Friday, September 25, 2009

Movies in 2009 so far.

     I've seen the following 2009 movies so far:

     Watchmen - This is based on a graphic novel I had naturally never heard of, since I have no interest in those things. However, the superhero antagonist (or protagonist, depending on the POV) is the most powerful I'm aware of, as he, Dr. Manhattan, can control the electromagnetic force.

     X-Men Origins: Wolverine - This movie partly explains the origins of Wolverine. I mention 'partly' because the actual mutation is not explained. Actually, there are two mutations. Wolverine has the extending claws and accelerated healing abilities, like an advanced amphibian. A possible explanation for the healing abilities can come about through pluripotent, or stem, cells. Amphibians revert the cells in a damaged area to stem cells.

     Star Trek - One can think of this in similar terms to X-Men Origins, since it focuses on the incipient days of our familiar friends in Starfleet. My only complaint was the lack of explanation for the red matter.

     The Uninvited - This is a remake of the Korean movie, A Tale of Two Sisters:

     Both the Uninvited and A Tale of Two Sisters are exceptional horror films, but I feel the Korean original is superior.

     Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen - Goodness, this was a load of crap. The computer graphics were amazing, but the story left me annoyed. Even the original cartoon from 1984 provided one with more cerebral material.

     District 9 - Wow! Finally! Something to blow my ass away! I loved the hyperviolence, along with the original story. I liked the way the origin of the aliens was not explained, leaving the viewer to speculate.

     Pandorum - I would not want to be stuck on The Elysium, the spaceship. While this movie hasn't given me a nightmare yet, it has given me numerous uncomfortable thoughts. Based on sheer terror, Pandorum ranks right with Alien. While people are calling the ending a 'shocker', I feel other parts of the story were more shocking. This is also similar to Event Horizon, Sphere, The Descent, and Sunshine. Except Pandorum is more terrifying and more realistic. In other words, the events that transpire in Pandorum are more likely to actually happen than the events in the other movies I mentioned. This movie is not 'far-fetched', and that's what adds to the terror.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Consequences of immortality explained.

     Immortality is a common topic in science fiction, notably covered by Robert Heinlein, Philip Jose Farmer, Greg Egan and Wil McCarthy. Heinlein dealt with immortality by creating a character named Lazarus Long and wrote of his boredom after just 2,000 years of life. Farmer wrote extensively about it in the World of Tiers series. Greg Egan covered the consequences of living on a computer chip in Permutation City. But I feel McCarthy has covered the implications of immortality the best, in this series of novels:




      The above quadrilogy is called Queendom of Sol. In those books, the characters are immortal. Not just the main characters, but everyone in our solar system. All I can really say is that if immortality interests you, then you need to read these books. And the 'hard' science, well, it goes way beyond anything I've read in a Clarke, Niven, or Asimov novel.
     In real life, McCarthy also holds a patent on wellstone, which is a substrate for artificial atoms. He wrote a nonfiction book titled Hacking Matter, which explains wellstone. He got the idea for wellstone from quantum dots.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Philip K. Dick Novels

     My cousin Ben first told me about Philip K. Dick nearly 10 years ago. I had never heard of the guy and I shortly discovered the movies Blade Runner and Total Recall were based on his writings. Those are cool movies indeed, so I decided to check out his material. Ubik was easy to find, so I picked that up and found myself in a strange world, stranger than the movie Brazil. I loved it! Here are the PKD novels I've read so far, over the past 7 years. You can click on the images for larger versions:
















     Everything above is science fiction, with the exception of Voices From the Street, which is actually his first novel, written in 1953. It wasn't published until 2007. Lies, Inc. is an expanded version of The Unteleported Man. I've also read maybe 30 of his short stories and I plan to read all of his novels, eventually.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


     After waiting for 30 trillion years, Phantasm II has finally been released on DVD. It's important to understand I wasn't waiting for some new-fangled blu-ray transfer, but the very first release on DVD, in the year of 2009. It is available in other regions, but they are PAL and I don't like PAL because it looks funky, even with a PAL converter.
     Here's the front cover:

     And here's the back cover:

     Phantasm II was released in 1988 and I didn't see it in the theaters; I had never heard of it. I occasionally found it on TV when I was a teenager, and while I never managed to watch the whole thing from start to finish, I remember being impressed.
     So when I got home from work last night I watched it. And I watched it again when I woke up. None too unsurprisingly, the movie is simpler than I remembered. I can now watch it in much greater detail than when I was a teenager. Back then I used my parent's 20 inch, 4:3 ratio, glass tube television, with a mono speaker. Nowadays, I use a 50 inch, 16:9 ratio, flat-panel plasma, made by Panasonic, with stereo speakers. But I rarely use the speakers. My primary audio device is the $2100 headphone system, which reveals everything, from toothpicks hitting the floor to drops of spit spraying on one's face.
     I watched the movie last night using headphones and paid careful attention to the music, which I had remembered. But I had never listened to the entire ending theme before; it is a strong composition, like video game music. This morning I watched the movie using the built-in stereo speakers. Even with the volume up high, I couldn't hear the soundtrack as well, and even missed some dialogue. Headphones clearly provide one with a superior listening experience. I don't live in a house, so I can't use a good surround sound system. I would simply make my neighbors very angry, so I have to settle with high-end headphones.
     The main advantage to owning this DVD is the same as with all the others. No commercials - no interruptions. The movie plays from start to finish. And this DVD is perfect, by the way. There are no previews. The title screen loads immediately, like most Asian DVDs. (Korean DVDs have me spoiled, since they obviously don't have FBI warnings, nor any copyright warnings at all. They load the movie rather efficiently.)
     Phantasm II is not a great movie. However, I can't tell you why I love it so much. Maybe because it's so simple. There are very few actors and not much happens, but there is the Tall Man and the Spheres, which are unique. No other horror movie I've seen uses a 'tall man' as the antagonist, and I have certainly never seen metal spheres that fly around and drill into people, like the cerebral bores from Turok 2: Seeds of Evil. I would imagine the makers of that video game got the idea for cerebral bores from Phantasm.
     Back when I was a teenager, this movie gave me a horrifying dream. I was walking around in one of the mausoleums used in the film and a tall man with a long white beard was spinning around violently, like a tornado. Of all the things to carry while spinning, he happened to be holding an ax. He chopped my head off, cleanly, as if my neck were made of paper. I died in the dream, which is something that rarely happens.