Tuesday, November 9, 1999

Jack and Jill

Book: Jack and Jill (1996)
Writer(s): James Patterson

Interesting thriller about a plot to assassinate the president. Patterson lets us in on the killers' perspectives early in the book, but doesn't tell us their identity. This "tell, don't tell" creates a sense of impatience that's frustrating and artificial, but the book's pacing is fast enough that it's bearable. This book wasn't as fast-paced as Cat and Mouse, the only other Patterson book I've read, but it got better as the book went along. I still think Patterson's "great" detective, Alex Cross (who appears in many of his books), is boring; Patterson has made him so "everyman" that we see very little extraordinary. I prefer an outrageous character like Sherlock Holmes. We may not know every detail of his love life, but at least he's brilliant. One thing Patterson does that I really like is that when he ends one chapter on a cliffhanger he picks up the action right where it left off in the next chapter. Most writers throw in chapters with alternate storylines in the middle which, besides being exasperating and confusing, often comes across as artificial. I haven't read most of Patterson library, but I like quick-moving fiction -- looks like I've got some reading to do.


Saturday, January 22, 2000

Jack Frost

Movie: Jack Frost (1998)
Writer(s): Mkar Steven Johnson and Steven Bloom
Director(s): Troy Miller

Cute live action "Frosty the Snowman" fantasy, but a little too saccharine for my tastes. Had some actual touching moments between the Mom and the kid, but those tended to be drowned out by frequent crass and obvious humor. I watched it because I was curious about the special effects, and they weren't bad, but once you've seen one snowsurfing snowman, you've seen them all.


Thursday, December 27, 2001


Book: Jackdaws
Writer(s): Ken Follett

Excellent, fast-paced WWII spy novel, Follett's best arena. This story takes place in the week before D-Day, the Allied invasion of France that ended the war. An all-female group of British spies is required for a critical mission: blowing up a German telephone exchange which will disrupt the Nazi's communications during the invasion making them unable to respond properly to the attack. Unfortunately, there are few professional agents available, so Flick (a.k.a. Felicity), the leader, is forced to assemble a rag-tag team of criminals and rejects. The narrative switches between the progress of Flick's mission and the efforts of Dieter Franck, the German major who's trying to track her down. Dieter's an expert interogator: his brilliant schemes and horrible tortures to get Resistance members to talk result in numerous coups for the enemy. As the mission begins, it seems that Dieter already knows too much and everything's going to fail, but Flick's quick-thinking and calm under fire manages to foil Dieter, at least temporarily, and the battle of wits is on. Will she manage to control her rambunctious and untrained team? Will they succeed in their mission before the Monday deadline?

As usual, Follett's writing is smooth and unremarkable, the novel a quick, satisfying read. It's slightly predictable in a few places, but overall interesting and different, intelligent, and great entertainment (exactly what a spy novel is supposed to be).


Monday, October 9, 2000

Jakob the Liar

Movie: Jakob the Liar

Sappy, overly sentimental Oscar bid full of teary-eyed people making lame speeches in bad accents. Some parts were interesting, and there were a few excellent touches, but overall the film fell sadly flat. A feeble Shindler's List wannabe.


Saturday, February 8, 2003

Jason X

Movie: Jason X

Surprisingly cool twist on the Friday the 13th series, with Jason being frozen and reawakened 450 years in the future. Even with the futuristic weapons available, Jason still can't be killed, and continues his murderous death spree, killing the students on an exploration spaceship one by one in gruesome and horrific ways. Typical of Jason films, he says nothing but is simply an unstoppable killing machine. Still, putting Jason in space is different, and some of the unusual deaths are interesting. If you like this kind of film, this one is above average.


