Jungle Cruise (a review)

What would happen if Maui had gone on living after the colonisation and destruction of the Pacific Islands and the natives’ way of life, and had found his way to the Amazon where he became a tour guide during the First World War? Possibly, but never specifically stated out loud, feeding European explorers to the jungle in a broken and hopeless attempt to avenge his people who were wiped out by venereal disease?

Well, probably a better movie than the one we got, that’s what. And fuck it, I’ve just decided I’m going to review that movie instead.

Strap in, fuckfaces. This will get dark.

Yes, it was back to the cinema again, for the whole Hatboy family this time, and I acknowledge that I’ve posted these reviews back to back so it’s confusing. Black Widow was a few weeks ago, Jungle Cruise was, like, last Friday.

This Friday, it’s The Suicide Squad! No, not Suicide Squad, The Suicide Squad!

Anyway, for a movie that is based on a Disney ride much like Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise was a real … emotional roller coaster? I mean, talk about a storm in a teacup. Really makes you wonder about what a small world-

Sorry. There were a lot of dad jokes in this movie. It was perhaps the only really funny part in it, actually.

Okay, the other only really funny part. I have titled this image “gutentagen-mein-junglfrendschen.jpg”, and I swear to fucking God I belly-laughed every time this bratwurst-sucking lederhosen-waving keisenheimer was on the screen.

Jungle Cruise, or at least the version of the movie I’ve decided to review, was a searing examination of the imperialism of yesteryear and the modern day alike, the fragile tiers of oppression and privilege our cultures are built on, the literal U-boat violation of nature and the reduction of a pristine and unspoiled culture to a cheap and nasty tourist attraction. It wasn’t even a metaphor.

Nevertheless, the preachiness was saved from being too on-the-nose by Rock “the Dwayne” Johnson’s remarkably subtle and soulful performance. Maui at his most sympathetic, and without the benefit of CGI animators, was really an astonishing surprise. The abandoned boy, elevated to Demigodhood, abandoned once more by the relentless march of time and “progress”, searching for a way to make it all better and getting it catastrophically wrong at every turn.

Maui (or Frank Wolff as he has pseudonym’d himself at the outset of this movie) was joined by an unlikely pair, in the intrepid and headstrong Doctor Lily Houghton and her brother MacGregor Houghton. Both of them are exactly the sort of people he would usually delight in feeding to the vengeful jungle, but for the fact that both characters reveal their own struggles – Lily being a woman in a man’s world, and MacGregor being a homosexual – and in doing so begin to open Wolff’s eyes and lift the red haze of hatred.

It’s a slow process – the movie is really long – and difficult in places as we have to face not only Wolff’s pain, and Lily’s, and MacGregor’s, but also acknowledge our own part in that pain, and our respective places in a history that is continuing to unfold. But as they continue up the river, in true homage to Heart of Darkness which should really be the source material that gets the credit once you take off the silly Disney-ride mask … yes, that’s when they all begin to face themselves, and so too does the audience.

The scene where Wolff tries to tell Lily not to interfere with his boat’s boiler, my God. He dresses it up as pointless “don’t touch my car” machismo at first, because he doesn’t know her. But then (and this was the almost-mid-movie twist that made me think of From Dusk Till Dawn…) she opens the furnace to reveal the squalling lava-creature that is all that’s left of Maui’s world … Te Fiti long since gone, and even Te Kā reduced to just another of Frank Wolff’s sorrowfully amusing little sidekicks, helping him grift through the shadow of a life in the modern world.

It broke my heart. It broke my fucking heart.

This theme, of the well-meaning and also-oppressed heroes peeling back layers and finding more and more of the horrible truth as they continue their quest, comes to its painful conclusion when Lily finally sneaks into Wolff’s forbidden cabin and finds his notes, his books, the preserved scraps of plants and forlorn models of Maui’s earlier boats, the shattered pieces of his magical fish hook, and she realises she and her brother are in the presence of a beautiful myth – a myth that is in the process of being ground into the dirt by the march of progress.

With the Tree of Life’s magical flowers, Maui thought he could turn back the clock and put the horrors back into Pandora’s box. But he’d come to realise, over the centuries, that this was one thing the petals could not fix. Because progress was a feature, not a bug. It wasn’t a curse, or a wound. It was the pain of a world outgrowing itself.

And so, in the absence of a childish fix-all, all he had left was vengeance and hate. He became Frank Wolff, not even really trying to hide his villainy. Until he meets Lily and MacGregor, and realises that change is never easy, and that instead of railing against inevitability – instead of punishing the cogs in the machine – it’s possible to find another way. To fight where it will do good to fight, and to adapt where fighting will just add to the evil in the world, and to lift up those who are being pushed down alongside you.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough, there’s a German U-boat and it’s fucking hysterical.

