That Hideous Strength

In the third and final entry of the Space Trilogy, That Hideous Strength subtitled A Modern Fairy Tale for Adults we stay on Earth for the entire book. This book is about the same length of the first two books, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra combine. Once again I found that this book is appropriate for reading in the Lenten season as it deal with good and evil. Lewis puts it nicely that “Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing.”

This story picks up after the Second World War around 1948 or so at Bracton College in the University of Edgestow, where we meet one of our two main characters a fellow of sociology at the College named Mark Studdock, the Fellows of the University are meeting as the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.) wants to buy some of the land that the College owns which includes Bragdon Wood, which is an ancient woodland believed to be the resting place of Merlin. After the deal is agreeed upon Mark is asked if he would want to take a job at N.I.C.E by Lord Feverstone, we later learn that he is Dick Devine from the first book. Our other main protagonist is Mark’s wife Jane Studdock is a PhD student at the university who is having dreams, Jane and Mark are in a rocky spot in their marriage. One of Jane’s former teacher’s wives Mrs. Dimble, having been evited from her house since the sale,  suggests that Jane go to St. Anne’s to talk with a Miss Ironwood about Jane’s dreams. At this point the book shifts between these two stories with Mark working for N.I.C.E and Jane working with those at St. Anne’s.

It is in St. Anne’s where we find another familiar face as Ransom the main character from the first two books is now the Director at St. Anne’s  or the Pendragon. Ransom surmises that the dreams of Jane are clues to help win the day that those at N.I.C.E. are looking for Merlin to be resurrected and hopes that he’s on their side. Although the same is true with those at St. Anne’s. It is cool to see Merlin and the Arthurian legend being brought into modern times.

This book was difficult for me to get into as the first couple of chapters seem to be about College politics and that but once we get to NICE and St. Anne’s it get a bit easier to follow. Some say that this book is flawed as there are too many deaths and characters. While it is a bit different from the other two book being set on Earth I think makes the deaths and abundance of characters seem real, as Earth or Thulcandra is the realm of the bent Oyarsa. If you liked the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid these three books might hit the spot as an adult.

Stalker (1979)

Сталкер or Stalker is another science fiction film from Russian/Soviet Director Andrei Tarkovsky. With this film I’ve watched all the ‘important’ Tarkovsky films. Now this is movie is a bit different from the others, it is based on the novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Scholars have written that this film encapsulates Tarkovsky’s world view “the rift between natural science and belief, the future of mankind in view of current atomic threats; and, ultimately, the dim glimmer of hope still left to man.” One of my favorite stories about the film is that after being told that Stalker should be faster and more dynamic, Tarkovsky replied that “the film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts.” This film like Solaris has a Western cousin in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Spoilers to follow

Stalker is set sometime in the future and there is a “Zone” which is a mysterious place sealed off by the government and inside the Zone is a Room which supposedly has the ability to fulfill a person’s innermost desires. So a Stalker (Alexander Kaidanovsky) offers to guide a pair of gentlemen, a Writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn) and a Professor (Nikolai Grinko), into the Zone and to the Room. They evade the military and get into the Zone and a world of color, as outside the zone the film has a sepia tint. Inside the Zone we learn that it is a very complex maze of traps and that Stalkers are needed to safely navigate through. Some have pointed that the journey to the Room can be seen as a search for knowledge or a pilgrimage of faith. The Writer wants to visit the Room as he has lost his inspiration and The Professor is said to want to write a scientific analysis of the Zone with the hope to win a Noble Prize.  However when they get to the antechamber of the Room a phone rings, and there is confusion about this but here the Professor changes his tune he has been carrying a bomb with him to blow up the room  so no evil man would use it.

One could look at the film as a sort of conversation about the necessity of something greater in your life, there are twists an turns that you can’t explain but with something/one guiding you it get easier. This can come in different shapes and everyone will see it differently I find that that the Room has some sort of confessional or just plain prayerful vibe as that is what people do when they pray ask for things. Sure being made in Soviet Russia according to Tarkovsky the Room and Zone meant nothing.

