Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Suicide Squad

There are bad movies, things like MegaTime Squad, that you can laugh at. There are terrible hodge podges, like Battlefield Earth, or Water World. Then there are awful things like The Suicide Squad.

I guess it's The Suicide Squad to distinguish the 2021 version from the 2016 version, which was called simply Suicide Squad. Both included the Harley Quinn character and a few others. 

The 2016 version was simple-minded and forgettable, which is why I don't recall much about it and I don't feel like watching it again to refresh my memory. The 2021 version had about the same plot, only worse: Maximum security prisoners with sooper-dooper powers sprung by the government to accomplish some sort of mission in return for remission of part of their sentences.

There's one thing that distinguishes the latest version from the first one: I really, really hated it. If I was a critic, I'd give it a no stars rating.

For startsies, stories set in mythical South American countries are a turn-off. I know, O. Henry did a few of them and they were good, but I can't recall any others that were. Why not set it in Costa Rica? Probably because they don't have coups. Venezuela or Nicaragua, maybe, or El Salvador or Honduras. I'm sure they wouldn't mind.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is amusingly brainless. She was the star of the show, the only actually memorable character because she's so over the top. I'm sure Sylvester Stallone had a grand time playing King Shark. John Cena played Peacemaker and Joel Kinnaman played Rick Flag. Both are improbably handsome and the only time I could tell them apart was when Peacemaker was wearing what looked like a stainless steel hat. 

I know all this is based on a comic book, but I guess you had to read it to know what's going on. To me, it was mostly pretty pointless violence from start to finish.

The plot, from Wikipedia:

Intelligence officer Amanda Waller assembles two Task Force X teams—colloquially known as the Suicide Squad—that comprise Belle Reve penitentiary inmates, who agree to carry out missions for Waller in exchange for lighter sentences.

The Amanda Waller character is ruthless and bullying and offensive. There's no subtlety, no finesse, no persuasion, just "do as I say or your daughter goes to prison" sort of things. I'm not sure she even makes it to one-dimensional. 

They are sent to the South American island nation of Corto Maltese after its government is overthrown by an anti-American regime, and are tasked with destroying the Nazi-era laboratory J├Âtunheim which holds a secretive experiment known as "Project Starfish".

The movies have been tripping over Nazi-era laboratories for years, probably seventy five years, maybe even the same ones. I don't know. I don't know how they managed to invade Poland, they were so busy building secret laboratories. I'd say the edges are all worn off them as a plot device.

One team is led by Waller's subordinate Colonel Rick Flag, who are almost entirely wiped out by the Corto Maltese military upon landing.

They were sold out by one of the inmates. How'd he manage that, being in a maximum security prison and all? 

This distraction allows the other team to enter the country undetected. The second team is led by assassin Bloodsport, who accepted the mission in order to prevent his daughter from being incarcerated at Belle Reve, and consists of PeacemakerKing SharkPolka-Dot Man, and Ratcatcher 2. They find Flag at a base camp for rebel soldiers and convince rebellion leader Sol Soria to assist them.

Where to start?

The X Men Task Force X team find Flag (not even Flagg) at the rebel base camp after mercilessly and gorily wiping out all the rebels guarding it. King Shark eats one, rips another in half. Heh heh. CGI blood and guts. 

Turns out the rebels are the good guys, fighting against the generals. Whoops. Our bad. I think we were supposed to laugh uproariously at that point.

 Harley Quinn survives the attack on the first team and is taken captive by the Corto Maltese government. She learns of the new regime's plans to use Project Starfish against other nations.

She does this by sleeping with the new regime's president, who is infatuated with her. Then she shoots him because he intends to hurt children. More laughter here. Some other military guy decides he's the president now. Hop into the barrel, bub.

In the Corto Maltese capital, the second team captures the Thinker, the lead scientist in charge of Project Starfish.

The Thinker has what appears to be vacuum tubes instead of hair. He regularly frequents a whorehouse gentlemen's club so he's easy to snatch.

Harley escapes and joins the others, who use the Thinker to break into J├Âtunheim.

"Hi! What're you guys doin'?"

"Umm... Rescuing you." 

Most of the Squad rigs the facility with explosives as Flag and Ratcatcher 2 enter the underground laboratory with the Thinker. He reveals that Project Starfish is Starro the Conqueror, a giant alien starfish that creates smaller versions of itself to kill people and take control of their bodies.

