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Maciej "Darth Maciek" RSS Feed (Darth Maciek is out there...)
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The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Postman Always Rings Twice
DVD ~ Lana Turner
Price: $13.99
55 used & new from $3.24

5.0 out of 5 stars A poignant, tense, dramatic and immensely tragic story of a cursed passion, crime and punishment. TO SEE ABSOLUTELY!, August 10, 2016
GREAT CLASSIC! This film is deservedly famous and I liked a lot this poignant story of cursed passion, crime and punishment. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Frank Chambers (John Garfield) is a homeless drifter, roaming the country without much plans for the future. One day he accepts the job at a rural diner owned by a certain Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway), a somehow aged, likeable fellow. Soon he meets Nick's much younger wife, Cora (Lana Turner) and an instant and mutual attraction develops. Things get complicated and tragedy unavoidably follows... I will not say more about the story.

Adapted from a novel written by James M. Cain, who was also the author of "Mildred Pierce" and "Double Indemnity", this film is deeper, more dramatic and much more tense than the average "film noir" or crime drama. Without entering into details, to avoid spoilers, it must be said that the climate of this film is unique, from the very beginning to the last moments. There are elements of ancient Greek tragedy included, like ananke, the merciless although frequently ironic fate, and also some fragments which were clearly inspired by the Bible, like the infinite patience and wisdom of Lord's ways, which although mysterious always are just at the end... The title is explained only at the end and this explanation clotures the film perfectly.

All actors did an amazing job, with Lana Turner, at that time at the top of her skill and beauty, being absolutely terrific. Other than the main three actors, all the supporting cast also did a perfect job. Special praise must go to Hume Cronyn who plays a really, really smart and nasty shyster. As for director Tay Garnett, this film was clearly his masterpiece, which guaranteed him a permanent and prominent place in the history of cinema.

I liked this film a lot and l will definitely keep the DVD for another viewing. A thing to see ABSOLUTELY! ENJOY!

Dead Reckoning
Dead Reckoning
DVD ~ Humphrey Bogart
Price: $9.99
37 used & new from $4.95

5.0 out of 5 stars "I hated every part of her but I couldn't figure her out yet. Maybe she was alright. And maybe Christmas comes in July...", August 8, 2016
This review is from: Dead Reckoning (DVD)
EXCELLENT! This is one of the best "film noir" I ever saw! I loved every single moment of it! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Captain Warren "Rip" Murdock (Humphrey Bogart) and Sergeant Johnny Drake (William prince) are war heroes. Drake won the Congressional Medal of Honor and he is to be decorated soon; Murdock, who was is his commanding officer, came with him from France in order to receive the Distinguished Service Cross. But just before they arrive to Washington, Drake runs away and vanishes - without a trace. Authorities are puzzled by this unprecedented behaviour and immediately an investigation begins. Murdock, who considers Drake as his best friend, also decides to look for him - unofficially and with no holds barred. And then the film really begins...

I love "film noir" and this is one of the absolutely best I ever saw. From the beginning there is a great mystery in this story and it is not fully explained until the end. The atmosphere is heavy with menace and evil. There will be dead bodies, shots fired, nasty bad guys and nasty cops, double crosses, gambling, cigarettes and whiskey, killer dialogs and one liners - and of course the first person narration by the lonely dark hero...

There is of course also a deeply mysterious "femme fatale" in this film, played by the amazing Lizabeth Scott, an extremely beautiful woman and very talented actress. Her looks and voice made me think of Lauren Bacall who went to the dark side of the Force...))) She is incredible in this film, from the first to the last scene.

The scenario is strong and the ending is as good as the (very tense) beginning. There is not one weakness in this film. I recommend it to all amateurs of "film noir" and good cinema in general. I will absolutely keep the DVD for another viewing. ENJOY!

The sky and the forest
The sky and the forest
by C. S. Forester
Edition: Hardcover
153 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a man who was very literally Lord, God and Master of his universe - and then had to face the end of the world..., July 8, 2016
This review is from: The sky and the forest (Hardcover)
An EXCELLENT, very original, brilliantly written novel filled with adventure, drama and shockers. I couldn't stop reading it! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

When the story begins we meet Lua, a man who is not only the absolute ruler of a community of people but who is even considered as a god. I will not say where or when this story takes place and who are those people and I advise to NOT research this book before reading it - discovering everything by yourself will considerably spice the experience and enhance the pleasure. The world in which those people live, although it really existed, seems so exotic, that for a long time this book seems almost to be a SF novel happening on another planet. I will say no more here.

