Fire in the Sky
Greetings, Fire in the Sky is a 1993 science fiction film that was directed by Robert Lieberman and focuses on the story of Travis Walton’s supposed alien abduction in 1975. The movie stars Robert Patrick as Mike Rogers who is perhaps best known as the seemingly indestructible T-1000 in the Terminator series or as his role as John Doggett in the later X-Files episodes. Other actors who appear in this movie include D.B. Sweeney as the abductee Travis Walton and James Garner as Lieutenant Frank Watters but most other cast members seem to be relatively unknown. The music was conducted by Mark Isham who has been involved in many films during the past decades including Point Break from 1991, Breakfast of Champions in 1999 and the Conjuring in 2013 to name just a few.
The plot begins on the night of the 5th November 1975 in Snowflake, Arizona as a truck is driven recklessly through the quite town and stops suddenly at a local bar. Five men, most of them visibly shaken from an unexplained ordeal, enter the drinking den and take a seat. Mike Rogers, the leader of the loggers, tells his men to keep their stories straight before he rings the police department to inform them of a missing person. Their report draws the attention of Lieutenant Frank Watters, a seasoned detective who is renowned for solving all of his cases, who listens to the men’s tale with interest. The men all agree on the details of what had happened and corroborate everyone else’s account. According to the men, they had just finished their day logging the Arizonian forests as normal and night began to fall as they were on their way home. Travis Walton, one members of the logging crew and a good friend of Mike’s, noticed a red glow in the forest and at first thought it was a forest fire. Mike stops the truck so the loggers can get a better look of the strange light.
Walton’s curiosity got the better of him and he gets out of the truck despite the pleas and warnings from his fellow loggers. Travis was physically knocked to the ground by the light source and was rendered unconscious. The men began to panic. Mike reluctantly gives in to the pressure and cries to flee from the terrifying sight. He left a defenceless Travis to the mercy of the paranormal entity but the guilt eventually trumps his own fear and Mike drops his men off at a safe location before returning to the startling scene in his truck. Travis and the light were gone without a trace. Watters is understandably sceptical of their claims that Travis was abducted by extra-terrestrials and sets out to uncover the truth. As the days and nights begin to pass, the local residents begin to suspect that the loggers have murdered Travis and the men become ostracized from the society that they once belonged to. Roger’s married life begins to fragment and fracture under the unwanted attention from suspicious neighbours, curious ufologists and the international press coverage the event has brought to their doorstep. A frustrated Mike and the rest of his crew set out to clear their name.
I liked this film but I also realize that due to its subject matter and slow pacing, it wouldn’t have universal appeal. To my surprise, there was very little science-fiction elements within this story compared to what I was initially expecting as it is mainly a drama. The story mostly focuses on the fallout from Walton’s disappearance and the isolation that Mike felt as the society that he lived his life in turned its back upon him. The film took a considerably different approach in how Travis detailed his experiences with the extra-terrestrials. It depicts the aliens as more sinister during a probing scene because the scriptwriter, Tracy Torme, found Walton’s account of flying the ship himself to be too boring. Travis’ story is widely credited to be a hoax and was most likely inspired by ‘The UFO Incident’ staring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons which dramatized the abduction of Barney and Betty Hill on 19th September 1961. The production was aired two weeks before Walton’s disappearance.
Quote of the Day
Why Cheesoid exist? Cheesoid so Ionely.
That Mitchell and Webb Look
House of Cards Trilogy
Greetings, the House of Cards trilogy is a series of political thriller novels written by Lord Michael Dobbs, an author and British Conservative politician. The books, which began with ‘House of Cards’ in 1989, continued with ‘To Play the King’ in 1992 and ‘concluded with ‘The Final Cut’ in 1994, went on to be adapted for television by the BBC during the 1990s. The protagonist of the novels, a Machiavellian Tory by the name of Francis Urquhart was played by Shakespearian stage actor Ian Richardson in that version of the story. Richardson was mainly known for his theatrical performances but had appeared on other filmic works such as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The novels entered mainstream popular culture once again when Netflix created an American version for its platform featuring the now ostracised Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a high profile member of the Democratic Party.
