Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

A Wrinkle in Time….sigh.

Thu ,14/06/2018

Earlier this week, kerewin and I checked out A Wrinkle in Time. I had wanted to see this, then when it came out and the reviews weren’t good, I was a bit sad, but still wanted to see it anyway.

Because to me, the original book is very much of my time (came out in the early 60’s, I was born in the late 60’s), it’s not a very conventional book by any means (besides being sci-fi to begin with) and I’ve always considered it one of my key early books that got me really interested in the genre generally.

I think for me the key appeal of the story is that it takes fairly heavy subject matter (the never-ending struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, tough social situations and family struggles) and doesn’t talk down to the reader, despite being a kid’s book in the end. Even re-reading it a couple years ago on a whim, it’s still a good (if now much quicker) read, has respect for its characters and tells a good story – the key criteria above all.

So it’s clear why Hollywood would have a problem making a movie based on this story, and my initial take on the movie is that they made a decent try at it. I liked the new approach of an African-American girl in L.A. – her younger brother is possibly even *more* precocious than the Charles Wallace of the book (who was pretty far along on his own), and the star power of Reese Witherspoon, Oprah, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine and Zach Galifinakis really doesn’t get in the way in the end, BUT….

1) they give short shrift to the main plot – they focus too long on Meg’s school problems and not long enough on the other aspects once they tesser to Uriel, Camazotz, finding Chris Pine (the dad) and then back – happens way too quickly and without enough dialog, at minimum.

2) they completely skip the whole Ixchel sequence (when they tesser out originally with their father and Meg is damaged by IT in doing so, and then she has to go back in, all alone, to rescue Charles Wallace). This is a critical part of the book that shows Meg at her most vulnerable, then launches her back into chaos (Camazotz again) and she learns an important lesson about herself and her inner strength. Because the movie skips this entire sequence, we go from an abortive ‘father rescue’ right to rescuing Charles Wallace – more plot thinning, as it were.

3) there are too many ‘musical segue’ sequences that play like a music video interlude between dramatic scenes. There are at least three and they really just waste screen time that could have been devoted to plot or character dialog…

4) Camazotz far more resembles ‘CGI Dagobah’ than the scary planet depicted in the book. While they start with the kids bouncing the ball in the neighborhood, they quickly blow that off and all of a sudden we have already rescued Chris Pine? Again, far too quickly and thins out the plot yet again.

5) And there is no ‘IT’ in this movie?! Arguably the scariest part of the book in many ways, at best, IT is depicted through a dark, hardly speaking voice while Meg and Charles Wallace scramble around in what looks like a modern version of Yoda’s summer home – Just not scary? And the ‘evil’ is largely depicted as Charles Wallace yelling at or scolding Meg. While it’s possible that the ‘disembodied oversized brain’ of IT in the book may not work cinematically these days – it’s still better than a not-scary root forest with some weird voice in the background? Plus, they keep calling IT ‘The IT’ – as if IT is a piece of evil furniture? Doesn’t work.

6) I saw part of an earlier 2003 adaptation of the book, most namely the first IT sequence – and while there they left out the ‘brain’ too – it is much creepier and weird, arguably truer to the book. I may now need to check out this earlier film just to see the differences.

Anyway, mixed bag, ultimately disappointing but I give them props for trying….

candybowl

2001…..still a landmark.

Sat ,26/05/2018

And given we are lucky enough to have restored one of the few remaining Cinerama theaters in the country (after all these years), we can actually WATCH the movie in its original intended format – that screen is huge, and the movie still holds up well to this day. I go about every other year when it comes around and it’s still worth it. So many other sci-fi movies just don’t hold up anymore for various reasons but this one……

2001 set the standard for the next 50 years of hard (and some soft) sci-fi

candybowl

YeeeEEEsss, Neo.

Wed ,09/05/2018

Well, it was bound to happen. I had my first VR experience last night – very, very cool.

