Science Fiction Movies, Thrillers

Film Review: Star Trek Beyond!

Star Trek Beyond

First Thoughts:

Loved the opening scenes with the Enterprise getting some docking time at the newest Starbase that fits one million people!

Special effects were great without being overwhelming.  Director Justin Li (Fast & Furious 6) kept the lens flares to minimum.

Chris Pine is growing into his Kirk role.  He really got the Shatner vibe down and adds his own flair to it.

As I have enjoyed in Trek over the last four decades, the character-driven characters, the relationship between Spock & Kirk as they come to grips with not only the possibility of their breaking up and taking other opportunities but also to do the standard save-the-universe story with some original twists.

Details:

Love the details.  What would the 25th century use as phones?  Would they consider our current hard rock music “classical”?  Right down to the make-up, the costumes, the occasional cars & trains, all makes for a world as real as Roddenberry could have envisioned.

It’s a story of revenge, of greed, and of sacrificing others so that you may achieve immortality.  Or so it seems.

Action:

The movie is a bit too fast paced, and gets to the action pretty quick with just a bit of backstory and set-up.  It got a bit too fast for me, so I had to rewind and make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Illusion weaponry and clever dealings with the bad guy makes this a tough world for Kirk!

Final thoughts: 

Tributes to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin (played Chekov, and recently died in a freak home accident) were touching without being maudlin.  And yes, this film is much better than the other two.  Looking forward to more!

Science Fiction Movies, Thrillers

Film Review: Mockingjay Part II – Hunger Games

First Thoughts:

 Though I do not particularly like how directors lately have been breaking a final movie into two parts, extending it and making it dull, I thought the last adaptation film of The Hunger Games pretty good.

 Story & Plot:title

Follows the book fairly faithfully as our reluctant heroine fines herself played between the enemy camp of President Snow and the snarky calmness of Coin. Coin plays her well, manipulating Katniss to be the face of the rebellion.

It’s only when others are being killed or are justifying why it’s OK to murder and kill that she has finally had enough, though her personal solution could be construed as hypocritical, I thought it a relatively fitting ending.

 ** Spoiler **

The book ended with Katniss being a housewife. In the film, she becomes a mom.  OK, fine.  But what of the outside Districts and such?

 Final Thought:

I thought Jennifer Laurence a bit too serious in the role, how she would stare at others who paid tribute to her, or walk into an area where people would gather to see her and give them that stare. She rarely smiles and seems so distraught throughout the film.  Did not like that.  Great characterization from all the actors, great special effects.

Some scenes are too horrific for younger kids.

Pulp Fiction, Science Fiction Books, Thrillers

Audio Book Review: Battlefield Earth!

Battlefield Earth Audio Book – 2016 Edition

First Thoughts:

I’ve read the book several times and thought with the new edition, why not get the audio book?  I’m not too familiar with audio books.  I know a lot of them don’t have the sound quality and usually have one narrator.

BE has the audio books of audio books!  44 CD’s, each about an hour each and it sounds like a Golden Age of Radio production up there with Orson Welles or the cool horror radio I used to listen to as a kid with Lights Out or Inner Sanctum.

But I digress (as well as age myself).

Besides the high production values and the intense mood-inducing intro music throughout the production, the cast & crew were professional and emotional in presenting their characters.  As in any story I would expect throwaway characters, however in BE all the characters played some important role in the building of the story.

frank_frazetta_-_battlefield_earth_1Universe Building

Hubbard builds a universe (actually 16 of them) in this galactic neighborhood.  When we start, we find Psychlo has an out-of-the-way mining colony of Intergalactic Mining Co., a bunch of slovenly employees who wonder why their pay is being cut, and not a lot of thought is given to the “man animals” on the planet.

We find the adventures of one security chief with delusions of grandeur and riches, Terl, and his counterpart, a “man animal” (Johnny Goodboy Tyler) who was always considered strange and asked too many questions in his village, and Johnny becomes part of Terl’s plan to take an unknown-to-the-company gold deposit near Denver and convert it to ingots and then blast the animals when the job is done.

Terl returns to Psychlo a rich alien, with females and kerbango (a cross between beer and pretzels, I suspect) to last the rest of his life!

So Terl trains the animals – men – from Johnny and from Scotland – using a learning device that quickly educates in the ways of mining, language and Psychlo technology to extract the gold.

The fun begins when Terl gets leverage over his boss, and over the company, little knowing that Johnny has plans of his own.

The story further expands from this beyond the bad Psychlos getting theirs, where Earth becomes a target for other alien races!

Will Johnny be able to handle these races or will they cut up Earth so these races can pay their debts, continue their wars to satisfy the economies of their war production on their home planets, and meantime put Man in chains?

Last Thoughts:

I’ve read the book a few times but forgot so many details that the audio book provided with a panache and extremely professional production I was not expecting nor imagining.

