A Matt Damon Double Bill? What Was I Thinking?

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I don’t know what possessed me to watch two Matt Damon films back to back, but that’s what I did.

I find Damon hard to take in large doses. Although I liked him fine in The Martian his appearance in Interstellar bordered on too much despite the fact that he had less screen time in that than in The Martian, so his level of “getting on my nerves” varies from film to film.

So I watched The Adjustment Bureau on Netflix. It was a film I’d never seen before and it was based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, who is one of my favorite writers and films based on his works usually appeal to me. This one did as well, despite it feeling like an episode of The Twilight Zone that went on for just too long. I liked Emily Blunt as well. I know she’s a big draw these days but I haven’t seen many of her films and in this one I found her to be engaging and watchable.

I had a very positive reaction to this film, despite finding the “magic hats” idea kind of silly. And maybe I’m not a romantic but it seems that a lot of Damon’s character’s actions were more than a little selfish. I guess I didn’t get the sense that the feelings Damon had for Blunt’s character were overwhelming. They said it, but I didn’t feel it. Nor did I get the sense that Damon’s character had a fantastic political destiny. He was liable enough, but he didn’t convey the commitment that he was supposed to have to public service. The characters say all the right catchphrases, but there is nothing backing them up.

Still, getting past that the film was likable enough and the story was interesting and it was fun watching them go through the doors and ending up someplace completely different then where they are expecting.

At it’s heart it is a chase movie. The philosophical and existential questions are secondary. It’s about lovers wanting to be together and running from those who would tear them apart. The questioning of reality and pondering the questions of destiny versus free will were thrown in but not really explored.

Is it worth a look? Sure. It’s on Netflix. Check it out.

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But then there is Elysium, also starring Matt Damon. This is an original story (and I use the word “original” very lightly) by Neil Blomkamp and starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.

This film is awful. There are some pretty special effects, sure, but the film is so monumentally stupid. So Elysium is a space station… a utopia in space… a giant ring space station where the rich and powerful hoard all the best air and medical technology while all the poor people live on the dirty, polluted and stinky surface of the Earth. You can tell they are poor because of the color of their skin and their Mexican accents.

Except for Matt Damon who seems to be the only poor white person. Naturally he is going to be the one to save everyone. Except it seems that wherever he goes, violence happens, which is not only bad for him but for anyone around him as well, which is inconvenient because he’s just re connected with his childhood girlfriend and her daughter who has leukemia. (Oh, I can see where this is going)

As for Elysium itself it is run by a council but the Minister of Security, played by Jodie Foster, is a hard assed bitch who will not hesitate to shoot down ships loaded with dirty poor people who are trying to get access to the medical beds. The president makes noises about going to far, but Foster doesn’t care. She’s Anne Coulter on steroids, baby, an Armani suited villain who can’t decide if her accent in English, French or American, but that hardly matters once she starts raving about how she’s preserving the natural order of things and dripping equal amounts of contempt for the poor people of earth and also for the spoiled, rich but soft denizens of Elysium.

Okay, I could go on, but this movie is terrible. There are some pretty effects and the actual Elysium space station is breathtaking, although the lack of a ceiling is problematic. The atmosphere is just open to space. How it doesn’t bleed off into the vacuum is beyond me and is never explained.

This movie. is mostly stupid. Actually, no, it’s all stupid.

It’s on Netlfix, yeah, but… don’t. Just… don’t.

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

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Hey, I’m back with another Netflix movie review!

I don’t play video games. I’m not a gamer. So what I know about HALO can be summed up as such:

It’s a video game. It features a character called Master Chief.

That’s it. That’s all I know.

So, here I am watching a movie called Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn and it begins with a bunch of cadets getting their hair sheared off (somewhat reminiscent of the opening scene of Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, one of my favorite films of all time) and then these cadets start talking to someone off camera like it’s  some sort of documentary,

Okay. I think I know what this is.

