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Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA)
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The Hunt For Red October (Special Collector's Edition [DVD] [1990]
The Hunt For Red October (Special Collector's Edition [DVD] [1990]
Dvd ~ Sean Connery
Price: 4.62

5.0 out of 5 stars An intellectual thriller of the highest caliber, 3 Aug 2014
While I usually try to avoid all things Baldwin, this film is just way too good to miss. It’s hard to imagine a more compelling storyline, which centers on a preeminent Soviet submarine captain going rogue with the shiniest new toy in the Soviet arsenal – the Red October, a new Typhoon class submarine designed for the purpose of sneaking past US defenses and delivering a devastating first strike in any war between the two Cold War adversaries. No one knows what this captain is going to do – not the Soviets and not the Americans. Obviously, the greatest and most likely outcome is an attack on the eastern US that would initiate World War III. At the same time, however, there is also the possibility that Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) might be trying to defect. Neither outcome is palatable to the Soviet regime, so they send the bulk of their fleet toward the North Atlantic to find and destroy the Red October. For the Americans, though, it’s not so simple. Only one thing is clear – they have to find the sub before it penetrates America’s coastal defenses and figure out what Captain Ramius is planning to do. That’s where CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) comes in.

The film’s cinematography is excellent – well, apart from what appears to me to be a rather poor green screen shot in the final scene. It can’t be easy to film the bulk of a movie within the close quarters of a submarine – granted, the Red October is pretty freakin’ huge for a sub, but it’s still a sub. Director John McTiernan may be known for blowing up everything in sight in Die Hard, but there really are no extravagant special effects in this movie. This is an intellectual thriller, where subtle hints and exercises in logic drive the story, and when all is said and done you can easily come to believe that everything you’ve seen might really have happened. Tom Clancy really was a master storyteller who took care that no loose strings were left behind.

I'm not going to compare this to other movies featuring Jack Ryan, largely because the only other one I’ve seen is The Sum of All Fears, which features another actor I don’t care for. I will say that Alec Baldwin was good in this movie. Sean Connery, of course, steals the show. His Russian accent won’t win any awards, but the stoicism and inscrutability with which he plays his character really maintains the suspense and keeps you guessing what he’s really up to for most of the movie. He’s equally believable as both a defector and a madman determined to start World War III. The supporting cast, boasting the likes of James Earl Jones, Sam Neill, Tim Curry, and Fred Thompson is top-notch, as well. And, with a running time of two hours and fifteen minutes, you truly get your money’s worth from The Hunt for Red October.


A Year with the Hoopers
A Year with the Hoopers
Price: 1.90

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique window into modern family life, 5 July 2014
I daresay you’ve never read a work of fiction like James Hoby’s A Year With the Hoopers; I know I certainly haven’t. For one thing, the book does not have a plot, certainly not in the traditional sense. In fact, there is no main character, no issue to be addressed, no real questions to be answered, and no climactic moment toward the end. Rather, what we have here are the detritus of a family, shredded, boxed up, and – for reasons unknown – hurled out of a van onto the front lawn of the “author.” Having recently acquired some decode-anything software, said “author” hired a couple of teenagers to scan all of the shredded documents into his computer and then let the software put all of the pieces together. The result: an eclectic mix of letters, memos, greeting cards, notes, school essays, etc.

While A Year With the Hoopers is a satirical – and quite funny – look at contemporary American life, it also raises questions about the interpretation of history and what kind of legacy we will leave behind for future individuals or even whole generations. After all, to some degree the very discipline of history revolves around assembling, piecing together, and attempted interpretation of the scattered, sometimes even discarded remains, left behind by a person, group, or culture. One person’s trash has often become a later historian’s treasure. In the case of this novel, Hoby leaves the task of interpretation up to the reader, but the various bits of data assembled herein are the result of a pseudo-historical process of assembling scattered pieces of data which are seemingly meaningless and unintelligible in their original, shredded state and painstakingly (albeit by computer processing) piecing together and organizing them into distinct documents which can be translated and interpreted by others. To some, it’s all discarded trash that means absolutely nothing; others may find it interesting but view it as insufficient information on which to draw a picture of the subjects in question. For a few, though, it may offer remarkable insight into a group of people – and perhaps, vicariously, even themselves –we would otherwise know nothing about.

