MOVIE REVIEW: Viy (USSR, 1967)

It’s Spring Break at the seminary! The wannabe monks are being set free for a spell; this means that they’ll proceed to prank the locals and (lightly) sexually harass whatever women come within reach.

Khoma (Leonid Kuravlyov), one of these prospective monks, finds that he and his friends have wandered too far away from town when night falls to find a decent bed. A farmhouse inhabited by an old woman provides some shelter, but he’s forced to bed down for the night in the barn. Eh, presumably he’s had worse accommodations. His rest is interrupted by a visit from the old woman, who it appears wants to do a little sexual harassment of her own. Well, Khoma isn’t having any of it, but she won’t take no for an answer. She turns out to be a witch, and casts a spell of him that stiffens him, allowing her to ride him around all night long. Wait, get your mind out of the gutter. What were you thinking? She forces him to carry her on his shoulders while flying around the countryside.

After finally landing, Khoma is freed from her spell. He promptly whacks the magic out of her, revealing her true form as a lovely young woman (Natalya Varley). Why she needed to disguise herself to get men to do her bidding is left unsaid. Khoma flees the scene, leaving the unconscious woman behind.

Little does he know his problems have just begun.

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Book Review: The Baseball 100

The Baseball 100
Joe Posnanski
Avid Reader Press
Copyright 2021 by the author

It started out as a project on his personal blog. Essays on who longtime baseball writer Joe Posnanski felt were the 100 greatest baseball players of all time. He never got around to finishing it. Then, when he moved over to The Athletic, he started the list again. This time, presumably because he the site was paying for his contributions, he finished it. Along the way, commenter after commenter begged him to collect them all into a book. Many said they’d buy it whatever the price.

A little hesitant, Posnanski wasn’t sure people a book that merely collected his online essays would sell. He gave in, and a publisher was found. Another writer and baseball fan, George F. Will, heard about the book and demanded to write the introduction.

The book was an instant success, rocketing to the top of the charts.

How could a simple collection of biographical essays (with minimal photographs and about as plain a cover as you can imagine) on great baseball players become a best seller? Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: The Gate (1987)

It was a dark and stormy night in Nameless Suburban Town. In the midst of some unsettling dreams, a bolt of lightning takes out the tree in the backyard of Glen’s (Stephen Dorff) home. The next day, the removal of the now-dead tree reveals a rather large hole in the ground. Well, dealing with it will have to wait. Glen’s parents are heading out of town for the weekend, leaving his older sister Alexandra “Al” (Christa Denton) in charge. A large panel of wood is placed over the hole, and strict instructions are given to NOT go in and poke around.

Well, try telling unsupervised teens that they can’t do something. Glen and his friend Terry (Louis Tripp) poke around in the hole. While digging out a large geode, Glen cuts himself on a splinter of wood. A few drops of blood fall into the hole – can’t be anything significant, right?

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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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