Friday, February 24, 2017

Stuff I Watched Since Last Time 👽💟

The title says it all.

Arrival:  Like I said on Facebook, a lot of movies don't really hold my interest.  You know, after a half hour or so I get on my phone to check Facebook and Twitter and stuff.  I did once or twice early on but the rest of the time I actually watched the movie because I wanted to try to figure out what was going on.  Like Independence Day, a bunch of alien ships show up and park over parts of the Earth, though not really major cities and they seemingly have no ill intent.  Amy Adams is a linguist who signs up to visit the "heptapods" (called that for their seven feet) and try to decipher their language.  Interspersed with this are flashes to a child of hers who ends up dying as a teenager from a rare disease.  The two things are connected and it's pretty simple:  all you have to do is figure out the timing of those flashes.  The way they're presented makes it seem like they're flashbacks, but (spoiler) they aren't.  It's all sort of like Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen, which probably does most people no good whatsoever.  Anyway, Adams gives a very good low-key performance and Jeremy Renner is at least passable as a fellow scientist.  If you like sci-fi that isn't too hard or too space opera-y then this is a good choice. (4/5)  (Fun Fact: In part thanks to this movie, director Denis Villaneuve got to replace Ridley Scott in the director's chair for the Blade Runner sequel.)

The Girl on the Train:  I haven't read the book people were all ga-ga about a couple years ago, which of course had to be turned into a movie.  This movie is decent.  There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing even if the whole "husband having an affair with the au pair" thing is cliche.  Emily Blunt is the eponymous "girl" who used to live in a small town but now passes through it on a train to New York.  She sees a young woman kissing someone who isn't her husband.  Later that woman goes missing and then is found dead and the "girl" has to try search her alcohol-fogged memory to figure things out.  A little slow but otherwise not bad. (3/5)  (Fun Fact:  This follows the pattern of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "Gone Girl" of mystery thrillers about "girls.")

Swiss Army Man:  Hank (Paul Dano) is lost in a California forest.  About to hang himself, he sees a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) wash up on the shore.  The body seems to come to life and develops superpowers like being able to spit rocks like a machine gun or fart like a jet engine.  And when aroused the corpse's penis points the way to civilization, so Hank pretends to be a girl on the screen of a phone and they reenact a whole love affair by making a fake bus, fake movie theater, and fake cafe.  As you might have guessed, it's a pretty weird movie but it's also hilarious--unless you don't like jokes about poop and farts.  That's why I couldn't imagine it getting any awards show love despite that both actors are terrific.  Really, isn't it time Paul Dano got a more high-profile gig? (4/5) (Fun Fact:  This movie's posters and such list the director as "Daniels" because it's directed by two guys named Daniel, neither of whom has the surname Radcliffe.)

The Last Shark:  This Italian-made mockbuster of Jaws from the late 70s (or early 80s) is pretty lame, but still better than Sharknado.  Like that much better movie, a great white shark terrorizes a small town, only this is during their wind surfing regatta--because that's a thing.  It's only about 90 minutes but seems about twice that as stupid people keep trying to lure the shark with meat and then unsuccessfully killing it until of course someone does.  When the shark blows up it's so incredibly cheesy.  People say how much better "practical effects" are vs CGI but practical effects like these are much worse than the corny CGI in Sharknado.  I mean, you can so tell it's a model and other times you can tell they're using stock footage or a miniature shark in a tub or something.  Even the Rifftrax crew could not make this overly interesting. (1/5)

Nightmare at Noon:  An Albino and henchmen from the government agency APE poison a small town's water supply for...reasons.  The poison makes people bleed green and turn super-aggressive.  A hitchhiker, whiny out of town lawyer, and frail George Kennedy awkwardly do battle against the poisoned people and henchmen.  Most of it makes absolutely no sense, starting with the title because really nothing seems to happen at noon.  The end gave me deja vu so I might have seen it before late at night or something, but this was another Rifftrax title.  (2/5)  (Fun Fact:  The soundtrack was co-created by Hans Zimmer, the guy who's done like every big movie soundtrack for the last 17 years.  I guess we all have to start somewhere, right?)  (Fun Speculation:  You think Rick Snyder watched this and thought it'd be a great idea to use on the people of Flint?)

