Read “Independence Day” On Your Nook Or Kindle

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Selena Epting finds herself in a dark parking lot with a man thrusting a knife at her and suggesting inexcusable acts. However, a hero emerges, someone ready to take on the perpetrator … but it’s not who you’d expect.  (Holiday/Adventure/Thriller)

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Bug! The Adventures Of Forager – A (Comic) Book Review

This issue is so gloriously weird and so masterfully executed that you have to experience it.  It’s seriously a  must-read book for any comic lover out there.

As part of the Young Animal imprint (which is a division of DC Comics and, apparently, somehow connected to the mainstream content), Bug! The Adventures Of Forager utilizes several of Jack Kirby’s DC contributions, most notably Bug and Sandman.

Let that last sentence sink in a moment …

The first installment of this series is so strange. Bug wakes up after apparently breaking out of a cocoon.  He’s in a basement.  He’s flashing back to Cosmic Odyssey – you may need to “Google” that one.  A ghost girl appears along with a talking teddy bear.  This may be my favorite paragraph ever.

I won’t spoil it further, but if you loved Jack Kirby’s trippy Fourth World, this book is just as  nuts if not more so!  That’s not to say it isn’t well-constructed, though.  Lee and Michael Allred definitely seem to be headed somewhere.  There is a great deal of foreshadowing, and there are also several references to the past — we’re talking before Rebirth, before The New 52, even before Zero Hour — that raise very interesting questions not just about this title in particular but about the Young Animal imprint as a whole.

So along with a wild story and appearances by several revered Fourth World characters, you also have the most beautiful sequential art you will ever see.  Michael Allred is a very special talent.  Every single panel in this book is magnificent.  Not only is he a master of anatomy, but Allred is also able to do something many artists are not — he is able to convey body language and facial expressions that progress the story.  There are no superhero poses in this book.  His characters put actual weight on a single leg while standing, their fingers are never clenched into a superhero fist, and their faces convey actual emotion.  It is wonderful to behold.

Let’s not forget Laura Allred’s colors.  Michael Allred’s pencils and inks are gorgeous, but Laura’s colors amplify them exponentially.  It’s hard to pull of pink, red, and bright yellow in a single panel, but Laura does it and makes it all look perfectly complimentary.  Amazing.

Does this issue make any sense at all as a standalone?  Not really, no.  But, it absolutely lays solid groundwork for what seems to be a focused direction, and the wonderful art, Kirby character appearances, oddness, and general sense of fun make it a must-read issue.  Enjoy!

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in which Jesus revealed one of the Twelve Disciples would betray him and issued his final command.

A few weeks ago, a woman from my church contacted me and asked if I’d like to fill in for the role of Simon the Zealot during their Maundy Thursday play.  It’s a reenactment of The Last Supper.  Though the thought terrified me, it also excited me, and so I said yes.  I’ve always regretted not getting involved in high school drama, so I figured, hey, even though I’m 40, better late than never, right?

I practiced and I practiced and I practiced.  The thought of messing up in front of my family and strangers drove me to perfection.  By the time our only rehearsal rolled around, I thought I had my short paragraph perfectly memorized.  As it turned out, I did not.

Fortunately, everyone involved were extremely nice with fantastic attitudes.  They were a forgiving lot, assured me I’d get it down before the night of the performance, and laughed everything off.  It wasn’t a terrible rehearsal, mind you, but it did not go as well as I hoped.  I decided to practice even harder, even going so far as dropping by the church and getting in some private rehearsal.  Spending some extra time working with the stage, playing with the room’s acoustics, and getting a feel for my body language renewed my confidence.

Tonight we performed, and it went splendidly.  I had the shortest lines of anyone, and the guys amazed me not only by how well they knew their lines, but also by how committed they were to their roles, how much energy they projected, and how much they seemed to truly enjoy the moment.  We did two performances — one at 5:00 p.m. and one at 7:00 p.m.  Both were wonderful experiences.

