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The Passage: A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy)
The Passage: A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy)
by Justin Cronin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.61
514 used & new from $0.01

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amateur Night, April 2, 2011
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I love it when writers with absolutely no experience at genre fiction attempt to write an SF, fantasy, or horror tale. The result is usually a fascinating car-wreck, and this book is no exception. In fact, it accomplishes something I have never seen before in a novel:

After a gripping, thrilling start, this book keels over and dies on page 249.

That's when Cronin polevaults the action 100 years into the future, and trades a some truly compelling characters for a group of extremely dull fourth-generation survivors with nothing to do and names like Caleb.

After a few hundred pages of tedium,"The Passage" starts to claw its way back to life, but never fully recovers. Cronin has clearly put a great deal of thought into the Biblical symbolism of his novel (with which he bashes us over the head at every opportunity), but not much thinking has gone into the logic of his post-apocalyptic situation. (To protect themselves, survivors of the vampire-plague must keep a phalanx of lights running at night, so bright they blot out the stars; after a hundred years, they worry the batteries which store their wind-turbine energy are dying. Hello? Never mind the batteries -- what about the LIGHTBULBS? Surely they've blown a few of these colossal, blot-out-the-stars lamps over the last century -- where do the replacement bulbs come from? Also, they live in the desert; where does the water come from? The food? And apparently 100-year-old gasoline can still combust. A months-old corpse sitting out in the desert appears "little altered" from when she was alive. Aughh -- look up the word "dehydrate!" Or "vulture!" I can forgive a few of these whoppers, but there's stuff like this on nearly every page.)

Similarly, no thought has gone into the post-apocalyptic population of the second two-thirds of the novel. In the terrific opening 250 pages, set more or less in the present, the characters tend to be defined by what they do and what they want. But the people of the future, who have known only survival in an isolated compound, have no defining characteristic whatsoever. A talented genre writer would instinctively sense the character possibilities in their isolated and enclosed situation, would have a sense for their boredom, their need for something bigger, their loves and hates -- the human condition magnified under the lens of science-fiction. But Cronin is a rank amateur, and his very large cast of characters is almost uniformly bland and almost indistinguishable one from the next. They have, in the words of Raymond Chandler, all the personality of a Dixie Cup.

The same goes for the "virals," who, with one noteable exception, have no characterization and no metaphoric resonance whatsoever. They are basically animals -- big, crusty, hard to kill, unbound by the laws of physics, and uninteresting. Cronin probably thought he was being terribly original with his notion of scientifically-created vampires, without realizing that Richard Matheson had already introduced the concept in his vastly superior 1954 masterpiece I Am Legend. THE PASSAGE is amateur night in Dixie by comparison.

Cronin has genuine talent, and from time to time his prose takes wing with a breathtaking turn of phrase. But his grasp of science fiction, characterization, and dialogue is shockingly feeble.

And he got paid $2,000,000 for this huge, tedious mess!
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2012 5:33 AM PST

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1.0 out of 5 stars Ripoff, December 19, 2010
Note the page count: This book is shorter than just about any short story Delany has written. It is a collection of Wikipedia articles about him, published in book form. Avoid. (Nice use of "Impact" font on the cover!)

Price: $9.99
46 used & new from $4.92

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, great jazz, November 9, 2009
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This review is from: Quintet/Sextet (Audio CD)
This is one of my favorite early Miles albums. It's light and airy and endlessly listenable. Miles is great, Bags is never anything less than superb. Toss Jackie McLean and other great players into the mix and you've got one for the ages.

Love Love
Love Love
18 used & new from $15.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mwandishi lives!!, September 10, 2009
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This review is from: Love Love (Audio CD)
Wow. Just wow. I'm a huge fan of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi-era band, and yet I never knew this album existed until a few weeks ago! It's essentially an Mwandishi album without Herbie Hancock, and -- dare I say it? -- in some ways it's better than "Crossings" or "Sextant." If you love those thrilling days of the early Seventies when jazz fusion was groundbreaking and challenging, if you love "Bitches Brew" and early Weather Report, and especially if you're a fan of Mwandishi, this album will rocket you straight to heaven. Somebody please tell me there's more music out there like this!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 7, 2011 3:21 PM PDT

Shogun Assassin
Shogun Assassin
Price: $11.32
45 used & new from $5.59

34 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For once, the American version is better, March 21, 2007
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This review is from: Shogun Assassin (DVD)
Yes, it's recut, rewritten, rescored, dubbed, and chopped down from two separate films. Yet even my Japanese friends agree: this version of "Lone Wolf and Cub" is better than the original Japanese films. Here's why:

1)That fantastic score by Marc Lindsay (of Paul Revere & the Raiders fame), which absolutely blows away the original.

