RegularFrank

Feb 272012
 


Author:
Frederik Pohl

Pages: 347

Publisher: TOR

Release Date: 2011

Genre: Science Fiction

Characters:

Brad Sheridan- Indentured worker at various places including Pompeii.  Family from Kansas, but displaced after Yellowstone Volcano eruption in 2062.

Professor and Piranha Woman-Two anti-terrorism agents at Pompeii

Maury- Water engineer and friend of Brad’s.

Gerda- Volunteer and romantically involved with Brad

The Bastard- Brad’s boss at Pompeii.  He earned his name very well.

Synopsis:  Brad Sheridan’s family fortunes changed dramatically in the 2062 explosion of the Yellowstone Volcano as well as the United State’s economy being buried under a food of ash.  For a time the world is thrown into chaos  but many places start to recover by the 2000th anniversary of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and the burying of Pompeii in 2079.

Brad switches through a series of jobs that take him from selling counterfeit scrolls in Egypt to doing laundry in the newly renovated Pompei.  The people putting on the anniversary celebration have spared no expense to attract the richest people from around the world.  Parts of Pompeii have been rebuilt, but others have had holographic facelifts including animated Roman citizens.   Other characters are played by human workers and volunteers, including Brad  who sells wine to tourists.

As Brad is seduced by and eventually falls in love with one of the volunteers, an older lady named Gerda, the celebration is put in jeopardy by terrorist attacks.  Hoping that the horror of their attacks is multiplied by the world’s attention of the event.  Despite wanting to keep his nose clean and not make waves, Brad becomes a terrorism suspect.  and must struggle to clear his name and uncover the truth before the celebration is ruined and many people die.

Pro: Frederik Pohl is a legendary and award winning Science Fiction writer and is best known for his excellent Heechee Saga that begins with the 1977 novel Gateway.   All the Lives he Led is not on the grand scale of some of his other novels, but is more mellow and polished.  This is to be expected, because he was 92 when this was published.   I think that this book has some very strong aspects though;

  • Very believable and possible dystopia with terrorists attacks, extreme wealth, and poverty and debt.
  • The technology isn’t far fetched and things like the holograms are already becoming a reality today.
  • Brad reminds me of a the earthbound Robinette Broadhead in the Heechee series.
  • Some of the interrogations actually made me sweat.
  • Interesting view of gender issues.

Con: Even thought there was much to recommend the novel I had a few issues with it;

  • The love story doesn’t add up 100% because it seems a bit rushed, but that might be explained by youth and hopefulness.
  • All of the bad guys seem to be living alternative lifestyles and nobody else seems to.  This doesn’t seem to be a comment on those lifestyles, but is just a thing.

Conclusion: I  enjoyed this novel.  It is great to see that Pohl has developed into an even more nuanced writer in his later years and  I hope that he will continue writing for some time.  Maybe some of the technology he has written about will come to be and help prolong his writing years!

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 4
Plot 3
Imagery 4
Read Again? 4
Average 3.75
Feb 262012
 

Director:  Thom Eberhardt

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 95 minutes

Release Date: 11/16/1984

Genre:  Comedy, Science Fiction, Horror

Cast: Regina ‘Reggie’ Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart), Samantha ‘Sam’ Belmont (Kelli Maroney), Hector Gomez (Robert Beltran), Audrey White (Mary Wornov), Dr. Carter (Geoffrey Lewis)

Synopsis: In this nearly forgotten 1984 flim, two sisters, Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Sam (Kelli Maroney) wake up the morning after a much hyped comet has passed over earth.  They find that they are among the few survivors in Los Angeles, and almost everyone else has been turned into red dust or are murderous but disintegrating zombies due to strange radiation emmenating from the comet.

Quickly shrugging off the death of everyone they know, Sam and Reggie have fun in the deserted city by getting expensive clothes and driving fast cars and find survivors.  Another survivor, Hector Gomez (Robert Beltran), meets them a unmanned but automated radio station and despite initial distrust they band together.  Another group of survivors, former stockboys at a department store, are not as friendly and Sam and Reggie barely get away from them.  Luckily the girls know how to use firearems and are now packing some  serious heat and are able to outgun the opposition.

Later, they encounter a group of scientists led by Dr. Carter (Geoffrey Lewis).  After some trickery,  Reggie is taken back to the scientists’ base while Sam and scientist Audrey White (Mary Wornov) wait for Hector to meet up with them.  Audrey tells them that the scientists were exposed to the comet radiation and are performing dangerous experiments on survivors to help find a cure and that Reggie is in danger.

While Reggie is being menaced by a degenerating Dr. Carter, Sam and Hector break into the facility.  After much chaos and shooting,  Sam and Hector rescue Reggie and two kids, and in a spectacular explosion, kill all of the rest of the scientists.

Since all threats have been removed they throw their weapons away in a trash can.  Reggie,  Hector and the kids  have become the last nuclear family on earth, but Sam is alone.  As they are crossing a street, Sam is almost hit by a fast car driven by the only other living man and they drive off into the sunset!