Once we come to know well Lua and his world comes unavoidably a Great Change and Terrible Trial for all people we met in initial chapters and the story gets even better. Lua is not exactly a very likeable person and author had the good sense to not change this - the tribulations will force Lua and his folks to adapt, but not to modify their character and core values. I will say no more here.

This book was written in 1948 and therefore is free of political correctness - in fact it is very blunt and straightforward. Left winged people will be probably very offended by the whole story - me on another hand I appreciated it very much.

The last chapters are particularly strong (and shocking) and the ending simply perfect, closing with the full explanation of the title, "The sky and the forest", which is also a kind of synopsis of the whole book...

I decided to keep this review deliberately short and vague, to avoid any temptation of giving spoilers. I am now in the second half of my life and with time passing I sadly lost most of my capacity to become excited and marvelled by my readings. This book reminded me a little bit of older times, gave me a considerable pleasure and allowed me to relive a little bit of the excitement I felt when reading in my first youth. For this I will be always grateful, so thank you Mr Forester Sir. I recommend this book with enthusiasm. ENJOY!

Vietnam Gun Trucks (New Vanguard)
Vietnam Gun Trucks (New Vanguard)
by Gordon L. Rottman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.95
49 used & new from $4.63

5.0 out of 5 stars Blood, sweat and tires: a very, very well written and very instructive introduction to the saga of gun trucks in Vietnam. ENJOY!, July 4, 2016
This is a very well written and very instructive introduction to the saga of gun trucks in Vietnam. I learned A LOT from it. The writing is clear, the book is well organised, everyone of 48 pages is fully used and there is no useless digressions and no filler.

Illustrations are good and colour plates are very honest but the real interest of this book resides in the text. Author clearly knows the subject and gives us a lot if useful and interesting info, beginning with the whole organisation of truck convoys system in Vietnam War - that helps the reader to better understand what was the role of gun trucks and the logic behind the tactic of their operaitonal use. We move then to the recruitement and organisation of crews of gun trucks, before getting to the construction of those improvised vehicles and the equipement and weaponry they used. Tactics are explained only once we got a better understanding of previous points and then we go the names (believe me, you will have a ball reading that point), paintings and lore of gun trucks. The whole organisation of the book is very good - it is in form of a logical progression in the learning processus.

As all Osprey New Vanguard books it is a short thing (48 pages) therefore, even if it is a very, very good thing, this book can not be very comprehensive. More pictures (including in colour) can be found in "Gun Trucks" by Timothy J. Kutta, published by Squadron/Signal in their very good Vietnam War Studies series and also in "Gun trucks: a visual history" by David Doyle. There is also the "Gun Trucks In Vietnam : Have Guns - Will Travel", an 86 pager by James Lyles, and it s follow up, "Gun Trucks: the Hard Ride" (63 pages) but those things are extremely expensive.

Bottom line, this is a very, very good, instructive and useful little book. I am very glad that I bought it and I recommend it with enthusiasm. ENJOY!

One False Move
One False Move
DVD ~ Billy Bob Thornton
Offered by amazingwildcat
Price: $47.53
25 used & new from $9.95

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting, well done little budget but highly original B-movie, with great roles by Bill Paxton and Cynda Williams, June 29, 2016
This review is from: One False Move (DVD)
I liked this little known 1992 B-movie. It is an original and well done thing. The story is quite interesting, contains some surprises and the ending is not half bad. Below, more of my impressions, with some LIMITED SPOILERS.

It all begins with three criminals. Ray (Billy Bob Thornton) is the archetypical "white trash" guy, who already served time and who is as neurotic and insecure as he is violent. He hooked up with a young black girl who uses the name Fantasia (Cynda Williams) - she is more stable and less violent, but still a dangerous person. Pluto (Michael Beach), is a seemingly very calm and very calculating black man - but notwithstanding his high IQ, he has serious issues, which send him to prison before. The film begins when those three very different people meet a minor drug dealer in LA. As result of this meeting, they will travel east, with their final destination a small town, Star City in Arkansas, for reasons I will not reveal here.

