Guilty Pleasure – Milla Jovovich movies

I can admit that there is something about scifi movies with Milla Jovovich kicking ass that I just enjoy watching.

Multipass

My first exposure was with the SciFi comedy “5th Element” a movie that I have watched probably 100 times, and to this day think is probably Luke Perry’s finest acting ever, it is a thoroughly enjoyable romp. Many memorable lines in the movie, starring Bruce Willis, Ian Holm, as well as Gary Oldman as the bad guy.

Who can forget the epic line: “Multipass”?  Geeks everywhere get the reference.

This catapulted her career as a kick-ass protagonist in the genre.

Following The Fifth Element comes the slick production of Ultraviolet, where she again just reigns supreme. The premise being:

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Author Appreciation – Harry Harrison

I remember my first introduction to the works of Harry Harrison. I was in high school, getting into a heavy science fiction groove, working my way through some of the classics. A friend, Ken Rice, tossed me a copy of “The Stainless Steel Rat”, a collection of the stories about Slippery Jim diGriz, a criminal mastermind with an ethical bent.

I was hooked. The story reaches out and grabs your attention from the first page. A common thread through all of Harry’s writing.

The Stainless Steel Rat
The Stainless Steel Rat

I read all the Stainless Steel Rat stories (years later I learned that the parts were all stories published in the pulp Sci Fi magazines of the 40’s and 50’s)

Harry Harrison also wrote long form fiction, with examples being West of Eden, Make Room! make Room!, and the Hammer and the Cross trilogy. Respectable efforts, and worthy reads, West of Eden is one of my favorites of the Harrison library. A twist on planetary development, what if the Triassic extinction event didn’t happen? Would the boss species on the planet be reptiles? Would they have developed intelligence, science, and technology? A gripping tale.

I guess one of the defining themes by Harrison, one that endears him to me, is his subtle (and not so subtle) slap at authority. Whereas Heinlein wrote thinly veiled treatises to promote service in the armed forces, Harrison took the contrarian view. Bill the Galactic Hero was his counterbalance to the recruitment poster-like Heinlein book, “Starship Troopers”. Heck the entire Stainless Steel Rat collection was about nibbling at the edges of civilized behavior. Harry Harrison had that honed to a fine art.

Right now, on my Kindle, I am reading the Harry Harrison Megapack. A great introduction to his works, and at $0.99 it is a fabulous value to boot. You get a smattering of his short stories, two “book length” stories (Deathworld 1 and Deathworld 2), and a great feel for his style. Grab your copy today!

Favorite Movies: Blade Runner

Whilst I was working on the preparations for the grilling feast tonight, I popped in one of my all time favorite films, Blade Runner. Released on June 25, 1982, it was a epic piece of cinematography, and a fabulous translation of the Phillip K. Dick short story: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

Some phenomenal performances by the cast, including one of my favorite villains, Rutger Hauer who is masterful as the replicant leader Roy Batty. No knock on the other characters, particularly Sean Young who was a stunning “Rachel”, as they all played their parts well, and moved the story along.

Phillip K. Dick stories have often been translated to the big screen, including Blade Runner, Minority Report, and Total Recall, mostly with good results. A gifted SciFi author, his commentary on the human condition, and how that is unfolding is engaging as well as captivating.

It is hard to believe that this was release 31 years ago, long before the era of computer generated animation. It is fun to see brands and logos of long deceased companies portrayed in the film (Pan-Am, Atari, and many more)

I never get tired of watching this film, another Ridley Scott masterpiece.

What I am reading: Stranger in a Strange Land

(Well, re-reading really)

A classic, "must read" science fiction novel. It propelled me to read lots and lots of SciFi
A classic, “must read” science fiction novel. It propelled me to read lots and lots of SciFi

My memory is foggy, but I think this is the book that someone tossed at me in my sophomore year of high school. Written by Robert Heinlein, and originally published in 1961, it is one of the “must reads” in the SciFi genre.

The premise is fairly simple. A manned expedition to Mars meets with tragedy, and the only survivor was an infant born shortly on their arrival. Orphaned, he was raised by the Martians as a (strange) martian. When a follow-on mission arrived, they expected to not find any survivors, but instead found the child, now in his late teens (early 20’s?  It is never mentioned how old he was directly), who has never had contact with his race. The story of Valentine Michael Smith, the first interplanetary bastard.

They bring him back, and a wild ride begins. He is early on involved with some intrigue and political interplay, but is soon spirited away to the compound of one of the central figures, a cantankerous old man named Jubal Harshaw.

From there, many formative episodes are lined up in short order to integrate him into humanity, but, like the boy who was raised by wolves, the integration is never quite complete. Indeed, the introduction to the concept of ‘religion’ is through a cult like church called the Fosterites (after their founder, whose name was Foster). Preaching a gospel of be happy, don’t worry, and all will be good.  The services include interesting dance, and other traditions that you would not associate with “church”.

Michael takes from this a “badness”, but senses that at a deep level the concept of god is “goodness”. The martian in him leads him to declare that “Thou art God”, that is me, you, the blade of grass, my greyhounds etc.  Every entity has some element of god in it, and by learning the Martian language, you can learn to control both your body as well as physical things around you.

Of course, the established religions view this with disdain, and run the “nest” (as the church is called) out on a rail.  The ultimate confrontation is where the Fosterite congregations whip up a mob mentality, and Michael takes their abuse, violence and even gunfire in a calm, peaceful manner, uttering as his last breath a “Thou art God” to the grashopper by his head as he expired (discorporated in the parlance)

I thoroughly enjoyed the book when I first read it in high school, and have re-read it a few times over the years. It started me on a quest to read and enjoy SciFi, and I have relished in it. When the book was written originally, it had some 320K words.  The editors in 1960 thought that was too long, ans asked for 70K words to be edited out.  That was the official version until Heinlein’s widow discovered the original manuscript, and had it re-published.  The extra words do much t help the story, and I am glad to have read both versions.

The other thing this story did was cause me to look at religion from the outside.  I was not brought up in a family that went to church, and apart from tagging along a few times with neighbors, I had little exposure to organized religion. The theology of Michael and the Fosterites was intriguing, from an intellectual point of view. I got the impression (many years later) that the Fosterites was a swipe against L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Perhaps, perhaps not (what I have learned about scientology gives me the creeps.)

If you are a fan of science fiction, and haven’t read this, I highly recommend it. If you aren’t a fan, but are interested in the genre, this is actually a very readable book that will entertain on many levels.

Movie Review: Barbarella

Jane Fonda as Barbarella
Jane Fonda as Barbarella

A couple weeks ago, on a whim, I tossed Barbarella on the Netflix queue. I had seen it when I was 17 or so, and I recalled it being racy and titillating. But that was almost 30 years ago.

I wasn’t sure what I expected, but it turned out to be a high – “cheese” factor, late 1960’s movie. It starts with Jane Fonda getting out of a “space suit” in zero grav, and devolves into a slapstick series of comedic episodes. Ironically, the “cheese” and the ridiculousness of the situations, combine to make a much more enjoyable film than I expected.

Also, at 31, Jane Fonda had a really nice body.