Tag Archives: space exploration

Movie Review: Alien: Covenant (2017)

Zzzz.  Zzzz.  Zzzz.

That’s my impression of myself sleeping through this boring poopfest.

Sigh, let’s get it over with.  BQB here with a review of Alien: Covenant.

Does Ridley Scott even make movies for the audience anymore?  Sometimes I think they might just be for his own philosophical, navel gazing purposes.

In the original Alien (1979) we saw Sigourney Weaver play space traveler Ripley, taking out aliens with a flamethrower.  Flash forward 38 years and we’ve got friggin melancholy androids waxing poetic about their feelings and beside themselves with ennui.

The first few Alien films were great because they were essentially horror films set in space.  In fact, I caught a clip of an interview recently where Scott said something to the effect that the first film was essentially setting up a haunted house in the form of a spaceship, turning a monster lose in the form of an alien and seeing who makes it out alive.

Alas, now we get films that you practically have to be a philosophy major to understand.

Ironically, 2012’s Prometheus was panned by the critics, arguing it was heavy on the thinking and light on the action.  Personally, I liked it and the questions it asked about the universe, creation, the meaning of life, our place and purpose and so on.

However, I had hoped this film would be a return to form (i.e. give us someone else to shoot a flame thrower at those damn aliens) but sadly, no.  More navel gazing.

In this go around, a ship named the Covenant carries a crew full of colonists in search of a new home world.  They land on what they hope will be their new home but…blah blah blah, they become lunch instead.

Sure, the xenomorphs are given free reign to snack on the humans.  However, most of the human vs. alien scenes are predictable if you’ve ever seen any of the previous films.

Bottomline:  if you see a dude coughing, you know an alien’s going to pop out of his chest and start attacking everyone.  If you see a dude look into a dark hole with a dumb look on his face, you know that face is about to get sucked on by a face sucker.

Those aren’t spoilers.  Those are tried and true Alien franchise rules that have been in effect since the Carter administration.

Michael Fassbender brings a certain level of coolness by playing dueling androids David and Walter, a pair of synthetics who have opposing viewpoints about…well, just go watch it.

For the most part, it’s an ensemble cast, mostly filled with newcomers and no-names.  Funnyman Danny McBride puts on his serious face as the crew’s pilot, but I keep expecting him to break out into his Kenny Powers persona and whip out his junk, drink a beer and burp or do something else hysterically outrageous.  Spoiler alert: he doesn’t, so we can only assume that Danny is trying to expand on his range as a thespian.  He does well, though I hope this doesn’t mean an end is coming to his Kenny Powers-ian style characters in the future.

Billy Crudup plays Captain Oram, a by the book dweeb disliked by his crew.  We’re lead to think that angle might go somewhere but it doesn’t and ultimately, it’s such a large cast filled with either unrecognizable (never saw them in anything) or vaguely recognizable (I know I’ve seen that face in another film but I have no idea who they are) that none of the characters really get enough screen time to grow, develop, or even become moderately interesting.

If there is a new age Ripley in the movie, it’s Katherine Waterston’s Daniels, a crew member who, umm, uhh…yeah we don’t get to learn much because again, she’s one of a much too large cast.  But she has some great scenes where she kicks ass and saves a day and so on.

I really think Scott has to go to his room and think about what he has done and what the future of this franchise should be.  Should he return to its “haunted house in space” origins?  Tempting but difficult, seeing as how, as stated above, the rules about how these aliens attack have been well known since 1979 so we can spot them coming from a mile away.

Should the franchise continue to expand upon the philosophical “Why are we here?” type questions?  Possibly, though frankly, I spend most of my time trying to distract myself from the fact that I’m little more than a tiny, insignificant little gnat stuck to the giant, overreaching windshield of the space-time continuum, so I really don’t need a pair of depressed, ennui laden, morose androids reminding me.

Plotwise, it’s all kind of slapped together and relies on you remembering what happened in Prometheus, which is unrealistic because I can’t remember where I left my car keys half the time.  (Wait, let me check the fridge.)

