Friday, May 30, 2008

Don't Taze Me Bro

I've been thinking flying saucers. I can't help it. It's that time of year...silly season. If it weren't for the political stuff, the news services would be singing with offbeat news stories such as the latest bigfoot sighting, the three legged boy engaged to the latest ex-Disney starlet, the fossil found in Tunesia that proves once and for all the Keith Richards is immortal.
But back to flying saucers, the staple of 50's "B" science fiction films and the bane of lonely trailer parks across the continent. I was driving to work today listening to a man on the radio testifiy that he had witnessed something called an extraterrestrial "dragonfly drone". Here is a picture of the thing I've scavenged from the net:

Apparently two investigators are trying to track down the person who took these pictures and posted them on the net. The two men are trying to locate the pole in the picture and believe that once they do, they can find the man. Good luck. If you want to follow this link, you can see them being interviewed on Fake...er...Fox news.

It's been called the dragonfly drone because apparently that's how it was sited by the witness on the radio, moving across the water silently, zipping in straight bursts without disturbing the surface.

Okay, I know..it's silly season. You say you want a different sort of flying saucer? One you can get your hands on? The French are putting out a Taser Flying Saucer. Yep, a drone that will be able to fly into a crowd of people and offer up a shocking experience. Reminds me of a scene from "1984" or perhaps those police droids from "Minority Report". With the number of unmanned spy vehicles that have been used in the Middle Eastern conflict, it's not hard to imagine the eventual evolution of unmanned flying devices used to quell riots by spraying tear gas or some other chemical from overhead.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Hope You Don't Mind If I Have a Private Moment...

This has been an interesting week. To say the least. I mentioned, a couple of posts ago, that I have been potty training my son and that, at 4 1/2, he is a bit late in his training. I love my son, more than words can say, but I have not been blind to the fact that he hasn't been on the same track developmentally as most kids his age. I have brought it up, from time-to-time, with his pediatrician and was usually told that I was "over-comparing" him to other kids. I knew better than to accept that from the pediatrician, but I let it lie for awhile. I didn't want to deal with the elephant in the room that most parents don't want to deal with. Autism. This word carries so much weight these days. We hear about it a lot. We hear that the numbers are on the rise and we hear about celebrities like Jenny McCarthy that they too have kids with Autism. God bless Jenny McCarthy. At first I denied that my son could have Autism because he seemed to function so much better than the stereotypical Autistic child. I remember watching "Rainman" and thinking the sort of idiot-savant that Dustin Hoffman played was what Autism was all about. That can't be my son I thought, my son hugs me, he tells me he loves me. He comes running to me when I come home from the store with a loud "Mom!" and a big hug. How could this child have Autism? And then a funny thing happened. I started reading about it and I discovered a neurological disorder on the Autism spectrum called Asperger's Syndrome. And an even funnier thing happened. I realized that not only does my son have virtually all the criteria that would garner him a diagnosis as having Asperger's, I do as well. I've always felt like a square-peg in a round-hole world, but I always found things to blame it on. I was adopted. I went to 11 different schools from kindergarten through 12 grade. Of course I was socially awkward. But the thing is, even in a safe environment, away from social situations that can leave me in a horrible state of anxiety, I'm still not what you might think of as normal. I look normal. I can pass for normal. I can hold a job and go to parent-teacher conferences relatively well. But if you and I were having a face to face conversation, I would have to force myself to look into your eyes. I do this because it's what I've come to believe is expected of me in social situations but I don't "get" why I should do it. My son is the same way. When I go to a party with my husband I really get stressed out. I've never been able to read people very well. I tend to run on conversationally and have a one track mind that is staggering in it's focus. I cannot go-with-the-flow conversationally because my mind will stay on whatever track I started on and will not shift gears unless I make a conscious effort to do so. I tend to be blunt but think of myself as "honest." I don't mean to hurt other people's feelings but since I am not naturally tactful I do sometimes. I don't like to be touched (which drives my husband crazy) and can't stand loud noises of any kind. If I'm in a room full of people I will go into sensory overload and have to leave to spend time by myself. I usually stay up late every night just to be alone. I could go on and on but I think I would bore you. The point of all this is that despite my personal diagnosis of Asperger's, I've managed to do okay. I have been with my husband for 13 years despite my social retardation. Most people would never, ever, dream that I suffer from a form of Autism. Thank goodness. In a weird way I'm glad I have Asperger's. I would prefer that my son didn't have it, but since he does I think I am uniquely qualified to help him navigate through a world he won't understand. I can't give him enlightenment, but I can give him a few coping mechanisms. I would prefer that I didn't have this genetic mutation to pass on to my child (Asperger's generally runs in families and often the adult sufferer will be diagnosed at the same time as the child) but I can't help what has already happened. The one thing that gives me hope is now I know why I am the way I am. I now know why I have a hard time relating to people and prefer the companionship I find among the blogging community. I don't need to read facial expressions here. All I have to do is read the words on a page and I can do that. I can also stand as an example to my son. I can say to him, I graduated college. I got married and had kids. I know how to love even if I don't know how to express it. I know what it is to be you, and you're going to be just fine..... For more information on Asperger's Syndrome, THIS is an excellent place to start.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Suspension of Disbelief

