I must admit that when I heard Marvel was actually going forward with giving Ant-Man his own movie I was surprised. Sure, Ant-Man is cool but, really? His own movie?

The casting of the movie didn’t make me any more excited for the movie either. Paul Rudd is pretty one note to me and fairly wooden. Yet they made him the star. Having Edgar Wright as director did make things interesting but then when he was eventually let go I was once again uninterested. The trailer’s and the footage I eventually came across did marginally peak my interest and since I was fresh off of Avengers 2 this summer, I figured why not? Let’s break it down and see where just how good or bad it actually was.

mcuThe Story:

I would have to say that the idea was more interesting than the execution. There are some moments that are gems but there was also a lot of unnecessary humor. The type of humor that tries too hard. One thing I find,  is an ongoing trend with Marvel movies. On the plus side they did mange to make me laugh a few times and use the characters to create some very memorable flashback scenes.  The plot is fairly standard fair. No surprises and even quite predictable at times. The originality lies with the character itself and what his powers are. I’ll say that half of his supporting cast added a lot to the story.  The movie’s first half was quite dull. I actually fell asleep for about 3 minutes at one point. Something that seldom ever happens to me. The third act was great and that really gave the movie it’s life.

The Action:

One of the things that this movie had going for it was the action sequences. For the most part. I must confess it was a bit weird to see this tiny shrunken man fighting another grown person and winning… A little hard to swallow for me but original. The creators of this movie certainly needed to think outside the box to make the action work. It’s dynamic and something that hasn’t been seen before which is rare considering how many comic book movies we’re getting these days. If anything I think the movie could’ve benefited from a bit more action but I think that having more would’ve presented a bigger challenge which might have made for lackluster scenes.

The Villain:

Marvel’s Achilles heel it seems. Memorable on screen baddies don’t come up much and this movie is no exception. Yellow Jacket fails to be anything more than someone to fight against. There’s really nothing compelling or original about him. He’s not a terrible villain by any means. I’ve seen worse. His change into Yellow Jacket felt so forced that it really feels just thrown in there. If they had spent a bit more time on him perhaps the payoff would’ve been better. I’ve been longing for another great villain for a while. Ultron was almost there but didn’t quite hit the mark of greatness. I will say that Corey Stoll did a fine acting job. He really elevated the character and made the most out of the role. At the end of the day the villain of this movie was not terrible but will anyone really remember Yellow Jacket in this movie five years later?

The Acting:

I’d say a 50/50 split is fair. Paul Rudd surprised me a bit in that he was not clinging to his comedic chops as much as I thought he would be. Yet he couldn’t quite transcend feeling wooden and deadpan, even when he wasn’t trying to be. At the end of the day he didn’t offend me but I wasn’t really rooting for him either. Michael Douglas on the other hand, was superb. Especially for what is a supporting role. He was the heart of the movie for me. I cared about his character and I was rooting for him. Most importantly I didn’t see Michael Douglas. I saw Hank Pym. Evangeline Lilly also impressed me. She played Hank Pym’s daughter, Hope. Her dynamic with Michael Douglas was wonderful. She had much more meaningful emotional scenes than Paul Rudd had.  Michel Pena played the main stooge of the three stooges following Paul Rudd’s character around. While Pena’s character, Luis had some great moments, he and his ensemble of cronies fell flat for me. Their presence there was so obviously to provide humor. I felt very little reason for justifying them for so many of the scenes. Perhaps if the group of three had excellent comedic timing and acting chops they could save the lame jokes but that was not to be.  As I mentioned previously, Corey Stoll put on a good performance as Yellow Jacket because he committed and went for it. The script was his failing, nothing more.

Overall this movie is as middle of the road as it gets. It’s not great but it’s not terrible either. I enjoyed myself for the most parts and I cringed and fell asleep at other times. It felt very safe despite being original in it’s intention. One wonder what the final result would’ve been under the hand of Edgar Wright.

Marvel’s dependence on humor to carry their ” weaker” characters is becoming redundant and predictable. I know they don’t take themselves to seriously which may be what allows general audiences to connect but there’s nothing new for me. it just seems like they’re saying that ” we know our characters are a joke so lets laugh with you.” I don’t think that’s bad for many of Marvel’s character but do they all need to be this way? In the end Ant-Man seemed like one big set up for phase 3 of Marvel’s big picture. They seem to forget that the movie also needs to stand on it’s own.

I would’ve preferred if they paid a little more attention to their story and their characters motivations. They seemed to disregard that at times, even in their ” secret” endings. By the way Ant-Man’s secret endings were pretty useless and in some ways, made no sense to me. Particularly the first secret ending. I would recommend to wait for the Dvd/Blueray or watch it on a cheap day.

This book begins with the Enterprise orbiting the planet Kyros and preparing for an away mission. Dr. McCoy is directing the first trials of a new technology which gives the away team more abilities. The DOP implant is loaded with a given (alien) personality by directly sending live brain wave signals to the device, I imagine that the ship’s sensors would play a part in the operation. When a member of an away team is given the implant, they can more easily overcome the unknown customs, dialects and behaviours of an alien world, but sometimes a little more of that personality can creep through than they might like.

