Cinequest 2023 – Paul & Trisha The Art of Fluidity

This documentary introduces us to Paul Whithead, an artist who is well known for creating paintings for several Peter Gabriel Genesis albums. Paul is telling us about his life and experiences, including swinging London in 1967, creating art for albums, and discovering meditation for the quiet and peace it brings him.

But part of his experiences also transitions Paul to his alter ego, Trisha van Cleef. We get to see Paul become Trisha and even see some of the art that Trisha creates. Trisha’s art is very fluid and entirely different than Paul’s.

The documentary treats Paul and Trisha as just ordinary parts of life with no judgements about either. We get to see quite a bit of the art that they each make flashing between scenes, which breaks up the “talking head” of Paul talking. It is a very interesting movie about a lifestyle that not a lot of people understand.

As Paul says “not everybody gets you”. And Paul & Trisha are ok with that.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 27, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Danny Goes Aum

Danny is a burned-out video editor who is on vacation in India after a health scare. He is furiously rewriting scripts for a new movie that eventually gets turned down. After burning the scripts he worked on, he starts paying attention to other people around him and interacting with them. Eventually Danny moves to Goa, India and finds out that his parents met in the same area in the 1970’s. And a new screenplay is developed from his real life interactions.

The movie is very enjoyable in no small credit to the beautiful scenery in Goa. If you like seeing sunsets over the ocean, then you will like this movie! Danny meanders through the scenery, and nothing happens very quickly, but the happenings are important.

The joy of Cinequest is being able to meet and talk with filmmakers in a casual environment. I was able to speak with actors Andrew Sloman (Danny) and Marianne Borgo (Lucie). Unfortunately Director/Screenwriter Sandeep Mohan was not able to attend. Marianne has acted in several of Sandeep’s films and Danny Goes Aum is his fifth film. Filmed on location in Goa, and halfway through the Covid shutdown, tourists were virtually non-existant. The crews basically had a private beach for filming. The whole crew of five lived in one house and Marianne said they all became very close during production.

Andrew is also a singer/songwriter, and his music was used in the film as well as some previous films of Sandeep’s. Andrew sings and plays the guitar in the movie, and both are important to the story.

Danny Goes Aum is an inspirational movie without trying to teach us something, which is what makes it enjoyable. I recommend it.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 17, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Abruptio

The Uncanny Valley is a technical term that gives a label to the upsetting nature of images that are very close to being realistic, but somehow lack an aspect, a spark, a soul that would make them convincingly real. The term is typically used in critically analyzing computer generated faces that, while impressive in their anatomical detail, still fail to convey life in a disturbing fashion. 

“My name is Les Hackel and I have a bomb in my neck. Just like everyone else.”

Abruptio doesn’t just live in the uncanny valley, it bought prime real estate and built a mansion in the foothills with an incredible view.

Writer/director Evan Marlow has composed a dark and strange story where the characters are all played by extremely clever and grotesque puppets. Arguably a science fictional situation, the majority of players are convinced they must do violent and destructive acts or bombs that have been implanted in their necks will be remotely exploded. Each character’s survival depends on their completion of truly awful tasks set before them without opportunity to object or negotiate.

That in itself is not an uncommon plot device these days (looking at you Suicide Squad.) But the introduction of puppets as the physical actors in Abrupto makes it that much more awful, that much stranger. We should be able to emotionally remove ourselves from this dispaly violence and destruction. Most of it involves violently damaging the obviously rubber characters. Almost realistic bodies are shot, slashed, bashed and ground up, but we never mistake them for real. Films using flesh and blood actors suffering special effect wounds may make us gasp, but rarely affect the viewer as strongly. It’s a paradox that deserves examination beyond the scope of this review.

The absolute nebbish of an office worker, Les Hackel, voiced by Buffy vampire James Marsters, is our point of view character. We watch his conversion from numb office drone victim to numb violent operaitve as tasks go from merely violent to insanely gross. His puppet face doesn’t convey much in the way of subtle reaction. And this leaves Marsters the task of filling it all in with vocals as Les careens down a twisted road through the uncanny valley.

And we can’t ignore the idea that the characters who are forced to perform violent acts are certainly pawns of the puppet masters. Those hidden manipulators assigning those tasks are not shown specifically, their plans not revealed. It does appear that the ploys are not limited to Les and those he comes in contact with. The world does seem to be falling apart, that what we’re seeing is just a sampling of what is going on everywhere.

For the viewer, the paradox of having an unexpected and unsettling emotional reaction to watching puppet violence where we might similarly be numb to human actors recreating these scenes is not lost here. Watching puppet limbs and torsos ground to bits is something that the only the most daring, or self-destructive, producer might greenlight for a human-acted film. But in Abrupto the excuse that “they’re just hunks of rubber” is unsaid, but certainly in play. And in a very real way, even more disturbing.

So, I appreciated and to an odd extent enjoyed Abruptio. But I am left wondering who then is this film for? I would have to give this a cautionary recommendation. Arguably it’s for viewers who like entertainment that challenges their preconceptions of film, and of film realities. I find it similar in taste to the more extreme experimental films of David Lynch, but perhaps with more paradoxical normalcy than Lynch typically gave viewers of Inland Empire or Eraserhead.

In short, I would leave you with this advice: if after reading this review you’re curious, then by all means see Abruptio.

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See if you can pick out which characters are voiced by Jordan Peele and Robert Englund.

Ric Bretschneider
August 20, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Oliver and the Pool

Oliver and the Pool is a film from Mexico and is in Spanish. But do not let that put you off, because it has very nice English subtitles and an experience you’re not going to want to miss.

Oliver is a 13-year-old whose parents announce they’re getting a divorce during dinner one night. And then his father immediately dies. Oliver becomes isolated, not interacting with his mother. When they bring his cremated father’s urn hom, he grabs it and decides the both of them will just stay at the chaise lounge by the pool in their yard. Stay there. By the pool. With his father’s ashes. It’s a very simple story.


Various family members and friends come to visit Oliver at the pool. Some to talk (or yell) at him to get back in the house. Some to just hang out to keep him company. And many who just hope he will talk to them.

He refuses to go back to school and eventually the school sends a classmate to his house after school to go over schoolwork. The classmate and Oliver become friends, and we start to see Oliver returning to the real world, and all it’s complications.  

The movie was beautifully filmed and had a lot to say about grief and how we get through it. We all could use a chaise lounge by the pool to process our grief instead of immediately returning to the daily drudge of life.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 17, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Billion Dollar Babies

Billion Dollar Babies, the True Story of Cabbage Patch Kids, is a documentary about how the Cabbage Patch Kids became a phenomenal toy event in 1983. The director, Andrew Jenks, shows interviews with many of the main players, including the creator, Xavier Roberts, the distributor, Roger Schaifer, and the Coleco Industries producer, Al Kahn.