An amazing romp through the galaxy, finding data on Economics, Politics, the failings of governments operating on out-moded laws of subjugating populations and begin to find purpose and worth in a sea of uncertainty and the imagined power brokers of uncaring banks and military leaders.

No, it’s not just a pulp tale of Tyler’s conquering the Psychlos.  It’s a tale of high tension and energy in handling the world or worlds around us.

Now if we could only bring Voyager home before it’s too late.  But that’s for another story.

Highly recommended!

tolnep

PS:  For those lucky readers who have read the book and listened to the audio books in the past, be it known that the earlier editions were abridged as was the audio book (recorded by the wonderful voice of Roddy McDowell).

Now you get the FULL story as it was originally intended!

Nice, eh?

 

 

 

Classic Films, Thrillers, Uncategorized

Classic Film Review: The Best Years of Our Lives, 1946!

Classic Film!

(Minor Spoilers)

I do enjoy the old movies, especially the Academy Award winners. For 1946 or so, the entry The Best Years of Our Lives was an interesting drama.

First Impressions:

Three guys all going back to the old hometown to see what’s changed and to return to their families.

One guy was married to a blonde floozy and went off to war, quite decorated, and quite shy about talking about his war experiences. His occasional flash-backs and the crush he has on a buddy’s daughter, make for some tension. He was a bomber and highly decorated, yet can’t make his marriage work and is relegated to the same job he quit: a soda jerk!

Another is a Navy man, who lost both hands in a fire on a ship. He has “hooks” and is pretty versatile with them. Unfortunately in small town USA, people are not as forgiving and easily shocked. His mom sobs that her son is so crippled. His girlfriend actually doesn’t mind, but he’s too much feeling sorry for himself to notice. This character was hard for me to like, wallowing in self-pity. He did finally snap out of it, though. 

Finally we have an older guy who is returning to his wife and kids. The wife is played well by Myrna Loy (of Thin Man fame) and her comedic style pops out once in awhile as she plays a straight part. Her daughter falls in love with the airman with the blonde floozy and swears she will break up the marriage and take him for herself. “Who are you, God?” intones her father. A

Bottom Line:

Interesting story on how each man deals with family and how things have changed since they shipped out. Acclimating to a new life is hard, and going into denial through alcohol or wallowing in self-pity just don’t work. One of a kind film.

besty2

Features:

Interviews with two actresses, elderly now, express a lot of what was going on with the set, the director and the actors. Quite entertaining.

Directed by
William Wyler
Writing Credits
Robert E. Sherwood … (screen play)

MacKinlay Kantor … (from a novel by) (as Mackinlay Kantor)

Cast
Myrna Loy Milly Stephenson
Fredric March
Dana Andrews
Teresa Wright
Virginia Mayo

Science Fiction Books, Thrillers

Book Review: The Devil’s Eye, by Jack McDevitt

the-devils-eye

The Devil’s Eye

I’m really enjoying these Jack McDevitt novels, regardless of the somewhat familiar formula of these stories. This is the fourth book I’ve read in the Alex Benedict stories.

Alex and his assistant (and sometimes lover) Chase, run Rainbow Enterprises, a company that specializes in buying and selling (and acquiring at archeological sites) special items of historic significance for sale and profit.

But Devil’s Eye diverges from this and has Alex trying to solve a mystery. A mystery that leads to the lives of a planet. That’s all I can say without ruining the plot!

Story and Plot:

Vickie Greene, horror novelist 9,000 years in our future, a contemporary of Alex and Chase, sends a cryptic message when Alex is returning from an adventure on the Belle Marie, a ship run by an AI (artificial intelligence). Vickie says “they’re all dead.” What’s it mean? Is Vickie on the verge of mental collapse? Or something more?

Our heroes discover Vickie had her personality replaced – contact with her brother reveals no information as to why, but that is pretty serious, as a mind wipe is usually reserved for criminals and malcontents.

Why would Vickie do this? Perhaps the answer lies on the planet Salud Afar, a planet that is at the far reaches of the galaxy, with no moon and not a lot of stars except for one particularly bright one that Vickie called “The Devil’s Eye.”

The story has humor, as when Chase goes topless at a swimming pool and the men applaud. Hilarious. And her usual string of boyfriends who lament that she’s gone so long piloting through the galaxy with her employer.

As in other novels, they have their lives threatened more than once and are urged to abandon their investigation but that makes them even more determined to find out who is trying to kill them and solve the mystery of Vickie Greene.

Bottom Line:

The story does not end at its natural conclusion but tries to wrap up all its points at once near the end – a method that makes the story seemed rushed.

However, the story runs well overall, not too many slow points as in earlier McDevitt novels, and it’s always a pleasure to imagine another Chase/Alex adventure.

Recommended.

