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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Battlestar Galactica: The Young Lords – Review

We’ve already seen a couple of Space Western planets, so for the episode The Young Lords it’s nice to see Glen A. Larson and Donald Bellisario giving us a Space Medieval Fantasy planet for a change.

 Once again a Galactica Viper pilot, this time it's Starbuck’s turn, marooned on a distant planet occupied by a group of humans that are fighting for their survival against the evil Cylons.


Tonight's story opens with Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) and Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr.) out on patrol when they are attacked by four Cylon Raiders, our two Colonial warriors hold their own quite well against superior numbers, but even so Starbuck’s ship is severely damaged and must land on the nearby planet of Attila while Boomer heads back to Galactica to organize a rescue mission.


Starbuck doesn’t have the best of landings.

As it so happens the planet of Attila was conquered by the Cylons and is now occupied by a rather large garrison. In this episode we probably see the largest group of Cylon Centurions yet. The garrison is commanded by an IL-Series Cylon named Spectre (Murray Matheson) who’s embellished reports to Baltar (John Colicos) seems to make Lucifer (Jonathan Harris) jealous. Strange trait to get from a robot.


Cylons visit Medieval Times.

Alone and wounded on this damp planet Starbuck does his best to avoid capture but he is eventually nabbed by a Cylon patrol. Tossed over the shoulder of one of the Centurions, he is marched towards the castle garrison where he will be presumably tortured for the location of Galactica. Or so Spectre reports to Baltar, but things don’t go that smoothly as the patrol is wiped out in an ambush by the planets few surviving humans.


A unicorn riding Norse warrior?

Starbuck finds himself in the company of a group of children warriors led by their older brother Kyle (Charles Bloom) and their older sister Miri (Audrey Landers). They have been making guerilla warfare against the Cylons ever since their planet was conquered. Starbuck is told that their father (Bruce Glover) is dead, but he’s actually been captured by the Cylon’s, and Kyle wants to make a trade, Starbuck for their dad.


If this is a threat to the Cylon Empire they should just give up now.

Kyle sends a message to the Cylons about the trade and Spectre informs his prisoner that his family will be spared if he co-operates and swears to never attack the Cylons again. The only person not down with this plan is of course Starbuck who knows perfectly well that the Cylons will not honor any agreement that includes humans being left alive. He is quickly proven right when the Cylon’s send their prisoner across the river at the exchange spot but it turns out to be a straw stuffed dummy and not their dad.


Yep, that dummy should fool them.

But the final laugh is on the Cylons as Starbuck managed to convince these young warriors to send a stuffed scarecrow as well. It's then up to Starbuck to come up with a rescue plan.  This then leads to the only real painful part of the episode where all the kids “sing” the stages of the plan. It’s a clever idea for helping young fighters remember the steps of the attack, but it gets quite annoying rather quickly. Starbuck and Miri sneak in through a secret passageway, the two younger brothers plant bombs in the Cylon petrol dump, while the youngest daughter lobs grenades into the Cylons as they rush to respond to the attack. So the father is freed from his tower cell, the Cylons go into full retreat and leave the planet, and then Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Boomer arrive in a shuttle from the Galactica. The day is saved.


This group took out a Cylon garrison; seriously guys just turn yourselves off.

As goofy as a premise this episode has it was actually quite fun; you had Starbuck leaving his comic shtick behind so that he could lead a group of kids against the Cylons, there is some great stuff between Baltar and Lucifer as the second in command clearly knows that Spectre is snowing Baltar, but Baltar is blinded by the insipid flattery and even promotes Spectre off the planet completely unaware of the complete cock-up Spectre has made of the situation. Unfortunately there is a secondary “plot” that has Adama (Lorne Greene) sick in bed and being guarded over by Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang) and visited by Boxey (Noah Hathaway) that really serves no purpose other than to pad out the episodes running time.


We could have spent more time on Starbuck’s love life.

