Movie review: The Postman

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The PostmanReview by Duryea Edwards

I’ll give a good recommendation ( * * * + ) to “THE POSTMAN”.

I know that a lot of critics blasted it. Most of them attempted to call it “Waterworld Part II” and this is very unfair because the two stories have almost nothing in common. Waterworld is about a place where the world is quite hostile to the people who are attempting to stay alive and keep a society going. The Postman is about a world where there was a war (it appears to have been non-nuclear) and society fell and most of the major cities were destroyed but the planet, on the whole, is still in very good shape.

The year is 2013. There was a massive economic and political collapse as the millennium changed. There were major wars, and then smaller civil wars, and the bombing and burning that caused the destruction of most major and even mid-sized cities left the air fairly clogged with soot and there were three years of “dirty rain”.

A large number of people are still left alive but they are divided up into little communities that usually don’t communicate with each other. This started off as a way to prevent disease from spreading but now it has become a way of life.

In and around what was the Rocky Mountain States there is a self serving Military organization ( The Army of the Holeness ) which thrives on the fact that none of the little communities is strong enough to stand up to it. Its leader (General Bethlehem) makes it a point to discourage the small towns and villages from communicating with each other. This means that ( as military might and the ability to blackmail goes ) Bethlehem has the only game in town.

Then a strange thing happens. A postman arrives in one small town. He says that he is a representative of the “Restored United States of America” and that he (and others like him) are in the process of passing out old mail which has sat idle for more than a decade. He is also authorized to pick up any new mail that anyone might have and make an attempt at delivering it.

Some people think he’s a fraud but other people want to believe him. Yesterday everyone was just hoping that their little community could continue to survive and thrive and that they could somehow find a way to keep the Holeness Army from ruining what they were trying to rebuild. But today some people are hoping that there are actually other people in other communities who are willing to share information. And they find themselves hoping that there is a new government out there that just might be able to challenge General Bethlehem and his men.

My only major complaint concerning the story is that its a little bit too long … 2 hours and 50 minutes. It should have been about 2 and 30. There is this really long segment ( about thirty minutes ) which takes place before the Postman arrives at the gates of the village. The movie should have started with the Postman arriving and then done a series of flashbacks from there. What was thirty minutes at the beginning could have been reduced to about fifteen minutes that was shown during the movie in small dream segments and storytelling segments.

But it was a very good movie. And I would recommend it to almost anyone.

Movie review: Planet of the Apes (2001)

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Reviewed by Duryea Edwards

I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Significantly closer in theme and style to the novel (Monkey Planet) than the 1968 production was. I would most certainly not call this a remake. It is a completely different interpretation of the original source material.

Both versions are very good. Each has done a very nice job of focusing on some of the underlying social and political concerns of the decade it was made in.

Movie review: The Ninth Gate

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Review by Duryea Edwards

The dark and foreboding advertisements had lead me to wrongly believe that The Ninth Gate was going to be something of a “Horror Thriller” and I wasn’t really interested in seeing that type of movie. A friend sort of twisted my arm and got me to go and after the first 20 to 30 minutes I was pleased to discover that what I was actually seeing was a juicy little suspense mystery with supernatural undercurrents. So I adjusted my train of thought and allowed myself to enjoy it as it unfolded.

I think that most of the critics who have panned the movie have done this because it is not living up to their expectations. In my opinion, the fault for this sits squarely in the lap of the distribution company’s marketing department. They are aware of the fact that horror will generally sell so this is what they are trying to pass it off as. In doing this, they are chasing away the segment of the audience that would love a good mystery and ripping off the people who are looking for a well made horror film.

The detective in this mystery is a man, of somewhat gray principles, by the name of Corso (Johnny Depp) who is a dealer in rare collectibles. Corso is hired by a Mr. Balkan (Frank Langella) to research the nature of a book called “The Ninth Gate” which is very old and was once suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church. Only three copies of the book are known to exist.

Balkan has recently purchased one of the copies of “The Ninth Gate” and he wants Corso to compare his copy against the other two. Balkan states that he has reason to believe that only one of the books is genuine and that the other two are either very good forgeries of an original or outright fakes which may contain seriously erroneous information. Balkan says that he wants to make sure that he winds up owning the only genuine copy and he is willing to pay any price necessary to bring this about.

The previous owner of Balkan’s book was rumored to be a member of a group of “True Believers” who worship a deity which they call “Blessed Master”. It is their assertion that this book is his holy message to them. The text of the book is said to contain his plan for bringing them ultimate power.

