Perfect Agent

Perfect Agent
Action/Adventure webcomic every Thursday; contains strong language and violence.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bad Movie Month silences Scream 3

As we come to the final entry in this year's Bad Movie Month theme of Sorry Sequels, our meta quota is overflowing with Scream 3, which fortunately was not the last word on this horror franchise.

It is pretty much agreed that the original Scream was a distinctive hallmark in the genre that set off a whole new wave of cinematic terror. The inevitable follow-up to that film,Scream 2, has many of the fan base still debating it's merits(for the record, I really like that one) but in the case of the third time out, there is little dispute over just how boringly bad it was.

Part of the major shift in quality and tone has been blamed on screenwriter Ehren Kruger(taking over for Kevin Williamson, who created the first two films) but director Wes Craven was also on board here again and some of this blandness on screen can also be laid on his doorstep.

Don't get me wrong, I love the man's work but he does have two speeds when it comes to film making; full on creative love or going through the movie motions. Sadly, Scream 3 landed in the latter with a gruesome thunk.

I remember seeing this movie on it's opening weekend in 2000 and realizing right away just how bad this was going to be as soon as the opening credits kill began. The most important element of the Scream series was that first big scene and say what you will about Scream 2, they put a scary smart twist on that sequence that came close to the now iconic Drew Barrymore death one.

Here, we had Cotton Weary(Liev Schrieber) now an obnoxious talk show host living in Hollywood, being stalked on his car phone by a new Ghostface Killer and racing home to save his girlfriend. That scenario did have some potential to be an unexpected thrill ride but it was just another routine thriller moment, no different from anything you could see in a Lifetime movie,only gorier:



Then, our new masked murderer moved on to the cast of Stab 3,the movie series within the movie series, and to tell the truth here, working up sympathy for the likes of Jenny McCarthy and Parker Posey as potential body bag fillers is a herculean task.

McCarthy's character is so broadly developed she might as well be wearing a t-shirt that says "I am an annoying caricature of  a bad actress", which would be better and wittier than any of so-called lines written for her in the script.

Parker Posey is no picnic either, as a little of her goes quite a long way and at times you wish the killer would take her down already. She attaches herself like a leech to poor Courtney Cox's Gail Weathers, due to playing her in the Stab series and Gail actually seems a lot nicer than she is in direct comparison.   At least Jenny McCarthy didn't wear out her welcome on screen by having the good luck to be picked off early:



Yes, Gail,Dewey(David Arquette) and of course, Sydney(Neve Campbell) are called to Hollywood and reunited, thanks to the new Woodsboro themed kill spree. Gail and Dewey do their usual "I love you/I loathe you" routine, predictable as a toddler's knock-knock joke while Sydney does the whole "reliving my tortured past' thing.

To be fair, Neve Campbell does make a bit of an effort with her performance but it's truly wasted here. Another waste of talent is an impromptu appearance by Heather Matarazzo, as Randy's little sister who drops by to deliver a video recording from her dead brother than happens to relate to this new rash of murders! Talk about your all too convenient conveniences there!

What particularly peeves me about that exposition time-out(other than a lame attempt to appease fans who were upset about Randy being killed off in Scream 2) is that Heather Matarazzo was and is a talented actress and what do they give her to do in this movie?

 Give a quick "hi" and "bye" as she brings in the video, sits down to watch it with them and then leaves. Seriously? An extra could've done that or better yet, just have the tape be delivered via express mail. I know she was paid and everything but still, what a blown opportunity there:



A big part of the problem with this movie was the wink and nudge method of meta comedy being pushed here.

 Sandwiched between the murky murderous goings-on which involved frightening fax messages and a house being blown up, those comic bits had an obvious bad flavor to them, like a garlic and peanut butter cookie.  Granted, they were slightly better than the overly elaborate mystery surrounding the killer's identity that even diehard Scooby Doo watchers would be insulted by.

