Saturday, April 1, 2017
A few folks had recommended to me Altered Carbon (2002) by Richard Morgan. Likely this was due to my interests in science-fiction and detective/ noir fiction. Not a bad call, that. The book is more or less a detective story with a decidedly noirish bent set in a far-flung future of high technology and interstellar travel.
While our characters live in a fantasyland of technological wonders and possibilities, the technology the book is most preoccupied with is the digitization of the human consciousness, allowing minds and personalities to flow freely between bodies or into virtual environments as specters, even crossing the cosmos for business meetings into rented "sleeves". While mankind lives at a point where genetic and chemical manipulation of the human form is common practice, the same ills that always plague humanity are no further off. War, hunger, institutionalized economic disparity, religious mania... all still present hundreds of years from today despite the colonization of many new worlds and the discovery of alien artifacts.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
On Monday around 3:07 Pacific Time (I was flying back from Berkeley, CA), I finished the final Parker novel by Richard Stark, Dirty Money (2008).
It's a hell of a thing to say I read all 24 Parker books, plus the four Grofield spin-off novels. That's certainly a first for me, when it comes to books. Back in the 1990's, I read about five or six books with a tight continuity by William Kennedy, and I've read a lot of Hammett's "Continental Op" short stories - but 28 books by one person feels like a lot, airplane reading though they were.
Dirty Money doesn't conclude the series except for the fact that Donald Westlake (Stark's real name) passed on December 31, 2008 without producing any additional Parker novels. Parker doesn't die, doesn't go to jail, doesn't give up on crime to have 3.5 kids and become a manager at Hardee's. Butcher's Moon, the 1974 near-conclusion of the Parker series, also didn't feel quite like a finale, although the bodycount in the novel certainly had the sort of thing you didn't imagine Stark wanting to top. But it did make for a satisfying conclusion of sorts.
Fortunately, so, too does Dirty Money make for a fantastic conclusion to the 90's-00's Parker rebirth. The story ties together the plots of the two prior books into one continuous novel of sorts, refusing to gloss over the complications that I had, as a reader, half forgiven Stark for, thinking he had maybe written the other too quickly, hadn't really paid the same attention to detail he once did in that 1960's-70's heyday that produced the first ten novels of the series.
Friday, March 24, 2017
Despite all the Twin Peaks love you've seen here lately, I'm not someone who actively sought out much in the way of the movies of David Lynch. It's always been a guilty spot for me, but I have so many hang-ups, who can keep track?
So I'm finally watching some of his movies and rewatching others, mostly because Dune is the only one I've watched over and over the past 15 years or so, and I still haven't seen about half of his feature film output. Maybe more.
I missed Mulholland Drive when it came it, and despite the year 2002 adorning the movie here and there, it was released in 2001. Early October 2001. And for you kids who don't recall that particular window in history - we were a little preoccupied with planes crashing into towers and what would come next. So I'm not entirely surprised I missed this one, given how I remember my schedule at the time.
And that's too bad. It's a hell of a movie.
Friday, January 20, 2017
A lot of us folks on the left are a bit apoplectic about the way things have shaken out over the past six months or so.
We can agree to disagree on a great many things, and, hey, I live in Texas, so I know something about not necessarily being a fan of decisions going on in your government and still living peaceably and getting along with folks who don't agree with you on every detail. But the new guy and his clowncar of billionaire oligarchs aren't really what a lot of us had in mind when we were sitting in civics class.
Feeling in a bit of a black mood about the whole state of affairs, and pondering a lot of the statements made by nigh-every Trump supporter we've seen interviewed, we decided to put on Idiocracy, the curiously prescient 2006 comedy by Mike Judge.
Friday, January 6, 2017
It's not often I watch a whole Godzilla movie. I probably watched 3/4ths of about 3 or 4 of them last year, but they never showed up on my movie-list as I don't watch them from beginning to end. Usually I stumble in 1/4 of the way in, have no idea what's happening, and just keep on watching.
And that's kinda too bad.
I never quite recovered from missing Shin Godzilla in the theater this year (twice I had tickets! TWICE!), but over Christmas, the El Rey network celebrated the holiday with "Kaiju Christmas", which was something like 36 hours of Godzilla movies. In fact, I wrapped up Christmas Day night watching the second half of Godzilla vs. Destroyah.
I'd never seen Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003), but heard it was a fun one, and, indeed it was.
