The Handmaid’s Tale

With all the hype around Atwood’s novel I decided to read it again. Now I “read” it for school back in over a decade ago, so it was a rushed job and I skipped around in the second half of the book reading the important chapters that we were discussing in class and whatnot. We analyzed that book up and down so my first go around wasn’t that enjoyable. So with the Trump Presidency, this has become one of the turn to dystopian books that has gotten a remarkable boost in readership. There is also the Hulu series which is going to have a second season. Now the book and television show are two completely different things, this is about the book.

The book which it all was inspired by is a decent read and if you haven’t had the chance to read it or were forced to read it in school perhaps now is the time to re-read it and give it a second look. The book is the recollections of a Handmaid- Offred living in a theocratic military dictatorship in the Republic of Gilead, although the book is set in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is the Handmaid of The Commander, Fred and his wife Serena Joy. Offred is there to have children and that’s her role in the society. It is an interesting exploration of how people just go along like sheep, and not want to rock the boat. So when the Republic of Gilead was formed all women were fired from their jobs and all their assets were frozen and they were placed in one of four groups, Wives
(wore blue)/ and daughters (white), Marthas (green), Handmaids (red), and Econowives (all colors). Reading and writing for women was forbidden. These are extreme laws but it isn’t that far from some of the extreme laws that lawmakers already want. The book is a cautionary tale just like the film Idiocracy, so we need to care about women’s rights as well as work for the common good.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The sequel to the surprise hit film from 2014 came out on Friday and it has been getting decent reviews from just about everywhere but most note that the sequel doesn’t live up to the original being weighed down by expectations, narrative problems and CGI bloat.  So I went to see it this weekend. Spoilers to follow.

The film is about family and who makes up a family we’ve got almost all characters doubting who they are. The movie begins with the team tasked on a mission by the Sovereign to protect some batteries from an inter-dimensional beast.  They win in the end and are thanked for their help, but Rocket steals some of the batteries and as they leave this leads to the team being chased after by the Sovereign’s ships, they are all destroyed by a mystery man “who is about an inch tall.” After the team’s ship crash lands, we learn that it was Star-Lord’s father who helped them escape. The team breaks up with Peter, Drax and Gamora going with Ego, Peter’s father to Ego’s world while Rocket and Groot are left to repair the ship and watch on their prisoner Nebula, Gamora’s sister. It’s a bit complicated as Ego want Peter to help him re-make the universe in his image. I find this bit the central problem of the film they never really explain why Ego needs to remake the world (or did they) I mean he can live forever until the light of his world is gone why not continue to do that instead of conquering the known universe. As expected The Guardians win in the end and will return in Vol 3 with music from a Zune.

The music is great and there are a few funny bit but the movie felt over done complete with the five mid/post credit scenes. There were several places where it should have been trimmed like the bit with Groot going and coming back several times to get Yondu’s fin. The film was fun and better than the over-bloated Avengers 2 (Ultron). There are two more Marvel movies this year (Spider-Man and Thor) and three more a year until 2020 perhaps we should slow down with these films and get some smaller films a chance to do something. It also seems like unconventional families seem to be the it thing to do in films nowadays.

X-files and Fatima Saints

There two news items are on opposite sides of the spectrum, one was widely speculated and the other is a bit unexpected.

Fatima: As we’ve all sort of guessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the children of Fatima who died a long time ago will be Canonized by Pope Francis when he visits Fatima on May 13. I still sort of feel like we should all be expecting Lucia will be Beatified before the year is over as well, perhaps on October 13?

X-Files: On the other side of things Fox has decided to bring back Mulder and Scully for another ten episodes. The show which last aired the six episode “Event series” in early 2016 will air during the 2017-18 television season. Fans are clamoring for them to bring back the old team of writers with the likes of Vince Gilligan, want William to show up at some point, some redemption for characters and for Chris Carter not to write an episode. We will have to wait and see what all they can bring together but hopefully the 10 episode season will get the right balance of episode types.

Star Wars

This is some interesting developments as Lucasfilm has stopped adding the episode number to films. Sure most everyone in the world already did this, look at the Special Edition when they were released on VHS back in the day as Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. It is a nice change of pace and it might indicate a further plan to make more Star Wars saga films after the Sequel Trilogy ends in 2019. I find it funny as in the article they state that “If you’re merely talking about them as titles, and not episode numbers, it’s harder to group them together as “Prequel,” “Original,” and “Sequel” trilogies.” but we all know which is which. They hope that this will cause fans to focus on the Saga rather than the three trilogies. It also ties in nicely with the animated series Rebels and Clone Wars as they do that already. I hope that if this moves over to the Star Wars Stories and they just drop that part of the title, since it’s what people are doing with Rogue One. However we will have to wait a while to find out if this part of it is true the Han Solo film comes out in 2018. The Last Jedi is only about 270 something days until it’s release and we should be seeing a teaser or trailer in April or May.

