Comic Book or Space Opera? Guardians of the Galaxy is both

Netflix streaming is my media of choice these days, but sometimes my husband decides to find a “family” flick for us to rent on DVD and last night we settled down in front of the home screen with popcorn and Guardians of the Galaxy. I’d heard it was good and thought our young adult son would like it, but wow, did my husband like it, too.

When I was growing up I read masses of material, but not comic books. (Actually my beloved mother once said, “Tobacco Road and comic books are the ultimate in trash.”) I’ve related that story several times and an English teacher friend quipped, “Pam, you are old enough to read Erskine Caldwell.” Maybe I am old enough to read comic books, too, but the inclination just isn’t there. However, I can and do watch films based on comic books, and I also really liked Guardians of the Galaxy.

However, unlike most such stories, the main character isn’t a super hero. Not really. He’s a regular guy from earth who was kidnapped as a child and his sole connection to his past is a Sony Walkman cassette player and a homemade cassette entitled “Awesome Pop Tunes.” Those truly awesome tunes from the seventies form the basis for the movie’s sound track. They are not just sounds, but are a basis for the character’s development, and the result is …well…awesome.

Since the film is set in space, there is quite a lot of fantastic world building (and character building, too) with CGI that is simply amazing. This film has a great cast, including Chris Pratt as the earth-born “Star Lord” character; Zoe Saldana, of the new Star Trek, as the main female lead, and Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as voice actors for CGI characters. Even Glenn Close convincingly plays a minor character. This film’s plot is all over the place, which is great for a space opera. Those need to have multiple settings, and this film has several. The space battles are amazing, the color palette is magnificent, as the attention to every detail.

Guardians of the Galaxy is great entertainment and those who are not fans of the Marvel comics series can enjoy it, although there are plenty of small references to please such fans. Grab it on DVD or Blu Ray and have fun!

Happy Birthday, Will (iam Shakespeare)

Yes, it is Shakespeare’s birthday. At least, this is the day scholars believe is likely his birthday. He was christened three days hence, and in his time, it was typical to have that ceremony three days after the birth. Alas, however, many students and therefore many people in our country have studied very little of the Bard’s works.

My daughter got a good background in Shakespeare, because she took honors English with the absolutely fabulous Janet Schwartz. Alas, my son was not a well-liked or accomplished student, so he was in a different sort of class in high school. His ninth grade teacher began Romeo and Juliet, but abandoned the effort during Act III. When I found out, my husband and I took him to see R & J at the Shakespeare Tavern, in Atlanta. Later, he studied Julius Caesar, but I don’t remember that he actually read MacBeth, but we did see that at the Tavern, too. I’ve enjoyed most everything I saw at the Shakespeare Tavern, although they do like to emphasize the baudy aspects.

As a student at Piedmont College, I took Shakespearian Tragedy with Dr. Greene, and it was sometimes difficult, but I am so very glad I took it. That course covered the typical plays: Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear. Apparently, many colleges are abandoning the Bard. I know I’m old school, but Mr. Shakespeare’s works are among the finest in western world literature, so invest some time in reading a play or a sonnet or watching some Shakespeare!

Star Wars Episode Seven

After seeing the second Star Trek reboot, all I can say about the new Star Wars is that I have a lot of hope and fear. Hope that it will be worthy of the Episode IV-VI trilogy, and fear that it will be even worse than episodes I and II. I actually kinda liked Episode III.

Harrison Ford looks older than dirt, but I’m not particularly young myself. Of course, any action will fall to the younger cast members, so let’s hope that the writers crafted them well. Abrams can make it look great, but if the writing is bad, nothing can save it.

Dark Space— a review

Dark Space coverRecently, I read a space opera called Dark Space by Jasper T. Scott. Although this book didn’t grab me at the beginning, there were enough innovations to keep me reading. Many science fiction fans pay tribute (deliberately or unwittingly) to their screen favorites. This novel blends elements from Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica for sure. It begins “in medias res” with the main character involved in a star fighter to star fighter dogfight, and when it jumps back to the exposition phase, I decided that this novel too much like every other space opera in print and on the screen. However, the use of a “holoskin” to disguise the main character, essentially allowing him to impersonate someone else, is a nifty plot device. So is the use of a “neurochip” inserted into the brain of another character— leaving her appearance as it was, but giving her a whole new personality. In a universe with such devices, the reader (or characters) never seem to know who is friend and who is foe.

Much of the action of Dark Space is like the original BattleStar Galatica; star fighters and ships shooting. This can be fascinating (think David Weber) or just action packed. One reason Weber is fascinating is his ability to craft characters that the reader can love or hate. The core problem with Dark Space is that I just didn’t care who was gonna win those skirmishes.

Dark Space is predictable, except when it isn’t. And it is action packed, but a tad boring. The ending, instead of satisfying the reader, is a build up for part 2. So, I guess I’d give it three stars….

But it was free, and that’s a good price, no doubt because the author is willing to give it away in hopes of selling the sequels. I didn’t go for the second installment, however.