Review (SPOILERS) Ready Player One [Movie]

I can’t review Ready Player One without spoilers.  I might be able to, but I’d have to go watch the trailer a bunch to make sure what I talk about is only from the trailer.  Oh, but can I assume people HAVE read a book that’s been out for 7 years?  I generally have a ~1yr policy on not spoiling books so….  (1 year from when you learned about the book is my general rule.)

So you have fair warning: I will be spoiling both book and movie if you haven’t consumed them yet… well, stop reading or don’t complain. I’ve done what I can to make sure everything that might preview on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere has given you time to go “noooo, no spoilers!”

I have been avoiding other reviews so everything I say is my own.

I suspected from the trailer, but I have to say I think it’s disappointing that they (a) left out the whole D&D part of the book and (b)if he was in any kind of formal school that was…. ignored? Edited out? It was world building I wished they had included.

know they had to trim things to make it into a viable move-length format but…. but since RPGs is my area of geekery (I loved how that played out in the book) I don’t like that it was completely cut out.  I feel like they managed to keep video games, movies & music – but roleplaying got cut completely.  I didn’t even see some good WOW references or EverQuest (and maybe I just missed them).  The closest was a troll but I didn’t see anything that screamed “RPGS” in it.

So putting that aside, I would say that as a movie inspired by the book; it’s good.  As a movie based on the book it lacks some of the depth the book had.  Not surprising, Ready Player One was told in first person and converting that to third person limited is damn difficult.  And on that front, I think this might be the best conversion from 1st person book to movie I’ve seen.

That said, it still loses some of the… urgency that Wade experienced in the book. I felt like he was less invested in hating IOI and more invested in his own comfort.  In the book it’s clear from page 3 or so that IOI is despised and even if Wade doesn’t feel he has the power to stop them; he would if he could. That was not evident in the movie.  I wish they would have minimized the romance with Art3mis rather than minimize the personality and motivations of the protagonist.

Which leads to the fact they minimized his role in general. I don’t know how I feel about this one. On the one hand I feel like Art3mis/Samantha was a much more interesting character and more plot-driving. I kind of love that she was the one to stick out the danger of IOI’s headquarters. BUT the romance element was… frankly, I felt like it was forced.  I just felt like they kept pushing the “kiss the girl” thing which wasn’t as true in the book.  At least my memory of the book it felt like they formed a friendship and he had a crush on her before he met her – but after meeting her he found the friendship as important as potential romance.

My other beef is minimizing the international nature of the world. I feel like it got set in OK and stayed there.  Everyone was just magically there; I kept wanting the scene where H comes to “rescue” him and I hated that WADE didn’t call H.  If I step away from the book, it’s fine and makes sense.  But definitely, the classic stands, “The book was better.”

I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD.  I will try to distance myself more so I can watch it without wanting to see the book on the screen.

Review: Subnautica

I have been watching this game for 2-3 years.  I watched JackSepticEye and NeebsGaming playing through the beta/early access versions.  I held off buying until it went live (ok, I got it like 2 days early, so technically I was an early access supporter…)

TL;DR: 5/5 review.

This game is NOT 100% perfect.  I had a few glitches, but since January I’ve played through the game 2.33 times. I am going to play through again ’cause I am determined to do a hardmode play through (one death, arg…); and I am not usually the person who does that.  But damnit, I am going to with this game!

So what draws me so strongly to this game? Well, I will be the first person to say I love survival games.  If you look at my steam hours played; Ark, Terraria, Starbound, Subnautica, Banished… survival & resource management. On my wishlist is games like “Surviving Mars”; “Y lands”; “Oxygen Not Included”; and “Eco” (though I’m waiting on that last one with more trepidation than some of the others).  Still, as far as survival goes – Subnautica is one of the better games I’ve played.  Although food and water are sometimes annoying, they rarely so demanding that it dominates game play (Banished is driven by food needs).  Oxygen (you know, ’cause you’re swimming a lot) is more difficult to manage and adds a great element of difficulty in general.

The story is definitely where this game shines.  Like diamonds in the sky shiny.  You spend a few days “surviving” and getting to know your controls and needs.  Then stuff starts to happen.  I’m not sure how the game determines it’s time to trigger specific events, but as they begin to play out the player is drawn to the mystery that is the core of this game.  I can’t talk much about the story because I do not want to give away spoilers.  You should play it if you want to see the story.

Difficulty progression is also something that these developers did an excellent job of.  In the beginning there aren’t a lot of super-dangerous creatures around you.  They are things you can avoid just by paying attention.  And that level stays pretty consistent throughout the game.  Through the entire game dangers can be avoided by just paying attention; listening to the environment and everything dangerous yells it’s location pretty regularly.  There isn’t a traditional weapon; all you have to “kill” things is a knife -and that’s the most lethal item in your arsenal.  So you have to  pay attention to the environment and keep alert for dangers – always.  Even after I had every upgrade available; avoidance was my most effective survival tool.

