Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sports: MLB May 2016

As the baseball season progresses, I find that some of my predictions have been way off and my two favorite teams have sunk to the bottom of the standing. There are some surprises this season and I will still be watching to find out which teams will make it to the World Series.

American League
One prediction I made that has panned out so far is the Boston Red Sox. The American League East is an interesting division and anything could still happen. The Red Sox have managed to pull ahead of the Baltimore Orioles by two games as they play them in road series. Only five games behind are the Toronto Blue Jays, with the New York Yankees at 6.5, and the Tampa Bay Rays at 8 games back.

If I just looked at these two divisions, my predictions look pretty damn good, but the American League Central is another close division to watch. The Cleveland Indians are only a game and a half back and right behind them with 2 games back are the Chicago White Sox. Even the Detroit Tigers at fourth in the division are four games back. Only the Minnesota Twins have dropped back to 13 games behind and dwindling chances of competition. 

The American League West is in a dead heat between the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers. The Houston Astors and the Los Angeles Angels are only seven games back and the Oakland Athletics are only 7.5 back. A lot could still happen in this division with a lot of the season left.

National League
The National League East has two top contenders in the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets only a game behind. The Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins are only 4.5 games back while the Atlanta Braves are piddling around at the bottom 15 games back. The Braves have already lost their coach from their terrible performance and are not showing much promise.

In the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs are dominating the entire Major League with a 35-14 record. The Pittsburgh Pirates are the closest team to have a chance while the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Cincinnati Reds are not showing signs of life this early in the season.

I'll keep saying it all season, it's an even year so the San Fransisco Giants could continue their dominance this decade and they now rest as the stop spot in the NL West. The LA Dodgers are the closest team with 4.5 games back. None of the other teams look like they're going to have much to say about the even year champions.

That's my assessment of the 2016 Major League Baseball season at the end of May. I'll be watching those close divisions and check back in a month from now to see how the standings have changed.
Also All-Star voting has begun and goes until the end of June. I'm planning on voting several times based mostly on statistics and a slight bias towards my favorite teams.

Sports: NBA Finals 2016

The reigning champs play in a rematch of last year's NBA finals  with a chance to repeat or redemption for their opponent. The storyline is a bit different this year, with fewer injuries on the Cleveland Cavaliers and a weakened Steph Curry for the Golden State Warriors. I was kind of looking forward to a change in teams with at least Oklahoma City making it, but the Warriors powered through with three wins straight to prevent elimination. It was quite shocking but I guess the two best teams remain here at the end. I look forward to this rematch and still predict the Warriors to take home the trophy despite everything we've seen so far this playoffs. 

I'll be keeping a running commentary of the games throughout the NBA Finals as these two teams battle for the title of champion. I'm curious to see how Lebron James fares with a better team behind him and vengeance for last year on his mind. James has won championships with the Miami Heat, but it would be a truly great accomplishment to bring a trophy to his hometown. Cleveland has suffered a championship drought for quite some time and as an Atlanta fan, I know how important that can be to a city.

If the Warriors win, it will solidify their title. Some critics claimed that with the Cavaliers not at full strength last year, it didn't count. Steph Curry has brushed all that off and even faced criticism from his opponent when he took home the MVP trophy. 

Either way, this promises to be an exciting rematch that will be as unpredictable as it is entertaining!
Game 1: The Warriors strike first with a 15-point win over the Cavaliers. Golden State has the home field advantage but also looked strong with several players other than Stephen Curry like Shaun Livingston and Draymond Green having the highest scoring totals. Cleveland will have to turn it around next game to not fall two games behind. Still a lot left to play in this NBA Finals!
Game 2: In a blowout, Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers by 33 points. The series heads to Cleveland where Lebron James and Kyrie Irving hope to stop the reigning champions.
Game 3: Back at home, the Cavaliers turn the table and beat the Warriors by thirty points. Cleveland had a much better game with Kyrie Irving and Lebron James playing better with the advantage of Golden State. This series could get interesting if the Cavaliers win again and tie it up.
Game 4: In the most competitive game of the series, Golden State tops Clevland. A contentious game, Stephen Curry led the Warriors, who made record number of 3-points, to defeat a frustrated Lebron James and the Cavaliers. The Warriors are only one game away from continuing their reign as the champions of the NBA and are headed home for the next game.
Game 5: The Cavs rally back to beat the Warriors by 15 points. Cleveland returns home with momentum but still in a must-win scenario as they face Golden State in their home arena. 
Game 6: With the Finals on the line, the Cavaliers defeat the Warriors by 14 points. Cleveland heads to Golden State for the final game of the basketball season.
Game 7: In a game down to the line, the Cleveland Cavaliers end their city's drought of championships to win the NBA Finals against the Golden State Cavaliers by four points.

Monday, May 30, 2016

TV Premiere: Scream (Season 2)

MTV's horror spinoff of the acclaimed slasher film series returns for a second season. The story picks up a bit after the horrifying and traumatic events of the first season murders. Emma played by Willa Fitzgerald has returned from a recovery retreat to her friends. New characters are introduced to serve as new victims for a new killer that begins stalking the survivors of Lakewood.

Scream is pretty silly, with terrible acting and questionable choices by all the characters, but it's a sort of guilty pleasure after catching up on the first season on Netflix. The show doesn't hold back on the gore trying to get away with as much as they can while still being on a cable channel like MTV. The classic whodunit is enough to keep viewers guessing about who the killer actually is.

The new season promises to resolve the leftover cliffhanger from the first season but with added fame to all of the victims it will be difficult to hide from the killer. Noah Foster, played by John Karna, serves as the meta-nerd who predicts the horror movie cliches in a feeble attempt to avoid them. Bex Taylor-Klaus plays Audrey Jensen, the tough lesbian who now works in a movie theater. She starts to receive prank calls that could possibly be from the killer.

A strange prank kicks off this first episode and leads to clues of a third troll that might be the new killer. There is also the nearly invincible Brooke Maddox played by Carlson Young who is equal part ditzy and popular girl who has taken up with Jake Fitzgerald played by Tom Maden. Jake is one of the first to fall in danger in this first season. The heartthrob Kieran, played by Amadeus Serafini, also plays some part as he tries to reignite his relationship with Emma. 

This strangely appealing show has garnered attention from a young audience despite coming on an hour before midnight. I have found some appeal to the show since the slasher genre has not had a lot of recent play in theaters. I always liked the original Scream film and the sequels weren't so terrible. I'm looking forward to what will happen this second season. 

Book Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

As the conclusion of the Radch trilogy, Ancillary Mercy closes out Ann Leckie great work of fiction with a fitting ending. Breq has established her connections throughout Athoek station in the previous book so this one concerns itself with the arrival of her nemesis, a portion of the Lord of Radchaii who has strong feelings of ill-will towards the narrator and the trilogy's Artificial Intelligence protagonist.