I think there is more than humour to be gleaned from these pages. Young Jenny Hooper’s essays about her relationship with her parents and the problems of dealing with her old and infirm aunt offer insight into the teenaged psyche, and only a fool could fail to read a great deal between the lines of the constantly changing last wills and testaments emerging from the nursing home where Trudy Greathouse now finds herself contemplating her final days. Less informative, perhaps, but not to be missed are the increasingly fantastical letters written by one Xenophon Munny to Helen Hooper concerning a traffic accident he could not possibly have witnessed.

If nothing else, A Year With the Hoopers is a quick and quite comical read, so even those who find no point whatsoever for the novel’s existence should at least be entertained to some degree. For some, though, the discarded history of this fictional modern family may hold surprising revelations.


Airplane II: The Sequel [1982] [DVD]
Airplane II: The Sequel [1982] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert Hays
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 3.57

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost as funny -- and quotable -- as the original, 2 July 2014
Pretty much everyone has seen Airplane, but this sequel often seems to be overlooked, lost in the deep shadows cast by its hilarious predecessor. Only a tiny minority could possibly argue that Airplane II is as good as the first one – how could it be when it recycles a lot of the same jokes and gags? – but this film gets better and better as it goes along. Strange as it may sound, what makes Airplane II so funny is ultimately the fact that it does follow the original story and approach to comedy as closely as it does. Apart from moving the endangered flight into outer space this time around, this sequel is largely a carbon copy of the original. Unfortunately, several scenes seem to be missing from the DVD and Blu-Ray releases, for reasons I certainly cannot fathom.

I had my doubts during the first quarter of the film. The same jokes that seemed so funny in the original just weren’t connecting very strongly this second time around. In retrospect, I think this had a lot to do with the characters delivering those one-liners. Apart from Striker (Robert Hays) and Elaine (Julie Hagerty), these were mostly new characters. (I also have to admit that I found this second dose of Elaine quite annoying.) More familiar faces began to come in over time, though, and the tide really turned with the return of McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges). Everything just fell into place after that, and the appearance of William Shatner toward the end raised the bar of comedy up another notch.

As for the story, it takes place a little while after the events of the first film. It seems that Striker and Elaine did not find mutual happiness after all. She became a computer specialist helping design a state-of-the-art flight computer, while he landed a job as the test pilot for the world’s first passenger spacecraft designed to take people to and from a new lunar colony on the moon. After telling the company that the space plan was basically a poorly designed death trap and then crashing it in one of his tests, the company blamed everything on poor Striker and had him put away in a mental institution. Elaine got engaged to a total jerk, and now the two of them are taking part in the Mayflower’s maiden voyage to the moon. Obviously, Striker breaks out of the hospital and straight for the plane before it can be launched.

There’s no Leslie Nielsen or Robert Stack this time around, but returning characters include Striker, Elaine, McCroskey, Captain Oveur (Peter Graves), Jacobs (that nutty little guy prancing around the control tower), and the main jive-talking passenger. Shatner pretty much steals the show toward the end, but he’s only one of several great new characters, such as Chuck Connors as Sarge, Rip Torn, Jim Noble (the governor from Benson) and Sonny Bono. Those making cameos include Raymond Burr, Herve Villechaize, and even a young Pat Sajak. It’s always great fun to see who will turn up in these films.

In the end, I actually enjoyed Airplane II almost as much as I enjoyed the original. Just the scenes with Lloyd Bridges and William Shatner alone make the film well worth seeing. If you enjoyed the comedy of Airplane, you’ll enjoy this sequel, as well, as it was truly cast in the same mold as its predecessor, providing one eminently quotable line after another. It’s utterly shameless comedy at its best. Some of the same old jokes may not be quite as funny the second time around, but this film still made me laugh on numerous occasions.


