Ring out the old…

As 2015 rapidly reaches its end, I’ve somehow found a few minutes of time to ring out the soon-to-be old year with a couple of thoughts.

First up and excuse the sentimentality: I want to thank all those out there who’ve read and enjoyed my books and have subsequently taken the time to either review them on Amazon or Goodreads or Library Thing or personally send me kind words regarding your experience.

Though I’m not arrogant enough to think all of my novels will or should be enjoyed by everyone out who gets their hands on them, words cannot express how grateful I am to hear from those who have enjoyed the material I’ve worked so hard on.

To all of you, there is much more coming and I appreciate your patience in waiting for the next book’s arrival.

The reality of writing is that it takes an awful long time to get each of my novels finished in a way I’m satisfied with.  Trust me when I say I’m as eager to get them out as I’m sure many of you are to read them.  The new books will come.  Slowly but surely, they’ll come.  And when they do, I guarantee they will be the very best works I’m capable of delivering.

The second and last thing I wanted to talk about before bowing out for the year (Don’t worry, I’ll be back to posting no later than January 3rd or 4th) is, of all things, Star Wars.

No, I have not broken down and gone to see The Force Awakens (If I catch the movie at all it will be when it reaches home video).  What I’d like to talk about is the original 1977 Star Wars.

You know, the movie I’ve gone on and on (and on and on) talking about how when I originally saw it in 1977 I was the right age and a sci-fi fan and how I just couldn’t get into it and so on and so forth and how, to this day, I never became a Star Wars fan…

Well, draw a deep breath: I’d like to see the original film again.

No, not the “Special Edition” I saw a few years back when George Lucas tinkered with the movie and replaced/expanded many of its special effects along with adding the whole “Greedo shoots first” bit.  I’m talking about seeing the original film I saw back in 1977.

While I remain, at best, ambivalent towards the whole Star Wars phenomena, I can’t deny the zeal (and box office success) resulting from the release of The Force Awakens.  It is this zeal which has (ahem) awoken in me a desire to revisit the first Star Wars film and, to be very honest, give it another chance.

Thing is, I can’t.

Not legally, anyway.

Sure, I can see a smudged, poor sounding copy that was released to VHS tapes and, later laserdiscs before finally being put in as an add-on to the “Special Edition” releases, but let’s be honest here: The quality of those copies is horrendous.

So to repeat, the only way to see the 1977 version of the film in a print that looks and sounds as gorgeous as it did back in 1977 when it was originally released and without the many add-on special effects George Lucas inundated the film with…is to do so illegally:

You Can Watch an “Unaltered” Version of Star Wars in HD Today, If You Bend The Law

The article’s heading tries to be too kind.  To see a beautiful restored HD copy of the original 1977 Star Wars you have to go to a torrent site and download it.  There you will find the work of a group of Star Wars fans who were eager to see the film they treasured in a sparkling clear format.  To do this, they found multiple sources and cleaned up the various elements and ultimately recreated the film for this HD era.

According to the article above, their work is nothing short of breathtaking.

However, by making it available to others to download, they are engaging in -and causing those who download their copy of the film- into performing illegal acts.  Though they make not one cent from their work, they are still releasing copyright material they have no rights to.

I suppose the one good thing which may come from their efforts is that Disney/Lucas may finally be forced to release a cleaned up HD copy of the movie on their own.  That is, of course, unless George Lucas still refuses to allow its release.

George Lucas’ obvious disdain for the original 1977 version of Star Wars remains one of the great modern mysteries in the movie world.  Given how successful his film was and is, whatever qualms I may have over the film obviously pale compared to Mr. Lucas’ views.

Which, in a very long winded way, brings us back to what I wrote about my own novels above.  I absolutely don’t want to release any of my works unless I’m certain they’re “good enough” to be released.  Perhaps Mr. Lucas is caught in a version of this, only his “rough draft” copy of the film was already released to great acclaim.

The Special Editions will always exist.

Why not give fans access to a pristine, cleaned up HD copy of the original, unaltered, original version?

Anyway, see you in 2016!

Have a great Holiday Season and a terrific New Years!

Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am…

While Star Wars was indisputably THE big summer hit of 1977, there was another film released at that very same time and in direct competition with that movie that was also a very big hit: the Burt Reynolds/Sally Field/Jerry Reed/Jackie Gleason action/comedy Smokey and the Bandit

I love Smokey and the Bandit.  Back in the day I saw the film over and over and over again and have large swaths of its dialogue memorized.  Though the film does show its age today, at the time it was easily the most exciting and hilarious action film I’d ever seen…and the stunt work was like something from another planet.

The reason I point this out is because there is an upcoming auction which will feature a Trans Am that was used to promote the film back in the day.  Check it out…

Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am set for auction

From the article, here’s what I assume is a photograph of that particular Trans Am:

1977 transam

Now, note what I said above: The auction features the Trans Am used to promote the film.  While the car looks exactly like the one in the movie, this car was never actually in it and this is partly the reason why I’m pointing the article out.

The other, more interesting to me reason is I’ve always been curious if there were any of the original Trans Ams actually used in the film out there somewhere.  Given the sometimes grueling stunts these cars performed, I also wondered how many were used and how many were destroyed in the process of the film’s production.

And the article answered my questions.  From the article:

The four 1977 Pontiacs that were used for filming were so damaged that they were destroyed soon after filming was complete, according to auction house Barrett-Jackson, which is selling the car.

They “only” used 4 Trans Ams for the film?  That surprises me, to tell you the truth.  As anyone who’s seen the film knows, these cars were really put through their paces.  Some of the bigger showcase stunts, especially those involving the car jumping high in the air, I’ve long suspected left the vehicles useless.

Now I know that all the cars used in the film, alas, didn’t make it.

Now I know and, if you were as curious as I was, so do you!

Momentum (2015) a (mildly) belated review

While I can’t remember when/how I first heard of the 2015 film Momentum, I do recall seeing the trailer and thinking it didn’t look too bad:

Then, shortly afterwards, appeared reports the film was given a very limited release in England and flopped.  Hard:

Hardly a blockbuster! Morgan Freeman thriller Momentum makes just £46 from its opening weekend at cinemas across Britain

The above article, from dailymail.com, notes the film was released to only 10 theaters as well as simultaneously being available on demand.  Therefore it is possible those interested in seeing the film watched it from the comfort of their homes rather than heading out to the theaters (It is also my understanding the film was dropped into theaters without any advertising which is a sure fire way to generate a cinematic bomb).

Regardless of the bad press, I remained curious to see the film and yesterday had a chance to do just that.

So, was the film a decent enough action/adventure time killer or a waste of time?

As it turns out, all the above.

Momentum, despite its $20 million budget (this is according to IMDB), “feels” like a cheaply done film.  Yes, there are special effects and stuntwork but the overall look of the film is surprisingly dreary for a relatively higher budgeted film.  Comparing the “look” of Momentum with that of, for example, the also low budgeted The Frame (you can read my review of that here) and there is no comparison at all.  The Frame looks gorgeous while Momentum…doesn’t.

The visuals aside, how does Momentum fare as a movie?

Well, it starts off rather silly, with a bank robbery wherein the perpetrators, including our hero Alex Farraday (Olga Kurylenko, looking as beautiful as ever), perform a bank robbery while wearing high tech but ultimately silly sci-fi looking costumes.  How silly are these costumes?  When any of the members of the robbery team talk, a band of lights come on where their mouth is to indicate who is speaking.  Was that really necessary?

Anyway, you get glimpses of the costumes in the above trailer and, while they may look neat, other than showing us who is speaking with those fancy lights and hiding their looks, one wonders why the thieves didn’t save their money and get some cheap Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan masks…or something.

The thieves wind up robbing a security box of its diamonds but within the box is also a computer chip.

This computer chip becomes the movie’s “MacGuffin“.  On the chip is information that can take down a powerful and very corrupt U.S. senator (Morgan Freeman in a role that it looks like he did over a day or so while nowhere near any of the other actors).

