Friday, 17 November 2017

Movie Review: What Happened to Monday

Directed by Tommy Wirkola, 2017

Pros: great acting, chilling story, antagonists have realistic motivations, thought provoking, action packed

Cons: a little hard to keep the sisters straight

In a future with gross overcrowding, a law is passed stating only one child per couple is allowed. Any siblings born are frozen, to be brought back when the population is under control. When Terrence Settman’s daughter dies birthing septuplets, he takes the girls and raises them - named after the days of the week - to be Karen Settman on their day. When Monday doesn’t come home one day, the others fear they’ve been discovered by the Child Allocation Bureau.

I’ve always been impressed by actors who can play multiple interacting rolls in a film. Noomi Rapace, playing 7 characters, does a brilliant job. She gives each sister a slightly different behaviour, which, combined with costuming, helps keep them straight. Having said that, I still had some trouble with this when there was a group of them together.

The setting was chilling, and chillingly realistic as a possible future. While Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close)’s one child policy seems heartless, it’s an unfortunate truth that over population is a problem and it’s difficult to come up with humane solutions. I suspect if this sort of policy becomes necessary globally, other social changes would have to come with it (religions would need to de-emphasize large families, social safety nets would need to be improved to help the elderly so they don’t need several adult children to support them, etc.). The film’s dependence on a single policy, without further societal pressures, is untenable.

I loved that the antagonists have realistic motivations for what they’re doing. While the majority of CAB officers are just doing their jobs, Cayman knows what she’s doing, and that it’s an unfortunate necessity. Similarly, when you finally discover why the siblings have been targeted, it does make sense, even if you consider other options may have worked better.

There’s a surprising amount of action - and a diversity of it. There’s a chase scene, explosions, even a bit of romance.


This is a great, thought-provoking film.   

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Shout-Out: The Dark Intercept by Julia Kelier

When the state controls your emotions, how hard will you fight to feel free?
In a radiant world of endless summer, the Intercept keeps the peace. Violet Crowley, the sixteen-year-old daughter of New Earth's Founding Father, has spent her life in comfort and safety. Her days are easy thanks to the Intercept, a crime-prevention device that monitors emotion. But when her long-time crush, Danny Mayhew, gets into a dangerous altercation on Old Earth, Violet launches a secret investigation to find out what he's hiding. An investigation that will lead her to question everything she's ever known about Danny, her father, and the power of the Intercept.

Much like the device itself, The Dark Intercept will get under your skin.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Video: Stranger Things Honest Trailer

With the excellent season 2 of Stranger Things now out, Screen Junkies has done an honest trailer for season 1. It's full of spoilers, so consider yourself warned.



And as a bonus video, if you're old enough to remember Perfect Strangers, Jummy Kimmel brought the actors back and paired them with the Demigorgon from Stranger Things in a pretty awesome mash-up.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Book Review: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Pros: excellent creature building, diverse cast, some tense moments

Cons: several minor items made me lose immersion, minor inconsistencies

Seven years ago the entertainment company Imagine’s ship Atargatis was lost in the Mariana Trench. Video, called a hoax by most, showed mermaid like creatures attacking the ship. Now, a new ship is being sent to find out what really happened.

There’s a great diverse cast. It was interesting seeing the hearing impaired twins interact with and without their translator (though I was surprised more people didn’t consider handwriting or typing notes to communicate with them). I really liked Victoria, and seeing her determination to discover what happened to her sister on the Atargatis. The book had some great friend duos between Victoria and Luis and Olivia and Ray. It’s not common to see close and supportive male/female friendships so it was great seeing those. While I didn’t particularly like Dr. Toth, I loved her mixture of curiosity and fatalism when it came to the mermaids.

The mermaids, or sirens as Dr. Toth preferred to call them, were incredible. They’re both alien and based on deep ocean creatures, beautiful and terrifying. I was impressed that the author makes it clear how they became objects of myth while also being quite different from the stories they inspired. I loved the hypotheses regarding aspects of their biology, mannerisms, and communication. The creature building was brilliantly done. 

I appreciated that the romantic elements came with a healthy dose of communication and a lack of manufactured drama. It came up quickly but felt organic to the story. 

There were several conversations and minor issues that kept bumping me out of the story. This ruined my immersion and lessened the tension. For example, when scientists start boarding the ship Ray and Olivia point people out to each other. Ray sees Luis Martines and knows a surprising amount of information about his life and field of study. He’s even read one of Luis’ academic papers. While I’ll accept that Olivia and Ray were given a crew manifest, he definitely knows more than a cursory search would bring up, even if Martines’ wealth makes him an intriguing subject. But then he doesn’t know who Dr. Toth is, which makes no sense if he studied the crew, considering she’s more famous and important as a subject for their work. 

Another scene with Olivia made me pause when she thought about her family: conservative father, liberal mother. Apparently her mother doesn’t think she should ever have sex due to her ‘condition’, which doesn’t seem ‘liberal’ to me. Had Olivia framed her thought explaining that her mother believed she was liberal but her words to Olivia proved otherwise, it would have made more sense.

I noticed several minor inconsistencies. I’m not sure if other readers will find these as distracting as I did, but I’ll discuss them in the spoiler section below. Thankfully the last hundred pages or so didn’t include any of these so I was able to really get into the action and feel the suspense and horror of the ending.

The book wasn’t perfect but it has some great creatures and the ending is excellent.


