Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Z/Web Makeover

You may have noticed that the Z/Web site has a completely new look! Not only have I improved the appearance, but there is more technology behind the scenes as well. I now support comments using the Haloscan system, so feel free to post feedback and opinion on any of my posts. I've also enhanced the blog with better topic support -- you can now browse posts by those topics as well. I'm sure there is still more to be done and perhaps a few glitches I missed in testing (please alert me to any issues you notice), but it's an improvement and I'll keep tweaking until everything's right.


Friday, November 11, 2005


Movie: Zathura

Cool kid-oriented flick in the Jumangi vein, about a board game that comes to life. Films of this kind often try to hard to be something they're not; this one just tells a simple story simply and it works. Good special effects, story, characters, and well-directed. May not be a world-changer, but it's certainly entertaining and well done.


Saturday, March 24, 2001

Zero Effect

Movie: Zero Effect

Another uneven film. This movie didn't know what it was. The promos made it sound like a comedy: having Ben Stiller in it made that seem logical. But Ben played straight man in this, and though there were a few humorous situations, it didn't work. Bill Pullman plays the world's greatest, most eccentric private eye, Darryl Zero; Stiller's his mouthpiece, as he doesn't talk with clients in person. The mystery's not bad, but rather predictable, though I liked the way Zero solved things. But the film drags on forever at a glacial pace, and meanders, not knowing what it is: comedy? romance? film noir? private eye flick? Who knows? Falls flat.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Zero Game

Book: The Zero Game

This was a book on CD we rented for listening during our trip. It was okay, a mindless political thriller that entertained, but had some surprisingly artificial action sequences and forced drama that didn't gell with the cerebral storyline. The idea was interesting: the "zero game" is a game bored politicians in Washington came up with in which they bet on the outcomes of various bills and events. It's all secret, with no one knowing who else is in the game. The bets are always on "sure things," events where the outcome is practically guaranteed, or silly meaningless things like if someone can insert certain keywords into a senator's speech. The idea is to bring spice into trite and staid political lives of endless speeches. This all goes wrong, however, when someone uses the game to murder, and then the main character uncovers a huge conspiracy. Unfortunately, the novel's strangely and awkwardly paced: one main character dies early into the story, suddenly shifting to another. That character is written first person, but we occasionally switch to an omnicient narrator at times to keep up with other threads of the story. Then the link between the game and conspiracy is extremely weak, and the conspiracy itself is convoluted, and if you think about it for oh, two seconds, you'll find about fourteen dozen plot holes big enough to drive semis through. Pretty lame. Add in an overly dramatic reading, forced drama (The main character's flashlight dies so he's trapped in the dark -- ooh, drama!), and you're in for a tiring read. It's also much too long. But it's not all bad. There are a couple interesting characters, and some of the political stuff is astute. Unfortunately nothing works together and the whole thing is rather a mishmash of dreck in the end. Save your time and do something more valuable, like counting the bumps on your ceiling.


Friday, July 11, 2003


Book: Zodiac
Writer(s): Neal Stephenson

This is a weird novel. It's an intriguing idea -- Stephenson calls it an "eco-thriller." It's a novel about an evironmentalist and his radical attempts to stop corporate pollution. The first part of the book is delightfully odd while you're trying to figure out who's who and what's happening. But once you understand things, there's no real story until much later in the book. That's when you learn that a corporation has created pollution-eating bugs, but of course their pollution-creating bugs have been accidentally released into Boston harbor as well. But that storyline is suddenly resolved and it's back to standard environmentalist tactics to stop the bad guys. That's when the novel goes down hill. It's much too long (though only 300 pages) and the last 50 pages or so really drag. I had to force myself to finish it, not a good sign. My advice? Read the first half which is great and forget the rest.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Movie: Zodiac
Director(s): David Fincher

This is an extremely well done film: good direction, acting, writing, etc. The topic is also stirring: a mysterious killer haunts the Bay Area in the late sixties and throughout the 1970s, sending cryptic coded messages to the SF Chronicle. Unfortunately, real life tends to interfere with a good story: the film never ends because the mystery's never been solved. The film does a great job creating atmosphere and helping us to understand the chaos and bureaucracy that made catching the killer so difficult, but in the end I was left with a sort of "Why did I just sit through three hours of that?" Yes, that's right -- the film is nearly three hours long. It actually didn't feel that long during it as I was fascinated, but the lackluster ending -- basically everyone in the story gets old and eventually dies and the mystery's never solved -- really made it disappointing. I was waiting for a payoff I never received. That doesn't mean it's a bad film, just that I think it could have been better shorter and tighter. As it is it just keeps and building and building and then... nothing. That's a bit frustrating, especially when everything else about the film is so good. It's not really the filmmaker's fault -- it's a real life story and that's what happened -- but the film could have been done differently to make the ending less of a letdown. For instance, the film ends with several screens of text description of what happened to the various characters. Some of that would have been better dramatized, showing a scene of what happened. That would have been more satisfying than just reading about it.


Friday, October 2, 2009


Movie: Zombieland

Fun, playful zombie film, not too scary, but with enough action to be interesting. It's got a touch of social commentary in the lead character's narration and could have used more, but there's a bit of heart in the quirky relationships that come together. Nothing too original or unusual, but the characters are fun and the film's sense of humor is entertaining.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Zoom: Academy for Superheroes

Movie: Zoom: Academy for Superheroes

If you want to study what makes a bad film, this would be an ideal candidate. I thought it was low-budget and targeted at kids when I saw the promos, but its technical quality is well above a made-for-DVD release and it's got an impressive cast (Tim Allen, Courtney Cox, Chevy Chase, etc.). The basic concept of the film isn't that bad -- a school for kids with super-human abilities -- and I was surprised to learn it was based on a comic book series. The script even has a little humor and isn't the worst. But somehow nothing comes together. Every joke falls flat, the pacing is jerky and awkward, as though the editors were on speed with they put it together, logic and realism is thrown out the window, everything's a stereotype, and it soon seems as though the film's only reason for existence is to humiliate one-time stars (like Chevy) with dreadfully unfunny scenes like having a skunk spray right in his face. Literally this is probably the worst film I have seen in my entire life. It's unspeakably bad. I'd give it a negative rating if I could.