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Waterworld (2-Disc Extended Edition)
Waterworld (2-Disc Extended Edition)
DVD ~ Kevin Costner
Offered by Brand New Rarities
Price: $59.97
12 used & new from $9.45

3.0 out of 5 stars A watered down version of "Mad Max 2" - twice as long but only half as good, December 22, 2014
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I found this SF/adventure film watchable, but definitely not as good as it should have been, considering the huge budget and the talent of all involved. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Somewhere in XXI century waters started to rise and ultimately engulfed all the lands, transforming Earth in a planet-ocean - the Waterworld. With time surviving human communities, living on floating atolls or roaming the sea on board of frail ships (this latter category is called Drifters), forgot about the past and the very idea of emerged land is now considered as a myth. Waterworld is a very tough place to live and the danger from predatory nomadic communities, like Slavers and Smokers, makes the existence even more precarious.

It is in those settings that we meet the Mariner (Kevin Costner), a particularly skilled and powerful Drifter. He owns a beautiful and very fast trimaran, which can outrun virtually any other ship. The film begins when Mariner goes to one of floating artificial atolls to trade. There he meets, amongst others, atoll's sheriff (R.D. Call), a huge, brutish Drifter named Nord (Gerard Murphy), a local woman named Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn, splendid!) and her adoptive 10 years old daughter Enola (Tina Majorino). And then the film really begins...

"Waterworld", which was I believe supposed to be a kind of "Mad Max 2" on water, is not exactly a bad film - it is in fact watchable, interesting in some moments and entertaining in others. Kevin Costner, an actor I am usually not very fond of, plays here well and his grumpy, crabby, unfriendly, frequently (but NOT entirely) unpleasant and very, very lonely Mariner is quite credible. Jeanne Tripplehorn, a good actress and one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood (for my personal taste, in "Basic Instinct" it was SHE who was THE hot one, not Sharon Stone) is a real pleasure to watch. Little Tina Majorino played also very well and, unlike so many child characters in adventure movies, her Enola is an asset to the story rather than a problem.

However, even with all those good points, the film ultimately disappoints. It is absolutely nowhere near the level of two great classics of post-apocalyptic genre: "Mad Max 2" and "Escape from New York". I was very disappointed when I saw it in cinema in 1995 and recently, after purchasing and watching the 179 minutes extended version, I could only confirm this first feeling. It is a cruel disappointment, because in principle the director, Kevin Reynolds, should have aced this film, as he made earlier two ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT movies, "The beast" and "Rapa Nui" (they are both on my list of great favourites). BUT, he also made earlier "Robin Hood, prince of thieves", definitely the sh--tiest "Robin Hood" film ever - and in this film, very sadly, he made exactly the same mistakes.

The greatest problem of "Waterworld" is the absolute failure in the bad guys chapter. Already in "Robin Hood" both the Sheriff and the Witch were a parody - but here it is actually worse. The Smokers are totally pathetic and their leader, the Deacon (Dennis Hopper) is simply ridiculous! When one remembers Humungus and Wez from "Mad Max 2" or the Duke of New York City and Rehme from "Escape from New York" and then looks at Deacon and his main sidekick - well, one wants to sit down and weep...

Let's not even talk about the "ideology" of Smokers, who, other than being predatory bandits, are even more evil because they 1) smoke cigarettes 2) use fossil fuels 3) seem to be influenced by Christianity, as they are organised in a "parish" led by a "deacon" 4) refuse to control the growth of their population (on atolls "illegal" babies are killed - but Smokers refuse to do that) 5) worship Captain Joseph Hazelwood, the unfortunate skipper of "Exxon Valdez", as "Saint Joe" (there is actually a reason for that) 6) want to find land to build an 18-holes golf course on it (I am not kidding!). At another moment the Deacon insists, with an evil grin, that theirs is the society of "continuous growth"... I rather appreciated the strong environmentalist message Kevin Reynolds placed in "Rapa Nui" (an infinitely better film) - but here it is so over the top that it becomes completely ridiculous.

Continuing on the bad guys. Kevin Reynolds made an ENORMOUS BLUNDER giving them massive firepower. Possible the first rule to observe in post-apocalyptic adventure movies is: "Remove the firearms!". It was in part the vision of a world with modern vehicles but Middle Age weaponry that made the success of "Mad Max 2" and "Escape from New York". The removal of almost all firearms helped also to create uniquely tense action scenes and to introduce the concept of "magical weapons" in the modern world. Indeed, the one revolver and its precious handful of rounds owned by Humungus and Max's sawed off shotgun and its one, last cartridge in "Mad Max 2, are precious, cherished possessions, which made a great difference in the world of bow and war club. In "Escape from New York", Snake Plissken's MAC 10 and revolver make him into a great power in a place until then ruled by crossbows and knives. And in "The road" father's revolver (and two last cartridges) is the supreme "magical weapon" which keeps the darkness at bay...

Here on another hand we have dozens and dozens of "bad guys" with firearms, some of them even with fully automatic weapons. In fact they even have calibre 0.50 heavy machine guns, and TONS of ammo for all this heat! This firepower immediately removes all interest from the one big battle scene, because what possible chance can have a community armed with exclusively with harpoons, crossbows, spears, clubs and knives against an army lavishly equipped with firearms... In later parts of the film this presence of massive firepower keeps hurting this film also later.

