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“Avatar”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Okay, so I finally got around to seeing Avatar. Ah, well… It was definitely… I think… You know what? Let’s come back to that. Avatar is the story of human beings doing what they do best, taking what they want. It’s the year 2154 and groups of people from Earth have traveled to the distant planet of Pandora to harvest a rare mineral called Unobtanium. Don’t worry. We’ll come back to that too. The only thing standing in the way of our obtaining the Unobtanium (God, even I want to punch me in the face.) is the natives of Pandora, called the Na’vi. They’re basically giant blue cat-monkeys. Sorry if anyone thinks that’s racist. I don’t want to aggravate you’re Pandora Blues Syndrome. We’ll get back to that as well. So, before the conflict started getting out of hand, the humans tried to negotiate with the Na’vi, by using Avatars. An Avatar is a bioengineered life form that is a mix of Na’vi DNA and the human controller’s DNA. It’s like virtual reality, but you’re not in a simulated computer system. Instead, your consciousness is uploaded into the Avatar body in the real world. When Jake Sully, a paraplegic war veteran, played by Sam Worthington, who’s twin brother is killed, the opportunity presents itself for Jake to step into his shoes… Well, metaphorically. Jake’s brother was set to work on the Avatar program, and since his DNA make-up matches that of his twin brother’s, Jake is able to operate his brother’s Avatar. Once in the Avatar program, Jake is met with the promise of getting his real legs back, if he would be willing to spy on the Na’vi for Colonel Miles Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang, and provide him with some inside information from behind the enemy lines. However, once on the inside, Jake finds himself questioning his loyalties, and will soon need to choose a side.

Well, okay. I guess I’ve got a few things to get back to here. First, it took James Cameron twelve years to make this movie, and I really find it hard to believe that in twelve years he couldn’t come up with something better than Unobtanium. I mean what the fuck! Are you kidding me?! You could have called it Shitanium, and even that would have been better than Unobtanium. James Cameron you’re better than that. I do have one request though James. Please do not pull a George Lucas, and make a new Terminator series that claims the Terminator’s exoskeleton is actually made of Unobtanium. That would be even more unforgivable than Titanic, which brings us to our next callback point, the Pandora Blues Syndrome. People are claiming to find themselves dealing with depression symptoms after seeing the film, because Pandora is not a real place. I’m not even going to touch that. Let’s move on.

I didn’t really care for this movie. Let me clarify, I didn’t find myself getting emerged in this world at all. When you see a movie like this, like Jurassic Park or Harry Potter, I think it’s really important to care about the world the film is trying to sell you on. At no point during Avatar, did I find myself immersed or excited to be experiencing this world, and in 3-D no less. Don’t get me wrong, the world of Pandora in Avatar is well imagined, but there’s just something missing that I can’t put my finger on. Once again, I have to point out that this movie took twelve years to make! In this day and age, I think we are just not as easily impressed with ground breaking effects these days. In the last decade, we’ve seen so many amazing leaps in special effects, and it’s hard to see what took twelve years to achieve in this film. It’s the kind of thing where you really need to see the behind the scenes footage to fully appreciate what they’ve done.

With that said, let’s talk about the story. Did you ever see Dances with Wolves? Great! So, we’ve talked about the story. I’m not kidding; this is Dances with Wolves in space. I understand that every story has been told before, but come on! It’s really hard to enjoy a movie when you don’t care about the world you are in, and you know every twist and turn of the story, because you’ve heard it before. Avatar is so not the best picture of the year! I can’t believe it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama. It shouldn’t even be in that category. It’s more of an animated film than anything else. I would say 80% of it is CGI generated. With all that said, I think it’s an okay movie. At no point did I want to stop watching it, I just wished I could have enjoyed it more.

Rating:


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Doctor Who – BBC Books Collection 1
a review by Darby O’Gill

BBC Books release three new Doctor Who books at a time. Therefore, I will be reviewing them in sets of three, and labeling them as collections. These are really nice books. They are small hard covers, kind of like the old Hardy Boys books from when we were kids. The size is perfect. Just a little bigger than a normal paperback, so you can easily take these books with you on the go; and the hard cover makes them really durable.


“The Clockwise Man”
by Justin Richards

The book opens as so many Doctor Who stories do, with the 9th Doctor and Rose arriving in 1924 London, with plans of visiting the British Empire Exhibition. But of course, the second they step out of the TARDIS they are instantly sucked into a series of strange events and mysteries that only the Doctor and Rose could possibly solve. Ultimately saving the world, yet again. Although unlike most Doctor Who stories, the Doctor and Rose do in fact make it to the British Empire Exhibition before trips end. Well how about that!

This book has a little bit of everything; conspiracies, revolutions, exiled dictators, bloodlines, black cats, and a painted lady and her mechanical Clockwise Men. Author Justin Richards does a good job of capturing the voice of the characters, which I feel is really important when writing a book based on characters, when the reader already knows the way they speak. More notably, Richards makes sure that you hear the 9th Doctor’s voice clearly. You can really tell that this is Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. Actually, that can be said for all three of the books in this set.

