Uncategorized

Red Hood & The Outlaws – New 52

816Mpf6OT3LClick HERE for the Graphic Novel! 

I admit I’m not that familiar with The Outlaws. I did enjoy the Red Hood, aka Jason Todd, from Lob’s book “Hush”, but Hood is leaner and meaner in this one.

Anyone who reads reviews knows the basic idea that Jason teams up with Roy, formerly known as Arsenal, and Starfire, where all humans look alike to her and she’s pretty free with the sex card.

Several of the scenes are clearly sexist, such as Starfire in various states of nudity, which is OK for a red-blooded American male like me, but that’s not what I wanted from this book. I wanted some adventure, and did discover some.

I liked how Jason was trained by the All-Caste, they get betrayed and Jason feels the need for revenge and drags his friends into it. We also have an assassin named The Essence, who was once an “item” for Jason and now wants to wipe him out.

Themes of vengeance run throughout the book: a man who becomes alien to get his revenge where a spaceship accidentally crashed into his car one day (yeah, it happens). Or when the All-Caste get wiped out (after a few millennia you’d think they’d guard themselves better) and Jason wants his revenge.

Touching scenes as Jason recalls his time with the Bat and contemplates the Joker, though these items distract from the main theme.

Pros: Good art, almost “Image” like in its portrayal of the women of the book.

Cons: Too much gabbing, not enough action.

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Uncategorized

Book Review: He Is Legend

First Thoughts:

I picked up “He is Legend” [Click HERE for Kindle Version] because I’ve always been a great admirer of Richard Matheson mainly through his film and television scripts and adaptations, some of the more famous being “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (Twilight Zone) and “The Incredible Shrinking Man”. As well, the most interesting being his story “I Am Legend” from which the Vincent Price film “Last Man on Earth” was filmed from (and of course more recently, “I Am Legend” the film with star Will Smith).

Anyway, this book is a different take on Matheson’s story – all these authors base their stories on a Richard Matheson story, either writing a sequel or adding more info to the tale.

Some of these work and some don’t!

I won’t bore the reader with every single synopsis of each story. There are 15 stories here from various authors, notably Richard’s son, and a collaboration with Stephen King and his son, Joe Hill, a pretty amazing horror writer in his own right.

Stories:

Most of these stories are written from Matheson stories from the 1950s and 1960s, adapted for modern audiences. I was most impressed with only a few:

“Return to Hell House” is the most graphic, with harsh language and some fairly obscene sex scenes. This is a “prequel” to Matheson’s story where a group of psychics and scientists stay at this house and a malevolent spirit clearly shows them the way to hell. As I say, graphic writing that will literally haunt your thoughts!

“Throttle” is a take on Matheson’s story “Duel” (you may have seen the film version with Dennis Hopper – first film directed by Stephen Spielberg!) about a truck driver with a murderous thirst for killing people on the road. A father and son are the head of a bike gang and we find out all kinds of things about them – and as they head to Vegas, a trucker starts bumping off the bikers – and the driver’s identity is quite a shock! Stephen King and Joe Hill do a great job here in building suspense and tension.

“The Diary of Louise Carrey” by Thomas F. Monteleone is the story of “The Incredible Shrinking Man” from the view of the wife of the shrinking man! From reading the original story and seeing the 1950s film, I can see where she is coming from. A distasteful sex scene is the only thing I didn’t like about this story, but it certainly paints the wife as an unsympathetic loser.

Bottom Line: Most of the stories are a fair read, but the three above really hit me one way or the other, thanks to the quick pacing of plot and the great homage to writer Richard Matheson. But please, read the originals first. You’ll enjoy these adaptations more if you do.

I Much Prefer:

The Incredible Shrinking Man
I Am Legend
Hell House
Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories By Richard Matheson

Science Fiction Books, Uncategorized

Book Review: Quantum Night

Robert J. Sawyer’s Quantum Night (Click Title for Kindle Book)

Sawyer wrote this novel in an overly political way while through in some smattering of science and pseudo-psychiatric theater to create a simple world where people are one of three categories. Interesting premise, but since people are quite complex you can’t really categorize them that way. That’s one problem with the psychiatric mind is that it is more interested in labeling rather than curing the problems of the mind.