Justice of Toren is the rogue ancillary who has spent enough time asserting her authority as Fleet Captain to plant the seeds of a revolution. There is plenty of diplomacy mixed in with some complex action sequences. The appeal of the Radch trilogy is the heavy world-building and the way that world plays out. Traveling through space is not some immediate jump, though gates do allow for immeasurable distances to be crossed, but even during high tension, everyone must wait for a ship to make the journey.

I would highly recommend this book to fans of science fiction, especially those fans who enjoy worlds that have deep backgrounds that extend out into the universe. There may be some spoilers as I go along so I would recommend readers that care to stay away from the following two paragraphs, though it may be hard to understand what is going on. The book doesn't follow through on journeying anywhere outside of Athoek station and most of the action remains on this planet and the station that hovers above it.

The interaction with a translator from the powerful alien race known as the Presger proves to be significant but is also hilarious. The humor is present in this novel in amongst all the tea-drinking and possibly annihilation. That the book is funny despite the seriousness of the political maneuvering really makes this a more pleasant read than the middle book, which suffered from too much setup not to have a big enough pay off.

While there are worlds still out there to a explore, I believe Leckie pulled off a satisfying ending that rounds out what will go down as one of the most prominent science fiction stories of the decade. I'm surprised there was such shock at her using a single pronoun as it fit perfectly with the story-telling. I was wholly satisfied with the ending as Breq pulls off something very clever. I am excited that this book got chosen for a Hugo Award for best novel this year and will check out the other books to see how it compares!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Movie Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass

A sequel six years later won't garner much attention at the box office, but Alice Through the Looking Glass is a fun, cute movie with colorful imagery and a goofy time travel tale. Mia Wasikowska reprises her role as the titular Alice and does a could job as the curious and friendly girl just hoping to save her fantasy world from the trappings of time. The recently troubled actor Johnny Depp dresses up in a custom that might be more fitting to take part in a horror movie than a children's fantasy film to return as the Mad Hatter. The story centers around the Mad Hatter's desire to reconnect with his family who were believed burnt up by the Jabberwocky, a dragon ordered around by the Red Queen.

Also returning, though next bringing her ex-husband to the director's chair, is Helen Bonham Carter as the big-headed Red Queen with a bad attitude and a pension for chopping off heads of those who displease her. Anne Hathaway is the White Queen and they all go by other names, but the world is too confusing to understand them beyond their iconic images. The cutest creature, and my favorite, is most definitely the Cheshire Cat, voiced by Stephen Fry.

Alice has to turn back time to discover the mystery of the Hatter's missing family and to do this she encounters the embodiment of Time itself, played with humor by Sacha Baron Cohen. Enduring plenty of puns, Cohen takes the partially computer graphics character and pursues Alice through a past that informs us of how all the characters of Wonderland came to be.

There are messages that some young women may find heartening but all of that gets lost in the color and special effects of Alice's imagination. The movie is fun and fast-paced like many sequels that had to be rushed to get made because the profit motive is the main driving factor for why these movies even exist. The pirate tale would have been more interesting as I read one critic mention as a suggestion for a better tale.

This movie spells the end of Alice in Wonderland and there was no effort to set it up as a sequel as if they knew the inferior product would drive a dagger through Lewis Carroll's fantasy tale showing up on screen. The resolution is a bit cheap but by this point, most kids were likely squirming in their seats to leave. Disney doesn't have to worry too much as one can see from the commercials that they have plenty of movies coming down the pipeline!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Magazine Review: Apex Magazine Issue 84

A great edition of Apex Magazine came out this month with adventure, time-travel, and strange new lands to explore. The poetry was funny and enjoyable to read and all the short fiction was entertaining and made me think long after the first read. Also included inside this issue is an author interview, an interview with the artist of this amazing cover, and an essay about all the writers of Apex magazine short stories.

"1957" by Stephen Cox definitely deserves two reads, which is convenient because the podcast is also available for a listen as well. It bends time and shows alternate dimensions and left me totally bewildered after the first read. This story is for readers who like a challenge in their short fiction.

"Cottage Country" by David K. Yeh does not depict a friendly, bucolic fantasy realm one might expect from the title but dangerous sidhe that have lost their way. Mixed in with flashbacks of an old familial relationship, this story is both exciting and moving for any who have dealt with conflicting relationships or hostile fairies.

"The Behemoth Beaches" by Maggie Slate really had me thinking by the end. I actually had to go back and read the last few paragraphs, I was so unsure of the ending. A great story about hostile marine life that is stranger and scarier than one might imagine.

"The Drowned Celestial" by Lavie Tidhar is a great Venusian adventure that has a lot to offer. I enjoyed this story immensely. It is packed with action, adventure, and great world-building for a novella. It appeared in the George R. R. Martin edited short story collection, Old Venus.  I'm very interested in checking Tidhar's other work including A Man Lies Dreaming and the newly released Central Station.

Sci-fi poetry is some of my favorite type of poetry. "Before the Empire Goes Inter-Galactic" by Ken Poyner is one of my favorites. I recently read and reviewed Freeze/Thaw by Chris Bucholz and highly recommend this novel to fans of fun science fiction adventures. Another great issue to read over Memorial Day weekend and I'm excited to see what they have next month!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Movie Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

I enjoyed this latest installment of the X-Men series. Apocalypse delivers with great action and an entertaining story throughout. The special effects were breathtaking and the story engaging. I've contemplated what resulted in the bad reviews and can only think that people demanded too much from the film. For me, it was a fun ride and a nice next chapter in the growing, repeating universe of mutants.

Set in 1983, the story first flashes back to ancient Egypt when Apocalypse tried to transfer his body to a healing mutant that is similar to Wolverine. Oscar Isaac, who I enjoy in pretty much every role, plays the eponymous villain. He's mostly dressed up but he is dominating and frightening as he brings about destruction in the world. He recruits his four horsemen, including Psylocke, played silently by Olivia Munn, Storm, played by a new talent Alexandra Shipp, Angel, played by Ben Hardy. Magneto rounds out the four, Michael Fassbender returns as Eric Lensherr. He continues to be brooding but it's the same character we've seen in the two previous films.

The good guys line up a set of new talent as well. Tye Sheridan has a growing resumé and does well as a young Cyclops. He has great chemistry with Game of Thrones's Sansa, Sophie Turner, who is also great as a young Jean Gray, and shows signs of Phoenix. Kodi Smit-McPhee does a great job in all the makeup as the young Nightcrawler. I could see critics and fans complaining that we didn't get to see enough of Jubilee played by Lana Condor.

