Movie Review: Sugar Hill (1974)

Langston (Larry B. Johnson). and his fiancee Diane “Sugar” Hill (Marki Bey) are running a decent little nightclub somewhere down in bajou country. The club’s been doing well enough to attract the attention of local mob boss Morgan (Robert Quarry), who has been pressuring Langston to sell. “Peaceful” negotiations haven’t worked, so Morgan sends his goons to rough up Langston one night after closing time. Well, they rough him up a bit too much, and he dies of his injuries. There were no witnesses, and nothing in the way of evidence, so even though it’s pretty certain Morgan was behind it, there’s nothing the local police can do.

Being a smart businessman, Langston had a will – and left the club to Sugar. Morgan thinks it will be easier to get her to sell the club, what with her being a woman and all – but she’s got plans for revenge. Plans that involve getting some help from beyond the grave…. Continue reading

Book Review: Reboots: Undead Can Dance

Reboots: Undead Can Dance
Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin
CAEZIK Sf & Fantasy
Copyright 2021 by the authors

Vampires, werewolves, and zombies exist. For that matter, so do a lot of other supernatural creatures from folklore, but not in anything near the same numbers. Now after the humans (“Norms” in the common slang) have decisively come out ahead in a global war against the “reboots” (i.e. zombies) and have attained clear domination over the “fangs” and “furs” et al., what do you do with all the millions upon millions of practically immortal beings hanging around?

Put them in cheap spaceships, and send them off to explore and colonize the galaxy, naturally!

That’s the basic premise behind this connected set of four novellas (some of which have been previously published).

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Movie Review: Agency of Vengeance: Dark Rising (Canada, TV, 2011)

It’s not your usual “get me to the church on time”. A team of demon fighters is racing through the streets, hot on the trail of….something unseen that is tearing up the pavement as it goes. Even a bunch of kids playing in the street isn’t going to stop them. Fortunately for the kids, the team has “portal guns” that open a sort of tunnel / gate that lets them pass through the space where the kids are playing.

You will note two things right off the bat.

Whatever it is ripping up the streets doesn’t bother taking shortcuts through / across lawns or even sidewalks. And the kids make no move at all to get out of the street when they hear something coming.

Well, at least they set the tone right away. And they got the stupidest bits taken care of at the start.

Anyway, they arrive too late to the wedding in the park to stop the Thing from attacking the wedding party and killing the groom. It almost kills the bride, but it turns out that she’s prepared. Thanks to a concealed blade (that looks like it would have cut her leg quite a bit as she walked around), she is able to fight and kill the Thing.

Turns out she – Summer Vale (Brigitte Kinglsey) – is a “warrior princess” whose mission is to kill demons who sneak over into our realm. And there’s been a surge in demonic activity lately. Can she and her team find out the reason behind it – and save the world?

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Movie Review: Star Wars: Neon Noir (Online, 2015)

It is pretty much agreed that the Star Wars prequel trilogy was….. well, “Not Good”. Admittedly, it’s not easy to tell a story when the ending is predetermined. But one shouldn’t need three whole movies to tell how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. Quite a few fans took it upon themselves to edit the trilogy (removing the boring or tasteless parts (i.e. Jar-Jar Binks)) into a single, more “streamlined” film.

These fans pretty much succeeded in creating films that are faithful to the Star Wars universe, and tell the story rather well. It’s essentially a Grand Tragedy, how a young Jedi filled with promise was turned to the Dark Side.

The team at Film Addicted went a bit further. What if you not only condensed the story, but changed the tone?

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Book Review: Conquistadores

Conquistadores: A New History of Spanish Discovery and Conquest
Fernando Cervantes
Viking Books
Copyright 2020 by the author

There seems to be a trend in the study of history these days to reexamine and reframe the past to highlight the evils that have been painted over in our “standard narrative”. Winston Churchill, for example, was not the brilliant leader who kept Britain fighting throughout World War II; instead he was the brutal colonialist whose policies led to the deaths of millions when famine hit India in the 1940s.

Some will claim they’re just trying to present a more nuanced approach, but to me it seems like they’re just being petty and vindictive, blaming the Past for all the ills of the Present that they feel powerless to deal with. Or perhaps they just enjoy being contrarian.

For if they were truly trying for a more nuanced history, surely they would be willing to accept a reexamination of what the “standard narrative” states was Bad and Evil – right? Would it be acceptable, for example, to show that the Spanish conquest of the Americas wasn’t one huge mess of rape, plunder, and murder by the white European males? Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Checkmate in Berlin

Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown that Shaped the Modern World
Giles Milton
Henry Holt and Company
Copyright 2021 by the author

In the waning days of the Second World War, the allies – Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union – were all on reasonably good terms when it came to defeating Nazi Germany. Sure, there were a few rough spots, but “the enemy of my enemy” and all that saw to it that any differences were papered over for the common cause.