What happens is one of the thieves, Kevin Fuller (Colin Moss), ex-lover of Alex and the man who brought her into this job against her wishes, was always after this chip and, by extension, the Senator.  Alex winds up in the cross hairs when a “cleaning squad” led by the deadly Mr. Washington (James Purefoy, looking like he’s enjoying himself while playing a slimy bad guy) shows up to take out Kevin and another person working for him while Alex hides and witnesses the whole bloody affair.

Of course Alex becomes Mr. Washington’s target as she winds up with the chip and what follows is the best part of the film, an open air version of Die Hard with Alex on the run from the bad guys.

We’re soon introduced to other characters, including Kevin’s wife (given the fact that Alex is Kevin’s ex-lover, she has good reason not to like Alex) while mayhem follows in their wake.

I won’t go into too many more details but a little after the halfway point of this film the (ahem) momentum sputters and some really stupid things happen that call into question Alex’s plans for taking down these bad guys.  Without giving too much away, we have another of those cliched “character gets captured on purpose to effect her plan” and, given what Alex goes through in this section, she’s either a masochist or stupid or both.

Despite all that, the movie manages to salvage a pretty good climax involving, of all things, Mr. Washington’s tie.

Yes, I’m serious.

In the course of the movie Alex references Mr. Washington’s “ugly” tie a few times and as a viewer I thought it was one of those throwaway “humorous” lines.  Yet these seeming throwaway lines wind up having not one but two terrific -and very clever- payoffs in the movie’s climax.

Again, I’m being dead serious here.

It is the cleverness of these payoffs that makes me wonder if Momentum’s script might well have been far better than the final product suggests.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t quite end with that second tie payoff (but it should have!) and in the movie’s closing minutes it is clear the makers planned Momentum to be the first in a series.  Our evil Senator is still out there as is Alex and the envisioned -but seriously doubtful to be made- sequel would likely feature the two on a collision course (hey, maybe that was the name they would give the film!).

Considering the amount of money the theatrical release in England didn’t make, don’t hold your breath waiting for the sequel.

Momentum wound up, to me, not being a total waste of time but neither is it a movie worth recommending.  While I felt the cast in general did its work, the people behind the scenes, including the director and, in particular, cinematographer could and should have done better.

A real shame because there are parts in this film that lift it from your typical brainless action-fest.


Love it…

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Drops His Prediction of Full Autonomous Driving From 3 Years to 2

…and loathe it…

Hackers Threaten to Bring Down XBox and Playstation Networks on Christmas

The first article, written by Fred Lambert and available on elektrek.com, offers even more optimistic thoughts regarding the future of self-driving/driverless vehicles.

Those who check out my blog know how fascinated I am about this technology and how equally fascinated I am by what will happen following the actual widespread use of this technology.  Bear in mind, just because Mr. Musk feels the technology will be good enough for general use in 2 years doesn’t mean the various government agencies in the United States and other countries will instantly allow for its deployment everywhere.

There are plenty of things that will need to be done, including perhaps creating highway lanes specifically designed for self-driving vehicles or highways that charge self-driving vehicles

…but I suspect future generations, perhaps even those born this year, may well grow up in an environment where people actually driving their cars from location to location will be a thing of the past.

I’ve mentioned many of the things that such a technology will change, but one rather frivolous one occurred to me which I might have mentioned before (If I did, forgive the duplication):

Driverless car technology will surely force a change in one golden staples of Hollywood action movies: The car chase.

Think about it: When people get used to the idea that cars function automatically, the idea of a hero/villain car chase as currently envisioned will become a thing of the past.  Just as westerns have our heroes/villains on horses, any movie featuring your “standard” car chase will be a film from the past.  Especially given the safety features these new vehicles will surely have which will likely apply to you even if you switch to a driver mode (which I suspect we’ll see as an intermediate first step before the cars go “full” driverless).

So no more Bullitt-like car chases…

…Hollywood will have to consider something new.

Which brings us to the second article presented above.  It is written by Hope King and presented on CNNmoney and I suppose it is as much a testament to our times as anything else.

As with self-driving vehicles, we are a society that relies more and more and more on technology, specifically computer technology, for our everything.