A buddy of mine is a local software CEO, and invited me over to test out some VR setup(s) – yes, plural – they have at their office. After some scheduling snafus, I was finally able to get over there last night, and he did not disappoint.

quick note – for the YouTube video links below I included (so you can see what the games looked like in action) – you may want to turn down the volume considerably or skip around in them – the narrators for some reason in most of them are YELLING loudly (probably overexcited nerds) and it usually detracts from simply checking out the game – just a warning.

First up was Oculus Rift. He had me do an orientation video first, which was similar to being in Wade Watts‘ trailer, standing in front of a DAT recorder, and putting various disks into a 3D printer, assisted by a floating robot that looked mostly like Wall-E. So you can print a series of things (butterflies, etc.) and check them out, then eventually like so many of these simulations, you 3D print a gun and shoot Wall-E – the human race is doomed, basically.

Next up with the OR equipment, we did a version of The Matrix ‘bullet time’ scenario (akin to the rooftop battle by Neo and Trinity) – I think the game is called ‘Superhot‘, you can watch a bit of video as to what it looks like here.

This was very interesting – not sure I ever really got the hang of it, basically if you don’t move, the ‘bullet time’ doesn’t advance – so you can move your head around (advances *very* slowly) and get a sense of who’s about to shoot you, then start grabbing guns and shooting once you are oriented to the scenario (there were several, most similar to the movie scenes). The YT videos show players throwing stuff at the bad guys, but I could never seem to pull that off, the best I did was hit them (besides of course shooting them).

Next up was a Valve VR setup, a bit more advanced than the OR one. First we did a shooter called Raw Data (video example here). I was able to blast most of the robots, but it was a good thing I had shields because in the later scenarios, they start coming very fast, until you see the big “DEAD” floating in front of you. Also, I kept trying to actually lean on the virtual console in front of me to crouch and hide from the robot shooting – which doesn’t work (there’s nothing actually there in the real world, after all) so almost fell over a couple times – funny.

With that same equipment, then we looked at Google Earth – setting aside my usual privacy rant for another day, this was pretty cool otherwise. You can go to any major city on Earth and (effectively) virtually fly around like Superman and look at things from the air, streetside, etc. After a brief look at Hong Kong, we ‘flew’ to WA and looked at Fremont, then my own neighborhood, then went to the cone of Mt. Rainier and ‘skied’ off the top, the impression of which scared me a bit because the sensation of going right off the edge is pretty decent.

Clued in by my Rainier ski commentary, my buddy figured out I was scared of heights, so (of course) he wanted me to try Richie’s Walk the Plank Experience. So I tried to go in the elevator, but it took off upward before I was actually ‘in’ it, so the effect was of me shooting up the OUTSIDE of the building – yipes! Then, you are virtually at the top of a HUGE skyscraper, with a tiny board under your feet. I couldn’t do it at this point, had to take off the gear – too real for me!

We next tried ‘Augmented’ Reality with Microsoft HoloLens – ‘augmented’ means instead of being completely in the virtual world, you wear goggles that let you see what you are doing normally *and* you see additional stuff floating in the air. Think of (kinda) Minority Report, you can see a YT demo here.

This one, despite its obvious potential, didn’t really work that well for me. Ideally you make gestures at it (kinda like ‘pinching’ in the air in front of you – this is in lieu of the computer mouse) and you can manipulate stuff. But I just couldn’t get it to work for me, probably was doing it wrong or not holding my hand in the correct place for the sensor. So maybe next time on this one.

The final VR thing we tried was the Star Trek Bridge Crew game, on the Valve setup. This one is arguably the coolest of them, given the series connection, and apparently you can select from different ships/series, various missions, and different characters to play (captain, navigator, etc.) YT demo here.

At first I was in some sort of (very cool) shuttle flyby of an earlier movie era Enterprise-like big ship, much like the flyby in Star Trek:The Motion Picture (and nearly every other Star Trek series or show at one point or another) – I kept expecting the shuttle to take me into the landing bay but it then went right on by to circle around again.

