Review

The Solarian War Saga

2015-07-28 by Jack B Nimble. 1 comments

I recently signed up for a trial membership of Kindle Unlimited to find new reading material. Like so many others, I discovered their “100,000s” of books were most ones no one had ever heard of. They have a few stand out series, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings, but the vast majority of their unlimited selection is comprised of titles and authors few have heard of.

On a whim I decided to choose a science fiction series titled The Solarian War Saga by Felix R. Savage.

The first book, The Galapagos Incident introduces us to a future where humankind has spread out throughout the Solar System. The main protagonist is Elfrida Goto, a half Japanese woman who is working on the United Nations Venus Remediation Project. This is an effort to make Venus habitable. They acquire asteroids, load them with some kind of organisms that can survive the 600 degree weather, and crash them into Venus. Elfrida uses remote viewing (think Surrogates 2009) to attempt to acquire asteroids and relocate any settlers who may be already there. Things turn dicey when her remote body’s machine intelligence appears to have its own agenda and goes rogue.

The series tries to imagine a future where technology has taken us to the point of remote sensory, bionic implants, and highly advanced artificial intelligence. These intelligences are so advanced that the United Nations (the supreme authority on everything in this future) has placed bans on just how smart machines can be. This was a direct response to some incident on Mars that resulted in all colonies being lost there and the planet going dark.

The writing might lack a little at times, and the science doesn’t hold up to a lot of scrutiny, but I enjoyed the series none the less. After reading the The Galapagos Incident I continued on to The Vesta Conspiracy, The Mercury Rebellion, and finished with the short story prequel Crapkiller (an ill advised title in my mind). People who enjoy a good space opera might enjoy visiting the future of Felix R. Savage for a few books.

The first book is available for free on Amazon, and the series is available via an Amazon Unlimited subscription (or trial).

Ant-Man: A (mildly spoilery) review!

2015-07-20 by Michael Edenfield. 2 comments

From the moment it was announced, Ant-Man was viewed as a bit of a risky move by Marvel. Even for a comic book movie, a guy that gets really small and talks to ants seemed like a bit of a stretch. Could they make it work? Would this be the beginning of the end for Marvel?

Of course not. Marvel doesn’t seem capable of making a genuinely terrible movie, and Ant-Man was far, far away from terrible. Following up on epic adventures like Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel gives us a small, fun, and funny heist movie that more than delivers.

The short version: 9/10, definite watch, and do so in 3-D if possible. One of my favorite MCU movies yet, largely because it’s something different from what we’ve gotten so far. For more details, keep reading.

Note: There will be very minor spoilers here for some elements of the movie; I will try not to give away anything major, but you may want to skip this one until you’ve seen it. If you’re willing to risk it, click on down:

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Revisiting The Terminator

2015-07-17 by Dr R Dizzle. 1 comments

The film that put James Cameron on the map, The Terminator is quite rightly seen as a science fiction classic, a film that has had enormous impact on modern pop culture thanks to both the lasting impression that The Terminator made and the huge career boost that James Cameron received afterwards. Without The Terminator, I very much doubt that we would have seen the rest of James Cameron’s filmography come to fruition, never mind the number of actors that he has since helped turn into film stars.

The story follows Kyle Reese as he travels back in time from a post-apocalyptic future in which an artificial intelligence known as Skynet has taken over the world. His mission is to protect Sarah Connor from a killing machine known as a Terminator that was also sent back in time to kill her thanks to the fact that she is destined to give birth to the leader of the human resistance.

The time travel mechanic is a creative and tidy way to set the story in motion, and allows James Cameron to hint at the much larger world he has created without it getting in the way of the progression of the story and the momentum that is being built from the very start. It also allows Cameron to easily explain why Kyle can’t call for back up, and why the police and authorities are simply unable to help – it’s a very smart way of ensuring that their is no easy way out for the main characters, keeping them isolated and on the run for the entire movie.

