Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: Eddie Riggs

A few weeks back I started work at a new job which included a pay increase - I've always followed followed the theory that you should take the difference between your old paycheque and your new one and spend that first chunk on something for yourself. In my case, I got the toy I've been waiting four years for, a Playstation 3.

Out of all the games I'd been waiting to try on the new system, the top of the list was definitely BrĂ¼tal Legend, and a couple weeks in I've got to say that a huge part of the games appeal comes down to its main character, Eddie Riggs (pictured left).

The deal with Eddie is pretty simple, he's the worlds best Heavy Metal band Roadie, working for the worlds worst Heavy Metal band. These ungrateful whelps have no idea exactly how amazing their head roadie is, and when an ancient call is sounded and that roadie is sent to a strange new world, his deeds will become legend.

Voiced by comedian (and half of the band Tenacious D) Jack Black, Eddie is incredibly cool, very self aware of how magical journeys into other dimensions work and can whip together a show, a battle or even a car with only minutes to spare. He deafeats his enemies with both his battle-axe and through the power of rock.

As I'm not yet finished the game (I've defeated the first major villain at the pleasure domes), I'm not sure how the story will play out, but as I loved the game designers earlier game, Full Throttle, I know it will all be worth it.

Although I'm over a year late - the game came out last October, I've got to say that it is a lot of fun, the game works as an action game, a strategy game, and even a racing game. Also as it isn't the newest thing anymore the price is really reasonable (I paid $20), so if you like action-comedy games with a lot of heavy metal thrown it, I can't think of a better one.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Movie Review: Agora

As someone who is working towards my Masters of Library Sciences Degree, there are very few movies that I feel are targeted towards my career path specifically. The Librarian made-for-tv movies starring Noah Wylie, Jet Li's Black Mask, Party Girl and The Name of the Rose come to mind, but that's about all I can think of off the top of my head.

Agora, which came out last year, finally made it to one of the speciality theatres in my city two weeks ago and I saw it yesterday. Coming from the point of view of someone who loves libraries, and has over the past few years become interested in the study of Ancient Greece and Rome, this movie was right up my ally.

The film takes place in Alexandria, Egypt in 391 AD, and follows two students of a Greek philosopher/scholar named Hypatia (played by Rachel Weisz, who by the way played another librarian in the first two Mummy films), who has an incredible understanding of mathematics and science, and unfortunately lived in a very dangerous time to be a scientist and a women.

The film does a really good job of showing a world in transition - it takes place relatively soon after Christians have stopped being persecuted by the Roman Empire and the tables are about to be turned on the followers of Rome's various pagan religions. Hypatia teaches at the Library of Alexandria and through the eyes of two of her students (one a young Roman, the other a slave), we get a very close look at this brutal period of time.

I'll definitely be purchasing the film, as I enjoyed it, found it beautifully filmed, and even though it showed some very nasty sides to a lot of the religious groups of the era, it does give a glimpse into the reasons of why this situation came about.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Things I've Noticed: Wating for a series to finish can be tricky

Here's the thing, I'm not a big fan of cliffhangers. I don't like reading a series and getting really into books two through five only to catch up to the author and be stuck waiting for him/her to deliver number six. That's simply not my style.

Instead I'm a big fan of waiting for the entire series to come out and then enjoy it after the fact. This is how I watched Star Trek DS9, Buffy, and Battlestar Galactica, and I've got to say that I am a big fan of watching TV shows at my own pace.

When I was in Junior High, all of my friends were reading Robert Jordon's Wheel of Time series, it seemed that everywhere I looked I found another friend recommending this series to me. Now back then it was going to be a series of seven books, and as the first two had been released I figured that I could simply wait and check the books out after they had all been released. As of right now, the author has passed on, and the final book is due out late next year. If after that I get told by all sorts of people to give the series a go, I probably will.

There are some series I'll read as they come out, I've reviewed both The Passage and The Strain here, and both promise to be the first of a series, but that is the exception, not the rule. I'm not sure if I'm missing out, but what I am sure of is that usually I'm not reading the sequel to some book I read a dozen years ago and no longer remember the main character or what the whole thing was about.

