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Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows
DVD ~ Johnny Depp
Price: $3.99
46 used & new from $0.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Notwithstanding all fertile hips present, this film is a stillborn pathetic mess, October 20, 2014
This review is from: Dark Shadows (DVD)
All big fan of Johny Depp and Tim Burton as I am, I was still VERY disappointed by this film. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

This film, as probably everybody knows, is the remake of an old TV show (1966-71) about a very strange family living in modern times in Maine. The family becomes even stranger once their 200 years old vampire-ancestor, Barnabas Collins, rises from his grave and moves in with them... I didn't see any of the episodes of this show, so I can absolutely not compare it with the film - but it seemed to be quite popular in its time and it seems to have still some cult following now.

I knew that this film bombed at the box office, but it usually doesn't bother me, so I decided to give it a chance, just setting my expectation level at "really not high". Sadly, it was not nearly low enough and therefore I was VERY disappointed.

To put things very bluntly, this film is BORING. It is definitely NOT FUNNY - I couldn't find even one really good joke in it. Visually, there are some scenes in which you can still see some of talent Tim Burton knew how to conjure in the days of yore - but they are few... And even worse, a lot of talent was wasted here by a bland, uninspired scenario. John Depp as Barabas was of course supposed to be the main asset - and he doesn't deliver. AT ALL! With Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Lee Miller and young Chloe Grace Moretz in supporting roles there was a lot of things that could have been done - and nothing happened! For Christ sake, Tim Burton had Michelle Pfeiffer at his disposal and all he could find for her to do is to once discharge a shotgun!? Really man!? Then he even hired Christopher Lee for a cameo - and failed to do anything with such an opportunity!

As for Eva Green, here I confess to an element of subjectivity, because I simply cannot stand her, but here, playing the main villain (and a very evil and depraved one) she was probably completely in her element - and yet, her character is also a huuuuge disappointment...

Tim Burton made some great movies in the past, like "Beetlejuice", two "Batman" films, "Mars Attacks", "Sleepy Hollow" (I didn't see "Sweeney Todd" yet) - but both "Alice in the Wonderland" and "Dark Shadows" were complete failures... I am afraid that he simply burned out - which would be a great pity... As for Johny Depp, he also appeared in a lot of great films: the first "Pirates of Caribbean" of course, but also "Ninth Gate", "Sleepy Hollow", "Donnie Brasco", "Secret Window" and of course "The Brave", which he also directed (it is one of the most shocking and creepiest films I ever saw) - but even his talent couldn't save this failed thing...

When this film ended I was mostly relieved that this ordeal was over, but also sad, because a lot effort and talent was wasted here - and I simply cannot understand why... My sincere advice is to AVOID IT!


By Author The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection (29th)
By Author The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection (29th)
by Author
Edition: Paperback
6 used & new from $11.07

4.0 out of 5 stars A 3,5 stars collection, with a record number of thirty-five stories included - fifteen of which are good and five excellent, October 20, 2014
This collection devoted to what Gardner Dozois considered as best SF published in 2011 is definitely better than the one from previous year, which was a putrid abomination. I mostly liked it, even if there were moments when reading it was not an easy or pleasant thing.

For this collection Gardner Dozois exceptionally decided against including long novellas, so thanks God in this collection I didn't have to struggle through 70+ pages juggernauts, which this editor likes so much... 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 a record number of stories - 35 (thirty five)!

Five stories can be considered as VERY GOOD: "Martian Heart" by John Barnes, "The Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson, "Dying young" by Peter M. Ball, "Canterbury Hollow" by Chris Lawson and the most impressive of all, "The man who bridged the mist" by Kij Johnson.

For my personal taste there were only five stinkers: "Laika's ghost", "The Copenhagen Interpretation", "Ascension day", "The cold step beyond", "Ants of Flanders".

One story, "Silently and very fast", I was unable to rate, as I couldn't understand anything from it and it tired me so terribly that I decided not to finish it.

Other stories ranged from GOOD (15) to READABLE (9).

A rather welcome thing was the absence of omnipresent gloom and doom, even in tragic stories or those happening in post-apocalyptic societies. That was a very welcome thing.

This collection includes also an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 2011 and that section as always is 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:
---------------------------------------------
"The Choice" by Paul McAuley - yet another story in the long-running Jackaroo cycle; this one describes the life of those who still remain on old Earth, more precisely in England, much diminished by the rise of sea levels (the Flood); two teenage boys go one day to see an alien machine (creature) which beached in the neighbourhood; after that, nothing in their lives will be the same... This actually is a honest, solid GOOD story.

"A Soldier Of The City" by David Moles - in a distant future humanity went into space and is roughly divided between countless hundreds of billions people living in Babylone, serving alien "gods" and less numerous, elusive, but surprisingly sophisticated space nomads. There is war between those two groups and this is the story of one human soldier fighting for "gods". An interesting, original, GOOD story - although without a real ending.

"The Beancounter's Cat" by Damien Broderick - in a very strange society, half-technological, half-magical, existing in the future on Iapetus (if I understood correctly) a very unhappy middle aged spinster meets a talking cat... A very surrealistic, original, well written, GOOD story, with just the ending being a little bit weaker.

"Dolly" by Elizabeth Bear - Dolly is an android owned by a morbidly rich guy; one day she kills him - and that is something extremely unusual in this future society; this story tells about the police officers trying to understand what the heck happened... A GOOD, very well written story, just a little bit short on originality - which can be indeed understood, as ever since Isaac Asimov the topic of androids and theirs interactions with humanity was beaten explored, used and abused almost to death by hundreds of authors...

"Martian Heart" by John Barnes - SPLENDID! A very old and very, very rich guy who as a teenager was amongst the first (involuntary) pioneers/deportees send to colonise Mars tells the story of his and his wife's first years on the Red Planet. This EXCELLENT story is indeed a RARE JEWEL as it is original, well written, powerful, clever, wise and very, very moving - and even if it is definitely not written with pink ink, it is definitely NOT depressing or nihilistic neither, much to the contrary... TO READ ABSOLUTELY!

"Earth Hour" by Ken MacLeod - in a near future, but in a world which we would hardly recognize, an assassin is after an obscenely rich and extremely hated billionaire. As with all stories of this author this one also suffers from his extremely radical political views (he is a self-declared Trotskyite). His description of businessmen and EU civil servants is absolutely ridiculous. This thing also totally panders to global warming hysteria. Still, a READABLE story.

"Laika's Ghost" by Karl Schroeder - a story about a bunch of people who want to revive Soviet Union to "recover their pride" - and they are actually the good guys in this story, chased by evil Americans! I found the whole idea morally disgusting!! What will we have next - some nice cool Nazis trying to revive the Third Reich to recover their pride?? HATED IT - AVOID!

"The Dala Horse" by Michael Swanwick - a little girl must travel alone in the wilderness to go see her Grandma, who lives on the other side of the mountains; a kind of a grim fairy tale reconfigured (in every sense of this word) by high technology... A GOOD story.

"The Way It Works Out And All" by Peter S. Beagle - this is a tribute author wrote to his recently disappeared friend and fellow SF writer Avram Davidson; it is a strange but not half bad written thing - however it certainly takes a good knowledge of Davidson's writings to appreciate it fully; although I read and liked some of his short stories, I certainly do not have the necessary level of familiarity with Davidson's works to fully appreciate this GOOD, very pleasant and moving thing.

