Monthly Archives: February 2013

85th Academy Awards

This Sunday the 85th Academy Awards will be broadcast. Also known as the Oscars it will award for the best in the motion picture industry. Today I will expand the focus of this blog and look at all the movies and actors for this years Oscars ceremony. All I will do is list the major categories and place in italics who I think will win. Next week I will see how close I was to being right!

Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy et al. who also is agreat musical talent and a man of a thousand voices will be hosting this years ceremony and that is one of the reasons I am really looking forward to this Sunday’s show.

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Amy Adams ~ The Master
  • Sally Field  ~ Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway ~ Les Misérables
  • Helen Hunt ~ The Sessions
  • Jacki Weaver ~ Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Alan Arkin ~ Argo
  • Robert De Niro ~ Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman ~ The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones ~ Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz ~ Django Unchained

Best Actress:

  • Jessica Chastain ~ Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence  ~Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva ~ Amour
  • Quvenzhané Wallis ~ Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts ~ The Impossible

Best Actor:

  • Bradley Cooper ~ Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis ~ Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman ~ Les Misérables
  • Joaquin Phoenix ~ The Master
  • Denzel Washington ~ Flight

Best Director:

  • Michael Haneke ~ Amour
  • Ang Lee ~ Life of Pi
  • David O. Russell  ~ Silver Linings Playbook
  • Steven Spielberg ~ Lincoln
  • Benh Zeitlin ~ Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Film:

  • Amour
  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Misérables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

I base my choices on who I would like to see win these awards. Sometimes the choices are difficult. For example, I really like both supporting actors Tommy Lee Jones and Robert De Niro so I will be happy to see either of them win. I am a big fan of Steven Spielberg and Lincoln so I hope they win many awards. What is controversial is that Argo, which may win Best Picture, was directed by Ben Affleck who was completely snubbed this year and not even nominated as best director!! How can the Best made film not have its director nominated!!?? Then again Quentin Tarantino was not nominated for his movie, Django Unchained, either. Ah, Hollywood. It does seem like High Scool with money!!

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. 2003

This next film in the Millennium series, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S., is a direct sequel to the previous film, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. I think I made a mistake in that review. I believe it is this movie that mentioned the previous monster attacks from Mothra, Gaira (the Green Gargantua) et al. and not the previous movie. Some of these millennium films, while enjoyable, do blur together in my mind. Although the movie begins with Kiyru (Mechagodzilla) being repaired after its damage from the previous film, this movie has an entirely new set of characters. So while technically a sequel because it share continuity with the previous film, it also seems like a stand-alone-film due to the new story surrounding the new characters.

The Shobijin, Mothra’s twin fairies, show up and appear to Dr. Chujo (from the 1961  movie Mothra) and warn him that Mortha is very angry that the Japanese government used the bones of the first Godzilla to create Kiyru and if the bones are not returned to the sea Mothra will come to destroy Tokyo. The Government then ignores this warning and shortlyafterwards  Godzilla appears once again to raise havoc. A repaired Kiyru, along with Mothra, battle Godzilla with Godzilla gaining the upper hand. Kiyru once again is returned to base for repairs while on Infant Island two Morthra larvae hatch and head to Tokyo to assist their mother. Once Kiyru is again repaired Godzilla and Kiyru face off. During the ensuing battle Mothra is killed. Kiyru is able to inflict a significant wound in Godzilla’s chest and his roar reawakened once again the Godzilla bones inside of him. As the Mothra larvae encase Godzilla in their web and Kiyru, who no longer wants to fight Godzilla,  wraps him with cables and carries him out to sea where the two crash into the ocean to rest at the bottom of the sea.

I have  read where some fans didn’t care for this film. I happen to enjoy it a great deal. All Godzilla movies have pretty good monster battles and destruction so many of these films fail or succeed with the human story being told. For me I really enjoy the human story. Dr. Chujo is a very kindly old man who teaches his grandson about Mortha and it is this grandson who, thinking outside the box, creates the symbol that contacts Mothra using desks from a school room. Meanwhile Dr. Chujo’s nephew,  Yoshito Chujo, a mechanic on the Kiyru repair team, is having a difficult time as the Kiyru pilot squad doesn’t think much of him. But in the end it is  Yoshito Chujo who saves the day and repairs Kiyru allowing the pilots to capture Godzilla.