Then it switches to an older guy (whom I recognize as Canadian Actor Ty Olsson, who played Lt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica) who is listening to a distress call from a ship. The ship has 1 survivor in cryo-suspension, some alien thing is trying to take over and this cgi fairy thing materializes and…

Okay, the film’s lost me. I don’t know what’s going on.

Then suddenly we’re back with the cadets and the story picks up with cadet Thomas Lasky who really doesn’t know if he wants to go to war or not. Seems his older brother was a good soldier but he died on a mission and he’s real bummed about it and he never sees his mother anymore because she’s too important.

So Lasky and his fellow cadets are in training and their squad has the lowest score because Lasky can’t stop being an arrogant prick long enough to follow orders. Plus he’s suffering from some blisters and burns and other health problems which his earnest doctor can’t seem to figure out. Lasky soldiers on, though, which is ironic considering he doesn’t seem to want to be a soldier.

If this hadn’t had HALO in the title I would have given up on this film. The young cadets were good actors and the film looked fairly impressive. I liked the cadet uniforms. I liked the way they used Simon Fraser University as a backdrop (If you saw the original Battlestar Galactica pilot you’d probably recognize it). But I didn’t like any of the characters.

So there’s this subplot about one of the characters trying to un-encrypt a top secret video of a combat mission that hints that there is “something else” out there that the soldiers are fighting. Just as soon as they discover that fact the training school is suddenly under attack.

Now the movie gets exciting with these giant aliens attacking the school and real soldiers dropping in to defend them. So now it’s a horror movie where the cadets squad is trapped in the school without any weapons trying to hide from the scary monsters who can become invisible. Okay. Now I know what kind of movie this is.

But wait! Just before an alien kills one of the cadets who shows up but Master Chief! Master Chief will save the day!

Now it’s a chase movie where Master Chief and five… oh, wait, make that four… scared cadets have to run the gauntlet of scary aliens to make it to the rendezvous point.

Whoops! Make that three cadets.

Okay. This movie is a mess. It’s boring and confusing in turns. Maybe if you play the game, or know more about the HALO universe this film would make sense. Apparently it was originally a web series. Maybe seeing it in episodes would have made more sense, but as a whole movie like this… well, it`s no Full Metal Jacket, let me tell you. It`s no Starship Troopers, either

If you are a fan of HALO this might be a good film. If you are a fan of military SF, this film is a bit of a mess.

I can`t recommend it, but if you are curious, it`s currently playing on Netflix.

Cough/Cold Update

The cough/cold is all but gone. After sounding like Lou Rawls/Barry White, Morgan Freeman, Chewbacca and the audio track of an Akira Kurosawa film I’m back to sounding like myself and, you know what? Myself is not a bad thing to be!

Me and Moggy

On the weekend my wife and I put together a new computer desk (well, new to us. We bought it off a friend). We decided that a new workspace needed a new chair as our old re-purposed kitchen chair wasn’t quite up to snuff anymore. One quick trip downtown and – voila! The perfect chair for the brand new work space!

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There’s even a little corner for some of my silly desk toys.

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Now let’s see if the combination of my recovery and the new workspace makes me more productive!

Well, hope spring eternal…

Timeline of a Cough/Cold and the overwhelming power of Love

So, I’ve had this cough/cold thing for the past week. It’s no mystery where I got it. Everyone at work has a variation of it and half the office is home because of it.

Mine is just bad enough to make itself known and to be personally annoying, but not debilitating enough to keep me home, particularly when there is so much to be done because half the office is absent.

However, as is usually the case when I get a cough or a chest cold, about three days in due to a particular combination of coughing and/or medication, my voice deepens and gets just enough of a rasp that I start to sound like Lou Rawls…

Or, Barry White, if you prefer…

Either way, my voice sounds deeper, huskier and… yes… sexier than normal. The ladies at the office have told me just to keep talking. One even suggested I start a 1-900 line!

