MSNBC’s Best/Worst Movie Sequels

MSNBC has listed the best and worst movie sequels of all time. In no particular order…

BEST SEQUELS

  • The Road Warrior
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Aliens
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • The Godfather, Part II
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Toy Story 2
  • Dawn of the Dead
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Evil Dead II
  • Rocky III
  • Before Sunset
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Shrek 2
  • Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

WORST SEQUELS

  • Caddyshack 2
  • Speed 2: Cruise Control
  • Staying Alive
  • Highlander II: The Quickening (Making John C. Wright one very happy man.)
  • Batman & Robin
  • Blues Brothers 2000
  • The Sting II
  • Star Trek V
  • Rocky V
  • Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise
  • Superman III
  • Ghostbusters II
  • Beverly Hills Cop III
  • The Evening Star
  • Another 48 Hours
  • The Karate Kid, Part III
  • Matrix Revolutions
  • Ocean’s 12

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 5/5/07

Filed under: Tidbits

REVIEW:Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

MY RATING:

Thirteen is Richard K. Morgan’s latest novel and, in it, he steps away from his Takeshi Kovacs stories and instead focuses on a near future Earth, where humanity has managed to colonize Mars and genetically created ‘humans’ have been created as a form of shock troops for the West’s police forces and armies. Thirteen shows that Morgan can write a rousing tale of action and violence without the gee-whiz setting of his Kovacs series.

That’s not to say there isn’t cool stuff in Thirteen, there certainly is. The protagonist, Carl Marsalis, is the product of a genetic engineering project to re-introduce to the human race a human sub-species which died out when humanity changed to an agrarian society from being hunter gatherers. Carl and is fellow beings can be described as being prone to action, who view violence as being not just the first resort, but the only one. In Morgan’s future, the men, particularly in the West, have become more ‘feminized’, preferring to try to compromise or capitulate in the face of disagreements. This causes problems when the opposing party uses force to get their way. Hence, the genetic program to create Carl and his fellows (called thirteens, being the thirteenth strain) to try and even the playing field. Basically, Carl can be seen as a genetically engineered version of Cassandra Kresnov from Crossover (don’t mind John’s rating, he just a hater), or the Major from Ghost In The Shell. Morgan then places Marsalis in the position of hunting renegade thirteens, either killing them or capturing them for interment in special reservations. In Thirteen, Carl is hunting a particularly vicious thirteen who killed the entire crew of a ship returning from Mars and is now on the run on Earth. Even though people understand the need for thirteens, they are still treated with disdain or outright prejudice, which is only heightened because Carl is black.

What follows is a big book (over 500 pages), filled with lots of action, but also interspersed with longer, slower sections. It’s these sections where Morgan does a great job of fleshing out his characters, and giving them realistic motivations for their actions. It’s also here where on of the major themes of the books plays out: nature vs. nurture. As a ‘created’ individual, Carl is at the mercy of his genetic heritage. Although he tries to tone down is impulses, he is basically in fight mode almost all the time, and he doesn’t mind going violently over the top to finish a job. Marsalis can be considered as an anti-hero, but since we know his actions are informed by his genes, we also know he has little choice in how he reacts. This makes Carl a very sympathetic character as we see him struggle to live something like a normal life. Very well done.

About the only major gripe I have with the story deals with the political landscape. Morgan has created a fractured United States where one of the splinter nations is called (and is based on the internet meme) Jesusland. This nation consists of religious, Christian fundamentalist who are portrayed as being intolerant and prejudiced against any and everything not white or Christian. The original meme was created, probably in a perjorative sense, to show that all of the ‘Red’ states in the 2004 Presidential election are all contiguous and, thus, share the same values. I understand why Morgan chose to use this construct, its an integral part of his political landscape to have a whipping boy to bounce the themes of intolerance and prejudice off of, I just disagree that Jesusland is the way to do it (in the book, Morgan references the fact he got the idea for Jesusland from the internet meme). Now, living in (or very near) what would be the largest city in Jesusland, I can state that ‘Jesusland’ is not what people think it is. Far from being a monolithic entity, Houston and indeed the rest of the supposed Jesusland area is a mixture of all types. The Wikipedia article even shows that large swaths are actually more purple then anything else. The unfortunate effect for me was, every time the attitudes of Jesuslanders was mention, I became annoyed at the extreme generalization and it pulled me out of the story. And this happens quite a bit.