Pathetic, lame action scenes are another great weakness. Some SPOILERS AHEAD! Other than the terribly disappointing atoll battle, the final confrontation between Mariner and the Smokers is amongst the most laughable things I ever saw on the screen and the way in which Smokers floating fortress is destroyed is amongst the biggest let downs in action/adventure cinema. I appreciated also the cowardice of the director, who first insisted in the film that Smokers are doomed because they have too many children, but when their society is shown and then mercilessly obliterated, many hundreds of adult men and women appear - but absolutely no kids are shown... Because we would have obviously some trouble to relate with "the hero" after he incinerated alive hundreds of pre-teens, children, toddlers, infants and new-borns...

The director also used 175 million dollars to make this film - and we do not see it really on the screen. There is one floating atoll, some small ships and they are OK, but nothing else. There is also one huge floating fortress and it could have been a great and fascinating place - but it appears ultimately rather shortly and is poorly made. Also, everything is dirty, primitive and very much used, as it should be, but without any kind of originality or attempt at colour, grotesque or humour (unlike in "Mad Max 2" and "Escape from New York"). Unnecessary gross factor was added, like the scene in which Kevin Costner takes a (forced) bath in excrements...

This unique kind of world could have also been a much more fascinating place, but the scenario avoids mostly all possibilities offered. We see, just for a second, one and only one of the creatures living in the ocean and there is also a dead shark being cut in pieces shown at another moment - and that is all we see about animal life on Waterworld. Some traditions are shown or hinted, but only in very short glimpses.

I hoped that the EXTENDED VERSION would show more about Waterworld - but to my considerable surprise, the 40 minutes of added footage ultimately... don't add almost anything, it is mostly just unnecessary filler! Also, the extended version is in fact the TV version of this film and therefore was also CENSORED - the few strong language moments were removed as was the short and rather innocent scene in which Helen's naked back is shown (in cinema version it is not Jeanne Tripplehorn who appears in this scene, but a stuntwoman).

In fact, the best scenes are those describing the relations between Mariner, Helen and Enola during their common voyage, as well as their meeting with one of Drifters - this part of the film is actually pretty good. The atoll life scenes are not bad and the very ending is quite honest. The rest however is mostly disappointing and sometimes really, really bad...

Bottom line, this is only an average, watchable, less than half-successful film, recommended mostly to amateurs of SF/adventure movies, but rather to see once and to rent rather than buy. I usually don't like remakes at all, but for "Waterworld" I would be ready to make an exception - if Hollywood decided to make another try at the same topic, I wouldn't say no and I would probably go to see it.

The Host
The Host
DVD ~ Saoirse Ronan
Price: $8.49
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Soul looks for her host's soulmate. A Soul finds him, her own soulmate and their mates. Then Soul, host and soulmates all mate, December 19, 2014
This review is from: The Host (DVD)
I found this SF/romance movie surprisingly good and interesting, not a masterpiece, but a very honest thing indeed. It came as a surprise, as I didn't like the book AT ALL. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Earth, near future. Our world have been conquered by very advanced alien race, who call themselves Souls. Those invaders are small parasites, unable to survive for extended periods of time outside the bodies of their hosts (if removed they must be quickly placed in special survival containers - or die). With the time they evolved in such a way, that their hosts must be sapient creatures themselves (at least, if I correctly understood this).

Having acquired the technology of starflight they started to expand, conquering more and more worlds - Earth is just their last prize. However, on our planet they meet for the first time an unexpected challenge, as some hosts minds remain alive and active even after Souls invaded and took control of their bodies. This creates a very uncomfortable situation, for both the host mind and the Soul...

This film tells the story and tribulations of one such unhappy "couple" - a young human girl, Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) and an ancient, experienced Soul known as "Wanderer". All this covers like the first 5 minutes of the film and I will say no more about the rest.

Before reviewing the film, I must state here loud and clear that I read and HATED the book, as it was much, much too long (656 frigging pages!) with definitely not enough story to justify its length. Not only it was long winded and boring but it was also rather poorly written - which is a surprise as the "Twilight" books were actually rather good and I liked them (yes, I am THE ONE heterosexual grown up married man on the whole planet who liked both "Twilight" books and movies). I managed to finish this 656 pages long tedious brick but it was really an ordeal...

The film is MUCH BETTER. The book was long winded - the film is, quite obviously, much shorter. The book made unending spirals, circles and other (not always Euclidean) figures around every development - the film action is quite to the point. The story in the book took every possible and imaginable detour and bifurcation and also drove into every possible pothole - in the film it was smoothed and streamlined, for the greatest benefit of the viewer. In fact the scenarist removed all the blah, when preserving all the main story intact - and that did to this film a lot of good. Kudos to Andrew Niccol for the scenario.

Actors were selected VERY well! Saoirse Ronan was an excellent choice for the main role and she completely ACED it. I saw this young Irish actress in "City of Ember", "The way back" and "Byzantium" and she always impressed me. Her character, exactly as Bella in "Twilight", is a deceptively average gal who finds herself the object of attention of... well, more than one rather not average young gentlemen... And exactly as with Bella in "Twilight" we come ultimately to realise that she is definitely NOT average - AT ALL! It takes a special kind of beauty to play such a character and indeed, nobody would ever mistake Saoirse Ronan for a Victoria's Secret mannequin. However the power of her "smart+talented=sexy" appeal is such that she can easily outstage most of Hollywood lookers - and match the others...

Max Irons (already good in "Red Riding Hood") and Jake Abel (whom I never saw in anything before) play respectively Jared and Ian, who are the Edward/Jacob team (sorry, I couldn't resist) of this film. They also do a good job, but their roles are ultimately not so hard...