Which is important, because at it’s core The Terminator is little more than a slasher flick with a science fiction flair. The Terminator itself is the ultimate slasher bad guy, a silent, expressionless, intimidating and virtually unstoppable killing machine that is never too far behind our heroes, who are hopelessly outmatched. The best example of this is during the now iconic assault on the police station – even dozens of cops on their home turf can’t do anything to stop the Terminator, really upping the ante and making the Terminator feel as dangerous and unstoppable as it is meant to be, while at the same time showing us how capable Kyle Reese must be to have successfully fought the Terminator off several times before now.

Potentially more important, The Terminator manages to avoid the casual misogyny and conservative politics that are now synonymous with the slasher genre, defining itself as markedly different during a time when slasher flicks saturated the market – no doubt a part of why The Terminator was both a critical and commercial success in it’s time and why it still stands up as a solid piece of film making over 30 years after it’s initial release.

It’s also worth pointing out how well developed the relationship between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor is in The Terminator when compared to Terminator Genisys, and it’s mostly because of the subtle but important character work that the The Terminator does with Sarah Connor both before and after her first encounter with Kyle Reese. You can understand completely why a vulnerable and scared Sarah Connor would seek comfort in the only man in the world that knows what she is going through, but the equivalent of this in Terminator Genisys is (like everything else in the film) rushed, forced and ultimately unsatisfying.

And the only reason that this all works as intended is because of Cameron’s ability to recognise and work within his limits. His original idea for The Terminator also included a liquid metal robot that would go on to be the primary antagonist in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but he cut it because he knew that the visual effects available in 1984 weren’t good enough to do the idea justice. This restraint is noticeable throughout The Terminator, which saves it’s limited special effects for important moments and manages to do more with it’s modest budget (just $6 million!) than films that cost upwards of 20 times as much – I’m looking at you, Terminator Genisys.

I still stand by my opinion that The Terminator should never have been a franchise, with the phrase “diminishing returns” very much applicable to the series after Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but that’s neither here nor there – The Terminator is a testament to the importance of inexperienced directors being given the opportunity to prove themselves, showing us the potential longevity of a film when an idea is executed well by someone who knows what they are doing. Even if The Terminator has since been overshadowed by it’s own sequel, it’s still an important and entertaining film that shouldn’t go under appreciated.

For more film and TV review and other articles like this, visit ScreenNerds.

Stitchers – Early Episode 1 Release

2015-05-29 by Michael Edenfield. 2 comments

As seems to be the trend these days, the first episode of an upcoming show has been released a bit early, though this time officially. The show is Stichers, and it’s a summer show for the ABC Family network. The full episode can be found as an exclusive on the EW website.

Here is a short, spoiler-free review of this new sci-fi show.

The basic premise of the show is a strange mash-up of Inception, Source Code, and iZombie. A top secret, unnamed government agency has developed technology that lets them inject the mind of a living person into the memories of a recently-deceased one, to extract information that person took to the grave and help solve crimes. The main character, Kristen, is a college student with a particularly odd (and, as far as I can tell, entirely fictional) condition called “temporal dysplasia”, which means she has no concept of the passage of time. This makes her perfectly suited for use in the memory device, and the episode shows us her first pass at using it. Once inside, Kristen can walk freely around the memories, even manipulate them to some degree, though she can’t physically touch anything. For memories tied to particularly strong emotions, she can also get drawn fully into the experience, feeling the emotions as if she were there and dragging up other, related memories from the subjects’ subconscious.

The episode follows the main character as she gets recruited into this new world, as well as showing us some of the problems her condition is causing in her private life, and how they eventually collide. The show made really good use of some simple effects and editing to show what it was like going “inside” someone else’s mind, saving most of their FX budget for one really flashy explosion. It was subtle, but clear, what was going on.

Though this is a science fiction show, it’s mostly a procedural with science-fiction elements (similar to, say, Almost Human). All the expected elements are there: a government agency no one knows about, a team of anti-social tech geniuses, the main character who lives to flaunt the rules, the overbearing boss who yells at everyone, and even a best friend who’s pulled into the drama early for a really lame reason. They work pretty well together, though the addition of the roommate to the “team” seemed forced and unnecessary. (However, as she is played by veteran SyFy actor Allison Scagliotti, of Warehouse 13 fame, I will at no point complain.)