Beast of the Yellow Moon:  Somewhere in Southeast Asia a dead guy gets a new life thanks to a chubby demon and then sometimes the guy turns into a really crappy-looking sorta werewolf, sorta gray Incredible Hulk thing and kills people for no reason.  Or whatever.  This nonsensical plot is spiced up by the Rifftrax crew. (2/5)

Swamp of the Ravens:  A movie so bad they couldn't even get actual ravens for the swamp!  The birds in the swamp are buzzards, not ravens.  I mean come on, I've seen Game of Thrones; I know what a raven looks like.  Anyway, there's some weird Frankenstein wanna-be who keeps trying to bring people back and throwing them in the swamp.  Completely unwatchable if not for the Rifftrax crew. (2/5)

Supersonic Man:  This late 70s movie from...Spain?  Italy?  Brazil?...whatever is a mockbuster of Superman, though it has more in common with Flash Gordon or that really lame 70s Captain America movie. The Wonder Woman and Incredible Hulk TV shows look like The Dark Knight compared to this cheesy production featuring a superhero whose main power seems to be not being able to lower his arms to his sides.  There's even one of those 50s-era boxy automatons to menace the hero, whose catch phrase is "May the force of the galaxies be with me."  Hmmm, I seem to have heard that somewhere before.  The bad guy looks like he stole William Shatner's toupe.  It was all hilariously bad thanks to the Rifftrax treatment.  (2/5)

Prisoners of the Lost Universe:  The recently deceased Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica fame starred in this much-less successful film about a mad scientist and two hapless strangers who are beamed to a parallel dimension sort of like Narnia, only without the Christianity or any wit or charm. It's one of those movies that can't make up its mind if it wants to be serious or a farce, alternating between brutal near-rape scenes and cartoon sound effects.  It would probably be better if all copies of this were prisoners in a lost universe.  This was of course another Rifftrax covered movie. (2/5)

Wonder Women:  This has nothing to do with the DC Comics character.  It's an extremely cheap and corny movie from 1973 where an evil mad scientist (a female one, yay equality!) and her army of hot chicks kidnaps a bunch of athletes for brain transplant experiments, an extremely lame secret agent is sent in to stop them.  Featuring some of the most terrible fight choreography, the most boring car chase ever, and gobs of casual sexism, this is like an Austin Powers movie only unintentionally campy and idiotic..  But at least there are some boobs--and not just the Rifftrax guys making jokes. Boom! (2.5/5)

Octopussy:  Sadly this was not a Rifftrax movie.  I hadn't watched the Roger Moore Bond films; sometimes they would be on Amazon Prime and then they'd disappear, but now they reappeared so I watched one.  Ugh, it's so cheesy.  Most of the dialogue is lame puns and Roger Moore looks so old that you can see why this was the penultimate one featuring him--at least I think it was.  Anyway, it drones on for about 2 freaking hours.  (1/5)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trivia Challenge Answer #7

The question was what sense Max lost as a child in Higher Power

And the answer was...C, Sight!

Max went blind as a child, but like Matt Murdoch in Daredevil he gained a new sense to make up for it.  In this case it's the weird Freddy Kruger-like ability to see and manipulate the dreams of those around him.  It might sound cool, but it turns out horribly for him as a kid when his parents actually die in a nightmare gone wrong.  So then he goes into an institution for 20 years until overcrowding and budget cuts put him back in the world.

Cindy was the only one to answer the question so she's up to 33 points and Chris Dilloway still has 14.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Trivia Challenge Question #7

OK, so here's the question:

In Higher Power, Max loses which of his senses as a child?

A.  Taste
B.  Hearing
C.  Sight
D.  Smelling

Answer in the comments.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Making America Great Again: A Review of "Where to Invade Next"

Michael Moore's latest theatrical film was released at the beginning of 2016, before Trump mania really took hold.  Watching it in 2017, as Trump and Republicans begin their dismantling of America, this film is especially relevant.  The title isn't really about military invasions; it's about taking ideas from other countries that have worked much better than what we're doing here.  Maybe if Hillary had adopted this as her platform she'd have done better in "the heartland"--or not.

Moore travels to much of Western Europe and Tunisia to discuss some ideas that have worked in those different countries compared to what we do in America.  And in the process I guess he got to write off a nice European vacation.

Italy:  Italian workers get 8 weeks of paid vacation.  That's right, 2 months of paid vacation!  Plus they get paid for two months in December.  They also get 5 months for maternity leave.  Their lunch hour is 2 hours long!  Why?  Because management is willing to sacrifice a little in profit for a happier, healthier workforce.  And Italy's productivity is actually a little better than ours!  The average Italian also lives 4 years longer than the average America.  It's actually funny when Moore tells an Italian couple how much paid vacation most Americans get--none--and their faces are just WTF?!  Yeah, really.  How bizarre.

Germany:  The German work week is only 36 hours but they get paid for 40.  The day usually ends around 2-2:30 in the afternoon.  By law employers can't call or send emails to workers when they are not present.  To help make sure management works in the interest of workers, half of a company's board is made up of workers.  In the schools, they actually study the Holocaust and Nazis, not minimizing it like we do with our treatment of Native Americans and slaves.  Later Moore returns to Berlin to the Berlin Wall.  He and a friend from Michigan were actually in Berlin to help bring the wall down; there's footage of the friend dancing on the top of the wall.  It's a good reminder for those wanting to build a wall with Mexico that this wall lasted less than 30 years.

