Friday, August 18, 2017

Amazon Giveaways Are Still an Epic Fail

Over a year ago I blogged about Amazon's flawed giveaway system.  When it debuted it had three options, none of which were very helpful.  They have since corrected it so you can select the "sweepstakes" option that like its sister site Goodreads picks one or more people at random after a set time period.

I thought about using it and filled everything out.  Then I got to the payment screen.  Amazon wanted to charge me for the two books I was going to give away (which is fine) but then they also wanted to charge me $6 shipping on each book, which was the price of the book, BTW.  My first thought is:  WTF?!  I'm an Amazon Prime member, why do I have to pay for shipping?  They've anticipated that with a button that says, "Why can't I use my Amazon Prime?"  The answer is basically:  Cuz we said so.  You can't use Amazon Prime for giveaways.  Which is pretty fucking lame.  I mean I'm already buying the books from them why do I have to pay twice as much to ship them?

So Goodreads is still the better alternative.  Or just using Rafflecopter or one of those things to do the giveaway yourself.  Then I can just order the books from Amazon and use Prime to ship them for free.  So suck it Amazon.

It just seems to me another way of Amazon disrespecting independent sellers on its site.  I read an article the other day about how starting this fall they're going to kick their already loose return policies up a notch to make it even easier for scumbags to defraud sellers, as happened to me when I tried to sell a laptop on Amazon.  I just get really tired of dealing with their crap; if there were another way I'd take it in a heartbeat.

Speaking of giveaways, you can enter a Goodreads giveaway to win 1 of 2 copies of the Eric Filler gender swap novella The Comeback.  It's probably the closest to literary fiction I've written in a few years.  An 80s hair rocker who has since become a has-been gets drunk and falls off a stage while playing the Corn Festival in Auburn, Michigan (which is based on a real thing) and wakes up in a "rehab" facility as a teenage girl.  His manager then signs him up for an American Idol-type show and he begins a new career as a pop princess while also getting his heart broken a few times.  It's out in paperback now and in a couple of weeks in Kindle.  If you want, be like most people and enter to win it and then never bother reading or reviewing it!




Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Comeback by Eric Filler

The Comeback

by Eric Filler

Giveaway ends August 24, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Slow Burn: Season 2 of Man in the High Castle

Amazon's Man in the High Castle, Season 2 has been out since November or December I think, but for whatever reason I just never got around to it until about a month ago.   I binged all 10 episodes over 2 days while recovering from having a tooth extracted.  The season was OK, but it's one of those seasons that's more about building to the future than setting off fireworks in the present.

The premise of the show is taken from the Philip K Dick novel featuring an alternate America where the Axis won World War II and split America between the Third Reich (who control east of the Rockies) and the Japanese (who control west of the Rockies).  It's set in an alternate 1962 where there's an uneasy peace between the Reich and Japanese Empire, though Hitler's health is failing while Japan works to have its own atom bomb.

Much of the first season focused on a reel of film that showed a San Francisco destroyed by an atom bomb and Nazis executing people in the street.  Other films from the mysterious "Man in the High Castle" show an entirely different world--our world.  A Japanese trade minister at the end of the first season was able to somehow cross over into our world.

So the questions this left were:  Who is the Man in the High Castle?  Where Do These Films Come From?  What Do They Mean?  How Did the Trade Minister Enter Our World?

Most of these questions are answered to some extent.  Who is the Man in the High Castle?  Would you believe it's that nerdy guy in Office Space who wanted his red stapler back?  OK, not true, but the eponymous mystery figure is played by Stephen Root, who played Milton in Office Space and has appeared in tons of other stuff like No Country for Old Men and as the voice of Bill Dauterive in King of the Hill.  But who he is and where he gets these films from is not really answered. 

What do the films mean?  Apparently besides just our world there's a whole multiverse covered in the films.  The Man in the High Castle indicates that most people who show up in multiple universes act somewhat differently, but some act consistently.  One of these is Juliana Crane, who was given the first film shown by her dying sister.  She then became a reluctant operative of the American Resistance, which used her to spy on the Trade Minister and others.  In season 2 she defects to the Reich and spies on the Nazis, especially the household of American Nazi spymaster John Smith (Rufus Sewell star of Dark City and other stuff) and their little Stepford Wives-type suburban neighborhood.  It's the kind of neighborhood that's like one of those Twilight Zone or Sliders episodes where at first you think it's nice because it's clean and neat and people are smiling and polite...then you find out all the horrors under the surface like Jews, blacks, gays, and the disabled are all outlawed and executed.  To be allowed a visa, Juliana has to go through a whole brutal examination to test her for ethnic "purity."

Meanwhile Juliana's former boyfriend Frank is joining the Resistance in San Francisco, helping them to salvage an old unexploded bomb and use it on the headquarters of the Japanese secret police.  At the same time he makes a deal with the local mafia (the yakuza) to save his friend from detention. 

After coming back to the show's reality for a couple of episodes the Trade Minister goes back to our world.  It's during the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, which in a way parallels the growing standoff between the Reich and Japanese Empire in the other reality.  The Trade Minister is reunited with his wife and son who died in the other world but his wife in our world wants a divorce and his son is a college student protesting against nuclear weapons who decries his father's Japnese-ness.  How the Trade Minister goes back and forth is barely explained.  It's sort of like Somewhere in Time where if he just meditates enough he can go there.  He finds out too his assistant in his world is actually from our world, where his family was killed by one of the A-bombs that ended WWII; to him the reality of the show is the happier reality because his family is alive.

One of the main characters in the first season was "Joe Blake" an American Nazi who worked as a double agent to try to get the film Juliana had.  A lot of unnecessary time is spent with his character in the second season as he goes to Berlin to meet his long-lost daddy who's a high-up mukety-muck with the Nazi Party.  His dad takes him to a facility where in the 30s they were trying to create "pure" babies including Joe.  Joe hangs out with some Eurotrash and is there when his father is promoted to chancellor while Hitler lay dying and then is also there when his father is overthrown by Nazi Party insiders aided by John Smith, who then becomes a Hero of the Reich.  Joe will probably be thrown in prison or something, but who cares?  I mean really that added almost nothing to the story--yet.

On the homefront, John Smith is also trying to keep word from leaking that his son Thomas has early signs of muscular dystrophy.  In the Reich a degenerative disease like that gets you thrown in the ovens so the Obergruppenfuhrer has been trying to cover it up, which he does in part by murdering the doctor who diagnosed Thomas.  And then murdered a couple of subordinates who inadvertently found out.  Will that catch up to him at some point, especially now that he's a big star in the Nazi firmament?  Time will tell.

