Did They Even Read The Book?

After a delay of over a year from its original scheduled release, the third and final installment of the Maze Runner trilogy finally hit the theaters last week. I saw it today and all I can say is…well…that was $7.50 and a little more than two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Okay, I will admit it’s been a few years since I read the book, and I’m a little hazy on the small details. But c’mon. This was one of those films “based on” a book that the script writer obviously never actually read; the “based on” part being the title of the book, a few of the characters, and precious little else. I suppose I should have expected it; the previous film was just as off-script as this one,

It’s kind of sad because the first film was faithful to the source material and it was a genuinely interesting story. I guess subsequent marketing surveys convinced the filmmakers that there just wasn’t enough blowing shit up in the two subsequent books to attract their desired demographic. and changes needed to be made.

And oh…was there ever a lot of blowing shit up in this last film.

As I read in a review,”By the time the villainous scientist played by Aidan Gillen sighs in the middle of a fight scene, ‘Okay, that’s enough,’ you’ll have long since come to share his weariness.”

That about sums it up.

I Just Can’t Any More…

I am not generally one to cast aspersions on a fellow blogger (there are so few of us left after all), but I just can’t any more.

There is one blogger who I’ve been following for quite some time. He’s  gay, well-read, and at times a hilariously funny and spot-on reviewer of film and television. But lately, every other post has been about Call Me By Your NameIt’s like he orgasms at the mere mention of it. He’s admitted to thirteen screenings (and counting), and every newly discovered muscle twitch or sideways glance in a screening immediately generates a blog post.

Don’t get me wrong: I’d been eagerly looking forward to seeing this film based on his recommendations for months. I saw the film (which I might not have heard of at all had I not been following him) in December. I liked it. I’d like to see it again. (Ben was not as impressed.) I bought the soundtrack on limited-edition numbered blue vinyl for chrissake! God knows I have impure thoughts about Armie Hammer. But enough is enough, dude.

I understand it’s his blog and he’s free to write whatever the fuck he wants, just as I am. And furthermore I understand from his writings on the subject that this obsession stems in part from his own coming out story; like the young character in the film, this blogger’s first male-on-male sexual experience was with an older man while he was still in his teens, so I get how it reaches deep down inside him and tugs at his heart-strings. And if it takes him to his happy place, fine. But dude—please stop shoving this movie in our face on a daily basis! You’re starting to turn me off to it completely and I can’t be the only one who’s feeling that way. Or, better yet—as I suggested to him in a comment I left on the site which seems to have immediately been deleted—create a new blog that is nothing but Call Me By Your Name.

I like reading his other reviews, but frankly I’m at the point where I’m simply about to drop him from my feed for six months to see any sort of balance returns.

Oh scratch that…six months will be about the same time the BluRay of the film comes out. Let’s call it a year.

Musing Luke Skywalker and The Last Jedi

I know I’ve written nary a word about The Last Jedi, which is kind of odd considering the inveterate Star Wars fan that I am and my philosophical connections with the films, but it’s not laziness; I’m simply still processing the film after all these many weeks and have been rather tongue tied on the subject. But the other day I ran across the following and found it absolutely amazing and too good not to pass on:

(Warning, spoilers)

Rewatch The Empire Strikes Back and I think it’s apparent that there was no other choice for Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, given the events of The Force Awakens. The entire premise of The Empire Strikes Back is that Luke Skywalker can sense Han and Leia in danger before it happens across the galaxy and drops everything to save them.

Which makes the biggest question in The Force Awakens, to me, “Why didn’t Luke save Han?” Not Snoke, not Rey’s parents, nothing. Why did Luke Skywalker let Han Solo die?

Luke is the central mystery of The Force Awakens. The opening sentence of the crawl is “Luke Skywalker has vanished.” The closing shot is Rey having found him. The film is begging us to ask these questions about Luke. Why are we getting sidetracked by Snoke and Rey’s parents?

