Notice...

The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.


***SPOILER ALERT***
Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dust & Cannibals By Bruce I Schindler - Great Low-Tech SciFi From A South-Central Nebraska Indie Author

Dust and Cannibals by Bruce I Schindler (2012)

Not long ago, I was dragged to the Buffalo County Fair here in Kearney. I am not a big fan of going to the fair that is held in the late summer. It is always hot and miserable, and I don't really enjoy going to where there are a lot of other hot and miserable people who are all walking around looking at hot and miserable animals, not to mention the moldering food and wilting vegetables that are out on display after the judging has been done. But this year was a little different.  As I walked into one of the exhibit buildings, I saw a table with a book display and several people manning a booth behind the table. The banner above the display read Central Nebraska Writers Group.

At the tables were three people I now consider friends, and one other that I unfortunately did not get to know yet. I almost fell over when one of the authors, Mari Beck, recognized me from this blog! Another was Brooke Brouillette.  Both seemed very enthusiastic about science fiction and we discussed it at some length. I asked Mari if she writes scifi, she said that she had not yet, but she then directed me to a man sitting quietly at a table to my right and told me that is the guy I wanted to talk to.

I was invited to join the group. Again, surprised I said "really?" and was told that bloggers are considered writers too. I got a few of the details of what it means to be a member of the Writers Group, thanked everyone and moved on to the next table where I met the author of the object of this review, Mr. Bruce Schindler.

Bruce and his wife were quietly sitting at the table. I mentioned that the girls next door had sent me over and told me that he wrote scifi. Bruce then proceeded to tell me that he has written some fantasy. He talked briefly about his fantasy works and then told me that his Dust and Cannibals is the first of a series of post-apocalyptic cowboy (I am pretty sure he did use the term 'cowboy') novels. Two things immediately flashed in my mind; first was that film from a few years ago, "Cowboys and Aliens," which I did, and still do enjoy, and second was Stephen King's Dark Tower series. I love a good post-apocalyptic story and made a note of the title to be read sometime in the near future.

I went home and immediately found the Facebook page for the Writers Group and sent friend requests to Mari, Brooke, and Bruce.

Well, on with the review of Dust and Cannibals...

This story centers mostly in and around the south-central area of Nebraska that is Harlan County. It is a place where there are some wide open spaces with numerous farms, ranches, small towns, and nice people that are pretty well laid back, but know how to take care of themselves when times get rough. Well, in the story, times have gotten quite a bit rougher than probably anyone could imagine when a chain of disasters hit on a global scale.

Solar flares, nuclear exchanges, earthquakes, volcanoes, and resulting tsunamis all lay waste to vital parts of the U.S. leaving the military in charge in many areas, and local law enforcement in others. Resources are dwindling to nothing, communication is almost nonexistent, and martial law has become the law of the land. With chaos all around, Lyle and Adeline Lillard are pretty self sufficient on their small ranch outside the town of Alma, but there are a few items that they will need in order to weather the storm. Lyle knows that something bad has happened, but is not aware of the scale, so he decides to take a ride into Alma on a green-broke horse with a too small saddle.  On his way, he finds that he is being stalked by a group of cannibals who have taken up residence along a minimum maintenance road not far from his house.  It was probably a good thing that he chose the skittish, half trained horse for his journey, because that may have just saved his life. Upon reaching Alma, he finds that rationing of everything is in full force.

It is only after a couple of strangers arrive on the scene, former soldiers Josh and Mark who have survived and managed to make their way to Harlan County all the way from Afghanistan that Lyle, freshly deputized to take care of the north end of the county, learns of the extent of the destruction and that it is indeed going to be a long term, maybe a lifelong situation. Lyle takes it upon himself to try to bring the people of the county together for the common good, helping others use their talents to make the best of a seemingly hopeless situation.

Lyle and his neighbors soon learn that the cannibals, under the leadership of an imbecile and a former petty criminal, are the least of their worries, because next arrives the Dust. A chemical agent created as a chemical weapon that falls into the hands of terrorists operating in and around Colorado that seem to have a bent on killing everyone that might pose a threat to them.

