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: Captains Courageous (1937)

Captains Courageous (1937)

4.5 out of 5 stars

I’m taking full advantage of TCM finally making the leap to HD quality broadcasting.  I have hours and hours of four and five star movies already recorded.  If only I didn’t need to sleep. 

I started watching Captains Courages late Sunday morning.  Terry joined me about halfway through, which prompted me to provide a recap of the first half of the movie.  So many great actors appear in this film:  Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, John Carradine, Mickey Rooney and of course Freddie Bartholomew.  But the story, written originally by Rudyard Kipling, provided the wind to the actors’ sails in this must-see family adventure classic. 

I haven’t read Kipling’s Captains Courageous, but I plan to download an ebook edition from Project Gutenberg or Feedbooks in the near future and compare the original publication to the screen adapation.  Interestingly, and sadly, Kipling passed away the year before this film was released to theatres.

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: 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.

Green Men, Red Planet, Grey Lord, Black Dog

Sunday morning walk with ApolloAfter spending a very lazy Saturday avoiding the invasion of little green men from the Emerald Isle by baking bread, reading about life under Mao in China and watching action flix, Apollo and I took a long walk Sunday morning under an increasingly gloomy overcast sky.  Oddly, we saw only one other dog, which looked like a miniature version of Apollo.  Only three other people were walking during the nine o’clock hour yesterday.  We passed by two clocks on our walk, both of which are broken (either not telling time at all or completely incorrect in their display).  Here’s a couple of shots of the clock at the north end of Lansing’s long undeveloped Town Centre street:

Broke clock south side
South side
North side
North side

As Terry and I were about to leave the house in the early afternoon, my father stopped by on a surprise visit, mostly in response to a status update I Tweeted late on Saturday.  He wanted the nitty gritty details concerning my success in updating my Autostar hand-held computer control device for my Meade ETX-90 telescope.

A couple of weeks ago, I had downloaded the most recent Autostar Updater software from Meade and finally remembered to attempt the hardware portion of the update.  Hardware and I have a long history of adversarial confrontations.  Basically, I used several different connector cables between my laptop and the Autostar device:  1) a serial to USB convert cable, 2) a proprietary Meade serial to Autostar cable (looks very similar to a phone jack, not nearly as big as RJ-45 though), 3) the Autostar cable to connect to the Meade ETX-90 and 4) a universal 12 volt transformer and power cable to supply electricity to the telescope.  Once all the connections were in place and secure, I fired up the software.  I did an auto-detect on all available COM ports and the software found the Autostar on COM5.  Then, I instructed the software to download the most recent firmware version (43Eg … an increase of nearly 20 versions over the 26Ec firmware that came on the Autostar when I received it) from Meade and proceeded with the download to the Autostar at the astronomically miniscule data rate of 9600 baud.   The update amounted to about 36 kilobytes of data.  I have text files that are larger than that.  It took fifteen to twenty minutes to complete the transfer.  Man, has data transfer come a long ways in the last decade or two.

I gave dad the bread I had made him Saturday, as well as the Netflix envelope with The Adventures of TinTin sealed in it so he could watch that movie and then return it for me to Netflix in a second unsealed envelope I sent home with him.

Without further ado, Terry and I headed to the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library to attend a lecture and presentation by John Carter Tibbets billed as “From Africa to Mars! 100 Years of Tarzan and John Carter.”  We arrived just in the nick of time and parked in the tenant parking garage, since I remembered to bring my security badge with me.  I happen to work in that same building.  As a result of the lecture, I decided to add the DVD of Greystoke to my Netflix queue.  I remember watching it in the mid 80s, probably on a VHS tape, but decided now is the time to see it in wide-screen via DVD.  I also acquired a movie poster for the John Carter movie, and other memorabilia, courtesy of Tibbets’ recent private screening of the film at a special showing to a select group of Burroughs aficionados.  Tibbets closed the session with this wonderful quote from C.S. Lewis, summing up the why behind the timeless popularity of characters like John Carter and Tarzan:

To tell how odd things struck odd people is to have an oddity too much: he who is to see strange sights must not himself be strange. He ought to be as nearly as possible Everyman or Anyman.

— C.S. Lewis, On Science Fiction

On the return trip home, Terry and I detoured to Mission Med Vet to pick up Roxy‘s remains.  We spent the drive home in silence, cherishing memories of her and missing her deeply.

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: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Four out of Five Stars

My husband and I braved the last-Sunday-before-Christmas-crowds at the Legends shopping center to watch this latest installment in the Sherlock Holmes universe.  Strangely, our theatre (the largest one at the Phoenix Theatre complex) was sparsely populated for the mid-afternoon matinee.  Be that as it may, we thoroughly enjoyed the film. The musical score grated less on the ears this time (more classical orchestration instead of the out-of-tune upright piano cacophony overused in the first movie). I can’t wait to re-watch this on DVD so I can pause it and examine certain scenes minutely. Even with my photographic memory, modern day editing gives viewers nanoseconds to absorb an incredible amount of relevant detail.  Despite the dreary gray British and French winter countryside, the cinematography was gorgeous, the highlight being the Swiss Alps.  The action frequently sported ultra-high-speed slow-motion sequences, punctuated with excellently choreographed audio.