William Hurt is absolutely excellent in his role of wise, aged, shotgun carrying uncle Jebediah Stryder who is the benevolent, reasonable, paternalistic, pretty deadly and quite scary ancestor ruling an underground (in all possible meanings of this term) kingdom...

Diane Kruger ("Ich bin Helen von Droy, und I vound Vreemazons Dreazure, ja?") shines absolutely (in every possible meaning of this term) as a high ranking officer of special police of Souls, the Seekers. Known simply as The Seeker (although I couldn't stop thinking of her as "Ve Zeeker, ja?") she quickly develops a special interest in The Wanderer/Melanie Stryder case - and she actually has her own very good reasons for that... In the book, the body The Seeker occupied was a petite brunette, here quite obviously the director made the choice of a whole different enchilada - and it did this film a lot of good, especially considering that Seekers for some reason wear always immaculately white, top fashion clothes...

Emily Browning appears briefly towards the end (I am not saying anything about her character) bringing to this film her talent and her unique, unconventional kind of beauty. Kudos to Andrew Niccol for the choice of actors and wardrobe.

The film is well made, with relatively few obvious plot holes which appear mostly in the one, short action scene. The stupidity of this scene resides in long, persistent shooting against a target that is OBVIOUSLY bullet proof, to the point of running out of bullets when a softer hostile target appears... But this scene is ultimately not so important and can be easily disregarded. The rest of the story actually more or less makes sense, it is skilfully narrated and illustrated and contains also a couple of very quotable lines ("kiss me like you wanna to get slapped!"). Kudos to Andrew Niccol for directing.

Bottom line this is a good, very honest SF film combined, like in "Twilight", with an obviously unusual interspecies romance. It's just that here, unlike the "Twilight" triangle ("should I go for dead guy groove or doggy style?") we have a slightly more complex figure... To my surprise, I liked it and I spend a good moment watching it. Recommended to all SF amateurs and all those who like somehow unusual romances... ENJOY!

Fantastic Voyage (Special Edition)
Fantastic Voyage (Special Edition)
DVD ~ Stephen Boyd
Price: $9.13
40 used & new from $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good films don't really age - they just gain vintage charm. And this voyage is still FANTASTIC!, December 18, 2014
EXCELLENT! One of best SF/adventure films ever and a real monument of cinema! I always LOVED this 1966 film and recently I was happy to confirm, that it didn't age AT ALL and is still a great watch! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Cold War. United States and the Soviet Union are both intensely working on technology of miniaturization of matter by shrinking individual atoms. Czech scientist Jan Benes, working under duress for the Soviets, made a great breakthrough, but doesn't want Moscow to have this technology. With the help of the CIA, he escaped to the West, but an attempted assassination leaves him comatose with a nearly impossible to remove blood clot in his brain.

The only way to save his life is to operate from INSIDE his skull. It is decided to use the experimental miniaturization technology to reduce a small submersible, the "Proteus" as well as its crew, and introduce it into Benes body. The crew must then bring "Proteus" into Benes brain, remove the clot and evacuate before the miniaturization ends - indeed, at that time it is possible to miniaturize things and people just for 60 minutes...

An ad hoc team is assembled for this mission: Captain Bill Owens (William Redfield) - pilot; Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasence) - mission medical commander; Dr. Peter Duval (Arthur Kennedy) - brain surgeon; Cora Peterson (Raquel Welch) - assistant to the brain surgeon. Last but not least there is also CIA agent Charles Grant (Stephen Boyd), who is there - well, initially, we don't know why, but it will quickly turn out it was a good idea to place him on board... All that takes care of about ten first minutes of the film - and then the fantastic voyage begins and I will say nothing more...

This is an almost perfect SF/adventure film, one of the best ever made! The vision of inside of human body as an alien, unknown universe is glorious and even today, after almost 50 years, makes a certain impression. For its technical aspect this film got two Oscars (Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects) and there is no question that they were TOTALLY DESERVED! The all shattering power of human heart, lungs hurricanes, earquakes (yes, you read well, it is NOT a typo) as well as merciless wars of extermination waged in this innerspace - all of this still connects with the viewer BIG TIME. And then there is of course the fact that human beings, once removed from their comfort zone, find quite quickly that all masters of creation that they may be, for some... well, things... they are just a new and welcome source of yummy proteins...))) As all not yet fully explored and mapped territories, the inside of human body also has "HERE BE DRAGONS" warning written on some more remote corners...

Even if in principle Stephen Boyd, whose character is the muscle, security and counter-intelligence guy, was supposed to be the main star of the film, he is frequently outstaged by actors playing other members of the crew, especially one of greatest Hollywood workaholics extraordinaires, Donald Pleasance (the other one was Ernest Borgnine). Raquel Welch shapes are also used to the greatest possible extent (she keeps putting and taking off her diving suit).

The scenario is strong, characters act mostly rationally, there are some twists (some of them really surprising and cruel) and as the clock is ticking, there is a real suspense in this film. The crew of "Proteus" faces many great dangers and must use some fast thinking to survive and accomplish their mission and it is not so easy to immediately find some plot holes. This scenario should be studied by present day Hollywood writers - they could learn A LOT from it...

Another thing you must know before watching this film - THERE WILL BE BLOOD! In fact even more, this is LITERALLY the most drenched in haemoglobin movie EVER! OK, I stop here. Sorry for that, I couldn't resist...)))

