Movie Review: EDGE OF TOMORROW

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Movie Review EDGE OF TOMORROWWarner Bros. Pictures
2014
PG-13

“Now listen carefully. This is a very important rule. This is the only rule. You get injured on the field, you better make sure you die.”

When Earth falls under attack from invincible aliens, no military unit in the world is able to beat them. Major William Cage, an officer who has never seen combat, is assigned to a suicide mission. Killed within moments, Cage finds himself thrown into a time loop, in which he relives the same brutal fight–and his death–over and over again. However, Cage’s fighting skills improve with each encore, bringing him and a comrade ever closer to defeating the aliens.

Edge Of Tomorrow is a science fiction movie that I remember seeing the teaser trailer for once while waiting for another movie to begin. It consisted of Tom Cruise in a mech suit of some kind, wondering around a battlefield with things blowing up around him…and that’s about all I remember before my brain began drifting to other, much more interesting things, like wondering if there was time to go get a package of Reese’s Pieces to mix in with my popcorn (I opted not to go). I wasn’t really planning on ever watching Edge Of Tomorrow, more out of disinterest in yet another gritty science fiction war movie, let alone one that features Tom Cruise in there. But, yet again the great ogre that is boredom reared its ugly head one weekend afternoon, and spying this on the streaming decided to kill off a couple of hours. The resulting reaction was…mixed, at best.

It’s the near future of…2015, and in a totally ironic reversal, Germany has been invaded…by a horde of intergalactic aliens called the Mimics, sort of a hive-minded Lovecraftian horror that managed to kill all the humans in their way. Five years later, the world’s combined military forces have finally managed their one victory, led by a sergeant in a mech suit that was dubbed the Angel of Verdun. This provides a much-needed boost of moral for the humans, and before you know it a major offensive in France is planned, with public affairs officer Major Tom Cruise William Cage being recruited to cover the day of the assault. Major Cage has a slight disagreement with this idea, and so he’s busted down to Private, labelled a deserter, and assigned to the J Squad for the battle. Of course, the battle itself doesn’t go well, and Private Cage dies taking out a rather large Mimic, getting covered in its blood with his dying breath. The End. Oh, wait, no…Cage wakes up again, reliving the last 24 hours leading up to the battle, with the memories of the previous attempt fresh in his head. Realizing he’s stuck in his own personal Groundhog Day hell, he proceeds to spend maybe hundreds of the reiteration of the same day trying to figure out a way to stop the Mimics once and for all. And this involves hundreds of times trying to convince the Angel of Verdun that he’s not nuts and help him do so. Of course, the standard time loop wackiness ensues, leading to finding the Big Alien Brain behind all this, which might involve Cage having to make the final assault without his timey-wimey powers.

As I was watching this, I kept asking myself, who was it that decided that Tom Cruise, of all people, needed to be an action star? This seems to be his modus operandi with movies since the end of the 20th Century. You would expect him to maybe be in a parody of an action movie, like with Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots) and his brother Emilio Estevez (Loaded Weapon 1). I don’t watch a lot of Tom Cruise movies, but going over the filmography page on IMDB, it seems that after doing Eyes Wide Shut, there’s been a lot of action movies on his list. And okay, he was in the action movie comedy Tropic Thunder, which is an awesome movie and everyone should go see it. But still, Tom Cruise still seems…off as a choice for action hero material. But, I digress.

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise when I say that I’m unfamiliar with the Japanese novel this movie is based on, All You Need Is Kill. Which is a very Japanese sounding name, there. And from what I’ve gleaned on the interwebs, there was a lot of plot streamlining for the movie, so one could say that Edge Of Tomorrow is loosely based on the novel. That said, my impression of Edge Of Tomorrow is essentially Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. That’s the movie in a nutshell, minus the having to travel to distant planets to battle the alien horde. Mind you, I happen to dig the whole “stuck in a time loope” trope, when it’s done well, and here it’s done pretty good. Also, you get kickass mech suits and the late, great Bill Paxton as the Master Sergeant, with a whole lotta stuff blowing up. In other words, it’s an sci-fi action movie that tries to be smarter than what it really is, and the result is a rather enjoyable popcorn flick that you don’t have to think too hard about, as all the technical stuff is spelled out for you. You can just sit back, munch on some popcorn, and enjoy the show.