Because of Empire and The Force Awakens, I don’t think Rian Johnson COULD have done anything else with Luke Skywalker and have it make sense. There were slight variations that could have been made, sure, but the broad strokes of what Johnson gave us are pretty much inevitable. I expected Luke to toss the saber the first time I saw the film. That’s his thing. I’ve been on the “Luke is turning to non-violence” bandwagon for a while. But I was furious the first time I heard him say, “Where’s Han?” BUT! I realized there had to be a reason for it… My patience paid off in what I find one of the most heartfelt and stunning moments in the film: when Rey realizes that Luke has cut himself off from the Force.

Here we have the single most powerful Force user in the galaxy forced to cut himself off of every instinct he has for fear he’ll do the galaxy more harm than good. From Luke’s perspective, this abstinence of the Force is heroic. Another Jedi purge becomes impossible. The perspective of the audience hasn’t been as sympathetic. But this is also one of the central themes of The Last Jedi: that we can all perceive the exact same thing in a different way.

I’m not just talking about the Rashomon sequence (which I thought was brilliant filmmaking), but the vision Rey and Kylo shared and discussed on the elevator. They saw the same thing and came to different conclusions about what that outcome would be.

“Always in motion is the future,” Master Yoda would say.

But let’s talk about the Rashomon sequence. Because, to me, this is what made Luke the LEAST Luke and the MOST Luke and the more I watch it, the more heartbreaking it is to me in the best ways. In case anyone is unfamiliar, Rashomon is a groundbreaking 1950 samurai film by Akira Kurosawa, who has always been an intense influence on Star Wars. It tells the tale of a murder in a meadow from three different perspectives. The film never offers us an objective truth on what happened, merely lets the narrators be as reliable or unreliable as our point of view allows.

Our first glimpse of the “Rashomon” triptych in The Last Jedi comes when Luke explains that he’d sensed the Dark Side in Ben. He went to confront him about it and it didn’t go well. No sabers were in play. This is how Luke WISHES it would have gone, if at all. The second version is from Ben’s perspective. Naturally, he’s the hero of this version. Luke practically has Sith eyes and his green lightsaber is almost a sickly yellow. From Ben’s POV, Luke arrives to murder him absolutely. There is no question in his mind. And then, the third time, we’re given Luke’s version. A blend of the two with plenty of shades of gray. And, for my money, the version of the story I believe. And it’s the one I think truest to Luke’s character, too.

Luke goes to check on Ben and the darkness growing inside him. This wellness check is already filled with self-doubt. Luke, like every creative or heroic person I’ve ever known, suffers from impostor syndrome. Just like Obi-Wan’s.

And here he sees a darkness greater than anything he could have ever imagined. And a future where all of his loved ones are killed and the Jedi order he cared about burned to the ground. What happened the last time he was confronted with an image of this? The last time this happened, he was in the Death Star Throne Room and Vader taunted him with this vision of the future and he lost control. He ignited his saber out of instinct and fought. With rage and anger. But he pulled himself back from doing the thing he swore he wouldn’t do: kill his own father. Then he tosses his lightsaber and says, essentially, “kill me if you have to, but I’ll die like a Jedi.”

Now, he goes to Ben’s hut and sees that future all over again. And, as before, his saber ignites. And this is startling to him. He’s instantly ashamed of himself and must deal with the consequence of that split-second consideration. We know he’d NEVER kill his nephew. Ben doesn’t. Some have said that Luke wouldn’t consider this again, but facing the Dark side of yourself isn’t a “one time and it’s over thing.” It’s a constant. We learn and we grow and we constantly have to reevaluate that.

And here’s where Luke decided it was ultimately the right thing for the Galaxy to end the Jedi and quit the Force. Because these cycles of violence will happen between good and evil jockeying for power. And the constant in Luke’s view was the Jedi.

Their failure. Hypocrisy. Hubris. If they were off the playing field, there would be no Vader. Or Kylo Ren. So instead of doubling down and training NEW Jedi to take down his nephew, he simply ends the cycle. VIolence begets violence and Luke would no longer participate.

