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Saturday, October 13, 2018

This week's Review Of. . .


Successor’s Promise
Five years have passed since the death of Valhan and the worlds have found it difficult to adapt to the absence of the enigmatic magical overlord. While some have fallen to ruin – their magic depleted – others have managed to form some semblance of peace and prosperity.
But always, the specter of war lingers, with some sorcerers looking to capitalize on the vacuum Valhan’s absence has left. So much so, that Rielle and Tyen’s efforts are threatened in ways they couldn’t have imagined.
I rather enjoyed this third installment of the Millennium’s Rule series, particularly the dilemma faced by Rielle and Tyen as they struggle to do what’s right in the face of overwhelming odds pressuring them to go against their better judgment. And keeping secrets! Here we see the consequence of holding things in – even if it is with the best of intentions. Accusations and counter accusations fly and the bitter repercussions are hard for them both to deal with.
My only criticism was the fact that the two main characters tended to procrastinate. A lot! Repeatedly questioning their every decision and then second, and sometimes third and fourth-guessing the outcome of their choices. In the end, I felt like reaching into the pages and throttling the pair of them. “Just do it already!”
Regardless, it’s an entertaining and enthralling story and I do love the magic system incorporated into this particular universe. You could imagine “that’s how real magic would work!”


Disenchantment
Disenchantment is the latest animated fantasy sitcom created by Matt Groening. This time for adults. As we know, he previously created The Simpsons and Futurama for 20th Century Fox Television, and this is his first production for Netflix.
We travel to the medieval fantasy setting of Dreamland, where a rebellious nineteen year-old alcoholic princess – Bean – struggles to find direction in her life. Her father doesn’t help, of course, as he tries to force her to conform to a “royal” way of life she can’t stand, and to a series of arranged marriages with artfully presented and clearly unsuitable princes. She’s joined by two companions: the dimwitted Elfo – who has renounced his place in a sickeningly happy homeland of always-singing elves to seek out feelings of melancholy and despair, along with Bean’s personal demon Luci – who encourages her to acts of wickedness for which she seems to have a natural inclination.
First impressions? I loved it! Elfo’s homeland in particular made me smile, as the elves there are so annoyingly happy all the time. They even sing a jolly song when they’re attempting to hang Elfo for daring to get up close and personal with the elf princess, Kissy. Luci is laid–back cool with a series of sharp one-liners that ring so profoundly true, you wish he was your own best friend. And Bean herself? She’s the typical girl next door trapped in the body of a princess. Her personality often reminded me of the character Vala Mal Doran – played by Claudia Black in Stargate SG1 – which can’t be bad, as anything with someone remotely Vala-ish in it is delightful in my humble opinion (sigh) . . . though I digress.
Our troublesome trio set out on a series of mischievous – often disastrous – adventures, helping us appreciate the zany folk of Dreamland and all the fantastical creatures they meet in a more “adult” setting.
Great visual and verbal humor is guaranteed – and it gets funnier the longer it goes on. For a new series finding its feet, a welcome addition to the Groening stable.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

My Thoughts On. . .


Moon Mourning
Undergoing drastic life changes – or should that be ‘dead’ changes – don’t fill Samantha Moon with dread anywhere near as much as the thought of being an unfit mother. Regardless of the changes happening to her, she’s determined to stay a real mom to her kids, even if it does feel like she’s being burnt at the stake every time she takes Tammy to pre-school.
At least she has the support of her husband, right? Someone who is the cheese to her chalk. The up to her down.
However, as her ‘symptoms’ develop, Samantha sees the doubt beginning to enter Danny’s eyes. Yes, despite her best efforts the bond they had is being eroded and the ‘normalcy’ she’s working so hard to maintain seems to be slipping away. For one thing, it’s a marathon effort just to stay awake in the day when the sun comes up; to take the kids to school; to get to the office; to operate as one of the most effective officers on the team. And when her partner is badly wounded because she’s too slow to react, Samantha knows she has to do something to prepare for the inevitable