The police chief of Star City, Dale "Hurricane" Dixon (Bill Paxton) is warned by LAPD that there is a possibility that those three rather dangerous people can come a-calling. Considering this as a challenge and a possibility to prove himself, together with all his forces (two deputies) he prepares for a possible confrontation... But NOTHING will go as planned, both for the three criminals and the ambitious provincial sheriff...

This is a really, really well done little film with a really strong scenario (Billy Bob Thornton was the co-writer). The tension is building up through the whole film until the unavoidable dramatic great finale. With time we learn to know the three bandits and this small town police chief. There are surprises and twists in the scenario, there is some humour, there are some interesting secondary and tertiary characters, etc. Actors did very well, with Bill Paxton and Cynda Williams being the best, but Michael Beach plays perfectly the very scary Pluto and Billy Rob Thornton clearly has great fan portraying the neurotic, extraverted, outspoken, violent and aggresive but ultimately not too bright Ray.

I am very glad that I saw this film - in fact it is possible that I see it again sometime in the future. I rented it, but it is worth buying and keeping. It is definitely much better than many big budgeted recent Hollywood productions. ENJOY!

Sol's Children
Sol's Children
by Jean Rabe
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
23 used & new from $0.48

1.0 out of 5 stars A 1,5 stars collection, with only 2 good stories out of 16, the rest being plagued by poor writing, boring plots and clichés, June 29, 2016
This is a disappointing collection. Editor wanted to give a chance to little known authors and barely published beginners, therefore many of the stories are unoriginal and poorly written, with plots we already saw hundreds of times and used clichés. There are only two stories which are really worth discovering: "The demons of Jupîter's moons" and "Last of my brethren". Others are mostly at best readable. I hardly had any fun with this book and I consider the time I spend reading it as wasted – and so was the money I spend buying it. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
"Old-Boy network" by Timothy Zahn – a bunch of morbidly rich guys create an absolutely sure communication network, in order to better commit various crimes and other bad things… Hastily written, banal, boring, clichéd and completely absurd. AVOID!

"Mirrors" by Brian A. Hopkins – a giant telescope is being built on Io, but there is some trouble underground – called by a former girlfriend, a mining expert arrives to investigate… Very banal, hastily written, with a perfectly flat ending. YAWN!

"In Finnegan's wake" by Jack C. Haldeman II – a pilot tries to beat a record by flying around all planets from Mercury to Pluto in ten days. Initial idea good, execution incredibly banal, flat and boring. YAWN!

"Ghosts of Neptune" by John Helfers – a scientific station was established on the frozen surface of liquid hydrogen ocean covering Neptune; the ship carrying supplies and replacement crew docks and then finds that something went wrong. This novella initially had potential and the ending is quite daring, but it is also full of clichés (of course everything is once again the plot of evil military) and many total absurdities. Still, this is a READABLE thing.

"Moments" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – a disaster happens in space and a big corporation organises a cover up; as clichéd and predictable as humanly possible and also poorly written. AVOID!

"'Roid" by Jeff Crook – a space ship is tugging an asteroid on which an incredible find was made – then somebody unexpected arrives… This is an insanely absurd story, which gives the impression that author is a high school student, who just came back from a Bernie Sanders meeting and read a Däniken book… AVOID!

"The demons of Jupiter's moons" by Mike Resnick and Mark M. Stafford – a woman working on a huge planet forming project on Europa begins to see demons… Is she losing her sanity or are they actually an indigenous life form? This is the first story in the collection which is actually GOOD, with an original plot and unexpected final lines.

"Ringflow" by Tom Dupree – the first manned mission approaches Saturn – but there is only one astronaut on board… A READABLE story, but also very grim and not very inspiring…

"Martian Knights" by Stephen D. Sullivan – in a distant future, on partly terraformed Mars, two rescuers try to help a stranded treasure-hunter; a READABLE, if rather banal story with a kind of half-surprising final twist

"Omega time" by Russell Davis – a widowed man remembers his deceased wife, when watching the death of Earth, swallowed by the Sun which becomes a red giant… A READABLE story.