France:  Going to American public schools, your lunch was usually pizza or sloppy Joes or something like that.  In France, even districts in poorer neighborhoods they have real chefs making healthy, four-course meals every day.  Really they look like something you'd get at a nice restaurant.  And this is standard!  It wasn't like a special day or anything.  He shows the kids some of the meals from a school in Boston and they are completely grossed out--with good reason.  They have real sex ed countries there too.  When Moore suggests abstinence as an alternative the whole class laughs at the notion.

Finland:  When you think who has the best schools, you might think it'd be America or Japan or Germany or somewhere like that.  Nope, it's Finland!  Yeah, Finland.  So they must have tons of homework, right?  Nope.  No homework.  Then they must study all the time, right?  Nope.  They only have 3-4 hour school days.  There are no standardized tests either.  Kids who have been exchange students to America can't believe the difference.

Slovenia (Not Slovakia):  In Slovenia college is free.  Because of this even some Americans have moved to Slovenia to take part of it.

Portugal:  In Portugal drug possession is no longer a crime.  Are drugs a huge problem then?  Quite the opposite.  They also don't have a death penalty; a couple of cops pleaded to the camera to repeal the death penalty in America.

Norway:  Norwegian prisons vary from like a summer camp to like a college dorm.  There are few guards and they don't carry guns.  Inmates have their own rooms and have the key to it.  Convicted killers work in the kitchen with knives!  So shouldn't there be tons of escapes and riots, right?  Nope.  Turns out when you don't treat prisoners as animals they don't act like animals.  Whoa! In 2011 a homegrown terrorist (not a Muslim either) killed 54 people, but instead of going to war and passing a Patriot Act, the country rallied together to heal.  Even a father of one of the victims didn't wish to kill the terrorist or arm everyone with guns.

Tunisia:  Tunisia is in Northern Africa and is predominantly Muslim.  Yet they legalized abortion the same year as the United States.  Like France they preach education and prevention, not abstinence.  After the tyrannical government fell in 2014, women took to the streets and got an equal rights amendment passed.

Iceland:  Speaking of women in government, Iceland was one of the first countries with a female president in 1980.  When the banks crashed in 2014, the only one that didn't crash was a bank run by women.  A prosecutor brought in an American who successfully prosecuted bankers in the Savings & Loan scandal of the late 80s and they put the bankers behind the crash in prison far, far away from the public.  And it didn't take them a decade to bounce back either.

The sad thing about all of this?  Most of these are AMERICAN ideas!  The problem is we've let our thinking be corrupted with fear and hatred.  We have this idea that we have to work, work, work until we die or we're lazy and no good.  Because we have to work all the time we need kids in school to babysit them and to keep them out of trouble they need tons of homework to pass those pointless standardized tests.  We need to stuff prisoners in cells and treat them like animals; then we wonder why they act like animals during and after they get out.  And we can't prosecute banks or put women in charge.  That's just terrible!

Even sadder is that all of these ideas are based on treating people decently and fairly.  For some reason this has become a radical idea.  Sad!

Now I know a lot of people would say:  but if we adopt this stuff our taxes would have to go up!  Yes, they would, but here's the way to think of it.  Imagine you're buying an airline ticket from New York to Los Angeles.

Ticket A:  A cut-rate airline like Spirit or Jet Blue.  Your base fare is only $150.  But then it's $25 to choose a seat, $25 to put a bag in the overhead bin, $25 to check a bag, $10 for a meal, $10 for using WiFi, etc etc until that $150 ticket is actually costing you about $500.

Ticket B:  A better airline (if such exist) where your base far is $300 but you get the overhead bin, checking a bag, meals, WiFi all included in the price.

Our current system is like Ticket A:  we pay less in taxes but because we have to pay for our own healthcare, college, and so forth we end up actually paying more than people in European countries who have higher taxes but like with Ticket B aren't getting nickel-and-dimed all over the place..  (Plus we have that humongous national debt.)

On the whole this is one of Moore's best films.  It's a lot more focused than some of his previous ones.  Not really any of the silly stunts other than handing foreigners an American flag after "invading" their country.  It's not even all that partisan though of course Republicans would still hate it.

I was thinking the other day that really the best way to describe socialism to someone is it's like putting us all in a labor union that's run by the government.  I mean for 13 years I was in a labor union and we had a lot of the perks of Italian and German workers:  paid holidays, paid vacation, paid maternity leave, shorter hours, and fully-funded health care.  It's not all great but it's a lot better than not having any benefits, which is how it is for a lot of us.  Of course since Republicans and their corporate lobbyists have scared a lot of people on unions I don't suppose that would be a comf

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trivia Challenge Answer #6

The question was:  in Virgin Territory, what does Gary Sinclair name the amnesiac woman he finds on a beach?  Andrea?  Betty?  Carrie?  Donna?