Xavier Roberts started creating “Little People” in 1977 under the Original Appalachian Artwork company. The Little People were soft, squishable sculpted dolls, each one was one of a kind, and they were “born” from a cabbage patch. He opened the Babyland General Hospital in Helen, Georgia where people could come adopt the Little People and receive adoption papers and birth certificates. At one point he had 400 people working for him on the Little People.

Roger Schaifer came to Xavier with the idea of distributing the rights to the Little People and having them mass produced. Al Kahn of Coleco Industries took this on and immediately changed the name to Cabbage Patch Kids. Coleco made the heads of the Kids in plastic and wanted to make them all the same.

Xavier pushed back and said each still had to one of a kind. Coleco conceded and did make the kids different. Each was a combination of different skins, eye colors, hair colors, clothes, and each had their own name on their adoption papers and birth certificates. In summer of 1983, Coleco started advertising Cabbage Patch Kids on TV under the new rules of being able to advertise toys during children’s programming.

By Christmas of 1983 Coleco couldn’t keep up with the demand for Cabbage Patch Kids. For the first time stores had to deal with people storming the doors and fighting over getting the box with the Cabbage Patch Kid in it. By the time the craze was over Coleco had sold a billion dollars in Cabbage Patch Kids.

But the documentary then takes a different turn. After spending a lot of time talking about how popular the Kids were, the film shifts to bring up a controversy that Xavier Roberts did not create the Little People. That he stole the idea from another soft sculpture artist, Martha Nelson Thomas. After showing video of interviews with Martha and her children, the documentary could not prove that Xavier stole the idea.

In full disclosure I do own two Cabbage Patch Kids (twins!) and was quite interested in the origin story because of that. It was a good documentary that could have used a little more editing. They also announce that Neil Patrick Harris is the narrator and I felt they didn’t use him enough. But those are minor quibbles about an interesting documentary.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 16, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Minnesota Mean

I was excited to see the documentary Minnesota Mean on the Cinequest lineup. I have fond memories of watching roller derby with my Dad in the 60’s, so I was anxious to revisit the sport.

And it didn’t let me down.

Minnesota Mean follows the Minnesota Roller Girls All Stars as they prepare for the 2017 Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Championships. Flat track roller derby was founded in 2004. It is a relatively new form of the game. Prior to 2004 roller derby required custom built banked wooden tracks. So the switch to a flat track means it can be played without the expense of a bulky track.

The film alternates between the fast-paced roller derby games and interviews with the players. We follow several key players through the games, learning how they got into the sport, their origin stories, and why they stay in such an aggressive and dangerous activity. Nicknames are used for players during the games and in many of the interviews we find out how they got that nickname. The Team got the nickname of “Minnesota Mean” through their aggressive playing style.

A large part of the film involves how the Team deals with the loss of Bricklayer, who is one of their top scorers. She gets seriously hurt 7 weeks before the championship games and has to sit out weeks of games to heal. But the team is a “found family” and they all rally to overcome this otherwise devastating blow.

I often find documentaries hard to watch, but this one was a joy. The filming and photography were excellent, they had obviously filmed roller derby before to get such great shots, and this added to the enjoyment of the movie.

One of my favorite quotes from one of the skaters was “I participate in roller derby so that I can be strong with other women.” In the year of Barbie, this is another movie about empowering women to be all that they can be.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 14, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Star Wars Kid

If you were using the internet in the early 2000’s you probably had a first-hand experience in viewing the “Star Wars Kid.” The video portrayed a young teen boy going through vigorous motions with a rod, reproducing a lightsaber battle. It was likely the first “viral video” and certainly launched many remixings, imitations, and parodies. Even if you weren’t on the internet, you would likely have seen it on the news, late night shows.

It was a big thing, in more ways than one.

And so you should approach this documentary movie know that there is actually very little Star Wars content here. Admittedly, the subject of the video now claims he was not a fan. That this was just a test video, never meant to be shared. So not much about Star Wars pheonomena. This is a film about the advent of today’s internet. The origin of today’s memes and viral videos. But mostly about the damage that these things, even unintentionally, can have on the innocent.

It’s worth saying a second time, this is not a film about Star Wars fandom. It is a film about ramifications, damage, and dealing with unwanted notoriety. If you are looking for insights into the adventures of the Skywalker family, this isn’t going to scratch that itch.

It is, however a fine and thought provoking film. It details and personalizes the unexpected and uncontrolled violations of innocence that the new internet accidentally created. Using this singular event, it examines how and to what extent how we’ve adapted to this global connection. And to some extent lets us reflect on how some willingly, willfully, embrace this effect for their own benefit.

Like most documentaries, it’s promarily composed of interviews. People involved in the distribution and promotion of early internet videos bookend segments wtih the now-adult “Star Wars Kid”, and what effect the video had on them. We do start with Ghyslain Raza, the eponomous Star Wars Kid. He is a French Canadian who as a teen filmed himself to make some test video to debug a problem in a high school video project. That simple act accidentally made him an international celebrity. It also exposed him to bullying, the abuses of the press, and hardships for his parents. Now, years after, he’s still dealing with the effect all this had on his early life and the residual effects he still feels.

In a masterful stroke, director Mathieu Fournier set much of this in a school classroom where Raza was attending and shot his video. The interviewers here are current students of the school, people who never experienced a world without instantanious global communications. The juxtaposition, a quiet and thoughtful mingling of both worlds, is brilliant, and at times quite touching.

Overall, this film creates is a fine and quiet discussion of many issues we deal with today. Not quite cautionary, not hyperbolic, simply thoughtful and perhaps useful in its examination.

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Note: This film is in French (with subtitles) and English. Basically French Canadians speak French, except when speaking to English speakers.

Ric Bretschneider
August 10, 2023

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Cinequest 2023: Share?

In 1969 Canadian televison produceed a one hour teleplay by Jim Hensen called The Cube. It was only broadcast twice, and although you can find it on YouTube it isn’t terribly well known or noted. The Cube was certainly was my first exposure to the protagonist in a box” trope. And fifty years later it is still the bar against which I judge similar experiences.

And there has been occasion for judging similar films. The trope has recently been used in science fiction, highly metaphoric short tales, and especially in horror films and shorts. It’s so constrictively defined and so easily used that it’s rare to find a truly fresh example of the theme.

Share? has broken out of that “box.”


Writer/director Ira Rosensweig and writer Benjamin Sutor’s work has made Share? a rare exception. It takes the boxed protagonist trope and makes it essential in an entertaining yet serious examination of social media and influential or influencers in that realm.

With a very small cast the filmmakers create a world where people are in boxes, locations unknown. And they have locked us into a view of their world, our screens representing a fixed point in one set of four stark walls, and a the view that never deviates, never pans or zooms, giving us the illusion of being in our own box. In a unique way, we’re getting the same experience as anyone we meet in the film is getting. Each film prisoner can also use a keyboard to view to specifically select another habitant in their own cube.

