Friday, May 23, 2008

Movie: Iron Man (4/5 stars) 2008

I have been a fan of Iron Man since I was 12. I have wanted a suit like this almost since I can remember. This is Marvel's latest installment of super hero movies and follows (and beats in my opinion), the recent Spiderman and Fantastic Four movies.

Despite my huge expectations, the movie did nothing but impress me. Iron Man is the superhero for techies, geeks and petrol heads as well as anyone who likes some cool, slick action and a little bit of high rolling, over the top super-rich extravagance.

Robert Downey Jr plays Tony Stark, billionaire playboy (yes, yes, Batman is also a billionaire playboy - see the youtube clips below) and does an excellent job. He pulls off the smug, confident and dismissive genius really well and has an excellent supporting cast with Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges playing characters to anyone familiar with the comic.

The armor with all its shiny, sharp edges lends itself perfectly to CG and it is beautiful to see. I also like the 3D "ink jet" printer that prints out the armor, as well as the weapons consoles, the flight sequences and pretty much the rest of the movie. Also, inclusion of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" theme at the end of the movie and in all the trailers is a massive bonus.

Since Iron Man and Batman are both opening this summer movie season in the US, some forward thinking movie maker wanna-be created these youtube shorts that were highly entertaining:

Iron Man and Batman
Iron Man and Batman part 2

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

book "Sex in a Tent" by Michelle Waitzman 2007 (4/5 stars)

I just reviewed this book on Amazon, and am including my review here:

This book isn't just about sex but certainly doesn't shy away from it either. It's far more about getting a reluctant partner out camping and hiking and then how to improve the odds of having romantic interludes. After that, it tells you how to plan a trip, how to get along while you out there, how to keep clean, how to have romantic dinners and then tells you all the lovely ways of making sex possible that are only available outdoors.

The book is well written, witty and has great stories. Some stories were simply beautiful and brought a tear to my eye and some were laugh out loud funny. I especially liked "Nice Ways to Say You Stink" and the entire chapter on having sex in a canoe. There is one especially sexy story about toasting marshmallows on an open fire that I had to read twice. The illustrations by Ann Miya were a hoot and added a lot of ambiance to the book.

On top of this, there are useful information sections with recipes, romantic locations and an extensive list of on line resources.

My only real gripe is in the layout, where a large aside, taking up a page or two, can go right in the middle of a sentence. It can interrupt the flow, but is a minor point in the middle of a book with so much to offer.

This is a must for couples who like camping and hiking, but even more so for a member of a couple whose partner is resistant to the idea of camping. It suits any level, from hard core to car campers only. I can't recommend it enough for people who just want a little more spice in their life and are wondering how.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Royal Bank banking (1/5 stars)

I have been a Royal Bank member since 1986 when I needed a place to put my cash when I first arrived in university. At the time, it used to be a nice place, you go in and talk to someone and they help you out.

I remember thinking how great cash machines and cash cards were, and they didn't cost anything extra.

It didn't take long for the banks to realize that they could gouge you for a little bit more on each and every transaction, or at least ensure that you were spending a minimum of $10 every month for your transactions.

No bank I have ever been to has been anything but think that I should be gloriously happy they will work with me at all. As an institution, any bank is a money grubbing slime-ball who wants to tear away every cent they can, since 1 cent taken from every individual adds up to millions per year. AND, of course, they don't do 1 cent, they do $2 or $1.10. It always sounds so reasonable when they say, "It's just a small fee."

Every single one of their services used to cost more than it does now, since there was a person doing it. Now, it is almost all automated and they charge just a little bit more for every bit you look at or transfer or save. The charges just creep up too.

I had an account sitting in Canada that was happy to do nothing, there was something like $50 in it. I didn't pay any attention to it, since I've been living in New Zealand for the last 6.5 years but I looked at it and it was in negative numbers, since they've been deducting $2/month from it for the couple of years.

I'm sure they sent me the memo, and they think it's all justified.

I HATE banks. They used to be better and now they are simply worse in every possible way and make BILLIONS every year. That's just BILLIONS of reasons to hate them I think. How much of that is in service charges?

Even 10 years ago when I checked, service charges amounted to 7% of the Royal Bank's total profit. That was 70 million dollars. I guess it's easy to find another way to hide a fee from a bunch of poor morons who don't watch their accounts like a hawk or blow their bank manager to reduce fees.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Book: "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson 1954 (5/5 stars)

An absolutely fabulous book. It makes the recent movie attempt seem like a complete insult to the vision of this original masterpiece.

Richard Matheson is well known in science fiction and horror circles, but doesn't seem to pop up that often in discussions of classic science fiction. I have no idea why not.

He has the distinction of having a higher percentage of his novels being turned into movies than any other science fiction writer and you've heard of his work if not him. "I Am Legend" alone has been made into a movie three times, in 1964 as "The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price, 1971 as "The Omega Man" with Charlton Heston and just recently in 2007 as "I Am Legend" with Will Smith.

Other movies that were based on his novel include:

Duel, Steven Spielberg's first movie.
What Dreams May Come
Stir of Echoes
and the up and coming The Incredible Shrinking Man

"I Am Legend" isn't just some vampire novel. It re-invented vampire novels and spawned a long string of books and movies for decades to come. A heart wrenching novel of loneliness and pathos that truly does take you through a roller coaster of emotions and gets into the head of someone who is slowly going insane.

I loved the book from the first page to the last and despite being copied again and again by author after author, has not, to my knowledge, ever been equaled by any other vampire novel.

Movie: "I Am Legend" (3.5/5 stars) 2007

A good, solid action movie about he end of the world where a cure for cancer turns the population into a bunch of sunlight hating vampires.

Enter Robert Neville (played by Will Smith), a doctor working on a cure, all alone in Manhattan, hunting vampires by day, holed up in his house by night.

It successfully gives you a sense of loneliness and what it does to you, and idea what a completely lonely man does with his time and has some really cool action scenes.

In the end, a little too Hollywood for me though.