Spock had been leading the away team on Kyros when he suddenly went missing. It turns out that Spock’s DOP got switched from a logical person to a deeply religious and paranoid person, which causes him to become a preacher and the locals are swept up by his convincing words. With a unexpected radiation storm headed toward the ship, Kirk is forced to quickly come up with a plan to capture Spock.

I find the implant technology to be intriguing , the bumps in Kirks path to find Spock can be gripping and the light splashes of violence are a welcome surprise. Some may not like some of the sexist themes in the background, but I found this story to be oozing with original series flavour.

This is a pretty quick read, I recommend it for young and casual readers. This was first published in 1978, and I think it manages to stay relevant in light of the changes the series has had since then. I found the book to be entertaining, but I’m not sure how this story would do as an episode. The premise is interesting, but I think the payoff could have been better.

Its hard to believe that after last weeks episode, they will be able to keep the momentum going in Agents of Shield … but they’ve succeeded admirably!  While there are a few “wobbles” along the way, the mid-season finale ended with an appropriate cliffhanger and is an episode that will definitely keep me coming back to find out what happens next … not to mention the number of things that it actually did reveal – Daisy Johnson & The Inhumans plus enough death and destruction to even keep the Hulk happy!

As a really quick recap from the last episode, Ward has captured Skye and Raina and is taking them to Whitehall.  Whitehall has told Agent 33 to shoot down the Bus & Mack has been killed/transformed by the underground city.

Episode Recap

OK, lets start with the Quinjets attacking the Bus shall we?  May knows that despite Wards promise, HYDRA will not let them survive so as soon as Ward takes Raina and Skye off, she runs to the cockpit to get the Bus out of harms way.  Diving to the cloud deck (by the way, funny scene with the twins (triplets??) here) May and Tripp manage to evade the HYDRA forces by ejecting some camouflage debris which their missiles impact with.

[note: this is one of the wobbles I mentioned earlier … why was Tripp screaming as he pressed some buttons to engage the cloak?  seems a bit over the top?  also, why would HYDRA not search harder for the team – lets be honest 4 smoke clouds floating in the sky, hardly amount to much debris for a plane the size of the Bus?!]

City

At the city, Tripp and Fitz/Simmons are emplacing mechanical detonators to destroy the city.  Once again Howling Commando tech (big promotion in this for the upcoming Agent Carter series of course!) saves the day, as this old school tech won’t be impacted by any electromagnetic interactions that the city might be throwing off.  The team is obviously somewhat concerned with whats happened to Mack and speculate that he might not be dead, but instead he might have been converted by the city – something like a zombie ant – and the city is now controlling him!

Skye

Ward has taken Skye to her dad & what can you say?  While Kyle MacLachlan has only had a handful of appearances on the show, he’s easily a standout performer and one that emotes the roles to a greater degree than almost anyone else.  He is as crazy as they come, but at the same time he can make you empathize with him and his pain … of course a minute later you are scared spitless when he reverts back into a homicidal maniac!

Skye and her dad talk and while he admits to being a monster, he tries to explain and justify it but while doing so, he starts to lose control and scares Skye.  He explains that while he is here in the HYDRA base, he’s not actually working for HYDRA but is using them to find Skye and now that they have, he can kill Whitehall (not sure if you remember, but last weeks episode, we saw Whitehall torture and kill an immortal women – turns out this was Skye’s mother and Cal knows that Whitehall had her killed).  Skye’s dad says he’s sorry and goes out to kill Whitehall.

But

Whitehall knows that Cal is Skye’s dad and questions Ward on why he brought her also when his mission to the Bus was to capture Raina.  Realizing that Skye too can touch the Diviner, Whitehall tells Skye that he will enjoy finding out how she is able to do what she does & knocks out Skye’s dad.  He also tells Ward that he will enjoy making him “comply”.

When Skye’s dad wakes up, he finds that Whitehall has implanted a transmitter on him that knocks him down but before Whitehall can continue threatening Skye, Coulson and May appear and start to attack the HYDRA forces.  Skye’s dad manages to get the transmitter off his neck and kills the guard holding Ward and Skye captive, before he once again leaves to kill Whitehall.  Unfortunately before he is able to get his hands on Whitehall … Coulson appears and shoots him dead!

OK – officially at the 1/2 way point now … like I said lots already happened but no where near the real earth shattering stuff still to come!

[note: is Whitehall really dead?  Considering he was the “big bad” of the season, he seemed to go awful quick?  Potential here for a clone or LMD or something like that??  Would be curious to see if he’s really out of the picture]

On to the 2nd 1/2

OK now that Coulson has killed the big bad, Skye’s dad has a major freak out on Coulson and starts to pound on him … hard.  Meanwhile, Ward has managed to escape his bonds and frees Skye.  As he’s scouting the lay of the land … Skye … shoots him!!

Bloody hell, that one actually really did take me by surprise.  I wasn’t expecting that at all and sad to say … I’m glad she did it.  It actually shows that she’s living up to her words and while I’m curious to see what happens in the future, this was well done.

