Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) - King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles.
Edited by Orson Scott Card
I started reading Ender’s World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender’s Game with high hopes. I love the Ender’s Game series. I thought it was one of the more original science fiction series of the last couple of decades. I like the characters. I especially like that Orson Scott Card didn’t baby his readers. When times got hard, his characters suffered. They grew, they learned to deal with the fallout from their wrong decisions, society’s wrong-headedness and other peoples’ bad choices. They dealt with unfairness, misjudgment by themselves and others.
They felt the pain of love that is not returned, of exile that is undeserved. Bad people transformed into much better people over time. Good people lost their edge. I read every book in the series including books that were not directly in the same timeline but concerned characters who formed the original groups at Battle School.
Ender’s Game and the books that follow are thought-provoking and on many levels disturbing. It questions our fundamental views on children, right and wrong. Our beliefs that “our species first” and by inference, “our country first” is the moral choice.
I consider myself an intelligent reader and I have a strong interest in philosophy and ethics. What’s more, I believe that the science fiction reading audience is probably as a group, the smartest, best educated, eclectic group of readers you will ever find. So when offered the opportunity to read Ender’s World, a book that isn’t part of the actual Ender’s Game series but is an analysis of the series and the issues it raises, I jumped at the chance. Oops.
By the time I was half way through the book, I wished I’d never started. I felt like I was back in high school or college lit class, over analyzing Moby Dick until I didn’t know a whale from a guppy … or care. Nothing spoils a good story for me faster than picking at its carcass.
This is a book that takes a great science fiction series and with the best of intentions, squeezes the fun out of it. It removes any sense of wonder you might have remaining, eliminates any potential surprises. It makes you feel your own thoughts are uneducated and insufficiently intellectual.
To say I didn’t enjoy the book doesn’t go quite far enough. I am certain somewhere out there in the big world of books there are those who enjoy this sort of thing. I am not one of them. Minute analyses of fictional material is a kind of dying of the light for me.
Read Ender’s Game. Read the sequels. When you are finished, if you really and truly have nothing else on your plate and want to hear what a bunch of dry academics can do to a great story and characters, read this. Otherwise, skip it.
The ultimate question about this series and every other book or series I read is twofold: did it entertain me? Did it leave me thinking about it and wanting more? If so, the book has done it’s job and fulfilled its purpose.
It’s one thing to talk about a book you love with people who love it too. It’s another thing to pick it apart until you no longer recognize it.
Despite the poor reviews that this film has garnered, I could not wait to see it. I wanted to see it in the cinema, but due to low viewing figures, by the time I could see it, it's run in the theatres had finished.
This film felt like a reworking of two "classic" westerns. High Noon and Rio Bravo. Borrowing from the High Noon script of the bad guys (or guy) who are coming in on the train (or via the road in a super duper corvette) and I/we need to stop him works well for the continuation of the story.
Open Road Media Iconic Ebooks
Ebook release date: May 28 2013
Kindle Version available for pre-order on Amazon.com
I love western movies and have since I was a kid. I’ve read a lot of “western” novels too over the years, enjoyed some, didn’t much like others. Over all, I prefer this genre as cinema rather than on the printed page. Nonetheless, I was drawn to this book after I realized I know very little about the personal lives and motivations of these notorious bandit gangs of the turn of the century wild west.
Until this book, I hadn’t realized the James boys, the Youngers, Coles and the Daltons were all related. Cousins, it turns out. This led me to interesting speculations about relative importance of DNA versus environment in character formation. The familial relationships certainly present some intriguing possibilities. Perhaps the cousins were all copying each other’s “feats.” The story hints that there was at least some jealousy by the Daltons of cousin Jesse’s fame.
Desperadoes is well-written and feels authentic, so much so that I found myself asking how much of this was “made up” and how much was historical.
The answer is that although a lot of it is fact, a lot of it isn’t. Fiction and fact are beautifully woven throughout the story until it is difficult to teaze them apart. Nonetheless, this is a novel, so if you are want history, this isn’t it. On the other hand, if you are more interested in the psychological profile of these characters and the feeling of being transported to another time and place, this might be exactly the right book. Sometimes fiction contains more truth than “only the facts” can convey.
Whether you enjoy the book will depend on if you can find a way to emotionally connect with any of the characters. All of the Daltons and their close associates lack a moral compass as well as a fundamental understanding of right and wrong. Even granting that they came from backgrounds of extreme deprivation and their role models were as depraved as they themselves became, it’s hard to understand the characters’ rapid — virtual overnight — transformation from relatively decent people and officers of the law into rustlers, bank robbers and sadistic thrill killers.
