Clash of the Titans, 2010

Was it just me or was the new Medusa hot?  Must have been her eyes.  Quite striking, really.

While the new Clash of the Titans has been getting raked over the coals by the critics, i found the movie quite enjoyable.  The characters were interesting, the effects were great.  I liked the darker, more intense and action-packed storyline.  I went and saw it in 2D, rather than 3D, since from what i’ve heard the director filmed it in 2d and only reluctantly had 3d added in post-production due to pressure from the studio.  The only part that i didn’t quite get was the Djinn.  What was up with them?  They’re Persian, not Greek. (right?).  Still, they were pretty cool.

The absolute best part of the film for me was Mt. Olympus.  Specifically the “throne room” where all the gods were gathered around a room-sized representation of the Earth.  Soooo amazing and cool.  If for no other reason, that would make the movie worth seeing.  My mind is swimming in ideas of projects from those scenes.  I wish they would have shown more.

Dungeons & Dragons Electronic Labyrinth Game

My brother gave me an early Christmas present this year while we were down visiting my parents for Thanksgiving. It was the Mattel electronic Dungeons & Dragons Labyrinth game that my parents gave me for Christmas in 1980! What an awesome blast from the past.

Let me give you some background on this awesome little game. I would have been 8 years old. An electronic toy with dragons and mazes and treasure! It was possibly the coolest thing i got that year (aside from some possible competition from the Star Wars lineup). I remember the beeps and bleeps and ominous sound when the dragon would start chasing you around!

Over the years i’d dig the game out from time to time and either play myself (it was one or two players), or talk someone into playing it with me. Well, after a while, i packed all my old toys (including this and the aforementioned star wars collection – which was considerable, btw) into some boxes and stashed them in my parents garage while i went away to college. I fully intended to get them back out once i had a place of my own. I’d fill up a room in my new house with all my old toys and collectibles. It would be right next to my den.

Alas, my plan went awry. While i was away to college, my parents moved. I didn’t give it much though – i assumed my boxes were safe. So i left for two years to go sell fire and life insurance in Florida, blissfully unaware that perhaps something was wrong. When i got home, i resumed college life. Somewhere in here, i asked about my old stuff. I wanted to dig it out of storage and check on its safety. My mom (who loves to keep a tidy house) informed me that those boxes were either thrown out or sold off in a yard sale when they moved! My wonderful collection of toys and games was lost to the sands of time.

Over the years i figured that someone, somewhere (assuming the yard-sale option; the trash option is too morbid to even grant thought) was enjoying my old toys. Perhaps i could buy them back on ebay some day. Then several years ago, i went to my brothers house and he pulled out my old D&D labyrinth game! He had saved it from the yard sale. Happy days. It was all i could do not to steal it from him, but … being the nice brother that i was, i figured it was better that he have it than someone else. That was probably close to a decade ago.

In the interim, i had forgotten all about the old game. But this year, my brother comes to my parents house and hands me my old game. “Here you go, i figured you might like to have this back.” [insert misty-eyed sentimental comment here]. Thanks bro! That’s the most awesome gift ever. And the game still works. Sure, it’s missing a few pieces (all of which i can easily replace with acceptable substitutes), but the electronics are good. It still makes all the beeps and bleeps. I can’t wait to sit down with my kids and defeat that pesky dragon again!

The Gathering Storm

I’ve been following Brandon Sanderson’s blog as he works away on the final chapter of the Wheel of Time series. After several years, there is finally official word on when we can expect to see the next volume. And although it’s supposed to be the last book, it looks like it’s going to be split into a trilogy. I find that i’m ok with this. I look forward to as much WoT as possible, and if it takes three more books to do the story justice, then so be it.

Tor Books is proud to announce the November 3rd, 2009 on-sale date for The Gathering Storm, Book Twelve of The Wheel of Time and the first of three volumes that will make up A Memory of Light, the stunning conclusion to Robert Jordan’s beloved and bestselling fantasy series. A Memory of Light, partially written by Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson, will be released over a two-year period.Universal Pictures acquired the movie rights to The Wheel of Time in August 2008, and currently plan to adapt The Eye of the World as the first movie.

