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The Haunted Mansion (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
The Haunted Mansion (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Eddie Murphy
Price: CDN$ 5.97
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars could work for kids, July 19 2004
To start off, yeah, it's nowhere near as fun as "Pirates of the Carribean", and much of it comes off like a too-long episode of "Scooby Doo". Still "Mansion" is a lot of fun. The plot? Essentially lifted from years worth of lore about the Disney ride (little if any of it actually created by Disney), a broken hearted southern gentleman commits suicide when his "true love" apparently does the same. About a century later, the ghosts of the suicide, the butler (Terence Stamp) and some other household guy (played by Wallace Shawn) are trapped in his mansion. The titular house itself is practically buried by the Louisiana bayou and, in the tradition of haunted houses, under tons of cobwebs. Instead of a van of meddling kids, the Mansion plays host to Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy) and his lovely wife Sara. Murphy's character is a work-a-holic real estate agent who manages to snag every customer in the southeast, while neglecting his family. Luckily (?) Sara is the spitting image of Elizabeth, the lost love of the mansion's owner. Invited to tour the mansion with the idea of selling it, and faster than you can say "I see dead people", Murphy and crew find themselves trapped in it by its spectral residents. With the help of Shawn's ghost and also a crystal ball containing the disembodied head of Madam Leota (Jennifer Tilly in a role that also originated with the ride), Evers and family plumb the mysterious environs of the mansion for a way to save Sara and escape.
This was a light movie that completely slips out of your head like a ghost five minutes after it's over. Murphy doesn't get as much mileage out of his mugging persona as he has in movies like the "Cop" series or as in "Golden Child" - but he still does a good job with the kind of movie role that even Bill Cosby couldn't grasp (check out "Ghost Dad" and prove me wrong). As for kids - my 7 & 4 year olds loved it. There was a possibly risky scene with Murphy and his character's daughter trapped in a crypt with an army of skeletal zombies, and the fiery climax of the movie unleashes a fiery demon, but most of the flick treats the spectral world with the same lightness as the ride had.

Pump Up the Volume
Pump Up the Volume
VHS
5 used & new from CDN$ 14.69

3.0 out of 5 stars shallow teen flick weighed down by self-awareness, June 25 2004
This review is from: Pump Up the Volume (VHS Tape)
Christian Slater is Mark Hunter, a nerdy Eastern transplant to an Arizona school. Completely overlooked by his easy-going parents and everybody else, Hunter runs a pirate radio station under the name "Hard Harry". Every night, the hordes of students who think nothing of Hunter, listen for every syllable of Harry's voice. Hunter laces his subversive radio with mixtures of Lenny Bruce and the likes of "Concrete Blond", and everybody loves it. Everybody that is but the stern, authoritarian and uptight nerds who live for nothing but make life miserable for everybody younger than they are. Hunter is a man with ideas, but he can only express them through Harry - he alters his voice for radio, and uses an anonymous mail box to collect fan mail - keeping his double life a secret. Unfortunately, Nora (Samantha Mathis), an introverted intellectual teen who works the library at Hunter's school, pieces together the clues of Hunter's & Harry's shared ID.
Until then, "Pump" is sheer fun, an equal opportunity offender that doesn't strain your sense of morality. The adults are easy targets (even Hunter's parents are out to lunch - they never realize that their son's got enough electronic equipment to be the "Hard Harry" that everybody is talking about; the rest of the adults fail to consider Harry's message as a wake-up call). But the teens are also pretty wasted - for all of their energy, they never convert their power into a cause (the script wakes up near the end, and crafts a genuine cause involving manipulation of student scores - a revelation hit on by a "friendly" teacher played by Ellen Greene of "Little Shop of Horrors" fame). Instead of rising up against some perceived evil, Hunter's fellow teens merely become louder versions of the same annoying and cliquish high schoolers that we've seen in countless flicks (typically starring Corey's Feldman & Haim, and Larry Linville or Mary Woronov as the evil principal). Even after essentially telling his listeners what kind of person he really is, none seek him out. They're not after Hunter's reality, only Harry's wicked construction. It's good clean fun, and Harry's rants are so irresistible, you'd be willing to sit through about 2 hours of it. Though Hunter/Harry talks to the disaffection of Teen-America, little in the surrounding setting bears out how much trouble we're in (clue: though a bastion of adult-managed conformity, Hunter's school still keeps the library stocked with Lenny Bruce).
Unfortunately, in true shock-jock tradition, Harry/Hunter's words become entangled with tragedy when a local teen commits suicide shortly after calling in. Faster than you can say "Good Morning Vietnam", Hunter dumps than resurrects Harry's persona - only now he's on a mission, and "Pump" becomes more serious than it proves to deserve. Still missing the genuine story underneath the story, the teens become louder, and the adults more repressive (one of the teens is brutally assaulted by one of the school's employees) and the script more satisfied with how it delivers Harry's message than how it can convincingly craft one. At that point, "Pump" transforms from an engaging comedy into a weighed-down message movie, one that spoils the fun of both halves. By the end, you feel like you've been watching less of a movie, than a really long and loud "After School Special".