So we logged into a game already in progress, I ended up as Engineer. There were three guys in a room, already discussing Star Trek stuff (seemed like they were talking about the merits and realism of the game – they didn’t really seem to notice me). Then the mission started, and I was Engineer on the bridge, to the right of the navigator station. Here, i was trying to route power to the warp/impulse engines, shields and phasers, but it wasn’t super intuitive on how to do it. I couldn’t really hear the ‘Captain’ saying anything (likely something weird about my login) and the helmsman/navigator guys kept arguing about some esoteric stuff that I didn’t really follow. I was able to get power to the warp drive, so we went to some asteriod belt where some Klingon attack had apparently happened, and we started cruising around the wreckage a bit.

The controller has some weird mode where you can see a perspective that is as if you are floating above and outside the ship – very cool (if surprising). I can see where this game would be VERY addictive if I had access to this type of VR hardware on a regular basis. My only gripe is that the way you use it is as if your head is floating on a crewman’s body, and in some camera perspectives it’s like you are floating on a disembodied marionette – but that could have also been because I was a newbie to all of it anyway.

In the end, VERY cool and interesting – it will be neat to try it again someday, hopefully soon – Thanks Jason!

candybowl

The Challenge of….the Superfriends! Episode 1 – Wanted: The Superfriends.

Mon ,26/02/2018

So in achieving a somewhat dubious milestone yesterday – turning 51 – I received a special DVD set, one that contains significant wisdom and lessons for our future – the first season of Challenge of the Superfriends, circa 1978.

A classic in renowned, highly regarded animated cinematography, this series not only challenges our intrepid heroes of series seen earlier in the 70s (DC Comics heroes such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.), but challenges many aspects of the viewer’s sense of reason and world view, to boot.

For you see, not only are our heroes confronted with the biggest assortment (well, as of 1978, anyway) of ‘super’ villains in one place, at one time (the Legion of Doom), but commensurate with this threat, both our heroes (and the viewer) now is threatened by a set plots and one-liners both ridiculous and entertaining at the same time.

Together, dear reader, we will now examine these episodes under a closer lens, providing scrutiny, skepticism, and comic relief where needed, as needed.

We begin with Episode 1 – Wanted: The Superfriends.

As always with these shows, it opens with the usual shot of the Hall of Doom rising out of a remote swamp somewhere. As this is the first episode, Lex Luthor sets the stage by introducing all the villains in the room, some of which who show off by blasting out a lamp (Captain Cold); creating a huge, levitating snake (Sinestro); smashing a huge hole in the table (Solomon Grundy); and scratching huge gouges in the same table (Cheetah). So already they’re causing societal damage! And of course Luthor introduces himself in the third person as the most intelligent and dangerous of them all, natch.

He then proceeds to show off a hovering, dronelike ‘dream gun’ that he uses one by one to infect the Superfriends’ dreams so they will commit crimes and get blamed for it (of course).

So Superman, caught sleeping at his desk at the Daily Planet, flies off to steal all the gold at Fort Knox (after binding up the guards in the wrought-iron fence and tying a tank into a pretzel and throwing it into the street (with unintentionally funny background sound effects);

Batman and Robin (I was previously unaware they lived together) are commanded to drive/fly the Batmobile and Batcopter to the US Mint (in apparently only about 5 min – Batman must live in Alexandria or somewhere nearby – convenient!) where they ignore the bell-bottomed guards yelling at them and steal pallets of freshly printed dollars, lifting them through the roof into the Batcopter and then taking off – what’s impressive here is that Robin uses what seems like a lightsaber to cut into one of the vaults – but I guess they did in fact have that technology, given Star Wars was in 1977, over a year before this came out :);

They then show Flash ripping off Big Ben and the British Crown Jewels (apparently just running by the cases at super speed is enough to get them); Black Vulcan takes all the sarcophagi and treasures from The Great Pyramid in Egypt, and Wonder Woman lassos (really?) all the paintings out of the Louvre, among other crime sprees.

Cut back to the Hall of Doom, and the Legion of Doom with a couple scenes of gloating, then to the Hall of Justice, with the Superfriends discussing (in fairly nondescript, objective ways despite now being ‘super criminals’?) their crime sprees of the night before with Hawkman pointing out the gold and other crap in a storage locker. Hmmmm..