Monday, December 12, 2016
I had no intention of watching either of these movies this weekend, but we have basic cable and they were on. I have no further real explanation for what happened. I guess after watching X-Men: Apocalypse, it was just x-destined to x-be.
At this point, watching these early X-films serves as an interesting view of the state of the art for superhero films circa 2000 and 2003.
One mission I have for this site is to be the old guy telling the kids how it was back in the day - and if you're not pushing 40, you're not old enough to remember what breakthrough movies the first two X-films were for superhero comic books moving to the big screen. It's hard to understand in a universe with an Ant-Man movie what it was like to see Marvel's cinematic efforts suddenly take off after decades of embarrassing and half-assed attempts. It still wasn't Iron Man, which would totally change the game, but it was significant.
X-Men (2000) arrived shortly after Blade (1998) made a little-known (even by comic fans) character into a pretty great cinematic action hero. It didn't hurt that Wesley Snipes was pretty awesome in the role and he killed so, so many draculas. I still remember how nuts the crowd went for Blade when I saw it opening weekend, cheering and yelling in all the right places.
I was cautiously optimistic about X-Men. I knew director Bryan Singer from his 90's-classic Usual Suspects, a crime thriller that had garnered good reviews and rode the hip-crime-movie wave started by Tarantino to pretty great box office. It seemed inconceivable a superhero movie would receive a director of that sort as "serious" directors did not take on superheroes, or - at least they made it clear it was a lark for a paycheck.
But clearly X-Men was different.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Despite endorsements from multiple trusted sources, somehow I'd never gotten around to watching Sam Raimi's post-Evil Dead horror film, Drag Me to Hell (2009). Which is too bad. I wish I'd gotten to it sooner.
If you're a fan of Raimi's other horror work, this is more or less in line (and possibly in continuity) with the world of Ash and the deadites. I was surprised how much it shared both aesthetically and in spirit with the Evil Dead franchise - mixing the horrific with the grotesque with slapstick.
I don't want to oversell the movie - it's not a life-changing experience, but it was perfect for a bit of Halloween spookiness and mayhem and everything it was trying to do worked for me. And, coincidentally or otherwise, the movie feels a bit like an old school Universal horror film in some ways, which is all right as the movie was at least released through the studio.
Monday, September 12, 2016
When I was in high school, I'd quit playing officially sanctioned sports about 3 games into the basketball season my sophomore year (that's a whole other story, but let's just say - that was my first experience in recognizing an adult had no idea what they were doing). I was kind of between activities at one point, and somehow heard about this thing where people were hitting each other with foam swords and shields - Society for Creative Anachronism. I briefly considered getting involved - I mean, who doesn't want to smack someone with a sword? - but then had a thought that maybe this was not going to be the thing I would do, even if it were fun. It sounded like something that would start off exciting and then devolve into nonsense.
Watching 90 minutes of the 2006 documentary film Darkon has not cleared up much of how that would have gone for me.
Darkon (2006) follows the better part of a year of an intricately designed and played Live Action Role-Playing game (aka: LARPing) and the lives of the folks who partake in the... activity? Lifestyle?
"Darkon" is the name of the fantasy continent inhabited by the players of the game. They keep a map of spaces broken out into hexes (a common sight to anyone who played table-top RPG's) and battle in real-space for those hexes with a set of seemingly well-agreed upon battle rules. Armies of folks representing nations (armies seeming between 15 and up to 75 people) whack at each other with foam covered weapons and an array of objects meant to represent everything from catapult missiles to wizard-cast "fireballs" or, more infamously, "lightning bolts".
The players take on characters - lots of Lords of Realms and whatnot. Magical beings. Wizards. If it showed up in a fantasy novel in the past 40 years, it's probably something someone is pretending to be.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
It's been years since I watched Super Troopers (2001).
Thanks to my incessant theater-going between 1994-2002, I caught this one during it's theatrical release and was able to say "I saw this before it became a hit via home video and cable". Thus, my hipster credential or whatever.
Going back is never easy. The comedies I enjoyed from my teens through my early twenties reflect much more of the sense of humor of a young man who can happily sit through, say, one of Adam Sandler's earlier works. Which I did. Heck, in my teens, I saw a Pauly Shore movie in the theater. This is sacrilege for a 90's Austinite, but I find Dazed and Confused nigh unwatchable these days.
Super Troopers 2001 was the brainchild of and investment in comedy troupe Broken Lizard, and was marketed as such, which was weird, because I don't think anyone had ever heard of Broken Lizard in most major markets. They hadn't had a show on MTV or Comedy Central or anything that I recall.
