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Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfor
Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfor
DVD ~ Jim Carrey
Price: $4.99
57 used & new from $1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars "All I ask is that you do each and every little thing that pops into my head while I enjoy the fortune your parents left behind", July 10, 2014
Both me and my 13 years old daughter we found this film watchable, although it is definitely a weird, funny tasting treat. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

IMPORTANT PRECISION: neither of us ever read any of the Lemony Snickett books, before watching this film or since...

After their parents die in a suspicious fire, three orphaned Baudelaire children are entrusted to their closest relative, Count Olaf (Jim Carey). Those children are:

- Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning), a clever 14 years old damzel who is a natural born inventor
- Klaus (Liam Aiken), slightly younger than Emily, a clever book-wormish type
- Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) is just a 2 years old toddler, mostly interested in chewing things...)))

It is quite quickly revealed that Count Olaf, a very unsuccessful (although surprisingly gifted) actor is an unsavory character and his intentions are of most evil nature... And then the film really begins.

This is by no means a bad film and in fact there are many good scenes. The children are very likeable and it is easy to root for them, especially considering how despicable, cruel and merciless is the main villain. There are some colourful secondary characters like the well meaning but completely clueless Mr Poe (Timothy Spall), the lawyer in charge of Baudelaire's estate, gentle but slightly mad Dr Montgomery Montgomery (Billy Connolly) and harmlessly psychotic aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep).

However, considering that everybody (other than the children) in this film is either completely insane (that includes Count Olaf) or totally cut from reality, this film is really WEIRD. The visuals are also very peculiar - to say the least... When you add some creapy scary scenes, all of this makes this film unwatchable for little children, like younger than 8. There is not enough humour in this film and it actually is a waste of Jim Carey's talent (some of his comedies actually were good). Also, the whole mystery which is announced in the beginning is solved with a very anti-climactic way at the end. And finally, because this film was (of course!) supposed to launch a franchise (it will not happen), there is not even a real ending...

For all those reasons this film is an average thing - watchable, but ultimately nothing more. Watch at your own risk.


A Far-Flung Gamble - Havana 1762 (Raid)
A Far-Flung Gamble - Havana 1762 (Raid)
by David Greentree
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.95
49 used & new from $7.70

5.0 out of 5 stars "Havana is impregnable and those who want a chance for combat should transfer to Florida" - Field-Marshal Don Juan de Prado, July 9, 2014
I read this book with a real pleasure and I learned A LOT from it about the Seven Years War and XVIII century warfare in general. This is a recommended reading!

1. The battle of Havana (6 June - 13 August 1762)

In the end of 1761, with Seven Years war approaching its critical phase, Spain made preparations to join France in its war against United Kingdom, which would place a great strain on British resources (especially financial), already stretched very thinly. Anticipating this development British government declared war on 4 January 1762 and immediately put in place a large military expedition destined to knock Spain out of war with one fast, decisive strike, the capture of main Spanish stronghold in the New World - the city-fortress of Havana.

British force was large, with almost 30 000 soldiers, sailors and marines and a grand total 23 ships of line, 11 frigates, 4 sloops, 4 other small war vessels and no less than 160 transports being engaged. For the needs of this expedition British commanders, Vice-Admiral George Pocock (1706-1792) in command of the naval forces and Earl of Albemarle (1724-1772) in charge of land operations, managed to assemble quickly and efficiently forces from Europe, Caribbean and North America (those arrived later, in the middle of the campaign) and completely suprised Spanish defenders.

Spanish commander in chief, Field-Marshal Don Juan de Prado, really believed that Havana was impregnable (the quote which is the title of this review is authentic) and even if he knew that war was declared, he neglected to make necessary preparations or even patrol neigbouring waters. As result he learned of British operation only when he saw with his own eyes the whole enemy armada throwing anchor near his city and lowering flat-bottom boats to land troops... Defended by no less than 15 000 men (soldiers, sailors, marines and militia) Havana was nevertheless too strong a place to be carried by a "coup de main" and a siege was necessary.

The position of the besieged Spanish garrison was far from hopeless as they had one very powerful ally - tropical diseases and especially yellow fever. Those greatly feared pestilences unavoidably started to greatly affect every European army in this theater after six weeks of operations and would usually cripple it totally after twelve. British forces had also to protect themselves from guerilla attacks, as Spanish cavalry (released from the fortress on the first day of campaign) and irregulars started to harass invaders soon after the landing. Pocock and Albemarle had therefore to take this strong place in less than twelve weeks counting from their landing on 6 June 1762, and, although not without difficulty, they managed to do just that, as the city-fortress surrendered on 13 August.

The capture of this greatly strategic, precious city, immensely strengthened British negotating position during peace talks in 1762-63 and contributed a lot to the great triumphal victory of United Kingdom in Seven Years War.

2. The book.

This is a short (80 pages) but very comprehensive description of this brilliant, succesful campaign. The writing is clear and interesting. Illustrations are excelent and there is also one colour plate by Giuseppe Rava, very honest, presenting British assault against El Morro (main Spanish strongpoint) and heroic death of commander of Spanish garrison, Captain Luis Vicente Velasco de Isla (a naval officer, commander of ship of line "La Reina"). Maps are particularly good - it was a real pleasure to examine them.

This book only nominally is part of Osprey RAID series, as in fact it describes a regular campaign (and therefore could and should be part of Osprey CAMPAIGN series), which engaged during 67 days two quite large forces in naval and land operations, including a long and difficult siege, during which the defenders made numerous sorties. As usually in XVIII century sieges the artillery fight was particularly impressive - according to British calculations the fort of El Morro alone received more than 18 000 (eighteen thousand!) heavy cannon and mortar rounds... All this makes it quite hard to consider this operation as a raid...

Still, even if this book was published in the wrong series, I still enjoyed a lot reading it and I learned A LOT. A most excellent publication.


The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection [YEARS BEST SCI FIC]
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection [YEARS BEST SCI FIC]
by Author
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, honest collection, although most of stories are sad, bitter, depressing and for almost all of them totally humourless..., July 4, 2014
For this collection Gardner Dozois selected SF stories which he considered as best amongst those published in 2007. The one from previous year was very honest and this one is mostly on the same level.

As in earlier anthologies, for this one Gardner Dozois selected stories which he considered as the best or most important of the given year. This collection includes also an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 2007 and 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.

Most stories are good, honest, solid stuff, with no less than six being VERY GOOD: "Alien Archaeology" by Neal Asher, "Last contact" by Steven Baxter, "Hellfire at Twilight" by Kage Baker, "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear, "The Accord" by Keith Brooke, "Mists of time" by Tom Purdom

On another hand for my personal taste there were also five stinkers: "Of Late I Dreamt of Venus", "Verthandi's Ring", "The Skysailor's Tale", "Of Love and Other Monsters", "Stray". The remaining twenty one stories range from "good" to "readable".

That being said, as for the 2006 anthology, I cannot rate this collection five stars, mostly because of a generally depressed and pessimistic mood in most of those stories. There is not even one amongst them in which we could find at least an ounce of exhilarating joy that is usually associated (at least for me) with the exploration of new possibilities, new horizons, new discoveries, new knowledge; in fact there is virtually no joy associated with anything. It sounds almost as all modern SF was written by a bunch of terminal cancer patients for a public made of masochists enjoying chronic depression

Linked to the previous point, there is also an almost absolute lack of humour in those series; only in "Hellfire at Twilight" and "Alien Archaeology" we may find some lighter moments.