There is a great deal of warmth and charm in the human story as each over comes some prejudice and adversity to make an impact and a difference. Sure, many of the things we see in the monster fights have been done before but it is the human story that really does it for me. I do have to say the special effects are very well done and the monster battles are enjoyable. Mothra, at times is rendered in CGI so it is not a model and that actually brings him to life more than he has been in the past.

I rate this movie: A

Planet of the Apes Marathon.

Saturday, as I was working on my art work, I watched the Planet of the Apes Marathon on AMC. Ever since I was a kid I was a big fan of the franchise. I think the 1968 original, Planet of the Apes, starring Charleton Heston, is not only the best of the franchise but one of the best science-fiction movies made PERIOD! The 1968 movie still holds up today in many ways. The make-up still looks good. The themes of the movie are still, sadly, relevant. Will mankind be be the author of its own demise? The conflicts between science and religion, a major theme of the movie, still are being waged. Well, the battle between science and religion is really not that big at all. Only the extremists in religion seem to be fighting against science and the bettlefield seems to be mostly through Meme’s on Facebook or religious message boards.

In my DVD collection, which is about 700 DVD’s and growing larger, I only own the original 1968 movie. It is a classic and there are times I feel that the sequels may make people forget what a classic the original truly is. However, I was able to reevaluate my stance on the sequels after having not watched them in quite a while. So for the remainder of this blog post I want to give a short review of the sequels.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes: This movie came out in 1970 and although Charelton Heston returned as Taylor it was in a minor role. He appears in the beginning and then is not seen again until the last 20 minutes of the film. This movie belongs to James Franciscus who plays another astronaut who also “accidently” arrives in the future searching for Taylor. In some ways the movie is a bit of a retread of the first film in that Franciscus experiences some of the same things Taylor did. A large part of the movie takes place under ground where Franciscus comes across a group of telepathic mutant humans that are worshiping an old atomic bomb. The apes, who seem to have much less screen time, are becoming more militaristic and headed for war with the mutant humans. In the end the apes and the mutant humans clash and succeed in blowing up the world. What a bummer! For myself this is one of the weaker sequels. The whole religious bomb worshipping mutants are just plain silly. Also, why do science fiction films iften show humans in the future mutated with psychic or telepathic abilities? Maybe in 1970 that was not a cliche but here in 2013 in has becopme a bit old. With the world blowing up at the end the tragedy itself seems too overblown.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes: Released in 1971 this is my favorite of the sequels. Before you can enjoy the movie it does have a premise that is diffucult to swallow. Some how the Apes, who are pretty primative, repair Taylor’s space ship (which had sunk to the bottom of a toxic lake in the first film) and fly it to the early 70s just before the world explodes. Once you can accept that premise this is an entertaining sequel. The film stars Roddy McDowall as Cornelius and Kim Hunter as Zira and Ricardo Montalbán as a circus trainer. The movie is a real fish out of water story as Cornelius and Zira adjust to a world were human beings are in control. Although society at large loves these talking apes from the future, there are some that do not trust them. When a pregnant Zira reveals that someday apes will take over the world and will play a role in the destruction of the earth there are those who want her unborn baby killed and  Cornelius and Zira sterilized. The film ends with  Cornelius and Zira dying and their newborn intelligent baby ape being placed in a circus under the care of Ricardo Montalbán. This movie is a roller coaster ride of emotion. From humor to fear and disgust the movie excellently examines the theese of fear and prejudice.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes: This movie sees the rise of the apes rebellion over humans. The movie came out in 1972 but is set in 1991 at a time when all of the cats and dogs have died from a disaes and apes have become servants…or slaves to humanity. Ceaser, the son of  Cornelius and Zira, who was raised by Ricardo Montalbán in a circus, leads the revolt after wittnessing abuse and mistreatment of the apes by humans. He is also trying to stay one step ahead of the law as the authorities suspect that he is the long lost child of Cornelius and Zira. The parallels with slavery and the fight for civil rights and equality for African-American is obvious It does seem to date the film a little bit but doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The movie ends with the apes in firm control.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes: Honestly, I don’t know why this movie was made, other than for a cash grab. To me the story was complete and had gone full cricle therefore this movie was not neccessary. The movie takes place a few years after the ape uprising but also after an apparent nuclear war. The apes and humans are trying to live in harmony. But when an angry gorrilla rebels against the humans a war breaks out. But in the end harmony is restored so the movie is much ado about nothing. The budget was low and it shows. The ape make up looks plastic and unrealistic. The movie is a mess.

