Posts Tagged ‘sci-fi’

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

SIFF short sci fi films, 2018…

Sun ,25/03/2018

In what’s become something of an annual tradition, a buddy and I went to the SIFF SFF Encore film festival today. While all the films were well made, many this year weren’t really as ‘sci fi’ as in years past.

Here’s the films I was able to find online – pretty much my faves from the show – enjoy!

FTL:

M.A.M.O.N (Monitor Against Mexicans Over Nationwide):

Time Chicken:

GEAR:

Dead Hearts:

Strange Beasts:

Jiminy:

The Privates:

candybowl

funny….

Sat ,24/02/2018

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

Logan…

Mon ,01/01/2018

finally got around to watching Logan tonight – definitely one of the better X-Men movies, but a few comments (which could be taken by some as spoilers, be forewarned):

1) pretty over the top violent, even with the lead guy having blades fly out of his hands as per usual. We’ve actually been watching Daredevil a bit lately too, and while that show lacks (for the most part) super powers (Daredevil is not a mutant), it’s violent like this one was….

2) there are a lot of influences going on here, from Terminator 2 to The White Mountains, to Escape to Witch Mountain being the most obvious in my mind. Unlike T2, there’s very little to no ‘end of the world monologuing’ a la Linda Hamilton here, however. And unlike the other two, there’s definitely a much darker tone, especially compared to E2WM. Nor was there a ‘rescue’ by other hideout mutants at the end the way I was expecting (following from the White Mountains or E2WM plots).

3) I was a bit unclear on how Charles Xavier is alive in this movie, when he was killed by Jean Grey in the 3rd movie – the 4th movie doesn’t count because that was time travel, and I haven’t seen the Apocalypse one yet.

4) I’m also a little skeptical that they could kill off nearly the entire world’s mutants in the space of only about 25 years(?) – in the early movies, we were led to believe that there were only going to be more and more mutants, and, what about all those that already existed – only Logan, Charles, Caliban and these ‘manufactured’ kid mutants exist over the whole world? Hmm.

Otherwise, it’s pretty good, although also pretty long (clocks in at almost 2.5 hrs).

candybowl

We had it all wrong back in ’97…

Sat ,25/11/2017

It could have been soooo much simpler, according to this picture….

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