The plot of the first novel begins shortly after the resignation of Margaret Thatcher in which Henry Collingridge is elected to the leader of the Conservative Party and, by extension, to the office of Prime Minister. Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip for the Tories, expects a high position in Henry’s cabinet after the party performs well in a General Election but soon discovers that the Prime Minister has no intention of reshuffling his ministers despite Urquhart’s wishes. Collingridge explains that such a drastic reshuffling could prove disastrous to him, likening it to the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in 1962 that brought about Harold Macmillan’s downfall. Francis is displeased with the answer and plots the political demise of the party leader through the use of blackmail or extortion of ministers and leaking information to a young reporter named Mattie Storin with whom Urquhart develops a sexual relationship. The aspiring Chief Whip even resorts to murder as part of his scheme to get himself to the top of the Conservative Party. Francis’ attempts to overthrow Collingridge are eventually successful and he gets himself elected to the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
His premiership faces rivalry with an unexpected source during the events of the second novel, the king. Despite initial warmness and goodwill the two men fail to agree on social matters as the monarch, being an empathetic character, believes the PM’s policies will ultimately hurt his subjects. Urquhart holds that the king’s beliefs will do damage to his own career and seeks to silence the ruling monarch, noting that the Crown is mixing in with politics when it should be remaining a distant figure. By the beginning of the third book, Urquhart has vanquished many of his political foes and is about to eclipse Margaret Thatcher’s record by becoming the longest serving Prime Minister Albion has ever had. Francis hopes to cement his legacy on overseeing the peace negotiations between the Cypriots and the Turks, bringing an end to their conflict over Cyprus but recently discovered sources of oil throw all carefully laid plans into jeopardy. Urquhart’s own dark past, forged during the EOKA’s guerrilla war against British colonial administration of the island, threatens to finally bring an end to Francis’ leadership.
I really enjoyed this series of books and believe that Francis Urquhart is a very interesting character, even regarding his real world conception as a result of an unpleasant meeting between Dobbs and Thatcher in which Michael decided to create the villain around the initials ‘FU’. Francis was nicely fleshed out along the series, most notably in ‘The Final Cut’ which briefly alludes to his days as a soldier in the British army during the Cypriot struggle for independence. To my understanding, the original version of the first novel was extensively rewritten to ensure the books retained continuity as the first ‘House of Cards’ had ended very differently from the modern, accepted cannon. The newer version made Francis more immoral, introduced a deeper relationship between him and Mattie Storin as well as expanded upon his wife Mortima as another political schemer when she had initially been a secondary character. I might look into the other books Michael Dobbs has written in the future but it is safe to say that they don’t have the same cultural influence as his ‘House of Cards’ trilogy.
Quote of the Day
Bazinga, punk! Now we're even!
The Big Bang Theory
Greetings, Avengers: Endgame is the much anticipated sequel to 2018’s Infinity War and is the conclusion of ten years of interconnected cinematic storytelling which began with 2008’s Iron Man. It is the 22nd instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and acts as a lynchpin to all the movies that came prior by bringing all of its protagonists together. Like Infinity War, Endgame has an ensemble cast of recognizable actors and actresses who reprise their super powered roles such as Chris Evans as Captain America, Robert Downey Junior as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Bradley Cooper as Rocket Racoon and Josh Brolin as the villainous Thanos to name just a few. Alan Silvestri, who had worked on previous Avengers titles including the original 2012 movie, returned to conduct the music for this latest addition to the series.