Press Release

And a long but enlightening blog post by Mr. Sanderson on the decision to do three books.

Nanowrimo, Harry Potter, Android G1

It’s been a busy week and lots of interesting things have happened. Here are a few highlights:

First, with halloween and then Gwyneth’s birthday back to back, and my mom visiting, and going to some plays, and parties, etc.., i haven’t had time to breath for a bit and at about 11pm last night (Nov. 1), my wife asks, “weren’t you going to do NANOWRIMO?” … oops. Oh well – i’m screwed now. First day is done and i’m already behind. I even had several chapters outlined and everything. I might still do it a bit for fun, but i’m not going to try to get 50,000 words in the month. I’ll focus instead on getting the first few chapters written and fleshed out really well. See if i can’t describe my setting so vividly that it would make Dicken’s proud.

Another thing that’s been eating up a huge portion of my time is my new Android G1 phone. That’s right folks. I couldn’t resist. I ran over to the T-Mobile store on Oct. 22 and ordered myself a new phone. It arrived 2 days later in the mail and i’ve been playing with it ever since. If you’re not sure what the G1 is, you probably don’t really care about cool phones all that much and so no amount of description would really do it justice. You’ll just have to see one in action for yourself. But this is in my opinion the best phone on the planet right now. Totally amazing. I’ve been nothing but happy with it since the moment i turned it on. Oh, and yes – i’ve been spending 1 or 2 or .. 4 hours a day learning the Android SDK and writing programs for it. I’m working on a game right now (you may recall my post from 2-3 weeks back talking about pathfinding algorithms … well, here’s the tie-in) :)

So, one last thing. And for those of you who haven’t read the Harry Potter novels yet, but might some day … just skip the rest of this blog entry. I’ll even put it in black text on a black div so you can’t see it unless you highlight the text. If you want to know what i’m writing about … read on!

I just finished Harry Potter 6 last night. When the books first came out, i read book 1 and thought that it was ok, but nothing all that great. The movies started coming out and again, pretty good, but nothing to really grab my attention.

Well, don’t freak out all your Harry Potter lovers. My wife finally convinced me to read the whole series. And i must say, once you get into book 5 things start to heat up and get interesting. By the time book 6 ended i was just stunned. Dumbledore dead? Snape really was a bad guy all along? It can’t be. I must be missing something …

So, after sitting there thinking about it for a while, i have a few theories about what really happened, and what’s going to happen. If you’ve already read the book, that’s fine – i don’t want to know what happens next. I’ll start book 7 today and find out for myself soon enough!

My theory: Dumbledore isn’t really dead, and Snape actually is a good guy and killed Dumbledore on Dumbledore’s orders. Let’s see why. All throughout the last chapter (or two even) after Dumbledore died, the phoenix Fawkes kept singing and going on. There’s always been hints of some type of connection between Dumbledore and his bird (the chamber of secrets comes to mind when the bird responded to Harry when he didn’t give up on Dumbledore. Also in movie #5 Dumbledore uses the phoenix to disappear somehow when the ministry attempts to arrest him [even though that’s not in the books]). And what happens when Dumbledore is at his funeral? Suddenly there’s a big fire , everyone’s surprised (they obviously didn’t plan for this), and then his body is gone, replaced by a sarcophagus. They hint that the centaurs did it, but i think that it was Dumbledore actually emerging, being reborn if you will, just like a phoenix (maybe he is a phoenix in some way, just like Lupin is a werewolf). Remember that he’s been severely crippled – his hand by that curse, and then drinking that potion to get the next Horcrux. On the balcony when Snape arrives, Dumbledore looks at him and says “Snape … please”. I don’t think he’s begging for his life. He’s pleading with Snape to kill him, knowing that he’ll be stronger afterwards. Snape does as Dumbledore asks, and then of course has no choice but to flee with the death eaters. But on the way out when Harry is chasing him, Snape continues to prevent him from killing anyone going “Harry, NO!” … like he’s still trying to help Harry in what little way he can as he makes his escape. I really REALLY don’t think that Dumbledore would have been so fooled and taken in by Snape. He just wants everyone to think he was. Now he’s alive, nobody knows it, he’s regenerated to full strength, and can hunt for Voldemort without being tied down or hampered in any way. Voldemort thinks his most powerful foe is gone. At some point in the next book Dumbledore will secretly hook up with Harry and help him finish his quest to find and destroy the remaining Horcrux’s. And of course once Voldemort is vanquished, Dumbledore will come back to Hogwarts and everyone will live happily ever after.

The Hunt for Gollum

This looks like a really well-made fan movie that will be released as a free download in December 2008. The trailers are impressive. I hope it meets expectations.

The story takes place before the Lord of the Rings story. It’s about how Strider is searching for Gollum. The books (at least the original trilogy) make a passing reference about searching for Gollum after the Hobbit ends and before the Lord of the Rings begins. This fleshes out that story.

Brandon Sanderson book signing

As anyone who’s visited my main website knows, i’m a big fan of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Last year when he passed away, i posted an article that talked about how i had first came across the series, and how i hoped that the final book “will be finished by a worthy author who truly cares about the work and will do it justice.”

About three months later, Brandon Sanderson was announced as the author personally picked by Robert Jordan’s wife to pen the final chapter in the WOT saga. I had never heard of Sanderson before, but I looked him up and found that he’s written a few books which have all received high praise. He also seemed to be a fan of the series himself, at which i sighed in relief knowing that the novel was in good hands.

Well, it turns out that Sanderson lives about 10 minutes from my house! How cool is that? I found this out when i saw a big sign at our local library announcing a book signing with Brandon Sanderson. I did a double take, made sure it was the Brandon Sanderson of WOT fame, and made plans to attend. All of this was a long introduction to a short report of the event:

There were about 50 or 60 people in attendance (hard to say really; there were lots of people with young kids that kept coming and going). He began by doing a book signing. He had copies of all his books available for purchase, and was more than happy to sign pre-existing copies. He also had a preview “proof readers” copy of the 3rd book in his Mistborn series. It looked very cool (although i didn’t read any of it, since i didn’t want to accidentally come across any spoilers).

After a half hour or so of signing books, he opened it up to Q&A. Following are some of the questions that I was able to scribble down:

  • Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians is available as an audio book through Amazon. You can also email him for a copy if you like.
  • When Harriet (Robert Jordan’s wife) was selecting authors for the final WOT novel, she read 100 pages of Sanderson’s Mistborn book, loved it, and called him asking if he’d be interested. (Obviously the answer was an enthusiastic yes!)
  • Dreamworks has purchased the rights to do a movie of Alcatraz. He said it’s amazing how much $$$ movie studios throw around like it’s popcorn. There’s also a tentative offer to do a TV Series of Mistborn, but that’s probably not going to happen
  • When asked how he gets his ideas, he said that they can come from anywhere. He mentioned that he had an Alcatraz souvenir’s key chain that came with his first car. He was once driving through dense fog and liked how the mist swirled. Sometimes he’ll see someone with interesting characteristics that will end up in a novel. He just always looks for things and they all stick together, and eventually he’s got enough material for a book
  • He likes to turn traditional fantasy on its head. “An unlikely hero goes on a quest to destroy the dark lord.” That pretty much sums up 90% of sci-fi and fantasy stories. “Why can’t the dark lord ever win? What if he did?” He loves to take unusual and unconventional twists and turns with his writing.
  • When asked about the artwork, he said that he doesn’t get to decide that. He only gets to decide on the words of the novel. He gets to look and can object, but ultimately it’s up to the publisher on the artwork. Mostly he’s been happy, but didn’t like the original cover art of Mistborn. (There was more on this but i’d better not print it here…) 😉
  • His deadline for the draft of A Memory of Light is December. The earliest publish date will be in the Summer of 2009, and the latest publish date will be around Christmas 2009. Whatever the date, he will personally be at Waldenbooks at my local mall on opening day giving (well, selling i’m sure) out signed, numbered copies of the book. SWEET; i know where i’ll be that day!
  • He mentioned that when he was 15, one of his teachers gave him a copy of a fantasy novel and that sparked his interested in, and love for, the fantasy genre. After the meeting, i asked him what the novel was. He replied that it was Dragon’s Bane, and highly recommended it if i hadn’t read it yet. I’ll put it in my queue.
  • Finally, in between some of the Q&A he did a reading of the first chapter of Alcatraz (i’m not sure if it was the first or second book; i haven’t read either). He also did a reading of the 1st chapter of book 3 of Mistborn, but i left before he began since he said there would be major spoilers for anyone who hadn’t read the first two books yet (and i hadn’t, so i left).

All in all, a very enjoyable event. He seems like a nice down to earth guy, and i have every confidence that he’ll do a wonderful job of A Memory of Light.

The Hobbit LIVES

YES, Yes, yes, yES! :) Finally, it’s official … the Hobbit films will be made. They will be directed by Guillermo del Toro and co-producted by Peter Jackson. The film is in great hands.

Click here for the news story summary

Dragonlance – the movie

Yesterday, the Dragonlance movie was released. I went to my local redbox and picked up a copy. For those who have never read the Dragonlance novels, you really should. It’s one of the cornerstone series of fantasy literature. I even got my wife to read the books and quite surprising to her, she loved them.

How does the movie stack up? Let’s start with the good points. The soundtrack was very well done and added quite a bit to the show. The voice talents include Lucy Lawless and Kiefer Sutherland. It’s an hour and a half and does tell all the major plot points of the original story.

BUT. . . It gave me a headache to watch. Literally. The movie is animated, not live action, and the animation was “blurry”. You could see double-lines and digital artifacts everywhere – as if whoever rendered the video had put it on a medium quality setting for some reason (my guess is to save space; the entire movie just fits on a single layer DVD, which would mean production costs would be cheaper). Even if the animation had been sharp, the quality of the animation compares to that of your average saturday morning cartoon. Again, i could live with that if the storyline were good enough. But that brings up the final point. All of the depth that made the books so good was completely lacking in the show. It was as if someone had written some cliffs notes on the book and then written the screenplay from that. It basically was like watching a book report. “The characters did this, then went here, this happened, etc … etc..”. The movie didn’t draw you in, you didn’t feel for the characters, the dialog was flat, and you really didn’t get a sense of the epic scope that comes across in the books.

I really wanted to like this movie, but i’m afraid i can’t recommend it to anyone. Thumbs DOWN. Fortunately i only paid a dollar to rent it instead of $18 to actually buy it.

The Hobbit

Ok, in case you’re not a Lord of the Rings fan, or maybe you are but have been under a rock for the last 3 years or so … After the “Return of the King” was released, everyone was buzzing about “When will we get a movie version of The Hobbit?”. Unfortunately, Peter Jackson had other projects on his plate (King Kong) and wasn’t immediately available. By the time he was available and the legal mumbo jumble about ownership for the movie rights had been worked out, Peter was in a legal battle himself with New Line, and thus The Hobbit was stalled …

Fast forward to now: Peter and New Line are buddies again, and the Hobbit will move forward!!! Jackson will not be writing or directing the movies as he did with the Lord of the Rings trilogy (his reason: He is too busy with other projects and if they were to wait for him, the movies would not be released until 2015). However, he will be the executive producer and will have final say on movies.

Oh, did i mention movieS? Yes, there will be two of them! SWEET. Excuse me while i recover my senses… Awesome. I can’t wait for the casting rumors to start. Guess i’ll have to add The One Ring back into my RSS reader.