And that’s why I love the end of the movie. Luke finally learned from his mistakes. He could stick to his non-violence, but still set an example that would ignite the galaxy. Which is why his saber never touches Ben’s during the fight. It’s 100% evasion. He had lost the understanding of the value of the Legend of Luke Skywalker, but Rey helped him find it again. And he could once again believe in himself. And the Jedi.

From my perspective, given Luke’s inaction in The Force Awakens, this is the ONLY thing that could have been done with him. And why I’ve embraced the arc so much. I love it. You don’t have to like it, but this is the Luke I saw up there. And when he has his heroic moment on Crait and binary sunset… It’s a perfect capstone to his character, given the turn the universe and canon took.

Movie Review

I stumbled across this film via Spewing Truth in The Face of Lies, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s what I affectionately refer to as “hard” sci-fi, in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Interstellar, and Moon. No space battles, no laser swordfights, no retina-searing special effects.

The only thing about the story I find a little off is I find it very hard to believe NASA would send a single astronaut on a mission of this import and duration. Other than that, the acting, sets, and storyline were well worth the running time. A few reviews berated the ending; the movie failed to explain exactly what the message was that the spheres were sending us, but at the same time the ending left things open for a sequel—something that after seeing this film I would wholeheartedly welcome.

Lastly, I don’t know if it was the escapism or simply being allowed to step away from the shit show that is our current existence or something more, but it actually gave me hope for our future as a species.

Call Me By Your Name

One of the films I most wanted to see this year (besides a couple of little sci-fi romps) was the independent film Call Me By Your Name. That was based solely on the orgasmic reviews of a certain blogger who had screened it multiple times when it first appeared on the festival circuit (and the fact that Armie Hammer—for whom I have very impure thoughts—was starring). Being in such limited distribution however, I really had very little hope that it would ever make it to the cinematic backwoods of Phoenix.

Well, it did arrive. Not in the first wave of releases or even the second, but nonetheless it did, and we got a chance to see it yesterday.

I liked it. Not on the same level that said blogger did, but enough that I might want to see it again on the big screen and definitely add it to my collection when it comes out on disc. I thought the first half of the film was plodding, and agreed with Ben that they seemed to go into way too much character development that did nothing to move the story forward. But the second half definitely took off and engaged me. Armie’s character comes off as more than a bit of an asshole—but it came from a place of uncertainty. Both Oliver (Hammer) and Elio (Timothée Chalamet) are unsure of the intents and affection of the other, so they do a push me-pull you love-hate dance for the vast majority of the film until they finally realize the feelings each of them have for the other are mutual. It’s a situation we’ve all been in at one point or another, but it seemed to me the film spent way too much time building up that tension.

There has been some blowback regarding the relative ages of the two main characters. Elio is 17; Oliver is 26. It should be noted that the age of consent in Italy is 14. So calm down folks. Even though it may not sit with Puritanical America’s ideals (except of course, if it was a girl), Elio’s more than legal at 17 and Oliver is not a kiddie diddler.

Ironically that age difference is mirrored in the actors’ real lives. Chalamet is 23 and Hammer is 32.





Some random thoughts:

  • I know exactly what it feels like to have a love like that.
  • The stillness of the film was refreshing from the usual blow-everything-up fare  at full volume of other modern cinema.
  • I love how they alternated between English, Italian, and French.
  • The wardrobe brought back many warm memories of the era. Especially the short shorts.
  • Setting the story in the early 1980s was genius. They didn’t have to worry about AIDS or social media or posting selfies to Instagram and then feeling bad because everyone else’s life was better than theirs.
  • The languid pace of life expressed in the film and the sense of isolation from the rest of the world was wonderful, although it took some time to get back into that mindset and away from our current frenetic “always on” culture.
  • Their goodbye at the train station and the subsequent followup six months later was heartbreaking, although the discussion Elio’s father had with his son after Oliver’s departure is one that I wish every father could have with their gay sons or daughters.


There is already talk of a sequel.

Building the Death Star

(Maximize in a dark room for full effect.)