"Son of a Belter Earl" by Roland Green – in the future asteroids are being mined; a very Irish guy describes his work and adventures in space. I found the story rather boring and the writing style completely over the top – I had the impression that I listen to a really bad stand-up comedian… Barely READABLE.

"An acceptable risk" by Ed Gibson – the story of the first manned mission to Venus; begins well and promises a lot, but the ending is impossibly ABSURD, which makes it impossible to rate the story higher than READABLE

"Patience" by Donald J. Bingle – a dangerous man escapes from a prison on Moon and complications follow; a READABLE story even if almost everybody in it (except the dangerous man) acts like a total moron…

"A coin for Charon" by Janet Pack – the rivalry between two scientists working on an international space station orbiting Pluto is made worse by cabin fever and quickly escalates; not very well written but still a READABLE story

"The grand tour" by Brian M. Thomsen – a space ship visits all the nine planets of Solar System to verify and confirm data before termination of all manned space missions; because this is the last human foray into space, the mission includes a poet. The ending is a little bit stupid and the writing not very good, but still it is a READABLE story.

"Least of my brethren" by Michael A. Stackpole – a Catholic priest and an alien who looks somehow… devilishly (and is also a priest of sorts) face a case of conscience when tending to wounded on the edges of solar system. Second story in the collection which is actually original and GOOD.
CONCLUSION: this is a 1,5 stars thing, mostly boring and very disappointing. If you can find the two good stories somewhere else, don't bother buying it.

The Lady Eve (The Criterion Collection)
The Lady Eve (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Barbara Stanwyck
Offered by Fulfillment Express US
Price: $25.19
26 used & new from $11.44

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A clever gold digger targets a rich, embarassingly clueless moron - and wins! An immoral film with the wrongest possible ending, June 15, 2016
To my surprise, I didn't like this film at all, as I found the story unpleasant and wrong. I am quite surprised that it is considered so highly by most of the public and reviewers. Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.

Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) is a con artist. Along with her father, "Colonel" Harrington (Charles Coburn) and his partner Gerald (Melville Cooper), she targets a very naive rich young man, Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), son of beer magnat Horace Pike (Eugene Pallette). The crooks, posing as rich passengers, attack their prey on board of a liner... They initially want just cheat Pike in a game of cards, but soon Jean sees a better opportunity. I will not say more about the story to avoid spoilers.

The film is well directed, actors did a great job, there are some clever one liners and also some good moments of humour. However I couldn't really enjoy all the treasures of this film, because of some fundamental flaws in the scenario.

The first problem I have with this film is that the main male character, Charles Pike, is a pathetic moron, so insanely stupid, clueless and hapless, that the only thing one can feel towards him is pity mixed with contempt. How can you make anybody believe that any woman can spend her life with such a man without deep inside despising him? The man is cheated three times by the same people, in exactly the same way, without even really realising it! I didn't find the complete destruction of this character funny - at all.

The main female character on another hand is a very, very clever person but she is also a cold, calculating, merciless reptile, with a sadistic streak. The result of pairing such a woman with a man who has the wits and conscience of a 5 years old boy is not romantism - it is actually embarassing...

The third reason why I didn't like the film is the sympathetic way in which con artists are portrayed. It shocked me. Con artists are not a joking matter and showing them as "cool guys" who win at the end and everybody is happy is not a good thing - those people cause real damage and pain. Using them as comedy characters is a good idea, but letting them completely off the hook at the end and leaving them smiling and counting their loot is, for me, a disturbing thing. There is fair and then there is not fair.

Finally, there is the ending and the conclusion of the film, which I found as INSANELY WRONG as possible. In fact it INFURIATED ME! Bad people win, big time and a honest (although stupid) man is left without honor, with the stain of being f...ed three times by the same person all over his body and mind. I found the ending HATEFUL. I will not keep the DVD. The film presents some interest as part of the cinema history, but me at least, I didn't have much fun weatching it.

