Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Moon

Moon. Directed by Duncan Jones & Written by Nathan Parker.

: There are few movies I love more than Sci-Fi movies (Sci-Fi the genre, not to be confused with SyFy Network Original movies. Heh. SyFy, indeed). Horror movies are one, but they continue to throw me down stairs and promise they've changed. I'd seen very little regarding Moon except the uninformative, mysterious trailers. A few people who know what's what told me it was worth checking out. Being the hard nosed, cynical, non-journalist I am, that's all it took (well that and Netflix).

General Review
: Well, Moon leaves me in a bit of a predicament. To talk about much of the plot really gives the main conceit of the movie away (read: I'm going to be even vaguer than usual. Only the general-est of generalities here, folks).

Firstly, let me say that I have been terribly confused about Sam Rockwell (the main character). Here is a typical conversation with me about Sam Rockwell:

Friend: "Oh goody, Sam Rockwell is in this!"

Me: "Who?"

Friend: "Y'know he was the main guy in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind."

Me: "Oh, I didn't see that."

Friend: "YES YOU DID. He's the game show host."

Me: "Nope, who's he?"
Friend: "Ugh. Yes you did. But he was also Zaphod in the new Hitchhiker's Guide Movie."

Me: "Who?"

Yeah. I'm a bit of a dullard about Sam Rockwell. He's one of those character actors that leaves me utterly convinced that he doesn't exist and I've never seen him in anything (I've seen him in SO MANY THINGS). I think his performance in Moon is finally going to make him stick in my memory. It was so good that it has fixed my minor brain damage.

But in my addled raving about Sam Rockwell, I don't want to ignore Kevin Spacey. I can say without ruining anything, that he plays the computer/robot that runs the station that Sam Rockwell is on. What a great choice for a too calm computer voice.

Okay, that's FAR too much talk about the actors (Alfred Hitchcock would be disappointed in me). Lets talk about the movie. It reminded me of an old school Arthur C. Clarke short story. It had that ability of the old Sci-Fi to set up really intricate worlds and themes in a very short amount of time. The brief intro set up everything you need to know about the universe you're in and the way things work there. You aren't STILL being spoon fed why the character is on the moon an hour into the movie (I'm looking at YOU Solaris from 2002 with George Clooney). We get the premise right away and can move right along to stuff happening on the moon.

It's a story that's grand in scope but not grand in sets or cast size. This movie is BARELY a two hander (two people on stage, not a sex act, not this time anyways). There are a few kinda lavish moon sets, but most of the movie takes place in the moon base itself, which is just a couple of rooms. But despite there being not many characters or places, you get that feeling of being stuck in space. The feeling that you are somewhere that's huge but still manages to be cramped. And, of course, the loneliness (though...y'know, not having many character kinda helps with that).

But despite being a small set, small cast movie, the pacing is really really good. Part of this is Spacey and Rockwell keeping your attention by bringing the acting skills, but a lot of it is the strong directing and screenplay. It is tightly scripted and edited. Very little fat to be found anywhere (well, I did find that we were staring right at Rockwell's bum for a good portion of the movie, but other than that...) (Heh, a bum staring two hander. I am a grown up).

It is easily the best Sci-Fi movie I've seen in years. Shoo shoo, stop reading now and go rent it.

Random Thoughts: As an aside, this movie made me think a lot of Mystery Science Theater. Just like Joel Robinson and Mike Nelson, Sam Rockwell had to keep his sanity with the help of his robot friends. Though admittedly, Sam isn't in a Satellite of Love. Sam Rockwell actually reminded me a bit of Joel, and not just for his hinder.