I just got done watching National Treasure: Book of Secrets and thought it was a fun rental. But the one thing I really got from this movie is that to enjoy certain films, you have to really be willing to give in to the Suspension of Disbelief.

This isn't news to anyone who is a fan of science fiction or fantasy. But I do wonder how far we should allow ourselves to go, though there are certainly no hard and fast rules when it comes to what we like in our entertainment. I talked about this a little bit in my post about Deus Ex Machina. But suspension of disbelief is essential not only when Deus Ex Machina comes into play but throughout the spectrum of sci-fi/fantasy.

And in a way it bothers me a little bit. Okay. Not much. But a little.

Here's why. "National Treasure" was fun, but there were so many "oh-come-on" moments. I like the idea of an Indiana Jones type story and the puzzle solving that goes along with it, but I also appreciate it when movie makers at least attempt to stick to the laws of physics. Without giving too much away, let me just say that I doubt a lever, set in stone for centuries, would give with just slight pressure and trigger an opening in a mountain with very little fuss. Or maybe it's just me.

But I don't want to belabour "National Treasure" too much. It is, by no means, the only movie guilty of going over the top.

I tried to watch Shoot 'Em Up, with Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti and Monica Bellucci a couple of months ago, and holy cow! That's a movie that expects a lot of an audience. I can't fully comment on this movie because the violence eventually drove me from the room, but when a man kills another man with a carrot, you gotta be willing to go with the flow don't you?

James Bond movies also require the audience to leave their preconceived notions at the door. (How do you like how I sneaked in a reason to post a Daniel Craig picture?) These movies are particularly easy to go along with because of the spy aspect. The little kid in all of us wants to believe that spies are not only superhuman, but that they have the gadgets to go with the occupation. I mean, who wouldn't want a dagger shoe or a garrote watch? I don't know for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that the Bond character is also responsible for many of the spy characters that I've come to love--from Jason Bourne to Austin Powers.

Any film set in space certainly depends on suspension of disbelief too. "Star Trek" most notably set the stage for all sci-fi television and movies that came after. I've heard some people speculate that our cell phones of today were based on the Star Fleet communicators, though that's probably stretching suspension of disbelief too far to go along with that theory. But any movie set in space pretty much assumes that we will eventually achieve warp speed space travel and maybe we will. I'm no scientist so I have no idea how far-fetched the idea may be. I remember watching the original "Star Wars" and marveling at the idea of the stars streaking by as the Millennium Falcon shot through space, and now that image is completely intertwined with virtually any movie set in space. I've seen wormholes, black holes, event horizons and time travel and never questioned any of it.

I even watched Keanu Reeves stop a bullet once with his mind and I didn't walk out of the theatre. That's how good Hollywood is at making me believe whatever they want me to.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Back to my Roots