Europe's Roswell: UFO Crash at Aberystwyth [DVD] [2009]
Europe's Roswell: UFO Crash at Aberystwyth [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Mark Olly
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 11.80

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Evidence? Who needs evidence?, 29 Jun 2014
If more UFO documentaries were as bad as this one, there would be no need for government disinformation. Even if there were a real story here, we’re given almost no evidence for any of it – yet Mark Olly would have us believe that a UFO unquestionably exploded over some remote Wales countryside in 1983. It all starts with a national news article from 1983 describing the discovery of metallic debris across four fields near the Welsh community of Abersytwyth. No one – including the farmer who owned the land – heard or saw anything unusual on the night the debris-scattering incident occurred. The police were called, as well as the RAF, and then the Ministry of Defense arrived and cleaned up the site. That’s pretty much the whole story.

Olly’s colleague consulted local and national newspapers but found no other article associated with the incident. They speak to the reporter, who has no memory of the story’s source, as well as the farmer – both of whom we are assured are more than happy to talk. Of course, we get to hear from neither of the men ourselves. Come to think of it, we’re never actually shown video or pictures of the site in question, either – despite Olly’s visit there to try and recover any debris the MOD had missed. That would be the end of the story – but Olly locates another researcher who claims to have visited the site days after the MOD left and located several pieces of debris in the adjoining woods. Finally – after several viewings of Olly’s “UFO explosion” recreation and personal stories of Olly’s own UFO sightings – we’re allowed to actually see the pieces for ourselves. They seem quite terrestrial-looking to me – but we’re told that metallurgists say they’re an unusually strong example of the type of metal used on fighter aircraft. Apparently, the green color on one side of the material is not aerodynamic, though – which is certainly odd, as I can see no reason whatsoever how the color of a material can possibly affect its aerodynamics.

In the end, Olly would have us believe that an alien UFO exploded in mid-air, crashed to the ground, and then zoomed back up in the sky to continue on its way without anyone nearby hearing a thing, leaving a bunch of metallic debris in its wake, offering us in terms of evidence only a cursory look at four pieces of “debris” that can’t be definitively tied to the alleged UFO. Somehow, I’m not quite convinced.


Fantastic Voyage [DVD] [1966]
Fantastic Voyage [DVD] [1966]
Dvd ~ Stephen Boyd
Price: 4.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspired melding of science and imagination, 28 Jun 2014
Here you have a true science fiction classic, the first film to take viewers inside the human body. Yes, by today’s standards the special effects are cheesy, with the use of green screens blatantly obvious more than a few times, and many may find the idea of miniaturizing a manned submarine to the microscopic level and injecting it into a human body laughable, but this was the mid-1960s, man. We were eradicating virulent diseases, making gigantic computers that could make complex calculations quickly, had shot men into space – heck, we were working to put man on the moon. Science fiction really mattered back then – it still matters today, but not like it did back then, when the futuristic imaginings of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and others were providing the blueprints and inspiration of the scientific facts of tomorrow. Anything and everything suddenly seemed possible, so why not miniaturization?

So here’s the deal. Both the US and the Russkies have miniaturization technology – but neither can extend the period of miniaturization past one hour. One scientist – Jan Benes – knows how to do it. The Soviets want him, but we just rescued him and got him to America. Unfortunately, the bad guys managed to injure him before he could talk. Now he lies in a coma, an inoperable blood clot deep within his brain. Clearly, there’s only one thing to do: put the country’s best brain surgeon in a nuclear-powered submarine, shrink it to microscopic proportions, and inject it into Benes’ bloodstream so the doctor can perform the necessary laser surgery from within. Most fortunately for at least half of the viewing population, Dr. Duval (Arthur Kennedy) insists on bring his assistant Cora (Raquel Welch) along. Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasance), the nominal head of the whole operation, is also there to help guide the captain through the various bodily systems on the way to the brain, as is security expert Grant (Stephen Boyd) because no one can be trusted implicitly during the Cold War.

