The Da Vinci Code Directed By Ron Howard

August 11, 2013

The Da Vinci CodeI will be approaching my review for the film version of The Da Vinci Code differently then most of my reviews. While in most of my reviews about films adaptations I try to only compare and contrast in order to make a point, here I plan to do almost nothing but compare and contrast. The reason for this, is that I feel that such controversial subject matter  should be handled delicately, and such it is interesting to see which things the book handled better, and which the movie handled better.

For starters, the movie is a lot smaller then the book. While at first glance this would seem to be a disadvantage it actually has some pros. For example, with less time to go into the conspiracy they movie is forced to keep to just its nuts and bolts, which means a lot of the more ridiculous “evidence” supporting the conspiracy is cut, and therefore makes the conspiracy seem much more likely. On the flip side it also means alot off character development is cut from the story. For example, Silas’ back story is reduced to such an incoherent flashback that unless you read the novel you would have no idea what said flashback is getting at. As a result Silas goes from a clear tragic villain, to a character MEANT to be portrayed as a classic villain but SEEN as a normal villain.

Finally, some characters like Bishop Aringarosa went from being morally gray characters to being pure black for no reason whatsoever. In a story as steeped in controversy as The Da Vinci Code if you are going to add even MORE conroversy to it, like the change in the aforementioned bishop’s moral alignment, you would be best to have a very good reason for it.

All in all though the shorter format of the movie makes it flow much better then the book.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

June 13, 2013

The Da Vinci Code by Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code is easily both Dan Brown‘s most well known novel and his most controversial. Because of this, it only seems fitting to discuss said controversy in the review of Robert Langdon‘s second adventure. Let’s start with the factual inaccuracies of the novel. While it is true that Dan Brown’s previous novel’s have all contained factual inaccuracies, such as Digital Fortress saying that an unbreakable code is an impossibility, when they actually exist. They are called one-time pads. There have usually been only one or two factual inaccuracies per book, and they have not been that big of an issue in the overall theme and plot. In The Da Vinci Code both the plot and theme REVOLVE around said factual inaccuracies. Speaking of the theme, we need to deal with the myth that in pagan societies women were held in just as high a regard as men. While it is true that many pagan religions had a strong since of the sacred feminine, that religious view did NOT transfer into social equality. In fact if you look at the history books in many pagan societies such as the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians were MALE dominated. While I do agree with Dan Brown that controversy can be a good thing, the fact that unlike in his first three novels, the controversy in The Da Vinci Code is based entirely on bad research and misrepresented facts, makes it seem like controversy for controversy’s sake. Now that we have the that hassle out of the way, on to the plot. All things considered The Da Vinci Code is, for the most part, a well put together thriller novel. The action has a nice steady rise throughout the book, with things gradually becoming more intense. This is coupled with occasional periods of non-action in-between, allows the reader to catch their breath, and allows the author to provide the audience with necessary background info and plot information. The only real problem with the plot is the big ending twist, which is EXACTLY the same twist as his first three books. If The Da Vinci Code is the first book by Dan Brown you have read this is not a big deal. But if you have read any of his other early works it is QUITE annoying. I have no idea why Dan Brown insisted on repeating the same major plot twist again and again, but being that The Da Vinci Code was his first real hit, combined with the fact that in his next book he finally came up with a different twist, I can only assume that he wanted to his first best seller to be associated with that specific plot twist, and therefore kept using it until he hit it big. Despite all of its flaws The Da Vinci Code is an entertaining read.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

