Saturday, May 24, 2014

Movie Review -- X-Men: Days of Future Past

Today we have the latest Marvel movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

At the outset, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) explains that the world is now ruled by an evil regime which aims to eradicate all mutants using giant robots called Sentinels. These aren't the same Sentinels from the comics, however. They can adapt to any mutant power and crush all opposition with overwhelming force. The last bastion of the resistance is led by Professor X and Magneto (Ian McKellen). Unfortunately, it's a losing battle. Sooner or later, the Sentinels will destroy them. In a last-ditch effort to save the world, they decide to use Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past to stop the war from happening in the first place. 

So Wolverine finds himself back in the 70s. He seeks out young Professor X (James McAvoy) but discovers the Prof is a broken shell of a man addicted to the drug from X-Men: First Class which heals his spine but disables his mutant abilities. He has lost everything he once held dear and doesn't want to go along with Wolverine's quest to save the world. Wolverine does, with some difficulty, manage to convince him to help find Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) who is about to unwittingly set the apocalypse in motion by killing the Sentinels' creator, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). But to save her, they'll need the help of young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who is being held underneath the Pentagon. With some assistance from speedy mutant Pietro Maximoff (Evan Peters) they pull it off in comedic fashion. Afterwards, Magneto explains that he, too, has lost everything dear to him, and so he decides to help them find Mystique. But once they do, a sudden change of heart threatens to derail the whole plan. Is the world truly doomed?

This movie had me gripped from beginning to end. It far surpasses the previous X-Men movie, The Wolverine, which I felt did not do Wolverine justice. I'm a sucker for stories about people going back in time to prevent stuff, and this pulls it off well. I appreciate the amount of characters they crammed into this film (did you notice all the actors names I listed above?), as well as the way the filmmakers handled the apocalyptic segments. They completely succeeded in portraying a dark future for our heroes. I was surprised by the level of violence in these parts. You might be shocked to find out the fate of your favorite characters. They don't pull any punches here, and I respect that. Also, the juxtaposition between present and past Professor X and Magento is pretty cool.

However, I'm not sure, but I think this film's story created a plot hole or two. If the Sentinels were created in the 70s, where were they during the original X-Men trilogy? I mean, yeah, they fought one in the Danger Room in The Last Stand, but that was just a simulation. Shouldn't the mechanized mutant menaces have been present in the previous movies if Trask built them in 1973? Eh, maybe I'm over-thinking it...

All in all, this film has great action sequences (including an epic one where Magneto lifts an entire stadium through Washington, D.C.), genuinely funny moments, and a powerful story. I heartily recommend X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Why is Anna Paquin listed prominently in the end credits when she's in the movie for about three seconds?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Free Book Giveaway

From now until 5/27, you can enter to win an autographed copy of The Revolution Beyond Time. No purchase necessary. Just click on the link below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Game Called Revolution -- Now Positively Free

I've decided to make the first book in my Infini Calendar series, The Game Called Revolution, absolutely free from now on. Just go to to get it. And if you like it, head on over to Amazon and pick up my other novels.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Movie Review -- Godzilla

Today we have the return of the radioactive giant lizard, Godzilla, in his new movie.

The story begins in Japan in 1999. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) works at a nuclear power plant with his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche). One day a massive tremor shakes the facility and Joe is forced to seal off the area Sandra is in. She dies and authorities evacuate the entire city, quarantining it in the process. Their son Ford witnesses the disaster from his school nearby.

Flash forward to the present. Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is now an army lieutenant. He goes on leave to visit his wife and son. However, he gets a call that his father has been arrested for violating the quarantine zone which is still in effect. Joe, convinced the destruction of the power plant was not a natural disaster as had been reported, brings Ford along as he again ventures into the abandoned city. Joe feels vindicated when he discovers no radiation whatsoever, but instead finds a military operation going on. Where the power plant once stood there is now an enormous glowing egg. It soon hatches and out pops a winged monster they dub MUTO (which I guess is supposed to be Rodan) which goes on a rampage. It isn't long before they discover the creature has a mate, and the pair proceed to wreak havoc across the Pacific and eventually the west coast of America. Our only hope of stopping them may be the big-ass lizard that just showed up: Godzilla. The three monsters then fight it out. Ford and the military--along with Japanese scientist Dr. Serazawa (Ken Watanabe)--form their own plan to halt the destruction, but will there be anything left when all is said and done?