But it gets better. The ‘police’ now ask them to turn themselves in – but it’s not really the police – it’s Cheetah and Bizarro, who (after the requisite gloating – I think we’re seeing a pattern here) – press a button on what looks like an oversized 70’s TV remote, and a mind-control ray kicks in to immobilize them (save their ability to complain) and then the jail cell (literally) blasts off, headed into orbit, straight for the sun (yes, you heard both of those right).

Cut back to the Hall of Doom, for the obvious cliffhanger, begun by yet another round of Luthor gloating, then Black Manta leading off to take the Hall of Justice (and rename it the ‘Hall of Injustice’ – apparently the Hall of Doom isn’t good enough) so they can then use the Justice League computers to REALLY amp up the crime spree themselves! Cue the announcer ‘can the Superfriends escape…?’ etc.

Resume with the second act – while the Superfriends continue their space-based whining as they plunge towards the sun (while I’m still wondering what air they are breathing and how the Legion of Doom managed to get a rocket-powered jail cell capable of travel all the way into orbit and the sun built into a local Washington DC jail in advance of capturing them, but these are minor details) Luthor (after yet *another* round of insults at the SF’s expense – ‘Superfools’ seems to be a crowd favorite) hooks up some ridiculous mind control device to the computer, which then hooks in the Justice League Satellite to beam rays all over the Earth and turn everyone (?!) into Cheetah and Bizarro clones, who then proceed to rob literally ‘everything’ (I’m not kidding) and turn it in to the Legion of Doom, now camped out in the Hall of Justice.

But our heroes aren’t beaten yet. Superman spots a meteor nearby, and Wonder Woman saves their asses by mind-controlling her magic lasso to adjust the rocket to make the jail cell collide with the meteor, knocking off the Doom control device. Then Superman jumps out into the vacuum (which I realize doesn’t affect him but what about the rest?) and steers the jail cell back to Earth.

Superman, Batman and Robin (Batman looking fairly fat as he runs along with them, apparently his time in jail wasn’t calorie-challenged), seeing a bunch of Bizarros standing on the lawn, objectively evaluate the situation in a matter of seconds (smart) and then Superman takes on the Bizarro-driving some big street sweeper truck who is attacking them (Bizarros apparently forget that Superman could actually fly OVER such a truck). But Superman cuts them a break and uses his arm (with requisite Skil-saw sound) to disable the sweeper brushes – then verbally admonishes the Bizarro, and flies him over to a phone booth and eye-laser seals him in.

In typical illogical fashion, the Superfriends now spend their time flyins all over the place trying to prevent more crime (instead of of just going to the Hall of Justice to stop Luthor directly) – this despite Superman already having **said out loud** what the likely cause was in the previous scene (a Luthor mind control device)? No prize for brains in these cinematic masterpieces, to be sure.

We now see Batman and Robin in the Batcave, running endless calculations on the Batcomputer to “figure out what’s going on” (again, see previous comment) – Robin notes they are low on power, and his a button to ask Alfred for a ‘nuclear power pack’ (yipes) – but excellent plot twist! Alfred is a Bizarro now, and mid-series of one liners, attacks them with a double-electric lasso, then explains (after throwing them in the Batmobile) how he’s set it to drive them off a cliff (cue maniacal laugh). It blasts out of the cave, Robin starts the inevitable whining, but despite them flying off the cliff, Batman hits the rocket button somehow in his belt and the car blasts upward into the air.

Cut back to the Hall of Justice for yet another round of gloating by Luthor, Captain Cold and The Riddler. Then, Batman and Robin (now safe and driving around in the country somewhere) complete the ‘calculations’ on the Batmobile mini computer – a dot-matrix computer printout tells Robin how to fix the problem (on Bat-paper?), and radios Superman, who, using a huge walkie-talkie, answers and then heads into orbit to fix the satellite.

After he jiggles the satellite around a bit, Superman calls Batman back on the same Radio Shack walkie-talkie – which apparently works well even in space – to tell him to now go after the Legion of Doom (phase 2).