Below, more of my impressions about every story, with some limited SPOILERS:
-------------------------------------------
"Finisterra" by David Moles – in a distant future, on a strange planet, a gas giant which was probably modified by some powerful aliens, gone extinct since, live powerful zaratanis, colossal creatures which float into the top layers of the atmosphere; some are big enough that human towns were built on them. Then appears a band of poachers, who want to bag some of those creatures – maybe even the largest of them, the impossibly gigantic and ancient zaratan Finisterra. This is a honest, READABLE story, with an interesting religious aspect – in this reality Islam is the dominant religion and the few "dhimmis" (non-Muslims, mainly Jews and Christians) who are still tolerated are nevertheless discriminated and oppressed, which leaves them the choice between converting, running away to the wilderness or live on the absolute margins of the society… An useful reminder of reality, especially in our times of total political correctness…

"Lighting Out" by Ken MacLeod – in a distant future an aged woman, who spend most of her life in every kind of shady endeavour she could find, contacts her estranged daughter with a business proposal; quite obviously, this cannot end well… A honest, READABLE "cyberpunk" story, but nothing more.

"An Ocean Is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away" by John Barnes – terraforming of Mars is a frequent topic in SF and here the technical aspect of the whole thing is quite well described; but the story is harmed by its two main protagonists, a man and a woman who came to make a document about the next step of transformation; as she is pale and uninteresting and he is an unpleasant, quasi autistic man, their interactions are really boring. READABLE, average story.

"Saving Tiamaat" by Gwyneth Jones – in a distant future a man and a woman are charged with chaperoning two delegates to a peace conference, destined to end a horrible civil war; the code names of two delegates, who are also a man and a woman, are "Baal" and "Tiamaat". This is actually a GOOD story, in which author surprises as many times with unexpected but ultimately plausible developments. Enjoy!

"Of Late I Dreamt of Venus" by James Van Pelt – another terraforming story, this time about Venus – an incredibly wealthy woman decides to use all her fortune and power to change Venus into a perfect planet – superior even to Earth… The story begins well, then slows down and at the end just crashes and burns… All in all a rather POOR story, with a weak ending.

"Verthandi's Ring" by Ian MacDonald – extremely ambitious and terminally weird story about a future war between two civilizations so advanced that they are quasi-Godlike… The whole thing is however too weird and the ending is simply abysmally stupid! A POOR story.

"Sea Change" by Una McCormack – two teen-aged girls who were raised together make trouble and theirs rich parents ground them on an island in Scotland… The SF element of this story is very discreet – it is actually almost a "regular literature" short story. READABLE, but nothing more.

"The Sky Is Large and the Earth Is Small" by Chris Roberson - it is an alternate reality story which takes place in XVII century China, under the reign of Emperor Kangxi (who really existed also in our reality); in this world Europeans never conquered the Aztecs and neither did they colonized North America – on another hand the Chinese developed an excellent fleet and routinely trade with the Mexica Empire and the Arab countries. One day, a bureaucrat of middle rank is tasked with preparing a report about the possibility of conquering the Mexica… This is a GOOD story, with tension building up all the time – just to end in the most anti-climactic possible way… Which is a pity, because this story had some serious potential…

"Glory" by Greg Egan – in a very distant future two human scientists contact a less advanced civilization to investigate a scientific mystery on alien's home planet… Exactly as in the case of the previous story, this one begins very well, but progressively descends lower and lower, all the way to the possibly most banal and disappointing ending one can imagine. A honest READABLE story.

"Against the Current" by Robert Silverberg – well, this Great Ancient Master of SF rarely misses – and this short story about a guy who starts to go backward in time is a really GOOD thing, reminding me of both old "Twilight Zone" series and of "The incredible shrinking man" classical novel by Richard Matheson…

"Alien Archaeology" by Neal Asher – this long but well written novella is a kind of sequel to the excellent 2005 short story "Softly spoke the gabbleduck"; it mixes very well "space opera" with "film noir" and some "cursed treasure" elements – also, we learn from it a lot, lot more about gabbleducks…))) For my personal taste this is a VERY GOOD story – in fact THE THIRD BEST in the collection.

"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang – in Baghdad of "1001 Nights" an alchemist uses a portable wormhole to make people visit their future or their past. An interesting, GOOD story, approaching Islam with the kind of profound respect which SF writers NEVER show to Christian religion…

"Beyond the Wall" by Justin Stanchfield – in XXIII century a gigantic alien artefact, aged 500 000 years, is found on Titan and all nations on Earth want to explore it; a team of United Nations security guards is dispatched there first to prevent anybody acceding it until the negotiations are over – and of course there will be trouble… A good initial idea and a well written story – but without a real ending and completely avoiding giving any explanation of all mysteries. Honest, READABLE thing, but nothing more.

"Kiosk" by Bruce Sterling – ah, those left-wingers… Even in 2007, they still didn't fully recover from the 1989-91 shock of seeing communism collapsing, when in the same time the capitalism didn't… In this terminally weird, albeit well written, short story author tries to describe a kind of social and economic revolution, somewhere, I guess, in the Balkans in a near future, after both communism and capitalism collapsed…))) A READABLE thing, but don't try to learn economics from it…)))

"Last Contact" by Steven Baxter – a powerful story about the end of the world; low-key but quite terrifying, with an extremely powerful punch-line; a VERY GOOD story!

"The Sledge-Maker's Daughter" by Alastair Reynolds – in a devastated post-apocalyptic world a young girl becomes the target of an abusive local heavy and goes to a witch to look for advice… Without surprise as in most of recent SF in which witches appear this is a feminist story, in which the men play of course the role of villains (or at least clueless stooges)…; still, a rather READABLE thing.

"Sanjeev and Robotwallah" by Ian McDonald – this story about a kind of child-soldiers is situated in the same universe (a future high tech India) as "Little Goddess" and "The djinn's wife" which figured in previous collections, but unlike them this one is considerably weaker and less inspired. READABLE, nothing more.

"The Skysailor's Tale" by Michael Swanwick – it begins as story about a young boy growing up in USA just after the Independence War and then it turns into a kind of alternate history tale – and precisely at that moment it crashes down and burns, turning into an absurd nonsensical mess (with some masturbatory fantasies)… A POOR thing. Avoid!

"Of Love and Other Monsters" by Vandana Singh – homosexual aliens living amongst humans are hunted by homosexual alien hunters… An incredibly messy and terminally unpleasant VERY POOR story, the WORST in this collection!

"Steve Fever" by Greg Egan – a kind of post-apocalyptic cyberpunk story about rogue AIs and their difficult relationship with humans… I am absolutely not a fan of this author, but this is a quite honest, READABLE short story.

"Hellfire at Twilight" by Kage Baker – this novella is part of long running Company cycle and before reading it you may want to check this particular fictional universe on internet, to familiarize yourself with some basic rules of those stories; in that one, an infiltrated Company operative takes employment as librarian with Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-1781), 15th Baron le Despencer, a very real person who was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1762 to 1763 and is mostly remembered as the founder and president of a particularly active branch of the Hellfire Club… The reason for this operation is to find and steal a priceless ancient document – and I will say nothing more here… It is a VERY GOOD story and also one of the very few lighter and merrier moments in this collection…)))

"The Immortals of Atlantis" by Brian Stableford – a strange, even weird story about refugees from Atlantis living amongst common mortals in our times – just somehow hurt by the quasi obligatory kowtow to global warming hysteria… A well written, READABLE thing.

