Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 4 -Augustus Trumpster

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 3 – Trumpxander the Great

 

Scene 1 – 30 B.C – The Roman Forum (Tuesday)

Emperor Augustus Trumpster (EAT) – Where is Philbertus Macadamius?  Phil! Phil! Where in Hades are you?

Philbertus Macadamius (PM) – Right here Great Trumpster!  All Hail divine Trumpster.  Why, you bestride the whole world like a Colussus!

EAT – Yeah well stop looking up my toga when I do.  Remember my hands are plenty big.  Nothing to worry about there.

PM – Yes great Trumpster.  And how may I be of service?

EAT – Listen Phil, I’m about to make a big speech before the senate and I need someone that I can trust to listen to my tweet, I mean speech.

PM – I would be honored Great Trumpster.

EAT – Sure, sure but listen I’m a little sword-shy after Mike-us Pence-tony, my right hand man, ran off with that Clintonpatra skank and tried to steal the whole eastern empire from me.  That really pissed me off.  So, I have to know that what I say will go no further than this portico.  I have to know you’re loyal.

PM – Rest assured Great Trumpster, that I would never reveal your conversation or blab it to the Times New Roman, er I mean the New Roman Times.

EAT – Yeah, nothing to see here.  Oh what the hell.  If anything happens I can always feed you to the lions in the Colosseum (when someone gets around to building it that is).  Anyway what do you think of this speech?

PM – (reading the scroll) Uh let’s see.  Hmmm, zmmmm, hmmm, zmmm.  Looks good to me.  Cicero himself will rave.

EAT – Yeah except we cut off his head a few years back.

PM – Oh, that’s right.  Good times, good times.  Anyway, the speech is a peach.  Lay it on them Mighty Trumpster.

Scene 2 – Same day, Roman Senate.

EAT – Friends, Romans, Countrymen.  Lend me your ears.  No, I mean really.  I’m having all your ears cut off for those rude remarks you made about the Empress Melania.  She’s the best- looking babe this old burg has ever seen and you claim that Clintopatra is more regal?  You’re just lucky I won and she wasn’t in charge.  She’d have had you guys eunuched within the week and singing soprano in the Palatine Follies before the Ides of March.  But relax, I had her boiled in oil and rendered into so much soap that it’ll last the empire for a decade.  Unfortunately Slickus Willius escaped into the East.  But it’s probably for the better.  If that joker got talking he’d have stolen the togas right off your backs.  Him and that “that depends on what the definition of id est.”  What a crook.

So anyway, here’s the deal.  I’m going to turn this republic into an empire.  Now I know that’s bad, but you folks are already too corrupt to reform.  On the upside the Pax Romana will give you about two hundred years of relative prosperity and peace.  The downside is that by the time the Visigoths show up you’ll be a bunch of serfs too poor and dispirited to care about defending your homes.

But look at the bright side.  The bread and circuses should last right up until Alaric and the Visigoths sack this place in 410 A.D. (whenever that is).  So let’s party like it’s MCMXCIX!!!!

Senators – Toga, toga, toga.

Two Other Interesting Articles

Sharyl Attkisson was an investigative reporter for CBS.  But during the Obama administration she realized that CBS wouldn’t allow anything negative about Obama to be published.  She resigned and became an independent journalist (an honest reporter!).  This interview was very interesting.  In it she discusses the MSM’s abandonment of objectivity with respect to Trump.  Afterwards she opines that Trump has shown himself immune to the media’s weapons.

http://amp.dailycaller.com/2017/07/15/news-orgs-keep-trying-to-take-down-trump-but-hes-kryptonite-to-the-smear-video/

 

Tucker Carlson was part of the conservative establishment press when the Iraq War broke out.  He has since reconsidered the wisdom of that war.  Here is discussed his recent quarrels with Max Boot and Lt. Col. Ralph Peters.

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/tucker-carlson-goes-war-against-the-neocons-21545

Here is a link that includes links to the videos of the quarrels.

http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2017/07/13/tucker-carlson-neocon-slayer/

The arguments are very enlightening.  I think Carlson gets the better of it but I wish the argument didn’t involve so much shouting over each other.  It’s extremely sophomoric.

