FEBRUARY 20, 2019

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abandoned houseLast night, I dreamed of someone I’ve never met before in my life. Again.

We were both looking after several wayward and lost Middle School-aged kids inside an big, old drafty and dark Victorian type house. It was clear that I had strong feelings for this lady, and as we talked, it was clear she also reciprocated these feelings as well.

The dream ended like so many of these kind of dreams end: I turn around but for a second, and when I look back, she’s gone. Vanished. I always wake up with a profound sense of loneliness. This morning was no different.

The last real meaningful relationship I was in was five years ago. I’ve never felt that having a relationship is what makes me whole; I am made whole and find meaning solely in Christ Jesus, my Lord and Master. However, I have never experienced such profound organic happiness than when I was in that relationship. The reason being, is because we both served God together. We worshiped and volunteered at church together, we faced issues together, we laughed together, we were open with each other…things just never felt as fulfilling as it did when were were working in tandem together. To borrow a despised bit of Christianese, we were “doing life” together.

It’s been five years now. Five years since I lost that kind of organic happiness. Most normal people seem to be able to move on; I tend to find myself paralyzed at the thought of asking somebody for coffee and talk, even if to make a connection on a friend level.

Again, I don’t think that a relationship will complete me as a person. But, that still doesn’t eliminate the profound sense of loneliness that seems crushing at times. I think either my subconsciousness is trying to tell me something, or…I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if I’m being punished for wanting to love someone. The way things ended certainly makes it look that way.

If this is my fate in this life, so be it. I follow Christ Jesus, whether alone or with someone. I just wish my dreams would stop mocking me like that. It’s not nice.

::END TRANSMISSION::

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Movie Review: BUMBLEBEE

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bumblebeeParamount Pictures
2018
PG-13

“They literally call themselves Decepticons. That doesn’t set off any red flags?”

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small California beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

At this point in the game, I’m pretty sure the world is experiencing a bit of Michael Bay Burnout with the licensed properties he’s been making movies of. I haven’t even gotten to posting my thoughts on the last entry in the Transformers franchise, and here I am pounding out a review of the solo outing of the fan favorite Autobot Bumblebee. Why am I doing this one first rather than going the OCD route and reviewing The Last Knight first, I imagine you asking? Simple.

Bumblebee is actually a good Transformers movie. I know, I know; I’m just as surprised as you are.

To say my expectations was low going into watching Bumblebee would be an understatement. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even going to watch this in the theater originally; I was going to wait for the VOD rental, and take my time getting around to actually watching it. You know, just like I’ve done with every Transformers movie since the first one assaulted our senses back in 2007. But, as it just so happens, I recently had some time to kill on a Saturday afternoon, and this being the middle of January, Bumblebee was the only movie playing that I had any interest in killing said time with. So, I went in not expecting much beyond big booms, shallow stories and even skimpier characterizations. And, what I got was…well, better than I expected.

First off, I’m not saying that Bumblebee is a mind-blowing game changer in the Transformers franchise. It’s still what you would call a big, shiny special effects heavy sci-fi action fantasy based on a toy line from the 1980s aimed at kids and the kids’ parents who grew up in that magical era. But, there are mitigating factors that makes Bumblebee arguably the best of the bunch:

1) Michael Bay’s name is nowhere in the list of making this movie. I’m not saying that Bay should stop making movies. I am suggesting that perhaps he should let others handle the properties like this. Stick to original stuff, let others play with these. As such…

2) The lead actress was not obviously just there for objectified eye candy. As a matter of fact, this is the third movie I’ve seen staring Hailee Steinfeld, and so far she’s 3/3 knocking her roles out of the proverbial ball park. As a matter of fact, none of the female characters are what you would call objectified. There is a bit at the beginning where a guy takes off his shirt due to Hailee’s character Charlie accidentally dumping lemonade on him, but I don’t know if that was intentionally meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reversal or not. But then again…

4) The characters don’t annoy me. That alone is a tremendous improvement from the previous movies. Even John Cena was rather good in his role of military agent that happened to be the only one to point out that the robots they’re trusting are called Decepticons, for crying out loud. I never thought I would find myself agreeing with Cena, but here we are. And finally,

5) Bumblebee is a yellow Volkswagon Beetle, LIKE HE ALWAYS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE. Seriously, it took all these movies to get him right? I know, I know, product contract with Chevy and all that; but at least now we got to see the Autobot like his original toy depicted him as in his vehicle form. Sure, way at the end he (SPOILER) changes to the Camero form we first meet him as in the first movie, but for the majority of the time we can revel in the original.

Really, I found myself enjoying Bumblebee far more that I was expecting, nostalgia glasses or not. the soundtrack of 80s hits was enough to bring me back (caveat: the song “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock was used; the movie is set in 1987, while that song and the album it’s on weren’t released until late 1988…end of nerd rant), and while I’m not going to say which scene it’s in, let’s just say that the song “You’ve Got The Touch” from the Transformers animated movie was finally used here. The action scenes were really good, and most importantly, I came out of this never thinking that my intelligence was insulted in any way.