2) The brilliantly-written and witty script ("Those swine will butcher anyone who walks in their way! It's just bad taste!"). The highlight is the narration of Daigoro, which is not found in the original.

3) A really first-rate dub. (Even Daigoro's pronunciation of "harakiri" is accurate.)

4) Wall to wall action! This is truly the "good parts" version of "Sword of Vengeance" and "Baby Cart on the River Styx."

5) Lone Wolf is actually a MUCH cooler customer in this version. The American editors have gone through and carefully removed all of actor Tomisaburo Wakayama's over-the-top emotional reactions, creating virtually a new performance in the editing room. This version of Lone Wolf is more self-possessed and calmly lethal than the original Japanese version.

That much said, there are two problems with Animeigo's presentation. The lesser is the idiotic unremovable "unrestored" notice plastered over the opening shot of Himeji Castle, which could have been handled much less intrusively by a title card before the start of the film.

Far worse, though, is the image quality. This version was constructed from Animeigo's transfers of the original films (also available on DVD), yet the picture quality is not nearly as sharp as the originals'. It actually appears to be a generation down in quality. After years of neglect and bootlegging, poor "Shogun Assassin" still can't get a break!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 11, 2012 2:51 PM PDT

Walt Disney Treasures - Disney Rarities - Celebrated Shorts, 1920s - 1960s
Walt Disney Treasures - Disney Rarities - Celebrated Shorts, 1920s - 1960s
DVD ~ Don Wilson
Price: $77.95
10 used & new from $51.99

204 of 214 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Holy cow, did they ever cheap-out on this one!, May 28, 2006
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It's not exactly a state secret that the "Disney Treasures" DVDs have been big money-makers for the company. So how do you squeeze a little extra cash out of a cash cow? Why, start throwing animated shorts onto DVD without remastering them, that's how!

Yep, the bulk of these cartoons are presented in vintage 20-year-old transfers. The images are soft and low-res, colors are frequently washed-out (I defy you to find the color tan anywhere in "Paul Bunyan"), and Cinemascope films such as "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. If you have a 16X9 TV, prepare yourself for a joyless experience.

The shorts themselves are largely second-tier Disney, with a few bona fide masterpieces such as "Ferdinand the Bull." Others show that when the Disney artists tackled a new field (such as UPA-style limited animation in "A Cowboy Needs a Horse," or dimensional animation in "Noah's Ark," with its fanciful found-object animals) they could do it better than just about anybody else. Kids may become a tad restless at times, but animation fans and Disney completists will be in heaven.

Bottom line: If Disney's going to call these shorts "Treasures" they should treat them as such.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 15, 2012 7:15 PM PDT

Point of Order!
Point of Order!
DVD ~ Roy M. Cohn
2 used & new from $269.98

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars About the Venona decrypts..., December 25, 2005
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This review is from: Point of Order! (DVD)
In a critique elsewhere among the Amazon reviews of this DVD, Fredrick P. Wilson references the Venona project, an intelligence operation that identified numerous Communist undercover agents in the Federal government. While it is true that several of the people Joseph McCarthy accused were also named in the Verona files (made public in 1995), many more were perfectly innocent, loyal Americans. Furthermore, McCarthy was never able to produce a single shred of credible evidence to prove his accusations, and not one person who appeared before his committee was ever convicted of Soviet espionage.

In other words, just because McCarthy may at times have been right, does not change (or justify) the fact that he was a bully, a demagogue, and an opportunist who ruined the lives of numerous innocent Americans, who did far more harm than he did good, who was a disgrace to the Senate and the country, and who in the long run helped the Soviets with his reckless accusations far more than he hindered them.

The film shows a signal moment in our nation's history, when television became the dominant force in American politics. McCarthy's Red-baiting histrionics played well as newspaper headlines and quotes. But when the unblinking eye of television showed him in the flesh, slinging mud in all directions, calling anyone who dared to disagree with him a liar or a fraud or a phony or a Communist sympathizer, he was finished. McCarthy wasn't laid low by Joseph Welsh or Ed Murrow; he was destroyed by TV itself.