After both performances, we stood in the lobby and greeted the audience.  People were so appreciative of us!  It really touched me how genuinely they seemed to enjoy the play and how gracious they were to us for performing it.  Talking with the audience definitely made me realize how powerful acting out this seminal moment is for people.  Several folks told me that seeing our expressions, hearing our voices, watching us interact — these things made The Last Supper feel all the more tangible.  It reminded them that it’s not just some story — it is truth.

Of course, it helped that we had a fantastic director.  We were also shepherded by an  amazing lead actor.  The costumes were phenomenal.  The backdrop actually looked like the backdrop from da Vinci’s famed painting.  The sound and lights were top-notch.  For a small, humble production, I think it made quite an impression.

For my part, it’s the first time I’ve ever done anything quite so public with my church, and certainly my first time acting on stage.  I honestly hope they will ask me to play Simon again.  It felt good to be on stage.  It felt good to deliver an important message.  It felt good to see my family in the front row.  It felt good to work side by side with such devoted, kind men and women.  It felt good to give back to the church.

Happy Easter to all!

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Passengers – A Movie Review

I love the recent resurgence of space movies.  To me, it’s a sign that we are regaining a societal urge to explore the stars once again.  Could this reflect a renewed dissatisfaction with Earthly events?  Perhaps.

Passengers did not initially demand my visit to the theater.  Honestly, I like Jennifer Lawrence, but she’s not “must-see” in my world.  The same can be said for Chris Pratt.  Both are immensely likable and charismatic, but both are also super-hot in Hollywood right now, which led me to believe Passengers could be nothing more than a vehicle for their stardom.  I did not expect an actual story with real weight.

I could not have been more wrong.

The premise is a rather simple one.  The Avalon is a star cruiser traveling 120 years to a distant colony planet founded by a mega-corporation.  5,000 passengers are on board, but they are in hibernation for nearly the entire journey, as are the 200+ crew members.  In fact, the passengers are not due to awake until 4 months before arrival.  Everyone they knew back on Earth will be long dead by the time they start their new lives.  Unfortunately, Chris Pratt’s character wakes up 90 years too soon due to a glitch in the system.  He is literally the only living person aboard the ship until … he isn’t.  That’s when Jennifer Lawrence’s character comes into play.

The story is a little bit of a romance, a little bit of a mystery, and a little bit of a thriller all wrapped up under the guise of science fiction.  There are also deeply complicated morality issues present in the story, which I definitely didn’t expect.  In fact, I think it was brilliant to cast such likable actors in roles that, at times, prove morally troubled, yet are always sympathetic.  Truthfully, this is one of those movies that inspires the viewer to start asking, “What would I do in that situation?”  “Would I really be any different?”  I appreciate films that subtly demand introspection.

So, yes, Passengers definitely had far more story than I anticipated, and that really delighted me.  Even better?  It’s a good story.  It’s a story that is easy to invest in.  These are characters who are easy to invest in.  There are questions of cause and effect, actions and consequences, internal versus external motivations, and morality that add a wonderful layer of depth.

And, as you would expect, there are also some jaw-dropping special effects.  I won’t spoil it for you, but there are a few scenes where gravity comes into play, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  Again, I won’t spoil it for you because it’s better to have it as a surprise, but it’s very, very cool.

Honestly, other than a few hokey lines of dialogue at the very end, I have no complaints about Passengers.  The performances were engaging, the special effects were top-notch, and the story proved incredibly complex, especially in terms of cause, effect, and morality.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Kong: Skull Island – A Movie Review

Let’s keep this fairly simple – if you like King Kong, you’ll like Skull Island.  This is Kong in all his glory.  He’s enormous.  He’s wild.  He’s vicious.  He’s easy to root for, even as he’s eating soldiers and blowing up helicopters.

Set in 1973, Skull Island is about an expedition to said island in order to beat the Russians (yada yada yada).  A team of scientists which includes John Goodman need a military escort to get them there.  More specifically, they need a helicopter unit to get them past an ever-present storm system surrounding the island.  Samuel L. Jackson commands this unit, and he’s lost his way since the very recent end of the Vietnam conflict.  He’s a man with no war anymore (yada yada yada).  Tom Hiddleston is a mercenary tracker ex-soldier hired to help them navigate the uncharted island’s terrain.  He’s also a lost soul (yada yada yada).  Brie Larson is a photographer who’s been embedded in Vietnam for years and now seeks a new angle and hopes this unknown island will provide it (yada yada yada).