Scott does increase the alien attacks over the last film.  But he also continues the philosophical hullaballoo so it seems like he was confused as to whether he wanted a thriller or a thinker, so he tried for both and in the end, scored neither.

I will give the film this.  The scenes where Michael Fassbender plays two different versions of himself are great and the technology that can allow an actor to do this has really come a long way.

Otherwise, hold your nose because it’s a big stink-a-roo.

STATUS:  I hate to do this.  I don’t want to do this.  Ridley Scott, why are you making me do this?  It’s not shelf-worthy.  There, I said it.  And that’s not fair, because I have given shittier films shelf-worthy status because I’m a nice guy and I don’t want to be rude but you know, I expected less from those films and more from this one.  I really thought this would be good but at best, it was blah.  It’s worth a rental but don’t rush out to the theater for it.

I think this might be a sign of what we can only hope will be the end of Hollywood’s never-ending sequel/prequel/reboot obsession.  There’s only so many ways to spice up and reheat leftovers before they congeal into a big pile of crap.  Sometimes the pizza tastes good the first time and even better cold but then after the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh return to that box buried in the dark corner of the fridge, the pieces begin to taste stale and dry and hey, is that mold growing on my 38 year old pizza?  Whodathunkit?

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Daily Discussion with BQB – Will We Ever Get to Mars?

Will we ever get to Mars, 3.5 readers?

If so, what will we do when we get there?

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Will the Presidential Candidates Reinstate the Space Program if Elected?

Hello 3.5 readers.Space-Shuttle.png

If you’re a nerd like me, then you’re aware the U.S. Space Shuttle program has been shut down since 2011.

I suppose there are arguments for that. The economy is in the crapper. We just, well I want to say wrapped up the war in Iraq but it doesn’t look very wrapped up, and there’s an ongoing war in Afghanistan, both wars have been costly.

Schools are on the decline. People are broke as hell and can’t find jobs.

So I get it. People don’t like seeing money being spent on space under these circumstances.

However, I’d counter that if the money isn’t going to the space program then it’s just going to some other politician’s pet project because there’s really no such thing as cost savings in the government.  The politicians just take moolah from one program and put it in another program.

Then they take you, the American taxpayer and turn you over and shake you up and down until all your spare change falls out.

But I digress.  Let’s not go negative. Let’s go positive.

Here are some reasons WHY the space shuttle is important:

  • We can learn all kinds of scientific shit about space and in the process of building all this technical space shit, we’ll see greater advances in engineering, robotics, etc.
  • The country is so divided right now that a successful space launch might make us drop all of our anger and hatred and give each other hugs right in the middle of the street.
  • Maybe there are friendly aliens we could meet who could give us the cures to cancer, herpes, syphilis, toe nail fungus and teach us how to make pizza in zero gravity.
  • You know that asshat Putin is probably going to launch his own space shuttle mission and while he’s up there in space he’ll take a picture of his butt with the words “America Sucks” written on his cheeks in magic marker. Then he’ll tweet that shit out to the world and make America a laughingstock. Even worse, many people will be lead to believe that America, does in fact, suck.

We need to get the space shuttle back up there, people.

So, as a world renowned poindexter, I’m taking it upon myself to tweet the three remaining presidential candidates, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders and ask them if elected, will they reinstate the Space Shuttle program?

My tweets:

I don’t want to brag, but as the caretaker of a magic bookshelf, I have a certain amount of pull when it comes to world affairs (that amount being absolutely zero), so surely one of these fine, upstanding political types will respond and give me the thumbs up or down as to whether or not the Space Shuttle will be pulled out of moth balls under their watch.

I’ll keep you posted, 3.5 readers, and if anyone gets back to me, I’ll let you know.

