Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Fall Television Schedule

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 1
There are certain shows that I will be watching again this fall. Some are returning, others are new and i hope they don't suck. A couple look really intiguing.

ABC:
Invasion: This is probably the one show I am most interested in. Why? Alien invasion, of course. What else would I be watching? CBS already cancelled Joan of Arcadia. There are lights in the sky and suddenly some people are acting a little weird. Might the aliens have taken over the bodies of citizens? This is the kind of crap that I like. Might this stink? Yep.

Lost: A very well regarded show and one of the "breakouts" from last season. I like the idea of it, and it is often fascinating. I don't love it, though. There is something about the execution that isn't quite clicking inside me. Still, I really want to know what's going on with that damn island.

Alias: I won't be watching this. Not because I don't like the show, but because I have only seen the first two seasons on DVD. This reminds me I should Netflix season 3 pretty soon. I mention it because I really, really like this show.

Commander in Chief: Yeah, I know. Geena Davis as President. Get Joan Allen and I'm sold. On one hand, I don't think this show will be as successful as The West Wing. On the other, I just read yesterday that it was created by Rob Lurie, the guy who also wrote and directed the vastly underrated The Contender. He wrote and directed the pilot episode here. If Lurie has creative control, this show could be a real sleeper. Maybe. I don't even know if I'll really give this one a shot, maybe just the pilot episode.

CBS:
The Amazing Race: Whoa! There are too many people! This season is the one where each team is a family of four rather than a team of two. I had a hard enough time keeping track of who was who on previous seasons (all the models seem to look alike to me), and now I have families to deal with? With kids? Ugh. Points to the Race creators from trying something to keep from getting stale, but I don't know about this. I'm already looking forward to Season 9 when they go back to two person teams.

That's it for CBS. They cancelled Joan of Arcadia and that was the only other show of theirs that I wanted to see. Yes, I'm still slightly bitter about that. The fact that they replaced it with The Ghost Whisperer starring Jennifer "Give me a job, any job" Love Hewitt doesn't help matters. Bring back Amber Tamblyn and the rest of the cast!!

NBC:
My Name is Earl: Two words: Jason Lee. The man has never failed to entertain me and surely he can take such a ridiculous idea as a man trying to right every wrong he has ever done in his life and make it work. The only reason I'm going to give this show a shot, though, is Jason Lee. Bonus: it co-stars Ethan Suplee.

The E-Ring: I'm positive this is going to stink. I'd rather watch Commander in Chief. And yet...a show about conflicts inside the Pentagon seems a little intriguing. You heard it here first, this is still going to stink. Will I watch it? I don't know. Probably not.

Nothing much for NBC. I still haven't seen an episode of The West Wing, though I'm sure I'll hit the point where I fly through every episode on Netflix. The rest? Nah.

Fox:
Reunion: This the one that has the most potential to be something I want to see. Every episode the cast of characters ages a year, so everything is a year later. This could stink, but it could be really good.

Prison Break: Yeah, this could be the big show of the year. I'll probably catch it on DVD because right now I'm not willing to make the commitment for this show.

Monday, August 29, 2005

why doesn't this show make sense?

Monday, August 29, 2005 1
The 4400 could be such a good show. All the pieces are in place. The first season was relatively perfect. I'm not saying it was flawless or as good as 24 or the X-Files, but the way the 6 episodes of the first season were executed it worked perfectly.

The first season introduced the idea that over the past century there have been these abductions. There is a white light and everything points to some sort of alien abduction. That is what we are programmed to believe with the lore of alien abduction and Area 51 and everything. But they are all returned at once. All 4400 of them from all across the world. They are all returned in one place. They are returned at the same age they were when they left, even though the world has kept turning. Why? Who took them? Who returned them? When the 4400 are carefully released back into the world it seems that some of them have come back with special powers. We see in each episode as a different returnee is profiled and how there is a ripple effect of that person's life is able to make the world a better place in some way. Then at the end of the season we learn that the 4400 were returned not by aliens but by humans from our own bleak future and the 4400 is to help alter that future. Bang, season ends.

When the second season started I had high hopes. I want to know where do they go from here. There were interesting things going on, like with the 4400 Center, Jordan Collier, some abilities, and the hint that there is something more going on, but the episodes didn't seem to connect to anything. The first third to half of the season was fine as they were building something with Jordan, but after that everything fell apart. It is as if the series lost focus and tried to fit too little into too many episodes.

