Critical Site Updates

My apologies, both for the lack of content and for being forced to take the site down for a critical maintenance issue. My time in Australia was far different from what I’d hoped it would be (I don’t regret a moment of the last four of the 13 weeks I was there), and a great many issues have come up since my return. Routine maintenance on the site has been prevented for complicated reasons; my very kind administrator has said that he now needs to tear it all down and perform a clean re-install, due to my own errors in the use of a few plug-ins that were “incompatible” (to say the least). First Rule: Listen to your Admin!

The site will have a complete backup and should be able to come back just as it was, with one important exception: If you have subscribed to receive updates of this site, you’ll need to re-subscribe after the re-installation. I would recommend giving yourself a reminder to re-subscribe on Monday, June 17, 2019; the site should be repaired by then. If you visit the site sometime next weekend, and this notice does not appear as the first entry, then the site has been repaired; you will be able to re-subscribe at that time.

Thank you for your patience and your faith in my finally getting this site back on track. It would be a jinx to make promises…! I will, however, pledge my best efforts, and I’ve already gotten some ideas for new posts. Meanwhile, my web comic is still going strong; visit Natural Habitat today!

True Believer

(1989, rated R) James Woods (Eddie Dodd), Robert Downey, Jr. (Roger Barron), Margaret Colin (Kitty Greer), Yuji Okumoto (Shiu Kai Kim), Kurtwood Smith (Robert Reynard), Tom Bower (Cecil Skell), Miguel Fernandez (Art Esparza), Charles Hallahan (Vincent Dennehy), Luis Guzman (Ortega). Music: Brad Fidel (“Busload of Faith” written/sung by Lou Reed). Screenplay: Wesley Strick. Director: Joseph Ruben. 108 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Courtroom Drama, “Criminal Justice YRW”

Notable: Downey as a baby-faced 24 year old; spun-off short-lived TV series Eddie Dodd, starring Treat Williams.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Eddie Dodd was a crusading lawyer in his day; now, he’s a burn-out, defending drug dealers that he knows are guilty in order to make points about the unfairness of governmental and police procedural flaws… so he says. Roger Barron, fresh out of law school, was impressed with Eddie’s early cases, comes to San Francisco to work with him, not sure that he’s even meeting the firebrand of years past. The knifing of a prison inmate by another inmate calls into question whether or not young Shiu Kai Kim (the alleged killer) should have been in prison in the first place. After all these years of having lost his own belief in The System, Eddie now has a chance to defend an innocent man. The question becomes… can he? Continue reading “True Believer”

The Gods Themselves

By Isaac Asimov
ISBN-13 978-0-5532-8810-0

Tags: Science Fiction, What-If, Cautionary Tale

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Through an accident of science, Earth now has a seemingly unlimited supply of energy, enough to last a trillion years. Three people — an outcast scientist, a rebellious alien in a parallel world, and a lunar-born human Intuitionist — are aware that this boon to humankind could cause an imbalance in the nature of nuclear attraction that will cause the sun to explode with enough force to destroy the entire solar system and beyond, in perhaps as little as a few years. Continue reading “The Gods Themselves”

The Sentinel

(1977, rated R) Chris Serandon (Michael Lerner), Christina Raines (Alison Parker), Martin Balsam (Professor Ruzinsky), John Carridine (Father Halloran), José Ferrer (Robed Figure), Ava Gardner (Miss Logan), Arthur Kennedy (Monsignor Franchino), Burgess Meredith (Charles Chasen), Sylvia Miles (Gerda), Deborah Raffin (Jennifer), Eli Wallach (Detective Gatz), Christopher Walken (Rizzo), Jerry Orbach (Film Director), Jeff Goldblum (Jack). Music: Gil Mellé. Screenplay: Michael Winner (based on the book by Jeffrey Konvtiz). Director: Michael Winner. 92 minutes.

Tags: Horror, Suspense, Kitsch

Notable: Jeff Goldblum almost invisible; Christopher Walken with about three lines; presentation of a lesbian couple (who are, of course, evil).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Model Alison Parker catches a great deal on a Brooklyn apartment, with her few neighbors being a bit eccentric, particularly the old, blind priest, Father Halloran in the upper floor apartment who sits in the window, staring at nothing, and never moves. It takes some time for her and her lawyer lover, Michael Lerner, to discover that the building is actually the gateway to Hell… and Alison has been invited to join the occupants of the building permanently. Continue reading “The Sentinel”

Millennium

By John Varley
ISBN-13 — 978-0441006779

Publication Year: 1983

Tags: Science Fiction, Time Travel

Rating: ★★★★☆

Far over Oakland, California, a DC-10 commercial aircraft strikes a 747 in mid-air, bringing down both planes in an area covering several miles. No survivors. Air disaster investigator Bill Smith is searching for the reason for the crash, as a woman calling herself Louise Baltimore prepares, 50,000 years in the future, to stop him from finding out too much. The crash had to happen. It wasn’t that Louise caused it, but she left something behind on that plane, and Bill Smith can’t discover it before her, or the entirety of human history could be wiped out at a speed of hundreds of years per hour. Continue reading “Millennium”

Hitchcock

(2012, PG-13) Anthony Hopkins (Alfred Hitchcock), Helen Mirren (Alma Reville), Scarlett Johansson (Janet Leigh), Toni Collette (Peggy), Danny Huston (Whitfield Cook), Jessica Biel (Vera Miles), Michael Stuhlbarg (Lew Wasserman), James D’Arcy (Anthony Perkins), Michael Wincott (Ed Grein), Kurtwood Smith (Geoffrey Shurlock), Richard Portnow (Barney Balaban). Music: Danny Elfman. Screenplay: John J. McLaughlin. (based on “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello). Director: Sacha Gervasi. 98 minutes.