I do have a greater appreciation for the sequels but in many ways I think the original is a great stand alone film and there is something enjoyable about leabing the fate of Taylor and Nova s mystery. This is brough home specifically with the unsatisfying sequel. The two sequesl after that are the best after the original, while the fifth movie is a real dud.

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla 2001

The next film in the series is Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. I have seen this title written out different ways. We already had Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla in 1974 and Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II in 1993. This movie is generally written out as Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla or Godzilla X. Mechagodzilla, or simply, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla III. Yes, sometimes the US titles of Godzilla movies can be confusing. Like all other Millennium Series films this movie does not have any connection to either the previous Millennium Series films or the Showa Era or the Heisei Era or the other Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla films.

Synopsis:

Like other Millennium Series Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla recreates Godzilla’s origins and only the 1954 movie has relevance to this film. The film also depicts that Japan had also been attacked by other giant monsters such as Mothra and Gaira (the monster from the film, War of the Gargantuas). The movie also has a sense of deja vu. The plot echoes some of the elements in Godzilla vs Megagurius. Both of these movies begin with a female military soldier who causes the death of her commander and spends the rest of the movie mourning the loss and trying to make amends where she can.

The female soldier,  Lieutenant Akane Yashiro, a mazer technician, is transferred to another job and all the blame for the failure to kill Godzilla is placed on her. The government has also found the bones of the first Godzilla and decides to construct a weapon around the bones of Godzilla. A widowed scientist with a young daughter, Tokumitsu and Sara, befriends Akane and helps her though her grief. Although a bit older he is attracted to her. A giant robotic Godzilla is built around the bones of the original Godzilla. In the center of his chest is a weapon, called absolute Zero, which instantly freezes things to absolute zero.

Godzilla once again rises from the ocean to bring destruction to Japan. Mechagodzilla, now called Kiyru, is brought to confront Godzilla. Just as Kiyru is about to fire the Absolute Zero weapon, Godzilla roars which awakens the DNA in his bones resulting in Kiyru going crazy and destroying most of the city until it runs out of power. The rest of the plot is basic and simple. Tokumitsu and Sara keep trying to help Lieutenant Akane and get Kiyru fixed so it will not run amok once again. When Godzilla attacks once again Kiyru is battered which allows  Lieutenant Akane to take personal control of Kiyru in beating Godzilla. The movie ends with Kiyru flying off to the ocean and dumping a defeated Godzilla.  Lieutenant Akane climbs out onto the shoulder of Kiyru as Godzilla swims into the sun-set. An after the credit scene shows that  Lieutenant Akane agrees to have dinner with Tokumitsu and Sara.

Review: Although I do enjoy this film it isn’t my favorite of the Millennium series. This movie does take creative license with the origins of Godzilla’s bones. In the 1954 Godzilla movie he is seen being eaten alive by the Oxygen Destroyer…bones and all. In this movie that scene is recreated but this time all that is left of Godzilla is his bones. For me the fact that they had to build Mechagodzilla around the bones of the original is a bit silly. For the first time in franchise history Mechagodzilla is given a name, Kiyru, and that also seems a bit silly to me. The reasons for naming him Kiyru are never explained. Another strange occurrence in the movie is that when Godzilla faces off against Kiyru for the first time and Kiyru bombards Godzilla with his weaponry…Godzilla just stands there doing nothing!!

Now for the positive aspects. Although the grieving soldier mourns the death of her commander and tries to redeem herself was already done, I actually like the way it was handled in this movie. She really is hurting and despondent and it really made me want to root for her. The relationship between Lieutenant Akane and the scientists Tokumitsu and his daughter Sara, is touching, awkward and humorous all at once. This is one of the human stories in the Godzilla franchise that I really enjoy.

Godzilla has been redesigned once again. The Godzilla suit we saw for Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack was never, or so far, has never been used again. In this movie the suit is very similar to the one used in Godzilla 2000 and Godzilla vs Megaguirus. One major difference is that the colors have changed. He is back to his more charcoal gray color with silvery spines. The special effects of this movie are well done and from the beginning when we see Godzilla rise from the ocean in a Typhoon you know your eyes are in for a good treat with this movie.