Overall, I did enjoy Edge Of Tomorrow the same way I enjoyed the original Independence Day, right down to the “hooray human endurance” happy ending. Mind you, I don’t understand why Warner Bros. decided to play up the movie’s tag line–“Live. Die. Repeat.”–upon the home video release. To many, that’s the actual title of the movie. I had a co-worker refer to it as that, asking “Have you seen Live Die Repeat?”, which took him describing the plot to make me realize he was talking about this movie. Regardless, you should check this out some time as a rental if you haven’t done so.

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Book Review: 2061 Odyssey Three

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Book Review 2061 Oddyssy ThreeArthur C. Clarke
Del Rey
1987

Only Time is universal; Night and Day are merely quaint local customs found on those planets that tidal forces have not yet robbed of their rotation.

Arthur C. Clarke, creator of one of the world’s best-loved science fiction tales, revisits the most famous future ever imagined in this NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, as two expeditions into space become inextricably tangled. Heywood Floyd, survivor of two previous encounters with the mysterious monoliths, must again confront Dave Bowman, HAL, and an alien race that has decided that Mankind is to play a part in the evolution of the galaxy whether it wishes to or not.

It’s fascinating how generally recent the later books in the whole Space Odyssey series were produced. Usually, when I think of Arthur C. Clarke, I think of classic sci-fi produced in the 1950s and 60s, along with the other masters of the genre at the time. But, the fact is he kept busy throughout his life, with this third entry in the Space Odyssey series being published in 1987, back when I was in Middle School. As a matter of fact, I was gifted a mass paperback copy of 2061: Odyssey Three in 1988, and I recall reading the first few pages, getting bored, and moving on to something a bit more my speed at the time. As a matter of fact, I remember eventually donating it to my high school library without even continuing reading it. I just wasn’t much into science fiction at the time.

It wasn’t until much later, when I bought all four of the books from Half Price Books, that I began reading them all back-to-back. Eh, better than waiting ten or so years for a sequel for catch-up. You can finish one, and start on the next one while it’s still fresh in your plump, succulent brain.

Anyway, the story of 2061: Odyssey Three is set fifty-one years after the events of Odyssey Two, as well as sixty years after the events in the original book. Since then, Jupiter has become a mini-sun that was named Lucifer (because of course), and the moons have been transformed because of this. Specifically, Io has become a violently volcanic lump of magma, while Europa is an ocean world shrouded by clouds, and Ganymede is a temperate world that humans are beginning to colonize. Commercial travel in space between planets is now a thing, and a period of relative peace has been in place on Earth, with bits of civil unrest in South Africa. So, hooray for peace, I guess. Anyway, Dr. Heywood Floyd from the previous novels is now a permanent resident of a space hospital due to an accident that makes regular Earth-bound gravity rather bad for him, and has lived to be a bit over 100 years of age. He’s chosen to be one of the few to be part of a landing party on Halley’s Comet, which is making its way back ’round to our solar system again. Meanwhile, Dr. Floyd’s grandson is piloting a ship that’s going to do a fly-by of Europa (despite the constant alien warning of not doing so…kind of the intergalactic version of Keep Off The Grass), but then the ship is hijacked by a stewardess, forcing it to crash land into Europa’s ocean, stranding the surviving crew. So, now the ship that’s sight-seeing on Halley’s Comet is going in to rescue them; while they’re doing that, a few crew members on Europa decide to do a bit of sight-seeing for themselves, and come across not only a giant diamond mountain, but also another monolith lying on its side…and also the curious indigenous life forms of the planet that have evolved rather quickly since Jupiter became a mini-sun. The ship Dr. Floyd is on finally shows up and rescues them, while the giant diamond mountain sinks into the depths of Europa forever, and everyone lives happily ever after. Oh, and Dr. Heywood Floyd’s consciousness was duplicated by the monolith and lives inside it along with the consciousness of both Dr. Bowman and HAL from the other books, only with the real Dr. Floyd unaware of this. Then we get a glimpse of the year 3001. The end.