Ben and I saw the new film last weekend. I really enjoyed it, although I didn’t get the usual adrenaline rush when the first notes of the theme rang out and the screen crawl started. By the time the end credits rolled, I wanted to see it all again. Ben was not impressed.

As has been written elsewhere, Episode VIII is definitely not your father’s Star Wars. Sacred cows are slaughtered. And as the movie itself drives home, it’s time to let go of the past and move on. I approve of this.

Blast From The Past

Summer 1977: “Star Wars” summer. Seemed like everyone and their brother was attempting to cash in on the phenomenon that was Star Wars, including Burger King.

I bought this set of four posters as they came available at the fast food chain, hoping to one day get them framed. I’d completely forgotten about them until I ran across these images online. As it turns out, forty years later they’re still not framed, languishing in a cardboard shipping tube in the bedroom closet—along with probably a dozen other posters I’d hoped to get framed “someday.”

Considering it costs upward of a hundred dollars to get a simple black frame and mount for art of this size (with a 40% discount coupon!) at Michaels these days, it’s still not going to happen any time soon.

What Might Have Been

From ArsTechnica:

While most Star Wars pieces you’ll see this week are focused on the soon-to-be-revealed adventures of Finn, Rey, Poe, and BB-8, today we’ve got a blast from the past to share with you—sort of. As any self-respecting nerd will tell you, the whole look-and-feel of the Star Wars universe owes a lot to Ralph McQuarrie. In 1975, George Lucas hired the conceptual artist to create the characters and worlds that then only existed on the pages of his scripts. So McQuarrie’s paintbrush created the first images of C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, stormtroopers, and others, not to mention all those TIE fighters, X-Wings, and Y-Wings.

His paintings and concept art heavily informed Lucas’ filmmaking, and the director reproduced many of McQuarrie’s pieces in Star Wars. But quite a lot changed between the earlier scripts McQuarrie was working from and the film that audiences saw in 1977. Stormtroopers used lightsabers. Luke Skywalker was a girl. And the Millennium Falcon looked very, very different. Now, thanks to the 2017 graduating classes of the DAVE School, we have an idea of what a 1975-era movie—The Star Wars—would have looked like:

A Masterpiece

When I first heard a Blade Runner sequel was in the works, my initial thought was, “For the love of all that is holy, WHY?!” Blade Runner stands as a cinematic masterpiece that needs no followup story, no re-imaging, no retelling.

And yet, after seeing Blade Runner 2049 yesterday, I take it all back. Admittedly I softened my stance somewhat by seeing the various trailers that came out over the past year and the reviews of the advanced screenings. But nothing prepared me for the tour de force that greeted me yesterday.

Every frame is an absolute feast for the eyes. If Roger Deakins does not walk away with an Oscar for cinematography, there is no justice in the world. The story answers many of the questions posed by the initial film and raises enough new ones to occupy your thoughts for quite some time. Twenty four hours later 2049 is still swimming in my consciousness as probably one of the greatest sci-fi films I’ve seen since the original Blade Runner in 1982.

The score—written by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch and not by Vangelis—retains enough of his influence that you’d think was the composer.

IMHO, definitely worth the price of a full admission and having to put up with the today’s increasingly unpleasant movie-going experience in order to appreciate it fully.

It

We finally saw It this past weekend.  I really liked it. I was expecting the worst, being such a fan of the original 90’s miniseries, but when the credits finally rolled, I felt it was money very well spent. I’ve never read the original novel, so I had only the miniseries to go off of, but I loved the character development and the bits of backstory that were missing from the miniseries. As I’m sure others have written, it’s the adults in the film who are as equally as monstrous as Pennywise. Looking forward to Chapter 2 now!

Movie Review

What do you get when you take a generous helping of The Fifth Element, a bit of Jupiter Ascending, and throw in a dash of just about every SciFi/Fantasy flick of the last twenty years? You get Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. And I don’t mean that to be derogatory in any way. For years I’ve been lamenting that Hollywood never does anything new and with Valerian it has. I was truly and completely captivated and entertained by this flick and felt it was very much worth the price of admission. How often can you really say that these days?