Chris Buskirk prefers listening to Kid Rock over Morning Schmoe

This is an easy recommendation.  American Greatness has become an essential place for me to check for a good political read.  I have a feeling my Morning Schmoe and Lycra series will be hearing about Kid Rock pretty soon.  I know, I’m shameless.  But Scarborough actually singing is pure comedy gold.  I’m bound to have Lycra become the new Yoko Ono.  Seriously though it wouldn’t hurt Trump to go on tour with Kid Rock as his opener.  We could use something more entertaining than Russiagate to listen to.  It’s becoming a bore.

Goodbye Joe Scarborough . . . Hello, Kid Rock

 

Some background on Morning Schmoe and Lycra

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 3 – Trumpxander the Great

Trump vs The Time Hag 2 – The Funeral Oration of Trumpicles

 

Scene 1 – Overlooking the smoking ruins of Thebes, 4th Century B.C. (Wednesday)

Trumpxander the Great (TTG) – Aristotle, Ari, hey Ari!  Where the Hades are you?

Aristotle the Wise (ATW) – Right here your majesty.

TTG – Never mind that your majesty stuff.  Remember I’m the Son of Zeus-Ammon.

ATW – Yes, Your Divinity.

TTG – That’s better.  Look Ari, I’m getting ready for the spring campaign against Darius and I need to give my troops a pep talk.  What kind of speech can you lay on me that will impress these spear carriers?

ATW – Well, Your Divinity, you can use either the dialectic logic or the rhetorical logic.

TTG – I remember Vox saying I should stick with rhetoric since that’s what’s brought me to this rodeo.  What have you got on that side?

ATW – I remember Demosthenes had a nice little riff in his speech “On the Crown,” that really caught my attention.

TTG – Demosthenes?  That guy was a total snooze.  So low energy you couldn’t tell the difference between before and after I had him put to death.

ATW – Perhaps you can elaborate on what type of rhetorical effect you are interested in O Son of Zeus-Ammon.

TTG – Well I’m gonna tell my army that we’re gonna fight our way across Asia until we reach India and we’re gonna be gone for years.  I need something that will get these guys jacked.

ATW – Perhaps an appeal to their Macedonian pride.

TTG – Ah forget it, I’ll bribe ‘em.

 

Scene 2 – At the harbor of Corinth.  One month later (Thursday)

 

TTG – Macedonians, brave soldiers, my people.  I stand before you ready to lead you to the greatest victory of all time.  We have conquered Thracians and Athenians, Spartans and Thebans, Corinthians and Euboans, Mytileneans and Egyptians, Libyans and Cyreneans, Armenians and Thessalians, Lydians and Cilicians, Cretans and Lesbians, Cyprians and Lycians, Rhodians and Phoenicians and blah, blah, blah.  Oh Hades, we have basically kicked the whole world’s butt.  We’ve been winning so much that just the other day my generals said, “Son of Zeus-Ammon it’s too much winning!”  I mean it, they really said it.  And now we’ll kick the Persians butts and be done with it.

Some people will tell you (mostly the Persians) that the Persians are unbeatable, that the 10,000 Immortals are, well immortal.  I’m here to tell you that’s b.s.  Remember the Athenians beat them a hundred years ago and they’ve been low energy ever since.

And remember you have me Trumpxander the Son of Zeus-Ammon a demigod, the greatest general of all time, the greatest statesman of all time, the greatest man of all time and the founder of Trumpxandria the greatest city in the world with it’s incredible library.  This library is so great that you have to be approved by me to get a library card.  You can borrow not only scrolls but also pop-up picture scrolls.  You know the ones that kids really like.  And we have the most of any library.  Way more than Athens, way more than Pergamon and way more than Rome which isn’t even a thing yet.

And as if that isn’t enough remember that I have promised that every man that who follows me to the Indus River is going to get his own autographed Trumpxander gold-plated loin cloth complete with laundering instructions.  It’s highest quality and looks like it was a genuine Athenian gold loin cloth, almost.  Plus, if you want to I’ll allow you to settle in Persia and marry a Persian wife like my wife Melania, uh I mean Roxanne, and believe me these Persian women are smoking hot like you wouldn’t believe.  Well, all except for that hideous old fat Clintoninus that Darius found in some house of ill repute in Persepolis.  But the rest of them are fine.

And finally, any man who distinguishes himself by bravery in battle will be given 500 gold darics and will become part of the Trumpxander body guard and hang out with me the demigod and ride around in my stretch chariot.