And none of this is touching on the graphics (which is where 90% of my glitches occurred) or the sounds & music.  Music isn’t constant, it has triggers and there were a few times where the music started and I started squirming in my seat “Oh, I hate when that music starts… but I have to keep going.”  It is one of the few games where I just play the game.  Much of my gaming I also like to watch YouTube or Netflix or something on our Plex (I’m very slowly working my way through Stargate SG-1).  Not with Subnautica.  I need those environmental triggers too much and want to be entirely immersed.

I give this a 5/5 because this is a: unless you refuse to ever play a video game or don’t have a computer – you should play this game; If you can bear survival games – you should play this game; If you like a good story with a mystery that you need to solve – you should play this game; When you need to immerse yourself into a fantasy world – you should play this game.

Seriously, even if survival isn’t your normal genre of gaming.  If you like RPGs or adventure or GTA or shooters.  Play this game; it’s worth it.

Review: A Wrinkle In Time (movie) Spoiler Free

I have cried during more movies in the past 12 months than I think I have the rest of my life.  A Wrinkle In Time did it to me again.

loved this movie for so many reasons.  I loved Meg and Charles Wallace.  I thought both of them were so well crafted, you didn’t need to read the books to understand them (I think, of course it’s impossible for me to be sure).  I thought the Mrs.’s were superb and even though it’s not exactly how I pictured them, it’s exactly how I could have pictured them.

Madeline L’Engle is one of my all-time favorite authors; like so many others I grew up on this book and loved it.  When I felt like an outcast, I looked around for my Charles Wallaces & Calvins in my life.  When I looked for them, I often found them waiting for me with open arms; and this movie captured that love and acceptance and patience… perfectly.

The graphics in this movie were fantastic.  They really thought through the descriptions of what L’Engle wrote and what they wanted it to look like.  There were a bunch of times it bordered on cartoony, but not in the worst of ways – I accept it’s a kid’s movie and they don’t need to be realistic the way I would demand of something like Ready Player One (not the VR world, but their real world) or Avatar (*cough* failed *cough* oh sorry, I have been sick ya know…)

I didn’t like that they left out one of my favorite characters.  I don’t remember him/her/it perfectly but that obscurity of gender is why that is one of my favorite characters in the book.  That and he/she/it was one of the most accepting, gracious, and loving characters – which they tried to absorb somewhat into the Mrs’s but…. well it just isn’t the same.  I understand why they did it (trying to make a movie for kids under 10 you don’t want to introduce a new, weird character 3/4s of the way through….) but I was looking forward to seeing the interpretation of him/her/it on screen and I won’t lie… if I have to critique this is probably it.

I also was very disappointed they cut the twins.  There was an important element in the two boys being “adjusted” to their father’s disappearance while Meg & Charles Wallace sort of aren’t.  Or at least, they both feel excluded from that adjustment which adds an important juxtaposition to Meg’s continued rage & lashing out. It also means they won’t be able to make any of the sequels – the twins rise in their prominence in later books. Despite cutting the twins, I did love the messages of an inter-racial couple adopting kids.  The message that you can choose to love as well as “fall” in love.

I cried. I sniffled and snuffled and tears rolled helpless down my cheeks through so much of this movie.  Just like Blank Panther & Wonder Woman.  I am jealous of kids today who are getting to see movies with heroes & heroines that look like them. Hell, I would have just taken a heroine (and did – her name was Sailor Moon and she was still constantly having to be “rescued” by a damn man).

I want to live in the world where we aren’t color-blind, but we are color-kind. We don’t “ignore” color or race or heritage; but we treat those differences with curiosity and kindness.  Movies like this – big budget which celebrate (or at least don’t denigrate) minorities might just help us move towards that world.  Media – books, movie, music, art – can help people open their minds and their hearts. No longer are we limited to James Bond & Superman; now we can explore the plethora of possibilities…. and I am so excited I could – and did – cry.

We have a long way to go.  There are a lot of lessons on manners when you encounter someone “breaking taboo” we need to construct and accept across our culture(s) – but these movies; these glorious beautiful movies…. I can’t wait for more like them.

Review: Here, There be Dragons (James Owen)

This book is imperfect (I have critiques) but it is definitely on my list of “books I’ll recommend to someone.”  If that sounds like a contradiction – well, you can enjoy something that is imperfect despite it’s imperfections.