Dust and Cannibals is a low-tech science fiction story that focuses mainly on the people of Harlan County working together to survive in a situation that find most of us completely unprepared. It is their isolation in a rural area that helps them avoid the problems that come up, but their spirit and sense of loyalty to one another also brings them together to do what the people of Nebraska are best at, that is taking care of each other in times of need.  Everyone in this story that are residents use their unique talents to contribute to the whole community as they band together to figure out the problem and come up with a solution. Yes, strangers are welcome, but only so long as they are willing to work and make a viable contribution. This is the single strongest part of this novel. If you want to learn what the people of rural Nebraska are like, here is a perfect case study.

Another strong point is how well Bruce has hit on a plausible chain reaction of disasters in what he told me was this alternate reality (which I hope continues to stay alternate). At first, it seemed somewhat far fetched to think that this many things could go wrong all at the same time, but after giving it more thought, it became clear that everything could begin with a solar flare that knocks out communications and power grids next leading to misunderstandings and a nuclear exchange between nations that have already unsteady relationships. Throw in with that several earthquake faults that are described as "overdue" for activity and the result would be catastrophic for a large number of people in many locales. It is all a little scary.

That brings me to the most compelling aspect of Dust and Cannibals, that is just how scary and somewhat depressing it was for me. The first thing that comes to mind is how ill prepared a huge number of us are. We all rely on the internet for so much, electricity, fossil fuels, and have become very, very comfortable with our lives. we can just take a quick jaunt to the store for whatever we want or need at a moment's notice and if something is forgotten, it isn't a problem to just go back because we know that whatever we want is there. We complain and take personally almost every minor inconvenience we run into, no matter how small, and then make these problems into major disasters, blasting rants onto the social media that we have come to rely upon for a sympathetic ear. We lounge in our air conditioned/central heated homes in the inclement weather and watch the world go by. Every now and then, we see that a city on the other side of the world is destroyed and that there are hundreds dead and injured, and we say, that's too bad. I know that I, for one, am probably too comfortable and not anywhere near prepared enough for even the most minor disaster.  Bruce's book gave me pause to think about that.

As I became immersed in the story, I found myself wondering where I was during all of this? Where was my family? My friends? I know and work with many people who have cabins on the Harlan County Reservoir. Many of them are people that I care a great deal about. This story not only entertained me, but touched me on a personal level probably because to is set so close to home. Where I live, the locations that Bruce points out in the story are all within a 90 minute drive. I have been to many of the places he mentions in the book. I found myself becoming very uncomfortable with what I read. For me at least, Bruce not only wrote a very entertaining story, but a thought provoking one.

In any case, I highly recommend this book as one that is a good low tech scifi yarn that might also get you thinking too. While the writing style is not the same as Stephen King, I found that there were several aspects in the writing that made me think of that master of horror, somewhat reminiscent of the Dark Tower series as well as other stories he has written. If there is anything that I would have liked to seen added to the book, it would have to be a map of Harlan County to help put into perspective how far distances can become when conventional modes of transportation are no longer viable.

Dust and Cannibals is not Bruce's only work. He also offers the sequel to this novel titled Mud and Horizons. He has also penned an Urban Fantasy novel, Touch Stones, as well as a genealogical Fantasy story The LaGrange Legacy. His works are all available from SmashWords, Amazon.com (in both print format and as an e-book), and by special order from any bookstore. If you live here in the Kearney area, go to the Sequel Bookshop here in town. Finally, you can get order your books directly from him by e-mailing him at bruceschindler@gtmc.net or from his Facebook author page.

If you want to learn more about Bruce Schindler and his work, Facebook seems is one way to go, or you can read what he writes about himself...

"There is a place so exotic and remote, the Marrakesh Express gets nowhere near it. Even in Kathmandu, this place seems a world away. Its inhabitants call it Harlan County, and describe it as being in South-Central Nebraska.