I give Jungle Cruise a Jungle Cruise that actually exists out of a possible Jungle Cruise that I just wrote a review of.

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Black Widow (a review)

The movie theatres have been doing their best to get our flighty, panicky butts back in seats lately. Wump and I obliged them, with the always wonderful assistance of Mr. Bloom and his Cinemaland Contacts, to go and check out the long-awaited Black Widow movie.

Well, I say “long-awaited” … it was delayed a bunch, and I guess some people have been waiting for it? Hell of a movie to leave hanging after Spider-Man: Far From Home and a Hell of a movie to be the first one viewers see when they finally come back to the theatres … I don’t know. I mean at least Covid didn’t hit between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, am I right?

At the same time, this cost plenty of money and made plenty of money, so the idea that the pandemic might usher in a new era of smaller movies … I suppose remains to be seen. Big budget blockbusters seem to be here to stay though, because looks like we still have money to throw at Disney.

Anyway, there’s a ton of analysis about the logistics of movies and money and all that, elsewhere. Scarlett Johansson suing for loss of revenue and so on. It’s all very complicated, but forgive me if my heart doesn’t exactly bleed for anyone making seven figures right now. It’s tough all over, lady. You did a great job and deserve to get paid, no argument from me. Thank you, and Disney, for the entertainment that allowed us to take our minds off our problems for a little while.

Yeah, I don’t honestly care. I just wanted to sit down with a great big overpriced soda and a soggy cheeseburger with my friends and my firstborn and watch a movie at last. Really didn’t care which one it was. Indeed, a lot of people opted to just watch this one on Disney+ anyway, and I can’t say I blame them. The world (and this movie) being what it is.

I will focus on the movie itself though, which was … ehh, it was fine. If you go to the cinema to have a good time, see some cool stunts and special effects and explosions, listen to a few sassy quips, see the heroes face off against some nice unambiguous bad guys and win, then this is it. You’ve arrived. You want a Marvel movie.

And that’s basically exactly what I wanted, so I’m pretty happy.

Yes, we all know Black Widow is dead. I mean, it’s possible to bring her back using some kind of Gamora-esque time travel trick (mind you, would the Time Variance Authority have something to say about that? Maybe that’s where Gamora vanished to at the end of Endgame), but I get the feeling they’re not going to. Her sister, uh, Also Black Widow, is going to take over. That’s cool, she was fun.

And Red Guardian and Melina Vostokoff have given me hope that one day the Hatboys might be able to cosplay the entire Widow family, or at least that Mrs. Hatboy might get a black catsuit. Look, a man can dream, alright?

All three of them already know how to look at me like this when I say something stupid. We’re basically there already.

So, between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War there was a period of time where Black Widow went off and had an adventure. At least the absence of the other Avengers is sort of explained. Her strange past, and the many allusions she and Hawkeye make to Budapest, are finally explained a little bit. And the spy school where the Black Widow was trained, and the fact that she was sterilised as part of it, are ruined and turned into a really uncomfortable joke, respectively. But whatever. Bad guy gets beaten up.

Fun fact, did you know Budapest was named when three separate towns – Buda, Óbuda, and Pest – were unified in the 19th Century? Imagine living in a town called Pest. I bet they were only included because otherwise the place would have been called Buda O’Buda, and that was even sillier. But I digress. A lot. On purpose, actually.

Me attempting to ride this blog post to the ground while it breaks apart around me.

So there was some cool stuff that maybe has implications for future movies. Certainly the inclusion of Elaine from Seinfeld means something, she’s probably going to be the next big (mortal) bad for cinema-goers to be like “why are these hyper-powerful demigods even worrying about this almost literal ant (no not you Antony)?” about. She already has at least one super-soldier as of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier so I suppose she could be a threat.

And the addition of a whole army of Black Widows on some side or other will give some sweating Disney scriptwriters an easy out or two whenever things look bleak. Not to mention Red Guardian needing to explain who the fuck he rassled with in the 1980s. Currently my favourite theory is that he met the version of Captain America who went back to Peggy and then lived to become an old man, but the multiverse makes everything possible.

I just … look. I don’t know. This was fine. Loki was better. Captain Marvel was better. I’m glad Black Widow got at least one stand-alone movie at last, but frankly I think both she and Also Black Widow deserve a whole franchise of James Bond-esque (mortal-ish) spy action movies all their own. I’d watch them.