And the answer was...A, Andrea.  That was the name of his ex-fiancee and since she looks a little like her, that's the name he uses.  Was there any special inspiration for that name in real life?  No, not really.   Sorry.

Cindy buzzed in first to bring her total to 28 points. Christopher Dilloway has half that with 14.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trivia Challenge Question #6

Valentine's Day is tomorrow, so here's a question from one of my more romantic books.

In Virgin Territory, Gary Sinclair finds a woman washed up on the beach.  Since she has no memory, he names her after his ex-fiancee who was named...

A.  Andrea
B.  Betty
C.  Carrie
D.  Donna

Friday, February 10, 2017

A 30-Year-Old Virgin and More in Stuff I Watched!🎬😍

The stuff I watched since the last time!

The Late Bloomer:  A 30-year-old sex therapist has never even had an erection, let alone had sex with someone.  After a night out, he finds out that the reason for this is a tumor in his brain has kept testosterone from flowing through his body, essentially arresting him in prepubescence.  When the tumor is removed, all the sudden he starts going through puberty with the sexual urges, pimples, changing voice, and all that stuff. (And though they can't show it presumably his privates have gotten bigger.)  This complicates things at his practice and with the girl he's seeing.  It's mostly funny and occasionally poignant. (3.5/5)  (Fun Fact:  My books The Changing Seasons and Virgin Territory deal with a similar condition.)

The Accountant:  I'd wanted to see this for a while just for the irony, being an accountant and all.  Overall the movie is too long with too much going on that doesn't all really add up unless maybe you're like Ben Affleck in the movie.  He's an accountant who also kills people for money or expensive paintings.  He takes a job in Chicago to analyze a robotics company's books and in a single night does a whole Beautiful Mind thing on the windows to figure out some of what's going on with their books.  There's also a girl he takes on the run when other killers (led by Jon Bernthal) come after them.  There's also a lot of stuff with two IRS agents led by JK Simmons that doesn't really contribute a whole lot to the overall story.  It's the kind of movie that would be better if it were about 30 minutes shorter with some of the unnecessary backstory trimmed out. (2.5/5)  (Fun Facts:  Affleck and JK Simmons are going to be appearing in several movies together now that one is playing Batman and the other Commissioner Gordon.  Since you also have Bernthal who's the Punisher now, wouldn't that be a far more interesting movie?  Batman v Punisher:  Lots of Shit Dies.  But you'd have to cross Marvel and DC universes and God forbid we do something cool like that.  Also, the movie is executive produced by Steven Mnuchin, the weasel Trump tapped to be Secretary of Treasury, which seems kind of ironic.)

House of Wax (2005):  I never saw the original of this but this updated version wasn't very good.  It starts with the cliche "our car broke down in a creepy place populated by weirdos who want to kill us" shtick.  In this case the weirdos are rednecks whose mother was trying to build an entire town out of wax and so her spawn have been turning real people into wax sculptures to populate it.  One thing I wondered at the end was whether you could really make a multi-level building out of wax.  I guess wax doesn't usually melt until about 200 degrees, but how load-bearing is it?  I mean, wouldn't you need something for a frame around the wax?  I just put more thought into that than the writers did.  The writers are so lame they couldn't even work Paris Hilton's "that's hot" catchphrase into her dialog.  It's like Arnold Schwarzenegger not saying "I'll be back." Lame. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  This movie kept disappearing and reappearing from my Netflix queue for like 5 years so I finally got around to watching it.)

SWAT:  Firefight:  This lame straight-to-video sequel to the forgettable SWAT movie has an LA SWAT guy go to Detroit (actually Detroit, not Canada or something) to train Detroit's SWAT team and get them Federally certified.  But then they piss off some government spook by not stopping his girlfriend from killing herself or something and he tries to kill them.  It was pretty lame. (1/5)

The Invisible Man Returns:  This sequel to the original Invisible Man has Vincent Price play the brother to the Claude Rains character from the old movie.  He's accused of murder and so a doctor friend gives him the invisible man serum so he can get out and prove his innocence.  At least that's what I thought it was about.  It was pretty boring. (1/5)

I.T.:  Pierce Brosnan is a private jet company CEO planning to expand.  When a presentation goes awry he asks an IT temp for help and soon the temp is stalking him and his family, largely through their "smart house" systems and phones.  He even records the daughter flicking her bean in the shower if you know what I mean.  Since the daughter is 17 it's kind of creepy. Other than the smart house and phone aspect it's not really anything you haven't seen in other stalker movies before.  (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  In a Simpsons Halloween episode segment about 18 years ago Pierce Brosnan voiced a smart house that went rogue and fell in love with Marge and tried to kill Homer.)