This third trip into the world that started with 2001 is…interesting. I mean, so far, with most of the rest of the series, this isn’t exactly the kind of science fiction that would make for edge-of-the-seat action; but, that was to be expected. There isn’t so much “conflict” as there are periods of inconveniences to the characters that give them time to further the hard science-y parts of the novel. Reading 2061 was a lot like watching a Discovery Channel space documentary program that happened to have characters and a subplot story, set in the near-ish future. With very vague alien implications. Overall, this third oddyssey poked my imagination a bit, but didn’t blow my mind as much as the first book did.

Movie Review: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

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war for the planet of the apes20th Century Fox
2017
PG-13

“I did not start this war. I offered you peace. I showed you mercy. But now you’re here. To finish us off…for good.”

Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

So, here we are now, with what I’m assuming is the final Planet Of The Apes prequels. It’s been a rather interesting journey, one that was surprisingly very good as an overall bunch of movies that took the concept of the classic original and managed to build up the mythos of how it all started without making it suck. I was rather anxious to see this installment, as things were going to come to a head, and anything with “War” in the title is expected to be awesome in and of itself. Oh, and something about finishing up Caesar’s story arc. Anyway, was War Of The Planet Of The Apes worth the wait? I’ll get to that, but first…

In the third of the (so far) trilogy in the Planet Of The Apes prequels, most of humanity has succumbed to the Simian Flu pandemic, and now the intelligent apes and the remaining humans live in peace and harmony with one another, bringing about a post-industrial utopia. I almost managed to type that all out with a straight face, there. Juuuuust kidding. Instead, while the apes are just trying to go on with their lives, they just can’t seem to stop being pestered by us humans, always sending in heavily armed military types to wipe out the apes with weapons and stuff. Caesar, the ape that was named after a salad and was raised by James Franco (and also the leader of the apes or something), experiences a particularly bloody battle that sees casualties on both human and apes sides, and decides to send a message back to the leader of the human military in the form of four of his soldiers, not dead and in one piece, back with the message of “would you lighten up, man?” However, this particular colonel (who is just named “The Colonel” here) happens to take his leadership inspiration from Colonel Kurtz, as in he’s rather bat-guano insane and will not stop at anything to wipe out the apes and preserve the human race, and goes in that night to assassinate Caesar in his sleep. Only, he didn’t really get Caesar, but he did kill his wife and son. This, of course, kicks off Caesar’s epic journey to find and confront The Colonel, giving all the other apes a chance to escape to beyond the mountains for a more peaceful settlement in the desert lands. Along the way, Caesar and the three other apes that wouldn’t take no for an answer with tagging along make some rather disconcerting discoveries, one of which involves the gradual devolving of the humans to a more primitive state. By the time they catch up to the army of The Colonel, it looks very dark and grim for the apes, and Caesar has to confront, not only his human enemy, but also his own heart of darkness. See what I did there?

I’m just going to come out and say it: War For The Planet Of The Apes is the best movie out of the three prequels that were produced. This movie is dark, it’s complected, and has so much going for it beyond just a bunch of apes thinks they’re people and start their own society. That reference up there to The Heart of Darkness wasn’t just a throwaway thing (although, there is a blatant Apocalypse Now reference in the movie itself that had me groan a bit, but it’s near the end so it’s okay). The story manages to bring a depth to all of the characters, both ape and human, so that neither side is a mere caricature of Good or Evil, but you can actually understand the struggles on both sides, so there’s no clear-cut villain or hero. Woody Harrelson was fantastic as The Colonel, keeping from going completely over-the-top and managing to make the character chilling as well as commanding. The battle scenes were very much intense and gritty–make no mistake, this is a war movie, like Full Metal Jacket or Platoon, and by the time the movie ends there’s a sense of melancholy mixed in with the hope for the new dawn that breaks.

If it sounds like I’m gushing over a simple little sci-fi flick about talking apes…well, I’m sorry you missed the point of the series. The original Planet Of The Apes was great subversive sci-fi, and these prequels went along way to keep the spirit of the originals. If you’re avoiding War For The Planet Of The Apes because all you’ve seen was that Tim Burton 2001 remake, then you’re missing out completely. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: The DARK TOWER

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the dark towerColumbia Pictures
2017
PG-13

“It’s a hotdog.”
“Savages. What breed?”

Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at state, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

The Dark Tower. What started off as a series of short stories collected together into a small novel, that suddenly exploded into an epic western/dark fantasy/sci-fi saga of the last Gunslinger in a world that has moved on, questing to find the Dark Tower, the nexus that holds the multi-verse realities together, a quest that is not only personal, but also to protect and save it from being destroyed by the Crimson King. Along the way, he travels to different dimensions, meeting others who would join him on his quest, as they make their way to the ultimate goal. It is a saga that is held in as almost as much regard as The Lord Of The Rings, with fans that are just as passionate about the books and other adaptations and lore.

They made a movie about it, now. I’m pretty sure you may have noticed by now, but yeah. After what seems to be decades of trying to bring it to the big screen, it’s finally happened. And, after a week or so having to wait due to scheduling issues, I finally watched it with some key members of the Coven of Exalted Geeks.

I will pause right now to say that, in case you’re just reading this, and haven’t gotten around to checking out my book reviews, I am what you would call a Stephen King Constant Reader, and have been since I was 14. I’ve also read all of the Dark Tower novels, and some of the comics as well. So, yeah. Dark Tower nerd, here. Anyway…

One more time around the wheel, I guess: So, there’s this tween-ager named Jake Chambers who, for a number of years now, has been having these really detailed dreams involving a mysterious man in black (not Johnny Cash, I’m afraid) trying to destroy an even more mysterious dark tower, while being pursued by a gun-slinging cowboy. This “gun-slinger”, if you will, is seeking revenge, because the man in black, it turns out, killed a bunch of people with magicks, including the gunslinger’s father. Little Jake has been drawing pictures of these dreams and more, and everyone things that he’s a bit…insane because of this, including his mom and step-father. That’s why they decide to send Jake off to a special retreat for crazy kids. Only, the people from the retreat who show up aren’t really people, so Jake parkours his way to freedom and goes to a house he dreamed about and activates a portal that takes him to Mid-Wolrd, the home of the real-life gunslinger. And also the guy in black. He meets up with the Gunslinger, and they go on a journey to find the man in black’s hideout, where he’s taking kidnapped children that have psychic powers to use to topple the Dark Tower, to stop him. Along the way, they make a pit-stop back in New York to stock up on bullets and a certain soda brand they couldn’t get the license for, so they couldn’t show the logo or say the name out loud.

Oh, there was a lot of nerd rage over this movie. Not as ridiculous levels as with the 2016 Ghostbusters movie; there was quite a bit, though, some of which I overheard going out of the theater after the movie. But, this is my review of the movie, and thus you will have my not-so-humble opinion on this movie. And remember, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a long-time Constant Reader of Stephen King’s work, and have also read the entire original saga of books and hold them as kind of my Lord of the Rings. Ready? Deep breath, here, aaaaaaand…

…I rather enjoyed The Dark Tower. No, really. I did. I went in knowing that they weren’t trying to adapt the books–because, really, that would have been nigh impossible, even if you got Peter Jackson in his prime in on things–but essentially do a continuation of the books. Really, even Stephen King himself mentioned that this wasn’t an adaptation attempt, but kind of a sequel to the books. I don’t want to go into the details, but if you’ve read the entirety of the saga, you know why I’m saying this. Also, it’s been documented by the makers of the movie that this was the intention. As such, there were elements that were lifted from all of the books–and some other Stephen King books outside of the Dark Tower universe proper–that have been included here and there, with more of a focus on Jake’s perspective of the story rather than Roland. And yes, I was nerdy enough to pick out the easter eggs abounding.

Beyond that, though, as a movie in and of itself, I would have to say that The Dark Tower was much more enjoyable than most of the reviews I’ve come across have made it out to be. I found it to be a rather well-made, well-acted, gorgeously shot western fantasy with a creamy sci-fi center that entertained me for the surprisingly tight 90 minute run time. Because, if anything had the right to go over the 2-hour limit, it would have been this. But, the filmmakers showed restraint, and it helped things out in that area. Idris Elba was the perfect choice to play Roland Deschain, as he managed to emote more with his eyes to give that haunted look needed for the character. And what can I say, but Matthew McConaughey nailed it as the Man In Black, the evil known as…Walter. Okay, you can probably laugh at that, but that’ll be the last thing you’d do. The guy can charm you one second, and then chill you to your spine the next, all while never changing cadence or going over the top. That said, he may have been underused. The action scenes are probably where you’re going to get the majority of the groans, especially if you have even a rudimentary grasp on basic physics. But, with just a bit of strength to the suspension of disbelief, you still get some very action-packed scenes mixed in with your dark fantasy, here. And I do believe the movie’s best part happens when Deschain arrives in New York City. Some fish-out-of-water comedy to flavor things up.

