Science, Fiction, Life

Month: July 2014

First Impressions: Asus N550JK-DS71T and Windows 8

Last time I got a new laptop (an HP Pavilion dv6-SE), I posted a glowing review of it on my blog only to find that over time it accumulated issues that made me re-think my initial excitement. Namely, it ended up running super hot with an obnoxiously loud fan all the time. After years of fighting with it (even opening it up to replace the thermal paste multiple times, widening the air intake vents, etc.), I finally decided it was time for a new laptop, and that means it is time for a new review. This time I’ll plan to check back in once I’ve had the computer for a while to see if my initial reactions are accurate.

Here are the main things I was looking for when I went searching for my new laptop:

  • Windows OS – For a variety of reasons I’m not interested in a Mac. Alas, this means I have to go with Windows 8 rather than my familiar Windows 7. More on this below.
  • Good processor and video card – I wanted a machine that could play modern games at high graphics settings, in hopes that it will be able to handle most games that come out over the next few years.
  • Normal-looking – No weird colored lights or “look at me” sort of styling that is so common on gaming laptops. I wanted machine that would not get weird looks if I took it to a coffee shop.
  • Backlit keyboard – One of my favorite features of my previous laptop.
  • Cool and quiet – My previous laptop was poorly engineered and got extremely hot to the touch even for normal usage, and made an awful lot of fan noise. I know that performance comes with heat, but I wanted a machine that could deal with the heat efficiently and quietly.
  • HDMI out – for watching things on the TV
  • Good bang for the buck – I tend to be of the “buy high end and run it into the ground” philosophy, but I didn’t want to spend a crazy amount of money. I was aiming for around $1000.

After poking around online and looking at various review sites, I discovered that there is a special subReddit called SuggestALaptop where you can post what you are looking for and experts will recommend a computer for you. I gave this a shot and they recommended the Asus N550JK-DS71T. In my researching I also found a very helpful site called Notebookcheck that posts very detailed reviews, including quantitative measurements of heat and noise which was a major consideration after my previous laptop. They didn’t have a review of the exact same model I was looking at (possible because they’re a European site) but the closest match looked quite good. The N550JK seemed to have everything I wanted with the exception of a solid-state hard drive, but I ended up deciding that for now capacity is still more important than being solid state. I was able to confirm with multiple sources that if I did swap out the HDD for a SSD it would not void the warranty, so I decided to go for it.

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So, how is it? Well the first thing I noticed was that it’s very similar in dimensions to my HP dv6. It is slightly thinner (1.1 inches thick) and slightly lighter (5.2 lbs) but generally the same size (15.6″ diagonal screen) and not a super-slim ultrabook style. That’s fine with me: this laptop is mostly for use at home and I was willing to have a bit more performance in return for a bulkier size than an ultrabook. The next main thing I noticed was the screen. People on Reddit were saying that the N550JK had a beautiful screen, and I figured they were probably being overly picky and any type of screen would probably be fine for me, but I have to admit, it’s really nice. It’s a nice crisp 1920×1080, and it is an “IPS” screen, which I learned stands for “in-plane switching”. Basically, it uses a technology that makes it look good from a wider variety of viewing angles. My HP’s screen was quite touchy about viewing angle, in particular the vertical angle, and so switching to the N550JK’s hgiher resolution IPS screen screen is dramatically better. The one downside is that it is a glossy screen, so it does tend to have reflections and glare if I use it with a window or other light source behind me, but it partially makes up for this by being quite bright and vivid.

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It’s also a touchscreen, but I have barely used this feature. I will say that it’s clear that Windows 8 assumes a touch interface, and so it’s nice to have it to do things like accessing settings by swiping in from the right side of the screen. For the most part though, I’ve been getting by using the trackpad or a wireless mouse. The trackpad seems fine to me, though that might just be because the HP dv6 trackpad was truly awful. Still, for any mouse-heavy usage like gaming or photo editing I use a wireless mouse so the trackpad is not a big deal for me. I will note that I have occasionally accidentally swiped in from the left side of the trackpad, which apparently acts sort of like Alt+Tab and switches which program you have active. This is confusing when you don’t mean for it to happen… if it becomes a problem I’ll have to figure out how to turn it off. I haven’t tried any other gestures on the screen or trackpad yet. I’m just an old-fashioned mouse-user.

