Monday, August 19, 2013

Military Techno-Fiction Short Story

Lieutenant Commander Stefan Holder rocketed over the hilly terrain inbound to the location of a possible explosives stash.  Intel reports had come in over the past week that large trucks had been seen  coming in and out of the facility in the dead of night, with known enemy lieutenants present.
Cruising at 10,000 ft., at a speed of 600 MPH, he had little worry about.   His aircraft was assured to be the world’s total air superiority machine. It had almost complete radar stealth, could maneuver with turns and trajectories that were impossible with other aircraft, and had a top speed that easily exceeded Mach 2.5 (the military, of course, kept its true maximum speed denoted as top secret). 
One can imagine his chagrin, then, when his heads-up display flashed a SAM warning.

“What!?” he thought to himself, “there’s no way they got a positive ID.  Their radar tech is last century!” But sure enough, he soon saw the plume of a heat seeking surface-to-air missile already locked on to its target.  “Damn,” he thought, “mustve gotten lucky and seen me on the pass-over.” 

He yanked back the control stick and pushed the throttle to the maximum.  All he had to do was reach 15,000 feet and he was in the clear, but he only had seconds to get there.  What he was about to attempt was exactly what his aircraft was modified for.  In fact, he had spent over 100 hours in a simulator perfecting this exact maneuver.  The only problem was, it was a highly dangerous move, and could be easily be fatal given a few-second miscalculation by the pilot.  But Stefan Holder was no ordinary pilot.  He was so good in the simulator, in fact, that he could pull off this maneuver at under 14,000 feet and still have time to check his watch and call his mother.  But the missile was closing faster than he had time for, and it was on him by the time he reached 13,000 feet.  Having no more time to spare, he punched the new button labeled “thermo-cloak,” and in an instant his engines were dead silent and colder than ice.  The craft’s newly installed thermal cloaking system had killed the engines and sprayed them with -3030 F liquid argon.  The argon cooled the engines to well below the surrounding air temperature in mere milliseconds, and made the craft invisible to the missile. 
The missile on approach saw two flaming -red jet engines suddenly disappear.  Having no target to seek now, it rocketed off into the open air searching for another target, but it never found one.  Instead, upon expending its fuel, it slammed into a nearby field scaring the piss out of some innocent cows.  However, having no concept of what an explosion was, they promptly resumed chewing on the grass their owner had planted for them.  A similar resilience could not be said of the owner. 
Back in the aircraft, as soon as the missile had passed and was out of range, Stefan flipped the switch for the electric engine heaters.  He knew that he couldn’t restart the engines right away because the liquid argon made the combustion chambers extremely brittle.  They would fracture and explode if he hit the ignition switch before the heaters brought them back up to the nominal air temperature.  But this took time; a commodity he had significantly less of now that he had to start this procedure at 13,000 feet instead of 14,000.  He was now descending quickly past 8,000 feet in a computer-controlled glide but the engines were still in the arctic range. 

“Come on, heat up…heat!” Stefan  commanded to the aircraft, “come on you ole’ girl, we just did you up nice and pretty and now you’re gonna kill us both!  You’re better than this.”  He laughed to himself. “Oh this is gonna make one hell of a story for the guys when I get back to base.”  

Descending through 5000 feet, he checked the engine heat monitor and it read 17 0 F.  The aeronautical engineers from base had warned him against trying to start the engines at anything less than 32 degrees, but he knew they always BS’ed the “safe” numbers, and this was no time to worry about safety.  He hit the ignition switch.  Nothing.  He hit it again, nothing again. 

“Come on you 22 million dollar piece of shit, start!”  This time, as he hit the ignition switch he slammed the dash console with the palm of his hand , and with a cough, the engines finally began to wind up to life.  “Technology,” he thought to himself, “always the hitting it is with this stuff.” 

The engine RPM’s increased as their high pitched screaming sound began come to prominence.  He was at 3000 feet but the engines didn’t yet have enough thrust for level flight. 