The show has a similar tone to my previous favorite ABC Family show – Kyle XY – in that the show isn’t really about the science. The science fiction aspect is just there, everyone just accepts that it’s real, and moves on to the actual plot. On the plus side, if you ignore the dead-brain interface, the rest of the technology in the show stands up better than a lot of highly popular network shows. Though the main character and her roommate are both “IT geniuses”, most of what they do is at least plausibly based in reality — dressed up for TV as you expect, but nowhere near Scorpion or NCIS levels of stupidity.

The main problem I had with the show was that most the characters spent at least a small part of the episode being cliches, with some worse than others. Kirsten, has a mental disorder that basically makes her a psychopath: because she can’t “feel time passing”, she has no sense of emotional attachment or loss. (Someone close to her dies early on and she shows no distress because, as she explains, the minute she knew he had died, it was like he had always been dead.) She really plays up this aspect of her character in how she treats other people; the show is desperately trying to paint her as a young female House. That worked for Hugh Laurie, but didn’t work out so well for Rainn Wilson. In my opinion, they need to tone that down a bit or the character will turn people off.

The boss character, played by another SyFy veteran (Eureka‘s Salli Richardson-Whitfield), also felt a bit wooden to me. In this case, I can’t really pinpoint where I lost interest, but she’s playing the “head of a black ops agency” bit in a very paint-by-numbers way. Hopefully she’ll begin to show some personality, once we’ve established just how in charge she is.

The other characters were not quite as bad, though the lead nerd in the show had a few fragments of extremely terrible dialogue, especially during the scene where Kirsten goes under for the first time. There’s also the standard attempts at establishing nerd cred (he asks for a list of Doctor Who actors in a way that no Doctor Who fan would ever do), and some obvious fan service (the “Cat Woman” suit designed by the even-more-cliche nerd sidekick.) The only character on the show that showed a consistently realistic personality was the roommate, Allison Scagliotti’s character, and I hope they’re smart enough to give her screen time to show it.

Overall, I found the show to be about as enjoyable as I expected. It’s a summer show and it’s on ABC family, so I wasn’t expecting Game of Thrones. Science fiction is rare on ABC Family (unless you count Ravenwood…) but this time, it seems like they did a pretty good job. It seems like it will probably stand up well against the summer fare coming out of SyFy, and give me something to watch while I wait for the return of Arrow. That’s really all I can ask.

I’d give it an even 5/10, and a try to catch it.

Supergirl “leaked Pilot” – An almost completely spoiler-free review

2015-05-26 by Michael Edenfield. 11 comments

This fall, CBS will begin airing a new superhero show Supergirl. This series has a lot in common with the highly popular CW shows Arrow and The Flash. The new show shares the same executive producers, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, and all three are based on popular characters from the DC Comics universe. The new show has a tone somewhat reminiscent of The Flash. It also has one more thing in common: reminiscent of last years unauthorized release of The Flash pilot episode, the premier episode of Supergirl has been leaked six months early.

Leaving aside the details of how and why this leak happened, since it did, we get an early look at the show in much more depth than the officially released trailer gave us. Without giving away too much, here are some first impressions of the show, and how well it stacks up to the growing competition in the comic-adaptation space.

General Impressions

First of all, just to be clear: this is being called the “pilot” episode, but it’s not really a traditional pilot. It’s is obviously a final product – S01E01 of the series, with all of the final cast in place and post-production work done. This is good news and bad news. Good news, because we get a faithful representation of what the show will be like for the rest of the season, but bad news because there probably won’t be much chance to fix things that might be broken. (I may be wrong here, we shall see.)

Generally speaking, I think the show is much better than the trailer led us to believe. I still have concerns over where the focus of the show will be, but the pilot seems to be moving in the right direction. The main complaint about the trailer has been how much time was spent on the mundane details of Kara Danver’s life. Was that an indication that the show was trying too hard to attract a broader audience, at the expense of the core superheroine story? I think the pilot gives us good reason to think that’s not the case. I thought the episode had a nice mix of straight up action, character development, and laying groundwork for the rest of the series. It has about the same mix of heroic plot vs. dramatic development that it’s sister shows on the CW did during their first episodes.