I finally got a chance to see "Iron Man" today (loooooooooved it. Why couldn't Jon Favreau have made "Fantastic Four?") Anyway, for some reason seeing Gwyneth Paltrow in vaguely red hair got me thinking about hair color of all things. It's a girl thing I'm sure. But you have to admit hair color has a lot with how we perceive other people. Blondes are often stereotyped as flighty, flirty and often dumb. Brunettes are typed as serious, smart and usually not the sex-kitten types. And redheads are often assumed to have personalities as fiery as their hair. I remember watching "Charlie's Angels" as a kid. Not the atrocity starring Drew Barrymore, but the original with Farrah Fawcett, Jacqueline Smith and Kate Jackson. Any little girl who grew up in the late 70's will tell you they played "Charlie's Angels." If they deny it, they're probably lying. And it's no surprise that all the little girls wanted to be Farrah. If you couldn't be Farrah you'd be Jacqueline but no one ever seemed to pick Kate as their first choice. I suppose one could argue that Farrah was the best looking and it's natural that little girls would want to be the pretty one. But as an adult I'd have to give the edge to Jacqueline. That's one beautiful woman. No, I really think it was the hair. Farrah's hair set the tone for a generation. I tried valiantly to get my hair to feather like Farrah, but to no avail. I've read that fewer than 10% of all blondes you see are in fact naturally blonde. This isn't too surprising, lord knows I've spent enough time bleaching my own hair. So the stereotype of the dumb blonde is rather silly when you think about it. We already know Marylin Monroe was born a brunette Norma Jean and her antics were more in the nature of playing a character in my opinion. I have no explanations for Paris Hilton or Jessica Simpson. Jayne Mansfield played the blonde sex kitten to the hilt, though Grace Kelley played it cool. And Madonna? Again, I have no explanation. I think I bleached my hair blonde for so long because I thought it would attract men. Seriously. And to an extent, it does. But are they attracted for the right reasons? Do men view blondes as marriage material as much as they would a brunette? Probably. Though I did meet my husband while I had dark hair. As I get older I seem to be wanting to go back to my roots, literally. I've recently gone back to my brown locks and I'm pretty content with it. I think I've reached the age when no one seems to really judge too harshly on hair color. I don't get asked to solve complex mathematical equations any more than I did when I was blonde. I went through some hair dye too. I went red for awhile, but that didn't feel right. Then I went reddish/brown and that was better. But I finally settled on just plain brown and it feels good. Go figure. It only took me 38 years to figure that out. I guess the point of all this rambling is how much something as silly as hair color can affect our image of people. When I see blondes like Gwyneth or Kirsten Dunst change their hair to red, I kind of cringe. Not very many people can wear fake red hair well. Maybe that's why so many of us brunettes go blonde. We all can't be Julianne Moore. But it seems like I didn't have as many brunettes to look up to when I was a kid. There was Lynda Carter, Jacqueline Smith and .......? I can't think of any. And looking on google is no help. I can get tons of blondes by searching but not many brunettes other than Angelina Jolie and Rachel Bilson show up-- and I didn't grow up with them. Oh wait, there was Cindy Crawford. Huh. No wonder I went blonde. At least my daughter has Angelina as a hot brunette role model. ((Odd bit of trivia. Blonde, spelled with an "e" used to be used to refer to women specifically while blond was used to refer to men. Now it is considered okay to use either spelling.))

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bringing in the Next Generation


I am currently going through potty training with my four-year-old son. Yes, I admit it. He's four. He should have been potty trained earlier but I truly believe he was not ready for it.

But then, we might not have been using the right bribes.

We decided to fully commit this week though. My son is getting too old (and too rough) for the little-kid area of our gym, so we had to finally just say no to diapers.

Thank God for Transformer toys.

I never really thought about how fantasy/sci-fi movies are a toy marketer's dream. But think about it. Every non-threatening (for the small children anyway) alien, space-ship and animated creature are bound to end up as a toy in your child's toy box.

I should know.

This week I am singing the praises of Bumblebee. For the few who haven't seen Transformers, Bumblebee is the yellow Camaro. And my son's all time favorite Transformer. In an attempt to encourage pee-peeing on the potty, I took my son to Target and bought the "Stealth Bumblebee" and told my son he could have it when he peed on the potty.

I have never seen such determination in a four-year-old. He was dying to get his hand on that toy. My son didn't really recognize the urge to pee, but by golly, he was going to figure it out. Every time we'd go to the potty and he couldn't go, he'd say his equipment "wasn't working." But once he started to feel like he had to go, he'd tell me it was "working now" and we'd go into the bathroom and try again. I think it must've taken 10 trips for him to succeed, but he got his Bumblebee.

Next, we moved on to "Speed Racer."

We haven't even seen the movie and we own "Speed Racer" toys. I have no interest in seeing "Speed Racer" and my son knows who Speed Racer and Racer X are. He knows the name of the Mach 5 and let me tell you, that toy was wonderful incentive to keep my child to on the potty.

But I have to say, before we even started potty training, the toys were taking over. We went to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago and my son, who has never seen any of the Indiana Jones movies, is already wanting Indiana Jones toys. And who can blame him? Have you seen the Indiana Jones Electronic Sound FX Whip? Heck, I want to get me one of those! I would have loooooved that as a kid.