You can’t get the cellphones out of my daughters’ hands but, even as much of an old fogey as I am, I’m on some kind of computer for a startling number of hours each day as well.

This means, of course, that there’s plenty of data flowing through these computer networks, data ripe for hackers to screw around with, just as the hackers in that above article threaten to shut down gaming services on Christmas day.

It suddenly occurs to me the Hollywood car chase will live on…



A hacker types in a series of commands and, when finished, hits the enter key.  He cackles menacingly.  His plan is in motion.


Keanu Reeves sits in his Tesla Mark LXI, reading his newspaper off a holographic screen while sipping insta-coffee.  All appears blissfully normal…

…and then the engine of his car suddenly revs and Keanu is thrust into his chair.  His instacoffee spills and is absorbed by the seats…


Highway, day, a perfect geometry of cars in four separate lines moves quickly and efficiently along the highway.  All are in synch as they always are.

All but one.

That car veers wildly to the side, nearly hitting another.  It speeds up…


Keanu realizes his car is hacked and is out of control.  He frowns.  As dangerous as the situation is, the hackers picked the wrong man to mess with.

Keanu reaches for the dashboard and with one swift fist smash dislodges the smooth dashboard plate before him.  He pulls it off, revealing wires and circuitry, and quickly gets to work on it.

Sparks fly and sweat fills Keanu’s forehead.  He grimaces while looking out the window and back at the circuitry.

His car is on a collision course with a speeding bus…

I suppose it was inevitable…

Considering our ADD society’s constant demand for getting what’s new new NEW, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that, a mere handful of days following the release of the latest Star Wars film, there’s already rumors about what’s coming up in the next Star Wars film…

Star Wars Producer Kathleen Kennedy Confirms the Entire Cast Will Return for Eight Star Wars Film

For those who have seen the film or, like me, have read the plentiful spoilers out there (as the saying goes, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting ’em), this apparently includes a certain actor/character who…well…you thought might be done based on what happens in this film.

So what to make of the fact that Ms. Kennedy says the entire cast will return?

Was Ms. Kennedy simply trying not to be spoilery regarding the fate of this certain character in the freshly released film (the interview presented might well have been made shortly before the formal release of the film)?  Maybe said character will return like some of the others in the original three Star Wars films, ie as ghostly presences?  Or is it possible that the character’s fate wasn’t quite as permanent as the viewers thought?

I lean towards the later.

Which brings me to the next point:  I know what you’re thinking, did he fire five shots or…

No, wait.

You’re thinking: Ok Mr. Smartypants, you’ve written over and over and over again about how much you don’t like Star Wars all that much and how when you were a young kid you went into the theaters to see the original 1977 Star Wars and walked out wondering what all the hype was about and blah blah blah.

So why do you keep commenting on it?

Frankly, the fact that Star Wars never floated my boat doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in the series and its world wide reaction.  The fact is I’m a science fiction fan.  I write science fiction novels.  I LOVE science fiction.

And while I will wait to see the latest Star Wars feature when it hits home video (again, based on what I’ve read and the fact that this movie appears to be a homage/remake of the original Star Wars makes me even less interested in seeing it right now), I nonetheless will eventually see it.

I’m always hoping a sci-fi work –any sci-fi work- will knock my socks off.  Star Wars and its various sequels and prequels never quite did it for me but I’m always curious -in a professional way- about what sort of stories/movies draw people in and I’m certainly willing to give the film a look.


In the meantime, those who like/love the film, I’m happy for you.  Really.  Clearly there are very many of you out there and while the film hasn’t been universally loved, there are plenty who do like it.

I hope when I get around to seeing it I won’t regret the time spent doing so.

The Frame (2014) a (mildly) belated review

As much as one loves them, it is easy at times to become frustrated with movies.  If you see enough of them, you pick up on certain familiar storylines and characterizations and long for something new.  Something original.

Yesterday I was in the mood for something genuinely different and scrolled through some of the movies available free to watch through Amazon Prime.  I found the film 2014 film The Frame and read the short description of it.  It went like this:

From Jamin Winans, writer and director of the cult smash hit, INK, comes a mind-bending science fiction thriller about two strangers who find their lives colliding in an impossible way.