Starro has to be the dumbest-looking villain to grace the silver screen since the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man rampaged through Manhattan, though he's not nearly as cute. Contrary to my expectations, a giagantic Spongbob doesn't appear. The little starfish generated paste themselves over people's faces, digging into the CGI flesh underneath.

Starro was brought to Earth by the U.S. government, who have been secretly funding experiments on him in Corto Maltese for the past thirty years using thousands of the island's citizens as test subjects.

Sure. The U.S. government makes a fine villain. It's done so in a long string of bad movies. Why not this one too? Astronauts pick up all sorts of dangerous things in space. Why, once they brought moon rocks back! That was probably where they picked up Patrick Starro.

An enraged Flag decides to leak a hard drive containing evidence of this revelation, but is killed by Peacemaker who is under secret orders from Waller to cover up the U.S.'s involvement in the experiments.

Peacemaker's the guy with the stainless steel hat. Flag looked just like him, except for the hat, so it must have been hard to pull the trigger, kind of like shooting your reflection. Of course, he could have simply shot the hard drive to destroy it, and avoided having to murder his clone.

Meanwhile, a skirmish between the Squad and the Corto Maltese military leads to Polka-Dot Man accidentally setting off the explosives prematurely.

Insert laugh track here. The crumbling tower reminded me of the Twin Towers on 9/11, so I didn't find it particularly appetizing. Bloodsport surfs a large piece of concrete floor down to shoot Peacemaker, so it's RIP Peacemaker. Too bad they couldn't surf like that on 9/11. Something about flesh and blood not being able to take the impact when they hit bottom.

As the facility falls apart, Peacemaker attempts to execute Ratcatcher 2 for knowing the truth about Starro, but Bloodsport shoots him and takes the drive.

At no time do any of the sociopathic team express any concern or remorse for any of the people they've wiped out by the dozen, friend or foe. They're reduced to the status of bowling pins. The dead soldiers, rebels, and innocent bystanders have no families to mourn them, no wives, husbands, or children to starve. They're just faceless brown folk who speak with-a fonny assents. Ptui.


After that we have Starro rampaging through the city, emitting smaller copies of itself to eat the citizens' faces and destroying buildings and cars and such. All the while it's being chased by or chasing Our Heroes. The repulsive Waller tries to execute them remotely, just like you'd expect from the government, but her staff rebels and conks her on the head with a mop or something. Harley dives into the monster's single eyeball and Ratcatcher sends hundreds of rats after her to consume Starro from inside. Starro pegs out and all the little starros die with him, along with all the local populace they'd infested. That scene looks like pictures of the aftermath of Jim Jones' Kool-Ade party. Hilarious.

No stars for you, Starro!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

After a long, long hiatus...


Asmodeus and the Wicked Wizard of the East is done. It's not very long, only 78,000 words, unless I go through it again. 

This was a fun write. It's my first first-person novel, and it's my first foray into fantasy. It uses the same reality-jumping alternate universe trick used in Andi, expanding on it a bit. I'm guessing it will expand in future novels as well. It's also the first that at least starts outside Carbon County. That's because I moved, and I like my new location in Delaware. Further novels will probably be set there -- not that I have any idea what they're going to be about. When I finish a book I have no idea what I'm going to write about next.

Asmodeus J-for John Jones is Summoned by Nevianne the Witch to combat the evil Palegos, who's oppressing the countryside. She's expecting someone nine feet tall, with fangs, and she gets him. He not only doesn't believe in magic, he suppresses its use for a mile in any direction. There's no way she can send him back. He's capable of slipping between reality streams, but he's far away he can't find his way back.

How far away? Nevianne and her coven live in the Really Later Roman Empire. There was no battle at the Milvian Gate, no "In Hoc Signo Vinces." Emperor Julian reigned for thirty two years, not three, and he declared parity among religions, establishing a Ministry of Religion, to enforce it. Nevy and her coven are pagans. Athaulf the Visigoth king wasn't murdered in his bath. He reigned with Galla Placidia as Emperor Athaulf I. There was also an Emperor Genseric. There's a synagogue in Flumen Martii, the capital of Agus, which covers Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and part of New York. Asmodeus learns magic from the Archbishop of the Church of Saint Simon Magus.