The story keeps moving, but at times can seem a little slow. Overall the pace is good. At no point did I put the book aside and move on to something else for awhile, which is really saying something, because my ADD usually has a tendency of getting the better of me. I don’t think any of the twists and turns are going to fool you, but it’s an entertaining read none the less. Now, some Doctor Who fans don’t like to read the books because of continuity problems. I don’t really have a problem with this, because it doesn’t happen very often, and I also enjoy reading new stories to fill the time waiting for the next season of Doctor Who to air. It’s also nice to have some more stories with the 9th Doctor after only having thirteen episodes with him. However, there is a continuity issue in this book. Rose does come in contact with Clockwise Men in the book, but will meet them for the first time on the show with the 10th Doctor in the second season. Really not a big deal, but maybe for some. A moment that might possibly make-up for that slight continuity problem, is a scene in which Rose has a conversation with one of the servants in the Imperial Club, and the girl makes her think of Gwyneth, who appeared in the season one episode, “The Unquiet Dead.” Here’s a quick fun fact about that episode, the part of Gwyneth, was played by Eve Myles, who would later go on to play, Gwen Cooper on Torchwood. Sorry, back to the book review. The climax of the book in the clock tower of Big Ben is fantastic. I think the greatest part of this book is that it really manages to give you that sense of time and place, the way only Doctor Who can.

Rating:

3 Little People


“The Monster Inside”
by Stephen Cole

To be honest, when I read the description on the back of this book, I really wasn’t looking forward to this story. But, I’m really glad to say I couldn’t have been more wrong. The TARDIS gets forced to land on Justicia, a prison system consisting of over six planets. The 9th Doctor and Rose are instantly split-up as they are sent to different prison planets. A human prison for Rose, and a labor camp for highly intelligent aliens, for the Doctor. This is the part I thought I was going to have a problem with. The thought of the Doctor and Rose being separated from each other for the whole book, just instantly turned me off. But you know what? Stephen Cole does a fantastic job of going back and forth between the Doctor and Rose. I also enjoyed the way he chose to intertwine the two stories, and have each of their prisons hold different pieces to the puzzle.

This story marks Rose’s first trip to an alien plant. Although, it doesn’t seem so alien at first, maybe more like a scene out of Stargate. Upon their arrival, the Doctor and Rose ascend a hillside to find what seem to be slaves building a pyramid, but turns out to be more like a Justicia chain gang.

I think it’s great that Cole chose to isolate Rose from the Doctor on her first trip off world. It really gave Rose’s character a sense of fear. Not only was she in prison, but she was on a whole other planet. She has no idea what has happened to the Doctor or whether he’ll ever be able to find her again. I really like this concept. What would you do if you got separated from the person that you traveled though time and space with, and thought you would have to spend the rest of your life on an alien planet, in prison no less?  I’ve got to say, for a book I didn’t even want to read, this is a real fun read.

While in the Justicia prison system the Doctor and Rose once again find themselves dealing with the Slitheen. This might not mean anything to you if you’re not a Doctor Who fan, but we find out in this book that the Slitheens are not the only family on the block of Raxacoricofallapatorian. We meet their arch rivals/cousins the Blathereen for the first time.

Now, this isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it is definitely the best out of these three. If anything this book is just one more reason to not judge a book by its cover, or dust jacket in this case.

Rating:

4 Little People


“Winner Takes All”
by Jacqueline Rayner

In the final book of this set, the 9th Doctor and Rose return to present day London, to visit Rose’s mum Jackie, only to quickly learn of this new marketing campaign that’s sweeping the nation. People are randomly winning video gaming systems with the game “Death to the Mantodeans,” or all expense paid holidays to an exotic resort, just for buying the things they already need at their local shops. One scratch-off ticket for every item you buy, making it virtually imposable not to win. The Doctor, not liking the concept of something for nothing, enlists Mickey Smith, Rose’s former boyfriend, to help get to the bottom of things. I got to tell you this was not one of my favorites. There is not one single original idea in this entire book, from The Last Starfighter, to Harry Potter, even upcoming movies like Gamer, and Surrogates (more on those later this year). This story just doesn’t make you really care about what’s going on. That’s truly not a good thing, when you’re talking about a Doctor Who storyline. Also, I don’t know which was written first, but this exact same story appears in one of the season one episodes of The Sara Jane Adventures. But even so, it’s still a really lame storyline. I mean the evil aliens, the Quevvils, are gait porcupines. They don’t just kind of look like porcupines, they are literally giant porcupines! It’s really disappointing because the first two books in this set were so good. I really did have high hopes for this one. However, I’ve got to say it didn’t effect the readably of this book. Even though I wasn’t into the storyline, it was still a rather quick read. Jacqueline Rayner writes a few more books in this series and I hope the next one is better. Her writing style and technique are good; I just think this story structure could have been much better.

Rating:

1 Little People