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Showing posts from May, 2016

Near-Apocalypse

I caught X-Men: Apocalypse last night. Opening weekend meant the seats were pretty full so I had one of those less than ideal angles for 3-D watching. Still, besides the curious hallucinogenic after-images that appeared whenever the camera moved to a deeper field, I think I got the basic experience. An apocalypse, smoothly delivered, always a beat too slow to really land with the impact the film-makers wanted.



As always, I try to go into these experiences with an open mind and a forgiving heart. When you pay $16, you tend to find ways of salvaging enjoyment. Or I do at least, maybe someone else could get more worked up about the movie.

There are some great scenes. The final confrontation between the resurrected Egyptian god Apocalypse and his mutant adversaries is well done and impressive.

They have another way-OP moment with Quicksilver, also set to a period specific song. This one goes on longer than it should but still has enough light-hearted moments to carry it through the patchy sp…

Speculative Leverage

I enjoyed the AoS finale. It was epic, exciting, and built with vigor on the developments of the previous season. After two hours I was still interested in what happens after one more careful reset of the series (one or two every season apparently). Something about the events of the finale and the teaser at the start of the first half promises AoS will serve as a valuable bridge between the Earth-bound and Galactic corners of MCU.

The finale also serves the useful function of highlighting how much the Marvel Cinematic Universe has changed over the years.

When MCU first started, we had a rich dude who sold weaponry in a world not all that different from our own. Tony Stark was certainly an out-sized personality playing with versions of technologies not present in our own world but, for the most part, Phase One of the MCU painted in the conservative tones of late 00's techno-thrillers. No supervillains, just out-of-control versions of the heroes.
Over time, Marvel's approach has s…

Then and Now

Radiohead and PJ Harvey produced some of the first albums I ever bought. To varying degrees both musicians have stayed with me. I own just about every full album each ever released and when both of these artists released a new album this past month, I snapped them up.


It's strange listening to bands for this long. Especially in the case of PJ Harvey, the music contained within The Hope Six Demolition Project seems very much of the same cloth as other music she's released. "A Line in the Sand" sounds like a B-side from "Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea." And yet, the music has deepened over time - matured - to grasp the most obvious word. Harvey's vocals curl around the layered instruments, howl when it's time to cut loose, press right up against the ground in a sinister whisper. This is one of Harvey's more stripped-down albums. In comparison to Let England Shake, the riffs are simple and blocky, the rhythms martial and abrupt. Her f…

Dark Realism

At the nadir of despair, Freya, the protagonist of Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora begins asking the advanced artificial intelligence running her generation starship, conveniently named Ship, for uplifting suggestions to keep up the morale of survivors of a failed interstellar colonization effort. The Ship dredges up accounts of similar survival situations, describing an entire genre as Dark Realism, a term it uses for literature incorporating a style of pessimistic naturalism. Examples such as Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated expedition to Antarctica among others describe a style of narrative concerned with survival against incredible odds, where every misstep might invite disaster.




Robinson's idea of Dark Realism stuck with me this past year. Perhaps it’s the tenor of the times but I've found myself increasingly interested in apocalyptic themes and dystopias. It's always been an interest of mine but one that has increasingly occupied my creativity for the past two year…

Catch-up

So it's happened. Trump has triumphed. The GOP has been Trumped. America is awaiting its turn.



There have been many, many reactions to this development already. Honestly I had things pegged for a contested convention but his win in New York had a bigger impact than I guess anyone expected. Apparently the average GOP voter does take its cues from those infamous "New York values."

Personally, despite a few tightening polls, I'm managing to stave off panic. I do feel depressed. This entire year has been and continues to be a long cautionary tale about the power of hucksterism. Trump sells dreams. The Wall, America Great Again, the insults, and the simple solutions he spouts every single day, they're all dreams that some significant portion of this country enjoys having. Perhaps Trump really could gun down some hapless supporter in the street and get away with it. You don't question dreams. You understand they possess their own logic, their own message. If you en…

Rough Drafts versus Final Copy

Three episodes into the current season of Game of Thrones, my opinion of the show has solidified: this is the rough draft of the story George R.R. Martin will hopefully finish.
It's a very promising rough draft. I like the basic outline of the plots the show pushes beyond the cliff-hangers of "Dance of Dragons," the last version of the book we know about in completion. The characterizations make sense and the action moves along at a good clip. We're seeing mysteries solved, inevitable developments and a few genuine surprises. The fights have all been been better than anything in the Watergardens.



But I can't shake the feeling something's missing...

This is not me giving up on the show. Far from it. The second episode, "Home," gave plenty of great GoT moments and, after surviving last years slog, I think I'm in for the long haul. 

But think back to the high moments of the show. The truly surprising, shocking, and amazing moments: The Red and Purple W…

Captain America: Civil War

I thought I was going to post a few thoughts on Facebook about this movie but ran out of time Sunday. So, assuming you haven't already seen it, here a few reasons to see Captain America.


The fight sequences are very, very well done. The entire opening sequence works as a kind of James Bond before the credits set-piece but is high-energy, tightly paced, and has stakes that far exceed anything I've seen in recent Bond movies. Full disclosure - I was convinced to see this movie in "4-D," which I'm not sure if I'll repeat. I enjoyed it. 4-D certainly didn't take away any of my enjoyment, but it's a lot of money to spend for a movie like this that would have been just as exciting on a non-quaking chair.

Last year the idea of "Bayhem" or "Chaos Cinema" got a lot of attention. Fury Road's acclaim, in part, came from  the classically blocked and choreographed fight sequences that flowed from cause to logical effect. Call Civil War a ki…

What I Read in April

Being the start of May, it must be time to suggest a few stories to read from last month. As chance would have it, some of my favorite stories from the year so far appeared within the past 30 days. If you are a fan of speculative fiction, consider some of the offerings below:
"All the Red Apples Have Withered to Grey" by Gwendolyn Kiste (Shimmer). Damn fine story. Sort of a fairy tale, taking elements from a few different sources, set in a realm that seems vaguely European medieval but could also be Pennsylvania. I know what I prefer. The idea of young women being sold off to an apple orchard keeper for the chance a prince might come to waken them from a sleep is handled exceptionally well. The pay off is ambiguous while still providing considerable pay-off for the story. This is a story that had me within the first few lines and never really let me go. This is probably my favorite work of hers since "Ten Questions.""Tour…