The Good Stuff

The first thing that struck me was how little time this show wasted getting the basic exposition out of the way. Within the first 5 minutes of the episode — basically, the opening stinger — most of the plot questions people had from the trailer are answered, right up front. They let us know quickly what’s happened already and where the world sits. It’s also clear that these writers have worked on DC shows before, and they know their stuff, which is a good sign.

Without giving too much away, the show follows the basics of Kara Zor-El’s modern origin story: sent to Earth as a young girl to protect infant Kal-El, an accident causes her to arrive much later. By the time Kara arrives on Earth, Kal-El is fully grown and has revealed his existence. Supergirl is set in a world where Superman is a household name, though the show goes to extreme measures to avoid using the S-word (there are lots of reference to “he”, “him”, and “my cousin”.) The reason for her delay is explained, but it’s a key element to what looks to be the first season’s story arc, so I won’t go into any more detail.

I really like that this show didn’t have your traditional superhero origin story structure, not even for the first episode. Kara was 12 years old when she left Krypton for Earth, and was made fully aware of the special powers she would have. As we see in the trailer, once she decides to embrace her super side, the show jumps right into the heroics: in the first episode, we see flying, super-strength, x-ray vision, invulnerability, and heat vision. Watching Clark Kent come into his powers, and struggle to master them, can be interesting (it was done very well on Smallville; maybe less well in Man of Steel), but it’s been done. We’ve spent three seasons watching Oliver Queen on Arrow become the Green Arrow, we don’t need to spend a whole season waiting for Kara to figure out she can see through walls.

I also like the fact that the show has a nice upbeat tone, much like The Flash, and in stark contrast to the current DC cinematic universe. The show is bright and colorful, and most of the people are generally happy, or at least content. Thus, when Kara has an emotional moment with her sister, it actually seems important — the character’s not just moping around because that’s how she is. There’s also a lot of friendly banter and humor thrown in. I’ve talked to a lot of casual fans who watch The Flash but not Arrow or Gotham for exactly this reason – it’s just more fun to watch. This show was fun to watch.

The Less-Good Stuff

Of course, there were some places where the show seemed to miss the mark. For one thing, much of the character development seems rushed, or even forced. In parts, watching the pilot was almost like watching a really long trailer — it felt like there was chopped up from a longer, more coherent scene. For example, the Supergirl costume montage from the trailer happens at just about that speed in the episode: we go from an obvious fan-service first try to final outfit, including a Kryptonian powers montage — just a few minutes. It seems like the scene was meant to set up the relationship between Kara and her sidekick/support-nerd, but everything happens so fast there’s no real impact.

Several other character development plot threads (e.g. Kara’s blind date) seem like they’re supposed to be giving us characterization, but they’re moved past and forgotten so quickly they don’t mean much. And much of the banter seems a bit forced, like it’s desperately trying to drive home just how comfortable these characters are together, even in a situation where they probably shouldn’t be!

They’re also falling into a pattern that drives me crazy on The Flash — Kara’s secret identity is almost an afterthought. When the show starts, only four people know she’s Kryptonian — her family. When the show ends, we’ve added at least three more! Please, please lets keep that number down for at least a half a season?

Hopefully we can chalk all of that up to this being the first episode, trying to get the characters and their relationships settled and in place, so we can get to the good stuff. The second episode will be crucial in determining if this will be an ongoing problem for the show.

Another miss, for me, was the Kat Grant character. Calitsa Flockhart is obviously channeling Meryl Streep from The Devil Wears Prada, but that’s a huge set of shoes to fill, and it comes across cliche. Even worse, she completely drops that act when it’s time for her to be serious and sensitive, then goes right back into it. She almost comes across as having a split personality.