And if it wasn't enough to market toys to our kids, they're marketing food now too. Have you ever seen the "fruit snacks" (I use the word "fruit" loosely here...) they're selling these days? If you don't have kids you may not know what "fruit snacks" are. They're little packaged bits of candy disguised as a "healthy" snack that may or may not have anything resembling fruit in them. But that's besides the point. They're shaped like your favorite characters from you favorite movies. They make Indiana Jones, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Cars and even Kung Fu Panda snacks. Yes, they even have the snacks before the movie comes out. I do not know of a child in my daughter's class who does not show up with fruit snacks in their lunch. It's in the rule book apparently. Oh and let's not forget the cereals. They also have a Kung Fu Panda cereal already and I'm sure we've bought every princess cereal at one time or another.

But you gotta hand it to the marketing gurus out there. They have it down cold. My house has everything from "Transformers" to "Pirates of the Caribbean" represented in their toy boxes and they can't wait to see "Kung Fu Panda."

At least my son will use the toilet now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Linkage

I haven't done any links in awhile so I think I'm overdue. The Fantasy Book Critic is always my favorite place to link. Right now he has a great review of Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk and many giveaways, including Tigerheart by Peter David, Kushiel's Mercy by Jaqueline Carey, The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowskis and A full set of the Death's Head novels by David Gunn. Pat's Fantasy Hotlist has a review of Ian Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard and a giveaway featuring Kull: Exile of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard. If you didn't know already, Tor Books now offers free downloads of great books. This week it's Starfish by Peter Watts and next week it's Touch of Evil by C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp. Neil Gaiman has a site up for The Graveyard Book. Slippery Brick has a fun list of 54 memorable sci-fi robots. Graeme's Fantasy Review has a copy of The Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams for giveaway. I just got this one to review and I'm looking forward to it. AND he just added a contest to win Scar Night by Alan Campbell. Jumpdrives and Cantrips has a review of Robert Heinlein's classic, Starship Troopers. The early reviews are in for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and they seem to be mostly positive. We knew this would be a sentimental favorite anyway. Christian Bale has signed on to make THREE more Terminator movies. Pinch me. i09 has an article about the 7 types of bad bosses and how Star Trek tells us how to survive them. Now go out there and win some free stuff and read some good articles!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Fame Bubble

Whenever I try to think of posts for my blog, I often muse on different fantasy & sci-fi topics. I'll often scan the news trying to find some sort of real-life story as a tie-in on my blog. Those are some of my favorites.

But I realized I have probably missed one of the most obvious fantasy tie-ins ever in my year-and-a-half of blogging.

The Fame Bubble.

That's right folks. If you haven't heard of The Fame Bubble, then you don't watch enough Kathy Griffin.

The Fame Bubble is a term that Kathy has given to the strange little fantasy world that celebrities live in. You know what I'm talking about. The world that somehow convinces celebrities that they can give their kids names like Apple or Banjo and somehow the fame they enjoy will insulate their children from all the insults any child of a lesser person would experience.

The Fame Bubble must be a happy place, don't you think?

Imagine for a minute if you got to live in The Fame Bubble............

You would never have to consort with the common rabble ever again. If you need new clothes, the store will shut down for you-- and probably give you most of your clothes for free! You want to to to Magic Mountain, they'll close the park for you so you never have to wait in line. (Just ask Mariah Carey) Never will you have to watch a movie that doesn't have a red carpet and an entourage-- at least as long as your Fame Bubble is big enough that is.

Having children in the Fame Bubble is a totally different experience than that of the rest of us plebes as well. Naturally every part of the pregnancy will be covered with appropriate reverence and if you're a first time mom, no problem; the doctors will be more than willing to schedule you a C-section so you don't have to go through any unnecessary pain, or messy labor. Of course, once your perfect child comes into the world, appropriately named Huckleberry or Credenza, he or she will be on the cover of every magazine on the planet-- scoring you no less than $6 million a picture.

Working in The Fame Bubble is something completely different too. I do hear from time to time that the hours are a bit long and that the hard working celebrities may have to lounge around in their opulently appointed trailers, suffering through manicures and hair extensions, while waiting for their scenes to be shot. But I suppose the $20 million dollar paycheck does compensate one a little bit for that hard three months of work.