14 Hours
14 Hours
DVD ~ Paul Douglas
Offered by kylakins
Price: $8.41
25 used & new from $5.05

5.0 out of 5 stars A guy stands on the ledge on the 15th floor and threatens to jump. He gets more and more tired and irritated. Can he be saved?, June 1, 2016
This review is from: 14 Hours (DVD)
EXCELLENT! I was impressed by this little known 1951 black and white film. With a great cast and strong scenario, this is a real gem, worth discovering. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

In a New York City hotel an initially anonymous young man (Richard Basehart) walks out of the window and stands on the narrow ledge outside his room - on the fifteenth floor! He is noticed and Charlie Dunnigan (Paul Douglas), a police officer, who was working traffic duty near the hotel, arrives and tries to persuade him to come back into the room. He doesn't succeed, but ultimately the young man refuses to speak to anybody else than Dunnigan. What follows is the story of dramatic and tense efforts to save the life of a young man - who gets more and more tired and more and more desperate. The effort will include a research into his past... As an enormous crowd gathers around and the media get into the feeding frenzy, the film tells also the story of some of the people who watch the events from the street and the surrounding buildings.

I never heard about this film before and I am a little surprised that it is nowadays so totally forgotten. I was very impressed by the high quality of the scenario and the terrific performance of all the cast. Henry Hathaway was already an experienced director in 1951 and it immediately shows in this film – it is only 92 minutes, but it is so well organised and filled with events, that it seems longer. That is not a criticism – I appreciated every single scene and my only regret is that there was no more of them! The scenario is very strong, but I will say nothing about the details. The tension builds up and drama become more and more intense, especially towards the end, as there are surprises and scares, which I didn't see coming at all. This film kept me constantly on the edge (sorry for that, I couldn't resist). Finally, the ending is unexpected – and very powerful indeed…

The cast is incredible. Paul Douglas and Richard Basehart are the main stars here and a great deal of the screen time is devoted to their conversation/negotiation/confrontation. Veteran actors Agnes Moorehead and Robert Keith appear in the middle of the film – another highly experienced actor, Howard Da Silva, plays deputy chief Moskar, the leading policeman assigned to the crisis. Young actresses Barbara Bel Geddes and especially Debra Paget appear also as well as two future great stars: Grace Kelly and Jeffrey Hunter – for both of them it was the first credited appearance on the screen. All actors did an amazing job, including those, mostly not credited, who appear in brief cameos in the street crowd, commenting (sometimes rudely) on the whole drama…

I didn't see the 2012 remake ("Man on the ledge") with Sam Worthington, but from what I read about it the story was completely changed and therefore the film was not a success – therefore even if you saw it, you can still watch "Fourteen hours" and expect to be surprised.

I was very impressed by this film and I will absolutely keep the DVD for another viewing. ENJOY!

Year's Best SF 10 (Year's Best Science Fiction)
Year's Best SF 10 (Year's Best Science Fiction)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A rather disappointing collection, which is a surprise, as the year was full of strong SF stories. 2,5 stars, May 30, 2016
I was disappointed by this collection of what editors considered as best SF from 2004. Their choices seem very strange to me as it was a rather strong year for SF – for that matter yearly Gardner Dozois collection from 2004 was full of very good stories. Out of a total of twenty three, there is only one very good story, "The battle of York", plus four good ones: "Scout's honor", which also figures in Dozois collection, "The algorithms of love", "Mastermindless" and "The Eckener alternative".

There are also six total stinkers ("Sergeant Chip", "The first commandment", "Glinky", "Red city", "Pervert" and "Savant songs") and two stories which I was unable to finish and therefore I cannot rate ("Venus Flowers at Night" and "The Risk-Taking Gene as Expressed by Some Asian Subjects"). Remaining ten are at best readable, sometimes barely.

Many stories are boring and forgettable, lacking originality (some are just rewriting of older, better stories) and ideas. Political correctness and left winged politics (including anti-white racism and anti-Christian bigotry) pollute many of them. There are few interesting characters, there are clichés galore and the general tone is depressed.

Below, my more detailed impressions, with some SPOILERS.
"Sergeant Chip" by Bradley Denton – in a near future a cybernetically enhanced dog follows his trainer to the war in the Middle East. The story recycles every left wing antimilitary cliché and conspiracy theory and combines it with some abysmally crazy ideas: US soldiers routinely and purposefully commit atrocious war crimes, officers disobey standing orders and are not sanctioned, officers are not sanctioned for hitting superior officers, officers collect trophies from murdered civilians like serial killers, US government massively murders its own soldiers, US government maintains death squads which routinely murder civilians to cover the massive murder of its own soldiers, etc. etc. Rarely did I read such vomitoriously insane and hateful nonsense! AVOID!