Here’s hoping that Bumblebee is an indication of how any future forays into the Transformers movie universe are going to be. Recommended.

Movie Review: The EVANGELIST

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the evangelistITN Distribution
2017
NR

At seven years old, Bill Horton watched in horror as a serial killer murdered his mother. Known as The Evangelist, he places a bible next to her body and quotes scripture as he leaves Bill alone and destroyed. Thirty years later, Bill has grown up and appears to be a model citizen, spending his days cleaning his house and baking. He has, however, picked up the mantle of The Evangelist, killing those who he finds wicked and evil and leaving a bible by their bodies. Bill only opens up to Dr. Laura Cooper, a psychiatrist, who discovers Bill’s dark secret. She contacts young Detective Edward Legros who is working on the case with his cynical, veteran partner, Detective John Vance. But what Vance knows about the original Evangelist will lead to a bloody showdown.

Here we are with another low-budget horror move from the stream, this one featuring the tried and true serial killer who uses Christian religious imagry. Eh, the whole “crazy killer spouting randomly eisageted scripture” thing is an easy type.

The description blurb and cover art looked promising, so I popped The Evangelist on, to see how bad this could get.

You wanna wager a guess at just how bad this movie is? Well, lemme tell you…

As it turns out, The Evangelist is one of those low-budget independent movies that is barely over an hour long, but feels much, much longer when watching it. That’s right, folks. The Evangelist has the ability to bend space and time. Scientists need to get on this to see about harnessing this power for good instead of evil.

But, I digress.

The acting in this movie is of the kind that will cause you to face palm multiple times and groan. At least, that’s what I did, I don’t know what kind of involuntary reactions anybody else gets when viewing movies of this caliber. As an example, early on in the movie, the Red Herring Bad Guy is shown taking a pan of cookies that were obviously store-bought, then proclaim, “Good enough to eat.” Well…yeah, I hope so. Otherwise, you just baked a bunch of chocolate chip coasters, there. The characters are more over-the-top stereotypes than characters, the acting is sub-par, and it’s obvious that this was all filmed in one guy’s house, which is made all the more apparent in the scenes that are supposed to be located at a police station, but is clearly a redressed living room. The hallways still had family pictures hanging in there, for crying out loud. The ending…well, I’m not really all that surprised at how hackneyed the “twist” at the end was. If anything, it’s the appropriate amount of predictable the rest of the plot was.

Speaking of predictable, you could probably see my “Overall” summary of The Evangelist coming from a mile away. And if you guessed “The only thing good about The Evangelist is the movie poster artwork”, then you’re right on the money. Good on you, mate.Yeah, not even the short running time could lessen the pain of watching this movie. Pass this thing up…or, as the young people like to say, left-swipe this. That’s what young people say nowadays, right?

Book Review: SHADOW WITCH: Horror of the Dark Forest

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shadow witchJ. Thorn / Dan Padavona
Amazon Digital Services LLC
2015

Thom Meeks lives with his family in Droman Meadows under the protection of the Kingdom of Mylan. An unusually long winter creates anxiety in the village and some believe it to be the return of an ominous force known as the Shadow. When a pack of dread wolves lays ruin to Droman Meadows, Thom escapes with his wife and four daughters. They set out on the Mylan Road in hopes of finding refuge in the capital, but dark forces emerging from the primeval forest will challenge them for their eternal souls.

Slowly going through the entire list of free-ish titles that I downloaded to my Kindle when I received my very first not very long ago. It came in handy during those daily IV sessions I went through back in the winter of 2018. One of the free books available to me was this one right here: Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest.

I know nothing of the two authors that collaborated on this novella: J. Thorn and Dan Padavona. Neither do I feel like doing any basic research on their bibliography just to pad things up for this review. But, I do have aplenty to say of Shadow Witch, after slogging through the book.

I do wish to explain, though, that since getting my first Kindle, after years of resisting doing so due to being an old-fashioned bibliophile, that I seem to be able to read faster than I normally do, simply because of the lack of strain and adjustable font size available. It’s rather a nice benefit. That said, it still took me three months to from start to finish to read this 189-page novella. This is mainly due to not being a big fan of the fantasy type stories that are set in Yo Olden Times, or some reasonable facsimile therein. Especially with stories that involve a lot of walking. And there’s a lot of walking in this book.