The next Godzilla movie will be a direct sequel to this film and it will be the only movie sequel in the Millennium Series.

I rate this movie: B+

Problems with the Justice League Movie?…oh and some Godzilla casting news!

Moviepilot.com is reporting that the Justice League Movie is without a screen writer.

http://moviepilot.com/#stories/859450-justice-league-left-cold-and-alone-and-looking-for-a-new-writer?stamp=44626&subscribe_to=401267&utm_campaign=justice-league-looking-for-a-new-writer&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=fb-channel-superheroes

The initial script written by Will Beall has been rejected and Warner Brothers and they are now looking for a new screen writer.  from the article:

Darkseid, who’s probably the biggest and baddest mofo in the DC universe. Reports are also suggesting that “heroes (beyond the core five of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Lantern) have been cut and added from the proceedings seemingly at studio executive will.” Sounds messy.

That doesn’t sound encouraging. It does have me wondering how difficult will this movie be to make? With Marvel’s The Avengers being the 3rd highest grossing movie of all time, and with the rest of Marvel’s line-up of Superhero movies doing great, it leaves Warner Brothers, who owns the rights to DC Comics panoply of Superheros, under great pressure. Other than Nolan’s Batman trilogy the DC universe is not doing well on the big screen. Next up for WB is the Man of Steel and from all accounts the future of WB’s Superhero movies are being carried on the shoulders of the man with the big “S” on his chest! I don’t think that is hyperbole either! The studio does seem to be waiting to see how well Man of Steel does at the Box office before committing itself to further DC Superhero projects.

According to the website IGN the Justice League Movie’s roster has been revealed. The movie will consist of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern. A few of the superheros not making the cut are Martian Manhunter, Hawkman and Aquaman. I did read comic books in the 60s and 70s but to be honest I do not remember reading about the  Martian Manhunter. I am not disappointed that he will not be in the movie. What is also unknown is who will be playing these characters? Ryan Reynolds was in the 2011 Green Lantern film. It did not do well at the box office, although I liked it) so it is unknown if he will reprise the role. I hope he does. It is also unknown if Henry Cavill will Play Superman in the JL movie. Again, I hope he does.  

Now for some Godzilla news…

The next Godzilla movie, made by Legendary Pictures, and directed by Gareth Edwards, goes in front of the cameras next month. It has been reported they are looking for young boys to cast and they are also looking at Bryan Cranston. Cranston is famous for AMC’s Breaking Bad, he was also in the recent Total Recall remake.

Elizabeth Olsen has been officially cast in the movie!!! Olsen, the sister of twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of the 80-90s Full House TV show, is a new comer but has also received rave reviews from her role in 2011’s Silent House and Martha Marcy May Marlene. while I think these are good choices I must confess I am a bit worried that with only a month to go before principal photography begins, no cast member has of yet officially signed on for the project.

http://www.superherohype.com/news/articles/174901-bryan-cranston-and-elizabeth-olsen-eye-godzilla

What this fan cannot wait for is to see the new design for the iconic radioactive monster! I hope an image is either officially released or leaked very soon…along with some type or teaser trailer!.

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

I think my favorite Godzilla movie is the 1954 original. It has a somber and serious tone. Artistically and creatively it is the best. Right behind that movie is Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (GMK) released in 2001. In some ways it is a more enjoyable movie than the original because there are some lighthearted moments too, along with great action sequences, making it more fun to watch. In all honesty this movie is the Godzilla movie I watch the most!

Like the others in the millennium series this movie ignores all the others that went before it and acts like a direct sequel to the 1954 original movie. Like the original Godzilla this Godzilla is at his most malevolent and destructive behavior.  This movie also features one of the most coolest and slickest designed Godzilla suits.

Godzilla’s eyes in this suit have no pupils and are totally white giving Godzilla an evil menacing look. The dorsal fins on his spine begin lower and appear to be heavier and actually cumbersome to Godzilla as he walks. I have read some com plaints about the suit that it makes Godzilla look fat. Well, he does have a bit of a gut on him and I as I look at other suits from the past, having a Godzilla that is bottom heavy is not without precedence. A minor complaint is that in some scenes it shows Godzilla in different colors. In the majority of the scenes he is his typical charcoal grey. However, in some scenes he is brown and in a few close-ups, like when Baragon is chewing on his arm, he is actually green!