Watching Moon made me go back and enjoy some MST3K, but it also made me check out Silent Running (the 70's Sci-Fi that a lot of the MST3K premise was based on). I'm not going to write a whole review for it but...DON'T BE TRICKED LIKE I WAS. It was endless, unlikable hippie nonsense. With cute robots.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey

Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey
ISBN: 0-765-34429-7


Once upon a time, the Seven Shapers dwelled in accord and Shaped the world to their will. But Satoris, the youngest among them, was deemed too generous in his gifts to the race of Men, and so began the Shaper’s War, which Sundered the world. Now six of the Shapers lay to one end of a vast ocean, and Satoris to the other, reviled by even the race of Men.

Satoris sits in his Darkhaven, surrounded by his allies. Chief among them is Tanaros Blacksword, immortal Commander General of his army. Once a mortal man who was betrayed by King and Wife. Tanaros fled to Darkhaven a thousand years ago, and in Satoris’ service has redeemed his honor – but left his humanity behind.

Now there is a new prophecy that tells of Satoris’ destruction and the redemption of the world. To thwart it, Satoris sends Tanaros to capture the Lady of the Ellylon, the beautiful Cerelinde, to prevent her alliance with the last High King of Men.

But Tanaros discovers that not all of his heart has been lost – and his feelings for Cerelinde could doom Satoris, but save the race of Men…


My Thoughts:

This novel is part one of two, so be prepared to read a review of the second one in the not-too-distant future as well.

Some of you may be familiar with Carey’s Kushiel books, but I feel that Banewreaker and its sequel Godslayer don’t get as much attention as her other work and what we here at Girl on Book Action like to do is point you in the direction of things you may not know about (rather than catering only to my literary whims).

As usual, let me start with whatever gripes I had while reading. I appreciate a good descriptive passage as much as the next girl (or guy) but what I don’t appreciate is when the same descriptions happen over and over. I think the phrase “it smelled like blood only sweeter” occurred every single time Satoris was in a scene, given that he is a fairly central player, he had quite a few scenes. I don’t know about the average reader, but I can remember that descriptive detail for the whole book. Mentioning it a few times might be acceptable in order to underline atmosphere or a specific trait, but that’s still not pointing it out every time the guy walks in the room. There were a few other repetitive descriptions, but that one was the most noticeable to me.

Parts of this story made me think of Lord of the Rings and I think that is intentional. You have the group of heroes setting out on a quest to vanquish evil with the help of a hidden weapon. You have the dark lord threatening the status quo. You have a possible union between the immortal Ellylon and a mortal Man. You have the armies amassing on both sides and jostling for more alliances, and so on.

And then you have the twist – seeing the story from both sides, and coming to understand that Satoris is not evil and that he’s not willfully trying to destroy anything, regardless of his role in the Sundering. I like that about the story, especially having read some fantasy novels that are basically just a re-telling of Lord of the Rings. When I first got to the parts that evoke the patterns set in Tolkien’s book I was worried that this would just be another attempt to tell that same old quest-narrative, which means I was pleasantly surprised at Carey’s use of point of view to portray not just the side of the “heroes,” but also the "villains" which complicates our relationship with the story.

I didn’t have any problems with the characters. All of them are “real” with flaws and strengths. I liked especially the way that they confront uncertainty and try to cling to what they believe when confronted with a different version of reality. I will admit that the narrative about the heroes was still largely boring (to me) and I wished for the ability to skip ahead through them the way I skip all the bits about Frodo and Sam in the LotR movies so I can watch battles instead.

Overall, I have to say that this is a mid-grade fantasy book. As far as depth and sensuality go it's no match for some of Carey's other works, nor will it necessarily compare to a Robin Hobb or Katharine Kerr, but it has its merits. I would also suggest that if you're interested in Jacqueline Carey's writing, but aren't into the Kushiel books due to the sexual content you could give this set a go. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing how things work out in the second part. I’m curious to see which alliances hold up and which ones falter and how Carey handles the end of what amounts to an interesting response to the Lord of the Rings inspired quest-narrative.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Up in the Air

Up in the Air. Directed by Jason Reitman. Written by Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner.