The plot begins straight after Infinity War’s bleak conclusion. Thanos, equipped with the devastating powers of the Infinity Gauntlet, used his new found abilities to eradicate half of universe’s population with a snap of his fingers. Many Avengers had been culled during the snap alongside large swathes of the human race. This victims of this wide scale disintegration includes the entire family of Hawkeye, a prominent member of the Avengers, which leads him astray from his superhero colleagues and down a dark path of slaughtering criminals on a global scale as a hardened vigilante. The plot then moves forth twenty-three days later. Iron Man and Nebula, who are the last remnants of a task force that tried to take down Thanos in outer space, are now adrift on a spaceship that is running desperately low on oxygen. A dejected Iron Man laments his apparent oncoming demise and admits that he was hoping to pull off one last miracle in the face of his personal failure to stop Thanos. When the situation appears to be at its lowest point, the two survivors are rescued by a new comer to the MCU, one Captain Marvel, who takes the fuel depleted ship to Avenger’s headquarters on earth.
The remaining Avengers are overjoyed to see that Iron Man had survived once they are reunited by Captain Marvel. They had feared that he had been wiped out like the rest of their friends during the cataclysmic snap but notice that he has since become physically frail from wasting away in outer space. It isn’t long before the Avengers track down the genocidal Thanos on an uninhabited planet by discovering a large energy reading on a similar scale of the energy used in the snap. The Avengers hope to wield the Infinity Gauntlet to reverse the mass damage caused by the antagonist nearly a month ago. Upon arrival they discover that Thanos is badly scarred and weakened as he had destroyed the Infinity Gauntlet to prevent further use, foiling their plans before they could even locate him. An enraged Thor, knowing that he had been bested by the mad titan, strikes off Thanos’ head in act of furious vengeance. Five years pass in which the world struggles to cope with the fallout of the snap. Some members of the Avenger team have since left the initiative to live their new lives but a potential method for reversing the chaos comes from an unlikely source, bringing a new possibility that things can be changed. Ant-Man, following on from the events of his own sequel film, accidently escapes from the quantum zone in which he was trapped for five years prior to the snap and his return brings hope of setting things right.
I really enjoyed this film and consider it to be one of the best releases that will come out of 2019. I am also very much aware that the superhero craze that has dominated the cinematic world over the last decade is not everyone’s cup of tea. I would argue that Endgame is not an accessible watch as a standalone film and that casual cinemagoers couldn’t appreciate it if they hadn’t sat through the rest of the MCU. It is a three hour movie that serves as an epic conclusion for many overarching character arcs established years earlier and it contains many references to the source material as well as previous films in the series as important plot points in its main storyline. I believe that the large cast of actresses and actors did a terrific job as per usual in bringing their characters to life. A few of the original Avengers cast have gracefully but unsurprisingly bowed out of the franchise at this point, having helmed it for several years. I look forward to seeing what Marvel will do next as they change around the cast due to the consequences of Endgame and which new actors or actresses will join the series in the future.
Quote of the Day
Chewie, I'll be waiting for your signal. Take care you two and may the Force be with you.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Secret of Monkey Island: 2009 Special Edition
Greetings, to coincide with Telltale’s ‘Tales of Monkey Island’, the much loved original from 1990 was remastered in 2009 for a new generation of gamers. It is a point-and-click adventure game which contains plenty of rather bizarre puzzles with whimsical solutions that the player has to figure out. Many of the main cast from previous instalments returned to provide their vocal talents to this remake including Dominic Armato who voiced the swashbuckling protagonist, Guybrush Threepwood. The music was composed by the original conductor as well, Michael Land, who most notably worked for LucasArts in titles such as Indiana Jones and the fate of Atlantis, Grim Fandango and Sam and Max: Hit the Road.
The plot begins when a young adventurer named Guybrush Threepwood arrives on Melee Island in his quest to become a well renowned pirate. He seeks out the most experienced and reputable pirate captains on the island who instruct him that Threepwood needs to conquer three trails if he is to become a legendary pirate. Guybrush sets out to complete the various challenges that were set for him, including defeating the mysterious sword master in arm to arm combat, locating lost treasure and stealing a valuable idol from the governor’s mansion. During his travels Guybrush learns of a fearsome ghost pirate, LeChuck, who was enamoured with the local governor of the island, one Elaine Marley, before his death.