The Andromeda Strain (Miniseries) directed by Mikael Salomon

February 22, 2013

001The miniseries version of The Andromeda Strain, which was directed by Mikael Salomon, was an attempt to retell the classic tale, for modern times. The decision to make it into a 2 episode miniseries with each episode being two hours long, was because they wanted to go into greater detail about Andromeda’s origin’s among other things. This decision was, in my opinion, a mistake. In order to make this 4 hours long they added a lot of weird, unnecessary, and often detracting ideas. For example while Andromeda was pretty out there in terms of its capabilities in both the original novel and the movie adaptation, it was still within the realm of possibility. whereas the miniseries raises its capabilities WAY beyond the suspension of disbelief. The miniseries also opens up a plot hole or two. Just like in the book the wildfire team discovers that Andromeda can only exist within a very narrow range of Ph because of the extreme Ph ranges of the two survivors. HOWEVER, they then go on to say that they cannot use this to cure Andromeda without killing human hosts because the ph range that Andromeda can exist in is the same as human beings, DESPITE the fact that two people clearly SURVIVED IN SAID PH RANGE. Then there is the conspiracy plot, where an unknown governmental agency tries to collect some Andromeda for use in biological warfare. There is just one problem with this idea. When most armed forces have a biological weapon they want to have numerous failsafe to protect their own people. In this they can either vaccinate their forces against the disease, have the abilities to cure their soldiers, or they know how the disease transmits and they can safely isolate themselves until the epidemic dies off. All of these methods of dealing with said biological method have one thing in common, the biological agent, though virulent, has a low rate of mutation and therefore the country in question does not have to worry about the disease infecting them. Andromeda has been REPEATEDLY shown to mutate frequently and therefore would be too risky to use as a biological weapon. This is the reason why the U.S. government gave up on plans for using Andromeda that way in both the novel and the movie, despite the fact that had indeed been searching for new bio-weapons, Andromeda was just too risky. Another thing about the conspiracy plot in the book is that raises lots of questions but gives few if any answers. Although some ambiguity in a story ending is alright and can even be a good thing, this ending just leaves you feeling a bit more confused then satisfied. Now on to the good stuff, which believe it or not, does exist. First is the group dynamic of the wildfire team. Unlike the book and movie where one character was brought along as a compromise, and was looked down on by the rest of the staff as being a mere physician instead of a researcher. Yet that character becomes the main hero. In the miniseries all of them are researchers, yet some of them look down on each other, due to bad past relationships usually having to deal with politics. Despite these obstacles the team manges to come together to save the day. In addition they also bounce various ideas off each other and often one person’s ideas will inevitably contribute to another’s. The other good thing is the action scenes. The book and the movie are almost pure medical thriller, with only one, admittedly well done,  action scene at the very end. The miniseries however makes this an medical-thriller action-thriller combo, and the action scenes are handled quite well, and even the scientific stuff does not start getting ridiculous until the last 15 minutes or so of the first episode. It is the action scenes and the group dynamics that manage to keep this from being a total mess. While The Andromeda Strain miniseries might not be worth a purchase it is at least worth a rental.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The Andromeda Strain directed by Robert Wise

December 12, 2012

The Andromeda Strain is the Movie adaptation fo Michael Crichton’s novel, and should not be confused with the later 2008 TV mini series. Directed by Robert Wise the film does a great job of bringing the drama and suspense of the book to the big screen. Just like the novel it is the story of a disease brought back to Earth from the upper atmosphere of the planet by a satellite. Since the plot is quite similar to the novel, discussed here, I want to go over how the movie goes about adapting some of the tricker elements of the novel to screen, and other aspects about the film medium. In the novel when two of the scientists are investigating Piedmont, the site of the contamination, they learn while some people died instantly others went quietly nuts, and committed suicide in such overly elaborate measures. Such methods include filling up a bathtub and holding their head underwater until they drowned, or filling their mouths full of airplane glue. In order to capture both of these the scene used a split scene technique, where one screen shows the scientists looking into the houses where the other show still shots of what they see. While the airplane glue scene is one of the still images, other images include a family that died right while eating dinner, food still on the table because they died so quickly. These seemingly normal shots help to make the bizarre suicides shots more surreal, and vice versa. The sound track has an electronic feel that fits the movie well, as most of it takes place in an underground labratory. Despite this it still manages to capture the feel ing of ominous danger, whenever the situation gets worse. Finally, WARNING: MINOR ENDING SPOILER HERE when Mark Hall attempts to escape the central core of the facility, so he can stop the nuclear self destruct sequence, he becomes poisoned by the automatic defense system of the lab. The camerawork does a great job showing how the poison is affecting him. As we see the scene shot from his P.O.V. in slow motion and getting slower as the poison starts shutting down his body. Finally, while the movie has a happy ending, it ends on ominous note pointing out that just because this disaster has been averted, there is no guarantee that a similar problem will not happen again.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