The episode does end on a rather disturbing note; the family declines the offer to return with Apollo, Boomer and Starbuck to the Galactica because Attila is their home. The problem with that is we were told that the Cylons had killed off the planets entire population and that this small family is now its only occupants. So if they intend to repopulate the planet that means they will have to...



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Warlock (1989) – Review

He comes from the past to destroy the future.” This was the tagline for Steve Miner’s supernatural thriller Warlock and it owes a little to James Cameron’s The Terminator as it also has a hero chasing the villain through time and landing in modern day California.  The difference here being magic instead of science.

warlock poster

The movie begins by landing us in Boston, Massachusetts in the year 1691 where a group of town elders are laying sentence on an evil Warlock (Julian Sands). The Warlock was captured by Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) who became a witch-hunter after his wife was be-spelled by the evil bastard and now revels in the fact that the warlock will finally burn for his crimes, but all the gloating in the world won’t help when Satan is waiting to play his hand. Strange storm clouds begin to form above the tower where the Warlock is held, Redferne runs back up the tower stairs but when he tries to stop the Warlock from escaping he is caught up in the spell as well.

Cloud-tank generated storms are a sure sign of 80s horror.

The story now moves us to modern day Los Angeles where we are introduced to our other key player Kassandra (Lori Singer), a woman who couldn’t be more 80s if she lived in the valley and dated Nicholas Cage. She is woken from her sleep by a crashing sound from the living room which turns out to be our ever lovable Warlock. He’s a bit cut up and unconscious but when Chas (Kevin O'Brien) her gay landlord tries to call the police they discover the phone lines are down due to the weird storm. The only natural thing to do then is to give the stranger her bed.

Tip #1 – Good Samaritans in horror films have poor life expectancy.

Kassandra goes off to work leaving Chas to deal with their late night visitor. Things don’t go well for good ole Chas as the Warlock takes a fancy to his zodiac ring, removes it and the finger it resided on with a butcher knife. The Warlock then bites off Chas’s tongue and uses it as an ingredient for an omelette.

For a warlock first base is apparently breakfast.

The Warlock visits a medium (Mary Woronov) who works out of local occult bookstore and he requests that she make contact with someone of the spirit world by the name of Zamiel. She is clearly a fraud as she fakes a “spooky” voice but then she becomes genuinely terrified as some force begins to take control of her body. Through her the demon Zamiel informs the Warlock that he has been brought to this time to find the Grand Grimoire. This evil book of black magic had been divided into three parts, hidden in secret locations and it is the warlock’s job to locate them and make the book whole again. To aid in his search he gouges out the mediums eyes.

And if you happen to come across the Necronomicon grab that one as well.

Meanwhile Kassandra has returned home and has decided it’s time to move on, but before she can get much packed Redferne arrives. Question: Did he catch a slower temporal lane through the magic vortex or has just been wondering around Los Angeles for the past day? He holds up the shackles that once held the warlock and demands to know if “"the one who wore these bled.” She tries to get away and he slaps her hard, proving that witch-hunters are not the most gallant lot. Kassandra eventually realizes that this strange intruder is talking about the man who killed Chas and she shows him piece of glass from the broken window that has the warlock’s blood. He scrapes the blood off into vial of water and then begins to construct a compass that will point in the direction of the warlock, unfortunately he didn’t keep a close enough eye on Kassandra and she was able to call the police.  Redferne charges the police with his bullwhip.  Unfortunately he is not Indiana Jones.

Tip #2 – A whip will rarely win against a Taser and a dozen cops.

With Redferne being carted off to jail Kassandra returns to her packing only to be interrupted again, this time by the returning Warlock. Turns out that one of the portions of the Grand Grimoire was hidden inside an antique table that Chas had collected, which I guess explains why the forces of evil tossed him through that particular window. The Warlock doesn’t gruesomely murder Kassandra but he does steal her bracelet and casts a particularly nasty enchantment, “Tout, Tout, through and about; your callow life in dismay. Rentum, Osculum, Tormentum: a decade twice over a day.” When she wakes up in the morning she finds herself twenty years older and all the hair and fingernails to prove it.