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 Standard
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 Standard
Offered by 1stVideo
Price: CDN$ 19.89

4.0 out of 5 stars great sim for P4 owners., June 21 2004
You wake up at the controls of a small airplane. You're engine is already humming, but the plane isn't moving - must be those parking brakes. You're parked at the back of a runway of a small airfield with just one runway. Off in the distance, a huge dark tower looms, piercing the sky. What could just be the start of a Steven King novel or an episode of "Twilight Zone" is just the latest and prettiest edition of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Those who've flown older versions of MSFS will know what to expect - better graphics and sound, a database of airports and airspace, more included aircraft, better looking aircraft for those you can add-on (using 3rd party files) and a customizable editor that allows you to choose where, when and how you will go, and what color 747 or F-16 will get you there. FS2002 also continues MS's tradition of incorporating features of 3rd party add-on software offered on older versions of FS. FS2002 comes with a speaking interactive ATC (though others had "added" ATC years ago) to go along with all of those verbal lessons (FS2002, like FS2000, comes with a speaking flight instructor, though the new one seems as prone to getting hung-up as the old one). The tweaked graphics engine seems to allow for more realistic texturing of airplanes (from the glossy finish of a freshly built Mustang to the flat black of an SR-71), and more acceptable realistic movement of animated flight-control surfaces, flaps and landing gear. In addition to exteriors, panels and flight models, add-on aircraft now have "effects" (contrails, afterburner). Ground texture is also improved over FS2000, making for much more convincing low-level flight. Instead of the stiff blue of the water in older versions of FS, rivers, seas and oceans have waves in FS2002, probably to highlight the inclusion of seaplanes.
One annoying detail - long load times. This is compounded by the fact that you can only change one aspect of a flight at a time (time of day, location, weather), requiring the program to reload the flight each time.
While nothing will rock your socks off in FS2002, it's a solid and enjoyable sim that allows itself to be pretty much what the individual user wants it to - from an entry-level sim to a challenging one. I ran this program smoothly on my P4 (2ghz) w/WinXP & a Geforece3 card. I had planned to hold off on FS2002 since I already had FS2000, but I'm glad I got it nevertheless.

Good Friday
Good Friday
by Robert Holt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars lame thriller set in the Mid East, June 15 2004
In "Good Friday" the US faces an imminent Soviet invasion of Saudi Arabia. A fleet of Russian transports and escorting MiG fighters converges on the Gulf Kingdom - a move that leaves the Americans with few options. They can't allow the Russians to take Saudi, nor can they let the kingdom become the flashpoint for WWIII. Instead, the Americans decide to invade the kingdom itself, purely as a preventative measure. "Good Friday" posits the moves and counter-moves of the plot as occurring within a short period of time and jumps between the White House situation room, the cockpit of a Marine Harrier Jet, Saudi palaces and the desert battlegrounds.
Unfortunately, it's all a mess - nothing comes together in this story, which remains a disjointed collection of scenes that do nothing to advance the plot. By the middle of the book, it's impossible to determine whether the Americans really have opted for their nifty strategy of preemptive invasion, whether anybody in Saudi knows or even cares about it or even what the consequences of that plan are. Key to "Good Friday" is that the Saudis haven't the capacity to defend themselves - they've got hot planes like the F-15, but they can't fly them that well (landing seems to be a particular problem for Holt's Saudis) - and they come off like the stereotypical Arabs you see on sit-coms. Also crucial to the plot is that the Russian invasion force will otherwise be overwhelming, an aspect of the plot I missed entirely (I mean an airborne force is nifty, but what else do they have; also wouldn't that force be mincemeat against ground-based defenses?; and how far can armed MiG-29's fly, even when one way?). The "techno" is thin here, and you'll get a better feel for the dynamics of flying a Harrier by picking up Microsoft Flight Simulator than this book. By the end of the book, it's impossible to determine what happened. But you'll have lost interest long before that.