Four years later, the Soviets tried – and failed – to blockade western Berlin into submission, and NATO had been founded to counter the Communist threat.

How did it all happen?

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BOOK REVIEW: Head On

Head On: A Novel of the Near Future
John Scalzi
Tor Books
Copyright 2018 by the author

FBI Agent Chris Shane had something of a front-row seat to the death of hilketa player Duane Chapman during an exhibition game. Because the league was trying to persuade his father to invest in their expansion, he was in the luxury box for the game. Well, not really there in person. Shane is one of the millions who is a “Haden” – he suffers from a neurological condition where (as described in the “prequel” Lock In) his mind cannot control his body. Thanks to a neural interface, he can operate an android body to get around.

The same tech is used in hilketa – a superviolent sport that involves knocking the head off a player on the other team, and using it to score. Can’t do that with real people, obviously.

Agent Shane finds himself on the case, with two big questions. How did Chapman die, and why does it look like the league is desperate to cover it up?

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Movie Review: The Year of the Sex Olympics (UK, TV, 1968)

Get your mind out of the gutter. This is NOT some sort of soft-core porn “nudie cutie”. It’s a “made for TV” play that aired on the BBC’s “Theater 625” drama anthology series, so other than a hint of some passing nudity in one scene, there’s nothing that could be considered lascivious.

It just happens to be set in the Year of the Sex Olympics. We’re not given any clue as to what a “sex Olympics” might entail. But what we do know is that the teleplay takes place in a not too distant overpopulated future, where everyone is effectively divided into the “hi-drives” (the leaders, movers and shakers, the “One Percent”) and the “lo-drives” (the plebians, the workers, the unwashed masses). The lo-drives are fed a nearly constant stream of lowest-common-denominator entertainment to keep them in line.

There are some who dissent, and some of the hi-drives are worried that their usual methods of keeping the lo-drives sated and content aren’t working anymore. Coordinator Ugo Priest (Leonard Rossiter) has a plan to try the broadest of physical comedy – a pie fight – in the hopes of getting people to laugh. It fails completely. When the accidental death of a protester on the set during a live “introduction” of some of the year’s sex Olympians causes the viewing audience to break out laughing, director Nat Mender (Tony Vogel) gets an idea. Continue reading

Movie Review: Peking Opera Blues (Hong Kong, 1986)

The Middle Kingdom has collapsed. As a democratic government struggles to find its feet, several factions are jockeying for power. In the chaos in a general’s mansion, traveling musician Sheung Hung (Cherie Chung) bops a hapless soldier, Tung Man (Cheung Kwok-Keung), on the head with her instrument, and scampers off with a box of valuable jewelry. To evade the police, led by Inspector Liu (Feng Ku), she stashes the box on a cart belonging to a theater troupe. It shouldn’t be too hard to follow it to the theater, sneak in backstage, and collect it, right?

At that very theater, manager Master Wong (Wu Ma) is struggling to get tonight’s production off on schedule. His daughter, Bai Niu (Sally Yeh), isn’t helping. She wants to be in the show, but he knows well enough that the theater is no place for a young lady. Especially because any distinguished guest might want to order an actress to come home with him – and the manager would be powerless to refuse.

One of those “distinguished guests” could be General Tsao (Kenneth Tsang), who is on the rise in the local game of “king of the hill”. What he doesn’t know is that his recently returned from abroad daughter, Tsao Wan (Brigitte Lin), has sided with the new democratic government. In cooperation with a young army officer, Pak Hoi (Mark Cheung), she’s plotting to pilfer the documents that would prove dad is in cahoots with foreigners to pretty much sell out the country.

Can these three young ladies find happiness, friendship, and success?

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Movie Review: Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Noted barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton) has just been released from the hospital after suffering a heart attack and is heading back to his office at the Inns of Court (where he is also fortunate enough to have his residence). Accompanying him, much to his irritation, is his home health care aide, Nurse Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester). She’s tasked with looking after his health; making sure he gets plenty of rest, avoids stressful situations, takes his medications, and completely avoids his beloved cigars and brandy.

This is torture as far as Sir Wilfrid is concerned. Fortunately, almost immediately after his return to his office, Solicitor Mayhew (Henry Daniell) arrives, with Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) in tow. Vole is in a really tight spot: a widow with whom he has been on friendly terms has been killed, and as he was the last person to see her alive, he’s expecting to be arrested for murder at any moment. Could the great “Wilfrid the Fox” be so good as to represent him in court? Shouldn’t be too hard – Vole’s wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich) can give him an alibi….

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