By Sherwood Anderson
Publication Year: 1919
Tags: Short Stories, Classic Literature, Literary
This collection of stories, published a century ago, is often dismissed as having been once considered great but now considered “pedantic” and something to be passed over and not “inflicted” upon high school students any longer. By this logic, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town should not be taught either, since it’s clearly “outdated” by today’s standards. I would agree that this book should not be taught in high school, since such schools in the United States today most likely don’t have teachers who can understand it well enough to explain it to the bored seniors, with their fourth-grade reading levels and disdain for anything that’s not part of a video game or the Marvel Movie Universe. (I’m now old enough to indulge my cynicism; to use an idiom from today’s meme-based culture, “Change my mind.”) Continue reading “Winesburg, Ohio”
(1973, Rated PG) Pamela Franklin (Florence Tanner), Roddy McDowall (Ben Fisher), Clive Revill (Lionel Barrett), Gayle Hunnicutt (Ann Barrett), Roland Culver (Mr. Deutsch), Peter Bowles (Hanley [Deutsch’s assistant]). Music: Brian Hodgson & Delia Derbyshire. Screenplay: Richard Matheson (based on his novel Hell House). Director: John Hough. 94 minutes.
Tags: Horror, Haunted House
Notable: Hodgson created many sound effects for Doctor Who; Derbyshire created the electronic version of Ron Grainer’s theme for Doctor Who; two of the six actors of the film are no longer seen after the opening credits roll; Michael Gough (uncredited) appears as Emeric Belasco.
A rich, dying old man hires three psychic investigators to discover the facts regarding survival after death. Their destination: The only indisputably haunted house in the land — the Belasco house, known to the rest of the world as Hell House. Physicist Lionel Barrett is out to prove his theory that “ghosts” are nothing more than electromagnetic phenomena. Mental medium Florence Tanner wants to save the tortured spirits that she feels are haunting the house. Only physical medium Ben Fisher — the only survivor from the last attempt to investigate Hell House, twenty years ago — remains cautious and aloof; he knows too well that something in that house can kill… and he feels sure it’s in the mood to begin killing again. Continue reading “The Legend of Hell House”
By George R. R. Martin
Publication Year: 1980 (illustrated edition 2018)
Tags: Science Fiction, Horror, Overrated
An academic research crew of nine boards a star-bound freighter called the Nightflyer in search of the volcryn — legendary beings who have existed for millennia, passing through the galaxy at sub-light speeds, a mystery hinted at in the writings of many civilizations but never yet proved. As the journey proceeds, the researchers come to wonder more about the ship itself instead of the object of their pursuit. What they’re searching for may be far less of a mystery than what is taking them there.
***SPOILERS AHEAD*** Continue reading “Nightflyers”
(1974, Rated R) Lee Marvin (Sheriff Bascomb), Richard Burton (Breck Stancill), Cameron Mitchell (Butt Cutt Cates), O. J. Simpson (Garth), Lola Falana (Loretta Sykes), David Huddleston (Mayor Hardy Riddle), Linda Evans (Nancy Poteet), Luciana Paluzzi (Trixie), David Ladd (Flagg). Music: Stu Gardner and Dale O. Warren. Screenplay: Millard Kaufmann and Samuel Fuller, based on the novel by William Bradford Huie. Director: Terrence Young. 112 minutes.
Tags: History, Drama, Terrible
Notable: A train wreck on and off the set; Italian actress Paluzzi wasn’t a good choice for a Southern girl.