From Jay and Silent Bob's walk-on where Gail Weathers is called Connie Chung( which is no where near as funny as the Scream parody slipped into Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) to Carrie Fisher showing up as a bitchy Carrie Fisher lookalike, the yucks kept on coming at the worst possible moments. The reason for this was studio pressure, due to the real life mass shootings being covered by the media at the time. Understandable yet not a good excuse for such hokey humor:


Scream 3 did make a respectable amount of box office revenue but it soured the fans on this fear franchise considerably. While the fourth film that came after it in 2011 was a vast improvement in more ways than one, it made a lot less money.

Money isn't everything but still, it was a shame that Scream 4 had to pay for the cinematic sins of Scream 3. At the moment, there are no further plans to continue the series and I think that's for the best.

Thank you all for attending Bad Movie Month this year and horror fans might be interested to know that my Year of Freddy Fear will continue, with a fresh fall look at Robert Englund in Jack Brooks, Monster Slayer sometime in September. In the meanwhile, have a happy Labor Day weekend, folks, and hopefully your playlist for last of the summertime fun won't include Creed's awful anthem from the Scream 3 soundtrack:


Thursday, August 28, 2014

The last drop of True Blood,Big Jim's dealings Under The Dome and seeking escape on Outlander

Well, the final episode of True Blood has aired and despite the many regrets about what did and didn't happen, I think we can all say that it was a hell of a ride while it lasted.

Yes, I do wish Lafayette had been given more screen time(not to mention Tara being undead and with us as well) and wasn't surprised at the haste of the Hoyt/Jessica wedding but as we all know, the big finish belonged to Sookie and Bill. It was rather presumptuous of Bill to think that he was doing her a favor by asking her to use up the remainder of her fairy powers to kill him but then again, how so like him as well.

I am glad that Sookie did decide to accept that part of herself by the end,which is a positive statement for her character to conclude her run with. Also have to give kudos to the show for killing Bill and not using an instant "Get out of Death" free card there.

 There were some hints that he might have been turning human near the end,however, those turned out to be red herrings thrown in by the writers to keep us guessing. Some of the fans would've liked that,I'm sure, but the less BS the better in this case. Sookie and Bill at least deserved to end their connection in a way that satisfied them both and while this wasn't perfect, it was damn near close.

 It would've been nice to get a good look at the fellow Sookie hooked up with at that Thanksgiving dinner yet maybe it was better that way. The whole arch seemed to be about Sookie finding a healthy relationship on her own terms,so the main thing was that she was happy with her choices, not who she was with.

On the bright side, Eric did finally wipe out those pesky Yazuka(along with the head of the former True Blood company) and seeing Pam make Sarah Newlin her own personal blood bitch was kind of fun. If any character deserved not to go out the easy way, it was definitely her.

It was good to at least see Eric and Pam cut loose and be their old slick cold blooded selves again as they were in the beginning. Yes, this show was getting rather frayed by the end of the series but we did get some sort of closure. So long, True Blood and thank you for the crazy sexy vampire party that you held for us:




Meanwhile, Big Jim is up to his usual tricks Under The Dome, as  he starts to negotiate with the outside forces that are interested in claiming the egg.

Of course, he doesn't have the egg in his possession but a little thing like that never stops a good salesman, now does it?:


However, Big Jim is for quite a shock there, as his faked her own death wife Pauline is back in town. Seems her visions are compelling her to return to Chester's Mill with Barbie and friends, with the primary goal being rescuing Junior.

As sympathetic as I am towards any one trapped in a relationship with the Rennie family, Pauline does strike me as rather stupidly naive in this situation. First off, her main reason for faking her demise was to draw the impending disaster away from the town(which worked out pretty well there,..not!) and protect Junior in the bargain.  While telling the truth wasn't the best option, pretending to be dead wasn't a great way to protect her son either.

Plus, did she really think it would be easy to sneak back into town and save Junior without running into Big Jim? Come on, woman, you went right to your old house where you know both father and son still live! Get some smarts fast, lady or this time, you might not have to fake being dead:


On Outlander, Claire is beginning to make the best of her situation at Castle Leoch by using her medical talents to win trust and respect. She's not giving up on finding a way back home but building up a reputation of simply being just another stranded outsider willing to fit in will go a long ways toward getting a golden opportunity to do so.

