The Fisherman–One Month On

My second novel, The Fisherman, has been out for a little over a month, now, and it’s received a number of very kind and insightful reviews.  I hope you’ll forgive me if I post links to a few of them here.

Here’s Shane Douglas Keene, at This is Horror.

Here’s Barry Lee Dejasu at The New York Journal of Books.

Here’s Benoit Lelievre at Dead End Follies.

I’ve also received some lovely reviews over at the book’s Amazon page and on Goodreads.  To everyone who’s taken the time to put down your thoughts on the novel, thanks very much; it’s much appreciated.

 

Bone Tomahawk

When my older son and his family were last up to visit, he and I decided that we had to watch Bone Tomahawk (2015), which was recently available on Amazon.  Nick and I sat up watching the film, which we both found enjoyable, gripping, and horrifying in I think equal measure.  Almost two months later, I find I’m still thinking about it.  In part, this is because of the way the film moves from semi-traditional western (a group of heroes rides out to rescue a kidnapped loved one) to out and out horror film.  There’s a kind of pulp quality to the narrative that makes me think of Robert E. Howard’s fiction, or maybe one of Joe Lansdale’s weird westerns.

Bone Tomahawk Poster

There are elements to the film that are pure western, particularly the plot-construction:  you have a fast-moving beginning, a fast-moving ending, and a period in-between in which the characters move across a vast landscape (which makes me think that there’s an element of the sublime in westerns I’ve never thought much about, and which does seem to dovetail with the concerns of cosmic horror in an interesting fashion).

Bone Tomahawk Landscape

It isn’t too bad as long as they have horses…

There are also elements of the film that are pure horror:  you have acts of awful violence committed by a group for whom the rest of us are so much provender; you have a lone, wounded hero confronted with the seemingly-impossible task of defeating that group.

Bone Tomahawk Horror

Ouch!

Finally, there’s the cast.  I’m a big fan of Kurt Russell, whose work I admire more with each passing year  (and whose facial hair in this film I would emulate, were it not for the fact that it would cost me the love of my wife and family), but Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and especially Richard Jenkins all bring their best work to the table.

Kurt!

Look at that facial hair!  Look at it!

There aren’t a huge number of what you could call horror westerns:  J.T. Petty’s brilliant The Burrowers (2008) comes to mind, and Ravenous (1999), and I suppose High Plains Drifter (1973).  You can add Bone Tomahawk to that small but creditable list.

Jurassic World

This past Father’s Day, Fiona and David took me to a matinee of Jurassic World.  We’d shown David the first three films earlier this year, and he was pretty psyched to see it.  I wasn’t expecting that much, but hey, dinosaurs on the big screen, right?

I wound up being pleasantly surprised.  Like the original Jurassic Park, this film is a Frankenstein narrative, which is to say, a story of overreaching.  In order to boost attendance at the Jurassic World theme park, the park’s administrators commission the creation of a hybrid dinosaur, which turns out to be far beyond their ability to control.  It escapes, and sets tumbling the chain of dominoes that is the rest of the park.  In the process, we get references to the first three movies, as well as to other films such as Aliens and the original Godzilla films.  The film climaxes with a multi-dinosaur brawl that’s over the top ridiculous and thrilling, and that had my inner twelve year old cheering.

There are a few inconsistencies in the film’s narration that could have been taken care of with a couple of minutes’ dialogue; at the very least, I think the story would have benefited from an explanation of how the theme park was opened after the disasters shown in the earlier films.  The film also puts in place elements for a potential sequel; although that could wind up being a very different, and very interesting, movie, should it head in the direction I think it will.

David declared the film, “Awesome!”  We give it four raptors.

jurassic-world

(You may be cool, but you’ll never be Chris-Pratt-riding-his-motorcycle-in-the-midst-of-a-pack-of-velociraptors cool.)

The Wolfman (2010)

So the Honey Badger came over last night to watch a movie.  I had a copy of Joe Johnston’s 2010 remake of The Wolfman, which I’d picked up in the discount bin at Wal-Mart some time ago.  I’ve been meaning to give the film a look since I bought it, but it wasn’t until a passing comment online by the talented David Nickle the other week that I thought it might be time for settle down and watch it.  We popped it into the Blu Ray player, selected the unrated version, and off we went.

