I’m Thinking of Ending Things

im-thinking-of-ending-things Iain Reid’s novel is short. A couple of hundred pages. The story is broken up into small bits. A snippet of a love story. A bit of a horror tale. A little mystery. What is the meaning of the title? What things are they thinking of ending? Who is thinking this? I’m thinking of ending things is a highly stylized book. It reminded me a bit of Flowers for Algernon. It’s not quite as good as Flowers for Algernon. Few stories are.

The stylistic tick here. Is the use of short sentences. Sometimes. Very. Short. Sentences.

A little of this goes a long way. Mixed in with the short, choppy sentences are the occasional obscure word. Near the start of the book, one of our heroes says he is a cruciverbalist. He then uses the word ipseity, which means self-hood. The odd five-dollar word is sprinkled here and there, like the short sentences, designed to trip the reader for a moment and make them pay attention.

And this is the odd bit, for the most part there seems to be nothing to pay attention to. A couple is on a road trip. The women recalls the night they met. It’s a snowy night. Then there are a few strange bits. The woman keeps getting calls from some strange person who has been stalking her. In-between the chapters, we find small dialogue snippets of two people discussing a crime scene of some kind. Now we have to worry a bit, is the stalker going to get the woman? Or is she the one going to commit the crime?

I was a bit disappointed with the ending. It was the kind resolution that was inevitable in this kind of story. Once you are able to put all the pieces together, you find that the picture doesn’t match the one on the box. Maybe it’s just the lonely loser in me that doesn’t like how the story ends.

I enjoyed I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

Posted in book review

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenI thought this was going to be a blatant ripoff of Harry Potter and The X-Men, but turned out to be more of a ripoff of, well, all the terrible movies featuring teen heroes from the past decade or so. Kids are smart, adults are idiots, and the new kid who should be killed right off the bat turns out to be smarter and more powerful than everyone else.

On the plus side, I did kind of like it. This is a Grade A turn off your brain while you watch it film-nothing makes any sense. And I mean, Nothing.

Back in the good old days, during WWII, Brits living in big cities sent their kids off to live in relative safety in the county. Once the war was over, they could bring them come home and carry on with their lives. So that must have been the inspiration for this story.  Only, well, the kids sent to a safe place here, are there FOREVER. So not so much saved, as imprisoned.

The costumes and sets are perfect, I liked all the actors, and the music wasn’t too annoying. A few of endless battle scenes were a bit clever. I enjoyed the bit where the heroes made invisible monsters visible. But even there, I kept expecting there to be someone from the Ministry of Magic showing up and yelling about using magic in front of the Muggles. It seems kind of unlikely that hordes of monsters, both good and bad, wandering around the streets of Blackpool wouldn’t catch someone’s attention.  And there is never any explanation for any of the powers that the Peculiar have, no rhyme or reason why anyone does anything.

It was kind of fun and kind of silly and the handful of menacing folks didn’t see quite as menacing as they could be.  At least not when compared to the superhuman children they are battling. It does make me wonder how these saps won the battles at other Schools.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was not great, but not terrible either.

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Bridget Jones’s Baby

bridget-joness-baby At first I found Renée Zellweger’s looks and Hugh Grant’s absence a bit distracting. But McDreamy does a good job standing in as Bridget’s other love interest, and Renée still sounds like Bridget. It’s not that she looks old, it’s that she looks so different. We’re talking Darrin 1 and Darrin 2 from Bewitched different here. Anyway…

We find Bridget a bit bummed out about turning 43 and still being alone. One of her younger and hipper friends takes her to a Festival, where she meets a love guru played by Patrick Dempsey. Since it’s a movie, they hook up almost as soon as they run into each other. Then a few days later, she meets the Love of Her Life, Mr. Darcy, played with his usually cold disdain by Colin Firth. A bit later, Bridget discovers that she is preganant.  So who’s the father?

There are a few very funny bits here and it’s good to see the old gang again. There are several touching moments where it looks like the three primaries have found polyamorous paradise. How would that be for a twist in the RomCom universe?

Bridget Jones’s Baby is a little on the long side. It drags here and there as Bridget tries to balance her job and her two baby daddies. The bulk of the jokes come from the job, where Bridget is a TV news Producer who makes a few on-air mistakes.

There is a bit of drama as we watch Bridget decide between a man she just met and had a one night stand with and the man she has been in love with for what feels like her entire life.

There is the obligetory problems getting to the hospital scene and angry mom in labor scene. The ending was good and there was a hint of more to come. These are all people I like spending time with, but you have to wonder what would happen in Bridget Jones 4 that hasn’t already happened.