Star Trek and Wars begin production

CBS has released a video announcing the beginning of filming of Star Trek: Discovery. It’s a cool thing and hopefully CBS will realize that putting it only on their Watch CBS app might not be a smart idea. Air it on the network sometimes or place it on the CW, I for one is am not going to pay 6 dollars to watch a show. Now this show is going to have to do something to make people want to watch it as there hasn’t been a Star Trek television show since 2005 and that was Enterprise. Sure the rebooted film series has been a huge success but this is show is set a decade before the Original Series and isn’t connected with the film universe in any way as far as I know.

The other cool news is that the Han Solo movie has also begun production. This is that film about Han Solo that is being directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the minds behind Clone High, The Lego Movie and other such films. This movie will be about Han Solo and Lando hanging out, perhaps some Han being a smuggler (Kessel Run and Jabba) and will perhaps feature Han winning the Falcon off of Lando in a game of Sabacc. I like how this is the one thing that I really hope makes it into the Han Solo Movie. Perhaps this will lead to some set of cards coming out so I can own a deck.

Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet is the first book in C.S. Lewis’s Space or Cosmic Trilogy.  Lewis is best known for the Narnia series and his work in apologetics.  Now, I never got into the Narnia books growing up and have seen the live action movies but even so my first real introduction to Lewis came in college when I read the play Shadowlands, which is about the romance of Joy Gresham and Jack. I’ve read some of his apologetic works but not much else, so when I saw C.S. Lewis on a list of Great Science Fiction book I knew that I should get around to read it. Spoilers to follow, so please read with caution.

According to a biographer the book series came out of a conversation Lewis and his friend J.R.R. Tolkien had about the state of contemporary fantasy. They agreed that Lewis would write a space-travel story, and Tolkien would write a time-travel one. Lewis books came out and a fragment of a fourth eventually followed, while Tolkien’s time-travel story didn’t go far as only a rough draft exist which sort of linked the current world to that of Middle Earth. It sounds interesting and is found in The Lost Road and Other Writings.

Out of the Silent Planet is a book about space travel. We follow a brilliant philogist (linguist), Dr. Elwin Ransom, who get tricked into traveling to the planet Malacandra by Dr. Weston and Devine. Weston and Devine kidnap Ransom and bring him to Malacandra so as to give Ransom to the sorns as a sacrifice. When they land Ransom hearing their plan decides when they land to run off and escape his fate. Ransom runs off and gets lost on this strange world. He eventually befriends another species the hross, who Ransom learns about the planet as well as the language. The inhabitants of Malacandra (sorns, hross, pfifltrigg) also learn from Ransom about Earth or Thulcandra, the silent planet. Ransom is eventually summoned to see Oyarsa the ruler of Malacandra or Mars and his travel companions end up here as well.  The book has a wonderful ending, but you are going to have to read to find out what happens.

It is interesting to read about the wonders of the landscape of Mars as thought of in 1938. If you want a lesser know science fiction novel it is a great thing to pick up. There are some religious elements but it is not overly religious like the Narnia books. It is a quick and easy read, sure there are some words in Old Solar Language but there were quickly defined in English.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rogue One marks the beginning of the deep probing of everything Star Wars to decide what essentially makes good movies and television shows. This film although not connected to the main series Episodes I-IX, it is pretty closely connected, expanding on things that we know are going to happen and elaborate a bit more on some lore.  Disney and Lucasfilm will be doing this over the next at least 4 years with a saga film (VIII) coming in 17, a Han Solo movie in 18, followed by IX in 19 and another new spinoff film in 2020 (Obi Wan, Ahsoka, Boba Fett, Yoda?) Spoilers to follow.

We all know where the story is going most is not all these characters will be dead by the end of this film and they are going to be getting the Death Star plans. As the end of the film has us on Tantive VI escaping just barely from Darth Vader. It ends like 10 minutes before A New Hope begins so it adds some urgency to the beginning of A New Hope.  The film begins fifteen years before the Battle of Yavin (BBY) this is how the Timeline of Star Wars works. We met the Erso family Galen, Lyra and Jyn as Krennic comes to being Galen back to work on the Death Star. Galen and Lyra tell Jyn to go off and hie and wait.  Lyra is killed and Galen agrees to come with Krennic. Jyn is rescued by Saw Gerrera ( a character from the animated Clone Wars series). Time shifts fifteen years Jyn (Felicity Jones) is broken out of an Imperial Prison camp by the Rebels, because there has been a message brought by a defecting pilot from her father to Saw Gerrera. Cassian Andor and his droid K-2SO go along to “help” Jyn, as they need her to talk with Saw Gerrera to get the pilot. On the moon Jedha, thought to be the location of first Jedi Temple due to the abundance of Kyber Crystals which are used in lightsabers and also in the Death Star, Jyn and Cassian meet up with guardians of the Wills Monks of the Church of the Force. They get brought to Saw and Jyn sees the hologram message where we learn that Galen has put in a hidden weakness into the Death Star and the plans are in the Imperial archives at Scarif.  This is a cool battle as it takes place on the beach.