October 9, 2012

The Andromeda Strain while being Michael Crichton‘s sixth published novel was the first to be released under his own name. The book kicks off when a downed NASA satellite from project SCOOP lands near Piedmont, Arizona and locals open it, unknowingly releasing a deadly microorganism which will later be codenamed the Andromeda Strain. The organism seems to kill by clotting all of the blood of the people it infects, but it soon becomes clear that there is more going on as some people had time to go quietly insane. Even more amazing two survivors are found. An old man with a history of ulcers, and a bawling baby boy who never seems to stop crying. After rescuing the two survivors, Wildfire project head Jeremy Stone, and fellow project member Charles Burton request that a nuclear bomb be dropped on Piedmont in order to stop the spread of the organism. Unbeknown to the Wildfire team, however, the president decides to delay dropping the bomb, instead condoning of the area to prevent anyone from getting in. He does this because dropping the bomb would mean explaining to the Soviets why such a violation of the Moscow Treaty of 1963 which forbids the firing of nuclear weapons above ground was necessary, which might leave to some uncomfortable question that might reveal the fact that the scoop satellites were DESIGNED to collect microorganisms from outer space that could hopefully be used in biological warfare. It is this and other mistakes like it that while leading to near disaster in some areas fend of  disaster, by SHEER LUCK mind you, in others. To go over the various twists in turns would take to long and remove all suspense from the book, but suffice to say that this books hallmarks one of the reoccurring themes in Michael Crichton’s books. The potential for humanity to fail to live up to its technology. While Crichton is not anti-progress he does believe we should take the time to slow down and think things through as a  SOCIETY. In other words rather than trusting experts blindly we should listen to their expert opinions and contribute back. As decisions made by scientific researchers have the just as potential for good and for ill as decisions by military officers, politicians and people in the financial industry. Therefore, we should monitor them just as much.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wave 1 of Podcasts Complete

June 19, 2012

Podcast number 3 can be found here .

Wave 6 finished

January 24, 2012

with the short Wave 6 of reviews finally finished; I hope to start on wave 7, this will consist of  reviews of the Michael Crichton novel The Andromeda Strain as well as both of its film adaptations.

Deception Point by Dan Brown

January 24, 2012

Deception Point is Dan Brown‘s third novel and a standalone book. In Deception Point, Rachel Sexton, a gister (someone who sums up and condenses important data) for the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) is called upon by the White House for a secret mission. As soon as she accepts, Rachel is taken off the grid and flown to Ellesmere Island where she is briefed on a stunning NASA discovery. NASA has found a meteorite with several fossils of multi-cellular life  forms within them. NASA and Zachary Herney have been taking a hosing in the polls lately and hope to use the discovery of this meteorite to turn things around. Everything seems kosher at first and Rachel, upon being asked, briefs the President’s staff on the discovery, who had been previously kept in the dark to avoid leaks until the meteorite could be authenticated.  However, shortly after doing so, Rachel and three of the civilian scientist recruits uncover evidence of fraud. The Meteorite, which was found buried in the ice and was thought to have been there for about 300 years, was actually artificially inserted into the ice from below. No sooner do they make this discovery then they come under attack from a special ops team.  Also strung throughout this book are reasons why the privatization of NASA is a very DANGEROUS idea. These arguments become even more chilling in the present day when you realize that, although NASA has not been disbanded completly, it is slowly but surely being turned over to the Private sector.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Anoter podcast episode

September 8, 2011

After a long hiatus you can find a new episode of our podcast here.

Wave 5 finshed!

June 2, 2011

Wave 5 of review(s)has been finished wave 6 should consist of Deception Point by Dan Brown.