“I am not pulling the eject lever on this thing…you will work!!”  As he fell past 1500 feet, the engines were finally up to speed and Stefan gunned the accelerator.  The Mach capable engines were more than happy to comply and he was thrown back into his seat.  The aircraft lurched into the sky in a screaming arc barley skimming 500 feet.  He had gunned it before, man, but never like this. No, this, this was living and Stefan wouldn’t have taken a million dollars to be anywhere else in the world. 
                For him, almost dying in an extreme g arc was more fun than he could express, but the truth was, he still had a mission to complete.  Stefan accelerated up past Mach 1 and within seconds, the target explosives depot was on his scopes.  He loosed a smart bomb and waited for confirmation that his target had been dispatched.  The spectacular inferno cloud that erupted from the ground was more than enough confirmation, and he decided it was high time he bugged out.  He didn’t feel like having to deal with any retaliatory action so he pulled a 5g turn, and flipped on the afterburner pushing his craft past Mach 3.  He wasn’t taking any chances. 
                He lit up a cigar.  This was cause for some prime time celebration.  The new thermal cloaking system had worked better than anyone had anticipated.  Wait till the engineers hear how low he had initiated the maneuver!  Take that, thermodynamics!  Unfortunately for him, during his little internal diatribe, the cigar smoke had begun to collect at the top of the cabin, even with the air filter working.  It was then that Stefan knew that his biggest worry of the whole mission was going to be explaining to his base commander how smoke residue had gotten all over the inside of the aircraft cockpit.   
“Life in the air force,” he thought to himself, “a guy can never get a break.”    


Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Definitive 2013 Movie Guide

That's right folks, this is the place to make your movie plans for the rest of the 2013 calendar year!  Its an absolutely jam-packed year, and I'm willing to bet that there will be a lot of pictures losing money as a result. So, below I've listed all the big releases-of-interest this year, with their corresponding release dates, and some editorial by me explaining in completely bias terms what each film is about, and/or just how much you're going to love/hate it.   :)


Olympus Has Fallen.  Looks like its gonna be a fun romp.  Explosions, world conspiracies and espionage, the prez being kidnapped.  Seems like all the glory of the old military thrillers of the 90's...but with more CG.

The Croods
I really have no idea when studios will stop coming out with cheeky animated movies with "modern", smarmy dialogue, but hey if its your cup a tea, be my guest.

GI Joe:Retaliation
With better effects this time and more explosions, GI Joe promises to sling even more non-content and poor screenwriting your way.  Oh, and did I forget to mention that they added Bruce Willis to try to make it badass?  That's like putting racing stripes on an old Honda and calling it a Formula car.   Yippie Ki Yay Mother F*&$#$*. 

The Host The first in the next book series by Stephanie Meyer, The Host deals with an Invasion of the Body Snatcher-esque situation in which aliens take over the bodies of humans.  It appears that one girl decides to fight back from inside her own body to regain control.  Admittedly, this is one of the sci-fi flicks this year that I'm pretty excited about even considering the author.  It could end up being just another horribly written love story, but I'm hoping that it will end up being something more.


Jurassic Park 3D Need I say more?

The Evil Dead
This movie is essentially equivalent to Christopher Nolan's treatment of Batman.  Its taking a movie from the 80's that was admittedly on the side of camp, and making it much more dark and "realistic."  The difference here is that there will also be lots of blood and screaming and horror-y type things.  

Scary Movie 5
 With Charles Sheen involved, maybe it actually will be scary this time.

Wow did this movie come outta left field.  It just kind appeared on everyone's radar in December, but the hype has been building ever since.  Joining the slew of post-apocalyptic movies currently in the fray, Oblivion attempts to paint a picture of the aftermath of a future alien war.  Jack( Jack Reacher?  no that was that other Tommy Cruise movie) knows what his job is and knows what the world is all about, or does he?  I'm excited to dive into this original sci-fi world and see what its creators have in store.


Iron Man 3
The third Iron Man: See Iron Man 1 and 2.

The Great Gatsby
I don't know if any of you have read the book, but suffice it to say, I regretted being strapped to a chair with a gun to my head and being forced to read this book in high school. It was boring, pretentious, and the climax scene made such an attempt to be artistic with its portrayal that I had no idea what actually happened. All that being said, this may prove to be a much more entertaining romp than the original, though I suspect the conclusion of the story will still be just as dismal and pointless.

Star Trek: Into Darkness
The first JJ Abrams reboot movie was incredible. I haven't had more fun at a movie since seeing this one for the first time. However, the sequel could well take the cake for that title. Featuring the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch (the BBC series "Sherlock", "Tinker,Taylor,Soldier,Spy") as the bad guy, and looking to pack even more punch with the drama and action, Star Trek 2 could be the most entertaining movie of the coming summer.

Hangover 3 Now, I didn't see Hangover 2, but I can only assume that this will be more of the same insanity as Hangover 1. All I can say is buckle your seat belts for more drug trippyness and naked Asians.

Fast and Furious 6 I remember back when Land Before Time was suffering from viral replication in the form of sequels. Quick! How many Fast and Furious's will be out by 2020?!

