Review of Another Earth

Another Earth is an indie science-fiction film about a young woman, Rhoda Williams (played by Brit Marling), who on the eve of heading off to MIT gets in a tragic car accident. There’s a remarkable discovery that there’s another planet in our solar system, and that planet is the titular Another Earth. Over the next few years as the other Earth comes closer to our Earth, where the story takes place, we follow the dramatic turns her life takes as a result of her car accident.

As a sort of counter point to movies that use science-fiction to provide a reason for special effects and explosions, this is a quiet film that uses a science-fiction plot element to examine the weight of loss and regret. Here the focus is on the characters. The young Rhoda struggles to determine how to live a life after the accident. We see the damage the accident did to the man in the other car (played by Lost‘s William Mapother), and the hope they both have that a better life is happening above them on the other Earth.

The muted tone and slow, deliberate style of this film isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re a fan of sci-fi where the human condition is dissected, and where fantastical elements are minimal, you owe it to yourself to catch this film. Unfortunately, the film saw a limited release in theaters, so many people won’t be able to catch it until it’s released on streaming, DVD & Blu-ray.

iPad PADD application: disappointing

Ever since it was released, the iPad has been compared to Star Trek’s PADD – the “personal access display device” used since the original series.  The official iPad PADD app (from CBS Interactive) brings the PADD-iPad loop full circle by turning an iPad into a PADD simulator (US$5 in the App Store).

The interface of the app mimics the LCARS (Library Computer Access and Retrieval System) interface that was used in The Next Generation.  This is well done, with appropriate sound effects, Majel Barrett‘s voice, and good-looking graphics.  The only complaint I have here is that the app doesn’t rotate to portrait (which PADDs in TNG certainly did). Note that while it looks authentic, this is mostly cosmetic – tapping an image of a cast member will take you to the cast index page, not the page specific to that character, for example, and many areas you would expect to be ‘hot’ do nothing at all.

The app provides access to the information available on StarTrek.com (aliens, locations, technology, and an episode guide).  This is the most disappointing aspect of the app —one of the reasons that I purchased it was that I hoped it would be a useful reference source for answering [tag]star-trek[/tag] questions; unfortunately the information available is extremely limited and superficial.  If the app was an interface to Memory Alpha or Wikipedia, it would contain a wealth of information, in an attractive interface (and would be much closer to the actual PADD).  Although Memory Alpha’s content is only available under a non-commerical license (non-commerical and Star Trek merchandising are rather like matter/antimatter), I think Wikipedia’s content could have been included (supplementing the official StarTrek.com content) and would have significantly increased the amount of information available.

Personally, I would have preferred if the links went beyond Star Trek information, and if this was a LCARS interface to a true encyclopedia (Wikipedia would suffice).  There are plenty of other Wikipedia browsers, but this one would hold a certain fan appeal.  I doubt I would use it for most Wikipedia searches, but it would appropriately set the mood when doing Star Trek research.

The app description does say “The official Star Trek PADD app database does not contain all information within the Star Trek Universe.  We will continue to update the database as information becomes available”.  I’m hoping that they do mean the whole universe here (and not simply whatever is available on StarTrek.com), and I’m hopeful (but skeptical) that there will be regular updates that significantly increase the amount of content available.

I’m keeping the app installed on one of my iPads for now, but I suspect that I’ll rarely use it, and when I next purge unused apps, it’s likely to go.  If you’re only interested in the cosmetic appeal, or if the shallow information available at StarTrek.com is all you’re interested in, then it might be worth $5 to you.

Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl is a 12 year old boy: but he is no ordinary 12 year old; he is quite possibly the smartest 12 year old that has ever lived. He is born into the Fowl family, known to be criminal masterminds, and he is no exception. He is on a mission, to discover a secret that no one, adult or kid, has ever discovered, namely the existence of fairies. Assisted by his bodyguard, who is known only as Butler, he sets out to find the fairies, and sets a plan in place to kidnap one of them in exchange for a ransom of 1 ton of gold.

This series is aimed at a younger audience, but as with many books, it holds equally well with adults as kids. The books contain enough suspense in trying to figure out what Artemis’s next move should be that it quickly builds suspense. It is an easy read, the current edition contains only 304 pages, yet it really draws you into this fascinating universe. It contains high technology, magic, thrills, and a tale of redemption, as Artemis ages. Currently, there are 7 books in the series, which all of them have the same level of quality.

Bottom line: I highly recommend this series to any children interested in fantasy or technology, or who are just looking for something new to read. I will equally recommend this to adults who are looking for an easy read.

For more information, see the Wikipedia page.

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