Many people get within a few miles of it, but fly over it without knowing. Others drive past or even through, and have no idea anything just happened. This is because of a magical veil. It is impervious to the most sophisticated equipment, and makes most people choose not to see.

In Harlan County, the distance between this reality and every other reality is very thin. Some of the inhabitants cross over routinely, and come back with strange tales, spun as though they are the same world as ours.

When I was young, I listened while they told those stories around the fire. The tales were long and involved, and I probably nodded off from time to time. Because of that, some details are a bit fuzzy, but I pass along the stories as faithfully as I can.

I came to Harlan County for love, and found it. I got much more, finding a friend, a muse, and a goddess. That alone was more than enough, but more blessings came: horses waiting impatiently for more hay and a macaw loudly demanding pizza. There is also our ShihTsu, a psychic dog who projects her thoughts, making me do as she wishes.

Life before Harlan County now seems less real than all other realities about which I write. My main indicator about the real world comes when the horses, macaw, and dog make their needs known.

In this, the real world, I find pleasure in sharing these stories. Since there is no way to give escorted tours, they say I must call them fiction - science fiction. You and I know they are real."

Well, there it is...


QaplaH!

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Frigate Victory Short Story Collection Volume 1 by Robert Collins - A Review & Introduction To Some Good Short Stories

The Frigate Victory Collection Volume 1 by Robert Collins

Two years ago at OSFest 6, I met author Robert Collins while he was manning his table in the dealer’s room.  I stopped briefly at that time and visited for a few minutes and told him that I would read his stuff.  With the possibility of meeting Robert again, I decided to be sure that I did indeed read at least one of his works before OSFEst 8.

The Frigate Victory Collection Volume 1 is the first of a series of short story collections by Robert Collins.  The rest of the series consists of two more short story collections and a novel.  In the first volume, there are thirteen short stories that all can be easily read in a single sitting.  I took a bit longer to get through them, but still enjoyed them a great deal.

One impression I got from reading these stories is that the author is not one for wasting words. his stories in this volume are concise snapshots of life aboard and involving the crew of the TFF Victory Under the command of the very clever and thoughtful Captain Jason Ayers (TFF is for Terran Federal Fleet).  For instance, the very first story in the book introduces Ayers as he begins his tenure as commander and some of his crew, especially his by-the-book first officer Nina Riggio.  This first story demonstrates how creative Ayers is and how he deals with a situation that is intended to test his ship, but instead winds up testing him in an exercise involving another ship. His solution to the problem of the opposing commander trying to gain an unfair advantage not only shows the ability of Ayers to think his way out of a situation, but it also shows his character as an officer.

My favorite story from the collection is one that is in the middle of the book.  It is titled An Unconventional Little War.

Warning ***SPOILERS AHEAD***

In this story, Captain Ayers announces that the entire crew will be taking shore leave.  When everyone leaves the ship, a group of terrorists from the "Army of the First Day" take over the Victory and manage to leave the area making two jumps. Their destination is an uninhabited star system. Captain Ayers is the only member of the Victory crew aboard for some reason. He takes out some of the intruders but it seems as though they are waiting for something.  Soon, the intruders see another ship approaching and they reveal that their intentions are to sell the ship, but they believe that since Ayers is on board, they can also sell him and make ever more money.  Ayers has other plans though. As the other ship draws near, Ayers manages to launch missiles and destroy it.  Not to be outdone, the intruders have a case with a bomb in it and they set it to detonate as they leave the Victory in an escape pod. They are pretty smug until Ayers teleports the bomb onto the escape pod just before it detonates.