"The First Commandment" by Gregory Benford – a biologist works on inventorying species which will disappear when Australia n outback is irrigated; a religious zealot begs her to not do it… This story is a flagrant case of plagiarism. it is almost a carbon copy of the classical "The nine billion names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke written in 1953, with just some politically correct econazi madness and global warming hysteria added. AVOID.

"Burning Day" by Glenn Grant – in the future AIs ("cogents") got full citizenship rights – in the same time borders between humans and AIs get more and more blurry all the time. An AI detective and his human partner investigate the murder of a "cogent" family – this case will be a very surprising one. I cannot say that I enjoyed this story as from my point of view, for many reasons which I cannot reveal to avoid spoilers, this future world is a vision of absolute horror, as wrong as it is possible. However, to be objective, I must admit that this is well written, original and certainly forcing to think. A READABLE, although disturbing (and depressing) story.

"Scout's Honor" by Terry Bisson – the story about a weird scientist receiving even weirder emails, seemingly from Upper Palaeolithic (and no, this is not senders email address). GOOD solid stuff, well written, but if this Sci-Fi story is strong in "fiction", it is weak on genuine "science", containing a description of Neanderthal people which downgrades them significantly and makes them very alien to us... This is the only story in 2004 which also figured in Gardner Dozois yearly Best SF anthology.

"Venus Flowers at Night" by Pamela Sargent – the story occurs on terraformed Venus in a distant future; the whole humanity is ruled by a kind of caliphate; that idea was already not funny in 2004 and is even less appealing today, with all the abominations committed daily by the Islamic State. Still, I decided to do myself violence and tried to read it, but as after 20 pages virtually nothing happened, I gave up. For that reason I am not really able to rate this story. Read it and make up your mind.

"Pulp Cover" by Gene Wolfe – a short, well written story about a hard working ambitious guy who is slowly climbing up the corporate ladder when all the time being desperately in love with the daughter of his very rich boss. Then something unexpected happens… A READABLE, if quite banal story, written in a "classical" (50sand 60s) style.

"The Algorithms for Love" by Ken Liu – a quite interesting take on the theme of AI. A brilliant but somehow battered by life woman, who designs interactive toys for living, starts to wonder how do her "dolls" compare to real humans… The conclusion will be quite… well, interesting… Well written, quite profound and even, to some extent, a little bit scary… A GOOD story.

"Glinky" by Ray Vukcevich – that story is weird that I cannot even say what it is about; it seems to be about the intrusion to our universe of somebody from another reality – but honestly I am not certain if I got it right. Some people believe that when writing a totally weird mess they create a clever masterpiece. Well, no, in fact they create just a totally weird mess. AVOID!

"Red City" by Janeen Webb – written by Janeen Webb, the wife of famous SF editor Jack Dann, this story seems to be about time travel in India, but in fact it is just a pretext to describe the kidnapping, torture, abuse and quite possible also killing of a white woman by her captors. Includes quasi pornography and a lot of anti-white racism. AVOID!

"Act of God" by Jack McDevitt – scientists create a miniature Universe, start to play with it and then are surprised by the results… A READABLE story, but rather banal – the subject has been treated before, much better.

"Wealth" by Robert Reed – an extremely arrogant and powerful AI comes to buy real estate on Mars. As frequently with this author, the idea is interesting, the writing is very honest, but the conclusion weakens the whole thing. Still, a READABLE thing.

"Mastermindless" by Matthew Hughes – one day a kind of alternate reality Sherlock Holmes wakes up stupid, ugly and broke. That might well be THE puzzle of his life… A GOOD, well written, clever and entertaining tribute to an immortal classic. Good job Mr Hughes, sir.

"Time As It Evaporates" by Jean-Claude Dunyach – a kind of "time disaster" destroyed the world and only a small Muslim town, isolated by some high mountains, remains untouched – for the moment. One day a local muezzin meets an impressive but strange man he never saw before in town… Author has a fertile imagination and knows how to write, but the reality described is so weird and the conclusion so confusing (borderline absurd), that I cannot rate this tory more than READABLE.