Normal rules of decency can be completely ignored in The Fame Bubble too. It is perfectly acceptable to flash one's privates in any venue and clothing may be see-through for most major events.

Getting into shape need not involve too much work either. Regular visits to the doctor for regular liposuction will keep those pesky love-handles at bay. And if the personal chefs, trainers and lap-bands don't do the job, air-brushing will be used liberally.

In The Fame Bubble, you are the center of the universe. People do hang on your every word. Whole legions will be devoted to the perfection that is you. You will have fan clubs and blogs that follow every significant event of your life. No one will fail to notice that new hair-do, I promise.

Maybe I'm being a little hard on those who live in The Fame Bubble though. I mean, the fame bubble does come with all the annoying paparazzi. I mean, who needs to deal with all those cameras while you're stumbling drunk down Sunset Blvd six days a week? Jeez, some people are so judgemental. And if one wants to have a tirade on a talk show and tell all the women in the world that they're evil for taking anti-depressants for postpartum depression, shouldn't one be able to do that without all the little people thinking they ought to have an opinion? I mean really, Scientology does have all the answers.

The Fame Bubble says so.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

To Be or Not to Be SUPER

This is another old post I put up ages ago but it was such a popular one I thought I'd pose the question again....
If you could be granted super powers, but had to use them to benefit mankind, would you accept?
yes no
Imagine you had the opportunity to be Superman, would you take it? Sure, you'd have the ability to fly, but what about all the baggage that goes with it? Say some omnicient being (think Q in the Star Trek TNG series) makes you this offer. I'll give you virtually unlimited power, but you must use it for the benefit of mankind. What do you choose? Me? I'm not sure how selfless I am, but then again, I wouldn't mind being able to fly. When contemplating this question a couple of things come to mind. We've recently discussed Superman's ability to procreate, so one must keep this in mind before deciding whether or not to accept. And even if you can have a relationship with a person who doesn't have super powers, just look at Spiderman. Talk about conflicted. Would it be worth it? I suppose on the plus side you'd have the admiration of most of the world, minus the super villians that would likely show up to challenge you. I mean, you'd probably be like a rock star times ten! If you're someone who isn't into long term relationships, this might be just the ticket. But remember the old tale about the monkey's paw, be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I've heard of "getting a life," but this is ridiculous...

Or maybe it's not.

Apparently "millions" of people don't think it's ridiculous anyway.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about the net phenomenon called "Second Life." To be honest, I don't know a whole heck of a lot about it. I first became familiar with it while watching a Dr. Phil show. (Don't judge me) All I remember is that he had a teenage girl on the show who was obsessed with Second Life, to the extent that she was neglecting her life offline.

If you go to the Second Life website you will find out that you can live your own virtual life online. For a price.

Yes. For just $9.95 you can start your life in the virtual world.

Thousands of new residents join each day and Create an Avatar

Those avatars Explore the World and Meet People

These people discover the thousands of ways to Have Fun

Some people decide to purchase Virtual Land, which allows them to open a business, build their own virtual paradise, and more!

Linden Lab creates new land to keep up with demand. What began as 64 acres in 2003 is now over 65,000 acres and growing rapidly.



Now $9.95 might not seem like much. But apparently there are "land use" fee as well. If you go here you can get the whole rundown on what it costs to use their virtual land. And if I remember correctly, you can also spend your hard earned, real world, money on things like virtual cars, homes, clothes, etc....

But hey, I suppose it's a small price to pay to have such a full virtual life. According to the site there's all kinds of fun stuff to do...

In the Second Life world, there's something new around every corner.

The world is filled with hundreds of games, from multi-player RPG's to puzzles and grid-wide contests. There are also dance clubs, shopping malls, space stations, vampire castles and movie theatres.

To find something to do at any time of the day or night, simply open the Search menu and click on Events. You'll see a listing of Discussions, Sports, Commercial, Entertainment, Games, Pageants, Education, Arts and Culture and Charity/Support Groups.

Regardless of your mood, there's always something to do...



What the hell is a "vampire castle?"

Maybe I'm just too old to "get" the whole Second Life thing. Maybe living a virtual life is the next wave of existence where we get to make up the rules to our own, real life, video game.

Or maybe some people need to go outside once in awhile.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Laaaaaazy

I am so bad. We went on vacation and I can't get out of "time off" mode.

