Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of books, movies, music, and maybe even games.

Guardians of the Galaxy takes my top spot

I am, in a word, amazed.

GuardiansOfTheGalaxyGuardians of the Galaxy accomplished what The Avengers accomplished, and it did it without requiring four movies of character development. The filmmakers delivered an ensemble superhero space-opera, gave us five fully fleshed-out characters, and had us laughing and cheering (and stoically holding back tears) through the whole film.

This is one of those films I want to watch again, only with a notebook. I want to to study it and figure out how they did what they did. Lots of it was brilliant writing, but the actors sold those parts to me, and the director, the editors, and the huge crew of technical wizards sold me the whole universe, and a really rollicking story.

I had a blast. So yes, it takes my #1 slot for the year, and I don’t expect it to be displaced.

My eleven-year-old son also heartily recommends it. He said, and I quote, “this is the best movie,” jaw agape, at least twice during the film. He was cheering for the characters in the final scenes. I had to shush him, because he was starting to cheer louder than the other people in the theater.

[UPDATE:] As was pointed out to me on the Twitter, and I quote:

@ajchid: You liked the hilarious space opera about a group of heroic ruffians from diverse, morally ambiguous backgrounds? Hmm…

If you’re at this website reading this review because you read Schlock Mercenary, and you think that movies its creator enjoys might also tickle your fancy, there is a reasonable chance that you will love Guardians of the Galaxy because it scratches your “I want a Schlock Mercenary movie” itch. Assuming you have such an itch.

I don’t see Schlock Mercenary in Guardians of the Galaxy, but that’s the same me being able to immediately recognize my house in a neighborhood full of similarly-built houses — Schlock Mercenary is where I live, and Guardians of the Galaxy is a place where Marvel Studios invited me over for a party.

(Oh, yeah. Sergeant Schlock can totally be described as a blobby cross between Groot and Rocket, with “I want to eat that” substituted for “I want to steal that.”)


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I’m a week late with this one. Sorry! The Schlock Mercenary colorist, Travis Walton, is heading to San Diego Comic Con, and I needed to restore the buffer a bit so he could color far enough ahead to get a vacation. Yes, the depth of my buffer dictates the maximum depth of HIS buffer. This is what tyranny looks like…

Moving on.

You will believe an ape can fire a carbine while riding a horseI loved this film. It had a big hurdle to clear, because I’m familiar with the television series, and if that is canon in this setting, the humans eventually lose and they all become slaves. That meant that I sat down expecting a war in which the humans lose, laying groundwork for the setting us old-timers are familiar with.

I don’t mean to suggest that this is where the film makers have to go. They can do their own thing. Maybe they’re planning to eventually create a serial called “Planet of the Apes, Moon of the Humans” or some such. Or maybe they’re going to do a crossover with H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” and the apes all evolve into hairless, toga-clad wimps while the humans retreat underground and become morlochs. Seriously, they can do what they want. But I brought baggage to this movie, and they knew it, and folks, they were totally ready for me. Saw me coming, even. Continue reading Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Martian, by Andy Weir

I picked up The Martian on the strength of Annalee Newitz‘s review of it on io9, and realized after reading the excerpt that the author, Andy Weir, was a webcartoonist at one point (Casey & Andy, back to haunt him!), and also happened to be an old friend of Sandra’s.

Look, I’m not in the habit of reading books just because they were written by an ex-webtooningfriend-of-a-friend , even if the “of-a-friend” friend is my best friend ever. I’m in the habit of reading books that I think I’ll like, and based on the excerpt I was pretty sure I’d like this one.

Holy crap.

The Martian is, bar none, the best hard science fiction I’ve ever read. I don’t know what Andy Weir’s background is, or who helped him with some of this research, but every bit of science in this book with which I had passing familiarity passed with flying colors. The pieces I wasn’t sure about? Well, Andy sold me on them. The potentially boring bits (exploring the chemistry of hydrazine, for instance, which isn’t at all boring if you have a sense of the energies involved, but I digress) were covered entertainingly, and on the few occasions where I decided to skim I only skimmed for a couple of paragraphs because I could tell a bad thing was going to happen and oh crap I’m so tense and…

Holy crap.

Folks, this is hard science fiction, and it’s a thriller, and it’s brilliant.

What’s it about? Man gets stranded on Mars, lost and left for dead in an emergency mission-abort event. Based on the mission specs, he can probably survive for six months. The next landing isn’t for years, and it’s 3,000 kilometers away besides.

I plowed through it yesterday, and while the book has some flaws and shortcomings (the first POV-shift from the 1st-person journal format was jarring, and could have been telegraphed better, but I DON’T CARE) none of them are show-stoppers.

It released this week. I’d love to see Andy’s career take off, and I have no doubt that this is the right launch vehicle for it (pun unavoidable.) Buying the book this week is the best way for you to support a new author, and if you like hard science fiction (note: Schlock Mercenary isn’t really hard science fiction, though I’m tickled that some of you call it that)The Martian by Andy Weir delivers the goods.