And Wump is still firmly of the opinion that Hawkeye should have been the one to die on Vormir because (her words) “who cares that he has a family?”

She is … unburdened by extraneous sentiment.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the next Marvel movie, and hoping there’s explosions and sassy quips. I give Black Widow three and a half Pests and a “Welcome to Óbuda, You Can’t Choose Your Neigbours” sign out of a possible Budapest.

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Juice Media

Still having a slow one, but I just saw that the Juice Media team were celebrating their 5th year of amazing content, and had to give them a shout out.

Brilliant stuff. Thanks for all your hard work.

How are you all doing anyway? I’m warming up, Rocky-style, for the #SPSFC contest that will be starting in less than a week. Everyone’s getting antsy and excited, we’re checking out the covers of the books in our pool and trying to resist gnawing our own legs off in an attempt to get rid of the “we’re not starting yet” chain. I think I’m back in good form, I read a 250 page book in two 2-hour reading sessions this week and dropped reviews for it. I don’t foresee significant issues with reading 30 more by the end of the year.

I now return you to your scheduled pensive silence.

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Oh Well (bye #SPFBO-elicia)

Well, that went about as well as can be expected (although I did hope to make it past the first round of goddamn cuts … however, I’m learning from my experience on the judging panel for #SPSFC that even getting to the point where the judges will read your book is a bit of a struggle, and this is really pretty much exactly what I expected to happen).

Time to give up on depression- and anxiety- and impostor-syndrome-exacerbating fantasy contests until I can bring something more devastating (and ideally less wordy) to bear on the poor #SPFBO judges.

Should’ve listened to myself in April. I was pretty smart in April.

No but seriously, this was all I could have expected from a competition and at least it’s not dependent on clicks and votes and bullshit, it’s actual storytelling merit. I honestly can’t complain. At least someone read my words, and the finding was pretty much exactly what my Amazon reviews of pretty much all my books have led me to believe would be the case: half the readers were like “blargh, this is unintelligible gibberish, 2 stars!” and the other half were right.

I kid, I kid. Of course I’m disappointed, but enough with the stupid competition. In the meantime, I have science-fiction to read and review! Or I will soon, anyway. And this has given me a great insight into how to handle the inevitable fact that only three books can make it through to the semi-finals from each team. And only one book can win. And how to (and how not to) handle announcing the subsequent cuts.

No, I am not learning to be any more gracious with rejection, but on the other hand bite me.

Okay, see, maybe a little more graceful.

Look, the contest was over for me the second they didn’t pick Gabriel’s cover as the best one. That was objectively a mistake on their part and it completely undermines my respect for their opinions and in the process soothes the burn of their rejection.

I jest, but it is the thing I am closest to upset about in this whole huge waste of time and emotional capital. I already knew Bad Cow was going to be a tough sell.

So, *long wet sloppy fart* on that. Moving on.

/gracious.

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Team Space Lasagna

As the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition kicks into gear, our judging team put together a nice intro page for the team (Space Lasagna) and each member. Special thanks to the Big Bearded Nerd (there are actually at least three impressive beards in our team, but we didn’t want to be all exclusionary about it) for pulling all this together and being the project manager for this event! Give his blog some love.

https://bigbeardednerd.com/space-lasagna/


Here’s my version of the intro spiel, that was edited a bit for consistency on the main team page above.


Name: Edpool, aka. Hatboy, aka. Andrew Hindle

Pronouns: He / him / his

Habitat: Twitter, Hatboy’s Hatstand, Goodreads, Amazon

Originating in southwestern Australia in the late 1970s, Edpool was raised on a diet of Doctor Who, Red Dwarf and books by Douglas Hill as often as Hill’s poor imitators Asimov and Clarke (fight me). He was deemed “too annoying” to be permitted into his school Dungeons and Dragons club. This left him with more time to read.

While science fiction remains his oldest and fondest friend, it was the epic fantasy (yes, that one) of Robert Jordan that led him to cross the world. Specifically, Arguing On The Internet on the old text-only forums of Usenet. There, while finishing off his very useful Bachelor of English degree, he honed his ability to review, critique, write appalling fan fiction and basically argue until his fingers bled. He fell in love with a she-nerd in Finland and moved there.

Like most immigrants in Finland, he’s been there ever since, and remains unsure why. He got a job writing instruction manuals for Nokia and did that through most of the smartphone revolution. He started a blog and reviewed some movies, some TV shows, and some books.

