Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

I jumped on the bandwagon, so what? I enjoyed the ride.

Quick Scan

The Greek gods are still alive, and procreating, with mortals. Percy Jackson is a by-product of an Olympian Deity—more specifically, a son of Poseidon. Kicked out of school every year, friendless, dyslexic and has ADHD, no one knew, especially Percy himself, that his fate will shatter the barriers of myth and reality. Well no one but the Oracle perhaps, since its reason for existence is riddling out prophecies.

Mount Olympus, with the address; 600th Floor, the Empire State Building, New York City, NY, is at the brink of war. Someone stole Zeus’s Master Bolt, a symbol of power and also a potent weapon of mass destruction. The indignant Zeus points his finger at his proud brother, Poseidon. With his pride hurt, Poseidon is willing to make a stand, refusing to prove his innocence, deeming the act ungodly. 

But as Percy reaches Camp Half-Blood, the blame is passed on, and Percy is suspected of a grand thievery. Fresh from the discovery of being a demigod, Percy has to prevent Mount Olympus from ripping apart and has exactly ten days before a war between the sky and the sea is declared. And to do that, he needs to return Zeus’s Master Bolt, clearing his involvement in the process—or so he thinks.

The OC

If you’re looking for a mature read, as early as now, I’m telling you not to read it. But if you are willing to let the child in you play, then by all means get a copy.

The first of the series ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ is the Lightning Thief. Rick Riordan certainly has a flare for light reading as he toyed with Greek mythology and adventure, and the two already sounds redundant. To review it in comparison to other titles with more depth and maturity in them would be unjust, not to say that the entire plot lacks depth, but not as frequent. It lacks the quality of making you contemplate on a thought, or passage, marvel with the depth of interpretation—but it makes you grin, grope for some knowledge of the Greek gods, if you ever had some.

Riordan’s writing is well-paced, and enjoyable. The pages continually flick from one to the next. His style has this fluidity and adequate humor immersed in Percy’s storytelling. Like Twilight the book is told from the protagonist’s point of view, but unlike Twilight, it doesn’t have a sort of school girl love story fantasy. It is fantasy yes, but more along the lines of Harry Potter; adventure and magic, well in this case, mythology.

Riordan also nailed his characters’ persona and aura well. With use of dialogue, description and behavior the three main characters: Percy, Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, and Grover, the satyr, it is easy for the reader to establish their signatures, preventing a volatile personality.

Mentioning Harry Potter is purposeful. There are a lot of similarities between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, aside from both of them being listed on the New York Times bestseller list. However, most similarities are acceptable because they are original in Riordan’s way. I just have to note such likeness because anyone who have read Harry Potter would be compelled to compare it, and trust me, it would take a lot of willpower not to.

There’s a strong resemblance between The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Lightning Thief, like Harry was 11 when he got through a dungeon full of obstacles designed by adult powerful wizards while Percy is 12 when he defeated Ares, the god of war, in a swordfight.

But it would pay to enjoy the book as it is, well at least I did. A new conceptual world, mythological creatures coming to life and attacking, an oddly similar yet different chase with two demigods and a satyr are all for the readers’ taking. Riordan has his own brand of storytelling, and so far it’s good. You may need to brush up on your Greek mythology but Riordan is able to snug adequate snippets within the storyline. Or better yet, another kudos to Riordan, in making the reader interested in Greek mythology.

Gavel Down

I’m not encouraging you to read the book, well at least for now, since it has already hit the cinemas. And movie adaptations rarely satisfies avid book readers, I would recommend watching the film first, not that I have seen it yet, but I do intend to. In that sequence, you’ll enjoy your seat inside the movie theater and your couch at home. But if you can set aside your expectations from the book to the reel, and judge the film as it is, then go ahead and read it first.

Overall, it was a good, fun read. You may even want to read it again after reaching the last page. As for me, I intend to buy Book Two. Let’s just say that Riordan ended the Lightning Thief well. Well enough to make you wonder what’s up next.

image from:


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Movie Review: Legion

What if God’s temper hits boiling point, decides to start-over, and sends His legion of angels to exterminate the human race?