"Nothing Personal" by Pat Cadigan – an aging female police officer, feeling a little bit down since some time, receives a new partner, a much younger male detective recently promoted from Computer Crimes "geek squad"… Together they have to investigate an extremely mysterious case of suspicious death which may or may not be a murder – but which is just the beginning of an even greater mystery… That novella was initially going towards a major masterpiece, but was first hurt (a little) by completely unnecessary homosexual accents and then grievously damaged (like really grievously) by a poorly written, completely anti-climactic ending. Because of that this is only a GOOD story. Pity.

"Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear – on the ruins of the world a badly damaged war robot meets a starving human child… An EXCELLENT, VERY POWERFUL STORY, the SECOND BEST in the collection!

"The Accord" by Keith Brooke – a surprising, original, clever short story, which mixes quite well SF (it happens on another planet in the future), Old Testament story of Samson and Delilah, Christian (non-biblical) lore of fallen angels, ancient heathen legends of vampires and even (I think) some Buddhism… A VERY GOOD story.

"Laws of Survival" by Nancy Kress – there was a Third World War and then alien ships came to the ruined Earth; this is the story of the first human who made contact with them – and lived to tell the story… Very well written, I must give it to the author, but the most extreme, hateful, hysterically left-winged ideology and also pandering to global warming hysteria hurt it quite a lot. Therefore for me it is a GOOD, solid story – but no more.

"The Mists of Time" by Tom Purdom – somewhere around 1845 a small British warship, HMS "Sparrow", intercepts a much larger and better armed ship – which carries a cargo of black slaves towards Brazil… Albeit outnumbered and outgunned the crew of HMS "Sparrow" will engage the fight in order to free the slaves - at great risk of loss of life and limb. Both fighting sides are unaware that they are being watched and recorded by time travellers from the future. This is a BRILLIANT, EXCELLENT STORY, THE BEST IN THE COLLECTION, showing very well how left-wingers (who sadly dominate in the cinema, TV and written medias) can take even the bravest fight and the noblest sacrifice and then use their unlimited supply of venom, hatred, malice, prejudice and bias to cover it in cr@p... An absolutely recommended read!

"Craters" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – this story was clearly inspired by Iraq War and Al Qaeda terror attacks; in a near future a female veteran war correspondent investigates a new, absolutely shocking development in terrorism by a new tactic of use of suicide bombers. A well written, well-conceived, GOOD story but damaged somehow by the political correctness – indeed, author manages to NOT mention even once Muslim extremism as the main inspiration for terrorism (and especially suicide bombings) in our times…

"The Prophet of Flores" by Ted Kosmatka – this is an alternate history story telling about a world in which evolution theory was "disproved" and the obligatory official doctrine is that world was created 5800 years ago…; echoing American cultural wars and inspired also by the 2003 discovery of the "Homo floresiensis" this is a GOOD story, although author's opinion explained on the last page that there are many competing gods, each of which creator of separate human evolutionary line, is even more outlandish than even the most extremist creationists views…

"Stray" by Benjamin Rosenbaum and David Ackert – a terminally freaky and extremely unpleasant story about a kind of fallen angel who lives with a black family somewhere in the USA in the beginning of XXth century; authors wanted probably to write
something very deep – but they just managed the weird… AVOID!

"Roxie" by Robert Reed – the tender, loving description of an aging husky, its love and labours by its owner – at a time when our whole civilization may be in danger; a GOOD, honest story – although quite obviously I don't agree with author's conclusion that we all ultimately "go into nothingness"…

"Dark Heaven" by Gregory Benford – this novella begins very well, as a kind of "film noir" in a near future, soon after the First Contact with aliens from Alpha Centauri; but quite soon we go into the clichés: pandering to global warming hysteria, everything explained by just another "government conspiracy", US government proceeding to extrajudicial killing of its own citizens and all of that must of course end to an obligatory dump on religion… Well written, very READABLE story, with some nice one-liners too, but sooo filled with clichés that reader risks an overdose…
--------------------------------------------------
CONCLUSION: all in all a honest, readable collection, mostly on the same satisfying level as the one from previous year. It can be a very pleasant reading experience – if we just do not expect too many fireworks. Enjoy!


The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $7.59

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, honest collection, although most of stories are sad, bitter, depressing and for almost all of them totally humourless..., July 4, 2014
For this collection Gardner Dozois selected SF stories which he considered as best amongst those published in 2007. The one from previous year was very honest and this one is mostly on the same level.

As in earlier anthologies, for this one Gardner Dozois selected stories which he considered as the best or most important of the given year. This collection includes also an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 2007 and 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.

Most stories are good, honest, solid stuff, with no less than six being VERY GOOD: "Alien Archaeology" by Neal Asher, "Last contact" by Steven Baxter, "Hellfire at Twilight" by Kage Baker, "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear, "The Accord" by Keith Brooke, "Mists of time" by Tom Purdom

On another hand for my personal taste there were also five stinkers: "Of Late I Dreamt of Venus", "Verthandi's Ring", "The Skysailor's Tale", "Of Love and Other Monsters", "Stray". The remaining twenty one stories range from "good" to "readable".

That being said, as for the 2006 anthology, I cannot rate this collection five stars, mostly because of a generally depressed and pessimistic mood in most of those stories. There is not even one amongst them in which we could find at least an ounce of exhilarating joy that is usually associated (at least for me) with the exploration of new possibilities, new horizons, new discoveries, new knowledge; in fact there is virtually no joy associated with anything. It sounds almost as all modern SF was written by a bunch of terminal cancer patients for a public made of masochists enjoying chronic depression

Linked to the previous point, there is also an almost absolute lack of humour in those series; only in "Hellfire at Twilight" and "Alien Archaeology" we may find some lighter moments.

Below, more of my impressions about every story, with some limited SPOILERS:
-------------------------------------------
"Finisterra" by David Moles – in a distant future, on a strange planet, a gas giant which was probably modified by some powerful aliens, gone extinct since, live powerful zaratanis, colossal creatures which float into the top layers of the atmosphere; some are big enough that human towns were built on them. Then appears a band of poachers, who want to bag some of those creatures – maybe even the largest of them, the impossibly gigantic and ancient zaratan Finisterra. This is a honest, READABLE story, with an interesting religious aspect – in this reality Islam is the dominant religion and the few "dhimmis" (non-Muslims, mainly Jews and Christians) who are still tolerated are nevertheless discriminated and oppressed, which leaves them the choice between converting, running away to the wilderness or live on the absolute margins of the society… An useful reminder of reality, especially in our times of total political correctness…

"Lighting Out" by Ken MacLeod – in a distant future an aged woman, who spend most of her life in every kind of shady endeavour she could find, contacts her estranged daughter with a business proposal; quite obviously, this cannot end well… A honest, READABLE "cyberpunk" story, but nothing more.

"An Ocean Is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away" by John Barnes – terraforming of Mars is a frequent topic in SF and here the technical aspect of the whole thing is quite well described; but the story is harmed by its two main protagonists, a man and a woman who came to make a document about the next step of transformation; as she is pale and uninteresting and he is an unpleasant, quasi autistic man, their interactions are really boring. READABLE, average story.