Despite that, however, Morgan has created a compelling character in Marsalis, and has placed him in a complex and interesting society. Thirteen can stand toe to toe with any of Morgan’s Kovacs novels, and that’s a very good thing.

Filed under: Book Review

REMINDER: Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day 2007

This is just a reminder of an earlier post

The annual Free Comic Book Day is tomorrow, Saturday, May 5th 2007.

Check out the selection of titles available.

[Thanks, Geekend!]

Tagged with:

Filed under: Events

Friday YouTube: Batgirl vs. Sexism

Batgirl fights for the cause…
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Filed under: TV

An animated sci-fi show called Afterworld will be a test video of YouTube’s revenue generating potential.

It will be hard to miss Afterworld, a new animated show featuring a cell phone salesman who makes a long, lonely trek home after all technology fails in a post-apocalyptic world. Story producer Stan Rogow calls it a “lyrical and poignant and dramatic and emotional” show–not exactly the type of fare viewers have come to expect on one of the Internet’s most popular websites.

But that is exactly where they will find Afterworld, now showing in ten “preview” episodes on video-sharing site YouTube. The serial officially launches on its home site in mid-May and will soon thereafter be available on various other websites. In contrast to the many grainy, humorous and often trashy videos that populate YouTube, Afterworld’s big budget and richly drawn story make it one of the most ambitious attempts yet to program for the web.

See the first installement here, then follow the trail.

Filed under: Web Sites

The Matrix has been named the best science-fiction movie or TV show of the past 25 years in a new Entertainment Weekly magazine poll.

[UPDATED with EW link and full list of 25]

  1. The Matrix
  2. Battlestar Galactica (TV)
  3. Blade Runner
  4. The X-Files (TV)
  5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  6. Brazil
  7. E.T.
  8. Star Trek: The Next Generation (TV)
  9. Aliens
  10. The Thing
  11. Lost
  12. Back to the Future
  13. The Terminator/Terminator 2
  14. Children of Men
  15. Firefly (TV)/Serenity
  16. Total Recall
  17. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  18. Heroes (TV)
  19. Starship Troopers
  20. Star Wars: Clone Wars (TV)
  21. Futurama (TV)
  22. Quantum Leap (TV)
  23. Doctor Who (TV)
  24. Galaxy Quest
  25. V: The Miniseries (TV)

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 5/4/07

Filed under: Tidbits

REVIEW: Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

MY RATING:

(For more Pratchett reviews, see The Great Pratchett Reading Project table.)

This book starts off The Watch series of novels which introduces some of my most favorite characters from Discworld, the Night Watch. In this book, the Night Watch is not a prestigious position, and is commanded by Captain Sam Vimes. He only has Sergant Colon and Corporal Nobbs under his command when Carrot is sent to Anhk-Morpork by his adopted dwarven father. In this book, we see the first steps in the transformation of both the Watch and of Sam Vimes into respectable and important parts of Anhk-Morpork. In between all that transforming, we have shadowy summoners, dragons of all sizes, romance and an almost fairy tale type fashion which I found very entertaining.

This book was laugh out loud funny for me in several locations with some famous scenes from movies and TV being transformed into something appropriate for Discworld. There is a Dirty Harry-esque scene involving a dragon and Sam Vimes in furry slippers that was genious in its own way, and it is just another reason why these novels work. When combined with the banter of the “villians” of this novel, you have a very funny book. The other advantage for readers of this particular series of books is that they are not the first Discworld books and demonstrate Mr. Pratchett’s growth as a writer.

If someone were to ask me where to start when reading Discworld novels, I would suggest here. Admittedly there would be some characters that are not as fleshed out and some questions regaring the world, but that is a minor when compared with the humor and enjoyment found here.

Filed under: Book Review

REVIEW: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

MY RATING:

(For more Pratchett reviews, see The Great Pratchett Reading Project table.)

Way back when, Equal Rites was the third Discworld novel I had ever read. I remember being pretty much non-plussed about it. After rereading the book again, I can say that I still have the same noncommittal feeling for it. It’s hard to say exactly why. Equal Rites, unlike The Color Of Magic, is a single cohesive story so there isn’t any jarring jumps in the story line. It does have the usual Pratchett array of witticisms and parodying of genre conventions, but on the whole, it just doesn’t rise above being mediocre.