Maybe I can get a part in Into the Woods now.”
When some weird ass Brit ages you twenty years in one day you start thinking outside the box, so she quickly bails Redferne out of jail and the two hit the road. Kassandra learns that her curse cannot be lifted until she gets back her stolen bracelet, and even worse she is told that she will age an additional twenty years each day. Thus begins the “Buddy/Cop” portion of the film as the two go on a road trip across the country to track down the warlock. Kassandra makes it clear that she has no real interest in stopping the warlock outside of getting back her stolen years, and once she has her bracelet back she is history.

I’m not Thelma and you are most definitely not Louise.”

Richard E. Grant is certainly not your typical choice for an action hero as he is known now for mostly comic performances, but he pulls off the part rather well with an exceeding amount of gravitas, pathos and urgency. Julian Sands of course has the more showy part as the evil Warlock; he cooks up a guy’s tongue, rips out the eyes of a medium, and to speed things along he finds an unbaptized little boy so that he can cook his fat for a flying spell. You don’t get much more evil than that.

"I'll eat your fat with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."

Lori Singer gets less to do as she is mostly relegated to person who drives the car and expository dialog receiver. Though she does have a cool scene where she runs after the warlock and hammers nails into his foot and ass prints which causes him a great degree of a pain, and she is actually the one who saves the day at the end. So as heroine characters go she’s kind of like Sarah Connor in the first Terminator, but unlike Sarah she doesn’t get to return in the sequel as a badass. Even stranger is that one would expect an intimate relationship to develop between Kassandra and Redferne but it gets shut down when our Witch-Hunter explains that their lives are "too out of joint," and when Kassandra leans in for a kiss he vanishes back to his time.
In the few hours we had together, we liked a lifetime's worth.

So the movie had an excellent script by David Twohy that was chock full of interesting characters, it had a decent cast fleshing them out and a serviceable man at the helm, but what it didn’t have was an effects budget. Any time the Warlock used his magic the effects were bargain basement bad. From the warlock’s silly flying down the highway past a speed trap to his blasting poorly animated magic at our heroes in a graveyard that couldn’t be more obviously a set if it tried.  It’s never even remotely convincing. Julian Sands does his best to sell it but not even Laurence Olivier could have made this anything less than laughable.


I haven't seen the direct to video sequels, nor am I all that eager to track them down, for the original is a solid little horror flick and I'd rather not tarnish its memory by seeing the half-assed sequels.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Escape on Venus: Edgar Rice Burroughs – Review

escape on venus book cover This installment was published in Fantastic Adventures between 1941 and 1942 just as our world was readying itself for a global war, and elements of this certainly slip into Burroughs’ writings.

In Escape on Venus Carson Napier and the lovely Duare seem even more cursed with “adventure” than usually as every time they turn around they are being captured and enslaved.

At the end Carson of Venus Duare had returned to Vepaja with her father because everyone assumed Carson was dead, why anyone would ever assume that is beyond me as he’s escaped so many horrific fates countless times, and it’s back home that poor Duare was condemned to death by her own people for breaking their sacred law by falling in love with Carson and taking him as her mate. It’s no surprise that Carson arrived in the nick of time to spirit her away in his wonderful Anotar (what Duare named Carson’s plane) and the two flew off to hopefully find peace somewhere on Amotar/Venus.

Escape on Venus begins with Carson informing his love that things back in Korva have changed quite a bit because after he rescued the king’s daughter he had been made a prince. So things are looking up. This of course means that things are about to get really, really bad. While on route back to Korva and safety they encounter one of the most devastating occurrences on Amotar when the two layers of clouds that protect the surface world parts. Needless to say direct contact with sunlight on a planet this close to the sun is not good. Immediately the ocean begins to boil and it is all that Carson can do just to keep his craft in the air as violent storms form and buffet our two heroes. For days a colossal tornado carries Carson and Duare thousands of miles off course until eventually the skies calm down and they are able to land to resupply and get some rest.