As I mentioned before, I had the opportunity to meet and interview the author at OSFest 8.  We had a really nice visit and I learned a lot about his writing. Before he began writing his own material, he worked writing fan fiction, mostly in the universes of Dr. Who and also a little Star trek.  His goal with the Frigate Victory series was to write space opera in much the same vein as Star Trek, but he wanted his work to be grounded more in reality.  His Frigate Victory stories are very high tech employing faster than light travel, teleportation, and advanced weapons.  The Victory is a smaller ship that travels between star systems representing the Terran Federal Fleet. In space, according to Collins, the Victory works as a police force as systems deal with each other and as humans have relationships with alien races.  When the crew of the Victory is at a planet, their job is to assist the local governments as much as possible.  Much of the space that the Victory patrols is well established and settled, but there are a few places that are experiencing growing pains as colonies work to become established.  Robert said that in Later volumes, alien races play a more prominent role, and that they see humans as dangerous because they have moved out into the galaxy with so much success.  Some of the stories that I read from Volume 1 dealt with legal issues, which prompted me to ask Robert if he had studied law, to which he replied that he had not, so I can only assume that the author is very diligent as he does his research for a story.

I asked Robert to tell me a little about the main Character, Captain Jason Ayers.  He explained that Ayers was raised on the planet inhabited by an alien race known as the Grazhochi, and he understands technology very well.  Ayers is an officer who has a lot of experience because he came to command by rising through the ranks.  Collins describes him as having a good mind and he prefers to think through a situation before he acts. He loves history and probably uses that knowledge to help him resolve situations.

The Frigate Victory series is not the only work that Collins has produced.  He has also branched out to do a more humorous take on Sci-Fi in his Jake Bonner series.  Robert describes this work a series of short stories, novellas, and a novel in which Bonner’s “universe projects forward from today” in much the same was as The Hitchhiker’s Guide. There are also five, character centric more low-tech sci-fi stories found in his Lisa Herbert stories.  Lisa is a character who is “Interested in traveling to establish trade.”

Mr. Collins is currently working on some work in which he has moved from Sci-Fi to fantasy in his defender series which he says is “taking on a life of its own.”

I did enjoy this first look into the work of Robert Collins and am looking forward to reading more of his work.  If you would like to see for yourself, you may get a sneak peak of the first story in Volume 1 in its entirety by clicking HERE. Also should you be interested in learning more about Robert Collins and his work, follow the link below.  He told me that his blog is probably the best starting place to learn more. Robert can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@robertLcollins), Wattpad, Tumbler, Goodreads, and Google+




Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Weekend At OSFest 8

"As One" by Arden Ellen Nixon
OSFest 8 - The Darkness Within - July 31-August 2, 2015

This past weekend was the eighth annual Omaha Science Fiction Education Society’s convention more commonly known as OSFest 8. Attending this convention is something I look forward to all year and this year, as in years past, I had a great time.  This year was especially fun because I was able to be involved more than I have in past years thanks to my friends of the IKV Raptor's Heart crew. My weekend was balanced between serving on panels and just being a spectator.  I was constantly busy and didn't have a minute to be bored.

Chrissy, Diane and I decided to head out a day early for a stop at the Strategic Air Command Museum in Ashland, Nebraska.  We had not been there is quite a few years and it was great to see how it has grown since I was last there, I think about seven years ago. They have added many new items and exhibits and I would recommend, especially if you are a military history buff, that you consider stopping there. Make sure that you have at least a few hours to spend to take everything in.

We stayed the night in Bellevue and headed into Omaha. The Klingons has asked for assistance with setting up for their very ambitious weekend, and I wanted to be involved, so I wanted to arrive early. I was not disappointed as I was put to work right away setting up displays.

One of the first panels on the program was the Dune Discussion panel hosted by John Shoberg, Pat Kennedy and me. We talked about the history and culture of the Fremen from that universe and the audience participation was very good.  As the discussion progressed, we talked about the Fremen in the books and films and the question came up about whether anyone would ever be able to make a really good film depicting Frank Herbert's creation. It was a great way to kick off the convention. If deemed worthy by my Dune Saga Podcast partners, the audio portion of this podcast will appear on our programming.

Even while the Dune panel was taking place, there was the first of the Klingon activities happening in another room. Trudy Myers was hosting a Klingon Pin Workshop, and thank goodness, it was a two hour event, so I was able to get in on it before it was over. The purpose was to take a blank pin and paint it to look authentic. I am no artist, so my effort fell a little short, but I did get to visit with Trudy for quite some time and that was even more fun than the painting.  As the panel was ending, Trudy gave me a few more blanks to go along with the ones that John had already given me and encouraged me to try again when time is not a factor.  I'm not giving up.