Once again, this is a VERY GOOD SF/adventure film, old but NOT AGED one little bit! I tried once to imagine how a modern remake would look - and I shivered in terror... Thanks God nobody ever dared to take another shot at this masterpiece - and let it stay that way. BUY IT, SEE IT, KEEP IT and never let it go. ENJOY!

Curse of Xanathon (Dungeons & Dragons Module X3)
Curse of Xanathon (Dungeons & Dragons Module X3)
by Douglas Niles
Edition: Paperback
28 used & new from $6.25

5.0 out of 5 stars An old classic from the golden age of Dungeons and Dragons, December 16, 2014
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I played this adventure twice, first as a player, then as a Dungeon Master and I really had great fun both times.

The story is quite classical in the beginning - the ruler of a city is the victim of a curse which makes him an extravagant idiot, complicating the life of his subjects to the extreme. The players must find the person (the monster?) who is behind this curse, deal with him (or it) and find a cure. And this particular adventure presents players with a very nasty and totally unsuspected twist, which will probably make them considerably upset in the middle of the game - but which they will probably appreciate once they successfully accomplish the mission.

This adventure is as much investigation as hacking and slaying and contains some riddles as well. Every class will find something challenging to do - fighters, magic users, clerics (yes, clerics are really needed for this one) and thieves - no way to do this one to the end without a good thief, or at least a monk. With some effort from the Dungeon Master some parts can be turned in a great slapstick comedy moments and give to the players a good laugh - before the unavoidable hacking and slaying... Negotiation skills can also be useful, and some desert survival rules if the DM decides to elaborate on the sandy part of the adventure...

All in all, a great D&D classic, to discover or rediscover. Get it and have a nice game!

Tideland (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
Tideland (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Terry Gilliam
Offered by Help Me Ronda Things
Price: $19.95
35 used & new from $2.85

2.0 out of 5 stars Watching this film was like swimming in mental vomit - regurgitated by a morbidly sick mind..., December 8, 2014
This is the first Terry Gilliam film which I didn't like at all. Even if by making "Tideland" Gilliam clearly proved once again that he really knows how to make films, I found the whole story absolutely gross, deeply sick and morally REPULSIVE and I was hardly able to it finish watching it.

This film is about 11 year old Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland). When we meet her first she lives in some large city, in a miserable dump with her very poor and absolutely abject parents. Her father, Noah (Jeff Bridges), is an aging, struggling musician, who in his better moments know how to invent cool games and tell a good story - and we could maybe feel some sympathy for him, if he wasn't a drug addict, who trained Jeliza-Rose when she was still a little girl to prepare his daily injection of heroine... We never learn the real name of her mother (Jennifer Tilly) - Jeliza-Rose and Noah just call her "Queen Gunhilda" - but it is clear from the first moments of the film that she is a totally degenerate junkie, hardly even able to function anymore... Then, a couple of minutes into the film, something happens and as a result Noah and Jeliza-Rose take a trip to rural Texas. They go to the place where Noah was born - and then the film really begins.

This being a Terry Gilliam film, from the technical point of view everything is done very well. Images are actually pretty impressive, the story (even if it is sick and perverted) flows harmoniously and also actors were selected well and encouraged to perform with skill. Especially great praise must be given to Jodelle Ferland who was only 11 years old at that time - and did an incredible job.

A precision here, concerning the character of Noah, played by Jeff Bridges. Some reviewers said that he reminded them of Dude from "Big Lebowski" - but I strongly disagree! Dude, albeit by his own decision a marginal, was actually a rather likeable and certainly harmless, well, dude... Noah on another hand is really a piece of human garbage - with hardly any redeeming traits...

The scenario however is, well, I guess the only possible word to describe the scenario is SICK! In his films Terry Gilliam always had a very personal relationship with reality and it will come as no surprise that large parts of "Tideland" happen actually in some... unusual states of mind. Usually, this actually makes the charm of his movies - and yes, here also, the imaginary world of a very unhappy and probably slightly unbalanced child, is indeed a more pleasant place than the reality. Most of the story however describes precisely this real reality - and it is simply repugnant to watch! You take the grossest parts of "Jabberwocky", the most disturbingly insane parts of "Brazil", the most cruel elements ot "12 Monkeys" and you will get the idea. Add to this the fascination with deformed bodies and minds, throw in sexual perversions and you will have a general idea of how gross this film is. There are moments we can actually almost really SMELL the decaying bodies and rotten minds...

Every time I thought that this film couldn't go deeper into gross and abject, I was wrong - with every next ten minutes, this film gets more disgusting. SPOILER ALERT HERE! I am shocked that Terry Gilliam could show on the screen an 11 year old girl kissing - by no means innocently - a grown up man (and the fact that this character is supposed to be mentally handicapped doesn't change anything). I am almost shocked that an 11 year old child was asked to play scenes in which she mixes drugs and cuddles a (supposedly) dead decaying body... I am even more shocked that her parents accepted that...

Once again, I must grant to Terry Gilliam, that he knows how to make films and even that one can actually cause a kind of morbid fascination. But still, this is an abject thing. For the life of me I cannot understand why Terry Gilliam made "Tideland" and why did he have to put an 11 year old girl through the filming of this... this... thing... This is clearly the sickest and the most depraved of his films and I am sorry that I watched it. AVOID!