MACEDONIAN ARMY – (chanting) Trumpxander’s great, Darius sucks, Trumpxander’s great, Darius Sucks!

TTG – You got that right.

 

Scene 3 – After the speech in Trumpxander’s tent

 

TTG – Now listen, Ptolemy, Seleucus and Antipater.  Since you’re my greatest generals, I’ll give you the straight dope because I’ll need you to swing this thing.  We’re gonna conquer the Persian Empire and spread Greek civilization and science to the four corners of the earth.  Darius has taken on an extremely old, fat and ugly concubine called Clintoninus who has bewitched him with dreams of forming a global society based on the doctrines of Sappho of Lesbos which involve women dyeing their hair blue, refusing sex with men and raising cats.  Once we kill Darius and Clintoninus I will apparently go insane, march our men to the ends of the earth and drink myself to death in Babylon.  Afterwards you three will divide my empire in three and devote your descendants to battling each other into a gradually debilitating stalemate for three hundred years while the Romans and Parthians have a chance to catch up to you.  Is that clear?

Ptolemy the Great (PTG) – But Great Trumpxander, Son of Zeus-Ammon, you cannot die.  You are a god.

TTG – Yeah, well it sucks being me.  But listen when I die you bring my body back to Alexandria, uhhhh I mean Trumpxandria, preserved in honey and put me in a crystal sarcophagus as a wonder of the world.  But whatever you do make sure my hair is carefully arranged.  It’s my best feature you know.

PTG – Yes Great Trumpxander, it will be as you command.

(All three generals) – Yes great Trumpxander, Son of Zeus-Ammon.

TTG – Alright, now get out of here and let me rest for Zeus-Ammon’s sake.  I’ve got a big day tomorrow.  I’m conquering the world.

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 4 – Augustus Trumpster

Ray Bradbury – An American Original – Part 2 – The Short Stories

In the first part of this post, I’ve given a little background on how I became introduced to Ray Bradbury’s stories.  After detailing Dandelion Wine, I feel talking about his shorter works is the next order of business.  I own a collection of these called “The Stories of Ray Bradbury” which includes what Bradbury considered his best 100 short stories.  I went through these today and picked out my favorites.  I feel it’s necessary to qualify that statement.  There are more than a few of Bradbury’s best stories that have become components of the longer work Dandelion Wine.  Since I’ve already reviewed that work I’ve left these short stories out of this selection process.

Here are my selections for the best of the best in the same order as they appear in the book:

  1. The Crowd
  2. The Scythe
  3. The City
  4. There Was an Old Woman
  5. There Will Come Soft Rains
  6. The Veldt
  7. A Sound of Thunder
  8. Invisible Boy
  9. The Fog Horn
  10. Hail and Farewell
  11. The Great Wide World Over There
  12. Skeleton
  13. The Man Upstairs
  14. The Jar
  15. Touched with Fire
  16. The Town Where No One Got Off
  17. Boys! Grow Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!
  18. The One Who Waits

Now here’s the thing.  I could easily have added double this number.  Almost all the stories are good.  But these are the ones I especially like.  So, this selection probably says more about me than it does about Bradbury’s best of the best.  But that can be said about any critic’s choices.

An interesting fact I discovered after making this list is that there are at least three stories in this list which I don’t think have any SF&F content in them whatsoever.  They are just studies in human nature.  And yet they appear on this list.  Which I take to mean that Bradbury finds people interesting and knows how to make them interesting to his readers.  Now, that may not seem remarkable, but look at the people writing at the same time as Bradbury.  Let’s take Isaac Asimov.  If you read Asimov’s long or short fiction what you will find is that he is a purveyor of ideas.  But his characters, even his protagonists are ciphers.  There isn’t any emotional content worth mentioning.  And that even counts the scenes where the action is dependent on an emotional response from one of his characters.  He could just as well have been describing billiard balls ricocheting around a pool table.  You might even see the psychological logic of the emotional response but you won’t experience empathy or interest in the character as a human being because of it.  It’s just a plot device.

This was why Bradbury was different back then.  He wrote people in SF&F stories as if they actually were people.  Better writers back then were also doing this to some extent.  Heinlein’s characters displayed more individuality than the average and this is one of the reasons why he is still enjoyed.  But Bradbury brought this to a much higher level.