They should never ever land. In this book anytime they touch ground leads to disaster. At one point Duare comments, after their umpteenth capture and escape, that they must be jinxed. Even when they decide not to land they get shot out of the sky or have mechanical problems that force them down. At some point one would start to wonder if the work of a vengeful god is at hand.

slaves of the fish men

 Of course what makes the repetitive nature of their constant enslavement entertaining is the variety of creatures doing the capturing. In the section “Slaves of the Fishmen” they are captured by an amphibious race where bug-eyed gillmen enslave Carson and Duare. Carson is given the job of hatchery security which entails watching over pools of fish and preventing the local birds from flying down and making off with them. He is slow to pick up on the fact that the little fish he is guarding over are the progeny of the fishmen. How our heroes tend to escape most of their predicaments in this book with his ray gun as most of the races they encounter here don’t even take his weapon because they don’t understand what it is. The other fascinating race, and eventual captor, is the Brokol who apparently grow from trees. They look completely humanoid except for a strange knot on their heads where they were once attached to the tree they were “birthed” from. The apparent ruler of these people is the goddess Loto-El-Ho-Ganja Kum O Raj (Most High More Than Woman Of The Fire) who isn’t a plant person but actually turns out to be Betty Callwell, an earth woman who had somehow been mysteriously transported across space to Venus. She has no memories of where she came from but when Carson mentions things about the United States of America it begins to trigger memories and eventually she vanishes back to Earth. This is briefly explained in an Editor Note and is one of the more bizarre moments in the series as it is never truly explained.

In section that strays from the standard first person narrative of Carson Napier deals with our heroes landing to make repairs and find the inhabitants of the city of Voo-ad to surprisingly welcoming and hold banquets in their honor. This race is easily one of the more bizarre creations by Burroughs as they are some kind of androgynous amoeba like people who after a period of gluttony divide in half. Certainly an interesting way to procreate but apparently it leads to having no creativity or emotions. After being treated like royalty the other shoe finally drops and Carson and Duare are drugged and soon find themselves exhibits in a strange Museum of Natural History. It’s while paralyzed and mounted that they meet Vik-yor who is one of the rare ones of his race that doesn’t have a dividing line. Because of his nature he has emotions and falls in love with Duare, but he is also a jealous asshat so only agrees to rescue Duare and not Carson. This is when the books narrative point of view changes to Duare but it is never explained how the author back on Earth is getting this part of the story when he is only psychically linked to Carson Napier. That quibble aside it’s nice to get a different perspective on things and Duare is a great character, so seeing him get to be the hero for a change is nice.  And though Burroughs' worlds are vast and varied they tend to be really small when it comes to running into old friends and it's while hanging as an exhibit that Napier meets up with Ero Shan, his old friend from Havatoo, who built an airplane of his own based on Napier's designs.  When a storm forced him down over Voo-ad he found himself quickly made into an exhibit.  Venus is a small but very dangerous world.

escape on venus pb

The concluding section is “War on Venus” where, because Carson is a glutton for punishment, he flies too close to a major land battle between massive tanks that tower hundreds of feet in the air, and is shot down. Carson, Duare and Ero Shan are captured, Duare has to murder an officer to avoid rape, Carson shows off his skills as a tank gunner, and between being an awesome warrior he and Ero Shan bounce from being captured by one faction to another. It’s this section that shows Burroughs’s disdain for the way war has become mechanized and how honor among soldiers is important. Eventually Carson and Duare are re-united and they escape…again. Once again the serial fashion of these books may take getting use to for modern readers but the sheer amount of creativity on display here makes this book worth checking out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015) - Review

No one expects a SyFy original movie to be good, and back in 2013 when the first Sharknado aired it affirmed that fact, and then for some strange reason it we got Sharknado 2: The Second One which was also bad but gained a little love by embracing the goofiness of it all, and now we have Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! which makes the first two look like Oscar contenders. This movie isn’t just bad, it’s painfully bad.