While Ward is bleeding in the hallway, Skye rush’s to Coulson’s defense and manages to get her dad away from him.  Skye’s dad says he’s sorry and leaves and tells her that she will come to him in the future after telling Skye her real name is Daisy.

[note: this is the first real confirmation that Skye is actually Daisy Johnson the Inhuman known as Quake and her father is the supervillian Mister Hyde]

Syye says she will go to find the obelisk, but it turns out that Raina has managed to carry it into the tunnels where she meets Mack, who’s obviously not dead.  Telling him to take her to “the place” she heads out into the darkness.  Skye quickly realizing what Raina has done, goes into the city looking for followed fairly shortly thereafter by Coulson.

When May tells Trip, Fitz and Simmons that Skye and Coulson are now in city, Tripp quickly goes back in and disarms all of the bombs he’d just finished arming and follows Skye into the chamber where she has managed to track down and confront Raina.

When Raina places the Diviner on the obelisk, it opens up and is all crystalline inside (looks a lot like Superman’s fortress of solitude to be honest!).  Activating, the Diviner encases both Skye and Raina in some sort of chrysalis, but Tripp looks unharmed.  Unfortunately when the crystal shards on the Diviner shatter Tripp is hit by one and is immediately turned to stone.

Tripp is dead. … I’m not sure how I feel about this to be honest.  He’s not one of the main characters and I’m still not really invested in him, but he’s been around for a while and I really thought that Mack had bought it, but with the bait-and-switch they’ve pulled, it looks like Mack is going to be here for at least a little while longer.  The way he died though … kind of lame to be honest … would have been better if he’d gone in the episode where they were searching for the lost city. This one, he was just following Skye around and was kind of incidental.

Skye however breaks out of her chrysalis and sees Tripp crumbling to dust in front of her.  She seems … powerful.  Everything is shaking and Skye looks like a hero come to Earth.  Raina however … while we know she was encased, we don’t really know what has happened to her – there was a small flash of something that looked like porcupine quills but I could have been mistaken.  I guess we’ll need to wait till March to find out more!

or will we?

Like all good cliffhangers, we can’t be left with just one … it seems that after all this time, there is another Obelisk & there’s someone new … A Man with no eyes … he seems to know all about the Obelisks though as he picks up the phone and tells someone else that there is now “another”.

Closing

It looks like instead of Agents of SHIELD being an also ran and addendum to the movies, its now taking the lead with the introduction of the Inhumans.  While no-one specifically mentions them by name Marvel Comics long ago introduced the concept of the blue crystals brought to the Earth by the Kree that transformed Neanderthal man into something more by encasing them in cocoons.

This means that SHIELD is finally doing what I wanted them to do in the first place (I’ll take full credit for this by the way) & is helping to drive the Marvel Universe forward instead of just reacting to things.  Not only are they now leading the way, they have also with this episode opened up the possibility of a whole host of super powered beings being introduced and hopefully appearing in future episodes of SHIELD.

This episode picks up right after last weeks really funky the Blitzkrieg button and continues the fast pace that Agent Carter is known for.  While right from the title we’re getting a nice wordplay with “glass ceiling” being replaced by “iron ceiling” we get a lot more than we’re expecting in the growth of Thompson and Dooley and without giving too much away it looks like the best detective they have at SSR – Sousa – is finally putting things together and coming up with a conclusion that he doesn’t really like!

Recap

In a nutshell the mystery typewriter starts to function and Peggy manages to decode the message sending her and Thompson on a mission with the Howling Commando’s into Eastern Europe.  We get a really quick flashback (from Dottie’s point of view) at the start of the episode of a Leviathan program (although not named as such we all know this is the Black Widow program) intended to train young girls as killers and assassins and we see in the flashback that this is not a gentle training regimen as young Dottie kills another girl who wasn’t as strong as she was.

Black Widow (Natalia Romanova)
Black Widow (Natalia Romanova) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Peggy and Thompson + the other agents are on their way to Europe – they are (for some reason) changing into their gear inside the SSR building … here Thompson in his normal infantile way, tricks Sousa into going to the other side of the room where Peggy is changing.  Peggy and Sousa are both flustered at finding Peggy in her undergarments but Sousa notices something which we’ll come to later.

Dottie meanwhile has stolen Peggy’s keys from her purse and has broken into her apartment within the housing block – they don’t really explain why Dottie targeted Peggy … I guess you have to assume that Leviathan intelligence for obvious reason’s doesn’t discount the worth of a person simply based on their gender! – and she finds the photo’s that she took for Howard in the previous episode.

Once Peggy and the other agents meet up with the Howling Commando’s within Europe, Thompson initially try’s to take charge of the mission but he quickly sees the respect that they all have for Peggy and is forced to defer to her.  As the episode progresses we learn that his medal for bravery earned for fighting the Japanese was actually obtained by killing soldiers trying to surrender and he’s perhaps not the poster boy for evil that we (myself anyways) first thought.  He’s a significantly more flawed and humane character and while he won’t replace Sousa as my favorite SSR agent, he’s not as horrible as I thought he was.  On the mission, they find a Soviet military complex which seems to be a training site for children to infiltrate the United States as sleeper agents.  Peggy and Thompson aren’t able to find any significant information on Stark, but they are able to rescue a prisoner that might have some information on Leviathan and they take him back to the States with them.