Thursday, October 7, 1999


Movie: Jawbreaker
Writer(s): Darren Stein
Director(s): Darren Stein

As a huge fan of Michael Lehmann's 1989 dark comedy Heathers, I really wanted to see this movie when it came out last spring. Like Heathers, this is about high school cliques and murder, but unfortunately Jawbreaker, while it has a few cool scenes and a bit of interesting dialog, is low on the profound scale. Heathers broke ground; Jawbreaker is a retread. It's not bad, and interesting to Heathers fans, just don't expect too much. The plot of the movie is simple: a practical joke kills the most popular girl in school (she chokes to death on a jawbreaker). While Heathers mines material from the death of popularity -- ungodly funeral scenes, brainless teachers eulogizing brainless students, unqualified parents weeping over a child they saw every other Tuesday, cliques fighting over who takes over for the dead girl -- Stein shows us few reactions to the death, other than the evil girl who plots to cover it up. This has the effect of minimizing the importance of the death, treating it so much like a joke that we aren't particularly dismayed by callousness of the others. Worse, in this movie, we're supposed to care about the dead girl (she apparently really was a sweetheart), but we don't. The most thoughtful line in the movie comes from the evil girl (Rose McGowen), who tries to make it look like the popular girl was killed by a sexual deviant: "[Society] will believe it because it's their worse nightmare." My favorite scene in the movie was the makeover montage during which the geek was turned into a princess: it borrowed from the creature workshop of Edward Scissorhands, humorous because the creation was not a monster in the traditional sense, but took ugliness and made it beautiful (but only on the outside). Clever. The ending's weak. When the Queen Bitch gets her comeuppance at the senior prom... Cruel Intentions did that in a more subtle manner that was far more powerful. I watched the director-commented DVD version and came away appreciating what Stein wanted to do; I just don't think he entirely succeeded. For instance, he revealed that circles and round shapes were used everywhere (like in the girls' ear-rings and pearl necklaces) to remind us of jawbreakers, but he forgets that most movie viewers can barely see past the end of their noses, let alone interpret something as subtle as that! A minor movie that promises more than it delivers, but Stein's good: I'll watch to see what he comes up with next.


Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Movie: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Director(s): Kevin Smith

Unusual entry in the Kevin Smith "view askew" universe. It's almost a parody, with sequences that mock Star Wars and Scooby Doo, as well as lots of star cameos in self-mocking appearances and even jabs at Smith's previous films. Uneven and more of a straight comedy than Smith's previous outings. Unfortunately, still extremely foul and crude but without the character insights of his better films. In short, okay if you're a Smith fan. (Certainly better than Mallrats but nothing like Chasing Amy Chasing Amy.)


Monday, September 15, 2003

Jeepers Creepers

Movie: Jeepers Creepers

After seeing the sequel, it was fun to see the original. Two very different movies. This one is almost claustrophobic in that there are only two teenage potential victims who spend the movie running from the creature, and the creature itself is hidden and mysterious most of the film. In this one, we think the creature's an ordinary serial killer or something, as the two teens witness him dumping bodies in an old drain pipe and go to investigate, finding more than they bargained for. Interesting ideas. Certainly neither film is great, but they are amusing.


Monday, September 8, 2003

Jeepers Creepers 2

Movie: Jeepers Creepers 2

Strange movie. I never saw the original, but I like Ray Wise (of Twin Peaks fame) and there's really nothing else out there, so I gave it a go. I'd give it a C- or C+, depending on my mood. It's basically a mere survival story, but it's done in such as way as to make you think the plot's more than that, which makes it a bit of a letdown when you realize that's all it is. There's some flying goblin creature (it's never named -- no idea where the title comes in) that comes alive every 23rd spring and eats for 23 days. It's apparently thousands of years old and no one can kill it. A schoolbus full of a high school football team and cheerleaders breaks down in the middle of nowhere and is picked off one-by-one by the creature. The early "scare" scenes I thought were lame because what made them "scary" was that we couldn't see the creature. Once we get to the schoolbus at night, however, we really get to see the creature, which is cool. As he lurks about the schoolbus, we see him leer at the terrified teens, watch him eat and heal from horrible wounds, and more. The kids are all stereotypical and overdone, but there are a few suprises here. Then we get Ray Wise as the angry dad (he son was apparently killed by the creature in the opening scene though that was woefully unclear) who's built himself a homemade harpoon which he uses to spear the creature. In the end, the humans win -- sort of. The creature goes into hibernation, and he'll be back... in 23 years.