What else can be definitely said about Bradbury’s stories?  I would say that he almost exclusively deals in the foreground of the picture.  By that I mean that his subjects are almost always face to face.  If Arthur C. Clarke were describing a nuclear holocaust you would see it from orbit.  You would see the ballistic paths of the ICBMs and you would be at the top of the parabola when one missile starts to descend.  And you would see the individual nuclear ignitions across the face of the globe like some fireworks display.  That’s not Bradbury.  With him you’ll see the aftermath of a suburban home on the edge of the kill zone.  You’ll see the toaster in the kitchen and you’ll see the shadows of the family imprinted onto the side of the house facing the gamma ray flash.

Even when Bradbury does write a story of aliens invading earth you are not going to get War of the Worlds.  You’ll get that same suburban neighborhood with husbands and housewives and little Jimmy working on his hobby in the basement.

So now I’ve said a bunch of words about Bradbury’s short fiction.  If you’re looking for hard-core technical sf or even just plain old amusing space opera do not stop at Bradbury.  Move right along.  There’s none of that here.  But if you want to delve into the mysterious world within a world that is the human soul take a trip with him.  It might strike a resonant chord.  Or it might not.  Either way you’ll learn something.

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 4 – Season 3 & 4

Justified – Part 3

Camera Girl and I have polished off the first four seasons of Justified and only have seasons 5 and 6 left.  Although a sort of pattern has emerged vis-à-vis the season finale we remain extremely satisfied with the quality of the show and the progression of the story line.  Over the course of the first four seasons we’ve really gotten to know Raylin Givens and his friends and family and enemies and their families.  We’ve seen some major characters come and go (mostly to the great beyond courtesy of Raylin’s pistol) and we’ve seen Raylin’s personal life undergo several painful dislocations.

And we’ve watched Boyd and Ava Crowder move steadily to the dark side.  When I say this, I don’t mean that the shows have gotten a lot more more violent.  It’s already at intermittent gang war levels.  But what the show is doing is chronicling Boyd’s ascent from small-time gangster to Appalachian mob-boss.  Along the way his scruples and humanity are peeled away crime by crime.  At each step he’s only doing what he has to to avoid the law or his rivals but eventually you see that nothing good remains.  Now I think this is similar to what was done in the series “Breaking Bad.”  There a man was driven by circumstance to adopt crime to help his family and finds himself and those around him consumed.  The difference being Boyd’s family already was criminal and his only attempt at honest life is pretty much extinguished in season two.  The Good/Evil dynamic is more represented by Boyd’s earlier friendship with Raylin.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Raylin and Boyd are two sides of a coin flip.  Either might have ended as the other.  Probably the show itself is a meditation on why they’ve so far ended up on opposite sides of that very narrow line.

And I don’t want to claim any dramatic depth to the show.  It’s entertainment pure and simple.  But the characters are engaging and the mixture of action, drama, comedy and suspense is very nicely prepared.  What I’m not sure about is whether Raylin Givens will end the show better, worse or the same as he started.  He straddles a lot of lines and he seems to be willing to cross those lines when he thinks he has to.  I can see that may bring him to a bad end.  It’ll be interesting to see where the arc of this story lands him.

For my part I’m interested to see where the relationship between Art and Raylin heads.  Art is sort of a surrogate father figure for Raylin.  But whether he’ll end up a stern old testament type father who has to sacrifice his son on the altar of the law or the father of the prodigal who is able to welcome him back into the fold, I don’t know.  But either way I do hope he gets more time in front of the camera.  He’s been limited lately and I want to see him assert some order over the wild west atmosphere of the Harlan County Marshall’s office.

Oh, and for the record, although Raylin has an assortment of fine looking women jumping into bed with him, he certainly has no instinct for avoiding criminals.  Then again maybe he isn’t trying.  Maybe he thinks they’re more fun and he can always arrest or shoot them if he has to.

Currently we’ve received the first two DVDs for season five.  We usually restrict ourselves to two episodes at a sitting.  But we’ve been waiting for these disks for several days now and I suspect we’ll binge through both disks by Saturday.  Patience is definitely not a virtue when Justified is in your DVD player.

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 1 – The Origin Story

Scene 1:  Deepest sublevel of the Pentagon; 3:30 a.m.