"The Ice Owl" by Carolyn Ives Gilman - a young girl and her absolutely irresponsible mother live on an alien planet in a slum for refugees and other unfortunates; the young girl needs some schooling - and this how this story begins... The initial idea was good, but beginning in the second half the story started to go down, down, down - and the ending is beneath everything... READABLE, but barely...

"The Copenhagen Interpretation" by Paul Cornell - in a kind of alternate universe, in a kind of alternate Europe, a kind of James Bond must investigate the case of a missing diplomatic courier in Copenhagen; the story includes some extravagant villains and also (indirectly) some aliens... I didn't really like it - the characters are pale, the story is tedious; I also had to "fast forward" some pages towards the end. All in all this thing is rather a failure. AVOID.

"The Invasion of Venus" by Stephen Baxter - a short, interesting story about the simultaneous First Contact (well, kind of) humanity makes with not one but two alien civilizations... An unusually original GOOD story.

"Digging" by Ian McDonald - an interesting story about terraforming of Mars, with the digging of a really BIG hole being in the centre of it... I actually liked this GOOD story but completely couldn't figure out the ending. Sorry for the SPOILER here but if I understood correctly and at the end they decide to fill this big hole back again, then the ending is abysmally idiotic...

"Ascension Day" by Alastair Reynolds - a short story about a future space trader; incredibly BANAL and without ANY interest - I am very surprised that it was selected... AVOID

"After The Apocalypse" by Maureen McHugh - a story about a future USA devastated by some unspecified economic collapse; a young mother and her young teen daughter try to get to a refugee camp in Canada; a honest READABLE thing - but hardly any SF in it...

"Silently And Very Fast" by Catherynne M. Valente - I cannot rate this story or even say what it is about, because after 10 pages, unable to understand anything and bored to death I simply stopped - and there were still like 31 pages to go... Maybe it is so clever that simply too good for me - but somehow I doubt it. Read by yourself and make up your own mind.

"A Long Way Home" by Jay Lake - in a distant future, on a distant planet, one day everybody vanished after a mysterious rain of debris from space; just one guy survived because he was exploring a complex of deep caverns. For years and years he will travel all over the planet to find other survivors and try to understand what the heck happened... An interesting "post-apocalyptic" thing, but clearly author had no idea how to explain the whole mystery and finish his story - so he simply didn't do either of those things... I rate this story as GOOD with just one warning - the ending is a total let down...

"The Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson - well, Gardner Dozois must be getting old, because with this story about a huge disaster in a scientific facility he selected something that is well written, is not stupid at all, contains a beginning, a middle and an ending, includes some humour and especially US government and US military are NOT portrayed as source of all evil in the universe - in fact, they are just trying to do their jobs and with maybe one exception they are composed of rational, mentally stable and ultimately rather honest people... For all those reasons I rate this story, maybe a little bit too generously, as VERY GOOD.

"What We Found" by Geoff Ryman - this story about a troubled family living in Nigeria today or in a very near future hardly contains any SF, but I still rate it as GOOD, because of excellent writing and a lot of human interest. I really enjoyed reading that one...

"A Response from EST17" by Tom Purdom - two unmanned probes send by humanity to an alien planet find an advanced civilization; they then compete one against another in the contacts with aliens... An interesting idea but quickly ruined by a lot of weird complications and nonsensical developments. With an obligatory (and this time really, really exceptionally stupid) dump on religion... As it seemed promising initially, I was very disappointed with it. READABLE, but barely.

"The Cold Step Beyond" by Ian R. MacLeod - in a universe in which everything is female a kind of futuristic female super warrior is send by the "imams of her church" (sic!) to kill a dangerous creature. It is a huge pile of nonsense. AVOID!

"A Militant Peace" by David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell - well, here is another indication that Gardner Dozois may be getting old... Here we have a story in which professional soldiers engaged in an invasion against a totalitarian regime are shown actually in a sympathetic light - but of course there are two catches... 1) They are Vietnamese (and mostly female) and it is specified that nobody wants American soldiers involved as they are considered "ethically suspicious". 2) They are allowed to wage war but at the only condition that they don't kill anyone...))) Still, a READABLE thing...

"The Ants of Flanders" by Robert Reed - a story which begins well, with a DOUBLE alien invasion - before dissolving into 40 pages of stinking nonsense... The beginning is readable, but all in all this is a stinker. AVOID!

"The Vicar of Mars" by Gwyneth Jones - a gigantic alien priest and an alien adventurer meet on Mars (which is at that time already colonised by humans) and become friends; the priest then meets a human woman who may or may not be a witch, but who certainly is the victim of a curse... It is a GOOD, solid ghost story mixing elements of gothic novels and a little suspicion of Lovecraftian mythos (but don't expect any " Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!"). The alien priest is a particularly interesting character as his "religion" seems to be based on the belief that there is only the Void beyond death and absolutely no afterlife or judgement...

"The Smell of Orange Groves" by Lavie Tidhar - in a future Israel a rather unusual Jew remembers, very literally, the past lives of his ancestors... I usually don't like the stories by this author, but that one was quite READABLE, even if the description of this future Israel was a complete absurdity. Also, if a great number of religions seem to exist in this future, including a Church for Robots (!), one is OF COURSE completely non-existent - the Christianity...

"The Iron Shirts" by Michael Flynn - in an alternate history, in the Year of Grace 1227, there is trouble amongst Irish clans (how surprising) and also Norman invaders keep enlarging the Pale area; and at that moment a surprising embassy arrives by sea - from the West! A GOOD, solid, honest story with Danes, Skraelings, Dane/Skraeling half-bloods and one even more exotic character. Enjoy!

"Cody" by Pat Cadigan - in the beginning we don't really know much about Cody, the man who is the hero of this story occurring in a near future - and I will not reveal anything about him either, as it would completely spoil the things. Suffice it to say that this is a GOOD, solid, honest cyber-punk story with some twists. Enjoy!

"For I Have Lain Me Down On The Stone Of Loneliness And I'll Not Be Back Again" by Michael Swanwick - a very Irish SF tale about Earth under alien occupation and various ways people deal with it; a GOOD, solid, honest story.

"Ghostweight" by Yoon Ha Lee - an original but very hard to follow story in which a girl steals an alien (?) warship and uses it to launch revenge raids against an "Empire of mercenaries" which wrecked her home planet... The story is indeed very original but it is so weird, complicated and full of strange terms which are never explained that it really tired me... Still, a READABLE thing.

"Digital Rites" by Jim Hawkins - a kind of criminal mystery; in a near future somebody murders stars of Hollywood because... well, I would be at a loss to explain why, because I simply couldn't understand the plot, but the fact that some of the brains of dead stars turned blue seems to have some importance... I guess there was a good story in it somewhere, but it was drowned in unnecessary complications and general weirdness. READABLE, but barely.

"The Boneless One" by Alec Nevala-Lee - a crew of scientists, a billionaire and a journalist sail the seven seas to sample the biodiversity of the ocean; one day, near Bermuda Triangle, they find more than they bargained for... A GOOD, honest, solid hard SF with some reasonably reasonable science involved.

"Dying Young" by Peter M. Ball - in a kind of post-apocalyptic setting, in a Wild West style little town a dragon enters the saloon and orders a whiskey... This is the beginning of this VERY GOOD, brilliantly written and very original short story. A RECOMMENDED READING!

"Canterbury Hollow" by Chris Lawson - on a distant planet a human society survives in an EXTREMELY hostile environment and therefore adopted EXTREMELY draconian social customs; in this context two young people meet and fall in love... This is a VERY GOOD, extremely powerful and absolutely heart-breaking short story exploring once again the topic of star-crossed lovers - with GREAT SUCCESS! A RECOMMENDED READING!