The movie also takes what I think is a very creative path in developing Godzilla’s origins. Since this is a direct sequel to the original Toho could ignore the other continuities and they were free to explain his origins anew. In this movie Godzilla’s origins are shrouded in Japanese mysticism. Godzilla is now the embodiment of the angry souls of those vanquished during World War II. The route they took in using a mystical approach may seem silly and implausible to an American audience steeped in the Western Civilization’s tradition of relying on the scientific method in explaining phenomenon, However, I find it refreshingly creative and it exemplifies the different mindset of the Japanese culture. Although Godzilla  is no longer a force of nature the anger and the rage driving the creature makes him just as unpredictable and destructive.

Going further into Japanese mysticism is the appearance of the old man who is similar to a Wizard like mentor in western cultures that prophesies and warns people of the future. Another aspect of mysticism the old man delivers is the ancient concept of the guardian monsters. These ancient creatures are foretold in legend. Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah, who must be awoken to protect Japan should Godzilla return to destroy the country. This idea is also new and creative. GMK was the 25th Godzilla movie and how many different plots and story lines can you create around the theme of a monster attacking a city or battling other monsters? Toho continually tired to create new scenarios on a theme that can easily become clichéd and formulaic. GMK, with its mystical approach and concept of  the guardian monsters, offers something new, exciting and different from previous films.

For this movie all three of the guardian monsters (who have been in Godzilla movies before) were made slightly smaller and weaker in power so Godzilla would appear that much stronger. They each battle Godzilla in a solo exchange. First up is Baragon. I do like this creature yet I am not crazy about monsters on all four legs there is something about that which just doesn’t work for me. His roar and flapping ears are a bit silly. The special effects during these battle scenes are spectacular as the monsters are made to blend in with real world settings, as well as the usage of miniatures, in a seamless and realistic fashion.  In my opinion this movie has some of the best special effects of any Godzilla movie.  His atomic breath has never been better depicted as it is in this film. He creates a very symbolic and destructive mushroom cloud on his first appearance. His plasma breath is powerfully depicted destroying buildings, monsters and military equipment.

Although Godzilla makes short work of the scrappy Baragon and easily takes care of Mothra it is his battles with King Ghidorah. I have read that many fans complain to what was done to King Ghidorah in this movie. He had always been the villain and in this movie he is smaller than usual and he is one of the good guys. I can understand an empathize with those that are upset. Yet, I also can see that using him as one of the good guys makes perfect sense. In this movie there is no ambiguity about Godzilla being a bad guy. In fact he is depicted as pure malevolence and evil incarnate. So who else could face this unmovable object but the one monster that has been his most formidable foe through the entire franchise? No other monster really had the presence and the history with Godzilla such as his number one rival, King Ghidorah.

The other aspect I enjoy is the human story between Admiral Taizo Tachibana of the Japan Self-Defense Forces and his daughter Yuri, who works for a low-budget science fiction movie company. Yuri is not happy in her work and wants to do more serious work. She is also not happy how women are treated in her line of work. In GMK we get to see how both a civilian and a person inside the military face the attack from Godzilla. We also see the father-daughter relationship grow and change throughout the movie. These are two characters that I did care about and was able to see the attack from Godzilla through their eyes. Great monster action needs to be tempered with a good human story and in GMK we get both of those criteria met. Also, Yuri is pretty easy on the eyes and that sure helped!

I enjoyed the serious tone of the movie and I liked the design of Godzilla and the fact that he was at his most destructive and monstrous best since both the 1954 original and the 1984 reboot. As I mentioned it is a new and unique story with good modern special effects. This is one of the best Godzilla movies Toho has to offer.

I rate this movie: A+

The Encounter: Conclusion

Now for the conclusion of my short story:

Whenever the figure was bathed in the flashing lights from the vehicle Debbie could make out some slight detail. She assumed it was a male and he seemed to be wearing something like a uniform. It almost looked like a dark jogging suit but it didn’t resemble anything a fireman or public works employee would be wearing. He was wearing a hat that resemble a baseball cap with a wide and long brim that covered his eyes and blocked the view of his face. He wore gloves and for an instant it looked to her that the flashlight he was holding seemed to be more of an extension of his arm than something he was holding in his hand. She dismissed this thought as quickly as it came to her and the figure motioned for her to pull the car closer.