Vice President Pence (VPP) – Mr. President, thank you for keeping this a secret and I apologize for the late hour.

President Trump (PT) – Mike, what the hell is going on here?  I was in the middle of a very important tweet.  I superimposed Jim Acosta’s head on a walrus and he was looking really stupid.

VPP – Sorry Mr. President.  I’m sure that was really important but this is critical.

PT – Alright, now that I’m here, what gives?

VPP – In this top-secret military lab our top men have been perfecting a practical method for time travel.

PT – Hey that’s great Mike.  Now I can go back in time and make bets on sports games and get rich like Biff did in Back to the Future Part 2.

VPP – Actually Sir, going back in time and changing it is a very dangerous thing to do.  And it’s one of the reasons I called you here.

PT – I don’t get it.  I haven’t even done anything yet.  Why are you already giving me grief about it?

VPP – Actually it’s Hillary Clinton that’s the problem here.

PT – What does Crooked Hillary have to do with my time machine.

VPP – Your time machine?  Oh, never mind.  Let me explain.  Secretary Clinton found out about the project from Obama back when he was pillaging the United States of America.  After your election victory she has been looking for some way to thwart the election results and she selected the time machine as the last resort.  She plans to go back in time and change history in some way that will allow her to become the president.  In fact, she has already used the machine.

PT – Doesn’t this old hag ever quit?  So how do we stop her?

VPP – Mr. President, if you’ve read Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” or watched “Back to the Future” you know that tampering with the past can be catastrophic.

PT –  Yeah, yeah.  Like when Michael J. Fox starts disappearing from the polaroid photo of his family.  Which if you think about it doesn’t really make any sense.  Boy, that Spielberg really was a slacker.  So, I’m in danger of ceasing to exist.

VPP – Precisely.  We think Hillary will attempt to prevent you from being born by interfering in your parents’ lives.  In fact, we think she’s already succeeded.

PT – Well, then why am I still here?

VPP – Because this lab has an inertial time field associated with it that delays changes to the temporal fabric of the universe within a range of 5 miles and for a period of about two weeks.

PT – Good thing for me.

VPP – Ain’t it the truth.

PT – Okay, get me the DeLaurean or put me in the machine and send me back.  Will I be naked like the Terminator?

VPP – No Mr. President.

PT – Good.  Because despite his terrible work on The Apprentice, Schwarzenegger definitely looks better naked than I do at the moment.  I really have to lay off the pasta.

VPP – Mr. President we don’t have much time.  We’ve got to set up the machine and plan out the mission.  Hillary is wearing a controller that looks like a lady’s Rolex that allows her to move forward and back in time to whatever point in history she wants.  We will provide you with an equivalent controller in a men’s Rolex.

PT – I’d prefer a Trump Chronichron.  It looks like a Rolex but can be purchased at Macy’s for only $450.  It’s quite a deal.

VPP – I’m sorry Mr. President, there’s no time.

PT – That statement seems ironic under these circumstances.

VPP – I am aware.  Now in addition to allowing the wearer to time travel the watch allows us to keep track of the traveler.  For instance, we know that Hillary is currently in 5th Century B.C. Athens.  We will send you there first.  Your mission is to thwart any actions by Hillary and protect the outline of Western Civilization throughout our timeline.  Do you have any questions?

PT – Yes, can I bring guns?

VPP – No Mr. President, that would be extremely damaging to the thread of history.

PT – I figured you’d say that.  You know Mike, you really should learn how to live a little.

VPP – Sure.

PT – Alright, I’m ready.  Let her rip.

VPP – God speed Mr. President.  We’re all rooting for you.  None of us want Hillary for a boss.  She’s a lousy bitch.

Epilogue:

As you know if you’ve read “The Funeral Oration of Trumpicles” Donald was successful in defeating Hillary (or as she was called back then Clintoninus).  Stay tuned for the further adventures of Time-Traveler-Trump as he does battle in the day before yesterday to save tomorrow!

Trump vs The Time Hag – Episode 2 – The Funeral Oration of Trumpicles

(Hat tip to Roger Kimball for the inspiration.)

 

Note: A prequel has been written to this post.  Sorry for the complication.

General Trumpicles – (GT) – People of Athens, and remember Athens is the greatest city in the world, I speak to you today as your leader, and you love me, you really do. I stand before you today to say that Sparta is low energy and rumor of their military strength is fake news, it really is.