And really, there’s just too much of her. Perry White or J. Jonah Jameson play mostly bit parts in their shows: they’re foils for the other, primary characters that work for them, and rarely the focus of any scene. Kat Grant, on the other hand, dominates all of her scenes with Kara, and not merely in a keeping-her-secret-identity way. She really does completely overpower Supergirl’s personality, but doesn’t really add much to the scenes. I was constantly wanting to fast forward past her scenes. In seems like they’re positioning her character as a kind of surrogate mother figure for Kara (though, as far as we know, her adopted parents are alive), but most of the time she just comes of needlessly harsh. Perhaps the writers plan to use this dynamic to show Kara’s personality changing as her confidence grows, but if so, I hope they get to it fast, because I was completely sick of Kat Grant by the end of this episode.

Lastly, and perhaps most annoyingly, is how much this show wanted to be about Superman without being allowed (I assume) to say Superman. It’s obvious that Kal-El is the far more famous of the two cousins, and by tying Kara’s story in with his, it lets us fast forward past a lot of otherwise tedious exposition. But the number of times Kara’s cousin comes up in conversation got old very quickly. The fact that they try so hard to avoid naming him makes it even worse. During the opening exposition scene, they identify him as Kal-El and Superman but after that, we only get one occurance of “Man of Steel”. Instead, Kara would frequently talk about “him” in a way that we’re supposed to know who she’s talking about. Obviously, since she’s related to Superman, it’s going to come up, but the point of this show is that Kara is a hero in her own right. She doesn’t need to have her now-older cousin’s specter towering over her all the time. Much like Gotham is not about Batman, Supergirl should not be about Superman. Hopefully this will dwindle away as the episodes continue — we’ve gotten the idea, lets move on.

Conclusion

I think this is going to be a good show. The major elements I think are there. While I have some issues with some of the dialogue, I think the actors themselves mostly have their characters nailed. Melissa Benoist, in particular, seemed to have no problem carrying the show when she needed to, although her Kara Zor-El was much more believable than her Kara Danvers. The central relationship with her sister seemed genuine (jury’s still out on the other two budding relationships). There’s a good hook that should provide good fodder for the early villain-of-the-week episodes, with hints of the broader story arc as well.

This isn’t going to be a show for the hard-core DC comic fans, though. It’s clearly meant for a broader audience, even more than any of the other DC shows on TV so far. Constantine this is not. But I’d make the same assessment about The Flash and that’s turned out to be one of my favorite DC shows to watch, so don’t let that discourage you from giving this one a try.

Overall, I would probably rate this show at about 7 out of 10. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about it as compared to Arrow, The Flash, or even Agents of SHIELD. I would probably rate it somewhere in my top 10 comics-based shows, around where iZombie and (likely) Legends of Tomorrow are sitting.

Definitely worth watching.

Review – Cinderella

2015-03-13 by Jack B Nimble. 0 comments

If you are familiar with the 1950 animated production of Cinderella also produced by Disney, then the latest live-action version may not offer anything new to you. This new version is simply a retelling of that 1950s classic. Both versions are derived from Cendrillon, by Charles Perrault in 1697; Featuring a girl forced into servitude, a fairy godmother, the changing of pumpkins and animals into a coach with horses and footmen, and glass slippers.

Cinderella

The casting is spot on. Lily James as Ella plays the part of the humble country girl well. Cate Blanchett is the perfect evil step-mother, because this is how you believe she acts in real life. When asked by Cinderella why she is treated as she is Blanchett says “Because you are young, and beautiful, and good.” and then stops herself. The realization is that the step-mother is none of these things and resents Cinderella for it. The two step-sisters are sufficiently stuck up and insensitive, and the goose plays a convincing goose. Richard Madden plays the Prince, who is given something of a nickname of “Kit,” but does not go by the name of “Prince Charming.”

The primary complaint I heard about the film is that it offers nothing new to the Cinderella story. It is essentially a retelling of the animated version, despite what the previews claim. Because the last year’s Maleficent changed and added to the story of Sleeping Beauty, the expectation, for some, was that this new Cinderella would do the same. The example given was Ever After: A Cinderella Story which seemed to add a lot of new detail or circumstance to the Cinderella story. However, the differences can likely be explained that Ever After is closer to the Brothers Grimm version Aschenputtel than to the version Disney chose to base their films on.

