Good Watch: All Creatures Here Below @karengillan @Dastmalchian @jenmorrisonlive @DavidKoechner #movie

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Based on my obsession with the MCU, I’ve become a fan of several of the actors that had never been on my radar scope before. I discovered All Creatures Here Below starring two of them: Karen Gillan and David Dastmalchian. I had never heard of Gillan before the MCU (I have a weird thing against Dr. Who), and had seen Dastmalchian in only a couple of small parts. This is nothing like an MCU movie, of course. It has that indie-movie feel to it. The two play a couple of non-loveable screw ups that can’t seem to make any good decisions and almost constantly piss me off. Gillan’s Ruby doesn’t seem to understand that her actions are evil or stupid (they’re often both), whereas Dastmalchian’s Gensan doesn’t seem to care about anyone else (other than Ruby), so he ignores the consequences to others. Ruby also doesn’t seem to understand the long-term consequences of her actions.

Jennifer Morrison and David Koechner are also in it, though their parts are small, so they aren’t given a chance to shine. That’s a shame because they’re both quite good.

It’s a depressing tale, but once it got started, I was eager to see how it turned out. Then I got hit with a twist in the diner scene, which really made me rethink the entire movie. The world is screwed up, and things can be more complicated than they appear (for better or worse). It’s frustrating, brutal, and the ending was downright painful (perhaps too painful for some), but it was well worth the 90 minutes and $3.99. I enjoyed both the acting and the writing, and I greatly appreciate the talent it takes to do either.

A- (but I’m a generous grader)

EDIT: I’m upgrading this movie to a solid A+ after thinking about it all day. I really didn’t expect a movie like this to make me think so hard, and I appreciate that.

For a spoiler-laden discussion, click here for my other post on this movie.

Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

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Spreading It Too Thinly #StarTrek #StarWars cc: @kesseljunkie @williamshatner @BWingFactory #nerd

Last night, my cousin John and I had our monthly (or so) outing at Buffalo Wing Factory. As always, we talk about all things both political and nerdical. Of all the things we discussed, there was one point made that was wholly mine, rather than a consensus between our two views. It’s not that John hadn’t heard the argument before and accepted it in the context of Star Trek, but I took it to a larger level.

For all it’s bells and whistles, all of the new iterations of Star Trek will never (apparently) have what the Original Series had: character development. At first, this seems like a ridiculous argument, but I’m serious. It’s not that TNG, DS9, and the rest don’t have character development; the problem is that they spread that development too thinly across too many characters.

The Triumverate of Nerd

TOS had three characters: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Everyone else was secondary. Can any of the newer series or movies say that? No, they can’t. They’ve all moved from being about “the main characters” to being about “the ensemble,” and the result is that none of the characters mean anywhere’s near as much as the original three. As I’ve pointed out before, we know the year that O’Brien’s mother-in-law was born. That’s a bit crazy. If you’re filling in that level of detail about the most minor of characters, you’re not spending time on who matters most. Granted, TOS lasted less years than any of the other series, so inevitably we would have known more about the minor characters as future seasons were released, but it still would have been about the big three.

It’s Not Just Star Trek

I pointed out to John, a rabid Star Wars fan (seriously, check out his blog), that this isn’t just Star Trek. The original Star Wars trilogy was about Luke, Leia, and Han. Is Obi-Won Kenobi getting too important? Cut the bastard in half … or into thin air. Whatever. Same with Yoda. Bring them back as ghosts occasionally, but get them out of the action.

The Star Wars prequels became about the ensemble. While it should have been about Anakin, Obi-Won, and Padme, it wasn’t. Mace Windu, Yoda, and a freaking astromech droid were just as important. They got a ton of action independent of the main characters.

A Larger Trend

I haven’t done any serious math here, but this appears to be a larger trend, especially in light of the success of comic book movies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows screenwriters to tell a different set of good stories. It’s also no longer “progressive” to just stick a minority on screen, make her a secretary, tell everyone she’s good at math, and rarely let her speak words other than, “I’m frightened.” I can understand a need to continue our social evolution, but it has its drawbacks with respect to the development of characters with whom the audience can relate. If we had the Avengers but didn’t have the benefit of two Iron Man movies, a Captain America movie, a Thor movie, and two Hulk movies, you wouldn’t care as much for those characters as you did (unless you had decades of development through reading their comics, which I do not have).

And this is why Picard will never have shit on original Kirk. Get over it and get off my lawn, you rotten kids.