"Saving Tiamaat" by Gwyneth Jones – in a distant future a man and a woman are charged with chaperoning two delegates to a peace conference, destined to end a horrible civil war; the code names of two delegates, who are also a man and a woman, are "Baal" and "Tiamaat". This is actually a GOOD story, in which author surprises as many times with unexpected but ultimately plausible developments. Enjoy!

"Of Late I Dreamt of Venus" by James Van Pelt – another terraforming story, this time about Venus – an incredibly wealthy woman decides to use all her fortune and power to change Venus into a perfect planet – superior even to Earth… The story begins well, then slows down and at the end just crashes and burns… All in all a rather POOR story, with a weak ending.

"Verthandi's Ring" by Ian MacDonald – extremely ambitious and terminally weird story about a future war between two civilizations so advanced that they are quasi-Godlike… The whole thing is however too weird and the ending is simply abysmally stupid! A POOR story.

"Sea Change" by Una McCormack – two teen-aged girls who were raised together make trouble and theirs rich parents ground them on an island in Scotland… The SF element of this story is very discreet – it is actually almost a "regular literature" short story. READABLE, but nothing more.

"The Sky Is Large and the Earth Is Small" by Chris Roberson - it is an alternate reality story which takes place in XVII century China, under the reign of Emperor Kangxi (who really existed also in our reality); in this world Europeans never conquered the Aztecs and neither did they colonized North America – on another hand the Chinese developed an excellent fleet and routinely trade with the Mexica Empire and the Arab countries. One day, a bureaucrat of middle rank is tasked with preparing a report about the possibility of conquering the Mexica… This is a GOOD story, with tension building up all the time – just to end in the most anti-climactic possible way… Which is a pity, because this story had some serious potential…

"Glory" by Greg Egan – in a very distant future two human scientists contact a less advanced civilization to investigate a scientific mystery on alien's home planet… Exactly as in the case of the previous story, this one begins very well, but progressively descends lower and lower, all the way to the possibly most banal and disappointing ending one can imagine. A honest READABLE story.

"Against the Current" by Robert Silverberg – well, this Great Ancient Master of SF rarely misses – and this short story about a guy who starts to go backward in time is a really GOOD thing, reminding me of both old "Twilight Zone" series and of "The incredible shrinking man" classical novel by Richard Matheson…

"Alien Archaeology" by Neal Asher – this long but well written novella is a kind of sequel to the excellent 2005 short story "Softly spoke the gabbleduck"; it mixes very well "space opera" with "film noir" and some "cursed treasure" elements – also, we learn from it a lot, lot more about gabbleducks…))) For my personal taste this is a VERY GOOD story – in fact THE THIRD BEST in the collection.

"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang – in Baghdad of "1001 Nights" an alchemist uses a portable wormhole to make people visit their future or their past. An interesting, GOOD story, approaching Islam with the kind of profound respect which SF writers NEVER show to Christian religion…

"Beyond the Wall" by Justin Stanchfield – in XXIII century a gigantic alien artefact, aged 500 000 years, is found on Titan and all nations on Earth want to explore it; a team of United Nations security guards is dispatched there first to prevent anybody acceding it until the negotiations are over – and of course there will be trouble… A good initial idea and a well written story – but without a real ending and completely avoiding giving any explanation of all mysteries. Honest, READABLE thing, but nothing more.

"Kiosk" by Bruce Sterling – ah, those left-wingers… Even in 2007, they still didn't fully recover from the 1989-91 shock of seeing communism collapsing, when in the same time the capitalism didn't… In this terminally weird, albeit well written, short story author tries to describe a kind of social and economic revolution, somewhere, I guess, in the Balkans in a near future, after both communism and capitalism collapsed…))) A READABLE thing, but don't try to learn economics from it…)))

"Last Contact" by Steven Baxter – a powerful story about the end of the world; low-key but quite terrifying, with an extremely powerful punch-line; a VERY GOOD story!

"The Sledge-Maker's Daughter" by Alastair Reynolds – in a devastated post-apocalyptic world a young girl becomes the target of an abusive local heavy and goes to a witch to look for advice… Without surprise as in most of recent SF in which witches appear this is a feminist story, in which the men play of course the role of villains (or at least clueless stooges)…; still, a rather READABLE thing.

"Sanjeev and Robotwallah" by Ian McDonald – this story about a kind of child-soldiers is situated in the same universe (a future high tech India) as "Little Goddess" and "The djinn's wife" which figured in previous collections, but unlike them this one is considerably weaker and less inspired. READABLE, nothing more.

"The Skysailor's Tale" by Michael Swanwick – it begins as story about a young boy growing up in USA just after the Independence War and then it turns into a kind of alternate history tale – and precisely at that moment it crashes down and burns, turning into an absurd nonsensical mess (with some masturbatory fantasies)… A POOR thing. Avoid!

"Of Love and Other Monsters" by Vandana Singh – homosexual aliens living amongst humans are hunted by homosexual alien hunters… An incredibly messy and terminally unpleasant VERY POOR story, the WORST in this collection!

"Steve Fever" by Greg Egan – a kind of post-apocalyptic cyberpunk story about rogue AIs and their difficult relationship with humans… I am absolutely not a fan of this author, but this is a quite honest, READABLE short story.

"Hellfire at Twilight" by Kage Baker – this novella is part of long running Company cycle and before reading it you may want to check this particular fictional universe on internet, to familiarize yourself with some basic rules of those stories; in that one, an infiltrated Company operative takes employment as librarian with Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-1781), 15th Baron le Despencer, a very real person who was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1762 to 1763 and is mostly remembered as the founder and president of a particularly active branch of the Hellfire Club… The reason for this operation is to find and steal a priceless ancient document – and I will say nothing more here… It is a VERY GOOD story and also one of the very few lighter and merrier moments in this collection…)))

"The Immortals of Atlantis" by Brian Stableford – a strange, even weird story about refugees from Atlantis living amongst common mortals in our times – just somehow hurt by the quasi obligatory kowtow to global warming hysteria… A well written, READABLE thing.

"Nothing Personal" by Pat Cadigan – an aging female police officer, feeling a little bit down since some time, receives a new partner, a much younger male detective recently promoted from Computer Crimes "geek squad"… Together they have to investigate an extremely mysterious case of suspicious death which may or may not be a murder – but which is just the beginning of an even greater mystery… That novella was initially going towards a major masterpiece, but was first hurt (a little) by completely unnecessary homosexual accents and then grievously damaged (like really grievously) by a poorly written, completely anti-climactic ending. Because of that this is only a GOOD story. Pity.

"Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear – on the ruins of the world a badly damaged war robot meets a starving human child… An EXCELLENT, VERY POWERFUL STORY, the SECOND BEST in the collection!

"The Accord" by Keith Brooke – a surprising, original, clever short story, which mixes quite well SF (it happens on another planet in the future), Old Testament story of Samson and Delilah, Christian (non-biblical) lore of fallen angels, ancient heathen legends of vampires and even (I think) some Buddhism… A VERY GOOD story.