Death Becomes Her
Death Becomes Her
DVD ~ Meryl Streep
Price: CDN$ 9.97
25 used & new from CDN$ 5.65

2.0 out of 5 stars failed black comedy falls flat, June 13 2004
This review is from: Death Becomes Her (DVD)
A big effects thriller and that turns into a flat joke - that's how I typify this flick. Goldie Hawn is Helen, a premature frump who wasted her life in the shadow of the more glamorous Madeline (Streep). A painfully untalented and hated actress, Madeline managed to get by on her good looks with the help of a lifetime of plastic surgery - but even that is nearing its end by the start of "Death". Though cozily enconsed in a tony Beverly Hills mansion, Mad's looks and her career are history. Bruce Willis is Ernest, the plastic surgeon they seem to be fighting over without actually loving him. When given the chance to experience immortality, the two still find themselves fighting over Ernest and everything else that's gone wrong with their lives. "Death" introduces us to this unfortunate trio during the disco era - when an already aging Madeleine stars in a reviled "Studio-54" version of "Sweet Bird of Youth", and Ernst is both a highly sought plastic surgeon and Helen's fiancée. Though Eernest loves the mild-mannered Helen, it's clear that he's falling under Madeleine's spell, and will be one more of the many men Helen lost to her friend. The plot jumps ahead decades later - Helen is a bloated version of herself, having never gotten past losing Ernst to Madeleine. Madeleine hasn't weathered the years any better - unable to handle losing her youth, she's become a crone who embittered her own life and Ernst's. Ernst by then is shriveled version of his younger self - a self-deprecating alcoholic who's long since learned of Madeleine's dark side (in his home-office, he tosses scalpels like darts at pictures of his hated wife, and refers to her as "it") but can no longer escape. No longer trusted to work on the living, he's become a designer mortician (the dead can't sue for malpractice). And then there's Lisle (Isabella Rosellini) - a reclusive silent-film era star who may have discovered the secret of eternal life...maybe.
What starts off as a bundle of preachy ideas (potshots at a culture obsessed with looks and youth) quickly turns into a string of special-effects fueled sight-gags. Helen and Madeleine use Lisle's secret formula to remake themselves, but find that not even the youth it offers can survive their mutual hate, and the two poke CGI holes in each other. Both learn the hard way that Lisle's formula gives both life and youth, but not in equal portions (i.e. - you can live forever, but your new youth remains as fragile as the one you lost in your 30's). It's supposed to be ironic that in fighting each other, both "Mad" & "Hel" lose what they really wanted - to be "girls" again. Unfortunately it doesn't really work because Lisle's formula never really offers them that - neither wanted immortality, it's that fragile youth they wanted to keep, not their lives. It's a forced irony that doesn't work, and the plot wastes without something meatier to chew on than Mad & Hel's catfighting. While Streep & Hawn try to get some gags out of the script, the flick really belongs to Willis, proving again he can do just about anything. The story also gets some good action in the seductive form of Rosellini as Lisle - "keep your ass handy" she tells her buff entourage. If only they kept her handy as well, but her loss hits this movie once she disappears.

Iran-Iraq War in the Air 1980-1988
Iran-Iraq War in the Air 1980-1988
by Tom Cooper
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 34.08
17 used & new from CDN$ 34.08