The-Wolfman-2010

What we were treated to was a highly entertaining, fairly-traditional re-vision of the Wolfman narrative first shown in the 1941 film with Lon Chaney (although there are nods to more recent werewolf narratives, too, such as An American Werewolf In London).  All of the leads–Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, and Anthony Hopkins–took a little while to win me over, but by the end of the film, they had. The movie does an especially good job at bringing to the fore and running with the Oedipal issues that swirl about the earlier film.  There are a number of wonderful set pieces, including a transformation from man to monster within a late nineteenth century medical amphitheater, and the werewolf running amok in a gypsy camp and in central London.  Most interestingly to me, the movie never forgets that the werewolf is a monster.  It’s not the emblem for Team Jacob; it’s an avatar of our worst, most violent tendencies.  It’s a real shame this movie didn’t do better at the box office:  it’s what an old-fashioned monster movie is supposed to be, I think.  If you’re willing to show a little patience, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Mad Max: Fury Road

So the Honey Badger’s been dying to see this movie since it came out, and I’ve been promising I would accompany him.  Well, today I finally honored that promise, and boy, was it worth it.  In a sense, there’s not much to Mad Max:  Fury Road.  It’s more or less a two hour chase-movie, with a couple of moments for you to catch your breath in.  What there is, though, is a world more fleshed out in its post-apocalyptic, wide-screen, operatic insanity than any of the previous Mad Max films, as well as a roster of incredibly well-acted parts.  About midway through the movie, I found myself thinking, “No matter how this film ends, it’s already brilliant.”  It’s to the film’s credit that it manages to arrive at an ending that’s satisfying because it’s earned.  A lot of the reviews of/commentary on the film have praised its heavy use of practical effects over cgi, but I’m more impressed with the attention paid to its characters.  I don’t know if I’ll make it back to the theater to see this again, but I’d really, really like to.

17) Tripod Max.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I read a lot of comic books when I was a kid, most of them put out by Marvel.  (This was from the mid-to-late seventies to the early-to-mid eighties.)  The Amazing Spider-Man was my favorite, both the new issues being written by the great Marv Wolfman, and the original issues being reprinted six at a time in paperback collections.  My brother liked The Fantastic Four–also being written at that time by Wolfman–so I read those, too.  Conan the Barbarian was a favorite, as was his superhero cousin, The Mighty Thor–both written by Roy Thomas.  I read a lot of other titles, too, sometimes because they crossed over with one of the Spider-Man comics (there were, as I recall, three regular Spidey series:  Amazing, Spectacular, and Marvel Team-Up, where Spidey paired with a different hero every issue, as well as at least one reprint series) and sometimes because they simply looked cool.  (And this isn’t going into the series I read because they brought to life this or that toy [Rom, Spaceknight or The Micronauts or The Shogun Warriors] or film monster [Godzilla].)

As I grew into my early teens, I started picking up the X-Men, as well–then being written by Chris Claremont, who wrote every issue of the comic I read for years.  I’m sure Claremont’s run on the X-Men has been discussed and dissected in all manner of venues, from academic popular culture studies to online forums.  I remember being struck by the intensity of his stories:  even by the melodramatic standards of comic book plots, his narratives went for broke.  It wasn’t just that things were darkest before the dawn–they were pitch black.  It’s the kind of technique someone like Joss Whedon would deploy in each season of his Buffy the Vampire Slayer series.  I was impressed, too, by his portrayal of strong, complex female characters–Storm, Rogue, Kitty–something that was in particularly short supply when I was growing up.  The character of Wolverine as he was being written at that time also struck me:  this was a violent character whose violence had an edge that felt real and even frightening.  I liked, too, the moves Claremont was already making towards transforming Magneto, the X-Men’s greatest enemy, into more of an anti-hero than an out and out villain.

All of which serves as a prelude to this afternoon, when the Honey Badger and I went to the local theater for a matinee of the latest entry in the X-Men film series, Days of Future Past.  I have to admit, I wasn’t anticipating this one as eagerly as I was some of this summer’s other offerings (i.e. Godzilla), but I wound up being pleasantly surprised.  For one thing, talk about a story where there’s a lot at stake:  if Logan (Wolverine) doesn’t succeed in his time-travel mission, then it’s curtains for him and what few of his friends are left alive.  What’s more, there’s a chance for some of the deeper divisions that have occurred among figures like Professor X, Raven/Mystique, and Erik Lensher/Magneto to be, if not healed then at least ameliorated.  And indeed, this is where the movie really worked for me.  There are CG effects a-plenty, especially in the scenes set in the future, but while they’re undoubtedly impressive, I found them far less compelling than the human drama that plays out amongst the younger Xavier, Raven, and Lensher.  A lot of superhero movies appeal to the significance of choice, but this one does a better job than most of actually dramatizing that choice so it means something.  There are a couple of plot hiccups (i.e. the failure by Xavier et. al. to include Quicksilver in their plans for the  final showdown) but they’re forgivable.  If there’s one thing I can say about this X-Men movie, it’s that it makes me excited to see the next X-Men movie, which, this far into the series, is no small feat.