Stateside, Dooley continues to investigate Finow and manages to get additional information from a reporter friend who makes him realize that perhaps Stark isn’t public enemy number one after all and that there might be more going on than he initially realized.  In addition as I’ve already alluded to, when Sousa saw Peggy in the changing room, he noticed some scars on her shoulder.  After digging into it further he learned that she acquired these during the war but taking out his picture of the blonde lady – he sees that she too has the exact same scars.

Review

Well, all of the episodes of Agent Carter have raced along at a breakneck speed and this one is no exception really!  Its very nice to see Peggy redeem herself after last weeks forced blunder to save Jarvis and I think Thompson at least sees her in a very different light.  It’s always good to see the Howling Commando’s off course & Dottie as mentioned last time is a very, very interesting person.  She has masks that she seems to be able to don based on the occasion and while there was no real shock from her this week (in comparison to last week) her development is ticking along quite nicely.

There are some books that you read in your youth that you simply do not appreciate at the time.  On re-read however?! … W O W!  Tad William’s book – The Dragonbone Chair is one of these.

I remember when I first read this, that I was bored in the beginning and really struggled to get through the early chapters but was hooked as time progressed and I got more into the characters and story.  This time while I still struggled a bit in the beginning (especially with the names) I knew what awaited me so easily powered through to nirvana and bliss!

I don’t want you to get the idea that there is something that is earth-shattering and new here … there isn’t

  • … you still have the lowly kitchen boy (Simon) doing nothing useful, the old magician (Doctor Morgenes) and the quarreling princes (Elias & Joshua)
  • … you still have the story of growth and change for all of the characters – most especially the lowly kitchen boy – from nothing which is the staple of the fantasy genre
  • … you still have dragons and sorcery, wizards and magic , monsters and mayhem & some characters that you definitely do NOT want to take home to meet mother!
  • … you still have some epic battles and fight sequences & enough death and destruction to make even George R.R. Martin happy – the story line in the book displays to me just why Memory, Sorrow and Thorn played such a large role in influencing Game of Thrones.


Game of Thrones: Dragonstone Stein – $39.99

from: Things From Another World

What you do have in the Dragonbone Chair and its sequels however is an excellent story and one that is exceedingly well written and thought out.  It’s one that will keep you engaged and enthralled and will have you cheering and weeping depending upon where you are in the story.  This isn’t a simple beach holiday book (as its size makes very evident) and is very different from some of today’s more popular books.  This is a book that to me is timeless – something that keeps the old traditions of saving the world quests and rags-to-riches tales and brings in new ones: epic, dark battles, and underhanded politics.

Synopsis

Simon is a kitchen boy when The Dragonbone Chair begins, mooning around the ancient castle of the Hayholt, doing what most young boys do; avoiding chores whilst putting themselves at risk by climbing things. Soon enough Simon is apprenticed to Doctor Morgenes, a dabbler in all things academic, including magic and alchemy.

Simon is dismayed at the fact that he will not be taught magic but instead must take on the arduous task of cleaning Morgenes’ rooms and, even worse, learning to read and write. Simon, however, little realizes that the adventures and battles he daydreams of are soon to become his living nightmare.

“…the whole chamber seemed much as it usually did – as though a horde of crack-brained peddlers had set up shop and then made a hasty retreat during a wild windstorm.”

After the death of the benevolent King John, his son Elias is raised to the throne and for some time the kingdom is distracted by the series of tourneys the young king is throwing. But soon the rotten core of Elias’s rule is revealed and Simon finds himself on the run from dark forces that only a select few had ever thought would return to disrupt life in Osten Ard.


Game of Thrones Shot Glass Set: Dragon Eggs – $11.99

from: Things From Another World

My Thoughts –

I enjoyed all the characters, although it did take me time to appreciate Simon’s “mooncalf” behavior, but when I really thought about it I realized that it was fairly normal for a fourteen-year-old to be a bit clueless and inquisitive.  It contains all the good staples of a Young Adult novel; innocent teenage romance and a young protagonist trying to find himself whilst finding a mystical item. Clichéd perhaps, but definitely well met with themes of betrayal and war; the staples of good adult fantasy.

His development through the book really helped endear him to me; watching him grow from a sheltered castle boy to a young man desperately fighting for his life while not new, was as mentioned really well portrayed.

My major problem with this book is that I couldn’t even begin to pronounce some of the names/words and as I’ve already mentioned, the slow initial starting pace of the book.  While it did pick up in later chapters, the early going was a bit rough.

Character Growth & Development – 5/5

The key characters in the series are all believable and you can understand their motivations and desires quite well.  They are not static in any way and definitely grow throughout the book becoming more and more defined as the pages turn.

Story Growth & Development – 4/5

Slow to start but really gripping in later chapters.  Very well thought out book and one that is well worth a read.

Overall Rating – 9/10

[yasr_multiset setid=1]

Japanese Anime can be quite weird in someways, I mean you never really know what you’re going to get it and while the graphics and art is almost always exceptional the stories and interaction between some of the characters is sometimes not at all what you would expect.