Forbidden Planet
Shakespeare's The Tempest is transformed in this 1956 “Granddaddy of them all” landmark science-fiction film with – for its time – groundbreaking special effects.
A military starship crew is sent to investigate the silence of a once thriving colony on Altair-4, a faraway planet. When they arrive, they are stunned to discover two survivors: Dr. Morbius (played by Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis), who are protected by a futuristic robot – Robby.
Morbius has gained knowledge way beyond human ken, and wants his would-be rescuers gone from the planet. However, Altaira is rather taken with Commander Adama, the leader of the expedition, and after talking with the na├»ve girl, the commander becomes suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the rest of the colony. Thus, the monster of the ID is unleashed, and the crew discover to their cost the true power the human mind can wield if it’s boosted by arcane alien technology.
I’m sure many of you have seen this film over the years. It was released in 1956 after all, and contained a number of innovated aspects that were later adopted into the bread and butter bulwark of its genre: It was the first science fiction film to depict humans traveling in a faster-than-light starship of their own creation; it was also the first to be set entirely on another planet in interstellar space; and finally, Robby was one of the first film robots depicted as having his own distinct personality and sense of humor. What’s more, his character was integral to the plot’s development.
Watching Forbidden Planet yet again reminded me how positively epic it is, especially as it concentrates on the terribly frightening specter of how rebellious the human mind can be, even among the most principled of individuals.
After 60 years – it’s still a wonderfully weird adventure.
Ahh classics. You’ve gotta love them!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hot off the Pressed Lips!
Lovers in Hell


Have you embraced the latest release from the Heroes in Hell Universe?
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Only fools fall in love, and hell is filled with fools. Our damned lovers include: Christopher Marlowe and Will Shakespeare, Napoleon and Wellington, Orpheus and Eurydice, Hatshepsut and Senenmut, Abelard and Heloise, Helen and Penelope, Saint Teresa and Satan's Reaper, Madge Kendall and the Elephant Man, and more . . . all of whom pay a hellish price for indulging their affections.


Shakespeare said "To be wise and love exceeds man's might," and in Lovers in Hell, the damned in hell exceed all bounds as they search for their true loves, punish the perfidious, and avoid getting caught up in Satan's snares. In ten stories of misery and madness, hell's most loveless seek to slake the thirst that can never be quenched, and find true love amid the lies of ages.


Featuring The Devil's Trull: Satan's Reaper discovers all's unfair in love & war. . .

AND an excerpt from Hell Gate, Grim's next full-length adventure

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Go on,  indulge yourself. You know you want to

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Looking Back On. . .


Dying for a Vacation
In this latest adventure set in an alternate present, one in which the Roman Empire maintained its iron grip on world events, we find change is in the air for our dynamic investigating duo, Dai and Julia Llewellyn. While Dai and his team are run off their feet investigating an empire wide theft and smuggling ring, he receives a callous threat against his wife in an effort to deter his efforts. The thing is, Julia is now pregnant with their first child. Beside himself with worry, Dai orders her away from their home in an effort to keep her safe.
Not used to being cosseted, Julia rebels against Dai’s overprotective attitude and takes a break from all the pressure by journeying to faraway Aegyptus. Little does she realize, however, doing so places her in a direct line of fire.
If that wasn’t bad enough, someone makes accusations against Dai’s family tantamount to treason. Something that if proven, could lead to a one-way ticket to the games and death!
Needless to say, the atmosphere created places our favorite crime fighting team under a great deal of stress. How on earth are they going to cope?
You’ll enjoy this latest mystery from Dai and Julia. With a clever, involved storyline, a progressive pace and littered with plots and counterplots, you’ll be rooting for the bad guys to get their comeuppance long before the arrest warrants are issued.
A welcome addition to the series.