P.S. – 3.5 readers, feel free to follow me on Twitter – @bookshelfbattle

Meanwhile, feel free to gab away in the comments about whether or not you think the space shuttle program should be reinstated but if you could do me a favor and not use this post as an excuse to verbally bash the candidate you don’t like because on the million to one chance one of their assistant’s assistant’s assistant’s assistants takes a peak at this post I’d like them to see an invite to participate in a legit conversation about the space shuttle program and not a complaint session about the candidates.

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Let’s Talk About Undesiredverse – BQB’s Space Opera Serial

Hello 3.5 readers,shutterstock_121570807

BQB here.  Let’s talk, nerds.

ABOUT THE UNDESIREDVERSE

The year is 2999.  Roman Voss, a bounty hunter with an addiction.  Alien Jones, a pilot who’d once achieved greatness as second in command of the Known Universe’s greatest democracy, now stripped of his powers and looking for redemption.

Caught in the middle is a mysterious and very confused woman.

Jones’ old boss, the Mighty Potentate, presides over the Rakan Collective, a group of pro-democracy, pro-science, pro-education peace loving aliens who despise war, though they have amassed an unbeatable army to protect what they have from the “undesirables,” the residents of Milky Way, Andromeda, and all points in between, the area referred to by His Potentosity as “garbage planets” or simply, “the Undesiredverse.”

Cast out of paradise and deemed unworthy of the Rakan Collective, Undesiredverseans fight amongst themselves pointlessly, aimlessly and yes, sometimes even hilariously.  The religious zealots of Vendros, for example, have been slaughtering each over for a thousand years of a translation error in their holy book that leads the color of the shirt warn by their holy being in question.

But then again, not all of the baddies are funny.  The underworld organization known as the Cabal has a hand in every aspect of life, from business to politics, though they are so secretive they do not even acknowledge their own existence.

Meanwhile, many years ago, the Tollusks, a violent, warmongering species, decided to reform their ways and seek peace and prosperity.  The Tarazni Clan quickly formed, seized the planet’s nuclear arsenal, took flight, bombed their own planet to smithereens to punish “the infidels” on the way out and have been conquering planets ever since.

In fact, Earth is their latest acquisition.  There is an Earth government.  The One World Order began when countries decided to cease their petty squabbles in light of the discovery of new alien threats.  Alas, anyone who’d of put up resistance to the Tarazni’s Clan’s rule has been either killed, marginalized, ostracized, or paid off.  The One World Order that remains is accused by the people of being a government of “collaborators” and “rubber stampers.”

Sourcemind is the first villain that we are introduced to in the story.  He is a highly evolved artificial intelligence who was constructed by the humans of Omcoros to oversee automation of all of their world’s systems.  Big mistake, as that led to Sourcemind taking control.  From his mainframe on the world he’s conquered, he can assimilate any machine that comes in contact with him (or any machine that comes into contact with a machine he’s assimilated.

AND SO IT BEGINS…

Sourcemind, the Cabal, the Tarazni Clan, the One World Order and other degenerates want the woman in Voss and Jones’ care.  These three become the most wanted beings in the Undesiredverse and our story becomes a manic dash to safety.

Only the bad guys know why they want the mystery woman.  Voss, Jones, and even the woman herself are in the dark.

WHY IS BQB WRITING THIS?

All too often, I stop and start a story.  This blog helps me get things finished.  Last month, I finished a project.  #31ZombieAuthors.  It took a lot of work, but because I promised 31 people I’d do it, I got it done.

The story essentially involves a trio’s journey for survival as they are hunted by various baddies.  Thus, I basically step into Voss’ shoes and every day, imagine a little bit more about what is happening and what he is up against.

I don’t want to say the story goes in a straight line, but it does.  But there are many bumps on that line our heroes must hurdle.  But because it essentially begins with Point A (the heroes are in jeopardy and ends with Point B (the heroes are safe) I feel I can write a little bit every day and eventually bring our heroes from jeopardy to safety.

QUOTES ABOUT UNDESIREDVERSE: WANTED

BQB said these things about his story because he couldn’t find anyone else who would:

“It’s like Star Wars with a twist of Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

“Finally, a space opera that can make me laugh, as well as experience mental stress over the fear that characters I’ve grown attached to might be gruesomely murdered at any minute.”