World renowned sharknado expert Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) is invited to the White House so the President can award him the highest civilian honor for his actions fighting sharknados in Los Angeles and New York City, but as the party gets started a sharknado hits and once again our “hero” finds himself battling sharks from the sky. He saves the President's life and warns him that his “shark sense” tells him that an even bigger sharknado is forming out there, one that could possible take out the entire east coast.

sharknado lincoln
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves...or got wiped out by a sharknado.” - Abraham Lincoln.

The worst thing about Sharknado 3, and there a many terrible things wrong with it, but the worst is that it’s barely a movie. This thing is more a cross between an infomercial for Universal Orlando Theme Park and a Republican wet dream. In this movie we have a white president who won the office on the platform of “Hope and Change” and Republican uber-bitch Ann Coulter is the Vice President, and they even throw in a cameo of Michele Bachmann as herself. I would not be surprised to learn that the screenwriter of this piece of crap worked for Fox News.  When we get Fin and the President running down the halls of the White House with guns blazing I came to the conclusion that this film is possibly running for office itself and is vying for the support of the NRA.

America, fuck yeah!

That they didn’t manage to get Ted Nugent in there to play the Speaker of the House seems like a huge missed opportunity to me. But the Right Wing propaganda is still not the worst thing in this movie, it’s the fact that every two seconds we get blatant product placement from the likes of Subway and Nascar, but most egregiously with a large portion of the running time being of April (Tara Reid), her daughter Claudia (Ryan Newman) and Aprils’ mom May (Bo Derek) as they endlessly wander around the Universal Orlando Theme Park to show us how awesome the attractions are.
sharknado 3 universal park 
Goddamn it April, don’t tell me you lost our Fast Pass!

Then there are the cameos, the never-ending onslaught of celebrity cameos. In Sharknado 2 they had some fun cameos that fit in with the joke; like Robert Hayes from Airplane turning up to be the pilot of their plane or Judd Hirsch from Taxi being their taxi driver, but in this third installment there are so many pointless cameos that I'm starting to think that these people must have paid the producers to give them a spot.

Frankie Muniz, this is not how you stage a comeback.

The only actor that escapes this movie with his integrity intact, because he keeps locked in a vault on the moon, is David Hasselhoff who plays Fin’s astronaut father. The Hoff is playing that over-the-top cartoon character that has become the staple of his career, and it works well in the context of a goofy shark movie. This series would have been better off if they'd jettison Ziering and Tara Reid and just had Hasselhoff teaming up with the returning Nova (Cassie Scerbo).

sharknado nova 
For obvious reasons.

This is not a “So bad it’s good” movie, it’s just bad. Bo Derek seems to have been hired just so Tara Reid isn’t the worst actress on screen, the effects of the flying sharks look shoddier it that's even possible, and worse the shark attacks themselves have become boring. They try to ramp up the crazy but seeing Fin once again jump into a giant shark just seems tired and played out, even if it’s while riding it through re-entry from outer space. This is the worst case of trying to hard that I’ve ever seen.

In conclusion, “Long live the Hoff!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Moon Zero Two (1969) – Review

Moon Zero Two is Hammer Films only foray into futuristic storytelling and easily one of their weirdest.  Directed by Roy Ward Baker, who helmed such classics as A Night to Remember and The Quatermass and the Pit, tackles space exploration in the far flung future of the year 2021.  That this movie came out three months after Neil Armstrong walked on the actual moon puts this movie in a separate category of odd.

Moon Zero Two poster

This film was marketed as “Space Western” and it is chock full of saloon brawls, claim jumpers and shootouts, and that isn’t necessarily a bad idea, it’s just that the filmmakers here took the genre mash-up a little too literally.

A hitching-post outside a space station, seriously?