There’s an economy as well, a brilliant part of Share?‘s overall interpretation of the trope, and fundamentally what locks this into our current advent of social media influencers. If someone viewing your cube likes what you’re doing, they can send you credits. Credits are a currency essential to life; needed to pay for water, food, clothing, even garbage collection. You can also use them to reward other people whose cells you choose to watch on your screen. It might feel a little too on-the-nose, especially if you work with or are aware of people trying to make money off producing content for the internet. But Share? takes the idea in to some not-so-obvious areas and works with some really interesting ideas.

Melvin Gregg and Bradley Whitford in Share?

Eventually it become obvious that cube inhabitants can use the system for selective communication, and that’s where things get good.

It’s this kind of petri-dish environment that the isolation of characters really excels. It’s almost brutal, but this is where the fine acting of the very small cast comes in to provide a realistic reaction. A humanizing of those caught in this machinery. With Melvin Gregg (The Blackening)and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) getting the most “screen” time, lead the way. And the transformative and provocative performances of Alice Braga (The Suicide Squad) and Danielle Campbell (The Originals) elevate this even more. Again, avoiding details that would be spoilers here.

And that’s where I’ll draw this to a close. This is a standout film in the Cinequest ecosphere. If any of this sounds intriguing, go see this thought-provoking and inventive film.

Trailer on Cinequest

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Note: I suspect that you will be yelling a singular instruction to Gregg’s character near the end of the film, just as I was.

Let me know in the comments below.


Ric Bretschneider
August 9, 2023
San Jose California

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Cinequest 2023: Tomorrow

If I were to tell you that this movie is about someone who wakes up each morning in a different body, always yearning to go back “home,” you’d probably say “Oh yeah, Quantum Leap! I loved that show!”

But this isn’t Sam Beckett, and it isn’t a weekly show. There’s no overt reason for the traveler to make a history-rectifying change to each new situation in which they find themselves. It’s something much more personal, and oddly more realistic because of that.

Harper is a young girl who is having trouble at school. Sent home for fighting back against a bully, she is inconsolable because “the world is so unfair.” She rebukes her parents’ advice and love, and wishes she was someone else, anyone else.

So of course, that’s what happens. Over and over again. With no voice over, no “Ziggy,” there is no explanation why this is happening to her. Day after day she spends one waking day in a new body, and then goes to sleep to start things all over again.

Of course, without the puzzles and historical situations that prior works like Quantum Leap, Groundhog Day, or even Freaky Friday had going for them, you might expect this to be kind of tedious after a while. But because Tomorrow dwells on Harper’s emotional reactions, it is much more personal, believable. The film examines the progressive effect this situation has on the young unwilling traveler. There is unexpected character growth, and truly unexpected revelations of a different sort happening here. But I’m not here to spoil that for you, just encourage you to keep an open mind through her journey.

To further your appreciation of the film, you can’t help looking at the rather large cast and appreciate the job each has done in bringing their version of Harper to life. We are exposed to real slices of life, some momentary instances, some more fully developed days. All compound to a more interesting whole because in this world they’re relatable and bereft of fantastic complications. Harper even ends up on the receiving end of a young girl’s inconsolable attitudes towards her parents, and as much as we might have expected that ironic twist, it doesn’t become the focus. It’s just another day, not “the end” of the film.

This isn’t a film where we should be expecting the Hollywood ending, the Shyamalanian “twist.” What happens here is more direct, more believable in it’s own fantastic setting.

In all, there is a lot to consider in Tomorrow, and with each daily vignette we have the opportunity to learn something about the human condition, our own desires to “go home,” and even the need to enjoy our trip onto our final destination.

You will find Tomorrow is worth considering for another day, and another, and another…

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Note: Do NOT leave before the end of the credits. -RB

Ric Bretschneider
August 7, 2023
San Jose California

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Cinequest 2022: The Smoke Master

I wasn’t planning on any more Cinequest reviews this year as I prep for a week at Worldcon in Chicago, but the teaser for this film showed up in my mailbox this morning and I love the concept so much I feel the need to share. And there’s only one more showing scheduled for later tonight:Friday Aug 26 at 7pm at the Pruneyard Cinemas. So, take this for what you will.

I’m sure you have wondered, as I have, what would it be like if Cheech and Chong had produced a Drunken Master martial arts action film. No, well, perhaps you should start thinking about it.

Watch, as I have, the trailer for this and perhaps you’ll be similarly enthralled.

The Smoke Master

Comedy and action ensure, as two brothers rely on a handful of friends to face the fury of the Chinese Mafia. With the help of the Smoke Master and a fighting style based on the properties of marijuana, they will try to overcome this huge challenge.

In 1949, a Smoke Master refused to join Triad’s army, causing the Chinese Mafia to cast the feared “3 Generations Revenge” curse upon him: his firstborn child and firstborn grandchild, if any, will have to fight for their lives on their 27th birthday. When the curse reaches the third generation, his two grandsons escape to be raised by Abel, a Kung Fu master that grooms the older brother to face his destiny and train with the last Smoke Master.

In 2001, fights between the mafia and Abel’s group of students leave the eldest grandson hospitalized at the age of 26, a year before his final fight. Gabriel, his younger brother, discovers the truth about the family feud and set off to look for The Smoke Master himself. Without any training in the Smoke Style, Gabriel has to earn the trust of his new master and learn this controversial, all-time high, stoned martial art to be able to beat Caine, Triad’s deadly undefeated leader.

U.S. PREMIERE. Join the illustrious cast and filmmaking team for a special experience during the first Cinequest screening. Enjoy the electricity of being one of the first people to enjoy this fantastic artistic achievement and take your film experience to another level via the post screening Q&A session. Make sure to share your experience with others via social and the in-person Cinequest social experiences at our Beer/Wine Garden and Patrons & Artists Lounge. Cinequest is much more than a movie…it’s experiencing great films, artists, and community.

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Ric Bretschneider
August 20, 2022
San Jose California

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Cinequest 2022: Futra Days

Traveling forward in time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as Sean Graves learns the hard way. He’s supposed to spy on his future self to determine if he should pursue a new romantic love interest. Even though he’s warned to not interfere, Sean decides he has to investigate for himself the tension between the man who he is now and who he will become. Even more dauntingly, once Sean is sent back to the past, “Future Sean” has to deal with the consequences of all the versions of his multiple selves’ actions.

OK, Futra Days, I came for the time travel, I stayed for the unique experiment in storytelling.

This is not your usual time travel story, but we’ll get back to that. Let me dance through this with as few spoilers as possible, and explain why this film is special, and may actually benefit from a second viewing.

The story begins with Sean learning of a strange fringe organization that is experimenting with time travel. They are in an early, invitation only period of getting established. Once enlisted, preparation requires the potential traveler has to be versed in this, immersed in various physical and psychological training, as if preparing them or enabling them to handle the effect of the trip. Our time traveler is not the stereotypical wild-eyed science guy. He’s in the record business, and he’s worried about relationship issues and his own level of commitment.

The actual mechanics of travel is acceptable for this story’s purposes, and as in any science fiction story you have to suspend disbelief. It’s fairly low budget, but that really doesn’t matter.