Of course, Zap’s better than both of those sissies put together.

P.S. Opening day for Star Trek into Darkness is my birthday. Great gift, though it would be better if Cumberbatch were playing Sybok.

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The #Matrix: A Fan Theory That Changes Everything #science #computer #intelligence #emotion #startrek

I’ve have the Matrix movies playing in the background while I work on some trademark matters. I know that many people hated the second and third movies, Reloaded and Revolutions, and I wasn’t a big fan of them either. I find it annoying that no one in the movie can speak in a normal tone of voice, using either yelling or a whisper. No, that doesn’t make you sound cool. It makes you sound like a pretentious idiot who thinks he’s cool. However, I had to watch them again because I wanted to do so within the context of an interesting fan theory I learned by spending too much time reading Cracked.com.

The theory goes like this: What you know as the Matrix is a computer simulation. That’s simple enough; no surprises there. What you know as the movie’s real world is also a computer simulation. The Matrix is a simulation within that outer simulation. What this means is that Zion is a computer simulation, and Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, and all the other pretentious serial whisperers are computer programs. The reason for the existence of the layers is that the computer programs (i.e., Neo, Morpheus, etc.) are being trained to think like humans. They’re being taught to express love, to place the needs of others over themselves, and generally to govern their behavior by more than mere statistics. (Think of Will Smith’s monologue in the also-maligned I, Robot. He points out that a human being would have known to save the girl rather than him despite Will Smith being the statistically-correct choice.) The fan theory also explains Neo’s superman powers outside the Matrix. If the “real world” is just another computer simulation, then it’s explainable that a blinded Neo can see the machines, that Neo can affect them with his powers, and that Agent Smith was capable of “possessing” a “real world” character, Bane. Finally, this also explains that the trilogy didn’t really have an ending. Neo just won, not for some logical reason, but because … he just did. All the Agent Smiths just exploded because Neo … I don’t know … infected them? Well, who cares? No explanation for how that happened is necessary. It’s just important that he did. I guess the programs learned their lesson, so it was no longer necessary for there to be a war.

The theory has one downside I see: An anticlimactic ending. If what I’ve described is what was going on the whole time, then as the credits roll, you’ve got to be thinking, “So no one was ever in any danger? This whole thing was essentially an elaborate movie … to the characters _in_ the movie? Awwwwwww, shucks! I was apparently watching some nerd writing lines of programming code for six or seven hours.” On the other hand, that’s what you’re doing in real life anyway when you go to a movie, especially one like Megamind that’s nothing but computer animation.

While I didn’t need to watch several hours of the movie to appreciate the fan theory — I probably could have not watched it as all — it made the movies completely different films at least worthy of the rewatch. Neo, et al. the programs are learning hope, love, forgiveness, and many other things that machines currently can’t learn, but above all else going beyond one’s programming and exercising free will. Perhaps it’s only through “living” these experiences that the lessons can ever sink into artificial intelligence.

Or not. I’m no expert in artificial intelligence. It’s a neat theory, though, and one that makes for decent drama. Just ask Commander Data.

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The Dark Knight Rises: So-so Film or Simply Unable to Live up to the Hype?

The Dark Knight Rises (“TDKR”) was good, but it wasn’t very good, and certainly not great. Despite the hype around it, including claims of a possible Oscar nomination for Best Picture, it certainly wasn’t great. To give you some perspective before reading this author’s opinion, you should know a few things:

  1. I’m certainly a geek, but I’ve never been a fan of comic books;
  2. Accordingly, as someone who doesn’t know the stories, I don’t bring backstory into the theater with me, instead requiring the movie (or, as here, trilogy) to stand on its own;
  3. Unlike many comic book fans, I recognize that the substantial differences between the two media (i.e., comics and movies) prevent the movie from staying completely faithful to the original comic;
  4. As far as I can tell, I’ve never allowed hype to affect my enjoyment of movies; and
  5. I give a ton of leeway to films that require me to suspend my disbelief by so much.