EPIC The third big movie coming out on May 24, EPIC looks like it might actually be pretty good. The writers appear to have created a somewhat original concept (although Fern Gully does come to mind...dammit! James Cameron). Though I'm usually in the "make fun of derivative animated movies" category, somehow this legitimately looks like a movie to keep your eye on.


After Earth Whoa! Hold the presses. M. Night. Shayamalan does original sci-fi that's not scripted by him! He actually has the chance to redeem himself from his continued decent into movie making mediocrity. Regardless, this is another of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies I'm really looking forward to this year. It seems to have all the right pieces: The Smiths, spaceships, exotic outdoor adventure, harrowing life-or-death circumstances. The only real question you need to ask yourself is, "will Willow Smith make some sort of cameo appearance?" You could rename this movie The Smith's Go To Earth.

Man of Steel Superman gets the reboot treatment. Justice League anyone? Hell yes!

World War Z I don't even...what is this!? Its like the whole zombie trend has finally worn out its welcome and has begun sleeping on the living room couch. Then it had the gall to eat us all out of house and home, and now its asking for seconds! I'm okay with zombie movies. Walking Dead has actually been one of my favorite shows, but this is some brainchild of a severely desperate movie studio executive. I can imagine the conversation right now: "What kind of movie is gonna make us money?" "Well, zombies are popular!" "....I know!, lets make a movie with gobs more zombies! We'll fill the screen with zombies just piling on top of each other. People won't be able to resist" ugh. *face palm*

Monster's University Also coming out on the 24th, this is the prequel to Monster's Inc. Now, if you're a Pixar fan like me, this is definitely exciting. It appears they have the original voice cast from the first movie, and with the writers at Pixar you know you're always getting quality.

White House Down This looks to be another Whitehouse hijacking movie like Olympus Has Fallen. This coming only a few months after that movie, its probably going to have a hard time doing well at the box office. Then again, Channing Tatum can apparently do no wrong by box office standards. We'll see.


Lone Ranger Again, another reboot type thing. It seems to me that this has little to do with the original Lone Ranger TV show, and more to be just "oh look, its Johnny Depp dressing up again and acting silly." Which, I guess, is all good by me.

Despicable Me 2 Another sequel. There's really not much more to say. Go see the first one.

Pacific Rim Holy breakfast cereal with whole milk! I'm losing my mind over this trailer. Enormous robots punching enormous monsters...and Idris Elba? Hell yeah! The potential for what this movie could be brings the sugar-high 5-year-old right out of me. Grab your tickets and put on your over-sized coats, we're sneaking all the best sugary candies into this one!

RED 2 The first RED, if you haven't seen it, was quite a trip. It was full of really smart humor and over-the-top Tarrantino-esque action. The highlight of the movie, for me, was Richard Dreyfuss' bad guy. It was perhaps the most surprising and delightful role I've ever seen him in. I still find myself quoting his I'M THE BAD GUY line. Red 2 looks to up the action a bit, but hopefully with a similarly clever script and no abatement of John Malcovich inanity.

The Wolverine Now we begin to get into movies that don't have a preview yet. Continuing the long string of X-Men movies, The Wolverine is yet another movie about Logan aka The Wolverine. Unlike the last movie, however, this one is a current-day thriller about Logan traveling to Japan and supposedly "facing off against his ultimate nemesis." Which is funny, because I always thought Magneto made his perfect nemesis because Logan couldn't do jack shit against him.


300: Rise of an Empire Sorry ladies, no Geraud Butler this time. There will, however, probably still be half-naked men with photoshopped abs spilling lots of blood and yelling. This is yet another testosterone injection in cinematic form.

Elysium This is my most anticipated movie of 2013! (What's that? One exclamation mark? Make it two!!) This is the sophomore production of Neill Blomkamp, the director of District 9! In case you didn't see that movie, man oh man, District 9 was one of the most badass pieces of science fiction I've ever seen, recalling the glory days of gritty sci-fi like Robocop or Alien or something.
This new film ups the budget significantly, and apparently the ante, as Comicon-goers were losing their minds over the preview footage shown last summer. Elysium is set in the far future where the super rich live on a huge spinning space station and the rest of humanity eeks out an existence on the now-polluted planet earth. Matt Damon stars as an ex-con who sees an opportunity to get himself onto said space station and takes it.

Disney's Planes If you were a fan of Cars, you'll want to go to the theater again, to see Disney's Planes. Kachow!