One of my major gripes with Japanese Anime is the incest taboo that they seem to keep skirting – quite often this is between siblings – as well as the sometimes gratuitous nudity. However with that being said, because of the medium and format, the stories that are sometimes presented could not have been presented in any other way.

In this article I will try to cover the top five best (in my opinion) Anime currently available on Netflix.

Number one – Sword Art Online (SAO)

In this show there are almost two different stories at work. In the first half thousands of players are trapped inside a virtual reality environment very similar to Guild wars or World of Warcraft where they need to continually gain experience points to advance from dungeon to dungeon.  However the one major difference is that if they die inside the game they also die in real life too!

In SAO however vs. the current crop of MMO’s available is that in this game, you can only use your sword and while you might get “special” combination attacks and moves, magic is not a factor of the game.

As the story progresses over the course of a dozen or so episodes the characters either band together to try and help each other in guilds or they try to settle in the lands and areas of the dungeons which are all quite distinct and unique and make a life for themselves.

However one player – in fact one of the early beta testers – does not want to play as part of the guild and and prefers to play as a single player.  He becomes increasingly powerful as the episodes progress and his experience points continue to build up.  Over the course of the episodes he eventually falls in love and marries another player within the game.

After a climatic boss fight realizes that the champion of one of the guilds is actually the creator of the game and is the person that has trapped them all within the game. After challenging him to a duel he manages to free all of the remaining players and they all leave the game . Now in all honesty this is very much where the show could’ve ended and it actually would’ve been really good just by itself however they have another half-dozen episodes and as I mentioned earlier this is a somewhat different story and type.

In the second half of SAO the spouse of the character that I mentioned in the first half of the game has been trapped in another game – this time it’s one with Fairies so includes another dimension namely flight in the game mechanics. However in addition to our primary character we also have his sister and again this is kind of where the whole Anime thing goes a little bit weird because she is in love with him in the real world or at least infatuated with him and over time comes to love the character he is playing in the game world also! However he is always focused on his spouse and eventually after many struggles and continuous battles they are eventually reunited and his sister also realizes that there are other fish in the sea.

Number two – the Irregular at Magic High School

This is one I’ve only recently watched and overall its a really good one.  It has some of the weirdness mentioned earlier – namely the relationship between the main character and his sister – but if you are able to put that aside its actually quite good.

The basic storyline is that in the not too distant future, magic has had a resurgence and with the resources of the land becoming more and more scarce, magic users are now enrolled in a variety of different magic schools around the land.  Our story takes us to one particular school where Tatsuya Shiba and his sister Miyuki Shiba are enrolled.  Students here get segregated into two classes – blooms and weeds – based on their level of ability and while Tatsuya has scored a perfect score in his theoretical results, his practical abilities relegate him to the weeds.  However Tatsuya has a secret that no one but his sister knows and while he might seem weak, his abilities are far stronger than anyone could possibly credit as he demonstrates.

Number three– Attack on Titan

Okay this one is not what you’d actually expect from a cartoon it is extremely violent and extremely graphic.  I actually had to send my kids out of the room when they wandered in a couple of times!

Attack on Titan explores a dystopian world dominated by ruthless Titans that appeared out of nowhere.  These titans feed on humans and it is only by building massive walled cities that the survivors manage to eke out a living.  However when even these city walls are breached by new armored and it seems intelligent titans humanity looks to be on the edge of extinction.

There is actually some question about a possible Attack on Titan live action movie & if this does come to pass – well, lets just say that an “R” rating is the least it could expect.  There are plenty of action set pieces to make a blockbuster and enough intelligent commentary to please critics in this Anime and it is definitely one that you should watch if you have the stomach for it!

Number four – Highschool of the Dead

In some ways this would almost be how you’d expect a zombie apocalypse would come to pass and while this show has significant elements of my other major gripe with Anime (i.e. gratitious nudity), its actually really scary and you can feel the horror that they are going through.

They’re the students at a prestigious school and they band together to help each other survive after something starts to create zombies in their in their city and gradually over the whole country and world as well – there is significant death and destruction – and the characters each fit into a niche in their little party.

The issues that I have already mentioned I guess would probably be the gratuitous nudity I mean it’s really not necessary to the story (I guess that’s the definition of gratuitous) at all, but it’s not as I said something that needs to be shown – I mean I guess you could say that teenage high school students have raging hormones and that’s why it’s there but the point of the story is the zombies and the way that part of it at least is covered is really good.

The fight scenes with them the way that they attack there speed and mindless ferocity are all really well covered and you can very much understand the horror that the students are trying to survive.

Number five – Knights of Siddonia

I actually really enjoyed this one and its a Netflix exclusive! The whole space battle with the spacesuit and the monsters in general just overall really good. The whole fact that humans at that time can photosynthesize their own food… excellent really cool idea and something I had not seen in any other shows.

The battle scenes are also really well done and while there is some nudity you don’t really see anything and it actually makes sense to the story and character, in fact the girl who is nude in that scene was basically photosynthesizing food for herself and it completely makes sense which is why I liked it.