Not a whole lot to hang on to here, but the movie’s poster looked kinda cool…

The Frame

…and I wasn’t doing much else so I sat back and watched it.


Where to begin?

The film looks really nice.  The cinematography and effects (though limited) are incredible for what I’m assuming is a low budget film.

The story, however, is the main draw and it is fascinating.

The movie opens with Alex (David Carranza), in a parking lot looking out at a city before him.  He watches the city and the (ahem) framing of the shot is quite striking.  After a while, he walks through this parking lot, pulls out a slim jim, and breaks into a car.  He takes off with the stolen vehicle (after, tellingly for later in the movie, turning off the radio) and we watch as he becomes part of a warehouse heist.  These scenes show us that Alex, though a criminal, is both smart and cool under pressure and DOES NOT believe in violence.

The movie then abruptly switches to Sam (Tiffany Mualem), an EMT Paramedic who, in her opening scenes, is filmed at the same angle as Alex was in his.  We watch as she intrepidly enters a home where an abused wife lies bloody and unconscious on the floor while her daughter cries and her abusive husband is about to get violent again.  As with Alex’s opening scenes, these scenes serve to introduce us to Sam and show that she is also intrepid, smart, caring, and cool under pressure.

And then the movie connects these two characters in a most interesting way.

I’m tempted to stop my description of The Frame right there.  I’ll mention a little more, but it will involve SPOILERS so I’ll do so after the trailer is presented below.

The Frame turns out to be a riveting sci-fi/fantasy about the connection between two very flawed yet very sympathetic characters and the bizarre worlds they live in.  What’s perhaps most incredible of all is the actors who play Alex and Sam have an incredible on-screen chemistry even though they (MILD SPOILER) share no more than a few seconds of time together within the film itself.  And when they do, and provided you get as into the movie as I did, you will tear up.

The Frame is a mind-bender of a work and and I must congratulate not only the actors involved but writer/director Jamin Winans for creating such a unique, thought-provoking, and ultimately emotional work.  I’ll have to check out his other works.

Highly Recommended (Some SPOILERY thoughts follow the trailer)



You’ve been WARNED!

The big twist of The Frame is that Alex and Sam are actually characters in their own TV shows and that they see each other as fictional creations.  Alex watches Sam in her EMT show while Sam sees Alex in his.  If the movie has one flaw it is that Sam’s show is perhaps not as compelling as Alex’s and it would have been nice to see two equally compelling shows within the movie.

But that’s a minor complaint.

The “fictional” characters of Alex and Sam wind up -though it is never explained why- actually talking to each other through their respective television screens.  This understandably freaks Alex out.  Being a thief, he at first worries of being surveyed by the cops.  Sam, on the other hand, wonders if she’s showing signs of severe mental illness as she’s talking to the TV and its talking back to her!

These are delightful touches that only add to the overall picture.  When Sam realizes Alex’s TV show is about to reach its series finale, she fears for his life and tries to save him even as time may be running out for both of them.

As I said above, I highly recommend The Frame.  It is perhaps more a fantasy than science fiction but it presents some very strong emotions along with mind-bending concepts.

At the risk of repeating myself: I strongly recommend it.

:DRYVRS, Ep. 1

Actor/Producer Jack Dishel has posted the first episode of his webseries :DRYVRS on YouTube.  The premise of the series (I’ve only seen the one) appears to be the humorous encounters Mr. Dishel has with the people working for :DRYVRS, a UBER-like service he uses to transport himself from location to location.

Cleverly, the first episode features Macaulay Culkin as the :DRYVR come to pick him up.  Mr. Culkin’s character, we quickly find, is a grown up and whacked out version of his Kevin McCallister from the Home Alone films…

As humorous as the premise was, is it just me or did the whole thing ultimately feel rather…I dunno…depressing?  Don’t get me wrong: The adult Kevin having some serious issues regarding what happened to him when he was a child and growing up to be a seriously deranged individual makes a certain sense, but still…

Regardless, kudos to Mr. Dishel.  He couldn’t have found a more intriguing guest for his his premiere webisode.  That alone guarantees many people -obviously including myself- got to see his work.