Thrillers, Uncategorized

Classic Film Review: The Thin Man DVD Collection – a brief commentary

Thin_Man_Photo_2Pros:The first two are the best before the films become formulaic.

Cons:The films become formulaic!

The Bottom Line: Murder mysteries with the famous Nick & Nora.  Though the films get tiresome late in the game, a great collection for the comedy film fan.

First Impressions:

About a year ago I picked up the box set of all of the Thin Man series of films with Nick and Nora Charles, the detective duo of the classic age of films, with their humor and silly wit as they non-stop drink bourbons and scotches on their way to solve murders, even without trying all that hard.

The following are my brief impressions of each DVD, a “quick tip” if you will, of what I liked about each DVD or its matter of interest.

First is a documentary profile of each of the main stars, William Powell and Myrna Loy. Also included is an episode of the 1950s TV series with Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk in The Thin Man. Even a radio show episode with Powell and Loy!

What I found interesting was not only the camaraderie between these two stars but the fact that they never had a romance or were engaged or anything. To watch them work, it’s magic really. Critic Richard Schickel and others narrate their lives, going through the actors’ filmography and style, even going back to the Silent film era.

Six DVDs!
The Thin Man with Maureen O’Sullivan, the first movie and really the best of the series. Directed by W. S. Van Dyke and based on the Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name, it pulled in four Academy Awards in 1934. We meet their dog Asta and the bantering back and forth and the wit is just so side-splitting.

After The Thin Man, with Jimmy Stewart. Again directed by W. S. Van Dyke, clearly the studio wanted the cash in on Nick & Nora’s popularity. It’s New Year’s Eve and Nora’s cousin is missing. Nick’s wife ends up in jail, and Jimmy Stewart, a young star plays one of the supporting cast. Even though Nick tries to convince people he’s retired, they just keep plying him with questions about this case!

Another Thin Man, Nick & Nora have a baby and try to solve crime while dealing with their family situation. Someone tries to tell Nick that someone is out to kill him and sure enough it happens. After that, they try to solve this crime. A bit slow and not as endearing as the first film. Next, Shadow of the Thin Man takes Nick and Nora to the race track where a jockey is killed. The series is starting to wear “thin” at this point, but still makes an interesting family show.

Their kid is a bit more grown up which adds a family affair to it. The supporting cast includes Donna Reed.

In the fifth Thin Man film, Nick is showing off to his parents in Sycamore Springs about what a fine detective he is. And he gets a chance to prove it with a murder in town! Five years after the first film, still has a few laughs but again it’s getting tiresome to some degree.

The last Thin Man film has Nick and Nora dealing with a gangster on a ship, a jazz singer who is killed and his way of solving the crime. It’s not bad at all, just like a comedic Bogart film (if there were such a thing).

All the DVDs have special features, including cartoons, trailers and foreign subtitles.

Thrillers

Book Review: Dan Brown’s Inferno — It’s Not What You Think!

Dan Brown’s The Inferno

If you thought you would read another Langdon novel of Robert having to translate symbols in a hurry, the world will end shortly and a beautiful woman would be his partner, then guess what? You have in “The Inferno!”

Though somewhat formulaic, I really like Brown novels. The pacing, the brief flashbacks and the way he leads the readers to imagine one thing and then change the story completely around by the ending is maddening if entertaining.

Langdon wakes up with amnesia in an Italian hospital and has no idea how he ended up in a hospital, much less in Italy. The surgeon, Dr. Sienna Brooks, goes with him as they escape a mad shooter who is gunning for Langdon.

Right at the start you wonder who this woman is – why is she throwing away her medical career to keep Langdon safe? Who is she?

dan-brown-to-investigate-dante-s-masterpiece-in-new-novel-infernoAnother character in the mix is the silver-haired head of WHO (World Health Organization) who also wants Langdon and as well wants the third person in our triage: a man obsessed with the final solution to overpopulation in the world and using Dante’s famous Divine Comedy and especially The Inferno as inspiration to pull off his “final solution.”

As you tear through the book, you get greatly detailed accounts of Florence and Venice, the historic atmosphere and really have no time to enjoy it as you rush through deciphering (a very physical job!) and having a beautiful scientist in tow who is much different (and dangerous) than she appears to both Langdon and the reader.

Characters:

Many of the characters are throwaways. I loved the Langdon character and enigmatic Sienna Brooks, but the WHO security guys, the various museum curators and even a few from the “all-for-the-client” Consortium (which organization was not all that explained) made for some disappointment.

Scenes:

Great exploration into the history and makings of Dante’s Inferno. I’m sure a lot of people will be searching out the places that Robert went to, looking for secret stairways and checking out Dante’s death mask.

Bottom Line: Enjoyable if formulaic book. Better than The Lost Symbol, but his DaVinci Code is still the best of the Langdon novels. Here’s hoping for a movie!

Recommended.