Silence of the Lambs

I think you’ll all know this film. I loved it when it first came out and I’ve watched it a good half-dozen times since then. In this multiple Oscar-winning thriller, Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI's training academy whose shrewd analyses of serial killers lands her a special assignment: the FBI is investigating a vicious murderer nicknamed Buffalo Bill, who kills young women and then removes the skin from their bodies. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist who is also a violent psychopath, serving life behind bars for various acts of murder and cannibalism. Crawford believes that Lecter may have insight into this case and that Starling, as an attractive young woman, may be just the bait to draw him out. As we all know by now, it works, and Lecter starts to offer up information . . . at a price! Lecter has spent years in specialized solitary confinement and barters for a change of venue, some place with a view. More disturbingly, he wants Clarice to detail certain events from her life and skillfully digs into her psyche, forcing her to reveal her innermost traumas and putting her in a position of vulnerability when she can least afford to be weak.
One of the few films to remain true to the novel’s plot, Foster and Hopkins act their socks off, introducing a slow boil to the story that is part psychological thriller, part menacing horror. It’s mesmerizing witnessing how the pair acts. So much so, that even when you’re watching it for the sixth or seventh time and know what’s coming, it still sends a tingle up your spine. Diabolically delicious and immorally intelligent, it pits the innocence of a young and inexperienced woman against the predatory lusts of a pathological killer who eats every detail as if it were an appetizer for the main course. (Even the way he wears his prison uniform – as if it’s bespoke tailored – smacks of the dominance he is still able to command from his prison cell).
But not all is well, for another dares to profane his kingdom, the deranged transvestite Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), who places a moth's chrysalis in his victims' throats after first killing and skinning them.
Skillful direction; clinical but compassionate; expertly executed; and mouth-wateringly menacing. Without a doubt one of the most superbly crafted films you’ll ever see.

Friday, September 7, 2018

This week's thoughts on...


Convergence

Solstice Winters is an intrepid photojournalist for “The Spiritualist” a respectable up market tabloid devoted to news of a more ‘metaphysical’ nature that most people still dismiss as hocus-pocus.
The thing is, the stuff that Solstice reports on is usually true. She knows. She’s gifted that way. So gifted, in fact, that even the FBI call on her talents from time to time to assist in their investigations when the need arises. And that need becomes ever more compelling after an accident at the CERN laboratory which opens a rift, allowing a clutch of magical creatures from another dimension to run rampant in our world.

And the kicker? Though she doesn’t realize it, Solstice is one of them!

Yes, life takes a turn of the supernatural kind – and for better or worse – Solstice has to get to the bottom of a mystery that threatens the future of everything she holds dear.
With liberal doses of urban humor, great one-liners, Men in Black and evil doomsday occultists running rampant, lots of nudity . . . and a talking cat – Convergence is a thoroughly enjoyable little tale, detailing how quickly your world can turn upside down when you leats expect it.
I loved it, and look forward to more of this series.



Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West is a good old-fashioned Spaghetti Western film co-written and directed by Sergio Leone. Screened in 1968, it stars Henry Fonda as Frank, a cruel killer – Charles Bronson as his nemesis, Harmonica – Claudia Cardinale as a newly widowed homesteader – and Jason Robards as Cheyenne, a bandit. And really, it’s a story that was very nearly never told.
After directing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Leone decided to retire from Westerns altogether, and desired to produce his film based on The Hoods, which eventually became Once Upon a Time in America. However, Leone accepted an offer from Paramount Pictures to provide access to Henry Fonda and to use a budget to produce another Western film. Inspired, he recruited Bertolucci and Argento to devise the plot of the film in 1966, and, after researching other Western films, produced the classic we see.
Note: Did you know the part of “harmonica man” was originally offered to Clint Eastwood? He turned it down, and that’s how Charles Bronson ended up in the iconic role.
Plot:

