Tuesday, July 25, 2017


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Valerian is a tough movie to review for me- there is just so much happening. I have a lot of different thoughts, but I think if I had to summarize it would be like this. Valerian is an ambitious, visually stunning movie with a weak story and uninspiring leads, but I'm still glad I saw it because it has heart, especially towards the end. Valerian and Laureline are agents in the 28th century who are called on to investigate strange goings- on in the massive space station Alpha. It's all over the place, with aliens and other planets and like I said amazing visuals. After hearing so much about the visuals, I didn't think they were the greatest thing ever, so don't be jaded about that, but they are pretty good. 

Imagination is on full display here, and even though this movie is based on French comics  you can see that Luc besson, the director, has put his stamp on it as well. Remember The Fifth Element? That was his movie too, and this is like that movie but maybe on steroids? I loved seeing some of the habitats and strange environments they found themselves in. I think a highlight of the movie for me though was the first set piece, a prolonged sequence where the agents must liberate a McGuffin from a nasty crimelord. The twist is that the mission requires them to infiltrate a market that is in another dimension, forcing them to use special glasses to see this other world and interact with it. 

Again this was an amazing (at times) sequence and sets the movie up very well. It's too bad the movie couldn't carry that through the rest of the way. Valerian and Laureline very nonchalantly do their thing, running through an other dimensional market while being chased by all manner of creatures, and it's really cool how they blip in and out. They've clearly done these kinds of things many times, but that leads to one of the problems. Valerian in particular is supposed to be very experienced and badass, but the casting is... bad. 

Dane DeHaan is cast as Valerian and he looks way too young and not nearly physical enough to fill that role. He is portrayed as a bit of a rogue, which is kind of laughable when he's trying to deliver his dialogue. Cara Delavinge is his partner Laureline, and she's much better here. Not exactly an acting clinic, and some of her dialogue made me cringe, but she holds her own and is much more convincing as a badass agent. In fact I rather liked her in this role, she has a wry smartass way about her and puts Valerian in his place quite a bit. With a better co- lead I think Cara Delavinge could have killed it in this role. 

The story is kind of silly too, and Clive Owen seems wasted here as a very one dimensional bad guy. In fact, Clive Owen would have been a better Valerian. But Cara does her thing and there's enough imagination here to make it worth watching, even with the occasional  eye roll. And there are some poignant moments, including a pretty good emotional performance by Rihanna as a shape shifting alien. The three little aliens that wander all over the station selling information were a nice touch also. So this is not a good movie- that would be a stretch- but I still, weirdly, think it's worth a watch if you're an SF fan. 


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Starship is a classic science fiction book that I've wanted to read for a long time. It's also a generation ship story, and I'm fond of those in general, so it had that going for it as well. This was written in the 1950's so I wasn't sure how it would work but after a rough start I got into this. It's the story of Roy Complain, a member of a primitive tribe who are only vaguely aware they are on a starship, and his journey to discover the truth. 

Roy is initially not interested in exploring the ship, but when he loses his wife to a raiding party from another tribe, he loses status and falls under the sway of a priest named Marapper. The priest has more than a little con artist in him, and has come into possession of something that hints to the true nature of their world. So Roy, now alone and being turned out of his home since the loss of his wife (housing is at a premium), decides he has nothing left to lose, and joins Marapper's expedition. Along with a few others they leave the clan and set off into the ponics- basically a jungle of mutated plants that grow so fast they have taken over entire parts of the ship. 

The journey through the ponics is hazardous, and they run afoul of other tribes, mutated rats, and encounters with other mysterious creatures, including the Giants- who are apparently men but are much taller than the tribesmen. We're left to wonder exactly why the tribesmen are so small, but Roy soon discovers that these Giants can travel between decks of the ship through hatches and other shortcuts. But who are the Giants? And when they capture Roy, why do they later release him? 

This book has a well known twist that I won't detail here. Suffice to say that the trip to Procyon, their original destination, has gone horribly wrong and now the initial mission has been altered somewhat. The tribes of course have largely forgotten who they really are, but there are people in the Forwards section who remember more. Marapper has an inkling of how to get to the Control center, but that turns out to be difficult, and when Roy meets Vyann in the forwards we get a romance subplot as well. 

I'm a big fan of the generation ship concept, and as this is one of the original stories I was especially keen to try this. The cover always appealed to me too, with the primitive look and the hint of technology just below the surface. I actually didn't like this book in the beginning but I stuck with it and I'm glad. The first two thirds of the book weren't really my thing, although there were some interesting observations about life and how it might adapt to circumstances like what happens here. But the last third of the book had my attention and I was really anxious to see what would happen. 

I wasn't sure about Vyann at first- I didn't think she was going to play a large role but then her and Roy get involved, and I was soon rooting for them to survive as all kinds of things start going wrong. You have mutant rats, telepathic butterflies, a ship that may have no one at the helm, a running battle between different decks of the ship- I had a lot of fun with this towards the end. I got a kick out of the romance too- Roy and Vyann were soon calling each other "darling"- this was the '50's- and while it wasn't instalove it was insta- relationship. But that's okay, I liked 'em, and considering that I didn't like any of the characters at first, that's an accomplishment. All in all I'm glad I read this- the twists are awesome and I'm glad to have finally taken the journey. 