: Ewww. An Oscar nominated romantic comedy? So that means it's going to be:

a. A romantic comedy of any kind (strike one).

b. An hour too long (strike two).

c. Have the jerky main character learn his lesson (strike three).

Why did I watch a movie I was so probably going to hate, you may ask. Well, I've enjoyed Jason Reitman's career immensely so far. By all reckoning I should have hated Juno...a lot, but I found it to be delightful. Reitman has earned some serious points with me. At this point I'm willing to be a puppy dog at his heels (well as far as checking out his movies goes, though he is pretty cute).

General Review
: So, once more I'm reviewing something a bit more than a few weeks too late. I'm going to justify myself by saying that this just came out on DVD recently. And it's a DVD well worth picking up.

Just about every time I started to groan "oh they're going to pull
that on me, are they?" I was proven wrong. It played with a lot of the conventions I've come to expect and despise. I spent most of the movie pleasantly surprised and genuinely not knowing how it was going to turn out.

It was a little longer than I think it needed to be, but not by a whole lot. With the exception of maybe needing to shave a bit of the second act the movie was very tight. And, unlike most romantic comedies I've seen, Up in the Air was actually funny. The characters were amusing and so were the cut aways to people's reaction to being fired.

My only real complaint is that Anna Kendrick's character petered out in the third act. She was quite a strong presence in the rest of it and then she's suddenly gone. There are a few bits about her in the deleted scenes, but even with them, it felt like the writer had suddenly gotten bored with her. Ehhh, and then she went away.

I think Jason Bateman has found quite a good niche in working with Reitman. And while I'm often not a huge George Clooney fan, when he's paired with a solid director (like when he works for the Cohen Brothers) I take back all the unkind things I've said about him.
I hope they both remain in Reitman's stable. I assumed since his character started off as an isolated jerk I'd like him for the first half of the movie and then grow less and less interested as he became a better person. This was not the case at all. And some of this was the strong writing, yes, but some of it was also Clooney.

Despite the many strikes against it (I wonder when Oscar movies started being ones I was certain I wouldn't like?) Up in the Air was worth seeing. It is joining, the few, the proud, the less than ten romantic comedies I actually enjoyed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Whitechapel Gods by S. M. Peters

Whitechapel Gods by S. M. Peters
ISBN: 978-0-451-46193-3


In Victorian London, the Whitechapel section has been cut off, enclosed by an impassable wall, and is now ruled by two mysterious mechanical gods. Mama Engine is the goddess of sentiment, a mother to her believers. Grandfather Clock represents logic and precision.

A few years have passed since the Uprising, when humans fought the gold cloaks, the black cloaks, and even the vicious Boiler Men, the brutal police force responsible for keeping humans in check. Today, Whitechapel is a mechanized, steam-driven hell. But a few brave veterans of the Uprising have formed a new resistance, and they are gathering for another attack. For now they have a secret weapon that may finally free them…or kill them.


My Thoughts:

More steampunk, more wonderful Victorian fun, but no zombies in this one. The mechanical creations were, I have to admit, almost better than zombies, because they were at least sort of sentient. Or maybe sentient is the wrong word – most of them didn’t feel pain and didn’t have much of what we would call willpower, but they weren’t falling to little pieces and rotting away the way zombies do.

I really enjoyed the plot; the two gods were well-portrayed and appropriately powerful. I really liked the yin-yang balance struck between the two and the way that people were caught in-between. And yet, the two gods didn’t really have a proper relationship either. They were each other’s opposite but did not really communicate with each other. It was a very interesting mythology, if you ask me.