It's working in some areas(loved how her determination to save that nephew of Mrs. Fitzgibbons' inspired that good lady to tell that interfering priest to back off)yet not entirely in others, as suspicious eyes are not completely off her. Jaime's eyes are also on Claire for entirely different reason, much to the chagrin of the girl he saved from a beating. Ah, love triangles, how complicated they can be! Well, we'll see how long that lasts, as the next episode promises to provide Claire with a chance at taking that much longed for leap home:


RANDOM NOTES:

THE EMMYS: Congratulations to Jessica Lange and Cathy Bates for their AHS:Coven wins, a sincere "better luck next time" to Laverne Cox and Peter Dinklage for not receiving their much deserved awards(although happy for Uzo Aduba from OITNB, who won instead) and can Modern Family give it a rest with the sweeps here?

Granted, I didn't watch the entire show(hey, Under The Dome was on that night!) but glad that I got to watch Weird Al's musical interpretation of certain TV show themes-he is having such a good year, isn't he? I hope they do get him for the half time show at the Super Bowl, that would be actually be must-see TV!:




Monday, August 25, 2014

Gathering up some non-school books for some fabulous September/October fall reading

We're only a few days away from the semi-official end of summer(I consider Labor Day weekend both a beginning and an end) and while many folks are preparing for back to school, I have a few upcoming books on the horizon for September and October that are more suited for after class reading.

Granted, a couple of them are historical fiction which does offer some educational value but I wouldn't set aside those text books just yet. Especially not before midterm time.

 Personally, I think that history classes could be a bit more fun if certain history based novels were assigned along with the standard scholarly reading, with extra credit given for a compare and contrast between the fiction and the facts. That's just me, however:

PAGING THROUGH THE PAST

 Ken Follett concludes his Century Trilogy this season with Edge of Eternity, which picks up from where this multiple family saga left off in Winter of the World(and began with Fall of Giants).

We arrive in 1961, as Berlin schoolteacher Rebecca Hoffman discovers a spy very close to home, Khrushchev aide Dmitri Dvorkin is facing a nuclear showdown with America and US lawyer George Jakes finds himself hired by the Kennedy White House for rather dubious reasons.

These characters and their descendants make their way through the turmoil of the sixties and seventies right into the complex comforts of the 1980s(with a special nod to 2008 before all is said and done), bringing human faces to changing times as well as riveting tales to tell.

Follett 's grand scale of story telling offers an inviting look at how some things changes while the ones of the truest value remain the same(September):




 Alix Christie's debut novel Gutenberg's Apprentice gives the reader an engaging behind the scenes look at the development of the fabled first printing press through the eyes of a reluctant participant.

Peter Schoeffer has been preparing for a major career in Paris of 1450 when his foster father Johann Fust summons him home to Mainz,Germany. Fust is investing a great amount of money in a new invention created by the mad genius Gutenberg but only under the condition that Peter become his apprentice.

Peter is less than thrilled at giving up his current prospects,along with mistrust of publishing a bible for the masses, but to honor his guardian, takes up this new mantle. Turns out that Gutenberg's desire to change the world via the written word is infectious and before long, Peter becomes one of his most faithful assistants and supporter. This fictional tribute to the whole reason why books exist today promises to be a must read for bibliophiles everywhere(September).

CRIMINAL HEARTS AND MINDS

Modern day noir writer James Ellroy is best known for his literary trilogies and quartets, with a brand new one about to start up this fall. 

 Perfidia sets the scene in LA of 1941, where a gruesome murder of a Japanese family connects the only Japanese member of the police force Hideo Ashida with bitterly disillusioned captain William Parker and his rival, Sgt. Dudley Smith. Also thrown into the mix is Kay Lake, a bored young woman looking for trouble.

The attack on Pearl Harbor may or may not be a key element to this case but other forces are at play with a much darker purpose. Spy tactics, political intrigue and Bette Davis are all potent ingredients in this killer cocktail that old fans and new will set up a serious round of bar drinks for(September):


The subtitle of the nonfiction thriller Tinseltown is "murder,morphine and madness at the dawn of Hollwood", which quite a mouthful but author William J. Mann insists upon delivering just that.

