Tag Archives: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Good Bits: February 2017

February was full of fun, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. March is here now and has a lot to offer, mostly in terms of film, but also in terms of a certain type of media I haven’t mentioned on here yet: video games. I love gaming, but I’m not normally playing any games considered current. But, now that I’m newly equipped with an Xbox One, that’s beginning to change, so I’ll be adding a Currently Gaming category. On that note, if you ever have free time you want to kill, why not watch myself and my fiancée play Diablo III together? Head over to The Co-op Couple on Youtube and get watchin’!

Iron Reagan, Crossover Ministry (Relapse)

iron-reagan

I’m not sure why, but in the past I haven’t been as interested in albums with twenty plus songs ranging from thirty seconds to three minutes. This is the case on many thrash/hardcore/crossover thrash albums, and the only reason I can think for avoiding them is that I lean more towards progressive albums with nine or ten songs ranging anywhere from six to fourteen minutes. I also get more bored by thrash than I used to; there aren’t many newer bands in the subgenre to catch my attion. But I have enjoyed Municipal Waste in the past, and I’ve seen both them and their offshoot Iron Reagan live before and thought they put on a hell of a show. I can’t remember ever just sitting down with an Iron Reagan album before, but there hasn’t been much to catch my attention this month. And I mean really catch my attention. I threw Crossover Ministry on in my car just because it was new and two minutes later I was pumped. It’s a short album that can be finished under half and hour, but I had a lot of fun listening to it, so much so that I put it on again the next day.

 

Arrival

arrival

Arrival is a perfect example of a sci-fi film that doesn’t feel the need to resort to action in order to be great. Don’t get me wrong, I love my action sci-fi movies, but why do movies involving Earth and aliens always have to be a horror show or an explosive set piece? Why do we assume that the first thing aliens want to do is destroy Earth? Arrival bucks this trend with aliens showing up in multiple ships around the globe and then just kind of loitering. So it’s up to Amy Adams, a linguist professor, and Jeremy Renner, a theoretical physicist, to figure out who the aliens are and why they’re on Earth. What follows is a perfectly paced sci-fi drama that leads to much discussion and debate.

It’s hard to talk about this movie without getting into spoiler territory, and I really think this is the kind of film where you should go in blind to get the full impact of the story. Suffice it to say that the film manages to sidestep any M. Night Shyamalan nonsense when it comes to the central twist. It makes sense within the plot as well as thematically and there are hints dropped here and there that, if you’re really thinking and paying attention, you can figure it out just before the reveal. That, in my opinion, is the best kind of twist, one that leaves you actual breadcrumbs and ties into the whole rest of the story rather than being a simple pulling back of the curtain.

Director Denis Villeneuve’s next film is Blade Runner 2049 and he’s also slated to direct a new adaptation of Dune. If you are excited for either of those films, watching Arrival will give you hope as Villeneuve demonstrates his virtuosic ability. And if you don’t care about those movies, Arrival is still worth your time, so much so that I would go back to my top five of 2016 and put this in.

 

Get Out

get_out

I have been pitching this movie to the uninitiated as Rosemary’s Baby meets Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. If that’s a combination that piques your interest, I assure you it’s worth your time. The movie is about a black man, Chris (Kaluuya), who goes to visit his white girlfriend’s family. They’re a little strange, but not as strange as the few other black people Chris meets. What follows is an expertly crafted comedy horror film that provides not only a subversive take on black protagonists, but highly relevant social commentary that we kind of need.

Don’t let the label of comedy horror fool you; this film is thick with tension and you never really feel at ease, which is my favorite kind of approach to horror. Sure, there’s one or two minor jump scares, but the atmosphere is the star of the show here. Every now and again the tension is broken to deliver much needed laughs, usually from Chris’ best friend played by Lil Rey Howery, whose character is meant to channel your typical horror audience (“I told you not to go in that door!”) to hilarious results. It’s a great dichotomy, and allows the tense atmosphere to stay potent without being overwhelming and the comedy never feels overdone.  I’d rather not spoil the film (surprise surprise) but suffice it to say that it’s a solid horror film in its own right and it’s relevancy when it comes to race issues both in Hollywood and the world as a whole make it a horror film you can actually learn something from.