Certain reviews have labeled it a hot mess, and yes, it’s heavy on special effects—at times almost to the point of being overwhelming—but unlike certain other films (cough, Star Wars prequels, cough) I didn’t feel they detracted from the story. I couldn’t tell were CGI left off and practical effects began; a testament to the degree of technical expertise exhibited in the film. The aliens—as in The Fifth Element—were amazing. The actors’ performances—while not exemplary—were at least convincing, and that’s more than be said for a lot of recent films. This is really one of those movies that deserves to be seen on the big screen—as increasingly unpleasant as that experience has become.

And if nothing else it was a three hour escape from all things Trump.

The soundtrack ain’t bad either…

You Learn Something New Every Day

My longtime friend Michael sent me a copy of They Live (one of our favorite b-movies and something that’s been on my Amazon Wish List forever) for my birthday a couple weeks ago. While watching it the other day I realized that as much of a favorite as it is, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the entire thing from beginning to end—or that I just didn’t remember all of it. (Just as likely.)

Ben had never seen it before, but he was not impressed when he did. “It’s awful!” To which I responded, “That’s part of it’s charm!”

Anyhow, I did a quick internet search to see if I could find any info on the film beyond the basics, and imagine my surprise when I discovered after all these years that the entire premise of the movie was based off a short story called Eight O’Clock In The Morning by Ray Nelseon.

Since it’s apparently in the public domain and can be found in its entirety on multiple websites, I’m gonna go ahead and pass it on here for your edification. It’s a rather short read, but as one site said, “Even though it’s supposed to be a work of science fiction, the story holds many analogies to our current situation.” More than ever, I’d say.

So without further ado, I present:

Eight O’Clock in the Morning

by Ray Nelseon

At the end of the show the hypnotist told his subjects, “Awake.”

Something unusual happened.

One of the subjects awoke all the way. This had never happened before. His name was George Nada and he blinked out at the sea of faces in the theatre, at first unaware of anything out of the ordinary. Then he noticed, spotted here and there in the crowd, the non-human faces, the faces of the Fascinators. They had been there all along, of course, but only George was really awake, so only George recognized them for what they were. He understood everything in a flash, including the fact that if he were to give any outward sign, the Fascinators would instantly command him to return to his former state, and he would obey.

He left the theatre, pushing out into the neon night, carefully avoiding any indication that he saw the green, reptilian flesh or the multiple yellow eyes of the rulers of the earth. One of them asked him, “Got a light buddy?” George gave him a light, then moved on.

At intervals along the street George saw the posters hanging with photographs of the Fascinators’ multiple eyes and various commands printed under them, such as, “Work eight hours, play eight hours, sleept eight hours,” and “Marry and Reproduce.” A TV set in the window of a store caught George’s eye, but he looked away in the nick of time. When he didn’t look at the Fascinator in the screen, he could resist the command, “Stay tuned to this station.”

George lived alone in a little sleeping room, and as soon as he got home, the first thing he did was to disconnect the TV set. In other rooms he could hear the TV sets of his neighbors, though. Most of the time the voices were human, but now and then he heard the arrogant, strangely bird-like croaks of the aliens. “Obey the government,” said one croak. “We are the government, ” said another. “We are your friends, you’d do anything for a friend, wouldn’t you?”

“Obey!”

“Work!”

Suddenly the phone rang.

George picked it up. It was one of the Fascinators.

“Hello,” it squawked. “This is your control, Chief of Police Robinson. You are an old man, George Nada. Tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, your heart will stop. Please repeat.”

“I am an old man,” said George. “Tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, my heart will stop.”

The control hung up

“No, it wont,” whispered George. He wondered why they wanted him dead. Did they suspect that he was awake? Probably. Someone might have spotted him, noticed that he didn’t respond the way the others did. If George were alive at one minute after eight tomorrow morning, then they would be sure.

“No use waiting here for the end,” he thought.