"Laws of Survival" by Nancy Kress – there was a Third World War and then alien ships came to the ruined Earth; this is the story of the first human who made contact with them – and lived to tell the story… Very well written, I must give it to the author, but the most extreme, hateful, hysterically left-winged ideology and also pandering to global warming hysteria hurt it quite a lot. Therefore for me it is a GOOD, solid story – but no more.

"The Mists of Time" by Tom Purdom – somewhere around 1845 a small British warship, HMS "Sparrow", intercepts a much larger and better armed ship – which carries a cargo of black slaves towards Brazil… Albeit outnumbered and outgunned the crew of HMS "Sparrow" will engage the fight in order to free the slaves - at great risk of loss of life and limb. Both fighting sides are unaware that they are being watched and recorded by time travellers from the future. This is a BRILLIANT, EXCELLENT STORY, THE BEST IN THE COLLECTION, showing very well how left-wingers (who sadly dominate in the cinema, TV and written medias) can take even the bravest fight and the noblest sacrifice and then use their unlimited supply of venom, hatred, malice, prejudice and bias to cover it in cr@p... An absolutely recommended read!

"Craters" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – this story was clearly inspired by Iraq War and Al Qaeda terror attacks; in a near future a female veteran war correspondent investigates a new, absolutely shocking development in terrorism by a new tactic of use of suicide bombers. A well written, well-conceived, GOOD story but damaged somehow by the political correctness – indeed, author manages to NOT mention even once Muslim extremism as the main inspiration for terrorism (and especially suicide bombings) in our times…

"The Prophet of Flores" by Ted Kosmatka – this is an alternate history story telling about a world in which evolution theory was "disproved" and the obligatory official doctrine is that world was created 5800 years ago…; echoing American cultural wars and inspired also by the 2003 discovery of the "Homo floresiensis" this is a GOOD story, although author's opinion explained on the last page that there are many competing gods, each of which creator of separate human evolutionary line, is even more outlandish than even the most extremist creationists views…

"Stray" by Benjamin Rosenbaum and David Ackert – a terminally freaky and extremely unpleasant story about a kind of fallen angel who lives with a black family somewhere in the USA in the beginning of XXth century; authors wanted probably to write
something very deep – but they just managed the weird… AVOID!

"Roxie" by Robert Reed – the tender, loving description of an aging husky, its love and labours by its owner – at a time when our whole civilization may be in danger; a GOOD, honest story – although quite obviously I don't agree with author's conclusion that we all ultimately "go into nothingness"…

"Dark Heaven" by Gregory Benford – this novella begins very well, as a kind of "film noir" in a near future, soon after the First Contact with aliens from Alpha Centauri; but quite soon we go into the clichés: pandering to global warming hysteria, everything explained by just another "government conspiracy", US government proceeding to extrajudicial killing of its own citizens and all of that must of course end to an obligatory dump on religion… Well written, very READABLE story, with some nice one-liners too, but sooo filled with clichés that reader risks an overdose…
--------------------------------------------------
CONCLUSION: all in all a honest, readable collection, mostly on the same satisfying level as the one from previous year. It can be a very pleasant reading experience – if we just do not expect too many fireworks. Enjoy!


Certain Death in Sierra Leone - The SAS and Operation Barras 2000 (Raid) [Paperback] [2010] (Author) Will Fowler, Mariusz Kozik
Certain Death in Sierra Leone - The SAS and Operation Barras 2000 (Raid) [Paperback] [2010] (Author) Will Fowler, Mariusz Kozik
3 used & new from $29.05

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, although I think not quite complete, description of a little known but greatly successful British Army operation, July 3, 2014
This quite honest and certainly very interesting book describes a British Army raid known as Operation "Barras", which took place on 10 September 2000 in Sierra Leone. I liked it and I am glad that I bought it, although there are some things whihc could be improved, if there ever is a second editions.

1. Operation "Barras"

In the year 2000 British armed forces were heavily commited in operations in Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by a horrible, deadly civil war since 1991. British intervention, code-named Operation "Palliser", began in May 2000 and its first purpose was the evacuation of British citizens and their families from the country, where another extremely violent round of combats just began. Once this objective was achieved, the mandate of British forces was expanded and they were committed on the side of the central government against the various rebel factions (some of them supported by Libya) and also the bandit gangs which became a real scourge...

It was during those operations that on 25 August 2000 a small patrol of twelve soldiers (eleven British and one Sierra Leonese), commanded by Major Alan Marshall, was surrounded by surprise and forced to surrender by a particularly vicious gang of outlaws, named "West Side Boys" or West Side Junglers (and there were also some other names those men gave themselves, but they cannot be quoted here for sake of decency), commanded by a self-proclaimed "Brigadier-General" Foday Kallay.

The "West Side Boys" were a large gang, counting no less than 300 heavily armed fighters (probably even more). The fighters were - quite typically for this particular civil war - a mixture of men, women, boys and girls of all ages, from grown ups to children as young as 10. Although lacking regular military training, they were very well armed, with numerous FAL and AK-47 automatic rifles, GPMG machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, 81 mm mortars and also some vehicle-mounted ZPU-2 14,5 mm heavy machine guns. Frequently drunk and almost all the time high on drugs, the "West Side Boys" were completely unpredictable and greatly feared by local population, as they were always ready to wantonly torture, rape, mutilate and murder. They also abducted children to make them into soldiers and young girls to make them into "sex fighters" or "bush wives" - which actually meant sex slaves...

During negotiations Foday Kallay and his second in command, Colonel "Cambodia", agreed to release five of hostages. After that further negotiations reached an impas and the growing aggressivity of Kallay and news about the bad treatments inflicted on the Sierra Leonese hostage Musa Bangura made British leadership decide that it was time to attack...

The operation of rescue of remaining seven took place on the 10 September 2000, in form of a helicopter raid of SAS and Paratroopers against the two strongholds of the gang. All hostages were rescued and at least 22 "West Side Boys" were killed in fighting, with others running for their lives. One SAS trooper, Private Bradley Tinnion, was killed by machine gun fire, another British soldier was badly wounded and eleven more sffered lesser injuries. One Sierra Leonese civilian was also accidentally killed during the gunfight. Foday Kallay was captured alive, as he surrendered withour resistance - on another hand his wife "Mamy" Kallay (a woman greatly feared by all the prisoners and slaves of "West Side Boys" for her insane cruelty) went down with a gun in her hand, fighting to the end...

The fate of "West Side Boys" greatly "encouraged" other armed gangs to disarm and disband, helping thus the pacification of the country. The civil war finally ended in 2002 - greatly helped by the pressure applied by the British army...

2. The book.

This book describes the events quite comprehensively and offers quite a lot of interesting illustrations. The narration is quite clear and mostly interesting. There are two colour plates, which are OK, although not really great - on another hand I learned from them something I didn't know, namely that you can shoot a GPMG from the shoulder (I guess the guy who did it was REALLY strong).

The weaker points, for which I must take away one star are the writing style which is not always the best thing on the market and also the lack of some information. We are not told what happened to Foday Kallay and other "West Side Boys" captured in the raid. We are not told what happened to unfortunate Major Alan Marshall's career... British solders were assisted during this operation by a MI-24 gunship helicopter owned by Sierra Leonese army and piloted by a mercenary - but we are offered only the most limited information about it... There is also no pictures of captured weapons and equipements - although here i can understand that for some reason there may still be classified... Finally, the description of the fighting itself is surprisngly laconic, making me think that we may not be exactly told the WHOLE truth about this event - there are some publications in internet which suggest that in fact the "West Side Boys" offered much more resistance and suffered a much, much greater number of casualties...