And what about the characters? They were okay – the only female character didn’t really do a whole lot for me, since she was a little unhinged and nothing more than a pawn in some instances. She was almost likeable, but then fell just short of actually being likeable (I mean as an example of a strong woman, you must remember that I’m a feminist above all things). The other characters were all intriguing individuals with quirks and flaws. None of them were one-dimensional although I might not go so far as to say that they were all three-dimensional. At any rate, aside from the singular female character I didn't feel like the characters needed to be more nuanced. Ultimately, I think I may have liked the villains best – and I’m not sure I know why. I guess the vehemence of their convictions and the depravity of their spirits was more interesting to me than the more righteous motivations of the heroes. I was never much for heroes anyway, at least with a villain you know you’re likely to be sacrificed along the way; heroes insist that everything is going to work out fine regardless of the odds and they’re all too often wrong. Anyway, that’s nearly off-topic, though it does speak an underlying theme of this novel, since there are some clear villains and heroes with all of the traits associated with the two archetypes.

Something that sort of bothered me (and you knew that I had to come up with something to complain about) was that there is no perspective from outside Whitechapel. I think that having a character that was not inside the hell created by the two warring machine gods would have added a certain amount of depth to the book. The story works without this added point of view, but personally, I would have preferred to have a different setting in order to appreciate the isolation and devastation of Whitechapel a little more. It’s easier to see something as horrible if you have something less horrible to compare it to, although you might argue that our imaginations are meant to supply the comparison. However, I think that when you're creating a world so different from our own there is a certain need to supply as much assistance as possible to help the reader along. Immersion in the alternate universe would have been more complete for me if I had seen Whitechapel from the outside as well as from the inside.

The last thing I want to say has less to do with this novel specifically and is more a touch of concern about the steampunk genre. Having read all of two steampunk novels I begin to wonder how much mileage these plots about steam-powered machines and strange alternate histories have in the greater scheme of things. How many different ways can you sell me the same ideas? It’s likely that my worry is groundless – I mean, Whitechapel Gods is very different from Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker – and yet there is a nagging little voice in the back of my head warning me that I may just end up reading the same thing over and over if I stick with steampunk. I know what you're thinking "But don't you read plenty of other genre books that are just repeats of similar ideas and tropes?" And you would be right to question me on this basis. Perhaps I'm just wary of fully committing myself to jumping onto the steampunk bandwagon. I guess the only way to find out is to read more. I’ll keep you posted on the status of my ponderings on steampunk as time goes by.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Shutter Island

Shutter Island. Written by Laeta Kalogridis & directed by Martin Scorsese.

: I'm not going to lie to you, readers (well, I'm not going to lie to you about
this). I am not a Martin Scorsese fan. Now, I did like Goodfellas, the new Cape Fear (Rise of the Fear) and to a lesser extent Casino. But I think most of his movies would really benefit from being axed down by at least thirty minutes. I'm sure the Departed would have been an excellent hour and a half movie. As it is, I'm pretty sure it's still playing on my DVD machine (Day 64: Further Betrayal Has Occurred).

While the idea of a movie about a scary insane asylum (basically Arkham Asylum on an Island) is pretty cool, I wasn't sure I wanted to sit through another 30 hour opus. Also: The trailers made it look like the asylum might be haunted and I thought it would be cool to see him do something supernatural.

General Review
: So...I thought there were going to be ghosts in this. Or the hints of ghosts. I may be an idiot for thinking this and the rest of the world might have gone into this move expecting a completely natural thriller. Just in case I'm not the only Gullible Gwen out there: there aren't any ghosts.

Despite being completely lacking in ghosts, this is the best Scorsase film I've seen since getting out of High School. It may have suffered from being a bit too long, but only a bit. Mostly, I was content to let him lead me around by the nose for a couple of hours. I didn't feel like tons of the movie was rehash. Or, even worse, padding to make it too long to be a run of the mill genre film. That being said, there were a couple of plots running simultaneously with the main plot. In a lot of ways I felt like the WW2 one was a bit extraneous. The main character had enough going on without peppering this in.

I enjoyed the dream sequences (trust me, enjoying them is important since they make up a ton of the movie). However, they weren't particularly dreamlike. They were too lucid and linear for me to buy as actual dreams, but I liked them as movie dreams.