The general build quality is very nice. The lid has a dark metallic look (which does tend to collect fingerprints) and the inside is sleek aluminum. The bottom is plastic, but feels nice and sturdy, and the screen is stiff and substantial enough to serve its role as a touchscreen. The keyboard is backlit and the keys feel nice to type on, but with the backlight turned on the keys actually become harder to read unless the room you are in is really dark. My previous computer I just left the backlight on all the time, but with this computer I will only be using it if it’s actually night time and the room lights are at least dimmed.

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One of the other selling points of this computer are the speakers. The built-in speakers don’t seem particularly special, but the computer comes with a plug in little subwoofer that is similar in size to a pop can but about half as tall. With this plugged in the sound is very nice. Not sure how much I’ll use this but it’s a nifty feature. The microphone and headphone ports are combined into a single port. I’m not sure how a person is supposed to use a headset with this set-up, but I haven’t really tested it out much.

The default model comes with a 1TB HDD, which is great for storage space, but can’t match the speed or silence of a solid state drive. I may end up getting a SSD to take the place of the CD drive, but for now the HDD seems fine. This computer still seems speedy enough. It’s not the nearly-instant startup that a SSD gives you, but it’s pretty quick to start and normal usage is fast. It does seem like Windows 8 tends to let the user start doing things before it’s quite ready, which can lead to some frustrating slowness if you immediately start trying to run apps and programs while startup activities are still happening in the background. The most ironic example of this was early on, when I clicked on an app that was apparently full of tips for new Windows 8 users, only to find it frozen and unresponsive. I ended up having to kill it. Real good first impression of Windows 8 guys…

Windows 8 overall seems ok but not an improvement over Windows 7. The infamous Metro interface with big colored tiles is really more suitable for mobile use. I ended up getting rid of most of the tiles that came pre-loaded and filled it with uniformly-sized tiles for my most commonly used programs. So, it basically takes the place of clicking the start button to bring up a list of programs. I’ll be honest, I don’t get the idea of “Apps” on a computer. For example, there’s a Facebook App that I can run, but I don’t know why I would opt to use it instead of opening facebook in a browser. Using the app means that you can’t do anything else at the same time, while using it in the browser means I can easily jump between tabs for facebook, email, google, etc. Also, the app has annoying notifications that need to be turned off. On tablets or mobile devices Apps make a lot more sense, and therefore so does the touch-friendly Windows 8 interface. On a normal computer I’d rather just run programs in windows.

The other thing that I noticed about Windows 8 is that it is tied to a unifying Windows account. So, when you are getting the computer set up, it prompts you for a username and password (I guess it assumes you have another device you can use to register? Or maybe there was an option that I didn’t see that allowed you to create an account.) For my personal laptop which rarely leaves the house, I found it annoying that the computer assumed I wanted to have to log on with my Windows account name and password every time I turn on my computer, but I did manage to figure out how to turn off this locking. Apparently this Windows account lets you sync files and things from multiple computers and XBoxes, but I haven’t tried to do any of that.

Another thing that I found annoying is that my hard drive came pre-partitioned into a “OS” and a “Data” drive, but all of the folders where I normally keep lots of data in “My Pictures” and “My Documents” were on the smaller OS partition, which I promptly filled up when I transferred pictures and documents over from my old computer. It’s pretty simple to re-direct these folders to point to the data partition, but now I get to wait while that transfer takes place (here’s a case where the SSD would be tremendously faster, but then, with an SSD I couldn’t keep all of my old data anyway without paying a ridiculous amount for a 1TB SSD). I don’t know if this pre-partitioning thing is a Windows 8 setting or an ASUS setting, but it’s just kinda weird. I guess the idea is that it makes it easier to re-install the OS without losing the data?

There have been lots of little settings to figure out to get things the way I like them on Windows 8. For example, several applications (notably Chrome and Steam) looked very blurry when I first opened them up. Turns out you need to mess with the properties to get certain applications to display correctly on HD screens. I also had to change the default photo viewing program from the almost completely pointless photo viewing app back to the standard Windows photo viewer. It’s little annoyances like this that I think makes some people hate Windows. There’s almost always a way to fix these things, but they shouldn’t be problems in the first place. Ah well, the devil you know, etc.

