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Friday, December 14, 2018

My Thoughts On...


The Book of Life
It begins with a discovery of witches.

What happens when a constitution established centuries ago – one designed to protect its subjects – is in fact responsible for doing the opposite?
What happens if the bedrock upon which such a constitution was built isn’t one of unity in the face of adversity, but segregation and prejudice?
And what happens when a covenant promoted as a nurturing agent actually contributes to a decline, both in proclivity and power?

Find out as Diana and Matthew face these hurdles and more in the face of relentless adversity.
It began with absence and desire.
It began with blood and fear.
One thing’s for sure, the Book of Life isn’t what everyone thinks it is, for it is catalyst of endings; a medium through which new beginnings might be forged; and a harbinger of change. And only by applying what witches discovered long, long ago, can a new age be ushered in.

An outstanding conclusion to a stunning story. You won’t be disappointed.



Penny Dreadful - Seasons 1 - 3

If you only ever get to see one supernatural period drama, then Penny Dreadful is an absolute must. A sterling cast – where the interaction among the characters creates explosive chemistry – the superbly atmospheric mood; an excellent backstory; skillfully introduced plot lines. You know you’re in for a seductive treat from the word go.
The production and period values are outstanding, as is the cast. What I particularly loved was the way creator John Logan manages to steer the arc away from a purely “horror by the Thames” toward the internal demons that haunt and drive each member of the cast. Outstanding!
A legendary masterpiece.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

This Week, I Have Been Enjoying...


The MechMen of Canis-9
This time our adventure finds your favorite starheads; Master Sergeant Seamus O’Hara; Gunnery Sergeant Fernando Cortez; and Gunnery Sergeant Claudia Akira, on a secret mission to a forbidden planet: Canis 9 – closed to all forms of exploration and colonization.
Why? Nobody will say.
The reason for their mission? Classified.
SOPs? They’ll find out en route.
Security is tight. Despite this, treachery abounds and the mission is doomed from the moment they set out. Stranded on an alien world and cut off from civilization, what do our heroes do?
What they do best: Semper fi!
With subtle tributes to Vietnam vets and Starship Troopers threaded throughout the narrative, this is a thoroughly entertaining, action packed romp that pits our friends against a hostile environment, megalomaniacs hell-bent on world domination, and mysteries to confound the senses. One thing’s for sure. Not everyone will come back!
Great fun. Enjoy it before you ship out on your next mission.



The Predator
I’ve been a fan of the Predator ever since it first hit the big screen back in 1987. And though there have been some ups and downs in its journey, the franchise had managed to retain its popularity with a bit of inventive tweaking here, and quite frankly, a spot of genius there. (AvP – an absolute gem)
This latest outing lies somewhere in between. Straight into the action; a clever twist to the ongoing story line; a slightly deeper understanding of what’s going on in the Yautja society . . . spoilt by a predictable plot, a needless reliance on comedy, and tedious bloodletting.
While it’s entertaining – to a degree, it lacks the suspense of the original. The buildup and the inevitable “BAM you’re dead!” After the initial slaughter in the lab, you overlook the fact that there’s supposed to be a remorseless killer on the loose, and end up being sidelined by the good guys v government bad guys scenario. A shame, the potential simmers just beneath the surface just waiting to be unleashed.
Hopefully the powers-that-be will do just that in the inevitable sequel.

Friday, November 23, 2018

This Week's Review of...


Shadow of Night
There’s nothing quite like it when an extraordinary story takes you by surprise. And this second book in the All Souls trilogy does just that.
In a world where witches, daemons and vampires struggle to maintain a fragile balance, Diana and Matthew must travel further than they ever realized in an effort to unravel the secrets of a manuscript they hope contains the answers to their prayers.

But what happens when what they’ve striven for must be relinquished?

Yes, Diana discovers who and what she is and must adjust to the weighty responsibilities that revelation brings, for she is a bridge between worlds; between light and dark; between life and death itself, and the future rests on her finding something that has eluded her thus far . . . balance.
A most enjoyable sequel to an already excellent story.