The Superfriends sneak back into the Hall of Justice disguised as Bizarros and Cheetahs (carrying more money), then the inevitable final battle (which is mostly comprised of one-liners yelled at one another) begins.

Grod throws a large computer at Green Lantern, which he ‘catches’ using a big catcher’s mitt (and then employs a stupid baseball comeback), then Wonder Woman lassos Cheetah with a similar lame verbal rejoinder;

Bizarro (literally) wraps up Batman and Robin with a steel girder he rips down from the ceiling, but Batman makes a snide comment and casually lobs out his Batarang, which loops back and saws through the girder, then shoots some sort of ‘plastic bag’ at Bizarro, who gets caught AND has to endure more taunting from Batman to boot!

Ah, but the inveitable conclusion, something of an anticlimax – Luthor, yelling more threats, tries to use the mind-control drone on them again, but Superman grabs him and then aims it at the Legion of Doom, who supposedly go to jail. But then when the Superfriends are sitting around later, patting themselves on the back, Luthor appears on the big screen and brags yet again how they have escaped, and how they are already back at the Hall of Doom, planning more crimes! Superman of course gets in the last word, warning them they won’t succeed. Whew!

Until next time…..candybowl

RIP…

Wed ,24/01/2018

Ursula K. Le Guin, acclaimed for her fantasy fiction, is dead at 88

candybowl

Stormtrooper!

Wed ,17/01/2018

Saw (finally) The Last Jedi last night. Spoiler-laden review coming next, but in the meantime… 🙂

candybowl

Shin Godzilla!

Sat ,12/08/2017

So, in response to the big success of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla film (discussed earlier here) – the original Godzilla film company – Toho – decided to do yet another Gz film of their own. The result: Shin Godzilla, which just came out on DVD and Blu-Ray this month.

Funimation, god love ’em, actually did a limited release of this movie in theaters last year(?) – and I went, but like an old loser, fell asleep midway through the movie so missed most of it – doh! So I’ve been waiting for it to come out on DVD so I can actually watch the whole thing through.

My take: mixed feelings. So on the one hand, the special effects are definitely in the top tier of any of the Toho Godzilla films – especially when the earlier mutant version of Gz is waddling through down (there is no other way to describe it) and crushing boats, rivers, trains and buildings – very, very realistic looking, even if Gz doesn’t look very dangerous at that point – yet.

But then on his second run of destruction through town, the battle is a bit too drawn out (timewise) even if a bit too abbreviated (battle-wise). You see, the filmmakers are obviously putting in a lot of human commentary on Japan’s current political situation – the first half hour of the movie if not a bit more is spent spoofing meeting, after meeting, after meeting, at the govt level and how they are ‘paralyzed by process’, even when faced with a giant mutant nuclear-fired monster is about to stomp their country into oblivion.

While this setup is funny at parts, it drags on a bit too much – bring on the monster!

My other minor/major gripes are two – Godzilla himself looks like he’s wearing a weird chest-jutting haltertop underneath his skin when he finally assumes the role he was born to do – his upper body is just weird looking. His skin looks much closer to General Tsao’s Chicken than the usual scaly, rubbery mutant we know and love, and most egregious – his roar is severely muted, if you hear it at all.

This last was largely my big gripe for the Gareth Edwards film, likely because he probably couldn’t license the sound, but Toho OWNS that roar – hel-lo?

Also, as you see in many Gz movies, they play up the ‘sympathy’ angle more than a bit – especially when the military is (literally) dropping buildings on him left and right. In the older movies when this happens, he really gets pissed off – and to some degree that happens here, but we never really see the big ‘rage moment’ that happens at least once or twice in the older movies. Disappointing – I wanted to see more destruction!

The actors are good otherwise, although the ‘americans’ mostly appear off camera with pretty stilted dialogue. And the notion of a Japanese-American woman becoming President by her 40th bday is fine by me, bring it!