In a small Alabama town, where the mayor is just another good ol’ boy Klansman, a sheriff has to balance presumably small acts of racial violence with keeping the peace in a powder-keg of personal and political tensions. Tempers flare when a black man is accused of raping a white woman, and an angry man resorts to vigilante justice. As outsiders arrive to cover the story of a civil rights rally, the KKK forms a lynching party, hell-bent on killing anyone — white or black — who gets in their way. Continue reading “The Klansman”
By Ray Bradbury
Tags: Mystery, Modern-Day Fantasy
[from the publisher] On a dismal evening in the previous century, an unnamed writer in Venice, California, answers a furious pounding at his beachfront bungalow door and again admits Constance Rattigan into his life. An aging, once-glamorous Hollywood star, Constance is running in fear from something she dares not acknowledge — and vanishes as suddenly as she appeared, leaving the narrator two macabre books: Twin listings of the Tinseltown dead and soon to be dead, with Constance’s name included among them. And so begins an odyssey as dark as it is wondrous, as the writer sets off in a broken-down jalopy with his irascible sidekick Crumley to sift through the ashes of a bygone Hollywood — a graveyard of ghosts and secrets where each twisted road leads to grim shrines and shattered dreams … and, all too often, to death. Continue reading “Let’s All Kill Constance”
(2009, rated R) Sharito Copley (Wikas van der Murwe), Jason Cope (Christopher Johnson), David James (Col. Venter), Vanessa Haywood (Tania Smit-van der Murwe), Louis Minnaar (Piet Smit). Music: Clinton Shorter. Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchel. Director: Neill Blomkamp. 112 minutes.
Tags: Sci-Fi, CGI Bonanza, Xenophobia, Political
Notable: Inspired by incidents surrounding Johannesburg’s District 6, during the full reign of apartheid.
Twenty-some years ago, an alien spaceship comes to rest, hovering silently over Johannesburg, South Africa. The entire population of the ship — aliens who come to be called “prawns” for their crusty exoskeleton and mini-tentacles over their mouths — seeks refuge in an area referred to as District 9. Originally intended to keep them and humans separated for health reasons, the aliens become so disenfranchised that their area becomes something between a slum and a detention camp. There are now 1.8 million aliens in the encampment, and the Multi-National Union (MNU) intends to relocate them to a place some 200 kilometers away. The eviction, however, puts strain on an already tense situation, and when the head of that project, Wikas van der Murwe, appears to have become somehow “infected,” the entire project explodes into bloody warfare.
***ATTENTION: SPOILERS AHEAD** Continue reading “District 9”
By Ray Bradbury
Publication Year: 1990
Tags: Writing, Art, Life, Philosophical
“Every morning, I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. Now, it’s your turn. JUMP!”
Continue reading “Zen in the Art of Writing”
By Molly MacRae
Publication Year: 2013
Tags: Cozy Mystery, Series
Kath Rutledge is back, this time with her friends from a knitting group, all gathered together at a peaceful sheep farm to have one of their number demonstrate some yarn-dyeing techniques. When the group heads out to see the sheep, the beautiful spring day turns sinister with the discovery of two bodies spread beneath a tall tree… and worse, one of them is someone they know. Kath’s friends want her to investigate, as she did not that long ago (in Last Wool and Testament). She is reluctant at first, but when a third victim shows up, she calls on her home-grown “posse” to help her sort through the clues and catch a killer. Continue reading “Dyeing Wishes”
By Shirley Jackson
Publication Year: 1962
Tags: Thriller, Horror, Classic
The book’s beginning: “My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise, I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.” Continue reading “We Have Always Lived in the Castle”
(2014, rated PG) Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Anne Hathaway (Amelia Brand), Jessica Chastain (Murphy “Murph” Cooper), John Lithgow (Donald), Michael Caine (Dr. Brand), Casey Affleck (Tom Cooper), Matt Damon (Dr. Mann), William Devane (Williams). Music: Hans Zimmer. Screenplay: Johnathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Director: Christopher Nolan. 169 minutes.
Tags: Sci-Fi, Epic, Dystopian, Special Effects Extravaganza
Notable: Various aspects of “hard science” heighten the film’s believability; a PG-rated film with a single f-bomb in it, which used to make a film require an “R” rating.
In the mid-twenty-first century, the Earth can barely sustain life. Cooper (McConaughey) is a former NASA astronaut, now trying to eke out a life as a dust-bowl farmer after NASA had been abandoned some years before. His daughter Murphy finds a strange pattern in the dust on the floor of her room, a pattern she blames on a ghost. When the pattern keeps recurring, Cooper deduces that it’s a gravitic anomaly, that the lines are actually a binary code for geographic coordinates. Following them, Cooper discovers Brand (Hathaway), his old boss from NASA, heading a secret facility that has been researching the presence of an artificially-created wormhole, an opening in space that could lead to a planet that could sustain human life… if they can get there. Continue reading “Interstellar”