This is certainly better than the last American Godzilla movie in 1998, but that's not saying much. Whereas that one was hokey, this new incarnation takes itself very seriously. What helps it rise above its predecessor is strong acting by the cast. Bryan Cranston shows why he's an acting juggernaut with his stellar, emotional performance as the grieving widower. Ken Watanabe is no slouch, either, coming along for the ride with his usual flair.

However, great acting can only take a movie like this so far. To me, the true Godzilla will always be a man in a rubber suit fighting other men in rubber suits. They lose a lot when converted to CG. Although this Godzilla has the mannerisms and signature roar of the original, and although he's bigger and badder than ever, he doesn't have the charm. And as a Godzilla fan from way back, I miss that. Also, it doesn't help that the monsters he fights in this film are virtually indistinguishable from those seen in Pacific Rim and Cloverfield. In other words, they're just generic CG beasts.

Bottom line: It's a great popcorn movie that surpasses the previous one. Just don't expect great things from it.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Movie Review -- Son of Batman

Today I'm mixing things up and reviewing the latest animated comic book movie, Son of Batman.

The story begins with the League of Assassins being taken out by a force led by Slade Wilson, AKA Deathstroke. Ra's al Ghul is killed in the attack, and his daughter Talia flees to Gotham with her son Damien. She seeks out Batman and informs him Damien is also his son. Now the billionaire playboy has to deal with his sudden status as a dad. This won't be easy because Damien is not only brash and highly intelligent, but a trained killer as well. Bruce must find a way to keep him in line while training him to become the next Robin.

Meanwhile, Deathstroke raids the home of a scientist named Langston who was working on some secret project for Ra's. Slade kidnaps his family and forces Langston to complete whatever he's working on. Batman gets wind of this and goes looking for Langston. What he finds are man-bats (half man, half bat, natch). Somehow these chimeras are involved in whatever Langston is working on. To make matters worse, Talia is captured by Deathstroke during a failed attack on his hideout. Now Batman and Damien must save not only Langston and his family, but her as well. Can Batman lead this rescue mission without Damien leaving a trail of bodies in his wake? After all, "We don't kill."

I like this movie. It has quality animation and voice work. I also appreciate Batman's struggle to adapt to being a father. It puts some heart into the story. Overall, this is a definite step up from DC's previous animated movie, Justice League: War, which really didn't do it for me. Furthermore, it's good to see Deathstroke getting time in the spotlight. He's one of DC's coolest characters, and he deserves it.

Still, I'm not sure this ranks as high as The Flashpoint Paradox. Some of the voices could have been a little better. Jason O'Mara is decent as Batman, but he's no Kevin Conroy or even Roger Craig Smith. Deathstroke's voice (Thomas Gibson) in particular just doesn't have that badass quality that Mark Rolston brought to the table in the videogame Arkham Origins. And finally, some parts near the end are pretty predictable.

Nevertheless, for an animated comic book movie, this is pretty good. It's among the best that has come out in recent months.

Friday, May 9, 2014

James Review -- Fire with Fire

This week I decided to review Fire with Fire by Charles E. Gannon. 

The book begins shortly after investigative reporter Caine Riordan has been put into a cryogenic cell during an investigation of a secret project intended to create a faster-than-light drive, after a security guard panics, convinced that Riordan is breaking into the quarters of a high-ranking military officer. 

Riordan is awoken thirteen years later, a gap which humanity has used to complete the interstellar drive and establish a number of colonies. Riordan is asked to aid a secret intelligence agency by investigating rumors of sentient non-human life, which would be the first sentient alien life humanity has found, on one of the colony worlds. Riordan finds this life but also finds an ancient structure which would be perfect for human use but incredibly uncomfortable for the native species to use, and despite the natives being at roughly a stone-age level  of technology, one of them points directly to where the Sol system would be if it were visible in the colony world’s night sky after meeting Riordan, apparently somehow knowing where humanity came from. 

Riordan returns to Earth, dodging assassins apparently sent by the corporation who ran the colony in question and whose operations were disrupted due to what Riordan discovered. Then Earth’s powers struggle to unite and form a World Confederation but success is soon followed by the mysterious deaths of a number of the leaders of the intelligence network Riordan works for. And, next, the Interstellar Accord, an alliance of alien races makes contact with Earth and requests a delegation from Earth which  Riordan is assigned to. But when humanity meets the Accord, it soon becomes clear that internal disagreements over the regulations of the Accord will soon lead to the largest interstellar war in local space in hundreds of years.