I also got to see a little bit of the Star Wars Match game taking place in the main gathering area. I have participated in this game before and it is quite fun.  It was nice to hear all of the creative answers to finish phrases that the host, Gene Ray Burn was throwing out. I wish I could have been more than one place at a time.

As always, the best part of attending a convention is visiting with friends and making new ones.  I had already had my dinner when Patrick Kennedy invited me to join his family, but I joined him anyway and had a cup of coffee while I visited with Pat and the Artist Guest Of Honor, Arden Ellen Nixon.

Following the opening ceremonies, I attended the Great Tribble Hunt, which turned out to be a game of Tribble dodge ball.  I had intended to participate, but when I saw that it was mostly kids playing, I decided to stand aside; they move way too fast for me.  A couple of the adults did get involved, and I managed to get my hands on a couple of tribbles that went astray, but my aim is not good anymore and I didn't hit anyone.  It was fun to watch the kids run around and expend some pent up energy at the end of the day.

By the end of the Tribble Hunt, it was time to visit with friends at the room parties. I wish to say congratulations to John Shoberg and Trudy Myers on the publication of their books, and thanks for the cake and conversation.

The next morning, I was up early, so I secured a large cup of coffee and sat down to read for a while and waited for things to get started. It wasn't long before my good friend Troy Rutter arrived and along with my family, we had a nice breakfast and visit together. Soon after breakfast, I helped Troy set up his display of a costume from the movie Ender's Game. He managed to acquire the exercise suit from the training scenes that was actually worn by the character Bean, as portrayed by Aramis Knight.

The first panel I attended and participated on was the Babylon 5 Fan Gathering. This was hosted by resident B5 expert Mitch Obrecht and along with myself, included Troy. Mitch kicked off the panel by trying to lead a talk about the possible Babylon 5 film that has been talked about on social media.  Somewhere along the line, the subject swerved off the topic and became a discussion about the economics of TV/movies and especially the recent Sharknado. I am not sure where the panel went off the rails, but there seems to be quite a lot of passion about the SyFy series depicting sharks being lifted into the air by tornadoes and subsequently dropped on our country's major cities.

At this point, I decided to take a walk through the vendor's room and visit with friends there.

Next up was lunch with the IKV Raptor's Heart crew. Their presentation, Dining On Qo'noS included some delicious culinary selections that while may have looked like normal Terran fare, were a very welcome change to the usual restaurant food. Everything was home made and prepared with great care to not only taste good, but looked good too. If you are reading this, thanks to you, Sharon and crew for a good meal and fellowship.

I really had to wolf down lunch quickly to attend Troy's Babylon 5 On The Web panel in the next room. Babylon 5 was one of the very first television series to have a presence on the internet thanks to the efforts of Troy Rutter.  Much of what he did has become an industry standard for promoting and maintaining a fan base for almost every genre television production available today. Troy explained that while in college in Iowa, he worked with others to create websites that gained the attention of the creator of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski who invited Troy to visit the show's location in California. As he tells it, he didn't waste anytime getting a plane ticket the very next day.  He was soon offered a position on creating and running the web activities of the show. Even though I had heard a few of the stories before, I still had a lot of fun listening to the ones I had heard before, and to hear new ones.

With nothing happening that I was involved in, I decided to take a stroll through the dealer's room and art display. I picked up a couple of CD's and a book that will come in handy for the Babylon Project Podcast that I am a co-host on. I also put in my bid on some art for Chrissy and me.  She found two ink drawings from Star Wars and the price was right. I choose one of Patrick Kennedy's Dune prints.  I also visited with Bruce Schindler, a local author that I met at the Buffalo County Fair who writes science fiction with an interesting twist; post apocalyptic western stories. I stopped and visited with Robert Collins, another author of scifi and fantasy, and arranged an interview to discuss a collection of short stories I finished last week from the Frigate Victory series.