The book was banned by the Catholic Church several centuries ago because its leaders believed that this “Blessed Master” is nothing more than a thinly veiled incarnation of the Devil. The author was executed and every copy that could be located was burned.

Corso must tread on thin ice as he attempts to locate the other two copies and compare them to the one in his possession. Although it is no longer “illegal” to own them, there are individuals and groups which would destroy the books and possibly cause harm to the owners if they had the chance.

The Ninth Gate is a well made examination of religious superstition on both sides of the fence. Those who seek to stamp out what they see as evil are clashing with those who wish to achieve power through supernatural means while Corso is merely attempting to discover a few simple truths …

  • What is real?
  • What is a fake?
  • Who can be trusted?

I sincerely recommend this motion picture. I do wish to add that is should not be seen by young people unless a well educated adult is there to discuss it with them.

A Second Opinion

Review by Terri Barger

I also enjoyed The Ninth Gate, but was a little disappointed. I read The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez (the book the movie is based on) last year. All the changes that were made to fit a very complex plot into a two hour movie were reasonable, but, I think, took away a good bit of the suspense and some of the sense of discovery as you follow the main character toward his revelations. It was still entertaining, well acted, and the setting was fabulous.

Movie review: The Mummy

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The MummyReviewed by R’ykandar Korra’ti

I saw The Mummy last Friday, the late showing at the local [Seattle WA] lameass multiplex. (“The Metro.” Which frankly kinda sucks. It’d be OK if the screens were better, which is, of course, completely missing the point of building a “theatre.” This is also as opposed to the not-as-local not-so-lameass multiplex that we’d have had to drive to reach, or the other walkable theatres which aren’t multiplexes but weren’t showing the film. They appear to be rennovating, which would be good if they fix their screens, but I bet they won’t. We’ll see.)

Anyway. Hm. It wasn’t a good film and I wouldn’t recommend it, yet… possibly because I went in with such low expectations… I really had a pretty good time. It’s a light, silly horror/monster film with very little feel of horror about it, except for a few incidents involving beatles which may and may not affect people in general as strongly as it affected me. The first half of the movie is honestly somewhat charming, and the opening is really visually gorgeous; the second half of the film has more funny lines, but while they were trying, a fair percentage of them we’ve heard before, and – more importantly from a film standpoint – they really broke the sense of period that they’d halfway managed to set up in the first half. (If you’ve heard anything about how big a set of twits Egypotologists tend to be, you’ll find that clicks very well with their handling in this movie. Part of what made the first half charming, I think.) The dialogue was, for the most part, generally too modern after the first hour.

The critical failure, though, is in the handling of the title creature, the mummy himself. He never evoked horror. His supporting minions did, once or twice, but he was just not making it happen. He was less threatening than, well… doofy – but in a somewhat dangerous sort of way. The actor also kept reminding me of… someone else. I can’t remember who. Someone soft and pudgy that would never, ever play a villian – particularly a supposedly major-league villian – like the mummy, except perhaps in a parody. So bad casting there, made worse by coincidence of memory. I have an assortment of garden-variety plot problems too, but I won’t mention them here because 1) hello, Universal Pictures Monster Horror Flick, Duh, and 2) spoilers. I’ll simply say that the mummy/heroine interaction was handled inconsistently enough that, even in a movie of the sort, it kept bothering me. It felt like the screenwriters were of differing minds about how it should be done (“it took three people to write this?”), and compromised – badly.

So why did I enjoy myself? Hm. Well, it’s pretty. In fact, it’s very pretty. In the second half, a couple of the people get very pretty too, which doesn’t hurt anything either. (No, not the mummy, you freaks. I mean, ew.) It’s not dull. It moves briskly along the whole way; while you may know what’s coming, it doesn’t waste film getting you there, so you don’t have much time to get impatient with it. It has a reasonable number of funny lines with a good works/clunks ratio. And it’s not too shy about killing people along the way, and having the intelligence to do it in occasionally very-old-fashioned off-screen/out-of-view ways. (Really, given the body count, I’m stunned at how little gore flew in this movie.) Further, I quite liked the heroine and her twit brother, and the hero wasn’t so bad either. So I guess I was wrong up top; I would recommend it, as long as you’re prepared for what you’re going to see, don’t expect too much, and go to the matinee showing on a Saturday. Which is really when it wants to be seen.

Movie review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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A Midsummer Night's DreamReviewed by Sylvia Wendell

I saw “William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” recently, and it is wonderful. This version is written and directed by Michael Hoffman, to whom much credit. His touch is deft, charming, and as sunny as his Italian scenery, with just a hint of darkness for contrast. I was particularly impressed by his vision of the fairy kingdom at the center of this comedy. Nothing cutsie here. These creatures are powerful and inhuman, beautiful or grotesque, and they amuse themselves by toying with humans. (They are fascinated by such recent inventions as bicycles, record players, and operatic arias).

