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Voyagers (Voyagers #1) (1981)

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by Ben Bova It delivers at the end when the protagonist makes contact  with an alien spacecraft, but for 90% of the novel, the "voyager" serves as little more than a pretext for dull interpersonal conflict and Cold War angst.   There is plenty of ham-fisted characterization and misogyny here, but I thought Bova improved a lot on both counts by the time he published "Mars" 11 years later. Ben Bova "Jupiter Calls Earth" (Italian) "First Contact" (German) "Wanderers" (Polish)

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

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Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Writers: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, Max Casella, Jerry Grayson, Jeanine Serralles    Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a folk singer in 1960s New York, suffers for his art, tremendously talented yet too uncompromising to make the kinds of alliances and connections that may lead to greater opportunities.  Like the cat he drags around with him, he leads a rather precarious existence.   Isaac gives a brilliant performance. Llewyn is so narcissistic, self-destructive, and self-important that it should be difficult to sympathize with him, yet I couldn’t help rooting for him. Part of the reason for that is the tremendous humanity that Isaac brings to the role, but much of it is the talent he displays in performance. There were numerous points when I wished I could reach through the screen and shake either the music industry people who failed to recognize his talent or Llewyn hims

The Beginning of the End! (Captain Marvel #31) (1974)

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  Marvel Events and Crossovers Project Taking a broad historical overview of the Marvel Universe by reading through the major events and crossover events in order. (Thanks to The Marvel Event Timeline at https://comicbookreadingorders.com/marvel/event-timeline/ and Marvel Unlimited) Story & Art: Jim Starlin Inks: Green & Milgrom Forces gather for the final showdown as Drax the Destroyer arrives at Avengers Mansion unexpectedly… …to deliver vital news about Thanos. And Captain Marvel solicits help from the Avengers. While reflecting on the need to kill those with knowledge of him… …Thanos reveals his true motivation for seeking control of the universe. He kidnaps the four whom he believes to pose the greatest threat to him. In the finest tradition of villains everywhere, Thanos brags about his plans… …and gloats about his power. Marvel uses his nega-bands to short circuit Thanos’s bio-electric field… …and battle is joined. Thanos is too powerful and their best efforts fail. Shi

Mentats of Dune (Schools of Dune #2) (2014)

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by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson The Great Schools of the Dune universe (the Mentats,  the Bene Gesserit, the Swordmasters, and the Navigators) continue to develop, shaping the future in which Frank Herbert’s classic original series will take place.   "Mentats of Dune" (Czech) I enjoy these books, despite their flaws.   "Mentats of Dune" (Polish) There is way too much padding by way of frequently reiterated plot points and character motivations.   "The Mentats of Dune" (French) Some plot developments seem forced as authors Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert try to piece together every element of the elder Herbert’s masterwork.   Brian Herbert (l) and Kevin J. Anderson (r) For example, the manner in which one character discovers the Bene Gesserit talent of Voice seems very abrupt and underdeveloped.   "The Mentats of the Desert Planet" (German) Still, a lot is going on in these books, with plenty of plot strands unfolding in parallel, so if

Departures (2008)

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Director: Yojiro Takita Writer: Kundo Koyama Stars: Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo, Takashi Sasano, Tetta Sugimoto, Toru Minegishi An unemployed cellist (Masahiro Motoki) takes his wife (Ryoko Hirosue) back to live in his hometown, where it will be cheaper to live in the former coffee shop of his deceased mother.  A misunderstanding leads him to become employed as the assistant of an undertaker (Tsutomu Yamazaki), and his involvement in this largely taboo part of Japanese culture allows him to find a new sense of peace and dignity, a stronger connection with his wife, and a form of reconciliation with the father who abandoned him.  This is a very lovely and heartfelt film with a fine musical score.  I felt that it strained for effect at times, but I was captivated by the characters as embodied by a cast of fine performers.    The result was a moving experience about the unexpected paths life can sometimes lead us along.