“It doesn’t totally suck.”

BQB NEEDS YOUR HELP

You, the 3.5 readers, are watching me write a first draft.  There will be errors in writing, plot, grammar, style, even story.  I’ve already identified several.

If you see something that leaves you scratching your head, don’t keep quiet about it.  Let me know.  You have all been drafted into being my 3.5 beta readers.

I won’t consider you rude for pointing out a faux pas.  I’d appreciate it.  You won’t be kicked out of the 3.5 readers club.  I can’t afford to lose any more readers as it is.  You might point out something that I intentionally left iffy because I intend it to turn into a big reveal later but that’s ok.  We’re making sausage on this site so I’ll give you a glimpse inside the sausage casing and let you know that a) yes, you pointed out a big goof on my part and thank you or b) I intended that and it’ll be addressed later.

Either way, if you see something off, let me know.

THE FUTURE FOR BQB

My main goal is to get this written, re-written, edited, formatted and published at some point early next year.  I don’t have a date set but as early as possible.  If I get it up on Amazon before June I’ll be happy.

I have not forgotten about Pop Culture Mysteries.  Next year, I hope to launch the Pop Culture Mysteries website which will feature a Season One of Jake’s Mysteries, leading into a Jake novel.

Undesiredverse: Wanted will basically be me teaching myself how to write and self-publish a novel.  Pop Culture Mysteries will up the game a bit and from hereon, I hope to publish two books a year.

That’s assuming life agrees with that plan.  Come on life.  Don’t be a dick.

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Undesiredverse: Wanted – Chapter 13

Halminotrin. Street name – huff. That stuff will grow hair on your chest and turn it curly, let me tell you. I kept a slab of it in a plastic bag in the glove compartment. I broke off a small pebble, crushed it into the tray of my vape-o-matic inhalator, mixed in some bottled water and presto, put the mask on my face, hit the on button and presto, I was ready to trip balls.

The inhalator chugged away. I sniffed in the goodness. It made me feel light. Airy. Happy even.

“You’re really going to do that now?” Jones asked.

“I can’t think of a better time to do it,” I said, my voice muffled by my apparatus. “I’ve got an edge that needs to be taken off, my friend.”

“You couldn’t just do some jumping jacks?”

I pulled the mask up, just a bit off my mouth so I can speak more clearly. I mocked my pilot, talking in a high pitched, girlish tone, which really isn’t fair, as Jonesy actually speaks in a deep, bass filled baritone, not unlock Barry White, the classical musician from the late Twentieth Century. You should listen to him sometime. You can download ten thousand songs dating back from 1900-2300 for the low, low price of fifty credits.

“‘You couldn’t just do some jumping jacks?’ God, you’re like a tiny green version of my mother.”

“Whatever,” Jones said. “That mask, you think its a cool look for you?”

“Maybe,” I said as I let it drop back on my face, which muffled my voice again. “What’s it to you?”

“You look like a space fighter pilot with sleep apnea,” Jones quipped.

A middle finger was the only response I could muster as I reclined the front passenger’s seat and closed my eyes. I needed a nap.

But it wasn’t going to happen. Our new friend was crying.

We both looked back to the jump seat, where she sat, coiled up into a ball, her face buried in her knees as she rocked back and forth.

“She’s fine,” I said as I popped the mask upwards, letting it rest on my head, the huff vapor making a warm spot on my forehead.

“She’s not fine,” Jones replied. “Go talk to her.”

“Me?” I asked. “Didn’t you used to be a diplomat?”

“I used to be a lot of things,” Jones said. “But right now she needs someone who looks like she does. Another human.”

“That’s speciesist!” I said. “Something you accuse ME of all the time!”

“It’s not speciesist,” Jones said. “It’s just common sense.”

I switched the inhalator off and removed my mask entirely.

“Fine,” I said as I walked over to the woman. “Jesus Christ, I have to do everything around here. Hello ma’am.”