Threepwood encounters the governor while attempting to steal from the mansion and is quickly smitten with Elaine. When Guybrush completes all of his quests, LeChuck and his crew of undead pirates invade Melee Island and take off with Elaine to Monkey Island. Guybrush attempts to recruit a team to set sail towards Monkey Island, fight LeChuck and his spectral legion and rescue Marley. The call to arms isn’t well received as the hardiest of pirates are too frightened of the notorious ghost captain to lend a hand. Despite the setback, Threepwood manages to recruit three people to sail with him on the dangerous voyage. Carla the expert sword master, a brutish man named Meathook and a prisoner called Otis who was broken out of jail by the hero all agree to come to Elaine’s aid.
I really enjoyed this special edition. Its humour felt unique and it was interesting to play through the videogame, albeit remastered, that introduced these iconic characters to the world. The remake made some obvious changes from the original, including improving the graphics and having more detailed artwork but it also added voiceovers that the 1990 version didn’t have. To my knowledge voice actors weren’t used until the third title in the series, 1997’s ‘The Curse of Monkey Island” and 2000’s ‘Escape from Monkey Island.” I look forward to experiencing the other games in this series as I move on to playing Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge: Special Edition in the near future.
Quote of the Day
The supernatural, the power of darkness — it's all true. The undead surround me. Have you ever talked to a corpse? It's boring! I'm lonely! Take your life, David. Kill yourself... before you kill others. Please don't cry. Beware the moon, David.
An American Werewolf in London
Streets of Laredo
Greetings, Streets of Laredo is a 1993 novel by Larry McMurtry and is the final instalment in the famous Lonesome Dove series. The other books have all been reviewed on my blog some years ago and consist of Dead Man’s Walk, Comanche Moon and the original Lonesome Dove from which the series derives its name. It was also adapted into a miniseries staring James Garner as the protagonist Woodrow Call as well as having Sissy Spacek, George Carlin, Ned Beatty and Randy Quaid among its cast members. Fictionalized versions of historical figures appear in the Streets of Laredo book such as cattle rancher Charles Goodnight, criminal gunfighter John Wesley Hardin or saloon-keeper Judge Roy Bean but they have little real effect on the overarching plot.
The novel is set during the 1890s, a number of years after Lonesome Dove concluded, and an aged Woodrow is now something of a hangover from a different era as the expansion of the railroad tamed what was once the Wild West. The plot begins with Ned Brookshire, an accountant from New York, who has been sent to meet the ex-Texas Ranger Captain Call in the Lone Star State because the veteran is still renowned for his man hunting abilities. Brookshire had been sent by his boss, one Colonel Terry, to hire Woodrow to catch a particularly prolific train robber. Terry is an entrepreneur in the railroad business and the train robber in question is a young Mexican named Joey Garza. Garza has cost Colonel Terry a lot of trade by holding up his trains and so the train tycoon sought to hire the best gunslinger in all of Texas to put an end to his troubles. Joey is equipped with an early design of a sniper rifle which he uses effectively during his crime spree. The advanced weapon poses a significant threat to Woodrow who would be hunting Joey down in vast, open plains.
Call agrees to the deal and is initially annoyed to find out that the untrained Brookshire would be accompanying him in the manhunt to keep track of all the invoicing it would entail for the train company. Woodrow asks for his long trusted friend from the old days of the Hat Creek Outfit, Pea Eye, to accompany him on the manhunt as they had done many times before with other outlaws. To his surprise Pea Eye turns him down. Pea Eye explains that he is no longer a young man and that he now has a family to look after as well as a farm to run. Call is annoyed at the unexpected answer but relents that Pea Eye’s wife, a school teacher named Lorena, has won her husband over to staying with his family and that Woodrow could not rely on his old friend for assistance anymore. The old ranger sets out with the inexperienced Ned to capture Joey Garza in what would prove to be his last manhunt.