I deduct one star from my rating because of the film's somewhat deceptive ending, which uses editing to make it appear as though the hearing room empties while McCarthy continues to rant. In truth the hearings did not end this way, and this sequence plays like a steal from climax of "Inherit the Wind."
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 30, 2014 7:15 AM PST

King Kong Vs Godzilla/King Kong Escapes
King Kong Vs Godzilla/King Kong Escapes
DVD ~ Ishiro Honda
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $49.99
7 used & new from $26.97

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, that I have lived to see this day!, November 14, 2005
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2004-2005 will go down as a banner era for American fans of Kaiju Eiga. Not only has it seen Sony's superb releases of most of the Showa-era Godzilla films, but Media Blasters' equally-excellent DVDs of other Toho monster classics such as Dogora, Varan the Unbelievable, Atragon and others.

To this noble roster now add Universal's release of King Kong Vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes, in anamorphic widescreen. KK Vs. G is an enjoyable romp, beloved among G-fans for: 1) The fight between the two monsters at the Diet Building in Tokyo; 2) the incredible scene where Kong swings Godzilla around by his tail; and 3) being the first Godzilla film in color. Yes, the Kong suit is truly goofy, yet both it and the actor inside display loads of personality. And the film boasts a fine Akira Ifukube score.

But for my money the true gem here is King Kong Escapes. What makes this film so special can be summed up in one word: Mechani-Kong. This giant robotic version of the Eighth Wonder is as cool as the shaggy gorilla-suited Kong is goofy, and he certainly ranks as one of the greatest monsters in the Toho pantheon. If you're a fan of Mechagodzilla (and who isn't?), you owe it to yourself to see his precursor in his only film appearance. (Icing on the cake: the first appearance of Gorosaurus, Maestro Ifukube's wonderful score, and a deliciously over-the-top performance by Eisei Amamoto as "Dr. Who" -- no relation to the famous Timelord!)

It's still hard for me to believe that these two wonderful films are getting a quality DVD release.

Gun Frontier - Hopalong Harlock (Vol. 1)
Gun Frontier - Hopalong Harlock (Vol. 1)
DVD ~ Paul St. Peter
Offered by This-N-More
Price: $10.00
3 used & new from $1.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wicked twist on the Harlock/Toichiro mythos, October 31, 2003
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The "Gun Frontier" series recasts the eternal friendship between Harlock and Toichiro in a western setting that's like nothing else in Leiji Matsumoto's "Leijiverse." But if you've seen the "extra" episode of "Cosmo Warrior Zero," you'll have an idea of the offbeat hijinks in store in this 13-episode series.
The story ostensibly concerns Toichiro and Harlock's search for a group of Japanese immigrants in a very Japanese take on the Old West. What really makes this series interesting is that the hero is not Harlock, but Toichiro. A Japanese samurai, Toichiro (who seems to get shot in every episode) swings his katana and cuts a swath through the wild West like Miyamoto Musashi. Meanwhile Harlock -- one of the greatest characters in the history of manga/anime -- hangs back and plays the sidekick!
Harlock's low key goofiness (when Toichiro spots a woman in the first episode Harlock, without even looking, asks: "Is she pretty? Is she naked?") really carries the series -- even in the second-banana role, he has more to do here than he did in "Harlock Saga."
There's lots of Matsumotoesque talk about real men weeping copious tears, lots of fanservice nudity, plenty of action, and something rare in a Matsumoto story -- comedy. Recommended for fans. Newcomers to Harlock would be better of with Animeigo's upcoming release of "My Youth in Arcadia."

DVD ~ Belladonna
Offered by webm99
Price: $19.95
42 used & new from $1.47

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars THIS DISC IS MASTERED INCORRECTLY!, October 24, 2003
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This review is from: Naqoyqatsi (DVD)
There is something wrong with the 16x9 anamorphic encoding of this disc. If you view the film on a widescreen TV in 16x9 mode, the image becomes stretched about 10 minutes in and stays that way for the remainder of the film. However, if you watch it on a DVD player which has been set for 4:3, you will see a letterboxed image that is NOT stretched and contains more image on the sides. Therefore, on 16x9 TVs, this film is presented in a COMPLETELY incorrect manner! The image was not "stretched" in theaters, and it should not appear this way on home screens.
There is one way those with widescreen TVs can see this film with the correct image: enter your DVD player's setup mode, and switch from 16:9 to 4:3. Then watch the film in your TV's "zoom" mode. This compromises resolution, but at least the image isn't stretched!
This is a recall situation, but "Naqoyqatsi" is such an oscure film that this is unlikely to happen. Therefore, if you own a widescreen TV and have noticed this problem, PLEASE call Miramax Home Video at 1-800-477-2811 and let them know.
The technician I spoke to at Miramax Home Video confirmed that this is a real problem.

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