Battles with the aliens and why humanity is in space are somewhat explained but there are obviously still quite a few mystery’s remaining to be answered even after the first season concludes as the aliens have somehow created a clone of a human or something like that from a human they’ve captured and there is a lot of other stuff happening in the story too.

Knights of Sidonia, based on the popular manga series of the same name, follows Nagate, a low-born youth in a society of genetically engineered refugees who escaped the destruction of Earth one thousand years earlier and now occupy the massive ship Sidonia. When Nagate’s talent as a pilot is revealed he becomes one of Sidonia’s elite defenders against the Guana, shapeshifting aliens bent on eliminating humans from existence.

 

Written by Roger Zelazny in the 70’s the Chronicles of Amber is an epic fantasy series. Its one of the ones that survives the test of time (I know – I’ve re-read it several times over the years now and each time I find something new to enjoy) and only grows better as your perspective changes.

Without a doubt the Chronicles have had an impact on other Fantasy writings by other authors and it is only perhaps when you read the series again with this in mind that you will see where the correlations are.

You see – Amber is the one true world and city. It casts a thousand reflections (shadows) and all other worlds (including our own) are simply one of its reflections. All roads lead to Amber and on this world the sons of Oberon are the rulers and lords – they control Shadow and can navigate its complexities picking and choosing worlds as they go.

Our main hero for all five books is Corwin and it is through him that we are introduced gradually to Amber and to the family of Oberon.

Nine Princes in Amber (1970)

 Corwin has lost his memory and awakens from a coma in a hospital after a car accident. With little to no knowledge of who he is or how he got there he quickly escapes and putting together several clues makes his way to New York where he confronts his sister Evelyn Flaumel (Flora).

Due to the untrustworthy nature of his family he is able to trick her into believing that he has recovered his memory and that he is going to take “action”.  While he does not know what this means, she does and is very worried about the consequences.  Exploring through Flora’s library in her absence, Corwin finds a set of Tarot cards.  However these cards are different as aside from the fact that he is portrayed as one of the characters he recognizes the other faces on the cards also and realizes that they are the rest of his family.  As he sees each face on the card, memories of them, their actions and personalities gradually come back to Corwin and he realizes that he is part of something larger than he first thought.

While waiting for Flora to return, her phone rings and Corwin picks it up.  On the other end of the phone is Random – one of Corwin’s brothers who is running for his life.  Corwin offers him protection as he is unsure of what is happening and when Random arrives he is pursued by supernatural creatures that are stronger than normal men.  They have spines on the backs of their hands and are able to “travel through shadow” which Corwin does not understand.  In a quick and bloody fight, Random, Corwin and Flora are able to defeat these creatures and during that battle Corwin discovers that he is significantly stronger than other men as he hurls a sofa at some of the creatures in the midst of the battle.

Random then asks Corwin whether he wishes to walk the road to Amber, from which Corwin agrees, despite the fact he does not know what he is doing. As Random and Corwin depart in Flora’s car, the road and area gradually change around them.  Random explains that he is changing elements of each world to gradually match the image of Amber (which is how you navigate shadow … by gradually making small changes it allows you to move through alternate worlds).   They ultimately end up in the Forest of Arden, the territory of their brother Julian.

 Julian and Corwin do not get along well at all and as Corwin is unable to navigate shadow himself yet, he and Random are forced to confront Julian.  Corwin is able to defeat Julian and unhorses him – threatening him, he is able to obtain some additional information which while useful does not really benefit Corwin as he still has not recovered all of his memories.  Releasing Julian after a while, Random and Corwin next encounter Corwin’s sister Deirdre who reveals she fled from Eric’s court. Corwin realizing that he cannot resolve all the issues that he has been confronted with admits to Random and Deirdre that he has actually lost his memory and does not really understand how either of them do what they do.

 Deirdre realizes that the only way Corwin can have his memories returned to him is by “walking the pattern” (a labyrinth inscribed in the dungeons of Castle Amber which gives the multiverse its order. ) … he could do this in Amber itself but Eric (another brother of Corwin’s and the one that he suspects tried to kill him in the car crash and also had something to do with his being drugged in the hospital) has closed this avenue off. An alternative though is the Pattern of Rebma – this is an analogue/mirror image of Amber located underneath the ocean.

Traveling to Rebma they meet their sister Llewella and Moire, the queen of Rebma. Corwin walks the pattern in Rebma and his memories and abilities come flooding back to him.  In addition he remembers that Eric had defeated him earlier and had stranded him in Elizabethan England during the Plague which is when his amnesia first started.  After he completes the Pattern he uses its power to project himself into the Castle of Amber, from which he finds a safe spot and rests.

 Corwin confronts Eric in the library in Amber and they have a duel.  Initially fearing defeat, Corwin realizes that he has changed and grown in his time on the Shadow Earth and is not the same person that Eric was earlier able to beat.  As the duel progresses he is able to wound Eric but is unable to finish the battle due to the arrival of reinforcements for Eric.

Corwin retreats and using a Trump (a Tarot card with a specific individual identified on it) is able to contact another brother (Bleys) and escape.  The Trumps allow for instantaneous transport from one universe to another simply by concentrating on the person depicted and once communication has been established reaching across to that person.  Bleys is in the midst of planning an assault on Amber to defeat Eric before he crowns himself King and agrees to Corwin joining with him in this endeavor.

