movies

The Hobbit

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

A director returns, after several years and more than one lackluster attempt with other kinds of movies, to a genre he redefined. He had some little known but modestly successful works before his big breakthrough, but since then he just has not been the same man who gave us such an epic, fantastic spectacle full of industry-defining special effects, wonderful music, thrilling action, and, above all, a new world to explore with characters we wanted to accompany. Special effects have come a ways since his magnum opus was crafted, and if used correctly they have the potential to enhance the visual experience even more than before. What could possibly go wrong?

Peter Jackson’s latest project is out in theaters. I wish I could say it was called The Hobbit, but honesty compels me to report that the name is actually The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The reason for the alteration is that The Hobbit will be brought to us not as a short adventure thrill ride, in keeping with the pace and feel of the source material, but rather will be extended into a movie trilogy that, when finished, will outlast a typical BBC miniseries. The motive behind this sort of reverse editing, whereby Tolkien’s notes were raided for things to stuff into the story and plump it up, is Mr. Jackson’s belief that we are stupid enough to triple his box office take if he triples the number of movies to be made from the story. He is probably right. I know I bought my ticket.

Even with his triumphs Jackson had a tendency to let a project get bloated. The best example, I believe, is the sudden barrage of scenes that hit us in The Two Towers right as we should be, could be, would be cruising toward the third act if a drawn-out and apocryphal love story were not fed to us by way of flashbacks, many in a languid, dreamy style that makes one wonder if one has just witnessed something shot wholly in slow motion. When Jackson had over 1,000 pages of material to convert to nine hours of footage this was an annoyance. With The Hobbit, he has fewer than 300 pages to make into nine hours and the filler has now surpassed the beef in the hotdog.

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The Man Who Sold the Moon by Robert A. Heinlein

The Man Who Sold the Moon by Robert A. Heinlein

This month we are reading and discussing The Man Who Sold the Moon by Robert Heinlein:

This is not a novel but a collection of shorter fiction by Robert Heinlein that fall within his loose-knit Future History series. The title story, also the longest, is a novella about businessman D.D. Harriman’s dream of being the first to travel to and possess the moon, his schemes to raise capital in legitimate and semi-legitimate ways, and his efforts to avoid government ownership of the moon. The remaining short stories are “Life Line,” “Let There be Light,” “The Roads Must Roll,” “Blowups Happen,” and “Requiem.”

Moon only available on Amazon in mass market paperback, so order your copy soon. If you buy the book through our affiliate links you’ll be supporting our work here at Prometheus Unbound without costing yourself anything extra.

Join us as we read and discuss The Man Who Sold the Moon.

We’re reading the stories by internal chronological order rather than the order in which they appear in the book. I’ve written a post in the forum listing the stories in proper order and explaining why.

You need not have voted on this month’s selection to join in the discussion, but you do need to be registered and logged in on this site to access the book club’s dedicated forums.

October Recap

We’ve been reading J. Neil Schulman’s classic dystopian science fiction novel Alongside Night, winner of the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award and currently being adapted into a movie starring Kevin Sorbo (HerculesAndromeda).

Official discussion is still open if you want to chime in before the live author chat with Schulman on November 10th. For more information on this event, see the Google+ event page. The discussion will be retired to the TLR — Previous Reads forum after the event, where discussion can continue without distracting from discussion of this month’s read.

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Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

The date has been set for our live author chat with J. Neil Schulman, whose Prometheus Hall of Fame Award–winning novel Alongside Night is being adapted into a film starring Kevin Sorbo (Hercules, Andromeda).

The event will take place via Google+ Hangout on Air on Saturday, November 10th at 9PM EST (that’s 6PM PST / 8PM CST). It will be streamed live for those who cannot fit into the Hangout and a recording will be uploaded to our YouTube channel afterward. For more details, and to RSVP, visit the official event page on Google+.

Here are the official movie trailer, music video, and Schulman’s talk at Libertopia about bringing the book to film:

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Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

I’m a little late with this post and I completely failed to send out the voting results email via our newsletter last month. All I can say right now is that I’ve been rather preoccupied with some momentous events for the site. First, I upgraded from shared hosting to a virtual private server (VPS) at DreamHost even though we’re not yet bringing in enough revenue to cover the significantly added cost. We’d simply outgrown shared hosting; the site was loading slowly and often failed to load at all, especially on the backend while trying to save and publish posts. Second, the new version of the theme I designed this site with, Thesis 2.0, was just released on the 1st. It’s a radically redesigned and powerful theme framework and I’ve been obsessed with scaling its steep relearning curve and redesigning Prometheus Unbound on it. Stay tuned for Prometheus Unbound 2.0. It’s gonna be awesome, if I do say so myself.

But enough with excuses… For the month of October, we are reading and discussing J. Neil Schulman’s classic dystopian science fiction novel Alongside Night, winner of the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award and currently being adapted into a movie starring Kevin Sorbo (Hercules, Andromeda):

The American economy is experiencing a systematic meltdown. The country is turning into a totalitarian police-surveillance state, but bold black-market enterprises use the latest technology to thrive. Anyone declared a terrorist by the administration is stripped of their Constitutional rights and sent to a secret federal prison. Caught in the middle of it all are the brilliant 17-year-old son of a missing Nobel Prize–winning economist (Dr. Vreeland), his best friend from prep school whose uncle was once a guerrilla fighter, and the beautiful but mysterious 17-year-old girl he meets in a secret underground… a girl who carries a pistol with a silencer.