The only woman who doesn’t find my new voice sexy is my wife. She hates it. I even tried to serenade her with “You’ll Never Find”. I managed to sing the first line before she said: “Oh, stop! Just stop!”

I never did understand that. But she explained that I only sound like this when I’m sick and no matter how “sexy” others find it, to her it just means that I am sick and she doesn’t like hearing me sick.

When she said that I was bowled over. I realized that her not liking my “sick” voice was a sign of love. It filled me with with a sense of awe at the depth of her love and made me realize just what a treasure my wife really is.

My wife loves me no matter how I sound, which is a good thing. Because the Lou Rawls/Barry White voice only lasts so long. After that’s over I start to sound less sexy and more like:

Despite that my wife is still there and cares for me when all others don’t. I am truly a lucky man.

Now, of course, my wife is starting to come down with it as I am getting better. I will be there for her, of course, but this time with greater conviction and a greater sense of how much I want to be deserving of that great love that she has for me.

After all, I did take a vow: “…in sickness and in health…”

Where the Hell Have You Been?

 

I know. I took off with barely a word. Made some bullshit excuse about having to go be some artist somewhere.

I’m sorry. Really I am.

And I don’t blame you for giving me that cold stare, walking back in here the way I’ve done. You’ve got a right to be pissed. I get that. I understand.

Let me just tell you a bit about where I’ve been… what I’ve been doing, alright? I’m just gonna take a seat…’s that okay?

So, like I said, I had to go and be M. D. Jackson for a while. I had to be an artist and the work I was doing was unexpected and intense. You know how I get when I’m working. I have to concentrate and focus. And this was done in (digital) pen and ink. You know how exacting that kind of work is, don’t you?

What was I working on? Well, there’s this anthology coming out from Airship 27 Publishing. It’s an anthology about Sinbad… you know… the sailor, not the comedian. I had to do twelve illustrations. Then I suddenly had to do three more. No, don’t ask me why, I can’t really say. But, you know what? As intense as the work was, it was fun!

No, I can’t show them to you. No, really, that’s not for me to do. That’s up to the publisher…

Well, maybe just a peek…

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Good stuff, right?

Yeah, so, what else have I been up to? Well, I saw Deadpool. Loved it. I also saw the Coen Brothers’ latest flick, Hail, Caesar. I liked that, too! It had a real nifty “Old Hollywood” atmosphere and the Coen Brothers’ usual brand of humor and a fantastic cast. I’ll tell you all about it later, I promise.

Right now, though. I picked up a bit of a cough, which is why I sound like Lou Rawls or Barry White. And I’m a bit tired.

You know I missed you. Kept thinking about you the whole time I was gone. No, really! Couldn’t get you off my mind.

Hey, there’s a smile! You really are the best, you know? I don’t know why I go away when you are just so darn fabulous. I won’t do it again. I promise.

So… is there any food in the place? I’m starving! Any chance of you fixing me a sandwich? We can cuddle on the couch afterwards? Maybe we could put on some music, huh?

 

Dark Worlds Magazine

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Fellow AMAZING STORIES blogger and fellow Canadian R. Graeme Cameron recently published the first issue of a science fiction magazine called Polar Borealis. I congratulate R. Graeme on his achievement. It is certainly not easy to publish a magazine today and doing it the way R. Graeme is doing it, paying contributors up front and making the magazine available for free, is not for the faint of heart. That kind of endeavour requires a lot of faith.

I know this because of my experience with Dark Worlds Magazine.

Dark Worlds Magazine was an effort to recapture the excitement of the old days of the pulp magazines. Magazines like Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction and Weird Tales. It was also an experiement in producing a magazine in the new print-on-demand marketplace.

Ultimately it was an experiment that failed.