***SPOILERS***







At the beginning of the book Victoria remembers her recent break-up, where her ex brought a box of her things to the cafe where they were meeting. While she walked out first, I had assumed that by bringing the box her ex signalled that things were over. But later in the book she thinks about the two reasons she dumped him, Luis comments that she was the one who broke things off, and the ex is shown bitter and vengeful about her leaving him.


A second instance happens with Blackwell. Early in the book he has a phone conversation with Golden, who is unhappy that Blackwell insists on going on the voyage personally. He’s so important Golden would prefer he send someone else. But we see a memo later where Golden tells Blackwell he’s sending him on the ship in part to prove his loyalty to Golden. 

Friday, 10 November 2017

Movie Review: The Faculty

Directed by Robert Rodriguez, 1998

Pros: good acting, some good jump scares

Cons: some gore

A group of high school students notice odd things happening and discover evidence that aliens are taking over people, starting with the faculty.

I was surprised that this horror movie had some remarkably good acting (and actors). Elijah Wood (Frodo from Lord of the Rings) plays the picked on nerd, Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith from Cheers) is the principal, Robert Patrick (T1000 from Terminator 2) is the football coach, and Jon Stewart (formerly host of the Daily Show) is a science teacher.

There were some really good jump scares and the monster special effects were quite good. There was also some gore, which I’m not a fan of but was kept fairly minimal.

I felt terrible for Casey, the stereotypical nerd who gets very aggressively bullied at school. The film is full of stereotypes (the jock, the head cheerleader, the drug dealer/slacker, the new girl). I will say that seeing the hot chick convert into a nerd was unique, it usually goes the other way. 

There’s also a scene with attempted sexual assault (well, one of the characters assumes that’s what’s happening, though the audience knows otherwise) and some sexual harassment between a male student and a female teacher (the resolution of which creeped me out). I would also say that I found Stokley’s character problematic (she told people she was a lesbian so they would leave her alone - gay rights have come a long way, though the abuse she gets is unfortunately probably still realistic).


I figured out who the main bad guy was but on the whole I was impressed with the film. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Publisher Spotlight: Fiery Seas Publishing

Fiery Seas Publishing was founded in 2014 and

is looking for well-written manuscripts that have been polished to shine. We want wonderfully written manuscripts that grab the reader and will not let go, with a strong hook and plot that merge together flawlessly and characters we never want to leave behind. We are looking for anything from romance to edge-of-your-seat suspense.
  They publish novel and novella length fiction in several genres, including science fiction and fantasy in ebook and print formats. Their website doesn't give any contract information.

Here are a few of their published titles:

Incompetent Gods by Gabriele Russo - The first two books in the series are already out, with the third being released in December.

In a dimension created by the ancient gods, most are now stuck working at Gods Incorporated. CEO Queen Louhi Pohjola, a mortal demigoddess turned vampire (on a diet), holds the planet in the palm of her hand and while she cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a nice person, there’s worse lurking in her shadow.

Goblin, a bitter hybrid with childhood issues and shape-shifting abilities, has a grudge against the world. First on his to-do list is getting rid of the Queen and take her place by forcing the titan Ba’al to devour her.

As her friends and allies fall one-by-one into Goblin’s traps, the Queen’s fate seems inevitable. With no one left to fight, will Ba’al’s friends, a bunch of over-the-hill incompetent gods, be enough to stop Goblin from turning the world into hell?

Kinglet by Donna Migliaccio - Book 2 of the series, Fiskur, just came out on November 7th, and the third will be out in February.

Kristan Gemeta has lost everything: his crown, his kingdom, his courage – even his name.

In the vast wilderness of the Exilwald, he's known to the other outcasts as Kinglet. As long as Kristan stays hidden, he can elude the bounty hunters, brutal soldiers and terrifying spells of Daazna, the Wichelord who killed his father and destroyed his life.
But when a new band of pursuers comes looking for him, Kristan's wariness gives way to intrigue. For bounty hunters they're oddly inept, and a young woman in their company is leaving enigmatic drawings wherever they go. As they plunge deeper into the Exilwald, Kristan follows. He discovers the drawings symbolize the Gemeta Stone, an ancient family talisman seized by Daazna but now in the little band's possession.

With the Stone's protection, Kristan might stand a chance against Daazna. He could regain his birthright and his honor. But to obtain the Stone, he must reveal his true identity and risk the one thing he has left...his life.

Knight Errant by Paul Barrett and Steve Murphy

Warriors…Scoundrels…Mercenaries….

The Knights of the Flaming Star are the most feared and respected Special Operations teams in the known universe. There’s no assignment they can’t handle. No job they can’t complete. As a team, they’re unstoppable.

Then a rescue mission gone awry finds them betrayed by a ghost from their past. Bent on vengeance their nemesis has laid a trap designed to grind their reputation into the dirt and ultimately destroy them.

The pursuit of their enemy will take them from planets run by corporate oligarchies—to a world entrenched in medieval technology and shrouded in magic. They’ll need every ounce of their will, prowess and cunning to turn the tables, salvage their reputation, and save the universe from apocalyptic destruction.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Video: The Soup Robot

I've seen a couple of Simone Giertz's videos in the past and they're all rather crazy/hilarious. Basically she makes robots that do stuff, and they don't generally do that stuff particularly well. In this video she's made a robot that serves her soup...