Thursday, January 28, 2010

Win Something Free

Nothing like the promise of free loot to drive the hit-counter up, and, again courtesy of Matt Staggs, there is a contest to win a free, signed copy of Peter Straub's forthcoming book A Dark Matter. Go to the official Straub Facebook page at and describe the scariest thing about your home town. The scariest thing about my town is the influence of Southern Baptists churches, but that's fairly common in the South.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trailer for A Dark Matter

Courtesy of my friend Matt Staggs, here is a trailer for Peter Straub's new book A Dark Matter, due in stores February 9th. I'm partially through a review copy (look for a complete review next week) and it is classic Straub, which is good indeed.

Friday, January 15, 2010

District 9

I was a little bit hesitant to watch District 9, for a couple of reasons. First of all, a movie that receives the hype it did usually disappoints, as it just can’t live up to the buzz. That’s why I watch movies like Supercroc. You don’t go in with the idea it’s going to change your life, or even be competent. The other reason is that it was well known District 9 was a “message” film, and filmmakers are generally terrible about doing such, getting overwhelmed by the idea of making their point and forgetting that people are irritated when they are preached to. (This is why Spike Lee infuriates me. He obviously possesses great talent, but he will make a movie that eloquently makes its case against racism or some other social ill for 90 minutes, then stop the movie dead so a character can deliver a “racism is bad” rant, as if you are too stupid to understand that from the rest of the movie. Then again, I do watch movies like Supercroc, so maybe he is right.)

Despite all this, which caused me to miss District 9 while it was at the theater, I finally got around to watching on DVD, and I was pleasantly surprised. While it is not a movie that will change your life or the entire future of movie-making, it is well-done, intelligent and entertaining. The message is there, but presented well enough it doesn’t seem like a sermon.

Twenty years ago a giant space craft reached Earth and hovered over Johannesburg, South Africa. Humans were eventually able to gain access to the ship, which they found to be filled with insect-like aliens, who are given the derogatory nickname “prawns” due to their resemblance to shrimp. The prawns seem to be workers/slaves, and whoever was piloting the ship has disappeared somehow. The prawns are taken to Earth, where they are segregated into “District 9”, a garbage-strewn ghetto. There, they are exploited both by the government and by gangs, who control them due to their addiction to cat food, and use them to try to get the secrets of the alien technology, which can only be used by the prawns, as it is somehow keyed to their DNA.

Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is a mostly dim bureaucrat in an agency tasked with managing the aliens. He is given the task of overseeing the eviction f the prawns to a new district, ostensibly to get them better living conditions, but really to discover more about the technology and the aliens’ other secrets. Wikus’ life changes when he is exposed to an alien compound which wreaks drastic changes on him, and he is forced to switch sides.

The parallel to apartheid is so obvious as to not be worth comment, but the filmmaker does something interesting. The aliens are shown to us as being ugly (to our eyes), somewhat dumb (or at least horribly naïve negotiators), and irrationally violent, so our sympathies in the early part of the film lie mostly with our fellow humans, even in scenes where a grinning Wikus destroys an alien “nursery”, including the infant prawns inside. When Wikus is forced to confront the fact there may be more to the aliens than he realized, we are being pushed to the same revelation, which allows us to “experience” the message of the film without being explicitly lectured as to what it is. Very effective.

Wikus is an interesting character. Not overly bright and certainly not given to deep thought, he is a mid-level bureaucrat. This type of protagonist dominates Russian literature, and appears often in some Asian books, but The Bureaucrat is rarely seen as an archetype in American fiction/film. We are more inclined to make the protagonist of a film like this one a crusading attorney, or something similarly higher class, perhaps because we see ourselves as more than we really are. Nevertheless, by containing our flaws, Wikus serves as an effective stand-in for the viewer.

The movie is not only about a message, as the second half becomes pretty much a sci-fi action movie. It keeps your interest as it takes some interesting turns. I highly recommend this film.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Hopefully, I’m really back, now. And what a way to resume snarking, with the big-screen hit Supercroc!

Direct-to-DVD masters The Asylum have been very successful in branding their company. You always know what you are going to get when you pick up a DVD with their logo on it, and in no way do I mean this as a compliment.

At a lake/pond/river/ocean near Los Angeles, a group of soldiers have been sent to investigate something, although they don’t seem to have a clue what. They move through the brush, the leader usually silent hand signals to direct the squad. Although these are usually used to hide the presence of soldiers from the enemy, here the purpose may be because the squad leader of indeterminate rank couldn’t be heard over the incessant yakking of the other soldiers, mostly talk of weddings. Eventually, they learn that the thing they have been seeking is an enormous crocodile – a supercroc! – and seconds later, they are all fertilizer except for the cute female GI who was going to get married. Sadly, her fiancé is making his way through the supercroc’s alimentary canal, although she doesn’t seem too broken up by it. A second squad is dispatched and also goes straight down the gullet.

Meanwhile, a command center has been established to fight the menace, although they mostly just exclaim “Oh, my God” at appropriate moments. There is a sleazy scientist woman, with the hidden agenda of exploiting the supercroc for military purposes, and you’ve got to wish her luck with that. She masterminds the theft of supercroc eggs and sends them to Los Angeles, meaning the Supercroc heads that way, too, with mayhem on its mind. This is still probably better news for L.A. than Lane Kiffin, but I digress.

There is some anticipation of Godzilla-style pandemonium in Los Angeles, but it doesn’t happen. A few people get squished/eaten, including the evil scientist woman, stuff blows up, and the movie ends.

I always try to say something good about a movie, but this has me beaten. Terrible CGI, a terminally dumb script wooden acting…one of the techs at the command center does come out with a quip, but everyone else bitches at him about it, so he shuts the hell up. Recommend this one to your worst enemy.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pod of Horror # 58

The new edition of Pod of Horror is now online. You won't want to miss this one, since author Robert R. McCammon, who does few interviews, is the guest. Scott Sigler is also featured, and there's the usual craziness from Mark Justice, Nanci Kalanta, and Jason L. Keene. There's also a very good story by Matt Cowan, read by Mr. Justice. The whole thing will assault your ears if you click here:

Friday, January 1, 2010

Getting Back in the Game

Posting has been light of late, what with the holidays and various weirdness in the real life, such that it is, but normal levels will return by next week. Don't look so thrilled. Anyway, during the hiatus, I've read several books, and watched a number of movies, including at least two that feature improbable giant reptiles, so you won't want to miss it.