 

Books:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep

I’m going to flat out say that Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep? may be one of my new favorite books, and not just in the sci-fi genre. I may be late to the party, but I just can’t get over how a book that’s nearly fifty years old can be so refreshing to read. I read it before watching Blade Runner, the cult classic film that I had so long neglected. Now, both are different mediums and both excel in different areas, but if we’re going by overall level of enjoyment, I’d have to give the nod to Dick’s original vision. The writing is snappy and well-paced, never getting boring or diving into too much backstory. If you’re a fan of Blade Runner, I’d highly recommend picking this up to see where it all started. Meanwhile, I’m going to give the film another run sometime before Blade Runner 2049 comes out this fall.

 

Currently Reading

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

dune-messiah

Dune was yet another 60’s sci-fi classic I’d yet to read until last year, and I loved it. So I picked up the next book right away, but I’ve sat on it for a while because of my extensive reading list. Now I’m about halfway through, and so far it’s a welcome return to Arrakis.

 

Currently Gaming:

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (Xbox 360)

As I said above, Lizzy and I have been playing co-op in D3 for a while now and we’ve been recording our progress. We only just started posting the videos, but in real life we’re at Act V!

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (Xbox One)

Dishonored 2 (Xbox One)

 

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The Good Bits: January 2017

Music:

TWRP, Ladyworld (Self-Released)

twrp

My favorite album of January is a departure from what you might normally see in my music listings. Tupper Ware Remix Party (or TWRP) was brought to my attention last year when Ninja Sex Party released their covers album. TWRP was the backing band for most of the album, expertly recreating some of the most well known songs of the 80’s. With the release of their new album Ladyworld, I took it upon myself to finally check out the band’s own work and was met with a catchy delight full of positive vibes. TWRP is firmly grounded in the 80’s aesthetic, touching on elements of rock, synthwave, and funk, while focusing on a message we can all get behind: loving your lady. This is most apparent on tracks such as “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Her” and, my personal favorite, “Body Image”, featuring a chorus both catchy and inspiring in its message. The album also features Arin Hanson (Game Grumps, Starbomb) and Ninja Sex Party, returning the guest appearance favor for TWRP on the final track “Built 4 Love.” The album is on the short side, clocking in at under thirty minutes, but I think that feels just right for a band like TWRP; it’s an upbeat listen to punch-up your day, giving you that little feel good boost we all so often need.

 

Galactic Empire, Galactic Empire (Rise)

galactic-empire

You know me, I love my Star Wars, my metal, and metal versions of non-metal songs. So having a whole album comprised of the most iconic pieces of John Williams’ legendary score turned to metal is nothing but good news. The group has put out a few videos that have made the rounds on social media and now they’ve put out a full LP. It’s a pretty straightforward album; we go from “Main Theme” to the expected “Imperial March”, then touch on a few pieces from the prequels such as “Duel of the Fates” (which uses actual vocals) and “Across The Stars” before capping it off with “Throne Room/End Title.” All of the arrangements are impeccable with excellent guitar tone and feature close attention to all the little nuances from Williams’ score. Any Star Wars fan, metalhead or no, will enjoy this tribute to one of the greatest film soundtracks ever.

 

Film:

Prometheus, (Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender)
Director: Ridley Scott
Released: June 8th 2012

prometheus2

I didn’t really see any new movies released this month, but I did watch Prometheus in preparation for May’s Alien: Covenant. The Alien series is one I’m catching up on, having neglected it for a number of years. Now I’ve finally watched the prequel to the series that I’ve heard much about, opinions always mixed. My personal experience with the film turned out to be very enjoyable one, exceeding my expectations thanks to its spectacular visuals, atmosphere, and theme.

My view of the movie was prefaced with the general opinion that the film, while gorgeous, has a “meh” plot, and I can see where that opinion comes from. There’s some horror movie cliches you can pick out early on, especially if you’re familiar with the other films, and the movie raises more questions than it actually answers. But I forgive the film’s plot because it caters more to theme than revelation. The parallels between the Greek myth of Prometheus and the Prometheus crew are woven into the narrative and share the same message: if you try to get on the same level as Gods, you’re going to be in for a hurtin’. Sure, we all came here for the Xenomorph, but I appreciate where Prometheus stands as far as its own story and theme.