Edpool was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011 and decided to make a book out of the harrowing and hilarious series of social media exchanges he collected about the ordeal, from first symptom to final clean bill of health. He decided that nobody was going to tell him how or what to write in a story so personal, and so he self-published it.

And then he thought hold on, all my stories are this personal. And so he started publishing science fiction and science fantasy and he basically hasn’t stopped since. He’s currently working on his 18th novel.

When not working his day job as a frazzled and despairing technical writer (read the fucking manual, people!), Edpool can be found adding the occasional uplifting bit of discourse on Twitter as well as mooching around Goodreads and attempting to sell his books on Amazon for convention money.

What brought you to SPSFC?

While exploring Independent Author Twitter I ran into SPSFC’s mum, SPFBO, and after literally minutes of soul-searching entered one of my most fantasy-esque stories in it. At the same time, I noticed there was a push for a science fiction version! Excited, I began planning to enter that too. Over-excited, I entered my blog, Hatboy’s Hatstand, as a potential part of the judging team instead. And here I am. Team Space Lasagna, Poop Deck Swabbie Edpool reporting for duty, ready to read a ton of books and mouth off about them all.

What is your favorite sci-fi subgenre?

I do love a good Ancient Alien or Advanced Culture space opera where humans are very much a lesser species and unimportant, if they’re even mentioned. My favourite Doctor Who stories were the ones where the humans were considered a nuisance on the level of rats in a ship’s hold, and I love a lot of Iain Banks’s Culture stories for the same reason.

If you were stationed at the lighthouse from Beacon 23, what 3 books would you be sure to bring along?

I guess one of them would be the Beacon 23 novel itself, because it would probably provide the closest possible thing available to a set of process and operation instructions (did I mention I’m a technical writer?). The other two would have to be a second copy of the same book in case I lost the first one, and a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch so I could show it to any aliens that turned up and started acting snooty. “A human wrote this,” I’d say with a jut of my chin, “so just shut your dillweed mandibles and sit down when your betters are talking.”

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Better keep a record

It’s hot. It’s hot for Finland. Hell, it’s pretty hot for Australia, and Finland has 20-hour days. It’s been hotter, for longer, than just about any time in Finland’s history. Every now and then it gets cloudy, but it hasn’t really rained in weeks. It feels like a thunderstorm could break at any moment, but there’s no sign of it.

It feels like the fucking Dark One touching the world.

And we knew this was coming. Nobody gets to be surprised. We’ve been told that the heat records of the past will be broken, and broken again, for longer periods. This is all just the way it is. It could be an unseasonable hot spell. It could be an anomaly. But it doesn’t feel like it.

I’ve had my ups and downs, some periods of sinking. But this doesn’t feel like that either. I’m lucid, active. For want of a better word, happy. Writing’s going pretty slow because I’ve gone into goanna mode like I usually would in Australian summer, but I’m fine with it. I’m not letting depression make me bleak. This is just reality making me scared.

I lay awake last night until about half-past two, thinking about what we should do if the forest around us catches fire (as they have had warnings in effect for the past month). Planning on backing up my writing onto a portable hard drive so I can throw it in the back of the car along with whatever else we have that matters. Mostly though, I’d let Mrs. Hatboy and the girls decide what to take. Wallet and phone is really all we need otherwise. This is why those (*shitty racist snort*) “poor desperate refugees” have smartphones. Because of course they do. It makes sense.

I’m not sure all my writing, Phase Three and beyond, will get finished. I remain hopeful that our contempt for nature and our fortunate placing on the globe (both physical and economic) will get us through this, and I’ll just get to carry on. Right now, though, I’m just hoping to finish the last two story anthologies of Phase Two and call an end to it if I need to. I’ve got a nice set of complete stories published, and while there will always be loose ends hanging, I’m fairly satisfied that there are no incomplete half-stories out there.

Yes, I’m fixating on my writing. Like the weather, this should not come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. The question of what my family and I can do if this gets worse (it probably won’t get cataclysmically worse, at least this year) is just too big. I have to circle around it.

But that’s where I am this morning!

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Finnish summer news

I’m taking my first summer holiday in two years (since you don’t get paid vacations for your first year at a new job), so I’ll probably be about as lazy and uncommunicative as I have been for the past few months. Only more sunburned.

We’re heading to the lake for a few days tomorrow, although to be brutally honest I would rather stay at home by myself. I think a lot of Finns talk big about loving solitude but time at the lake is hugely more social and a way bigger drain on my spoons than normal life even is. Still, it’s nice once you’re there, and I do like a good swim. Hopefully this mad-good weather holds.