Mann explores the dark side to the film making of the 1920s, with a pointed look at the mysterious death of producer William Desmond Taylor. Found dead by gunshot, there were a number of potential suspects that included many influential movers and shakers of the day yet the crime is unsolved.

Amongst the possible pack of killers is renowned producer Adolph Zukor and actress Mabel Normand, who may have inspired her former love interest director Mack Sennet to have a hand in arranging this murder and it's cover-up. For folks interested in true crime and the hey day of Hollywood, this book is a match made in a rather sinister version of heaven(October):


TUDOR TURMOIL

Philippa Gregory builds a bridge between her Cousins' War series and the Tudor family titles she is best known for in The King's Curse.

 Margaret Pole has married a man meant to protect her from the chaos of the old regimen as the new one plants roots yet she is not completely safe from the family politics as widowhood forces her to reengage with the Tudors.

As a member of the future queen Katherine of Aragon's household, Margaret does manage to keep a steady hand but unforeseen challenges cause more than one person around her to lose their grip. Faced with a troubling turn of fortune, Margaret must choose whether to stay on one side or the other in order to survive.

Gregory certainly has a way with showcasing history through the eyes of lesser known women and bringing them up to the spotlight that scholars had denied them. In this upcoming novel, she seems to have a fitting end for the White Queen saga that might perhaps lead to another great miniseries in seasons to come(September).

SOME FANCY FOOTWORK

 The light and lively antics of Becky Bloomwood(now Brandon) continue in Shopaholic to the Stars, as our leading lady is given a chance to become a celebrity personal shopper.

In Hollywood with her little girl Minnie in order to stay close to husband Luke, Becky only wants to help both him and his superstar actress client Sage Seymour by offering her expertise in the art of wardrobe selection. However, Luke is not eager to make that happen, due to Becky's track record in that area.

When a golden opportunity to offer her services to Sage's cinematic rival lands in her lap, Becky takes off and running. Earning a nice bit of success for herself, Becky is happy to have been right all along about her skills yet those actions do  have consequences that could upset her true harmony. It's been awhile since we've had a Shopaholic novel from Sophie Kinsella and all I can say is Welcome back, Becky!(October)


Alice Simpson's debut novel Ballroom waltzes in with a set of interconnected stories about the erstwhile regulars at the New York Ballroom during the 1990s, who find a few new steps in life as well as dance.

Lonely Sarah hopes to hook up with Gabriel, who is a lover to just about woman but his wife, while ignoring the interest of fellow single Joseph. Dance teacher Henry sees love in his future with Maria, a young woman more interested in the ambitious Angel than her elderly admirer and yet all of them may be without a dance floor as the failing ballroom is on the verge of closing for good.

A graceful look at how romance and friendship can go hand in hand as well as in step with the most unlikely of partners, Ballroom sounds like it has a good beat that you can dance to(September):


Don't feel bad if you still have some summer reading left over(I know I do!) to finish up. As long as you got through a respectable number of titles on your list, look more to the positive side of the page there. In the meanwhile, adding a few new reads is only an incentive to keep on page turning, plus you never know when an old favorite might be new again:



Friday, August 22, 2014

Bad Movie Month cries wolf for The Howling II

With this look at Sorry Sequels during Bad Movie Month, you would think that there's not much to be surprised about with these halfhearted attempts to recapture the success of a cinematic feature. Well, after sitting through The Howling II, all I can say is "Surprise,bitch!"

This low budget 1985 follow-up(which has two subtitles-"Your sister is a werewolf" or " Stirba, Werewolf Bitch", take your pick!) to the 1981 big studio film that lead to director Joe Dante getting to make Gremlins is a straight to bargain basement affair, which puzzles me greatly.

 Why such a drastic fall in both content and budget? You can't blame the time gap between films because when Hollywood did finally make a sequel to American Werewolf in London(which came out around the same year as the first Howling), that one was well over ten years and change from the original and didn't look like it cost a buck fifty there.