The setting was great. It was barren, isolated and generally craggy. I bought that our heroes have to fight against the island itself as well as the people on it. The asylum itself, as well as being a daunting set, had some neat bits that reminded me of Escher and Vertigo.

I didn't have any real opinion of Leonardo DiCaprio going into this. I've seen him do some neat stuff and I've seen him do some flat stuff (and I refuse to hold Titanic against him, there was simply no way I was going to enjoy that movie. It wasn't his fault.). His performance in this just continued this record. I was right impressed in some places and bored in others.

And I'm hardly an expert but there were definitely times where I thought the Boston accent should have been toned down a bit. As a West Coast Canadian (sor-ree) I honestly couldn't say if it was accurate or not, but when he put it on thick it was jarring as all get out (or oot). I'm a sucker for Ben Kingsley and refuse to be held accountable for judging him fairly.

I didn't go and see this with any die hard Scorsese fans, so I couldn't say what their reactions might be. But as just a regular movie goer, I dug it. Shutter Island was genuinely suspenseful and didn't give me time to start getting bored with the mystery.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
ISBN: 978-0-446-69616-6


Shori is a mystery. Found alone in the woods, she appears to be a little black girl with traumatic amnesia and near-fatal wounds. But Shori is a fifty-three-year-old vampire with a ravenous hunger for blood, the lost child of an ancient species of near-immortals who live in dark symbiosis with humanity. Genetically modified to be able to walk in daylight, Shori now becomes the target of a vast plot to destroy her and her kind. And in the final apocalyptic battle, her survival will depend on whether all humans are bigots – or all bigots are human…


Introduction: If you don't know yet, vampires are kind of my "thing." I'm currently in the early stages of writing my Masters thesis on vampires, so I have done some research and put some thought into the nature of the vampire myth and its portrayal in different movies and books. Basically, what I'm telling you here is that I'm on the brink of being an expert on the subject. Now, let me actually review this book.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes the back-cover blurbs are really misleading with regard to what a book is actually about. There is no apocalyptic battle in this novel, but there are plenty of other wonderful, terrible events, but I guess an “apocalyptic battle” sounds better.

As most of you know this book was chosen in last month’s reader’s choice poll and thus gets a bit of priority with getting read and posted (believe it or not I have a bit of a back-log built up!). Anyway…

This novel was a pleasant surprise in terms of vampire fiction. These vampires don’t kill people to feed and their reasons for doing so made sense and they had no such cute catch-phrases as “We’re vegetarians.” The history of the vampire-clans made sense and their culture was fascinating. When the book ended I really wanted to learn more about the Ina (which is what the vampires refer to themselves as) and their history and customs. The re-working of the myth made the vampires believable and added a level of realism. Overall, the story left me wanting more of everything – more of what happens to Shori, more of the Ina, more of the relationships between Shori and her symbionts, simply more. I wish more authors who decide to write about vampires would truly add a new element to the myth with their work and I don't mean making the vampires sparkle in the sun. I mean possible new levels of social criticism, which were addressed in parts of this book with regards to racism, genetic engineering and the legal system. But I would also settle for new levels of terror, because I still believe that if vampires are portrayed as evil in a book they should be scary (but that doesn’t apply to this book at all).

I have two complaints about this book – one related to the narrative and one that’s more of an editorial issue. Lets start with the latter: there were a lot of typos and yes, I know, this is a pet-peeve of mine, but when the word “that” is used instead of “than” enough times that I’m itching to get out a pencil to make corrections it’s a real problem.

The narrative problem is more difficult for me to pin down. It just felt like there was something missing and I’m not sure I know what. I enjoyed the characters, the story, the relationships, the mythology, but somehow it didn’t quite feel…complete to me. Maybe it was that mentally Shori is an adult, but physically she is a child and so all the moments that were meant to be sensual felt a little bit uncomfortable and creepy to me. Or maybe the first person narrative left too much out since the narrator, Shori, has amnesia. It might also just be that I didn’t want the book to end when it did and wanted to see what would happen next. All of those seem like valid possibilities, but I don’t know if it’s just one of those, or a combination of all of them that left me feeling like something was absent from the story.