Perhaps we can see more of this Kevin in the future?

While this is undeniably cool to watch…

…its also an incredibly crazy stunt:

The whole purpose of this exercise was apparently to fly between those two buildings and, from the reaction of Roberta Mancino, the woman who did the fly/glide-by, it looks like either the winds suddenly picked up and pushed her closer toward the building than she wanted or perhaps she simply drifted there without realizing it.

Regardless, and again, as cool as this video is, I hate to sound like Mr. Sober Un-Fun Adult and ask: What if she had hit the building?  Perhaps even a glancing blow?

She’d likely be dead or, if not, unconscious and soon to be dead from the fall.

But she’s gliding over a city.  A city I’m assuming has people walking and driving around the streets.  If she were to hit the building and fall to the ground, I can’t help but think of the others she might have injured and/or killed had her stunt failed.

In spite of all that, it’s still a cool video.

Alan Moore Q & A on Goodreads…

I’ve had this site on my tablet computer for a while now and figured it was time to share.

Alan Moore, one of the most talented and influential -and controversial- comic book writers perhaps ever, opened up a Q & A session over at Goodreads.  The questions were plentiful though a few of his replies were obviously cut and pasted.  Still, a fascinating read:


I remain a great admirer and equally frustrated/annoyed fan of Mr. Moore’s.  There is no doubt the work he produced, particularly for DC comics in the 1980’s, was like nothing that came before it.  His work on Swamp Thing and Watchmen alone would lift anyone’s reputation to the stratosphere.  He also was responsible for the excellent V for Vendetta, Marvel/MiracleMan, D.R. & Quinch (a hilarious series, proving he could do comedy as deftly as horror/action/drama), and “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow”, a “last” Silver age Superman story.

On the negative side, he was also the writer behind The Killing Joke, a beautifully drawn -by Brian Bolland- Batman graphic novel whose story was…not all that good, IMHO.  In fact, the story was sadistic and needlessly grim.  Of course, there are those who would argue that point with me.

Soon after the release of Watchmen Alan Moore grew furious with DC comics and left them, never to return.  Based on the Q & A his negative feelings haven’t diminished one bit.  My understanding of the situation, based on interviews Mr. Moore has given over the years, involved the rights to Watchmen.  Though I’m probably oversimplifying things (Alan Moore alone knows how much more is involved), the original contract with Mr. Moore stated the rights to the series would revert back to him as soon as the book was out of print.  However, because the series was so successful DC was able to retain the rights to it and have done so since its initial 12 issue run was completed in the late 1980’s.

While I sympathize with Mr. Moore, a part of me is greatly troubled by what I can only call his hypocrisy regarding creative ownership.

As I have mentioned in the past, the Watchmen series was originally supposed to feature the Charlton Heroes that DC had at the time just acquired.  Because of the nature of the story Mr. Moore was telling, it was felt that rather than use these characters he should come up with pastiches and use them.  Thus the Charlton heroes…

…became the Watchmen.

In his time at DC, Mr. Moore had little problems using other people’s creations to tell his stories.  Yet he gets hung up on the concept of creative ownership even when some of his most famous stories involved characters he either didn’t come up with (Batman, Superman, Swamp Thing, etc.) or came up with thinly veiled pastiches of the same (Watchmen).  After leaving DC comics one of his higher profile works was Supreme, a tissue-thin “homage” (I would call it a rip off) of Superman…


Mr. Moore would follow this up with such series as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which used copyright free characters such as Alan Quatermain, Dorian Gray, etc. etc.), Promethea (which was a Wonder Woman type), and Tom Strong (a Doc Savage/Pulp type hero).

I’d be the last to blast Mr. Moore’s writing talents but it bothers me that his best known post DC works (there are others, I’m not forgetting them) have largely involved either using copyright free characters or thinly veiled versions of other, more famous characters.

And still he’s angry with DC for retaining their copyright on Watchmen?

Regardless, the Q & A is interesting if you want to get into the mind of Mr. Moore.