Okay?  Everyone kind of has motivation and sort of a backstory (but we don’t really care because we’re all here for the giant primate.)

So this team of soldiers and scientists invade Kong’s island and he doesn’t like it.  He protects the island and its inhabitants at all costs.  He’s the top of the food chain, but there’s another species vying for his title and our heroes have seriously disturbed the natural order of things.  Plus, Jackson’s character does not like the fact that Kong killed most of his unit and he wants revenge against the king even as he loses his own grip on sanity.

I won’t spoil anything beyond that, but you can probably predict most of the movie and that’s okay.

What’s important is that Kong looks amazing.  He’s got real heft and he absolutely seems like he’s interacting with the jungle environment engulfing him.  When he’s causing huge waves, he looks wet, the water looks like its reacting to him, and everything appears natural.  When he’s jumping from mountain to mountain or sending trees flying, there is debris, there is gravity, there is air, and it all looks right.

Kong’s not the only monster in this movie, as you probably expect, and they all look really, really good as well.  You forget these are special effects when they brutally interact with each other.  They move like real creatures.  They have fur and scales and saliva and blood.  They have cuts and scars and muscles and bare patches.  It’s astounding.

My biggest complaint about Godzilla is that there wasn’t enough Godzilla!  We don’t have that problem with Kong: Skull Island.  There is plenty of Kong doing what he does best on his own turf.  No travels to the big city in this one (thank goodness)!

Truthfully, the actors were fine, but they really didn’t have to do much.  Astonishingly, these were all top-notch actors, and they played their characters well, but no one is winning any acting awards here because everyone knew Kong’s the real star.  We get just enough of each actor’s character to make us care a little about them, but not enough to make us care more about them than Kong.  That’s a tricky balancing act, but they pulled it off.  I will say this, though: John C. Reilly almost surpassed Kong in likability.  He’s a bigger part of the movie than the previews would have you believe, and he stole every scene in which he appeared.  He brought much needed levity to the film, but never in such a way that openly mocked the subject material.  All of these actors are charismatic on their own, but Reilly took it up a notch even against them.

Just remember, Kong is the star.  (Again, this is where they made a mistake with Godzilla.  They forgot who the star of that movie was.)

If you’re a Kong fan, I highly recommend you see Skull Island on the big screen.  You will not be disappointed if you’re looking for Kong in all his glory.  Be advised, though it’s PG-13, it was a tad more violent than I expected.  People had appendages pulled off, got eaten alive, were burned alive, thrown into chopper blades, etc.  There were some small children in our showing, and I guarantee you they will have nightmares tonight.  I recommend you don’t take your kids if they are younger than 13.

Enjoy!

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

“The Miscarried” – This Week’s Short Story

The Miscarried by [Foley, Scott William]

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For some, the miscarried are always remembered … and always loved.  (Family Life/Inspirational)

Logan – A Movie Review

This is the Wolverine movie you’ve been waiting for.  Who knew all it took to bring us the real Logan was a little thing like being Rated-R?

I say that in jest, of course.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of super hero movies being Rated-R for the sake of being Rated-R, but with characters like Deadpool, Punisher, and Wolverine, it just makes sense.  I mean, the guy has three razor sharp claws coming out of each hand.  It would be awfully hard to use those things without slicing off body parts.

In Logan, the gloves are off.

But, of course, this is not a super hero movie.  Is Logan a hero?  Oh, for sure.  But this is not the stuff of gaudy costumes, cities being destroyed, or reverberating monologues.  This is about a man fulfilling responsibilities he really doesn’t want.  This is a broken down fighter looking to get away.  This is a man who knows he’s actually not a hero, but does his best impression of one anyway.

