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

Suicide Squad

suicide-squadWas This Trip Really Necessary? No, No It Wasn’t.

Spoilers.

Ok, when two of your Big Bad Villains are Gods, you can’t kill them with a couple of bricks of C4. You just can’t. And when you let your main pure evil, murdering scumbag, Government Employee get away in the end, well, you can’t do that either.

Suicide Squad wasn’t quite as bad as Ghostbusters, but that’s not saying a hell of a lot. This was easily the most over-hyped film of the year and just as easily one of the worst films of the year.

We start off with a bunch of characters you likely aren’t that familiar with and watch then end up in some super secret prison in Louisiana. Or someplace. They are bad guys and so they have no rights and are treated like animals. Why not just kill them? Well, because the Government, the real villain in the piece, might need them someday. Oh, that day is today.

Random crap happens left and right. Random music blares through the background. Random people and later random things that used to be people are killed by the hundreds. None of these deaths mean anything to anyone. The whole end of Suicide Squad feels like the original Ghostbusters with a bad guy that looks a lot like Gozer the Gozerian, complete with a twirling vortex of doom in the middle of town.

When your ‘heroes’ are all evil and they work for an even greater evil and the bad guy they are battling isn’t really bad but being tortured by the evil woman heading the whole thing….yeah, who the hell cares.

This was a bad movie. I did like a few small spots here and there. This was a movie that had some possibilities to be better than it was. In the end, it was just a lot of random noise that didn’t mean anything.

Posted in movie review

Ghostbusters 2016

ghostbusters_ver11_xlg-1 Yeah, that sucked.

1984’s Ghostbusters is the only film I ever paid to see twice in a first run theater. The acting was good, the special effects were pretty damned amazing, and the story was compelling. It had it’s funny moments, but Ghostbusters was played straight. Our heroes were real scientists trying to understand something that couldn’t be understood. My favorite scene was the one where the ghosts break containment and flood the city as some wonderfully funky and scary music plays in the background. These were some scary ghosts that go on a murder spree.

2016’s Ghostbuster cost a mind baffling $144 Million dollars. After watching this bit of dreck, I can honestly say I have no idea what the hell they spent the money on. The actors sucked, the special effects sucked, and the story was a retread of Ghostbusters II which itself sucked. The real problem seems to be that they re-made The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series and not the 1984 film. Which would explain the childish obsession with fart and vomit jokes. The film’s intended audience appears to have been 7th grade boys.

The problems with this film are too numerous to name. There isn’t a single thing they got right.

The film’s makers had the desire to ruin several other films from the 80s as well as Ghostbusters. One of the ‘ghosts’ we see is clearly a Gremlin. When we first met one of the brain dead ‘scientists’ she is wearing a modern version of Doc Brown’s mind reading helmet from Back to The Future. Another blatant insult was when the girls, and made no mistake these are girls and not mature grown-up women, babble on about Patrick Swayze being a ghost.

This film is so bad it’s bad. Much like the jarringly bad Fantastic 4, you have to wonder who read this script and thought it was a good idea. Stay away. Stay far away.

Posted in movie review, sci fi

Crisis in Six Scenes

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A classic Woody Allen story.

If, like me, your all time favor Woody Allen film is Anne Hall, then your in luck. Crsis in Six Scenes is basically an 80 year old Alvin Singer shuffling around, bitiching and moaning about everything, and baffled as to why no one cares what he has to say.

Of course, if your coming to Crisis in Six Scenes with the expectation this is going to be groundbreaking new work from the man who hasn’t changed his looks, jokes, or formulas since the late 1950s, well, what the hell are you thinking?

This is Woody Allen at his best. This is the Woody Allen that I love. I absolutely hated Blue Jasmine and Irrational Man, though I have to admit that I loved Midnight in Paris. But those were Woody Allen movies without Woody Allen in them. I can’t even remember the last thing I saw a movie that had Woody himself in the cast.

In Crisis in Six Parts we find Sidney J. Munsinger, played by Woody, living in a mansion with his marriage thearapest wife Kay, played by Elaine May. The story is set in the 1960s and the main plotline involved Sidney and May hosting a Patty Hearst type charatcer named Lennie Dale played by Miley Cyrus. In short order she corrupts everyone but Sidney with her radical hippy ways. Before long everyone is quoting Chairman Mao and preparing to move to Cuba in protest over the war in Vietnam.

There are only six episodes, as might be expect from the title, and each one runs a bit under thirty mintues. There are a lot of plotlines crammed into this tiny space. There are also a lot of great cameos:Joy Behar, Lewis Black, Becky Ann Baker, and a couple of dozen other older actors with familar faces and unfamilar names.

I liked the look and the feel of Crisis in Six Scenes. There was a lot of talking, as one might expect from Woody Allen, and most of it was kind of funny and some of it was very funny.

Posted in tv review

HBO’s Westworld

westworld The original Westworld was a pretty simple bit of business. We follow a couple of men as they go on vacation at the best theme park in the world and something goes wrong. There was very little depth, the last half of the film was one long chase scene. And a slow chase at that.