Alias Grace

Based on the award-winning novel by Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace tells the story of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a young, poor Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who - along with stable hand James McDermott (Kerr Logan) - is accused and convicted of the infamous 1843 double murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross), and his housekeeper/lover, Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin).
Following the trial, McDermott was hanged and Marks was sentenced to life imprisonment. End of story . . . or so you think.
Because of her exemplary behavior, Grace is allowed out every day to serve in the house of the prison governor. Her case comes to the attention of a committee of gentlemen and ladies from the Methodist church, who – led by the minister – hopes to have her pardoned and released. The thing is, Grace is adamant she cannot remember what happened on the day of the murders, and exhibits symptoms of hysteria. On the basis of this, the minister hires Dr. Simon Jordan, a psychiatrist, to interview her, hoping he will find her to be a hysteric, and not a criminal.
Much of what you see takes place in flashback, and portrays the harshness of the times, for you see life through the eyes of an abused young girl who quickly grows to become a woman beset by demons. Those caused by the era in which she lives, in which females are nothing but chattel; those created by an upper class who despise and look down on those who serve them. And of course, the very real horror of how simple it is to be caught up in events that can impact your life forever.
Alias Grace is both compelling and at times disquieting. It’s colorfully portrayed, yet captures a solemnity that reminds you the lower class lived at the whim of their “betters.” But most of all, you witness the personal demons of a young woman who is elusive with the truth, while portraying an innocence that is disarming.
I shan’t say more, other than it is one of the best period dramas I’ve seen . . . (And my wife loved it too!) Therefore – Highly recommended.

Friday, November 9, 2018

My Thoughts On. . .


Containment
In this follow-up to “Convergence”, we catch up with Solstice Winters – elf extraordinaire and intrepid reporter for “The Spiritualist” – after she finds herself stranded in Russia following her escape from the clutches of the OSA (Ordo Sanguinem Aeternam).
The thing is, she can’t simply pack her meager belongings and go home. Not with so many dangerous numina running loose in the streets. And now the cat’s out of the bag about her origins, well . . . she has to set an example that not everyone or everything from the Echo are all that bad.
Thus begins an adventure that ends up dragging her deeper and deeper into a murky magical mire. Thankfully, she’s not alone, and manages to keep her head above water with the help of some amazing friends, a talking cat, and a character straight out of history.
As before, great fun – engaging dialogue – adult humor – and lots of action make this an appealing story that I’m sure most readers will relate to. I know I’m looking forward to the next installment.
Winter’s Coming. . . ?



Deadpool 2
Witty one-liners. Below the belt gems. Narratively sharp. Cruelly sadistic and irreverent. Superbly choreographed fight scenes. Telegraphed clangers that you know are coming but love when they eventually hit you full in the face. I cried . . . and absolutely loved the character of Domino, whose super power of "good luck" just so happens to outshine everyone else’s.
And in among the nonstop action and humor, a superbly crafted emotional tearjerker of a moment.
Best of all, Deadpool isn’t afraid to laugh at itself. A must-see extravaganza of fun.

And the additional scenes at the end? Pure genius.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

This Week's Review of. . .


A Discovery of Witches
It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches.

What those words mean remains a mystery as you journey ever deeper through a cleverly constructed world of intrigue and wonder. One where vampires prowl the shadows through the centuries, daemons influence the outcome of history, and witches hide away in plain sight.

Always with us – always separate, the creatures hold to an uneasy, millennia old covenant that teeters on the brink of collapse. And the discovery of a long lost text by a young witch who has shunned her heritage threatens to trigger a war the likes of which will change mankind forever. . .

I have to say, having seen only several episodes of the TV series, I purchased the books. A wise choice, for the depth of background history and foundation added by the creator’s original ideas are spellbinding. It’s superbly written too, and details the struggle of two people falling in love against centuries of tradition prohibiting any form of dalliance with “the enemy.”

In a nutshell – THIS is a quality work you’ll quickly become immersed in. Outstanding!



The Alienist


The Alienist is an American period drama television series based on the novel of the same name by Caleb Carr. The series stars Daniel Brühl (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler), Luke Evans (John Moore), and Dakota Fanning (Sara Howard), as an ad hoc team assembled in mid-1890s New York City to investigate a serial killer who is murdering street children. The series incorporates fact with fiction by including characters that are historical figures, such as Theodore Roosevelt, who held the post of police commissioner from 1895 to 1897.
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When a series of gruesome murders of boy prostitutes grips New York City, newly appointed police commissioner Roosevelt calls upon Dr. Laszlo Kreizler – a criminal psychologist and John Moore a newspaper illustrator – to conduct the investigation in secret. Joining them is Sara Howard, the first woman to work for the police department as secretary to the commissioner, as well as the Jewish twin brothers, detective sergeants Marcus and Lucius Isaacson.
Needless to say, the team meets stiff opposition from the majority of officers within the NYPD, primarily from Captain Connor and the recently retired Chief Byrnes, both of whom are more committed to protecting the reputations of New York's high society than they are to finding the architects behind the crimes.
Overall, I found the Alienist to be a rather entertaining, breathtakingly gruesome murder–mystery possessing a brooding intensity and a complex narrative. The contrast between the exaggerated gentility with which the denizens of 1890s America address one another and the casual savagery of their everyday existence worked wonders. The actors certainly do their jobs too: Daniel Brühl portrays a haunted, painfully introverted and aloof man with an irritating arrogance that demeans the brilliance of his insights. Luke Evans is equally annoying, displaying the foibles of his character superbly, while retaining a loyalty to his friends that put the rest to shame. But it’s Dakota Fanning who shines in my opinion. She’s patient, sharp, strong and brave, while displaying a vulnerability that helps you appreciate the uphill struggle women must have faced to get themselves recognized in a man’s world. The cheapness of life is revealed in all its glory, along with the corruption that ate away at the soul of a burgeoning city.
Excellent stuff, spoilt only by the last 15 minutes or so. I won’t ruin it for you by revealing why here, but I felt a fabulous series and surefire winner fell at the very last hurdle because of its lackluster ending. “Anticlimax” doesn’t describe the injustice.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Something for the weekends . . . 
Until Christmas?