This is the question posed by the film, Legion, directed by Scott Stewart. An advertently disturbing thought and also worth pondering on, how will mankind seek salvation when its creator opts to destroy His own creation? And another thought, on a more contemporary, or Yankee, remark, “how will it go down?”

Quick Scan
Michael (Paul Bettany, The Da Vinci Code), chief archangel and field commander of God’s angelic battalion turns rebel due to a heavenly commission opposing his belief. As dark clouds form, apparently the biblical plagues, covering the world in unknown terror, mankind makes a last stand at a dingy diner, in the middle of nowhere.

Shunning former allegiances, Michael, cuts his cool steel angel wings (did I mention cool?), and teams up with circumstantial ‘armed forces’, also known as, the defenders of human race; a relocating family made up of a troublesome daughter and her troubled parents, a poser posing as a criminal, and a modern Joseph and Mary couple, but without the immaculate conception. As heaven’s army strikes, Michael and the rest of his unenthusiastic, unconvinced, unlikely soldiers are tested; in strength, weakness and faith.

Without Michael at the forefront, God’s army is now lead by archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand, The Echo) who is bent on ensuring God’s will is imposed, even if it means a battle against his long-time, like an eternity long, friend, Michael. A fated showdown between Michael’s humane form with a stolen pistol for a weapon and Gabriel’s flashy high-tech mace, with multiple pointy-thingy-extension features, and cool steel angel wings with equally flashy battle gear, will decide what Michael is willing to give up to defend man. I somehow felt like I described an action figure, oh well.

The OC
I honestly fell in love with the movie’s concept, prompting me to persuade a few friends of mine to watch it almost as soon as it hit the cinemas. And yet a concept when applied may not always be as great as supposed. The film is not a waste of time and money, at the time, and it doesn’t have a lingering satisfaction either.

Scene transitions are fine, fluid at most, appropriate and aid the storyline—so is the mood and theme. The graphics and visual effects were adequate. I believe the director has achieved the right taste and temperament of creepiness he aimed for.

However, upon finishing the movie, I felt this feeling of discontent gnawing from the insides of my stomach—or maybe I was just hungry. In any case, some scenes scream of foreshadowing, or so we thought, but to the audience’s misfortune, were left unclosed. Certain aspects were also too cryptic, inclusive of portrayal and dialogue delivery.

Warning: Spoilers
A perfect example would be when Michael, before a final bout against Gabriel, tells Jeep (Lucas Black, The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift) to ‘follow the instructions’. These instructions suddenly wrote itself like a tattoo snake around Jeep’s torso while driving. Though it would’ve been funny if Jeep tried to read the instructions while driving, there was almost no time since Gabriel caught up with him and Charlie (Adrianne Palicki, Supernatural). As their road fight begins and ends, the instructions felt like nothing more than cool Vincent-like tattoos.

Another major deal-breaker would be the insufficient explanation, or at least depiction, as to why did man’s fate rest upon the birth of a bastard child, which is similar to the Seventh Sign’s save-the-world-plot.

Gavel Down
If you’re an avid film fan, which means you probably enjoy a fluid plot and well-patched storyline, then this is not for you. But if you enjoy action, a certain weight of creepiness and mystery in a film's overall aura, then you might add this to your movie wishlist. Considering the date of its release, I’d say it wasn’t a waste. This is because the film can still make you squirm, react and nod inside the cinema. However, now that there are other much-awaited movies coming out (i.e. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Clash of the Titans) you might want to reconsider.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Movie Review: Shelter

He had a home, but found shelter somewhere else.

A shelter is operationally defined as something that offers protection, its presence allows to declare a state of being protected from harm. It is also defined as the provision of basic needs for the homeless, the strays, for Zach’s (Trevor Wright) case—confusion.

An artist’s mind is as abstract as his confusion. Zach, a talented artist, gives up on his own life to bear the weight of family responsibility, even his own underlying desires. Ferrying his nephew as if he was his son, tolerating his father whose life purpose is to doze off, shouldering a burden he had no hand in, and resorting to street art, more popularly known as vandalism, as an outlet for his artistic flows.