The season ends with the Man in the High Castle introducing Juliana to her sister, who's maybe not dead after all.  Meanwhile a Resistance agent gives the Trade Minister a box of the Man in the High Castle's films.  Those are a couple of plot points that will hopefully get sorted out (somewhat at least) in the next season.

The problem with this season is as I titled the article, it's a slow burn.  There's no "Battle of the Bastards" like Game of Thrones or anyone getting beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire like The Walking Dead.  Sure plenty of people get killed and there are a couple of explosions but nothing too big and showy.  It's the sort of season that might lead to better things, but probably isn't too memorable on its own.  I hope if there's a season 3 they can ramp up the excitement a little more to make it a bit more entertaining.

I'd give it a solid 3/5

(Fun Fact:  One of the new characters of the season is Gary, the head of the San Francisco Resistance, who's played by Callum Keith Rennie, who played a Chicago detective in season three of Due South, one of the favorite shows of me and my sisters in the 90s.)


Monday, August 14, 2017

Author: JT Leroy: A Primer on Fake News

In the history of literature there have been a number of hoaxes and scams.  Like James Frey's fake memoir A Million Little Pieces or Clifford Irving's fake Howard Hughes diaries.  The Amazon documentary Author: JT Leroy is about more of a literary Catfish scandal that ensnared authors, agents, publishers, rock stars, actors, directors, and radio/TV/magazines/newspapers around the world for nearly 10 years.

If you don't know, Catfish was a documentary and later MTV television series about a guy who tracked down a woman in Michigan who was claiming to be someone else, whom he'd fallen in love with until he started noticing some weird things.  In confronting her he found out this woman had numerous fake accounts.  Online it's pretty easy to use a fake picture and make up a profile.  "JT Leroy" did largely the same thing only IRL.

Back in 1995, a chubby 30-something woman named Laura Albert was bummed out and for some reason called a teen suicide hotline.  She used the pseudonym "Terminator" and tricked the shrink on the phone to think she was a teenage boy who'd been abused and even had his genitals mutilated so that he sounded effeminate.  She called the doctor a few times, making the story bigger and bigger, until he suggested she write about it.

And so she did and then contacted Bruce Benderson, author of the book User, again using the silly "Terminator" handle.  He in turn put her in touch with his agent and eventually a book called Sarah came about under the revised handle JT Leroy for Jeremiah Terminator Leroy, the surname coming from someone she knew from her job working on a phone sex line.

The book was supposed to be a roman a clef about a boy who pretends to be a girl working as a hooker at a truck stop.  It was a big deal because people thought it was written by a 17-year-old boy based on real experiences.  (Which it wasn't.)

When the book gained notoriety people were clamoring to see JT Leroy in public.  If they saw a chubby 30-something woman the whole thing would be blown, so she convinced her boyfriend's sister to dress up in a wig and bulky sunglasses and make public appearances as "JT Leroy."  And not only did this work, soon JT Leroy was rubbing elbows with rock stars like Bono, Billy Corgan, and Courtney Love; actors like Matthew Modine; and directors like Gus van Sant who bought the rights to Sarah but never got it produced.  "JT Leroy" was an associate producer on van Sant's 2003 movie Elephant and also began writing music for a band called Thistle--a band Albert appeared in as a British woman named "Speedie."  Often "JT Leroy" and "Speedie" would be together at events along with Albert's boyfriend.

It really struck me how ridiculously easy this all was.  Not only was "JT Leroy" hobnobbing with celebrities, but "he" was also being profiled in magazines, newspapers, and TV pieces and NO ONE smelled anything fishy.

Thanks to Donald Trump "fake news" has been bandied about a lot in the last 2 years.  A lot of fake news is created online and spread through social media but in this case it happened largely through traditional means.  The reason is because in the media you have two types of people:  reporters and journalists.

Reporters are most of the media these days.  They just report what someone says:  Today Donald Trump tweeted the moon is made of green cheese.  A journalist would actually talk to people who worked at NASA present and past and various scientists to say that no the moon isn't made of green cheese and here's the proof.  It's unfortunate that we do have mostly just reporters regurgitating statements, press releases, and Tweets without actually corroborating anything to determine its accuracy.

That's why it took 10 fucking years for this scam to unravel.  Ten.  Fucking.  YEARS!  Finally in 2005 a journalist named Steven Beachy for New York magazine began poking holes in the "JT Leroy" story.  Then other outlets that hadn't bothered to do any journalism on the subject previously began to pile on.  (Just like Trump's Russia connections.)  But it wasn't until Albert's jealous boyfriend rolled on her that things really collapsed.

And what happened?  Not a lot.  Albert had to pay $350,000 to a publisher for signing contracts with a false name.  In the documentary she shows absolutely no remorse about duping the public or making a bunch of celebrities and news outlets look like chumps.  "It was just a pen name."  Bullshit!  If you're an author using a pen name you have to tell your publisher this in advance.  When Stephen King wrote books as Richard Bachmann or JK Rowling wrote books as Robert Galbraith you think they sent someone pretending to be that person to events?  Or signed contracts with that fake name?  Um, no, because that's not how you do it because that is called FRAUD.  The fact she's still out there writing books under her own name now makes me kind of angry.  But hey when you're a celebrity they let you do what you want, right Mr. President?

One thing that occurred to me is that she's never going to know whether her writing was published on its own merit or because the author and agent she Catfished early on thought it was coming from a teenage boy with a touching (ie marketable) backstory.  But you can say her fiction must have been good if she could fool all of these people, right?

At the end of the documentary she talks about being molested as a toddler by her uncle and at that point I was numb because really, could I trust her?  Or was that just another story she was making up?  That's the problem when you cry wolf.  And when supposed journalists just report someone crying wolf, it allows fake news to spread until we're all being Catfished.