The acting is uniformly excellent. Kevin Kline’s performance as Bottom has been widely and justly praised. But Michelle Pfeiffer is every bit as good as Queen Titania. It’s a role that requires a drop-dead gorgeous woman, but she shows she can really act, too.

In fact, I loved everything about the film except that title. Four stars.

Movie review: Men in Black

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MiBReview by Ted Begley

Have you ever gone to a movie knowing that you would like it because of the stars that were in it, or the director it had, or even the person who did the music. Well MiB (Men in Black, for those who haven’t seen the commercials) had all of those things going for it. You can image my surprise when it wasn’t any thing like what I was expecting…. it’s better.

The story follows two “men in black”. “K” portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones (Black Moon RisingBatman Forever) and “J” portrayed by Will Smith (ID-4: Independence DayThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). K finds himself without a partner and needs a new recruit. J is a New York City cop that, in an impressive display of physical action, chases down a Class 4 cephlapoid on foot. After going through orientation with the finest that the military system can produce J becomes the newest man in black.

What follows is a story that weaves a comic web of action, galactic politics, and pest control. The film does have a few minor drawbacks, especially where the obvious is concerned. J is so busy noticing the very attractive coroner that he completely misses several things. On the whole though, the film works exceedingly well.

If you’ve seen it before then borrow one of J’s flashy things and see it again for the very first time.

Charter Remembrances

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By Duryea Edwards

It was the summer of 1992 and LexFA had gone through a lot of growing pains. There had been, during this time, a lot of confusion and argument over what was legal and illegal. A lot of misunderstandings and some very strained friendships.

As the incoming leader … I had been asked by the general membership to investigate the possibility of putting some basic administrative rules into writing. So I tapped Sylvia Wendell and Keith Burton on the shoulder and asked them to help me write a simple charter proposal.

The three of us agreed that it should be as short as possible and as unambiguous as possible. My main goal had been to preserve the authority and integrity of the position of leader while not letting him or her become a tyrant. Keith and Sylvia agreed with me on this. This is why we wrote into place a difficult to achieve (but not impossible) method of ousting a leader.

We met at Ryan’s Steakhouse for dinner and I handed them an outline I had drawn up. Keith and Sylvia politely proceeded to rip it to shreds and improve upon it greatly. After about 2 more meetings, we had something along the lines of two and a half typewritten pages (at 12 point Courier) and I worked a sample up on my desktop publisher that came out as one page. Then we presented it to the members at the January meeting to ask for feedback and suggested alterations.

And they proceeded to politely rip portions of it to shreds and improve upon it even more. We settled on a revised version that still came in at one page. And LexFA members immediately began complaining that it was entirely too long and cumbersome. (wink)

The thing is … Other science fiction and fantasy organizations of similar size have tended to over organize. The committee in charge of proposing a constitution comes back with something in excess of 20 pages and a member complains that the proposal is much too long. When a member complains that all of this is much too long, the leader of the committee retorts that they would like to see something shorter that would work. Then the member hands them a copy of the LexFA charter.

I’ve heard of this happening at least 3 times 😉

So You Want to Go to Worldcon…

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by Cynthia Brantley

There are two basic types of memberships for a Worldcon — supporting and attending. All members (supporting AND attending) have the right to vote for site selection (more about that below) and the Hugos, and get all the Progress Reports mailed to them. An attending membership is required to get in to the convention. Supporting memberships are a lot less expensive.

Worldcon floats from place to place. How a Worldcon gets started, is a group of people getting together and saying, “Let’s host a Worldcon.” Often, there is more than one group who decide they’d like to host the same year. A decision must be made, so a vote is held. Back when I went to my first Worldcon, in 1986, the site selection was voted on two years in advance. Now it’s three, because they started having problems with hotels booking earlier and earlier. There used to be ridiculously detailed rules limiting the location, but it has been simplified. It has to be at least 500 miles (800 km) from the Worldcon where the vote is held, three years before.