I like Bridget Jones’s Baby.

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Gilmore Girls A Year In The Life

gilmore-girls Gilmore Girls was always a wonderful show filled with gags about current events, heart felt moments between lovers, and a cast of oddball characters worthy of a great Britcom. Everyone still alive seems to have come back to revive their roles for A Year In The Life. It’s been ten years since the show went off the air and everyone looks pretty amazing. Of course, I have seen the bulk of the cast in other roles over those ten years.

I loved seeing them all again. I loved all the gags. The reference to Inside Llewyn Davis was a hoot. In short, I loved all the bits where they were acting exactly like I remember them acting. I kind of hated a few bits where they didn’t act the way they should have.

For example. Rory is a failure. What universe is this set in? Then she has a one night stand with a guy in a Wookie costume. On top of that, Lorelai-her mother, does nothing but make jokes about it. Ok, I know our heroes are supposed to be more friends than parent and child, but come on. Give me a break. Not even a stern look or a ‘I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed’?

Then there is the whole Rory is a misteress/piece of ass on the side to Logan. This while she has a steady boyfriend who everyone forgets as soon as they met him. Cute gag the first ime round, pretty cruel and heartless after that. She’s a failure, but she can still fly and back forth-well, pretty much anywhere she wants to go.

On the plus side, I loved the bits with Danny Strong the screenwriter talking about Doyle selling out by becoming a screenwriter. I also liked the dig at all the 3o-somethings who couldn’t cope with the real world and moved back home. I liked Kirk and his pig. I loved Kirk’s movie and hated the Musical. I laughed out loud when I first was Daddy Gilmore’s portrait.

All in all, Gilmore Girls A Year In The Life wasn’t perfect. But it was so much better than no Gilmore Girls at all.

Posted in tv review

The Things They Carried

the-things-they-carriedAfter fifty years or so, it seems impossible that there would be anything new to hear about the war in Vietnam. Boys were sent to the other side of the world to commit murder and mayhem and many of them came back damaged and broken. Many of them didn’t come back at all. We’ve seen their stories in TV shows and movies, read about them in books and short stories. We’ve even laughed about the conflict in the sort-of-a-protest song Alice’s Restaurant. So it is a bit surprising to read yet one account of yet one more soldier’s experience and find it a griping read.

The Things They Carried is a collection of short stories and was originally published in 1990. It’s a book that I somehow missed over the past twenty-five years or so. I’m glad I found it now.

The Things They Carried is a tad on the repetitive side. Several of the stories are told several times. We are told that one version is the War Story version, one version is the Writer’s version, one version is the Truth, and so on. This leaves less a feeling of total disclosure of the facts, and more of a feeling of, facts? what the fuck are facts?

Our heroes are all rough talking, rough acting, and often heartless and cruel soldiers fighting a war they didn’t ask to fight. Easily the most amazing story is about the time one the narrator’s buddies brings his girlfriend over from home. She just shows up one day and moves into the barracks. Then she changes, she goes nuts, she becomes a comic book character who kills the enemy and takes body parts as trophies. It’s one of the tales that is bizarre and baffling. And there is no real end to it. Anything our heroes didn’t witness personally they treat like hearsay evidence and tend to ignore.

There is a lot of death and depression, both in the war and once they return home. The bulk of the stories are war stories. But not tales of great combat missions or battles, just tales of the daily horrors of being a solider in Vietnam. They remain gripping and thought provoking. The author is amazed, as he writes some twenty odd years later, that he is still processing his time in Vietnam.

I listened to the audio-book and it was read by Bryan Cranston. He does a great job, just as he does with every project he undertakes.

The Things They Carried is a great read. Tim O’Brien has an interesting style and tells his tales in unusual ways.

Posted in book review

Arrival

arrival

Yeah, that was good.

Movies like this normally have a long putting-the-team-together opening like Oceans 11 or The Core, but not here. The team is mainly Amy Adams and it doesn’t take her long to get on board. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker are the other familiar faces trying to figure out how to talk to some mysterious aliens who have parked in twelve spots around the world.

Arrival is a great movie. It works on both the global level, where the end of the world is a real possibility, and on a personal level, where the loss of a loved one overshadows everything that happens.

Like all movies, the less you know about the story, the better. It was good.

Spoilers.

The effects were brilliant, the acting was great, and the story was solid.

There are a couple of questions that are either ignored or sidestepped. Our hero writes a book about the tech that allows her to save the world. She is sharing that tech, so does this mean everyone who reads, and understands that book, can use the tech? The aliens have this tech, and yet they appear not to use it at a critical moment.  Then there is the story of personal tragedy. Why does it happen? Ultimately, why does anything happen?