"The Vorkuta Event" by Ken MacLeod - in 1947 a British palaeontologist on visit in Moscow is summoned to appear before Stalin and Beria in person; they order him to team up with the odious Soviet charlatan Trofim Lysenko to investigate a... THING found by gulag slave labourers in Western Syberia... A GOOD interesting story, somehow Lovecraftian in spirit (but don't expect any "Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!") - although honestly, was it REALLY necessary to include this abject Lysenko character and make him into some kind of "good guy"? Also, there is one HUGE factual error - in 1947 the Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifle was not yet introduced in service (it happened only in 1949). In 1947 the NKVD death squads serving Beria would be at that time still equipped with a mixture of Shpagin PPSh-41 or Sudayev PPS-43 sub-machine guns and Simonov SKS semi-automatic carbines. And yes, you guessed right, I am totally a military history freak...

"The Man Who Bridged The Mist" by Kij Johnson - the BEST STORY IN THE COLLECTION! This long, original, very interesting, brilliantly written novella is indeed about a man who ambitions to bridge the mist - and I will say nothing more here, because you deserve to discover this most excellent thing by yourself. I was not only delighted by this story, but even more, I was IMPRESSED. TO READ ABSOLUTELY!!

CONCLUSION: this is a 3,5 stars collection, but as there is no possibility to split stars, I decided ultimately to be generous and give it four stars, mostly because of a general tone less depressing than in previous collections, but also because the five best stories are really outstanding and finally because I REALLY appreciated the absence of long winded 70+ pages novellas.


The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection by unknown Annual Edition [Paperback(2012)]
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection by unknown Annual Edition [Paperback(2012)]
7 used & new from $17.13

4.0 out of 5 stars A 3,5 stars collection, with a record number of thirty-five stories included - fifteen of which are good and five excellent, October 20, 2014
This collection devoted to what Gardner Dozois considered as best SF published in 2011 is definitely better than the one from previous year, which was a putrid abomination. I mostly liked it, even if there were moments when reading it was not an easy or pleasant thing.

For this collection Gardner Dozois exceptionally decided against including long novellas, so thanks God in this collection I didn't have to struggle through 70+ pages juggernauts, which this editor likes so much... 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 a record number of stories - 35 (thirty five)!

Five stories can be considered as VERY GOOD: "Martian Heart" by John Barnes, "The Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson, "Dying young" by Peter M. Ball, "Canterbury Hollow" by Chris Lawson and the most impressive of all, "The man who bridged the mist" by Kij Johnson.

For my personal taste there were only five stinkers: "Laika's ghost", "The Copenhagen Interpretation", "Ascension day", "The cold step beyond", "Ants of Flanders".

One story, "Silently and very fast", I was unable to rate, as I couldn't understand anything from it and it tired me so terribly that I decided not to finish it.

Other stories ranged from GOOD (15) to READABLE (9).

A rather welcome thing was the absence of omnipresent gloom and doom, even in tragic stories or those happening in post-apocalyptic societies. That was a very welcome thing.

This collection includes also an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 2011 and that section as always is 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:
---------------------------------------------
"The Choice" by Paul McAuley - yet another story in the long-running Jackaroo cycle; this one describes the life of those who still remain on old Earth, more precisely in England, much diminished by the rise of sea levels (the Flood); two teenage boys go one day to see an alien machine (creature) which beached in the neighbourhood; after that, nothing in their lives will be the same... This actually is a honest, solid GOOD story.

"A Soldier Of The City" by David Moles - in a distant future humanity went into space and is roughly divided between countless hundreds of billions people living in Babylone, serving alien "gods" and less numerous, elusive, but surprisingly sophisticated space nomads. There is war between those two groups and this is the story of one human soldier fighting for "gods". An interesting, original, GOOD story - although without a real ending.

"The Beancounter's Cat" by Damien Broderick - in a very strange society, half-technological, half-magical, existing in the future on Iapetus (if I understood correctly) a very unhappy middle aged spinster meets a talking cat... A very surrealistic, original, well written, GOOD story, with just the ending being a little bit weaker.

"Dolly" by Elizabeth Bear - Dolly is an android owned by a morbidly rich guy; one day she kills him - and that is something extremely unusual in this future society; this story tells about the police officers trying to understand what the heck happened... A GOOD, very well written story, just a little bit short on originality - which can be indeed understood, as ever since Isaac Asimov the topic of androids and theirs interactions with humanity was beaten explored, used and abused almost to death by hundreds of authors...

"Martian Heart" by John Barnes - SPLENDID! A very old and very, very rich guy who as a teenager was amongst the first (involuntary) pioneers/deportees send to colonise Mars tells the story of his and his wife's first years on the Red Planet. This EXCELLENT story is indeed a RARE JEWEL as it is original, well written, powerful, clever, wise and very, very moving - and even if it is definitely not written with pink ink, it is definitely NOT depressing or nihilistic neither, much to the contrary... TO READ ABSOLUTELY!

"Earth Hour" by Ken MacLeod - in a near future, but in a world which we would hardly recognize, an assassin is after an obscenely rich and extremely hated billionaire. As with all stories of this author this one also suffers from his extremely radical political views (he is a self-declared Trotskyite). His description of businessmen and EU civil servants is absolutely ridiculous. This thing also totally panders to global warming hysteria. Still, a READABLE story.

"Laika's Ghost" by Karl Schroeder - a story about a bunch of people who want to revive Soviet Union to "recover their pride" - and they are actually the good guys in this story, chased by evil Americans! I found the whole idea morally disgusting!! What will we have next - some nice cool Nazis trying to revive the Third Reich to recover their pride?? HATED IT - AVOID!

"The Dala Horse" by Michael Swanwick - a little girl must travel alone in the wilderness to go see her Grandma, who lives on the other side of the mountains; a kind of a grim fairy tale reconfigured (in every sense of this word) by high technology... A GOOD story.

"The Way It Works Out And All" by Peter S. Beagle - this is a tribute author wrote to his recently disappeared friend and fellow SF writer Avram Davidson; it is a strange but not half bad written thing - however it certainly takes a good knowledge of Davidson's writings to appreciate it fully; although I read and liked some of his short stories, I certainly do not have the necessary level of familiarity with Davidson's works to fully appreciate this GOOD, very pleasant and moving thing.

"The Ice Owl" by Carolyn Ives Gilman - a young girl and her absolutely irresponsible mother live on an alien planet in a slum for refugees and other unfortunates; the young girl needs some schooling - and this how this story begins... The initial idea was good, but beginning in the second half the story started to go down, down, down - and the ending is beneath everything... READABLE, but barely...

"The Copenhagen Interpretation" by Paul Cornell - in a kind of alternate universe, in a kind of alternate Europe, a kind of James Bond must investigate the case of a missing diplomatic courier in Copenhagen; the story includes some extravagant villains and also (indirectly) some aliens... I didn't really like it - the characters are pale, the story is tedious; I also had to "fast forward" some pages towards the end. All in all this thing is rather a failure. AVOID.

"The Invasion of Venus" by Stephen Baxter - a short, interesting story about the simultaneous First Contact (well, kind of) humanity makes with not one but two alien civilizations... An unusually original GOOD story.