Astronaut Bill Kemp (James Olsen) and his co-pilot and engineer Korminski (Ori Levy) are soon to be out of a job because their spacecraft is ten years old and deemed unsafe by the authorities. Everyone advises Kemp to sign up with the Space Corporation and become a commercial passenger pilot but he refuses because he didn’t become an astronaut to just wet-nurse a bunch of rich people.

We’re not selling out to the man.

Even Kemp’s girlfriend Elizabeth Murphy (Adrienne Corri) wants him to give up his dangerous job of salvaging space junk, worse for him is that as head of Moon Security it will be her job to see him grounded. Enter notorious millionaire J. J. Hubbard (Warren Mitchell) who has a proposition for Kemp that could land him a brand new ship and solve all his problems.

It’s the monocle that makes him look so trustworthy.

It seems that Hubbard has discovered an asteroid that consists of six tons of sapphires and he wants Kemp to help land it on the moon. The problem with the plan is that the whole thing is completely illegal as the authorities kind of frown on civilians crashing asteroids into the moon, so Hubbard needs Kemp to keep the job on the down low.

In space no one can hear your plot holes.

Complication in Kemp’s life keep piling up but the most challenging being Clementine Taplin (Catherine Schell) who has come to the moon to meet her brother who is a miner on the Dark Side of the Moon. She’s quite worried when her brother fails to show up and hires Kemp to fly her over to her brother’s claim to see if he is all right. This didn’t seem western enough for the filmmakers so most of these conversations take place in Moon City’s western themed saloon.

Space Saloon
Its rootinest, tootinest saloon on the moon!

Kemp and Clem arrive on the Dark Side, rent a Moon Fargo space buggy, drive across the moon’s forbidding landscape, and discover the dead body of her brother. Minutes after finding the poor dead miner they are attacked by gun toting thugs that work for Hubbard. Kemp is not one to be so easily taken and he quickly dispatches the three assassins and in the process discovers that Clem’s brother was murdered. Someone had switched his spacesuits oxygen with cyanide.

Dead Brother 
It was murder, and someone is responsible!

This film is pure product of the sixties; from its ultra-mod production designs to the hip soundtrack by Don Ellis, and even goofier is the animated “Schoolhouse Rock!” style opening title sequence that has nothing to do with the movie. It shows an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut battling over planting their respective flags on the moon yet nothing in this movie has to do with the United States or Russia. I guess government corporations and evil privatization villains would have been harder to animate. Moon Zero Two Animated Credit Sequence

Moon Zero Two is not a terrible film but they really should have gone easier on the western motif; spacemen with six-shooters and barroom brawls in zero gravity does not a good science fiction film make. In the case of said bar room brawl their ideas of a fight where the gravity has been turned off is just to have everybody wander around in slow-motion. It’s embarrassingly bad.

Not the safest place to put that switch in a saloon.

James Olsen does a fairly good job as a man who won’t compromise his principles but will also bend the rules a bit for his own benefit. Catherine Schell has the least interesting character as the standard frontier damsel in distress, while on the other I hand loved Adrienne Corri as the baddass head of security, not to mention the fact that her entire security detail consists of women. That’s pretty awesome.
I particularly like her holsters strapped to her thigh-high boots.

It’s a shame that Hammer Films didn’t tackle any more futuristic topics because they really had a great team of artisans on their side as most of the effects stuff for this movie looked great. Maybe now that Hammer is back to making horror films one of them will take a shot at science fiction again.

I just loved Moon City.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Carson of Venus: Edgar Rice Burroughs - Book Review

carson of venus argosySerialized in Argosy Magazine in 1938, Carson of Venus is a not too subtle attack on Nazi Germany. Though the book has all the romance and adventure one expects in a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs it also includes some of his more scathing political commentaries. In such books as The Moon Men, and even this book's predecessor Lost on Venus, it was mainly the communist party that felt the full brunt of the Burroughs’s ire, but this time the author points his “gun” straight at Adolph Hitler, though with the occasional pot shot at Mussolini.
In the previous book, Carson Napier had managed to rescue his true love Duare from the clutches of Skor who ruled a city of undead, but their happy reunion was quickly put under a dark cloud when the rulers of the utopian city of Havatoo sentenced her to death after her “examination” results proved unfavorable and she was deemed a genetic threat. Thus Napier was forced to flee the city with Duare in his newly constructed aircraft. On the plus side, while flying away Duare admitted that she was deeply in love with Carson and had been since the very beginning.