The movie uses the set-up of making the Broken Lizard guys highway patrol officers in upstate Vermont, not known for having a whole bevy of issues, and so the cops spend their days entertaining themselves with comedy sketches along the roadway and trading insults with city cops from the local small town. Really, especially in the first 45 minutes of the movie, that's where the movie works best and is genuinely funny (to me, anyway). And that's the part everyone remembers.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Tickets are already purchased for Jason Bourne for next Sunday, and so it was time to wrap up the original trilogy here at home. Eventually I'll make time for the Jeremy Renner Bourne movie, but... anyway.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) wraps up the storyline started in the first movie, answering the questions of "who is Jason Bourne?" and gives Pam Landy a conclusion to her arc as the non-compromised CIA agent trying to do right within the agency.
It has some incredible car chases and whatnot, and I highly recommend it if you've seen the first two and want more of same, but it's not like it's an incredible story on its own. It does feature Albert Finney and David Strathairn with about 30 seconds of Scott Glenn.
Friday, July 15, 2016
As Jason Bourne is headed soon for theaters, I'm catching up with the three Matt Damon starring Bourne films, and may watch the one with Jeremy Renner (thereby becoming the one person who has seen the one starring Jeremy Renner).
I didn't actually remember much about the plot to The Bourne Supremacy (2004), only moments from the film. It's the one where he fights a dude with a rolled up magazine, his girlfriend takes a headshot, a massive car chase in Moscow... stuff like that. And, of course, Joan Allen.
But it turns out that the story picks up very, very well from the first movie, both the threads from Treadstone and Jason Bourne's evolution as a character, culminating in a heartbreaking scene in the final minutes of the movie that tell you how much this programmed assassin has managed to restore of his humanity.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
While I'm glad that Stark came back to try Parker again in the 90's, and then, with this novel released around 2001 (and a few more afterward), there's no question that the tone had changed. The first two books back were nearly comedies. Firebreak (2001), has moments of delving back into the Parker of The Green Eagle Score, and, especially, The Sour Lemon Score, but Stark was no longer able to tap into near nihilism that drove the first third of the series again until Slayground and Butcher's Moon.
Here, you can feel Stark doing some hand waving as he deals with the fact that the world of heists has changed since Parker was pulling armored car heists and knocking over rare coin shows. By 2000, security systems were everywhere, surveillance was commonplace, and the internet was still called "The Information Superhighway" by dopey newscasters.
Stark wants to deal with these modern touches, but when he does, it's half-satisfying. Every once in a while he states how something works, and you want to say "well, no... Not even in 2001.". And he's saddled the heisters with a character he's concocted to bridge the books into this new age of technology (which was already well underway when this book was released).
Saturday, July 2, 2016
I was deeply skeptical when the Bourne movies were released. I don't know exactly why, but I used to find non-Bond espionage stuff a bit boring and I was a bit suspicious of Hollywood forcing Matt Damon on us all. But when the third one came out and everyone liked the first two, I borrowed some DVD's from a trusted source.
Fortunately, the Bourne movies wound up making a believer of me. Not only am I big fan of these films, but I finally came to accept that Matt Damon is one of my favorite actors working today (you guys saw The Martian, right?).
I really don't think I need to sell a huge blockbuster that spawned four sequels (one, inexplicably, starring Jeremy Renner, and, no, I didn't see it, either). Likely you've all seen the movie, so I don't feel a particular need to say much about it.
It seems to me that the movie brought a few things to the big screen.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
With the passing of Darwyn Cooke, I had my quick appreciation write-up, and on Sunday, as I was eating my oatmeal and pondering the fact I had to work all afternoon, Jamie pitched watching the animated version of Cooke's comics classic, Justice League: The New Frontier (2008).
For a while there, I was purchasing every single new DVD WB Animation pushed out as DC got into the feature-length animated film business. These days I limit my actual purchases (my last purchase being Flashpoint, which seemed as good a place to jump off DC Entertainment in many-a-ways), but I have a pretty good run of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Justice League videos. And, as I type this, why the hell didn't they ever make a Flash movie? It seems like an obvious fit.
But I don't think I'd actually watched this disk in something like 6 years.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
I hadn't watched this movie in a few years, but I've got a shelf full of Batman films, cartoons and TV, and on Friday night - in the wake of finishing The Caped Crusade: Batman and The Rise of Nerd Culture, it felt like time to review some Batman again.
Not sure what to watch, I just gave Jamie some options, and she selected Batman Begins.