And I have to say the problem with documentaries like this one or even the one on the Corman Fantastic Four movie I watched last month is that they too are just reporters regurgitating quotes and not delving into it to get at the truth.  In this case I'd really have liked a journalist to ask Albert some hard questions and make her squirm instead of letting her off easy by just saying it was a "pen name" or some "character in her head" and leaving it at that.  There are so many authors out there trying to get recognition that it just sucks when someone can cut to the head of the line and suffer almost no consequences.  It does all of us a disservice.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

It Lives: Stuff I Watched

More stuff I watched (obviously):

Power Rangers:  Like the Ninja Turtles movie from 3 years ago I went in with very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised that this was actually not terrible.  As the Honest Trailer suggested it's basically like if you took The Breakfast Club and then gave them robot dinosaurs and had them fight a giant gold dude.  The teen characters are pretty much John Hughes archetypes:  the jock (Red), the princess (Pink), the nerd (Blue), the loner (Black), and the crazy chick (Yellow).  Bryan Cranston is largely wasted as Zordon, who like Abin Sur in Green Lantern crashes on Earth and dispatches power rings coins that eventually find the five kids above in Angel Grove to fight the scene-chewing Elizabeth Banks.  A little more subtlety for the villain would have made it a stronger movie but otherwise it was good. (3/5)

Get Out:  This revolves around the needlessly complicated plan of white people to abduct black guys and implant them with white guy brains.  On the surface it's about as sensible as The Thing With Two Heads where Ray Milland's head is sewn onto Rosie Grier's body, but the movie is well-crafted to avoid campiness so that it's really only at the end that you think:  WTF?  Why would anyone come up with such a ludicrous plan?  It is well-crafted but a little slow in the middle.  (3/5)

I Love You, Man:  Harmless and amusing Apatow-lite movie about a man who goes looking for a friend and then naturally finds one who starts taking up his entire life.  The movie requires a lot of suspending disbelief in the idea that Paul Rudd has no friends.  Really you need someone like me for that--the movie ugly version of me anyway like maybe Kevin James or Danny DeVito. (2.5/5)

The Frontier:  A woman on the lam from murdering her abusive husband (presumably) falls asleep on Route 66 in front of a diner/motel called "The Frontier."  The kindly owner lets her stay in the motel and gives her a job waitressing.  There she finds out that pretty much everyone who comes in and the kindly owner are all in on an armored car robbery.  And so everyone begins backstabbing each other to end up with the money.  Parts of it were fairly predictable, but it was a decent indie movie. (3/5)

Hardcore Henry:  The concept of this movie is that it's basically a first-person shooter video game only shot with real actors.  "Henry" is a cyborg who is activated and then takes on an evil corporation with the help of Sharlto Copley--or a whole gang of Sharlto Copleys really.  It can be kind of nauseating at times with the way the camera has to jerk around to simulate the first person view.  But it's also kind of fun if you've played first-person shooter games. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  M*A*S*H did an episode like this back in the late 70s or early 80s where it was shot from the POV of a patient; I thought that was pretty cool.)

The Night Manager:  This was a miniseries on AMC last year based on a John le Carre novel.  A hotel night manager (Tom Hiddleston or Loki in the MCU) in Egypt falls in love with a woman who's killed by a crooked arms dealer named Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie of Dr. House fame).  The night manager eventually stages a kidnapping of Roper's kid that he thwarts to get inside Roper's organization.  Though apparently Roper never watched The Departed or he'd know that when your criminal organization starts developing problems, you should really be looking at the new guy, not your long-serving lieutenants.  The first couple of episodes are really slow and hard to get into (especially the second one) but it eventually picks up the pace.  If you can make it past those early episodes then it becomes a decent cat-and-mouse thriller. (3/5)  (Fun Fact:  Richard Roeper is a film critic in Chicago who replaced Gene Siskel on TV after his death.)

Punisher: War Zone:  Until Wonder Woman this year, this movie was the one people trotted out for why women couldn't direct big superhero movies.  We tried it once and didn't work, OK?  That seems totally fair. [eye roll]  Anyway, the problems for this movie lie in the script and casting.  You have a Punisher in Ray Stevenson with less charisma than Karl Urban in Dredd and a villain (Dominic West) who with his damaged face and overall campiness seems to think he's channeling Jack Nicholson's Joker.  The plot is pretty simple:  the Punisher kills a bunch of bad dudes and one who survives tries to take revenge.  It's probably good in a way this movie wasn't very good as it eventually let Marvel get the character rights back for the Daredevil series on Netflix and now his own series. (2/5)

Insecurity:  Have you ever wondered what Canada's intelligence agency might be like?  Wonder no more!  This CBC series from 2011 is like a live action Archer in that it focuses on a group of spies working for "NISA" who aren't always all that bright or competent and yet usually get the job done.  For instance in the first episode the rest of the team accidentally leaves their leader behind to be captured.   She's taken to the sadistic "Doctor" only to realize he used to be a nerdy kid she went to high school with.  Awkward!  While not as vulgar and globe-trotting as Archer, some of these episodes would have been good for Sterling and the rest to tackle. If you've never watched that, think of it like Parks and Recreation or The Office only with Canadian spies.  There are 2 seasons, the second ending by going Friends and hooking people up, so it's probably just as well that was the end of it.  I really enjoyed it, though it needed a better theme song.  (4/5)  (Fun Fact:  While it's set in Ottawa, most of the show was filmed in Regina, which rhymes with fun!)

Pacific Heat:  This animated series I think takes place in Australia and like Insecurity above focuses on a team of misfits who fight crimes.  The animation is like Archer mixed with an old NES game it seems at times.  There are some funny parts but the annoying thing is they talk about as rapidly and often as the Gilmore Girls. (2.5/5)

Steel:  Though the character originated in Superman comics, this eliminates all references to that.  Instead a former Army weapons designer and his friend build a metal suit and a "hammer" that's some kind of EMP weapon or something to fight Judd Nelson who's another Army weapons designer who has gone rogue.  It's exceptionally cheesy with a lot of casual racism concerning its black and Latino characters.  And Shaq is as miscast as a genius weapons designer as Robert Downey Jr would be as an NBA superstar.  This would be a lot more fun as a Rifftrax movie. (1/5)

Night of the Shorts:  This was a live Rifftrax special last year focusing on shorts.  The first was an oldie called "The Trouble With Women" about a sexist guy who lamented how terrible women in the workplace are.  (Mike Pence would be nodding along with the guy.)  Another has an annoying guy tape record teenagers so they can hear how they mispronounce words.  A short called "One Got Fat" was really macabre in that it's about kids wearing monkey masks on bikes getting killed one at a time to promote bike safety.  WTF?!  A two-part Canadian short film about "communication" was really boring and depressing.  The final bit was an old Batman serial called "Robin's Wild Ride" that hardly featured Robin.  Though this was filmed live, I wonder why they included the part during the Batman serial where the film stopped for like three minutes; you'd think they might edit that out.  It was fun because besides the normal 3 people they had a bunch of "guest riffers." (3/5)

When Justice Fails:  Marlee Matlin and Jeff Fahey are a deaf attorney and a renegade cop and...um, I don't know.  That seemed like about it for the story.  I fell asleep during the last third, not that much had happened to that point. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  This was from 1999, long after that Reasonable Doubts show on NBC where Matlin played a deaf lawyer opposite Mark Harmon's renegade cop.  I'm not sure why she doesn't talk in this movie as from that show and other stuff we'd already heard her speak before.)

