National Geographic made a documentary called “Map of Hell” and got Danny Trejo, aka “Machete”and other nefarious characters in films and on TV, to host and direct it. The results are surprisingly informative and refreshing.
Trejo begins with asking the audience, “What if I died?” He casually admits he’d probably go to hell. “But which hell?” he wonders. Thus begins his tour of historical perspectives on Hell, starting with the ancient Egyptians and ending in the present day.
The tour is pretty thorough for a general audience, too. The doc delves into the ancient Greeks’ view of where we go after we die (if we go anywhere), stops at points in time where the idea of Hell evolves through their cultural development, and continues on through a timeline of changing perspectives on the nature of Hell and who ends up there.
As someone who started out on a very bad life road and later changed his ways, Trejo makes the perfect host because he’s believable. The exploration of Purgatory alone is worth watching the film, perhaps especially for Catholics both active and lapsed. God knows I’ve forgotten most of what I learned in catechism classes in my early years. It was comforting to be reminded that Catholics are the ones who invented the second chance of Purgatory, and of how it works for both the living and the dead.
Danny Trejo, as he says in the doc, is (these days) a nice guy who smiles a lot and does all he can to help others. He’s right; check out his bio (Google is your friend). His willingness to imagine himself dead and headed for some sort of hell is admirable; not every actor would be willing to do that. Highly recommended.
Brilliant example of what a fantasy/horror movie can be when all the right people are in the right jobs on the crew and in the cast. “Malice” started as a webseries, and this film version of the series is spot-on. I’m a stickler on continuity, and if there were any burps in that department in this film, I missed them. Check out “Malice: Metamorphosis” on Hulu if you like this film. Both are amazing productions done on near-zero budgets. Eagle Films also has a YouTube channel. Disclaimer: I am not related to nor in any way employed by anyone working for Eagle Films. Just a fan here! Independent films are often SO much better than Hollyweird studio rehash schlock.
A serious mindfuck of a movie. I love independent film: it gets it right when so much of Hollyweird gets it wrong. “The Corridor” deals, imho, with the unknown. What others experience as mental illness can never be truly understood by those who’ve never experienced it, regardless of the form it takes in any given person. I think the film also deals with friendship, trust, “male bonding,” and otherness, and the myriad ways those things can go wrong. The corridor itself, imo, represents the unknown and unknowable, that which is beyond the reach of human understanding. This film is a deeply engrossing exploration of all these themes, through the prism of the human mind. Light shone through a prism fractures into the colors of the visible spectrum, just as a human brain can become fractured when whatever causes mental illness acts upon it. Brilliant stuff.
This doc makes total sense. Eurocentric/Western knowledge is not the only knowledge in this world; the longer we deny this fact, the faster we hurtle toward destruction. Listen.
Vanguard’s 2007 “Exodus” takes the story of Moses and imagines a future in which “undesirables” (criminals, refugees, homeless people, drug users and sellers, etc.) are detained in a concentration camp called Dreamland. Well worth watching, but no easy answers.
This version of my Foreword Reviews book reviews should be more palatable for readers who have special interests.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
There are more reviews available at the magazine’s website at https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books — please do check out other reviewers’ work as well. A very wide range of subjects is covered in this magazine. I also have more reviews up since I first posted this list.
This 2008 film, written and directed by Alex Rivera, is set in a future Mexico when water is even scarcer than it is now. Memo and his father have to buy water from a corporate water seller; the river which used to flow by their land has been dammed for many years, before Memo was born. Memo dreams of escaping his father’s pride in land ownership and farming, wanting to connect to the wider world. When he gets his chance, he takes it — losing much that he later realizes he holds dear. He arrives in Tijuana, gets robbed, meets a young woman who sells her memories to a company called Tru-Node, and finally lands a job as a node worker.
Nodes are how a human becomes a tele-presence employee, and guarantees a better-than-living wage for Memo, so he can send money to his family. This job, however, has drawbacks. It can leave a worker blind, drain one’s energy at a faster-than-healthier rate, or even be lethal.
Memo begins to question what he’s doing so far from home. He believes there’s something else he can do besides work too much. When he’s contacted by a man from the US who travels to Tijuana to meet him, and offers to help Memo, an idea germinates in his mind and is brought to fruition. This idea becomes action and offers reconciliation in many forms, to Memo as well as those he knows.
The fact that Memo’s story first entered the world as a film is startling all by itself. Science fiction has had a mixed treatment, at best, from US film producers and directors. Writer/director Rivera brings a fresh perspective to the SFnal ideas of social conscience, connecting with others in an increasingly tech-driven society, and becoming aware of more than what one can swing a snake at, and that’s just for starters.