Despite occasional actions that could be interpreted as “gallant” or at least decent, their primary goal was attention. Fame. They wanted to be feared and recognized. Towards that end, they also stole money but money was never a primary motivator. To achieve this end, there were no lines they would not cross, no rules they would not break. At no point is there any feeling that it mattered a whit to any of them how many people’s lives they ruined or ended. They were sociopaths (maybe psychopaths — I’ve never been entirely clear on the difference), utterly lacking in empathy except for one another … and there were limits to that, too.
The story is told in the first person by Emmett Dalton, the one brother who survived. He went out to Hollywood where they were happy (apparently) to pay him big bucks to “advise” and provide authenticity to the making of movies. Of all the bandits — all his brothers and cousins — only he remained alive to “cash in” on the notoriety.
Ironically, they started out as lawmen. While still functioning in that capacity, they began rustling horses. They didn’t think there was anything particularly wrong with it. It wasn’t that they didn’t know it was illegal, but the whole “right” and “wrong” thing seems to have been a rather hazy concept to them. Moreover, working as a sheriff or deputy sheriff was so poorly paid that they actually couldn’t live on that money, so they initially considered horse-stealing to be a way to supplement their incomes. When they eventually were caught — really, only big brother Gratton (Grat) who was probably mildly retarded was actually arrested for rustling and although he spent a bit of time in jail, he was ultimately released. A trial would have been a serious embarrassment to the judge who had employed the Daltons as lawmen, making it known his employees were horse thieves. Except that everyone did know. It just wasn’t official and never became official.
The Dalton boys’ decision to become an outlaw gang was exactly that: a choice. They were not forced into a life of crime. They genuinely enjoyed being outlaws and criminals. They liked beating people up, breaking their body parts and killing them, sometimes just because they felt like it. No sense of remorse is forthcoming through the voice of the narrator.
Emmett, as the first-person narrator, supposedly was privy to every moment of the life of his brothers. This is a bit hard to swallow unless the other gang members spent all of their free time telling Emmett everything they had done since they’d last talked. But you have to suspend your credibility or there’s no way to get into the book.
Of the Dalton lads (there were 15 bothers and sisters and you never learn what happened to most of the others) Bob is the true glory hound. Grat is a big dumb guy who seemed to not have any thoughts about much of anything. Emmett, two years younger than Bob, is his older brother’s passionate admirer. His adulation of his Bob Dalton was unlimited, though to Emmett’s credit (?), he did occasionally think up an interesting crime to commit, so he was not without a degree of personal creativity. He also appeared to be, of the gang, the only one with any capacity for love — in a severely circumscribed way.
Then there’s Bob’s psychopathic girlfriend, Eugenia Moore who was the real brains of the outfit, though perhaps brains is too strong a word.
As you can probably tell, I didn’t like the characters. There is a high probability that the author has captured the essence of these people accurately, but accuracy alone wasn’t enough to make me enjoy being in their company. Ultimately, if I can’t relate to at least one character in a book, it’s difficult for me to enjoy the story. I spent the first half of this book looking for a redeeming feature in someone. I spent the rest of the book wishing I’d never started reading it in the first place.
This was Ron Hansen’s first novel. He has written a dozen or so since then and he is highly regarded. I have no argument with his skill as a writer and perhaps I would like his later novels and non-fiction better than Desperadoes.
I didn’t hate the book, but I didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps the nature of the material fore-ordained my response. Sadistic, vicious sociopathic killers are not romantic — in my opinion. They make my skin crawl. But other people obviously did like the book and it has received some excellent reviews on Amazon. If you can read it as a case study of a bunch of old-timey criminals, you might like it better than I did. It is well-written and thoroughly unpleasant at the same time. I guess that’s what you get when you write about outlaw gangs, even when you write really well.
See on joyceschoices.com
Loved this–and I am not a Trekkie, have never been on a spacecraft, or had an out of body experience (OK maybe once) but I love an exciting cinematic romp through outer space, and after seeing STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS I left the theater feeling like my car was the Starship Enterprise (and if you must know, I am always traveling at warp speed.) The 12th installment of the adventures of that merry band of space explorers led by Captain James T. Kirk (played by Chris Pine and his indestructible eyebrows) and Mr. Spock (played by Zachary Quinto of the equally bodacious brows)– just made me want to go along for the ride.