In fact, I think I have this same feeling for just about all of the books in the Witches series of books. Maybe its because I’m just not interested in the witches as characters or their stories. In Equal Rites we have Eskarina Smith and her attempts, with Granny Weatherwax, to become the first female wizard. Pratchett takes all the obvious shots at equality between the sexes and the pigheadedness of male dominated organizations. Perhaps that’s why the book never seems to rise higher than it does. While this sort of thing may have been ‘new’ in 1987, the idea of satirizing the battle of the sexes is, by now, well worn and tired. Even Pratchett’s usual humorous tricks don’t raise the level of the story.

Which is too bad, since most of the other Discworld novels are at a higher level than mediocre. I’ll be reading Wyrd Sisters next so I’ll get a chance to put my memories to the test. At least the Witch novels going forward will have Granny’s cantankerous one-eyed cat, Greebo, to help things along. If your looking to get into Discworld, I’d recommend starting elsewhere, like with Guards! Guards! or The Color Of Magic.

Filed under: Book Review

Thanks to Quiddty for turning me on to this IMDB game.

My job: I went to IMDB and looked up 15 movies. Listed below are four official “Plot Keywords” for each movie.

Your job: Name these movies!

  1. Stripper Dancing With Snake / Owl / Broken Finger / Killer Robot
  2. Future / Visceral / Claustrophobic / Impregnation
  3. Messiah / Wuxia Fiction / Young Boy / War
  4. Skin Care / Future Noir / Paraplegic / Perfection
  5. Saving The World Mission / Extraterrestrial / Space Travel / Alien Space Craft
  6. Advertising / Attempted Murder / Clairvoyant / Eye Surgery
  7. Very Little Dialogue / Surrealism / Astronaut / Talking Computer
  8. Prophecy / Cat / Subway / Cyberspace
  9. Sunglases / Tabloid / Cat / Spoof
  10. Cryogenics / Post Apocalyptic / Horseback Riding / Beach
  11. Human Versus Computer / Gladiator / Frisbee / Video Game
  12. Revenge / Spacecraft / Sandstorm / Midlife Crisis
  13. Evolution / Prejudice / Wheelchair / New York City
  14. End Of Civilization / Bikini / Big Ben / Inventor
  15. Robot / Scientist / UFO / Washington Monument

SPOILER WARNING: The comments contain the answers.

Filed under: Movies

Books: Try Before You Buy

With so many authors offering their books for free online (not to mention the Baen Free Library), it’s easy to forget that age-old concept of the excerpt. Publishers continue their efforts to get books noticed by offering teaser chapters of books. Here are just some of the current and future science fiction titles that you can try online for free.

Filed under: Books

WINNER: 2007 Arthur C. Clarke Award

The winner of this year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award for best SF novel first published in Britain in 2006 is M. John Harrison’s Nova Swing.

See also: Past winners.

[via Locus Online]

Filed under: Awards

SF Tidbits for 5/3/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Hilarious! Conan Visits Lucas’ ILM

George Lucas was on Conan last night. See the interview here, but the much more interesting thing was Conan’s visit to Industrial Light and Magic…

Filed under: HumorStar Wars

INTERVIEW: Gail Martin

Although Gail Martin has experience as a marketing executive, a consultant and a teacher of public relations writing and public speaking, her passion has always been writing – particularly writing science fiction, fantasy and ghost stories. Her first story – written at age 5 – was about a vampire. Her favorite TV shows as a preschooler were Dark Shadows and Lost in Space. In college, she launched her own fanzine. She still enjoys attending science fiction/fantasy conventions, Renaissance fairs and living history sites. Her first full-length novel, The Summoner (published by Solaris Books…read a sample chapter!), is described as “an epic, engrossing tale of loss and revenge, of life and afterlife – and the thin line between them.” SF Signal had the opportunity to talk to Gail via email about the The Summoner, influences of her writing and what lies ahead.


SF Signal: Hi Gail. What inspired you to become an author?

Gail Martin: I decided to become an author when I was 14. I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I’ve written stories for as long. One of the wonderful things about being a writer is that you get to write the stories you want to read!

SFS: What authors do you most admire, and why?