Paralyzed with fear Debbie refused. The figure took a couple of steps toward her and spoke to her in a muffled tone with a stilted and mechanical cadence. He told her that they were having a little difficulty with their vehicle and that they were almost done fixing it and should be on their way momentarily. Debbie barely managed to nod in approval to the figure when suddenly a loud trumpet like blast pierced the dark night. Startled, Debbie naturally looked in the direction of the vehicle from which the sound emanated.  The deafening sound coincided with the lights from the vehicle intensifying for a moment while at that same instant the vehicle seemed to belch out a misty exhaust from all sides.

As the mist enveloped her car Debbie’s heart pounded louder, her throat tightening in near panic. She instinctively grabbed her cell phone although she knew it was worthless at this point. The mist hovered over her car and began to seep through. She was almost afraid to breath in the mystery substance. To Debbie it did not smell like typical exhaust fumes but just what it did smell like she could not determine. The mist from the exhaust began to clear and dissipate almost as soon as it had been expelled and the lights from the vehicle dimmed to their previous intensity. Debbie suddenly felt more relaxed and she noticed how tired and sleepy she had become. She wasn’t even alarmed when the figure came toward her saying, “All will be right.” When he grew closer she noticed his chin seemed rather thinly formed and slightly wrinkled giving her the idea that he was an older gentlemen settling her further at ease. She leaned back and rested her body against the seat of her car and noticed that she was feeling real drowsy and that her eyelids were becoming very heavy. She surrendered to the moment and felt herself drifting off to sleep.

She snapped herself out of this state and noticed the vehicle was no longer on the shoulder but now residing in the center of the road. She noticed the figure still standing near her and he began to speak to her in a monotone voice, “You may now go.” The vehicle had turned off the majority of its flashing lights but Debbie still could not see in much detail. She watched the figure walk back to the vehicle and fade into the light and the darkness. As the vehicle began driving down the road Debbie noticed how quiet it was. She pulled her car into drive and proceeded on her way. Once they were both beyond the wooded area the strange vehicle turned off onto a side road while Debbie continued straight on the main road. When she looked out the side of her window to see where the vehicle had gone but saw nothing but darkness.

 

Debbie glanced at the clock on the dashboard of her car and noticed that less than five minutes had passed. She laughed at herself and realized that her anxious mind had once again gotten the best of her. She felt more relaxed now that this was over but she felt sore and achy from head to toe. She hadn’t felt this way earlier but rationalized it as due to her being over stressed from a nerve-wracking shift at work. The drizzling rain had completely stopped and some of the clouds were now giving way to reveal numerous stars peppered across the night sky.

 

Arriving home shortly, Debbie breathed a tremendous sigh of relief on catching a glimpse of her husband peaking through the curtain. She thought it was slightly odd that he was home first because generally she would be home at least twenty minutes before he arrived. Dragging herself out of her car, she exchanged her keys for the cell phone in her purse. She fumbled with it in vain. It was completely drained as she felt. Every muscle and joint felt as if she had slept on a pile of rocks.

 

Her husband opened the door for her and she expected that he would greet her with a warm welcome and a loving kiss. Her expectations were not met and instead she noticed that he had a look on his face that was mixed with anxious concern along with annoyance and anger.

 

“Did your cell phone die again!?”  he asked.

 

“Yeah, I forgot to charge it before leaving for work today,” she admitted rather sheepishly.

 

“Where have you been? I called work and they said you left right at 11:00pm.” he asked with curious irritation.

 

“I drove straight home!” she replied defensively. The stress of the evening and her encounter on the ride home coupled with her physical exhaustion could no longer be suppressed and Debbie began to cry. Seeing his wife visibly shaken and upset moved him and he reached for her and placing her in a warm embrace said, “I am very concerned honey, because it usually doesn’t take you three hours to drive home.”

The Encounter: Part I

Here is something different for this blog. This is a short science fiction story that I wrote about a year ago. Enjoy!