Lone Wolf McQuade:  A forerunner to Walker, Texas Ranger as Chuck Norris plays a Texas Ranger who's after bad guys who killed his daughter's boyfriend and nearly killed her.  It was so scintillating I fell asleep about 2/3 of the way through.  The opening credits and theme music really, really want you to think you're going to watch a Sergio Leone Western, but nope, you're just watching an extended episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. (1/5)

College:  Three high school seniors go to a college for a weekend and end up going to wild parties and so forth.  They soon find that the "college experience" isn't everything they were hoping for, especially when you're a pledge.  The things I missed by not living on campus. (2.5/5)

Trespass Against Us:  Michael Fassbender is a dad who lives with his family in kind of a modern gypsy village where people just park a bunch of trailers and RVs together.  I've seen the same thing in Crackle's recent Snatch series.  Anyway, cops get after him and he steals a dog and...I didn't really follow it that well.  It was kind of boring. (2/5)

The Galaxy Invader:  In this cheesy low-budget 80s movie an alien ship crashes in the most redneck part of Maryland, where the locals hunt the creature, who looks like a low-rent Swamp Thing cosplay.  Most of the movie consists of rednecks running around chasing the creature and each other with guns. (1/5)

Bad Seed:  Luke Wilson is a husband who has a fight with his wife about the guy she was having an affair with--Daryl of The Walking Dead, aka Norman Reedus.  So Luke Wilson does the logical thing and goes over Daryl's house and barges into a bedroom and kills a guy who turns out to be Daryl's retarded brother.  Luke Wilson goes on the run then, enlisting a low-rent detective played by the late Dennis Farina, to help him try to get a damning tape back.  Then it becomes a really pathetic game of cat-and-mouse.  I think they should have made this as a comedy instead of a drama because these guys were all so fucking stupid.  The big twist is that the retarded brother killed Luke Wilson's wife, so his murder was kinda justified I guess. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  I really don't know who the title refers to:  Luke Wilson, Daryl, or maybe Daryl's brother.  It doesn't make a lot of sense.)

Girl House:  A bunch of sorority girls wire up a house with cameras to stream X-rated videos and chat with horny dudes.  Then of course one fat, bald sad lonely guy (it wasn't me, I swear!) gets obsessed and when he's rejected goes to the house and starts murdering everyone.  Pretty predictable but there's plenty of nudity not of fat, bald sad lonely guys, so there's that. (2.5/5)

Extraordinary:  This is a documentary that could probably be a mockumentary too.  This guy named Sam sees a UFO bobbing around the sky in the daytime in 2001.  Then aliens begin stalking him, little gray dudes appear at his doors and windows, creepy orbs drift around, and weird shadows show up in the house.  He's also beamed up numerous times, usually along with a woman he later meets at a UFO convention.  And apparently there are human/alien hybrid kids, one of whom starts calling him and even shows up at another convention.  It's kinda hard to take all of it seriously.  When the aliens call him "starseed" and act like he's some Chosen One it makes me think of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Anyway, I guess it depends if You Want to Believe or not. The documentary starts off with the "evidence" that is of course usually grainy video and then it goes into interviews that are fairly boring.  (2/5)

Knowing:  In 1959 a little girl writes a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper that's put in a time capsule.  50 years later Nic Cage's son gets the piece of paper when the time capsule is raised.  Nic Cage examines it and realizes the numbers relate to disasters like 9/11 with a casualty count.  And then spoiler alert it's mostly pointless because the last set of numbers is for a disaster that will wipe out the planet.  So yeah, why bother?  Pretty lame ending. (2/5)

High-Rise:  In 70s London, an architect (Jeremy Irons) constructs a high-rise that's supposed to be like a self-contained world with its own supermarket and so forth.  A guy who lost his sister recently (Tom Hiddleston) moves in and soon it all turns into Lord of the Flies or Mad Max as class warfare leaves the whole place a shambles, to the point people are eating dogs.  The obvious question is why the people don't just leave and go somewhere else?  It seems pretty obvious really.  So yeah there's not a lot of logic in the movie but some nice visuals and an orgy of mostly unattractive people.  Yay? (2/5)

The Square:  Long, mostly cliche story where an Australian man and woman cheat on their spouses and plan to run away with some stolen money, but of course things go wrong and the body count starts rising as they have to cover up their improprieties.   (1/5)  (Fun Fact:  This was directed by Nash Edgerton, based on an "original" story by Joel Edgerton, who I'm just going to assume is his brother.  Joel Edgerton also co-stars.)

Mindhorn:  This Netflix Original movie is like Hot Fuzz meets Galaxy Quest.  In the 80s Mindhorn was a popular British series but now the actor is a has-been getting by with lame commercials and such.  Then a lunatic calling himself the Kestrel demands to speak to Detective Mindhorn or he'll start killing people.  So they bring the actor in.  There's then a long, not extremely interesting local mystery involving a local politician.  It's the sort of comedy that's only about 90 minutes and yet feels like 3 hours, the bit getting old fast. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  On American Dad there's a parody show called Mind Quad about a veteran who had his limbs blown IN, which somehow gives him psychic powers.  Now that should be a Netflix original.)

The Last Slumber Party:  Laughably inept 80s slasher film about an escaped mental patient with a scalpel who dresses up in scrubs and terrorizes some annoying girls.  Makes me glad it was the last slumber party. (1/5)

Willow Creek:  Found footage movie where a guy and his girlfriend go into the woods to look for Bigfoot.  It's pretty pleasant for the first half where they're in a small town talking to locals and stuff; it actually feels like a low-rent documentary on Bigfoot.  But then they go into the woods and there is literally about 20 minutes of them just sitting in a tent listening to noises.  Sadly I was watching it live on Showtime so I couldn't fast forward.  One of the limitations of the found footage movie is that unless the people go outside the tent we can't see what's terrorizing them.  So we're just so supposed to sit there watching people listen to stuff?  WTF?  When they finally leave the tent they get lost in the woods and die thanks to Bigfoot or something.  The End.  (2/5)  (Fun Fact:  The movie was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite, who you might remember from the Police Academy movies, Scrooged, and other things.  A movie where Bobcat Goldthwaite terrorizes a couple with his obnoxious voice would probably be just as scary.)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Page to Screen: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children



Recently Amazon had Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs on sale so I downloaded that.  And the movie was recently on HBO so it seemed like a good time to read the book and watch the movie and compare the two.  There are a lot of similarities--at least until the final act of the book vs movie.  Spoilers ahead!