This time they are after a single guy (Who isn’t– A number of my friends are asking…) a super powerful dangerous bad ass (Benedict Cumberbatch) who’s hiding out in a neutral Klingon outpost and I won’t spoil it by telling you who it is. But what I liked about the film– and most Star Trek movies is that they are about the characters and their interaction– and there’s plenty here for the Enterprise crew to chew on. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock are finding their way through a rather complex relationship. In fact, Spock’s identity is at the heart of the action. As a half Vulcan, Spock acts logically of course, but must navigate a romance with the het up Uhura, and decipher his friendship with Kirk who’s operating from his gut. So Spock must adjust his thinking to take all of this into account; he’s also half human, but has made certain decisions not to feel– to protect himself from feeling what he confesses he actually at one time has felt or known–but must now control. Or at least try to. Not even Dr. Phil could straighten this out.
Then there’s Kirk and his relationship to rules in general, his mentor Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood), and the chain of command–Peter “Robocop” Weller is onboard as Admiral Marcus. Then there’s Scotty (Simon Pegg) who resigns and gets drunk, while Sulu (John Cho) proves himself a man in the big chair, while McCoy (Karl Urban) gets off some choice one liners. Then there’s the gorgeous blonde (Alice Eve) who sneaks aboard. The character drama holds up somewhat better than the action sequences which are often messy– sometimes not clear what’s happening or who’s doing what to whom. But there’s enough to fill in the blanks. The plot is a bit inconsistent on the details as well– the opening scene has Spock trying to solidify the lava from a volcano so it won’t overflow and wipe out a primitive civilization on the planet Nibiru– but I thought Starfleet wasn’t supposed to interfere with the history of a people? Later Kirk is called to account for doing just that. Lazy writing.
So what kept me onboard? The pace, the overall flow, the likeability of this cast, seeing the beginnings of their evolution as characters, and perhaps– I just needed an escape. “Star Trek Into Darkness” while not brilliant, was enough fun to take me out of the doldrums of a late Spring afternoon–just before a hail storm and a black bear invaded my neighborhood (See my Facebook/ Twitter stream). The blockbusters have arrived– and they will live long and prosper this summer if STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is any indication.
I want to see this one. Soon!
See on joyceschoices.com
I just bought a used copy of this long out-of-print book. I first read it when it was released in 1978. I was working at Doubleday as a book club editor. It fell to me to do the write-up for it in the monthly publication that went to book club members.
A large part of my job was to read books. Talk about great jobs, that was the best of the best. I’m not sure I ever fully recovered from my Doubleday years. Not merely was I paid to read and write about books, but I received (as did all the editors and graphic artists in the department) new copies of every book we worked on. We all had very large personal libraries. We also had 2 hour lunches and wonderful co-workers. I looked forward to work the way most folks anticipate the weekend. It was that good. I realize this is a digression, but I wanted to put this in context and maybe brag a little.
The Far Arena is classified as science fiction. It is, sort of, but not in any traditional sense. It doesn’t fall into any of the usual sci fi categories. Time travel? Not exactly, but it has a time travel-ish feel to it.
The story in brief: A Roman gladiator is flash frozen in the arctic ice. He is accidentally discovered by a team drilling for oil and subsequently defrosted and brought back to life. What follows is his story as a Roman married to a Hebrew slave, and his perceptions of the modern world from the point of view of a man whose world disappeared 1600 years ago.
His observations on modern society are priceless. For example, while he is in the hospital, he asks about the slaves who serve him. He is referring of course to the to nurses and other workers who attend his needs.
His new friends explain that they aren’t slaves, that they work for wages and are free to leave or be dismissed by their employers. He thinks this is a fantastic idea. “You mean they do everything you tell them to do, but when they get old and can no longer work, you don’t have to take care of them? What a great idea! Slaves, but without responsibility.”
“They aren’t slaves,” insist his modern friends.
“They are treated like slaves, they act like slaves. They are slaves,” he responds. Who would like to argue the point? Not me.
That is paraphrasing, of course, but is captures the gist of the dialogue. I have never looked at the world quite the same way since I read this book. Modern workers have all the freedom of slaves, but no assurance that anyone will care for them when they are no longer able to work. That’s a pretty good deal from the owners’ … I mean employers’ … point-of-view.
This is a brilliant and unique book. It stands apart from the thousands of books I’ve read over the years. All other time travel stories are about modern people visiting the past. This is the only book I can think of where a man from the past offers a view of the modern world and it’s not a pretty sight.
