Why ‘Cloud Atlas’ is no ‘Magnolia’

MJG and how to fix it, Book / Movie Reviews 16 Comments

Cloud Atlas is not a normal movie. It’s epic, glorious, ambitious, complex, etc, but as you’ll have surely heard from other reviews, it’s not a normal movie at all. Rather, it’s a kind of sprawling poem, in film, that ruminates on weighty issues like the ‘natural order’ behind slavery, and the revolutionary forces that rise up against it. Over nearly 3 hours, it tries to blur 6 stories together, cross-cut over time and space, from 1849 on a South Pacific island to Neo Seoul in 2321, aiming for a climactic coda similar to Magnolia’s crowning ‘rain of frogs’. But in …

Why Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash’ needs rebooting

MJG and how to fix it, Book / Movie Reviews 5 Comments

Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash is a blistering assault of techno-punk babble, metaphoric memetic conspiracy theory, and hubristically confident authorial voice, half-baked into a bun so undercooked it’ll likely stodge up your wind-pipe and throttle you. But also- brilliantly ambitious, stunningly complex, exciting, hilarious, and (still) so razor-cool you’re likely to embolize your brain on its bleeding edge. Let’s try to square that circle. Snow Crash was Stephenson’s 1992 breakout sf debut, which catapulted him straight to stratospheric comparisons with William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, such was its hip density. To its supporters, it predicted a virtual internet …

Why the ‘Hunger Games’ was too calorie-lite

MJG and how to fix it 13 Comments

I found the Hunger Games movie to be kind of disappointing. While I was watching it my mind wandered. I wondered how much time was left, and when we would get to the good stuff, only to realize the ‘good stuff’ had already happened. So why was this? Why did the movie fail to really engage me, while the book had me gripped? I think it’s largely down to two reason. ** SPOILERS ** Both halves of the movie are off, in different ways. In the first half we see Katniss’ world of District 12, which should set the life …

Why ‘Prometheus’ failed to deliver fire

MJG and how to fix it 5 Comments

Prometheus was the titan who brought fire to humanity, kick-starting our ascent to civilization, for which he was punished with an endless fate of stomach-bursting (thanks to a liver-hungry eagle). There are clear parallels to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, a story of genetic ‘fire’ disseminated on Earth by a god-like super-tech alien, who dies a hideous death for the privilege (with some delightful stomach-bursting to come later). Prometheus the movie is massively ambitious, with stunning atmosphere, effects, and scope, though it does not really deliver on its premise. There are serious problems with editing and structure, as Scott seeks to stitch …

Why Pixar’s ‘Brave’ missed bullseye

MJG and how to fix it 10 Comments

There’s something wrong with Pixar’s Brave. It’s not anything to do with the acting, the animation (which is pretty stunning, especially around Merida’s fluffy hair), or even the surface level script. The problem is deeper, in the structural bones of the story, and I’ll tell you why, with SPOILERS abounding. First off, what is Brave? It is a classic-style, though (to my knowledge) brand new fairy-tale. It features a teenage princess, who doesn’t want to do what her very nice mother expects her to do (get married for the sake of her Scottish highland Kingdom), so by happenstance takes action …

Korean Story BOX

MJG Book / Movie Reviews 17 Comments

My wife Su Young Lee (we got married last month) has just published her first book. It is pretty unlikely the audience of this blog will read it, but it’s still such a great accomplishment that I can’t not crow about it. The title is- 韓国語ストーリーボクス -Korean Story BOX, and it’s basically a mid-level fun textbook for Japanese students interested in learning Korean, filled with all kinds of insider insights on Korean culture- such as the lowdown on face lotion BB Cream (I hear it’s very popular with Japanese ladies), how Japanese are loath to schedule social engagements on a …

Why ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ only whimpered at a distance

MJG and how to fix it 25 Comments

I went into this movie with a great deal of anticipation after being wowed by the trailer; a lean and emotionally charged montage of a young boy’s epic journey around New York, set to the pulse-thumping, heart-string twanging strains of U2’s ‘Where the Streets have No Name’. Even from that trailer alone I was getting choked up. The very notion of it, this hopeless but hopeful quest, the urgency the boy addresses it with, the uniting of all these various people through loss and the promise of regrowth- seemed a no-fail winner. But it failed. I’ll explain why shortly. Extremely …

Why Pathfinder lost its way – book review

MJG Reviews, Science Fiction

★★ Orson Scott Card’s books vary enormously in quality- when he’s good he’s genius; tying intricate plotting with fascinating inner monologues, cumulative story development, and a real sense of threat (a la Pastwatch, early Alvin Maker, early Ender and Bean), but when he’s bad he’s atrocious; padding his ‘stories’ with bantery filler, gross over-explanation, and a distasteful kind of sexualized potty humour. Ugh. His latest fantasy/sf novel ‘Pathfinder‘ falls into both camps, though not in equal measure. In short, it was disappointing. Pathfinder tells the story of Rigg, a boy with the ability to see the paths of all living …

Why Haruki Murakami’s ‘1Q84’ is all Q and no A

MJG and how to fix it 10 Comments

For years now I’ve been waiting to read Haruki Murakami’s latest magnum opus 1Q84. It was released in Japan two years ago, it came out in Korean a year back (when SY read it), and now it’s finally come out in English- one massive tome 900 pages long, some 400,000 words in length, comprised of three books, which I’ve spent the last few weeks plowing through. And, it’s kind of genius. With some very long stretches that suck. I’ll qualify that in a minute. First I’ll tell you what it’s all about. There’s a boy and a girl, Tengo the …

Why Cars 2 sucked.

MJG Book / Movie Reviews 1 Comment

Recently I saw a photograph of utter Thanksgiving Day excess: a duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey, slit down through the breast so the meats looked like various layers of sedimentary rock. It was gross, a perversion of the form that you would not want on your dinner table- and it made me think of Cars 2. Cars 2 picks up with the duck; an over-boiled 007 pastiche spy tale forced up the tail-pipe of a hick-in-the-city yarn (sidekick Tow-mater), which is then rammed up the tail-pipe of the original turkey- a sweet kids story about Lightning …