Overall, yeah, there were some flaws to this iteration of The Dark Tower. I wasn’t happy with how easily the resolution at the end happened. But, when it was all said and done, The Dark Tower managed to entertain me, and did so without feeling the need to cram something happening at every moment of its run time. It was a rather satisfying blended genre flick that, honestly, I hope they make more of the story. Even in television form, which I think would work better overall. But, we shall see if survives the whiners. For me, this is recommended, more of a matinee, but definitely on the big screen if you can.

Movie Review: KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS

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kingdom of the spidersDimension Pictures
1977
PG

“Well, that would explain Spider Hill…”

When a local farmer’s prize calf dies mysteriously, Verde Valley veterinarian Robert “Rack” Hanson makes a startling discovery: Blood test point to massive does of spider venom as the cause of death. Flagstaff entomologist Dr. Ashley begins to fear that DDT has so depleted the spiders food supply that, to survive, they have begun hunting different prey…local livestock and pets, which are increasingly in short supply. Soon, the deadly spiders turn on the human population of the dusty Arizona town–overrunning the streets and killing anyone in their pat! Rack and the others barricade themselves at the local lodge, but there may be no escape.

In the 1970s, there was an explosion of horror and science fiction exploitation movies based on nature running amok. These movies ranged from the very memorable (Jaws, for instance) to the ridiculous (Night Of The Lepus, anyone?), with the quality of most being on the micro-budget variety.

Also happening during the 1970s was a still young and hungry William Shatner, just off of the soon-to-be science fiction juggernaut Star Trek, having a bit of trouble finding work because of this. He was taking strings of roles in forgettable films and some bit parts in television series at the time, but nothing really took off during that decade (the magic that was T. J. Hooker wasn’t to be until 1982). As it happens, one of these rolls he was fated to take in the decade that gave us bad fashion as well as other questionable tastes was for the ultra-low budget made-for-TV naturesploitation movie Kingdom Of The Spiders.

I was all of five, maybe six years of age when I first watched a bit of the television commercial advertising a rerun of Kingdom Of The Spiders back in 1979. It featured a shot from the movie itself from inside of a duster plane, the pilot freaking out because his lap was full of SPIDERS! This, of course, blew this 6-year-old’s mind, and I had to watch this movie. But, alas, it was not meant to be, as my parents reasoned that it was on well past my bedtime, and it would also give me nightmares. Fair enough. Fortunately, this particular bit if kitsch was kept alive by way of frequent reruns on the USA Network and the home video market. This was even given its own anniversary edition through Shout! Factory on DVD not too long ago. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, here.

So, here we have Shatner as a rural veterinarian in Arizona doing what rural veterinarians do best: Rope up and vaccinate cattle on the range, and then do the same to the lovely ladies who assist him with it. Soon, though, one of the local farmer’s calves suddenly gets sick and dies; after the calf’s blood is analyzed, it is determined that it was a large dose of spider venom that killed it, and not some kind of plague that the farmer was fearing. Or the mayor of the community, for that matter, because there was that big fair that’s coming up, and tens of…people are expected to show from all around for whatever reason. And there’s nothing that’s going to stop that blast of revenue. Then the fancy big city scientist gal comes to the area, and–between advances from the manly veterinarian–discover that the local tarantula population are teaming up to take down the livestock because presumably their food source has been decimated by DDT over-saturation. Of course, it’s a matter of time before “humans” find themselves on the menu, and when the spiders start swarming more and more, despite everyone’s efforts to contain the little nightmarish abominations, everyone who hasn’t died from the spider bites yet find themselves trapped in a lodge with no way to escape. Will they make it through the night? Eh, probably. But the day after’s gonna suck. And no, that wasn’t an attempt at a pun, there…

Kingdom Of The Spiders is, from the standpoint of someone who revels in this kind of bad low-budget movie watchin’, bad enough to make it fun, but kind of meanders into boring territory in a few places. That’s probably due to the fact that it was produced as a TV movie special, and didn’t feature a lot of graphic violence (just a bunch of shots of spiders and reaction shots of the victims, all the crashes and such were off screen) with action that wasn’t too intense, with some of the most wholesome dialogue this side of a Little House On The Prairie episode. The acting is delightfully cheesy, and I have to admit that William Shatner’s performance was kind of subdued, compared to past roles I’ve seen him in. And the big “shock reveal” ending tried to go for that Twilight Zone type twist, but really made me giggle and applaud. Well done, movie. Well done.