There are a bunch of cool things in the movie from some Classic characters showing up,Jimmy Smits show up as Bail Organa, Chopper and The Ghost from Rebels are both in the film. Gizmodo/Io9 complied a whole list of these you might have missed it connections. If you like Star Wars this is something you will enjoy. It will tide you over until next year’s installment of the Saga film.

Star Trek: Enterprise

Since it is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek this year I though that I should at least watch some of the television series, I’d already watched TNG and a bit of Voyager and TOS, but I never watched any of Enterprise or Deep Space Nine. So what better time than now to start working my way through. I’m about halfway through Enterprise, the forgotten series.

It is the first in the timeline following the events of the first deep space explorers on the first Warp 5 equipped ship. Set in the 22nd century about 100 year before the events of the Original Series it gives us a unique look as Earth makes its first go at exploring new world and making contact with Alien races. There a few problems with the series and a bunch of good stuff. My biggest issue has to be the theme song is just so riduclous, it’s like a minute and a half long and there are lyrics and it’s sung. Another issue that I and many people have is the uneven quality of the show some episodes are really great and exploring unique ideas where others feel like retellings of older episodes from previous series or even worse about a half idea that they though would be interesting. Then there is that final episode from what I hear is troubling.

In the series we follow Captain Jonathan Archer; Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker, III; Vulcan Sub-commander T’Pol; and the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise as they make first contact with basically everyone. Most of the time the episodes in seasons three and four are regarded as better than those in the first two seasons.  Sure it takes time but America was a different place when it debuted from when it was shot having 9/11 just happening a fortnight before it premiered. The first two seasons are rather light and most episodes are single stories compared with the later seasons. It’s been s decade since it ended so give it a chance.  If you have a knack for some Star Trek all of the television series are on Netflix including the animated series, or if you are really looking forward for Star Trek: Discovery this seems like a series to watch.

News Roundup

NFL on TV: According to Engadget watching NFL RedZone saves fans 35 hours of commercials a season. This is sort of ridiculous as to how many commercials are being aired during an average game. The ads account for a third of what is being broadcast during a game, this added to the fact that football contains according to the Wall Street Journal, about 11 minutes of action. There is some talk about the NFL considering fewer ads but in the age of instant streaming through the likes of Netflix or Hulu where there are no or only a couple of ads per show. I have found myself watching more of the NFL Network’s NFL GameDay Live which is basically RedZone or not even watching another football game on Sunday. The NFL has got to see this dip in people watching football and try to figure out how to make a better experience for people watching at home.

Stranger in a Strange Land: Syfy is working on adapting this book into a new series. Would it be a great show, that really is the main question but it is nice to see Syfy going into the Science Fiction catalogue and finding another book to adapt for the screen as they are already working on adapting Brave New World into a series. If this works it would be a wonderful change for the network which as of late has rested on face off, ghost shows and shows from Canada. Sure Heinlein’s book is a great work but it seem like the one that has the most problems with it, the whole religion and sex aspect might cause some problems with some audiences.

Pope Francis: Four Cardinals have asked Francis to clarify Amoris Laetitia for them specifically Chapter 8. It is interesting to see that even after eight months there are people who are not sure what all was said in this Apostolic Exhortation. Now let us remember that an Exhortation isn’t a doctrinal document and is used to encourage a community to do something. In Amoris Laetita, the focus is on the family as the Synod on the Family had wrapped up and this is the document which summarizes and coalesces the ideas in one place.

 

Black Mirror Series Three

Black Mirror is back and it is still a refreshing take on the coming future. Several of the episodes seem like they could happen sooner rather than later, notably Nosedive and Hated in the Nation. Both of these episodes focus on social media Nosedive is a story in which everyone is rated for everything they do and have a star rating, Hated in the Nation is a story about Twitter turning into a murderer. The other four episode are pretty great as well there is one about war and another about video games which are top notch. Many people are talking about the cleverness of the series. It is wonderful to see so many more people discovering the show and these six episodes only make the wait for the next season even longer. I tried to watch it slowly but that didn’t last long. However Black Mirror is one of those shows where you watch an episode and then come back later to watch another. There are about a dozen episodes and soon it will be time to watch them all again they are all on Netflix so prepare yourself.