Ok, but what about gaming performance? Well, I’m glad you asked! I’ve tried two games so far on this computer: Civilization 5 and Shogun 2. Civ 5 plays nicely at the highest graphics settings, but it’s not a particularly graphics-heavy game so the change isn’t that noticeable. Shogun 2 though… just looks beautiful. Most of the time it seems to run smoothly even on Ultra graphics settings, though in big battles it does slow down so for typical gameplay I’ll probably tone down the graphics a bit. Here, let me show you how pretty it can be. I think I’m going to go back and play this game again just because it looks so good (okay, and because I really like this game).

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While a game is running the fans do blow harder and make more noise, but it’s not nearly as bad as my HP. The center of the computer heats up quite a bit, especially when the more graphics-intensive Shogun 2 is playing, but unlike my previous computer the hand rest area only warms up slightly. The hot air from the fans blows out the back of the computer, sort of through the hinge of the screen, so whether you are left or right handed you don’t have hot air blowing on your mousing hand.

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As the picture above shows, there’s not much on the bottom (and I should say, the lighting makes the fingerprints in this and my other pictures look worse than they are). The air intake vents are surprisingly small, and the battery is built-in. It would have been nice to have an easy-to-change battery because those tend to be one of the first parts that needs to be replaced, but reviews I’ve read say that it is not too hard to open up the case and do it.

All in all, this seems like a nice laptop and a significant improvement in terms of heat and noise compared to my HP dv6. Windows 8 has its annoyances but I think it will be fine once I get everything set up the way I like it. I will post an update on the blog in a month or two with my thoughts after using the computer for a while to see if they change at all.

 

Getting the monkey off my back, and putting him to work

Hi, my name is Ryan and I’m addicted to video games. No, I’m not wasting away in an internet cafe, failing to feed or wash myself. But the addictive behaviors are there and they can be scary. Almost every day I tell myself that I should do something positive with any free time I have. Write, read, exercise, etc. And then, almost every day, when I actually find myself with free time I manage to convince myself that it’s ok to just play a game instead. Oh, it has been a busy few days at work. Oh, you’re almost done with that level in the game, might as well just finish it and then we’ll call it quits on gaming for a while. And once I start playing a game, being interrupted, or not being able to spend enough time in the game makes me cranky. I’ll even get cranky if I’m anticipating playing but I have to do other things instead.

I could just stop. Delete my Steam account, throw away my game disks, and replace the XBox with a regular DVD player. Never touch games again. The problem is, I don’t really want to do that. Gaming and the culture surrounding it are a pretty integral part of who I am. And the gaming industry is maturing along with my generation: yeah there’s all sorts of stupid and offensive crap out there in the world of gaming, but there are also some genuinely excellent games that are pushing the boundaries of interactive storytelling. Just as reading a novel can be a wonderful, enriching experience, despite technically being a waste of time that could be “better spent” on something “productive,” there are games that have the same sort of impact, whether through great characters and story, great gameplay that fires the imagination, excellent aesthetics, or some combination.

The point is, I don’t want to stop gaming. I would be missing out on a part of popular culture that I very much enjoy. I just need to control it so I can achieve other goals in life that I’ve had for years but have not made much progress on. In particular, writing and exercising regularly. So I have come up with a plan to use my gaming addiction for good rather than evil.

I have set up a Google spreadsheet where I will log my time doing productive things and the time I spend gaming. I have worked out formulas that will reward me with gaming time for doing productive things. Addiction is fundamentally tied to your brain perceiving a certain activity as rewarding and therefore seeking that activity out in an endless loop. Gaming is precision engineered to trigger the reward centers in your brain for performing various tasks in the game. That’s a big part of why it is so fun, and why it can be addictive. My plan shifts the activity that triggers the reward to be outside of the game: I do something good in the real world, and my reward is to earn gaming time.

Here are the formulas that I am using, in case you’re curious.

If I have exercised that day, I earn 15 minutes of gaming, plus gaming time equal to time spent working on fiction, plus two-thirds of my time spent writing here on the blog.

If I have not exercised that day, I earn gaming time equal to two-thirds of the time spent working on fiction, plus half of my time spent blogging.

If I do no exercise or writing on a given day, I lose 15 minutes of gaming time.

You can see that the way I have it set up, I am rewarded more for doing the more difficult type of writing (fiction writing). Also, exercising is rewarded by itself, but is much more rewarding when combined with writing, boosting the amount of reward from the writing. And if I’m a lazy bum and don’t do any writing or exercise, I don’t just fail to earn more gaming time. I actually lose some.