Gently told, subtle and finely acted (with English subtitles for non-Spanish speaking viewers), “The Sleep Dealers” is another 5 star film that will likely not get much notice. What a shame.
Viva la revolucion.
This 2007 film is certainly a science fiction film, but it has no special effects, no aliens, and no woo-woo tech. It doesn’t need any of that.
Hulu currently has it available on its free list, so no Hulu+ required, yay!
The central question that powers this fascinating drama: what if someone you thought you knew well told you and a group of mutual friends that he was 14,000 years old? What would that conversation be like?
I rate this film 5 stars. It’s well-acted (includes William Katt [who knew?] and Tony Todd), artfully directed and absorbing to the point of saturation without turning into a puddle. What a shame it was a direct-to video release only.
There are hidden gems out there, people. Some of them aren’t even older than the year 2000.
Exxodus Pictures, based in Detroit, MI released its first feature film, “Jinn,” on April 4, 2015. It’s currently streaming on Netflix. The production company has recently received a large grant to continue its work, and a second “Jinn” film is planned.
OMG you guys!!!!!
If you haven’t seen it yet, GO WATCH IT. NOW. I’ll wait.
* * * * * * * *
*) *) *) *) *) *)
Pretty good, huh?
I’m so ready to see the next one, even though I have no idea if the script is even written yet.🙂 The whole film is great, and the inclusion of a non-European culture as the major source material is a huge breath of fresh air. The SFX are stunning, the acting is top-notch, the script the cinematography the editing I could go on forever …
But I won’t, because boring. So just go watch it already!
It’s really very simple.
1. SIT DOWN.
2. SHUT UP.
Thanks to you all for adding this blog to your reading lists. I’m curious: how did you find it, and what made you decide to follow it? Please leave a comment if you like.
This is a list of most of my reviews for Foreword Reviews magazine, spanning the past 3-4 years. It’s a well-paying gig and I enjoy the work as well as the books I get for free.🙂 FWR reviews independently published works, which means it’s very likely no one reading this has even heard of more than one of the books reviewed there. Do yourself a favor and put the FWR website in your favorites list; I’m pretty sure once you visit it, you’ll go back for more.
This list is eclectic, as are my reading tastes. Sorry I don’t have the energy to stuff them into genre boxes right now; think of this as a treasure hunt.
So I was perusing the Netflix online catalogue and stopped to check out the Netflix original series in this post’s title. One season (the first) was available. I ended up watching the whole season in one sitting. Yeah, it’s that good.
HG is a mix of urban fantasy and science fiction, and that still isn’t an accurate description. The focus is on a high-school-senior age Romani (Rom? Roma? Anyone know which one is correct?) guy Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) and his friends (old and new). That’s about as far as I can go without getting into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that this show kicks massive ass, and has been signed for a third and final season. Famke Janssen is perfect as Olivia Godfrey, and Olivia’s son Roman is scarily well-acted by Bill Skarsgård , son of Stellan and brother of Alexander. Good genes in that family.
Urban fantasy readers (more than viewers) should dig this series for a variety of reasons. I could list those reasons, but that’s boring. Those of you with Netflix access can help out your friends without same by having a watch-in night. Just make sure the drinx n snax are potluck.🙂
For the sake of that city’s citizens, let’s hope it’s a thorough house-cleaning. Rock on, Chief Bostic!
Not Sorry Feminism has a superb post on how to be an ally. Go read it. Then apply it to your life.
Reblogged from Not Sorry Feminism.
Autochorissexual. Finally, finally, I have a name for how I am now.❤ And thank all that is divine that human sexuality is becoming non-monolithic. Wheee!!!
(h/t to http://hunterinabrowncoat.tumblr.com/ for the info)
A recent St. Louis County Council meeting was packed to the rafters with people from Ferguson protesting the inaction of local gov’t on the Michael Brown murder-by-cop (yes, I said it, deal with it).
Shaun King details the alleged multi-level corruption in St. Louis County, of which Michael Brown’s murder is a glaringly obvious example. Check it out; he backs up his statements with docs and suchlike.
(Yeah, I did have to add “alleged” — I happen to be a blogger with journalistic ethics.)
[h/t to Lindsey Weedston @ NotSorryFeminism ]
Major or clinical depression is not a bad mood or “the blues” or deep sadness. Those are things you can choose to alleviate.