(loud and prolonged cheering)

Yes, yes you love me, of course you do. How could you not?  I return to you victorious after defeating the Thebans and building the long walls out to the Piraeus and getting the Spartans to pay for it.  And considering how poor and cheap the Spartans are it wasn’t easy.  Trust me!

(prolonged chanting of “Sparta Sucks, Sparta Sucks)

Yes, yes they do, they really do. And there it’s actually fashionable but let’s not get homophobic.  What I want to say is that Athens is the greatest city in the world and I’m the greatest leader in the world and you’re all so lucky to live in this Fifth Century B.C. Golden Age.  Although I really don’t know what B.C. means and fifth century from what?  But who cares?  It’s golden and that’s enough.  Next week we’ll be opening up the new Trumpicles Temple and Casino.  Some people want to call it the Parthenon.  They think that statue is Athena.  But it’s really Melania.  And Parthenon for her would be misleading.  Enough said.

I just want to say a few words about how great Athens is and why it’s great. It’s great because we make the best deals and we are smarter than the other greeks and because we don’t take crap from anyone.  Darius landed here when our fathers were poor farmers and told us to pay tribute and we told him to stick it in his ear.  And he burned down the city because it was built of wood.  And we’ve rebuilt it out of marble. And he fought us at Marathon and we kicked his ass.

(prolonged chanting of “Persia Sucks, Persia Sucks)

Yeah, they do. But be generous.  At least they’re not the Spartans.

(loud and raucous laughing)

And don’t forget that it was the Trumpicles Corporation that rebuilt Athens in marble. And it was the finest Parian marble and no expense was spared and it is the showcase of the Aegean Sea.  Now you may be asking yourself, “why does Trumpicles do all this.”?  Well, I’ll tell you.  It’s because I’m a man of the people.  I’m not like that Crooked Clintoninus.  I never make an obol on any of these deals I make for you.  It’s well documented that I’m the greatest leader that you will ever have. After me it’ll be one long slide down into Palookaville and then Alexander and the Macedonians will turn this place into a parking lot for the tourists.  But for as long as you’ve got me, the good times will roll and you won’t have to worry about anything except how to spend the drachmas.  So to sum it up, Athens is the greatest city because I’m the greatest leader, you love me and Sparta sucks.  Good night everybody.

(loud foot stomping and chanting Trumpicles, Trumpicles, Sparta Sucks, Sparta Sucks.)

What Good Sci-Fi is Out There? – Part 2

What Good Sci-Fi is Out There – Part 1

The first part of this post (link above) sparked quite a bit of interest and the feedback led me to re-evaluate how thorough I had been in tabulating what I thought of as “Good Sci-Fi Movies.”

One obvious omission is one of my favorite modern sci-fi universes, that is the ‘Verse of “Serenity” and all things Firefly. Sure, the creator of this space cowboy terra-forming future is Joss Whedon, perhaps the most virulent social justice warrior in all Hollywood SFF circles. And sure, River Tam is a five-foot-nothing, eighty-pound girl who can single handedly defeat an army of homicidal maniacs without even so much as a pop-gun. But any world that contains Jane Cobb must be doing something right.

Another omission that can be excused due to competing category confusion is “Galaxy Quest.” The movie is a brilliant parody of Star Trek. Humor is the primary motive of this film so assigning it to the Comedy shelf makes perfect sense. But it does include star ships, alien races and Sigourney Weaver so what the hell.

Three movies that were nominated by readers were Dark City, John Carter and Edge of Tomorrow. Now the mention reminded me that I had seen Dark City and liked it. It’s a very atmospheric almost noir-like film. And once you discover the mystery of the action it is seen to be a sci-fi film. So that was a good call.

I, of course, know of E.R. Burroughs Barsoom stories so I had heard of the John Carter film but the news coverage was all about how expensive it was and how much money it lost. Edge of Tomorrow was a big movie with Tom Cruise starring but it came out when I was too busy for movies unfortunately. So, I’m going to have to check these two films out on Netflix in the near future.
I’d love to hear from any of you readers out there that would like to put in a vote for a sci-fi movie that came out in the last twenty years or so. Give a little info on what you liked about it. The people who read this site are of course among the most discerning individuals so their opinions deserve to be heard.