Whatever. Who comes up with this stuff? It's rather arbitrary. What's significant about 23 years? Why not 25 or fifty? Why not link to to the position of the stars or something? We get no explanation about the creatures' origin, and why can't he be burned or disassembled or locked in a steel coffin or something? Oh wait a second: I'm using logic. Sorry about that. I forgot what movie I was talking about. Forget all those negatives. This is a modest thriller. Not as humorous or as clever as Freddy vs. Jason, but okay, and the creature is a little scary, especially when he grins at you just before he pounces.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Jennifer's Body

Movie: Jennifer's Body
Writer(s): Diablo Cody

Surprisingly, I really liked this. My expectations were low after hearing the early reviews and box office, but I didn't find that many flaws. It's a nifty blend of genres, mixing horror, comedy, and teen angst in a hip and colorful fashion. However, it's not a huge, big budget audience pleaser. This is a quirky cult film. People who like Heathers would like this.

The problem is the film's positioning. Having Megan Fox as the lead means it has to be marketed as some big vehicle for her. I'm not sure when this was cast: if the film was cast back when she was a nobody, this would have made more sense. But now she's popular and so the marketing tries to get on that and unfortunately they have marketed it as a sex vehicle for her and that's not at all what it is. The marketing turned off many people who didn't care to see her in her first "adult" role. Diablo Cody fans weren't sure what to make of this either as this genre seems so different from Juno. But if this had been a low budget unpublicized film with an unknown in the lead, people would have been raving about it, telling all their friends to check out this cool new flick. It would have been a huge sleeper hit. As it is now, the expectations were so high it's a giant flop, which is sad, as it shouldn't be. It's a terrific film for what it is: a quirky cult film. The dialogue is smart and sassy, the acting and directing appropriately over the top, and though the storyline isn't unfamiliar, the perspective of best friends growing apart when one gets possessed by a demon is fresh. I really liked it and recommend it. Just don't expect too much. I predict it will be a cult hit for years to come and be better appreciated by future generations. Some of the relationship material in the film is quite deep.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Jersey Girl

Movie: Jersey Girl
Writer(s): Kevin Smith
Director(s): Kevin Smith

I can see now why this movie flopped. The story's incredible simple (almost too simple) about a guy whose wife dies in childbirth leaving him a daughter he must raise on his own. He moves back to his childhood home of New Jersey and dreams of being back in Manhattan, where he was a big shot once. The film's basically about him figuring out where he belongs. Unfortunately, such a simple, sweet story is more than slightly at odds with the somewhat raunchy Kevin Smith, who likes to throw in awkward sex talk and scenes that really feel out of place and uncomfortable. (For instance, we cut from cute scenes of the eight-year-old to scenes of adults discussing masterbation.) It's very odd. The people who'd be interested in one topic are probably not interested in the other, so I'm not sure who the film is for. I think Kevin was going for humor and the adult topics were meant to be awkwardly funny, but instead they are just awkward. The film doesn't quite work. It's not a bad film at all: the story's sweet, the little girl is brilliant (she carries the movie), and the ending works, but the whole just doesn't add up to the sum of the parts. It's missing something, unfortunately.


Friday, October 6, 2006

Jet Li's Fearless

Movie: Jet Li's Fearless

This is a little strange for an action film, as the action's rather choppy and slightly one-dimensional, but I still liked it. It tells the remarkable story of a Chinese martial arts fighter who was able to best the best of the West, defeating four men in championship bout in the early part of the twentieth century. The film opens with that fight, but then we spend the bulk of the film watching major events of the fighter's life: how he started out only motivated to win for pride, but later learned the true value of life. The ending is excellent, emotional even, but the fights are all competitions, and I found them to be a bit boring (though one fight on a platform 30 feet off the ground was pretty cool and thrilling).


Friday, November 15, 2002

Joe Somebody

Movie: Joe Somebody

I recently saw this promoted on another DVD and was puzzled that I'd never heard of it: you'd think a film with Tim Allen would have been promoted. I figured it was a dog but rented it anyway.

To my surprise, this was an excellent film. Don't judge it by the trailer (which is misleading) or Tim's reputation. This is NOT a slapstick comedy goof-off, but a mildly comedic serious story about an average Joe trying to figure out who he is.

Tim plays Joe, a longtime cubicle worker for a huge corporation who's a decent but invisible guy. He's struggling through a divorce, but loves his daughter. On "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" the last parking spot gets taken by a jerk who cuts him off. Worse, this parking lot is reserved for employees who've worked at the company for at least ten years and Joe knows the guy's only been there for seven. He confronts the guy and the guy (who's big), slaps him down. Twice. In front of his daughter. Humiliated, Joe begins to wonder what went wrong with his life.