So, overall, I would have to say that Kingdom Of The Spiders is highly recommended watchin’ for that cheese-tastic flavor that you can only get from the 1970s. It hasn’t aged well, but that’s part of the charm, really.

Book Review: The HARLAN ELLISON COLLECTION: I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream

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I have no mouth and i must screamHarlan Ellison
Ace Books
1984

Slowly but surely I am assimilating eBooks into my reading habit. Not that I’m fully converted to the digital style of reading a book; I’m still very much old-school when it comes to that, I can assure you. But, even I have to admit that there are some advantages to reading something electronically. Like when you’re on a rather long download at work, and can access the ebook account there for some quality reading time while you’re waiting for that dial-up download to go through. Seriously, in this day and age, why do are there still dialups going on?

Anyway, one of the ebooks I purchased was this nifty thing featuring seven short stories by science fiction icon Harlan Ellison. Mostly because for years I’ve been hearing about how the title story was one of the more haunting and scary pieces of science fiction horror written. But, also as kind of a taster for the author himself, as I wasn’t really all that familiar with Ellison, beyond his reputation of not being able to play well with others. Also, he wrote a classic episode of Star Trek TOS. Here are the stories and my thoughts on ’em:

“I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream”
…the classic story of a sentient computer that came self-aware during World War III and killed off all of humanity, save for five, which it (he?) keeps alive for the simple reason to torture them throughout the centuries. I have to admit, this is a very haunting and nihilistic post apocalyptic tale, very effective. Just the way I like it. I can see why this is loved in the Science Fiction community.

“Big Sam Was My Friend”
…a sad tale of an intergalactic circus performer that was put to death due to his interruption of a virgin sacrifice. Also, he can teleport. Also, his circus chums let it happen due to business. It’s quite bittersweet, really.

“Eyes Of Dust”
…on a planet of perfect beauty, the “ugly” couple have a kid equally as ugly, and it doesn’t sit well with the Normals. This one is rather brief, and I get the feeling that there could have been more explored within the context of the story, but it just kind of escalates quickly and then ends.

“World of the Myth”
…three space-faring explorers crash-land on a planet, and while waiting for their rescue ship to arrive, have a run-in with an indigenous species of insects. And yes, wackiness ensues. This one kind of reminded me of a variation of the Outer Limits episode “The Sandkings”, with the insects that are more than what we would perceive them as. Or, more to the point, as they would perceive us as.

“Lonelyache”
…a divorced man slowly goes insane. It doesn’t end well, as you may have deduced by now. Very bleak, very melancholy. Also, it makes me question my desire to not remain single for the entirety of my life.

“Delusion for a Dragon Slayer”
…an average man living a mundane existence happens to be a mere few minutes late on his usual routine and is crushed by a wrecking ball…and that’s when the adventure begins. This was more a straight fantasy, like one of the Dreamland tales of H. P. Lovecraft, with a rather melancholy ending. Not too bad, this.

“Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes”
…a down-on-his-luck guy uses his last literal dollar on a slot machine in Vegas, and begins to win big; the reason of which involves the ghost of a lady that died playing that very slot six months prior.

I have to admit, I had no idea of what to expect when first taking in the stories. It turns out that Ellison’s style is really more of a blend of science fiction, some fantasy and horror, with everything marinated heavily in dark existential nihilism. It’s kind of like Philip K. Dick without the mental illness, and just jaded and grumpy. Which is what I dig. Also, his introductions are insightful, yes, but also a riot.

As a first timer checking out his work, I found this collection to be more than beneficial. I was rather sad that it ended so soon, really. Highly recommended to check out.

Movie Review: KONG: Skull Island

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kong skull islandWarner Bros.
2017
PG-13

“An uncharted island. Let me list all the ways you’re gonna die: rain, heat, disease carrying flies, and we haven’t started on the things that want to eat you alive.”

Scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. Cut off from everything they know, they venture into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery soon becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape from a primal world where humanity does not belong.

King Kong. What can I say that hasn’t already been said, really? He’s one of the, if not the original Giant Monster of cinema, with Hollywood trying again and again to capture that movie magic of the original…and the results being mixed at best. I mean, I did rather enjoy Peter Jackson’s King Kong movie from 2005, even though it did seem a bit too big for its own britches. And that’s a phrase I never though I’d be using ever.

Now, here we are in the Teens of the the 21st Century, and the big trend right now is making everything that can even remotely be shoehorned into a shared cinematic universe, no matter how ridiculous sounding, given a movie that does just that, their standalone movie being an introduction to that character. Yeah, we have the Marvel Cinematic Universe to thank for that. Anyway, it seems that there’s a push for a shared kaiju universe that may or may not have been planned out when the 2014 Godzilla movie came out, but here we have Kong: Skull Island, which does indicate that there’s gonna be a Giant Monster Universe of movies that are going to be popping up in the near future. And quite frankly, if they’re all going to be of the quality that Kong: Skull Island was, then I’m all in.

Before I proceed, full disclosure: I never got around to watching Kong: Skull Island when it was in the theaters. The plan was to watch it in the local Second Run theater, where the ambiance of the place lends to the atmosphere of watching a giant monster movie. It’s what I did with the 2014 Godzilla movie, and I just wanted to continue the trend. Alas, I was a bit too busy, and by the time I found time, it was already out of the Second Run and on DVD/streaming. Anyway, on to the movie itself…

After a flashback where we see a couple of World War II fighter pilots–an American and a Japanese–crash land on a South Pacific island and have their ideological differences smacked away soundly by a giant ape hand, we fast-forward to 1973 (good year, that) and the end of the Vietnam War. Here, a government agent decides to take advantage of the military’s sudden down time and hires them to help with an expedition out to that remote South Pacific island, known now as Skull Island. Because of course it would be named that. Bringing along some scientists, a photojournalist and the helicopter squadron the Sky Devils, they arrive at the island, and–with some choice Black Sabbath blaring along–suddenly find themselves dodging trees. Not because they were flying so low, but because the trees were being thrown at them. The source of this being King Kong, the giant ape, so everyone should be thankful that he was lobbing trees at them, and not something more…scatological. Anyway, they all crash at different points on the island, and everyone discovers the hard way why Skull Island is not in the running to be the next vacation destination. One group stumbles upon the surviving American WWII pilot, makes friends with the natives and learns more about Kong and what he does (hint: he’s actually rather fond of the humans), as well as the other nightmare fuel monsters that dwell there. They also found the way off the island. Meanwhile, group two, lead by Lieutenant Colonel Samuel L. “Insert One Of His Famous Catch-Phrases Here” Jackson, decide to deal out a bit of the ol’ eye-for-an-eye on Kong, due to so many dying by the initial tree attack. Of course, this just rouses out the island’s actual big-bad, which shows up to make everyone mess themselves while trying to get away. Too bad Kong is all crispy and dead and all. Just kidding, of course he’s all right. I mean, how else are they going to do the sequel, amiright?

Kong: Skull Island was…awesome. There, I said it. I didn’t think I would enjoy the movie as much as I did, but here we are. We have a nice, tightly made King Kong movie that comes in at a nice 90 minutes, doesn’t waste much time to getting to the Giant Monster action (and not making everyone wait over an hour to even get to the island, Mr. Jackson), and still manages to flesh out the characters and story enough to keep you engaged until the after credits scene that effectively previews all the movies they’re wanting to make in this universe. The scenery and effects were rather good, as was the nightmare fuel that were the indigenous creatures of the island. And yes, the action scenes were breathtaking. The actors were fantastic, giving credence to their motivations, especially Samuel L. Jackson’s Lieutenant Colonel, which has kind of an Ahab arc through this.

Overall, I have to say that Kong: Skull Island is a great giant monster movie. A really entertaining giant monster movie that doesn’t seem too long, and actually makes me kind of excited about this whole shared universe of movies they’re going for. Definitely check this one out some night, maybe as a double-header with the 2014 Godzilla. Recommended.

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