Still, all those remarks notwithstanding, I liked this book and I am glad that I bought and read it. And I certainly hope that we will NEVER see such a collapse of state, followed unavoidably by the disappearance of law and public order, as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Congo (Zaire) saw in the 1990s... Thanks God for the solidity of our institutions and for the service of all those who keep the "Watch on Rhine", preventing the appearance of barbarians like "West Side Boys" in our Western societies...


Certain Death in Sierra Leone - The SAS and Operation Barras 2000 (Raid)
Certain Death in Sierra Leone - The SAS and Operation Barras 2000 (Raid)
by Will Fowler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.09
62 used & new from $7.11

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, although I think not quite complete, description of a little known but greatly successful British Army operation, July 3, 2014
This quite honest and certainly very interesting book describes a British Army raid known as Operation "Barras", which took place on 10 September 2000 in Sierra Leone. I liked it and I am glad that I bought it, although there are some things whihc could be improved, if there ever is a second editions.

1. Operation "Barras"

In the year 2000 British armed forces were heavily commited in operations in Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by a horrible, deadly civil war since 1991. British intervention, code-named Operation "Palliser", began in May 2000 and its first purpose was the evacuation of British citizens and their families from the country, where another extremely violent round of combats just began. Once this objective was achieved, the mandate of British forces was expanded and they were committed on the side of the central government against the various rebel factions (some of them supported by Libya) and also the bandit gangs which became a real scourge...

It was during those operations that on 25 August 2000 a small patrol of twelve soldiers (eleven British and one Sierra Leonese), commanded by Major Alan Marshall, was surrounded by surprise and forced to surrender by a particularly vicious gang of outlaws, named "West Side Boys" or West Side Junglers (and there were also some other names those men gave themselves, but they cannot be quoted here for sake of decency), commanded by a self-proclaimed "Brigadier-General" Foday Kallay.

The "West Side Boys" were a large gang, counting no less than 300 heavily armed fighters (probably even more). The fighters were - quite typically for this particular civil war - a mixture of men, women, boys and girls of all ages, from grown ups to children as young as 10. Although lacking regular military training, they were very well armed, with numerous FAL and AK-47 automatic rifles, GPMG machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, 81 mm mortars and also some vehicle-mounted ZPU-2 14,5 mm heavy machine guns. Frequently drunk and almost all the time high on drugs, the "West Side Boys" were completely unpredictable and greatly feared by local population, as they were always ready to wantonly torture, rape, mutilate and murder. They also abducted children to make them into soldiers and young girls to make them into "sex fighters" or "bush wives" - which actually meant sex slaves...

During negotiations Foday Kallay and his second in command, Colonel "Cambodia", agreed to release five of hostages. After that further negotiations reached an impas and the growing aggressivity of Kallay and news about the bad treatments inflicted on the Sierra Leonese hostage Musa Bangura made British leadership decide that it was time to attack...

The operation of rescue of remaining seven took place on the 10 September 2000, in form of a helicopter raid of SAS and Paratroopers against the two strongholds of the gang. All hostages were rescued and at least 22 "West Side Boys" were killed in fighting, with others running for their lives. One SAS trooper, Private Bradley Tinnion, was killed by machine gun fire, another British soldier was badly wounded and eleven more sffered lesser injuries. One Sierra Leonese civilian was also accidentally killed during the gunfight. Foday Kallay was captured alive, as he surrendered withour resistance - on another hand his wife "Mamy" Kallay (a woman greatly feared by all the prisoners and slaves of "West Side Boys" for her insane cruelty) went down with a gun in her hand, fighting to the end...

The fate of "West Side Boys" greatly "encouraged" other armed gangs to disarm and disband, helping thus greatly the pacification of the country. The civil war finally ended in 2002 - greatly helped by the pressure applied by the British army...

2. The book.

This book describes the events quite comprehensively and offers quite a lot of interesting illustrations. The narration is quite clear and mostly interesting. There are two colour plates, which are OK, although not really great - on another hand I learned from them something I didn't know, namely that you can shoot a GPMG from the shoulder (I guess the guy who did it was REALLY strong).

The weaker points, for which I must take away one star are the writing style which is not always the best thing on the market and also the lack of some information. We are not told what happened to Foday Kallay and other "West Side Boys" captured in the raid. We are not told what happened to unfortunate Major Alan Marshall's career... British solders were assisted during this operation by a MI-24 gunship helicopter owned by Sierra Leonese army and piloted by a mercenary - but we are offered only the most limited information about it... There is also no pictures of captured weapons and equipements - although here i can understand that for some reason there may still be classified... Finally, the description of the fighting itself is surprisngly laconic, making me think that we may not be exactly told the WHOLE truth about this event - there are some publications in internet which suggest that in fact the "West Side Boys" offered much more resistance and suffered a much, much greater number of casualties...

Still, all those remarks notwithstanding, I liked this book and I am glad that I bought and read it. And I certainly hope that we will NEVER see such a collapse of state, followed unavoidably by the disappearance of law and public order, as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Congo (Zaire) saw in the 1990s... Thanks God for the solidity of our institutions and for the service of all those who keep the "Watch on Rhine", preventing the appearance of barbarians like "West Side Boys" in our Western societies...


Many Rivers to Cross
Many Rivers to Cross
DVD ~ Robert Taylor
Offered by Nickelflix SuperCenter
Price: $6.19
63 used & new from $4.28

5.0 out of 5 stars "You are the man for me, I am the woman for you and you WILL marry me, Bushrod Gentry, even if I have to KILL YOU for that!", July 2, 2014
This review is from: Many Rivers to Cross (DVD)
I liked a lot this very silly, EXTREMELY entertaining, merry and cheerful 1955 western comedy. Below, more of my impressions, with some very limited SPOILERS.

IMPORTANT PRECISION: the title of this review is NOT a quote from the film - although it could be...)))

Somewhere just before year 1800, in Kentucky, a certain Bushrod Gentry (Robert Taylor), a real bear of a man, trapper by trade and eternal bachelor by conviction, meets a young, fierce maiden named Mary Stuart Cherne (Eleanor Parker). For reasons which cannot and will not be explained, Mary Stuart Cherne decides IMMEDIATELY that Bushrod Gentry will marry her and whatever may be his opinion on that matter - well, it doesn't matter! That is the beginning of the film and for the remaining 90 minutes Bushrod Gentry will learn IN THE HARDEST POSSIBLE WAY all the potential meanings of this old French saying: "Ce que femme veut, Dieu le veut..."...))) And I am not saying anything more about the story...

Although in principle this is a western, in fact this film is much more a "romantic comedy" quite exactly like those played in XVII and XVIII century theatres across Europe. The scenario of this film would be easily recognized and maybe even claimed as one of theirs by both Pierre Beaumarchais (the author of the play "Marriage of Figaro") and Pierre Marivaux, author of so many merry, popular "romantic comedies", that even today, when the French want to describe games of love and seduction, they talk of "marivaudages".