HBO and J.J. Abrams have taken Michael Crichton’s basic idea of an interactive Disneyland and expanded it to include subtle motivations for the characters, both human and machine. In a nice twist, we find a few characters in reverse roles. Instead of an evil robot, we have a few evil humans. If Crichton’s Westworld was like visiting Gunsmoke, HBO’s Westworld is like visiting Unforgiven. Or maybe the Hateful Eight.

There is a lot of nudity and violence, but both of them are presented in a casual and commonplace fashion. There isn’t much titillation in a bunch of naked old folks and extras standing around. The exploding blood packs also seem to be designed to be so over the top that they aren’t so much shocking as baffling. At one point our super villain has drained three buckets of blood from his hapless victim. Where did he get the buckets? There is a bit of sex here and there, and one rape scene that happens off camera.

The deeper question in Westworld is one of right and wrong. Should the robots have rights? Should people pay for the privilege of having sex and/or murdering robots. The twist in the tale is that the humans are the evil in the park, not the robots.

This is a question dealt with often and well in Star Trek The Next Generation, where Data was often confronted with people who didn’t want to admit that a machine could be a person. So when there’s a new software update and the machines start feeling and acting more human, then we have a problem.

There was a lot going on in the first episode of Westworld. A lot of setting things up and preparing us for what is to come. The show looks amazing. There were a few clunky scenes where the lifeless blanks transition into living things, but otherwise the effects were flawless. The acting was good with Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, and Evan Rachel Wood playing the most important characters of Park Creator, Gunslinger, and Robot With a Heart.

The music was pretty damned amazing. A very cool player piano version of Black Old Sun, a nice slow version of Paint It Black, and an sad song by Johnny Cash as the credits rolled.

Westworld is off to a good start.

Posted in sci fi, tv review

Captain America: Civil War

captain_america_civil_war_final_one_sheetRockem Sockem Superheroes. 

Most superheroes started out as slightly above average people who spent their spare time tracking down muggers and bank robbers. Captain America started out fighting the Axis Powers during World War Two. Somewhere along the line, fighting crime became a little too boring. Superman could catch every criminal in the world if he really wanted to, so we have to throw something bigger and badder at him.

Captain America: Civil War takes the easy way out. Who are the only people who can challenge superheroes? Other superheroes, of course. It’s the same path of least resistance that Superman V Batman took.

The main thread running through Captain America is that our heroes are rogue agents and need to be a part of some government agency that will keep them in check. This leads to half the team voting to join and half voting for independence.

This led to a lot dull fighting. The bulk of CA:CW is invulnerable immortals hitting each other to little or no effect. I have to admit that I did like a few of the sight gags, such as when Bucky stole a passing motorcycle and twisted it in midair before roaring off in the opposite direction. But for the most part, the action was tame and predictable. The CGI was not as offensive as usual, but it was still a film that didn’t seem to have a single frame that wasn’t manipulated by someone sitting at a computer console. And yeah, that is a problem, I get no sense of danger from cartoons bouncing off other cartoons.

But since Captain America:Civil War has raked in a bit over a billion dollars worldwide, my humble opinion on the action and the plot don’t matter. So long as people keep spending obscene amounts of money to see these things, the studios will happily crank them out like the old time Series that inspired them.

I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

Posted in movie review

Dead Poets Society

dead-poets-society-mid

The Good Old Days Weren’t Always Good.

I remember loving Dead Poets Society when I first saw it about a million years ago in 1989. It’s a movie I see once in a while, but not so often that I have the whole thing committed to memory. I just re-watched it and I have to say that it’s just as brilliant as it was when I first saw it.

We start off in this fantasy world of 1959 where the sons of rich men are sent off to boarding school to ensure a prosperous future. Such silly ideas as happiness or pursuing your own dreams or goals are treated as sheer folly. The school is run by old men, and yet, oddly, they hire a young man to teach English. That young man is Robin Williams’s Mr. Keating.

Kurtwood Smith plays the villain in the piece. He plays the soul crushing father to Robert Sean Leonard’s Neal Perry. The writing is brilliant here. Mr. Perry is a villain on par with Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life or Agent Smith from The Matrix. Only he is much, much worse because he seems to be a real person, whereas Darth Vader or Lex Luthor tend to be a little on the silly side. Mr. Perry is pure evil, pure dog kicking, wife beating, give no quarter hard ass. In a modern film, he would likely be more rounded and maybe even die himself. In Dead Poets Society he lives and get the hero of the story, Mr. Keating, fired. It’s rare that I find a character I can hate so freely.

Dead Poets Society has a lot of beautiful shots of an idyllic life in New England. The school is like Hogwarts with it’s quads and hallways and uniforms and scarfs. The student sports of choice seem to be rowing and rugby. The film does a great job of making you both long for the good old days and hate the class system where only the lucky few get to attend schools like this.