The restaurant at the venue closes between services, so while my family, Troy, and I waited to get in for the taco buffet they were offering, I was approached by John who opened our conversation with a question, "Do you think we can get you into (Klingon) uniform next year?", to which I replied in the affirmative.  John then proceeded to tell me that a couple would like to renew their wedding vows at next year's OSFest, and he told me that he would like me to participate as a member of the wedding party! I was floored, to say the least. I agreed, after recovering from mild shock. So, I guess I will be building a Klingon uniform. Thank goodness I have almost a year to worry about that and a wife that knows how to sew.

After dinner, I wandered around admiring the costumes and took a few pictures.

I attended another panel with Troy on collecting autographs, a hobby of his.  Unfortunately, there were only two of us that attended, but we got a lot of interesting information and ideas for those that collect autographs. Troy's specialty is collecting autographs through the mail. He talked about how to tell if that type of autograph is authentic or not. He further explained that there are those celebrities that do indeed sign their own, some that have a secretary sign them, and even some who have a machine that will do it for them.  I learned that I am an IP'er, or someone who prefers to collect autographs in person.

The next panel I served on was called Legends Lost where I joined John Shoberg, Matt McKeever, Dennis Lynch, and Author Guest Of Honor Matt Rotundo where we discussed our thoughts and memories of Leonard Nimoy and Christopher Lee. What I expected would be a tearful remembrance of two of our icons actually turned out to be a fun and light hearted discussion with some good audience participation, and for me, a learning experience.  I was sorry to admit that I didn't know a great deal about Mr. Lee beyond my exposure to him as Dracula and Count Dooku. As John pointed out to me later, a panelist should not only contribute to a conversation, but should also take something away.

After the panel, Troy and I hung out and visited about films, television, and I took a closer look at the autograph collection. It is extensive and distinguished and he personally knows many of the people he has signatures from. Troy is a truly interesting man and has many fun stories to share. Along with that, he mixes up a very good Jovian Sunspot.

On the last day of the con, I was all set to attend a session on the Klingon art of Mok'bara, which is really Tai Chi.  I have always been interested in learning more about it, and figured that this would be a great opportunity, when suddenly the facilities' fire alarm sounded! As if the convention weren't exciting enough. Apparently, while moving one of the retractable walls by the dealer's area, a fire sprinkler was bumped and a weakened pipe burst causing water to be sprayed from the ceiling! Immediately, a bunch of people rushed in and helped with the situation until the Omaha Fire Department arrived. Fortunately, the water sprayed on the floor and beyond that, there was no other property damage. Within a half an hour, the situation was resolved and I and a few others learned about Tai Chi and where to find further information.

From there, I was privileged to co-host a panel on Star Trek Philosophy. Along with Matt McKeever, a very intelligent and thoughtful man, we began discussing Gene Roddenberry's vision of a utopian future exploring the galaxy encountering other races and interacting with them. In a sort of "good cop/bad cop" way, I took a more pessimistic track than Matt did and I think I might have derailed the topic when I asked if we, as a species, would be able to transcend above our nature. From there, the discussion turned to more of an economic and the want/need for material goods as well as other topics.  It was a spirited conversation and most of the audience got involved.

The last event of the day that I participated in was Klingon Jeopardy.  I not only participated, I was permitted to be the MC. The motto was "come for the chocolate, stay for the pain."  So, as is done on the show, the MC presents the answer and the contestant has to provide the question. So I might say, "a very young Clint Howard guest starred on this Original Series episode."  The correct response would be, "what is The Corbomite Maneuver."  If the contestant gets it right, then they get a piece of chocolate, but if they get it wrong, they get poked with a pain stick (which consists of a hand-shake buzzer on the end of a broom handle).  This was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed presenting the questions and acting silly for an hour.

By the end of that, I was pretty well conned out and ready to hit the road for the three hour ride home.

There was so much to do and see this year at OSFest 8. With over 90 panels, workshops, author readings, and activities, not to mention the room parties there was definitely no lack of programming. The only problem with this was that I wished I could be in more than one place at a time.