So a “Worldcon bid committee” is one of those crazy groups of people who decide they want to host one. To campaign for it, they go around from convention to convention and throw parties. These parties are expensive, so usually the group will offer some incentive to people who are willing to “pre-support” them — give them money before the voting has been done, which they get to keep whether they win or lose. If they win, the pre-supporter usually gets some benefit from having pre-supported. Pre-supporting (or pre-opposing, if you want to help support the parties, but don’t want them to actually win the vote) usually isn’t very expensive. Maybe $5 or $10. * They usually have various higher levels available, too, so you can give them even more money, and if they win, you get more out of it. Of course, they always appreciate donations as well. Worldcon bid parties can be quite expensive and time-consuming, and the bidders usually end up spending quite a bit more from their own pockets than pre-support money could cover.

The vote is held at a Worldcon, but ballots can be mailed in advance. To be eligible to vote, you must have a membership (either supporting or attending) to the Worldcon where the vote is being held.

In addition to that, if you want to vote for site selection, you have to pay the voting fee. This year (in 2001, for 2004) it’s $35. The voting fee buys you a supporting membership for that convention, regardless of which bid you voted for. The bid that wins gets all the voting fees that were collected, to use as their basic seed money. So they don’t know and don’t care whether you voted for them, because they won, and they get your money anyway.

As soon as the site selection voting is complete, all the ballots are counted, and the winner is announced. So suppose you voted. You automatically have a supporting membership. You want a full attending membership. That’s where conversion comes in. The best rate for converting a supporting membership to an attending membership is always offered immediately after the site selection is announced, and many people convert right away.

There are two basic theories on supporting memberships. For people who go to Worldcon occasionally, like me, they’re just a stepping stone to an attending membership. If I don’t think that I will be able to go to the convention being voted for, I don’t vote. When I have voted, I’ve always converted the supporting membership to attending. Financial advice on conversion in this case is, do it. If you’re not sure you can go, the memberships are transferable, and given how the price on them skyrockets, you can always sell it. I’ve done that at least three times now. To be fair, I usually split the difference between how much I paid for my membership (including voting fee) and how much they’re going for at the time I sell it, to come up with an asking price. When I sold our memberships last year, I sold them over the Net, and they were both gone the same afternoon.

The other theory: A lot of people who do Worldcons do them every year, and they just get into the cycle of voting and converting, so they always have their memberships lined up for the next three years. If they know they can’t make one, they keep the supporting membership, so they can keep up with what’s going on (the Progress Reports) and vote, so they’ll have their membership for the con three years hence.

I never keep a supporting membership without converting it, because if I can’t go, I sell it, and attending memberships are a lot easier to sell than supporting.

One more thing — sometimes a group of people decides to put up a “hoax bid”. They usually just throw parties using the hoax bid as the theme, whenever they feel like it. Doesn’t require any real commitment. But you have to be sure that your hoax bid is far enough out of the realm of possibility that somebody doesn’t say, “Hey, that just might work!” It happened with the Bermuda Triangle in ’88 bid, when they started the whole thing as a hoax bid, and then somebody said, “We could get a cruise ship!” and the next thing you know, it’s on the ballot. It came in second after New Orleans, but beat the real bids of St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Some of us in LexFA had a hoax bid running, for Alpha in ’99. That’s Moonbase Alpha, of course. It just had to be done. But the bid committee for that one scattered to the four winds before we could do much with it. Dar & Anna moved to Seattle, and Oliver went back to London, and John and I found ourselves here in New York. We ended up doing three bid parties, at Rubicon, Rivercon, and Bucconeer. It was fun, and if we ever feel inclined to do another party, we will. One of the advantages of a good hoax bid, is that there’s no reason to stop throwing the parties just because the election is over. Just throw a time machine into your literature, if you have any literature. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter; it’s all for fun.

If you want to read the formal info about site selection, this is it: http://www.worldcon.org/bm/const-2000.html#article4

If that link breaks at some point in the future, try this one: http://www.worldcon.org/

Have fun at your first Worldcon, and maybe I’ll see you there!


* Pre-supporting rates have changed in recent years; they’re NOT $5 or $10 like I said earlier.

This is the deal for this year’s vote, as far as I can tell:

Boston has two basic rates available. $12 pre-support rate gets you a pin. Whoopee. I wouldn’t bother with that unless you feel like supporting their parties, and want to be listed as a supporter. If you just want to support their parties and don’t care about the listing, then donate to your heart’s content. It doesn’t seem to have any bearing on your final membership cost.

$75 to Boston, PLUS voting, will get you a full attending membership, a pin, a T-shirt, and their newsletters. So you could spend $110 total, and if Boston wins, you get a full attending membership. Not TOO bad. If Charlotte wins, you have a supporting membership, and you’ve donated $75 to a failed bid. (Or you have a rather expensive T-shirt, if you choose to look at it that way.)