Do you need a holiday shopping hand this year?

I've teamed up with over forty-five award winning/bestselling authors to bring you the ultimate holiday gift selection for any book lover. The best part: it's an online store.

So, click the link and scroll away. Not only can you do some holiday shopping, you might even find a few books to enjoy yourself.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

My Thoughts on. . .



Tales From Alternate Earths 2
“Imagine a world where...”

How often a really good adventure has started with those words. Well, in “Tales From Alternate Earths 2” we have a selection of stories that do just that, bring us the “what if” history – reality – folklore and myth had turned out that little bit differently. In doing so, we are presented with a medley of philosophical and moral dilemmas that make you realize, “Wow, I never thought about that!”
Some are clever, witty and amusing; others, poignantly insightful. A few, downright disturbing and provocative . . . and all the more so when you appreciate that all it would have taken for those alternate realities to exist is a little pinch of circumstance here or a twist of fate there.

Overall, an entertaining collection of alternative realities you need to experience.




Ozark
The latest series of Netflix's gritty Missouri-based crime drama – Ozark – is back with a darker and much stronger attitude permeating the script. Needless to say, events soon force the money-laundering Byrde family to the brink of collapse, as they struggle to not only cope, but also survive in a criminal underworld filled with drug cartels, deranged hillbillies, crooked government agents, and narcissistic politicians.

Picking up where last season left off, Marty and Wendy Byrde continue to try and hold their heads above the water while navigating as safe a course as possible with a remorseless drug cartel on their backs. The thing is, they don’t just expect Marty to launder money for them, he’s now got to build them a casino too. Because of this, season two sees Marty working much closer with the Snells – gun-toting rednecks who own the land on which the casino will be built. They epitomize all that can go wrong, for they demand allegiance, respect and “making bank” above all else. Oh, and they murdered one of the cartel’s leading generals at the end of last season . . . so don’t expect things to go any smoother this time around.

A recipe for disaster?  It sure is, especially with the addition of a formidable threat in the form of the cartel's top lawyer, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer) who watches their every move. The Byrdes’ children, Jonah (Skylar Gartner) and his sister Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) develop their own arcs. A sensitive little boy, Jonah goes on to reveals a talent for following in his father’s footsteps in a rather ingenious way – you’ll see. His sister, however, becomes something of an aggravating pain in the ass, whose behavior starts putting the entire family in danger.
Marty reacts in his usual stoic way, bottling everything away while juggling million-and-one pieces of an every increasingly unstable jigsaw. Of course, he starts to crack. Step in Wendy, who manages to take charge of an increasingly erratic situation. Drawing on her experiences as a political campaigner back in Chicago, she skillfully manipulates local kingpin Charles Wilkes into exercising his influence on the Missouri movers and shakers.

It’s true to say that successful shows can often stumble with the difficult second season. But not here. Ozark has remained spellbinding thanks to some fresh new faces on the lake, and Wilkes is one of them. Nevertheless, its Janet McTeer’s vicious portrayal of Helen Pierce who stands out in my book. Sweeping in and out of everyone’s lives, her clinically cold and callous application of simple cartel logic helps her cut through all the crap the Byrde’s have managed to surround themselves in, to lay down the law and steer them toward the only course open to them if they want to stay alive.
And as you’ll see, she is ruthless. Not everyone survives this second season!

An outstanding, captivating and vivid story that keeps you glued from start to finish. And even better, the acting is so good, it makes you feel as if all the melodrama and bloodshed is eerily plausible.

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 naïve 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.