"Digging" by Ian McDonald - an interesting story about terraforming of Mars, with the digging of a really BIG hole being in the centre of it... I actually liked this GOOD story but completely couldn't figure out the ending. Sorry for the SPOILER here but if I understood correctly and at the end they decide to fill this big hole back again, then the ending is abysmally idiotic...

"Ascension Day" by Alastair Reynolds - a short story about a future space trader; incredibly BANAL and without ANY interest - I am very surprised that it was selected... AVOID

"After The Apocalypse" by Maureen McHugh - a story about a future USA devastated by some unspecified economic collapse; a young mother and her young teen daughter try to get to a refugee camp in Canada; a honest READABLE thing - but hardly any SF in it...

"Silently And Very Fast" by Catherynne M. Valente - I cannot rate this story or even say what it is about, because after 10 pages, unable to understand anything and bored to death I simply stopped - and there were still like 31 pages to go... Maybe it is so clever that simply too good for me - but somehow I doubt it. Read by yourself and make up your own mind.

"A Long Way Home" by Jay Lake - in a distant future, on a distant planet, one day everybody vanished after a mysterious rain of debris from space; just one guy survived because he was exploring a complex of deep caverns. For years and years he will travel all over the planet to find other survivors and try to understand what the heck happened... An interesting "post-apocalyptic" thing, but clearly author had no idea how to explain the whole mystery and finish his story - so he simply didn't do either of those things... I rate this story as GOOD with just one warning - the ending is a total let down...

"The Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson - well, Gardner Dozois must be getting old, because with this story about a huge disaster in a scientific facility he selected something that is well written, is not stupid at all, contains a beginning, a middle and an ending, includes some humour and especially US government and US military are NOT portrayed as source of all evil in the universe - in fact, they are just trying to do their jobs and with maybe one exception they are composed of rational, mentally stable and ultimately rather honest people... For all those reasons I rate this story, maybe a little bit too generously, as VERY GOOD.

"What We Found" by Geoff Ryman - this story about a troubled family living in Nigeria today or in a very near future hardly contains any SF, but I still rate it as GOOD, because of excellent writing and a lot of human interest. I really enjoyed reading that one...

"A Response from EST17" by Tom Purdom - two unmanned probes send by humanity to an alien planet find an advanced civilization; they then compete one against another in the contacts with aliens... An interesting idea but quickly ruined by a lot of weird complications and nonsensical developments. With an obligatory (and this time really, really exceptionally stupid) dump on religion... As it seemed promising initially, I was very disappointed with it. READABLE, but barely.

"The Cold Step Beyond" by Ian R. MacLeod - in a universe in which everything is female a kind of futuristic female super warrior is send by the "imams of her church" (sic!) to kill a dangerous creature. It is a huge pile of nonsense. AVOID!

"A Militant Peace" by David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell - well, here is another indication that Gardner Dozois may be getting old... Here we have a story in which professional soldiers engaged in an invasion against a totalitarian regime are shown actually in a sympathetic light - but of course there are two catches... 1) They are Vietnamese (and mostly female) and it is specified that nobody wants American soldiers involved as they are considered "ethically suspicious". 2) They are allowed to wage war but at the only condition that they don't kill anyone...))) Still, a READABLE thing...

"The Ants of Flanders" by Robert Reed - a story which begins well, with a DOUBLE alien invasion - before dissolving into 40 pages of stinking nonsense... The beginning is readable, but all in all this is a stinker. AVOID!

"The Vicar of Mars" by Gwyneth Jones - a gigantic alien priest and an alien adventurer meet on Mars (which is at that time already colonised by humans) and become friends; the priest then meets a human woman who may or may not be a witch, but who certainly is the victim of a curse... It is a GOOD, solid ghost story mixing elements of gothic novels and a little suspicion of Lovecraftian mythos (but don't expect any " Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!"). The alien priest is a particularly interesting character as his "religion" seems to be based on the belief that there is only the Void beyond death and absolutely no afterlife or judgement...

"The Smell of Orange Groves" by Lavie Tidhar - in a future Israel a rather unusual Jew remembers, very literally, the past lives of his ancestors... I usually don't like the stories by this author, but that one was quite READABLE, even if the description of this future Israel was a complete absurdity. Also, if a great number of religions seem to exist in this future, including a Church for Robots (!), one is OF COURSE completely non-existent - the Christianity...

"The Iron Shirts" by Michael Flynn - in an alternate history, in the Year of Grace 1227, there is trouble amongst Irish clans (how surprising) and also Norman invaders keep enlarging the Pale area; and at that moment a surprising embassy arrives by sea - from the West! A GOOD, solid, honest story with Danes, Skraelings, Dane/Skraeling half-bloods and one even more exotic character. Enjoy!

"Cody" by Pat Cadigan - in the beginning we don't really know much about Cody, the man who is the hero of this story occurring in a near future - and I will not reveal anything about him either, as it would completely spoil the things. Suffice it to say that this is a GOOD, solid, honest cyber-punk story with some twists. Enjoy!

"For I Have Lain Me Down On The Stone Of Loneliness And I'll Not Be Back Again" by Michael Swanwick - a very Irish SF tale about Earth under alien occupation and various ways people deal with it; a GOOD, solid, honest story.

"Ghostweight" by Yoon Ha Lee - an original but very hard to follow story in which a girl steals an alien (?) warship and uses it to launch revenge raids against an "Empire of mercenaries" which wrecked her home planet... The story is indeed very original but it is so weird, complicated and full of strange terms which are never explained that it really tired me... Still, a READABLE thing.

"Digital Rites" by Jim Hawkins - a kind of criminal mystery; in a near future somebody murders stars of Hollywood because... well, I would be at a loss to explain why, because I simply couldn't understand the plot, but the fact that some of the brains of dead stars turned blue seems to have some importance... I guess there was a good story in it somewhere, but it was drowned in unnecessary complications and general weirdness. READABLE, but barely.

"The Boneless One" by Alec Nevala-Lee - a crew of scientists, a billionaire and a journalist sail the seven seas to sample the biodiversity of the ocean; one day, near Bermuda Triangle, they find more than they bargained for... A GOOD, honest, solid hard SF with some reasonably reasonable science involved.

"Dying Young" by Peter M. Ball - in a kind of post-apocalyptic setting, in a Wild West style little town a dragon enters the saloon and orders a whiskey... This is the beginning of this VERY GOOD, brilliantly written and very original short story. A RECOMMENDED READING!

"Canterbury Hollow" by Chris Lawson - on a distant planet a human society survives in an EXTREMELY hostile environment and therefore adopted EXTREMELY draconian social customs; in this context two young people meet and fall in love... This is a VERY GOOD, extremely powerful and absolutely heart-breaking short story exploring once again the topic of star-crossed lovers - with GREAT SUCCESS! A RECOMMENDED READING!

"The Vorkuta Event" by Ken MacLeod - in 1947 a British palaeontologist on visit in Moscow is summoned to appear before Stalin and Beria in person; they order him to team up with the odious Soviet charlatan Trofim Lysenko to investigate a... THING found by gulag slave labourers in Western Syberia... A GOOD interesting story, somehow Lovecraftian in spirit (but don't expect any "Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!") - although honestly, was it REALLY necessary to include this abject Lysenko character and make him into some kind of "good guy"? Also, there is one HUGE factual error - in 1947 the Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifle was not yet introduced in service (it happened only in 1949). In 1947 the NKVD death squads serving Beria would be at that time still equipped with a mixture of Shpagin PPSh-41 or Sudayev PPS-43 sub-machine guns and Simonov SKS semi-automatic carbines. And yes, you guessed right, I am totally a military history freak...