Here, There be Dragons is, at it’s core, a fun adventure novel.  I thought it was a little predictable, but it is a fun twist on the “fairy tale” genre.  It fits into the trend of re-examining the classic tales and/or referencing them without expecting them to be some kind of “TRUTH.”

I listened to this book, and the reader of the audiobook (James Langton) did a great job with the accents and character voices without making them take over the story. Especially in books where the author didn’t plan out audio (and so made sure to say “Said John.” type things) it helps for the narrator to have voices.

The biggest critique I have in this book is some (I suspect unintended) sexism.  There is one female character of note.  Oh, I think one of the 3-fates might be the most memorable but she had one scene versus the woman who was in the book the entire time.  I don’t think (or at least I’m going to assume it) James Owen meant to be sexist, I just think he assumed his primary audience would be young boys and they would want male protagonists.  There isn’t really a romance plot-line, which is more common in male-marketed fantasy (female-marketed fantasy is critiqued if they don’t have a romance plot…)

I DO like the way James Owen tackled myths and their interactions.  I like how he pointed out the “3 women controlling fate” has different names in different myths – and there similarities and differences and how they can be handled.

It is worth getting the end and seeing the twist he included.  I can’t say I “saw it coming” but I had been suspicious of something from pretty early in the book and when the twist happened I was able to think “Ha! I knew that thing I’d noticed couldn’t be an an accident!  THAT’S what he was doing with it.  Nice.”

It is absolutely worth the read, but it isn’t a book I would say “your kid needs to read this to grow up” (like I did with Alanna).  I don’t know that I would even say “it will make you think” – I don’t know that it would make an adult think (I kind of home not).  BUT, it was a fun romping adventure that made me want to find out how they’d reach the end.  It is one of the better “twisted fairy tale” stories I think I’ve seen lately and for that alone, I’d give it about a 3/5 stars.  Good, not brilliant.

SCOTUS: Searching Cars

There are two cases this year dealing with cars and the fourth amendment in front of the Supreme Court.  My little SCOTUS nerdy heart is a little excited.  Both of them will be argued today.

Byrd v. United States

So I can see the argument in this case (here is a professional write up if you want a longer version) where a woman (Reed) let her significant other (Byrd) drive her rental car.  Not only was he NOT on the rental, she wasn’t even in the car with him.  He got pulled over and the cops searched the car without a warrant (and without probable cause) arguing that because he wasn’t on the agreement – they don’t need a warrant.  They convicted him for the heroin in the trunk.

I can’t wait to (a) hear what the professional attorneys argue and then (b) how the court falls on this case.  I am also really glad I don’t have to rule on it!  There could be some interesting fall-out on “possession and control” being required (or not) for warrants.

So on the one hand Byrd wasn’t on the rental agreement – much like if I let my sister (or friend or whoever) borrow my car they aren’t on my registration.  Does that mean if I let my friend borrow my pickup truck (as every pickup truck constantly lends out their trucks!) and they hide a stash of heroin under the driver’s seat or in a cooler (can’t be seen) could the cops pull them over for a routine stop and then search (and impound) MY TRUCK because I let a friend borrow it?  And what about if someone steals my car – do they have fourth amendment rights because they “possess and control” my car at this moment?

On the other hand, rental companies make you sign an agreement saying ALL drivers must be “registered” and anyone not registered is…. illegally (?) driving the vehicle.  Technically, Reed (Bryd’s SO & mother of his children) signed an agreement saying other drivers are only permitted with “prior written consent” (and paying a daily fee). The government contends this prior contract dismisses Byrd’s fourth amendment rights.

And it gets complicated because there ARE rules about “even if someone is doing something illegal it doesn’t waive rights” (hence cops can’t JUST search your car when you ran that red light – they still have to have probable cause).  And can Byrd be held responsible for Reed breaking the contract between herself and car rental company? (there are rules about people who don’t know they are being used in crimes too).

I am looking forward to hearing the court rule on this one – HOW they phrase their ruling can shift this in a lot of directions.  They COULD strike the provisions (and extra fees) on car rental contracts.  They COULD argue that the contract creates a binding clause and means Byrd “stole” the car (I doubt they would – I might have been told “yeah, I totally paid for you too” and then… ugh!).  They COULD rule that  warrant/probable cause is still required when a contract has been broken OR when someone isn’t registered on a vehicle (so my husband could get my car searched ’cause he isn’t on the registration!)

Collins v. Virginia

This case also has to do with the fourth amendment and vehicles – with the addition of “private property.”  I’m not going to say I understand the previous rulings as well as I should to explain when/why vehicles can be searched with exemptions.  I do understand there are already rulings on exemptions to the warrant requirements (it’s called the “automobile exemption.” (professional write up here)

So in this case the cops were searching for a motorcyclist.  They narrowed down their search area using social media & a cop saw a motorcycle under a tarp-like cover next to a house. He went up and looked under the tarp-thing and found out the motorcycle was stolen. Should the cop have needed a warrant to lift the tarp?

