Mr. Jung! I have a book recommendation for you.

Kim Newman, from the UK dorkfest Empire, states, "As with The Dark Knight, the only real caveat is that while it's exciting and imaginative, it's not exactly anyone's idea of fun. To keep in the game, perhaps the next movie could let the hero enjoy himself a bit more."

Yes, Kim...because that's what we really want to see. Batman and James Bond relaxing. Now that I think about it, that does sound like a pretty entertaining movie. I'm seeing Ferrell and Carell in this.

Marc Savlov from the Austin Chronicle: "It's a grim, dark, and relentlessly violent film throughout; James Bond as Terminator rather than Templar – but it delivers the goods in bloody high style: explosively, sexily, and with 007 shaken (not stirred) to his icy core."

Wow, Marc. So much to talk about. Critics making "shaken not stirred" references when discussing Bond films was passe when Kennedy was in the White House. The truly mystifying bit is "Terminator rather than Templar". What the hell is this supposed to mean? Is this what The DaVinci Code hath wrought? Do people think the Templars were nice?

Also, is "bloody high style" supposed to sound British? Or is it literal? Does even Marc's editor know? (I'm talking to you, Ms. Baumgarten. You're paying this man, and more than half a million people hit the job market in the last two months.)

Keith Phipps of "The Onion AV Club" chimes in with, "It's dark and exciting, but with little breathing room."

Well done, Mr. Phipps. Excellent review.

Claudia Puig of USA Today writes: "The stunts are as muscular and the film as handsome to look at as the hero who so ably pulls them off. But the story linking it all together is thin and weak."

Let's make it even clearer: Daniel Craig, Claudia wants you.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone: "It delivers the popcorn goods, but it ignores the poison eating at Bond's insides. Killer mistake."

Peter, you old pro you, we're going to pretend that this string of metaphors has a purpose. You're not just filling space, or anything like that. Writing reviews gets old after a few decades. We know.

Speaking of old pros, check this out from Roger Ebert: "Don't ever let this happen again to James Bond. Quantum of Solace is his 22nd film and he will survive it, but for the 23rd it is necessary to go back to the drawing board and redesign from the ground up. Please understand: James Bond is not an action hero!"

If it was Mr. Ebert's purpose to give one pause, then he has succeeded. If there was any doubt prior to this review, that last sentence alone confirms what many of us have suspected for a few years: the man is raving. Please, someone make him retire before he says something so embarrassing, he won't have enough time left to live it down.