But I digress.

Jim searches for his missing memories and just as in an old pulp fiction novel he finds those six months and is shocked by what he has done.

Solution: Change the course of humanity upward to avoid World War III. Girlfriend only cares about her daughter becoming a philosophical zombie (lots of these terms peppered throughout the book) and so screw humanity, let me save my daughter!

Philosophical conundrums abound in this book. Should we save all of humanity for the sake of one? Or should we sacrifice the one for the common good, even if you become a real jerk in the process?

I’m sure Quantum Physics can be used for better things that screwing with the minds of the 7 billion peoples of Earth.

Sawyer tends to politicize the whole thing – Putin, a US President with expansion ambition annexing Canada, a near start to World War III and three people who use a billion dollar device to change the course of humanity at the cost of a life. Sounds too good to be true.

It is.

Sawyer’s last two novels have not be on par with his earlier novels, and I’m not sure why. WWW Trilogy was cool. Loved Fast Forward and others.

Comic Books!, Fantasy/Horror Films, Science Fiction Movies

Film Review: Thor Ragnarok!

Thor: Ragnarok

(Stream the movie HERE)

Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett

First Thoughts:

If you’re a rabid Marvel fan who believes all cinematic versions of Marvel Comics must be exactly canon to the original issues, I’m afraid you’ll be sadly disappointed in this film.

I’ve been into comics and the graphic arts several decades and must say this Thor film was a lot of fun.

SURTUR_FENRIS-WOLF_CONFIRMED_THOR-RAGNAROKStory & Plot:

Thor was a lot of fun. We start out with a fight with Surtur, a giant fire being who brags to Thor he will tear down Asgard. Thor has other ideas and with some Spiderman-type banter, shows Sutur who is boss.

Meantime back on Asgard, Loki impersonating Odin is getting out of hand.

Love the cameo with Dr. Strange and the bottomless mug of ale.

But I digress.

The film was more lighthearted than the earlier Thor films. The concepts of brothers coming together for a common enemy when they find themselves stranded on Skaar, where Hulk fights in gladiator fights for the last two years was cool, but not overdone.

In the comics Loki kills everybody. In the film Lady Hela, the goddess of Death kills everyone, or nearly so.

Some comedy relief is good though the film goes too far in their comedy and seems to forget there is a story and plot going on. That’s the only part of the film I didn’t like – too much of a good thing, Marvel.

Stan Lee appearance was largely forgettable as the gladiator barber. Jeff Goldbloom as the grand master of Skaar was an interesting casting choice. Haven’t seen him since Jurassic Park!

Final Thoughts:

Great performances by Tessa Thompson as the hard drinking Valkyrie, who cannot face her failures with Asgard. She was a standout for sure.

SPOILER: The ending was fine, and seems in line with the comics – will Asgardians become a nomad race drifting towards Earth? And what was that giant starship in the neighborhood?
END SPOILER

Recommended, three stars out of five.

 

Comic Books!

Movie Review: Wonder Woman!

 

Wonder Woman

Click HERE for the DVD/Blu Ray!

First thoughts: The Wonder Woman film had enough info from the comics to keep comic fans glued to the silver screen and those who never heard of her a new look at the DC Universe.

Plot & Story:

I liked that this film began in World War I rather than II. I guess we’re tiring of the Nazi character in WWII films and yet still wanted to have German evil genius at work.

Themyscria – an island for women only – but their island is invaded by a man – following by a platoon of Germans! The Amazons are true to the task with arrows burning air and finding targets.

Diana goes out into the world of men with some funny results. English fashion bears scrutiny of the goddess princess and her commentary on the way women (and secretaries) are treated give some much-needed comedy to avoid the dark, darkness of the last DC films.

Who Ares the god of War is was a shock and I liked the misdirection. The film was not predicable.  Loved that.

World War I was known for its dangerous gasses that were released during those battles. My grandfather fought at the front and so I know something of this.  Dr. Poison, a woman with a mission – there is more to her than the film leads on and I would have liked to see more of this character.