The book is told in first person from the point of view of sixteen-year-old Jake.  He lives in Florida with rich parents and for most of his life he's grown up with his grandfather's stories of fantastic children like a girl who could fly, a girl who can conjure fire, a boy who spews bees from his mouth, and more all led by Miss Peregrine, the headmistress who turns into a peregrine falcon. Jake used to believe those stories, but as he got older he started to think of them just as tall tales.

Then one night he comes home to find his grandpa dead.  Jake thinks he sees a monster running from the scene.  Traumatized by nightmares he goes to see a shrink.  In the book the shrink is a man while in the movie it's a woman played by Allison Janney.

In the book Jake's grandpa gave him some cryptic final words that led him to looking up the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson before he receives an Emerson book from his aunt.  In the book the book contains a letter while in the movie it's a postcard and Jake receiving the book is more streamlined.  Anyway, the letter is from Miss Peregrine only a few years earlier.  The address leads Jake to an island off the coast of Wales.  His father accompanies him to do some birdwatching for an ever-gestating book.

When Jake gets some kids to lead him to Miss Peregrine's house, he finds it a bombed-out wreck.  An old man tells him that the house was bombed by Nazis in 1940 (1943 in the movie) and there was only one survivor--Jake's grandpa.  (In the movie no one is supposed to have survived, Jake's grandpa having left earlier.)  After a few days Jake finds a trunk of pictures and drops it to the basement, where he soon finds himself back in 1940 when the house was good as new.  (This was streamlined in the movie.)

Jake meets all the children his grandpa told him about and Miss Peregrine, their caretaker.  They're called "peculiars" and like X-Men's mutants or Marvel's Inhumans they all have a natural ability that they're born with.  Miss Peregrine can turn into a bird but her real talent is for controlling time--something only birds can do.  For her and her children it's always September 3rd 1940/1943.  They live in a "loop" created by Miss Peregrine that resets every night just before the bomb hits.  The kids and Miss Peregrine don't age but they do know what's happening while the normal people on the island do not.  It's sort of like Groundhog Day with all the kids and Miss Peregrine as Bill Murray.

For some reason the movie changes Emma, the girl who dated Jake's grandpa and is thus attracted to him, from the girl who controls fire to the girl who floats unless she wears lead shoes.  I'm not sure why they made this change; maybe they thought the fire thing had been done too much already with Johnny Storm, Selma Blair in Hellboy, and Pyro in the X-Men movies.  But either way Jake and Emma become sort of a couple.

But the monsters that killed Jake grandpa's are soon coming for Jake and the peculiar children.  The monsters called "hollows" and their masters called "whites" (for their white eyes) feed on peculiars to try to regain their humanity.  They also want to kidnap Miss Peregrine to use her time abilities in an attempt to give them eternal life.  Jake, like his grandpa, is the only one who can see the monsters--his peculiar talent.

It's about this point that the book and movie really diverge.  In the book Jake and Emma spend some time together and go home to find the monsters have taken Miss Peregrine and another bird.  They gather up some other kids to track the monsters to a lighthouse, where they manage to free Miss Peregrine but not the other bird.  The monsters take off in a U-Boat while Jake, the children, and Miss Peregrine in bird form go in hot pursuit.  That's where the book ends, though I assume the chase is picked up in the next two books.

In the movie Jake goes back to town in the present and finds that the old man who told him about the bombing is dead.  He goes back to "the loop" but is followed by a tourist who reveals that he's a white--and also Jake's shrink.  (In the book the white was also Jake's bus driver in 8th grade and a couple of other people watching him.)  Jake takes the white to Miss Peregrine's where she volunteers to go with the white, turning into her bird form and letting him put her in a cage.  The children fight a hollow and then travel to another loop, this one in England in January 2016 on a boardwalk.  Using snow and cotton candy the children make the hollows visible and take them down before then using their powers on the whites to free Miss Peregrine.  The kids and Miss Peregrine return to the past, though they're no longer part of "the loop" and will live normally.

Kind of have to question whether the movie producers decided they were only going to adapt the first one and thus didn't want to end on a cliffhanger.  Which was probably pretty true since I don't think the movie did that well financially, though it can be hard to tell these days with foreign markets, Redbox rentals, digital downloads, and all that.

Maybe since I read the book first I actually liked it a lot better.  Much of the time when I compare a book or movie if the movie is similar enough to the book I say to just watch the movie since it's less time-consuming.  Since the movie is so different, especially in the last act, I actually think reading the book is better.  And actually it's probably better to read it in paperback or hardcover since there are a lot of old-timey photos included that really I couldn't appreciate all that well on the Kindle.  The writing is OK but there's maybe a little too much telling instead of showing and at least in the version I read a typo--"just deserts" instead of "just desserts."  But I think the book does a better job than the movie in setting up the background about Jake and his family and the island.  That all seems rushed in the movie, maybe so they could have the much longer ending.

I don't think the movie is bad, it's just not as good.  This seemed like the perfect project for Tim Burton, but like Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Planet of the Apes he seems to phone this one in.  Miss Peregrine seemed like a perfect role for his wife Helena Bonham Carter but instead the part went to Eva Green (until the credits came up I honestly didn't realize this; I just assumed since Bonham Carter, like Johnny Depp, is in pretty much every Tim Burton movie she would naturally be in this), so maybe that's part of the reason the movie might be quirky but just seems lifeless.  And while I guess it's nice to have a more concrete ending, it is a significant change from the book.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Alternate Alternate HIstory Shows

It seems alternate history shows are the latest rage.  First there was Amazon's Man in the High Castle based on the Philip K Dick novel where the Axis wins WWII and splits America between the Nazis and Japanese.  I watched Season 2 recently and have a review of it posting in a couple of weeks.