War Hunt
War Hunt
DVD ~ John Saxon
Offered by RareFlix-N-Classix
Price: $20.95
22 used & new from $4.32

5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a badly damaged man, who found his real place in the world - in the "no man's land", between two hostile armies, December 5, 2014
This review is from: War Hunt (DVD)
I liked A LOT this little known 1962 black and white war movie. It is an independent production made on a little budget with actors who were then completely unknown, but it packs TERRIFIC punch. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Near the end of the Korean War a new replacement, Private Loomis (Robert Redford), is assigned to an infantry company in the front line. He soon meets a quiet fellow soldier, Private Endore (John Saxon) and is quickly warned by others in the company not to speak to him. It appears that Endore is a very peculiar and quite scary fellow, who has a gift to infiltrate enemy lines to observe and gather information - but he also hunts and kills isolated enemy soldiers... Company Commander Captain Pratt (Charles Aidman) lets Endore go on those "hunting" raids because he appreciates the intelligence he brings back. But ultimately this situation must bring trouble...

The making of this film was in itself a kind of adventure in cinematographic guerrilla, as it was in large part a huge improvisation by a bunch of pals. Brothers Denis and Terry Sanders managed to gather 250 thousand dollars to produce an independent war film - the former also directed - and it turned out quickly that it wasn't enough. In order to dissimulate this lack of means, they put most of the action of the film at night. As their wages were lower, actors who usually appeared on TV were hired like John Saxon, Charles Aidman, Gavin MacLeod (Private Crotty), William Challee (the battalion commander) and especially young and at that time almost completely unknown Robert Redford, for whom it was the first credited cinema role ever.

Another young TV actor, a certain Sydney Pollack, also got a part - he plays Sergeant Van Horn. It was during the work on "War Hunt" that he met and befriended Robert Redford - and the rest is part of history of cinema ("Jeremiah Johnson", "Three days of Condor", "Out of Africa")... The role of Sergeant Showalter went to a complete beginner, for whom it was the first role ever in anything, a guy named Tom Skerritt... Some friends of the producers also gave a hand for free, like a certain Francis Ford Coppola, who at that time was a struggling assistant director to Roger Corman - in this film he plays an (uncredited) role of a truck driver.

Pentagon was asked to provide some assistance in making of this film, this was however gently but firmly refused, as US Army public relations department was incensed by the scenario. Their objections concerned mostly the very idea that a company commander (an officer with at least eight years of experience) could allow one of his soldiers to wage a kind of "private war" and also dispense this man from observing any regular military discipline and regulations - and honestly, I can understand that.

I still think however that it is a pity that US Army didn't help with this film, because even if it tells a pretty powerful story, it is actually surprisingly moderate in its general tone concerning all things military. If we except the captain who plays a dangerous game with a clearly unstable soldier, all the rest of military institution actually works logically and rather efficiently. As this is clear now that war will end very soon, high ranking officers and professional NCOs try very hard to prevent any further needless casualties. When battle is joined, all differences and grudges are momentarily forgotten and everybody stands shoulder to shoulder, against the common enemy. Officers really care about the welfare of their soldiers. The battalion commander is a clever, grizzled old war horse, who instantly understands that Endore is a huge problem the moment he sets his eyes on him. The captain, a rather likeable guy by the way, certainly messes up the situation, but even him, once things turn badly, will own up to his errors and will try to correct them - at no small risk for his own life... At no moment it is suggested that army or war made Endore into a killer - in fact quite to the contrary, we quickly realise that this guy arrived on the front already irremediably damaged, before even his first killing. Etc. etc.

There are of course some plot holes. The biggest one is the fact that Endore could "hunt" for many months in the same sector of the front. The Chinese soldiers in Korean War were quite dangerous, ruthless and resourceful opponents - they would never allow such a situation to last for months. Even in the worse, laziest army of the world engaged in such a static long term war, when one sentry manning an advanced post is killed at night, the vigilance is doubled. If two such incidents occur, few men will sleep at night after that - most of them will be waiting for enemy infiltrators, with their weapons ready to shoot (they can later sleep by shifts after sun rises). If three such killings happen, any commanding officer worth his salt will do EVERYTHING in his power to prevent more such casualties. It means that further infiltrations will be met by new minefields, better and more numerous booby traps, more frequent illumination, ambushes, snipers, aggressive counter-patrolling, mortar (or even artillery) fire at the slightest alert, quite possibly retaliatory counter-raiding and certainly all other possible counter-measures I didn't think off. When the enemy is forewarned, ready, armed and on full alert, no matter how good the infiltrators are, they will be detected and vigorously countered (even the Predator, with all its alien camouflage technology and superhuman skills, got clipped in an ambush after his second killing). BUT, this film is so good, that even this ENORMOUS plot hole doesn't affect in any way my five star rating.

This is a REALLY GOOD war film and a REALLY GOOD war time story. I will certainly keep my DVD for another viewing in the future. ENJOY!

There Will Be Blood (2007)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
DVD ~ Paul Dano
Price: $6.99
29 used & new from $3.45

2.0 out of 5 stars A horribly disappointing pile of freakishly weird ugly nonsense - even grandiose acting by Daniel Day-Lewis couldn't save it..., December 3, 2014
This review is from: There Will Be Blood (2007) (DVD)
I didn't like this film AT ALL and count it amongst the most disappointing viewing experiences of my life. It is a pity, as it included a great performance by Daniel Day-Lewis - but no actor, no matter how good, can save a film with such a horribly bad, nonsensical scenario.

This film tells the story of the very beginnings of oil business. We first meet the main character, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in 1898, when he is digging in the desert, all by himself, looking for oil. The only thing I will say here about what follows, is that, quite obviously, he will ultimately manage to create and then develop a drilling company and also that of course, there will be many difficulties ahead - as it is quite obviously shown on the cover of the DVD.