Anyway, on deck as one of the major stars of this show is Christopher Lee as Stefan, a werewolf hunter who attends the funeral of Karen(Dee Wallace in the first film who fortunately did not have to turn up here) and informs her brother that his sis needs to be put down properly.

According to the wacky mythos unveiled over the course of this increasingly confusing story, if silver bullets are removed from a dead werewolf's body, they can rise from the grave unless staked,leading to the greatly awful line "No one's putting a stake in my dead sister!". Also, there are werewolves who are immune to silver and can only be killed by titanium. I know this was allegedly based on a book(Gary Brandner, who wrote a whole series of Howling novels) but you do get the feeling that they were making this up as they went along.

To be fair, the movie does sort of warn you about how off the wall it is before the opening credits. It's safe to say that any film that begins with Christopher Lee reading from the Book of Revelation in an outer space background is not going to be Shakespeare unless it's that version of Hamlet that MST3K covered:



Speaking of Mystery Science Theater, Reb Brown from "Space Mutiny"  plays the brother who winds up tagging along after Stefan to Transylvania(with a plucky gal reporter at his side).

His performance is not that much of a stretch from being "Big McLarge Huge" in that stinker but perhaps a bit more dignity. He teams up with Stefan to stop a big world wide attack of werewolves due to their witch queen coming into her full power during the full moon(my best guess at the threat at hand). Yes, we have werewolves who can do magic, folks.

 As a horror fan, I don't mind a little mixing and matching in my supernatural story lines but even The Vampire Diaries draws the line at who can and can't do magic, okay?

Also, for a werewolf story, there's an awful lot of vampire tropes hanging around the joint. Stakes, saint's medals, the main villain wearing a cape with a bat's head staff in her hand, not to mention being set in Transylvania!

 At one point, Plucky Reporter Gal pulls out a strand of garlic cloves for "protection from evil spirits"-give me a break, that is so vampire, it's not funny! All I'm saying is if you're going to serve up a brew of werewolves and witches, vampires shouldn't be left out of the stew pot. Otherwise, people are going to crave it like a good hit of salt there. Alright, rant over.

Back to the movie, Big McDoofus pairs up with a dwarf ally that gets blasted by a werewitch spell, thanks to losing his set of earplugs made from blessed church candle wax (a nice touch, I admit) and has to throw the poor guy out of a window when he becomes evil. Yeah, this does sound a lot like the "deep hurting"  they used to talk about on MST, doesn't it?:



The werewitch by the way is Stirba(Sybil Danning, who is the main reason many people watch this movie) who happens to be Stefan's sister-what a coincidence there!

Stirba does have some kind of master plan but for the most part spends her time either wandering through cobwebby rooms in a Gwar meets Party City outfit or arranging werewolf threesomes.

Settle down,Beavis;those werewolf sex parties are basically Sybil and two other actors lying in bed wearing stringy fur attachments and Lee press on nail claws, with plenty of growling and whining. Not too sexy, even by Skinemax standards. Of course, we do get the big intro to her character by having a bored looking old lady show up in animal skins to suck the life force out of a random young woman before turning into the red hot werewitch mamma we've all been waiting for:



Towards the end of the movie, which is only an hour and a half but feels oh so longer than that, Stefan and Stirba have a showdown where their thoughts are spoken aloud as crazy special effects go off all around them and there's a hint of Lannister style love(if you know what I mean and even if you don't watch Game of Thrones, I bet you do).

If you're looking for any type of story line continuity, abandon any hope of that before you get more than ten minutes into this thing. Granted, this may not be the weirdest movie in the Howling series(the third one is titled "The Marsupials"-yep, kangaroo werewolves!) but it certainly is the most surreal pick of this particularly strange litter.

I did see this movie a long time ago but upon re-watching it for this post, the bizarreness so overwhelmed me that I had a hell of a headache by the end there. The things I do for Bad Movie Month.....