It may not work for you, but it definitely works for me - what do you think? Should series be read as they come out, or should the be read only after they have completed?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: The Eleventh Doctor

As I've spent the last few weeks reading my BFF Mike's blog which has been focusing on classic Doctor Who for the entire month (go check it out - the first Doctor Who post is here). I've been wanting to write about my opinion of the Doctor's newest (and Eleventh) incarnation, played by Matt Smith.

For those of you who are unaware, I'll break the show and the character down very quickly. The Show, which started in 1963 follows a traveller of space and time through his many adventures. The Character is a centuries-old man who has the ability to change his form every once in a while (allowing him to be played by at least 11 different actors), who faces terrible danger each episode and usually succeeds without violence.

The series ran originally until 1989 and then (with the exception of a TV movie) disappeared until 2005, when the new series, which was a continuation, rather than a re-imagining, began.

Starting on Easter 2010, the Doctor changed his form again, and is now played by actor Matt Smith, who at age 27 is the youngest person to officially portray the Doctor. Here's why I'm loving the Doctor's newest incarnation - He isn't afraid to show his roots (I think I've seen more classic Doctor Who references in this series than in any of the previous ones since the reboot), He seems to genuinely love his companions (the characters who go on adventures with him), and he regularly involves time travel in his stories (the series opener uses a significant amount of in-episode time travel).

Plus, he wears a bow tie, and bow ties are cool.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

On Saturday my wife and I went to see the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with our friends Mike and Trish. It was awesome.

To be fair, here are the many ways in which I am biased:

1) I loved (and own) the comic series the film is adapted from
2) I've been posting about wanting to see this film for a while now
3) The film is unashamedly Canadian in feel
4) I love (and own most of) the previous works of the director
5) From the beginning I thought that the casting of Michael Cera was perfect

The movie is a lot of fun - it felt as if it was aimed directly at my demographic (Video game playing Canadians with a love of romance/action films), contained musical bits from tonnes of classic video games, and had a story that felt both sweet and awesome at the same time (while staying true to the source material).

The cast was great, from the seven evil ex's through to Scott's family, band-mates and room mate (a scene-stealing Kieran Culkin), the action sequences were awesome and the film was really, really funny.

I am definitely recommending the movie, and already have it on my Christmas wish-list.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Things I've Noticed: It is not always cool when life mirrors a video game

I think we've all experienced a cool cut-scene or finale of a video game and thought - wow, that would be cool, I wish I could be in that game - saving that princess or squashing that mushroom or whatever.

The problem comes when you don't get to choose which game.

Today for instance, I woke up, rode my bike to work (a 45 minute ride which is awesome by the way), and everything seemed just fine. The air felt good, the sky was overcast, and there was a nice breeze (an arial view of the downtown core of my city below).

Throughout the day however, my world started resembling that of a video game - unfortunately that video game was Silent Hill.

Now before you start thinking about the horrible monsters that fill the game, or ghosts reflecting the sins of my past, I'm mostly talking about the weather. Due to forest fires in British Columbia my entire province is being covered in smoke - smoke which has dramatically reduced visibility, and for the bike ride home, had me heading across bridges where I couldn't see the other side - my pathway seemed to simply get swallowed up in the smoke. (the same area - notice the domed top of the Delta hotel, this afternoon, below).

It's kind of funny, I always assumed that the monsters and music of Silent Hill were what made that game scary, but after having my entire city covered in a cloud of oppressive smoke, I've got to say, the weather has a much bigger effect than you think.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blog Followers of the Year!

So as of today I’ve been blogging successfully for a year, in this time I’ve talked about a whole bunch of books, movies, video games and whatever else interested me. Rather than look back over the last year, I thought I would take a moment and look over the wonderful people who have agreed to publicly follow my blog – so here we go:

The Old School followers (being my friends who have been following my blog since post #1) Mike the Bold and Trish Van Doornum – These two lovely folks are actually a married couple, two of my best friends and a significant reason behind my decision to blog in the first place: Mike because he had the stones to start blogging years ago and Trish because her blog allowed me to see how she was doing while she visited London a few years back.

