Change to MTPL (NJ) Science Fiction Discussion Group
Mini Reviews, Part 15 (PUSS IN BOOTS--THE LAST WISH,
DON'T WORRY DARLING, THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF
LONGING) (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper
and Evelyn C. Leeper)
Corrections (by Evelyn C. Leeper)
EYES OF THE VOID by Adrian Tchaikovsky (audio book review
by Joe Karpierz)
CRUSADERS: THE EPIC HISTORY OF THE WARS FOR THE HOLY LANDS
by Dan Jones (book review by Gregory Frederick)
This Week's Reading (LONGBOURN) (book comments
by Evelyn C. Leeper)
TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 15 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
Evelyn C. Leeper)
This is the fifteenth batch of mini-reviews, all films of the
PUSS IN BOOTS--THE LAST WISH: PUSS IN BOOTS--THE LAST WISH is the
sequel to PUSS IN BOOTS (the 2011 movie), PUSS IN BOOTS (the 2012
video), and PUSS IN BOOTS (the 2015 film series), and it also
features a quick shot of Shrek in the distance, tying it to those
films as well.
Puss in Boots starts out singing about being a hero, which seems a
little disingenuous--and indeed, that is the point. When he learns
that he is a cat with nine lives who has used up eight of them.
This year it seems like many of the fantasy tales involve a fantasy
universe different from ours, rather than fantasy occurring within
our world. But then this is pretty much always true of animated
films in some sense. (The "Toy Story" films are a major exception.)
Antonio Banderas is always delightful to listen to (so says
Evelyn), but the plot of PUSS IN BOOTS--THE LAST WISH is incoherent
and difficult to keep straight. There is Puss in Boots and his
team, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Big Jack Horner and his
cadre, as well as a magical map, and a secret from Puss in Boots's
past, The messages are laid on a bit heavy but I guess that is to
be expected from a film with children as a large part of its
audience. Somehow, though, in spite of this, it is enjoyable to
Released theatrically 21 December 2022. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4)
DON'T WORRY DARLING: DON'T WORRY DARLING is set in the Victory
Project, a 1950s Utopian community. When we see our protagonist
doing her housework, she is putting as much verve into it as if it
were a high school rock and roll dance. One is reminded of THE
STEPFORD WIVES, and that turns out to be a reasonable association.
(As for the town, it seems like a mixture of the Village of THE
PRISONER, and the homes in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS.) If anything, the
Victory Project has stricter gender boundaries than THE STEPFORD
WIVES, for the men as well as for the women.
The Victory Project, it turns out, is trying to bring order instead
of chaos. The women all attend a ballet class in which the
instructor tells them, "We move as one."
This is both a remake of THE STEPFORD WIVES without sufficient
imagination to set it above other versions of the story, and a
re-imagining of it that relies on a fair number of current tropes
to carry it. In both aspects, it needed to have more ideas.
Towards the end, it falls apart as the protagonist's relationship
with her husband turns into a non-stop shouting match, and we are
treated to ... an uninspired car chase.
(There is a scene where the protagonist wraps her head in plastic
wrap. Don't try this at home kiddies!
Released theatrically 19 September 2022. Rating: high +1 (-4 to
+4) or 7/10
THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING: In THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF
LONGING, the characters believe that to understand life one must
understand stories. In the 1940s through the 1960s there was a
reasonably popular sub-genre of films based on "The Arabian
Nights". The strongest film of this set was THE 7TH VOYAGE OF
SINBAD. This film is a new story for the "Arabian Nights" told as
if it happened in the present, and uses the same structure as the
original "Arabian Nights": stories nested within stories. The
Djinn tells stories of his past, each of which ends with the
cliffhanger of his being trapped in a bottle again.
THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING is every bit the property of
production designer Roger Ford and art directors Nicholas Dare and
Sophie Nash, all of whose strengths cover every scene.
Released theatrically 26 August 2022. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
When I typed John Hertz's letter of comment in for the 02/03/23
issue of the MT VOID, I made a couple of typos.
Where John had written:
The suffix "-man" isn't masculine
I had typed:
The subject "-man" isn't masculine
Where John had written:
there are better uses for our cavalry
I had typed:
there are better uses for our Cavalry
The complete, corrected paragraph should read:
Alas for complicators, "firefighter" (MT VOID 2248,
4 Nov 22) is needless and even illiterate--alas for
Harvard Press (MT VOID 2250, 10 Nov). The suffix
"-man" isn't masculine. It just means "person".
Winston Churchill said, "Errors in the direction of
the enemy are to be lightly judged"; this error,
attacking sexism, is in the right direction, but
there are better uses for our cavalry. [-jh]
TOPIC: EYES OF THE VOID by Adrian Tchaikovsky (copyright 2022,
Orbit, 20 hours and 45 minutes, ASIN: B09VKHSKYN, narrated by
Sophie Aldred) (audio book review by Joe Karpierz)
EYES OF THE VOID, the second book in "The Final Architecture"
series by Adrian Tchaikovsky, picks up not long after the events of
the first novel, THE SHARDS OF EARTH. The Architects, a race of
beings whose sole purpose, it seems, is to change planets into
flower-like constructs while killing off the inhabitants of that
planet in the process, are back. In THE SHARDS OF EARTH, we learn
that the Originators had artifacts that were able to protect
planets from the attacks of the Architects, as long as those
artifacts were on their planet of origin (for lack of a better
term); that is, if the artifacts were moved from the planet of
their discovery, they were no long effective at turning away the
Architects. Now, those artifacts have no effect. Basically, the
Architects are back and everyone is doomed.