Under Roman rule North America was settled around 1000 A.D. The population of Agus is about a third native, a third Saxon (and Celtic Briton and some Dane), and a third Latin. The official language is Latin. I don't mention it in the text, but there's also an official Latin Academy and an official Latin language, so there's no official French or Italian or Romanian; there are just different accents. The natives in Nevy's area speak Lenape, and there are Iroquois living to the north. The Susquahannocks aren't extinct. Nor are passenger pigeons.

Nevianne and Asmodeus fall for each other immediately, and hard. She first saw him as her future husband in her first vision when she was nine. Demons can be summoned only by maidens. Once they complete the task, the maiden is theirs forever. Nevy expected to be a human sacrifice to the demon. She and Asmodeus get to mess around a lot, but she has to remain a maiden at least until the wizard is vanquished.

As soon as Asmodeus (he prefers Jack) is Summoned, Palegos sends Nannakussi, his Lenape minion, and his men to kill the entire coven. Blaeda, Nevy's best friend and a member of the coven, who's a Seeress, warns them. Jack constructs an IED from the witches' gunpowder and flour, with rocks for shrapnel, and kills all of Nannakussi's men, burning Nevy's house down in the process. He conks Nannakussi in the head with a chunk of cord wood, defeating him in personal combat. Nannakussi and his wife and five-year-old daughter become Jack's slaves by law. They were Palegos' slaves before.

Besides the witches and the archbishop, there are flying monkeys, monkey-faced bears, a precocious five-year-old witch, a fire-farting imp, and a fight to the death between Asmodeus and a real demon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Flash Gordon

Don't take a date. Don't take your kids. Don't take Grandma. If they ever have it on TMC, don't watch.

"Fragments of moon rock!" sez Doctor Zarkov, enjoying the glowing, golf ball-sized object on his floor.

"Strange object in the Imperial vortex!" alerts a ruthless minion of Ming the Merciless as they approach Mongo.

Really cheesy dialogue. Really cheesy costumes. Really cheesy effects. Probably the cheese at dinner is cheesy. I suspect the Empire of Mongo subsists on macaroni and cheese, with an occasional cheeseburger for variety.

Ming the Merciless's daughter wears a diamond-studded booby holder! All the aliens are bilaterally symmetrical, upright bipeds wearing funny costumes, many of which don't allow any freedom of movement. They all speak English too, but, y'know, they all got fonny assents.

Leather short shorts--on Flash?... Gassed!... Saved by the nefarious princess!

"Don't you have telepathy on Earth?" she asks as they flee to Arboria.

Dale makes her getaway! She turns cartwheels when she fights! No idea why. No idea how she was trained into her ninja-like ways. She was introduced in the beginning of the movie as a travel agent.

I do like the booby holders all the babes wear, especially the ones who jiggle. But then I do have pretty low tastes.

I suspect the average IQ in the Empire of Mongo isn't precisely 100.

"A young man is being initiated! But we must hide outside until it's done!" Look out! It's a squishy green scorpion thingy! "Send me on my way!" cries the young victim. "Spare me the madness!"

I' pretty sure that was the only way he could think of to get out of the movie.

"You are playing with fire, Aura!" sez Prince Whatsisname. Oh, yeah. Prince Barin. I forgot from one scene to another. "Of course I am!" Have a fireball?

"We can team up and fight him, Barin!" sez Flash. "Lower them into the swamp!" sez Prince Barin. That sort of thing has ruined so many dinner parties!

"Seize the Imperial surgeon on suspicion of treason!" "You're mad!" "Prepare him for torture!"

"Confess!" "No! Never!" "Bring me the bore worms!" "No! Not the bore worms!"

"Sleep well, you traitor! We hang you in the morning!"

"One year in a cavern of ice will cool her blood!" sez His Majesty the Merciless about his only daughter.

"Do you know where you are?" asks Prince Barin. "Up the creek!" sez Flash, in one of his more memorable witticisms.

"Leave him!" hollers the prince. "He's mine! I hunt him alone!"

"Would you leave us alone?" requests Dale, just before the big fight scene, after Flash smooches her and sez something about their impending children. "Ooh! I just got engaged!"

"You tortured Aura!" sez the prince. "Interesting girl. I think she found it rather enjoyable!" Princess Aura is kind of kinky. You can tell that from the way she does her eyebrows.

"We shall return to the Imperial rocket! Leave the Earthling here to his doom!" That always works, doesn't it?