The dialogue is sprinkled with various time theories, some competing, some complementary. Quotes from Göedel, Einstein, perhaps others, along with a large helping of other self-actualization techniques and theories. There is apparently a lot happening behind the scenes to trigger the traveling. There is a better than average 2001-style psychedelic transition… and then the harder science fiction aspects are, for the most part, done.

Having arrived, the traveler assumes the role of his future self; his life with his girlfriend, a singer whose career he’s helped along. There’s no shortness in personal baggage here on all sides. Mental health issues, drugs, future regret, fragile sexy moments, and questions as to why their relationship is where it is.

“Reality” occasionally spasms, like a fold in a videotape playback, just to remind us that we are in the midst of a journey, and perhaps warn us that not all is well.

We become concerned about the duality of the traveler’s being there, the inherent lie of pretending to be his future self. The lack of the memory of the history of time he’s trying to investigate complicates relationships and emotional reactions. Pre and post trip emotional issues seem to transfer between him and his long-term girlfriend.

The butterfly effect refers to present day changes a time traveler might cause by changing the past. Supposedly this is not in play because his trip is into the future. But upon his returning to the present, are we seeing a new kind of butterfly effect because of his actions in the future? Or is it something else? And what of the version of himself now affected in the future.

Actors Tania Raymonde and Brandon Sklenar do remarkable jobs of balancing where they are and their character’s relative attitudes and abilities throughout the film. Not to detract from Sklenar’s work which is excellent, but Raymonde, by the nature of her role, is particularly seamless in her transitions from compelling and inviting, to perhaps dangerous and unpredictable. She is definitely entertaining to watch.

Most time travel stories have to do with the effect of displaced information, and how it changes the present, intentionally or otherwise. But this time, we’re dealing with mental health, emotions, realizing potential, or not.

Or just taking a chance regardless.

Yes, you should take a chance on Futra Days.

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Ric Bretschneider
August 20, 2022
San Jose California

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Cinequest 2022: Dash

Isn’t it fun to compare a movie with other films? And yet so unfair. If I were to tell you that director Sean Perry’s film Dash is a combination of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, as reimagined by the Coen Brothers, would that alone make you want to go see it?

No? Well, then you’d really be missing out. I guess I better finish the review.

The premise is fairly simple. This is a dashcam video of a night in the life of a LA rideshare driver. The company he works for shares the name of the movie; Dash. And to more than one extent, we see that we’re dashing towards the disastrous culmination a number of bad decisions in this driver’s life.

Understandably, the conceit here is that this film is shot in one-take. Shot from one fixed point of view. And follows one character. And that all is revealed (or perhaps unraveled) in the course of the films actual one hour and forty-five minutes. “Yes folks, you’re watching this live!” You are strapped to the hood of this car, and like a rush-hour driver passing a huge accident on the freeway, you cannot look away.

Luckily, it’s an entertaining freeway accident.

It’s always interesting that, watching a film, we can empathise with someone who in any real world context we would dismiss as simply a waste of our time, perhaps even dangerous to be around. That certainly is the case here. And yet, we’re drawn into his problematic life. Perhaps it’s simply the level to which he is overwhelmed by the converging consequences of his infidelities, lies, and criminal activities. We can’t help but put ourselves into his place, trying to figure a way out, a solution to the life which seems destined to go up in a ball of fire.

Milly, our driver, is also balancing a continual series of phone calls, instant messages, and rideshare requests. Director, screenwriter, and cinematographer Perry has layered these as they occur, graphically distinct and centered on the screen. Some passenger’s vignettes mostly play out without spoken lines, as is particularly true with two phone-obsessed young women. They discuss their night so far, intestinal distress, and the relative attractiveness of the driver over texts and giggles. Placing modern communication on top of visual reality is getting to be more common in film. But Dash’s use is wildly creative and a virtual “third character on the third wall” of the film.

I have to mention that Alexander Molina, who plays the driver, is exhaustingly amazing. Without spoiling major plot points, we go from watching him comically flounder out of his depth, to tragically spending a good portion of the film dealing with the physical ramifications of a particularly bad mistake. Totally convincing physical acting, particularly over such an extended period, and his reactions to the general craziness are spot on. An excellent performance.

Still, you might dismiss this film as “anyone with a dashcam could make that.” That is until you again revisit the fact that this is all done in real time and think about what that means. Every event had to be painstakingly set up beforehand. Logistics established in different parts of the city, actors in place in new locations to get into and out of the car. Even a simulated fender-bender needed to be ready to go before filming started. The fact that Perry handles this all so seamlessly as to make us forget the difficulty here is a considerable achievement.

Remarkably, while everything seems destined to go sideways in predictable ways, there are still surprises in store. But Dash doesn’t skirt it’s collisions with destiny. There is no “easy way out” no deus ex machina that will put things right. But when things do blow up they do so in in unexpected ways.

We are certainly entertained. We still would not have wanted to be behind the wheel in this particular car, but sitting in on the ride was refreshingly inventive and entertaining. And if you Uber home after the show you could understandably have some new concerns about the journey.

Absolutely recommended.

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Note: I meant to include the excellent guilty pleasure HBO Taxicab Confessions in here somewhere because it seemed right, but I didn’t, and I’m not going to work it in now. So no need to comment that I missed that obvious connection.

Ric Bretschneider
August 18, 2022
San Jose California

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Cinequest 2022: Fanga

Tale as old as time… we all know the song from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. And we’ve probably have seen a production other than the animated Disney cartoon. But this is a movie truly a “tale as old as time” given its roots in folktales and myth. And with Fanga, writer/director Max Gold is going back to the source material, and added a modern twist.

2023 Update: New Title and Theatrical Release, more to come.

Filmed in Iceland, Fanga is a dark fantasy based on the Beauty and the Beast folktale. We should note in this case dark refers to both an emotional and environmental description of the film. But we quickly learn that some of the most horrific moments will be exposed in the light of day.

Fanga is the Icelandic word for prisoner. But that the term may not just apply to the young woman caught up in the Beast’s curse, her father’s failing health, or even the expectations of their rural society. This is a feminist take on Belle, that makes the feminist aspects of the Disney version look embarrassingly weak.

To be certain, Belle is our hero here. Faced with the need of a mythical Rose to cure her ailing father, she takes the hero’s journey. She braves the dark forest. Rides up the mountain side to the dangerous cave. She even has some puck left over to “exchange” quips with the creepiest character in the film. While occasionally distressed, we never feel that Belle is out of her depths, or about to run away for help.

For a movie where darkness is so prevalent, cinematographer Nico Navia treats us to glorious mountains and plains, and intriguing caves, shot on location the Hella caves of Iceland.

The Beast is more of an emotional or psychological character, typically an unkempt man, whose change to beast form is psychological rather than physical. Ironically, this transparency makes him all the more dangerous, and horrific. The relationship they form has to deal with this, in challenging and unexpected ways.

A second journey begins, secrets are slowly exposed, and just when you think it’s all over…

By looking back at the tale’s origins, writer Gold has delivered a new tale, with a solid modern message. A mature tale, more important than those that have gone before, without using distracting song and dance*. And this is why I’m recommending Fanga as a must-see for Cinequest 2022.