Inspired by a co-worker (the stunning Julie Bowen), he decides that what he wants is to beat the jerk up. He publicly announces he's going to fight the guy in three weeks, and then sets out on a rigorous training regime. Suddenly everyone at the office knows Joe, likes Joe, and is rooting for him to beat the jerk.

Gradually the popularity and overconfidence goes to Joe's head as he's alienated from his potential girlfriend (Bowen) and his daughter, who don't like the new cocky Joe. In the end, Joe must decide if beating up a co-worker will make him a man, or if he's already a man.

This is a film about character: the plot's predictable but that's not why you watch this kind of movie. Tim Allen does an excellent job, but this is not the laugh-out-loud comedy you'd expect from him. I think that's why it failed. People didn't get what they expected. Watch this as a drama and you'll find the humor amusing and the love story attractive. It's well-written with some remarkably good dialogue, especially in the romance, which in comedic films often comes across as silly.

For instance, one of my favorite scenes occurs after Tim witnesses Julie Bowen playing basketball with some girls and doing a silly and embarrassing victory dance. Later, while walking and talking, she asks how long he was standing there watching. When he admits he saw her dance, she embarrassed and says, "Oh no, no. Please, say something right now to make me feel less like throwing myself down these steps." Tim pauses, then says, "I'll be flat out amazed if I can think of anything else for a least a week." Very simple, but honest and effective. She's flattered and that's the beginning of their falling in love. Cool scene.


Friday, September 12, 2003

John Ritter

I am so sad to hear the news that actor John Ritter died. While most dismissed his Three's Company as silly, I consider him to be a comic genius. He was a master of physical comedy, making the incredibly difficult look easy (just try to make a fall look genuinely accidental, I dare you -- it's much harder than it sounds). John was back in a new hit series (though I never watched it), which was great, and things were going well. Very sad for him to go so suddenly and so young (he was only 54). Just another example of how we ultimately have no control over Life, no matter who we are, famous or infamous, rich or poor.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

John Tucker Must Die

Movie: John Tucker Must Die

The story's about a group of girls all dating the same superstar school athlete and when they find out, they try to destroy him in revenge. In some ways this wasn't as bad as I expected: there were aspects to the story that were surprisingly well-done and some good humor that wasn't revealed in the trailers. But the film's flaw is that it's much too predictable: within a few minutes of the opening I knew everything that would happen.


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Johnny Stecchino

Movie: Johnny Stecchino (1991)

Very cool Roberto Benigni flick. He plays an idiot everyman who drives a special education bus. One day a beautiful girl flirts with him, and he falls for her. We gradually learn Benigni is a dead ringer for her husband, a Sicillian ganster who is marked for death. The plan is to have the wimp knocked off in place of the gangster so he can be free to retire in South America. Of course Benigni is clueless, and has no idea everyone thinks he's a mobster. Not as brilliant as The Monster (El Monstre) (though similar), and a little slow at times, but good fun. My favorite scene was when Benigni comes face-to-face with his double in a closet, and so the double (also Benigni) mirrors Benigni's actions making him think he's looking at a mirror! It's so quick and slickly done it just takes seconds and you're just left gasping.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jonah Hex

Movie: Jonah Hex

The reviews of this film are dreadful and I expected the worst, but you know what? It's not that bad. It's mildly fun, the Civil War era setting is interesting, and the plot... well, there isn't much of a plot. The plot's definitely one of the key weaknesses, and there are many flaws. The biggest flaw is haphazard nature of the story structure. We're told of Jonah's past in awkward flashbacks and dramatic glimpses which are supposed to be profound but come of bewildering and lame. Apparently Jonah killed the main bad guy's son (who, I guess, betrayed him), and it's the bad guy who brands Jonah's face. But instead of telling that in a coherent linear fashion, the film jumps all around crazily, with the result that we don't really care about any of the characters, even Jonah. The story is about how the bad guy is out to steal a "nation-killer" weapon just so he can blow up the world (he's an angry guy). Not especially interesting or original, and too far-fetched for reality. But despite these problems, the film's sort of fun in a campy way. It's silly and absurd, and not at all the way I would I done this film, but I don't think it's the worst movie ever made by a long shot. Disappointing, I suppose, if you were expecting more.