The Book Clubbers (being the folks who started following my blog after we joined the same book club) Kim Stoltz and The Doc – having met both of these guys through a book club started by my BFF Mike, they’ve helped me discover both my current favourite comic (The Unwritten) and comedic series (The Jeeves and Wooster series), as well has having some fun blogs of their own.

The Folks I’ve never met (Being the wonderful people who follow my blog based entirely on whatever I’m wrting about, rather than me constantly asking if they’ve seen my latest post) Amalia Voicu, Busco un agente literario en Espanol (and yes I know it’s basically a spam follower – but how many spam followers do you have?), G. Benedicto, Coffee Time Romance and More, Peter Williamson, AC Tanner, and Marsha Blackburn – Some of these folks have commented on posts, others have just given public support in being followers of the site, each one of them have helped to encourage me to keep posting. And Finally

The Blogger from around the World (being the only follower I have who commented within my first half dozen posts and happens to live in Malaysia) Kah Woei Tan, who has her own blog (which you should totally check out), and also shows me with each of her comments exactly how awesome blogging is, because I can’t think of another way I would have made such a cool person.

For those of you who don’t follow my blog, but have been reading it regularly, even commenting on it – Thanks! A special shout out goes to Fate at The Fickle Hand of Fate who has returned to her blog after a summer away and was definitely missed.

Seriously you guys, thank you, You folks rock! Also, my wife and kids definitely need a huge thanks for putting up with my blogging habit.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Series Review: Carnivale

Last week my wife and I finished watching the HBO series Carnivale, a dark fantasy series set in the midst of the Great Depression. We had seen season one a few years back, but even though we have owned the second season for two years, it was only during the last couple months that we've have had time to watch the second season.

I'm going to go fairly light on spoilers and simply explain what I felt about the series. For starters, yes - I really enjoyed the show, and I think that if you enjoy the fantasy genre, this show is definitely worth a look.

Set during one of the least magical times in history, the show follows two parallel story lines: a priest as he begins to build a ministry and a young man who joins a travelling carnival. Both men begin having strange dreams in the pilot that involve each other, as well as visions of the past and the future. Both men also develop certain abilities, the priest can see into the minds of others and the young man can heal people.

For me, the strength of the show lies in its strong story arcs, as well as the great acting of the entire cast. At first, both the carnival story line and the church story line seem to have too many characters and it's difficult to keep track, but as you work your way through the first season, it becomes simpler to understand what is happening, and you get to really see these characters develop.

The only bad part of the show for me is that it ends on a cliffhanger, as the original intent was to have a story that developed over six seasons and it ended after the second one, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Knowing about the cliffhanger going in, however, I was able to enjoy the show for what it was, an intriguing look at magic in a terrible time, with a focus on free will versus predestination.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why I Love Horror: The Video Station Years

I’ve been working at a new office for the last couple of weeks, and today when the cleaning guy came in and did the floors in our file room I was suddenly transported to my first real job – swing shift at my local video store (although I didn't work at the one pictured above - it was pretty similar).

I had had plenty of jobs before, but the Video Station was my first job as a husband and a father. I started by working the swing shift, which is to say Midnight to 8:00am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays followed by an 8:00am to 4:00pm shift on Thursdays and Fridays. The hours were terrible but the pay wasn't bad.

My evening shifts included cleaning the entire store (hence my smell-induced memory this morning) and the luxury of watching whatever kind of movie I liked after midnight (not including the backroom stuff obviously).

This meant once my cleaning was done (about an hour of work), I had six hours a night, twice a week, to watch all the movies I wanted (the last hour was spent doing prep work for the day shift), and believe me, with two young kids in the house, I checked out an awful lot of horror.

Like I mentioned in my first post about my love of horror, I watched a lot of slasher flicks as a young kid (for anyone else who did, I strongly recommend the documentary Going to Pieces, as it looks at the subgenre and puts the films into a context – which I love), but it was in my twenties working as a video store employee that I began to work my way through the genre, alphabetically, based on the movies that weren’t rented out that night.

Long story short – I saw a lot of crap. But for every ten or eleven films that had only a few minutes of cleverness in them, I saw some amazing films, films that showed me exactly how well any genre can work if everyone is doing their job correctly.