"The Battle of York" by James Stoddard – in a distant future historians try to reconstruct the "original mythology" of United States from just a handful of scraps of information. The very first chapter is the heroic saga of George Washington, who is send on an epic quest by half-god Waynejohn, after they hold a parley in Giant Sequoia Forest…))) I almost died laughing when reading it. Very well written, merry and cheerful, this is one of the best things in recent SF I read since a long time. A VERY GOOD STORY, THE BEST IN THE COLLECTION. To read absolutely!

"Loosestrife" by Liz Williams – in a near future, a slightly retarded teenage girl raises her baby alone in an abandoned apartment she squats in half-flooded London. Although the story totally mines global warming hysteria, the beginning showed promise, but the ending is disappointing. Still, a READABLE thing.

"The Dark Side of Town" by James Patrick Kelly – this story occurs in a near future and is about a couple of hard working but still rather poor people; they would like to have a child, but are concerned about money; one day the wife finds something unexpected, disturbing and very expensive in her husband clothes… The story begins well, but fails to deliver in second half. Still, a READABLE thing.

"Invisible Kingdoms" by Steven Utley – although it might not be immediately obvious this is actually another story in the cycle describing the exploration of Palaeozoic by means of a space-time anomaly; a very, very rich man is accused of buying illegally smuggled samples of prehistoric life… Paradoxically, the best of those Palaeozoic stories are the ones which actually happen in our times…))) A quite READABLE thing, if nothing more. Sadly, Steven Utley left us in 2013…

"The Cascade" by Sean McMullen – on the day of first manned landing on Mars a young brilliant student meets an even more brilliant and somehow mysterious young woman; they quickly land in bed together and he soon finds that she has a hidden agenda (and many other things). The story is READABLE but I found the general idea behind it utterly idiotic – it also contains an endorsement of terrorism, pretending that it is necessary to strong arm humanity into progress. This kind of thinking produced the twin abominations of communism and Nazism and saying such a thing since 11 September 2001 is really a proof of poor discernment and bad taste…

"Pervert" by Charles Coleman Finlay – in a near future humanity is divided in three categories: homosexuals, hydrosexuals and perverts. Humanity is also ruled by a theocracy, based on a mixture of Christianity and Islam. The story is deliberately shocking and unpleasant. It is also a hateful attack on Christian religion, based on one real Bible verse but especially on one completely false. I was deeply insulted and disgusted by this thing. AVOID!

"The Risk-Taking Gene as Expressed by Some Asian Subjects" by Steve Tomasula – a scientist makes a genetic/psychological study in Chinatown somewhere in USA. I cannot really rate this story, because I couldn't really understand what was going on, I got tired and after first ten pages I abandoned. You must read it and judge it by yourself.

"Strood" by Neal Asher – a dying man is send by aliens to their home planet – once he arrives there a strange creature starts to stalk him… This is a READABLE thing, but the solution to the "mystery" is quite obvious from the beginning. Also, the same subject was already treated long time ago by Fred Saberhagen in one of his "Berserker" short stories… Finally, there is also an element of idiocy included – why would ETA Basque separatists try to target aliens!??

"The Eckener Alternative" by James L. Cambias – an amusing story about a guy who wants to change history because he thinks zeppelins are cool; he will end by changing much more than aeronautical history…))) A witty, well researched and well written thing. A GOOD story.

"Savant Songs" by Brenda Cooper – a story about an autistic woman who is also a genius physician and her younger male assistant; the story had promise but finally goes mostly nowhere, is boring on its way to nowhere and ends stupidly. AVOID
Bottom line, this is a 2,5 stars collection. If you already have Gardner Dozois anthology from 2004 and can find "Battle of York" somewhere else, there is no real need to buy this book.

Swamp Water [Blu-ray]
Swamp Water [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Dana Andrews
Offered by Achilles' Reel
Price: $44.40
10 used & new from $31.25

5.0 out of 5 stars "It's like being dead all these years, and now you're - you're a tellin' me to come back to life again", May 18, 2016
This review is from: Swamp Water [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
VERY GOOD! I liked a lot this 1941 drama by renowned French director Jean Renoir. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia, a very poor rural area, somewhere around 1910. A young, rather likeable but somehow rebellious man, Ben Ragan (Dana Andrews), lives still with his father, Thursday Ragan (Walter Huston) and his stepmother, Hannah (Mary Howard). Hannah is much younger than her husband, but she and Thursday seem to be very happy together – however, her former beau, Jesse Wick (John Carradine) still didn't renounce his claim and even if he is not welcome he sneaks to try to see her when the husband is not at home. Ben wants to move out soon and be on his own, once he marries Mabel MacKenzie (Virginia Gilmore), the most desirable (and proudest) local girl.