So my overall point is that I enjoyed this novel and I think it does some really interesting things with the vampire myth. In the long run, this will be a novel that I will re-visit due to its originality and its sensitivity. And chances are I’ll be picking up other novels written by Octavia E. Butler in the future.

Postscript: I know some of you are probably expecting a new poll now that I've reviewed the previous poll's winner, but you won't find one this week. I'm going to be really busy in the next little while, so I'm postponing the next poll for a little while. Rest assured that there will be another poll in a few weeks when things have settled down again.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Weeks Too Late: House of the Devil

House of the Devil. Written & Directed by Ti West.

Preconceptions: Wee! I was pumped when this movie finally came out on DVD. This review is more than a few weeks too late to be relevant, but I missed the very limited screenings. House of the Devil is set in the 1980's and is supposed to look like one of those great 70's-80's Satanic horror movies. I loved this type of movie growing up and the idea of seeing a new one written with modern sensibilities and technology was exciting.

General Review: Dammit horror movies, why do I keep letting you hit me? I keep getting worked up about movies that look neat and scary and I end up with blue ovaries. All I wanted was a stylized movie about Satanists and this just wasn't delivered.

What was delivered, you ask? Well. A whole lot of prancing around a house (admittedly a very cool looking scary house that I want to live in). The movie might as well have been called House of Hanging Out. I kept telling myself it was to build suspense. I told myself this for nearly an hour. I felt very little suspense and very much bored. The movie drags along for the first hour and ten minutes, has a brief 15 minutes of action (mostly running around the house rather than prancing). This is followed by an epilogue that is supposed to be a big dramatic crescendo of score and a reveal, but is as flat as day old pop.

I will give this movie a few brief bits of praise. There was almost no running around in forests bleeding. I thought the movie was going to be ALL running around in forests bleeding, so this was a pleasant surprise. While Ti West can't seem to write something I care about he really did capture the look of the 80's horror movies. Those of you who, like me, spent their childhood renting every movie down the horror isle will really appreciate the choice of shots and filters (oh and actors, the gals in this looked perfect).

Random Thoughts: While discussing the lack of Satan (or even Stan) in this movie with Matt (one of my movie going companions) he commented: More Devil! More Paranormal Activity! More Tom Waits. I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Girl on Book Action: The Magic of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

The Magic of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
ISBN: 0-812-50518-2


For centuries, the Masters of Recluce have guarded the borders of their Order-wrought land and destroyed every threat sent against them. But the power that defends the people of Recluce comes at a cost: absolute obedience to both the Masters and the rule of Order. And those who cannot abide the price of paradise are swiftly dealt with ...So when a young man, Lerris, becomes bored with the simple, orderly life of Recluce, he is sent into exile. For Lerris it is a chance for adventure, for the Masters it is a way to make him see the error of his ways. But there are other powers in the world than Order. And when the great Chaos-Master Antonin learns of Lerris' exile he sees in it a way to break the Master's rule and bring about the destruction of Recluce ...


My Thoughts:

I think at this point we all know that I really like fantasy novels, a lot. Let me now add that I like fantasy novels that are part of long series – the Katharine Kerr books I like are part of a 16-part series; I’ve made some forays into the Wheel of Time books; Robin Hobb writes mostly in trilogies, but the first three connect together to make a nine book story-arc. Bearing all that in mind, Wren lent me this novel, the first part of a 14-book series.

As an opener, it’s pretty good and the important thing is that it made me want to read more about this world and these characters. I mean, there were a couple of small problems. The focus on writing out sounds, especially the rain and the wind and the pony sounds got old fast. I really don’t care about the pony neighing or whickering or whatever it is ponies do. If it was done from time to time to add atmosphere or just an extra sensory element, it would have been alright, but it was done so frequently that it started to annoy me.