I think the season would have worked far better as another 6 episode mini and work only with the primary storyline and keep much of the side stuff offscreen. Every now and then there was just enough hint and just enough revelation that I'm riveted to the screen, and then things don't make any sense again and there is no clue where the writers are going with this and no clue that the writers actually know except that they must be watching Passions to get tips on how to execute this.

And then the season ends with another something that makes me want to watch the third season in the hopes that the writers are able to tighten things up. I'm confident the series will be renewed. It's not like USA has anything better to air. Just, please, deliver on the promise of the show. This really could be one of the best things on tv right now. Running it during the summer off-season only helps. But deliver the product that this program could be!

Please. I want good science fiction on my television. And this is told in such a manner that the sci-fi doesn't overwhelm the human element (my wife watches with me, that should say something), so it is accessible to more than the sci-fi fans, but the show really needs to deliver.

Deadhouse Gates

I don't know exactly what to say about Deadhouse Gates. Steven Erikson is continuing to create an incredibly deep world in his Malazan Book of the Fallen series, and there is such a wealth of history and intrigue and tension just brimming under the surface of the novel that you can feel it. It's there and just waiting to bubble out. The odd thing is that it seldom bubbles out.


There is much that is good here. The story is told in several parts, and the one with Duiker the Imperial Historian is probably the best as he follows the Seventh Army and the barbarian Fist commander Coltaine. There are several other storylines in place here, and only two of them directly continue those that were introduced in Gardens of the Moon. The stories are related, and as the series continue I imagine we'll see more and more intertwine as Erikson builds to something really grand.

I like the book. I like the series. I want to read the next volume. I'm just not as enamored of this series as I should be. There is so much under the surface that I wish Erikson would let more out. There are flashes of amazement as Erikson reveals something that changes how you view the characters and the world, and without question, he knows how to end a book. This one left me stunned.

But I really hope that the future revelations will be worth it because as good as Erikson is, I'm concerned the hints will be better than the reveal.

Still, for the potential Erikson is showing: I'm going for book 3.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm excited for the New Robert Jordan novel

Wednesday, August 24, 2005 1
I'm a sucker for an extremely positive review. I really am. It's been several years since Jordan released The Crossroads of Twilight, and while I enjoyed it because I like getting to step into that world, it was a let down after the incredibly strong ending of Winter's Heart. That book ended with something that blew me away, but Crossroads spent 3/4 of the book getting every secondary character up to that event. A little frustrating because we know what is happening even if every other character does not.

So, a couple of years later and my excitement for the series has been tempered through time and reflective disappointment. That's gone now and I'm really excited for the new book. Why? The review I linked above. A paragraph like this builds my interest:
I was surprised when the first plot thread was completed. I thought to myself, "Will I ever read about this person again? Could it actually be possible that I've read their entire story now?" I stopped thinking that to myself by the time Jordan wrapped up his 4th or 5th plot line. Then more story lines got wrapped up, at least to the extent where I don't need to hear about a certain character again without feeling cheated. All of the major plot lines advance. Some are completed. (Have fun with that statement on the message boards). Lots of smaller plot lines are resolved or brought near conclusion. I haven't done a full count, but a few days after the book's released I'm sure every website will have a tally going.

and these lines
This book contains more death and dying than any other WoT novel. Talk about a body count! Not to mention a lot of answers to questions we've been asking for a while.
. What this means for me is that the series is going somewhere. It's going to end and we can see Jordan taking us to the end. There is storyline progression, something that feels lacking in the past several books (except for the major event of Book 9).

Big stuff is happening in the Wheel of Time, and if Jordan can finish of this book and the next (and thus the series) with the bang we're being promised...the faith of many readers will be restored and the series will potentially be elevated as one of the great ones and the weaker middle books will be just that "Well, it slowed down a bit in books 6-8, and 10, but it closed out with a bang!". One can hope.

But...does Jordan answer the Ultimate Question?