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive...yet futile, June 7 2004
The 1980-88 Gulf War escaped exhaustive documentation despite its length and devastation, large-scale use of high-technology and its lasting consequences. Obscurity is especially true of the air war which pitted Iran's western equipped and trained air force against Iraq's Soviet-styled air-war machine. Cooper and Bishop address this, but the results are as mixed and frustrating as the war itself.
The authors detail much. We see how Imperial Iran considered itself the regional superpower - frequently clashing with both Iraqi and Soviet forces - and planned on military self-sufficiency prior to the Shah's fall. According to Cooper/Bishop, the Islamist's rise confronted Saddam with an opportunity he believed both short-lived and never to reappear: Hussein deemed Islamic Iran inherently weak, but also "knew" the Mullahs would fall in favor of a stronger, more dangerous pro-western regime). Iraq's second-rate military proves a tight fit for Hussein's outsized ambitions. Still lacking advanced French planes like the Mirage F-1EQ or more capable versions of the Mig-23MF or BN fighters than those the Russians would "provide", Hussein knew he had no chance against a western-backed Iran. However, Iran's religious leaders (again according to Cooper/Bishop) purge the Shah's military professionals (including most pilots), and nearly sell its advanced aircraft - including hordes of Phantom and Tiger-II fighter bombers and as many as 80 F-14 Tomcats armed with Phoenix missiles. Instead, Hussein's pre-emptive attack and invasion turn Iran's leadership around - pilots are released, aircraft are refurbished and a massive and determined military-industrial complex takes shape. Cooper/Bishop's research contradicts conventional perspective that Iran's military ground to a halt with the American embargo (most concluded that even with covert aid, Iran's fleet of 80 F-14's was reduced by combat attrition to 5 by 1983; the authors depict large numbers of F-14s flying front-line interception flights by that time, and regularly attribute its kills to liberal use of Phoenix missiles). Within a few years, the Iranians have not only contained the invasion of western Iran, but launch a counter-invasion. Iran's "IRIAF" held its own against the numerically superior IrAF in defending Iran, and also flew daring attacks throughout Iraq. The war grinds on however because of a tragic miscalculation by the super-powers: unable to allow either side victory, they keep both fighting (covert western aid to Iran comes in the war's early days while Iran was on the defensive; when Iranian forces entered Iraq, Iraq benefits from western intel). The super-powers' confused keeping both sides weak keeping them at war. Though considered the victor, Hussein emerged from war so saddled in debt that he remained a danger to his neighbors and the world over a decade later. Though reform has been an issue in Iran for years, the war allowed Iran's theocracy to consolidate power - identifying Iranian patriotism with their rule and likely legitimizing a regime that might have otherwise collapsed. Thus the war gave the world two nations weaker but also dangerous.
Several issues dog this book. The first is possible bias. Cooper/Bishop appears kinder to Iran - Iran's Islamist expansionist ambitions are ignored (the book makes Iran's ruling clerics dovish in foreign affairs and more concerned with crushing domestic dissent) while her pilots are "gallant" and well trained. Iraq's fliers are inferior: better at bombing dissident Kurds than confronting either their better trained and equipped rivals or their micromanaging boss. Iraq's misfortunes begin on day one, with its botched attempt to obliterate Iran's air force on the ground (emulating the Israeli strategy of 1967, Hussein orders his pilots to hit Iran's air bases but unfortunately, they lack sufficient training, tactics and technology to cause much damage, and are ordered to concentrate on runways to the exclusion of vulnerable aircraft parked nearby). Later, having already shown they could hit much of Iraq, the Iranians blitz a large base over 500 miles inside enemy air space, and lose not a man in the process. It's unclear whether the book is one-sided or the war itself was. While the authors rely on heavily on their sources, there are some interesting nuggets that seem more assumed than documented - notably Hussein's reaction to Iran's failed attack of Hussein's Osirak (nearly a year before an Israeli strike force successfully hit it). Cooper/Bishop have Hussein assuring the Iranians that the reactor was intended for "the Zionist enemy" - a point that would have vindicated the Israeli attack nearly a decade before "Desert Storm". Covert Israeli aid flows to Iran even when not corroborated in footnotes. Lastly, the war's many individual episodes are seldom free of debate - yet the authors seem to accept Iranian accounts as fact to a markedly higher degree than those of Iraq without explanation.
Less arguable is the book's strikingly low professional quality. Cooper/Bishop tackled a huge topic and amassed much remarkable data. However, for a published work, the book is rife with grammatical, spelling and other typographical errors. Confusing run-on sentences are typical, and you can't turn a page without wondering what the authors could have done with a thesaurus. (One memorable misspell recalls the bitter fighting in Khuzestan, where Iran's forces confronted the invading Iraqis and extracted a "heavy tool" - youch!) An account of the failed Nojeh coup by Iranian fighter pilots against the Islamists is detailed twice - as if the authors forgot they had already detailed it.
Also, praise to the contrary, the book offers few usable maps. Those unfamiliar with the region will find it hard to compile the authors' dense information into an overall picture of the war or find insight into its campaigns. I simply can't understand why there are so few maps in this book - it's not like they're harder to get than the remarkable pictures the book offers in abundance. Neither is there an index to help the reader go back and review locations, people, events or organizations (e.g. Basiji, Pasdaran or IRGC) when they pop up again. In sum, Cooper/Farzad present a great primary-source, and guarantee you will need more.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (Widescreen Edition)
The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ J.K.Rowling
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 21.77
58 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent conclusion, June 4 2004
Definitely worth the wait, "Return" is a majestic film that stays true to its themes and characters while ramping up the action and visuals. In "Fellowship", the band of hobbits, dwarves, men and elves journey across the wild lands of middle-earth in a quest to destroy the "One Ring" of the monstrous Sauron. As the existence of the ring and of Sauron are intertwined, Sauron cannot be destroyed until the ring itself is destroyed - and only the in volcanic fires in which it was created, in Mount Doom deep within Sauron's homeland of Mordor, can the ring be destroyed. With the existence and possession of the ring at stake, and with the resurgence of Sauron, huge armies grow across middle-earth. Vile Orcs and twisted Uruk Hai battle men, dwarves and elves. (The clash is also one of themes - greed for the ring's power against hope for hope's sake.) In "Towers", the Hobbits Frodo and Sam proceed into Mordor alone, while the remainder of the Fellowship - led by Aragorn, a distant descendant of the Kings of Gondor, rides to the rescue of Rohan - a kingdom under siege by Uruk Hai allied to the forces of darkness. While Rohan survived, the much larger and critical kingdom of Gondor faces siege by even more implacable forces of evil in "Return of the King". While Gondor is encircled by an army of Orcs and men in league with them, Frodo and Sam move deeper into Mordor, led by Gollum. Once a being little different from the Hobbits, centuries of life with the ring have reduced Gollum into a hideous gnomish thing whose thoughts go little further than the One Ring. (In "Towers", we learnt that Gollum had a good side, but events and the suspicions of Sam have suppressed it; By "King" he is determined to betray the Hobbits and reclaim the One Ring. Though Tolkien wrote of Gollum's origins early in "Fellowship", Director Peter Jackson saves it for "King" and to good effect). From the depths of Mordor to the walls of Minas Tirith in Gondor, the war locks men, orcs and wizards in a desperate struggle for the survival of Middle Earth.
This was a fantastic movie, in just about every way. Though it's epic in scale, "King" never goes far without exploring the strains of the adventure on the individual characters - we see the anguish of Gandalf who finally realizes the certainty of Frodo's doom; of Aragorn's doubts of men's courage and his capacity to rule them; of Sam and Frodo's devotion to each other - and especially of Gollum who wanted nothing more than the One Ring. The script also elevates characters that it could have easily left on the side and ignored - Theoden and Eowyn of Rohan come to mind, as well as Pippin and Merry's - who began the trilogy as comic relief. Though obviously CGI, the battle sequences achieve a sort of super-naturalistic, all enveloping fidelity - in which swarms of men battle monster-elephant things carrying hordes of enemy troops (this is what Lucas was shooting for when he tried to invade Hoth in "Empire"). You can't believe those monster elephants are real, though when they attack, you won't be able to ignore their hoof beats. The sequencing of the action shots, and their ability to maintain a consistent POV through characters that would other be lost in the mess elevate "King" over the newer "Star Wars" movies. If "King" gets a bit long in the end, and edges towards sentimentality, it's earned that. At over three hours long, "King" is scarcely a minute too long.