Bad Guys:

I liked Dr. Poison.  She’s also a woman, but Wonder Woman’s opposite number.  Poison controls the evil German general with guile and demonstrates her power.  She always wears a mask, which is later revealed she was damaged in some kind of acid attack.

When there is a choice of killing Poison who herself was set to kill thousands in a gas attack on London, Wonder Woman spares her.

These were pretty heavy scenes – the clashing with Ares, the decisions she made – does Man deserve the gods?  Is Man’s power of choice his only saving grace?  Wonder Woman shows the true power of love and of hope, something she never loses throughout the film.

In Batman vs. Superman, she remarked, “I have fought gods before,” which now we know was Ares.

Twists:

Steve Trevor is not buying the Ares thing.  And neither is her mother!  But it is someone who is in disguise, who we would never suspect being so.  The snake in the Garden, so to speak.

Another interesting note is that only the bravest of women would wield the god killer sword, yet it was handed to Etta and she handled it pretty well.

The Blu Ray version gives a bit more info on Etta, as she begins a new mission with the remaining heroes of the WWI battle, a reference perhaps to the Mother Box, perhaps?

Wonder-Woman-Movie-Artwork

Final Thoughts:

DC did a great job with pushing out this origin story.

The way Steve Trevor ended the film, it’s fairly unlikely he will be in the second Wonder Woman film.  I have always been a DC comics fan and this is the first modern DC film I’ve loved all the way.

OK guys now let’s fix up a new Green Lantern film while we’re at it OK??

Can DC top Wonder Woman with the Justice League film coming soon? Waiting and very much seeing!

Recommended!

Fantasy/Horror Films, Science Fiction Books, Uncategorized

Book Review — Arcadia!

Arcadia

Get the book HERE!

Get the Kindle version HERE!

            What I liked about Arcadia is how the three worlds were mixed.  Angela Meerson invents a way to explore an infinity of universes and accidentally creates a time machine.  I guess we could have called it the “Accidental Time Machine” but that title is taken!

Angela is from a dystopian police state future.  And she has to test her machine on herself and escape before her boss takes over with megalomaniac delusions of his own.  She jumps, miscalculates and lands in 1936 Berlin.  Ach!

What’s interesting is how the main characters do something and then later in the story the same action is looked upon from a different view from another character later in the novel.  It takes a bit of mental gymnastics to remember who was what and what they’re seeing, but after a while of getting used to Mr. Pears’ style, you just can’t put the book down.

T43916146zhe book left open questions but perhaps they’re better left unanswered.  Loved the characterization of Rosalind, a shy teenager who somehow gets into a situation that is fearful and enjoyable at the same time.

Whereas from the brow of Professor Litten comes Angela’s universe.  And she can’t turn it off!

Wild stuff. An unusual take on time travel, police states and a fantasy world of superstition and structured rules and rituals.

But it takes getting used to.

A must-read!

 

Science Fiction Books, Uncategorized

Book Review: A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

ImageFirst Impressions:

I finished Vernor Vinge’s “A Fire Upon the Deep” and let me tell you this monster book, clocking at nearly 600 pages, does have adventure, medieval civilizations, a bit of romance and has its dark side as well. Parts of the book do drag and the author might have been in need of an editor, but overall not a bad space tale.

Basic Premise, Some Comments:

In this universe we have ‘zones of thought’ that are linked through a subspace network, similar to our Internet which is colloquially called the “Net of a Million Lies.” Would make a great advertisement for Wikipedia and the World Wide Web of today! The book was written in the 90s and so the pattern is of the Usenet groups of that time.

The book is broken down into several areas – the release of the “Blight”, a malignant force that destroys all who oppose it, a family that discovers the “Countermeasure” but crash on a planet of dog-like aliens that only communicate in groups (a “pack” can think and respond only in a group, not singly), Ravna’s planet, her job at “Relay” (as a librarian) and her relationship with a human (put together from parts by “The Old One,” a superior being from “The Beyond”, and their adventures together.