Tuesday Tagline #49

Obsidian and Stars (Ivory and Bone, #2)

A DEADLY JOURNEY. AN IMPOSSIBLE CHOICE. Well that seems a little dramatic, but it's essentially true I suppose. Pretty good tagline, and it was a pretty good read. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

On The Run IV

He fell to one knee as he came through the Gate. The nausea was worse than ever and it took a moment to catch his breath. He looked around and to his left was water, as far as the eye could see. The booming of the surf was at least familiar, and the sky looked more or less the right shade, so he lowered his guard a bit. Took a moment to compose himself, make sure everything was working. To the right was jungle, a riotous profusion of sound and color. Tropical, he thought with a smile. You always could pick 'em, Anna.

So, first things first. He checked his weapon, wincing at the charge on his pulse rifle, and checked his other stuff. Everything seemed in order. He scanned the area, carefully looking for any sign of movement or hostiles but could see nothing, other than various birds and the usual kinds of creatures. He looked back at the Gate and saw that it was quiet now, maybe inert. Thank you, he mouthed to anyone who was listening, and then sat down with his back to it, exhausted. He felt like shit.

Later he stirred- had he fallen asleep?- and noticed the day seemed to have moved on. He was sore but otherwise feeling better, so he got to his feet with a grimace and started moving. The jungle was the same everywhere he looked, and the beach he was on seemed to be a sheltered cove, he could see the headland forming a sort of half moon. Cozy. He skirted the jungle for a bit, looking for any sign, but there was nothing. Then he saw it. Something sticking up from the sand. Was it... yes! A proximity alarm. Hope flared in his chest- it had to be Anna! Who else? The beacon had brought him here, to this place... it had to be her.

As he approached and looked it over he could now see two others, half hidden by foliage. So someone clearly wanted to know if anyone came through the Gate. No doubt the alarm had already gone off, somewhere. Was there a base here? Heart racing, he plunged into the trees and thought about calling out, but decided against it. Not a smart thing to do. He wouldn't go far, but he needed to know if she was close. The day was hot and insects were everywhere, he had to swat them out of his eyes. With all the thrashing he was doing she would probably hear him coming a mile away.

The ground began to rise and the trees thinned, and he quickened his pace. There were some heights ahead and he hoped he was going the right way. He could see something else now, as well. They looked like towers, in the distance, over the treetops. Strange though- they had a different shape, almost domed at the top. Hard to tell for sure though in the haze. He turned in that direction, wondering exactly where this was. What planet was he on? He went a little farther, trying to decide if he should go back, let her come to him, and was just about to turn back when he came into a cleared area. It had clearly been carved out of the surrounding jungle, and he immediately knew what it was. So there was a remote base here after all.

No sign of activity, all was quiet. He was scouting the area with his eyes, from the treeline, when he saw someone. In the entryway. Quiet and partially in shadow. Probably watching him. He hadn't exactly been quiet. He squinted, trying to get a better look. Was it her? He decided on the direct approach. Slinging his rifle over his shoulder, he came out of the trees slowly, hands up. Approached the entry. He could see that whoever it was, they were armed. The weapon was definitely pointed at him. He swallowed and kept on. Somehow he knew. As he approached the weapon lowered, and he heard an intake of breath.  Then  she came to meet him.


Game of Thrones: Stormborn

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Dany is in Westeros! It's been long in coming but last week we saw her and her entourage set foot on Dragonstone- the first step toward her conquering Westeros, and restoring a Targaryen to the throne. It was interesting seeing her in the chamber of the Painted Table, where Stannis used to hatch his intrigues. With Tyrion by her side who knows what will transpire next? Where will she strike first? Who will she ally with? Let's find out. This will have spoilers for the latest episode (and the books). 

We start off on Dragonstone, during a storm, as Dany is in war council with Tyrion and Varys. Things get heated right away when Dany confronts Varys about his service to King Robert, and about him sending assassins at Robert's behest. Things look a little dicey for the whisperer, and even Tyrion looks a bit concerned, but they work something out. I look forward to a similar exchange in the books, if they ever meet, as Martin writing that scene= priceless. This scene was very well done, and in fact I thought the whole first part of this episode was great.

From there we go right into a meeting between Dany and Melisandre, who has just arrived. This was another great scene, without useless antagonism but instead getting right to the matters at hand. There's not a lot of depth to the red priests on the show, due to time limits, but the fact that Dany acknowledged the red priests for helping in Meereen, and the fact that Mel acknowledged Dany as the freer of slaves, was a nice touch for book fans. And I thought Dany and Mel played off each other well. Mel makes Dany aware of Jon Snow and his kingship of the North, and suggests a meeting.