Without a Paddle:  A guy dies and his 3 childhood friends (Matthew Lillard, Dax Sheppard, and Seth Green) decide to undertake the trip to find DB Cooper's stolen money that he always wanted to go on.  Then they're chased by bears and rednecks and so forth.  There could have been a good movie in there about the buddies reconnecting and growing up if the movie had decided to go in a more mature route instead of slapstick and poop humor. (1.5/5) (Fun Fact:  Pretty much all the main characters in the movie have guest starred on Seth Green's Robot Chicken at some point.)

Gridlocked:  A New York cop gets teamed up with a movie star who got in trouble for assault.  And then they go to some secret prison (or something) with some other people and then bad guys show up.  Like a Die Hard movie the bad guys are really just after cash.  It was all pretty boring but I'll give them a point for when Danny Glover says, "I knew I was too old for this shit" which is of course a reference to the Lethal Weapon movies. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  Star Dominic Purcell and bad guy Vinnie Jones look so much alike that I couldn't tell them apart when they fought.  Also they were both villains on CW superhero shows, Purcell on The Flash/Legends of Tomorrow and Jones in Arrow.)

Jane Got a Gun:  In New Mexico in 1871 a woman's life is interrupted when her husband comes back badly wounded thanks to a gang of bad dudes.  She meets up with a former fiance and they fix up the house for a last stand.  Flashbacks help to fill in the time and establish the love triangle.  As far as Westerns go it's OK but not great. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  Ewan MacGregor is unrecognizable as the head bad guy.  He reunites with Natalie Portman from the Star Wars prequels.)

The Hateful Eight:  I don't really like Quentin Tarantino movies but I've watched most of them.  This is the 8th one I guess and like Django Unchained it takes place in the late 19th Century.  A bounty hunter is taking a woman to Red Rock, Wyoming to hang, though he could have saved us all about 3 hours if he'd just killed her.  I mean the reward is "Dead or Alive" so it's the same either way, but it's some kind of point of honor with him.  Anyway, there's a blizzard and they have to stop at a "haberdashery" or inn, where there are some other people.  And then people start dying and secrets are revealed.  It all moves at a snail's pace, with lots of excess blabbing because critics told Tarantino he's good at dialogue.  There's also an excessive amount of blood and gore to make this akin to a torture porn movie.  For some reason there's a narrator after about 90 minutes, which really makes no sense.  Cut it about in half and it would be OK. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  Appropriately this features actors from several of Tarantino's other movies:  Samuel L Jackson of course has been in almost all of them, but also Michael Madsen from Reservoir Dogs, Tim Roth from Pulp Fiction, and Kurt Russell from Deathproof.  Maybe some of the others were in other Tarantino movies but I'm not going to bother to look it all up.)

Spawn:  I've seen it before but not since I read the first volumes of comic books and watched the HBO show.  From those I guess it would have been hard to do something like that since they spent a lot of time navel-gazing in those.  This tries to be more action-oriented but the plot makes little sense, John Leguizamo is painfully irritating, and the effects look really lame.  I guess maybe at some point they'll take another crack at it, though I guess right now it's in "development hell," which seems appropriate for a hero from Hell.  (2/5) (Fun Fact:  Frank Welker, the voice of Megatron in the Transformers cartoon, Dr. Claw in Inspector Gadget, and tons of other stuff is the voice of Malebolgia the devil.)

Funhouse Massacre:  a dude breaks out a bunch of killers from a secret prison and they take over a funhouse to kill lots of people.  Of course at first no one believes it's real but eventually they catch on.  The bad guy's henchwoman makes Harley Quinn look like the Tooth Fairy.  There's lots of blood, gore, and horror movie cliches.  But I guess it's OK for all that. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  The warden of the secret prison is played by Robert Englund, aka the original Freddy Krueger.)

Sky High:  This Disney movie is kind of a live-action mix of The Incredibles and Big Hero 6.  A kid is the son of the world's two greatest superheroes, which entitles him to go to the eponymous school for superheroes.  Except he has no powers yet!  So he gets lumped in with the kids who have no powers or relatively useless ones like being able to glow or turn into a puddle who are destined to be sidekicks.  But when confronted by a bully his super strength kicks in, which catapults him into the cool kid circle and creates friction between him and his sidekick buddies.  When a villain unleashes her master plan, only the sidekicks can save the day!  It's a strictly PG affair but it's fun without being too campy.  And there's a good cast including Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Bruce Campbell, Jim Rash, and Lynda Carter, who quips at one point, "What am I supposed to do?  I'm not Wonder Woman!"  You know, because she was Wonder Woman. Ha. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  The Flash's Danielle Panabaker plays the main kid's best friend and Patrick Warburton of The Tick provides the robot voice of the villain.  And of course Kurt Russell will be rejoining the Disney superhero ranks in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 this May.)