"The Man Who Bridged The Mist" by Kij Johnson - the BEST STORY IN THE COLLECTION! This long, original, very interesting, brilliantly written novella is indeed about a man who ambitions to bridge the mist - and I will say nothing more here, because you deserve to discover this most excellent thing by yourself. I was not only delighted by this story, but even more, I was IMPRESSED. TO READ ABSOLUTELY!!

CONCLUSION: this is a 3,5 stars collection, but as there is no possibility to split stars, I decided ultimately to be generous and give it four stars, mostly because of a general tone less depressing than in previous collections, but also because the five best stories are really outstanding and finally because I REALLY appreciated the absence of long winded 70+ pages novellas.


The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection
by Gardner Dozois
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.33
71 used & new from $1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A 3,5 stars collection, with a record number of thirty-five stories included - fifteen of which are good and five excellent, October 20, 2014
This collection devoted to what Gardner Dozois considered as best SF published in 2011 is definitely better than the one from previous year, which was a putrid abomination. I mostly liked it, even if there were moments when reading it was not an easy or pleasant thing.

For this collection Gardner Dozois exceptionally decided against including long novellas, so thanks God in this collection I didn't have to struggle through 70+ pages juggernauts, which this editor likes so much... 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 a record number of stories - 35 (thirty five)!

Five stories can be considered as VERY GOOD: "Martian Heart" by John Barnes, "The Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson, "Dying young" by Peter M. Ball, "Canterbury Hollow" by Chris Lawson and the most impressive of all, "The man who bridged the mist" by Kij Johnson.

For my personal taste there were only five stinkers: "Laika's ghost", "The Copenhagen Interpretation", "Ascension day", "The cold step beyond", "Ants of Flanders".

One story, "Silently and very fast", I was unable to rate, as I couldn't understand anything from it and it tired me so terribly that I decided not to finish it.

Other stories ranged from GOOD (15) to READABLE (9).

A rather welcome thing was the absence of omnipresent gloom and doom, even in tragic stories or those happening in post-apocalyptic societies. That was a very welcome thing.

This collection includes also an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 2011 and that section as always is 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:
---------------------------------------------
"The Choice" by Paul McAuley - yet another story in the long-running Jackaroo cycle; this one describes the life of those who still remain on old Earth, more precisely in England, much diminished by the rise of sea levels (the Flood); two teenage boys go one day to see an alien machine (creature) which beached in the neighbourhood; after that, nothing in their lives will be the same... This actually is a honest, solid GOOD story.

"A Soldier Of The City" by David Moles - in a distant future humanity went into space and is roughly divided between countless hundreds of billions people living in Babylone, serving alien "gods" and less numerous, elusive, but surprisingly sophisticated space nomads. There is war between those two groups and this is the story of one human soldier fighting for "gods". An interesting, original, GOOD story - although without a real ending.

"The Beancounter's Cat" by Damien Broderick - in a very strange society, half-technological, half-magical, existing in the future on Iapetus (if I understood correctly) a very unhappy middle aged spinster meets a talking cat... A very surrealistic, original, well written, GOOD story, with just the ending being a little bit weaker.

"Dolly" by Elizabeth Bear - Dolly is an android owned by a morbidly rich guy; one day she kills him - and that is something extremely unusual in this future society; this story tells about the police officers trying to understand what the heck happened... A GOOD, very well written story, just a little bit short on originality - which can be indeed understood, as ever since Isaac Asimov the topic of androids and theirs interactions with humanity was beaten explored, used and abused almost to death by hundreds of authors...

"Martian Heart" by John Barnes - SPLENDID! A very old and very, very rich guy who as a teenager was amongst the first (involuntary) pioneers/deportees send to colonise Mars tells the story of his and his wife's first years on the Red Planet. This EXCELLENT story is indeed a RARE JEWEL as it is original, well written, powerful, clever, wise and very, very moving - and even if it is definitely not written with pink ink, it is definitely NOT depressing or nihilistic neither, much to the contrary... TO READ ABSOLUTELY!

"Earth Hour" by Ken MacLeod - in a near future, but in a world which we would hardly recognize, an assassin is after an obscenely rich and extremely hated billionaire. As with all stories of this author this one also suffers from his extremely radical political views (he is a self-declared Trotskyite). His description of businessmen and EU civil servants is absolutely ridiculous. This thing also totally panders to global warming hysteria. Still, a READABLE story.

"Laika's Ghost" by Karl Schroeder - a story about a bunch of people who want to revive Soviet Union to "recover their pride" - and they are actually the good guys in this story, chased by evil Americans! I found the whole idea morally disgusting!! What will we have next - some nice cool Nazis trying to revive the Third Reich to recover their pride?? HATED IT - AVOID!

"The Dala Horse" by Michael Swanwick - a little girl must travel alone in the wilderness to go see her Grandma, who lives on the other side of the mountains; a kind of a grim fairy tale reconfigured (in every sense of this word) by high technology... A GOOD story.

"The Way It Works Out And All" by Peter S. Beagle - this is a tribute author wrote to his recently disappeared friend and fellow SF writer Avram Davidson; it is a strange but not half bad written thing - however it certainly takes a good knowledge of Davidson's writings to appreciate it fully; although I read and liked some of his short stories, I certainly do not have the necessary level of familiarity with Davidson's works to fully appreciate this GOOD, very pleasant and moving thing.

"The Ice Owl" by Carolyn Ives Gilman - a young girl and her absolutely irresponsible mother live on an alien planet in a slum for refugees and other unfortunates; the young girl needs some schooling - and this how this story begins... The initial idea was good, but beginning in the second half the story started to go down, down, down - and the ending is beneath everything... READABLE, but barely...

"The Copenhagen Interpretation" by Paul Cornell - in a kind of alternate universe, in a kind of alternate Europe, a kind of James Bond must investigate the case of a missing diplomatic courier in Copenhagen; the story includes some extravagant villains and also (indirectly) some aliens... I didn't really like it - the characters are pale, the story is tedious; I also had to "fast forward" some pages towards the end. All in all this thing is rather a failure. AVOID.

"The Invasion of Venus" by Stephen Baxter - a short, interesting story about the simultaneous First Contact (well, kind of) humanity makes with not one but two alien civilizations... An unusually original GOOD story.

"Digging" by Ian McDonald - an interesting story about terraforming of Mars, with the digging of a really BIG hole being in the centre of it... I actually liked this GOOD story but completely couldn't figure out the ending. Sorry for the SPOILER here but if I understood correctly and at the end they decide to fill this big hole back again, then the ending is abysmally idiotic...

"Ascension Day" by Alastair Reynolds - a short story about a future space trader; incredibly BANAL and without ANY interest - I am very surprised that it was selected... AVOID

"After The Apocalypse" by Maureen McHugh - a story about a future USA devastated by some unspecified economic collapse; a young mother and her young teen daughter try to get to a refugee camp in Canada; a honest READABLE thing - but hardly any SF in it...

"Silently And Very Fast" by Catherynne M. Valente - I cannot rate this story or even say what it is about, because after 10 pages, unable to understand anything and bored to death I simply stopped - and there were still like 31 pages to go... Maybe it is so clever that simply too good for me - but somehow I doubt it. Read by yourself and make up your own mind.