Corwin assembles an army and along with Bleys’ forces they launch a two pronged attack on Amber through the Shadows, but Eric has been able to gain control of the Jewel of Judgment.  This powerful artifact allows Eric control over the weather and he is able to use this item to decimate the forces that Corwin and Bleys assemble well before they are able to actually assault Amber itself.  Although they eventually reach Amber, their forces have dwindled and they barely fight their way up Kolvir, the mountain on which the Castle of Amber is situated. Bleys is ultimately pushed off a cliff, although Corwin throws him his pack of Trumps to allow him to escape the fall but in the final battle the remainder of the forces are killed and Corwin is captured.

 Corwin is brought out of the dungeons to witness the coronation of Eric and after this event is taken away and his eyes burned out.  Left in the dark for years and only brought out on the anniversary of Eric’s coronation as an example to the rest of the family Corwin is gradually wasting away but as an Amberite and the son of Oberon, his regenerative abilities are substantial and his vision gradually comes back.  Realizing that he must escape the dungeons before Eric and his forces realize that he is no longer blind he starts trying to escape his prison and is fortunate that Dworkin Barimen, the keeper of the Pattern, appears out of nowhere, having seemingly walked through the dungeon wall from a neighboring cell.

 Dworkin created all of the Trumps and cards used by the family and while many thought he had died he was actually kept confined by Oberon.  Dworkin is able to draw a picture of the Lighthouse of Cabra on one of the walls of Corwin’s cell and using this image and Dworkins magic Corwin is able to project himself to that place.

He explains that entered Corwin’s cell by drawing a picture on the dungeon wall and walking through it, and wishes to return in the same way. Corwin gives him the spoon in order to draw a Trump image on the wall, and persuades him to draw the  on the opposite wall. With this, Corwin projects himself out of his prison.

Corwin spends some time here recovering and then sends a message to Eric telling him that he will be returning for the throne.

Correlations to other Fantasy Series – The Wheel of Time

Perhaps the most obvious linkage is between The Chronicles of Amber and The Wheel of Time. I don’t know if Robert Jordan intended for these similarities or if it was something that was perhaps just in his subconscious as he was writing the series but reading through both books some of the things that jump out at you are:

  • Shadow – a huge part of The Chronicles is the ability that the main protagonists have of “walking through Shadow”. Basically a way of exploring different and alternate realities that are present and viewable … a theme explored in many other titles it is very much evident in The Wheel of Time itself. The whole concept of being able to “walk through shadow” is something that is utilized to great extent by the half-men (a Myrddraal) of the Wheel of Time series. In addition the idea of multiple alternate worlds where only some small things are different is explored several times in the Wheel of Time also – perhaps most notably in the 2nd book (The Great Hunt) where Rand, Loial and Hurin are separated from the Shienaran party and transported to an alternate world via a portal stone, a world similar to their own but where the land appears deserted and distorted.
  • Pattern – “The wheel weaves as the wheel wills”… a quote often used in the Wheel of Time series it is most similar to the Pattern in the Chronicles of Amber. Here an Amberite can gain power over shadow by traveling through/over/past the Pattern … in fact reflections or shadows of the pattern have a power in itself and it was only through the Pattern that Corwin was restored to his memories. Rand also traveled a pattern of sorts in book 4 of the Wheel of Time (The Shadow Rising) – when he walks through the crystal garden that is the proving ground for Aiel chiefs. He relives portions of the lives of various Aiel before and just after the Breaking.

Well it had to happen I guess … I mean I’d had a pretty good run of well written and edited books with a decent story, plotline and characters, I guess you couldn’t expect it to last forever! Discovery of the Saiph was really enjoyable and Steel Breach was excellent – both books and authors that I’d highly recommend for the future and ones that I know I will be following closely.

Unfortunately this one … not so much.  There wasn’t really anything original to the story at all except perhaps the enemy and their patterns of behaviour.

The whole concept of the broken down and beaten ship and crew on their last voyage to the breakers coming back from the brink of defeat to win their final victory has been done so many times now and in significantly better style.  The sad fact is that this book at times seemed to be a riff on Battle Star Galactica but it just didn’t make sense?  In fact thinking about it even further, its not so much a riff on BSG or even Star Trek – it’s more a copy of the typical archetypes from all of the popular SciFi that we’ve all grown up with.

  • Captain Granger is your typical old man in space kind of character. He’s old and grizzled, and he has a crew to complement his sour demeanor.
  • The doctor is ethical beyond belief threatening to take the captain off the bridge if his medical condition worsens,
  • the chief engineer is in love with her engines and weeps when they’re set to explode,
  • the marine captain aboard is as hard as nails, and
  • the second in command in gruff alcoholic.

By itself it (perhaps) wouldn’t be bad to have one or even two of these archetypes in place, but here its just getting silly really.