For a younger protagonist I have to say that Lerris wasn’t annoying. Sometimes teenage protagonists start to get on my nerves, because they are young, naive and whiny, but I had none of these issues with this book. The emotions he feels make sense and I was frustrated when he was frustrated, annoyed when he was annoyed, confused when he was confused and so on. The secondary characters were well developed, too, or well enough.

The magic system makes sense and its application is interesting. I also liked that “black” was the “good” colour and “white” the “bad” colour. The intuitive nature of it was well represented in the different wizards, too.

So, now for a spoiler, stop reading if you don’t want to know. Stop reading now, why are you still reading?

Something that bothered me was that about two-thirds of the way through the book one of the chaos-mages possesses one of the side-characters, Tamra. Lerris all of a sudden knows about this possession, when earlier he just had some vague dreams about Tamra and got a strange feeling when he saw the chaos-mage. The jump between him having suspicions about what is going on and him knowing what is happening isn’t really clearly established, which read like an oversight to me and seemed uncharacteristic of the detail of the rest of the novel.

End Spoilers

Overall, I’ll say this was worth reading and I’ll be reading more books in the series. While not being the strongest showing in the fantasy genre, it was enjoyable and intriguing, set in a decently well-developed world with plausible magic systems and politics.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Extract

Extract. Written & Directed by Mike Judge.

Preconceptions: Gentle readers, my little cupcakes, it's time to tell you something about me. Something that I hope won't make you use my guts for marionette strings. I didn't care for Office Space. Are my bowels safe from you? Beavis and Butthead can still make me laugh and I was mighty sad that King of the Hill was canceled, but I just haven't really enjoyed Mike Judge's movies. Office Space didn't make me laugh or feel that "Ha! I know that person in real life" feeling that I got from King of the Hill. I liked Idiocracy a bit better, but it still felt undercooked and not as good as his TV shows. Overall I'm a Mike Judge fan, but I did approach this with some trepidation.

General Review: This review is coming more than just a few weeks too late. I saw Extract on the DVD, but I think a lot of other people missed this one in the theaters as well. If you have, it's well worth picking up (even if you share my secret shame). In more than any of his previous movies I think Judge managed to carry over the feeling that the characters are based on archetypes we all have in our lives (reasonably certain "archetype" is worth at least one Mike Judge smack).

Extract falls in a nice niche between Idiocracy and Office Space. Office Space, I thought, felt small and underbudgeted. And the sets were a bit cheesy. Idiocracy had a lot of sets but not enough good sets. ("Niche" is bound to earn me another smack). Despite being smaller in scope than Idiocracy, Extract felt bigger. Everything looked more real and fleshed out.This is possibly because it was set in an actual bottling plant, which I also think is kinda cool.

As far as female leads go I'll pick Kristen Wiig over Jennifer Aniston any day of the week. Jason Bateman is a favourite of mine and it was nice to see Ben Affleck in a movie where he had a chance to shine a bit. I generally dug the cast but it was Kristen Wiig that I really enjoyed. I was expecting her to be a standard frigid wife, but instead her performance mirrored Bateman's and was hilarious. She was funny and charming and a great choice (and one I wouldn't have thought of) to play with Bateman.

Extract seemed like the natural progression of Mike Judge. It's visually more polished and tighter in the script than his last few movies. The word of mouth feeling I got was that a lot of people didn't check this one out, even on DVD. You'll be doing yourself a favour if you give it a look some slothful afternoon.

Random Thoughts: This isn't really a thought so much as it is a recommendation. Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt (another favourite cartoon guy, if you don't know him, look up his stuff, damned funny) produce a festival called The Animation Show. You can find more info here: http://www.animationshow.com/ and buy DVDs. Very good DVDs.