He went out again. The posters, the TV, the occasional commands from passing aliens did not seem to have absolute power over him, though he still felt strongly tempted to obey, to see things the way his master wanted him to see them. He passed an alley and stopped. One of the aliens was alone there, leaning against the wall. George walked up to him.

“Move on,” grunted the thing, focusing his deadly eyes on George.

George felt his grasp on awareness waver. For a moment the reptilian head dissolved into the face of a lovable old drunk. Of course the drunk would be lovable. George picked up a brick and smashed it down on the old drunk’s head with all his strength. For a moment the image blurred, then the blue-green blood oozed out of the face and the lizrd fell, twitching and writhing. After a moment it was dead.

George dragged the body into the shadows and searched it. There was a tiny radio in its pocket and a curiously shaped knife and fork in another. The tiny radio said something in an incomprehensible language. George put it down beside the body, but kept the eating utensils.

“I can’t possibly escape,” thought George. “Why fight them?”

But maybe he could.

What if he could awaken others? That might be worth a try.

He walked twelve blocks to the apartment of his girl friend, Lil, and knocked on her door. She came to the door in her bathrobe.

“I want you to wake up,” he said

“I’m awake,” she said. “Come on in.”

He went in. The TV was playing. He turned it off.

“No,” he said. “I mean really wake up.” She looked at him without comprehension, so he snapped his fingers and shouted, “Wake up! The masters command that you wake up!”

“Are you off your rocker, George?” she asked suspiciously. “You sure are acting funny.” He slapped her face. “Cut that out!” she cried, “What the hell are you up to anyway?”

“Nothing,” said George, defeated. “I was just kidding around.”

“Slapping my face wasn’t just kidding around!” she cried.

There was a knock at the door.

George opened it.

It was one of the aliens.

“Can’t you keep the noise down to a dull roar?” it said.

The eyes and reptilian flesh faded a little and George saw the flickering image of a fat middle-aged man in shirtsleeves. It was still a man when George slashed its throat with the eating knife, but it was an alien before it hit the floor. He dragged it into the apartment and kicked the door shut. “What do you see there?” he asked Lil, pointing to the many-eyed snake thing on the floor.

“Mister…Mister Coney,” she whispered, her eyes wide with horror. “You…just killed him, like it was nothing at all.”

“Don’t scream,” warned George, advancing on her.

“I won’t George. I swear I won’t, only please, for the love of God, put down that knife.” She backed away until she had her shoulder blades pressed to the wall.

George saw that it was no use.

“I’m going to tie you up,” said George. “First tell me which room Mister Coney lived in.”

“The first door on your left as you go toward teh stairs,” she said. “Georgie…Georgie. Don’t torture me. If you’re going to kill me, do it clean. Please, Georgie, please.”

He tied her up with bedsheets and gagged her, then searched the body of the Fascinator. There was another one of the little radios that talked a foreign language, another set of eating utensils, and nothing else.

George went next door.

When he knocked, one of the snake-things answered, “Who is it?”

“Friend of Mister Coney. I wanna see him,” said George.

“He went out for a second, but he’ll be right back.” The door opened a crack, and four yellow eyes peeped out. “You wanna come in and wait?”

“Okay,” said George, not looking at the eyes.

“You alone here?” he asked as it closed the door, its back to George.

“Yeah, why?”

He slit its throat from behind, then searched the apartment.

He found human bones and skulls, a half-eaten hand.

He found tanks with huge fat slugs floating in them.

“The children,” he thought, and killed them all.

There were guns too, of a sort he had never seen before. He discharged one by accident, but fortunately it was noiseless. It seemed to fire little poisoned darts.

He pocketed the gun and as many boxes of darts he could and went back to Lil’s place. When she saw him she writhed in helpless terror.

“Relax, honey” he said, opening her purse, “I just want to borrow your car keys.”

He took the keys and went downstairs to the street.

Her car was still parked in the same general area in which she always parked it. He recognized it by the dent in the right fender. He got in, started it, and began driving aimlessly. He drove for hours, thinking–desperately searching for some way out. He turned on the car radio to see if he could get some music, but there was ntohing but news and it was all about him, George Nada, the homicidal maniac. The announcer was one of the masters, but he sounded a little scared. Why should he be? What could one man do?