Who killed Asmodean?

more fall books to read

With the library system down online this week for new software to be installed it is a little hard to remember what books I was looking forward to because I didn't have them on my "to read" list, I just had them on hold. But reading an article on CNN I was reminded of a couple and also I acquired some new additions. So:

On Beauty - Zadie Smith
Shalimar the Clown - Salman Rushdie
Christ the Lord - Anne Rice (I don't know that this is necessarily going to be good, but I'm very interested to read what she does with this. Assuming Jesus doesn't turn into a Vampire, we might be surprised here)
One Bullet Away - Nathaniel Fick
My War: Killing Time in Iraq - Colby Buzzell
All Rivers Flow to the Sea - Alison McGhee (I wish this was an adult novel, rather than young adult, but McGhee is a favorite author of mine)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

the fall semester

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 0
There is only one cd coming out this fall that appears to be interesting enough and good enough that I intend on going to the store and buying it: Fiona Apple's long awaited Extraordinary Machine. The cd will be released on October 4 and it's been six years since she released When the Pawn... Apple has long been a favorite of mine, I've seen her in concert and I really like both of her albums. I've just been so apathetic about buying and listening to music lately that I didn't even buy the new Tori Amos album that came out this summer. At one point that would be unthinkable as she has long been my favorite artist, though I think she's taken a backseat to Jennifer Knapp, and I haven't replaced the stolen copy of A Diamond in the Rough: The Jennifer Knapp Collection, and this is also odd since I have one of the song testimonials in the liner notes.

Books: The only book I actually plan on buying this fall is the new George Martin book: A Feast for Crows. Possibly the new Louise Erdrich novel The Painted Drum, depending on how I'm feeling and how much spare cash I have. Otherwise it will be a lot of library books as usual, which is fine. I still read an absurd amount of books, I just can't buy them all anymore. It's real life.

Robert Jordan is releasing the new Wheel of Time novel: Knife of Dreams. Terry Brooks is releasing Straken, which concludes yet another Shannara trilogy. Christopher Paolini has the new volume Eldest, which is the sequel to his bestselling Eragon. Eragon showed some promise (considering he was 15 when he wrote it), but Eldest has been rather poorly reviewed from what i've seen, so I can only hope it is a couple of bad reviews that I've read. I'm nervous that it really will be kind of bad. I'm geekish enough to admit that I'm looking forward to James Luceno's Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. There should be some nice Jedi Purge going on in that book plus some Palpatine/Vader interaction. There is, of course, and endless amount of books that are just coming out, have already come out, or are years old that I want to read, so I'll just highlight Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men as another I'd like to read.

There are always a bounty of movies to see, even in a dry season. This fall looks to be no different, if only I can make it back to the theatre.

September: The Constant Gardener, The Exorcism of Emily Rose (this one will either be a horror classic or it was be horrible, I don't know if there is middle ground), An Unfinished Life, Proof, Corpse Bride (this is another feast or famine movie), and I'm only listing this last movie because it stars Jodie Foster and we really need more Jodie Foster movies: Flightplan. I just wish it looked better.

October: In Her Shoes (but only because it is directed by Curtis Hanson), Elizabethtown. Wow. Is that all? Okay, here are a couple that could be good: Domino, North Country, and Goodnight, and Good Luck

November: Jarhead, The New World, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Walk the Line, Syriana, and a big ol "why the hell not?" for Rent. I have no expectations for Rent. Maybe I'll be surprised.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The World of Marathons

Friday, August 19, 2005 0
Sandy Treadwell's book "The World of Marathons" tries to capture exactly what the reader would expect from the title: the emergence of major marathons all across the globe. While there are blurbs on the back cover from elite marathoners and a forward by Fred Lebow (race director of the NYC Marathon), the coverage of each marathon is not necessarily from the elite perspective, but rather a bit from a mid-packers. How exactly a mid-packer is defined is up to interpretation, but the focus of this book is not for a Bill Rodgers (though he did blurb the book), or, to use a more modern example, a Deana Kastor or Paula Radcliffe.

"The World of Marathons" gives a moderately detailed description of worldwide marathons. Each marathon gets its own small chapter, which includes a couple of color photographs, a course map, and race details, as well as text which covers a little bit of the race history and what the particular marathon is like. The text covers details such as crowd support, things eccentric to that marathon (free beer at one), and attempts to give a sense of the marathon. Some marathons included are: NYC, Chicago, London, Paris, Venice, Moscow, and others (including an African marathon, I believe). In general, this book only covers the big, major marathons in various countries and while some of the marathons may be rather small they are important for the country and gives a sense of how other parts of the world are trying to organize a marathon.

The primary drawback to this book is simply its age. Published in 1987, much of the information is out of date. If I was planning a trip to a foreign marathon right now, I could not trust the information included in this book. What is the Stockholm Marathon isn't run anymore? What if the organization is now poor, or that the field has shrunk by several thousand? The book just feels very dated.

On one hand this is a fairly interesting book and it gives a nice overview of some marathons across the world as well as some inside America, but on the other hand the book tries to give the impression that it is topical and has up to date information. At one point it did, but it has been nearly twenty years since publication. An American marathon hopeful will also not likely find this book very helpful because the focus is mostly on foreign marathons.