Well, tune in next time for the last of this Sorry Sequels spectacular with Scream 3 getting ready to howl. In the mean time, enjoy the insistent theme song of Howling II, provided over and over again by Babel(and no, the infamous Sybil Danning repeated disrobing bit is not included here but it's still probably not safe for work):




Thursday, August 21, 2014

Getting to the last drop of True Blood,more Outlander shenanagans and being out from Under The Dome

As we head towards the very last episode of True Blood, a lot of plot points are being tied up, particularly the whole Hoyt/Jessica/Jason situation. It's good that Hoyt finally knows the truth about his past with both of them and it's not too surprising that he and Jessica are now reunited.

Not sure if Jason is really going to hook up with Bridget(Hoyt's recently jilted girlfriend) despite the vibes between them. I do think that he has some decency in him but this feels like too much of a quick fix there. In other sub plots, Sam leaving town with the mother of his upcoming child sounds right to me and Eric throwing Ginger some very long longed for throne sex was pretty much comic relief.

Ultimately, this is the Sookie and Bill Show when all is said and done so I find it hard to buy that our Mr. Compton is simply going to have his True Death in her arms.

While the entire "Yazuka out to get revenge/make money off of secret knowledge of Nu-Blood" story line is rather ham handed, my best guess for stringing that one along is to get those two crazy kids back together in a permanent way.

  In a weird way, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a lot more mature about this noble vampire in love trope than TB seems to be. Bill's determination to die regardless of a cure in order to allow Sookie a chance to be with a mortal partner is touching but also a tad condescending and wrongheaded.

 Yes, Sookie may never find a real love who can offer her a more normal life if Bill is still somewhere in the world yet what's to prevent her from comparing any potential suitor to her departed lover(who in death will seem rather perfect) and thus preventing her from finding a new love with someone else?

Granted, Buffy and Angel did have a couple of reunion moments but they did manage to find new romance(or realize that it wasn't completely necessary to their happiness) with both of them being apart and alive.

Don't get me wrong, if Sookie and Bill do find a way to stay together, that's great but I do wish that someone would call Bill out on his grand gesture there. Either way, I won't be the only one tuning in for the finale this Sunday and hoping for the best:


The second episode of Outlander had Claire trying to fit into the strange new world she's found herself in and while she may be able to dress the part, her forthright nature continues to draw a lot of suspicion.

In between doing her best to not appear to be a British spy and wrangling a way to get back to those mystical stones in order to return to her own time, Claire does manage to make a friend. Geillis seems like an outsider herself in some ways but her understanding of how things are done at Castle Leoch is a true boon to Claire, perhaps more that she knows:



Claire is going to need plenty of advice on conduct, as the lord of the castle is not about to let her leave(mainly to protect his people from any British aggression) just now.

Her intelligence and knowledge about herbal remedies will help her achieve some sort of standing amongst her new acquaintances but what Claire is in desperate need of is the ability to lie convincingly. That's something very hard for such a straight shooter to do and so far, she has done well yet not well enough to get where she wants to go.

In the meanwhile, she and Jaime are becoming fast friends and possibly more, as we soon shall see. Granted, I did read the book but that doesn't mean this series won't be able to toss a few twists in my way in regards to those two:



Even with a few people finding a way out from Under The Dome, things are still complicated around Chester's Mill.

Barbie discovers that his well connected dad is part of a possibly government/business conspiracy that knows about the mysterious egg as Sam and his sister team up with a confused Lyle and plot to rescue Junior(of all people!) from the entrapped town.

Meanwhile, Julia and the kids get a couple of messages from Barbie that lets them know he's alive and back in the regular world, which gives them hope for escape. Of course, they all have been keeping Big Jim out of the loop(which wasn't too hard, as naming himself the new Sheriff gave him plenty of distractions) yet that wasn't something that could be pulled off for long. Just how Big Jim will use this new info for his own gain is yet to be seen but I am still willing to ride this crazy train down to the end of the line:



RANDOM NOTES:

SKIN WARS: Game Show Network is doing it's own version of Syfy's Face Off, only with body painters and having Ru Paul as one of the judges. I've caught some of the series so far and it's certainly a new way to look at things, that's for sure:


Monday, August 18, 2014

M. D. Waters has her Prototype deliver a powerhouse punch of entertainment

When M. D. Waters made her literary debut earlier this year with Archetype, a sci-fi suspense tale about a woman in a futuristic world found out the true secret of her supposed amnesia, it was a nice surprise to discover that it's concluding sequel would be released this summer.