Dale and Principessa Aura meet as Dale's being prepared for her wedding to Ming the Merciless. Pillow fight ensues!

"Dispatch war rocket Ajax to bring back his body!" That's Flash, remember? Last seen left to his doom. Or maybe there were a few scenes in there that everyone, including the actors, forgot.

Ummm... The massed forces of the Hawkmen look like flying monkeys? And one of the Hawkmen looks like he used to sing with Spinal Tap.

So Ming the Merciless is gonna marry Dale (rather than just keeping her as a concubine, which was his original intent) and they're playing Mendelssohn at the marriage ritual.

The Imperial engineers are big on single points of failure. And the Imperial Storm Troopers or whatever they are, are just about as good shots as Emperor Palpatine's.

Verdict: Made as a spoof (of some kind, at least I hope it is), Flash doesn't make the "So Bad It's Good" cut. It's the difference between campy and bad. It's one of those movies you walk out of twenty minutes into it, assuming you last that long, so most people don't get to see the predictable ending. Flash is played by Sam J. Jones. I read somewhere that he beat out Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kurt Russell for the part, to their great relief. Dale is played by Melody Anderson, for whom this movie was the peak of her career. I thought until I looked them up that those were assumed names. The film was produced by Dino De Laurentis, who wanted Fellini to direct it. De Laurentiis also considered hiring Sergio Leone to direct it. He should have gone for Terrence Hill, who could at least have made it funny.

As an aside, George Lucas wanted to make Flash Gordon in the 1970s, but de Laurentis had the rights. Instead, he cobbled together something he called Star Wars. 

Honest to God.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Andi's Published

Andi is complete, at 90,440 words.

I was going to go directly with Amazon, but instead I published with Smashwords again. The process is simpler, though the EPUB check is aggravating. The things it finds are the things you have a hard time noticing when writing in Open Office (or in MS Word), like empty blockquotes.

This was a hard book to write, given the gamy subject matter, but I do find the characters likable. I always base my characters on people I've known and liked, just putting them into situations they've never been in.

The books are also coming together better as a series, though I'm going to have to do some serious timelining. I want to use Amazon or maybe Lulu for print versions of all the books, and market them in Jim Thorpe. They'd make nice souvenirs, except maybe for Dolly, but I could market her and maybe the Ben and Lenie book if I ever finish it in Mineral Wells. All I have to do is get off my butt and do it.

For relaxation, I've been watching movies and reading. Arrival (2016) was good. It raises the idea of non-sequential time, which is interesting. In Andi, I suggested that very idea to account for the fact that it didn't take ten years for them to travel ten years into the past, though I lean more toward time stored kind of squished up, like an accordion. That way she can just hop from peak to peak or trough to trough (there wouldn't be an "up" or "down.")

I'm reading Sabatini again, most recently The Lion's Skin. It's one of my three favorites--that and Saint Martin's Summer and Mistress Wilding. That's probably because I'm a romantic at heart.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Andi's First Draft

Andi's draft is somehow complete, currently around 86,000 words, probably to top out around 90,000. Now I'm going through the tedious part, reading it and re-reading it, until I'm sick of looking at it, tying up loose ends, fixing wording, smoothing the flow. It's basically in three parts:
  • In Part One the long lost lovers are reunited. The multiverse is an idea that's discussed, but neither party really believes in it.
  • In Part Two the honeymooners realize that multiverses are real, and that Andi has the talent for traveling between them.
  • In Part Three Andi knows how it's done and and the newlyweds do it. 
When I started out on it, the parallel universe thing was kind of a throw-away. Then the more I wrote, the more central to the resolution of Andi's problem it became. Funny how that works.

I didn't set out to write a science fiction novel; I set out to write a novel about human trafficking, using the Rotherham scandal as my model. There is lots of material available on Rotherham, and on human trafficking in general, MS-13 and similar gangs in particular. It's really pretty seedy subject matter. I've tried to explore the effects of going through an ordeal like that on an intelligent young woman.

I did have a lot of fun discussing parallel universes and time travel. Does the entire universe clone itself whenever there's a decision point anywhere? If a tree falls in the forest and no one notices, does a new universe still spin off? Will the luck of a fisherman on the Caspian Sea effect the world of a Manhattan socialite? How about something happening in the Lesser Magellanic clouds? In some galaxy that's so far away we can't see it? A single ovum getting fertilized presents millions of alternate chances, one for each spermatozoon, and there are a lot of critters breeding every day, including flies and rabbits.