I can't really recommend this book because while it does give a nice overview of worldwide marathons, the information is twenty years old and many things about any one (or more) of the marathons may have changed and some may even no longer be running. It is a coffee table sized book and in that respect the book is okay. Just don't go into it looking for current information.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Olympos

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 0
With "Olympos" Dan Simmons brings to a close the two book epic he began in 2003 with "Ilium". Simmons picks up the various plot threads that he weaved together in "Ilium" and once again pushes them apart in vastly different directions. At the start of the novel we know that the story takes place thousands of years in the future where evolved humans, or "post-humans", have left Earth and set themselves up as Greek Gods on Mars. Mars has been terra-formed to reflect the climate and topography of ancient Greece where the Trojan Wars have been taking place with, for a time, an almost perfect match of Homer's "Iliad". Back on Earth the "old style humans" were discovering who they are and a few have learned that they are about to begin a fight for their very survival. Meanwhile, there are moravecs (robots with a human core) traveling the galaxy to Mars to find out what is going on with the planet. This brings us to the start of "Olympos" where a Thomas Hockenberry, a scholar from the 20th Century has been recreated as an observer to the new Trojan Wars has managed to alter the course of history and the future. Now the gods war amongst themselves.

The story of Olympos is three-fold (at least), but when you boil the plot elements to their most basic form, each storyline is essentially the same. The moravecs are striving to stop the universe from unraveling because of all of the messing with quantum technology to terraform Mars and to make the post-humans into gods. The old-style humans are fighting for their own survival against a race of monsters which have awaken from their slumber. Hockenberry is trying to save the Greeks (the new, old greeks) and himself while helping the moravecs. Achilles is trying to save his love and return her to life. Essentially, everyone is trying to save something and even though the paths split once again in "Olympos", Dan Simmons manages to tie them all together again in the end.

If the brief description here of the plot is confusing, it should be. "Ilium" almost absolutely has to have been read first for "Olympos" to make any kind of sense. Even with "Ilium" read, "Olympos" is a fairly confusing novel. Simmons takes the story to very unexpected places and at times I think that Simmons might be reaching a little too far. He has very interesting ideas about alternative universes, history, and he has created very real characters to inhabit this world (or series of worlds). But there are some pretty wild jumps that Simmons makes here, and at times it is difficult to follow all of the jumps and accept them. My only actual complaint, however, is that the ending felt rushed. Imagine that, after 1200 pages and two books the ending felt rush. "Olympos" was build, build, build and then "oh yeah, we're done, wrap everything up!".

The complaint about the ending is very minor, however. What matters is the journey. What matters is that for nearly 700 pages of "Olympos" I was completely wrapped up in the story and Simmons did a masterful job describing the action and the history and how things connect. Granted, I feel Simmons did a better job of this with "Ilium", but there was no feeling at all of a let-down except for the ending and the rest of the book was so good that it overshadowed the ending.

Reading "Ilium" and "Olympos" is a serious time investment, but for a speculative fiction or fantasy reader, it is one well worth making. These books could use a prequel or a sequel, however, because there are a lot of questions that Simmons did not really explore.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Prozac Nation (movie)

Monday, August 15, 2005 0
I first read Elizabeth Wurtzel's memoir "Prozac Nation" when I was in college and I was transfixed. The force of Wurtzel's personality and the passion in which she wrote honestly jumped off the page as she described her fight with depression and how she acted out and ultimately how Prozac helped her regain control of herself. Since Wurtzel grew up in the 80's, Prozac was not yet the common medication that it currently is, and was only just beginning to be described. I believe I first saw a preview for the film version of "Prozac Nation" when I was in college and I do know that I've been looking for a release of the movie for at least four years now. The film never caught a theatrical release, was only recently shunted off to a cable premiere, and is now out on DVD. Honestly, what took so long?

Elizabeth (Christina Ricci) is about to enroll at Harvard University as a freshman. She has a journalism scholarship. From the start it is clear that she is somewhat depressed and that she doesn't seem to fit in with the crowds. She says as much during her opening narration. It is also quite clear that her mother (Jessica Lange) is somewhat nuts and certainly oblivious to her daughter's pain. Perhaps it is not that her mother is oblivious, but is purposefully trying to ignore the issue in the hopes that it is suddenly "all better" and that it'll go away. Elizabeth finds solace in her friendship with her new roommate Ruby (Michelle Williams) as the initially seem to be a perfect fit. She even meets a guy (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) whom she falls for.