OK, I may push here the things a little bit far, but I think even Shakespeare and Moliere could like this story and would probably not mind at all producing it in their theatres in London or Paris - and I can totally see Gogol seating amongst the public and taking notes for his, by moments slightly similar in its general lines, immortal mastepiece "Marriage"...))) All those authors indeed explored to the bottom the various possible developments in the immortal battle of sexes between men and women - a fight which, unlike real war, doesn't have for ultimate purpose to kill but precisely the contrary, to create new life... And in this story we have a particularly amusing variation of this ancient, never ending monumental clash...

The situation in which a VERY reluctant bachelor is mercilessly, relentlessly pursued, even hounded by a determined, clever, cunning, resourceful (and not half-bad looking by the way) young woman who is hell-bent on getting married, come damnation, high water or both, is indeed full of possibilities for a GREAT comedy - and this film seized quite a lot of them...))) What makes things even better is that, being a daughter of XVIII century pioneers, Mary Stuart Cherne has at her disposition some special weapons and tactics, usually not available to Sheakespeare, Moliere, Beaumarchais and Marivaux characters, including but not limited to, Kentucky rifles, tomahawks, scalping knives, bear traps, frontier justice and whole tribes of blood-thirsty Indian warriors on murderous rampage...)))

Although this is mostly a long fight of wills, wits and wily tricks (and occasionally bullets) between Mary Stuart Cherne and Bushrod Gentry, there is place to some secondary characters, like Mary's father Cadmus Cherne (Victor McLaglen, excellent as always), Mary's unfortunate suitor Luke Radford (Alan Hale Jr.), Cherne's family old Indian servant Sandak (Ralph Moody) and last but not least Essau Hamilton, a very famous trapper and Indian fighter who is a kind of hero and role model for Bushrod Gentry (he is played by the gigantic actor James Arness, older brother of Peter Graves).

The film is very pleasantly rhytmed by the "Berry Tree" song:

"The higher up the berry tree
The sweeter grow the berries
The more you hug and kiss a girl
The more she'll want to marry!"

Now, granted, this is not some kind of immortal masterpiece, but this is nevertheless a really, REALLY ENTERTAINING, lighthearted, merry, cheerful film which doesn't take itself seriously even for one minute but instead offers tons of humour (some of it of slightly slapstick burlesque style - but mostly not) and a nice ending - and leaves us with a warm heart. I will absolutely keep my DVD to watch it one day again. ENJOY!


Falling Skies: Season 1
Falling Skies: Season 1
DVD ~ Noah Wyle
Price: $14.96
52 used & new from $11.00

2.0 out of 5 stars A grounded, crippled, watered down, frequently boring, disfigured pale copy of "Battlestar Galactica" - in one word, A FAILURE!, July 1, 2014
This review is from: Falling Skies: Season 1 (DVD)
This first season of initially promising new SF series about human resistance against mysterious alien invaders is, to my considerable regret, a globally failed attempt. Which is a pity, because it had potential and some characters (and actors playing them) are reasonably good. Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.

In a very near future (like tomorrow) Earth was invaded by aliens and almost the whole planet was conquered, with almost all the major cities around the globe ruined by massive bombardment. In the first episode, on the East Coast of USA some last remnants of military, completed by a hastily organised militia of all able bodied men and women who can and want to fight, still resist alien mopping operations. Those series follow the tribulations of one such militia unit, the 2nd Massachusetts, a roughly 250 fighters strong outfit, led by Captain Dan Weaver (Will Patton) and his second in command, Tom Mason (Noah Wyle).

Weaver used to be a professional soldier before retiring and becoming a businessman - he was recalled to duty and promoted to captain of militia after most of regular army was destroyed in initial alien attack. Mason used to be a history teacher and even if he is second in command he doesn't seem to have a military rank, but he is obeyed and respected, because of his natural charisma, great bravery in combat - and also absolute honesty...

Amongst other members of 2nd Massachusets important for the story are Mason's two surviving sons (his wife was killed and his third son is missing), Hal and Matt. Hal is a precociously adult 16 years old soldier and squad leader, when Matt is still a, troubled and quite unhappy, little boy... There is also Karen, Hal's teen age girlfriend - and also a hardened battle veteran; Dai, a man of few words, trusted member of Tom Mason's own squad; Jimmy Boland, a 13-years old child soldier and Anthony, a tough and powerful black man, former Boston police officer.

Later on more important characters will appear, two of which are the most crucial - a certain Pope (Collin Cunningham), a man with heavy criminal past but also some unsuspected skills, about whom I will say no more and Maggie (Sarah Carter) an absolutely gorgeous young woman with an attitude and a very, very difficult past...

This tale of last humanity survivors trekking amongst he ruins of the world to find a place of safety when also bringing the fight to their opressors could and should have been an interesting show - but it ISN'T! Most of every episode is a lot of extremely boring, tedious talking about always the same thing: what were you doing before the invasion? how do you feel about the invasion? dad, I love you, do you love me? blah, blah, blah; what will you do after the invasion? do you remember how our house looked before the invasion? etc.etc. It is almost all the time talking, talking, talking, without ever saying anything interesting - and also with Tom Mason trying to teach (rather lamely) history to everybody...

Aliens are roughly divided into two categories: organic creatures named "skitters" and war robots called "mechs". The "skitters" are supposed to be dangerous - but they NEVER carry any weapons or body armour and can be killed by just anything, including knives! The "mechs" are much tougher, have excellent armor and pack some serious heat - but they all the time emit loud trumpeting noises warning everybody that they are around and at night they also use powerful lamps, making them visible from many miles...))) There are also some flying patrols but they are virtually completely blind, only seeing warm, moving targets...)))

In fact, those alien invaders who crossed the distance between stars and destroyed all human armies in a matter of days seem to be now completely unable to find and destroy a company of light infantry, traveling all the time in a convoy of vehicles with ALL LIGHTS TURNED ON AT NIGHT! Even more ridiculous, after all the modern armies in the world failed to make much effect against the aliens, at one moment their whole base is devastated by just ONE antiquated RPG-7 rocket...)))

Now, of course, in this kind of films without plot holes bad guys would always win and a civilization travelling between stars MUST have military technology we cannot even dream about at our stage of development - especially a civilization which is THAT aggressive, destructive and CRUEL (I cannot really dwelve on the topic of cruelty here, beause that would be giving spoilers here - but believe me, those guys are really abject, and I don't mean by that their physical aspect...). But, come on, in those series the scenarist didn't even TRY to make something even remotely plausible - and that hurts those series very, very badly indeed.

Even worse is the fact that almost every time when a good idea appears, it is crushed and destroyed and almost every time when an interesting character appears, he/she is killed immediately. Yes, there is a couple of attempts to produce twists - but they are all so obvious and anti-climactic, that we can see them coming well in advance, every single time... Also, if you think some social and moral issues like those posed by the "Battlestar Galactica" series will be treated - well, think again! There is not even one ounce of originality or of courage in "Falling skies", just banalities and also some political correctness (of course the ONLY violent human gang which 2nd Massachusetts has to fight is entirely made of whites)!

I watched this first season until the very end and I must say that I was very disappointed. The only reason why I give it two stars instead of one, resides in two female characters amongst 2nd Massachusetts, doctor Ann Glass (Moon Bloodgood) and young nurse Lourdes Delgado (Seychelle Gabriel) - even if they are not allowed as much screen time as I would like to, those two characters provide at least a reason to keep watching. Middle aged doctor Glass, formerly a pediatrician, who lost all her family during the invasion and is now the combat surgeon for 2nd Massachusetts and young Lourdes, formerly a 2nd year medicine student who is now the chief nurse in the field hospital, are the kind of women we not only fall in love with - we worship the ground on which they walk...The fact that they are both very beautiful women doesn't hurt either...