On the other hand, Mr. Keating can also be viewed as the villain. The snake in the Garden of Eden, who poisons the minds of our young heroes who will surely all go on to be Senators and Congressmen. It’s no mistake that the story takes place in 1959, the end of those halcyon days before the Beatles and the Sexual Revolution destroyed American Society. Of course, he isn’t portrayed as such, he’s a hero of the highest order. A harbinger of things to come.

If you haven’t seen Dead Poets Society recently, go watch it again. The acting great, the story is griping, and the poetry is a pure joy.

Posted in movie review, random thoughts

Buddymoon

buddymoonDavid is a struggling actor who is about to be married. Then his fiancee tells him that she has changed her mind. He’s bummed out about it, but his slightly insane friend Flula tries to cheer him up. Seems David had already paid for this cool hiking trip. So, the two of them go for a hike. The actor and his nutty German buddy.

David is also up for a big part, as the lead in the story of explorers Lewis and Clark. There is a running gag where our hero narrates a bit of the story of Lewis and Clark, as we watch the two hapless travelers doing things slightly less changeling that trekking across the continent.

The story is funny and touching. David as the long suffering former child star that everyone remembers, but forgets what line he was famous for. Flula as the uber optimistic sidekick always trying to cheer him up.

This is short film a lot of walking and talking. My favorite bit was when they hapless couple meet up with a few other hikers and a girl flirts with David, but he can’t quite bring himself to flirt back. When he wakes up the next morning he finds a note in the bed beside him. The note is from the girl to Flula, telling him how glad she was to hook up with him and not David and thanking him for his great sexual prowess. The note, of course, was written by Flula.

David Giuntoli and Claire Coffee are a little less serious here than they normally are in Grimm. I’m not familiar with Flula Borg, but he does a good job of acting like a happy go lucky nut here. The rest of the tiny cast was good as well. I liked the look and feel of Buddymoon.

Buddymoon was a fun movie.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo

amyI’m not a fan of Amy Schumer. I’ve never seen her show and I missed the season of Last Comic Standing that was her breakout moment. But I do like memoirs, even pretty bad memoirs can have one or two good moments. I love the title of The Girl With Lower Back Tattoo. That is pure fucking genius. By the way, Amy loves the word fuck. And the word fucking. And the words clit, cunt, pussy, vagina, asshole, cock, dick, penis, shit, bastard, and pretty much any other word you have ever heard that might in any way make you uncomfortable. Oddly, she is offended when someone asks her if she enjoys making people uncomfortable.

The two or three times that something funny happens in this book, they are pretty much laugh out loud funny. She tells two or three jokes and talks about how they were inspired and how hard it is to write new material. While she does seem to be trying for an Airplane level of humor, she doesn’t quite pull it off.

The Girl With Lower Back Tattoo is not a funny book. She tells not one, but two stories starring her father losing control of his bowels. She tells how she lost her virginity to an act of rape. She talks about an abusive boyfriend who threatened to kill her with a butcher knife, and how she moved back in with him later. She talks about body shaming and how sexist the world remains. She talks about getting blackout drunk and how she woke up from one blackout to find a strange guy going down on her. She brags about drinking, doing drugs, having sex with rather a lot of guys. But she proudly proclaims that she has only had one one-night stand.

Amy is amazingly preachy and self-righteous. This is something that happens to almost all successful people. They reach a point like Oprah where they realize they are no longer just a talk show host, they are a Voice and what they say needs to be Important. I can hear Amy yelling Fuck You as I type this, but it’s true. Yeah, it sucks that you were in an abusive relationship, but your advice to Get Out makes a little too light of the topic. This is like telling a homeless person to Get a Job.

Amy proves the old cliche that you can’t be funny unless you have suffered. She also makes a point of saying that she put in a hell of a lot of hours in the trenches getting her act together. Like all comics, she has a lot of mentors that she gives a shout out to. I’m pretty sure I never heard of any of them. I like The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, but I couldn’t name a single writer for any show if a gun was put to my head. But Amy knows who these people are, and so do they, and maybe some big shot show producer will read their names and say Wow, that must be the Talent I’ve been looking for. Or maybe not.

I think my favorite WTF story was about the time she went home with a guy who turned out to have a really big penis. So big that she couldn’t get it in her tiny mouth and she wouldn’t even try to put in her vagina. She ends up giving the guy a handjob.

Amy performs under her own name and there is always a risk when doing this that people will think you actually are the person they see on stage. They will also assume that they know you. This can be a problem since her whole shtick is that she’s trailer trash from Jersey.Amy is shocked when a number of reporters treat her with no respect.

After reading this book, I feel like I know Amy a bit better myself. But not well enough to call her up and hit her up for a gift of a few thousand dollars or maybe an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii. That kind of stuff is just for her friends. (Note to self, become friends with Amy.)

I don’t like Amy’s cavalier attitude on drugs and alcohol. But I also found myself agreeing with her on a number of topics, such as common sense gun control and the fact that scones are pretty good.

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo was a good book.

 

Posted in book review