She didn’t budge.

“Ma’am?” I asked as I poked her. She looked up at me and recoiled defensively.

I put both hands up. “Whoa,” I said. “It’s ok. What’s your name?”

She cocked her head and looked at me with the same expression a puppy uses when its confused by what a human just said.

I repeated myself. For some reason, I thought saying it louder would help. “YOUR NAME?”

“My name?” she asked.

“Yes, your name.”

She pointed at me. “Your name.”

“No, your name,” I said.

“Your name,” she repeated.
I slapped my warm forehead.

“Jonesy, she must be a mongo or something,” I said.

“Nah,” Jones said. “She’d be drooling all over the place if she were a mongo.”

The mongos. Humans who were subjected to illegal mind control experiments from 2745- 2801. They and their offspring have been bringing down humanity’s collective test scores ever since.

I checked her for drool. I didn’t see any.

“Let’s try this again,” I said. I put my hand on my chest. “MY NAME IS ROMAN.”

“Your name is Roman,” the woman repeated.

“Right,” I said. “There’s no flies on you, kiddo.”

“There’s no flies on me, kiddo,”  she repeated.  She had a very sweet voice.

I pointed at the pilot. “The little green man is Jonesy.”

Jones swiveled around in his chair, waved a three fingered hand and said a polite, “Hello.”

The woman perked up a bit. She stopped crying.

“The little green man is Jonesy,” she said between sniffles.

“Good,” I said. I pointed my finger at her. “And your name is…”

She got excited, smiled and clapped her hands. She pointed her finger at me and emitted a big, loud, triumphant, “YOUR NAME!”

Whoever she was, she stared at me with a pair of baby blues with all the enthusiasm of a game show contestant who was certain she’d just won a big prize by figuring out a complex puzzle.

Jones laughed. I hanged my head in defeat. “Oh for the love of…”

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Undesiredverse: Wanted – Chapter 12

I was free falling.  Twenty-five thousand feet and plummeting over primo real estate.  Beings paid good money to get this kind of view but they were usually aboard sightseeing ships.  Between the spotlights, the city lights, and the incessantly blinking advertising boards below, I could barely see what I was doing.

Sourcemind aka Ninety-five was nowhere to be found.  He was so heavy that his burnt out carcass made a beeline to the planet below.  My mystery woman, on the other hand, was a bit of a waif.  Tall, skinny, yet curvy in all the right places.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”  Jones shouted.

“Improvising!  Get down there!”

Jonesy abided.  The Star Streaker roared past me on a vertical course.  I aimed myself in the general direction of my quarry, but I needed some help.

The LaMonza Corporation’s CTK Sparkmatic Attack Cord is an essential tool found inside the duster of discriminating bounty hunters everywhere.  You’ve probably heard of it by its more commonly used nickname, the spark whip.

I drew mine but I didn’t arm it.  I didn’t want to fry the poor gal after all.  I whirled around a few times and then let it loose with a deafening crack sound as it coiled around the woman.  It caused her considerable pain as she woke with a start, a frightened expression on her face.  I didn’t want to hurt her but I was low on options and the world below was getting closer and closer.

With a flick of my wrist I snapped her up to me and uncoiled the whip from around her body.  The exchange we had next went something like this:

ME:  Hello.

HER:  AAAARRRRRRRRGGGGHH!!!!!

ME:  You’re not much of a conversationalist.

Together, we fell past our ship. Jones was hovering steadily, waiting for orders. I cracked the whip again, catching it by the side bay door’s handle.

“You’re insane,”  Jones said.

“Fine,”  I replied.  “Next time you fight the death bot and save the girl and I’ll fly the ship.”

“Touche.”

“Put ‘er on autopilot and reel us in already,”  I said.

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The Mighty Potentate Responds to the Discovery of Kepler-452b

By:  The Mighty Potentate, Alien Jones’ Boss and Supreme Overlord of a Planet the Name of Which is None of Your Damn Business

Alien Jones' Boss, the Mighty Potentate.

ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY POTENTATE!

Greetings, Pitiful Humans!

Alien Jones’ boss, the Mighty Potentate, here to respond to rumors vis a vis this fiasco:

Yes, your Earth scientists, who think they are all big and brainy but in actuality are about as witty as a Banji Beast’s Butt Burst compared to the legion of geniuses under my command, claim to have discovered an Earth-like planet, one potentially capable of sustaining life.

Let us address the question that has no doubt entered your minds:

Is this Alien Jones’ home world, the one I, the Mighty Potentate, rule over with an iron fist?

THE ANSWER:  NO!

Muah ha ha!  Foolish hairless apes.  You really thought it would be that easy to locate a planet under the control of a being with a brain as copious and learned as mind?

Hilarious!  The notion brings nothing but laughter to me.  Ha.  Ha, I say!  Ha.

No, this is not my secret planet and therefore, your degenerate Hollywood executives should, UNDER NO MEANS:

1)  Use this telescope contraption to beam your insipid reality television programs to my, er, this planet’s media viewing devices.

2)  Build spacecraft capable of long range flight to deliver reality television stars to this world.  I mean, it’s not mine, but seriously, no planet deserves an influx of reality TV.  Keep it to yourself.

3)  Develop more obnoxious reality TV programs in the hopes of selling them to the residents of this planet.

4)  Don’t just start calling it a random name like Kepler-425b.  Perhaps this planet has a much cooler name.  I don’t know what it’s name is.  Why are you asking me?  I wouldn’t tell you if I knew it’s name anyway.  It’s none of your business, losers.  Seriously, just showing up to a place already inhabited, acting like you own it and can just move in, ignoring the beings that already live there.  You humans have a bad habit of doing that, you know.

Whoever the inhabitants of this mysterious planet may be, rest assured had they wanted you poking your big noses around, they’d of invited you to do so long ago, pathetic humans.

Whoever the inhabitants of this planet are, maybe all they ever wanted was to kidnap and probe a few of you to find out what makes you tick (specimens were surely given right back) and make crop circles as practical jokes.  No doubt a wise ruler put an end to those practices long ago, though some of his dumber subjects probably don’t listen.

What?  I’m talking about some other planet.  Stop asking questions.

In closing, REMOVE THE OFFENDING TELESCOPE CONTRAPTION FROM MY ORBIT IMMEDIATELY OR PREPARE FOR INTERGALACTIC CONQUEST!

Er, I mean, or don’t.  I don’t care.  Because that’s totally not my planet.

CEASE PUBLIC TRANSMISSION.

PRIVATE TRANSMISSION.

Not to be shared publicly with the worthless humans.

ALIEN JONES!  You were ordered to keep the humans away!  First, it’s this damnable satellite!  Next, my TV will have nothing but “Bowling Alley Disco Makeover” and “Who Wants to Be a Barracuda Farmer?”

Double your efforts towards launching BQB’s writing career, Alien Jones!  He and the self-published authors promoted in your Ask the Alien column are our only hope!

Fix this immediately, or it’s Welcome to Vaporization City: Population You!

End of Private Transmission.

Alien Jones is the Intergalactic Correspondent for the Bookshelf Battle. Do you have a question for the Esteemed Brainy One? Submit it to Bookshelf Q. Battler via a tweet to @bookshelfbattle, leave it in the comment section on this site, or drop it off on the Bookshelf Battle Google + page. If AJ likes your question, he might promote your book, blog, or other project while providing his answer.

ALIEN JONES’ GUARANTEE:  If you don’t like AJ’s response, just let him know and he’ll file it into the recycling bin of his monolithic super computer. No muss, no fuss, no problem.

Alien image courtesy of openclipart.org

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The Martian Movie Trailer – An Inspiration for Self Publishers

Sure.  We click clack away on our keyboards whenever we find the time.  We like to daydream about our name in lights, that our words will be embraced by the public, that maybe they’ll even be turned into a movie.