My writing has been in the absolute fucking toilet the past couple of months, but I’m working on the second story of Anthology 4, which I have tentatively titled The Clown God. Guess what the running theme of the four stories will be!

Still, with the #SPSFC to prepare for, chances are I’ll be doing more reading and reviewing than writing for the rest of this year.

In other (political) news, the vile piece of crap at the head of the True Crims party has announced he won’t be standing again, which means the bigot party will need a new human shit-stain to be their face.

All cathartic abuse aside, he’ll still be a fixture in Finnish politics and there will always be a new face for populist bigotry. Most interesting thing I’ve seen about this change is that he has written a statement listing the real and honest reasons for his departure, but it has been sealed behind a ten-year embargo and will only be read in 2031.

Riiiight.

So I’m willing to bet that the reasons are (including but not limited to):

  • Finland / the world is currently not ready for effective bigot party rule, ie. there are too many libs and greenies around getting in the way and it makes him look ineffective.
  • Within the next ten years populism, nationalism, isolationism and the normalisation of hate will continue to rise, until it is practically invisible. Climate collapse and the utter dispossession of the working and middle class (let alone those below the poverty line) will assist this trend.
  • His press release will basically just say “I told you so” about whatever happens in the next ten years, and claim that he would have been able to stop it and also that it was brown immigrants’, other immigrants’, LGBT+ and their supporters’ fault, in that order. Maybe the gays first, he really fucking hates the gays.

Oh well. I’m just glad he might be in the news a bit less now.

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So this is happening (#SPSFC)

So a while ago, I threw Bad Cow into the #SPFBO, the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. In it, 10 book reviewers / book blogs read 300 fantasy books between them to decide the best self-published fantasy book of the crop.

We’re not really in with a realistic shot, team Oræl, but what the hey. I might just get some reviews and publicity out of it, as well as some contacts with the writing and reviewing world.

The question was raised: what about sci-fi books?

And so the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition was created.

The SPSFC begins!

You’d think that this would be a good thing for me to enter Eejit into, right? Stand-alone or first in a series, no anthologies, it fits.

But we just don’t roll that way here! Oh no.

Instead, in a moment of what I can only assume was caffeine-, alcohol-, sleep-deprivation- and undiagnosed-depression-fuelled overconfidence, Edpool volunteered to be a reviewer.

So, starting in a month or so (because it couldn’t start while we were on vacation, precious, could it?), you can expect a whole lot of book reviews to be dropping on this blog that has abruptly decided to hide its soap box and movie couch and pretend its handful of book reviews are the main point and that this is in fact a book blog now.

Well, 30 books in round 1 and 27 books in the semifinal round will make this a book blog before Christmas.

So stay tuned for that.

*uncomfortable, sweaty laughter*

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Municipal Elections 2021

The election I get to vote in (for now; see results) happened yesterday.

I’m still processing the results, as I imagine the officials are. But they look about as shit as I expected.

There.

A massive, massive upswing for the racist, misogynist, LGBTphobe populist party, which is no surprise because at least half the human species is fucking borderline non-sentient. And a big upswing for Kokoomus, the main joke about which is that you can take any internet meme and replace all the text with “kokoomus” and have the meme still make sense. They’re useless as … well, as a racist, misogynist, LGBTphobe populist trying to formulate local or national policy. Which we’ve all seen, but let’s vote to see them do it again and a-fucking-gain for some reason.

Vittu. Fuck humanity. Fuck everything. Another step along a path I’ve been warning people about for fucking decades now. Might rant more later but for now this is enough to break my long blog-drought on. Nice to be back.

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Apple Sauce; or, Mommy’s Magic Ingredient

Mrs. Hatboy is at it again, while I am just being a lazy ass. Enjoy this delightful apple sauce.

Mrs. Hindle's Viands and Vittles

Mrs. Hindle has been cooking but not writing these last few weeks. Mrs. Hindle has also been cross-stitching, preparing a podcast and applying for jobs. Tidying up should also be happening, but isn’t. Let’s see if I can at least do something about the receipt backlog.

What to bring along when invited to a waffle brunch? I turned to what has become something of a trusted source of tasty recipes, The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book. I’m using the second edition published in 1901.

Waffle toppings isn’t something that historical cookbooks tend to cover, but people used to eat puddings and pour a variety of tasty sauces on those, so luckily the Picayune had a section just for pudding sauces. Presumably puddings came into turn-of-the-century Creole cuisine from an Anglo-Saxon direction. English puddings were traditionally boiled, but in the Picayune the puddings seem to be baked in the oven. Unlike in…

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