We will see how well this system works. I did a trial run of it before our big Japan trip, but it quickly went off the rails because I didn’t enforce my own rules. That’s the main problem with any system of convincing myself to do productive things: at the end of the day, I’m the one holding myself accountable, and the addictive tendencies make me very good at convincing myself to bend the rules.  This comic from Hyperbole and a Half sums up this dilemma perfectly:

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That’s part of my reason for posting about it on here. The more people know about my scheme to trick myself into being productive, the more guilty I’ll feel if I don’t follow through. I do solemnly swear that I will post an update about how this plan is going in about a month. Until then, here’s hoping this works… Now, to go record the time spent writing this blog on the spreadsheet!

 

 

 

The Dilemma of Writing “the Other”

One of my favorite sites on the internet is the Medieval People of Color tumblr. It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the great stuff that is posted over there, but what I do read is inevitably fascinating: there’s so much history out there that isn’t taught in school, and it’s great inspiration for writing (I’ve been terrible about putting that inspiration to good use lately, but that’s a topic for a different post…).

Today I came across a link on the Medieval POC site pointing toward this article by Daniel José Older: 12 Fundamentals of Writing “the Other” (and the Self). It strikes at the heart of something I try to take very seriously: How can I, someone who has basically every privilege it is possible to have (white, male, cis, educated, financially secure, American, able-bodied, etc.), hope to respectfully write fiction about someone from a drastically different background? Do I even have the right to write their story?

This is particularly relevant because my current work in-very-slow-progress is essentially a retelling of the Spanish conquest of the Inca. It is set in a fictional world, permitting me some leeway in terms of accuracy, and the details of the cultures involved are changed, but my main characters are a teenaged boy and girl from the native culture and the story follows them as they end up on both sides of the conflict with the white invaders.

Reading the 12 Fundamentals that Older discusses in his article, I couldn’t help but feel discouraged. I have absolutely no right to write about the European destruction of the Inca culture. My story involves multiple scenes with religious ceremonies. Am I violating point 7 (Ritual is not Spectacle)? What about if I find Christian rituals to be no more or less weird than Inca ones? I don’t doubt that people believe in their faiths deeply, but I’m not religious. And yet, a major component of my story is, of course, the conflict between the religion of the conquistadors and the natives. How can I do that justice? Neither religions in my book are identical to their real world counterparts: is that better or worse? Does it just reveal my ignorance about real religions, or does it provide a safe cushion from reality?

Point 12 is the most discouraging for me. “Why do you feel it falls to you to write someone else’s story? Why do you have the right to take on another’s voice? And should you do this? ” I’m not even sure how to answer these questions. I’m not trying to take someone else’s voice, and I don’t think “it falls to me” as if I have been ordained from on high to tell the saga of the Inca conquest. Is “because I find it fascinating” an acceptable answer? I find the early colonial era really interesting because it was a time when vastly different cultures came into contact, and the aftershocks of that contact are still felt today. I’m also interested in telling this story because I recognize that fiction is sorely lacking protagonists who aren’t white males, and frankly, I don’t want to read or write a story about someone like me. My life, and the life of people like me, is easy, and therefore it’s boring. I am drawn to speculative fiction and historical fiction because it’s a way to experience something different from my everyday life.

So here’s the dilemma: I could write about people like me, but not only would I find this boring, it would add yet another white male protagonist to a world that desperately needs more diversity in its fiction. On the other hand, if I write a story from the point of view of two Inca teenagers, I’m virtually guaranteed to get it wrong and offend someone. Not only that, but even if I get it right, will my telling of this story “occupy this space” and crowd out a voice that needs to be heard?

I don’t know. I think point 10 on this list is the one I need to focus on (emphasis added):

“You will jack it up. You’ll probably jack it up epically. I know I have. This doesn’t mean don’t do it. It means challenge yourself to do it better and better every time, to learn from your mistakes instead of letting them cower you into a defensive crouch. The net result is you become a better writer.”

That’s all I can really ask for right? To become a better writer? To do better next time? I have to hope that just being aware of the points in this list will help me avoid them. I have plenty of other reasons that I have yet to share my writing with anyone, I don’t need to use this as one more excuse.  I need to do the writing and learn from my mistakes. Just as that applies to crafting a compelling plot or a convincing protagonist, it applies to the points mentioned here.