Click here for tickets and more information.

Click here for more Cinequest 2022 features.

*Note: There are two songs and one dance in this movie. But… oh well, you’ll see.

Ric Bretschneider
August 16, 2022
San Jose California

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Cinequest 2022: The Day I Found a Girl in the Trash

Starting out Cinequest 2022 coverage with a trifecta of compact storytelling.

When someone says science fiction these days we typically think of a CGI-laden film with epic characters inevitably fighting with or against technology. I’m going to ask you to think smaller, more personal, and certainly less flashy.

The Day I Found a Girl in the Trash is a near-future science fiction story. Typically near-future SF is anywhere from five to ten years out from “today.” This allows the writer/producer to focus on a smaller aspect of change. Often societal with a mix of technological advancement that we have no problem relating to. Something we might actually see coming ourselves. The stories become more about how change affects society, communities, and individuals. As well as the outcome of changes that are already happening in real life.

Near future science fiction is also tremendously easier to produce in media. Just a bit more care taken to select locations, a much smaller budget for effects (if any) and props. And a clearer focus on story-telling… and warnings.

This film hypothesizes a future where crime is punished by chemical removal of memory, feeling, and will. Convicted criminals are turned into “automations” servicing industry, commercial endeavors, and… well, a lot of that is ambiguous. Anyone convicted of aiding an automation is guilty of a crime, the punishment for which is automation.

Selecting a very gritty and at times depressing environment, the film begins in a fairly run down part of Poland. This is juxtaposed with the advent of a flashy New Years Eve celebration. Szymon, is a young man dealing with a recent tragic events. He has been on social media announcing his suicide as a way of protesting automation. And this has made him somewhat of an instant celebrity. Then, on the eve of his suicide, a young female automation shows up in his trash dumpster. The rest of the film is Szymon dealing with the ramifications of living up to his opposing commitments. And personally dealing with the events that shaped his controversial ideals.

Small production crews are to be expected in small-budget independent films. The writer Dagmara Brodziak and co-writer/director Michal Krzywicki, are also the main cast of the automation and Szymon. Both are particularly good, with a spotlight on Brodziak’s slow-waking automation. The movie is a slow-roll at 92 minutes. But we do develop a good sense of emotional effect of the couple’s journey through the travel and developing flash-backs. So it does have a well established payoff.

There’s a sense of unfocused fear throughout the film. Are they being chased? What actual crimes are punished by automation? Is the system working properly, or out of control? We can’t help asking how could today’s attitudes about the inhumanity of the death penalty, combined with overflowing prisons, lead us down this path? It seems all too possible, given a few technological “breakthroughs.”

And this is why I’m recommending The Day I Found a Girl in the Trash to anyone who wants to explore those issues, along with the differences are between a human, and human automation.

Click here for tickets and more information.

Click here for more Cinequest 2022 features.

A spoiler-free aside to those, like me, who are occasionally challenged by their knowledge of European geography: Poland is separated from Sweden by the Baltic Sea, around 900 miles wide, usually crossed in ferries.

Note: Although the film is not rated, there are short non-sexual moments of nudity, and a scene with some cutting that might be upsetting to those with self-harm issues. Neither were a concern to me, were essential to the plot, and I’ve seen much more gratuitous examples in PG-13 films.

Ric Bretschneider
August 15, 2022
San Jose CA

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How To Survive Cinequest 2022

A viewer’s guide to what USA Today readers voted the Best Film Festival.

I’m happy, so happy, to update this pre-Covid-shutdown article for use in 2022. This year Cinequest moves back from virtual film festival to one of in-person smiles, some probable hugging, and this festival’s unique sense of community.

As regular listeners to the Fanboy Planet Podcast know, San Jose’s award-winning Cinequest film festival opens Tuesday, August 16.  Opening night at Cinequest typically features an independent film that has or is expected to shortly gain general distribution.

This year’s opener is Linoleum, a comedy starring Jim Gaffigan, as the host of a failing children’s science TV show. Having livelong aspirations of being an astronaut, Gaffigan’s dream realization may have just fallen into his backyard. Opening nights are fun productions, with a red carpet walk, and Q&A with the creatives. And this year is no exception; Gaffigan will receive Cinequest’s Maverick Spirit Award during this year’s festival opening.

Jim Gaffigan is a wannabe astronaut in Linoleum.

For more information and tickets, click here.

But that’s just the kick-off of two more weeks of Cinequest to enjoy! And we’ll help you do just that in this article.

For many, Cinequest is more about the indies; smaller independent films. Indies are a joy. Why? Because independent filmmakers and their crew are typically trying to tell stories they love and believe in, using a medium with which they’re similarly in love. And they do this without the interference of large corporate studios who answer to stockholders more often than their heart. And so you get some unique and memorable experiences, unlike what you’ll see in general release.

Aw. Isn’t that sweet.

But indies can be hard to find. Or rather, can be hard to find just the right ones for you.  There are hundreds of films being shown at Cinequest, you likely have not heard of most because they simply don’t have the backing money to advertise to you. So how do you decide what to see?

Carmen is playing on August 23 and 26th.

Well, you can browse the event guide, if you have the time. Note the ones that sound interesting. See anything you absolutely want to see? You can buy tickets online for specific showings direct from the web site. Uncertain? Just head down to the festival and discuss them with other film lovers, and sometimes just take a chance. It’s not uncommon for a long conversation between strangers at Cinequest to start with “what film are you looking forward to?” or “What’s the best film you’ve seen so far?” Because at its heart Cinequest is two weeks where a community of film lovers gathers, enjoys films and each other’s company, and occasionally makes a few new long-term friends.

Dash is playing August 19, 24, and 27th.

Cinequest is also an opportunity for audience and creators to mingle. That guy sitting next to you might be the director of this film, or may give you a postcard advertising his film that’s showing later in the day. If you’re a film fan, the opportunity to discuss what went right and wrong, what you loved or didn’t, and to get feedback from the creators themselves, is a terrific experience, often for them as well. People involved in independent film are doing it all for the love of the subject matter and the art.

So, from this we can wrap up with a few pointers on getting the most out of your time at Cinequest:

  • Look for World Premieres!  There are lots. And you get the “yes, great film! I was at the premiere back in 2018!” bragging rights.
  • Look for the names you recognize, this is often a chance to see actors stretching into roles we’re not accustomed to seeing them in. (Look carefully! I missed Grant “The Flash” Gustin playing a pot smoking artist in Krystal at the last live festival!)
  • But don’t ignore the films and actors you’ve never heard of. One of the real joys of cinema is going to a film where all the big beats haven’t already been spoiled by weeks of advertising trailers.  Again, think future bragging here. (Come on, you know you love that.)
Fanga is showing Aug 20 and 26th.

Most of all, for Bay Area / Silicon Valley folks, this is an opportunity to get out to an annual event that celebrates the love of creativity in Cinema, bringing to you unique and memorable experiences. You can put off your rewatch of Sandman on Netflix a couple of weeks. Now is time for something new and exciting.