Everything seems to be perfect, but considering the source material, the title "Prozac Nation", and that there wouldn't be much of a movie if nothing went wrong, something has to change. What changes is that Elizabeth is unable to deal with the pressures of life. The stress of school, her journalism, her relationship, her friendship, her mother, her father, and everything else seems to crash down upon her and Elizabeth more than anyone else starts to unconsciously and unthinkingly sabotage herself.

"Prozac Nation" never did receive very much critical acclaim, so this isn't a story about the little movie that could. The reviews have been mostly negative, scoring a 29% positive on the Tomatometer (at the time of this review). "Prozac Nation" isn't that bad. It lacks the searing performance of Angelina Jolie in "Girl, Interrupted", but it isn't that kind of movie. Ricci is given something to work with in this movie and does a good job with the role of Elizabeth Wurtzel. She seems to nail the depression and alienation quite well, though I think the screenwriter didn't quite round the character off as well making Elizabeth a little shrill and not quite as sympathetic as she could have been. Then again, maybe that really is Wurtzel. The best performance of the film, however, goes to Michelle Williams, as Ruby. Ruby is entirely human and warm and believable as a friend and roommate who becomes frustrated by Elizabeth. It's been several years since she played this role, but I hope it helps to find Williams some quality parts. This film is directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg (the original "Insomnia", not the American remake).

This isn't the best film you will run across, but it is far from the worst and I found myself enjoying the performances of Christina Ricci, Michelle Williams, and even Jason Biggs (yes, he's in it, too). Biggs is very restrained here and far from his "American Pie" days. If the story itself sounds interesting or Christina Ricci is an actress you would like to see more of, then this is worth seeing.

Grade: C+/B-

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo

Saturday, August 13, 2005 0
You don’t go into theatre to see “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” and expect to see a modern classic of American Film. You go into a theatre to see the new “Deuce Bigalow” movie to see a dumb movie that may very well be funny. After all, Adam Sandler’s career was made on such movies, as was Jim Carrey’s. Rob Schneider, however, is neither Adam Sandler nor Jim Carrey. So while the dumb comedy genre has the potential to deliver big laughs, this movie doesn't. To be fair, I have seen “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” and it was surprisingly funny and far better than I expected. It offered a fairly ridiculous premise: Rob Schneider becomes a male prostitute. Right. That’s what I thought. And yet because of Schneider’s good nature and the absurd nature of his “clients”, the movie worked more often than it should have. In a place where a little went farther than it should have, Columbia Pictures decided to finance another “Deuce Bigalow” movie.

Here is the story so far: Deuce (Schneider) is still working as a fish expert, having given up the life of a gigolo when he married his wife Kate. Kate, unfortunately, was eaten by a shark two years ago because Deuce did not realize there was meat sauce on the lettuce he was feeding a sea turtle off of the coast of Mexico. Still with me? We open the movie with Deuce getting himself into a little bit of trouble because of two kids who are serious punks and mess with his research which causes a marine accident with some elderly blind people. When Deuce gets a phone call from his friend T.J. (Eddie Griffin) in Amsterdam, Deuce accepts the invitation to join T.J. and visit for a while. T.J. is living large as a pimp but is down on hard times (so to speak) because there is a murderer stalking the gigolos of the city. After stumbling upon a victim and somehow getting his friend implicated, Deuce decides to help T.J. discover who the real killer is by going back into business as a gigolo and investigating the crimes. Honestly, that is probably more than you need to know and it is as much as I can bear to tell about the story.

Like a “Police Academy” movie, the plot really does not matter one bit. It is an excuse to get our hero (hero?) from one situation to another and to drive the humor along. The real question should be: is this movie funny? The answer: No, not really. Much of the movie is rather stupid and parts that I think were supposed to be funny were not actually funny. Again, for the sake of honesty there were several parts that I laughed out loud at and several more that I quietly chuckled too myself. The laughs were few and far between and did not deliver nearly as much dumb humor as one would hope for. “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” was neither fun nor funny, and the only recommendation I can give is to stay away from this movie and instead watch nearly anything else, except perhaps, “Boat Trip”.

Grade: D

Friday, August 12, 2005

On Bullshit

Friday, August 12, 2005 0
On Bullshit is an interesting little volume. Written by Professor Harry G. Frankfurt, this is a 67 page work of philosophy examining what is bullshit and how it is used. This is probably a fairly understandable work of philosophy, but it is well thought out and occasionally funny. Considering the subject matter, the inherent humor should not be a surprise.