These parts don’t always fit well. Each is expanded on (such as in the dog-like alien world, “Tine’s World”) and that’s where the story tends to drag. We get involved in the intrigue, the castles, the battles and traitors of their race. The man and woman mentioned earlier crash-land and are immediately killed by this race. The brother and sister (Jefri and Joanna) are separated and each thinks the other is dead. The warring factions take advantage of this misunderstanding and slowly leech out technology that these children may know for their own advantages.

Interest:

I did enjoy the clash between factions in this alien society and the imaginative way they built “packs” where you would take different skills from each “dog” and they would somehow think together. With the invention of radio, thanks to the humans, the Tines discovered that they could radio to each others’ brains! This was interesting but never expanded upon to include the whole race, but just one pack.

Other aspects of the story: The warring factions clash near the last 100 pages of the book which I found fascinating, how each faction used the children as pawns and at one point wanting to kill them to gain advantage.

The part where each discovers that the other is alive is heartwarming but also comes with the price of a life. That was the best part of the book.

Romance:

There is a bit of this, between Ravna and Pham (at least before she discovers he’s not all man – oops!). Also camaraderie and loyalty between starship captains as they attempt to rescue Ravna from “the Blight.” Great space battle here.

World Building and The Internet:

The author dwells too long on detail and I felt the reader spends a long, long time on the chatter of the ‘Net, which can be annoying as you just want to story to move along, and the extraordinary time we spend on the Tines’ World. There’s not a lot of explanation of the “Beyond” and how and what that’s all about – just hints of superior beings and we as humans or lesser aliens are their pawns, and only in the lower levels are we safe from them.

Finally, it’s a tough book to put down and wait awhile and pick up again. You have to reread a few sections to refresh your memory on what’s going on. As well, Vernor Vinge tends to make up words without explanation and leaves it up to the reader to figure out, as well as not fully explaining what’s going on. For example it took quite awhile into the book before discovering that the alien “packs” communicated as groups not as individuals.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, a decent read. Set aside some time and give Vinge your full cooperation. May not be as good as the amazing space operas of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but it is a worthy, if dragged-out read. Recommended.

Uncategorized

Reducing Photo Time

 

Bridge at Merced River, YosemiteNot as much opportunity to shoot as much as I have wanted to.  I tend to squeeze in a few shots and festivals here and there.  Helping Scientology with a huge expansion program this Fall.  Happy to be a part of this.  The area of the humanities and counselling is about to change dramatically.  Just think, no more visits to a psych who gives mind-altering drugs for profit, but just a simple counselling session to alleviate the problems of life.

Recently explored more photos of cultural activities in the City.  First Friday of each month at City Hall.  Just shot the amazing Ballet de Folklorico de Oro.  Next month, possibly some Armenian dancing.  Really really really want to attend the Russian Dance Festival in February.

Classic Films, Uncategorized

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

First Thoughts:

Love the title of this film, such a play on words.  “Hidden”, unknown.  “Figures”, as the women in the film are experts in math and numbers.  And “figures” as in notable persons.

Story:

The film covers several themes which I found fascinating.  I’ve always loved NASA’s early space program and even what they’re accomplishing now, regardless of government cut-backs they still make something happen:  flyby of Saturn, discoveries on Pluto, and landing on the Moon often which no nation has yet accomplished.

But the historic backdrop is blurred by the underlying racial prejudice of those times, in the South, in the state of Virginia.

Separate sections in the library for whites and “coloreds”.  Separate bathrooms, waterfountains, busses, etc. etc.  This was in the 1960s as Dr. King was calling for equal rights among all races.

The characters in our play are confronting these sitauations daily and it’s fascinating watching them counteract each, as their counterparts tell them that “that’s the way it is!”

The film is based on actual occurrences.

The acting was superb.  The personal sidenotes, such as the proposal of a man to one of the ladies was cute and you’re pretty cold-hearted if you shed no tear!

Final Thoughts:

If you want to see why the USA’s space program, after many failures, finally beat the Russians and achieved winning the Space Race, and how a prejudiced South was not enough to dissuade three amazing Black women in overcoming these obstacles, pick this up!

DVD has great features and is a must-watch.

Highly Recommended.

hidden-figures-750x315_orig