"A Long Way Home" by Jay Lake - in a distant future, on a distant planet, one day everybody vanished after a mysterious rain of debris from space; just one guy survived because he was exploring a complex of deep caverns. For years and years he will travel all over the planet to find other survivors and try to understand what the heck happened... An interesting "post-apocalyptic" thing, but clearly author had no idea how to explain the whole mystery and finish his story - so he simply didn't do either of those things... I rate this story as GOOD with just one warning - the ending is a total let down...

"The Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson - well, Gardner Dozois must be getting old, because with this story about a huge disaster in a scientific facility he selected something that is well written, is not stupid at all, contains a beginning, a middle and an ending, includes some humour and especially US government and US military are NOT portrayed as source of all evil in the universe - in fact, they are just trying to do their jobs and with maybe one exception they are composed of rational, mentally stable and ultimately rather honest people... For all those reasons I rate this story, maybe a little bit too generously, as VERY GOOD.

"What We Found" by Geoff Ryman - this story about a troubled family living in Nigeria today or in a very near future hardly contains any SF, but I still rate it as GOOD, because of excellent writing and a lot of human interest. I really enjoyed reading that one...

"A Response from EST17" by Tom Purdom - two unmanned probes send by humanity to an alien planet find an advanced civilization; they then compete one against another in the contacts with aliens... An interesting idea but quickly ruined by a lot of weird complications and nonsensical developments. With an obligatory (and this time really, really exceptionally stupid) dump on religion... As it seemed promising initially, I was very disappointed with it. READABLE, but barely.

"The Cold Step Beyond" by Ian R. MacLeod - in a universe in which everything is female a kind of futuristic female super warrior is send by the "imams of her church" (sic!) to kill a dangerous creature. It is a huge pile of nonsense. AVOID!

"A Militant Peace" by David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell - well, here is another indication that Gardner Dozois may be getting old... Here we have a story in which professional soldiers engaged in an invasion against a totalitarian regime are shown actually in a sympathetic light - but of course there are two catches... 1) They are Vietnamese (and mostly female) and it is specified that nobody wants American soldiers involved as they are considered "ethically suspicious". 2) They are allowed to wage war but at the only condition that they don't kill anyone...))) Still, a READABLE thing...

"The Ants of Flanders" by Robert Reed - a story which begins well, with a DOUBLE alien invasion - before dissolving into 40 pages of stinking nonsense... The beginning is readable, but all in all this is a stinker. AVOID!

"The Vicar of Mars" by Gwyneth Jones - a gigantic alien priest and an alien adventurer meet on Mars (which is at that time already colonised by humans) and become friends; the priest then meets a human woman who may or may not be a witch, but who certainly is the victim of a curse... It is a GOOD, solid ghost story mixing elements of gothic novels and a little suspicion of Lovecraftian mythos (but don't expect any " Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!"). The alien priest is a particularly interesting character as his "religion" seems to be based on the belief that there is only the Void beyond death and absolutely no afterlife or judgement...

"The Smell of Orange Groves" by Lavie Tidhar - in a future Israel a rather unusual Jew remembers, very literally, the past lives of his ancestors... I usually don't like the stories by this author, but that one was quite READABLE, even if the description of this future Israel was a complete absurdity. Also, if a great number of religions seem to exist in this future, including a Church for Robots (!), one is OF COURSE completely non-existent - the Christianity...

"The Iron Shirts" by Michael Flynn - in an alternate history, in the Year of Grace 1227, there is trouble amongst Irish clans (how surprising) and also Norman invaders keep enlarging the Pale area; and at that moment a surprising embassy arrives by sea - from the West! A GOOD, solid, honest story with Danes, Skraelings, Dane/Skraeling half-bloods and one even more exotic character. Enjoy!

"Cody" by Pat Cadigan - in the beginning we don't really know much about Cody, the man who is the hero of this story occurring in a near future - and I will not reveal anything about him either, as it would completely spoil the things. Suffice it to say that this is a GOOD, solid, honest cyber-punk story with some twists. Enjoy!

"For I Have Lain Me Down On The Stone Of Loneliness And I'll Not Be Back Again" by Michael Swanwick - a very Irish SF tale about Earth under alien occupation and various ways people deal with it; a GOOD, solid, honest story.

"Ghostweight" by Yoon Ha Lee - an original but very hard to follow story in which a girl steals an alien (?) warship and uses it to launch revenge raids against an "Empire of mercenaries" which wrecked her home planet... The story is indeed very original but it is so weird, complicated and full of strange terms which are never explained that it really tired me... Still, a READABLE thing.

"Digital Rites" by Jim Hawkins - a kind of criminal mystery; in a near future somebody murders stars of Hollywood because... well, I would be at a loss to explain why, because I simply couldn't understand the plot, but the fact that some of the brains of dead stars turned blue seems to have some importance... I guess there was a good story in it somewhere, but it was drowned in unnecessary complications and general weirdness. READABLE, but barely.

"The Boneless One" by Alec Nevala-Lee - a crew of scientists, a billionaire and a journalist sail the seven seas to sample the biodiversity of the ocean; one day, near Bermuda Triangle, they find more than they bargained for... A GOOD, honest, solid hard SF with some reasonably reasonable science involved.

"Dying Young" by Peter M. Ball - in a kind of post-apocalyptic setting, in a Wild West style little town a dragon enters the saloon and orders a whiskey... This is the beginning of this VERY GOOD, brilliantly written and very original short story. A RECOMMENDED READING!

"Canterbury Hollow" by Chris Lawson - on a distant planet a human society survives in an EXTREMELY hostile environment and therefore adopted EXTREMELY draconian social customs; in this context two young people meet and fall in love... This is a VERY GOOD, extremely powerful and absolutely heart-breaking short story exploring once again the topic of star-crossed lovers - with GREAT SUCCESS! A RECOMMENDED READING!

"The Vorkuta Event" by Ken MacLeod - in 1947 a British palaeontologist on visit in Moscow is summoned to appear before Stalin and Beria in person; they order him to team up with the odious Soviet charlatan Trofim Lysenko to investigate a... THING found by gulag slave labourers in Western Syberia... A GOOD interesting story, somehow Lovecraftian in spirit (but don't expect any "Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!") - although honestly, was it REALLY necessary to include this abject Lysenko character and make him into some kind of "good guy"? Also, there is one HUGE factual error - in 1947 the Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifle was not yet introduced in service (it happened only in 1949). In 1947 the NKVD death squads serving Beria would be at that time still equipped with a mixture of Shpagin PPSh-41 or Sudayev PPS-43 sub-machine guns and Simonov SKS semi-automatic carbines. And yes, you guessed right, I am totally a military history freak...

"The Man Who Bridged The Mist" by Kij Johnson - the BEST STORY IN THE COLLECTION! This long, original, very interesting, brilliantly written novella is indeed about a man who ambitions to bridge the mist - and I will say nothing more here, because you deserve to discover this most excellent thing by yourself. I was not only delighted by this story, but even more, I was IMPRESSED. TO READ ABSOLUTELY!!

CONCLUSION: this is a 3,5 stars collection, but as there is no possibility to split stars, I decided ultimately to be generous and give it four stars, mostly because of a general tone less depressing than in previous collections, but also because the five best stories are really outstanding and finally because I REALLY appreciated the absence of long winded 70+ pages novellas.


