Unexpected Heart-Pounding Action-Adventure in Under 7,500 Words

I seem to have left the best for last in my Retro Hugo short fiction reading.  This morning, I started reading and could not stop reading “The Sunken Land” by Fritz Leiber.  His writing took me back to the days when I immersed myself in the writings of Robert E. Howard. And once I reviewed his mini-biography at Wikipedia, I understood why I felt that affinity: “With writers such as Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, Leiber can be regarded as one of the fathers of sword and sorcery fantasy, having coined the term.”

The Sunken Land” pulled me along for a ride with Fafhrd, leaving the Grey Mouser as a bookend to the story.  Leiber used a very active voice that left you no time to catch your breath from the first inhalation to the last gasp.

This leaves me with something of a dilemma in deciding which 1942 short story gets my top vote for the Retro Hugo Award.  I haven’t yet reread Asimov’s “Runaround” but I remember it being very good.  I will listen to it next week as an audiobook.  Before I read “The Sunken Land” by Leiber, I had planned on ranking “Runaround” as my first choice.  Then there’s also Clement’s hard science-fiction story “Proof,” which I read yesterday and ranked second after Asimov’s entry.  Both Asimov and Clement are the traditional science fiction types that are most often associated with a Hugo Award.  But my first love is fantasy and Leiber knows how to write a gripping tale.  I will have to ponder my vote and you will have to wait and find out until after I re-read the classic robot logic problem that is “Runaround.”


Series Review: Human Target (2010 – Season 1) Four Stars

Human Target

Season One Aired: 2010

Watched via Netflix DVD: Fall 2016

Synopsis (from Wikipedia): The series follows the life of San Francisco-based Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), a unique private contractor, bodyguard and security expert hired to protect his clients. Rather than taking on the target’s identity himself (as in the comic book version), he protects his clients by completely integrating himself into their lives, to become a “human target”. Chance is accompanied by his business partner, Winston (Chi McBride), and hired gun, Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley). Continue reading “Series Review: Human Target (2010 – Season 1) Four Stars”

Movie Review: The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers (2012)

4 out of 5 stars

Fun.  Early summer blockbuster.  Popcorn for the brain. Terry and I loved every minute of it.

Gives a new meaning to ‘can’t we all just get along?’

I was disappointed for Thor.  He makes a trip back to save the Earth (again) and still didn’t get to spend anytime with his girlfriend.

Movie Review: In Time (2011)

In Time (2011)

3.5 out of 5 stars

I’m not the first one to mention this in a review of In Time, and probably won’t be the last.  The comparison to Logan’s Run is inevitable, but I see it also as a retelling of Robin Hood, at least the second half of it.  Dystopian science-fiction is all the rage, especially now that The Hunger Games have made it to the big screen.  But what the Hunger Games lack in depth (but make up for in violence), In Time brings a thought-provoking story and a message about just how much you can accomplish with only one day left to live.

Movie Review: Hatari! (1962)

Hatari! (1962)

4 out of 5 stars

I did a double-take when I realized this movie is fifty years old this year.  I grew up with this movie.  I’ve seen it I don’t know how many times.  So when I had a chance to catch it again this week via HDNet movies, I snatched it.

No, there’s not much plot, but there’s plenty of comedy, ridiculous romance (it was the early 60s) and action.  Hatari! provides a  feast for the eyes, with gorgeous cinematography of north Tanzania (back then it was Tanganyika) and the dormant volcano Mount Meru as a backdrop plus great action sequences, including an astounding close-up of a charging rhinoceros.  For my ears, I relaxed to the soothing jazzy soundtrack composed by Henry Mancini, including Baby Elephant Walk … one of the first songs I learned to play on the piano.

Most of the actors have passed on (John Wayne in 1979, Bruce Cabot in 1975, Red Buttons in 2006), leaving only Elsa Martinelli, who portrayed Dallas, and Hardy Krüger, who portrayed Kurt, but who is probably more famous for his role as Heinrich Dorfmann, the model plane engineer from The Flight of the Phoenix(1965), still alive today.

Interesting tidbit or trivia from the Wikipedia article on Hatari!

According to director Howard Hawks, all the animal captures in the picture were performed by the actual actors; no stuntmen or animal handlers were substituted onscreen. The rhino really did escape, and the actors really did have to recapture it – and Hawks included the sequence for its realism. Much of the action sequence audio had to be re-dubbed due to John Wayne’s cursing while wrestling with the animals.

The title of the film is the word “hatari,” which means “danger” in Swahili.

If no stunt double were used, then it’s a miracle that Hardy and Gerard Blain were not killed or seriously injured when their Jeep went tumbling across the African plains.  Danger, or Hatari! for real!