Stealing the show is Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters, who has the best action and special effect scenes and serves as a hilarious comedic relief. Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role as Mystique but remains out of her blue skin for as much as possible. James McAvoy inhabits Professor X a bit more but it is still a tale of how he turns into Patrick Stewart.

The story moves pretty quickly trying to put all the pieces in play for the final battle. They do have a side plot that includes Colonel William Stryker, Josh Helman returns, and even features a great cameo from Hugh Jackman, already spoiled by the trailers so don't accuse me. All of this piles up to a fun, action-packed film that I couldn't see much of a fault in by the end. I even stuck around for the setup to the next film though I'll have to find more informed nerds to tell me what it all meant.

Summer movie season is my favorite time for movies because I'm a sucker for these big blockbusters. Usually, I'll get pretty disappointed by the end but this year has proven very promising. The only disappointment for this year was Batman v Superman but I'm willing to forgive that when it comes out for purchase. I may have went into this latest X-Men with low expectations since I don't see these movies in a vacuum, but I came out very happy with what I saw. There are two more superhero movies coming out this summer, not including TMNT, and I'm excited for everything else the summer has to offer. The X-Men franchise remains intact for me and it has survived worse downs than a mediocre review. It bounced back from Origins and the third film so I'm sure 20th Century Fox will keep it and not transfer it to the Marvel universe. I enjoyed this movie a lot. 7 out of 10 stars!

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

The best-reviewed installment in the X-Men, Days of Future Past combined everything that the X-men franchise has been building up to in all of the previous movies. The film combined the cast of First Class with those still alive after the original trilogy. Placing Hugh Jackman's Wolverine in the middle, this time-travel story juggled a tale of the 1970s mutant uprising with a post-apocalyptic story of the remaining mutants hiding from the vicious sentinels. 

The continuity went completely out the window, and I remember that confusing me throughout my first viewing of this film. It wasn't until I purchased the movie and rewatched it that I realized that it was a film made to just go with the flow. There is another Rogue Cut still out there that I have yet to see but I hope one day I may get to see the deleted scenes. The original version feels like a film where a little too much was left on the editing room floor.

The story isn't so hard to follow as it establishes that the mutants are hunted by sentinels in one of the coolest X-men opening scenes since Nightcrawler infiltrated the White House. Blink played by Bingbing Fan had the most visually stunning power to date, able to create portals in space. This character and others like Sunspot played by Adan Canto, Warpath played by Booboo Stewart, and Bishop played by Omar Sy, were completely underutilized, which is maybe what the extended cut fixed. Ellen Page's Kitty Pride is the one who orchestrates the time travel with her mutant ability.

The 1970s timeline that Logan wakes up into reinserts us in the story that First Class left off with, though a lot of time has passed, nearly a decade. Mark Camacho plays Nixon and the Vietnam War is over, I'd need to do a bit more research to know the exact time when all of these historical events took place. Director Bryan Singer did a great job with historic set pieces and for a young viewer like me, there was nothing I could see wrong about the period piece.

Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique plays a bigger role than intended as she adds her star power to the cast after her breakout in the previous X-men film and the Hunger Games franchise. The plot centers around her and Peter Dinklage's Dr. Bolivar Trask obsession to utilize her skin to make advanced super mutant hunters that eventually plays out. In the original timeline, Mystique murders Trask motivating humans to fight back using his technology. But just stopping that is not enough to alternate the timeline. 

Michael Fassbender's Magneto plays a crucial role in the view of mutants. His prison break scene with Quicksilver played by Evan Peters is definitely a unique X-Men feature. Magneto tries to help but he has his own ideas about how to fix the future. Fassbender is brooding as always but brings a necessary gravitas to the super-villain. Certainly lifting a baseball stadium over the White House counts as impressive.

There is so much more to this film too, like the return of Halle Berry as Storm in the fight against Sentinels and Josh Helman as William Stryker finding Wolverine at the bottom of the Potomac, but then it not really being Stryker but Mystique, which makes very little sense in the X-men world. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen returning again as older Professor X and Magneto was very cool and added to the prestigious nature of the cast thought they don't do much. I don't want to go on, but the story complicated a lot of stuff and then served as a reset for the X-men universe. I think it is very cool that they hinted at Apocalypse in the post credits and I look forward to seeing what they do as they continue the franchise!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Magazine Review: Lightspeed Magazine Issue 72

Lightspeed had an impressive issue for May 2016. The stories traveled from deep space to just outside the atmosphere to Wonderland to digital worlds where nothing is real. I enjoyed everything I read this month from Lightspeed and look forward to seeing more from all of the authors and contributors.

The science fiction brought us to some interesting views of the future. Of the original fiction, "Three Points Masculine" by An Owomoyela is a cool military sci-fi tale that incorporates an interesting, mind-expanding discussion of gender roles in the military and throughout life. I especially liked the action and how the story ended. "Deathlight" by Mari Ness explored what survival would be like in deep space and put a unique twist on an extraterrestrial encounter. The reprints started with "Tethered" by Haris A. Durrani about the debris that gathers up outside of Earth as human continue to launch satellites into space. The story not only had cool action but a unique cultural view and very informative prose. "The Philosopher's Stone" by Tora Greve reflected back to the time of Newton and posed an intriguing alternate history of aliens' first visit.

The fantasy took new takes on old stories. "The Jaws that Bite, the Claws that Catch" by Seanan McGuire gives a wholly different look of Wonderland from a different character's perspective. "Wednesday's Story" by Wole Talabi stopped time with Solomon Grundy and has a personification of days that I found cool to read. The reprints brought me into a bigger world with "North Over Empty Space" by Tim Pratt and his adventures of characters with special powers that I had not seen depicted this way before. "Hungerford Bridge" by Elizabeth Hand started out as a normal story but then shocked me with a fantastical revelation that I can't quite tell you about unless you read it.

Hugh Howey's novella "The Plagiarist" is great and well worth getting a subscription to the magazine. It tells such a school story about virtual worlds and explores what it means to be alive in a very cool and engaging way. I can't wait to read the next two books in his Silo Series. I also liked the chapter from Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Water Knife". This book has been on my to-read list for a while and reading a chapter just reinforced my wanting to purchase it soon.

As always, the nonfiction essays were cool with some good reviews of stuff that I wanted to check out and have read. I always like reading what other people think about the fiction I encounter. The author spotlights also help me understand stories and learn about writers that are producing content I want to seek out. Four months into my subscription to Lightspeed and it is worth every penny!

TV Show Review: The Night Manager

Based on a novel of the same title by the great spycraft author John Le Carré, The Night Manager was an enjoyable spy thriller with a wicked villain and charming lead character. Tom Hiddleston plays Jonathan Pine, aka Andrew Birch, in a campaign to be the next James Bond. Pine is the titular night manager at a hotel in Egypt. There he encounters wealthy Egyptians and a woman who suffers from getting too close. Certain information falls into the night manager's hands and with vengeance on his mind, he delivers this information to British intelligence.