Reptile
Reptile
DVD ~ Noel Willman
10 used & new from $27.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST and the SCARIEST Hammer film ever - also a real monument of horror cinema. Be ready to make some nightmares later..., October 16, 2014
This review is from: Reptile (DVD)
I always liked this creepy 1966 British horror A LOT and recently I was happy to find out that it didn't age - AT ALL! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Somewhere around 1910 a certain Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett), a handsome and rather likeable fellow in his late 30s, inherits a cozy cottage after the death of his brother. The house is situated in Cornwall, in the village of Clagmoore Heath. Spalding arrives to take possession of it in company of his recently wed wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel). Even if local people are not very friendly Spalding and his wife try nevertheless to meet some of them.

They begin with the owner of the neighbouring house, Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman), a man of formidable appearance and great dignity, who lives with his young daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) and a mute Malay servant (Marne Maitland) he brought with him from the colonies. Young Anna, an 18 or 19 years old sweet thing, cute like a button and clearly on her way to bloom in an amazing beauty, is particularly delighted to have some neighbours and especially some female company... And then the film really begins.

The main thing a horror movie should achieve is to be scary and this film is really REALLY DARN TERRIFYING! The whole atmosphere of this village and the general story line manage to create a climate of fear which blankets even the most innocent scenes - of which there is some... One could almost imagine that an ancient curse of heathen demons was cast on this whole village and all the houses in it - and one would be right... I saw this thing three times, at different moments of my life and I found it always as creepy and scary as during the previous viewing... The grotesque and somehow cheap appearance of the monster which, sadly, is fully shown on the cover of the DVD, doesn't destroy this film - to the contrary, once we actually meet "The Reptile", in fact as strange as it may seem things only become SCARIER!

For my personal taste, even if this is a little budget movie with unknown actors, "The Reptile" is the best and the scariest Hammer film EVER and a real MONUMENT of horror cinema. ENJOY - if you dare!


Looper (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy)
Looper (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Price: $8.99
43 used & new from $3.13

3.0 out of 5 stars A quite average time travel SF flick, watchable once, with just Emily Blunt REALLY SHINING in it!, October 16, 2014
I found this 2012 SF film honest and quite watchable, but nothing more. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Time travel was invented in 2074, but immediately outlawed - as result, only criminals use it. One of those uses is to send people whom criminal bosses want to be rid off in the past, so they are killed there, without leaving any traces in the present... As there is no travelling in the future, no one can return from such a voyage... This film tells basically the story of a hit man who in 2044 "welcomes" such time travelers and once "welcomed", gets rid of their bodies...

This hitman is a very average Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and in principle his story wouldn't be very interesting if it was not for a twist in the whole story which I will let you discover by yourself. Let's just say that the character played by Bruce Willis will have something to do with this whole thing...

Later, after some tribulations, Joe will meet a young woman named Sara (Emily Blunt), a single mother who struggles to make a living on a rather underperforming farm - and then things will finally get REALLY interesting...

This is not a bad film and I don't regret that I saw it, but it is not really anything very special. Yes, there are some nice twists, some of which I actually didn't see coming and yes, there are some really good scenes showing aspects of time travel which are rarely shown on the screen. But, with the exception of one really drastic and SHOCKING development, don't expect any amazing fireworks. Also, action scenes are so so, with "bad guys" hardly able to hit anything (sigh... what else is new?).

For my personal taste, the one character that really makes this film worth watching is Sara, played perfectly by Emily Blunt, definitely one of the best (and best looking) actresses of recent years. Sara is a complex and not entirely nice, but summa summarum rather attaching person and the calm and low-drama but still heroic back-breaking effort she makes every day to take care of her troubled child, her dilapidated farm and her messy life is something worth watching.

All in all, I am glad that I watched this film, but I am not going to buy the DVD, as it is really a thing to see once.


Convoy (1940-England)
Convoy (1940-England)
DVD ~ Clive Brook
Price: $19.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A war time propaganda film, but also a surprisingly realistic look at the opening stages of the Battle of the Atlantic, October 16, 2014
This review is from: Convoy (1940-England) (DVD)
This 1940 British film was part of war time propaganda effort, but as this kind of things goes it was rather a nicely done one and it is worth (re)discovering even today. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Royal Navy light cruiser HMS "Apollo" (in WWII there wasn't a cruiser of this name in Royal Navy) and her screen of destroyers are escorting a convoy in the North Sea. The skipper, Captain Tom Armitage (Clive Brooks) and his recently affected 1st Officer, Lt. David Cranford (John Clements) have a very uncomfortable relationship as there is a lot of history between them - and in fact it seems that Cranford was affected to HMS "Apollo" because somebody in the Admiralty wanted to get back at Armitage... Considering the circumstances they have to bite their lips and try to make it through this period of forced cohabitation... Their task will not be easy, as not only the convoy is attacked by the U-Boats but also is stalked by a German raider, the "Deutschland", a ship much more powerful than HMS "Apollo" and the destroyers... To complicate things further, one of ships from the convoy, an old dilapidated tramp, keeps lagging behind...

This is an old film, made with a little budget and low technology for military propaganda purposes, and yet, it actually can be still watched with interest. Quite a lot of real war time pictures were included showing destroyers and cruisers really firing in anger and there are even some pre-war shots of the real "Deutschland". The scenario includes a couple of rather impossible things, but for most of the time the story is actually plausible. Germans are of course shown as total caricatures, but at least they know how to shoot and they sure inflict a lot of damage in this film... The courage of pilots of seaplanes, catapulted from ships and flying vulnerable machines over vast, bad tempered and very, VERY COLD seas, without ever being certain if there will be somebody to pick them up at their return, is particularly well shown.

The fight against pocket battleship "Deutschland" is an especialy good moment of this film. It was clearly inspired by the battle of Rio de la Plata in 1939, in which indeed British cruisers engaged her sister ship, "Admiral Graf Spee". I am not saying here anything about the issue of the battle shown in "Convoy", but in real history "Deutschland" indeed made a sortie against allied shipping in 1939...

To finish with this powerful German ship, let's also say that in 1940 she was renamed "Lutzow". The reason for it was first to avoid negative morale effect should she be sunk - one can only imagine the titles in allied press: "Deutschland destroyed!". The name "Lutzow" was given to ex-"Deutschland" as the tribute to battle cruiser "Lutzow" lost at Jutland battle in 1916 - this name also just became available, as Kriegsmarine's unfinished heavy cruiser "Lutzow" was sold in 1940 to Soviet Union. This change of name brought luck to ex-"Deutschland", as she survived almost all the war, before being very seriously damaged on 13 April 1945 by RAF bombers and ultimately scuttled by her own crew on 4 May 1945.

There are also three U-Boats in this film - "U-37", "U-40" and "U-42", and they all existed really. One of them is sunk in the film, but I am not saying which one it is. Let's however be said, that in the real life the two U-Boats which survive this film were already on the bottom on the sea since 1939, and that the U-Boat which is sunk in this film was actually the only one of the three to actually survive the whole war...)))

Three real Royal Navy destroyers were used to make this film: HMS "Imogen", HMS "Isis" and HMS "Griffin". Only the last survived the war...

One thing which I found in the same time exotic and familiar in this film was a scene with East-European refugees who travel on one of the ships in the convoy. At one moment they start singing in a language which I completely couldn't understand or for that matter recognize, but the melody, well, being Polish myself I recognized it immediately - it is a popular old Polish tune "Krakowiaczek jeden" ("A little guy from Cracow"), still used a lot as a jingle on the radio...)))

Actors playing the main roles are nowadays completley forgotten, but if you make a litlte effort and have a look at secondary characters, you will be able to identify Stewart Granger who at that time was still a struggling young actor...

All in all, this is a rather interesting cinematographic curiosity to discover - and also a useful reminder of how hard and cruel were for the alies the first three and a half years of Battle of Atlantic, until the turning point of spring 1943... ENJOY!