There are no songs in this film, and the mice do not talk, although Cinderella clearly has some innate ability to communicate with animals. We are also given explanation of why she is named ‘Cinderella.’ I am sure many people have always assumed her name was simply ‘Cinderella’ without question. But the title character’s first name is actual Ella, and transforms into Cinderella.

Bottom-line, if you enjoy the classic Disney animated film and want to see a live-action version of that, then Cinderella will be right up your alley. If you are expecting Disney to evolve the character from their established story line, then you may be in for disappointment.

Agent Carter – Pilot Episode

2015-01-07 by Jack B Nimble. 3 comments

This mini-series begins with some of the final scenes from Captain America: The First Avenger. With Steve Rogers piloting the large ship into the ocean and Peggy Carter on the radio.

The year is 1946, and Peggy Carter is still heartbroken over the loss. She lives in a small single room apartment which she shares with another girl. The apartment only has one bed, which they apparently share. Not in a scandalous kind of way, but rather in a way that depicts real life living in New York. She works for the telephone company, but when she arrives is led into a secret area which is the base of operations for the Strategic Scientific Reserve.

Agent Carter

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is a strong willed, independent woman in a (presumably) man’s job, where the men don’t really want her around. She is frequently asked to fetch coffee, file reports, answer the phones, and otherwise be a glorified secretary who happens to carry a gun.

Dominic Cooper reprises his role as the young Howard Stark. It seems a number of his more dangerous inventions have suddenly turned up on the black market and are being sold to enemies of the United States. He is subject to congressional hearings on the matter and no doubt is being investigated by the real FBI, but SSR makes finding him and his inventions a top priority. Stark seeks the help of Agent Carter to clear his name and find his inventions. Agent Carter must do this behind her superiors’ backs, because Stark is assumed guilty until proven innocent, and she is too much of a dame for important work. Stark lends her the assistance of his butler and confidant Edwin Jarvis.

Agent Carter is picking up right where Captain America ended (if you don’t watch the final scene where he is in modern day New York). Captain America the person is still a part of 1940s pop-culture. He has a radio program, to which poor Peggy (and the watching audience) must hear everywhere she goes. He’s still being mentioned in the newspaper, and no doubt his famous trading cards are in circulation.

I’m not exactly sure what the SSR’s mission is now that the war is over. Where as before they were a function of the military, with Colonel Chester Phillips acting as the leader, now it appears to just be some g-men bureaucrats. Furthermore, I’m not sure what jurisdiction the SSR has. Apparently they can interrogate people and do company wide inspections personnel.

The Marvel Movie Wiki has this to say:

The S.S.R. continued for a short time after the war, taking on cases such as the Zodiac, but was disbanded in 1946 and its former membership absorbed into a new agency, S.H.I.E.L.D.

Given that Agent Carter takes place in 1946, and a short run mini-series with 8 episodes, I’m guessing this series will end with the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. Last night was a 2 hour premiere, with two 1 hour episodes back to back, which I guess means there will only be 6 more airings.

Technologies We Should Have In 2015

2014-12-31 by Jack B Nimble. 4 comments

2015 should be a big year in technology, if the movies are any indication. There are some of the things we are either supposed or have, or are woefully missing out on.

I personally don’t see the appeal of bringing a pet back to life but that is the initial premise of The 6th Day. Here are the technologies

  • Cloning of pets
  • Cloning of humans, with memory transplant
  • Jet Copters
  • Virtual Prostitutes

The present is made significantly more disappointing if you consider how much we were promised from Back to the Future 2

  • Mr. Fusion
  • Power Laces
  • Self Adjusting/Drying Clothing
  • Robot Gas Stations
  • Holographic Movies
  • News Camera Drones
  • Robot Trashcans
  • All things Hover (cars, boards, belts)
  • Exceptional Weather Service
  • Food Hydrators

The movie Memory Run (or Synapse, depending on who you ask) seems to offer only a couple of things

  • The ability to move a consciousness into another body
  • The ability to monitor and control someone based on their behavior (violence = bad)

 

Jack’s Bad Movies – AE: Apocalypse Earth

2014-12-29 by Jack B Nimble. 4 comments

IMDB’s description

A group of refugees from Earth work to survive on a hostile alien planet.

If Predator, Star Trek TNG, Planet of the Apes, and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor had a love child abomination, it would be AE: Apocalypse Earth.

The movie opens with Earth under attack from a hostile alien force. It doesn’t look good for humanity, as several ships are attempting to leave and make interstellar journeys in the hopes of colonizing new worlds. Everyone else is left to their fate. Lt. Frank Baum (Adrian Paul, best known for the Highlander TV Series) and his squad are attempting to get a group of refuges to the safety of a starship. They get everyone on-board and the ship takes off, taking Baum and his squad for the ride. Baum gets very upset about this because he wants to go back to Earth to defend it. The captain (Richard Grieco) says this isn’t possible, and that Baum should just buckle down in cryo-sleep for the long ride to wherever. There is some discussion on how some of the passengers were chosen because of their critical skills, and others won a lottery. This all becomes moot when the Baum wakes up from cryo-sleep to find the ship is crash-landing on a green planet. Nearly all of the passengers and crew are killed. So all that talk about how people were selected was just wasted air time.

Baum wakes up to a chaotic scene in which passengers from the ship, albino humans, and nearly invisible cloaked beings (Predator style) are running all around the wreckage. The cloaked beings, called Chameleons, are killing humans and albinos alike, so Baum finds a completely functional and loaded machine gun in the wreckage and begins killing them. He gathers up a few survivors, including the injured Captain, and runs randomly into the jungle. Within the jungle they round up a few more survivors and eventually encounter a group of humans in orange jump suits who are not from their ship. These jumpsuit people were on another ship which had left Earth a month before, but they crash landed on this planet 2 years ago! How could this be? We’ll just hand wave special relativity and move forward. Turns out they have been prisoners of the Chameleons all this time living in a kind of zoo, and their captors have been trying to see if they can breed with the local Albino population. The ship crash landed on the zoo, and that subsequently freed some of the captives.

This group of now a dozen or so people now have a dilemma, what to do? Baum, the unofficial but also official leader, still wants to return to Earth (because… reasons!). The annoying short guy, who you feel like is going to get a lot of people killed because of his stupidity, says ‘why are you in charge’ to which the reply is ‘because I have the gun.’ I guess he isn’t happy with this answer, because he continues to ask this question and sow seeds of discontent with the survivors. There is also an android named TIM (aka Lt. Cmdr. DATA). They kill a lot of Chameleons, which carry these energy guns which on the surface seem pretty effective, until you remember Baum kills like 6 of them just with his knife. Only one guy ever thinks to pick up one of the alien guns, even though they are don’t have enough weapons to go around.

Eventually the party gets ambushed by giant scorpion things and a woman with camouflage skin shows up to help. Amazingly this woman speaks English, which she learned by overhearing the prisoners in the zoo. She also comes from an albino clan, which live in caves, but because she was different she was exiled to the surface. Online comments say she is the highlight of the movie on account of her bikini outfit, but I think the real gem here is her apparent super intelligence. Just by observing the prisoners in the zoo, she picks up broken English. When she gets to a point in a conversation where she can’t explain something and says so, someone will just supply an English word to her, without additional context or explanation, and she says ‘yes’ or nods her head that this word, which she had never heard before, is indeed the correct word for what she was trying to explain her point. It is amazing.

Now it is just a series of jungle fights, jungle runs, and sexy times in the river, and then the group finds an old human spacecraft. Everything is in perfect working order, except the power-cell, which should last 1000 years, is somehow dead. No worries (or even questions) about that though, because they can use the one from their crashed ship.