Movie Review: Greystoke (1984)

Greystoke (1984)

3.5/4 out of 5 stars

I cannot remember now, nearly thirty years later, if I saw this film in a movie theater.  I don’t believe I did.  In fact, I think I saw it on a grainy VHS tape recorded from someone’s cable or satellite dish system (back when the dishes were six to eight feet in diameter).  After attending a recent library event on Edgar Rice Burroughs, I placed the DVD for Greystoke in my Netflix queue.  Terry and I watched most of it one evening, but didn’t get the last bit watched until the weekend. Even though not a BluRay, the wide-screen format on the HD plasma still provide stunning vistas out of Dark Africa.

Not having read any Tarzan novels, I can’t confirm (or deny) the authenticity of the adaptation.  Most critics consider this one of the closest to the author’s vision.  I liked it because of it’s believability, whether in the jungle or in late Victorian England.  Lambert’s debut acting role still impresses me.  This also happened to be Andi MacDowell’s first film.  Both of them played very well together.

I liked the movie overall.  I think it has held up well and is probably my favorite Tarzan movie to date.

Movie Review: Hancock (2008)

Hancock (2008)

3 out of 5 stars

Terry and I surfed the St. Patrick’s Day line-up in despair of finding anything to watch.  ABC Family Channel had a Harry Potter marathon running opposite a Die Hard Day marathon on AMC.  We finally settled on doing a double-play (watching two channels simultaneously, sort of, from our DVR) of Hancock on FX and the original Die Hard on AMC.  We paused the movies long enough to grill up some Honey Garlic boneless chicken thighs and try some brown rice and quinoa.

This is probably the third or fourth time I’ve watched Hancock.  FX mutilated it for content and to fit the time allotted but I could easily fill-in-the-blanks from my previous viewings.  Not an earth-shattering story or performance, beyond Hancock’s abrupt take-off and landings, but a nice diversion for an otherwise lazy Saturday evening at home.

Movie Review: The Adventures of TinTin (2011)

The Adventures of TinTin (2011)

2.5/3 stars out of 5

I could definitely see the hand of Spielberg in the production and direction of this film.  I did not realize, however, that the story was based upon a comic strip.  John Williams composed the score, even though I could almost hear themes from many of his other more famous film scores, echoing and ricocheting throughout the film.

While I enjoyed watching the film, I just wasn’t wowed by it.  In fact, both Terry and I fell asleep the first time we attempted it.  We tried again on the following day, and I made it to the finish, but Terry nodded off a couple of times again.  All the action and adventure probably would have had more impact in a non-animated production for me.  If you’re going to use guns and other lethal weapons, I guess I prefer live-action (or CGI-enhanced live-action) to the purely animated medium.

Movie Review: Real Steel (2011)

Real Steel (2011)

3.5-4 out of 5 stars

I needed some brainless mind candy this week and the next thing in my Netflix queue just happened to serve up Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman (of Wolverine and Leopold fame).

When I saw the trailers last year, the first thing I thought of was a video game my kids used to play called One Must Fall.   Actually, the screenplay is based on a science fiction short story called ‘Steel’ published in 1956 by Richard Matheson (of I Am Legend fame).

For once, I admit I agree with Roger Ebert on this film, when he stated, “Real Steel is a real movie. It has characters, it matters who they are, it makes sense of its action, it has a compelling plot. Sometimes you go into a movie with low expectations and are pleasantly surprised.”  My sentiments exactly.  I came away very pleasantly surprised, giving my heart a much needed boost up from a devastating loss at home this week.

I did get a chuckle out of a couple of scenes as Atom began his climb up the robot boxing ranks.  A nod and a wink back to Every Which Way But Loose and at least one of the Rocky films.  I probably missed some other scenes that referenced other boxing films of the past, due to my limited experience in that film subcategory.

This movie kept me up way past my bedtime, but I didn’t mind at all.  Take a chance on Atom and enjoy Real Steel soon.

Movie Review: This Means War (2012)

This Means War (2012)

3.5 out of 4 stars

Fun and funny.  Terry and I laughed out loud several times in the near empty movie theater (#7 at the Legends 14 – my personal favorite spot to watch newly released action flix or science fiction extravaganzas) this past Sunday afternoon.

An interesting if a bit of an over-the-top twist on the old love triangle between two CIA agents (and best friends) who discover, date and fight over the the same woman (who is oblivious to their surveillance shenanigans or even to the fact they know each other until it’s nearly too late).

Some discrepancies that bugged me after I left the theater:

If Lauren loved classic rock so much, why is it she only ever danced or sang or exercised to pop or dance music?  Not my definition of classic rock.  And, if she really loved animals and specifically a canine rescue shelter, why did she not foster a dog or two in her apartment?

And since when does a Brit work for the CIA?  Is Tuck on loan from MI6?  Did he defect?  Did he seek political asylum?

That being said, I still enjoyed watching the movie with Terry.  I can’t say I’m entirely happy with the ending, but it still turned out well for everyone involved, excepting the cuts and bruises of course.