Then there's the question of a law of conservation of matter, akin to the law of conservation of energy.

What would a person do if he seriously had to travel in time? How would he do it? Where does the money come from? Andi and Elliott only go back a dozen years, but the currency's changed within that time. How do you buy a car? How do you identify yourself to rent an apartment?

Details, details. I've addressed all of them I could think of, and I'll address more as I proof and rewrite, but I'm sure there will be some of them unaddressed when I'm done. The more I think on the problem, the more I'll notice.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Life in the World of IQ 60

Andi's story has reached 66,000 words and is (slowly) building toward the blow-off. It's decided to become very much a science fiction story, and I've tossed in a couple science fictiony jokes to amuse myself and any readers. In the course of all this, I've been to Texas for extended stays twice, had another hip replacement, and done a bunch of other things of a more personal nature. What with writer's block and not being able to properly feel my fingers, I'm surprised that I've gotten this far, given the unpleasant subject matter.

I've come to like Andi. She's smart and tough without (I think) being smart-assed or hard. We've all done stupid things at one time or another; hers were just dumber than most. My premise is that we all make our occasional trips into alternate universes that are so similar we don't really notice the difference. As I've seen it described in other science fiction, a new universe is created whenever there's a decision point reached. One time travel movie I've watched recently (I can't recall the name of it and can't find it browsing my collection) uses that as part of the time machine; the guy has to shoot himself to create the alternate universe where he... does whatever it is he does. I think I said to myself "this is dumb" and put a Clint Eastwood movie on.

What happens if the decision point is in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud somewhere? Does that effect us as well? Or is the effect localized. With, last I saw, 250 billion galaxies, with umpty two gazillion planets in each, many inhabited by some form of life, that represents a lot of binary choices every second of every day. I do have some fun discussion these ideas in the course of the setup.

Beyond whatever that other movie is, Mega Time Squad features time travel via an ancient Chinese bracelet that has what's apparently a battery-powered green lighted button. I'm not sure if it's about time travel--he's able to go ten minutes or so into the past--or if it's about life in a world populated by Three Stooges clones. John, the hero, or I suppose he's an antihero, looks like a skinny New Zealand version of Curly. At one point there are a half dozen versions of him in one place, trying to steal the money from a Chinese gang while being chased by the wily minions of his boss, Shelton. One version is stabbed, one has his throat cut, one has his head blown off by a shotgun, the original "John" doesn't die. John has an IQ of approximately sixty. His girlfriend is a little smarter. The minions are a little dumber. Shelton, the brains of the outfit, may make IQ 70.

As it happens, Andi and Elliott are currently in a similar situation, with four versions of Andi having flinched into the same parallel universe after a traffic accident involving one of the human traffickers from her youth. Andi and Elliott have a lot better understanding of cause and effect, and Elliott has a pretty good (I think) handle on quantum physics and research into the nature of reality. They're now setting up to rescue Jane, actually four Janes, one for each of their baseline universes. It's been fairly writing itself for the past few chapters, so maybe my muse is awake.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Andi in the Multiverse

I'm around 30.000 words with the adventures of Andi and Elliott. No, I don't have them traveling through alternate universes. That's merely Elliott's approach to helping her assuage her conscience. I've added in Joe King and his wife, retired Philadelphia vice detectives, to track down Janie. I've started doing some serious research into the subject of human trafficking, which is even uglier than I thought it was.

I'm probably beating the horse to death on the subject of sin and redemption, and probably religion is playing a more pronounced role in my characters' lives than is currently fashionable. But without sin there can't be redemption -- we're all imperfect, some moreso than others. Andi is developing as, I think, a likable young woman with a justifiably bad conscience. Elliott has a little complexity to his nature. I don't like making my characters exceptionally rich, but he works hard and comes from a prominent family, which makes knowledge of Andi's past becoming known more of a threat. It also gives him the resources to finance the search for Janie.

As an aside. I want to pull my books from Smashwords, where they sit amidst a pile of junk -- poorly written books, gay and lesbian stuff, "erotica" (that in the heady days of my youth would have been described as pornography), fantasy, and the usual post-apocalyptic vampires. You're known by the company you keep. I'm also looking into getting them into print and marketing them in the Poconos.