George wasn’t surprised when he saw the road block, and he turned off on a side street before he reached it. No little trip to the country for you, Georgie boy, he thought to himself.

They had just discvered what he had done back at Lil’s place, so they would probably be looking for Lil’s car. He parked it in an alley and took the subway. There were no aliens on the subway, for some reason. Maybe they were too good for such things, or maybe it was just because it was so late at night.

When one finally did get on, George got off.

He went up to the street and went into a bar. One of the Fascinators was on the TV, saying over and over again, “We are your friends. We are your friends. We are your friends.” The stupid lizard sounded scared. Why? What could one man do against all of them?

George ordered a beer, the it suddenly struck him that the Fascinator on the TV no longer seemed to have any power over him. He looked at it again and thought, “It has to believe it can master me to do it. The slightest hint of fear on its part and the power to hypnotize is lost.” They flashed George’s picture on the TV screen and George retreated to the phone booth. He called his control, the Chief of Police.

“Hello, Robinson?” he asked.

“Speaking.”

“This is George Nada. I’ve figured out how to wake people up.”

“What? George, hang on. Where are you?” Robinson sounded almost hysterical.

He hung up and paid and left the bar. They would probably trace his call.

He caught another subway and went downtown.

It was dawn when he entered the building housing the biggest of the city’s TV studios. He consulted the building director and then went up in the elevator. The cop in front of the studio recognized him. “Why, you’re Nada!” he gasped.

George didn’t like to shoot him with the poison dart gun, but he had to.

He had to kill several more before he got into the studio itself, including all the engineers on duty. There were a lot of police sirens outside, excited shouts, and running footsteps on the stairs. The alien was sitting before the the TV camera saying, “We are your friends. We are your friends,” and didn’t see George come in. When George shot him with the needle gun he simply stopped in mid-sentence and sat there, dead. George stoond near him and said, imitating the alien croak, “Wake up. Wake up. See us as we are and kill us!”

It was George’s voice the city heard that morning, but it was the Fascinator’s image, and the city did awake for the very first time and the war began.

George did not live to see the victory that finally came. He died of a heart attack at exactly eight o’clock.

Oh, That’s Just Silly

We saw Alien Covenent tonight.

It wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t a good one, either.

I had hoped for so much more.

My initial thought as the credits were rolling was that this franchise has become the M. Night Shamalan of the genre; something that started out great and rapidly deteriorated to predictable, meaningless, crap.

Predictable is the key word here. There is nothing left to shock or surprise any more. You already know that by the end of the film everyone except one or two humans and the Synthetic will have been dispatched in the most gruesome ways possible.

The monster alien drips acid. The alien has a double steel jaw and likes to tunnel through your skull with it. The alien will burst out of your body somewhere. And most importantly, if you’re separated from your comrades and your attention is focused somewhere else, you will die.

Viewed strictly as horror cinema (which is what the Alien franchise is), it was much more effective when you didn’t know every anatomical detail of what was lurking in the shadows. What we don’t know is far scarier than what we do.

I remember how I felt after leaving the theater back in 1979 at the original Alien premiere. It scared the bejeebus out of me. I kept looking over my shoulder as I walked back to my car, and then kept one eye on my rearview mirror all the way home.

In 1986, after screening Aliens (IMHO probably the best film of the series), I came home and promptly turned on every light in the apartment.

But no more. Now the whole thing now just strikes me as silly.

To its credit, Covenant isn’t chock full of stupid scientists the way  Prometheus was. It also answers most—if not all—of the outstanding questions posed by its predecessor. But it was so damned predictable. Ben whispered the final “gotcha” moment to me a good fifteen minutes before the end of the film; something I’d also already figured out on my own.

And Ridley Scott says he wants to do five more? Please, for the love of the gods, NO. Let it DIE.