Now, those series get a tiny little bit more interesting in the last episode of first season and also during the second season - not much, but still... It doesn't change my opinion about "Falling skies" as mostly a failulre - but still, it can be a reason to carry on the watching, awaiting for the - very small - amelioration...

Bottom line, this is not a good thing, in fact it is even slightly less good than the new "V" series (which in itself were not very good) and of ourse it CANNOT be compared to the amazing show that was "Battlestar Galactica". AVOID!


Galaxy Quest
Galaxy Quest
DVD ~ Tim Allen
Price: $5.86
33 used & new from $3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars "Hey guys, there's a red-thingy moving toward the green-thingy... and I think we're the green-thingy!", July 1, 2014
This review is from: Galaxy Quest (DVD)
This is a very, very silly and yet EXTREMELY funny and entertaining parody of "Star Trek" - and also, surprisingly a great and clever tribute to this legendary franchise. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

PRECISION: if you never saw at least one episode of ORIGINAL "Star Trek" series, watching this film doesn't make any sense - you will just lose your time. My SINCERE advice for all those who are until now completely "Star Trek" free - watch one episode of the ORIGINAL series! My personal recommended favourites are "Arena", "The Omega Glory", "Space seed", "Mirror, mirror", "Balance of terror", "The enemy within", "Bread and circuses", "Patterns of force", "Amok time", "Day of the dove" and of course "The trouble with tribbles"...)))

In this film we follow the initially not so glamorous adventures of the cast of a once-popular television space-drama "Galaxy Quest". Those fictional series which are an almost exact replica of original "Star Trek" series starred Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) as the commander of a spaceship called the NSEA Protector, Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) as the ship's alien science officer, Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) as the chief engineer, Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver) as the computer officer, and Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell) as a precocious child pilot.

Since the cancellation of the show neither of them could find any more real acting jobs and they survive mostly by making commercials and appearing during fan gatherings... With the exception of pathologically optimistic Fred Kwan they are mostly not very happy about their lifes and careers, with two of them suffering especially badly: Jason Nesmith is an alcoholic and Alexander Dane is actually suicidal... And then one day a group of VERY peculiar fans makes contact with Nesmith and then the film really begins...

This film is a surprisingly succesful parody/tribute. It is of course a pure comedy, without even one serious moment in it and it is also a GOOD comedy - but it is also a surprisingly gentle, tender parody, absolutely NOT like those "Scary movies" abominations and not even as mildly incisive as Mel Brooks "Spaceballs". In fact it reminded me more of Mel Brooks "Frankenstein junior", because this film mocks massively and mercilessly both the "Star trek" show and its fans - and yet there is a surprising lot of tenderness towards the original material and the love fans feel for it... At the end, after watching the last scenes, I was not only amused but also a little bit moved...

The great casting choices helped a lot to make this film a success. Alan Rickman who plays a long-suffering actor who had great ambitions but now is destined to be remembered only for silly make up and cheesy quotes ("No, no, no, no, I played once Richard III, I absolutely totally refuse to say this stupid line one more time!") is an ABSOLUTE NUMBER ONE treasure in this film. Sigourney Weaver is impossibly sexy in the blond wig and her character is another treasure ("I have only one job to do on board of this darn ship and even if it is completely stupid I am gonna do it!"). Tim Allen portrays a great parody of both Captain Kirk AND William Shattner and Tony Shalhoub, let's stress it again, is simply incredible as a pathologically optimistic guy (he is so happy and cheerful that we simply want to slap him around - and at the last moment we simply cannot, so disarming he is) and finally, last but not least, there is also Sam Rockwelll who plays incredibly well Guy Fleegman, an extra who made just a cameo in one of episodes and who never fully recovered from it...)))...)))...)))

By looking on the cover of the DVD you can guess that some real aliens will appear - and they give a great show, especially the alien babe Laliari (Misi Pyle), the hottest, sexiest cephalopode I ever saw...))) Fanboys of "Star Trek" are not forgotten and they are of course mocked mercilessly, but also with some tenderness and tact. There is nothing here even remotely similar to the obscene vulgarity of this "Fanboys" film, which dealt with "Star Wars" fans...

Bottom line, this is an EXCELLENT, extremely funny and yet surprisingly gentle and even tender comedy, which is also a relatively rare thing - a well done "parody of and tribute to" the original material. An absolutely recommended viewing! ENJOY!


Support Your Local Sheriff
Support Your Local Sheriff
DVD ~ James Garner
Offered by cds_dvds_guaranteed
Price: $42.92
55 used & new from $4.62

5.0 out of 5 stars "I guess you know what you're doing, Sheriff." "I don't know what I could have said to give you that idea, Mayor.", July 1, 2014
This review is from: Support Your Local Sheriff (DVD)
This is a merry, cheerful comedy western, parodying with taste, talent and some really black humour many of the most beloved clichés of the genre...))) Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

The frontier town of Calendar, Colorado was created because of the gold fever and a handful of lucky diggers became also the first notables - and that includes the Mayor Olly Perkins(Harry Morgan). However the city is not really a happy place, as it has to pay tribute to the Danby bandit family - also, the gold fever attracted all kind of scum and rabble and everyday sombeody is killed in a gunfight... Things became so bad that nobody wants to become the sheriff as it is considered a suicide... Then, one day a mysterious stranger (James Garner) rides into town and naively (at least everybody thinks is initially) accepts Mayor's offer to be the new sheriff and pacify the town...

The story of lawless town and a heroic sheriff who tames the local troublemakers and restablishes peace and order is of course one of the most common and most beloved clichés in the whole western genre and here it is shown almost exactly as in any other serious western - it's just that in fact EVERY SINGLE scene, under a semblance of seriousness, is a PURE PARODY, full of outlandishly funny dialogs...)))

There is also some more slapstick, burlesque moments but they are few - just what it takes to spice up a little the whole thing but definitely not enough to spoil it. Those slapstick moments usually include Mayor's daughter Prudence Perkins (Joan Hackett), a still relatively young and not half bad looking spinster who combines bad character, sharp tongue and short temper with an INCREDIBLE clumsiness - she is in fact so accident prone that it is a miracle that she is still alive and has all the limbs in place...)))

There is a reall gallery of odd but attaching characters in this film, like Mayor Ollie Perkins (Harry Morgan), cross-eyed butt ugly deputy sheriff Jake (Jack Elam), Joe Danby, the deadliest moron and the stupidest killer in the Wild West (Bruce Dern, grandiose in his first comic role ever), Pa Danby, the wicked patriarch of the local bandit family (Walter Brennan), and also the solidly pragmatic Bartender (Dick Haynes) and finally, last but not least, the promiscuitous Civic Leaders...)))

Now, this film is of course not some kind of masterpiece but in its own category - lighthearted, entertaining, merry, cheerful comedies - it is one of the best things on the market. A guaranteed remedy against depression and other lower-pressure moments, which I liked a lot when I saw it ages ago on TV and which I re-discovered with the greatest pleasure recently. I am SOOOO keeping my DVD for a future viewing! Enjoy!


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