Thanks to a series of unexpected problems during this fantastic voyage, the special effects and visual arts departments faced the daunting task of visually representing numerous aspects of the human body’s most amazing processes – the makeup of the circulatory, limbic, and nervous systems; the rhythmic wonders of the human heart and lungs; the martial prowess of antibodies and white blood cells attacking foreign bodies with Borg-like precision; and the wonders of the unknown universe that is the human mind. The film’s Oscar awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction were well-earned, no matter how cheesy it all looks today. For some reason, though, the image that sticks out the most in my mind is that of Grant and the two doctors groping all over Raquel Welch’s chest for the better part of a minute during one of the film’s pivotal scenes. Well, that and the scissors thing.

No matter how many decades pass, this film will always stand as a glowing example of the power of man’s imagination and the infinite wonders and possibilities of science. And who’s to say the “preposterous” science of this story couldn’t come true someday – if mankind ever stops devoting all of his resources to fighting and killing and once again looks to science for ways to actually improve the human condition.


Scorcher [DVD]
Scorcher [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mark Dacascos

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't blame me if you get burnt by this one, 20 Jun 2014
This review is from: Scorcher [DVD] (DVD)
As if we needed yet another way in which nuclear weapons could destroy life on Earth, along comes Scorcher. Thanks to China detonating a few underground nuclear bombs, the planet’s tectonics are all screwed up, giving rise to earthquakes, volcanic explosions, and even lava spewing up in the Arctic – and that’s not even the bad news. That worrisome Pacific plate has begun moving too far too quickly, and the end result will be a fiery global catastrophe in just three days. Now the fate of mankind rests on the shoulders of two estranged father & daughter scientists, a smart aleck corporal who once had the audacity to hit on the First Lady, and a team of oddball soldiers.

At least we can all be thankful to have a disaster film that doesn’t reunite a divorced couple in the effort to save the world, although we do have the equally clichéd situation of Colonel Beckett (Mark Dacascos) trying to find his estranged daughter while also pulling off a bold and risky mission. And of course you have the bickering father and daughter team of Dr. Matthew Sallin (John Rhys-Davies) and Julie McGrath (Tamara Davies) just happening to be the world’s leading experts on this type of global disaster. Throw in an insane religious nut trying to do his part to purge the earth of sinners and a special agent willing to let life on the planet be exterminated in order to settle a personal grudge, and you’ve got Scorcher.

Needless to say, Scorcher is a most forgettable disaster movie that leaves you asking Why? on far too many occasions. As far as special effects go, it looks just like the low-budget made-for-cable movie that it is. Sure, there is some entertainment value at watching a poorly written disaster flick play out, but Scorcher never even begins to approach “so bad it’s good” status. Unless you’re like me and feel compelled to watch every disaster movie you can get your hands on, just give this one a pass.


Contagio [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Contagio [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Luc Bernier
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: 11.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Torturously slow and underdeveloped, 31 May 2014
You know how some movies start out really slowly and then grab you by the throat at some point? Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those movies. Contagio starts with a whole lot of nothing happening and retains its torturously slow pace throughout 93 of the longest minutes you will ever spend in your life. I was amazed to learn that the filming took place in Mississippi (six days of shooting in all) – not only does this have the look and feel of a bad foreign horror film, the two stars of the show cannot possibly speak English as their first language, routinely emphasizing the wrong syllables of words. Oh, but the fight scenes, such as they are, are a real sight to behold. It’s as if the filmmakers wanted to film the fight scenes in slow motion but couldn’t afford the equipment to do so – so they just told the actors to pretend to perform in slow motion. Apparently, they couldn’t afford a fight choreographer, either, because the lead actress also serves in that role.

If you get off on watching people walk aimlessly through the woods, this is your movie. All we learn about the main characters is that they are a couple who have embarked on a camping vacation in some nameless national forest. After far too much walking, they finally pitch a tent, do what young couples alone in the woods tend to do, and then shuffle off the next morning to meet their destiny. That involves a hole, a crashed satellite, a dark cloud of something that does very bad things to the human body, and government goons in Hazmat suits who arrive on scene to make sure the truth about what has happened never has a chance to get out.