I’m going to try to minimize spoilers, but at this point, I’m guessing most people that might find their way to this blog have already seen it. For those that haven’t, if you have any capacity for deductive reasoning, you’re going to be able to deduce what I’m saying, and that’s as good as me just saying it outright. Ergo, you’re being warned:

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Damn, for an Action Movie, It Sure Did Drag at Times

I really appreciate that filmmakers are making longer movies. We’re paying increasingly higher rates for movie tickets, so they all should feel burdened to give us our money’s worth. Instead of a 90-minute movie, the entire story should be told by adding 30-60 minutes of movie. I don’t want to fault the film for adding an extra 60 minutes, but filling in those 60 minutes with more setup material (for a subplot) is not what I had in mind. There’s enough setup required for the primary plot. I don’t need another round of it partway through the movie. Some of it is necessary, as subplots themselves are important to a film with any significant depth, and we need to understand what’s going on in the characters’ heads. TDKR took it too far, though. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for things to get interesting again, and eventually they did, but if the extra 60 minutes is boring filler, we’re better off with a 90 minute movie after all. (Note: Not all of the 60 minutes was unimportant, so in this case, I would have cut out about 30 minutes of the movie. That’s just a guess, though. I’d have to see the movie again to be sure, so come back here after the movie hits HBO. I’m not going to see it in the theater again.)

Would you like an example of where we could have used some boring filler that would actually make the story more cohesive? Well, then . . .

The Hidden Enemy

Even with a movie where I must suspend my disbelief to enjoy it, it seems a bit much to expect me to believe that a character would spend his or her entire life becoming one of the rich and powerful in a sinister plot . . . to bring down the rich and powerful. Huh? How do you think people get rich and powerful? The lottery? Usually, no. Inheritance. Yeah, sometimes, but all of the rich were targeted simply because they did the things that are required to become rich and powerful. If you believe those things to be so unfair to the less fortunate that terrorism is justified, you’re not likely to do those things yourselves. Sure, it’s a twist that makes you say, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming,” but if you make the mistake of thinking about it for just a second, you then say, “But how? Why? That makes no sense! It’s a twist for its own sake!” Without a better explanation, you’re left expecting a sequel or prequel to explain it all, and that’s not an option.

For comic book geeks, there’s probably plenty of explanation over the decades of writing, but I (and many other filmgoers) are left hanging, struggling to justify what the movie did. It’s Nolan’s job to write the story, not mine. I don’t mind having to make some logical leaps – in fact, I like that movies require that – but this was central to the story and raises serious logical inconsistencies.

Bill Gates is not in the midst of a secret plot to take down the rich.

Casting

I heard a rumor that one of the characters introduced in this movie would be – I can’t say this without a spoiler – Batman’s successor. I went into this movie saying that if this were true, it would ruin the film for me considering the actor that’s playing that character. Well, it turned out to be true, but fortunately I was exaggerating. While the film wasn’t ruined, it certainly hurt. Ultimately, though, it was a good way to end the trilogy, and it made sense that the character was the successor. My issue is with the casting only. I know you all like him as an actor, but he isn’t suited to play that role.

Edit: The Evening Star

One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen was the Evening Star, which was the sequel to Terms of Endearment. (I had a subscription to HBO. I was already paying for it, so I figured I’d watch it. If it makes you feel any better, my life is less valuable because it’s stained with the memory of that movie.) One of many problems with that movie was that it was about tying up loose ends. The movie itself had no meaning outside the scope of its prequel, which is to say the movie itself was worthless. At times, the Dark Knight Rises fell into the same trap. Much of the movie that was dedicated to setup wasn’t even setting up the story but rather wrapping up the prior stories from the first two movies. Yes, it’s a trilogy, but it has to stand on its own. The parts that wrap up the past must do so by representing a step forward so that what’s happening now has actual value. Interestingly enough, the movie did that in one sense — ‘you must fear your own death to reach your full potential’ — but  fell short enough to annoy me. I wanted the current story to be the focus, and it wasn’t.

Most Importantly, the Hype

The hype concerns me the most. I’ve never been one to raise my expectations too high going into a movie. It would seem out of character for me to be unfairly harsh on TDKR simply because people were saying it might get nominated for Best Picture. Still, it’s a possibility I have to accept, and I’m sure something many people will assume. Take all of this with a grain of salt. The bottom line is that it wasn’t a waste of the $5.00 I paid for the movie ticket. (Yeah, you read that right. I paid only $5.00.) The popcorn, however, wasn’t worth half what I paid for it, but that’s my fault.

Again, I reiterate, this was a good action movie. It could have been a great action movie. The Dark Knight was a great action movie. Inception was a great movie. Nolan has it in him. A shame he didn’t end the series on as strong as a note as I came to expect of him.

Or maybe I’m just getting old. Get off my lawn, you brats.

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