They don’t have the man power to get the power-cell, so they team up with camouflage girl’s old tribe. Turns out, they have crate-loads of human made guns in perfect working order in storage. So without any training or planning, everyone grabs a gun and heads off to get that power source. Did I say everyone? I meant, everyone except the two trained military soldiers grab guns. Those two guys get comically childish bows and arrows, which clearly do not work. I appreciate the movie keeping it real by showing how this absurd distribution of weapons results in nearly everyone getting killed during the assault.

Anyways, they finally get the power source and get back to the ship they found. The short idiot tries to leverage this so that they don’t have to flee the planet, but instead he dies as he lived, a traitor. They take off from the planet, easily dispatching a Chameleon spaceship and an orbital defense platform. By this time the group has been whittled down to Baum, camouflage girl, the captain, and TIM the now damaged android. But no worries, they can finally go back to their beloved Earth, which as far as they know, is still being ravaged by an alien race.

This all leads up to the big surprise reveal, it was Earth all along! Actually, no one was surprised. The telltale signs being, the other albino humans and the camouflage girl are obviously humans who have just adapted to the planet. The ship they found, while inexplicably in perfect working order despite many years in the jungle, was obviously human made (it had English signs on the door). This planet has lots of Earth plants and animals. The crash-landed humans were able to breed with the indigenous albinos. I could go on, but those are the only examples I remember.

TIM the android explains that he piloted the ship to several star systems, but didn’t any habitable worlds. With only 100 years of cryo-sleep available to the crew he ultimately decided to head back to Earth and see if things had improved since the aliens conquered it. Thanks to relativity, this was roughly 25,000 years after their initial departure. I guess whoever was piloting the other ship which had arrived at the planet 2 years previous had the same idea. Also, I guess the captain gave full executive decision making to TIM? Otherwise, that android is kind of a jerk. Anyways, the Chameleons have terraformed Earth to turn it into one giant jungle. Probably a downer for the few survivors trying to flee this hellish planet in order to get back to a war-torn Earth only to discover they were one and the same place.

One wonders how Earth lost the initial war, given the ease in which Baum is able to kill numerous Chameleons. Maybe he could have single-handedly won the war had he not been trapped on the colony ship. Fortunately, we will never know the truth.

The acting is very poor, with the line delivery being painful at times. A few of the special effects actually look decent, but then in the next scene are so comically bad you wonder how many different people worked on them.

And that, people, is AE: Apocalypse Earth, currently available on Netflix Instant.

Doom Star Series (books)

2014-12-02 by Jack B Nimble. 0 comments

Back in August I saw a promotion for some free Kindle books and I decided to grab a copy of one titled Star Soldier (Doom Star #1) by Vaughn Heppner. I had never heard of the author or the series, I just wanted a free book. I knew the promotion was designed to get me reading the first book, and then purchase the remaining 5, and being an unknown author/title, I wasn’t sure it was what I was looking for. Obviously I decided to give it a chance (otherwise this article wouldn’t exist).

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The series focuses on the main character Martin Kluge. The son of dissidents, he lives under the thumb of Social Unity, a communist regimen that controls the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars). Martin wants to be free, to be able to have his own thoughts and live his own life. His thoughts and temper get him in trouble with the Policial Harmony Corp, and he is sentenced to forced labor deep underground in Australia. Meanwhile, the genetically engineered super-soldiers, created by Social Unity, have decided they are superior and they should be the masters of homo-sapiens. Renaming themselves as Highborn, they start an interplanetary war against Social Unity. This conflict eventually spills into the outer planets, as a third threat arises and the whole solar system jockeys for power.

The series reminds me of Starship Troopers, with their battle suits and extreme ideologies, along with the training and space battles of Ender’s Game and the Eugenics Wars of Star Trek. There is a line taken straight from Space Seed, when one of the Social Unity generals is referring to the super-soldiers “superior ability breeds superior ambition.”

These books include, but are not limited to, the following tropes:

I was taken in by the first book and subsequently purchased the eBooks for the remainder of the series. The adventures of Martin Kluge and others were interesting. The second and third books suffered from repeating information from the first book. I know why authors do this, but I find it irritating, particularly when I’m reading the books back to back. Once you get to book four recapping reduces to the minimum so the story can progress.