It is difficult for me to really absorb what Prof. Frankfurt is saying in this book and I imagine it would take several read throughs to really grasp the concepts. I say this knowing full well that if I was used to working my mind in a meaningful manner this would be much easier for me.

Then again, this is a 67 page book about bullshit.

Prof. Frankfurt has one of the great opening passages that I've read:
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted.

Several sentences later he writes
In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us.

I want to read a book that opens like this.

Monday, August 08, 2005

World Track and Field Championships

Monday, August 08, 2005 0
While I haven't been to a movie theatre in more than a month I have been enjoying some decent television watching. Right now PAX TV is airing the World Track and Field Championships every day. Overall the coverage is decent, though it is only an hour a day. Sprints still get far too much coverage for my tastes and not enough distance. The 10k finals the other day only got the last three laps so all I knew is that Paula Radcliffe (marathon world record holder), who was trying to double up with the 10k and the marathon to help England, was in the back of the lead pack and struggling. I didn't get to see how she got there. Pooh on poor distance coverage.

I should feel lucky that all four laps of the 1500 were broadcast, but thus far only the heat with Alan Webb. Again, where were the other heats? What about the women's 800 heats (I saw one semifinal heat). I am guessing that I'll only get one heat of the 1500 semi's today, a brief bit of the men's 10k final, and if I'm very lucky some of the women's 3000 meter steeplechase. I question the coverage of the marathon on the 13th and 14th, but we'll see.

Do I complain too much? A little. I get that the sprints are the big deal and that most people don't want to sit and watch 13 minutes of a men's 5000, let alone a half hour of the women's 10k (then again, the Olympic coverage of the marathon was perfect: two complete races from start to finish...it's a thing of beauty). I should be just happy that there is daily coverage of the world championships. And I should be happy that I'll get to see a clip of the marathon this weekend.

But I want more. I want a stupid amount of distance coverage.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I, Robot: The Movie

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 1
I hate to be a book snob when reviewing a movie, but when the title of the movie is "I, Robot" and is said to be "inspired by" the classic science fiction collection by Isaac Asimov, one would have a reasonable assumption that the movie would bear some similarity and passing understanding of the source material. Then, when the director of the movie is Alex Proyas, the director of the excellent "Dark City", there is a level of intelligence that is expected from the film version of "I, Robot".

I don't know what happened.

This is such a disappointment. Without spoiling a single plot detail I can reveal almost exactly how much this movie resembles the book: The Three Laws of Robotics, a couple of character names (most notably Susan Calvin), the title, and that there are, in fact, robots. That just about covers any similarity the astute viewer may find with the book. This is unfortunate because any one of a number of the "I, Robot" stories could have been used as a launching pad for an intelligent science fiction movie. Or, even the later Elijah Bailey Robot novels would have worked. But this? There is the barest framework of a plot, the barest scrapings of Asimov's ideas, and wrapped tightly around this is a silly action movie.

The problem is only half about the movie itself. By calling itself "I, Robot" there is a level of expectation of what sort of movie this will be and what it will be about. Imagine, perhaps if Peter Jackson made Lord of the Rings with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Gandalf and Gandalf ran around hitting the Orcs with moves you might only see in "Conan the Destroyer". That's a moderately fair comparison in making "I, Robot" into nothing more than a flashy action movie and how exactly Alex Proyas did this is completely beyond my understanding.

My guess is that the studio took a lot of control away from Proyas' vision. That's the only thing that makes sense to me. But let's think about "I, Robot" as something other than an offshoot of Asimov's work. How does it work as a mindless action movie? On these terms "I, Robot" isn't that bad. It's nothing special and we've seen it dozens of times. Will Smith does fine as a the wise cracking detective investigating a murder of a human where the only possibly suspect is a robot except a robot couldn't do it because of the three laws. Smith is actually quite a bit more serious in this role than one might expect. He cracks wise often enough, but overall is toned down and has a seething anger towards robots just under the surface. It works. The action probably works better on a larger screen than a smaller television, but for a simple action movie I suppose "I, Robot" can pass muster.

Forget that this movie is science fiction because it really isn't. Forget that this movie is inspired by Asimov's classic work because it really isn't. Forget that this should have been and could have been an excellent, intelligent and still entertaining movie, because it isn't. If you're looking for just a decent action movie with very few claims to be anything else besides some lip service paid to the plot...here you go.
 
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