Solaris (1972)

Solaris or Солярис is the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky which is adapted from the novel Solaris by Stanisław Lem, this was remade by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney in 2002. Tarkovky’s film is often considered to be one of the greatest science fiction films ever made and is considered to be one of few sci-fi films that doesn’t seem anachronistic today.  Many critics point to this film being the like the 2001: A Space Odyssey in the Soviet bloc nations. Tarkovsky is/was a director from Russia I’ve watched a couple of his other films Mirror and Andrei Rublev and these along with Stalker are are all considered as some of the greatest films ever made. Solaris is also one of those film that many current directors are influenced by. To begin my biggest problem with the film is the pacing, it is a slow moving film, although this is nod to the novel which itself is complex and slow paced. Spoilers to follow.

The film begins with Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) visiting his parents before going up to the space station orbiting Solaris, an ocean planet. While at his parent’s his Dad’s friend Henri Berton (Vladislav Dvorzhetsky) a disgraced pilot who was on the station before he was removed after he claimed he saw a four-meter-tall child on the surface of the planet, this was though of as hallucination. However as the years have passed the other scientist began seeing things as well and Kris, a psychologist, is being sent up to bring everyone back home. The station only has a skeleton crew of three members however before Kris can arrive his friend Dr. Gibarian (Sos Sargsyan) kills himself, when Kris arrives there is not welcoming committee but he stumbles upon Dr. Snaut (Jüri Järvet)and Dr. Sartorius (Anatoli Solonitsyn). They don’t want to tell him much of anything telling him to rest the night and return afterwards. Yet Kris seems to be seeing other people on board the station in the corner of his eyes as well . While in Dr. Gibarian’s room Kris finds a message from the doctor which warns him about the station.  Kris is still confused and retires for the evening upon waking Kris finds his wife, Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk), in his room with him having no idea how she got there or where here is, this is troubling as Kris’s wife we learn died a decade ago. This first visitor Kris tricks into a escape pod and jettisons it out. Snaut is ready to talk and tells Kris that the visitors have been coming after they sent a strong X-ray beam onto the surface in a vain attempt to try to learn about the planet.

That evening Hari returns and Kris welcomes her with open arms. Hari starts to “feel more human” Snaut proposes that they beam Kris’s brainwave pattern to Solaris in hopes that it will understand the humans. The film has a wonderful philosophical debate/discussion on humankind. I find this to be the core of the film. Here is where the bulk of my favorite quotes come from. Dr. Snaut say “We don’t want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man! ” Another piece of dialogue that sticks out is when Dr. Snaut says ‘We’ve wasted time arguing. We’re losing our dignity and human character.” and Hari responds with “No. You’re human, each in your own way. That’s why you argue.” Finally, there is one when Kris says “The salvation of humanity is in its shame!”

Will shooting the planet with Kris Kelvin’s brainwaves do anything or could this film be a circle, you’ve got to take some time and watch the film to find out what all happens at the end. What makes us human. Now the film is available quite easily today so I would recommend that everyone check it out. Tarkovsky is one of those directors that everyone needs to watch at least once in their life. Sure, take a look at this science fiction film from Tarkovsky but I might change my mind after watching Stalker

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Solo is the latest in the Star Wars Story anthology series of films it is about Han Solo and answers all the questions that we all needed to have answered is out. Now we know how all about the Kessel Run and how Han got the Falcon. One of the biggest questions that people have is when is this taking place, it is roughly 10 before the Battle of Yavin and 6 before the latest Animated series Rebels as well as 9 after Episode III (although the prologue scene of Solo is set 3 years before the events of the movie). Spoilers to follow.

The film beings on Corellia, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is an orphan who has to scavenge for everything for Lady Proxima who runs the White Worms, she had Han go out to deliver some Space Fuel which is a real important thing in this movie but ditches after being double crossed he steals a speeder and with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) his ‘girl friend’ they decide to run off and escape their life. it turns out that only Han get away before Qi’ra is caught. Han joins the Imperial Navy and hope to become the best pilot and come back for Qi’ra. Three Years later Han is in the Infantry after being expelled from Flight school for insubordination, he runs into a gang of criminals run by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Han tries to join this crew but Tobias has him arrested for dissertation and thrown into a pit with a monster who hasn’t eaten for days. It’s Chewbacca! finally a sort of familiar face. They escape the pit and join Beckett’s crew for a big heist they are going to steal a bunch of Space fuel (coaxium). This doesn’t go well Beckett’s crew is killed he’s only got Han and Chewie now, but a big problem he’s got to steal some more coaxium for Crimson Dawn and Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) or they will die, either from the raw coaxium from Kessel or from Vos himself.