One of the best things about being at most any convention is to meet up with people you only get to see once a year, and to meet and make new friends. I did manage to sit down and just visit with friends for a while a couple of times and share stories, information, and laughs. I again would like to compliment and show my appreciation to the officers of the IKV Raptor's Heart for making me feel very welcome and for the huge effort they made to make this event a success. They were everywhere doing whatever they could to provide everyone who chose to participate a great time.  I would also like to thank James "Hawk" Hawkswell and the rest of the staff for their courtesy and professionalism. Everyone was very friendly and accommodating and did their part to make this a fun experience for everyone.

So now I begin looking forward to OSFest 9. I better get started making that Klingon uniform.

Darth Vader Force Choking Hawk.

Hawk's Revenge



IKV Raptor's Heart Display

More Klingon Swag

Troy's Display Of The Exercise Suit Worn By Bean In Ender's Game

Batman & Starlord With Their Kids



Star Trek Philosophy Panel

John Stands By With The Pain, Sharon With The Chocolate, I Read The Questions

If You Answer Wrong, You Get The Pain Stick



Sharon Dealing With An Unruly Contestant

Well, there it is...

QaplaH!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

ANT-MAN - My Review Of What I Think Is An Excellent Superhero Film - Entertaining and Fun

ANT-MAN - 2015

A while back, I heard that Marvel Studios was considering making a film that I wanted to see. It was supposed to be about the Avenger member Black Panther.  I was very excited about that because he was one of my favorite characters when I read comic books. Then the announcement came that they were actually going to make Ant-Man.  “Lame” I thought.  I had read a few Ant-Man comics, but didn’t care too much for them, and wondered who would want to see a movie about that?  Then I saw the trailer for the film and thought that it didn’t look too bad and decided to give it a look.

So, this afternoon, Diane, Chrissy and I headed to the theater to see what it was all about and I am here to say that I very much liked this film.

The film opens in 1989 with Dr. Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man) resigning from S.H.I.E.L.D. because they were apparently attempting to replicate his shrinking technology Pym tells the S.H.I.E.L.D. leaders that he will hide what he knows until the day he dies and walks out.

In the present day, Pym’s former protégé, Darren Cross,along with Pym’s estranged daughter, Hope, have forced Pym out of control of his company. Working on what he has learned from Pym, Cross is getting very close to perfecting the shrinking technology. Cross has built a shrinking suit that he calls the Yellowjacket, and continues to test methods to make it work.

Meanwhile, a former thief, Scott Lang, is being released from prison. He moves in with his former cell mate Luis and tries to secure gainful employment (no easy task for an ex convict) so he can begin to help support his daughter and be a part of her life. When Scott goes to his daughter’s birthday party, he is told that he may not have visitation rights until he has an apartment, a job, and begins providing support. Dejected at not finding work and not begin able to see his daughter decides to perform a burglary that is suggested by Luis.

Scott, Luis, along with two others go to a house, disable the alarms, and crack a safe.  There isn’t much in the safe except what Scott thinks is an old motorcycle suit, which he takes back to Luis’ apartment. Later, he tries on the suit and to his surprise, when he presses one of the buttons, he is reduced to the size of an insect which takes him on a journey that terrifies him. All the while, Scott hears Pym’s voice as he goes on his adventure. Scott decides to break into the house again to return the suit. Upon exiting the house, Scott is arrested.

Posing as his lawyer, Pym smuggles the suit into Scott’s cell, with the help of some ants, and helps Scott escape from Jail.

Scott and Pym meet face to face where Scott learns that he has been manipulated into becoming Ant-Man to help Pym stop Cross from completing development of the Yellowjacket suit by stealing it. Scott reluctantly agrees and is trained how to fight and control ants by Hope.

Scott’s first task is to go to Avengers’ headquarters and steal a small device. But what should have been an easy task gets a little harder when Sam Wilson (Falcon) enters the picture. Scott and Sam fight, but Scott finally gets the upper hand when he shrinks down and gets into the workings of the Falcon’s wings.