Again, I want to hear how the justices rule on this – it isn’t black & white. On the most basic brush there is “cop came on private property” and “cop lifted the tarp” (not readily visible)  but there is also “is the land I own safe from warrantless search” and “my car parked on my driveway” (yes, even though in this case it’s “stolen car”).

Previous rulings have protected cars parked in/around the home lot (and searching on the land around a home).  But is does open quite the can of worms about when/how cops might be allowed to search vehicles.

So will the court expand the officers’ ability to search vehicles?  Will they uphold that private property is (for lack of a better word in my vocabulary here) sacred from this type of search and demand warrants?  I am curious to see how the court falls out on this issue and what they say about it.

Review: Star Wars Last Jedi

I don’t know if I can avoid spoilers.  I am going to try.  But if you (like me) did everything you could (including avoiding interviews) so you could go into this movie with as little knowledge as possible – well, I might let slip something you didn’t want see.  Fair?  Good.

I would give it a 3/5.  Overall it was ok, I enjoyed it, but… BUT

My biggest critique is the length.  So they introduced a new character (Rose) who I like a LOT, but I feel like they added an entire segment to the movie which…. was really only there for us to get to know Rose.  And…. it made the movie feel long.  I honestly kind of wish they hadn’t had it.  It had some fun moments, but it made for weird pacing because it was trying to weave  3 sets of characters and (all) movies struggle anywhere above 2 groups of heroes.

The Rey & Luke segments were very well done – Mark Hamill is amazing.  Luke’s arc during this movie might be one of my favorite parts.  I like how the character struggles with his past – and they all but steal one of my life phrases!  Avoiding obvious spoilers – teacher me was quite happy.

There were some call-backs to Empire and even Jedi which were… decent.  Nothing too in-your-face and I enjoyed it.

enjoyed the movie.  I am still processing whether it felt like a Star Wars movie.  There was a lot more humor (as my husband said, it felt like they were trying to mimic some of Guardian‘s humor Correction: he told me that what he said is that it’s like they let Lucas try to make a Joss Whedon movie  – I stand by my memory that he compared it to Marvel).  I enjoyed most of it – and the porgs were NOT annoying.  I was expecting to hate them but they were in the movie just enough to be amusing – not annoying.

I will be honest, I don’t know that I will be as excited about “young han solo” as I might have been 10 years ago.  I think Star Wars in running into “long running game syndrom” – when RP’ers have been running the same game a long time eventually they get to the point where their characters are ridiculously powered and not much feels like a threat anymore.  Star Wars is reaching that for me – there were some scenes where it just felt like they wanted to “top” what they’d done before (Fast & Furious has gone there too…)

I think I am moving more towards “I’d like to see a different universe on screen” in fantasy, superhero, & sci-fi.  Star Wars is great, Marvel is fun – but what are the stories we aren’t getting to see because the directors and writers are getting stuck in these boxes?

Review: Bad Characters

Oh the irony that I got called out for “always liking the books I read” and then I read something awful.  Thanks universe. Thanks a lot. (Thanks OBAMA)

Without naming names, this book was pretty awful.  It’s the first of a trilogy and as much as I hate leaving a plot unfinished, I don’t think I want to drag myself through another 2 books with these characters.  They were terrible.

So the book is urban fantasy – low fantasy so most of the people aren’t “magical” and what magic there is tends to be brushed off and/or explainable.  And the concept of the story is engaging.  It’s the characters I have a problem with.

The main character is a sixteen year old girl with apparently no friends and not caring about it.  This is my primary beef with this book: what sixteen year old is happy when they have no friends?  Hell, any age could be (should be?) unhappy when they almost entirely isolated.  And yeah, she’s got her mom and the random women who live with her mom….

Ok, it helps to know her mom is a psychic – of course a real one.  The women who live with her are also psychic (real ones).  These women are basically the only relationships “Jane” (her name in the book is so terrible another character nicknames her Jane…) has. This caused me serious frustration in the book – there is this character who has lived in this tiny speck of a town her whole life, but apparently is friendless. I know I’m ranting.  The frustration this caused (in me) is that the character felt like she didn’t “exist” before this story.

The other primary characters, her love interest and his two friends were pretty similar.  Well, actually they had more backstory.  One of them was abused, one was a seventeen year old rich kid whose parents are loving but apparently don’t care about him (the one time the character met his parents they were decent people – but it’s like they don’t care if their son is literally just running around the world after a mythical legend….)

It was weird.  It was awful. I dragged myself through the first book and gratefully sent it back to the library.