Tags: Behind-the-Scenes, Bio-Pic

Notable: Good story about the making of Psycho, but the personal aspects ain’t actual history.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

By all accounts, Alfred Hitchcock was a difficult man, as a person, as a director, and as a husband. The great gamble of his life was to make the film Psycho. The studio hated it, wanting him to fall back on thrillers like The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934, his first big success in the genre) and several dozen others. Hitch was becoming somewhat bored with the formula, even with brilliant films like Rope (1948), Strangers on a Train (1951), and Rear Window (1954) in his repertoire. The truth was that Vertigo (1958), which has long since been vindicated as brilliant, was a box office flop as far as the studio was concerned; North By Northwest (1959) did well enough, and Paramount wanted “another one like that.” They wanted to make money, and at that point, the team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis was making a ton of cash for the producers. Studio executive Lew Wasserman was so sure that Psycho was going to bomb that he banked on the rather “craptastic” Martin-Lewis debacle called Cinderfella, which came out that Christmas. Talk about flops… Continue reading “Hitchcock”

The Manitou

By Graham Masterton
ISBN 1587541033

Publication Year: 1975

Tags: Horror, Native American

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Harry Erskine is a phony clairvoyant who reads Tarot cards for a living. One of his “wealthy old ladies” has a niece, Karen Tandy, who has been having disturbing dreams and, perhaps coincidentally, has developed a strange lump on the back of her neck. Growing at an astonishing rate — measurable in centimeters per hour — the lump has some of the characteristics of a developing fetus. Piecing together clues both material and psychic, Harry believes this to be the impending reincarnation of a Native American Medicine Man from 300 years in the past, returning to reclaim the land from the White Man. If he grows to maturity, if he escapes Karen Tandy’s body, the girl will be the first to die… and the body count will only grow larger… Continue reading “The Manitou”

The Traveler

(2010, R) Val Kilmer (Mr. Nobody), Dylan Neal (Det. Alexander Black), Paul McGillium (Dep. Pine), Camille Sullivan (Dep. Hollows), Nels Lennarson (Dep. Sherwood), Christopher Gauthier (Desk Sgt. Gulloy), John Cassini (Dept. Hawkins). Music: Ross Vanelli. Screenplay: Joseph C. Huscat. Director: Michael Oblowitz. 91 minutes.

Tags: Thriller, Horror, Revenge

Notable: A few good twists on an old trope, with a deus ex puellita ending.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A drifter walks into a police station on a rainy Christmas Eve to confess to a series of murders, none of which has happened… yet. A terrible thing happened in this police station a year ago, and those involved are about to discover that karma is, indeed, a bitch. Continue reading “The Traveler”

I Moved Your Cheese

By Deepak Malhotra
ISBN-13 — 978-1-60671-399-0

Publication Year: 2013

Tags: Social Commentary, Business, Self-Determination

Rating: ★★★★☆

Mice who live in the maze are taught that, if someone moves your cheese, you go out into the maze to find more cheese. From an early age, Max asked questions: Who moved the cheese, and why, and what is the maze anyway, and why do we stay in it? Most of the other mice simply laughed and ignored him, until one day Max comes to find Zed, to tell him that he has found the answers. With the help of Big (himself thought strange because he only seeks cheese when it suits him and does without it when it doesn’t suit him to go looking), Max has discovered what the maze is, and who moved the cheese, and he has sought out Zed because it is said that Zed questions the mere existence of the maze itself, not to mention its value.

This book was written in answer to Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese, providing an answer “for those who refuse to live as mice in someone else’s maze.” Continue reading “I Moved Your Cheese”

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

(2017, Rated PG-13) Tom Bateman (Bouc); Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot); Penélope Cruz (Pilar Estravados); Willem Dafoe (Gerhard Hardman); Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff); Johnny Depp (Edward Ratchett); Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen); Derek Jacobi (Edward Henry Masterman); Leslie Odom Jr. (Dr. Arbuthnot); Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard); Daisy Ridley (Miss Mary Debenham); Marwan Kenzari (Pierre Michel); Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt); Lucy Boynton (Countess Elena Andrenyi); Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Biniamino Marquez); Sergei Polunin (Count Rudolph Andrenyi). Music: Patrick Doyle. Screenplay: Michael Green (suggested by the book by Agatha Christie). Director: Kenneth Branagh. 114 minutes.

Tags: Remake, Mystery, Avoid-At-All-Cost

Notable: Single most idiotic portrayal of Hercule Poirot in the history of the known world (Branagh); sets are better than the actors.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Having solved a case in Istanbul, the famous Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot is recalled to England for a consultation. Securing travel on the Orient Express — the famous train that runs from Istanbul to Paris — Poirot finds himself embroiled in a mysterious murder. With the train snowbound, the murderer must be one of the passengers in the main coach… but which, and how? Poirot must engage his “little grey cells” to solve one of the most complicated crimes of his career. Continue reading “Murder on the Orient Express (2017)”