Overall, I liked this novel despite my prior concerns that another primary character called Gus McCrea was absent from this instalment. The partnership between him and Woodrow was the highlight of the series for me and I wasn’t sure if a book about only one of the characters would hold enough appeal. Several characters from the previous books are in Streets of Laredo such as the Native American tracker called Famous Shoes and the pyromaniac villain Mox Mox which helped keep a sense of continuity. This novel did seem to be a bit circular in regards to some of McMurtry’s other plots with the fate of Woodrow Call and August McCrea being very reflective of each other. The storytelling technique for this novel also incorporated several points of view within it as it dedicated chapters to different characters such as Pea Eye’s wife Lorena, the young outlaw Joey Garza or his long suffering mother Maria and their experiences. Now that I have this extensive and enjoyable Western series behind me I do hope to read some of McMurtry’s other works, especially the stories of his that are not of the Western genre for a change.
Quote of the Day
People always mean well! They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, oh, so very delicately! Of course, I've suggested it myself. But I hate to even think about it. She needs me. It-it's not as if she were a... a maniac — a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?
Greetings, I Tonya is a 2017 biographical film with dark humour directed by Craig Gillespie. It follows the story of American figure skater Tonya Harding and her role in the attack of competitor Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. The movie stars Margot Robbie who was involved in the Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad and Mary Queen of Scots among other filmic projects. It also boasts of Sebastian Stan as a cast member who is perhaps best known as Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Other performers include Allison Janney, Caitlin Carver and Paul Walter Hauser. I, Tonya has an interesting soundtrack which contains ‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac, ‘Devil Woman’ by Cliff Richard, ‘Gloria’ by Laura Branigan and ‘The Passenger’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees among others.
The plot begins in Portland, Oregon during the 1970s when a four year old Tonya is trying to impress the ice skating coach Diane Rawlinson enough to get her to train the young Harding. This is all at the behest of her abusive mother LaVona Golden, a straight talking woman, who attempts to negotiate with the coach but Diane rebukes LaVona’s request to train her daughter. This is because Tonya is too young for Rawlinson to properly teach her the art of ice skating. Golden then orders the child to show off her skills in the ice rink which Diane is immediately impressed by. She agrees to coach Harding and her strict training regime pays off as her pupil becomes one of the most prominent skaters in the United States after a few years pass. Ill feelings begin to arise between Tonya and the judges of the sport during that time as her lower class background, homemade outfits and use of modern music for her routines clashes with the traditional notions of elegance associated with ice skating.
Tonya begins dating Jeff Giloolly, eventually marrying him, while still trying to pursue the recognition she believes she deserves due to her unwavering professionalism and commitment to her career. Harding’s relationship with Gilooly also brought the manic Shawn Eckardt, a friend of Jeff’s, into her world. Shawn would play an important role in the attack on Harding’s rival Nancy Kerrigan and ultimately contribute to the downfall of Tonya. While Harding’s marriage to Jeff initially starts out well the relationship ultimately becomes physically abusive but due to the unreliable narrator trope employed by the film it is unclear as to which one was inflicting harm on the other or if both were guilty of it.
I really enjoyed this film even though I wasn’t particularly aware of the circumstances around the assault. I, Tonya puts Harding in a more sympathetic light and didn’t overly vilify her for her suspected role in taking out Nancy for her own career advancement. The plot definitely promoted the idea that she would always struggle against the classism in the sport because she was born into a poor family, a factor which endears Tonya to the audience and makes it easier for them to side with her. The comedic humour worked very well and I thought the characters were very likable in spite of their criminal misdeeds and seedy nature. I particularly thought the interview style format, which shaped the narrative of the story, was a really interesting way to structure the film. In concluding remarks, I, Tonya is a great watch in my opinion and I would encourage you to give it a shot if you have yet to see it.
Quote of the Day
Goddamn foreign TV. I told ya, we should've got a Zenith!