To get his hands on prime railroad land in a deserted, out-of-the-way dot on the map – Sweetwater – a crippled railroad baron, (Morton) hires a bunch of killers, led by startlingly blue-eyed aforementioned sadist, (Frank) to scare a widowed property owner – Brett McBain – into giving up his land. Frank takes things further and wipes McBain and his family out in order to reclaim the land.
However, it transpires McBain remarried a month earlier, and when his new wife Jill (Claudia Cardinale), arrives, she inherits everything instead, not realizing the future fortune she is sitting on.
For reasons that aren’t clearly explained, both Cheyenne and the lethally mysterious Harmonica take it upon themselves to look after Jill and thwart Frank's plans to seize the land. As the plot slowly develops, not only do alliances and betrayals come and go, but we’re given the impression that Harmonica guy wants Frank all to himself.
That impression is confirmed in an epic stand-off at the end where it’s revealed in flashback exactly why Harmonica has worked so hard to get Frank alone. And the music?
At times, the harmonica music is a little annoying. But during the shootout, it’s perfect. Veiled hostility. Micro-drama. Tangible suspense. The tension builds until . . . Bam! The blink-of-an-eye climax that answers all your questions.
 Innovative camera angles and attention to detail puts you right in the middle of the action too, and helps you experience the mood of what it must have been like during those brutal frontier days when the wide open expanse of America was being tamed.
Operatic. Masterful. Genius. Once Upon a Time in the West is all this, and worthy of its legend-making title

Friday, August 31, 2018

This Week's Reviews on...


Cruiser Dreams

Following on from Dream Dancer, Cruiser Dreams explores the continuing story of Shebat – Earth brat, outsider, and adoptive daughter and heir to the Kerrion Empire – and of the ongoing struggle she endures in the face of familial backbiting, intergalactic political intrigue and cosmos spanning dynastic aspirations.

But as we soon discover, it’s also a story about perspective: about embracing change or welcoming stagnation; choosing right or wrong; promoting rejection or acceptance. It’s a story where what “is” needs to be recognized, while what “might be” must still be brought into being.

Cruiserkind is evolving into more – much more – than the sum of their component parts and supremely advanced AI. The addition of the human mind and its freedom to express itself in any way it desires adds a hitherto unknown dynamic to the greater holistic “self” enjoyed by/between the ships that draws them into an entirely new narrative. One that encompasses a symphonic unity ushering them toward a higher and more complete kind of “being” than ever before.

But how to tread the minefield of this dawning new age?

Employing richly descriptive and meaningful prose, Morris is able to encompass a depth of understanding and expression that allows the reader to explore – and then savor – the full nuance of the symbiosis experienced by those brave pilots risking insanity, and their increasingly sophisticated, near sentient ships, and how that burgeoning relationship almost brings an empire to its knees.
Ethical and philosophical dilemmas abound. Is loyalty and love enough to win the day?


Find out in a superbly entertaining space opera that is as astute in its insight as it is disturbing




Upgrade:

Directed by Leigh Whannell, the screenwriter who co-created the Saw and Insidious, Upgrade is new science-fiction cyber-punk thriller about how to exact bloody revenge with cybernetic implants.

The premise:

Imagine an existence where everything – from people to houses - is fully integrated into an artificial intelligence run digital net. Enter Grey Trace, played by Logan Marshall Green, an unapologetic stick-in-the-mud who ekes out a living by repairing and restoring muscle cars for the rich and famous).  He’s the kinda guy who when his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) suggests they order a pizza, suggests they make it themselves from scratch instead.
Asha works for a company that makes advanced prosthetics for combat veterans. Their worlds are far apart, but she means the world to Grey. Or she does until the moment she’s shot in the head by a group of anonymous mercenaries who leave Trace paralyzed and without a clue as to their motive.
Three month after the attack, Grey goes home to an entirely different situation. This once proud “hands-on” man is incapable of doing anything for himself and is completely at the mercy of techno-nurses to cater to his every whim . . . a living nightmare. Especially as the police haven’t managed to get any further in the hunt for his wife’s killers.
However, it appears good fortune is about to shine on Grey’s gloomy world. It just so happens his last job was for a reclusive technological genius named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson). Eron has a brand new invention: STEM, a cybernetic implant capable of reconnecting the nerves in Grey’s spine and – as Grey is shocked to discover – can not only speak directly into his brain, but enhance his autonomous and motor functions as well.
Alas, Grey has to be careful. Nobody can know he got this technology inside him. And it’s here that Upgrade starts to turn dark. You see, Logan Marshall Green portrays a man who has sunk into a pit of despair remarkably well. You really do feel for him as he seethes in a pit of boiling rage at his helplessness to do anything to right a terrible wrong. It’s no wonder, then, that he succumbs to the lure of what Stem’s other enhancements can offer, by accepting its help to hunt his wife’s assailants.
The thing is, once activated, Stem is capable of acting independently of Grey’s will, and it goes on a martial arts ninja rampage while Grey – who is a decent guy – can only watch, aghast, as people are torn limb from limb in front of him by his own hands. Logan Marshall Green sells this aspect perfectly, with just the right balance of grim satisfaction at seeing the bad guys get it, and macabre repulsion at what he is capable of doing to another human being. And the one liners . . . ? Outstanding!
Inevitably, things start to snowball away from Grey and the noose tightens.