Carson of Venus picks up right where the last book left off with our two main characters flying over Amtor/Venus as they try and decide where to go. Napier is all for taking her home to Vepaja but Duare is against this because even though he has saved their princess, his following in love with her breaks one of their oldest laws and is a death sentence, possibly for the both of them, a law that even her father would have to enforce. This kind of thinking can’t be made on an empty stomach so Napier flies low over a herd of animals to shoot some dinner, but when they land to cook up their meal they are jumped by a group of brutish warrior women. Duare is taken away but Napier is left for dead. This is the weakest part of the novel as it really is just another pit stop before the real story can start. Those that have read The Land of Terror will be familiar with this Amazon society where cruel women rule over weak and effeminate men. Luckily it’s just a brief stopover and Napier quickly rescues her and the two return to the skies.


The real story kicks off when they fly over a besieged city where they are hailed by the defenders and shot at by the attackers. Not wanting to drop in on a war zone without knowing what the whole story is they fly on until they find a lone man about to be eaten by the local wildlife. After they save him he informs our heroes that his name is Taman and that they are in Anlap, more specifically the kingdom of Korva. There is a civil war going on since the Zani party took over (a not too subtle anagram for Nazi). The besieged city of Sanara is the last holdout from this fascist power. Taman is a spy for Sanara though it looks like its own leader may have sent him on a suicide mission. He guarantees their safe conduct if they wish to return with him to Sanara, they agree and the three of them board the plane, fly back to Sanara and land amongst a startled population.

Taman’s wife is the daughter of the King but her father Kord was captured and imprisoned when the soldier Mephis lead the Zani Party to take over the kingdom. Kord’s not so popular nephew rules Sanara in his place (Muso = Mussolini) and most people would be much happier if Taman was running things. Napier agrees to join their military and with his plane is able to carry out many demoralizing bombing runs on their besiegers. But things have been going too good for our heroes, so when Muso asks Napier to take on a secret mission, ordered to tell no one, not even his wife, he really should have been more suspicious. The fact that he is given two letters to deliver to alleged Sanara spies inside the Zani power, but only after he confirms to Muso that he can’t read Amtorian (he can but keeps quiet about it), would have raised anyone's suspicions. If Carson Napier was familiar with Hamlet he would have known how dangerous those letters are, but he eventually loses his trusting nature and opens them. The letter contains a plan that Muso has concocted that will allow the Zani army to sneak inside Sanara and end the war, also in the letter is an order to kill the bearer. Rosencrantz and Napier are dead.


Carson of Venus is full of action and intrigue with our hero going undercover, through many names and disguises, and investigating the Zani capital of Amlot looking for signs that Kord is either alive or dead. While there he encounters a beautiful woman that seems high in favour with Mephis, but Napier suspects she may be part of a Fifth Column against the Zani power. Spies and traitors are everywhere so who is Carson Napier to trust? Will he find and rescue the true king of Korva? Who is the mysterious prisoner deep in the bowels of the Amlot dungeon? What of poor Duare left in the clutches of the devious Muso?

carson of venus

This sequel to Lost on Venus is my personal favorite of the Carson Napier books as it has a more focused story than the usual adventure travelogue, pardoning the silly Amazon women section it is has one of the more intricate and strong stories, with of course a very blatant political commentary. The character of Mephis is portrayed as a fool who lives for the groveling praise of his paranoid subjects as they all cheer “Maltu Mempis” when he passes (that’s “Heil Hitler” to us Earthlings).  Subtlety thy name is not Burroughs. That this story got picked up and serialized by an Italian magazine is quite surprising, as that country was becoming one of Germany’s biggest allies at the time. Either the editor of that magazine was secretly anti-fascist, or they didn’t get the oh so subtle satire in Burroughs' pages.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ant-Man (2015) – Review