One odd bit of business is when they take a canary into the ship with them. This bit of coal mine safety seems pretty silly. But once it was there, I was a bit shocked that our super geniuses never brought an octopus into the ship. Not that this would have helped humankind, but maybe the Heptapods could have had a nice chat with an intelligent lifeform.

This is a powerful and emotional story told brilliantly. Is it perfect? No, but it’s so much closer to perfect that anything I’ve seen since Bladerunner and 2001.

 

Posted in movie review, sci fi

Doctor Strange

doctor-strange I’m not all that familiar with Doctor Strange, so for once I needed the Origin Story that takes up the first part of Doctor Strange the movie. Our hero is a egotistical jerk who, like Doctor House, only treats people whose cases he finds interesting. Being a surgeon, when he finds himself in a car crash, naturally it’s his hands that are damaged. No longer being able to preform surgery, he decides to follow the path of enlightenment.

He ends up in Nepal and meets an immortal. This person is a lot like Tyler Durden from Fight Club. All Doctor Strange has to do is sit on the Temple’s front porch until the Immortal decides to let him in. He doesn’t wait all that long. In fact, it seems like it was something on the order of a few hours. A tiny price to pay for the secrets of the universe.

In short order, days or weeks or hours, who can tell in a film like this? Doc Strange is the new Demigod about town. Which comes in handy, since he soon has to do battle with an actual god. Or something like a god. A big CGI pair of eyes anyway.

Doctor Strange was fun, but I still like Deadpool better. Doctor Strange took itself a bit too seriously, considering the often silly nature of the story.

Like all modern movies, Doctor Strange was a huge Computer Generated Image fest. It was filled with effects made popular in Inception. Lots of buildings bending this way and that. Lots of floors constantly shifting this way and that. Lots of kaleidoscope effects. They were all done very well and looked pretty amazing.

The Dark Dimension, or whatever it was called, on the other hand, looked downright silly. It was a velvet painting for use with a black light. Not so much scary as odd. And the bad guy, well, all CGI bad guys look like CGI bad guys. He wasn’t scary or remotely realistic. He was just a big cartoon.

Doctor Strange was a good movie.

Posted in movie review

Pres Trump and The 2nd US Civil War

trump cartoonDonald Trump being elected President is right up there with 9/11 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s shocking and baffling and a concentrated act of pure evil. Or maybe it’s more like the attack of Fort Sumter. The first shot in a new American Civil War. The media, for the most part, are talking about Trump’s plans and how difficult it would be for him to go through with them. They are still thinking of Donald Trump as a normal person, a normal President that will play by the rules. Donald Trump doesn’t have to play by the rules. He’s proved that over and over again.

Let’s start with deporting around ten million people. The rational media says it would be far too expensive to do. Not so. All Trump has to do is hand out the brown shirts and ask them to report anyone they think is in America illegally. Sixty Million plus American Citizens would freely jump on that bandwagon. Are you now or have you ever been? We are entering a new era of Americans hating other Americans and doing everything they can to harm them.

I’ve said for the past couple of years that Trump supporters don’t want a President, they want a Dictator. They want a Ceasar or a Napoleon or a Hitler to take charge and kick ass. But most of them don’t know enough about history to know what happened to those leaders and their followers.

Common sense would say that Trump and his redneck revolution aren’t going to do anything. No wall, no mass deportations, no bombing the shit out of anyone, no reshaping of the Supreme Court or rewriting of the US Constitution. But common sense has nothing to do with Trump and his bring back the 1950s revolution.

In the worst case scenario, this is the end of the United States of America. There will be no more elections. We will start killing each other in earnest. The rednecks have every reason to think they will win this war. They have all the guns. And President Trump will have all those lovely Cold War era Nukes. End of the world, anyone? This Civil War will leave no one behind to start over. And the rednecks will be fine with that as well.

So what will really happen? That’s what makes this election so damned scary. No one knows what will happen. Trump might just twiddle his thumbs for four years and tweet about how mean everyone is in Washington. Someone might shoot him before he can do anything. Maybe he will do something to bring jobs back to America. Maybe he’ll repair the roads and make the trains run on time. Maybe he’ll sell America on the open market and make Hawaii his own private resort. Anything could happen. And that’s not a good thing.

But Trump is just a symptom, not the disease. The cancer is the sixty million people who voted him into power. I didn’t like Nixon or Reagan or Bush. But I never felt like the people who voted for them were traitors plotting for the destruction of America. I feel like Trump supporters are.