I love blood and gore as much as any horror fan on Earth, but I’m not overly fond of using excessive gore as a crutch to make up for bad writing, bad acting, bad cinematography, etc. There aren’t that many gory scenes in Contagio, but every one of them is excessively gory – usually in a pretty obviously fake way. OK, I’ll admit I did enjoy watching what has to be the longest scene in cinema history of some poor bloke trying to keep his insides from falling out, but the rest of it really didn’t do it for me – largely because I knew the filmmakers were relying on the gore just to sell the film. Mind-numbingly boring with scattered moments of excessive gore – that’s Contagio in a nutshell.


Queen of K'n-yan
Queen of K'n-yan
by Ken Asamatsu
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.27

3.0 out of 5 stars Noteworthy as a Japanese addition to the Cthulhu Mythos -- but not a particularly enjoyable read, 20 May 2014
This review is from: Queen of K'n-yan (Paperback)
This novel is a testament to the profound global influence of H.P. Lovecraft, for it is nothing less than a Japanese Cthulhu Mythos novel. It differs greatly in style and focus from the Mythos stories of western authors, incorporating its Lovecraftian elements of cosmic horror into Japanese mythology and culture, but its roots can be traced clearly back to Lovecraft's work - specifically, a story called "The Mound," which Lovecraft ghost wrote for Zealia Bishop in 1930. The story wasn't even published until 1940, three years after Lovecraft's death, so it is even more obscure than most of his revisionist works. The mound in the original story stands as one of the entrances to a vast and heretofore secret underworld called Xinaian (in Spanish) - or K'n-Yan. Prior to the advent of mankind, K'n-Yan was a spectacular civilization built by non-human extraterrestrials, but that once-thriving culture has by now devolved into decadence and the worship of Cthulhu.

The "Queen of K'n-Yan" in Asamatsu Ken's novel is a perfectly preserved young female mummy discovered in the wake of devastating earthquakes in northern China. The story itself is presented from the viewpoint of Morashita Anri, a young but well-established molecular biologist who is called upon to help study the mummy inside a foreboding leviathan of a building housing project headquarters. Anri is astounded to discover that the mummy's DNA is reptilian, despite the body's human appearance. She is also unsettled by a series of hallucinations in which she finds herself in the body of a young Chinese girl being held in a World War II Japanese internment camp being used for research into biological warfare. The hallucinations ultimately begin to make sense when Anri discovers that "Project Yin" is much more than a research project.

Unfortunately, this refreshingly original Cthulhu Mythos novel oftentimes makes for awkward reading. Knowing something of Asamatsu Ken's reputation in Japan, I'm inclined to believe that much of the fault lies with the translation. The book is absolutely littered with sentences that do not sound natural in English, and a number of the protagonist's words and actions don't make contextual sense from one sentence to the next. As such, the novel perpetually holds you at arm's length and makes it impossible for you to fully immerse yourself in the story - or to adequately understand or sympathize with the protagonist. Any Mythos story as original as this is worth reading, but I can't say that Queen of K'n-Yan makes for a particularly enjoyable reading experience.


Logitech H540 USB Headset for PC and Mac
Logitech H540 USB Headset for PC and Mac
Offered by PoWoW
Price: 29.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Started out with odd audio playback issues and malfunctioned completely after one year, 10 May 2014
When I went back to school to get another graduate degree, I needed a good pair of USB headphones for my online classes – and there was really no question that I was going to go with Logitech because I’ve always been very satisfied with the Logitech computer peripherals I’ve purchased in the past. The headset worked great in my online class environment – the sound was true and clear going out as well as coming in. It was a little weird having the volume controls up at my ear, but I soon got used to that – and I found it really helpful to have a light on the cord itself showing me when the microphone was muted. Overall, though, things were not quite perfect. For one thing, I found the headset rather bulky, especially when wearing it for an extended period of time – but I was OK with that. I specifically chose headphones with large ear cups because they do a better job of blocking out sound. There was one much more annoying problem from the start, however. Whenever I tried watching Internet videos, I would only get audio through the headphones on every other attempt. This meant I had to start playing a video, then refresh the page and restart that video in order to hear any audio. This happened consistently from the start, and I never found any explanation for it. Then, a year to the month after purchasing these headphones, I started getting USB power surge messages whenever I plugged them into any USB port on my computer. That made them completely unusable for me, leaving me no choice but to purchase an entirely new headset – this time, I went with a cheaper pair from some generic company. Given the annoying “now you hear it, now you don’t” issue and the fact that the headset basically quit working after barely a year, I can only give the Logitech USB Headset H540 two stars.