One of the things setting the Marvel Studio movies apart from the DC films is their willingness to make fun and exciting movies with their lesser known heroBack in 2008 Marvel Entertainment took a chance with Iron Man, a character that certainly didn’t have the name recognition of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk or Captain America, but it ended up launching Marvel Entertainment into the big time.  And who outside of comic geekdom knew who The Guardians of the Galaxy were, yet it has pulled in over $700 million dollars worldwide, and now with one of their tiniest heroes they hope to strike gold again.


The biggest danger the Marvel films have is their ever expanding universe, a person almost feels that they have to brush up on all the movies and televisions show before going to see the latest installment.

Ant-Man begins in the 80s with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) pissed off when he finds out that S.H.I.E.L.D. and Howard Stark (John Slattery) have been trying to reproduce his "Pym-Particle" which allows a person to be shrunk to ant size. He believes the technology is too dangerous to be left in the hands of governments so he walks away from it all, “No one will have this formula while I am alive!” We then jump ahead to the present where we find out that Pym’s company is now being run by evil Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) and Pym’s estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). How evil is Cross? Well he’s also been spending his time trying to create shrinking soldier tech, but has only been able to get it to work on non organic matter, so he tests his latest formulas on a lamb. On cute fluffy white lamb!

He’s basically Lex Luthor without the charisma.

Enter Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a recently released ex-con who wants to reconnect with his little daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), but his ex-con status hampers his ability to get a job and pay child support. His ex-wife (Judy Greer) holds this against him and refuses visitation rights, that’s basically her whole character and she's about as pointless to this movie as her character was to Jurassic World . That Scott was in jail for being a cat-burglar makes him an ideal candidate for Hank Pym in getting the shrink-tech away from a man who has no problem with selling it to both S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA, and Pym doesn't trust Tony Stark.

rudd and douglas 
We can’t let Stark get a hold of this, he’s an asshat.

What follows is a superhero version of Ocean’s Eleven with Hank and Scott coming up with a plan to break in and steal the technology before it is unleashed on the world. But what good is a heist movie with about some romantic sparks? Evangeline Lilly fills this role quite nicely as her character has only been working with Cross to keep tabs on how close he is to solving the organic shrinking problem, she helps train Scott in the use of the Ant-Man suit and how to control the legion of ants. Though I must say the acting sparks fly much higher in the scenes between her and Michael Douglas than the ones with her and Rudd.

evangeline lilly 
She is no one’s female sidekick.

Now Paul Rudd makes for likable enough hero, director Peyton Reed knows exactly how to use his comic sensibilities, and they even give him some fun comic sidekicks to help carry the burden, but I’m more interested in eventually seeing Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp and maybe Michael Douglas in the Yellow Jacket suit.

ant-man in action

When Darren Cross eventually dons the Yellow Jacket suit we are treated to an epic battle on a really small scale, and it gets huge points for originality and humor throughout the big finale, but unfortunately Cross just isn’t that interesting of a bad guy and he joins the ranks of Obadiah Stane, Whiplash, and Ronan as two dimensional villains we could care less about.

yellow jacket 
Did I mention my costume shoots lasers?

This movie is certainly more a comedy heist film than a superhero action film, and certainly doesn’t match action or laughs of Guardians of the Galaxy, but they are no way trying for that scale.  This is a much smaller film (pun intended) and clearly setting up for him to be one of the players in further Marvel films (stay for the end credit cookie), but all that aside it is still an immensely entertaining film. The visual effects are simply amazing and Scott Lang going into battle with an army of ants is both incredibly cool and immeasurably creepy.


Overall this is a good Marvel film, just not one of the cream of the crop but a nice addition to the Marvel universe, and I’m sure he’ll make an excellent Avenger.