The dangerous swamps are mostly avoided by locals, as quite a few people died there, victims of treacherous mud holes, quicksand, venomous snakes, alligators and even an occasional panther (puma) attack. Because people don't usually go there, a wanted murderer, Tom Keefer (Walter Brennan), was hiding in Okefenokee for the last five years. Nobody knows it, not even his teen age daughter Julie (Anne Baxter), who once her father ran, was taken as house servant by a local shopkeeper Marty McCord (Russell Simpson) and his wife. Local sheriff, Jeb McKane (Eugene Pallette) would certainly give a lot to know Keefer whereabouts…

One day however Ben Ragan wanders into the swamps, looking for his old, loyal but a little bit silly dog Trouble. He does it even if his father forbid him to do it and two local bullies, Bud Dorson (Guinn Williams) and Tim Dorson (Ward Bond), mock him publicly, warning that he will never come back. Ben's entering the Okefenokee will set in motion a dramatic chain of events and at that moment the film really begins…

This is a short film (88 minutes) but incredibly well organised and managed - the description above, a kind of entrance of artists, covers like first five minutes! Jean Renoir was already a great master of cinema when he began his Hollywood adventure and it is immediately visible in "Swamp Water". The perfectly rhythmed, perfectly organised story, with pace of events successively accelerating and decelerating according to needs, is just a sheer pleasure to watch. The story is interesting, we care for (almost) all characters, there are twists and surprises, there is a good mixture of heartbreak and joy, etc. etc.

Tons of talent are present in this film. Dana Andrews and Anne Baxter were destined to make great careers and in this film they SHINE! Barely 18 years old Anne Baxter is especially impressive, in her only fourth role in cinema (but to be fair, she already played theatre, since she was 13). Many other great actors appear here, many already experienced veterans, like Walter Huston, who just before this film was the Devil in the amazing "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and Walter Brennan, who today is mostly remembered for one of his last roles, the amazing performance as Stumpy in "Rio Bravo". John Carradine, aged 35 at that time, was also already a veteran, but he was going to keep acting until his death in 1988 - his last film opened posthumously, in 1990.

At 38 Ward Bond was also already a very experienced thespian and as we all know he was going to act in many more famous movies, until his very premature death from heart attack in 1960. Special mention goes to Eugene Pallette who plays the local sheriff – he is nowadays mostly remembered for his role of Friar Tuck in 1938 "Adventures of Robin Hood" but he also aced his comic roles in "The bride came C.O.D." and "Heaven can wait".

The treasures of this film are many. There is drama, romance, tragedy, tension, humour, betrayal, jealousy, stink eyes, two bonny lasses, romantic rivalry, a barn dance (followed by an unavoidable fistfight), a skull on a cross, doggies and last but not least, the Okefenoke Swamp itself, definitely a great place for a wilderness adventure of Dungeons and Dragons. There is also the local spake of deep rural Georgia, which is simply AWESOME…))) But the best thing is that Jean Renoir took a terminally American story and added a little bit of French touch, creating a uniquely tasty mix. I don't of course know if it was his intention, but for my personal taste there was a little bit of Maupassant naturalistic short stories about peasants in this film – and it added some good Beaujolais to "swamp water"...)))

This film is based on popular novel "Swamp Water" written in 1940 by Vereen M. Bell, a young officer of Us Navy, for whom writing was just a hobby but who sure knew how to spin a tale… Tragically, he died in World War II. During the famous battle of Samar ("the last stand of tin can sailors") on 25 October 1944 he served on escort carrier USS "Gambier Bay", which was sunk by Japanese battleships (including the super battleship "Yamato") and heavy cruisers. Bell survived the sinking and was rescued but succumbed to his wounds the next day. He was then barely 33 years old… A great talent was lost that day...

I LOVED this film and I will definitely keep the DVD for another viewing! A thing to see ABSOLUTELY! ENJOY!

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