 

Nightmare Scenario

I probably shouldn’t have watched one of my all-time favorite thrillers, The Hunt for Red October, before going to bed last night, but Alec Baldwin was undoubtedly at the height of his yumminess when the film came out in 1990 and I just simply couldn’t surf past. (Since Alec and I are the same age—something I hadn’t realized until I just double-checked the release date—I suppose I was at the height of my yumminess at the same time too. Sigh.)

Oh Alec…that chest hair [swoon]!

Sorry. I got distracted. Anyhow…

With our Executive branch of government currently in—to put it politely, total disarray—led by an imbecile who thinks he knows everything and refuses to listen to anyone or anything other than the voices in his own head, what’s to prevent the nightmare scenario postulated in the film (Russians parking a submarine off the eastern coast of the United States and nuking DC) from actually happening? Even if the military/CIA/FBI are aware of it and attempt to brief Cheetolini, who’s to say he won’t dismiss it as “fake news”—especially considering his tongue is so far up Putin’s ass they’re French kissing? Launch a nuke on DC and you’ve taken out the Federal Government, rendering any sort of immediate, coordinated response impossible. What would prevent Russian troops from then simply walking onto US soil and taking over à la Red Dawn?

I would hope that the government has a plan in place in the event of such a calamity, but who knows? This is the sort of shit that keeps me awake at 4 am.

Late To The Party

Ben and I finally got around to seeing Star Trek Beyond this past weekend. Between procrastination and admittedly a certain amount of apathy, I was beginning to think this was going to the first big-screen Trek that I wasn’t actually going to experience on the big screen.

Before seeing it, I already knew the storyline: malevolent alien, disgruntled former Starfleet Officer, or unknown galactic entity threatens to destroy the entire Federation and only Kirk, the Enterprise and its valiant crew stands between it and total annihilation. (“You’ve seen this before!”)

Was I wrong? No. Did I walk out of the theater feeling like I’d been cheated out of my money? Not at all. It was an enjoyable—albeit fairly predictable in places—two hours of entertainment and something I will no doubt be adding to my collection when it comes available on disk. (Plus, pretty much all the lead actors bring a level of eye candy to the screen that is undeniable.)

But am I the only one to notice how a plot point from the Space Seed episode—that was not really utilized in Star Trek Into Darkness—showed up in a roundabout way in the current film?

I’m speaking about a group of people who for all intents the Federation abandoned. In Space Seed, it was Khan’s group that was left on Ceti Alpha V (which as we all know thanks to Wrath of Khan was a planet devastated by the explosion of Ceti Alpha VI some years after the relocation, rendering it nearly uninhabitable) with the Federation apparently completely forgetting about it—and with Beyond it was the ill-fated crew of the U.S.S. Franklin that was given up for dead.

And the brouha over Sulu being gay? Please, Mary. If you didn’t know to look for it, you wouldn’t even have spotted it.

Quibbles aside, I’ve come to love the “new” crew and it’s obvious the actors are developing that chemistry we have come to expect of the Trek franchise. How they will cope with the loss of Anton Yelchin remains to be seen; I know I felt a pang whenever Checkov was on screen, knowing full well that the fine young man who played him was snatched from our lives far too soon.

It will be interesting to see where future films take us. I’m looking forward to the journey.

So Many Feels

To celebrate National Dog Day, Universal Pictures presents the first look at, A Dog’s Purpose, an upcoming 2017 family comedy film starring Josh Gad, Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, and Dennis Quaid. A Dog’s Purpose comes to theaters on January 27th, 2017.

“Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose, from director Lasse Hallström, shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.”

This Looks Amazing

I just read Story of Your Life the other night after seeing a teaser for Arrival, the upcoming film that it’s based on. It’s not an especially easy read, concentrating as it does on language and how it influences our perception of the world, so I’m not exactly sure how this will translate onto the big screen. There were only two or three main characters in the work and it contained none of the ominous military excursions that are hinted at in the trailer.

Still, I’m excited to see this. More excited than about I was about seeing Star Trek Beyond—which we still haven’t made it to.