The Matrix Revolutions (Widescreen) (2 Discs)
The Matrix Revolutions (Widescreen) (2 Discs)
DVD ~ Keanu Reeves
Price: CDN$ 6.99
107 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Will please fans, but not likely anybody else, May 30 2004
The final entry in the Matrix trilogy will disappoint some - probably many of those who weren't hardcore Matrix fans. Picking up where the last movie left off (and I'm not going to regale you with what the Matrix is about, because if you haven't seen either of the other movies, you really have no business watching "Revolutions"), the humans' hidden city of Zion faces certain annihilation by the "Machine Army".
(Okay - in a distant future, a civilization of intelligent machines enslaves almost all humanity, using human bio-energy to power themselves; the unfortunate humans who are born and ultimately die while tapped by the machines remain oblivious to their fate because their consciousness remains trapped in a vast virtual reality known as "The Matrix"; the first flick taught us how existence their was split between the consciousness of those imprisoned there and AI programs who kept order; "Reloaded" added an interesting spin - rather than just an Us (humans) against them (Machines outside the Matrix and AI programs on the inside) AI programs were depicted as sophisticated, able to mathematically deduce what were seemingly human feelings of love, lust, frustration, dissension and regret. We met the Merovingian - an almost god-like program who reconstructed himself as a Francophiliac philosopher of free choice; the "Keymaker" an obsolete program who doesn't let his impending destruction keep him from making keys for doors meant to remain locked, and pointing the way for those lost; we also found out that the enigmatic "Oracle" was herself a high-level program; and we finally met the architect himself. Rather then merely single-mindedly enslave and exploit us, these bits of heavyweight AI waxed with surprising intelligence on free choice.
At the end of the last movie, Neo (Reeves) learned from the Architect that he was not destined by fate to save mankind from the machines - but actually chosen by the machines to fulfill his role in their order in which Zion is repeatedly created and then destroyed (the machines, being essentially equation-crunching computers, thrive on predictable patterns; it's our free choice, not just our freedom, that sets us apart from the machines). Though the machines are assured of their victory over the humans, they've got problems of their own - namely the AI program Agent Smith (Weaving). Once only a cog in the Matrix whom we thought destroyed by Neo in "The Matrix", we learnt in "Reloaded" that only his connection to the AI was destroyed, but Smith himself not only remained in existence, but found the power to turn others in the Matrix into clones of himself. By the end of "Reloaded", Smith was able to make the biggest jump of all - cloning himself onto one of Zion's agents and leaping into the next world in the body of a human. In "Revolutions", the humans face an awesome attack by the machines. Neo and Trinity fight to reach the main AI at the center of the machines' city while Morpheus and Niobe race time and a fleet of the Machines' sentinels to reach their own. Meanwhile, within the Matrix itself, Smith consolidates his power by cloning everything into himself.
"Revolutions" is very much a mixed bag - the metaphysics and plotlines developed in the first two movies are not entirely served by the comparatively abrupt ending. Also, the plot separates characters who should remain together - Trinity joins Neo on his futile journey to the machines because that plays up the romance angle of the flick, but shouldn't it be Morpheus who goes along? (Before Trinity fell in love with Neo, it was Morpheus who believed in him, and it was Morpheus's faith that was shattered at the end of "Reloaded" - what better way, in a story about predestination and free-choice, to develop a character than by showing it acting first on perceived fate, then by free-choice? So Trinity and Neo have their romantic moment while Morpheus & Niobe are nearly drowned by clouds of CGI-rendered Sentinels). That aside, "Revolutions" is still an adrenaline-soaked feast for the eyes, one that pushes the boundaries of what you can show, even in wide-screen format. The climactic attack on Zion - in which humans battle clouds of sentinels, and mammoth drill robots, easily outstrips the lame all-CGI battles of the last "Star Wars" movies (it's sort of a mix between "Starship Troopers" and Tolkein). For a CGI fest, "Revolutions" leans heavily on some very human FX - Morpheus is still loveable for his pseudo-zen koans, while Hugo Weaving's deadpan delivery will keep him as cinema's most chillingly convincing manifestation of artificial intelligence. Also, special kudos to Ian Bliss, a human who becomes Smith's vessel in the "real" world, and gives us all a valuable how-to-sound-like-Hugo Weaving lesson. If you want a nice and tidy story, go watch "Star Trek". For a more complicated ride, plug into the Matrix.

White Death
White Death
by Clive Cussler
Edition: Hardcover
57 used & new from CDN$ 0.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as a Pitt novel, but still great, May 27 2004
This review is from: White Death (Hardcover)
"White Death" is another of the NUMA franchise books - stories written by Cussler and Paul Kamprecos which star characters from the "National Underwater & Marine Agency". NUMA was originally created to showcase Cussler's hero, the deep-diving, globe-hopping and mystery-solving Dirk Pitt, but grew to include a stable of characters who carry the show in these newer books. Though the story follows the formula of just about every Dirk Pitt novel, Pitt never makes an appearance in this one. In "White Death", NUMA hero Kurt Austin runs afoul of Oceanus - a vast corporate hydra that markets genetically modified fish across the globe. In true Cussler tradition, the initial confrontation is perfectly accidental - Austin volunteers to save the crew of Danish warship accidentally sunk by a ship belonging to a fringe group of whale-huggers. Too late, Austin learns that the Whale-huggers - led by an opportunist named Marcus Ryan - were set-up by Oceanus to distract the world from a nearby fish-processing plant. Sneaking into the unusually secure commercial fishery owned by the company on the remote Faroes Islands, Austin finds clues to a darker secret than Albacore. On the other side of the Atlantic, Paul and Gamay Trout - married NUMA marine biologists - investigate the waters near an Oceanus fishery in North America. For those who live nearby but don't work for Oceanus, times are tough. Not that there isn't any fishing, only that there's something in the water that has replaced the normal catch, and it demands a really bigger boat...
Connecting the dots on each side, Austin and team link Oceanus with a mysterious and legendarily violent tribe of outcast Inuit known as the Kiolya. Led by a figure known as "Toonook", the Kiolya and Oceanus are poised to unleash a horrifying genetically engineered eco-weapon of mass destruction that will give them a stranglehold on the oceans of the world. On their side, Austin falls back on a wealthy but mysterious Spaniard - a Basque who traces his roots to a 15th century explorer persecuted by the Inquisition. But will they be enough to stop Oceanus?
This is only my second "Kurt Austin/NUMA novel - the first being "Serpent". It's still not up to the quality of the Pitt novels, but "White Death" is still quite good. If it holds few surprises, it's a fast read, and the characters seem to come alive much better than they did in the other book. Best of all are the villains - Toonook and the viscious Kiolya are utterly evil, but so formidible that you know they won't go easily. Kamprecos/Cussler gather the respective forces together for a slam-bang finish that gives you faith in the future of the NUMA novels.

Stargate
Stargate
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 1.31

3.0 out of 5 stars fun, if forgettable actioner, May 21 2004
This review is from: Stargate (VHS Tape)
In "Stargate" an ultra-secret military experiment on a mysterious ancient Egyptian artifact reveals it to be a device for crossing huge distances of interstellar space. How or why the device works proves less important than how it can be used. So, with eccentric Egyptologist "Mr. Jackson" (Spader), and led by burnt out Col. Jack O'Neal (Russell), a crack team of American commando travels through the gate and finds themselves on a distant planet on the other edge of the galaxy. There, they will find a primitive civilization of humans looking pretty much like those of Khemitic Egypt. They will also learn the secret of the Stargate's creator, and its dark plans for humanity. Turns out that the gate was created by Ra, a super-intelligent being that used super-science to create the ancient Egyptian empires. Fearing Ra's power, his ancient slaves buried their stargate, thus trapping Ra on the other side. Now realizing the way is open to return to Earth, and feeling somewhat vindictive, Ra plans to attack our planet. Only Jackson and O'neal stand in its way.
This was a nifty idea for a movie, though not a very original one. (If "Independence Day" was like "War of the Worlds" with F-18's, then "Stargate" was a rip-off of the "Dr. Who" serial "Pyramids of Mars" of 1975 - both feature a vindictive demi-godly Egyptian being trapped on one side of a stargate; "Stargate" swaps Tom Baker's jibes for Kurt Russell's machine guns). The flick generates little suspense (Spader's character can read the hieroglyphics that helpfully explain the premise behind the scrtipt) and the villains (once we've determined that they are just that) have little depth or menace - the script calls for them to look like ancient Egyptians, which gives them the appearance you'd expect from CB Demille. Spader and Russell are two interesting actors, but the script gives them little to work off each other with. O'Neal, we learn early on, is grief and guilt stricken because his son accidentally killed himself with O'Neal's gun. By the end of the flick, he's found his groove again, and is ready to battle evil - but the turnabout seems shallow, and doesn't seem as much fun as it should. Like the rest of the movie, it's big and loud, and not as much fun as it should be.

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