They need a ship so they get the help of Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) who owns the Millennium Falcon, he agrees to join the crew. It’s Beckett, Han, Chewie, Qi’ra, and Lando with his robot L3. At Kessel they get the coaxium and on the way back Han makes the Kessel Run in 12 or so parsecs. See that’s something everyone wanted to see. So they make it to the refinery and make the coaxium usable, Vos shows up and things get interesting. The movie then end with scene where Han wins the Falcon from Lando in a game of Sabacc before they leave for Tatooine to hear about a gangster who needs a crew.

The movie is decent it does get a bit long at some points but that just seems to be all movies nowadays. The acting is decent with a few high points (Glover, Bettany) but there really wasn’t  major threat in the film we know Han and Lando make it to the Original Trilogy so they can’t die and neither one really has an arc to speak of things happen to them but they don’t change.  If this was due to the concerns that the Lord/Miller film that wasn’t fixed who knows. There are lots of places where it looks like they want to continue on with the story like what happens with Qi’ra , Han and Jabba meeting on friendly terms and perhaps even a Lando movie. There are plans to make a Boba Fett movie, hopefully a post ROTJ film with Temuera Morrison and rumor is still an Obi-Wan film with Ewan McGregor will hopefully see the light of day along with two more trilogies of films and perhaps an official sequel to Solo.  There are a lot of Star Wars films to come. This one might not be the best but it’s decent but the biggest problem is that it was released so soon after the last film.

 

Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi (2017)

To begin i will be talking about things that happened in The Last Jedi so there will be spoilers. If you are trying to avoid them please turn away. SPOILERS TO FOLLOW

The latest film from the Star Wars Universe begins with the Resistance packing up from their base as the First Order is about to start bombing it. As the Resistance escapes Kylo Ren and the First Order try to destroy the ships yet Kylo hesitates as he senses his mother and doesn’t want to destroy her, but a TIE fighter hits the bridge of the ship killing several leaders like Admiral Akbar. Thankfully they aren’t all killed as Leia uses some of her Jedi abilities to save herself, but she was still injured and leaves Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) in charge over Poe.

While this is going on Rey is on Ahch-To with Luke, we return with Rey presenting the Lightsaber to him only for him to refuse to come help. We dive into what the force is something like Midi-chlorians that are in all things that bind us all together, check on the last couple of episodes from The Clone Wars animated series. They lean on the spiritual side of the force which is great as well.

Back in the great space chase the Resistance get there own resistance as Poe wants to mutiny over Holdo when he discovers that Holdo’s plan is to use small transports to escape from the First Order on to an old rebel base on Crait. Poe thinks this is dumb and has Finn and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) go on a secret mission to find a code breaker to get them on the First Order ship to stop their ability to track the rebel fleet. They (Finn and Rose) have to go to Canto Blight to find a hacker to get them in. After finding DJ (Benicio del Toro) who steals a ship to get them back we learn that the rich are financing both sides of the war, so who are the good guys and who are bad. Oh and Nien Nunb is still alive.

This is all I’m going to say here as the needs to be something that you need to learn from going to see the film. It has some great action set pieces and I have no clue where the next film will be going JJ Abrams has his work cut out for himself, especially with the death of Carrie Fisher last year.  Another thing that I am glad is back is the humor at times The Force Awakens was a bit too serious. All in all it was another Star Wars film and I doubt that I could be that disappointed with one of them, as I am one of the few it seems still find some positives in the prequels which get derided by just about all the fanboys, who are out there complaining about this new trilogy as well. One of the coolest things about the film was the creature the Porgs are there because Skellig Michael has a bunch of puffins on it so the Porgs are there to cover that issue. Also, I am looking forward to what stories Rian Johnson has to tell in his trilogy.

