PKD flashback: ‘Puttering About in a Small Land’ (1985) (Book review)

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ne of the paradoxes of Philip K. Dick’s career is that he wrote his most robust and mature observations about human behavior at the sputtering start of his career, with none of those nine books from 1950-60 being immediately published. Then he tried his hand at pulp SF and got good at it. But writing about the human condition in 1950s California under American societal morals of the time was arguably his natural calling.

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‘Roswell’ flashback: ‘Pursuit’ (2003) (Book review)

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oswell’s” book-based “Season 4” starts with “A New Beginning” and “Nightscape,” but the stakes seriously ramp up in “Pursuit” (September 2003). Authors Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin, who previously wrote “Skeletons in the Closet,” tell us that Max and Liz have now gotten married – as per the flash-forward at the end of Season 3 – so now all bets are off. There’s no continuity reason why Max, Michael, Isabel, Liz, Maria, Kyle or anyone else can’t be hurt or killed.

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First episode impressions: ‘The Outsider’ (TV review)

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he Outsider” (Sundays, HBO) is written, directed and paced with such slow-burn confidence that a viewer can almost fool themselves into thinking this isn’t just another Stephen King novel adaptation. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of King’s catalog; I count some of his books and their movie versions as masterpieces. But it’s hard to disguise the Kingian cliches on display in this adaptation of his 2018 novel.

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Superhero Saturday: ‘Mask of Zorro’ (1998) is Peak Banderas, with impeccable stunts but no surprises (Movie review)

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orro is a rare superhero who doesn’t come from comic books, and indeed he predates the 1938 invention of Superman. He was created in 1919 by pulp novelist Johnston McCulley. The “Zorro” film series, of which the two Antonio Banderas-starring entries are the 10th and 11th American outings, dates back to 1920. Arguably, Zorro is not a superhero (he has no superpowers and did not originate in comics), but he’s listed as such enough times that I’ll categorize him as a proto-superhero for now and let the debate continue.

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White gives us another strong, laser-focused character piece in her second ‘Buffy’ novel, ‘Chosen’ (Book review)

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t takes some getting used to, I admit, but eventually I got on a roll with Nina the Vampire Slayer in Kiersten White’s second Buffyverse novel, “Chosen” (January, hardcover). I should’ve braced myself for it after having read last year’s “Slayer,” but first-person present-tense writing is unusual enough that it’s still like getting a bucket of cold water to the face when you crack the book open.

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Throwback Thursday: ‘Bumblebee’ (2018) is a kinda dumb, kinda cute robotic ‘E.T.’ riff (Movie review)

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y friend who likes to laugh at bad movies dragged me to “Transformers” in 2007, but I’ve forgotten everything about that movie and haven’t followed the franchise since. The prequel “Bumblebee” (2018) gives people like me a new entry point into the saga as it tells of an “E.T.”-style friendship between 18-year-old California grease monkey Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) and relatively small (and therefore cute) and mute Autobot Bumblebee.

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PKD flashback: ‘Eye in the Sky’ (1957) (Book review)

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ye in the Sky” (1957) is one of Philip K. Dick’s most influential novels – or at least prophetic of what future authors would explore – as he delves into subjective realities. Also explored in his short story “The World She Wanted” (1953), “subjective reality” is the idea that everyone’s perception of the world comes from inside themselves rather than outside.

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‘Roswell’ flashback: ‘Nightscape’ (2003) (Book review)

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fter launching “Season 4” of “Roswell” in book form with “A New Beginning,” Kevin Ryan also writes the second “episode,” “Nightscape” (July 2003). He continues putting the teens into genre situations not found in the TV series; “A New Beginning” is a small-town kidnapping mystery and “Nightscape” is a haunted-house horror story.

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Superhero Saturday: Miller’s ‘The Spirit’ (2008) is a weak imitation of his own ‘Sin City’ (Movie review)

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love the two “Sin City” films (2005, 2014), so the existence of “The Spirit” (2008) is both good and bad. On one hand, it’s another hardboiled movie in the style of a black-and-white comic (along with red and some washed-out colors). On the other hand, it’s a much lesser installment in this little subgenre, even though it’s written and directed by “Sin City’s” Frank Miller.

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Throwback Thursday: ‘Rambo’ (2008) is a shell-shocking portrayal of what weapons of war can do (Movie review)

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or the fourth “Rambo” film, simply titled “Rambo” (2008), director/co-writer Sylvester Stallone taps into one of the world’s longest-running civil wars. The Burma (aka Myanmar) military’s attempt to extinguish the Karen ethnic group has been going on since 1949, right after Burma gained its independence from Britain. What better location for the most violent “Rambo” film than a country whose entire independent history has been perpetual violence?

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