The World's End

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Gosh, I thought I would like this more. I really wanted to like this more. Netflix thought I would love it. But I kept waiting for it to be funnier, and it never was. Maybe I was just in a post-Christmas foul mood. But I watched a Big Bang Theory rerun just before this, and laughed all the way through that, so…

It stars Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote the script. Directed and co-written by Edgar Wright. Pegg and Wright also collaborated on Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, both of which I liked a lot better.

Pegg plays Gary, a not-particularly-likeable alcoholic loser. He recalls fondly the glory days of 20 years previous, when he and his school buddies set off to crawl a dozen pubs in the sleepy English town of Newton Haven. They failed.

So Gary gets the idea of reuniting the group, and successfully completing the crawl. He manages to get everyone together by deception and browbeating. Things get a little more interesting when Sam (Rosamund Pike) shows up; she's the sister of one of the group members, another has always been infatuated with her, and in a moment of very poor judgment, she once had a sordid lavatory encounter with Gary.

But something's wrong: the town's inhabitants are much more placid than before; many don't seem to have aged; and (whoa) they turn out to be androids surreptitiously placed by an alien civilization looking to bring peace and harmony to Terra.

Sounds promising. But it just never gets very funny.

Trivia: as Hot Fuzz had an ex-Bond actor, Timothy Dalton, so does this: Pierce Brosnan. (And of course Rosamund Pike was a villianess in a Bond movie.)

Ringworld

[Amazon Link]

A blast from the past, rereading a Larry Niven book I bought back in 1970. (No kidding: the price was a hefty 95 cents.) And it's not just nostalgia: Ringworld won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and Locus Award for best SF novel back then.

In fact, I have the very first edition, one with a glaring first-chapter error: the book's protagonist, Louis Wu, is celebrating his 200th birthday, and in order to extend it, he is teleporting from timezone to timezone. But my edition has him teleporting west-to-east, and that wouldn't work at all. According to the book's Wikipedia page, Niven says this edition is "worth money". I bet not enough to retire on, though.

It is a hoot, though. At the time of the story, the cowardly Puppeteer alien race has exited known space, fleeing the explosion of the galactic core (discovered in a previously-written short story). But one, Nessus, appears back on Earth to recruit Wu in an expedition to a recently-discovered artifact: a solid ring of matter encircling a small star. It uses unbelievably advanced technology, and the Puppeteers see the makers as a possible threat.

Joining Wu and Nessus are a Kzin, Speaker-To-Animals, and a young human woman, Teela Brown. After a brief stop on the Puppeteer homeworld, the explorers set off in an advanced starship for Ringworld. Naturally, things don't go as planned. They run afoul of Ringworld's defense mechanisms, and only survive the crash landing on the inner surface due to extreme technological mumbo-jumbo.

But that's just the beginning, because things haven't procceeded as planned by the Ringworld's designers. The team encounter a world full of perils and mystery, and also have to deal with internal conflict between the members. The Ringworld's inner surface area is about 3 million times Earth's surface area, so there's a lot of room to play. Niven has written three additional Ringworld books, and I've put them on my TBR pile.