Then came word that the creators of Game of Thrones were producing a show called Confederate about if the South hadn't lost the Civil War.  And then Amazon announced they were going to have a show where freed slaves were given their own chunk of the country for themselves.

So since this a trend, I thought I'd propose some other alternate history shows:

The Yiddish Policeman's Union:  This novel by Michael Chabon is based on a real idea during WWII.  Instead of creating Israel there was an idea to give Jews a chunk of Alaska called the Sitka.  The book takes place years later and involves a murder mystery of sorts.  The end of the book features something some Trumpsters would like, which is to start a war in the Middle East to set off Armageddon.  But really because most of it is like a noir-type mystery it'd make a good series for one of the pay cable or streaming networks.

The Years of Rice and Salt:  This novel by Kim Stanley Robinson deals with the what if:  what if the Black Death had wiped out nearly all of Europe?  Instead of Columbus, etc discovering the "New World" it's explorers from China and India.  Though the obvious problem would be finding a way to cast all white people in a show where white people are all dead.

The Plot Against America:  This novel by Philip Roth is similar to Man in the High Castle only in this case instead of the Nazis taking over America, America reaches an "understanding" with Berlin when Charles Lindbergh and his "America First" campaign (no, Donald Trump did not invent that) beat FDR in 1940.  The story focuses mostly on a Jewish family facing the rising fascism.  This would be another great series because it already has a fairly narrow focus so you wouldn't need a huge budget.

Marvel 1602:  Marvel is bringing out a host of TV shows but if they want to get into the alternate history game this graphic novel by Neil Gaiman would be a good way to go.  It reimagines the Marvel Universe in Elizabethan times.  Dr. Strange is an advisor to the queen and Nick Fury a spy for her.  Bruce Banner and Peter Parker are there too, though not in superhero guise yet.  The Fantastic Four and I think the X-Men are also around.  But it all revolves around Captain America in the New World.

Superman: Red Son:  Since we have one for Marvel, why not one for DC?  This graphic novel by Mark Millar imagines what if Superman's capsule had landed in the Soviet Union?  Instead of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, Superman is an agent of Stalin who later takes over the Soviet Union and then most of the world while Lex Luthor becomes president of a second-rate America.  Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern also appear.

Pirate Utopia:  This book by Bruce Sterling is actually pretty lame, but the title and basic premise would be a good starting place for a series.  Basically this imagines a world where Hitler died in WWI and a group of pirates with airships have their own refuge by Italy.  The book really ended before it got to much of a point, but I'm sure a good TV writer could think of something.

Anything by Harry Turtledove.  I mean that's pretty much all he does, so just pick one at random.

And really why not do a Sliders reboot series?  Seems like the perfect time for the original TV series about alternate histories to come back.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Last Message Board?

Today's when other writing blogs are whining, so I'm joining in.

Last fall I finally got run out of writers.net for belittling someone who never had any intention of sticking around in the first place.  The moderator in her infinite wisdom decided to protect that person who didn't give a shit anyway and booted me from the group after 10 years.  And now the group is dead.  Not even Jay Greenstein is around anymore.

Anyway, enough sour grapes about that.  I was looking for a new writing board and one sent me a birthday card.  I had signed up there back in 2009 and forgot about it and so decided to go check it out.  It was run by the same people as writers.net but still slightly more active.

Soon I dropped a little SPaG on someone who whined that he just wanted to know if people liked it; he didn't want actual help with his writing.  And then he got mad and called me a "cunt."  I'm like, whoa hey there but then someone else was like, "Yeah you are a bit of a cunt."

That pretty much set the tone for the place.  They'd lament they didn't get many new enrollees but when you're basically a closed loop good ol' boys club why would anyone new want to stick around?  But I have more stubbornness than most so I did stick around for a few more months.  Things cooled down a little.

Then I made the mistake of admitting I think Cormac McCarthy is pretentious and overrated.  I might as well have said the moon is made of green cheese.  Everyone jumped on me to say pretty much the same thing:  he's great!  His writing is beautiful!  It's poetic!  Yeah, so?  That doesn't make it less pretentious.  I mean for instance the thing where he uses Spanish dialogue but doesn't have a translation.  One genius was like, "Well just Google it!"  So I should have to put the book down and Google everything?  "Well, just get the gist from context!"  Yeah, but the one book of his I read was supposed to be a love story.  Tell me:  would Romeo & Juliet have been as touching if Romeo were speaking English and Juliet speaking Klingon with no subtitles?  Sure you might get the gist they love each other but you wouldn't really understand what's going on.

That then started the gaslighting of constantly saying I was dumb.  Anything they didn't agree with: you're dumb.  Or you're just the old drunk guy at the bar who says crazy things.  Um, no, that was the yutz who kept posting about interest though he didn't understand it.  Or the moron who thought we should privatize everything and rely on bartering.  Well what about roads, police, fire, courts, etc?  Meh, "someone" will take care of it for...reasons.  Those people were dumb and just saying stuff.

Part of this campaign was this one guy bitched about putting lol in posts or emoticons.  I'm like, Dude I've been posting on message boards for 20 years so don't tell me how to post.  He sulkily said, Oh well after 20 years you haven't learned much.  Like there's a "right way" to post on a stupid message board.  Such a stupid Greenstein thing to think.

A sensible person would have left, but who said I'm sensible about that?  No one.  The site "administrator" the only authority-type figure left was a NRA nut, the one who posted that lame "Lamentations of a Liberal Woman" story.  I think because of that he really championed the "you're dumb" cause.  Which wouldn't have been that much of a problem until he started using his admin power to rewrite my posts to make them say something other than what I intended.

That was when I threw in the towel.  I mean if your administrator is going to use his authority on a petty grudge, then that's no kind of site I'd want to be part of.  It's not the kind of site anyone should want to be part of.

Since then I haven't gone looking for any new message boards.  I think for the moment I'm just worn out.  If I went to another group it'd just start the cycle again.  There'd be ingrate newbies who can't handle they're not the writing gods they think they are.  And people who call me every name in the book to say how evil I am for disagreeing with their argument.  Blah, blah, blah.

I think for now I'll just sate my online bloodlust trolling Yahoo News on Facebook or something. Message boards are so 2000 anyway, right?  As for crtitique groups, I'm really past the point where I give two shits about what some amateurs I don't know think.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Where Has Our Vision Gone?