Sunday, October 12, 2003


Book: Joshua

I'd wanted to see this when it was in theatres but missed it. I'd heard about the book years ago from my cousin. It's about a stranger named Joshua who shows up in a town and bears a striking resemblance to Jesus. He's a carpenter and begins building a fallen-down church, and soon the whole town's helping him. He helps people all over town, but everyone's wondering who he is. Great idea, excellently done, especially in how Joshua "preaches" (he uses common sense and demonstrates love). I found it interesting there are no bad guys in the movie: the ones we think are bad turn out to be simply misled and Joshua heals them. The ending is weak as Joshua visits the Pope -- I couldn't really figure out what that was all about -- but it's still an interesting film. Perhaps filled with more potential than actual import, but it's got some decent scenes and is worth seeing just for the concept.


Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Josie and the Pussycats

Movie: Josie and the Pussycats

I never read the original Archie comics or knew anything about the group, but I was mildly impressed. My favorite aspect of the movie was the satirical nature of it, poking fun at pop music and pop culture. It wasn't anything super intellectual -- the story dealt with a plot by record company execs implanting subliminal messages in music to control teens (exactly like a certain Simpsons TV episode) -- but it was fun to see the parody boy group "Dujour" which sounded better than their obvious model, the Backstreet Boys. By the end of the movie, however, the story had run out of steam and was nigh on ridiculous, yet everyone was playing their part with a seriousness I found depressing. Are we really so brain dead a society we find amusement in such vapor? Oh well, it's obviously just mindless fun and eye candy, and in that regard it's not a horrible movie, but it seems like a lot of wasted potential to me. It could have been much better, like Charlie's Angels (which should tell you something ;-).


Monday, July 21, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Movie: Journey to the Center of the Earth

I didn't hold out much hope for this as I figured it was a silly remake of the classic book, but it turned out to be a fun, hip, and tongue-in-cheek hommage. Instead of remaking the book, this movie is all new, but takes place in a world where Jules Verne's books were based in reality. A scientist lost his brother who sought the center of the earth, and now he and his nephew end up on traveling there. It's definitely silly with a number of B-movie type action sequences that are so far-fetched they are entertaining, but there's a goodness at heart that's endearing, and the movie is aware of it's absurdity and that makes it not only tolerable but fun. This is not the kind of movie to ever win awards or anything, but it is remarkably entertaining. Two thumbs up.


Monday, February 14, 2000

The Joy of Pi

Book: The Joy of Pi (1997)
Writer(s): David Blatner

Essentially this is a little book of trivia about the most famous mathematical symbol. Unfortunately, unless you're a mathematician (I'm decidedly not), the really interesting stuff's incomprehensible. Blatner does nothing to explain basic math concepts (anyone remember what a factorial is?) and the result is complete gibberish. The history is mildly interesting, but the critical (the reason I read the book) question of what good is pi (i.e. "Why do we need it? What use does it serve?") is never answered! (The closest he gets is one sidebar which explains how to compute your hat size using pi. Great, so thousands of people have spent decades of their lives trying to get a more accurate hat measurement!) Essentially this is a pointless book: there's not enough real math to interest mathematicians and there's too much for the layman. If you would like to read poems about pi and trivial things like that the sequence "123456789" first appears at the 523,551,502nd digit past the decimal point, go for it. Otherwise the most interesting thing is the book is that it prints (in microtype throughout the book) the first one million digits of pi.


Saturday, October 6, 2001

Joyfest at Great America

In the afternoon and evening I went to Joyfest, a Christian concert held at Great America. Bands included Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, and Jars of Clay. Sounds quality wasn't great (I'm not a huge concert fan anyway) and Newsboys were the only group I was familiar with, but the atmosphere was fun. Prior to the concerts I got to go on some Great America rides, which were fun. It's been a long time since I've done that. There were lots of families and young people there, and that in itself was interesting and one tended to absorb some of their youthful enthusiasm. (I just had a birthday, so perhaps I'm feeling elderly. ;-) Overall, this was a long day of standing in lines for 30 second thrills. Not something I'd want to do regularly, but fun on occasion.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Julie and Julia