Richard Ben Sapir wrote other books that are unusual and worth reading. I especially liked The Body, but The Far Arena stands head and shoulders above the rest. He only wrote a few novels. His world was really comic books, or what are now called “graphic novels” … making locating copies of his books more challenging. However you can get your hands on one – beg, steal or borrow — it’s a must-read,even if science fiction is not a genre you normally seek out. Whether “A Far Arena” is science fiction or plain fiction is a matter of opinion. I think it sits just on the edge where genres meet. (Question: When genres meet, do they have coffee together? Just wondering.)
You might check to see if your local library has a copy. I scored a good copy in hard-cover from a second-hand seller on Amazon for $8.50 plus shipping, not bad considering the book’s been out of print for 30+ years.
It would make a great movie. I can see it all in my mind’s eye. I recommend you read it if you can. You can find copies around occasionally and although he was not a prolific writer, he wrote a few other novels, all of which are very good and have unique stories.
Did I mention that it’s exceptionally well written? Highly literate? Well-researched? Convincing? All those things and a great, gripping story too.
You can hunt down used copies. They are available on Amazon (I just bought one as a gift) and more come up periodically. Sometimes you get lucky and find one of these rare books at yard sales or the Salvation Army. Then you get the book for literally pennies and you have fun hunting it down, too. On the average, you’ll find it’s less expensive than most new paperbacks and more than worth the price.
I love western movies. I love horses. I love to laugh. What’s better than a funny western? Not much in my opinion.
My favorite — but little-celebrated — movies are western comedies. It isn’t the most popular movie genre, yet there are a reasonable number worth watching. Almost everybody has seen City Slickers and Blazing Saddles. How many people remember Cat Ballou, or have seen Rustler’s Rhapsody? Both charming and very funny movies. Lee Marvin got his only Academy Award for his role in Cat Ballou. On acceptance, he gave credit to his horse who deserved it. But I digress.
|Directed by||Stuart Heisler|
|Produced by||Gary Cooper
Walter Thompson (assoc. producer)
|Written by||Nunnally Johnson
Alan Le May (novel)
|Music by||Arthur Lange|
|Cinematography||Milton R. Krasner|
|Editing by||Thomas Neff|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Release date(s)||July 19, 1945|
|Running time||90 minutes|
Along Came Jones is funny, but it’s gentle and sweet. It’s a love story with Loretta Young as the romantic interest, with Cooper in a role that it pokes fun at westerns and Coop himself without being mean-spirited. The plot is the basic mistaken-identity tale. Easygoing and slightly inept Melody Jones (Gary Cooper) and his friend George (William Demarest) ride into a town. Jones is mistaken for a badass bandit named Monte Jarrad (Dan Duryea) mostly because he has the same initials on his saddle. The mixup earns him a lot of unexpected respect (which he likes) then rapidly changes to trouble and finally love. The real Jarrad is hiding out in the home of his girlfriend Cherry (Loretta Young). In the beginning, she uses Melody to send the law off in the wrong direction, but as she gets to know Jones, her feelings change. There is a happy ending for all.
Gary Cooper produced the movie and put his own money into it. It gave him a chance to be something other than the grim hero he so often played. In this, he is a lighter and more humorous version of his typical role. It was the only feature film Cooper produced during his more than 40-year movie career and Melody Jones was his favorite role. It’s easy to see why.
It’s a rare feel-good movie that isn’t trite. Cooper poking fun at Cooper is amusing without being over the top. His slow-talking, aw shucks style is perfect. This is an oldie that doesn’t play very often on cable, but it does pop up on Turner Classic Movies from time to time. If you find it, it’s worth watching. If you get TCM, you can find out when it’s playing on their website.
It has stood the test of time surprisingly well. You can see where financial corners were cut, but it doesn’t matter. The movie is character-driven and the scenery is just a stage set. When we got a DVD player, it was the first movie I bought. It’s available at Amazon in combination with other Cooper movies and rather expensively on its own.
There’s no fancy cinematography, no nudity, cussin’, or graphic violence. A bit of shooting, no gobs of blood flowing. The tension won’t raise your blood pressure. It’s got some laughs and lots of smiles. It’s a pleasant way to dump reality and visit a version of the old west that never was.