Once again Intermediary Idris Telemmier is at the center of the
storm. Ints (as intermediaries are called), are the true pilots of
unspace, that weird construct of space-time that allow ships to
travel great distances in short periods of time. Idris is a hero
of the prior Architect wars, as he was the one being that was able
to cause the Architects to turn and run and not come back for
decades. The Hegemony is in short supply of Ints, and desire to
have Ints that are like Idris to help stave off the Architect
attacks. The problem is that Ints like Idris pay a price for their
abilities and existence. Each Int is different. In Idris' case,
he doesn't sleep. At all. Ever. It's been over 70 years since he
caused the Architects to leave at the original battle, and he
hasn't slept since.
Galactic civilizations are conflicted with regard to how to stop
the Architects this time around. The conflict is at a level where
war may break out between multiple factions--and indeed does near
the end of the novel--which of course is the wrong thing to have
happen when a galactic level threat is breathing down your neck.
And everyone wants Ints, particularly the Parthenon, which is made
of up an all female cloned military. Solace and her Partheni
colleagues recruit Idris to try to create Ints for them. If he
succeeds, they can determine the genetic code for an effective Int
and add it into their breeding program. This, of course, ticks off
everyone else and leads to greater conflict in the galaxy.
Idris wants nothing to do with this. He would like nothing better
than to not be involved, but of course he'd also like the conflict
to be resolved. He realizes his place in the conflict, and so he
must continue on. The reluctant hero is certainly a well worn
trope, but I think it works and has its place here. Idris once
again enters unspace and finds a place that potentially holds the
answer to the conflict and the end of the war once and for all.
While it's the second book of a trilogy, EYES OF THE VOID generally
doesn't feel like it is. Yes, it's setting up for what should be
an exciting finish to the overall story, but there's enough here
going on with regard to the storyline that *isn't* setup, as well
as the continued fleshing out of the characters and races involved
in the story that it doesn't necessarily feel like it's the second
book in a trilogy. It seems as if Tchaikovsky is setting up for
something big, and I'm looking forward to the final book in the
Sophie Aldred continues to impress me as the narrator of this
series. She has to make her voice do all sorts of what seems to be
unnatural things to give life to some of the weirder creatures in
the novel, and she does it well while continuing to keep track of
all the other voices she has to do while at the same time
seamlessly switching between them all. [-jak]
TOPIC: CRUSADERS: THE EPIC HISTORY OF THE WARS FOR THE HOLY LANDS
by Dan Jones (book review by Gregory Frederick)
Christians and Muslims lived as neighbors for a thousand years
plus, and there were times of peace and war during that time. But
after Christian armies of Europe captured Jerusalem in 1099, they
started the most intense period of conflict between the two
religions. Some think the fall of the holy city was either an
inspiring grand legend or the greatest of horrors. The author, Dan
Jones, investigates the wider story around this period of time.
Jones looks to the roots of Christian-Muslim relations beginning in
the eighth century and tracks the effects of that crusading period
to present day. He also extends geographical focus to many regions
and not just the Middle East. Crusades occurred to many assumed
enemies of the Church, including in Spain, North Africa, southern
France, and the Baltic states. The author excels in telling
intimate stories of individual journeys, conflicts, and battles.
not only from the perspective of popes and kings, but from
Arab-Sicilian poets, Byzantine princesses, Sunni scholars, Shiiite
viziers, Mamluk slave soldiers, Mongol chieftains, and barefoot
friars. This book is very well written and exposes the true folly
of many crusader actions. [-gf]
TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
LONGBOURN by Jo Baker (Knopf, ISBN 978-0-385-35123-2) is the
"downstairs" to Jane Austen's "upstairs" in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.
It is of necessity, therefore, a bit of a polemic about class
distinctions in 19th century England. In UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS we
see both sides (and admittedly the downstairs part is cleaned up a
bit. But in LONGBOURN, Baker concentrates entirely on the
servants, and does not whitewash their lives. And she appears to
have really done her research.
For example, she describes emptying the chamber pots, cleaning the
daughters' menstrual rags, scrubbing the clothes until the skin on
the maid's hands cracked, and so on. She describes how the floors
are cleaned by spreading damp (used) tea leaves on them, them
sweeping them up, along with the dust, cobwebs, and other debris
that adheres to them. It is this level of detail that is often
missing, replaced by a simple, "Sarah swept the library floor."
One is reminded of the famous data dumps of Kim Stanley Robinson.
What is done the best (in my opinion) is how Baker shows how little
the upstairs gentry understand how the downstairs works. Yes,
it's often that they don't care: one of the daughter's decides to
discard a silk dress after Sarah spent hours of hard work carefully
cleaning the mud from the hems (because you couldn't just boil
silk). (In GOSFORD PARK, Lady Constance wants to wear the same
blouse the next day, so Mary stays up until 1AM washing and ironing
it, only to have Lady Constance casually decide the next morning
not to wear it after all.)
But they also just don't understand a servant's life. One daughter
gives Sarah a cast-off dress and thinks she has given her a
wonderful present. All Sarah sees are is the time and work
involved in removing all the lace and decoration unsuitable for a
servant, then altering the dress to fit her. And all in what
little free time she has, because her first priority is whatever
the "upstairs" folk want.
Baker also includes social commentary that Austen avoided. Austen
made no comments on the slave trade or the sugar plantations where
many of the gentry made their money, but Baker does not avoid these
(even if her introduction of Ptolomy, a former slave, does seem a
bit forced). Unfortunately, Baker also changes the character of
one of Austen's main characters by creating a back story that,
while probably common in Austen's time, seems totally out of place
in this story.
There is also a long section about military life during the
Napoleonic Wars which is less likely to be of interest to Austen
fans, and unlikely to draw in many Bernard Cornwell fans. Still,
the book as a whole does round out the picture of Austen's time.