Our Disneyland trip was a mixed bag. Disneyland was great, my husband's food poisoning wasn't. My husband is a trooper though. He was down only one day (I would probably still be bedridden) and he drove home. Actually, he isn't a trooper, he is strong beyond belief.

Anyway. I know I should be thinking fantasy-like thoughts but I am still indulging in my Mother's Day. Mimosas are a good thing. I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill for 40 minutes precisely because I knew I was going to indulge myself something awful today. But there just aren't that many guilt free days a year to spoil myself, so I'll take what I can get.

But I do want to thank Stewart and Jon for posting while I was gone. It's nice to know my blog can function without me.

So I'm dipping my toe back in, albeit a bit reluctantly. Laziness begets laziness doesn't it? But I will have to be up early to take the kids to school in the morning, so my vacation time will be at an official end. No more excuses. I must force my brain to work despite it's natural inclinations.

But I have half an hour of Mother's Day left.

I think I'll go have some strawberry shortcake.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day



I'm taking it easy today. Hope you are too......

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Winners! Omega Sol by Scott Mackay


Okay. I am so late on this giveaway and I do apologise. I enjoyed my vacation way too much and just wasn't willing to give it up until I had to.

But I am happy to say that I have randomly picked winners for the 5 copies of "Omega Sol" that I had to give away and they are:

Shade 53
A Book Worm
Shosh
Buddy T
Aaron Wilson

Congrats!

If I don't already have your addresses, be sure to get send them to my so I can make sure your books get mailed off to you asap.

Thanks to everyone who entered and as always, be on the lookout for more contests.

Killin' the Villain

It was 1989 and I was bringing a date to see Batman. It was opening night and the buzz about the movie, as you may recall, was incredible. As we went into the movie theater, I joked to my date that when leaving it, we should say “Wow, I can’t believe Batman killed the Joker like that” in front of the lines of people waiting to get in. I didn’t think for a moment that it would actually happen because I was thinking in terms of the comic books: Joker and Batman were always enemies and would always fight. Joker does something crazy, Batman beats up his goons and sends the clown back to Arkham Asylum. I was thinking comics, but I wasn’t thinking movies.

It seems that in the movies, the bad guys always get it in the end. Somehow, someway, the hero triumphs over every obstacle in his path and the villain gets his comeuppance. Emperor Palpatine gets thrown down the bottomless shaft of the Death Star, Auric Goldfinger gets sucked out of the window of his plane, and Jaws (the shark, not the assassin) gets blown up after he bites off a little more than he can chew.

OK, maybe Jaws isn’t the best example, but have you wondered if the villains really have to die? I guess that I can understand it in a thematic sense, the villain did something evil, really evil, and so the hero has to stop him. If the villain dies, then you don’t have to see some sort of anticlimactic jail sentencing. Nobody wants to see a summer blockbuster full of action and explosions end with the antagonist being thrown in prison (Except Superman the Movie, I guess).

It’s a little easier to see the villains die in science fiction and fantasy stories because they usually have big, grandiose schemes for conquering the land/planet/galaxy. They’re larger than life and typically kill whoever is in their way and so it becomes a little easier to justify their deaths.

There are some where it doesn’t always makes sense though, I think, and you’ll have to bear with me as I step outside the genre a little bit for these.

Breakdown was a pretty taut thriller featuring Kurt Russell chasing JT Walsh across the interstate trying to find his kidnapped wife. I thought that for the most part, Breakdown was a pretty good film and the filmmakers even made the effort to make JT Walsh’s character Red Barr a little more fleshed out. They gave him a wife and a kid and even though, to my recollection, they never adequately explained why he kidnapped the wife he still made a good villain. In the end though, he falls off a cliff and his semi truck crashes on top of him. He died and his death was all the more goofy because of the way it happened. Kurt Russell didn’t kill him as much as he just kind of let the guy fall. We didn’t get to see a scene where he goes and breaks the bad news to Red’s wife either. “Sorry ma’am, your husband kidnapped my wife so I let a truck fall on top of him.”

Ransom was also a decent thriller, I thought. But again, at the end the main bad guy has to die. Gary Sinise plays a crooked cop who engineered the kidnapping of millionaire Mel Gibson’s son. Up until that last scene the movie works, you feel for Gibson and Rene Russo’s characters as they try to get their kid back. Sinise is a good actor with good intensity to even if you don’t necessarily want to see his character as the bad guy, you can buy that he is. At the end, he and Gibson duke it out, Gibson gets the upper hand on Sinise, the police come in and start to haul him away, and he has to make a grab for one of their holstered pistols. No way was he going to walk out of that scenario and it totally felt tacked on to an otherwise decent movie.