The Three Godfathers
The Three Godfathers
DVD ~ John Wayne
Price: $6.77
76 used & new from $2.46

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEAUTIFUL! A very moving biblical story, with cowboys, desperados, six-shooters, Mojave desert and some Christmas magic..., October 15, 2014
This review is from: The Three Godfathers (DVD)
This 1948 film is a beautiful Christmas Story cleverly disguised as a western - and I loved every single minute of it! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Cattle thieves Robert Hightower (John Wayne), Pedro "Pete" Rocafuerte (Pedro Armendáriz) and William Kearney a.k.a "Abilene Kid" (Harry Carey, Jr.) arrive to Welcome, Arizona. Even if they are all wanted men, somehow at the beginning of the film they still don't have blood on their hands - in fact if for years they limited their criminal career to cattle rustling it was because "cows don't shoot back"...))) But now, tired of poverty, they decided to upgrade their activities by robbing town's bank - and even if they didn't intend to open fire, well, once you start robbing people at gun point bad things WILL happen... With one of them wounded and being followed by a very tenacious posse led by sheriff Buck Sweet (Ward Bond), they are forced to ride through the deadliest parts of Mojave desert - and there they meet somebody very unexpected. That meeting will change their lives instantly...

This film is the adaptation of a short story "Three godfathers" written in 1913. This story became so famous and popular that it was quickly adapted to cinema, in 1915, under the title "Bronco Billy and the baby". In 1916, a remake was produced, with Harry Carey (the father of Harey Carey Jr.) playing the leading role. John Ford directed the third adaptation "The Marked Men" in 1919, with Harry Carey again playing the leading role, but that film is nowadays lost. The story was again adapted to cinema as an early talking movie "Hell's Heroes" in 1929 and then in 1936, again under the original title "Three Godfathers". This 1948 film is therefore the SIXTH cinema adaptation (and the second made by John Ford) of the original story. As Harry Carey died in 1947, John Ford cast his son, Harry Carey Jr. in one of the three main roles. It was only the second role for this young actor who was going to play in further 90 films until his retirement in 1997 (he died recently, in 2012).

John Wayne plays here a character in the same time familiar to his fans - and also completely different, but I will say no more here... As for Mexican actor Pedro Armendariz, he gives here probably the performance of his life.

I will not say much more about the story, but you must know, that this film is NOT EXACTLY a western. Oh sure, there is a lot of westerny things in it: cowboys, desperados (and one "bandido"), sheriff and his posse, six-shooters, Winchesters, deadly desert, frontier justice, etc. But in reality this is actually a Christmas Story and especially a profoundly Christian film in which virtually everything is an allusion to the Bible - so if you dislike such things, you will definitely not enjoy "3 Godfathers".

The story of Three Wise Men, complete with the Star of Bethlehem, is of course the first thing that comes to mind, but this is far from being the only or even the most important thing in this film. It contains also a very complete Via Dolorosa, reminding us very powerfully, that once we chose the path of righteousness and stick to it, well, even if sometimes this path may lead us to excruciating suffering and horrible death, it also always leads to salvation... In another scene we have an extremely impressive and absolutely heart-breaking retelling of the story of the assassin who was crucified on Jesus right and who sincerely repented in his last dying breath... We are reminded of the Hope, that very major Christian virtue, which dies last - and sometimes never... In a lighter register there is an absolutely irresistible, hilarious allusion to both the baptism and the anointing of Christ...))) In fact the most severe and most strictly observant Christians could even consider this scene as a little bit blasphemous, but I personally adored it.

Before offering a little bit of Christmas magic and a handful of pretty good jokes at the very end, this film certainly doesn't want for tragedy. People keep dying in it and as we came to knew them a little bit before, well, their passing is not an easy thing to watch - especially that they ALL have ample time to realise what is happening and they ALL have a difficult, painful death... On another hand that gives them the occasion to say last words and they are all worth hearing...

I was very moved by this film and I loved every single scene. This is a rare jewel to discover, watch, love and keep forever. ENJOY!


I Am a Little Panda: Large (Little Animal Stories)
I Am a Little Panda: Large (Little Animal Stories)
by François Crozat
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $8.54
66 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully illustrated, very precious book for children between ages of 3 and 5, October 14, 2014
Both my daughters loved this book dearly when they were three and I had to read it to them many times. When they were four I had to invent some new dialog lines to fit the pictures - and we had many a merry good laugh about them...)))

This is a short book for children between ages of 3 and 5 with INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL, very detailed and quite realistic pictures on every single page. It tells the story of a little panda bear, from his birth to the moment when he is already quite big, but still not old enough to be on his own and therefore spends the first winter of his life with his mother, watching the snow falling, hearing her stories and from time to time just growling at the snorring bat who shares the den with them...))) OK, that last part I invented to make my daughters laugh at the last page but also give them a hint that it is REALLY time to sleep...

A beautiful book and I recommend it with enthusiasm.


Prehistoric Women
Prehistoric Women
DVD ~ Martine Beswick
15 used & new from $9.97

2.0 out of 5 stars If you induce yourself into drunken stupor you can actually enjoy this mind-challengingly bad soft porn as a surrealistic comedy, October 14, 2014
This review is from: Prehistoric Women (DVD)
Objectively speaking, this 1967 Hammer production must be one of the WORST films ever made and in principle I should be so ashamed that I actually watched it, that I shouldn't be even considering writing this review, even less making it public... But as I cannot help myself, so here it is. As this film is entirely spoiled beyond redemption by the very fact of its existence, this review contains only very limited SPOILERS.

Ahem... So here is the "plot". A man of present times is magically transported in the times of Prehistoric Women in which a tribe of dominant Brunettes keeps in slavery and exploits a tribe of Blondes...))) I am not kidding, this is really the main point of the "plot"...))) Incidentally there is no men in this society - well, actually there is some, but for almost all the film they are locked in a basement and peel potatoes...))) Oh, important point, from time to time some Blondes are sacrificed to the White Rhinoceros - which mean they are tied to a statue of a White Rhinoceros with a huuuuuuuuge... horn, of course, what were you thinking... and soon after SOMETHING carries them away in the jungle, as they are kicking and screaming...

The only merit of this film is to show a great number of hot chicks in bikinis, beginning with Kari, the Queen of The Brunettes, played by Martine Beswick, who indeed is a real vision of splendor... Other than that this film just has a kind of scenario of a soft porn, from which would be removed all genuine nudity and all sex scenes.

This film can not possibly be watched without help of a considerable quantity of potent potables. But once drunk enough you may actually enjoy it, as it is indeed, completely unwillingly, very VERY funny (but let's stress it again, no actual humour is involved) - it's just that this kind of fun needs a special state of mind to fire up... This special state of mind can be achieved by massive blunt force trauma (not recommended), consommation of some shrooms (not recommended either), water-boarding and sleep deprivation (to be practised only uder strict medical supervision) or getting completely wasted (recommended solution) after a horribly bad day at the office...

Another merit of this film is that any feminist exposed to it will instantly shriek like a banshee, then burst out in flames and turn into ashes and dust, like a vampire exposed to the sunlight...)))

Now seriously, buying this film is a waste of money and watching it is a loss of time, but if you are an afficionado of old Hammer films and want to own or at least see them all, well, of course give it a try. But for the love of God don't do it when being sober - because then you risk to wake up the wrath of the White Rhinoceros...)))


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