Olivia Colman plays Angela Burr, a pregnant head of an intelligence division, and steals the show from the two top-billed actors. Burr does a better job of making Richard Roper seem evil with her lines than Hugh Laurie's subtle performance does for the villainous character. Burr recruits Pine to go undercover and endear himself to Dicky Roper and his gang of arms smugglers.

Laurie was sinister as the main villain and was backed up quite well by other British actors. Tom Hollander plays Corky, the most suspicious of Roper's goons. He immediately expects Pine's play for power but is undone by his drinking and a clever scheme to get him to take the fall for a leak in information.

Also caught up in all of this mess is Jed Marshall, played by Elizabeth Debicki. She served as a lover-for-hire to Roper but suspects that he is up to no good. Jed and Pine form a relationship as they work together to syphon information that will lead to stopping gun smuggling. David Harewood from the Showtime series Homeland shows up as an American spy and Tobias Menzies shows up as a British intelligence officer. 

The Night Manager is a great show for the spy genre. There isn't much action and the pacing is a slow build similar to many Le Carré stories. The end comes down to a smart confrontation and lots of cool intelligence scenes. I would recommend this show to fans of The Americans, which is enjoying an acclaimed fourth season, and anyone looking for a change from the bombastic explosions of summer blockbusters. The Night Manager offers an updated version of a classic spy story! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

After the abysmal X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the middling X-Men: The Last Stand, this mutant superhero franchise was in need of a reboot to restore its dominance for 20th Century Fox. Along comes X-Men: First Class and in celebration of the closing of this new X-Men trilogy, I wanted to revisit the two movies that lead up to X-Men: Apocalypse with the story of Magneto and Professor Xavier.

The story begins with Magneto as a child Erik Lensherr as it did in the first X-Men film. Magneto exhibits his mutant talents of controlling metal and in this version, he is tortured by an evil mutant Sebastian Shaw played by Kevin Bacon. It is revealed that Shaw can harness energy, especially explosive energy, to make him nearly indestructible and very deadly. Magneto grows up to be played by Michael Fassbender and seek revenge against his tormentor.

Meanwhile, Charles Xavier played by James McAvoy grows up with privilege and her best friend Raven, or Mystique, played by a young Jennifer Lawrence, pre-Hunger Games fame. This story line leads to Rose Byrne as CIA agent Moira MacTaggert recruiting him after she sees Shaw, now conspiring in the sixties to orchestrate nuclear war. Xavier and Magneto encounter each other and decide to recruit mutants to fight against Shaw's team.

Transporting back to the sixties is very cool with the mutants and director Matthew Vaughn, of Kick-Ass and Kingsman: Secret Service, does a great job navigating these characters and still giving them each depth while their youth exposes their immaturity and weakness. The climax is a pleasure to watch and one of the best action scenes in an X-Men film. The final scenes set up a new series for X-Men and effectively rebooted the superhero franchise.

With the poor reviews pouring in for Apocalypse, I am still holding out hope that it will be an enjoyable film. First Class really brought me back into the universe of the mutant X-Men though continuity was shot all to hell. The studio has not worried much about keeping the stories consistent, and the promise of the scenes at the end of First Class really have nothing much to do with Days of Future Past. I did like where the series went with that installment and should have a review of that when I watch it tomorrow. The only installment without Wolverine besides the new Deadpool, this movie is one of my favorite superhero movies of the many that are out there! 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: Saga Volume 1-5

My new favorite graphic novel series is definitely Saga, action-packed, funny, and incredibly relevant to our times. With a war between a moon and a planet spreading out into the galaxy, one couple will defy the odds and fall in love despite being from opposing sides. Marko and Alana elope and procreate to give us our narrator Hazel, who tells the story of his life as her parents become fugitives from the two most powerful forces in the universe.

Brian K. Vaughn brings humor and an intriguing plot while Fiona Staple makes every image look cool and expand on this bizarre world in an awesome visual form. From humanoid computer to Lying Cat to the spider The Stalk freelance assassin, all the characters and species are brimming with new ideas yet at the same time, many things seem remarkably similar to our own world. 

I've been reading the series by volumes and I'm excited to see that the sixth part will be released next month. I recently purchased Volumes 4 and 5 and breezed through all of the issues once again to catch up to where I was and move ahead after revisiting all of my favorite characters like The Will, D. Oswald Heist, and Prince Robot IV. From Alana to Izabel, the ghost tied to Hazel, to Klara, Marko's Mother, to Gwendolyn, the scorned lover, this comic is filled with strong female characters.

These series is irreverent like most of the graphic novels that I pick up, but this one is exceptional with some speech bubbles saying some shocking stuff that makes me laugh out loud in public. The panels do not let up with gore and sex that aren't just for shock value but also inform the story as the stakes rise.

 The world-building is phenomenal jumping from planet to planet with each character and setting seeming to have a depth of backstory that goes back thousands of years. There is also a lot foreshadowing on the part of Hazel so I'm really looking forward to this graphic novel continuing for years to come. Like popular fiction of the current age that I enjoy a lot, characters come and go and nearly every issue has another death that is both shocking and emotional.

While also giving us entertainment to get lost in, the story also comments on the real world as I've mentioned. From a war that has become so distant we no longer have it weighing on our collective conscious but people are still suffering and dying because of our choices to a citizenry getting lost in narratives or drugs to no longer feel bad about the world, or world, around us, Saga is a reflection of the current state of a world tearing itself apart for reasons that are no longer known to those that are left alive.

I cannot recommend Saga enough. The comic can be purchased by the issue, by volume, or in a larger collection. Readers will find enjoyment in this story if they appreciate subversive commentary or just a fun science fiction story with a growing universe. I don't know which television station or movie studio will be brave enough to take this project on but when that time comes, I hope it is done justice for the awesome story that it is!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

TV Premiere: Preacher

I was a big fan of the graphic novel and when I heard news that Preacher was going to be adapted into a television show on AMC, I wasn't totally sure how they would do it but I was still excited. I saw the first episode this Sunday night and immediately saw that the creator Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were taking this story in a different direction than Garth Ennis's tale.

Preacher the show starts out with introducing the residents of Annville including Jesse Custer played by Dominic Cooper. Major plot points remain the same but other things seem wholly different. It looks they are combining stuff from several points from different parts of the story and combining them all into the first season. It also looks like their budget was small so they have made some adjustments and made some interesting, and funny, choices to the special effects.

Tulip O'Hare played by Ruth Negga is a badass and starts the series beating up a bunch of bad guys before building a bazooka with kids and blowing up even more bad guys. Cassidy played by Joseph Gilgun is barely comprehensible with his thick Irish brogue and starts off taking out vampire hunters on a plane. The action looks great, and I look forward to more fight scenes. It does look like a good combination of action and comedy much like the comic book. I thought Arseface played by Ian Colletti also looked interesting though he was much more disgusting on the page.