 

Godzilla (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston)
Director: Gareth Edwards
Released: May 16th, 2014

godzilla_2014_poster

Here’s one that’s been on my list since the first trailer but that got away from me. I finally got to watch Godzilla in anticipation of this year’s Kong: Skull Island, which is set in a shared universe with the former film. I’m not necessarily a long time Godzilla fan, meaning I’ve only seen one or two of the classic films and not much else. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand how awesome Godzilla is, or at least can be in the right hands. Like Prometheus, I heard a lot of mixed reception about this film, usually amounting to, “The thirty minutes of Godzilla are great but the rest is boring.” Upon viewing, I do agree that the comparatively small amount of time spent with Godzilla is FUCKING AWESOME, but I would argue that it’s only so awesome because of all the time that isn’t spent on him.

Now, I understand why the majority of the plot spent with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, a Lieutenant in the US Navy, and Ken Watanabe, basically a kaiju expert, might be considered boring, the main reason being that neither of them are an enormous destructive monster. But I would argue that spending time with the characters is what helps create the overwhelming sense of awe that is meant to surround Godzilla. Sure, we could have had a film that was ninety percent Godzilla smashing things, but there’s always been more to Godzilla than that. The original movie essentially portrayed Godzilla like an atom bomb, an unstoppable, destructive force all the more powerful because of that sense of shock and awe. Now think about how many explosions and city destroying monster movies we’ve gotten in recent years that are soulless, mindless action (Pacific Rim being a notable except because that movie rules). The decision to focus more on the human characters and their perceptive builds anticipation to a boiling point, and when we finally see Godzilla in all his glory and hear his roar, you get serious chills. Because Godzilla isn’t here to entertain you; you’re here to witness him.

 

Books:

Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole

talion-revenant

Standalone fantasy novels are a rare breed not because there aren’t many of them but because they don’t seem to get as much attention. It’s understandable as the landmark fantasy novels are typically epic in scale and scope, spanning across anywhere from three to five to eight books. But there’s a lot to love from single entries, the most notable being that you don’t have to prepare yourself for the plunge into multiple books and you get a complete story arc all in one go. So I went looking for one, preferably something I’d never heard of before, and came up with Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole, best known for penning several Star Wars books from the old Expanded Universe. The result is an enjoyable fantasy novel that, for the modern reader, doesn’t turn genre conventions on its head, but does tell a satisfying tale of heroic fantasy.

The story tells of a man named Nolan, a Talion Justice, a highly skilled and feared warrior who, as his title implies, travels about the Shattered Empire righting wrongs and delivering retribution. They are known for their ability to suck out the souls of wrongdoers as a method of execution, which is why they are so feared. The chapters alternate between Nolan in the present, fully grown and trained, and Nolan as a boy, fleeing from his country after his family was slaughtered by a neighboring country. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this style of storytelling at first; being constantly pulled back and forth through past and present can make it hard to maintain momentum in the story, but it eventually won me over as the chapters usually parallel each others subject matter. It’s also told in a first person perspective, which I also questioned at first, but I understood it was more fitting for the story.

The big hook of the story, displayed right on the front and back cover, is that Nolan is assigned a mission where he must pose as a noble in order to protect a king from a seemingly unkillable creature. The catch? This is the very same king of the country that killed Nolan’s family. It sets the story up for a tense duty vs. vengeance dilemma, but, slight spoiler alert, that doesn’t end up being the focal point. It certainly motivates Nolan and helps define his sense of justice, but the issue itself is kind of resolved in a few paragraphs. I can see what the intent was here i.e. spend your whole life plotting revenge then questioning yourself, but I did feel slightly mislead.

The good news? The overall plot of the book is still enjoyable. Young Nolan’s training to become a Justice makes for some interesting world building and character background that contrasts well with adult Nolan’s more action oriented scenes. There’s one or two twists as well that help to elevate the exciting finale which, despite this being a standalone book, leaves some room for a sequel. If you’re one for more traditional fantasy and/or don’t particularly feel like committing to a longer series, Talion: Revenant will deliver a well executed story with plenty of action and adventure to keep you invested.

 

Currently Reading:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep

Confession: I have never seen Blade Runner. I’ve meant to for a long time, and with the sequel coming this year I’ve all the more reason to finally watch it. But I figured, while I have the time, I should read the book that the film is loosely based on. I’ve also never read Philip K. Dick before. It’s a short book and I’m nearly done, so expect a full review next month.

 

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