Kick-Ass 2 I never saw the first Kick-Ass, but I know it was a comedy about people who dress up like superheroes and do superhero things even though they don't have superpowers. There's obviously a lot of rude humor and over-the-top comedy in this sequel, so go see it at your own risk.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters The first Percy Jackson movie, The Lightening Thief, was an under-appreciated gem. It had great action, and was just a fun teen-drama in the context of Greek Mythology. Percy is a half-human son of Poseidon, who in the first movie, stole the lightening bolt of Zeus and thereby started a supernatural war. All was resolved and he ended up ingratiating himself to his father and uncles etc. This second movie continues the modern-but-ancient drama and likely will be a load of fun.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones From what I can gather, this movie is based on a book series of the same name with City of Bones being the first in the series. It appears to share some similar elements to the show Supernatural and the movie Constantine in that it involves secret societies, people who can see the spirit world, and killing demons. With director Harald Zwart having a handful of pretty decent movies under his belt (see Agent Cody Banks, or The Pink Panther), this may just be a sleeper hit of the fall season.


Riddick This is the third movie in the Riddick story following Pitch Black, and The Chronicles of Riddick. This series follows the trials and victories of this guy named Riddick, who by destiny or by his own doing ends up taking the throne of this space kingdom. Its definitely not everyone's cup of tea as it is a thorough combination of sci-fi and fantasy. If you like that sort of thing though, you might want to check this film out.


Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For Now, I never saw Sin City, but I know that it was written by the same guy who wrote 300. Fortunately for fans of graphic novels, this one is also from the same author. He's also co-directing this picture with the same director as with Sin City. So, if you were a fan of the original, go check it out.

Gravity What will this film be? It looks like its going to explore relationships and the meaning of life in the form of a single conversation between two stranded astronauts. It could be boring and pretentious, but with the right screenwriter it has the potential to be a quite compelling sci fi picture. Also, its seems to be done in a minimalist style that will probably get it an obligatory Oscar nomination. (The Academy: Why do you hate big-budget movies!?)


Ender's Game If you haven't read the book, read it! Its one of the all time classic sci-fi books. Its set in the future where 70 years ago there was an alien invasion. Fortunately, Earth's greatest hero, Mazer Rakham (played by Ben Kingsley!), was able to outwit the aliens and defeat them in battle. Now, though, the inhabitants of Earth know they must prepare for a second, much larger invasion. This need propels the military to recruit Ender Wiggin, one of the most brilliant minds the world has ever seen, to train in preparation for the aliens. This is one of my must-sees for the coming year. Mark your calendars folks.

Thor 2: The Dark World Yet another sequel. The Avengers saga continues with Thor. Hopefully we'll get to see the bad guy who was teased in the credits to Thor (what!? you didn't know there was a teaser at the end. Go watch Thor again right now!). This bad guy is apparently one of the big Thor villans in the comics called Thanos.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire The Hunger Games book was seriously one of the more gripping and layered novels I have ever read. I'm not even sure why the books are marketed to the age group that they are. The content throughout the series would definitely be classified as a hard R-rating. Some of the stuff was even too disturbing for me. Unfortunately, the movie version lost a lot of the subtext, and didn't have near the intensity or the freak-out factor (no thanks to the PG-13 raping it received). However, with a new director on the sequel, the guy who did X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I have high hopes that the series might recoup some of its intensity. The sequel takes the drama to another level as Katniss and friends have to reenter the arena to face off against all the previous Hunger Games winners!

Frozen This is a new original fairy tale coming out from Disney studios. It appears to be a Narnia inspired tale about a princess who goes on a journey to break this spell that has made her kingdom stuck in perpetual winter. I can say that I quite liked Disney's last animated fantasy, Tangled, and so I have high hopes that this will be just as much fun and a Disney classic.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug If you didn't see the first part of The Hobbit, its definitely worth a look. This is part 2 of 3 of Peter Jackson's screen adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.  Some people like to watch the movie first and then read the book, but I had a lot of fun making comparisons to the book while the movie was playing.  In any case, read Tolkien's The Silmarillion as well.  It contains a lot of the extra stuff they added in the movies.  

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues It will be another time for milk to be a bad choice: See the first one.

Jack Ryan This is continuing the long string of movies based on the Jack Ryan novels by Tom Clancy. Previous stabs at bringing Clancy to the theaters include Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Hunt for Red October, and The Sum of All Fears. All of these films have definitely translated well from written form. However, if I've been reading the buzz about this movie correctly, it will not be based on a Clancy book, but rather be a prequel of sorts to the book series. Once again, time will tell if the screenwriters will be able to craft a story that lives up the the Clancy name.

American Bullshit :  This is apparently some sort of jury rigging movie. I go back and fourth on courtroom dramas. However, with a title like this, I would imagine there will be comedy elements as well which could serve to up the entertainment factor. If you want to see something like this on Christmas go ahead. I'm staying in and opening presents!