Case in point – The Exorcist (pictured right). I saw this film the first time when I was still in Elementary, and you know what? It was pretty boring, the shocks were too far apart for my taste, and I didn’t get a lot of it. I next saw it around the age of seventeen, the demonic aspect of the film hit me a lot closer to home, and I could appreciate the technical work that went into the film. As a young father at the Video Station however, the film terrified me, I literally could not get the creep factor of this film out of my head for months. Not the demonic stuff, not the pea soup, but specifically the idea that something is wrong with your kid and no one can help, something so bad that eventually you give up on the doctors and head to a priest. That was some scary stuff indeed.

I worked at the Video Station for a few years, and by the time I was done I had seen a lot of older movies (they didn’t get rented as often), had developed a love of western novels (which I posted about here) and could honestly say I was definitely no longer just a guy who liked horror movies, but had become an enthusiast of the genre.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: Dr. Simon Tam

As I’m currently going through my old Firefly DVDs with my youngest daughter, I thought I would focus this week’s character on one of my favourite characters of the series, Dr. Simon Tam.

Here’s the thing about Simon, this guy is exactly the big brother everyone wishes they could have; the lengths he goes to in protecting his sister are pretty incredible – he throws away his career, becomes a fugitive, and effectively leaves everything he has ever known and removes any chance for a return all to do his duty and try and help out his little sister River.

I'm not at all saying that Simon has no flaws, the guy seems to have a talent for putting his foot in his mouth and even when he's trying to act like a gentleman he tends to come across as a bit of a prissy princess. I think it was this balance between being genuinely heroic and a bit of a jerk that really impressed me with the actor who played Simon (Sean Maher), who I thought was great throughout the series.

A few episodes into the series I asked my daughter about who she liked best; Dr. Tam definitely came out on top - and as we're from the same hometown as Nathan Fillion, I thought he would be a shoe in (She loved him as Captain Hammer and we watch Castle with her every week); I guess it just goes to show that if you are going to be portrayed in a flashback episode as a little kid, you should have that kid played by Zach Efron.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Movie Review: Four From Hammer Horror

Back in June I posted about my explorations of the films from Hammer Horror with a review of Horror of Dracula. Over the last week my online rental service sent me four more Hammer Horror films, so here is a quick impression of the films I saw.

This film is actually a lot closer to the recent remakes than the original Universal film - you've got the Mummy himself, looking like the classic bandaged creature rather than the completely human looking Boris Karloff and even better Peter Cushing as a young, driven, and basically a nice guy (very different than his Baron Frankenstein).

Far and away my favourite of the lot, this film had everything I love in vampire movies - great atmosphere, an effective score, a sense of dread, and even though it had a ridiculously fake vampire bat - I have to say it tops the list for coolest vampire kill I've ever seen in a motion picture. I will definitely be purchasing this movie.

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
This one was actually pretty cool as it was adapted from the novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore, which I read last year, and kept remarkably true to the original story (except it was set in Spain rather than Paris), a lot of fun, and you get to see a very young Oliver Reed.

The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
Although considered a bomb when the film was originally released, I was impressed with the fact that the studio did actually ensure that a film taking place in an opera house had an actual opera being performed in the film. The creature effects were cool and I loved Michael Gough as a villain (although to me he'll always be Alfred Pennyworth).

By the way, after my last post I got a comment from the folks over at the Watching Hammer blog and after checking it out, I've got to say that I can't think of a better place to start if you are looking to explore the many films from the folks at Hammer.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Things I've Noticed: Cheesy horror is some of my favourite horror

For the last few months I've been revisiting old horror movies with my youngest daughter, a couple years ago we watched all the old Universal Horror movies from the 30s and 40s in preparation for Van Helsing, and then she decided to check out a newer horror film.

Against my wife's common sense, I picked Jaws, and after two weeks of nightmares (hers, not mine - I didn't get much sleep those weeks), my daughter decided to take a four year break from horror films.

Recently she's decided that as a junior high school student, she should take another look at the genre, so this time I've decided to focus on Horror comedies, and to let my wife veto any film she thinks our youngest might have difficulty handling.