In love with the ocean, Zach sees freedom on riding the waves, much like how he gets through one day to the next. Disturbing his superficially calm sea, is his bestfriend Gabe’s (Ross Thomas) brother Shaun (Brad Rowe), a writer who seeks refuge in their former home after a break-up. As things with Shaun grow smoothly and surprisingly comfortable, a suppressed passion is rejuvenated, Zach discovers a personal truth. A truth, too incomprehensible for his simple lifestyle, blurring the lines of what is right and wrong, what is family and foe, what is choice and chance.

Shelter (2007) is probably one of the best gay films released. Written and directed by Jonah Markowitz, the film has been recognized by various award-giving bodies. From the skateboard opening, to the shoreline landscape ending, scene-to-scene transition is admirable. Not to mention the emphasis on Zach’s character and his situation, making it seem so suffocating to live in such a way—stuck. 

Wright’s acting as a straight guy dosed in icy water with certain realities of gay life is nothing less than commendable. The toned down intimacy also aided in accentuating that love, knowing no gender, is a refuge, a home away from home. Though the storyline was almost flawless, Zach’s father shouldn’t have been shunned with the rest of the film to further portrait a problematic family picture. In effect, it appears that Zach's  problems were limited to his nephew and his sister despite consistent mention of his old man. But the end here does not justify the means, the whole film experience remains intact.

A fleeting thought I just caught after watching this, a relationship with someone should feel like a shelter and not a prison, not a worrisome promiscuity, not a momentary revelry and certainly not a societal conformity. It should be something that affords not just the feeling of being protected, but actually being protected.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Epiphany and Ejaculation

So what do you do when you meet an epiphany? Do you grab it with all the strength you could muster? Embrace it with maximal stretch your arms and legs can handle? Pin it down with the weight of your dreams and future? Or do you cower with all the realities and constraints strapping you to the ground?

But how do you know when you meet an epiphany?

An encounter with epiphany is not bound by time, place or reason. But you will know that you did. Because every inch of your body is telling you that you’re experiencing it. You suddenly felt free, unrestricted. The bounds, ties and ropes of facts and formula, burned by a surreal fire. Every shroud of reason digs six feet under to reveal a vast plain of realization. 

Your heart pounds, at a faster rate, feels like a race you never raced. A warmth, comfortably nests on top of it, unconsciously announcing its presence at your left chest. A fleeting unawareness of physics and its laws, of people and their flaws, of finances and its costs.

Your eyes go blank, no visual information gets through because your mind is in a place that no one else could go. What you see is not dictated by your sight. You might see yourself in all the glory you never thought you wanted. Glory that only you may consider glorious, but futile for some, or even for most, and yet, not a bit of care may gnaw, or lead to its decay. You may see a depiction, as abstract as the best image your mind can envisage. A picture which can be macabre, grotesque, or repulsive but not to you, so cryptic that only your mind can effortlessly dissect and interpret its parts, what it means, what it tells, and what it yields.

Your breathing takes a pause, too short to bend the rules of science, too insignificant to alarm medicine. Yet long enough to wallow in its entirety, long enough to bathe in understanding, long enough to masticate, digest and absorb all it can give. A respiratory pause long enough for your body to feel as if it has been drowning in all the demands of the realistic world, making the next breath, a breath of life, inhaling as if it's your first.

And yet, after this breath, the sensations come back. The momentary lies turn to scientific truths. Vision returns to see veracity surrounding you. As the epiphany ends, the restraints return. The water of bounds drag you back to its depths. Yet you don’t struggle to keep yourself on the surface. Your heart slows down, it minimizes the noise, formerly music, it made. And you sink slowly as reality’s sharp teeth pierce your mortal body. Yet you don’t encounter pain, you compare the pain of a future battle you never had the courage to fight. You lose by default, because you never even tried.

Now why do all these sound like an ejaculation? A sexual climax? 
Because you are too weak to pursue a real epiphany.

But hey! Don’t fuss about it—most of us are.


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