Prototype picks up a year later from where we left off with Emma Wade, who knows that she's the Original Clone, the first in a sinister project designed to increase the scant number of fertile women in the dictatorial patriarchy that the USA has become.

 Emma has been on the run from both friends and foes, seeking out her true identity by searching for her parents who were once members of the resistance movement she joined up with. That journey has just become more difficult as the man who insisted upon being her husband,Declan Burke, makes a public announcement about her disappearance, including a huge financial reward to anyone who helps to bring his "wife" home. Emma's cover is quickly blown but she does manage to stay free long enough to make a new plan:


Emma decides that her best option is to return to the resistance, which offers quite a few dilemmas of it's own.

 Not only is there a lack of trust among the leadership about where her loyalties lie, Emma has to deal with her feelings about Noah, the man who loved her when she was fully human. He is willing to assist her in staying free but more than that intense involvement is a touchy issue.

Emma may not remember everything from her former life yet she does know that her ultimate goal is to live a peaceful life. That serenity is hard to achieve in the battle zone that is her life so despite her inner inclinations, Emma must take up her old warrior ways. Noah is reluctant to include her on spy missions but it is her chance at staying out of the hands of her would-be captors:


One of her worst enemies,however, is within the resistance. While Sonya was willing to use her medical skills to save the first Emma, she is far less inclined to keep the second version around.

Part of that motivation is due to Sonya's falling in love with Noah and becoming a mother figure to Adrienne, the daughter born to Emma and Noah as the transference between host and clone was completed. Emma is also determined to embrace motherhood as well as a new chance at love with Noah but torn as to do so without causing any lasting damage. Those choices become even more limited as a threat to the health of the clones could take Emma down before the bad guys close in. Nevertheless, being a part of her child's life makes Emma very willing to take whatever risks she can to do so:



I'm glad that M.D. Waters chose to make this a two part story instead of stringing this out over a series. I like a good series but some tales don't need to be told longer than they should, otherwise they lose their flavor like a stretched out piece of chewing gum.

 Fortunately, succinctness pays off in this instance. Both Archetype(which is now in paperback) and Prototype offer some good solid entertainment with engaging plot lines that only dip into low gear during the romantic portions. The love story is nicely done yet it's the hum of the action as Emma faces off against her enemies that keeps things going along at an agreeable clip.

I do look forward to what's next on the horizon for M. D. Waters, as her first and second impressions make a reader want to clear off space on her shelves for more smartly written female friendly adventure tales from her. Even if her next work goes off in a completely different direction, this is a literary lady to watch out for as her books make a powerful punch:




Friday, August 15, 2014

Bad Movie Month rides with Conan the Destroyer

Continuing our quest for Sorry Sequels this season on Bad Movie Month, we mount up with old school Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Destroyer.

This 1984 follow-up to the unexpected hit Conan the Barbarian had a much different tone in dealing with the pulp fiction source material. Under director John Milius, the sword and sorcery story telling had a bit of an operatic approach to it(plus, having James Earl Jones as the bad guy helped out a lot).

With new director Richard Fleischer at the helm, the movie took on a comedic vibe that lead to a rather campy treatment of the characters and plot points. Many people feel that the lowering level of violence in CTD(which was PG, unlike the first film that earned a strong R rating) is to blame for the lackluster energy on screen but to my eye, it's the hokey jokey elements of the script that is the root cause of that evil:



The story line here has Conan and a comic relief sidekick being recruited by an evil queen named Taramis (Sarah Douglas) to escort her niece Jehnna(Olivia D'abo) towards her destiny, a search for a magic gem that opens a magic lock to a magic bejeweled horn to awaken an ancient god. Not too much magic involved, is there?

The big hidden twist(or not as hidden as our wicked queen would like it to be) is that Jehnna is meant to be a human sacrifice in order to keep the "dreaming god" from being uncontrollably cranky when he wakes up.