Well, Andy Weir, walking talking self publishing success story that he is, has done just that.

The Martian, a movie based on his bestselling book of the same name, is due out later this year.  The trailer’s been released it it looks amazing:

Movie Trailer – The Martian – 20th Century Fox

“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

– Astronaut Mark Watney

Matt Damon in the lead role.  An ensemble cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara (Zoe from freaking House of Cards!), Donald (Troy from Community!) and Kristen Wiig in a role which, from the looks of it, might be her bridge from comedy to more serious fare.

Earlier this year, Andy spoke to three of my favorite self-publishers, Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright aka Johnny, Sean and Dave of the “Self Publishing Podcast.”  He spoke how he wasn’t an overnight success story but rather his journey was one that involved years of pain staking hard work.

Read more about that show here. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day and your self publishing career won’t be either.

Andy, you’re an inspiration to every nerd with a laptop and a dream of becoming a self-published author.  You did it.  One man. One computer.  One story.  And now one major movie that has every indication of being box office gold.

I tip my hat to you sir, and shall raise a frosty beverage in your honor on opening night.  Your achievement has made it possible for a new generation of self publishers to be taken seriously and we are forever in your debt.

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Movie Review – Aloha (2015)

Recently, one of my noble 3.5 readers accused this blogger of mincing words.  I described San Andreas as “not the best film I’ve ever seen but not the best either.”

The aforementioned reader had a point.  As a reviewer, I need to take a side.

Luckily, Cameron Crowe’s romcom Aloha makes it easy for me to be clear:

Bookshelf Q. Battler here with a review of one of the worst damn movies he’s ever seen in his entire life.

Aloha – Sony Pictures 

Some movies are entrees – served up with expert precision, arranged on your plate in such a beautiful manner that you almost don’t want to eat them out of fear that once you do, the experience will be over.

Then, some movies are like a five dollar all you can eat buffet.  You shove a little bit of everything in your cake hole and the only result is that you leave feeling bloated and gassy.

With several storylines that meander all over and never quite hit their mark, Aloha, I’m sad to say, is one of those buffet movies.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING

I’m sad to say it because it’s not the star studded cast’s fault.  Bradley Cooper (Gilcrest) is charming, Emma Stone (Captain Ng) is adorable, and Bill Murray (Welch) is his usual zany self, though he’s more reserved these days as an elder statesman of comedy.  Rachel McAdams (Tracy) aptly plays Gilcrest’s long lost love while John Krasinski provides one of the funnier (dare I say redeeming) scenes of the film as Woodside, Tracy’s husband who, despite his strong silent type demeanor is able to communicate all he needs to say to Gilcrest with a few looks and a shoulder grab.

Plot lines are tossed at the audience like they’re tennis balls stuffed into a serve-o-matic machine stuck on the automatic setting.

Gilcrest and Tracy have to deal with their baggage.  Woodside has to learn how to communicate with his wife with actual words.  Ng is all business and is a zealous defender of native Hawaiian culture, Gilcrest has to choose between his job or his new love interest.  Welch is trying to launch his own space weapon in the guise of a communications satellite and those are just the highlights.

Character development isn’t the film’s strong suit.  We’re shown a brief Afghanistan flashback scene where Gilcrest is so distraught over his life that he doesn’t care when he’s shot by (I guess they were terrorists?  It wasn’t really explained).  Welch lobs an accusation that Gilcrest took a hundred thousand dollar bribe during his time in Afghanistan and that enormous plot line is never fully resolved, thus putting me in the awkward position of being expected by Hollywood to hope that an alleged traitor to his country will overcome the obstacles standing between him and his new lady love in true sappily sweet romantic comedy fashion.

No thanks.

Sadly, the film has two important messages that get lost amidst all the tomfoolery:

1)  All those vacation brochures you drool over that make you wish you could be in Hawaii right now are all well and good, but America isn’t in it for the macademia nuts and pretty scenery.  Hawaii serves as the lynchpin of America’s sphere of influence in the Pacific.  Seeing as how the islands play a vital role when it comes to U.S. global interests, we could probably do more to help the native people who call it home, many of whom aren’t exactly thrilled that we’re there.

