Mini Reviews, Part 4 (WEREWOLVES WITHIN, THE FEAST,
CRYPTOZOO) (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
Evelyn C. Leeper)
Tetley Tea (letters of comment by Paul Dormer, Jeff Urs,
Kevin R, and Tim Merrigan)
This Week's Reading (DESIGNER GENES) (book comments
by Evelyn C. Leeper)
TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 4 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
Evelyn C. Leeper)
Here is the fourth batch of mini-reviews, more science fiction and
WEREWOLVES WITHIN: This is apparently based on a video game in
which werewolves attack a small town. The town, Beaverfield, is
full of quirky people, and the film is basically a satire of a
werewolf film. It has some deft comedy but eventually runs out of
steam in its major strengths, and while the main female character
does have some comedic scenes, her talent is used up by the end.
At times, the songs are the best feature.
Released on various streaming services 07/02/21. Rating: high +1
(-4 to +4), or 6/10.
THE FEAST (GWLEDD): This could be described as "a game of knives
and poisons." We take an instant dislike to the hostess of the
dinner party when she infantalizes Cadi (who is helping to prepare
a feast for the family) by adjusting Cadi's clothing for her. And
the more we see the other family members and (most of) the guests,
the more we dislike them. The house is decorated with modern art
paintings, and its whole focus is on the modern; the hostess says
that she saved a lot of old family items, but they just don't fit
into this house they built. Cadi herself is disturbing. Her hair
is straggly, and at one point, the tablecloth is dirty, but Cadi's
hands are shown to be clean. Then later when she runs them along a
wall, dirt appears on the wall. The pacing is very slow and scenes
seem to drag on interminably, but we get hints throughout of unease
and danger--various people injure themselves, and there is talk of
a local legend that may be dangerous. One by one the guests (and
family) succumb to what is killing them.
Warning: There are graphic butchering scenes in this film.
Released theatrically and on AppleTV 11/19/21. Rating: +1 (-4 to
+4) or 6/10.
CRYPTOZOO: CRYPTOZOO is animated, but it is definitely not a
children's film. The animation is of a style reminiscent of that
used in FANTASTIC PLANET, although the visuals are sometimes
incoherent. The film's premise is that the world is full of
magical creatures which stay hidden, some inspired by Russian
folklore, some by Greek, some by Japanese, and so on. [The
"pliny", by the way, is from the Blemmyae in Pliny the Elder's
"Natural History".] The main character is an Army brat in Okinawa
visited by a dream-eating baku. The United States military wants
to use the baku to remove the dreams of the counter-culture, and
has set up a whole prison for them and other creatures is hidden
behind a fence. Opposing them is someone who wants to set up a
sanctuary for the creatures, but it needs to be "tourist-friendly"
to pay for itself. The setting ends up looking like a Disneyworld
for cryptids and non-cryptids. The viewer is given instructions.
For example, we should remember that it is not only the attractive
creatures that are intelligent, "the Bambis can't defend themselves
but wolves ... wolves know the deal", and "utopias never work out."
Released theatrically 08/20/21; available on various streaming
services. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4), or 6/10.
TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
I am generally not a fan of ebooks, but they have their advantages.
I can annotate them without feeling like I am *writing in a book*.
I can boost the font size for my ageing eyes. They are a lot
easier to carry with me, especially on a long trip. And they are
more easily available from libraries than traditional inter-library
loans. The latter is why I was finally able to read DESIGNER
GENES: TALES OF THE BIOTECH REVOLUTION by Brian Stableford (Borgo Press/Wildside Press, ISBN 978-1-4794-0001-0), which has been on my
want list since it was first published in 2004. Initially in a
small press (and relatively expensive) edition, it came out about
ten years later in a cheaper edition that I missed, and by that
point I was trying to avoid buying more books anyway.
Anyway, I was pleased to finally get a chance to read these stories
from one of the leading authors of biology- an biotech-based
science fiction, including the "Emortality" and "Genesys" series.
And I wasn't disappointed.
The stories cover a wide range within biotech. "What Can Chloe
Want?" is about organ transplants. "The Invisible Worm" looks at
what happens when we reply on technology that has not been
adequately vetted. "The Age of Innocence" covers some of the same
territory as the "Emortality" series and a lot of other stories
about extended lifetimes or even immortality. "Snowball in Hell"
gets at the very question of what it means to be human. "The Last
Supper" is about a restaurant that goes even further than GM
(genetically modified) foods. (I get the impression that GM foods
are a bigger issue in Britain than in the United States.) "The
Facts of Life" has a child playing with the biological equivalent
of Legos, but the notion of such a thing does not seem well thought
out. "Hot Blood", about a pig farmer, is a bit more humorous than
most of the stories. For some reason, I just couldn't connect to
"The House of Mourning", and didn't finish it. "Another Branch of
the Family Tree" has some valuable perceptions about twins, but the
underlying premise was similar to that of a bad film (THE
MUTATIONS) that happened to be running on cable, which somewhat
made the story seem less likely. "The Milk of Human Kindness"
reminded me of Greg Egan's "Reasons to Be Cheerful" with its idea
of using chemicals to direct one's emotional states, although
Egan's characters act on their own and can change their decisions,
while Stableford's have their decisions made for them by their
parents, and the results are permanent. "The Pipes of Pan" is a
sort of flip side to "The Age of Innocence", looking at life-
extending techniques applied to the young rather than to the old.
All in all, highly recommended. [-ecl]