Movie: Julie and Julia

Wow, what a terrific film. The chef in me wanted to see this and I love Myrle Streep and Amy Adams, but kept putting this off as it felt a little too chick flickery. But it is wonderful. For me, it hits all sorts of key notes: Paris, cooking, blogging, writing, the publishing business. I found it inspiring to learn about Julia Child, who I knew little about, and the struggles she had becoming a chef and getting her book published. Fascinating that the book no one wanted to publish would change the cooking world so much that her kitchen is now in the Smithsonian. The idea of combining two books -- the period story of Julia Child and the modern story of a blogger attempting to cook all 500+ recipes in her book in one year -- is pure genius. I had read a review that said the modern story wasn't as compelling and I disagree: it's merely that it's not as heavy (significant). Alone it wouldn't have worked and even Julia's story wouldn't have been as interesting: together they compliment each other beautifully. Highly recommended.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

July 4 iPhone Showoff

Today I went to my aunt and uncle's for a July 4th party. It was a whirlwind, though I did manage to find some time to eat. With seconds of arriving my uncle had let the word get out that I possessed an iPhone and suddenly I was mobbed. I must have done a dozen demos of the thing. There were several Mac folks in the crowd (I only knew a few people at the party) and that was cool, though one guy had just renewed his Sprint contract and thus is locked out from an iPhone (his family gets a huge Sprint discount via work). It was interesting seeing the reactions of people to the iPhone. Amazement was pretty consistent, along with little joys and delights when people discovered things like automatic rotation detection or pinch photo-resizing. The virtual keyboard was somewhat problematic, but interestingly, it was mostly so for experienced phone users: newbies went slowly and cautiously, tapping with one finger, and had few problems. I didn't really take a survey of who was rushing out to get one, but everyone was pleased to see it and impressed. My mom had hers and was showing off her pictures from her trip to Togo to anyone who asked. It was impressive to see how she got long with such a new device. She asked me for a help a couple times, but mostly she was able to figure out how to use it just fine. Quite an excellent way to sell the thing, if you ask me!


Friday, February 15, 2008


Movie: Jumper

This is a mildly amusing little sci-fi adventure about a kid who learns he has the ability to teleport. He uses this talent to escape his deadbeat dad, rob banks for a living, and travel the world, but of course he always longs for the girl he left back home. Then he finds out there's a guy chasing him and the movie turns into a low-calorie version of the Underworld clash of species -- in this case there are "jumpers" and "paladin" who've been at war for centuries under our unsuspecting noses. When the lead Paladin goes after the guy's girl, it's up to the jumper to step in and save her. There's not much science here, with minimal explanation about how these teleportation powers work, and really little attempt at logic, realism, storytelling, or anything else intelligent. But then again, none of those are things you should be looking for in this kind of a film. As a dumb, silly, special-effects actioner, it's kinda fun -- though the special effects-driven action is too rapid to be interesting and the characters are too lightly sketched to actually concern us. Still, it's harmless and fun, and there are worst ways to waste your time.


Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Jungle Tales of Tarzan

Book: Jungle Tales of Tarzan
Writer(s): Edgar Rice Burroughs

Terrific book of short Tarzan stories. The stories are not necessarily related, though they are chronological in order. They mostly deal with a very young Tarzan, still more ape than man, and his learning about the world. I love that sort of thing. (As a child I regularly read a French comic book series about a prehistoric man who traveled the world, meeting various peoples, having adventures, and always learning new things, such as swimming, fire, blowguns, glass, etc. I still have a couple of those books and they're awesome.)

Anyway, in this book there's lots of humor, action, and Burroughs does an incredible job of making us understand the savage mind and point of view. There is even some profundity: for instance, the story where Tarzan searches for God. God is a foreign concept to him, but he reads about it in the books left by his parents, and so searches for God, inquiring the wise old apes, the witch-doctor of the native village, and even asks the moon. Burroughs' revelation of how Tarzan discovers God is clever: Tarzan discovers mercy and refrains from killing a helpless man. He cannot figure out what stayed his hand, but finally figures it must be God, because only God could be stronger than Tarzan. Neatly done (and probably a healthier concept of God than most people's).

A central theme in all of Burroughs' Tarzan stories is the conflict/differences between savagery and civilization, and he deftly brings that out in these stories, including one where he switches between the lives of two Lord Greystokes: the imposture in England and the savage in the African jungles, showing how each hunts, dines, and sleeps. The humor and irony is terrific: the "civilized" man shoots hundreds of harmless birds with a rifle as beaters drive the birds into the air, while the "savage" hunts with his bare hands and wits, and kills only what he needs to eat. In the end, it is the savage who sleeps peacefully, while the civilized man is up with pains from eating too much lobster and drinking too much wine. Hilarious!


