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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

MEN'S ADVENTURE—HATCHET


HATCHET
Beyond the infantry jungle beating, air bombing and navel shelling, the secret war in Vietnam is fought by Mobil Strike Force Units—Hatchet forces like Captain Mike Reese’s A-410 unit. The specially trained and equipped ready-reaction force handles cross-border missions too dangerous and too clandestine for normal channels...In the air and on the ground, behind the desks and in the jungles, Hatchet is the most action-packed series of the Vietnam War...

Michael Kasner, the author behind the pseudonym Gordon Knox, was a prolific presence in the men’s adventure genre. His fifty novels included twenty entries in the Stony Man series, two in the Executioner series, and three Super Bolan novels, all written under house pseudonyms. He also wrote the four book Warkeep 2030 series and the three book Black Ops series under his own name.

Kasner served two combat tours in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, Michael commanded a rapid-reaction platoon consisting of Nung Chinese mercenaries. On his second tour he had a scout platoon on dirt bikes. He was haunted by combat deaths under his command. He was in Da Nang during the Tet Offensive. After leaving the Army, he got a master's degree in art history from the University of Oregon, writing his thesis on military art. All of this added much realism to his action novels. He passed away in 2012...

HATCHET

HATCHET #1
Year of the Green Beret—Ariel intel indicates a major enemy buildup in the Parrot’s Beak region of Cambodia, which has long been an important staging area into South Vietnam. Ordered to recon the area, a hard-hitting Hatchet Force gets a taste of the covert game played by the SOG boys...The squad’s commander, U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Mike Reese, puts the operation together from the base while combat veteran Lieutenant Jack Santelli and his team hit the field, testing their true abilities as jungle fighters deep in Indian country...With the ferocity and magnitude of the Tet offensive still fresh in their minds, Reese and Santelli know they are dealing with an enemy who has nothing to lose. That’s fine with Reese: Secrecy and surprise can only work once. With undeniable evidence of VC presence, his Hatchet team has got the edge.  

HATCHET #2: SPECTRE
An experimental C-130 Spectre aircraft is shot down over Laos by a lurking MiG-21. The U.S. "Spooky" gunship is loaded with super-secret gear and must stay out of enemy hands at all costs. Special Forces Captain Mike Reese and his Hatchet team are ordered to locate the wreckage site and destroy the sensitive electronics package. But the greatest of all military truisms—no plan ever survives initial contact with the enemy—holds fast when the enemy grab the goodies first. Plus it looks like the Russians are involved. When Reese’ request to pursue is refused, he realizes there is only one option: Recover the mission hardware any way he can—even if it means court-martial...

HATCHET #3: THE FRENCHMAN
The CIA has been closing in on a black-market kingpin who moonlights as an assassin for the enemy. The Frenchman’s confirmed kills include Special Forces agents, and Reese is assigned to this high priority search and destroy. But a leak in the Company puts the mission in double jeopardy when Reese’s hit team is ambushed and Reese becomes the Frenchman’s prime target...

HATCHET #4: BLACK MISSION
A halt in U.S. bomb raids on North Vietnam allows the NVA and Viet Cong to regroup and launch a deadly offensive.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

AT THE MOVIES ~ ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL


ALITA—BATTLE ANGEL
In the 26th century, Dr. Dyson Ido is Iron City’s best doctor and renowned for his ability to rebuild people by meshing them with improvised machined parts savaged from scrap yards. Discovering the remains of an outdated female cyborg with signs of brain activity, Ido rebuilds her with a body designed for his deceased daughter. He names the cyborg Alita when it turns out she has no memory of who she is or where she’s from. When Dr. Ido realizes the young woman in the salvaged cyborg has an extraordinary past and the promise of an even more extraordinary, if violent (very violent) future for which she is unprepared complications ensue.

Alita—Battle Angel reminds me in many ways of Ready Player One. Both films brilliantly present a complex story in a way understandable to neophytes, but multifaceted enough to still engage those intimately familiar with the world being presented. Where Ready Player One accomplished this feat under the genius directorial guidance of Stephen Spielberg, Alita—Battle Angel succeeds through the genius writing and producing skills of the equally gifted James Cameron.

A cyberpunk epic, Alita is based on a popular dystopian manga (stylized Japanese graphic novels) by Yukito Kishiro, which is a mash-up of Rollerball, Robotech, and Transformers. What makes Alita different and worthy of attention is it has a heart, a girl warrior—the titular Alita—who is all human despite her almost entirely cyborg body. 

The film effortlessly captures this human element along with pitch-perfect pacing, fantastic motion capture techniques, outstanding visual effects that go beyond the high-tech CGI, seamlessly choreographed action, a clicked in soundtrack, a solid story, committed acting by Rosa Salazar as Alita and Christopher Waltz as her father figure Dr. Ido, and inspired direction on the part of Robert Rodriquez.

Overall, Alita—Battle Angel is gorgeous, entertaining, and a special effects spectacle. Be prepared to let your popcorn get cold when you get caught up in the story despite never having read a magna in order to understand why Alita’s eyes are so stylized and big.

 

AT THE MOVIES ~ ISN'T IT ROMANTIC



ISN’T IT ROMANTIC
If you are not a Rebel Wilson fan this movie is not for you. Wilson is a comedian who knows her shtick and is shticking to it. If you find Wilson funny, you’ll quickly realize this is the perfect movie for her. Its premise takes advantage of all her comedic skills and then some—who knew she could sing and dance—and she effortlessly carries the entire film on her very wide shoulders.

Wilson plays Natalie, her usual smart, but cynical character who this time out despises everything about movies billed as romantic comedies, aka rom-coms. Living in a rundown apartment with an unaffectionate dog, she’s an architect who nobody takes as more than competent—good for designing parking structures, but not much else. She finds herself being taken seriously by her co-workers, and even has a tough time reining in her assistant who watches romantic comedies on her computer all day at work.

Mugged in the subway on her way home, Natalie hits her head and wakes up trapped in a new reality where she is the center of attention for all the hearts, flowers, and sappy characters she despises in every rom-com ever made. Satire is hard to define and even harder to pull off. Isn’t It Romantic tries hard to satirize every rom-com movie cliché and almost succeeds to rise to that level. The one minor problem is the film is very meta and blunts it’s satiric edge by eventually becoming a traditional rom-com in and of itself. However, this is not necessarily a criticism. I came out of the theater feeling upbeat and entertained, which is the whole point of why I go to the movies.

If I do have a criticism, it’s the handling of the rom-com girl’s traditional gay sidekick. The character is so over the top as to be insulting. The jarring characterization fails to blend with the low-key performances of the other actors, who are all there to support Wilson and not to stand out in the crowd. Particular kudos to Liam Hemsworth, as the satirized romantic lead, who charmingly walks the tightrope between character and characterization with aplomb.   

I was not at all disappointed Isn’t It Romantic choose to step lightly on its satiric intentions, and didn’t go down the dark rabbit hole of a more scathing approach. The rabbit hole may have been a more critically interesting trip, but for lightweight comedic fluff, Isn’t It Romantic is clever enough to keep you chuckling, and even made me laugh out loud several times. The coup de grâce, however, is the closing Indian cinema inspired dance routine. It’s a hoot and a great way to give a rousing end to the film, which otherwise might have ended on a flat note. If you are looking for a clever date night movie with a bit of bite, then go see Isn’t It Romantic strictly for what it is—light, funny, and a highly commercial vehicle for the talents of Rebel Wilson.