Debbie still dreaded the ride home. Despite having worked the 3:00 to 11:00pm shift at the local hospital for fifteen years Debbie still had trepidations with the twenty minute drive home through the country side. The scenery on the drive between the hospital that straddled the edge of town and the small ranch house in the country she shared with her husband consisted of rolling hills, farmland and forests. Each season during the daylight hours the road was like a tranquil painted landscape for her to enjoy on her way to work. The trip home on the other hand gave Debbie’s sensitive nerves and over active imagination ample opportunity to run away with her. This time of year, late autumn, when all the leaves have been vanquished from the trees and the bare skeletal branches swayed with the rhythms of the chilly November winds was the time that Debbie dreaded the most.

Thanksgiving was just two days away and she was so pleased that she had secured that coveted day off giving her three straight days that she could spend with her family. Her husband also worked the same shift as a manager at a local shopping center. Since he too would have Thanksgiving off Debbie was enthusiastic and more relaxed at the start of tonight’s ride home. The weather had been unseasonably warm for a typical November and although most of the day itself had been sunny the evening hours brought a cold front sweeping through the area with heavy wind driven rain. Although the rain had tapered off to a misty drizzle by the time Debbie pulled her car out of the lot the roads were slippery and the low lying heavy cumulus clouds choked the evening air.

More exhausted than usual from her difficult shift Debbie allowed the car to warm up while she attempted to engage in her usual ritual of calling her husband on her cell phone to tell  him she was on her way home. When she dug her cell phone out of her cluttered purse despair and frustration took over her as she swiftly realized that it had gone dead due to her failure once again to make sure it was fully charged before work. Not having her cell phone available for her sojourn home filled Debbie with anxiety. She was a petite woman and this constantly left her feeling vulnerable to anyone that may want to take advantage of her. Since her car was old and not always dependable and with a dead cell phone that had no chance or resuscitation until she got home, her anxiety grew exponentially as her imagination began running unrestrained with all the potential calamities that could happen to her on the winding road home.

To sooth her tattered nerves she turned on her radio and searched the dial for something to listen to.  The first station she found was one with conservative talk radio. For a moment she thought about leaving it on because she was so tired she thought that the talk show host’s blathering rants would keep her awake until it dawned on her that his bombastic and irrational tactics would enrage her to the point she would probably snap at her husband as soon as she walked through the door. She settled on a station that plays light classical music and she immediately found that it gave solace to her tired and tattered nerves. She also realized that the music kept in time to the swishing of the windshield wiper blades. She noted that they needed to be replaced as they smeared and stained the windshield with the leaves and streaks from the mist of the rain leaving it more difficult to see the road.

With warmth from the car heater and the soothing strains of “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons playing in the background Debbie found herself less tense and anxious although this relaxed state made her feel more sleepy. There were not many street lights lining the country road and one of the first sections of the highway that she passed through was a heavily wooded section where the toes of forest nearly crept to the edge of the road. This time of year Debbie also knew to keep a watchful eye on the side of the road because deer were well known to dart across the road without any notice. In order to ensure that she would remain alert she turned down the heat a notch and turned up the radio.

About half-way home, Debbie reached a bend in the road and noticed that coming from around the bend were strange white, green, yellow and red flashing lights. The lights seemed brighter than what she had experienced before whenever a road crew has been working at night. She wondered what could have happened? Had their been an accident, a power line down, a tree fallen across the road?

She didn’t have long to contemplate and although she cautiously slowed down as she rounded the bend she was soon upon a very strange scene. Straddling the shoulder of the road was a rather large vehicle that proved to be the source of the flashing lights. The lights were blinding and seemed to be set all over the vehicle. Because of the brightness of the lights Debbie could not determine the design of the vehicle itself. It could have been anything. She could not tell if it was a repair truck or a fire truck or some other vehicle that either the city or the county owned. Standing in the road near the vehicle were a  pair of figures with some type of oddly-shaped flashlights in their hands. She slowed down her car to a snail’s pace and looked around while simultaneously trying to shield her eyes from the assault of the bright lights. She could not detect anything out of the ordinary.

Her heartbeat had quickened when she first saw the lights and her tension began to rise once more. She came to a complete stop and noticed one of the figures began walking toward her. She was about to roll her window down to speak with this person when for no apparent justifiable reason she was gripped with fear. She sat frozen hugging her steering wheel as the figure slowly approached her.  It stopped near the hood of her car just left of her headlights. Despite the flashing lights, or because of them, she could not see many details. She noticed this figure was rather short and couldn’t have been more than five feet two inches tall.

…the Conclusion on Wednesday.