Ric Bretschneider
August 14, 2022
San Jose, California

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Distracted By The Cracker: The Real Point Of Soylent Green

This article was originally written almost exactly two years ago. So much irony, so little time.

UPDATE: Shortly after I wrote this, my friend and Fanboy Planet editor Derek McCaw asked if he could run it there as well. Well of course you can Derek! In the prepping he suggested that the “distracted by the cracker” line made a better headline, and I had to agree.  Now it’s 2022, the year of the food riots and mysterious death clinics, and somehow this all feels that much more poignant. With that in mind, I’m updating the title of the story here as well. Thanks again Derek. You, Janice Gelb, and Deborah Robins are my editors who still live in my head while I write, and sometimes I even listen to y’all.

-Ric Bretschneider, January 10, 2022

SPOILER WARNING – This post contains spoilers for Planet of the Apes(1968), The Omega Man (1971), and Soylent Green (1973).  Read at your own risk if you have not seen all three of these movies.

If you like science fiction, there are likely two things you like about discussing it.  The first are the spoilers, but only shared with those who have also experienced them first hand. Repeat after me, I will never share spoilers with those who have not seen them first hand. You also likely enjoy the unexpected and sensational twist. The hook that turns much of what you’ve seen on it’s head. It’s fantastic when it’s a surprise, thus the spoiled surprise or spoiler.

Some of these events are so crazy as to have gone from horrific or shocking events to funny punch-lines. And so many of them have are known to more people than have actually seen the spoiler event first hand themselves.

I want to talk about one of these specifically. 1973’s Soylent Green is partially based on the Harry Harrison book Make Room, Make Room. The book deals with a few New Yorkers in 1999, as overpopulation has started to make everyone’s life unbearable. If you’re not into reading books (oh you sad creature) you can read Harrison’s short story Roommates which covers much of the same ground in fact with the two main characters of both book and movie.

Last chance, I’m about to spoil the movie. The big twist in Soylent Green doesn’t appear in the book or short story. In the film’s future of 2022 (still the future!) the “greenhouse effect”, what we used to call Climate Change and Global Warming when we discussed it 50 years ago, has killed much of our food supply and turned an overpopulated world into a starving and poverty stricken experience. The hero of the movie is Frank Thorn, a police detective played by Charlton Heston.  Heston made a career of playing heroes in science fiction movies with twists. “It was Earth all along” in Planet of the Apes.  “My blood will save humanity as I lay dead like crucified Christ” in The Omega Man to name two. Heston’s Frank is investigating a murder, complete with suspects, red herrings, and a bigger plot twist than anyone expected.

Frank has a older and wiser roommate named Sol Roth, played by Edward G. Robinson. Ironically, as you’ll see, this was Robinson’s last picture before he died. We’ll get back to Sol in a bit.

Of course, you likely already know what Frank discovers; that the corporations are distributing a new food source, Soylent Green, which supposedly manufactured from plankton. But it isn’t actually coming from our dead oceans. It is recycled people. The corporations are placating the general population by feeding them to themselves.  “Soylent Green is People” a wounded Frank cries from his stretcher as he’s carried off.  “You’ve got to tell’em!” he shouts into the crowd as the film ends.

As I said, this was shocking when you were lucky enough to see it without it having been spoiled. Gross, vile, and disturbing. But over the years, the shock value has worn off through repetition. It’s a joke, even a prop as you can see from these pictures from my own bookshelf.

That box of crackers is always good for a chuckle. The shock has totally worn off, and the supposed absurdity of the proposition has left us with a weak joke. And this is especially true for people who know the spoiler even though they’ve never seen the movie.

And for those folks, they likely miss the real horror of this movie, as have so many people who have actually seen it.

Why? Let’s get back to Sol.

Remember, Sol is a lot older than Frank. He’s watched the world die. And he knew the world before things got bad. He can look at his environment and feel more than frustration, more than anger, Sol can feel real sadness at the loss. And that’s depressing.

So depressing, that in the pivotal moment of the movie, Sol heads off to an assisted suicide clinic, supposedly run by the government. Here Sol spends his final moments immersed in classical music and videos of the world before, the wildlife, the oceans, rivers, the nature, all so beautiful. Frank catches up with Sol here, and sharing this glimpse of the world now gone he weeps saying “How could I know, how could I ever have imagined?” For indeed, he could not have.

Update for 2022.  I had a YouTube video clip of Sol in the clinic, but Warner Bros. Entertainment blocked it, as is their right. So I’m replacing it with the film trailer here which does show a few seconds of that scene.  Enjoy 2022, the year of Soylent Green. -R

With Sol’s death the movie shifts back into detective story as Frank follows Sol’s body from the suicide center to an unmarked factory where bodies are rendered down into substance that becomes the eponymous Soylent Green crackers. Before he can escape with his discovery he’s attacked and wounded, which leads to the final scene in the movie, the warning that everyone remembers.

It’s almost as sensational as the revelation in Planet of the Apes, with Heston on the beach in front of the Statue of Liberty, which of course is what the director was going for. The whole Soylent Green aspect of the movie was exclusively cinema, it was not part of Make Room, Make Room.

So what’s my point? Again the sensational aspect of this obscures the real tragedy and horror, the actual warning. We are so grossed out at the idea that we’re involuntary cannibals that the message is easily missed.

Depression is the real villain here. Even with it’s ineffective bits of revolution, world of tomorrow is so awful that depression is a generally natural state. Not because people can’t see babbling brooks and baby deer, but because there’s nothing life affirming about existence any more. At least for everyone not in the 1% of super rich. And that 1% has figured things out. Use the depression. Provide a service, the euthanasia centers, that both figuratively and literally feeds the populations needs. Depression is not a state of mind to be treated, but a state to be systematized and used by the corporations, the wealthy, the government, to both placate and manage the population. That’s the horror, that’s the evil. It’s right there, but we’re distracted by the cracker.

And what would that future day after Frank’s bloody revelations be like? Would it resonate and become as common knowledge as the spoiler is today? Would the physically, mentally, and socially wounded populace react with horror and revolt, or just admit that they need it to be the new status quo?

Science fiction aside, look at today’s politicians who can lie, cheat, and break laws without repercussions. The rich who have more wealth than they can possibly spend, but pay no taxes. Of corporations who are caught poisoning both the land and the people, yet still can pay dividends to their executives and stockholders. The powerful who deny climate change because it would cut into their bottom line. These are trite, almost comic-book level villains and villainy, but we’re living with them daily. And we put up with them, because even though the middle class is shrinking, and 1% of the population owns more than half the world’s wealth, we’re generally well fed and even more distracted.

One in 13 people in the world today will have a psychotic depressive episode before age 75. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 16.2 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2016.  Nearly 7 percent of American adults have had at least one major depressive episode in a given year.

And it’s not getting better.