The first 25 minutes are actually VERY good. If only the whole film could be on the same level, it would be a total masterpiece! However, from the moment the character of Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) arrives on the screen, the whole story takes a turn into freakishly weird. Even worse, the main character also starts to act like a mad man, followed by everybody around him. The whole thing slows down and gets boring. The dialogs become crazy speech. Then an unexpected development happens - and then as suddenly as it began this new plot line is cut off. And then we go full speed towards the ending which is as impossibly stupid as it is humanly possible.

This film was supposed to be an adaptation of 1927 novel "Oil" by Upton Sinclair. I didn't read this book, but the director himself recognized that ultimately "There will be blood" cannot be considered as an adaptation and that Sinclair's book was only an inspiration. I think that this total departure from the original was one of the reasons why this film is such a disappointment. I certainly never shared far-left and extremely anti-Christian views of Upton Sinclair, but just judging from the synopsis of his book, it is clear that "Oil" at least had some coherent logic in it - whereas this film is just freakishly weird chaos...

Thanks God I didn't buy it, just rented - but still it was a waste of money and watching this thingy was a total loss of time, as the only impression I was left with was disgust and disappointment. Two stars just for Daniel Day-Lewis. AVOID THIS THINGY!

Alien Planet
Alien Planet
DVD ~ Wayne D. Barlowe
Price: $9.96
29 used & new from $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Dramatic, fascinating and deeply moving exploration by robotic probes of exoplanet Darwin IV, a fictitious living alien world, December 2, 2014
This review is from: Alien Planet (DVD)
I liked a lot this 2005 Discovery Channel production, which for me is in fact a SF film disguised as a "docufiction". Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

This is the story of robotic probes send by humanity to explore the exoplanet Darwin IV, situated 6,5 lightyears from Earth. An interstellar robotic spacecraft named Von Braun, rraveling at 20% the speed of light (37,000 miles/s), reaches Darwin IV in 42 years. Upon reaching orbit, it deploys the Darwin Reconnaissance Orbiter, which looks for potential landing sites for the probes, Balboa, Leonardo da Vinci (nicknamed Leo) and Isaac Newton (nicknamed Ike). We land on the surface very quickly after the beginning of the film and for most of 94 minutes we explore Darwin IV - and meet its indeed very alien fauna, flora, climate and landscapes.

For my personal taste this was actually a really good SF movie rather than a typical Discovery Channel production - although quite obviously of the sub-genre "hard-fiction" (which means trying to stick to some real science). I liked it A LOT as it is indeed a good show with lot of strange and yet not completely unlikely creatures and also with some genuine, surprising twists, none of which is stupid or too freakishly outlandish. The ending is particularly good - surprising, moving and exciting.

I will not say much about the creatures and other treasures of Darwin IV - you deserve to discover them by yourself. However I must say here that, for my personal taste, the makers of this film took the correct decision to make this alien planet NOT TOO alien. Darwin IV is in its general lines an Earth-like planet, not one of many more different possible living alien environments, like ocean covered blue-world, Europa-like ice ball filled with a deep dark ocean, tidaly locked planet with life existing in the intermediary middle area between too cold and too hot, dark far-from-its-sun planet with non-carbon based life, or any other place that the Almighty in His infinite wisdom decided to create. Also, if I am not mistaken, life on Darwin IV is carbon-based.

Create a fictitious and yet plausible VERY alien world would of course be possible - but I clearly understand that it would take a tremendous effort of reflection/conception. Here, this world is clearly alien, but still familiar enough for us to understand it and relate to it. Of course, I would welcome with pleasure a good docufiction about a more "exotic" living world and I think we should soon get one, now that we know a lot more about exoplanets and also about more distant places in our own Solar System (expected for 2015 images of Pluto and some other Kuiper Belt objects to be taken by New Horizons will certainly add even more knowledge) - but for 2005 I think it was more prudent to not venture too far in speculation.

Bottom line, this is a very, VERY succesful Discovery Channel production. I enjoyed it A LOT, I recommend it to all SF afficionados and I will definitely keep my DVD fo another viewing in the future. ENJOY!

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores
by Jen Campbell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.50
71 used & new from $3.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Reading this collection of true stories is great fun - even if ultimately the book is NOT funny at all..., December 2, 2014
I liked this book very much. This collection of authentic anecdotes works in fact like a kind of probe send into the complicated maze of human mind to collect some most outstanding samples of frequently unpleasant and almost always weird behaviour.

I laughed a lot reading this book and got quite a lot of "O-M-G W-T-fff..." moments. However, once we close this book and give it a moment of reflection, we realize that in fact it is mostly NOT funny at all - in fact, speaking of probes, the ugliness of some of incidents makes think a little of an anal one...

It is a little book which you can read easily in two hours - but many of those true stories will stay with you and give food for thought for days... I recommend it with enthusiasm. Great idea and good job, Ms Campbell.

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection
by Gardner Dozois
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.33
66 used & new from $5.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Of feral gods, zombie spaceships, rocking AIs, interstellar Dalai Lamas and old paint - SF in Year of Grace 2012, December 2, 2014
This collection devoted to what Gardner Dozois considered as best SF published in 2012 is slightly weaker than the one from previous year. It contains mostly average stories and reading it was not always an easy or pleasant thing.

For this collection Gardner Dozois again decided against including long novellas, so thanks God in this collection I didn't have to struggle through 70+ pages juggernauts, which this editor liked so much in the past... In many of previous collections those super-sized novellas were usually also the weakest parts of those anthologies, so here their absence is a very welcome thing. This also allowed Gardner Dozois to offer us as much as 29 stories.