From Garry Armstrong, AKA “The Movie Maven”:
I spotted “Jones” when I was surfin’ the overnight movie fare and knew I’d struck gold for both of us. Charlton Heston once told me that Gary Cooper was his favorite actor and inspiration for his own little western “Will Penny”.
Coop was the idol of many, including one young woman in Brooklyn, New York, who decided to name her first-born after the legendary star in 1942. I digress, as usual, when talking about movies. After 15 years of commercial and critical hits, Gary Cooper was top gun at the box office in 1945. One of his favorites was “The Westerner” done 5 years earlier but that was stolen from him by Walter Brennan’s “Judge Roy Bean”.
Cooper loved his character in “The Westerner” and wanted to give him another go on his own terms. Melody Jones would be that guy. A Coop bio I read long ago says he made “Jones” mostly with his own money. Got it released as an independent so he would have last cut rights.
You’ll notice it’s low-budget by the exteriors and “rear projection” scenes, but that hardly matters. Loretta Young also did the movie “for a song”. Coop hand-picked Dan Duryea who was still a very young and aspiring actor with few major film notches, except for “Pride of the Yankees.”
Lane Chandler, one of the bad guys in the film, was originally supposed to do “Wings” (I believe), the silent that gave Coop his big closeup and break for stardom. Coop got that cameo not Chandler — and the rest is history.
- Cooper enters the Hall … (myfavoritewesterns.com)
- Golden-age movie star Gary Cooper has digital career revival (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Meet John Doe ( 1941) Full Movie FULL MOVIE Starring: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck (antonpictures.wordpress.com)
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (cinemaburn.wordpress.com)
- TV on DVD: The Loretta Young Show, 100th Birthday Edition – Best of the Complete Series (popdose.com)
- The character actor best know for his role of Uncle Charley (carl-leonard.com)
The action is hot and heavy on store shelves this week as a truckload of new releases are becoming available for the couch bound movie watcher. “The Last Stand” is a gonzo action flick that marks the return of one of the biggest action icons of the 20th century to the big screen.
As sheriff of a sleepy little town, Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is now semi-retired after years in the LAPD narcotics division has never had a lot of action in his new post and that’s just the way he likes it. However that is all about to change when drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) busts out of FBI custody and makes a beeline for the border at 200 mph in a supercharged corvette and makes the mistake of running into Ray and his inexperienced deputies who will defend their small town at any cost.
Debuting to North American audiences for the first time, director Kim Jee-Woon brought a frenetic sense of energy and fun back to the R rated action movie that people just didn’t seem to connect with. That being said they really should have as this film kept the action going at a fantastic pace as we jump into this universe that while admittedly is filled with a little bit of corny dialogue, knows exactly what it is doing. Jee-Woon doesn’t mess around with exposition anymore then he absolutely has to and brings a lean and mean sensibility back to the action genre that we haven’t seen since the 1980′s. All the while with a script that has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, only asking us to strap in and go along for the ride. Rather than try to be taken dead seriously, this modern-day western just wants us to have a little fun with it, and this ensemble cast knows exactly what kind of film that they are trying to deliver on and they do not disappoint.
In his first leading role since 2003 due to his term as governor of California, an older and wiser Arnold Schwarzenegger brings a certain sense of self-deprecation to the role of Ray Owens and it works to perfection. It’s no secret that he is a 66-year-old man, so the occasional old joke while kicking ass and blowing people away fits the tone of the film like a glove and even years away from the leading man roles, with the right material Arnold still proves that he can carry a picture. Eduardo Noriega chews the scenery as well as anyone as our renegade drug lord and the likes of Luis Guzman, Forest Whittaker, Rodrigo Santoro, Johnny Knoxville, Genesis Rodriguez and Peter Stormare populate this story with a wide array of scenery chewing characters making for a frenetic R rated action romp that we can still get a good laugh out of and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that.
The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are absolutely first-rate and the special features on the Blu-Ray include deleted and extended scenes, a making of “The Last Stand”, behind the scenes looks with actors Johnny Knoxville and Jaimie Alexander and much more.
At the end of the day, I am the first person to acknowledge that “The Last Stand” just might not be for everyone. However, if you miss the lean and mean violent action thrillers of the 1970′s and 80′s that still had a little bit of gleeful wit to them, then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this piece of action gold that will inspire you to pop the popcorn, and revel in the ride that the film takes you on.
“The Last Stand” is now available to rent on DVD, Blu-Ray and via On Demand from all major providers, you can also find it available for purchase from all major retailers.
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Sounds like a fun movie!
See on www.examiner.com
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