As Independence Day came around, it was depressing to think how far America has fallen.  Instead of a Great Society or Camelot or New Deal what we have now is a "vision" of building a wall to keep people out and to scrap all environmental laws to let polluters run amok on the off-chance they might create a few dirty, dangerous mining jobs.  And where our ruling class threatens to take healthcare from the old, disabled, and even children to give themselves and their rich friends a tax cut.

What's been lacking really since the early 60s, is a real progressive vision.  A vision of a future where all people benefit, not just the lucky few.  We let assassinations, Watergate, Reagan, the Bushes, 9/11, the Tea Party, and now Trump drag us down into the muck.  Instead of envisioning a better tomorrow, we're all too busy scrambling for crumbs like a bunch of rats in a sewer.  It's probably why so many of our entertainments these days are dystopian in nature:  The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and so on.

As we've seen with their disastrous "health care bill," our ruling class is focused only on gutting social programs so they can have more crumbs than anyone else.  And those in their defense say, "What's mine is mine.  Why should I help anyone else?"  (And then go to church on Sunday to do their lip service to Jesus.)  Poor people are constantly demonized as lazy, stupid, criminals, and worse.  It's justified by saying these people are moochers dragging everyone else down.

This meme someone on Facebook posted epitomizes this:

#5 is why all of Europe is Communist now...
It's sad if anyone actually believes this silly canonizing of the 1%.  Like all rich people earned their money with hard work and honesty, like the "old money" types like Paris Hilton, or the con men like Bernie Madoff, or even someone brilliant like Mark Zuckerberg by all accounts screwed over a lot of people to build Facebook.  To some extent I'm responsible for my financial situation, but I didn't ask to be laid off from my job, just like hundreds of thousands of other people in the last decade.  I mean let's face it, people who post shit like this are just one pink slip or one stock market crash away from being with us poors.  But since that day hasn't come yet they can look down their noses at us to protect the sainted rich.

This is exactly the crux of the problem.  We're so busy turning on each other, giving lip service to Christianity instead of actually practicing it.  We don't need walls and tax cuts for the rich; we need to make our country truly great by ensuring that everyone has a roof overhead, clothes on their back, food in their belly, clean water to drink, and the freedom to live up to their potential.  Maybe at one point we believed in that, though I don't think really in my lifetime.

I'm not a believer in religion but one thing I do believe in since I heard about it in whatever science class is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  It's a pretty simple theory that says you can't have real spiritual fulfillment until your basic needs are met.  It's pretty common sense when you think about it.  In the simplest terms, imagine how hard it is to concentrate at work if you don't eat breakfast, because your tummy is rumbling, making it hard to focus on other stuff.  So if people don't have a home, clothes, food, clean water, or the other essentials, we can't really expect them to find real happiness.  This is also what drives people to take drugs, commit crimes, and engage in other poor behavior.  Thus it behooves all of us to create the sort of country that provides for the well-being of its citizens.  If for our own survival if nothing else.

Whoever wants my vote in 2018 and 2020 needs to articulate that vision and not just the same old bullshit about "jobs" that never really seem to materialize. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Do You Get the Concept?

I had an idea for Transformed Into Twins Too that was based on that original Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk is split into two people:  one good and one evil.  So the idea would be there's a science experiment or whatever and this guy is split into two women:  one who's good and sweet and one who's an icy dominatrix.  So I went to Dreamstime (because Adobe took over Fotolia and got rid of ala carte purchases and I don't want to pay $29.99 a month when I need like one or two pictures every few months) and they have the option when you click on a picture to see all the other pictures a model has appeared in on the site.  So I looked up dominatrixes, which is fairly fascinating, and then found one who also had a normal picture.  Then I put both on the cover to represent that there are two people with opposing personalities.


I'm just not sure if it'll be clear that these are two different people and not just the same person in two outfits.  Which technically the latter is true, but it's called Transformed Into TWINS so maybe that will make it clear.  Plus maybe someone will actually read the description on Amazon or the website or whatever--that would be a first.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Other Comics I've Read Recently

While I spent a lot of time binging on Transformers comics recently, there were some other superhero-type ones I finally got around to reading too.  In part it's because I got a new Fire tablet on Prime Day so I wanted to read the stuff I had downloaded to the old tablet instead of re-downloading it. And I had to get a tooth pulled so I wasn't doing much else.

The Vision, Volume 1:  After reading Tom King's brilliant Omega Men, I was interested in reading his Vision series for Marvel, which is kind of like American Beauty or a John Updike novel only with synthezoids.  Attempting to become more human the cybernetic Avenger the Vision makes himself a wife and twins Viv and Vin and moves them all into a home in Alexandria, Virginia.  Things don't go how he plans though when a bad guy named Grim Reaper tries to murder his family while he's away, which nearly kills his daughter and unleashes a psychotic side to his wife's personality.  It's not really a superhero comic, though superheroics are referenced, more a comic about what it means to be human.  At some point I hope to get volume 2, which I think was also the conclusion. (4/5)

The Vision, Volume 2:  Well "some point" turned out to be about a week later since it was on sale on Amazon.  This completes the arc as the Avengers send Vision's "half-brother" Victor to spy on him and the family.  But when Vision's son Vin stumbles upon Victor reporting to the Avengers, Victor kills him.  The Vision then takes on the Avengers and in one of those bad comic book fights defeats Iron Man, Thor (Jane Foster), Captain America (Sam Wilson), Scarlet Witch, and Medusa in the span of like five panels.  But before he can finish the job, his wife sacrifices herself to save him.  Like the first part it's a good exploration of humanity and family.  Another excellent limited series from King; I should get around to his Rebirth Batman to see how he does with an actual ongoing. (4/5) (Fun Fact:  I recently bought the first two volumes of Rebirth era Batman but I haven't had the chance to read them yet.)

Justice League 3001, Volume 2:  I mostly enjoyed the first volume of this series that deals with clones of familiar heroes Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and also has gender swapped versions of Green Lantern (Guy Gardner version) and the Flash.  That volume ended with Supergirl arriving from the 21st Century and then some evil androids showing up and blowing Superman's head off.  This picks up with Batman sacrificing himself to get the rest of the team to relative safety as the androids and their leader "Lady Styx" are taking over the whole galaxy.  Interestingly at this point then is for this volume the League is entirely female--which is maybe why it was canceled after issue 12.  I mean you kill off Batman and you don't have Harley Quinn involved it's hard to sell a DC comic series like that.  The impending cancellation really fucked things up as there was a lot of stuff left hanging and threads not wrapped up.  I'm not sure if they ever solved any of that in other DC titles or not.  Really brought down what was otherwise a decent story. (2.5/5)

Superwoman, Vol 1:  This is one of the lesser-known Rebirth era titles.  It borrows from the recent Thor storyline where Thor's former girlfriend Jane Foster gains Thor's powers but that power was also killing her.  When New 52 Superman dies, some of his power is absorbed by Lois Lane and Lana Lang.  Lois gets Superman's strength while Lana is like the "Electric Blue" era Superman, more specifically when he was split into a blue and a red guy since she has all his electrical powers but is red.  They form a team, each being called Superwoman, but on their first real mission to stop a rogue aircraft carrier, Lois is killed. Now it's up to Lana to stop the killer...with the help of Steel.  And Steel's niece.  And Steel's niece's girlfriend, who's some kind of witch.  And Steel's niece's other friends.  And a bunch of random citizens.  And Lex Luthor, who has created a suit of armor and started calling himself Superman.  The story was OK but I think it needed to be smaller.  When you're trying to introduce a new character it's nice if you actually focus on that character and not a whole bunch of other people.  I mean it'd be like if Detective Comics #27 in 1939 had introduced Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Spoiler, Azrael, Bluebird, and all the other Bat allies.  Batman would get lost in the shuffle.  I just think a smaller threat for the first volume would have worked better and lead into a bigger threat once the character is more firmly established.  Maybe that's just me.  It would also help if you're well-versed in the recent Superman comics to know what all is going on. (2.5/5)

Teen Titans:  The Judas Contract:  This four-issue limited series was recently adapted into an animated movie I haven't gotten around to watching.  The gist is that when the mercenary Deathstroke's son dies, he takes up a contract to kill the Teen Titans.  To do this he plants a mole in their midst in the form of a girl named Terra who has the power to control the ground with earthquakes and mountains of dirt and crap like that.  Anyway, it's kind of lame how in the second issue we're shown in flashback how Deathstroke captures all of the Titans except Dick Grayson, who then adopts a godawful disco suit and starts calling himself Nightwing.  Since it's like 35 years later you can safely assume the Titans survive.  I guess in 1982 this was an important story but by itself it's really no big deal. I'm not sure how the movie compares, though I assume there are better costumes. (2.5/5)

Mother Panic, Volume 1:  The world needed another Batman-related comic book series like it needed another Spider-Man movie reboot franchise, but while it wasn't needed, Mother Panic is not bad. The slant on this is: what if Paris Hilton were a Caped Crusader at night? Violet Paige is a rich celebrity party girl whose father died mysteriously and whose mother suffers from early-onset Alzheimer's. (The latter is not an original concept; I did that with the aunt of my superhero Emma Earl in my Tales of the Scarlet Knight series back in 2009. Suck it Gerard Way.) She went to a boarding school that was a cover for a place that performed medical experiments on its children, sort of like the place Wade Wilson goes to in Deadpool. In this case it made Violet stronger than average. And then...somehow she got a white costume that made me think of a fox and a fancy glider thing and goes looking for revenge on people who put her in that position. In the first three comics she also inadvertently saves some children and encounters Batwoman, who like Violet is a lesbian, so maybe they can do something with that later. The second half of this first volume then has her fighting another student from the boarding school who had been given loads of plastic surgery. And she makes friends with this guy called Ratcatcher who talks to rats. (I had a guy like that in my Tales of the Scarlet Knight series too. Suck it again, Gerard Way.)  Really I can't say I liked this a lot but I also can't say I didn't like it. I guess I'd have to see more of it to decide. Maybe if I get a free review copy of that I will. (3/5)

Secret Wars:  For about 30 years Marvel mocked DC for rebooting their universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985 and its two sequels in later decades.  But in 2015 Marvel pretty much does the same thing while referencing its 1984 series Secret Wars, despite that there really isn't so much a secret WAR so much as a secret destruction and rebuilding of the universe.  Not a lot of it makes much sense unless you're really well-versed on Marvel comics for the last 50 years (which I'm not) but basically when all the various parts of the "multiverse" were collapsing for...reasons, Dr. Doom uses god-like power to stitch together a planet called "Battleworld" with a bunch of different fiefdoms that like Disney World each have a different theme:  one is full of Marvel Zombies, another Old Man Logan, another the "Ultimate" Marvel comics universe, another for Age of Ultron, and so on.  A few heroes like Reed Richards, Star-Lord, and Spider-Man escaped all this and try to stop Doom.  It was all pretty lame and boring, because again I'm an outsider for the most part.  And it's the sort of series where like IDW's Revolution you really need to read all the side issues, which for this there were probably like 50 of them.  The volume I got from Amazon only had the main 9 issues, so I wasn't going to spend a bunch more money on this. (2/5)

Civil War II:  Following Secret Wars, this was the next big Marvel "event" series.  It shamelessly rips off Minority Report when a new Inhuman named Ulysses (who went to Ohio State so you know he just suuuuucks) who has visions of the future shows up.  Captain Marvel instantly wants to use these visions to try to prevent future disasters, even when her boyfriend James "War Machine" Rhodes is killed by Thanos and She-Hulk is potentially crippled.  (Is she?  We never really get back to that.)  Iron Man disagrees and kidnaps the kid to study his brain and reveal what the heroes are already finding out:  the predictions are not iron clad (pun intended).  When there's a vision of the Hulk killing everyone, they rush to confront Bruce Banner, who's then killed by Hawkeye before he can change into the Hulk.  Hawkeye walks free thanks to a video will Banner left that appointed Hawkeye to kill him if he should start Hulking out again.  And then there are fights for no good reason.  The original Civil War had something big at stake:  whether superheroes would be forced to register with the government, exposing their secret identities.  That would have had huge implications, whereas this really doesn't, especially since Ulysses is conveniently beamed up by the Watchers or Beyonders or some higher alien lifeform at the end.  This is just a philosophical question that isn't all that compelling for a story that's supposed to shake up the Marvel universe.  You might get more out of it if you read the side issues, but why bother?  Six months later they launched into the NEXT "event" series: Secret Empire.  Which will launch into the next event, and so on ad nauseum.  (2/5)

I think by now I've read just about every big Marvel event of this century.  The best of the lot are Civil War, House of M, and Age of Ultron.  Avengers vs X-Men, Secret Invasion and Original Sins were OK.  Fear Itself, Secret Wars, and Civil War II were pretty meh.  Siege was lame.  I don't even follow Marvel comics monthly and I have event fatigue.

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