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Revival by Stephen King

revival The genius of Stephen King is his ability to write in such a way that you feel as if he is talking to you across the dining room table. This time he seems to be talking directly to men of a certain age, somewhere between fifty and sixty, who share memories of the same TV Shows and the same popular music, among countless other things. I listened to the audiobook read by David Morse and he does a great job of reading the story of a man from Maine who loses his faith as a boy.

We follow our hero from the time he is a small boy and meets a strange man while he’s in the front yard playing with his toy soldiers. The man is a preacher who dabbles with electricity on the side. After a horrible accident, the Rev leaves the Church and spends all his time studying a magical form of electricity he calls Secret Electricity.

King quotes H. P. Lovecraft several times, but I really got more of a Philip K Dick feel from this story. Dick was the master of keeping his characters on the edge of danger and constantly worried about what was going to happen next. There was a lot of tension in Revival as The Rev and our hero Jamie keep crossing paths over the course of fifty years or so. The fantastic elements are often a bit odd in what is basically a story about growing older and feeling out of touch with the world. Revival would have been good as a straight novel without any supernatural elements at all.

Just as I loved 11/22/63, but was just confused by the ending, much the same thing happens here. The story is a pretty straightforward narrative from youth to middle age with small side trips into weirdland. The bulk of the weird business has to do with The Rev healing people, our hero Jamie among them. But many of them suffer from strange after effects that leave them worse off than they were to start with. The book ends with everyone healed by The Rev having some very serious after effects. Everyone except Jamie. There are thousands who were healed by the secret electricity and we can assume that all of them suffered similar unpleasant fates.

I liked Revival a lot, but the ending was pretty out there, even for Stephen King.

Posted in book review, Uncategorized

Crimson Death

crimson-death As with the last Anita Blake book, there was some hope to be had in the opening pages. Edward calls and tells Anita that rogue Vampires are running amok in Ireland and that he needs her help. But instead of the next chapter starting with Edward driving Antia away from Dublin Airport, we spend the next few chapters watching Antia and two of her sex slaves looking for a good place to take a shower. Seriously.

Laurell K Hamilton doesn’t so much write novels anymore, as several hundred page long sermons on the poly lifestyle. One of the themes she warms to often is that sexual orientation is nothing more than sexual choice. All men can enjoy sex with other men if they just get over their homophobia, or in this case, get mind fucked by a Wereleopard. I’ve always believed that a good number of lesbians are gay by choice, but that men are born gay. Laurell likes to think we just haven’t met our perfect same sex partner yet. As proof of this, Anita and her posse are all fully pansexual and will fuck anything that moves.

Something she did a few books back was force Richard to have sex with Jean-Claude, thus turning one of the few truly macho characters into a pussy. She is clearly tempted to do something similar to Edward, as she pussifies Death by forcing him to chat about his feelings. On the other hand, she takes a character who could be a poster child for effeminate and passive homosexuals and forces him to be a tough guy who gets in a knife fight. Watching Nathaniel change from Liberace to Rambo is a bit jarring.

One of the problems with writing is falling in love with your characters and then having the divine ability to create more and more and more people to love. The cast of Anita Blake’s universe has grown far too large for a casual fan such as myself to keep straight. Literally dozens of people have walk on scenes in Crimson Death, I have a clear picture in my mind of three of them, Edward, Anita, and Jean-Claude, and I only know them from other books, not this one. Imagine a book set in Oz where Dorothy spends all her time hanging out with the Lollipop Guild and gets to be on a first name basis with everyone living in Munchkinville.

Asher has a brief walk on role and his scene is touching, but so much like every other scene with Asher in it as to be a bit-Really? Again? But then, the whole book has that kind of Really? Again? feeling to it. I guess after writing a zillion of these books, Laurell has ran out of anything new to say.

Things are better once she does met up with Edward, but Laurell still likes to do a bit too much explaining. About trust, about how to be a big bad cop, about why vampires are bad or not so bad, and about countless other things. Like other highly successful writers, Laurell K Hamilton could use a bit of quality time with a good Editor. Someone to tell her to cut this, and this, and that, and trim everything else. Crimson Death is at least two books crammed into one. This makes a lot of the book fly over country for me and I skim all the chapters that focus on Anita’s hyper complex love-life. The vampire hunter bits are still damned good, which pisses me off that I have to wade through all this team poly shit to get to it. Fine, Anita has found her perfect little kink world, who cares? I don’t need to know all about the sex lives of Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple or Perry Mason to enjoy their stories.

The ending is good, but feels rushed. The big bad is not so bad, as Anita herself says at one point. The actually Vampire Hunter stuff is good, there just isn’t enough of it.

Posted in book review