As it has been so long since my last post, I thought I’d share some of the media I have been consuming. These are not ranked in any order and there are no stars. My brain does not evaluate art like that.

I read the book series (Wool) this show is based on by Hugh Howey. They are really good scifi novels with a great setting and fascinating characters. And surprisingly, that is also true of the TV show. It’s a very faithful adaptation, which in this case works to the advantage of the show. All the mysteries of murders and the truth behind what the silo is and why it exists and why the inhabitants live the way they do unfold with perfect pacing. And Juliette Nichols is of my favorite characters ever, so seeing her on screen played by Rebecca Ferguson, who is one of my favorite actors, is a double pleasure. I can’t wait for Season Two.

I used to watch all the Godzilla and Toho monster movies broadcast by the local UHF station (google it) when I was a small kid. I’ve always had a fondness for them, but not a fannish love. I was not overly impressed with any of the Godzilla movies of the last few decades, preferring the Japanese original from 1954. So, I did not expect much from Monarch. To my surprise I mostly really enjoyed it. It’s a fun exploration of the world after a Titan (what they call Godzilla and other monsters) attack. It has all the tropes I love — secret government agencies, vast conspiracies, alternate worlds, timey-wimey weirdness, engaging characters, and also big monsters. And whoever thought to cast Kurt Russell as the older version of his son Wyatt Russell’s character of Lee Shaw should get free pie for life.

There are people who love Zach Snyder and people who hate Zach Snyder. I find I am okay with him and with his movies in general. I feel the same way about this movie. I like it, but I don’t love it. Like most movies these days it does not take enough time to introduce the characters that we are supposed to care about, so when they get killed off, there is no emotional impact to the death scene, just a visual one. I feel like the story Snyder is telling is nothing really new, nor are the characters, but it could have been more engaging if it had been a TV series like Andor, rather than trying to be a movie series like Star Wars (the story seemingly once destined as part of that fictional universe). It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. I am looking forward to seeing the sequel. But it will probably be a while before I am interested in watching it again.

Apple TV+ is producing some great scifi content. For All Mankind is one of their first scifi shows and it is also one of the best. Human exploration of space in alternate timeline starting in the 60s and running nearly concurrent to today. The fourth season leans a little too much toward soap opera plot machinations, but it still tells an engaging story, and although too many of my favorite characters have not made it through the seasons, I love nearly all the characters, so it still an enjoyable experience. I’m looking forward to the fifth season, and I sincerely hope it gets all seven season Ron D. Moore and other producers have envisioned.

I really liked this movie. A story about humans fighting AI and one human trying to save one AI. I connected to it emotionally even when I wasn’t connecting intellectually. Some of the future tropes felt too familiar and over used, like the floating fighting platform, but usually I didn’t care about that because I cared about the characters, especially John David Washington as Joshua Taylor and Madeleine Yuna Voyles as the AI simulant, Alpha-O. I want to watch it again as soon enough time has passed for the main story points to fade from my mind a bit.

I really wanted to like this movie (I thoroughly enjoyed the first one and I like the Captain Marvel comics – which are the only comics I really read), but I found it disappointing. I liked what I saw, but it felt rushed and incomplete. Like I was watching the highlights reel of a much longer and more interesting movie. It didn’t help that the filmmakers (i.e. the Marvel Movie Making Machine) either forgot to write a first act for the story or decided it was unnecessary. I had watched Ms. Marvel and Wanda Vision, so I knew who Kamala Khan and Monica Rambeau were and liked their characters, but I expected to see some kind of scenes setting them up and establishing them as people in this movie. And I figured I’d get some Captain Marvel opening adventure as backstory and some time explaining what Captain Marvel had been up to. But nope. We jump into the story before we have time to care about why it matters to the characters and why they matter to us. Which is all the more annoying because I loved the cast of Brie Larson, Iman Vellan, and Teyonah Parris. In the end it felt more like special, extra-long Ms. Marvel episode than a feature length Captain Marvel movie.

I enjoy nearly all of Christopher Nolan’s films, and this one is no different. Because of the film’s long running time of three hours, and my unpredictable schedule, I ended up watching it over three nights like an old style TV miniseries. I don’t think that detracted from the film’s impact, but I can’t say that it enhanced it. It’s the sort of film that I would probably enjoy made by anyone. I do like the 1989 film Fat Man and Little Boy. Like it, Oppenheimer has got all the elements of a great story — compelling characters, historical relevance, fascinating science, political intrigue, and the threat of global destruction arising from WWII. But this is also a film written and directed by Christopher Nolen, so it is much more complicated than all that. Which is why it is brilliant rather than being merely interesting or entertaining. I need to find the time to watch it again, in one sitting this time. It is a film I think will improve with repeat viewing.

Speaking of old-fashioned TV miniseries, somehow, I missed this when it aired back in 1983. I’m not sure how. My dad collected survivalist magazines with plans for homemade bomb shelters and we had shared reading apocalyptic books like On the Beach and Malevil. So, I don’t know how we missed the historic airing of this gripping if somewhat plodding drama. Watching it now, rather than as a young teen, was an oddly emotional as well as intellectual experience. I could imagine how I would have reacted to the story back then, probably by trying to read even more about nuclear war than I had, and contrast that with how I reacted now, by watching the Ted Koppel post-show panel with Carl Sagan, William F. Buckley Jr., Robert McNamara, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and Eili Weisel. Beyond my childhood hero Carl Sagan, I would not have known any of those names back then. The benefit of temporal distance, experience, and knowledge made watching the show and panel a fascinating experience. Not one I have any desire to repeat but one I recommend to anyone else so inclined. 

This is a series that feels like it was written specifically for me. The dead body of the same man turns up in the same place in four different time periods, investigated by four different detectives. A time travel murder mystery set in London in 1890, 1941, 2023, and 2053. The mystery unravels at a compelling pace across the eight episodes, each detective figuring out different parts of the story, a weird conspiracy slowing coming to light as they each get closer to the truth. I ate this up like chocolate covered ice cream bonbons.

People love this novel. Enough that it has a Chinese TV adaptation and now a Netflix adaptation. I do not understand that love. At all. While this novel had some really interesting ideas that play out like philosophical thought experiments enacted on an entire planet, it also has some very clunky plotting and a host of unengaging, unidimensional characters speaking painfully stilted dialogue. It felt like I was back in middle school reading one of the minor classics or 1950s scifi. Something remembered fondly for the ideas it presented and the sense of accomplishment one experiences for finishing it. I may check out the TV series on Netflix, but I won’t be reading the sequel novels. I think I’d get just as much enjoyment from reading the plot summaries on wikipedia.

I don’t play a lot of video games because I am not interested in shooting things with progressively bigger weapons or hacking them with swords. However, I do enjoy wandering around alternate worlds and interacting with the people there while investigating bits of story that may or may not connect into some larger lore. Which is basically what Eastshade offers. A unique and beautiful world where you can wander around, help people, make paintings, and not have to worry about someone killing your before you can save the game. I’ve only played a few hours, but I find returning to the little island of the story like a small, calming vacation from reality.

That’s it. That’s all I liked that I’d like to share. You may be wondering, if I had time to watch and read a play all that, why didn’t I find time to write. The simple answer is that as much as I love writing, it is still work, and my mind needs time to relax after long work days. My brain does not like writing after it is already exhausted from other uses. But my brain does love eating some popcorn and watching an episode of a scifi show or reading a few chapters of a new novel.

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