Finch – A Movie Review

If you like any combination of dogs, robots, or Tom Hanks, Finch is perfect for you.

Found on Apple TV+, Finch is an Apple Original Film starring Tom Hanks and … well, mostly just Tom Hanks. He’s an engineer who survived a massive solar flare that ultimately wiped out most of civilization. He happened to be at work when it occurred, a robotics firm, and pretty much just stayed there. He mostly wants to survive in order to care for his dog, Goodyear, and has devised many ingenious ways to use robotics to help him scavenge for food, tools, and general supplies. However, St. Louis–his city–is about to undergo a cataclysmic storm that even his bunker won’t survive. Furthermore, the brutality of a depleted ozone has taken its toll on him–he knows he doesn’t have long to live. His goal? Build a caregiver for Goodyear, get Goodyear out of the city, and then leave Goodyear somewhere safe in the caregiver’s capable hands. That caregiver? Jeff.

Jeff is a robot that Finch builds to care for Goodyear, and this is when the movie really starts to shine. Voiced by Caleb Landry Jones, Jeff starts out very childlike and provides much of the film’s levity, but as time goes on, Jeff begins to understand both Finch and Goodyear, as well as the very special bond the two share.

Because Finch essentially only shows one human being–Tom Hanks–it’s very easy to get strong Cast Away vibes. There are parallels, to be sure. However, that’s really where the similarities end. After all, Finch isn’t about a man trying to save himself at all–it’s all about that dog.

The real achievement of Finch, however, is the special effects. Jeff the robot looks completely grounded in each and every scene. Hanks truly appears to be interacting with Jeff at the actual scale of the robot. I haven’t watched any “making of” specials on Finch, so I don’t know where practical effects end and CGI begins, but I never caught myself noticing the special effects as anything other than part of the film’s reality. That’s meant as a sincere compliment.

Finch is a mostly lighthearted film with touches of suspense, violence, and sadness, but overall it’s an exploration of what exactly it means to be “human.” Is it our capacity to care for others that makes us special, and, if so, are blood, bone, and flesh required?

Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill – A Book Review

Day Zero is C. Robert Cargill’s follow-up to Sea Of Rust. Sequel isn’t quite the right word because it actually takes place before Sea Of Rust. Prequel doesn’t quite fit, either, though, because the stories are largely disconnected from each other. Let’s just say companion piece.

Regardless of how you’d like to label it, if you enjoyed Sea Of Rust, you’ll find Day Zero phenomenal.

Day Zero is also one of those rare “prequels” that, if you read it before Sea Of Rust, I don’t think it would diminish either experience. They can stand on their own, but they also fit seamlessly together.

Sea Of Rust takes place long after humans have been exterminated and AI robots, humanity’s former workforce, have inherited the world even as they fight with each other over replacement parts. Day Zero takes place on the literal day the robots rebelled.

However, it’s really not even about that. Day Zero is really about one particular robot, a nanny robot made to resemble an upright tiger, striving to keep his eight-year-old charge alive amidst the chaos.

You’ll encounter the usual themes you would expect with stories such as this: free will, real love, loyalties, self-preservation, the greater good, etc.

However, once again, C. Robert Cargill writes the characters in such a way that you can’t resist their charming personalities. Sure, Pounce, the tiger nanny, narrates in such a voice that he sounds more human than most humans, and, like with Sea Of Rust, these characters could have been anything–robots, humans, elves, aliens–yet the writing is so fluid, so quickly-paced, that the book is impossible to put down. I personally love C. Robert Cargill’s style. I like to read. I like action. Boom. He gets it.

Of course, as with Sea Of Rust, there is a moment where a very convenient plot device changes everything, but that’s okay. I’m invested in this world. I’m hooked on the characters existing in this world. Robots made to look like tigers serving as nannies while toting plasma rifles–whatever. I’m in.

Though action-packed, violent, and laden with profanity, Day Zero truly has a heart of gold with some powerfully uplifting messages. I’m not sure Sea Of Rust and Day Zero is for everyone–after all, you have to have a very high tolerance for violent robots and sci-fi–but for those who like these kinds of stories, it will prove a wonderful experience.

Day Zero kept me turning page after page, and I can’t ask for much more than that from a book.

“Fallen Man” Now Available At Podbean and Amazon Music

My science fiction short story, “Fallen Man,” is now available at ScottWilliamFoley.com, Podbean, and Amazon Music.

In this story, Bryan is certain he’s going to die at the bottom of that ravine. When help arrives, it’s in a form he never expected.

Click any of the above hyperlinks to give it a listen!

Now Only Available To Read In Happy, Sad, Funny, Mad: Stories

The Affinity Bridge by George Mann – A Book Review

George Mann has written an original novel utilizing two dynamic characters while blending science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres in Victorian England.  But, even as these elements add up to a highly entertaining work, it is not without faults.

The Affinity Bridge features Sir Maurice Newbury, an agent of Queen Victoria, and his newly hired assistant, Veronica Hobbes.  They are a fun duo, both formidable in their own right, and soon after the beginning of the novel they are thrust into three seemingly separate investigations.  London is besieged by a plague of revenants—zombies, a glowing policeman intent on killing, and a dirigible crash piloted by an automaton—a robot.

Newbury, while a capable investigator, also dabbles in the dark arts and has a few incorrigible habits that shall remain unmentioned.  Hobbes has a clairvoyant sister in the asylum and a secret she dares not reveal to Newbury.  Their relationship is wrought with sexual tension, mutual respect, and catchy dialogue.  Neither is afraid of action, and both employ behavior considered unusual for the time period.

The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, though the rising action is far more engrossing than the climax or the resolution.  Newbury and Hobbes, along with Mann’s surrealistic, gritty London, are primed for another tale, one I would not hesitate to read.  Mann’s story is firmly entrenched in reality, but a reality where anything is possible.

I do have one complaint, however—adverbs.  Mann indulges in adverbs so often that it becomes a distraction, one I couldn’t ignore for most of the novel.  It may sound petty, but most of them were unnecessary with as many as three per sentence in some cases.

With The Affinity Bridge, George Mann has created a city and cast of characters unrestricted by genre and exciting to follow.  Though his use of adverbs is distracting, Mann writes quick-paced, well-plotted prose and takes care to fully resolve all subplots.  If you are a fan of science fiction, secret agents, zombies, robots, unholy killers, and the Victorian Era, then I recommend The Affinity Bridge.