They also discuss the prophecy. First of all there's lots of debate as to whether Jon or Dany are the Prince that was Promised - here they are keeping that ambiguous with the gender neutral nature of the prophecy. The other thing is the mention of dawn. Now this could just be referring to the dawn that comes after the Long Night, after the Others are defeated. But what if there's more? There is a Valyrian steel sword called Dawn that is the ancestral weapon of House Dayne- we haven't heard much about this on the show, but how cool would it be if not only was the prophecy referring to the prince or princess, but also the sword of House Dayne being used against the Others?

We check in with Cersei trying to peel Lord Tarly off from the Tyrells, and this was a disappointing sequence for me because Jaime seems to be all in with Cersei. After blowing up the sept and everything she's done, I thought he was about done with her, but apparently not. The portrayal of Jaime is one of the most disappointing aspects of the show. In the books Jaime is independent by now, trying to do the right thing, but here there is none of that. We also see that slimy Qyburn is working on a huge ballista apparently to combat the dragons. Whatever.

I could have done without the Jorah sequences frankly, not only because I'm not a big fan of Jorah but also because I didn't need to see his greyscale being peeled off. And- Nymeria is back! Arya is heading to King's Landing but when she runs into Hot Pie (!) and finds out Jon is king in the north, you can hear the squealing of tires as she does a U-turn. I can't wait to see Arya and the reunion, although he'll be gone- so she'll get to see Sansa first? And yes Nym turned away, but I would bet she will rejoin her at some point.

The conclusion of course was the sea battle, as Euron sneaks up on Yara's fleet and lays waste to it. From what I could see there was only one ship- Euron's- although maybe we're supposed to assume there were others? Yara's fleet is wiped out. I actually thought this whole thing was lame- the scene where Euron boards by swinging down on some dragon plank or something- that was bad. They tried hard, obviously, to make this visceral, and it was very violent, but it was obviously a CGI fest and I didn't feel pulled in. If they want to show a realistic sea battle they should take a page from Black Sails' playbook. I know the budget isn't there though to go to those lengths for one battle. But this was clearly a move to get certain players off the board- the Sand Snakes and Ellaria are not necessary for the endgame, so sweep em off.

One last thought on the sea battle. There's a theory out there called "eldritch apocalypse" that posits that Euron is going to smash the Redwyne fleet and take Oldtown in the Winds of Winter. The theory is the brainchild of a blogger named PoorQuentyn and the theory is an awesome read, if perhaps farfetched. Or is it? The theory says that Euron's bloodbath on the seas is going to serve as a sacrifice of sorts which will cause the Drowned God of the ironborn to rise. Problem is the Drowned God is not a humanoid deity but a creature of cosmic horror, a true monster of the deep. Not really germane to the show, but that imagery... you can see the theory here

Random Thoughts

Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty, Varys tells Dany during their talk. Seems like it has modern relevance?  

I love it when Melisandre tells Dany to send for Jon. Even though he exiled her, she still wants to fight the good fight, and I've always thought Jon had a good ally in Mel.  

"Prophecies are dangerous things." Another great line from Melisandre. 

 Who do you think is the Prince or Princess that was promised? 

Dawn is probably the most famous Valyrian steel sword in Westeros, given that it was wielded by Ser Arthur Dayne, said to be the greatest of the Kingsguard. I think this lends more credence to the above theory about dawn being significant, although it's still probably a long shot. 

Dickon Tyrell is introduced, and it's none other than... Tom Hopper, who played Billy Bones on Black Sails. Woot! 

Loved the council with Dany and the other women- Yara, Ellaria, and Olenna Tyrell. Ellaria's a piece of work. Well, she was.  

I loved the storm scene at the beginning- Dragonstone looked as forbidding as it should. 

Will anyone miss the Sand Snakes with that awful dialogue they got? 

"A boy. A girl. Depends on the port." Yara to Ellaria as they begin to get down. She's loving that role. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sunday Post #204

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

This has been a good week. Quiet, not a lot happening. Trying to get caught up on shows and read a bit.  I'm finishing up on Shetland and looking for something to watch after that! I bought a Paperwhite this week too (don't laugh Karen!!!). 

Part four of On The Run will be up early in the week. And I'm reviewing Game of Thrones on Mondays, so stop by! Oh and a little news I found interesting- one of my favorites has expanded into Chicago. Yes the Safehouse is now providing safe haven for agents on the run (or who just want a drink). I've been to the original many times but I think the Chicago location looks great w/ updated decor. If you're in Chicago area check it out. It helps to know the password...   

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This week I reviewed Obsidian and Stars and I have a review coming up for The Secret History Of Us, which I really liked. 

Obsidian and Stars (Ivory and Bone, #2)One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns, #2)The Secret History of Us

Song of the week


The House Without a Key (Charlie Chan, #1)


A Map for Wrecked Girls


I'm not sure if this looks great or not. 


Things got a little out of hand maybe! 

A woman gets smacked rather hard at the 8 second mark, and some guy throws a chair at 38 seconds. Kinda crazy. 

She made it in...

Can I get a pizza???

Tactical Neural Implant

lonely city love affair by chesterocampo.deviantart.com on @deviantART

I love the large version 

Same here- this one's amazing close up. Love the view out her window, and how pensive she is. 

Morning sketch

The Journey Begins