2)  Over the past several years, space exploration has moved from government to private business control, with the claim fed to the populace that this is somehow a great move, that the uber rich will be able to dump more money into space technology than governments can.  That may be true, but as this film warns, people like Welch might use that power for unsavory purposes, though a billionaire trying to launch his own weaponized satellite seems like it’s more fitting in a James Bond film than a romcom.

Overall, the movie isn’t so much a cooked to perfection filet mignon so much as it is a bubbling over gumbo where Crowe, as chef, just tossed everything in his kitchen into the pot.  Is this a story about one man’s attempt to find hope again after the world has put him through the ringer?  Is it about love?  Is it about the military industrial complex?

The best description I can give is that Crowe took his signature work, Jerry Maguire, mixed it up with one of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, then went heavy on the romantic comedy angle, shortchanged the seedy, dirty military contractor angle and left the audience thinking that sadly, the no plot action film starring the ex-wrestler in the theater next door might have been the better choice this weekend…

which isn’t saying a lot.

STATUS:  Not shelf worthy.

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40 Billion Earth-like Planets in the Milky Way Alone

According to Yale Professor Meg Urry in a CNN column, “When Can We Talk to Aliens?” astronomers estimate that there may be as many as 40 billion habitable planets in the Milky Way Galaxy alone.

That’s not even taking other galaxies into consideration.

Space – it’s really friggin’ big.

Does this mean those planets have intelligent life on them?  We don’t know.  But Urry states:

Intelligent life that can communicate via radio waves with other intelligent life is less than 100 years old here on Earth.

So while planets that develop simple forms of life may be a dime a dozen, the number that have sentient beings with whom to converse — even assuming they evolved as humans did, with ears and spoken language, or eyes and written language — is likely to be tiny. And life that can use radio waves has existed on Earth for only 0.000002% of the planet’s history — 100 years out of 4.5 billion. If the half dozen or so rocky, Earth-like exoplanets now known are similar, the odds of discovering humanlike life on them are about the same as, well, winning your state lottery with one ticket.

Of course, if there are 40 billion Earth-like planets out there, the odds improve quite a bit. If they all have histories like the Earth’s, there might be 1,000 planets in the Milky Way that could support communicative beings.

– Meg Urry, “When Can We Talk to Aliens?”  CNN.  April 2015.

Let’s break this down.

40 billion habitable planets – and that’s just in our galaxy.  However, habitability does not automatically mean life exists, or that intelligent life exists.

On top of that, if intelligent beings are out there, they will have had to have evolved to the point where they know how to communicate via radio waves in order for us to communicate with them.  We’ve only figured that out in the past hundred years, the blink of an eye given the vast expanse of human history.

Take that concern into consideration – 1,000 planets that could possibly have beings as intelligent as we are (and let’s face it, Alien Jones loves to remind us that we’re not exactly setting the intelligence bar high)

My mind is blown.  True, we have no idea of truly knowing that which we cannot confirm with our eyes.

However, statistically speaking…40 billion habitable planets…1,000 planets that could have possibly had a species that evolved to the point where they can communicate with technology of some kind.

There very well may be an alien on another planet that is a bizarro version of me, writing a blog that is only read by 3.5 readers, including an alien version of my Aunt Gertrude.

Amazing.  Simply amazing.

If you’re reading this aliens, we come in peace.  Let us learn from one another in the spirit of unity and harmony.

Also, please don’t invade our planet and eat our faces.

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER:  Alien Jones, why didn’t you tell me there might be 1,000 planets with beings as smart as we are?

ALIEN JONES:  Because they’re all smarter than you are.  1,000 planets and not one of them has reality television.  Zing.  Thank you.  I’m here all week.  Tip your waitresses.  Good night everybody.

Sigil of House Jones

Sigil of House Jones

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