Movie review: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, by Hironobu Sakaguchi

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

reviewed by Erin Barger

OK. Just got back from seeing Final Fantasy.

Animation: Very well done, very realistic. However, it is so close to be real that it’s almost distracting that it’s not real.

Plot: As far as your typical sci-fi goes, it’s, like I said, typical. Though the introduction of Gaia into the scene added a nice touch.

Characterization: Most of the characters were well developed. Though the bad guy, the General, could have used something a bit more.

Over all a very good movie with a nice ending (which I won’t reveal here). The paper gave it 3 1/2 stars. I’m going to say that’s about what it deserves, IMHO.

Movie review: Fantasia 2000, by Disney

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Fantasia 2000

review by Janis Neville

Okay, I have seen Fantasia 2000, and I am very, very, very disappointed. I thought for something like it, Disney could get away from their formulaic crap, but it seems that they cannot. It is nowhere near as good as the original Fantasia, and I think Disney lost some of the vision that went into making something like it. They just went through the motions and made it all franchised.

Each story that Disney put to music (instead of the other way around, making an evocative animation from the music) displayed some trite aspect of Disney’s recent style of animation. Each was a very character concerned story that ended up happily. Many of the animations didn’t seem at all suited to the music, or were very confused in what they were doing. I think that they maybe chose some of the music poorly, and also seemed to cheapen it by setting it to the animations.

I was amused some by some of the animations, confused a lot by others. I was amused by some of the host segments too, but that was mostly because of James Earl Jones dubbed over in Japanese and I couldn’t understand whatever jokes they were trying to make.

I wish I could get my money back.

Movie review: Eyes Wide Shut, by Stanley Kubrick

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Eyes Wide Shut

review by Duryea Edwards

A Morality Fable …

An Erotic Tale Of Lust And Its Consequences …

Played Out By Joe And Jane Average …

Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise) has just been placed in a bind by his wife asking the proverbial “Does this dress make me look too fat?” sort of question. While high, she has confessed to the fact that she has lusted for other men. Six months ago it was a handsome young navel officer at a vacation resort. Last night, it was a refined older gentleman who danced with her at a Christmas Party.

Since her inhibitions are already down, Alice (Nicole Kidman) is now demanding to know how Bill feels about all of this. What does he think about her confession of lust? How does he feel in his heart about other women? Does he lust for any of the attractive young women that his position as a doctor places him into contact with?

Bill has no idea of what to say, and even if he did it wouldn’t matter. All of this is new to him, but Alice has been letting the whole thing fester for the past few months. She’s mad as hell at herself, but she’s taking it all out on him. It doesn’t really matter what he says or tries to say. Nothing will be right. She’s looking for him be wrong, so he has to be wrong.

Their exchange of information is interrupted by Bill receiving a telephone call telling him that a patient of his has died. He needs to go provide some emotional support to the man’s daughter. He also needs to have some time to think about everything Alice has told him.

As the story continues to evolve, we see the universal struggle between the forces of temptation and propriety being played out. The idea of possibly cheating on his wife, which was firmly hidden in the back of Bill’s mind, has now been pulled up to the surface by her recent confession. Fate obliges the situation by placing in front of Bill a series of circumstances which an average man would not even dream of encountering within the course of an evening.

Director Stanley Kubrick has attempted to construct what is called a plausible improbability. One event must lead to another in a manner which is highly unlikely but ultimately entertaining. In a screwball comedy such as Arsenic and Old Lace or A Fish Called Wanda, the viewer watches the story expecting to give it a few grains of salt. But Eyes Wide Shut is intended to be an erotic character study laced with suspense. A set of events which should be taking at least seven hours to unfold cannot be shown happening in only four. As the storytellers attempt to cram what should be at least 60 hours of action and character growth into a time span of less than 36 hours, the basic nature of the story becomes less believable than it would have been if everything had been allowed to stretch into one more day. Bill simply can’t be in that many places doing that many things in such a short span of time.

I’ll give the film a solid three stars. Cruise and Kidman are excellent as Bill and Alice, and the wonderfully erotic nature of the story helps to overcome the inconsistencies in the plot timing. I have read that the untimely death of Kubrick made it necessary for someone else to complete the final cut of the film. I can only wonder if having his hand there at the very end would have made a significant difference in the pacing of the story.

Movie review: Atlantis: The Lost Empire, by Disney

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Disney’s Atlantis

reviewed by Carl Parlagreco

Short review: It sucks.

Long review: It’s weak, it’s poorly animated, the characters have no depth, and it holds no entertainment value for anybody that is even approaching puberty.

The animation is in a style that I have never seen before, and I hope to never see again.

The princess went from about apparent physical age 5 to about apparent physical age 21 in about 8000 years, and yet she was still arguing with her father like she was a child. She’s apparently been spending the last few centuries playing in the water and doing her nails. Not that being an airhead is such a bad thing for her. Apparently, the people that made it into the dome with her weren’t the society’s rocket scientists. (See the technology rant, below).

This advanced technological society never invented clappers for their bells.

Oh, yes, the really big one. They forgot how to use their technology. What the fuck was that all about? I mean, we’re not talking the knowledge was lost through the passing of generations. THESE WERE THE SAME PEOPLE! I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure that if I were stuck on an island somewhere for eight thousand years, I’d retain the basics of how to drive a car. I might be awfully rusty after all of that time, but I’m not going to lose it as much as these people did. And what did they do with themselves in all that time? Okay, maybe they couldn’t dig out right away. But hell, at the end of the movie, they sure sent their topsider heroes home in grand style. If my home gets buried, I’m going to want to dig out in a little bit less than EIGHT THOUSAND YEARS!

Do I have anything positive to say about it? Yes. I thought that the casting was wonderful. James Garner, Claudia Christian, and ‘Father Guido Sarducci’. Oh, did anybody notice that the demolition guy’s name was Santorini? I found that amusing. I liked the tie-in with the historical location.

Movie review: A.I, directed by Steven Spielberg

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

A.I.

reviewed by R’ykandar Korra’ti

Spoiler-free picoreview:
This movie, while excellent, is more depressing than the alternate version of Schindler’s List where the Germans win.

Spoiler-free comments list:
Stanley Kubrick apparently directed about half of this and built about half the sets, all from the grave, via his production notes. (It was originally a Kubrick project.) Sixth Sense wasn’t a fluke; Haley Joel Osment is astounding. Holy crow this movie is depressing. Don’t take your kids; if they don’t understand it, they’ll be bored to tears; if they do understand it, they’ll be locked into hysterical depression for about a YEAR. And did I mention this movie was depressing?

Book review: Tarot Fantastic, edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Lawrence Schimel

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Tarot Fantastic

Tarot Fantastic
ISBN 0886777291

review by Tracy Hite

I just finished reading a short story called “Solo in the Spotlight”, by George Alec Effinger. The main character, the President of the United States, has some crisis come up a few weeks into his first term. He’s not sure what to do, so a general tells him his office comes with an official Psychic Advisor, in this case a Tarot reader. Problem is, they’re on Air Force One and the Advisor left his cards back in Washington, so they end up using the First Daughter’s Barbie Tarot deck instead. The suits are handbags, shoes, earrings, and hairbrushes, and the Majors are specific dolls and accessories: a pink Corvette for the Chariot, Barbie Dream House for the Tower, the original blonde ponytail Barbie for the Fool, etc. As a Tarot reader and long-time Barbie fan, Mr. Effinger’s reasoning for the cards makes a lot of sense. (For those non-Barbie types, Solo in the Spotlight was a lounge singer Barbie in the 50’s.)

“Solo in the Spotlight” is just one of 15 great short stories (and one poem) in an anthology called Tarot Fantastic (DAW Books, 1997) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Lawrence Schimel. Some are funny, some serious, but the Tarot use throughout is VERY well thought out. If you are even remotely interested in Tarot, this book is highly recommended.

Book review: Orchid, by Jayne Castle

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Orchid

Orchid
by Jayne Castle
ISBN 0671569023

reviewed by Susan Baugh

ORCHID [author’s real name is Jayne Ann Krentz] is a Sapphire Award finalist for best Science Fiction Romance.

Of all the nominations, only this one grabbed me. I just finished reserving the other two in the series, AMARYLLIS and ZINNIA.

ORCHID is a strong mystery set on a colony planet in the future. It features a typical romance novel’s alpha male. Besides being handsome, rich, talented, and looking for a wife, this alpha male is likeable and sexy. The heroine is strong, likeable, talented and always seems to look slightly rumpled. Her day job is writing psychic vampire romances. I thought the idea that she was still a virgin in her society and at her age to be a little stretch of the imagination, but the society of New Seattle is believable. The characters are appealing, entertaining, and believable. Overall, this book is a good read for people who like soft science fiction or space opera [I recommend this title especially for people who don’t like the traditional romance novel, but like their science fiction with character development.]

Book review: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein

Webmaster’s note 1/16/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
by Robert A. Heinlein
ISBN 0312863551

reviewed by Ted Begley

There are certain books out there, that when we read them change us forever. In my case “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” was the first to change my worldview forever.

The story is of a one-armed computer tech, a lovely provocateur, an absent-minded professor and a sentient computer that is starved for attention. Mix these elements together, add an unjust way of life, a dictatorial ruler and place all of the above in a man-made cave in the Moon and you have one of the best novels ever written.

All in all, I found the characters to be rich and well rounded. The character of Mike (also known as the H.O.L.M.E.S. IV computer, Adam Selene, Simon Jester, etc.) is one of the best non-human characters that I have seen in a work of science fiction. Manuel Garcia O’Kelley Davis is perhaps the embodiment of a person caught up in events but not overwhelmed by them. Wyoming Knott adds the right blend of determination, stubbornness, and youthful innocence to this human drama. And last but hardly least is Professor Bernardo de la Paz, a grandfatherly old man who has the only real experience in dealing with the events of the story.

The base plot has all of these widely different characters forming an alliance to overthrow the tyrannical government of the Moon. The details of planning a revolution are so convincing that I would not only recommend this novel for entertainment but also as a guide for overthrowing a small country.

If you have an afternoon or two free I recommend checking this book out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Book review: A Civil Campaign, by Lois McMaster Bujold

Webmaster’s note 1/15/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

A Civil Campaign

A Civil Campaign
by Lois McMaster Bujold
ISBN 0671578278

reviewed by Sylvia Wendell

Miles is in love, and desperate to maneuver his beloved into marriage. Trouble is, he plans it as if it were a military campaign.

This latest chapter in Miles’ history is billed as “A Comedy of Biology and Manners” (Lois even dedicates it to “Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy”). It’s also a slapstick food fight and the laugh-out-loud funniest book she’s ever written.

It is set in the time period immediately after Komarr, and leading up to Emperor Gregor’s wedding. We meet some new characters I sincerely hope to see in future installments. We see Armsman Pym, up till now a walk-on, in fascinating new depth. And Ivan – Ivan! – finally begins to metamorphose into something beyond Miles’ Sancho Panza.

This book contains some of Lois’ finest writing ever. Her skill is of an order that never calls attention to itself. But more than ever, she includes passages of deep truth, dead-on descriptions, and perfect phrasing. Her characters grow and change during the course of the novel, and Lois always shows us rather than telling us.

So, all you Vorkosigonians, rush out and get this one immediately. For you who want an introduction to the series, start here. This one gets four stars out of four.

Book review: The John W. Campbell Letters, by Perry Chapdelaine Sr., Tony Chapdelaine and George Hay

Webmaster’s note 1/16/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

The John W. Campbell Lettrs

The John W. Campbell Letters
edited by Perry Chapdelaine Sr., Tony Chapdelaine and George Hay
Paperback, ISBN 0931150167

reviewed by Sylvia Wendell

RiverCon XXIII got hold of a big stack of books, copies of The John W. Campbell Letters, and handed them out as freebies to anyone who wanted them last year (1998). I hope you got one. It documents the ideas and wit of a remarkable man. Sorry – make that an “Astounding” man.

John Campbell was for many years the editor of “Astounding Science Fiction” (he later renamed it “Analog”), and he corresponded with every science fiction writer in the country, starting in the 1930’s and continuing until his death in 1971. Also every would-be writer, reader who wrote a letter of comment, scientists from whom he wanted an article for his magazine, scientists and friends and total strangers whom he wanted to consider seriously his latest outrageous theory …. As much time as he spent writing long, enthusiastic screeds, he somehow found time to put together every month the most popular sf magazine in the world, and the one that set the standard of quality.

Campbell was famous for suggesting story ideas to writers that ended up as classics in the field – Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics being perhaps the best known. And there are a lot of his ideas in this volume. Best of all though, for me, was the simple pleasure of meeting again, through Campbell’s letters, all my favorite authors. Over and over, I felt a shock of delights at reading Campbell’s comments on some favorite novel or story or character. Dune. Slow Glass. Telzey Amberdon. Everything is in here. A whole era came to life again for me.

Campbell loved a good, stimulating difference of opinion, and he loved to shake up people’s assumptions, make ’em think. A lot of his letters had two paragraphs of business, followed by several pages of witty, logical, forcefully argued lectures on almost any subject. Campbell’s discussions in the hard sciences were very knowledgeable, and often very technical. His excursions in the soft sciences, though, were sometimes spectacularly off-base, since he (and the sociologists and psychologists) knew less about the push and pull of human behavior. He was enthusiastic about Dianetics for years. (And Campbell says in one letter that it was he who suggested to Ron Hubbard that Dianetics “should be dropped as a psychotherapy, and reconstituted as a religion.”)

But in every letter, it’s evident that he wanted to understand everything under the sun. He eagerly challenged all his correspondents to either agree with him or persuade him he was wrong. His letters will alternately delight you and outrage you, but they will always stretch your mind. Reading his letters, collected in this volume, you can’t possibly go wrong.