Saw "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" at the cinema. Somewhat entertaining, but a bit of a disappointment.
I know people tend to say "it's only a sequel", but there are good sequels and bad sequels. A good sequel has to go beyond the original in some way. Examples: "Aliens" took some of the creepy suspense and body horror of the original "Alien", but added action and war movie elements to make a different movie. "Mad Max I" had a cop fighting gangs in a decaying society. "Mad Max II: The Road Warrior" took that further, to a world where that society has disintegrated completely leaving just gangs and villages; and the protagonist has to get over the trauma incurred in the first movie. The original Star Wars trilogy at least changed the backgrounds to the action: desert planet, ice planet, forest planet; and explored the characters further.
A sequel doesn't have be a retread: it can develop the characters further, introduce new characters, use different exotic background, take the ideas further. "Crystal Skull" doesn't do that. The backgrounds are the same jungles and temples we've seen before. The car chases are the same leap-from-vehicle-to-vehicle stuff we saw with mining cars in the original. The fight scenes are the same keep-slugging-the-big-guy as before. The sidekicks (hotheaded youngster, romantic bickerer) and baddies (cold-blooded mastermind, thick-headed henchman) fill the same roles as before. The one relationship plot twist is heavily telegraphed and predictably uninteresting.
Jonesy gets some lines about things getting harder than they used to be, but in the action scenes he's as inexhaustible and indestructible as ever. Taking the aging thing seriously enough for him to fail or lose sometime, might have made that a bit more credible.
Overall though, it is a professionally-made action movie, reasonably well-balanced, though shading into absurdity sometimes. Maybe worth watching if you don't expect anything more than a repeat.
What I'm Reading
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. Covers what might happen if human beings instantly became extinct. Saw a very similar TV show Life After People a while ago, but it doesn't seem to be officially connected, though it covered almost identical territory, down the bridges collapsing and subways flooding in NYC.
The book has a lot more information, and covers quite a few examples not really attended to in the book, like the borderlands in Cyprus and Korea. Also has more of an environmental angle.
On the other hand, this volume isn't heavily illustrated so it doesn't have quite the same impact. Also the prose tends to be a little purplish sometimes.
Overall, pretty interesting, but if you've seen the TV version then you haven't missed that much.
Noticed that the book seemed pretty confident that cockroaches wouldn't do too well in a post-human New York with no heated apartments, while the TV programme seemed to think they had a chance.
What I'm Reading 2
Latest Aubrey/Maturin was The Letter of Marque. Expelled from the navy after being tricked into taking part in stock market fraud, Aubrey takes up as a privateer.
Good one, with some interesting stuff on the transition to the private sector, such as when his crew start singing shanties as they turn the capstan, something that's not allowed in the navy. Has a couple of good actions too , especially a tense cutting-out expedition.
One quibble is that things are made a bit too easy for Aubrey thanks to the wealth and influence of his friends. For one thing he's given immunity from having his men pressed, which could have led to some tension as he has to dodge the navy like the other privateers.
All Kinds of Stuff on cartoon skin vs lumpypants.
Read at work presents books in the form of powerpoint presentations on a pseudo-desktop. Nice concept but limited selection.
Large study suggests boys are not intrinsically better at maths since the gender gap varies strongly with culture. The Register carps unconvincingly, basically saying that boys could still be smarter by a small margin.
He notes that in 1988, conservatives who today claim Reagan as their own for his role in downing the "evil empire" at the time condemned him. Howard Phillips called Reagan "a useful idiot for Kremlin propaganda," and the Washington Times compared him to Neville Chamberlain. When Reagan prepared to negotiate with Gorbachev in Geneva, Tom Bethell wrote that Reagan was "doing what the Soviets want." George Will accused him of accelerating "the moral disarmament of the West," and National Review argued that Gorbachev was ruling in the manner of a "vintage Stalin." Others warned against trusting Gorbachev at all. The Heritage Foundation called him a Stalinist who "brought no essential change in the Soviet political scene."
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