Charlotte has more deals, that cost more, and this weird thing about “credits”. $20 basic pre-support rate gets you a “half credit” towards converting to an attending membership if they win. Whatever that is. And a listing in their publications and on their website, and a subscription to their newsletter. For an extra dollar, you can be listed as “opposing” or not listed at all.

$40 gets you “a full credit” towards conversion, so I assume that means if you spend the $40 and vote, and they win, you’ll have an attending membership. And a laminated “pre-supporting” badge, and their newsletters, win or lose.

I guess a half credit probably means you’d only have to pay half the conversion fee, but half of what?

So if you wanted a guaranteed attending membership to whichever con wins, and also wanted to guarantee donating money to the losing bid that you’d never see again, you could spend $150. $35 voting fee, $75 to Boston, and $40 to Charlotte, and you’re set. And you get pins and newsletters from both, and Boston’s T-shirt, and you get your name on both lists.

On the other hand, you could get a new attending membership for Philcon for $145 until September 30, 2000 — less than a year before the convention.

This article copyright July, 2001 by Cynthia Brantley. All rights reserved.
Permission granted for use on the LexFA website.
Anyone else who wants to post it, ask me first:
cbrantle at suffolk.lib.ny.us

Monday Night Breakup

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by Carl Parlagreco

Note: Carl posted this article to our mailing list in response to a sigline suggesting that relationships should come with little black boxes, so after a breakup you can figure out why it crashed and burned.

No, I think a relationship black box would be a bad idea. The data in the black boxes is frequently not enough to tell what happened without lots of interpretation. To get the answers, you’d have to have a team from the National Relationship Safety Board come in and completely reconstruct the relationship in a big old hangar, and put out a report about a year after the breakup. No, I think much better would be one of those “instant replay” shows like they’ve got in sports:

“Hi. Welcome to Monday Night Breakup. I’m Tom Buttrash.”

“And I’m Wyatt Bland. Tonight we’re watching Tony and Tina’s breakup.”

“That’s right, Wyatt. And what a breakup it is. Here we can see the opening moves — Tony is staying out late with his buddies again.”

“A classic gambit. And what’s this? Tina is responding with the traditional, some might say unoriginal, ‘affair with the friendly co-worker’ gambit.”

“Ooh. Tony didn’t like that one little bit.”

“No, Tom, I should say not.”

“We’ll be back to see Tony and Tina fighting about money in our next segment. But first, a word from our Sponsors.”

“I’ve had it. I want a divorce!”

“A divorce?”

“That’s right, a divorce! I’m getting a lawyer.”

“I’ll represent you, ma’am. I’m Willis Badger, Divorce Lawyer. And we’ll take this bastard for everything he’s got!”

“Has this ever happened to you? You’re enjoying another quiet evening with the spouse, fighting about some silly little thing, when he or she gets a lawyer involved? You don’t have to suffer through the bother and indignity of a trial any more. Get ReamAway, and never be reamed again!”

“Oh, no! I’m melting!”

“Oh, darling! I’m sorry I got a lawyer involved!”

“That’s okay. I’m sorry I spent the kids’ college tuition fund on a bass boat.”

“Let’s go have sex, right now!”

“Yeah. Make up sex is the best sex there is!”

How to Spot a Virus Hoax

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by Robert Holland

A virus alert is undoubtedly a hoax if it bears all the classic warning signs.

  1. “IBM announced”

    IBM does not, ever, announce viruses, they’re a hardware company. That would make as much sense as Frigidaire announcing a food poisoning case.

  2. “There is no remedy”

    There’s always a remedy. It may not be easy, but any virus can be defeated.

  3. “It will eat all your information”

    This breathless, excited tone of speech is a dead giveaway. Real virus reports will be written in a calm, journalistic style. This kind of overworked, unprofessional hack writing points to a bored 14-year-old trying to get a rise. Similarly, comparison to “Melissa” and product name-dropping (Netscape and Explorer) are transparent attempts to provide a false air of authenticity.

  4. “Do not open anything with this title”

    Once again, unless you’ve got your e-mail client set to autorun attachments (and hopefully you’re not this stupid), it is not possible to get a virus simply from reading an e-mail.

  5. “Pass this message on to all your contacts”

    This is another dead giveaway. Real virus reports are announced through official websites and news services. They don’t need individual users to manually propagate them. Anything that tells you to send it to all your friends is a bored individual’s attempt to get his spam propagated as far and as fast as possible.

These things aren’t hard to spot, once you know what to look for. Some even bear is a fake dateline or a “this was just announced yesterday” to lend a sense of immediacy to a message that has, in fact, been circulating for months.