The setting could be next week. But this Prometheus Hall of Fame Award–winning novel was written over three decades ago. And now it is being adapted into a film starring Kevin Sorbo as Dr. Martin Vreeland.

Our book giveaway is over, but if you missed out you can purchase a copy in Kindle or paper format at Amazon.com. Your purchase via our affiliate links will help support our work here at Prometheus Unbound.

Join us as we read and discuss Alongside Night. And stay tuned for the official event announcement of the upcoming live author chat with Schulman, hosted by Prometheus Unbound via Google+ Hangouts on Air.

You need not have voted on this month’s selection to join in the discussion, but you do need to be registered and logged in on this site to access the book club’s dedicated forums.

September Recap

I’ll update this post with a more extensive recap later in the month, followed by a full review, but for now I can say we enjoyed Jack Vance’s Emphyrio. The stylized prose and dialogue might not be for everyone, and the story takes a while to really get going (a lot of time is spent on background and setup), but the book is very enjoyable and worth a read. There is much for libertarians to appreciate in Emphyrio as well. The setting is a planet run as an welfare state by mysterious lords, in which the economy is artisan-based and any mass production or duplication is strictly prohibited and harshly punished. Events lead the protagonist, Ghyl, to rebel against this unjust system.

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Looper

Looper

Logic is never kind to a story about time travel. It seems that no matter what idea or aspect of so-called fourth dimensional travel a storyteller wishes to pursue, something does not work right — contradictions abound. The biggest plot holes in the history of fiction are to be found therein. For my money, this is the first and best reason to suppose that time travel is not possible. Reality is nothing if not possible and plausible — at least from the perspective of one in possession of the relevant facts — and if a story cannot be made to work right when time travel is involved, reality probably cannot either.

There is, however, a lot of potential in such tales. If a viewer will but suspend his disbelief and allow an author or filmmaker to explore one possibility while forgetting its necessary and contradictory corollaries, then some interesting possibilities may be realized. Rian Johnson has done a first-rate job of spinning a time-traveling yarn with the new movie Looper, if the audience will afford it such consideration.

The year is 2044, and time travel, as we are told by the narrator and protagonist (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is not yet invented. Thirty years in the future, it is/will be (it occurs to me that we need another tense or two in the English language when we discuss these things). It is illegal, though, and only mobsters make use of it, to send back their targets to be eliminated and their bodies disposed of. The men who do the eliminating and disposing are called loopers, and they earn that appellation when they close their own loop by, at the end of their contract, killing their 30-years-older selves.

Our protagonist, called simply Joe, is a drug abusing, well-dressed looper with a manner perhaps a bit too refined, and a face perhaps too smooth and handsome, for someone in his station. Leonardo DiCaprio, in The Departed, managed to overcome his golden beauty and give a convincing portrayal of a hoodlum. I would have preferred something rougher like that in Looper. Gordon-Levitt has all the makings of a leading man, but I thought the role he portrayed in this film was not quite the right one.

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Dredd 3D

Dredd 3D

The Hollywood Movie Factory has turned out another flick, helping to satiate the demand for competent but uninspired action vehicles conveniently forgettable enough not to take up valuable cerebral RAM for the long-term. This one is called Dredd 3D and is based on the same source material that spawned the Stallone production some years ago. I hardly remember the previous version, and I fully expect to have difficulties recalling the present one when, in a decade or two, they remake it. More interesting than the movie, however, are all the libertarian points it makes without any indication that it means to.

In the future, the United States has become an irradiated wasteland, save for a megacity that stretches from old Boston to old DC. A place of squalor and, one suspects based on general living conditions, a robust welfare state, 800 million inhabitants huddle together inside its protective walls, trying to eke out an existence while spawning the occasional mutant.

There are gigantic living centers hundreds of stories high where like classes of people are housed. These massive structures have all the hallmarks of government housing, from a disinterested janitorial staff to poorly maintained and infrequently cleaned premises to homeless squatters claiming filthy nooks and crannies. As one would expect, drug lords dominate in these neglected mini-cities.

Judge Dredd, a member of the police/military class, has the legal privilege to apprehend, try, and punish on his own authority. He takes a student out with him for a day, a young woman who cannot manage a passing grade at the academy but whose mutant psychic powers make her highly desirable for the force. In answering a police call, they enter Peach Trees, the name of one of the gigantic living complexes, and arrest a prominent member of a powerful drug gang. The local drug lord, fearing what information her subordinate will give away when he is interrogated, locks down the building and tries to eliminate the judges.

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Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

Get Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman for free!

We’ve got another book giveaway for you.

I’m pleased to announce that we’re working with libertarian science fiction author J. Neil Schulman to give away copies of his classic dystopian novel Alongside Night.

Written over three decades ago, this Prometheus Hall of Fame Award–winning novel is a thriller set in an America facing economic collapse, a growing totalitarian police-surveillance state, and agorist counter-economic resistance. And now it is being adapted into a film starring Kevin Sorbo as Dr. Martin Vreeland.

We’ll be giving away the ebook in epub format for the rest of September, until 12:00am EST on October 1, 2012.

One lucky winner will also receive a signed paperback copy of Alongside Night.

For more information, click on the link below:

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