Kingdom of Spiders:  The same year Star Wars was sweeping the nation, William Shatner starred in this lame movie about spiders (tarantulas mostly) taking over a small Arizona town.  This was the Rifftrax version which is the only way this overstuffed, underscary movie could be tolerable.  But for Bill I suppose it was a good excuse to ride horses and get paid for it. (2/5)

Cyber Tracker:  This lame 1994 movie is a combination of Terminator and Judge Dredd.  In a dystopian version of what would now be the present, cybernetic bad guys can be dispatched to kill someone.  When Don "The Dragon" Parker (that's how his name is listed in the credits) runs afoul of these "cyber trackers" he's recruited into a resistance group that's mostly teens who should be posing for an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.  They take on the cyborgs (and an Aussie with a knife who isn't Crocodile Dundee) in a lot of unspectacular fights with highly explosive cars.  This was the Rifftrax version, which again makes it a lot more fun than just making fun of it yourself--as you surely would.  (2/5)  (Fun Fact:  According to this, our present was supposed to have a lot of blue lighting--maybe KMart took over the world's light fixture suppliers?--and computers that are huge Commodore 64-type keyboards with tiny screens.  The videophones are pretty standard for any 80s/90s sci-fi movie and yet we still don't have widespread videophones I guess because of cell phones.  That's just as well as most times I don't really want to see who I'm talking to and I wouldn't want them seeing me.)

Icebreaker:  This was probably pitched as Die Hard meets Cliffhanger but really it's more Die Hard meets Ski Patrol, the lame early 90s movie that was like Police Academy on skis.  A year before he started walking to Mordor, Sean Astin stars in this lame production as a bumbling ski rescue guy who's hooking up with a rich chick.  Then his resort is invaded by a bald Bruce Campbell and some European and Canadian goons who wanted some nuclear bomb someone left there and then they're going never really made any sense.  Like the previous two movies this was a Rifftrax version to make the nonsensical plot, lame jokes, and lamer action scenes a little more palatable. (2/5)  (Fun Fact:  One bad guy's idea of the perfect food was cutting open Fig Newtons and spreading apricot jam on them.  Not sure why that never caught on.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Trivia Challenge Answer #5

The question was a pretty tough one.  The Night's Legacy is based on which Tales of the Scarlet Knight book?

And the answer was B:  Book 6:  Future Shock

In that book Emma Earl is transported to the future, where the evil Isis returns more powerful than ever and cripples Emma, aka the Scarlet Knight.  Emma's daughter Louise then takes up the mantle to save the day.  I really liked the story (which in itself is based on the Batman Knightfall saga of the mid-90s) and so decided to essentially rewrite it as a standalone book that became The Night's Legacy.

Christopher Dilloway woke up early and answered first so he got the bonus prize plus 5 points and Cindy 3 which makes it Cindy 23, Chris 11, Everyone Else 0

Monday, February 6, 2017

Trivia Challenge Question #5 With a BONUS PRIZE!

Like I said last Wednesday, since people aren't taking this seriously, I'm going to give a bonus prize to this week's first person to answer the question.  Here's the prize:  a year of Symantec Basic Anti-Virus that I got from Amazon Vine.  So if you want some antivirus protection for your PC try to get this right.  There's no disk; I'll just email you the activation code.

This week is going to be a tough one...

The Night's Legacy is a reimagining of which Tales of the Scarlet Knight book:

A. Book 3:  The Hazards of Love
B.  Book 6:  Future Shock
C.  Book 7:  Living Sacrifice
D.  Book 8:  The Heart of Emma Earl

This is really tough...unless you read this blog entry.  I'm just saying.

Friday, February 3, 2017

More Comics I Read Thanks to Holiday Sales & Comixology Unlimited! 💪💥

The Omega Man:  This was one of the more unusual comics to come out of DC's brief Convergence era.  There is a superhero in it but it's not really a superhero comic.  It's more of a space opera really.  The Green White Lantern Kyle Rayner travels to the Vega system to try to negotiate a peace between "the Citadel" and terrorists freedom fighters known as the Omega Man.  But the Omega Men kidnap him and seemingly kill him on video.  But of course that's an illusion.  Instead they show him the horrors of the Citadel so he'll aid their scheme to save the Vega system.  The first few issues are confusing but by the midpoint most of it is sorted out.  Still, that's probably why the series was nearly canceled before it could even get to 12 issues.  You could compare this to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy but this is much darker and less goofy.  A couple of the characters actually die along the way.  The epilogue is kind of a bummer.  It's like Terry Pratchett wrote in Night Watch:  The reason they call them revolutions is because they go around and around. (4/5)

