In Books

In his new paradigm-shifter of a book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin, January), P.W. Singer musters an arsenal of evidence—ranging from overseas battlegrounds to factories busily filling lucrative Pentagon contracts to the most bleeding-edge research workshops—to make one searing point: that human society is hurtling toward one of those great hinges of history, and we are wholly unprepared for its implications…

Wired for War is in stores now. Read it soon. You can read the full article on the book in the current issue of In These Times.

In Theaters

The good news about the films nominated for best live action shorts this year is that it’s a thoroughly worthwhile series, whether you’re making a night at the theater of it, or just wanted to get the lot of them from iTunes. Unlike most like-minded compilations, the Oscar Nominated Short Films 2009 program is a uniformly solid one, with only one entry of generally mediocre effect, and at least a couple that qualify as truly excellent. Unlike self-impressed Oscar-bait features like The Reader or even the wildly uneven Curious Case of Benjamin Button, this one is pretty much a risk-free venture.

The Live Action (and animated!) Oscar Nominated Short Films 2009 is showing (hopefully) at your local arthouse. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

In Theaters

Definitions in cinema have gotten pretty limited when you watch a film as over-the-moon romantic as James Gray’s Two Lovers and realize that by modern standards, it barely qualifies as a “romance”. Somewhere along the way, the very word became co-opted by the purveyors of music-montages and slapstick embarrassments that always ended up at the altar (and adding “comedy” to the description makes the icky girl stuff go down better, it seems). Modern love stories about the young seem mostly about the wedding; it has more to do with scheduling and the frantic rush toward or away from commitment than love.

Two Lovers is in theaters now. You can read the full review at this week’s “The Screener” column at PopMatters.

In Theaters

You can tell a lot about a man by watching how he shops for appliances. In the case of Bryan Mills—the ex-secret-operative-whatever whom Liam Neeson plays with dour glee in the speedy and semi-repulsive kidnap thriller that is Taken—audiences get a measure of the kind of man he is by watching him buy just the right karaoke machine for his daughter’s 17th birthday. He’s a careful man, with a penchant for over-planning, but he doesn’t dilly-dally, isn’t afraid to make decisions. So viewers will feel secure knowing that when said daughter gets kidnapped in Paris by Albanian human traffickers, Mills is the guy to go after them and start snapping fingers like so many dry twigs…

For our sins, Taken is playing pretty much everywhere. You can read the full review at this week’s “The Screener” column at PopMatters.