Pro: I loved this movie, when I first saw it in 1984, I thought that all Reggie and Sam were really cool, that the special effects were awesome and the story written by the smartest writers in the world.  Since then, I have ended up seeing it about once every 5 years.  My opinion of it has changed during that time.  I still really like it, but I see it more as a time capsule from 1984 and when I want to explain 1984, I show people this movie because;

  • I think that the comet reflects the fear of nuclear weapons and that everything could be destroyed in an instant.  The comet even killed with radiation and the surviving victims were falling apart like those hit by a real bomb.
  • Contains a music montage consisting of Cyndi Lauper’s, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” while Reggie and Sam are trying on clothes.
  • Reggie’s obsession with the arcade game Tempest and anger at someone else taking the top spot on the scoreboard.
  • Geoffrey Lewis being in it, because I think that he was in most films from the early 1980s.

Con: I already mentioned that even though I thought it was the greatest film ever, but it has some major flaws;

  • The dialogue is horrible in general.
  • Some of the special effects are not top notch, even by the standards of the day.  In particular, I’d say they did a really bad job with the funky looking skies.
  • The fact that the survivors were safe because the happened to be inside metal structures with no special air system, but the fact that the scientists happened to have the windows open they were doomed seems a bit of a stretch of the imagination.

Conclusion: Night of the Comet is pretty typical of 1980s horror, but I think that it does things better than most of the genre.  Even though it is rarely on tv, this is one of my guilty pleasures, and I will watch it every time!

Bonus Trivia: Geoffrey Lewis is the father of Juliette Lewis and also, in 2005, Geoffrey Lewis and Mary Woronov both appear in the Rob Zombie movie, The Devil’s Rejects

 

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 3
Story 2
Special Effects 2
Would Watch Again? 4
Average 2.75
Feb 252012
 

Director:  Zack Snyder

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 110 minutes

Release Date: 3/25/2011

Genre:  Action Adventure

Cast: Babydoll(Emily Browning), Amber(Jamie Chung), Sweet Pea(Abby Cornish), Blondie(Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket(Jenna Malone), Stepfather(Gerard Plunkett), Dr Gorsky (Carla Garski), Blue Jones(Oscar Isaac), High Roller/Doctor(John Hamm),  and Wise Man(Scott Glenn)

Synopsis:  Sucker Punch begins with a 20 year old girl,Babydoll(Emily Browning), struggling with her abusive stepfather(Gerard Plunkett) and her sister accidentally being killed.  Fearing he will be implicated in the murder and past abuse will be uncovered, her stepfather takes her to a mental hospital to be locked up and he bribes a crooked orderly, Blue Jones(Oscar Isaac), to put her on the fast track to getting a lobotomy. Babydoll soon realizes that she must escape the hospital and enlists the help of other inmates, but then has a break with reality and imagines that she and Amber(Jamie Chung), Sweet Pea ( Abby Cornish), Blondie(Vanessa Hudgens), and Rocket(Jenna Malone) are all dancers in a brothel.

Each time that Babydoll must dance in the brothel she halucinates another reality  Initially, she imagines that she is in a Japanese temple where she is  given weapons and quest to find five items by the Wise Man(Scott Glenn) and then she fights 3 demonic giant Samurai.  After she defeats the Samurai, she is transported back to the Brothel and everyone is impressed with the dance she just completed.  She has several more episodes that include; zombies, dragons, and defusing bombs, each one more vivid and stylized than the last, reminding the viewer that the director, Zack Snyder, also directed 300 and Watchmen.

Once she finally gets all of the needed objects, she is able to attempt her escape along with Sweat Pea.  Both may be able to escape, but it might not be how the view expects.

Pro:  Sucker Punch is a very visually impressive movie and the soundtrack is pretty good too.  The best parts were;

  • The first fight against the giant Samurai golems accented by the remix of Bjork’s “Army of Me” and the impressive sight of the temple being knocked down.
  • The WWI flashback scene reminded me of a combination of the old pc game Crimson Skies with a healthy dose of steampunk and zombies thrown in and included a great remix of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”.
  • Jenna Malone was good in the movie Saved! and I think she was also one of the better actresses in this film.

Con: I think that while the movie was nice to look at and had great music it was lacking in plot and more like a disconnected series of music videos.  It did not go into great detail explaining why Babydoll was having all of the hallucinations and why she was having hallucinations within her hallucinations.  I would have also liked some more details of her life before the movie starts.

It was also strange that they never really showed Babydoll dancing, she would always shift into a deeper fantasy when the dances went beyond undulating. Then she was just shooting monsters for a bit and then back to the brothel world where everyone was amazed with her dancing ability.

Conclusion: When I saw the tv commercials for this film I was really excited to see it because it looked like a really good fantasy-adventure, but once I saw the movie I was disappointed with it.  I thought that it could have done without the brothel aspects of the movie, not because it was dirty too sexy, but because they were boring and took away from the action aspects of the film.  The movie was trying to convey some sort of grand message in the end, but I really couldn’t find it and I wouldn’t recommend this movie and would not watch it again,  but I might buy the soundtrack!

 

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 2
Story 2
Special Effects 4
Would Watch Again? 1
Average 2.5