Superman Lois & Clark:  Another comic to spin out of Convergence was this series about the pre-New 52 Superman and Lois Lane.  Thanks to Convergence they end up on the New 52 Earth, where they live in hiding because there's already a Superman and Lois Lane, albeit not married.  This other Lois and Clark also have a son named Jon.  Like the maligned Superman Returns, the boy starts to show abilities like his father's when under duress.  Most of the plot involves the nefarious "Intergang" trying to hunt down Lois, who's writing an expose on them under the dumb pseudonym "Author X" which really just brings more attention to her than if she wrote under a somewhat normal name like Richard Bachmann or Robert Galbraith or Eric Filler.  Meanwhile some aliens are trying to find an infinity stone (or something like that) Hank Henshaw brought back from Jupiter and Superman is brought into the conflict.  There are 8 issues and then it just ends with really little resolution to these plots.  I suppose some of that might have been wrapped up after Rebirth when this Superman became "the" Superman since the other one "died" or some damned thing. (3.5/5)

Marvels:  This comic tells the history of Marvel Comics from the point of view of a photographer named Phil who in 1939 first takes pictures of the original Human Torch and then Namor the Sub-Mariner when they famously battle.  Then there's Captain America (and even Superman hidden in a couple of panels) and other "Golden Age" heroes before it jumps to the '60s when the more familiar Marvel characters--Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, the X-Men, Spider-Man, etc.--start to appear and the public's changing reaction first from hero worship and then cynicism and derision.  It's a great story and Alex Ross's painted artwork is gorgeous.  There's probably  more you can get out of it if you're a more avid comics reader, but I got most of it I think. (4/5) (Fun Fact:  Writer Kurt Buciek and artist Alex Ross did the street-level thing in Astro City, which was published by a branch of DC Comics though not part of the official DC universe.)

Amazing Spider-Man, Worldwide Volume 3:  This focuses on Spidey and Iron Man having their own little civil war that's interrupted when "the Regent" begins abducting pretty much all the other superheroes (and lots of villains too) so he can borrow their powers and be the only game in town.  With the help of Mary Jane Watson (who's working for Tony Stark at this point) they have to work together to take Regent down.  It's OK but it feels like it was just marking time until the next big event, which is the "Clone Conspiracy" that maybe I'll buy in a year or so if it goes on sale. (2.5/5)

Last year Comixology--a division of Amazon now--unveiled their own version of Kindle Unlimited, where you could borrow as many comics as you want for $5.99/month.  I decided to give it a try.  You get a month free so it didn't cost me anything right away.  The problem is the same as with Kindle Unlimited:  the selection is limited.  The Big 2 comics publishers (Marvel & DC) don't participate so you can't borrow Superman or Spider-Man comics.  And even other series they don't usually have the full series.  So you can get Walking Dead comics (the first two volumes) or Spawn comics (also the first two volumes.)  They did have some Transformers comics from IDW, though of course not entire series, but I did pick up what I could.

Transformers: Monstrosity:  In this prequel story, the evil Megatron is banished to the planet of junk while Optimus Prime tries to unite the Autobots.  While Megatron battles Junkions and Sharkticons, his replacement Scorponok blows a big chunk out of the Transformer homeworld of Cybertron and unleashes the giant robot dinosaur Trypticon.  All the intricate plotting lands flat in the last issue as Trypticon is stopped thanks to a bad case of indigestion. (3/5)

Transformers:  Primacy:  By contrast, this sequel to Monstrosity has the battle royales that were missing:  Metroplex vs. Trypticon, Optimus Prime vs. Megatron, the Dinobots vs. everyone!  There's a lot of action and a little less plotting, which for Transformers comics might be for the best. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  Primacy, Monstrosity, and the previous Autocracy were all co-written by Flint Dille, one of the writers of the original Transformers cartoon series and 1986 film.)

Transformers:  Days of Deception:  In some ways this new Transformers comics series really ripped off my fanfic novel Xenophobia from the late 90s.  In that the Autobots have won the war and humans have retaken the Earth because they don't trust the Autobot "liberators" anymore.  And Optimus Prime quits leading the Autobots.  So in this series the Autobots have won the war and humans have retaken the Earth because they don't trust the Autobots.  And Optimus Prime has quit leading the Autobots.  Hurm...should I sue?  Anyway like all of the Transformers ones it's fun but not essential reading. (2.5/5)

The other Transformers fanfics I wrote were a series called The Skyfire Adventures.  The first one was based on a patch I made for the Doom video game where you could play as the Maximal Skyfire (a bald eagle who looked like the Autobot Jetfire).  The story I wrote for it was that Skyfire was beamed to a planet that was populated by Doom creatures.  On the planet he found an Autobot shuttle that crashed there long ago.  Stories after that were kind of like ST: Voyager as they try to return home to Cybertron.  My favorite part was a trilogy where they find a planet of ancient Transformers.  Then the planet transforms into a giant killer robot.  This also unveiled a new wrinkle, where instead of just the Autobot Matrix of Leadership there were like a dozen Matrices, sort of like the Lord of the Rings.  Each Matrix would have different properties and stuff.  The other cool thing I did was Skyfire could alternate between his Maximal bald eagle and his Autobot Veritech fighter.  Another alternated between the Decepticon Shockwave and the Predacon Scarecrow who of course turned into a crow, so he had sort of a multiple-personality thing.