And that’s when Whannell plays his trump card. Upgrade has the ending of a quality whodunnit, concluding its narrative on a high, and catching you completely by surprise. I’m sure I’m not the only one to think, “Did I really just see that?”


Bravo – an upgrade of a move to what’s out there at the moment.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Take a Bite From This Week's Thoughts On. . .


New Moon Rising

I’ve been a fan of Samantha Moon for some years now. In an overused genre swamped with blood, J. R. Rain has managed to inject a fresh perspective into the world of vampires that carries a recognizable familiarity that appeals to us all. Samantha Moon is a devoted mom and wife; family means everything to her; her work as a Federal Agent at HUD is a somewhat humdrum affair, but hey, it brings in a steady income while her husband’s new business is finding its feet. She leads a normal life. One that’s instantly relatable. And if anything threatens the sanctity of that world, watch out, for she’s a kick-ass, pint-sized package if she has to be.

You could say, “life is good” for Samantha Moon. She’s on the track of a gang of criminals taking advantage of those in need; she survives being shot at twice within the space of a few days; everyone at work and at home has her back . . . It’s almost as if she has a guardian angel watching out for her to ensure life doesn’t get too hectic.

Well, here at last is the story describing the night her life – or is that unlife – was changed forever. Watch out underworld . . . of the criminal and paranormal variety. Things are about to get interesting.
An amusing, fast-paced little drama with bite!




Let Me In

Let Me In tells the story from the perspective of twelve-year old Owen, a boy who is relentlessly picked on at school and neglected at home as his parents are going through the process of a divorce. Desperately lonely, he spends his time plotting revenge on his middle school tormentors and during the evenings, spies on his neighbors living in nearby apartments.
A dark and moody film, Let Me In is disturbing as it portrays the very real rage and frustration youngsters can feel at being isolated. He’s easy bait for the bullies and compensates on this helplessness by shutting himself away in his room to stuff on candy and spy on the neighbors, living out a series of sadistic serial-killer fantasies in front of the mirror. In particular, he’ll brandish a knife at his reflection and hiss, “Are you scared little girl?”  (Which is what the thugs say to him in the locker rooms).

A poetic setting of the stage, for a little girl does arrive in Owen’s life: Abby – who moves in next door into an equally shabby apartment – with her single guardian.
Abby is eerily self-possessed, and despite the fact she initially tells him they can’t be friends, the two form a unique bond. When Abby's father disappears, she is left to fend for herself. Attracted to her circumstances, Owen offers to help and is still rebuffed, leading him to think she’s hiding an unthinkable secret.

She is, of course, and as the story continues, the two become allies, determined to protect each other at all costs. Trust is implicit . . . or so you think, for the film reveals Abby is a skilled manipulator – and  Own is letting himself in for a whole world of woe!

A mesmerizing performance by both youngsters, creating an intensity and sensitivity sorely lacking in other films of this genre.
In my opinion - One of the best Vampire films you will ever see!