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.


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.


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!


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?





Movie Review: Batman vs. Superman!

First Impressions: 

batman v superman MoonDefinitely a boy/man film.  Angst, excitement, personal conflict, personal conviction, the specific material recognized by any DC fan (Death of Superman, Dark Knight Returns), and a psychotic Lex Luthor who is nearly on par with the Joker!

Story and Plot:

The beginning of the show with Batman’s origin was really well done, the criminal (Joe Chill?) ruthless; Dad steps in front of his wife and child ready to do whatever it takes to protect them; Bruce running away and falling into a pit – a pit of bats!  Holy Flashback!

Batman’s brooding is further enhanced by Lex Luthor, a rich brat who is also a scientific genius, who plays Superman and Batman against each other, via their “secret” identities to get them both riled up to where they want to kill each other. And let’s not forget the pawns in the chessgame – Lois Lane and Superman’s mother, Martha Kent.

The whole terrorist theme was well-played, and a beautiful yet explosive car chase showing us what the Batmobile is capable of.

Alfred, played by another, more sarcastic character than in earlier Batman films, really knew his stuff and as well confided in Batman and steered him when the Bats was losing his fight with the Belfrey, if you know what I mean.

And Superman, conflicted.  Is he worshiped as a god, or is he an alien menace, or just a man who wants to do what is right.  The conversation with his Dad (Kevin Costner especially poignant acting) and the calming base of his mother, Martha (played with conviction by actress Diane Lane) come together in a mix of emotion, love, and heartache.  Quite nice!

Final Thoughts:

A movie worth watching.  The flashbacks Batman was experiencing while playing back Luthor’s drive were a bit confusing, but overall Affleck’s Batman was characterized in a way that would make writer Frank Miller proud.  The conflicted version of Superman was more real and down to earth a portrayal.  And the excitement & power of Gadot as Wonder Woman made me want a solo film of her so much more.

Well done to Zach Snyder, cast and crew!


Henry Cavill … Clark Kent / Kal-El / Superman
Amy Adams … Lois Lane
Diane Lane … Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne … Perry White
Ben Affleck … Bruce Wayne / Batman
Gal Gadot … Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Jesse Eisenberg … Lex Luther
Holly Hunter … U.S. Senator
Callan Mulvey
Tao Okamoto … Mercy Graves
Jeremy Irons … Alfred
Scoot McNairy
Ray Fisher … Victor Stone / Cyborg
Jason Momoa … Aquaman




Fantasy/Horror Films, Science Fiction Books

Book Review:The End of All Things #1: The Life of the Mind: The End of All Things

Comments on End of All Things #1 – John Scalzi

 First Thoughts:

John has really improved on his Old Man’s War series of novels and short stories. Among these is the End of All Things storylines, written in four volumes, which I like reading on Amazon Kindle e-reader.  First off, really like the writing style. Sarcastic, fast-paced. Similar to Andy Weir’s The Martian in terms of style and interest. Kept me going throughout.

 Story & Plot:

Getting hired as a pilot is one thing. But being kidnapped and having your brain transferred to a computer and flying a ship is something else!

The bad guys with a traitor politician (no surprise there) want to get rid of the Colonial Union. With secrets from the senator, this is an easy task. But our hero is a computer programmer as well as a pilot, and devised a way of circumventing the computer controls and makes his escape. But he’s still a brain in a box!

 Conclusion: Great short novel, a fun read. Can’t wait for the next one!




Movie Review:Lawrence of Arabia

LawrenceFirst Thoughts:

Lawrence of Arabia is one of those classics I’ve never watched all the way through and so I picked up a 2DVD series for a song on  Though it’s rated as one of the top films of the 20th century, I was not that impressed.

Story & Plot:

Love the cinematography of this film!  The amazing desert sunrises, the mirages, the authentic costumes!  The crazy Arab played well by Anthony Quinn!  The sleek Prince played by Alec Guinness! (Yes, he did many films before Star Wars); Omar Sharif as Ali, the only character who, somewhat violent, had to keep running after Lawrence and guide him.

Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence is a bit crazy.  I mean here you are as a British soldier who nearly “goes native”, very independent, does his own thing, ignores warnings and crosses vast deserts and attempts the impossible.

It’s really sad, his character!  Lawrence is one time a hero, fancies himself ready to walk on water, then next moment he wants to throw it all away, can’t handle the responsibility of freeing Arabia and just go back to England to “get a job”.  I mean really now!

He lets a mad lust for killing take over and mows down the Turks.  Nowadays this film would push the PG rating since there’s plenty of death for the even the most die-hard film fan.

My DVD had a great interview with Steven Spielberg on how he was impressed by the film and how he met the director and picked his brains on the making of the film.  Several documentaries and lots and lots of praise for the technical quality of the film.

Final Thoughts:

It’s a hard film to watch, with an ending that is somewhat disappointing.  How a man can rise so high and crash down so hard is tough to imagine.  Excellent authentic desert scenes and a new look at Arabian culture; but the cons include Lawrence himself, a conflicted man who can’t decide if he is just an ordinary guy or an extraordinary being.

Worth the watch, won 7 Academy Awards,  but I would not clamor for it!


Movie Review: Book of Eli!

The Book of Eli


Denzel Washington is amazing as a wanderer, who’s been walking the roads for the last thirty years heading west, a man on a mission.

What’s the goal?

Even he is not sure. Just that he’ll know it when he sees it. He carries the book in his bag and protects it at all costs. The world is a rough place after the bombs dropped. The giant crater holes, the broken fragments of Man’s civilization to where people have degraded to biker gangs and every person for themselves. Only the older men and women who are literate have any hold on anyone else. Books were burned and banned soon after the war to “prevent this from happening again.”

Clearly a Fahrenheit 451 reference.

Keep the people ignorant and they can be more easily controlled. Main characters include: Mila Kunis’ Solara and Gary Oldman’s Carnegie. Gary Oldman plays a guy who is running a town where he knows this is true. He gets his biker gangs to go out and search for the book. The Book that will get him control over the masses. Using the words from the Bible will get him to raise up and take control over the cities in his area. From history it is not the first time that faith in the Bible and religion has led to control over populations. But the film is not saying that Oldman’s character is right. In fact, the selfless faith is what triumphs at the end. And what an ending there is. Can’t spoil it, sorry.

The younger people in the film, the woman that befriends him and others, cannot read and have never learned to read. The biker gang leaders can’t read and they don’t care — they’ll kill, rape and steal for a decent barter & trade. The woman can’t read either, but wants to know of the old days. She starts out as a lousy character, frankly, but then develops into a strong character near the end of the film.

 The photography with the washed-out colors and the sepia toned landscape and people was wonderfully shot and along with the stark music, gives a depressing yet hopeful mood. Favorite scenes: The silhouette where Denzel is whipping out his blade and slicing and dicing the bad guys, hand flies off, a few gut slices and blood splashes. Yuk. The stark, barren landscape, the blackened craters.

The sun so bright that everyone has to wear shades (apparently the ozone layer has been wiped out). The old couple in a farm house who have a different taste in meat than most. 🙂 This is not a religious film, although there are elements of it. It’s not even a film of having a religion. It’s about having faith, hope and knowledge.

And bringing people together from that hope and knowledge. It’s touching when Denzel’s character struggles with the definition of faith. He just knows! Will Eli live long enough to see his dream happen?

 The ending will surprise you, it clearly is not a pat, predictable story.


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