So far we've checked out The Lost Boys, Fright Night, An American Werewolf in London, Alien, and a Kung Fu movie called Mr. Vampire - now I know that Alien is not a horror comedy in the strictest sense (or in any sense really, because if you found that film funny, I'd like you to stand waaaaaaaaay over there), but otherwise we've stayed with films that have more chuckles than scares.

And you know what - I'm really loving these movies! In most cases I haven't watched these movies since I was a kid, and I've got to say they are pretty amazing, good stories, good fun, and a wonderful amount of cheese.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Movie Reviews: Salt and Dinner for Schmucks

Last weekend I checked out not one but two films in the theatre (something that happens maybe once a year for me), so as a result today you get not one, but two reviews!

I went to see Angelina Jolie in Salt on Sunday with my mother, and it was a pretty cool little action flick. I never got around to seeing the Tomb Raider films, so I can't think of an action movie I've seen her in before, but I thought she did really great here. The film has all sorts of plot twists, and as following them is half the fun I'm going to avoid them. To be fair though, if you've read a lot of Robert Ludlum, the movie may not have as many twists for you. The action sequences were great, and I love the fact that the role was originally written for a guy (Tom Cruse was attached for a while) just like the Ripley character from Alien, and in both cases I could not imagine these roles played by anyone else. I know that usually I focus on Fantasy, Horror and SF, but the spy genre is swiftly becoming a personal favourite of mine.

Dinner for Schmucks on the other hand, can't be classified as a genre pick, but it was a lot of fun none the less. I saw it with my wife and our friend Trish and all three of us left the movie figuring it was time well spent. In the same sense as Salt cannot be described completely for fear of spoilers, Dinner for Schmucks has the same problem as everything builds towards the dinner and the schmucks who attend need to be seen to be believed. I was very happy to see Jemaine Clement (who I loved in Flight of the Conchords) representing everything I find exasperating about artists. The two leads are great and I left the film definitely planning to purchase it on DVD.

So there you go, two reviews for the price of one! See you Friday.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Transcribing a podcast

Hi everyone,

So after trying to get my podcast up over the weekend and not having a lot of luck (meaning, any), I've decided to simply transcribe it:

Bookmonkey: Hi and welcome to the 150th post on my fabulous blog, this is Bookmonkey speaking, and for today's post I figured I would try something different - a quick podcast, likely lasting less than five minutes and to help me out I've invited my lovely daughter Kaia to ask me some questions about my blog.

Kaia: Hi everyone! So Dad, why did you start blogging in the first place?

Bookmonkey: As a long-time reader of genre fiction, I guess I've just got a lot of opinions I'd like to share, in addition I have some aspirations to be a writer someday, and I figured if I had to put out a regular product (being 3 posts a week), my writing would get better.

Kaia: How long does it take you to write a blog post?

Bookmonkey: It basically occurs in three stages, the idea for a post can take anywhere from a minute to a couple of days, the writing of the post takes about 40 minutes and finding the pictures/links takes about 15 minutes.

Kaia: Why is your blog called Wisdom of Bookmonkey?

Bookmonkey: Short answer, when I tried to register my blog as bookmonkey it was already taken, so I tried Wisdom of Bookmonkey. Long answer, I like the orangutan librarian character from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, but I also like monkeys, plus I like to pretend I'm wise.

Kaia: Which has been your favourite post so far?

Bookmonkey: I guess the one about Junior High Girls freaking me out - basically I remembered that all the girls in my junior high years were reading V.C. Andrews books but I had never read one, after I tried Flowers in the attic, I got seriously creeped out, not just about the novel, but about the girls who really got into that series.

Kaia: What are your plans for Halloween?

Bookmonkey: I'm actually going to take the entire month of October to do a series of posts on the Twilight books; yep, I'm going to read, watch, listen, play, and even eat the phenomenon known as Twilight - as the father of two teenaged daughters I feel a responsibility to try it out and I feel that my loyal readers deserve to have my experience inflicted upon them.

Kaia: Weird - well bye everyone!

Bookmonkey: Thanks for checking out my first podcast - if it works out it may be the first in a series, otherwise I'll give videos a try!