 That plan doesn't work out well, although the part when Jehnna's virginity is supposed to be kept safe from Conan by captain of the guards Bombatta(Wilt Chamberlain-place your own ironic joke here) does.  Despite Jehnna's keen interest in romancing Conan, he regards her considerable charms with as much interest as he does the camel that gets punched in the head early on(a call back to the first film and a pointless one at that).

Much credit for that lack of lust goes to Conan's belief that his dead lover Valeria(from the original movie) will be restored to him by Evil Queenie. Too bad Arnie wasn't as devoted to his living life partners as his supposedly uncivilized character was to his deceased girlfriend but as Akiro would say, that's another story.

 Back to our bad girl ruler who,of course, has no intention of paying off her hired hand here and instructs Bombatta to "put a sword in Conan's heart" as soon as the first jewel heist is completed. Corruption, false promises and dubious game plan, Taramis sounds a lot like your average politician to me!

One smart thing that Conan does do in this otherwise goofy film is call upon his old wizard pal Akiro(Mako, reprising his role from CTB and adding some opening credit narration as well) to join in, with all the magic going on, plus pick up a new recruit named Zula(Grace Jones, making her film debut here).

This ragtag bunch stumbles across some trouble during their quest, which basically relies on Jehnna being lead by her mystical birthmark to wherever they're going, not the best way to plan a journey there. They run into a number of bad guys, including a wizard who guards the magic gem key in a glass palace in the middle of a lake and turns into a badly animated cartoon bird to kidnap the princess.

This whole thing sounds rather cartoonish to begin with and not in a good way there, which explains the cheesy special effects and make-up. The mirror monster that Conan has to battle alone would make the judges on Face Off wince in utter horror at just how bad looking it is. This creature is described as a "man ape" but resembles a lizard mask made with Play-do that's melted in a microwave to me:


The only saving grace of this movie is Grace Jones, as a warrior woman who throws in with Conan's crew after he gives her an assist with an angry mob. 

Her body language and facial expressions(particularly during the fight scenes) more than make up for the lack of dialogue given to the character and out of the entire cast, she's the most memorable.


 Grace Jones went onto other film parts after this such as hench woman May Day in the Bond film A View to a Kill and the title role in Vamp and like her debut in CTD, focused more on her powerful presence than allowed Jones to act out a fully developed character.

Granted, she may not be a Shakespearean actress but Grace Jones does and did deserve better written scripts.  Conan the Destroyer is mainly worth seeing for Zula, who I think should have gotten her own movie. Zula was one of the few fighting females on screen at the time that wasn't relegated to being a love interest and she's still an iconic figure to many of the Conan fans. Not to mention a welcome relief from the damsel-in-distress antics of Jehnna there:



 I know this is intended to be B-movie fare but the script really could have used some nuance, especially in characterization. Some of the basic formula plotting was most likely due to a rewrite but nonetheless, a little extra creativity certainly would've spiced things up.

For example,Bombatta-is he really that on board with the big "kill the girl for the god" plan, particularly a girl that he's probably known since "the day of her birth?"(they say "day of birth" quite often in this sucker)? Does he have some other motivation maybe, like an illicit love affair with the queen or something like that? I'm not asking for a big miniseries here, just a little more that "Yes, my queen."

Also, how is it that towards the end of the movie, Conan instantly figures out that he was set up all along for a fall and that the queen never meant to bring back Valeria? Did he take a magic smart potion or something when we weren't looking?  Seems like a lazy bit of writing to me, which is par for the course in a story that pretty much plays connect the dots. Conan fights at point A, Jehnna screams for help at Point B and a stupid joke is made at Point C before we get to the big fighty-Mcfight sequence.

Arnie made one more sword swinging movie after this one tanked(Red Sonja, with the same director) and then hung up his barbarian gear for good. Just as well, since such strong man sagas have a short shelf life as it is. Tune in next time on Bad Movie Month when we get our wolf on with Howling II and as for Conan, he may have a big sword but not much else in his arsenal to last one round in any true game of thrones: