Budget Movie Reviews: The Void (2001) A Booby Trap

The Void Movie Poster

The Void Movie Poster

The Void Movie Poster

The Void is a third class b-movie. The worst kind: The Booby Trap. Here’s the thing. I selected this movie on Netflix to see what was allegedly a movie about scientists accidentally creating a black hole on Earth. I was looking for disasterpiece theatre. If I want to watch people having sex: I’m over 18, I have access to non-basic cable, I also have access to a credit card and the internet. I would not be looking for a budget sci-fi thriller if I wanted to watch sex.

I don’t like being suckered into watching sex when I want to see special effects about disasters and people finding ways to survive and maybe even saving the day. I find the third class b-movie offensive. Not because there is sex in them but because they lie to me about what the movie is actually about. I got more than half way in and no effects. No bad preliminary test runs of the machine, nothing to indicate the formula is wrong except one person talking about it. No ominous power issues–Nothing. Just sex and an evil corporate villain who is willing to kill to carry on with his experiments, which he now knows will go horribly wrong. Ho hum.

If your plot is so thin and your budget so tight that you have neither concepts nor footage of pending disasters happening, and you are filming a disaster movie, DO NOT PAD YOUR FILM WITH SEX. We, the viewers, are not stupid. We know what you’re doing. We are not amused. Also gratuitous sex will not make a boring movie interesting. It just won’t.

I did not finish watching The Void. I don’t watch Booby Traps. If I want to see humans copulating I can turn on HBO or any number of other channels. Shoot I have Netflix I can chose movies that are at least honest about what most of the time in them is spent on.

In summation: avoid The Void. If you want to watch sex scenes there are far better out there. If you’re looking for a good disaster movie–this is not it. K.

War In Flesh Update & Huey Lewis and The News

The sequel to In The Flesh, War In Flesh has been on a bit of a writing hiatus while I try to figure out how things go together. A lot of thought and a little bit of inspiration have gotten two major plot points figured out in a way that I am very very pleased with. I was having some real trouble getting things to work out that didn’t seem contrived or forced but finally I figured it out. Two chapters came to me and they contained answers and also another mystery that isn’t revealing itself to me yet. I’m as anxious to find out what’s going on as you will be. Also In The Flesh is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo.

Also I saw Huey Lewis and The News at the Zoo. They were awesome, the crowd was great. They did their whole Sports album, seeing how it was the 30th anniversary tour of the Sports album. They also performed some new song and a lot of old favorites. The weather was perfect and the sunset was gorgeous.

I’ll be posting an update about my garden soon. Also I already have tickets for Pacific Rim and will be reviewing it here on M31 Publishing and at The Geek Girl Project. I’m so excited about that movie. Everything I’m seeing from advance reviews says it’ll live up to the hype. Also, good news! I scored an advance readers copy of the novelization of Pacific Rim and I will be reviewing that for The Geek Girl Project and M31. K.

The Lone Ranger A Mostly Spoiler Free Review

The Lone Ranger movie poster

The Lone Ranger movie poster

The Lone Ranger movie poster

Let’s be honest here. I went into the theatre expecting a “play it safe” middle of the road movie that wouldn’t tax my perceptions or ask anything of me. All I expected was a lightweight summer entertainment movie. I was entertained. I was also pleasantly surprised.

While the basic movie is exactly what one would expect of The Lone Ranger, the writers and directors took it above the midline in several directions consistently throughout the entirety of the movie. The humor was well placed and well paced.

Johnny Depp as Tonto is brilliant and brilliantly witty. Unlike Jack Sparrow, the swashbuckling captain of the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean, Tonto is actually broken. It would be easy to dismiss Tonto as yet another quirky Depp character but there are significant differences. Jack Sparrow is always three to five steps ahead of everyone else. Tonto is mentally traumatized. Jack Sparrow has an effortlessness about him that makes it clear he’s actually in complete control of himself. Tonto is deliberate, lacking the effervescent nature of Jack Sparrow. Tonto’s wit is dry and understated. As for the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland that character was supposed to be mad and enjoy it. Tonto wasn’t mad.

It’s a good thing that Tonto is funny in this movie because there are some really dark moments and dark themes. There is the horror of what the settlers really did to the native people of America as well as the arrogance and implicit racism of referring to someone whose culture is different as a savage. The film takes this issue head on without beating it to death. I think it was deftly handled and adroitly illustrated.

The Lone Ranger, John Reed, (Armie Hammer) starts out as an almost stereotypical city slicker. He’s educated, genteel and has ideas about how the world should work that are correct in theory but don’t work out so well in practice. His brother Dan Reed (James Badge Dale) is the head Texas Ranger and good hearted while still understanding how things really work. He deputizes his brother as a ranger also.

A love interest (Ruth Wilson), potential love triangle is thrown in because there has to be a girl. This is one of the sub plots I felt the movie could have done without. The hero doesn’t always have to get the girl, and it doesn’t make him gay if he doesn’t—and so what if he was gay? Does it really matter all that much?

With the exception of the love interest, most of the other women in the movie were background extras. There was the train car full of church going women and the towns folk but they were really there as props. Well, except for Madam Red (Helena Bonham Carter) and her working girls. The madam has an ivory prosthetic leg that has a concealed shotgun in it. You know how this went down. Some idiot is sitting in a conference room with a bunch of other men brainstorming for ideas. Finally he says, “Oh! Oh! I got it! Let’s have a whore with a prosthetic leg that’s…wait for it…a SHOTGUN!” And all the other men agree because it’s cool, right? And then, to show what decent guys they are they give her a tragic backstory so she can help the Lone Ranger and Tonto get the bad guy later on in the movie. Actually I kind of liked her. She was spunky and well played.

Ok so there were some flaws. But they did not take over the movie. If the director (Gore Verbinski) and writers had committed to the Lone Ranger rather than hedging their bets with a retrospective type introduction, a few break-in scenes and ending, it would have been a far better movie. It’s a shame they didn’t trust the material. The 1933 fair scenes could have been cut entirely and they never would have been missed. They added nothing to the plot, the emotional connection (such as it was) or the overall story. They felt like an escape clause.

The dynamics between the Lone Ranger, Tonto and Silver are brilliant. Tonto is a world wise soul with a dry wit and a clear sense of what is going on. He also has an innate sense of what motivates people. John Reed, who becomes The Lone Ranger, has clearly led a sheltered life up until this point, is idealistic and determined to make the world conform to his vision of how things should work. Silver, the horse, is clearly the smartest one of the bunch.

John Reed becomes the lone ranger by the sheer fact of surviving an ambush. The main villain, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) is probably certifiably insane and viciously mean too. Let’s just say that cannibalism is not something one would expect from the Lone Ranger serial of one’s youth. Thankfully they don’t show it, they just strongly imply it.

Tonto brings up the Windigo legend and it plays well throughout the movie. That a silver bullet is the only thing that can stop the Windigo, for example, is a brilliant explanation for why The Lone Ranger uses silver bullets. It was genius to show Tonto making silver bullets out of the badges of the fallen Texas Rangers. There was emotional power in that concept. I will say that while Tonto’s revelation at the end made sense and hinted at a healing within his broken psyche, dropping the Wendigo legend was kind of a shame. I liked it and they could have gone farther with it.

Themes of corruption in government, betrayal, greed and corporate malfeasance are the backbone of the plot and the forces against which the Lone Ranger and Tonto must stand. Corporate greed and lies lead to a terrible act of genocide in the movie. One of the things that struck me was how close to actual history the movie strayed in some scenes. What happened to the native peoples was an atrocity and this movie does not shy away from that. Nor does it shy away from how the most bigoted people, the cruelest people are sometimes the ones who pay lip service to god the loudest. While I’m sure it was true to history, hearing someone about to commit genocide ask for god’s help was unsettling at best. I doubt god is going to help with something like that.

There is a surprising depth to this film beneath its humor. Also the use of the traditional Lone Ranger theme music was a pleasant surprise. The use of the iconic music was almost a distraction but it played well into the overall tone of the movie.

Overall I found The Lone Ranger to be a decent movie that made no promises it didn’t keep in the end. It stayed internally consistent and while I might quibble with some choices, they did make sense for the characters involved. I would say The Lone Ranger is a delightful movie but not for young children. There are some dark themes and scenes in it. It needed the humor Depp brought to his role as Tonto; otherwise it would have been oppressive.

The Lone Ranger won’t change your life and it’s not the next summer blockbuster but it’s good solid entertainment. K.

Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol #1 of 5 Advance Review

Chronos Commandos Cover

Chronos Commandos Cover

Chronos Commandos Cover

Created, Written and Illustrated by: Stuart Jennett
Logo Design and Lettering Assist by: Donna Jennett
Edited by: Andrew James
On Sale August 14th

First impression: Wow. Second impression: Wow. This comic book is beautiful. The art is fantastic. I would hazard a guess that this is a labor of love. Stuart Jennett clearly, demonstrably, has remarkable talent and it is all on display in this issue.

Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol #1 is packed full of important backstory. The pages are dense with plot, dialogue and every scene is gorgeously realized. I confess that I almost passed on reviewing this comic because, well, it is kind of gory. Beautifully rendered but lots of death and blood and some guts.

For some inexplicable reason dinosaurs find military personnel delicious. Humans must be like the potato chips of the Cretaceous and men with guns are the hot-n-spicy flavored ones. I like time travel stories and this holds true across the spectrum.

The issue opens and closes with panels that show top secret, classified documents. The opening classified document establishes “Sarge” as being assigned to the Chronos Commandos. The closing document provides a more detailed description of what the project is and what their hopes are for it. I confess that I secretly hoped to see Project Rainbow included in the final list but I can understand why it was not. Perhaps that would have been too much. Also it would have gotten into a whole weird area mixing Tesla with Einstein. This wouldn’t have been just another, “you got chocolate in my peanut butter,” kind of thing. There is plenty going on with what the author has already. Rogue conspiracy theories were not necessary and this kind of restraint shows good self-editing on the part of the creator.

Warning some spoilers ahead. Tread lightly.

Our hero, “Sarge,” takes a crack team of commandos back to the far distant past to foil a Nazi plot to win WWII. Sarge is a bit sloppy about time travel theory. He’s just not into the whole “Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey” stuff. He’s a man of action. This does not end well for the good guys. However, the story is beautifully thought out. You can see what’s happening and the results are quite right. There are so many things that could be red herrings. I’m really quite hooked. I want to see what Jennett does and where he takes the story.

During the course of their mission a T-Rex who clearly has a craving eats some of Sarge’s men. Possibly she’s a mother close to hatching out a clutch of little T-Rexes because she will go to any length to satisfy her craving for crunchy commandos. Did I mention a little bit gory? Yeah.

Sarge is a bit callous about the whole thing which points to some potential interesting inner conflicts in the future. He’s a big picture guy trying to save the world from evil. He doesn’t have time to worry about one or two guys who fall during the fight for freedom.

We also are given tantalizing hints to some past injury the Nazis have done him. He seems a bit obsessive about hunting down Nazis and stopping them. There really is a lot going on with this character. Subtle is not in his vocabulary. He starts the issue with three men. Two suffer death by dino and one dies at the hands of a Nazi due to a miscount. Although that begs the question—was it the previous mission, which they reference as making a mistake during that led to the Nazis changing history and thus leading to the miscount or were they just in a hurry and got sloppy? What a delicious question to leave the reader with.

Sarge does some things that perhaps a more savvy time traveller would not do and this possibly results in bad things happening. I’m not going to spoil everything for you but I will say that it’s really not good for history, as we know it.

As promised in the press release; Einstein himself, wild hair and all, is wielding a machine-gun when Sarge returns. This is bad. First of all, Einstein, historically, was a pacifist. To imagine that gentle scientist wielding a machine-gun hints at terrible things happening to the time stream.

I’m just not spoiling the ending for you. Suffice it to say that Sarge has to immediately hop back into his chrono sphere to fix some problems that involve Nazis who have turned the tables. In the course of this one issue Sarge went from having the edge, having intel before the Nazis to the Nazis knowing things they aught not to. Time travel, go figure. K.

News for M31 Publishing and War In Flesh

In The Flesh Cover Art

In The Flesh Cover Art

In The Flesh Cover Art

As you may have noticed I’m trying to expand M31 Publishing into a real, and interesting, Blog. I love science fiction, comic books, games of all kinds and a lot of things. I already have my tickets for Pacific Rim–the wait is KILLING me! Tomorrow I’m likely to drink some amazing beer and see The Lone Ranger (I know I shouldn’t want to see it but I kind of do). Thanks to my ties to The Geek Girl Project I’ve got an in with Titan Comics and thanks to Bob Eggleton I’ve discovered In Saturn’s Rings which I will keep track of and update you on. So check out www.M31Publishing.com for updates on all of this and War in Flesh as well as Second Chances and other books I’m working on.

What I’m finding is that people love to read about my garden. That works out well for me because I love to write about it.

I’m still publishing movie reviews on The Geek Girl Project. I’m reviewing the old Godzilla movies as well as doing a monthly series of movies called K.’s Guilty Pleasures. For all those old (and new) budget movies or just blockbusters that didn’t bust the block.

War In Flesh is coming along slowly but very well. I feel the stuff I’ve written since I rebooted it is very good. I’m hoping to get some time this weekend to really get some serious work done on it. I’m having more ideas for Second Chances too and I’m torn between working on War In Flesh and Second Chances. I’m sure I’ll figure it out. In The Flesh is available for your kindle on Amazon. K.

Titan Comics Press Release: Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol (7/10/2013)

Chronos Commandos Cover

Chronos Commandos Cover

Chronos Commandos Cover

Writer(s): Stuart Jennett
Artist Name(s): Stuart Jennett

Synopsis:
When the Allies and Nazis develop time-diving technology that could see the course of the Second World War derailed by creatures from the Cretaceous period, only the Sarge and his band of misfit soldiers can save the future – by saving history!

Dinosaurs! Giant crocodiles! Time travel! Nazis! Albert Einstein with a machinegun! All that barely scratches the surface of this astounding, fully-painted pulp spectacular!

Buckle up, ladies, it’s going to be a bumpy, cigar-chewin’ thrill-ride!

I’ve gotta say, gentle readers, this looks like a fun comic book romp. K.

Happy 4th of July

fireworks-american-flag

fireworks-american-flagIt’s the 4th of July. A day when we celebrate the independence of our great nation. Today we celebrate an ideal–that all men and women are created equal and that government should serve the people. We celebrate the ideal of freedom for every living being. Freedom from oppression, freedom of religion, freedom to make our own choices in this life. Those are the ideals that the United States of America was founded upon.

Remember those things and be safe while celebrating today. Keep a bucket of water nearby to douse spent fireworks in. Don’t leave food out in the heat all day. Supervise children with sparklers and only let adults set off other fireworks. Nothing ruins a holiday faster than a trip to the emergency room.

If you’re drinking, don’t drive. If you’re driving, don’t drink beverages that impair your faculties. Be careful, be thoughtful and enjoy your freedoms. Don’t take them for granted, think about them and be grateful while you celebrate with friends, family and loved ones. K.

The Latest Pacific Rim Teaser–We Are Barbarians

Ron Perlman is Hannibal Chau in Pacific Rim

Ron Perlman is Hannibal Chau in Pacific Rim

Ron Perlman is Hannibal Chau in Pacific Rim

No that’s not the official title for the latest teaser released about Pacific Rim but it could be. We are barbarians and honestly, if we were ever attacked by a hostile alien force of any extraplanetary origin, be it space or dimension, I can totally see a portion of our population going for something like this:

It’s hysterically well done and I love Ron Perlman. He was fantastic in Hellboy and Beauty and the Beast the television series way back when. This is just genius but also a pointed reminder of just how awful we humans can be.

Any invading alien force would face not only unceasing resistance but at some point we will figure out how to commercialize them and then they are in real trouble. Just ask the Western Black Rhino which was officially declared extinct. Hunted to extinction for its horn and a few other bits and pieces for some of the conditions mentioned in this spoof advert for Pacific Rim.

I love the idea and it indicates that Pacific Rim is true science fiction, because science fiction is about more than just exciting weapons, technology, aliens, monsters or far away and exotic lands. Science Fiction always tells us something about ourselves. At least the best science fiction does and this gives me high hopes for Pacific Rim. Because to be honest, Kaiju and giant mechs was more than enough to get me into a theatre to see it. To find that it is true to the best science fiction has to offer just makes me even more anxious to see it. I have very high hopes for it. K.

Games People Play: Dominion

Dominion

Dominion

Dominion

I don’t know that I can do Dominion justice in a review, but I’m going to give it a try. The backstory for the game is that you have inherited a small kingdom and you want to enlarge your holdings by gobbling up surrounding territories held by petty kings and warlords. Each of the other players is in the same position. They want to make their kingdom the largest.

The game mechanics involve cards, lots and lots of cards. Each player starts with a very small, identical deck of cards. Other cards are laid out in sorted piles from which each player may purchase more. There are Action cards, Victory cards, Curse cards and Treasure cards. Those are pretty self-explanatory.

It’s in these cards that the game gets quite complicated. Some of the cards give you points towards winning, Victory cards, and some put you in a better position to get more points, Treasure cards for example. Others restrict what your opponents can do by taking cards away or forcing them to discard, sounds like Curse cards to me.

There are so many variables that it is difficult to carry a single strategy through the game and win with it. Flexibility and the ability to think on your feet are what make for a better chance to win in this game. Don’t loose track of what your opponents are doing either.

For such a complex game it goes fairly quickly. This isn’t like sitting down for a game of Risk that can take hours and hours. Dominion is fast enough to be exciting. Often I find I’m just getting to a place where I think I’m good when suddenly it’s game over.

There are 9 expansions too. Adding any of those into the mix really changes the flavor of the game. I like the Alchemy expansion but Intrigue not so much.

Dominion is distributed by Rio Grande Games and was made by Donald X. Vaccarino. It is recommended for 2 – 4 players ages 13+. I’m pretty sure we’ve played with 5 players at parties and it works out ok. It’s a fun game and good for your Fourth of July entertainment or any gathering. It makes a great gift too. Last but not least there is a Dominion app that is quite fun. K.

In Saturn’s Rings First Official Teaser in 4K

Wow! Thanks to the inestimable Bob Eggleton I just discovered In Saturn’s Rings. I got goosebumps watching this trailer on my computer screen. I can only imagine how amazing, how overwhelming it will be on an IMAX screen. Filmmaker Stephen Van Vuuren has edited together and animated hundreds of thousands of photographs from the Cassini-Huygens space craft. This movie is made without special effects, just animating those photographs. Again, Wow.

Even more amazing, and true to the spirit of scientific discovery, this film is non-profit. These people and this amazing film are spreading the word about the wonders of science and they want to give us something to reach for again. They want to see humanity dream and that is a worthy goal. We are dreamers and we are curious. If we loose that, then we loose a piece of our soul, both as individuals and collectively as people. What I’ve seen is absolutely breathtaking and that these people are doing it for us, for humanity, for our future speaks to hope and to the best of what we can be.

Here is the trailer:

And their official website In Saturn’s Rings.

As this is a non-profit undertaking they are accepting donations on their official site. Look for the full feature length movie in IMAX in 2014. I can hardly wait! K.