We learn next that the reason for Hope’s estrangement is that Pym has never told her the complete truth about her mother’s, Janet’s death. Finally, Pym tells him how her mother and he were on a mission to stop a nuclear missile from striking the United States. Janet (Wasp) shrunk herself to get inside the workings of the missile, but to do this she had to enter the Subatomic Quantum Realm, so after she managed to stop the weapon, she continued to shrink and was lost to this world. Pym also warns Scott that the same could happen to him if he improperly makes adjustments to the Ant-Man suit.

So, Cross finally perfects the Yellowjacket suit, and invites Pym to it’s unveiling.  At the same time, Scott, Luis, and their crew break into the building with the intention of stealing the Yellowjacket suit, but Cross is one step ahead and traps Scott and tells everyone present that he intends to sell HYDRA both the Ant-Man and Yellowjacket suits.  Scott manages to break free though, and dispatches most of the HYDRA agents, but one gets away with a vial of material used in the shrinking suit technology. Meanwhile, Cross escapes, explosives planted in the building detonate and is vaporized.

Cross puts on the Yellowjacket suit, he and Scott fight but it is cut short when Scott is once again arrested. When a call comes over the radio that there is trouble at the home where Scott’s daughter lives.  When he arrives, he finds that Cross has taken his daughter hostage.  Scott and Cross fight again, but this time, Scott enters the Quantum Realm, get’s inside of the Yellowjacket suit, and destroys it and cross.  As Scott continues to shrink, he realizes that he can manipulate the workings of the suit and manages to return to the normal realm

Later, Scott is told that Sam Wilson is looking for him.

In the first of two Easter Eggs, Pym shows Hope a Wasp suit that will be hers when completed.  In the second scene, Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers are holding Bucky Barnes in custody.

At the end of the credits, it is announced that “Ant-Man Will Return.”

I thought the main characters for the most part were well written. Hank Pym was awesome as played by Michael Douglas who looks to be in great shape and ready for a return in the sequel. His performance alone was worth the price of admission. The same can also be said for Paul Rudd as Scott/Ant-Man.  He was someone that I found myself caring about and felt invested in seeing him be successful.  I didn’t like the Cross character, but we aren’t supposed to, because he is the bad guy.  His part was understated somewhat, and also underdeveloped and I didn’t get the feeling that I knew exactly why i didn’t like him, beyond the fact that he was the bad guy.  One area that Marvel has been catching a lot of heat on is the handling of their female characters, or lack of handling, as in the case of this film. I didn’t feel any sympathy at all for Hope or her plight.  She was a very one dimensional character and the highpoint of her part in the plot was in teaching Scott how to fight. I think that Marvel has to do a better job with their female roles, or they are going to lose the market to comic book fans.

One of the best aspects of Ant-Man was the incorporation of humor throughout the movie.  It was always appropriate to the plot and worked well, adding to the story.  And what a story.  While we get an origin/reboot of the Ant-Man character, we also get a comedic heist kind of film where everything goes wrong, despite the best efforts of the crooks, who are really nice guys who are just a little bad. The plot was very engaging for the most part, but I did get the feeling at times that the exposition of the film was just a bit draggy, which turned around as soon as Scott donned the Ant-Man suit.

Also impressive were the action sequences in the film. In some of the Marvel films, I have thought that the action was too fast, and often filmed too close to get the full effect of the fight scenes.  That was not the case here.  I don’t feel like I have to go and see the movie again to get a better look at the action, which I appreciate.

One of my favorite parts of the film was the scenery that was used from San Francisco! Those were some great shots and I wish they had put more of those to use in the film.

Overall, I would have to say that Ant-Man isn’t a great film when comparing to the scope of other Marvel films such as Avengers, but it is a solid piece of entertainment that was fun to watch.  It was mostly well acted, well directed, beautifully filmed and edited.  Well worth the price of a matinee admission.  It’s just a good popcorn movie.

 Well, there it is…

Qaplah!