An Unofficial List of the Most Influential Science Fiction
Mini Reviews, Part 11 (TROLL, BONES AND ALL, ULTRASOUND)
(film reviews by Mark R. Leeper
and Evelyn C. Leeper)
Louis L'Amour (letter of comment by Peter Rubinstein)
This Week's Reading (GODS AND GENERALS) (book and film
comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 11 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
Evelyn C. Leeper)
This is the eleventh batch of mini-reviews, all horror films:
TROLL: TROLL is the latest movie featuring this creature from
Nordic folklore. In true monster movie style, after a strange
monster is found the military is called in to manage the situation
and you can tell you are not going to like them, or their solution.
TROLL borrows a couple of ideas and images from JURASSIC PARK. The protagonist is a paleontologist on a dig when she is summarily
pulled off it to help in a totally different context. And TROLL
uses disturbances in a coffee cup to show the approach of
something very large.
The troll itself is attracted by Christian blood, but there are a
lot fewer Christians in Norway these days. While the film pays a
nod to this, one is reminded of a similar trope in THE WICKER MAN
that was shown more clearly.
And there is beautiful Nordic scenery, starting with the limitless
beauty of the troll peak. (Of course, it may be just CGI, but it's
Released on Netflix streaming 1 December 2022. Rating: +2 (-4 to
+4) or 7/10
BONES AND ALL: In BONES AND ALL, Maren is an Eater (their term for
"cannibal") (not a spoiler; we find find this out in the first ten
minutes). She meets Sully, another Eater who has a code not unlike
that of Francis in BLOOD RELATIVES as the vampire. In fact, this
whole movie seems like another version of BLOOD RELATIVES, with a
young person on a road trip trying to terms with their
cannibalism/vampirism. For what it's worth, this has more graphic
gore than BLOOD RELATIVES.
Released theatrically 18 November 2022. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4)
ULTRASOUND: ULTRASOUND has a disorienting first scene, and
continues to be disorienting. It becomes clear that we really
don't understand what we're seeing, but we hope it will all make
sense once we know what's going on. Every line of the dialogue
seems like it is a message for the viewer. We see a lot of
gadgets but we don't know what they do. And filmmakers have made
horror films about mad psychiatrists since THE CABINET OF DR.
CALIGARI (1919). As a result, some of the ideas are cliches in
other films and will not be unexpected.
Released 11 March 2022. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book and film comments by Evelyn
I just watched GODS AND GENERALS for the tenth time. (I've seen
GETTYSBURG at least sixteen times--my logs go back to only 2000.)
And I have mixed feeling about it. As a war film focusing only on
the war, it gets high marks from me. But when it turns to the
motives of the various people and governments involved, it is a
Most of the reviews say that there are only two Black speaking
characters. This isn't true--there are at least three, but perhaps
even this error tells us something about their portrayal. (See my
comments on the book at the end.) One is Jim Lewis, who the
dialogue tries to imply is free, but all the existing records
indicate he was enslaved. And Stonewall Jackson is given lines
that make him out to be in favor of ending slavery, yet he hasn't
freed any of his slaves. (He did teach some to read and write in
violation of Virginia law.) Jim Lewis even says that he is
fighting for his home and family just like Jackson, which sounds
like total insanity, on a level with Jewish slave labor in World
War II saying that they are fighting for their homes and families
against the invading Allied troops.
The other Black character reviewers remember is Martha, who is
enslaved by Jane Beale (whom I suspect is a fictional character).
Martha seems to love her enslavers, and even insists on staying in
their Fredericksburg house and pretending it is hers to protect it
from Union troops. She says it is to make sure she and her
children have some food left, but it's clear she has affection for
the Beales. The writers did give her a speech where she says that
she was born a slave but wants to die free and wants her children
to be free. That's as close to a condemnation of slavery we get
The third character is a younger man--he seems more like a
teenager--who is working as a cook with Jim Lewis. He is free,
because his master gave him his freedom papers when the war
started. He is now being paid for his work, and one can argue that
his respect for his former master has at least some basis.
But what we don't see or hear are any Black characters railing
against slavery, plotting to escape, or ever saying anything
negative about their enslavers. All three Black characters seem to
have had remarkable benign masters--they are well-dressed,
well-fed, apparently not whipped or beaten, and in general treated
perhaps even better than Victorian-era servants in England.
And all the while, the white Southerners talk about how they are
fighting for freedom, and now wanting Northerners to interfere with
their way of life. That they are doing far more than interfering
with the lives of those they keep enslaved does not apparently
occur to them.
So after all this, I found myself wondering how much of this was in
the book, and if the fact that Jeff Shaara (hereafter referred to
as "Jeff" to avoid confusion) wrote GODS AND GENERALS while his
father Michael Shaara had written THE KILLER ANGELS, the book upon
which the film GETTYSBURG was based. The chronology is that the
book THE KILLER ANGELS came first, then the film GETTYSBURG, then
the book GODS AND GENERALS, and finally the film GODS AND GENERALS.
On reading the book (Ballantine, ISBN 978-0-345-42247-7, I
discovered that Jeff has stuck pretty much entirely to the generals
(and the ranking officers, and their families) and has not
concerned itself with civilians, slaves, or free Negroes. The one conversation with a black man is when Nate, one of Lee's former
slaves whom Lee had freed, asks to buy his brother's freedom. Lee
says that he has told all his slaves that they can have their
freedom and leave any time they want, so Nate doesn't have to buy
his brother's freedom, and Lee writes out the freedom papers right
then. This is totally wrong--Lee inherited most of his slaves from
his father-in-law, who required that Lee free them within five
years. Lee fought to extend this time, and whipped those who
attempted to escape, so Jeff's portrayal of his emancipationist
ideals is completely made up.
(Actually, quite a few reviewers have criticized the
mis-characterizations and generally poor historical accuracy of the
Jeff also described an old black woman in the Lee household as a
"servant", but given that in real life the reason Lee gave for not
freeing his slaves was that he couldn't afford to pay them wages,
this seems like Jeff is trying to soften the truth.
What Jeff did write about were the scenes only referenced in
GETTYSBURG, for example, the going-away dinner with Armistead and
Hancock in California before they left to join opposing armies.
But the movie starts well after that point (since it was already
covered) and so omits the "Nate and Lee" episode. The movie also
focuses more on Stonewall Jackson than the book did (probably why
the Jim Lewis sequences were added).
So where does this leave us? The book dodges the slavery issue
almost entirely, and what little it does say is a cover-up. And
many people also say the characterizations in general of the
generals is not accurate. The movie adds some Black characters,
but only to re-inforce the bias of the book, and it also focuses on
Stonewall Jackson to the extent of making him into some sort of
saint. On the whole, the movie is best watched as taking place in
some alternate universe. [-ecl]