Shin Godzilla (2016)

Shin Gojira (Godzilla: Resurgence) was a film that I was really looking forward to watching this film. This is Japan’s latest Godzilla movie, the 31st overall and the third reboot in the franchise. This is a wonderfully amazing film and everyone should take some time and watch it. Like the original film which was written in the aftermath of WWII and the atomic bomb this film was written in the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami and the Fukshima Daiichi nuclear disaster. As always spoilers to follow.

Shin Godzilla is a full reboot as it is the first time that Godzilla has appeared in this world. The film is a nonstop ride, it begins with something happening in Tokyo Bay, an abandoned yacht being investigated by the Coast Guard is sunk by an eruption of gas of some sort and the Aqua-line (bridge/tunnel) is flooded. We head to government meetings with the cabinet and PM who want to claim it’s only a volcano or underwater steam vent nothing more. Only to discover through news reports that it is some sort of creature as a massive tail comes out of the ocean. It begins moving inland and after the Prime Minister says it can’t come on land it does just that. It evolves while on land into a standing creature before it returns to the water.

From here we go into a bunch of meetings with the government focused on military strategy and civilian safety, while a task force is put together to research the creature. The United States sends in an envoy to the task force when they learn that they could exploit this discovery. The creature now named Godzilla by the Americans reappears and again heads toward Tokyo. The Japanese Self-Defense Force is mobilized and they try to shoot it down, it doesn’t work, they turn to the US who fly B-2s to bomb it this causes some damage but ultimately nothing comes of it. It doesn’t seem that there is anything that can stop this monster.

Here the movie turns again we get the United States and United Nations pushes for nuking the thing nothing can live in one of those explosions. However, Japan doesn’t want to be nuked again so they try their own thing, it some sort of cooling thing, but can they get it done before the world blows up Tokyo. Take some time and watch this movie to find out. There is a sequel planned for some time after 2020 so that can sort of tell you what all happens in the end.

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 (2017)

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.

Perelandra

The second book in the Space Trilogy by CS Lewis. This book picks up several years after the last book (Out of the Silent Planet) ends and tells of the adventure that Edwin Ransom had when he went to Perlandra (Venus). It begins with how the first book ends with Lewis coming for a visit Ransom. The first two chapters are getting Ransom ready to go to Venus in his white coffin shaped vessel as well as what happened after he returned to Earth a year later. The rest of the book is Ransom recounting to Lewis and Humphrey what took place on Venus.

Once again it is wonderful to read of how Venus was seen in the past. Perlandra is a large ocean of a world that is dotted with rafts of vegetation like where most life on Venus lives. There is another place “Fixed Land” a regular island but it is a forbidden place to stay. Perlandra’s sky is golden and opaque it is dim during the day and you can’t see the stars at night. When Ransom arrives he splashes down into the large ocean and sort of can’t do anything although eventually he get onto a raft of vegetation. Then the story can begin. Ransom first meets a dragon-like creature who and it follows him around a couple of days or so later Ransom sees someone on another island waving. Eventually the rafts get closer and they can talk and Ransom meets the Queen of the planet. The Queen tells Ransom things about Maleldil (Jesus) and we learn that she and the King are the only inhabitants of this world.

One day while Ransom and the Queen are on Fixed Land the see a craft crash into the ocean of the planet and who is inside but Dr. Weston, if you remember him from the last book he was one of the antagonist, but here he is inhabited by the bent one. Weston tries to get the Queen to sleep on Fixed Land. It’s the Adam and Eve story told on Venus but this time it’s going to work out for the best at least that is the hope of the Oyarsa of Mars. According to the cosmology in the field of Arbor the inner planet are the newer ones and as you go out further the planets get older.

This book was a surprisingly great read for the season of Lent as it deal with a struggle with the devil. If you read the first book this one continues the story but it’s not like you need to read the first book to understand what all is going on. Once again it isn’t that overly religious and deals with the idea that the legends and myths of our world are things from other worlds and/or the past. It is a rather short read like the first book and now I’ve got to read the final book in the series.