Why do I mention this?  Because the Transformers:  More Than Meets the Eye series is a total rip-off of this!  OK, not really.  But there's a ship full of Transformers who are out in space to search for the "Knights of Cybertron" and "Cyberutopia."  There are even a lot of the same Autobots on board like Skids, Perceptor, and Grapple.  Sadly not Skyfire/Jetfire.  I read the first five volumes of the series and overall it's a lot of fun.  Until the last volume there weren't really a lot of multi-part stories so it wasn't like the Big 2 comics where you have one arc lead into another arc lead into another arc.  There were some interesting stories like where the crew goes on shore leave and scout the place out with human doppelgangers.  A couple of them accidentally use female ones too.  Another they go to a planet with a plague and have to stop it, which pits Autobot medic Ratchet against an old friend.  So it's like Transformers with a Star Trek vibe.  The last volume is a continuous arc about when they actually find the gate to "Cyberutopia" on a lost moon--except there's a lot of crazy bad guys running the place. What I like about these versus the crappy Bay movies is they just focus on the Transformers and give them actual personalities and backstories instead of just using racist stereotypes.  I wish Comixology had more of the issues available to borrow.  (4/5)

Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers:  The Wreckers are like the Autobot version of Navy SEALs or Army Green Berets.  In this mini-series, they're sent to liberate a prison planet that has been taken over by the maniacal Decepticon Overlord.  It's kind of like The Dirty Dozen or Rogue One in that it's largely a suicide mission.  Many characters die.  Still, it's a good mix of action, humor, and tragedy. (4/5)

Spawn #10:  For licensing reasons this wasn't included in the collected volume I previously read.  The issue has Spawn in some kind of prison for superheroes.  There are a couple of panels where we see hands for Batman, Spider-Man, the Hulk, etc.  Superman is shown a few times--though his face is always obscured.  Anyway, the whole issue was kind of a neener-neener to the old creators (who were depicted as being imprisoned with hoods over their heads) who "sold" their creations.  What this fails to take into account is a lot of those old superhero creators actually got screwed out of their royalties because most of them were young and poor and didn't know any better when they signed a contract that gave their rights to the publisher.  It was only from these experiences (and the legal battles waged later by these creators or their estates) that modern creators like Todd MacFarlane could own their creations.  So the whole tone of the issue (which itself is pointless to the overall series) is pretty ignorant. (1/5)

Armor Hunters:  I borrowed this from Comixology by accident.  I guess it was a big crossover of various Valiant Comics titles back in 2014.  The main focus is X-O Manowar where some Visigoth from the 5th Century was abducted by aliens, stole some advanced armor, and came back to modern Earth.  Now some aliens have come to Earth to take the armor and kill anyone who gets in their way.  So the Visigoth and some other Valiant heroes band together Avengers-style to take them on.  It was OK but since I hadn't read any of the previous comics and this didn't include any of the spin-off issues in other series, I didn't really know much of what was going on. (2.5/5)

The Fall of GI JOE, Vol 1:  Much like the movies, GI JOE comics just aren't as good as Transformers.  In this case they're trying to do a grittier, more real world GI JOE comic.  The evil COBRA has seemingly gone straight and is brokering peace in Eastern Europe while Congress is trying to disband GI JOE, who they think isn't needed anymore.  It's pretty slow and boring, without any of the action of the old TV series or even the Marvel comics.  There's also none of the humor of the Transformers series that help to make those a more fun read. (2/5)

The Fall of GI JOE, Vol 2:  I figured I might as well borrow the conclusion to this.  Not that it was any more exciting or interesting.  Five issues and nothing much really happens except a separatist leader in Eastern Europe gets wounded and COBRA gets egg on their face for it.  Meh. (2/5)

Snake Eyes, Agent of COBRA:  For whatever reason GI JOE's silent ninja Snake Eyes joins COBRA to rescue the evil Destro and then he looks for Cobra Commander's son Billy, who's in Thailand.  The problem is that Snake Eyes doesn't talk so that it's not like a silent movie the action is filtered through other people who can talk.  The downside of that is it makes Snake Eyes more of a secondary character even though his name is in the title. That keeps it from being all that great.  (2.5/5)

GI JOE, Volume 1:  This was IDW's first take on GI JOE from what I gather.  It's written by original Marvel GI JOE comics writer Larry Hama and even picks up the numbering from the Marvel series.  Basically a team of JOEs infiltrates COBRA's lair to steal some information and in the process Snake Eyes is captured and brainwashed.  This was at least more fun than that Fall of GI JOE series, more in line with the TV show from the 80s. (2.5/5)


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