This year, for my personal taste, only three stories could be considered as VERY GOOD: "Old paint", "The Wreck of the 'Charles Dexter Ward'" and "Eater-of-Bone".

On another hand there were only four stinkers: "Memcordist", "In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns", "Chitai Heiki Koronbin", "The water thief".

One story, "Holmes Sherlock", I was unable to rate, because I decided not to read it. I hated all previous stories by Eleanor Arnason and I simply didn't have the strength to suffer through another one...

Other stories ranged from GOOD (7) to READABLE (14).

I now read twenty eight Gardner Dozois collections (from third to thirtieth) and if that one certainly was not the worse, it was however somehow - mediocre... 2012 clearly wasn't a good year for SF, maybe because the authors had their minds taken by the approaching end of the world...))) Most stories in this anthology suffer from poor character development, lack of humour and wit, weak endings (or even worse, lack of such), clichés by bushels, excessive political correctness and finally a general lack of enthusiasm for the matter.

On another hand this collection includes also, as usual, an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 2012 and that section is invariably always very precious. At the end there is also the very useful section of "honourable mentions" - stories which couldn't be selected for this collection because of lack of space (and this is already a HUGE book!), but which were also of good quality.

Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS:
"Weep for day" by Indrapramit Das - on an alien tidally locked planet human colonists living on the luminous part of it fight a war of conquest against the Nightmares from the darker part; a lesbian woman describes how she came to dislike her parents, her brother and especially her society and feel sorry for the Nightmares. READABLE, but very predictable and clichéd - also terribly depressing.

"The Man" by Paul McAuley - another story in the long running Jackaroo cycle; on a colonised exoplanet an old woman meets a strange wanderer - on the surface of things he is human, but is he REALLY human? A READABLE thing, even if I found the ending weak.

"The stars do not lie" by Jay Lake - humans once colonized an alien planet; later their descendants forgot about it and anybody who claims that it happened is considered a heretic. Then one day an astronomer makes a stunning discovery. A good idea but the further we go in this story, the less sense it makes and the ending is beneath everything. This 42 pages novella is READABLE, but barely.

"Memcordist" by Lavie Tidhar - well, one of my least favourite authors delivered again... This is a kind of "Truman Show" in space - a guy whose life is being watched life by paying subscribers. However this life is not really interesting and the story is as chronologically disordered as possible. Tedious and messy (but thanks God short), this is a thing to AVOID.

"The Girl-thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan - as humanity colonises the moons of outer planets of Solar System, some people opt for very radical body transformations (in fact species changing) to better adapt to new environment; a very rich former beauty queen decides to do this too - and complications follow. I cannot say that I cared a lot for the general idea as I believe our destiny is to bend and transform our environment to our needs and not surrender to it - but still, it is a well written, solid, GOOD, honest story.

"Holmes Sherlock" by Eleanor Arnason - I cannot rate this story about a civilization of homosexual rodents, because I decided not to read it; after suffering through a grand total of six stories by E. Arnason in previous collections and having thoroughly hated every single one of them I decided to save myself some pain and skip it. You will have to read it and make up your own mind.

"Nightfall on the Peak of Eternal Light" by Richard A. Lovett and William Gleason - a guy with a past runs away to the colony on the Moon; a dangerous hitman follows him there... Nicely written, this 48 pages adventure novella is for once rather optimistic (a rare thing in GD collections) and also kind of a relaxing thing - a GOOD, solid, honest story.

"Close Encounters" by Andy Duncan - an old man who in the 50s, when he was still young, was abducted by UFO, receives the visit of a journalist - it brings back some painful memories... Seemed promising first, but then took a disappointing turn and ended poorly. Still, a READABLE thing.

"The Finite Canvas" by Brit Mandelo - a lesbian doctor is asked by an impressively shaped female assassin to make an unusual intervention - as part of payment, she tells her the story of her last killing... I usually don't care at all for LGBT SF - but this one is exceptionally well written. A GOOD story and a recommended reading.

"Steamgothic" by Sean McMullen - in our time, a guy who is into steam engines and goth stuff is contacted by a strange couple who claim that they found the wreckage of an airplane build in... 1852! This is the epic story of restoration/reconstruction of this "airplane" and of all the consequences it will have on human history... A GOOD, honest, solid thing with alternate history elements.

"In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns" by Elizabeth Bear - in a future high-tech India a murder was committed and two police detectives are charged with the investigation; the only possible witness is a genetically-modified talking cat named Chairman Miao... The beginning seemed very promising, but after a couple of pages the whole thing became just a tedious slog to nowhere... I gave up after 27 pages and didn't finish it, because I was all out of Fs to give about whodunit in this completely failed whodunit... AVOID

"Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler's Green, the Potter's Garden" by Paul McAuley - in the future, when humanity colonized most of Solar System, including some of Kuiper Belt's worlds, a woman goes to Dione to bury her estranged father... There are some good moments in this story, but there are also many boring lengths. Still, a READABLE thing.

"Twenty Lights to 'The Land of Snow'" by Michael Bishop - a star ship carries Tibetan refugees (and the Dalai Lama) to an exoplanet, where they want to recreate their lost motherland. At one moment the question of reincarnation of Dalai Lama is posed... An original, quite well written novella, albeit maybe just a little bit too long for its own good - it also contains possibly one of the most amusing (and certainly THE most pompous) copulation description ever...))) Still, a honest, solid, GOOD thing.