Standard Edition - Dead Island - Game of the Year (PC DVD)
Standard Edition - Dead Island - Game of the Year (PC DVD)

5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate in gory zombie-killing mayhem, 8 May 2014
Dead Island is tailor-made for those of us who like to do their killing up-close and personal – and with copious amounts of blood and gore. The only thing better than slicing some Thug’s arms off is to break them instead so you can watch him sling the useless things around before you kill him. I’ve played a lot of shooters in my time, but no FPS shooter compares to the gloriously gory mayhem that is Dead Island. They call it “visualized gore” but I just call it awesome. You leave a gory trail of limbs and torsos behind you as you progress through this game.

The game’s visuals are well-nigh stunning. The island of Banoi is a tropical paradise and looks every bit of it. Unfortunately, some wanker had to go and start a zombie epidemic to ruin everyone’s fun. You have the option of playing as one of four different characters – although my man Sam B. is just too cool for me to play as anyone else. Sam came to Banoi to perform at one of the resorts (basically living off of his one hit song, Who Do You Voodoo? (which is awesome, by the way – I’d totally buy it). He’s also your muscle melee kind of guy who fights the baddies eye to eye. If you want to engage in more gunplay or throwing knives and other sissy stuff like that, choose another character. All of the available characters have one thing in common – for whatever reason, they are immune to the virus. Each of them can still die easily enough, but none of them are going to turn into flesh-eating monsters. The downside to this whole immunity thing is that you (and your partners if you play co-op) pretty much have to do all of the dirty work to help others besides yourselves survive (although Sam B. pretty much cares only about himself). All four characters basically play as a team, which can be a little disconcerting when you play a solo campaign. You’re on your own out there with the zombies, but some cut scenes feature all four of the characters.

You start out with little more than a wooden oar and your fists, but your tools of the zombie-killing trade increase as you go along (as does the strength of the zombies). By killing zombies and completing missions for survivors, you gain experience (and a selection of skills that come with it), better weapons, and cash – and you’ll need plenty of cash to keep your weapons in good shape and to upgrade their effectiveness. Best of all, there are a number of weapon modification plans available that help you to take your zombie slaying to whole new levels. It’s great fun to set a zombie on fire and watch him burn, or to electrocute him, or to bash his head in with one swing – although a plain and simple decapitation gives me more satisfaction than anything else. Oftentimes, the freshly severed head will sort of hover in the air for a second while the rest of the body tumbles to the ground. And then there’s rage mode, which makes you and your fists alone the most powerful killing instrument on Banoi.

The AI could be improved a little bit, but Dead Island still represents quite a challenge. Alongside your run-of-the-mill zombies you’ll face powerful Thugs, Suiciders who can kill you in a second if you get too close to them for too long, Bloaters who spew deadly acid all over the place, and Rams who can run you over and kill you in a heartbeat. You need different strategies to kill different enemies – but they all can become pretty predictable after you’ve faced them a few times.

There’s really only one thing I don’t like about Dead Island. All of the NPC females are butt ugly – heck, some of them look better as zombies than they do in real life. Seriously, what is up with that? You’ve got bikini-clad women all over the island, and you don’t bother to make any of them the least bit attractive. What, did the designers think seeing a cute chick or two would distract me from the whole zombie apocalypse thing?


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