So I think in the end the movie is definitely worth watching but a bit too long and not enough Godzilla. I think on balance still my fave movie is Godzilla 2000 – easily the scariest looking Gz in any of the movies, definitely among the most badass, especially at the end.

Other voices:
Rotten Tomatoes
Metacritic

candybowl

weird….

Fri ,21/07/2017

SPOILER – watch the trailer first

This is an interesting concept for a C&H movie, that will of course never get made (at least while Bill Watterson is still alive, anyway) – except – that I believe it leaves behind a key essential point (if not THE essential point) of C&H – tragic comedy.

Throughout the comic, we are always confronted by Calvin’s underlying struggle to fit in, while his personality, likes and dislikes and the fact that he’s six, serve to nearly always defeat him to varying degrees. Yes, for the most part his parents never step in, and Suzie tries early on, but figures him out pretty quick and then just tolerates him after that.

So Hobbes is all that’s left – and while he proves a true friend time and time again no matter what Calvin does – and he’s not always an unforgiving one – he’s in the end a figment of Calvin’s imagination – or possibly a projection of what Calvin knows he could be – but doesn’t really want to.

Just turning it into a psycho-pseudo horror story (scary or not) misses the comedy (which brings back the reader, strip after strip, despite the comedy usually being at Calvin’s expense) and only tells one part of Calvin’s complexity. Having read several Bill Watterson interviews, one thing he says several times is that he expected Calvin might have a tough adulthood, when his preferred lifestyle was going to evaporate right before his eyes and likely make him pretty sad. Maybe so – but even if Calvin got past that, I don’t think his imagination would consume him in the end – I think he might just lose it – which could be even worse, really….. 🙁

candybowl

farewell, Commander Koenig…

Mon ,17/07/2017

Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau dies at 89

We too, argued constantly as kids whether Space:1999 was better than Star Trek too – and never came to a consistent conclusion. RIP.

Space 1999 @ IMDB

episodes on YT

hard to believe we were watching that in 1975(!)

candybowl

Wonder Woman.

Sat ,17/06/2017

Saw the new Wonder Woman movie today with kerewin. Definitely one of the better superhero movies out there, albeit the first DC-related one i’ve seen (haven’t seen the Superman reboot, and Superman vs. Batman looked very, very dumb). Hoping to see some of The Flash tv show at some point and the Justice League trailer we saw today looks good – but I digress.

So compared to the 70s tv series with Lynda Carter, naturally this is higher budget and far better special effects. But despite her origin on an island full of kick-ass women in semi-revealing outfits (worn while full-on fighting on foot, horseback and flying through the air at intervals), this movie avoids the usual ‘movie hot woman’ factor in most cases and simply tries to tell a compelling story instead.

The island part could have been a bit shorter, and as per usual, the Germans are the always-convenient bad guys, even though these are WWI Germans, not Nazis. But Diana keeps on kicking ass throughout the movie, both in attitude and action, which just builds until the end (definitely a good thing).

*****SPOILERS******
Now for the other minor complaints – If Diana is a god, why do they need other superheroes at all (given that the story is told in flashback format when it begins with her getting a package from Bruce Wayne while working at the Louvre in Paris)? Much like Thor in the Avengers/Marvel movies – again, if gods are on Earth, why bother with the rest of even mutants or superheroes, period?

I liked the turnaround with ‘Lupin’ (David Thewlis) playing Ares, the god of war, though, and didn’t see it coming, so that was cool.

While we missed any cameos from Lynda Carter (apparently scheduling problems prevented it) it was very cool to see Lucy Davis, whom we knew was familiar but didn’t recognize until we looked her up afterward.

And Chris Pine plays it pretty straight as Steve Trevor, which was a relief – while it’s likely given the time period of the movie being in around 1917 that he’d be definitely trying to keep Diana in check at all times, he doesn’t try to do it in a bad way unlike other male characters might have and he does fairly quickly realize his limitations in comparison with her – he’s not deluded.

All in all, an entertaining movie – I wonder if Gina Carano will show up as a Diana nemesis in a future one?

Other Reviews:
Rotten Tomatoes
The Guardian
IGN

candybowl