Pop Culture Round Up!

Somewhere between moving into a new home, traveling incessantly for work, turning a year older, and welcoming my FABULOUS Godson to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve managed to devour several popular book and film titles that have gotten quite a lot of attention in the “Pop-Geek” world.

First up, the John Scalzi book Redshirts, an action-packed parody of the Trek “ouvre” where our hero is the usually-doomed, not-long-for-this-starship redshirted ensign.

Initial thoughts – the first two-thirds of the book was a lot of fun as we followed our young hero, Ensign Andrew Dahl and his fellow shipmates Maia Duvall, Jimmy Hanson, plus a few others slowly realize that any Away Team mission with a higher ranking officer is a death sentence and everyone on the ship will do anything to avoid going on them, including selling out their fellow crewmen.

Once Ensign Dahl and his cohorts discover the truth of the cause behind the high mortality rate, they set about to correct it using every single sci-fi trope in the process. I must admit, the last third of the main story left me a little cold. It was fun, no denying that, but it was also so “out there” that it became difficult (for me anyway) to continue to suspend my disbelief. (And this is coming from someone who managed to do so handily with every increasingly weird Farscape episode.) I think for me the concept of what was “actually going on” was a little too precious, a little to amateur “fan-fic-y” for my taste.

I also found Scalzi’s writing to be a little simplistic. Despite the rather frequent dropping of the F-bomb throughout the dialogue, the book over-all read at what I would describe as a 6th grade level. This makes for a very fast read, which is nice, but I’d rather a fast read because it’s a page-turner than a fast read because it’s easy.

At the end of the book Scalzi included three codas each told from a different POV – First Person, Second Person and Third Person. I found these unnecessary and more like a writing exercise for the author than worth being included in the published work. If they needed to be made available to readers at all, they could have been offered on the book’s website as “bonus features”, perhaps made accessible to readers using a special code provided at the end of the main story a la, “You’ve just finished reading Redshirts! Craving more? Enter Code SHIRTTALES729 at Whatever.Scalzi.Com/RedShirts-Extras” or something.

Overall, I think Redshirts was a good read and I do recommend it as something fun for some light summer reading.

Next up – Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, the movie.

I read book last year and, golly, was it good! I was very excited for the movie because the book is incredibly cinematic on its own so it seemed like an easy transition to make.

The film was OK. Not Great. Not Bad. But “OK”. It was like a Cliff’s Notes of the book, with more than a few new (over-the-top in true movie fashion) fight sequences. Even though Seth Grahame-Smith adapted his own work into its screenplay form, I think he did himself a disservice with some of the cuts and additions that he apparently made. I say “apparently” because a script’s journey from the writer’s desk to the sound stage is fraught with changes that are COMPLETELY out of the writer’s control. It’s very likely that the script Seth turned in and the script that was ultimately shot are related only in name, concept and a few major details that somehow managed to survive.

Much like Redshirts, this film is fun, none-too-deep, summer fare. Worth the price of a matinee, but I wouldn’t drop the extra cash on the full evening price or the 3D experience. There are a few gimmicky 3D shots, but overall, it doesn’t really add to the film in anyway.

Finally, my round up wraps up with the new Pixar flick, Brave. If you’re going to pay full price for any movie this summer, do it for Brave.

This film was FANTASTIC. By far the best Pixar movie since Toy Story 3. Of course, everyone has been talking about how it’s also Pixar’s first fairy tale, and the first time they’ve had a female protagonist; and I must say that I was thrilled that this fairy tale princess also happens to KICK MAJOR ASS. Merida is a rough, tough, tomboy who wants nothing more than to shoot a few arrows, climb a few mountains and make her own decisions about whom to marry and when. But in a time when the peace of a kingdom is made through strategic marriages to allies the young princess finds herself completely at odds with her Queen mother’s demands of duty and propriety.

Both Merida and her mother are intensely strong-willed and yet completely unable to communicate with each other. Something that I think most daughters and mothers can fully relate to (if not the strong-willed part, the inability to communicate for certain). Writer/Co-Director Brenda Chapman masterfully captures the mother/daughter dynamic of this powerful film. While there was just enough goofy comedy to keep the younger audience members entertained, the true focus of the story was the troubled relationship between Merida and her mom and it was told with gorgeous and creative allegory. Merida’s desire to change her fate leads her to make a decision that could turn out to be fatal and with less than two days-time to reverse the effects of her choice, she and her mother must work together to stop the unthinkable from happening.

The final action sequence of the movie was surprisingly violent and brutal, and may be too much for children under 8 or 9 to process without tears or maybe even nightmares; but honestly, I can’t imagine the ending being handled any other way and still be such deeply effective story-telling.

I cannot recommend Brave enough. Get thee to a cinema and consume it with your eyeballs!

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13 thoughts on “Pop Culture Round Up!

  1. I enjoyed Red Shirts too, but I thought the ends were mostly good.

    I have no interest in the Abe Lincoln one though, That’s not Abes fault. I just still haven’t gotten over being roped into reading Pride and Prejudice though the barely altered (Yes! I said barely) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Not neeeaaarrrr enough zombies.
    Hmph.
    So every altered history suffers by association.

    And I’m very looking forward to Brave if I can get the time to see it.

    An excellent round up! Well done!

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