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Movie: Juno

The plot's slim and predictable -- a 16-year-old discovers she's pregnant and decides to have the baby despite the hardship -- yet what makes this film wonderful is the girl's impressive wild-yet-wise character, the humorous and quirky presentation of events, and an excellent supporting cast. It's a feel-good film about something that doesn't feel good, which is an accomplishment. Remarkable.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Jurassic Park

Movie: Jurassic Park

It's been a while since I've seen this and I was surprised at how the digital dinosaurs actually look slightly dated already. They looked so good in the past but now they aren't quite as realistic: they seem slightly out of fit with the backgrounds at times and I saw a few scenes where the special effects weren't so special. Still, the overall story and pacing was quite impressive and obviously engineered by a master.


Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Jurassic Park III

Movie: Jurassic Park III

This third sequel was a blip at the box office, and I really wasn't that interested, but it turned out to be superior to the second (not a difficult accomplishment but still surprising). This time Dr. Grant is back, lured by a wealthy couple to visit the dinosaur island, where everything goes wrong as usual. Not only does the plane crash and leave them stranded, the soldiers hired to protect them are promptly eaten, and it is revealed the wealthy couple aren't wealthy at all, but there seeking their young son who was stranded on the island. How? Ah, who cares about all that! The point is that there's a bunch of amateurs and a lot of hungry and very real dinosaurs looking for lunch. Good action and special effects, including some new creatures. Predictable but still fun.


Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Jury Duty

Had to go to jury duty today. Out of 90 people set to be selected for a trial, I was the last one picked... number 86. Fortunately, the lawyers ran out of premptory exemptions just as I got there, so the two alternates were chosen and I and a few others were sent home. Missed it by that much. Crazy process. I find it hard to believe that anyone convicted is actually innocent (I can easily believe that people not convicted could be guilty).


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jury Duty

I spent the morning at the courthouse going through jury orientation. I'm on call for the rest of the month and may have to serve, but I'll have to wait and see if I get picked for a trial. I almost served on a jury in Santa Cruz, once, but was the 15th and they settled just before me (12 jurors and two alternates). It turns out November's a good month to serve -- with the holidays in the middle, it's more like a half-month!


Saturday, August 7, 2004

Just a Geek

Book: Just a Geek
Writer(s): Wil Wheaton

Wil was once known as one of the excellent kid actors in the acclaimed film Stand By Me, and achieved even more fame as the teenage Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. After a few years on the show Wil was frustrated at all the movie roles he kept having to turn down, so he left -- and the movie roles disappeared. Recently Wil has turned to writing. This came about by accident, as he started his own weblog. Initially this was simply to get more exposure for his dwindling acting career, but soon it was a way to communicate with fans, and eventually a way to excise his demons and figure out what he really wants out of life. By pouring your heart out to strangers on the web, you learn quickly what's cool, pathetic, or real. This book is Wil's story, and it tells of his journey from actor to writer, and it's written with surprising honesty. It pulls no punches -- Wil has been insulted a lot in his life and by now he has learned not to care what others think (or at least to do a good job of pretending not to care). He writes with plenty of humor, self-depreciation, and surprising intelligence and insight. There's some insider info of what it's like to be a famous Star Trek actor, work on the show, or meet famous actors, but much of Wil's story is personal stuff, like how he felt when his dad was in the hospital, childhood memories, or spending time with his kids and wife. It's nothing earthshattering, but it feels genuine, and that makes it special. If you're a Wil fan or know his work as an actor, you'll find the book a good read. Even if you don't know him, you'll probably still find it entertaining. It reads fast, and Wil is sarcastic and very funny. Excellent.


Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Just a Little Harmless Sex

Movie: Just a Little Harmless Sex

Strange talky movie about couples and infidelity. All talk, no sex. Lame.


Sunday, June 5, 2005

Just Married

Movie: Just Married

Not as bad as I expected. In fact, I liked it. It was predictable, in certain ways, but the performances of Ashton Kutcher and Britney Murphy actually made it work. The plot is routine: a young couple are in love until a disasterous sexless honeymoon leaves them hating each other. It's all a bit silly but not raunchy like the promos made it sound. There's even a little bit of heart.