GM: There are so many! Mercedes Lackey, Douglas Adams, J.K. Rowling, Spider Robinson, Barbara Hambley, David Drake, Katherine Kurtz, David Eddings, Anne Rice, Anne Lamott, Piers Anthony.

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Filed under: Interviews

Top 10 SF Signal Posts for April 2007

As per Google Analytics, here are The Top 10 SF Signal Posts for April 2007:

  1. Reader Challenge #6 – The Harry Potter Outreach Program
  2. REVIEW: 2007 Hugo Award Short Fiction Nominees
  3. POLL RESULTS: Which Novel Should Win the 2007 Hugo Award?
  4. Kurt Vonnegut Documentary
  5. Serenity Displaces Star Wars as Favorite Film
  6. REVIEW: Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder
  7. INTERVIEW: Greg Bear
  8. Stephen King: How to Bury a Book
  9. REVIEW: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
  10. Summer 2007 Sci-Fi Movie Slate

Looking at the top overall hits, while ignoring those listed above, we get these stats for older posts that were popular in April…

  1. Solve Rubik’s Cube
  2. NOMINEES: 2007 Hugo Award
  3. SF/F Writers Who Blog
  4. REVIEW: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
  5. REVIEW: The Prestige by Christopher Priest
  6. Here’s a shocker… (The Klausner Post)
  7. Top 10 Star Wars Spoofs
  8. Forklift Safety Video
  9. Sequel to 28 Days Later
  10. REVIEW: Eldest by Christopher Paolini

Filed under: Meta

SF Tidbits for 5/2/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Talking Science Fiction: On Screen

Today has been a rather interesting day for Science Fiction related news regarding SF on screen.

We all know that John ‘loves‘ him some Blade Runner. Therefor, I think he’ll find this bit of Blade Runner news interesting. It looks like Joanna Cassidey, the actress who played the replicant Zhora, has just recently finished shooting some new scenes for the upcoming special release. Why is Ridley Scott going all Lucas on his film? Well, it seems he and John both dislike the Director’s Cut of the movie, and, unlike John, Scott can actually do something about it. One other thought: How is it that Scott, the director, who created the Director’s Cut (allegedly), can be unhappy with the existing Director’s Cut? The mind boggles.

Moviehole is reporting that the short lived series, Dead Like Me, is being revived as a feature film. No word on casting, but getting Mandy Patinkin gives the produces the chance to have him say: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed me. Prepare to die!”

John has already detailed CBS’ plans for a zombie prime time TV show, but they are also producing a pilot for a show called Demons, about a priest who is fighting against Satan. Nothing new, really, except it will be on prime time TV. I likes me some zombies so it’ll be interesting to see how a relationship show couched in a zombie format will actually play out. Something like: “How was your day, dear?” “BRAINS!!!!”

The History Channel has obtained 94 short documentaries from George Lucas, which it will air over the coming months. These documentaries were shot in conjunction with The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones TV series, but were never aired. Hopefully this will tide you over until Indy 4 is in the can. No word on whether Lucas plans to go back and edit his documentary to make the cops shoot at Al Capone first.

Filed under: MoviesTV

REVIEW: Alien Crimes edited by Mike Resnick

REVIEW SUMMARY: A worthy successor to Down These Dark Spaceways.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology of six original science fiction mystery novellas.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Five novellas good or better; two of them standouts.

CONS: One story was too long and moved too slowly.

BOTTOM LINE: Another enjoyable anthology of detective fiction from Resnick.

In his new anthology, Alien Crimes, Mike Resnick follows up his previous (and slightly better) hard-boiled detective fiction anthology, Down These Dark Spaceways, by challenging authors to write crime fiction that is specifically not hard-boiled. I am continually amazed at how such an objective can yield stories of such varying topics. But perhaps this is more a statement on the science fiction genre itself than on the sub-sub-sub genre of non-hard-boiled detective sf.

All stories presented here are, as advertised, science fiction mystery stories (even though the Williams story starts out as fantasy). However, the mystery element appears in varying degrees. Some stories are constructed as classic mysteries, others are science fiction stories based around a crime. In any case, only one story (“Dark Heaven”) failed to entertain. The standout stories here are “Nothing Personal” by Pat Cadigan and “A Locked-Planet Mystery” by Mike Resnick.

Reviewlettes follow

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Filed under: Book Review

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