Clinical depression is not a choice.
Holy social progress, Wonder Woman!!!
Alison Bechdel is one of 21 awardees of the 2014 MacArthur Foundation grants. Currently on an artist residency in Italy, Bechdel will receive a $650K grant from the foundation. She is probably best known for what’s called the Bechdel test (for women’s representation in film), consisting of three questions: 1) Are there two women with speaking parts (a variant includes “and named characters”); 2) Do these female characters speak to each other?; and 3)Do they speak to each other about topics other than men? (The original list is shorter; I’m a writer, I like to embellish without exaggerating).
A large portion of people calling themselves feminists have championed Bechdel’s test as a simple way to gauge progress in the film industry re: women’s roles. The news doesn’t seem to have spread very far at this point (from an admittedly brief surf through some sites), as it was announced earlier today.
I don’t know whether this will be a cause for loud or quiet celebration. Tune in to the Webz tomorrow to find out.
“NCIS” / Creators: Don McGill and Donald P. Bellisario / Executive Producer: Donald P. Bellisario / Premiered: 9/23/2003 / Network: CBS / Reruns on: USA, ION / Regular cast (since 2003): Leroy Jethro Gibbs -– Mark Harmon; Anthony “Tony” Di Nozzo — Michael Weatherly; Abigail “Abby” Sciuto -– Pauley Perrette; Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard -– David McCallum / Timothy “Tim” McGee — Sean Murray / Additions to regular cast: Director Leon Vance -– Rocky Carroll (2008-present) / Former regular cast: Director Jenny Shepard – Lauren Holly (2005-08); Caitlin “Kate” Todd – Sasha Alexander (2003-05); Ziva David — Cote de Pablo (2005-2013).
Donald Bellisario has been around the TV game for decades. The former Marine (1955-59) created the very successful “Magnum P.I.” and “JAG,” as well as the long-running “Quantum Leap” and the lesser-known “Airwolf.” Bellisario’s most successful shows are characterized by well-rounded characters (at least one of whom has a military background), an ensemble cast where each character gets at least one episode focused on them, military-flavored humor (which is usually dark, as in “Can’t we just shoot ’em?”), and characters who are passionate about what they do.
“NCIS” is centered on the special agents assigned to the Major Case Response Team of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Senior Special Agent (SA) Leroy Jethro Gibbs leads his three-member team in solving the mysteries of various Navy personnel’s demises -– when he’s not building another boat that he’ll never sail that’s named after another ex-wife. While it has elements similar to “CSI” (another CBS show, starring William Peterson as lead investigator Gil Grissom, who’s leaving that show), its military-based setting and Naval law-enforcement angle set it apart in several ways. Gibbs or the Director gives the orders, the team carries them out, and while they are often asked their opinions, the team members are a little more afraid of Gibbs than Grissom’s people are of him. The interesting thing is that they’re more afraid of Gibbs’ brain than any punishment he might hand them for screwing up. Even the dreaded head-slap.
Television in America has changed since it first invaded homes across this country over 50 years ago. But how has it changed, were the changes permanent or temporary, and what does today’s TV tell us about ourselves as Americans and as human beings?
The formats of television have changed, just a bit. Back in the old days, there were variety shows, comedies, some dramas, and sporting events. We still have some of those, but the variety show has died along with vaudeville, its immediate ancestor, and MTV brought us the concept of music television, which has grown beyond its music-video borders to encompass channels with music and music-connected specials and series.
The advent of civil-rights demonstrations brought a spate of shows featuring “pocotpt” (people of color other than pale tan) which, sadly, never evolved into showing us the lives of actual people of color, except for “The Cosby Show,” which showed us that “pocotpt” are like people everywhere, and we really needed that lesson to continue. So much of the change TV may have wrought in Americans’ social consciousness has come through comedy (Archie Bunker, for one; remember?). The pill is easier to swallow if it’s sweetened.
“ER” brought a style of storytelling that was immediate and arresting, due mainly to its setting (an emergency room at a busy city hospital), but also due to the ensemble cast’s individual story lines. The characters weren’t static, a la “The Donna Reed Show” (1950s or thereabouts, for you young whippersnappers), so they became almost real people to viewers. The intensity of this kind of writing owes part of its success to “MASH,” of course, which was probably where this intense-character writing technique saw its first flowering. That was a comedy, though. “ER” may have been the first successful drama to employ it. 1980s prime-time soaps like “Dynasty,” “Dallas” and their ilk don’t count; their characters remained pretty much the same through each series’ run.