"Astrophilia" by Carrie Vaughn - and yet another sample of LGBT SF; under the pretext of a post-apocalyptic story this in fact is just a soft-core, gentle Sapphic romance. A READABLE thing although completely pandering to global warming hysteria and for my taste much too sympathetic towards an extremely brutal totalitarian Malthusianism.

"What Did Tessimond Tell You?" by Adam Roberts - as it becomes very clear at the first two pages, this is an "end of the world" story; nothing really very original but well written; I also rather liked the description of a Nobel prize winning scientist who still remains a practising Catholic... A honest, solid, GOOD thing.

"Old Paint" by Megan Lindholm - somewhere in the 2030s a struggling single mother of two inherits an old car... I will say no more, as you deserve to discover this VERY GOOD heart-warming tale by yourself. A recommended reading.

"Chitai Heiki Koronbin" by David Moles - giant robots piloted by humans are humanity last chance when facing alien invaders... one of the pilots ultimately can't take the pressure... This short story begins well, then turns into total cliché and then abruptly crashes in flames - denying also to the reader any kind of ending... AVOID!

"Katabasis" by Robert Reed - another story in the long running cycle of Great Ship; this time it describes the story of two very dangerous long treks in high gravity - one touristic, one definitely not... Maybe because of the topic, reading it was a kind of a slog, really - this novella has only 34 pages, but it seemed longer, MUCH longer... A READABLE thing, but barely.

"The Water Thief" by Alastair Reynolds - a story about a Tanzanian woman living in a refugee camp with her daughter; when awaiting relocation she tries to get any kind of job she can find... An interesting initial idea but rather poorly executed - also the story totally panders to global warming hysteria and the ending doesn't make much sense... I DIDN'T LIKE IT.

"Nightside on Callisto" by Linda Nagata - a group of very old women (having very short life expectancy, they are considered expendable) is send on a special mission to Callisto - then suddenly their equipment malfunctions... Even if the original idea is absolutely ludicrous, the story is not half bad written. A READABLE thing.

"Under the Eaves" by Lavie Tidhar - in the same future high-tech Israel which this author already described in earlier stories in previous collections a woman falls in love with the wrong... well, I guess we have to call him "guy", for want of better word... I don't care much for the vision of the world in Lavie Tidhar stories, but this thing is nevertheless READABLE.

"Sudden, Broken, and Unexpected" by Steven Popkes - a composer and guitarist, who once was worldly famous as a one-hit-wonder, is offered a second chance by world's most popular "artist" - who just happens to be an AI... This long novella is a solid, honest GOOD thing - if only it had a real ending it would be a masterpiece...

"Fireborn" by Robert Charles Wilson - more fantasy than SF, even if some robots are involved; in a kind of alternate reality a young girl and her more-or-less boyfriend meet a quasi-immortal woman - then she offers them a job... The characters are not really likeable and the writing is not so great - it is a READABLE thing, but barely.

"Ruminations in an Alien Tongue" by Vandana Singh - an old woman, once counted amongst world's top mathematicians, lives her last years near an alien artefact - which she studied for most of her life. This story actually begins very, very well - but progressively it dissolves into tedious nonsense. READABLE, but barely.

"Tyche and the Ants" by Hannu Rajaniemi - a little girl lives alone in a secret compound on Moon; to fight solitude she invents herself imaginary companions; then one day strange robots invade her world... This is a very strange, in fact even weird story, but still READABLE - also, some of passages reminded me very pleasantly of childhood readings about Moomintrolls...

"The Wreck of the 'Charles Dexter Ward'" by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear - a follow up on wonderful 2008 "Boojum" and 2009 "Mongoose" stories which figured in two of earlier collections, this 29- pager continues to explore the "boojumverse", a highly successful combination of Lovecraftian mythos with classical SF; in this story we follow a medical doctor who is hired to assist in the salvage of the wreck of "Charles Dexter Ward" - a formerly alive but now unfortunately dead (although is it ENTIRELY dead?) "boojum" space ship. It is a VERY GOOD story, but I strongly advise to read "Boojum" and "Mongoose" before attacking that one - otherwise you will not enjoy it fully.

"Invisible Men" by Christopher Barzak - inspired by the classical story by H.G. Wells, this thing describes the life and fate of Invisible Man as seen by a discreet but very present observer. A READABLE thing, but nothing more.

"Ship's Brother" by Aliette de Bodard - in a very weird alternate future in which humanity, divided between rival Chinese and Azteca empires, went to space, a young boy becomes very hostile to his little sister, who is destined to be transformed in a central unit of a spaceship AI... READABLE, but barely.

"Eater-of-Bone" by Robert Reed - surprise, surprise. Robert Reed always was a very prolific author but somewhere around 2009 he started to show effects of some kind of burnout. And then, with this novella, he managed to produce a high quality, surprisingly original thing. One of the great clichés used, re-sued and abused in SF is the topic of highly advanced aliens landing on Earth in distant past and being worshipped as gods. Well, here the familiar tune is played in reverse - this novella is about a group of quasi immortal humans from the Great Ship who were marooned on an alien planet. There, they became monster-gods ("Eaters-of-Bone") for local small, primitive alien aborigines. Even if the ending is slightly weaker than I hoped for, this is nevertheless a VERY GOOD story.
CONCLUSION: this is a very average, in fact somehow mediocre collection, albeit not exactly bad. Only ten stories out of 29 are really worth reading (three VERY GOOD and seven GOOD). If you can get them somewhere else (like online), I don't think it is absolutely necessary to buy this book.
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