I give this book an 8.5 out of 10. The book is mainly focused on investigation, politics, and diplomacy rather than combat, but the story is well written, if long-winded at times, and the author manages to keep all of the plot threads going at an interesting pace despite jumping between multiple plotlines. I, for one, am very interested in what the choice Humanity makes near the end of the book leads too, and am hopeful that the next book will be better than this one.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Movie Review -- The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Today we have the latest Marvel movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

The story begins with Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) arriving late to his high school graduation due to his stopping a hijacking as Spider-Man. His girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) greets him warmly, but he is haunted by the death of her father and the promise he made to him to stay away from her, a promise Peter obviously didn't keep. Meanwhile, unappreciated doormat Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) gets into a lab accident at Oscorp and turns into a electricity-gobbling monster. He ventures into Time Square and proceeds to drain the power from the area. A police standoff ensues and Spider-Man tries to calm Dillon down. Unfortunately, events quickly spiral out of control and Dillon vows to destroy Spidey.

Elsewhere, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) experiences the death of his father. Even worse, the horrible disease that kills him is hereditary, and the symptoms have already begun to manifest in his son. His only hope is the healing properties Spider-Man possesses. He calls Peter, his old friend, and asks for a meeting with Spidey. Peter returns as his alter-ego, but refuses to give him a sample of his blood for fear it will turn him into a monster like Doctor Connors from the previous film. Enraged, Harry teams up with Dillon (now calling himself Electro) and they come up with a plan to bring down everyone's favorite wall-crawler. Can Spider-Man overcome these odds and protect New York?

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier a few weeks ago, is a worthy sequel. It's bigger and better than the previous one which only had a single villain. Not only that, but solid acting enables it to toy with your emotions. The finale, in particular, delivers an emotional kick to the gut that you'll remember for quite some time. Also, I'm glad we finally find out what happened to Peter's parents and why they disappeared. It's nothing shocking, really, but it's good they delivered on it.

However, the movie isn't perfect. Towards the climax there are scenes involving endangered airplanes that I feel distract from the main story. I honestly didn't give a crap about these people since they're only bit characters. Now, if, say, Aunt May was on one of the planes, that would be different; we might actually care about what was going on. But she's not, so I didn't. Also, fans anticipating the fight between Spidey and mecha-Rhino as teased at in the trailers may be disappointed. It only lasts a few minutes at most and the film ends on a cliff-hanger before the web-slinger can launch a single attack.

Still, I feel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 succeeds as both a sequel and a comic book movie. You should give it a watch.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Into The Void Review

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Into The Void by Tim Lebbon. The book is set more than 25,000 years before the Star Wars movie and focuses on the Tython system and the  Je'daii Order, which eventually evolves into the Jedi Order of the Old Republic. It starts with a Je’daii Ranger named Lanoree Brock, who is recalled to Tython, the order’s homeworld. There she is assigned to hunt down her younger brother, Dalien, whom she believed had died years earlier. The Je’daii have discovered that Dalien is alive and has become one of the leaders of a cult seeking to develop or discover a means of interstellar travel. Unfortunately Dalien’s plan involves using dark matter to reactivate an ancient hypergate, and the Je'daii leadership believes that the attempt will result in the creation of a black hole which will destroy the entire solar system. Lanoree races across the system seeking to stop her brother's plan, aided by a Twi’lek rogue named Tre. The story is broken up with a number of flashbacks to Lanoree’s childhood, mostly events leading to when Dalien faked his death to escape the Je’daii Order.
I give the book a 6 out of 10. The overall story is interesting, and there’s even a nice little space battle in it, but there are several points which show laziness or a lack of research by the author and editor. To be more specific there’s a member of species which the Jedi aren’t supposed to encounter until  almost 20,000 years after the events of the book serving as a police captain on a world described as the jewel of the system which was the Jedi  Order’s birth place, and an assassin from a species which all evidence indicates hadn’t even developed the steam engine more than 25 millennia after the book's end, and native to a system in the region of the galaxy furthest from Tython. And no explanations are given for their presence in the system during a period when neither of their species, nor the inhabitants of the Tython system have access to any working means of interstellar travel.