What does September mean to me, you ask? No, I know no one would ever ask that question, but if they did, I would say school is getting going. I have been moonlighting in higher education for a while now (a few decades) and this time of year always brings me alternatingly to tears or despair. Sometimes they don’t alternate. If you are on the other side of it, a student, I hope you are not as suicidally depressed as the teachers. After all, somebody should be getting something out of this. Right? Well, anyway, there are some good things, too, about September. Football, mainly. And hockey is only a month away now. And no matter what time of year it is, there is always a new good book to read right around the corner, or a song to listen to, or a movie to watch. If you can just remember one or two of the good things you can push that ole Suicide Fairy on down the road a piece. Good thing, right? The pushing? That’s a good thing? For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that it is and start this ball a’rollin’.
I want to talk a little bit about Christopher Moore this time. I started reading his books about the same time I started reading Carl Hiaasen, which probably accounts for why I always associate the two writers. While their subjects are different, their styles are similar – outrageous situations, snappy dialogue, and fascinating characters always moving in a fast-paced plot. The first Hiaasen novel I ever read was Native Tongue, and it remains my favorite of his even though I have thoroughly enjoyed all his books. With Moore, my first experience was Island of the Sequined Love Nun, and it remains my favorite novel of his. It seems like a pattern, but it is a pattern of two – the favorite novel being the first novel read thing isn’t true with any other writer. Just these two. Weird, huh? But I digress. Moore’s newest novel, Secondhand Souls, revisits characters from his earlier work, A Dirty Job. If you read the comments for this book on Amazon you are going to see a common suggestion that I will echo now: read the earlier book first. Much of the laughter in the new one stemmed, for me, from being familiar with the characters and earlier situations from A Dirty Job. Even if you don’t take my advice and the advice of all those others, you will have a great time reading Secondhand Souls. Christopher Moore is a pure delight to read, and you almost feel like he is sitting right there beside you telling you the story as you glide your way through the pages. Plot? I’m not even going to tell you what it is. Instead I will simply issue a blanket declaration that, if you are reading this column, then you will enjoy Secondhand Souls. Get ’em while they’re hot.
Last time, I defended a movie that critics (and lots of fans) had been taking a generous dump upon. I am going to do that again now with a different movie. This is just a coincidence – I’m not always way outside the mainstream. People were simply wrong about the new Terminator movie so I had to say something. They are also wrong about the latest incarnation of the Fantastic Four. Take a stroll with me over to Rotten Tomatoes. The Tomatometer stands at 9% at the moment for Fantastic 4. Yikes. And check this out: the summary of the movie that appears on the site. “Critics Consensus: Dull and downbeat, this Fantastic Four proves a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy, or colorful thrills that made it great.” It is not just Rotten Tomatoes, either. It is not easy to find anybody who liked the film. It is hard for me to understand what all the hate is about. I think it is an excellent adaptation of the classic characters that takes them seriously rather than presenting them as parodies. The actors inhabit the four exceptionally well by employing essential characteristics of the originals and at the same time personalizing their individual portrayals. The basic idea is that five young scientists (or at least scientifically interested youngins) acquire superpowers accidentally during an experiment gone awry. Each of them is affected differently and each responds differently to the changes. The tone of the film is understated – it does not feature tonnes of mindless CGI battle scenes (although there are a couple short ones). The main characters aren’t of the whitehat/blackhat dichotomy – they have more complex personalities. For example, Reed, he who will become the leader, flees immediately following the accident so as not to be quarantined by the government. He is gone for a year before being apprehended. Running away is not the act of a hero. Another example is the suffering of Ben Grimm (The Thing) is made very clear whereas in earlier portrayals of the character, the constant pain he goes through is not even addressed. One way to look at this movie, then, is that it is not pure escapism into a video game world like so many of the current superhero movies (most notably, the latest Avengers film, which is frivolous in the extreme). So, the critics consensus is that the film is “Dull and downbeat…without humor, joy, or colorful thrills…” is a harsh indictment but is in some ways true. The film is more serious than the typical one of its kind, and it doesn’t have a lot of colorful thrills. But it is not dull or downbeat if you are a thinking person, and there is a lot of humor in the movie if you will accept it. I do have to say that there was one scene, right there at the end, that made me want to vomit – when the group is trying to choose a name for itself. So if you go to see this film, when that scene comes up at the end, get up and leave immediately because nothing good is coming after. I truly enjoyed Fantastic 4. I wish more superhero movies were made like this one.
Next time I will have something to say about a band I tripped over recently, the Black Belles, I’ll do a little dance on Connecticut, and I will ask the readership to weigh in on what my next tattoo should be. Until then, don’t forget to buy Bad Magic and go out to see Motörhead on tour. Maybe we’ll see each other at a show.
Nightmares Illuminated is written by Wayne Edwards, ©2015 by the author, all rights reserved. Contact eMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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