Logan succeeds because we get to see Logan’s bad attitude in all its glory.  Unlike Deadpool who wielded “F-bombs” like sparklers, Logan mutters the “f-word” under his breath or when highly irritated.  He says it like our own disgruntled grandfathers, not like our crazy frat-boy nephew.  The profanity in Logan feels organic, if that makes sense.  It’s not forced.

Another way in which Logan benefits from the R rating is because we see those claws doing all the nasty things of which we know they are capable.  Logan pierces skulls, slices off appendages, and pokes holes into people with abandon.  The movie does not shy away from this violence, but somehow doesn’t glorify it, either.  It’s a fine line, but Logan uses violence to establish characterization in this movie, not to impress the audience.  These are people who can do very bad things in very bad ways, and there’s no getting around that bloodshed is part of these characters’ lives.

In fact, characters proved vital to making this movie so interesting.  As I said, Hugh Jackman finally gave us a pissed off Logan who begrudgingly does what he knows he has to do.  Patrick Stewart breaks down Charles Xavier, makes him vulnerable, and in doing so establishes a bond with Logan we’ve never seen before.  Stewart and Jackman are wonderful together.  Their relationship is fun, but also very strained.  Logan is now responsible for taking care of a decrepit Charles, which neither man ever envisioned.  Logan makes a lousy nurse, but the love and respect he’s always shown Charles in the previous movies is all the more apparent in Logan.  I think it took a lot of guts to show the two key figures of the X-Men franchise near the end of their lives, weakened, and relying on each other to get through the day.  But, from a story standpoint, it worked incredibly well.  If you think super hero movies are already stale, Logan is out to prove you wrong.

That’s really what made Logan so engaging.  There were actual stakes.  Set in 2029, the movie quickly established that anything is possible, nothing is off limits, and no one creatively involved is afraid to do drastic things.  Like a Cormac McCarthy novel, no sentimentality tipped us off to certain characters being safe and secure.  It felt like anyone could suffer a horrible fate at any moment.

But the heart and soul of this movie absolutely belonged to Dafne Keen, or, as she’s known in the movie, “Laura.”  This eleven-year-old actress plays this character with such a charismatic mixture of savagery, innocence, and likability that she’s impossible to resist.  The young woman holds her own with Jackman and Stewart and brings out sides to both Xavier and Logan that the audience will love.  I don’t want to give away too much of the film, but we all know from the comic books that Logan is a softie for children.  You know from the trailers that he’s charged with protecting Laura, but the real fun of the movie comes when you are shown that Laura doesn’t need any protecting.  In fact, she saves Xavier and Logan in ways they never thought possible.

The movie is not perfect, though.  We fall into a lot of X-Men tropes in Logan.  For example, we have yet another bad scientist intent on harming mutant kind.  We have soldiers hunting down mutant children with lots of guns and military equipment.  We have yet another comic book movie cliche of copying the hero to try to make a [redacted].  The plot makes sense, but only if you don’t think about it too hard.  Besides, the real meat of the film occurs through character interaction.

The good far outweighs the bad.  Far, far, far outweighs the bad.  In fact, if you only saw one X-Men movie, I would make it Logan.  But that’s because, like I said, it’s really not an X-Men movie, or a super hero movie in the conventional sense.  It’s a story about family, loyalty, and character.  It’s got astounding visual effects, but nothing grandiose.  It feels like a small, personal movie.  Most of it takes place in the desert, fields, or among trees.

Are the fighting scenes amazing?  Yes, but again, they are not the stuff of wire work or CGI wizardry.  Even if computer created, it feels intimate and executed by a human doing things within the realm of possibility.

Hugh Jackman has said this is his last Wolverine movie, and if that’s true, I’m okay with it.  I don’t think he could top Logan.  It seems it’s the character’s pinnacle, and it may be best to leave him be.

In my opinion, if you’re not averse to violence, I think you should check out Logan.   It avoids most of the super hero ground you would expect and tells an interesting story using characters with whom you can invest.  Believe it or not, you will care about Charles, Logan, and Laura in ways you never expected.

 

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)