AMC looks to have another violent hit based off of a graphic novel on their hands so I'm pleased that it is getting an adaption. I will withhold judgement until I see more of what these series has to offer. I'm curious where the story will go since things look like they are forging a path all of their own. The story could go a lot of places if it follows the story but they are planning to drag it out for quite some time and possibly get through several seasons.

Jesse did receive the power of the Genesis, a spawn of a demon and angel, though I don't know if they will show the scenes of heaven and hell just yet. It does look like they have introduced the angels that are on the road trying to track the supreme being down. The show does not skimp on the violence and has found some unique ways to deal out death to the villains. With a mix of familiar and new, Preacher should be a lot of fun for its first season!

TV Show Review: Fear the Walking Dead (Season 2.1)

The first half of the second season of Fear the Walking Dead brought the family from Los Angeles a long way over dangerous waters. The theme of this season was "No Safe Harbor", and it was especially interesting because we have not seen the world of The Walking Dead deal with the ocean. There was no shortage of underwater zombie action and deadly beach encounters.

The acting isn't great but I do enjoy the characters in this spinoff show from Strand played by Colman Domingo who lost himself to cowardice and grief to Nick played by Frank Dillane who learned how to cover himself in blood to hide from the undead. The crew survive a boarding by pirates and eventually made it to a not so safe sanctuary in Mexico.

One of the greatest parts of this show is seeing another country being affected by the outbreak that brings about the apocalypse. The original series didn't much outside of Georgia and then Washington D. C., and this spinoff show has followed through by showing what happened on the West coast though much further South than I had anticipated. I enjoyed how they included the mini story of the plane crash and explained what happened to the survivors. I hope we see Alex in the future.

Travis played by Cliff Curtis struggles to keep his family together and alive though they never seem to find a safe place. Madison played by Kim Dickens is constantly worried and now she not only has to fear zombies but her own family as well. Chris played by Lorenzo James Henrie has really started to lose his mind threatening the family and stranger's children. He feels a lot of guilt for losing his mother and not killing pirates that boarded their ship. Daniel played Rubén Blades does not trust anyone even if they help him escape the threat of zombies. The addition of Celia played by Marlene Forte changed the show and she is one of the great villains of this zombie show making up for the relatively weak pirates. The gang ends all split up and it will be interesting to see what happens in the second half of this season later this summer.

They rehashed some old arguments like are zombies still alive and what is the best way to dispose of people that are dying. Zombies certainly pose some interesting questions about humanity, which I guess is why these shows have become so sustained and popular. 

I recently read the third compendium so I have some theories about how the series will connect. If you don't want to read any spoiler for what may be coming, I would quit reading. The graphic novel story has finally made it out to the ocean after winning several tough battles. The crew has started to explore the sea. Michonne has become especially skilled at going out for a long time on a ship. I think this could bring her in contact with the new family and connect all of these stories for one big Walking Dead Universe!

Movie Review: All the Way

Directly following John F. Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office. Very shortly after his ascendancy to the highest land in the office LBJ began the push for the Civil Rights Act. Bryan Cranston does an amazing job portraying the 36th President of the United States as he struggles with racist Senators in the South filibustering the Civil Rights Act using lofty words like "freedom", "liberty", and "States Rights".

It's remarkable how similar the rhetoric of these men sounds to the current Republican party though they have moved their target to other minorities in this nation. Cranston lays on the thick Southern accent of Johnson and negotiates with these Senators including his former mentor Senator Richard Russell, played by the regal Frank Langella. I haven't studied up on my history but found the negotiating and politics quite interesting and believe this story needs to be reviewed every few years. 

Johnson also had to negotiate with those demanding the basic rights of human beings and the leader Martin Luther King Jr., played by Anthony Mackie. King faced all sorts of opposition including being spied on by the FBI led by J. Edgar Hoover. Mackie does a great job as the leader as he first pushes for the Civil Rights Act and then demands votes in the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. 

This story deals with the nitty-gritty of political maneuvering the story might seem boring if it were not so historically significant. I also think this story reflects current fights going on in Congress. I can only hope that the same shameful history will lead to those on the wrong side being outvoted once again. This story is as important now as it was back then, it is ridiculous how some people can forget history.

Led by Cranston, all of the acting was top notch. Cranston performed this play on stage before it was adapted into a film but he is now supported by great actors like Mackie, Melissa Leo as Mrs. Johnson, Langella, Bradley Whitford as Hubert Humphrey, and Stephen Root as J. Edgar Hoover. HBO has presented a great film that would have played well in the theater but I'm glad I was able to catch it.  

Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

After tuning into the Hulu mini-series of the same title, I thought I would check out the book from which it was adapted. My first impression is that this book is way too long but that is hindsight of seeing what the pared down version offers in video format. There is plenty that is left out and lots of details added to the book version. Changes are made but, in the end, they both boil down to the same thing. Instead of this being a political thriller or a time travel mystery, it is just a very long and detailed romance.

I did enjoy major portions of this novel, and it is impressive that Stephen King had me sticking with such a long book, but he is the most popular author in the world for a reason. This book had a lot of parts that were fast paced and only some parts that slogged down in details and side-stories that don't affect the overall plot. 

I appreciated all the history that is in this book and it will be hard for me to ever forget the day that JFK was assassinated. The book focuses primarily on the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and his strained relationship with his wife and children. Jack Epping was a fun character to watch as he explored and adapted to the past as George Amberson. I couldn't help but see James Franco in the role but if I had read the book first, I don't think I would have cast him to play the role.

I haven't read a Stephen King book in a while but I think this book is exceptional in his very large collection. There were certainly some horror elements from the obdurate past to Sadie Dunhill's deranged husband John Clayton and even the danger of the president plays into the frightening elements, but overall this book was not scary. I remember getting chills from Bag of Bones and being shocked by Carrie but this book only has ominous undertones and nothing outright scary. One of the most interesting parts is the very end and how King predicts a future in which the past has been changed by the consequences of time travel. It's not good but the explanation was interesting.

I would highly recommend the show and if you enjoy that and want a longer experience then I would check out this novel but since it has been on most bestseller lists and is written by Stephen King, it certainly doesn't need my recommendation. I had fun with this book and spent nearly two months getting through it so I'm glad to share my thoughts. I heard a great discussion of the novel and show on the Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast so I would recommend any readers who wants to hear more about it check that out too!