Air Force One. Die Hard on a plane with the president? Another movie that was pretty good with Harrison Ford’s President Marshall fighting back against terrorists who’ve taken control of Air Force One. There’s a dramatic rescue scene that the end where everyone left on the jet use a slide for life across open sky to a C-130 flying next to it. Of course, that’s right when that one last secret service agent decides to reveal that he’s the one who sold out to the terrorists. It seemed like the only reason that happened was so they could have the shot of a guy screaming out the open door of a plane as it crashed and burned. I think a better scene may have been to get everyone on the ground and then have the president turn to the agent and say “You’ve sold me out, you’ve sold you’re country out.” Something dramatic that you know Ford has the acting chops to pull of something like that.

Yeah, I know these aren’t science fiction or fantasy movies, but these three in particular bugged me with the deaths of their antagonists. There has to be another way to beat a bad guy, right? What do you think?

Monday, May 05, 2008

"Iron Man" Kicks Butt

It seems absurd to spend any time discussing IRON MAN on this website. One must assume that anyone who visits here has this movie pencilled in as a "must see". However, for those of you who are considering passing this up, allow this to be a gentle reminder--DON'T MISS THIS FILM!!!!

"Iron Man" couldn't have been made before the last several years. The special effects needed to make this happen in a convincing manner just weren't present. Also, the life experience needed by Robert Downey Jr. hadn't yet settled. Downey Jr., a recovering addict, is perfect as Tony Stark, the billionaire arms manufacturer who has a life changing experience that makes him use his brain and the technology that brain makes possible for the good of mankind.

So what? What makes this superhero different? It's edgier than many of the other comic films, with Downey giving "cool" a new definition. His character carries this film. It's clearly about Stark. And the superhero thing is about taming technology. This makes the concept of being a superhero more accessible for all of us. If all we need to do to fly and bat about cars is step into a suit, then sign me up and get out of my way.

Another element of this film that is worth noting is its political overtones. The Middle East is a problem spot. Bang. That's it. I've been begging the producers of the James Bond films to deal with the terrorists realistically for some time. The closest they've come was in "Tomorrow Never Dies" when Bond shows up at an arms bazaar somewhere in Afghanistan. In "Iron Man" the Middle Eastern terrorists are front and center. One indelible image is Tony Stark, beaten, half-dead, tied to a chair as terrorists huddle around him, faces covered, with guns visible and ready. This image is resonant of all those horrible terrorist webcasts that were made of hostages who were beheaded. When Stark lashes out and wreaks his vengeance, it is a cathartic experience for everyone, left and right alike.

And for those of you who haven't heard already, I won't ruin the fanboy surprise....stay until after the credits.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Vacation!

I'm off to Disneyland. Yaaaaaaa! I won't be back until Thursday, so I'll see you all when I get back. I extended the "Omega Sol" giveaway again (this time until Thursday) since I won't be here to send off the winner's addresses to the publisher (I wasn't thinking about that when I extended it to Sunday originally). But I promise, I will announce the winners this Thursday for sure. Have a great week everyone.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Friday Feature, Best Posts Revisited: Who Would You Vote for President?

Well, maybe not a best post. But timely....

I don't know about the rest of you, but I've gotten about a bazillion phone calls this last month from every party under the sun pushing their Presidential candidate. And I couldn't help think that there really hasn't been any candidates in just about forever that I felt any particular desire to vote for.

But how cool would it be if you could vote for your favorite superhero?


What would the best qualifications be? Professor Xavier of the X-Men might be a really good choice. After all, he can read minds so he'd really know if the North Koreans were thinking about nuking us. He could probably even change Kim Jong-il's mind without the man even knowing about it.

Or what about Superman? He could stop a bomb before it even landed on the earth. And if he missed the first time he does have the handy-dandy talent of being able to reverse time if necessary. Though he might be a little to busy saving people to take the job of President.

Batman might be good. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy. Plus there is the intimidation factor of the mask. The other diplomats won't have any idea what he's thinking.

Since I just did a post on Hercules, he does come to mind. He's obviously strong and he does have the ear of his father Zeus; who knows when those lightning bolts might come in handy?

So, who would you nominate?