DarkWorlds1Myself and former Amazing Stories blogger G. W. Thomas launched the first issue back in 2008. If the cover was to be believed it was a SPECTACULAR FIRST ISSUE! Indeed, the first issue featured a lot of very talented writers and artists. C. J. Burch contributed a fantastic feature story. We also had stories from Joel Jenkins, David Bain, Robert Burke Richardson, J. F. Gonzalez and Brett Tallman. It featured illustrations by myself and G. W. Thomas as well as Samuel DeGraff and Aaron Sidell.

I was art director and sole production department. I was obsessive about the form that the magazine took. I wanted it to look so much like the old pulp magazines as to be indistinguishable from them.

That worked to our advantage in our print editions but was a considerable detriment to the electronic editions which, at first, was only the .pdf file used for the print edition. Because I stubbornly stuck to the two-column text layout favored by the pulp magazines, the pdf’s were a challenge to read on most devices at the time.

DW3Later e-editions featured the text only with no attempt at formatting and no illustrations. I did not pay much heed to these editions, considering that they paled in comparison to the print edition layout. I have since learned what a mistake that was. The e-book has become a much more desired format among readers. All the fancy typesetting and layout that goes into a print edition is lost in that format. But to disregard it as unimportant is certainly not a wise move.

A second issue followed in 2008 with stories by Joshua Reynolds, David A. Hardy and Jack Mackenzie among others. In 2009 the magazine published a story by writer Michael Ehart, The Tomb of the Amazon Queen which was nominated for a Harper’s Pen award.

In 2010 and again in 2011 the magazine itself was nominated for a Pulp Ark Award for Best Pulp Magazine.

DW5_CoverAfter issue four I decided to change the format. For our first four issues we published as a standard trade paperback size, that is; 6 inches wide by 9 inches tall. That is the format that most print-on-demand books prefer. But I was still obsessed with reproducing the old pulp magazines as closely as possible. With issue number 5 we switched to a Crown Quarto format which is slightly larger than a trade paperback at 7 ½ inches by 10 inches, a size which I felt better approximated the old pulp sizes. At this point we had switched from doing everything in Microsoft Word to laying out in Adobe InDesign. This allowed me a lot more freedom to be creative with the layout. Unfortunately I was still stubbornly holding on to the two-column format for the text, which made for a fantastic print layout but was a challenge for those who preferred the e-editions.

With the new layout production began to require more time and our output slowed. Sales slowed as well, as they had steadily since the first issue. We were constantly hopeful that they would pick up but, alas, they never did. With our 6th issue the writing was on the wall and Dark Worlds Magazine folded.

dark-worlds-6_cover_frontonly1We did learn some lessons along the way. One was that a magazine needs to have a bit of a focus. I think that Dark Worlds was a bit too inclusive. Were were fans of all genres of pulp from the weird tales, to sword and sorcery, to science fiction and to western. I think our subject matter was too wide to appeal to readers in such a niche market. A magazine tends to do better if it has a narrower focus, a specific kind of story that a specific type of reader would enjoy. Dark Worlds tried to be too many things at once.

The biggest lesson, however, was not to ignore the e-book market. Print-on-demand was too pricey a proposition to compete with mass market printing (and even that is too pricey an option for many publishers these days). Catering to e-readers would probably have gone a long way towards selling more copies.

I hope that R. Graeme has found a better way with Polar Borealis. I wish him every success in a very challenging marketplace.

And, if anyone is interested, the final issues of Dark Worlds Magazine are still available here and here, but it won’t be for much longer. Check them out if you are so inclined.

Polar Borealis Magazine

Polar Borealis

POLAR BOREALIS is a fledgling science fiction magazine being published by R. Graeme Cameron. He’s been active in the science fiction fandom scene for decades and he knows his stuff! He’s a fellow blogger at the AMAZING STORIES MAGAZINE website and his magazine needs some love!

He has produced a first issue (which you can find Here:http://www.obirmagazine.ca/polar-boreal-magazine) which features some teriffic fiction and poetry and a short story by Robert J. Sawyer!

But there needs to be more! Check out his GoFundMe page and kick him a few bucks to keep it going! It’s worth your while!