Book Review: Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold

Entering into a very large and immersive world like The World of the Five Gods on just a novella might not be the best approach but I'm making my way through the Hugo nominees for best novella and Lois McMaster Bujold's demonic possession story is on that list. I found the world easily understood enough, it appears that the five gods have a lot more interaction with the citizens of this world and pulls a lot from christian mythos. Penric is possessed by a demon very early in the book but this tale puts a twist on common possession by making the demon a more misunderstood character and granting the human it possesses the power of a sorcerer.

The story takes its time to get going though it isn't very long so the quick read pays off with an interesting ending. A majority of the middle section takes place in a library, which may come off as a bit of a slog for a more impatient and less determined reader. I found the background help and the truth of the demon story interesting enough to continue reading. From what I've read of more informed reviewers, having knowledge of the greater events in this fantasy series helps inform what is happening in this story. It is an easy book to read for less experienced read as well.

I found Penric to be an enjoyable character to follow as he experiments with his newfound power and communicating with the being that resides inside his body. For understanding the character rely heavily on the analogy of a demon as a rider and a human as the horse, which is an interesting way to think about possession, especially in this case where the demon seeks to promote the health and well-being of the human it has possessed. 

There is certainly conspiracy and political dealing that may have more repercussions in other novels and many readers seem to want more. I found the ending quite satisfying and the action entertaining. At first, I was a bit skeptical of this nomination but overall I found the story enjoyable enough and would check more of Bujold's work. It was very similar to other fantasy stories I've reader including The Wheel of Time with a young man who is unsure of his powers but learns to cope and use them to his benefit while under the threat of death.

I know that this novella appeared on the slate chosen to be nominated by a large group of voters but I don't think this particular work is representative of all they hope to bring to the genre. I'm curious about their selections in science fiction as I've read more modern sci-fi published in popular magazines and most of the fantasy I've tried out has been from decades ago because I'm still catching up in that genre. The appeal of this book seems to be the functioning religious aspect, which I found to be an interesting fantastical exploration in this fiction. I wouldn't discredit this novella and think it is worthwhile and worthy of the nomination. I look forward to comparing all of them before I vote and venture out to Kansas City for the awards!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Movie Review: The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys is a great action comedy from the director of Lethal Weapon and Iron Man 3, Shane Black. Starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, the movie tells the tale of a hapless drunk private investigator and his odd partnership with a tough-guy-for-hire. The PI played by Gosling drinks and slouches his through the story while Crowe as the tough guy punches and fights anyone that gets in their way.

This enjoyable comedy mixes with the mystery and a few action scenes meshing together nicely. The acting was great and the directing kept the pace moving fast. From escaping ruthless killers to confronting young activists to meeting with the head of the Justice department (Kim Basinger) and all through parties in the pornography and auto industry, the team up of Crowe and Gosling crack jokes and keep the mood light despite several deaths.

The movie is set in the 1970s, yet there are parallels to today. The filmmakers remember this generation fondly with a recent trend towards films set in this era of disco and free love. Black also captures the corruption as Los Angeles is in a state of decay and, at least in the world's movie, crime, pollution, and protest are rampant. 

No one is especially happy except for maybe the ruthless killer John Boy (Matt Bomer), a great character. He brings out the big guns and is responsible for most of the shootouts. There was also Tally, the Justice Department's assistant, (Yaya Dacosta) who has to look tough and fight off advance's from Gosling's sleazy detective character, Holland March.

As March's daughter who has to make it on her own as her detective father is constantly running out, Angourie Rice shows a lot of potential for a young actress. She helps in the investigation and isn't just regulated as a hostage device and actually helps out in a ton of scenarios. Look out for a hilarious scene with coffee near the climax. The other daughter and the subject of the investigation is probably the only character name that one will remember by the end of the film, Amelia, (Margaret Qualley).

This movie is a fun time at the theaters that should be helpful to forget your worries about the disgusting nature of reality. People are actually awful and this film does a good job with showing that even the nice guys can only do so much and usually end up getting screwed either way. There really is no easy way to get ahead but at least we can use entertainment to drown out all the awfulness and lose ourselves if only for an hour or two before this stupid world run by corrupt morons and sick degenerates takes hold and sucks us down to their awful level. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Politics: Kentucky and Oregon Primaries

My home state had the chance to vote today but due to some extraneous circumstances, I wasn't able to show up at my polling place to cast my own ballot. I understand that this makes me an unreliable citizen and I can be the reason this country heads towards a bad direction, but the difference was much larger than one vote and I am a firm believer that Election Day should be a National Holiday. Anyone who doesn't think that doesn't want people to vote, and they are wrong.

At this point, Kentucky is still too close to call. It looks like Hillary Clinton has pulled out a victory by half a percentage point with ninety-nine percent of the polls reporting. Clinton can use these 55 delegates or the half that she gets to continue to push her victory but Bernie Sanders is continuing to push this close loss as another triumph  in a campaign that was counted out early. My home county was a difference of three thousand votes so that helps me when I justify the insignificance of my votes. I don't want to get too deep into conspiracy theories.

Oregon still hasn't been called either. Right now as I write, Sanders is up by 5% of the vote. The West is where Bernie plans to make his last stand in this tough and long primary. California will be huge if Sanders surges but all of the analysis still seems to count him out. What will be interesting is that if Sanders pushes for a contested convention. The Sanders supporters threw a fit in Nevada after the State Democratic Convention got out of line. The rhetoric is heating up and Donald Trump looks to siphon off as much of those supporters as he can. I'll have to update this tomorrow when the results are finally counted.

While Sanders hope to turn these victories and close losses into momentum, Clinton and Trump prepare to face off against one another. I think this will be a very interesting matchup but I'm still predicting that Clinton will win. Sanders turns his attacks on Trump and I can't actually see many of his supporters voting for a Republican candidate.

In other news around Kentucky, it looks like the Senate race will between the Republican incumbent Rand Paul against the mayor of Lexington Jim Gray. For the House Seat here in Lexington, Nancy Jo Kemper will face incumbent Andy Barr. These races were all blowouts and I simply wasn't informed enough to cast a smart ballot so perhaps it was best that I sat out of this primary. I've never voted in a presidential election since I have been eligible and I kept the streak alive!

Book Review: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is a Nebula award-winning and Hugo nominated novella by Nnedi Okorafor. I picked it up as it appears to be the frontrunner in the best novella category. I found the story engaging and fast-paced, which is great for a short read that will only take a day or two to get through. The story tells of a young Himba girl who is accepted into an interplanetary university but her parents and her community do not like for people to travel outside of their lands.

Binti is filled with unique cultural experiences and habits including covering her skin and hair with a brown, sweet-smelling otjize made from the soil of the land to protect her from the harsh environment, creating astolabs that allow communication over long distance, similar to modern day smartphone yet much more capable, and treeing, one of Binti's coolest traits, which is a sort of mathematical mediation.

The plot moves forward not pausing for readers to grasp all of the features of this futuristic world but by the end I felt I had a decent understanding of the mixture of science and magic. Okorafor has imagined some brilliant new ideas for time travel and also a cool new jellyfish-like alien species called the Meduse. This new species does not get along with humans, and the war directly affects Binti's travels to her new university. The novella as addresses social issues as the Kouth, other humans, do not respect the Himba people including by touching Binti's hair and giving her not as secure a room on the shuttle.

Binti also possesses a unique stone called an edna that protects and also allows her to communicate with different species including the Meduse who are not very communicative at first. I thought the character development was nice both for Binti and Okwu, her antagonist at first, but things are not so easy as good or bad in this space travel tale.

I would recommend this novella to readers who like a fast-paced story that has great vision and imaginations within it. The story transported me to Binti's spaceship and does a great job building a world that is both familiar and bizarre. The conclusion was a bit brief and I would like to see more of the University. I look forward to seeing how Okorafor expands this intriguing universe. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

TV Show Review: Bates Motel (Season 4)

Bates Motel concluded its fourth season tonight with more creepiness on the part of Norman Bates as he reels closer to the serial killer of the Psycho film series. Freddie Highmore as Norman and Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates are at the top of their game. Highmore is extra weird saying "Mother" and capturing the essence that Anthony Perkins captured so long ago under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. 

This season saw some large changes and a big twist in the last two episodes so I don't recommend continued reading if you don't want spoilers for this season. Norman's mental status deteriorates much more rapidly in this season as his murder rate rises. Any woman that finds herself alone with Norman is in danger, even Norma. Sheriff Alex Romero played by the smoldering Nestor Carbonell has fallen for Norma and desperately wants to protect her from her insane son.

Overall the biggest twist was Norma's death as Norman flooded the house with carbon monoxide. The marriage pushed Norman over the edge and couldn't stand the thought of losing his mother. Even though she agreed to leave with him, he still decided to murder her and also attempted suicide. Romero saved Norman but didn't revive Norma in time. 

The other storylines have wound down with Dylan and Emma moving off though that could come back. Norman's brother Dylan, (Max Thieriot) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) had fallen in love as Emma recovered from her lung transplant surgery. This story looks to be concluding as the show nears a finale to the entire series, which could be season five. 

There are plenty of questions left like that guy from out in the woods who saw Norman pull up Norma's body from the grave, Sherrif Romero being persecuted by the DEA and Norman's complete breakdown. I managed to catch up on this show this year on Netflix and watch the new episodes on A&E. I would recommend this show for those who like strange murder mysteries and deeply complex characters. Carlton Cuse helped create Lost and he knows how to craft a story with the proper beats and cliffhangers.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

NBA Playoffs 2016 Conference Finals

The Eastern and Western Conference Finals begin May 16 with four of the top teams in the NBA competing to play in the NBA Finals. 

The Eastern Conference Finals are between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lebron James and his team will compete against Kyle Lowry for a chance at the top spot. I predict that the Cavaliers will return to the NBA Finals again this year. 
Game 1: The Cavaliers crush the Raptors in the first game with a 31-point win. Lebron James got 24 points but Kyrie Irving scored 3 more with 27. Toronto has a tough time ahead facing Cleveland who has crushed teams from this Eastern Conference both last year and this year.
Game 2: The Cavaliers continued their domination beating the Raptors by 19 points. Cleveland heads to Toronto for the next part of what looks like a very brief series.
Game 3: The Raptors take their first home game with a 15-point win against the Cavaliers. Toronto has another home game to attempt to tie the series before facing Cleveland back at home.
Game 4: The Raptors used their home field advantage again and beat the Cavaliers by six points. The series returns to Cleveland where Toronto will try to pull ahead in the series.
Game 5: With home-field advantage restored, the Cavaliers return to their dominating status blowing out the Raptors by 38 points. Toronto has a chance to tie Cleveland at home but it is not looking good for the one team north of the border. 
Game 6: The Cavaliers advance to the NBA finals after beating the Raptors by 26 points. Cleveland won the series by four games to two against Toronto and wins the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Western Conference Finals are between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors. Steph Curry and his team will face Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and their team. The Thunder upset the Spurs and hope for another upset with the Warriors. Curry is still recovering from injuries so he may not be as strong as before. I think the Warriors will repeat as I predicted before but I didn't see the Thunder upset the Spurs so I'm kind of rooting for them to have another upset in this series and go on to the finals.
Game 1: The Oklahoma City Thunder make a great comeback after being down 17 points to win the game by 8 points against the Golden State Warriors. Russell Westbrook held his composure with 27 total points and performing a lot better in the second half. 
Game 2: Golden State bounces back and takes a 27-point victory against Oklahoma City. The Warriors and Stephen Curry are now tied with the Thunder as they head to Oklahoma for the next game. 
Game 3: With home field advantage, the Thunder takes off and wins big by 28 points against the Warriors. Oklahoma City can really pull away with another win at home and be up by three games to one against the former champs Golden State.
Game 4: Oklahoma City wins yet another game, this time by 24 points against Golden State. The Thunder only need one more victory at home to beat the Warriors and head to the NBA Finals.
Game 5: Golden State capitalizes on home-field advantage and survives to play another game against Oklahoma City with a 9 point win. The Warriors will have to play at the Thunder's home court next and will have to win there before closing it out at home.
Game 6: The Warriors survive another game with a 7-point win against the Thunder. Golden State heads home to face Oklahoma City in the final game of the series.
Gam4 7: With an 8-point win, the Warriors take the victory away from the Thunder. Golden State advances over Oklahoma City to win the Western Finals and advance to the NBA Finals against their previous opponent from last year, the Cavaliers. The Warriors have a chance to repeat their championship run from last year. 

TV Show Review: The Last Man on Earth (Season 2)

Tandy and the crew wrapped up their second season tonight with a huge cliffhanger and some touching moment. Comedic postapocalyptic is one of my favorite subgenre and Phil Miller, played by Will Forte, does all that anyone would want to do if everyone in the world was suddenly gone. The second season picks up after Phil and Carol Pilbasian, played by the hilarious Kristen Schaal, had left the group in Tucson.

The funding must have increased because this season they had the ability to show a jet driving down the middle of a city street and even spent the night in the White House. There were plenty of hilarious occurrences as these two brilliant actors played off of one another. However, Tandy wants to get back with the group.

The rest of the group, including Melissa Shart (January Jones of Madmen), Todd (Mel Rodriguez), Erica (Cleopatra Coleman), Gail (Mary Steenburgen of Back to the Future 3), and the other Phil Miller (Boris Kodjoe), has moved to Malibu and leave in a nice beach house. It takes a while for Phil, now Tandy, to ingratiate himself with the group. Tandy has a way of making an easy situation much harder than it has to be. Hilarity ensues.

The other addition to this show was Tandy's brother, the astronaut Mike Miller, played by Jason Sudeikis. Mike plays some hilarious pranks but also messes with Tandy's standing. Eventually, the brothers make up and get along but the disease still holds a presence as they try to figure out the ways of the world. The pratfalls of survival in the post-apocalypse have never been so funny with a secret stash of bacon and all the wine Gail could drink. They are also trying to produce babies to start the new world.

This show is available on Hulu, all episodes I think, that's where I caught up. I would recommend this comedy very highly. Forte is great and has made a very amusing character in Phil Tandy Miller. All of the other actors bring a certain humor that had me laughing out loud. I am looking forward to the third season next year!

Magazine Review: Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 116

I enjoyed this issue a lot. I don't have a good enough memory to say if this issue is my favorite so far but it is definitely up there. At the end of the year, I'd like to go back and look at all the issues but I would like to note this issue for repeat viewing. All of the stories were good, some better than others, but overall this is a great issue to read.

"Left Behind" by Cat Rambo tells of advanced nursing homes and the passing down of generational knowledge through new technology. I'm a big fan of futuristic stories about taking care of the elderly because I see selfishly see my future there and like to dream of the possibilities when my body fails but my mind is able to go somewhere else. There is great writing in this story as well and it is not surprising that Cat Rambo is so popular in science fiction.

"The Universal Museum of Sagacity" by Robert Reed is large in scope with some very cool world-building and unique look at space travel. I also like how it relates to a modern working environment the control of large corporations and how that will play into the knowledge humanity will possess. 

"Breathe" by Cassandra Khaw does a great job capturing the claustrophobia of underwater exploration and it is nice to take a break from the space stories to an ocean story. These two environments are remarkably similar and it is cool to see the parallels.

"Jonas and the Fox" by Rich Larson does a great job world-building and tells a compelling story of revolution, mind-transferring, and poetry. Larson is an author I am recognizing from my various short fiction reading so I always look forward to reading a story by him.

"Away from Home" by Luo Longxiang tells the sprawling space epic with the threat of meteors hanging over it and awesome images of "planetships". I'm so glad Clarkesworld is giving us translated stories because I enjoy reading science fiction with a new perspective. It helps me think and see our world in a different way.

The two reprints were great as well. "Tough Times All Over" by Joe Abercrombie has a great twist on storytelling by narrating from the perspective of each character who comes in possession of a mysterious object. It helps that most of the citizens are thieves or mercenaries. I've wanted to check out the Rogues Anthology and this bodes well for what I can expect in those books. "A Heap of Broken Images" by Sunny Moraine tells of grief and intergalactic war and how we remember those we have lost. A great moving piece to end the fiction of this issue.

The nonfiction was fun to read as well. Andrew Liptak's analysis of Venus in fiction was very informative and well-researched. I like seeing how the vision of the second planet from the sun has changed as our knowledge of it increased. I am enjoying Jason Heller's look at SciFi and Music and found it amusing the editor Neil Clarke plays Destiny. I always like reading author interviews too, especially about prolific and renowned authors like James Gunn who I had never heard of before. As I said, this is a great issue and one I would recommend to readers of science fiction! 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Movie Review: Green Room

The most brutal and intense movie of this year, Green Room is directed by Jeremy Saulnier, the director of the Netflix thriller Blue Ruin. This violent horror movie shows that this up and coming director has a lot of talent to make movies that shock and amaze viewers with a slow burn but also a payoff that is a jolt to your senses.

The plot moves fast with the band finding a gig at a venue frequented and owned by rough white supremacists. The band led by Pat, played by Anton Yelchin, a great actor, is disgusted by the views and plays songs to piss off the crowd. Things go quickly from bad to worse.

Reece the drummer, played by Joe Cole from Peaky Blinders, Sam the bass player, played by Alia Shawkat who is Maeby in Arrested Development, and Tiger the lead singer, played by Callum Turner who will appear in the upcoming very cool looking Assassin's Creed movie, make up the rest of the band. They quickly run into trouble when just as they moving their stuff out, a dead girl is found in the Green Room and another potential victim begs them to call the police.

The movie does not hold back on the violence with the supremacists determined not to use guns so they can get away with the crime of murder by making it all look like a crime scene. Macon Blair, the protagonist of Blue Ruin, shows up as the manager of the venue. Patrick Stewart brings the biggest name as the leader of the bad guys. These men also breed dogs to fight and they hope to use the animals to cover up the murders leading to some gruesome attacks.

Though a horror film, it does not fall for any of the clichés or typical pitfalls but keeps an intense forward momentum that doesn't let up and holds some genuine jumps that are not foolish or cheap. I was thoroughly entertained, and this film will leave theatergoers blown away. This will be a movie to remember when making my top ten list at the end of the year!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Graphic Novel Review; The Walking Dead Compendium 3

The Walking Dead continues its run as a comic book series and I meant to get to this Compendium much earlier. The story picks up right as the group has encountered the Hilltop settlement and agreed to fight against the Saviors, led by the notorious Negan. The show is right in the middle of the first part of this Compendium so if you don't want spoilers, I would not encourage you to continue reading.

I think Negan is the best villain yet created in The Walking Dead universe, for both the show and comics. The casting was great to capture the smart talking yet ruthless leader. Negan cusses a lot more in the books because the show could just not get away with the dirty things he says. The awful scene where Negan chooses a victim is just as intense as it was on the show and in the comic the victim turns out to be Glenn. The image is disturbing,and the artists did not hold back when depicting this beloved characters demise.

The war against Negan grows exponentially as Rick tries to defend his tribe against this large group of villain. These chapters are certainly some of the most exciting in the entire series and many characters lose their lives. One of the most exciting additions is the Kingdom led by Ezekiel and his tiger. This kingdom joins with a portion of the hilltop and the crew from Alexandria to take on Negan. Carl makes some questionable decisions but manages to survive. Jesus became a more developed character and is becoming one of my new favorites.

I thought the war would never come to an end but after a large number of casualties Rick and the gang finally survive the scourge of the Saviors. They don't totally eliminate them and Rick's choice to not kill Negan is crucial to the final two chapters. The relationship between Rick and Andrea is strained in this version though in the television show this relationship is between Rick and Michonne. In the books, Michonne is in a relationship with Ezekiel that has some interesting consequences.

The whisperers are a great next step. I was wondering how the books would follow such a great villain and they did a great job. I was also worried they would resort to talking zombies but was glad to find that that was not the case. The Walking Dead has some of the best cliffhangers, and Compendium 3 does not disappoint. I know this was a quite a spoiler filled review but there are still plenty of details to discover and any Walking Dead fan should want to pick up these collections to see how the story varies and all the materials the showrunners have to work with in the future. This book has me very excited for the next season, the seventh, which could easily be the best one yet!