Oh my sweet Lemmy, I have never been so annoyed with a hero and his family like I was with Thom and his whiny little daughters. This is Thom: “Oh, no’s, I haz a secret that could make my family and friends not like me, boo hoo”. Spoilers: he’s actually a warrior with magic powers, and not a shepherd! And his twin middle daughters, for some reason, are always mocking and bullying their older sister for…reasons. That’s their one personality trait, and it’s just bloody annoying as all get out. Of course, the most interesting character in this story is the innkeeper, but unfortunately he isn’t the focus, which would have made for a much more interesting read. No, we get to see a guy with a bunch of werewolf monsters called “Dread Wolves” (which is a great name for a metal band) who are in the service of the evil Shadow Witch, they lay waste to the town Thom and his family live near, which causes Thom to lead his family to the Norther Kingdom for safety. After a couple of days of walking, the twin sisters manage to get themselves and their older sister lost inside the nearby dark and mystical forest, and then the whole thing becomes The Blair Witch Project by way of Game of Thrones for the second half of the book. There’s a lot of wandering and walking around, a lot of whining from Thom and the daughters (I’m surprised his wife never backhands him at any time), the titular Shadow Witch keeps popping up and demanding to know everyone’s names (so she can steal their life essence, or something), only it always turns out like this:
SHADOW WITCH: “Tell me your name!”
CHARACTER: “No!”
SHADOW WITCH: “You win this round!”
Of course, after enough time wandering around and getting lost and hallucinating stuff, the daughters give out their names, there’s a final showdown between Thom and the Shadow Witch, Thom embraces his dark past to defeat the Witch, and the whole thing ends with the older three daughters dead and the youngest daughter possessed by the Shadow Witch.

I’m sure this sets up a whole series of stories. Only, it took me so long to get through because I found the story dull. There’s a lot. Of. Walking. Even at less than 200 pages, I found myself unable to get past just a couple of chapters before putting this down to read something far more interesting. I do like how the book decided to end on a dower note, though.

Anyway, I haven’t checked to see if there’s any more of these written, nor will I continue on if there are. Pass.

FEBRUARY 19, 2019

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kale

Last night, I dreamed I was eating kale.

I have no idea why. I’ve never eaten kale, even by accident. I have no idea what it tastes like; which is why when, I was eating it in my dream, it didn’t taste like anything.

I can’t say I ever wanted to try kale. I’m not adverse to eating vegetables; however, my tastes are rather simple and basic: carrots, lettuce (mostly iceburg), snow peas and the occasional green bean. All raw and uncooked, mind you. I can’t stand vegetables cooked. Nasty.

But kale…I have no intention of trying it out. Not because of some aversion to trying something new; I just don’t want to be associated with the hipster douchenozzels that go around telling everyone that they eat kale.

So, why would I dream about eating kale? I don’t know. My brain is funny. My dreams are weird.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: The DARKEST MINDS

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darkest minds20th Century Fox
2018
PG-13

When teens mysteriously develop powerful new abilities, they are declared a threat by the government and detained. Sixteen-year-old Ruby, one of the most powerful young people anyone has encountered, escapes her camp and joins a group of runaway teens seeking a safe haven. Soon this newfound family realizes that, in a world in which the adults in power have betrayed them, running is not enough and thy must wage a resistance, using their collective power to take back control of their future.

So, back in April of 2018, we were supposed to have an X-Men spinoff movie, one that wasn’t necessarily tied into th franchise proper, but promised to be more of a horror movie with its story of mutant children being terrorized by the normies. I couldn’t wait to see this movie. But then, news came that the studio decided to pull that movie and push it for over a year later, because…reasons. Whatever, no X-Men horror movie. So, instead of that movie, that same year we got a movie that has nothing to do with the X-Men franchise, but is totally an X-Men story: The Darkest Minds.

Or, more to the point, X-Men Lite. If you want to be kind of jaded about it. For a more, shall we say, optimistic spin, this would be X-Men for th modern YA crowd. Meaning, we have a story here that requires very little investment in thinking about, stock characters we’ve seen before in other YA sci-fi action movies like this, plot beats you could see coming from low space orbit…but, despite all that, I did find myself enjoying this on a certain level.

Keeping in mind that I probably wasn’t the target demographic The Darkest Minds was aiming for, I realize that this could have been far more worse than what we ended up with. The Darkest Minds is a decent movie; it did keep my attention, the effects were pretty good, and the way it was shot was gorgeous.

Overall, The Darkest Minds is what it is: A movie about teenagers with powers going up against adults who misunderstand and fear them. There might be a hamfisted metaphor there, I think. Anyway, not a bad way to kill some time on a rainy afternoon. One and done viewing, for me.

Music Review: DIVINE SYMPHONY – The History

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divine symphony - the historyDIVINE SYMPHONY
The History
Extreme Records
2008

The second full-length release from Brazilian symphonic black metal band Divine Symphony–The History–is a concept album that goes through the history of the Christian Church. Ambitious? Sure. And concept albums are pretty neat, if not having the potential to become overblown and cumbersome. But, that’s besides the point. What’s the music like?

The album opens pretty apically with the song “Martyrs”, which begins with a synth opening, then blasts into a heavy plodding riff before it settles into a blended symphonic black metal hook that features chilling male choral vocals along with the standard black metal shriek vocals. I find myself stunned at the horrible beauty of this, and we’re only one cut into the album. The pace is set, with following cuts “Giants”, “Darkness” and “High Ideals” blending fast paced and blistering black metal tempered with slower symphonic music and…

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