Let me round off with some films I didn’t like (always a dangerous road to take). I hated the second and third Matrix installments. I thought they were plodding and incoherent. By the end of the third I wasn’t sure if there was anyone to root for. I was kind of hoping Agent Smith would win and destroy both the Matrix and Zion. After seeing how annoying they had all become I figured organic evolution should be given the chance to try again.

I really wasn’t crazy about Gravity. It was visually interesting and there was some dramatic tension and I like Sandra Bullock but I don’t think there was enough there, there, as they say. I know opinions will differ.
I tried to like Solaris. Some of it I did. But not enough to call it good. Let’s say it was pretty good.

I was told to watch Moon. There was some clever stuff in it. I didn’t love it. Maybe it was too realistic (claustrophobic) to enjoy. Well done but not enjoyable for me. Some people will really enjoy the cleverness.

So, there we have it. I’m pretty picky. I’d love to hear what you all think. Even (maybe especially) if you disagree. After all, wouldn’t it be boring if we were all exactly the same. Sort of like the Borg.
Next up will be my views on Fantasy films.

What Good Sci-Fi is Out There?

Sci-Fi movies have a long and checkered past. They run the gamut from such high concept films as 2001: A Space Odyssey to such dreck as Plan Nine from Outer Space. And in addition to quality these films vary by sub-genre. There are movies that concentrate on technology and how humans will adapt to it. This category includes such movies as I, Robot and The Martian. There are movies that are mostly about contacts with alien life of one form or another. This would include everything from War of the Worlds to Independence Day. Then there are movies that are basically monster movies like Alien and The Thing from Another World where the science fiction is just a vehicle to allow things to jump out at the protagonists from dark corners.
I will confess that I can enjoy almost any of these types of movies on any given day if given the chance. But it seems of late the quality of sci-fi is in decline. All kinds of money is being spent on special effects and the acting is really no worse than it’s been in the past. So what’s different?
First, I would say, is the quality of scripts. The words coming out of the characters mouths are getting less interesting. I have been assured that motion pictures are a visual medium in which dialogue is an ancillary dimension of the experience and entirely superfluous. That a good movie shows you not tells you. I disagree. Of course the visual is primary. But if the movie is about people then they need to talk to each other and if the dialogue is bad then the film is bad even if you blow up all the planets in the solar system in alphabetical order in vibrant Technicolor. Let me clarify one thing. I am not advocating for highly polished dramatic set pieces. Dialogue between a street dweller and a policeman can be good without breaking into Shakespeare. All I’m saying is the dialogue is either lame or non-existent in most sci-fi movies today.
Second, the majority of the protagonists are not particularly likeable. Once again let me qualify. I’m not saying I want the good guys to be boy scouts, far from it. But a flawed character can still be the character the audience identifies and empathizes with. As an example from detective fiction, think about Sam Spade. He’s cruel, selfish and violent. But there’s never any doubt whether we want him or his adversaries to come out on top. The characters now seem either evil or just ciphers.
And lastly, the stories that these movies are based on are usually not very substantial. Think of some of the great stories that have been written. Even restricting myself to one author, Heinlein, I could point out a dozen books and short stories that could be made into excellent films. Wouldn’t “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” make a great movie? And how about “Farmer in the Sky”? And I think audiences would eat up “Have Spacesuit Will Travel.” The danger is that the studios would turn each movie into a franchise and we’d be subjected to hacks tacking sequels onto completed stories. I’ve heard “Starship Troopers” might be remade as a faithful interpretation of the book. That would be great. But I’m not holding my breath.
Now I’ve ranted against what I don’t like. Let me see if I can identify some that I do. Caveat, I haven’t gone out of my way looking for good sci-fi. But I’ve managed to bump into a lot that’s bad. And I’m leaving out all things Star Wars and Star Trek. I won’t even go there.
• “The Martian” was okay. Despite the fact that I despise Matt Damon he did a decent job and the story though far from brilliant was somewhat engaging and clever.
• The first installment of “The Matrix” was pretty good. Granted it’s almost twenty years old but being much older I will include it in recent.
• If I’m allowed to stretch apocalyptic films as science fiction I’ll point to the “Book of Eli.”
So that’s it. Maybe I’ve missed some. If anybody has any movies from the last twenty years that past muster, leave a comment. We can discuss.