Some of the fight sequences are enjoyable however, but unfortunately here the writing errors tend to disrupt the flow which just serves as a distraction which is a pity.  On a positive note I probably have to complement Mr Webb on his science.  Aside from the magical QJump that the ships do, all the other weapons and even the maneuvering that the Constitution has to do are understandable and believable.  This technical detail of course could in its own way serve as a distraction but I didn’t mind it at all.

I might read the 2nd one in this series if I’m still with Kindle Unlimited at the time, but otherwise I cannot unfortunately recommend this book.

Nia’s bit

Alright, here are my two cents for 1989 Batman:

“When I started watching the 1989 Batman movie, I was a bit hesitant at first. This movie is older than I am. I assumed due to the age of the movie it would be terrible. I’m so glad I was wrong.

This Batman movie is a complete classic. I loved the humor that took place in the movie. Vicky Vale and a friend of hers were making fun of Bruce Wayne’s collection of armor. Bruce Wayne then walks in on them, and just subtly owns the moment without batting an eyelash.

Joker’s dance routine in the art museum was a delight, and fit in perfectly with his character. As someone who was such a huge fan of the 1990s Batman Animated series. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie. Despite its age this movie holds up well to the test of time. It’s a tad over the top at certain moments, but it all flows together quite smoothly in the end. A definite watch for any Batman fan. “

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Continue reading “Throwback Thursday … Batman – classic 80’s movie … too camp for the 00’s?”

Lone Gunman –

Continuing on from my previous posts on Arrow (sorry for the delay on these by the way … I assure you that I will catch up quickly!) we meet a villain that I actually remember from my DC reading days!  Deadshot has arrived and he’s a welcome addition to the pantheon of baddies that Arrow will be rolling out over the weeks and months ahead.

In Lone Gunman, Oliver tracks down another millionaire from “the list” but before he can make his regular threat, this man is killed.  Initially the police suspect “The Hood” of the killing but they (Detective Lance) quickly realize that the evidence goes against this theory and there must be someone else involved.

Oliver continues to setup his base of operations for his vigilante activities and decides to build a dance club above his hideout as a cover for his disappearances.  By conducting some good old fashioned detective work, Oliver is able to determine who the mystery assassin is and contacts Detective Lance to help him protect some of the other targets on his list.  Oliver is able to fight off the assassin by shooting an arrow through his aiming receptacle apparently killing him (don’t worry he’ll be back!), but in the process Diggle is wounded by Deadshot and Oliver has to reveal his secret identity to help save him.

In the flashback sequence we learn that while Oliver was on the island, the archer who initially attacked Oliver was actually trying to help him.

An Innocent Man

OK quite a bit happens in this episode.  As mentioned in the previous episode Oliver had to reveal his secret identity to Diggle in order to save his life.  Oliver realizes that Diggle had actually served with distinction in the military and while he’s a glorified nanny now, his previous experience would be invaluable to him.  Diggle however turns him down calling him a murderer and while he agrees not to turn him in, he refuses to help him also.

As the Hood, Oliver enlists the help of Laurel to help prove the innocence of a death row inmate – Declan – wrongly convicted of killing his wife.  When he realizes that there is a connection between Declan and Jason Brodeur – another member of the list – he knows that something fishy is going on.  Laurel seems infatuated with the Hood and seems happy to help him.  However before they can overturn the conviction, Brodeur has his bodyguard initiate a prison break while Laurel is visiting Declan so that he can have the pair killed.  Oliver infiltrates the prison dressed as one of the guards with his head covered in a ski mask.  When he meets up with Brodeur’s bodyguard who is threatening Laurel a vicious fight ensues in which he almost kills the man with his bare hands.  Laurel looks on with horror as she realizes that this man might not be the Robin Hood she visualized in her head.

Diggle eventually returns and agrees to help Oliver – not only as the vigilante but also to help him ensure that he doesn’t lose his humanity in his fight for vengeance.  However this isn’t where the episode ends … there are rather two very large twists awaiting us next!

  • Detective Lance has gone through the security tape of the attack by Deadshot and he is able to find a frame of Oliver retrieving his disguise from a bag.  He quickly arrives at the house and arrests Oliver on suspicion of him being the vigilante.
  • Walter has continued his own investigation and has discovered the salvaged and sabotaged family yacht hidden in a warehouse!

Damaged –

One thing you can say about Arrow is that they don’t really drag stories out. I mean we found out quite early why he’s conducting his secret vendetta and while we’re still learning where he received all the skills his secret is already known to others and Oliver is now in police custody as the vigilante.  This could be a very quick show and we could be done here, but surprise, surprise … this is all part of the plan!

Oliver realized even before he started his actions as the Hood that return of the millionaire playboy and a corresponding arrival of a masked vigilante at the same time are a coincidence too large to ignore.  When he arranges to have a lie detector test to prove his innocence, he is able to arrange house arrest for himself.  In typical playboy fashion he throws a prison themed party while wearing a bracelet that will alert anyone to his departure from the grounds.  Simultaneously he has Diggle dress in his Hood persona and break up a arms deal forcing the police to the conclusion that he couldn’t be in two places at the same time. The plan works and the charges are all dropped.

Meanwhile Moira meets with a secret associate who realizes that the Hood’s targets match the list that they have … the same list in fact that Oliver received from his father.