Book Review: Ready Player One

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Were you alive during the ’80s? Have you ever played the original PacMan? How about Atari? Have you ever been eaten by a Grue? Have you ever played a role-playing game of any kind? Do you know the names of all the cast members in Real Genius? If so, then this book is for you. If not… well, you’ll still probably enjoy it.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a a fun near-future sci-fi novel that doubles as a love-letter to everything geeky and everything 80s, and especially geeky things from the 80s. Here’s the premise:

In the mid 21st century, the world is a mess thanks to the effects of climate change. The economy is in shambles, fossil fuels are incredibly expensive, and most people live in poverty in densely packed “stacks” – skyscrapers made of stacked mobile home units. At the same time, the internet has undergone some drastic changes of its own. It has now been superseded by the Oasis, a virtual world that is sort of like if World of Warcraft, Facebook, and Reddit had a baby. People spend much of their lives immersed in this free virtual online world, using virtual reality visors and haptic suits to experience the Oasis as if it is reality. Kids go to school in the Oasis, business people do their business there, the Oasis currency has superseded the dollar as the coin of the realm. The Oasis is everything, for everyone. The real world has become sort of an afterthought.

Of course, when the guy who created the Oasis, James Halliday, passes away, there is the question of who gets his fantastic wealth and control over his company (and therefore, the Oasis). Rather than bequeath the money to a relative, or found a charitable foundation, or other traditional routes, Halliday instead creates the greatest video game “easter egg” in history. Anyone who can acquire the three keys and pass through the three gates will find the egg and gain control over Halliday’s fortune and the Oasis itself. Halliday was obsessed with geek culture from the 1980s, so of course the hunt for the keys and the egg is based on deep knowledge of everything 80s.

The main character of the story, Wade Watts, is a teenaged “gunter” (short for “egg-hunter”) who has made it his life’s work to find the egg. He has mastered every arcade game out there, and can recite the dialog from every 80s movie and TV show. He knows the original Dungeons and Dragons monster manual by heart and instinctively spouts the name and year of every 80s song he hears. He’s the ideal candidate to crack Halliday’s riddles and find the Egg.

The only problem, he’s not the only one looking for it. There are thousands of other gunters looking for the egg, but there is also an evil corporation Innovative Online Industries, determined to cheat, lie, and steal its way to control of the Oasis. They want to turn the open-source paradise of the Oasis into an advertisement-filled gated community for the rich (something that might sound awfully familiar if you have been following the current net neutrality debate). When Wade finds the first key and clears the first gate, he ends up on their hit list and has to run for his life (in the real world and the Oasis) while tries to beat the bad guys to the final egg.

In the process, Wade also has to navigate his relationships with his friends Art3mis and Aech (pronounced “H”), who he has never met in person. He falls in love with Art3mis, and Aech is his best friend, but they are also competing to find the egg, so the farther they get in the quest, the harder it is to maintain their close ties.

This book gets lots of attention for it’s frankly amazing smorgasbord of 80’s nostalgia. It is stuffed with pop culture references and nods to various areas of geekdom, and it’s lots of fun to recognize them (though for me, some of the references are from before my time). But despite all of the nostalgia, Ready Player One is quite a good near-future sci-fi story as well. The Oasis as depicted in the book doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched, given our present reality. The virtual world Second Life is similar in many ways, and Facebook recently purchased Oculus, a company developing the first commercially viable virtual reality gaming headsets. (Seriously, reading that link after reading Ready Player One is actually kinda creepy in how similar it sounds to the Oasis.) In the tradition of many sci-fi classics, Ready Player One takes a look at our present, and extrapolates plausibly to the near future, exploring a lot of the nuances in the process. A big part of the novel is how society has changed in response to the Oasis, and for me this was the most interesting part of the book.

Of course, another nice thing about having a book set in a virtual reality world, is that you can genre-hop all over the place. The Oasis has thousands of planets on it, and each planet has its own set of rules. Some planets are fantasy worlds with spells and dragons. Others are full of laser blasters and space ships. Steampunk, cyberpunk, anime, wild west, etc. It’s all there, and one of the other great things about the book is smashing those genres and fictional universes together. Remember as a geeky teenager, having heated debates over whether a Star Destroyer could win in a fight with the Enterprise? Or who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman? This book taps deep into that vein of geekiness and it’s tons of fun to read.

The only downside of this book was that, toward the end, there are a few scenes that come across as a bit… twee. I mean, the messages are nice, but the book kinda hits you over the head with them.  That said, otherwise the ending is satisfying and ridiculous in all the right ways. Ridiculous as only a mash-up of the 80s can be.

Bottom line, this book was lots of fun. It’s quick and light and full of nostalgia. If you have geeky tendencies, then by all means check it out. If you don’t, it’s still a very good speculative look at the future of the internet and gaming that you might find interesting.

Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow

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When I went to see this movie, it was playing on one screen at our local theater for a grand total of… maybe 4 showtimes that day. Meanwhile, it was opening weekend for Transformers 4: Electric Boogaloo, which was playing on most of the other screens and probably also being projected onto the walls outside like a makeshift drive-in. What I’m saying is, Edge of Tomorrow is not getting the screen time or attention it deserves, while other less-deserving action flicks this summer are cleaning up. According to Rotten Tomatoes, Transformers has raked in hundreds of millions of dollars with a 17% critic approval rating. Meanwhile, Edge of Tomorrow is not doing so well despite its 90% approval rating. Maybe, just maybe, I can convince you to give the better movie a chance while it’s still playing.

The premise, as many other reviews have said, is basically Groundhog’s Day meets Starship Troopers. The Earth has been invaded by nasty aliens, and humanity is about to launch a last-ditch assault to reclaim Europe and crush the alien menace. The main character, William Cage (Tom Cruise), is a slick talking recruitment officer who has convinced millions of young soldiers to join the good fight while neatly keeping himself out of harms way by looking good on camera and saying the right things. But when he is sent over to Europe and informed that the brass want him on the beach of Normandy filming the invasion first-hand (did I mention that the battle is a rather obvious D-Day allegory?) he freaks out and tries to run. He’s arrested as a deserter, knocked out, and wakes up to find that he has been busted down to private and will not just be filming the battle, but he will be fighting on the front line. With no training.

He goes into battle, bumbles around for a while and then, predictably, gets killed. And that’s where the story really gets interesting. He wakes up, back at Heathrow, back in cuffs. He re-lives the battle again, gets killed again, and wakes up back at Heathrow. Somehow he is stuck in a loop, re-living the same day over and over, but retaining his memories each time.

This premise could be botched in many ways. It could come across as goofy. It could be hopelessly confusing. It could be boring and repetitive. But amazingly it manages to thread the needle and be none of these. The director and writers do a great job of establishing the ground rules of this time-travel story, proving key reference points so that as the movie progresses, they can convey the repetition without having to show every moment of every day over and over. Right when you start to get sick of seeing the same events, Cage does something different to change the course of the day, or manages to survive farther and encounter events you haven’t seen yet.

Eventually he teams up with badass Rita Vrtaski (Emily Blunt), who is the hero from the only previous victory against the aliens. How did she win that battle? Well it turns out the same thing that is happening to Cage happened to her, and she was able to re-play the battle over and over until the humans won.

The movies has been described as video-game-like, and it really is. But don’t misinterpret this as a negative. Just like a game, Cage and Vrtaski try and try again until they master every move of the battle, progressing farther and farther each time. They try things that go horribly wrong and have to re-start. It’s a really fun movie experience, made much more fun by the dark humor that pervades the story. The many many ways that Cage gets killed range from horrible to, frankly, hilarious.

Late in the movie, it gets really interesting because as the viewer you’re not sure if this is the first time Cage has gotten as far as he has, or if this is the 100th, and neither is Rita (remember, she doesn’t get to remember the thousands of tries. Every time, she is meeting Cage for the first time). This also sets up a strange love interest subplot, where Cage is trying to woo the girl, but even though he feels like he has been spending months with her, she barely knows him. The movie does a surprisingly good job of this, with Cage taking advantage of his time traveling powers to do small thoughtful things for her like knowing where the coffee is in an abandoned house that they shelter in.

The ending is satisfying, with just enough of a time-travely twist to make you scratch your head and leave the theater talking through it with your friends. One of the things that I enjoyed about this movie is that it assumes its audience is smart enough to keep up. It’s a big, loud action movie but the dialogue and pace are brisk and intelligent.

So, if you’re looking for an action movie this summer, I highly recommend choosing Edge of Tomorrow over Transformers. I haven’t enjoyed an action movie as much as this one in quite a while. It’s got all the battles and explosions you could want, it’s not a sequel, and as a bonus, it’s smart and funny and actually seems to respect its viewers so you don’t have to do the walk of shame back to your car. Go see it! Bring your friends!

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