Are we that far away from Soylent Green’s subtle message from 1973? Are we too focused on laughing at Frank Thorn’s sensational shouted warnings from 2022 that we are not watching for the subtler and more deadly manipulations?

Or is it just a stupid movie from the ’70s?

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Review: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds

Can I tell you about a unique book experience? I’m going to work hard to spoil none of the book’s surprises, while telling you why this is a book you should enjoy.

Consider a prolific writer, now long passed, whose legacy lives on beyond the words he wrote. Consider almost 80 novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, even more created by those who want to extend the legends he created. But know that until recently, the official canon of novels was limited to those penned by Burroughs himself.

But now, there’s new life being brought into these epic stories. Several existing books, written by authors other than Burroughs, have been deemed worthy by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and have been accepted into official canon. More astonishing, four new novels have been commissioned by modern authors to extend the stories with new adventures and new connections between the worlds Burroughs created.

Let me tell you about the first of these; Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds

Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds

Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds

Not as famous as Tarzan lord of the apes, or even John Carter of Mars, the story of Carson Napier and his adventures on cloud-covered Venus have only been available in Burroughs’s five original books and a few comic book series. Carson is a distinctly different type of hero than those most of us think of when we consider the amazing civilized savage Tarzan, or the human superman on Mars that is John Carter. Carson is much more the everyman, in fact he’s somewhat prone to falling into troubles far beyond his ability to deal with them. Even out of his element, he is no less dedicated and heroic in dealing with otherworldly dangers to himself and the people he cares for. Perhaps this all adds up to make him a bit more believable.

So, it’s very cool, and a little risky, that this new set of novels starts with Carson of Venus instead of one of Burroughs’s more powerhouse and well-known heroes.

Now if you read and enjoyed Carson’s prior adventures, I have a simple review for you: Go get this book. It is a worthy extension to the series. Without sacrificing the pacing and style of the prior efforts, new Burroughs author Matt Betts successfully refreshes it with a light touch of modern sensibilities that does nothing to detract from his success at emulating what we love about the originals. You can stop reading now, go out and get this book.

On the other hand, if you’ve never spent time under the perpetual clouds that cover the lands and seas of Venus, or if you’re suspicious of “pulp hero adventures” being too juvenile or out of touch with modern adventures, let me assure you that this is a rich and well-told tale.

Part of the charm of Edgar Rice Burroughs stories comes from the fact that they were originally told in segments, installments in magazines that were later collected into novels. This provides a tale told in installments, no less cohesive in its whole, but satisfying in smaller sections. This makes for a great reading experience, and very accessible whether you’re a reader who stays up until 3am to finish a book or one who reads a few chapters a day. Unlike many of the unofficial Burroughs series follow-up authors, Betts honors this style in his pacing and storytelling more than I might have hoped possible.

Another trademark of Burroughs fantastic tales was his world-building. It’s hard to make us believe, given scientific exploration and examination that has occurred in the near century since the series began, that we’d find anything habitable on Venus. Betts brushes that aside, continuing and expanding upon the elements that Burroughs used to make the reader to believe in Amtor, the local name for Venus. Besides the already noted weather, and the well populated seas and lands Carson finds himself in, Burroughs was prolific in creating language, linguistical and grammatical rules for the same, and distinct and consistent conventions of life for all the native inhabitants. Betts tale takes us into both familiar and previously unexplored territory here. And he does so both consistently honoring the earlier works, and extending the flora, fauna, lifestyles, and language of the inhabitants. So consistent is this work that few readers will be able to tell what is repeated and what is new to this volume’s story.

Which leads us to the story.

Long established in both the lands of Carson’s allegiances, his firm friendships, and the traditional romantic entanglement, the story starts with the core characters mid-journey. We’re reintroduced to several friends from prior novels, as well as the character Duare, who is the Jane to Carson’s Tarzan. No, we’ll not go there. Duare is much more a partner in adventure to Carson, and we often find her to be wiser and more war savvy than her Earth-born partner. Conversations and ruminations on Carter’s part fill in the backstory for those who are new to the series.

Ironically, Tarzan and John Carter play foundational roles in how Carter came to be on Venus. And it was in a poorly planned attempted trip by Carson to journey to Carter’s Mars that he accidentally crash-landed on Venus. Not much of the early novels is actually given away in this, just what we need to enjoy this story, so those are still available for the enjoyment of the reader. Carter reveals no real spoilers. Instead we’re introduced to a number of new mysteries, including some whose solution will have to wait for future novels. This too was a Burroughs trademark, as he littered such story seeds through his novels to the delight of readers who love tracking them back through prior works.

So, with a mysterious threat to be investigated, Carson and crew head off into new lands of Amtor, encountering fantastic beasts, cities, machines, and people both helpful and threatening. Again, without saying too much, the tradition of including the “noble opponent” who eventually becomes an ally is honored, as well as the counterpoint in an unrepentant and over the top would-be world conqueror. Betts builds characters that successfully stand side-by-side with those who came before.

As noted earlier, Carson is neither the canny jungle savage, nor the Mars-visiting superman. He’s a bit more of an everyman falling from one catastrophe to the next. He certainly wakes up trapped more than most heroes yet is fairly clever about getting out of a spot of danger. He is often the advocate of “going around” or retreating. And he beats the odds on the fortunate appearance of another character he knows or with whom he is able to ally. No less a brave hero, still Carson is definitely one of the funnier as he tries to talk a threatening giant warrior out of smashing, slicing, or otherwise disposing of him. In one memorable scene, as a new angry group is arguing about what to do with him, he glibly offers to solve their problems by simply walking out the door. They don’t take him up on it, but it is an exchange worthy of Spider-Man or even Big Trouble in Little China’s Jack Burton.

And we must remember that this is the first book of what these new Burroughs’s authors are calling a “Super Arc” of story. Several parts of the main novel, and the short story that follows, introduce us to an additional pair of characters. Inventor Jason Gridley from Burroughs’s Pellucidar series is reintroduced along with new character Victory Harben, and both will appear throughout the super arc to tell their tale. This begins in Christopher Paul Carey’s Pellucidar: Dark of the Sun, which is included as a postscript to this novel.

So, to summarize, a great escapist read. One that can, if you let it, lead you to pick up some older novels to catch up on the backstory, while it leads you forward into the new novels that will extend Edgar Rice Burroughs legacy of extended stories of strange lands and incredible adventures.

Venus waits for you.

Ric Bretschneider
April 20, 2020

This review is written after having read an Advanced Reader Copy provided to yours truly in return for an unbiased and honest review.

See Derek McCaw and my video reviews and interview with Christopher Paul Carey, writer/editor and Director of Publishing at Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc at…

More information on The Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe and additional upcoming novels in this series can be found at…

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The Digital Dissolve…

Put another one on the list, and this time it’s significant. I’m talking about e-books. Particularly your rights and ownership of “your copy.” That’s confusing, I know, but bear with me.

“Thanos the librarian snapped his fingers…”

The short of it is that Microsoft will be shutting down its e-book store, and any books you bought from them, and notes you might have made in them, will just disappear.

