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Month: May 2018

‘Annihilation’ is a Haunting Sci-Fi Journey

annihilation-posterAnnihilation is the latest flick starring Natalie Portman. She took off her self-importance cap and made something worth watching again. Yay! Alex Garland (Dredd, Ex Machina) wrote and directed the film based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer. This director is shaping up to be a real talent in the sci-fi genre. His movie strikes a dreamy, pensive tone as four scientists are sent to explore a mysterious bubble that has popped up around a lighthouse. Is it aliens?

The film has a female lead cast as does the book, and surprisingly does not try to make a point about it. Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and Jennifer Jason Leigh all do good work here. One imagines male casting might have brought a little more intensity and conflict to the proceedings, but that’s not what this film is about. There are moments of action and terror, but it’s primarily an emotional/spiritual journey into an abstract reality. Everything inside the bubble – woman, beast or tree is being altered. It’s a mysterious film that like 2001: A Space Odyssey, refuses to give up all its secrets.

I found it reminiscent of the recent release Arrival (Amy Adams, Dir. by Denis Villeneuve). The fault in that film was in adapting an intellectual topic and trying to explain it visually. I found it to be an interesting failure. This film is similarly quiet and pensive, but it’s got an emotional core and it doesn’t try to answer everything. Annihilation succeeds at adding action and horror to the mix and it skips the neat bow at the end. So far it’s the best sci-fi film I’ve seen in 2018. If you’ve got a love for literary sci-fi or just a hankering for something without explosions check it out.

Year – 2018 | TRT – 1:55 | Directed by – Alex Garland | Written by – Alex Garland (written for the screen by), Jeff VanderMeer (based on the novel by) | Cast – Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong, Sonoya Mizuno, David Gyasi

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Happy Friday – May 25th 2018

Hey folks,

I thought I ‘d try a weekly update post.

First up – GDPR – This site is now GDPR compliant. That’s what that banner is about at the bottom. Here’s the privacy page for those of you who want to protect yourself from victimization at the hands of my cookies.

Alvin Baylor Lives!

Alvin Baylor Lives! Cover sketch
Alvin Baylor Lives! Cover sketch by Roger Betka.

I got my edited manuscript back. It’s time to review changes and notes. I’ve got one scene to polish up and add to the book and it has occurred to me that my page count has already changed significantly. This will lead to a change in the spine width of the paperback. The final artwork is not done yet so I’m hoping this is an easy adjustment. I had already anticipated differing specs from multiple POD vendors, but did not expect formatting to add 30 pages! Live and learn. The final cover sketch before painting is posted above.

Kill Night

I’ve got a rough outline for my next novel about urban terror. The first act has been plotted in detail. I hope to finish the rest up and get to typing next week. I will be juggling the start of this project with the completion of ABL. This book will not be sci-fi. It’s sort of Death Wish meets Street Trash. I intend it to be stunningly low brow, yet intelligent. We’ll see how that plan works out.

Black Panther review


I watched this again last night. I wrote a review that I never shared because it felt like shouting in a crowded room. Anyway, two thumbs up from me. Everything I liked the first time, I liked better the second and everything I disliked stopped bothering me. I have one critique – the fight scenes look like spaghetti. When you have a hero who fights with his fists – you use a stuntman for the action, not cgi. Where Avengers: Infinty War fails, this film shines and vice-versa. This was the brains of Marvel’s Phase 3 and I think it will become a classic. If you have super-hero™ fatigue this is the anti-dote.

Cobra Kai review

William Zabka in Cobra Kai

I was pretty impressed by the first two episodes of YouTube’s Karate Kid relaunch. It’s got great characters despite a low budget production value. It seems Johnny Lawrence is the protagonist this time out. I can’t wait for YouTube:Red to fail so I can watch all the episodes. Just like with CBS’ Star Trek: Discovery – I’m not subbing to any damn app.

Steve Ditko

Mr. A by Steve Ditko

I continue to track down new and old Ditko comic books. I’m fascinated by Mr. A, his objectivist philosophy hero. Stunningly original work. I haven’t seen anyone be this brave with their beliefs since 1960’s underground comix.

That’s all I got for now. May you all have a lovely memorial day free from the strictures of employment or mourning.







Ditko Lives!

Steve Ditko is alive and working in 2018.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell – he’s the trippy artist/writer behind Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, The Creeper, Hawk & Dove, Captain Atom, Speedball, The Question, yadda, yadda. He’s one of the greats.

Ditko self-portrait
Ditko’s self-portrait.

I’ve been bored with mainstream comics for a while now. I feel like a music geek who’s favorite band has gone mainstream. Super-Heroes™ rule the box office and the culture. If you think it’s reaching critical mass, just wait until all these little kids grow up.

But I digress into present tense.

So, I’m in search of new fertile territory, someplace that’s not been overrun yet. I’m on youtube. It shows me only the worst parts of my psyche reflected in algorithms and zeitgeist schadenfreude, but I make a break for it. I start searching for comic book vids. Not the angry ones they want to show me – where comic pros and fans bicker over sales and diversity, but the ones that share knowledge. I come across a BBC documentary from 2007 about Steve Ditko. It’s excellent (and pirated). Halfway through comes the shocker –  Ditko, one of the great comic book masters, is still alive and working out of a small New York City office. He’s friendly, but won’t appear on camera.

I pivot to the internet and do some research and he’s still working in 2018. His next book comes out in June. He’s gone all J.D. Salinger, except he still sells his work – quietly. I have my enticing new itch to scratch.

My inner geek feels better now.


******Update – Sadly, Steve Ditko passed away on June 29th, 2018. I was able to sign-up for his last Kickstarter Campaign and even recieved an emailed update from him on the 22nd. So sad. I’m glad I “rediscovered” him before his passing. He was one of the true Comic Book masters.

Release the Kraken – Spotify’s Hate Content Policy is Corporate Groupthink

Did you know that Vincent Van Gogh was a creeper who cut off his ear and sent it to a girl? We should seriously stop exhibiting his art.

That was sarcasm. I’m against the push to demonize individuals for their indiscretions. I think it should be done in a court of law, not as a form of public shaming. I am clearly not in the majority.

You think you’re woke? I say you’re asleep.

Every sub-divison of American culture now has a movement to peddle their “truth” at the expense of someone else’s virtue. Soon we’ll all be prisoners of algorithmic groupthink. The scanners will flag your words and naturally understand your intent. That was sarcasm again.

Check out Spotify’s new policy. How noble of them to protect us. Just remember your dollars now equal their values.

Spotify – Hate Content & Hateful Content Policy

Freedom of speech will become like the right to bear arms – of questionable utility.

The repugnant political divide in this country and the ceaseless march of identity politics under the guise of equality is taking us to the end of functional free speech. The U.S. Constitution will hold, but the new Silicon Valley masters of communication will make sure we all share their corporate values if we want to eat or earn a living.

From Twitter to Spotify – perception of your character will define your access to contemporary technology. The quality of your efforts is of no importance to the new vanguard. Obedience to moral groupthink is what the future requires. Who’s morality? That depends on what’s being peddled and who’s shouting loudest.

Tribalism is Great Marketing.

In a prior post I mentioned digital goods as a way to expand economic markets for capitalism. This is the other route – politicization and personal identity tied to a Corporate brand. It’s gonna be HUGE! I can’t wait to drink the Conservative Cola and Liberal Lemon-aide.

© 2024 by Maximilian Gray