It’s not the first time one of these e-book “publishers” has decided to shut down.  And in shutting down any e-books it sold will soon just dissolve away into free electrons.  Leaving no book on your tablet, none of the notes you may have dutifully made in the margins, tags, bookmarks… It’s all just gone.

You will get a refund from Microsoft this time, if you’re sharp enough to follow their instructions. That is unless the book was “free.”  Then it just goes away.

Refunds don’t always happen.  I’ve lost books and the money I’ve paid to prior companies with no offer of a refund. Yeah, it sucks. It comes down to the fact that there’s no equity between an e-book and a physical book.  They don’t offer the same feature; permanence. And they should not be priced even close to the same. And don’t get me started on all the years publishers said book prices were going up because of paper costs.

Again, this is not the first time this has happened. Not the first time an e-book publisher has decided to leave the business and essentially removed its books from its customer’s libraries. It’s just that this time it is one of the bigger companies associated with such a closure. And Microsoft isn’t going away, they just decided they don’t want to be in the business any more.  But even that’s not the real point.

The problem is that it’s happening more often these days. I first wrote about this in an article for Fanboy Planet five years ago when my entire collection of  one publisher’s graphic novels disappeared.  (It’s a good set of articles, and it explains the whole digital mess without expecting you to have a degree in computing: Digital Fanboy.)

Recently we’ve seen it in the area of digital movies you already “own.” A big shakeup in that arena left customers scratching their heads over instructions on transferring the digital ownership of materials they had already bought to another service. Several shakeups in fact.  And the fact that it’s happening more often, and in bigger companies, is very disturbing.

I’m finding more and more people, typically younger adults, who are going completely digital these days. It’s a point of honor for them not to own physical things when there is an alternative. To be free of the “burden of the bookshelf.”

And I don’t have a handle on how this digital generation actually feels about their books going away. Not sure it matters to the generation that coined such phrases as “wall of words” and “TL:DR.” And maybe they more easily embrace the impermanence of things.  Or maybe they’re just better at breaking the system; removing the digital rights management that allows publishers to continue to “own” the media they’ve bought. They free up the media they have bought, or maybe “borrowed”, and don’t care because it doesn’t affect them.

I wish I could sum this up in some pithy way, but I only have a sense of dread for you.  I often consider what Post-Apocalyptic Ric might have to do to when knowledge is needed out there in the wastelands. Digital books are gone, wiped off the face of the Earth because we can’t even recharge our batteries. Physical books are the only stored knowledge, because yeah, they don’t need anything but a little light to work.  Can we find a book that helps us make penicillin, perform light surgery, cook up a batch of risotto? Maybe, but maybe not.

I guess I just hope the Apocalypse comes before the digital marketplace replaces physical books completely?  There, that’s close to something bizarrely poignant.

Ric Bretschneider
July 1, 2019

Postscript: I live in both worlds. I love my physical books.  I also love my e-book reader. It lets me carry hundreds of books when I travel. I’m also hopeful that some congressperson will eventually revisit digital rights in a manner that benefits and protects people more than corporations. Yeah, I’m silly that way.

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Sometimes, Always, AppleCare

This is a different kind of Apple rant for me. I do regularly rail against their smug assertions of superiority, the smugger the more likely to be unearned, and I despise many aspects of their designs when they go form over function. Far too many of Apple’s designs are just fashion that often hinders communication and productivity. No, I’m not a fan of Jony Ive at all. Not. At. All.

But I’ve owned Apple products since 1984. Prior to 1984 I had Apple II’s I could take home from work if I wanted or needed to. I bought the original 128k Macintosh on a developer discount the same year I got married (yes, the wedding ring cost more than the Mac, it was a tough year for the bank account, thank you very much.) It’s easier to count the products I didn’t go for (Apple III, Newton, the Kleenex Box Mac…) than the ones I have owned. I have an embarrassingly excessive number of their products. So yeah, me and the bit-fruit go way back.

Now to the point. I’m not typically one for extended warranties. They rarely extend into the years where the product will need it, and often ring up at an excessive percentage of the product’s purchase price. The formula typically resolves to be scammy.


I miss the rainbow logo though.

AppleCare is the one exception. I always buy AppleCare. Today was a great example why.

I’ve owned a number of iPads. My current 512gb iPad Pro is just a month away from being 2 years old. Still clean and working great, but I had been noticing that the battery discharge time was getting faster, even when just left alone overnight. I also noticed that it was never charging up to 100%.

So I made an appointment at the Apple store, expecting to benefit from some kind of battery exchange to fix this. Remember all the nonsense with Apple phone battery problems and hooking owners into costly upgrades? Now batteries do wear out, it’s their nature. I eventually expect to replace some portion of my Tesla’s huge bank of batteries. I’m not going into this shocked or angry. I just figured “why not see what they’ll do?”

I got in to the Los Gatos CA store at 1pm this afternoon.  I had to wait about 15 minutes even though I had a 1pm appointment. No big deal.  I browsed. When the clerk came out we talked about 10 minutes. Then he took the iPad through the mystery door in the back to run a test. When he emerged with my iPad he was also carrying a sealed brown box.

The box had a brand-new, not refurb, 512gb iPad Pro with Wi-Fi + Cellular. Fifteen minutes and one signature later, I walked out of the store with a brand new tablet. It’s sitting beside my keyboard as I write this, restoring data from the backup I made yesterday. All is well.

Pretty cool right? Sure is. But frankly I wasn’t immediately wowed. It’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened. AppleCare has come to my rescue before. I’ve had internal hard discs, graphic cards, and laptop screens replaced before.  This was just the first time they’d just turned over a brand new unit. The reason? They can’t replace the battery in the iPad Pro. They just give you a new one.

That’s about as pain free as it gets, thanks to AppleCare.

So yeah, if you’re pricing out a new Mac or iPad (I’ll try to talk you out of the iPhone thankyouverymuch) I heartily recommend you add AppleCare to the list of things to get.  And I’ll keep recommending it, that is until Jony Ive decides to “redesign” it.

Ric Bretschneider
San Jose
June 20, 2019

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Why I Judge Books by Their Cover

I have another site that I’ve been ignoring for far too long: Book Judgement. I still believe in the site, but I’ve been distracted from it and it’s been out of mind and stagnant. I really hate that.

Basically Book Judgement is someplace where I can review and express my love for the manufacture of books: the binding, typography, cover production, printing techniques, etc. Yes, everything that has nothing to do with the actual content of the book. I find it fun, maybe you will too.  And if you’ve got something you’d like to share there, let me know.  I specifically want to invite others to post their love, and there’s already one there by Hugo Award Winner Christopher J. Garcia.

So this morning’s mail brought me the new Star Wars book. I was not expecting it would end up being a Book Judgement entry. What could possibly be noteworthy about a mass market edition of a long-running science fiction series?  You’ll have to check it out yourself to see!


Posted in Books, Design, Film, Media, Movies, Personal, Random thoughts, Review, SciFi Fantasy, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment