The Zero Theorem

My husband said “Hey we should watch this movie, Zero Theorem”.  I looked at the IMDB blurb and found this:

“A computer hacker whose goal is to discover the reason for human existence continually finds his work interrupted thanks to the Management; namely, they send a teenager and lusty love interest to distract him.”

hahahaha oh my god this is going to be so bad.

Long story short: It didn’t suck.  I actually quite enjoyed it, and it also validates the existence of my “surprisingly not shitty” tag.  It was bizarre but eminently enjoyable.  I feel like you might need to be drunk to really get the most out of it, though; at any rate you probably shouldn’t try to understand it while sober.

I glanced at some reviews and now I’m confused about all these people complaining that it wasn’t funny enough.  Did they see the name Terry Gilliam and just assume it would be a Monty Python comedy?  It has quirky comedic moments but it is not a comedy, people.  What the hell.  Complaints about the movie being confusing – valid (but not necessarily unwelcome… I liked the convoluted fucked-up-ness of the plot), complaints about the philosophy of the movie being unfulfilling – valid (if you give a shit, which I didn’t), complaints about the movie being “listless” – … valid, sure.  It felt a little flat sometimes, but that sort of complemented the main character I thought.  Complaints about it not being funny enough?  Go away.

It’s a quirky, bizarre, … whimsical?  sure whimsical… journey and it’s decently entertaining enough to spend an hour or so with.

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Transcendence

The IMDB blurb for Transcendence was this:

“A scientist’s drive for artificial intelligence, takes on dangerous implications when his consciousness is uploaded into one such program.”

Misplaced comma aside (grr), it sounded like a perfect set-up for an awful movie.  But… Morgan Freeman?!?  He never makes bad movies!  Okay fine we will risk it.  I mean, it’s a sci-fi-ish movie so of course we will risk it.

After we were done, my husband’s review was “I liked that movie, but I can’t think about it or I’ll get angry.”  I should probably just leave that here as my review, too.

It was really much better than I thought it would be, probably because I had pretty low expectations.  There are a lot of stories that are sorta-kinda similar that if you liked those, you’ll probably at least sort of enjoy this too.  Parts of it reminded me of Terminator, maybe RoboCop (with significantly less exploding shit, mind you, and the exploding shit was kind of the point of those movies)… other parts reminded me of Blood Music (novel by Greg Bear)… the Replicators from SG-1 (and every other “grey goo” themed sci-fi story in existence)… there was at least one other popular entertainment media item I thought of while we were watching and now I can’t remember it so… that one too.  It was an interesting story that provided some interesting questions and made you wonder which direction they would take it in the end.

Of course, every direction they could have taken it was pretty predictable, because it’s all been done before.  I’m not sure it’s actually possible to do something innovative with this sort of storyline anymore.  It was more of a “Is the twist going to be THIS, or is it going to be THIS…” sort of thing, which is enjoyable in its own way but… meh.  It’s the sort of thing where if you tried to do something really innovative and shocking it would just be so ridiculously cheesy that it would ruin the whole story.  So the best bet is to try to approach the philosophical questions in a novel manner, and it sort of dropped the ball there.  A lot of the really interesting questions that could have been asked were drowned out by a focus on the Good/Evil aspects.  No real subtleties were explored, which left it feeling hollow and predictable.  Unfortunate.

And there were some big-ass plot holes that you really shouldn’t think about.  Seriously, don’t think about it or you’ll hate this movie.

I don’t think there’s an easy way for me to do spoiler tags if I’m not hosting the blog myself, so warning: potential spoilers ahead that will make you hate this movie:

There was so much focus on the “Is it really him?  Is it just an AI trying to take over and not really him at all?  It’s building a superhuman army!!” aspects that they completely missed exploring the “Would you take clean water, extended/potentially eternal life, no sickness, superhuman strength at the expense of your free will and privacy?” aspect.  What’s odd is they introduce those aspects, and then completely ignore them to follow the “omg an army, get the bombs” route.  I suppose bombs could be one way of saying “no I would not give up my free will”, but it’s not presented that way at all.

[bigger spoiler – seriously] How the hell does it get airborne.  I’m not disputing that it would create the technology, but it’s not explained at all, and it presents so many problems.  How the fuck are you going to do anything about an airborne nanobot invasion.  It’s like the world’s worst virus at that point (a la: Blood Music).  Shit doesn’t need to be networked anymore for it to spread because it is airborne.  Okay so maybe it’s short range airborne but y’know, throw a bone and mention that.

And somewhat related – one of my husband’s biggest complaints (before he stopped thinking about it so that he wouldn’t hate the movie): “My computer doesn’t fucking explode when I unplug it from the network.”  Why do they stop functioning when disconnected from the core?  The nanobots seriously can’t carry out repairs unless they’re on the internet?  That seems like a design flaw he probably should have considered, huh.

And if nothing works if it’s not online, how the fuck do they get into the garden if it’s covered in shields.  Even if you want to claim he pre-planted some nanobots or whatever in there, how would he have gotten her through the shield.  Explain shit, damn you.  I think it’s shoehorned in for an attempt at ambiguity in the name of ~thought provoking~ and it’s not good.

Bullets poisoned with radiation.  hahahaha.

Okay I’m going to stop thinking about it now, while I still like it.

Game of Thrones: Fire and Blood Red Ale

A Game of Thrones beer?!?  It would make more sense if it were, like, mulled wine or something… but okay sure I’ll buy it.

First up – this is a big bottle of 7% beer.  750ml of dragon-imbued ale, man.  The bottle claims it is brewed with chilies which is… worrisome?  But I was assuming this beer will be mostly gimmick and wasn’t really expecting more than cheap beer in a fancy marketing label that raises the price 800%.

We immediately proved our beer-snob incompetence by being unable to open it.  It’s got one of those fancy cork tops with the screw-down whatsits.  My husband started confidently untwisting things so I left him to it, but we ended up with a corked bottle we still didn’t know how to open.  I was reaching for the wine de-corker when he managed to pop it.  It exploded like a champagne bottle and immediately spewed foam all over.  He said “I could have popped that out right away but I was trying to avoid doing exactly this.”

It’s good when beer has a “head” right?!??  Hoooolllyyy fuck was this hard to pour due to the foaming.  And it was a persistent head, too.  It just would not move out of the way to make room for more liquid.  We finally got the thing poured and started drinking.

It’s… not awful?  I was seriously expecting a shitty gimmick beer but this is pretty good.  A bit too hops-y for me but not disgustingly so.  Probably exactly the kind of hops most people want in beer.  It’s not bitter or gross, and it has a nice fermented, slightly flowery taste.  Nice texture, too.  If there are chilies in here I have not encountered a speck of one, though.

It was also requested that I report on whether it is “epic” or not.  … Nope not really.  Sweet dragon label, though.  Okay I guess spewing foam across the kitchen was pretty epic, though, I will give it that.

A-, probably would not buy again but do not regret purchase.

Snowpiercer

What an absolutely ludicrous plot.  Why was it so enjoyable…

I feel like I was actively trying to dislike it, and I kept forgetting why I was trying to dislike it.  I had a laundry list of criticisms and I can barely remember them all the next day.

Here’s the premise:  Global warming is out of control, so someone develops a way to slow it down.  We release shit into the atmosphere and it results in dropping Earth into a deep ice age.  Oops.

Everything living dies, except for a lucky group of people who happened to be on a really large train called the Snowpiercer that traverses the world precisely once per year (or maybe they re-engineered the length of years based on one traversal, I wasn’t entirely clear…).  There was a bit of explanation about the train but not nearly enough to explain how a world-traversing train was engineered to cross oceans and run perpetually with absolutely no external maintenance (of the train OR tracks…) in an atmosphere that is cold enough to completely freeze someone’s arm in 7 minutes… but apparently it runs happily for the next 18 years.  The people on the train develop a dystopian caste system based on their original tickets, with those in first class living in luxury and those in the tail section living in squalor.  First class regularly comes back to the tail to steal children and generally be dicks about everything.  The tail section get pissed and plan an uprising.

There’s a lot of really well done stuff in this movie.  The atmosphere is great, the acting is great, even the premise is interesting despite hurting your brain if you think about it too much.  It’s mostly the brain-hurting that drags the movie down – there are too many things that are convenient or casually brushed over because they cannot possibly be explained.  We’re presuming this train was already in motion before the world ended, right… because that’s how they survived.  It’s got aquarium ceiling-ed cars.   Like, okay so maybe it’s supposed to be super luxurious so they designed a train with that’s entirely an aquarium for both walls and ceiling in 2014, but… no.  I just can’t.  Where did they get the materials to build and maintain this shit?  Where did these translator things come from if the world ended?  Why do they only use the translator things half of the time yet still understand each other?!?? It’s in that uncomfortable sci-fi area where they want to be cool and unique, but it’s not a fantastical enough environment to pull it off comfortably and you need to turn your brain off to enjoy it.  But once you do that, it’s great.  Certainly above Elysium, at any rate.

The Wolf Among Us/Walking Dead (TellTale)

I just finished The Wolf Among Us, so ostensibly this post is about that… but in order to talk about it I must talk about TellTale’s Walking Dead game.  Both of the games are episodic “graphic novel” style games where your dialog choices can affect the outcome.  By “affect the outcome”, I more or less mean “affect how other characters view your character while the outcome takes place”, because there are very few “big” changes you can make in the storylines, but your demeanour can have a big impact on how each of the supporting cast react to things.  Some of the biggest impacts you’ll have revolve around who will make it to the end of the story with you, and whether they hate you or not.

Telltale’s TWD is pretty popular now so it probably doesn’t need a lot of plugging, but I would like to reiterate how good it is.  It’s pretty good.  I never read the comics that it is based on.  I almost didn’t buy the game at all because I loathe the TV show and all of its misogynistic bullshit convenience writing, so I like to pretend the show ended quickly when all of those characters were eaten by zombies and that no one is giving the show writers any more money by watching it.  la la la la la I’m not listeniiinnnggg.  In contrast, the writing in the game is really good.  Well, okay it’s just sort of good, but the interaction of the game makes it feel really good.

Except for the batteries puzzle.  I hope the asshole who wrote that was fired immediately.  It happens really early in Season 1 so I can only assume they made a misguided attempt to match the airheaded misogyny of the show, but were swiftly correctly by someone smarter.

Both Wolf Among Us and TWD are based on existing franchises, but I think TWD works because it’s given the world of the franchise and then set loose to frolic in it. There may be a cameo here and there of someone from one of their other eleventy-billion sanctioned comics or TV shows or games or whatever the fuck else they have now, but it’s not hard to take a zombie world and slap some random new people in it, then begin writing.  Those characters are fresh and the writers are free to work with them.

On the other hand, WAU is pretty constrained.  I didn’t read these comics either, but the characters in the game are (by necessity…) the main characters from the comics.  Right away the writers are restricted, because the characters have to match the personalities they have in the comics.  There’s little room to give the player a character with a personality they can mold and feel at home in.  They do a great job with Bigby Wolf and you get a sense of who he is even without any knowledge of the character beforehand, but it never really feels like your character the way the player characters in TWD do.

The game also has a deliberate time-period in relation to the comic: 20 years earlier.  Which is a huge problem right out of the gate because now we know all of these characters are still around 20 years later.  I did not know this when I started the game and the ending of chapter 1 was like “ohhhh shiiiittt this is going to be awesome”, but then I discovered it is essentially a prequel which sort of nullified all of those events.  It left it a bit bleh, to be honest.  TWD is great because anyone can die.  Anyone.  Those guys are fucked.  In WAU it’s like “This person could die here, if they weren’t in the comics 20 years later.  So.  Nope not gonna die.”  There are side characters who are free to die, but you don’t really care about them, and it just doesn’t have the same impact.  In TWD, your best buddy that you’ve helped through countless harrowing adventures could get snuffed at any moment, because that’s just how it fucking is in the apocalypse, man. (That said, I think they’re trying a bit too hard to manipulate emotions in TWD Season 2.  Tread lightly, guys.)

Then there is the additional problem of characters that seem kind of superfluous in WAU… probably because they exist in the comics so they should probably be in the game, even if there’s not much for them to actually do.  Fanservice doesn’t really do much if you’re not already a fan.

Also I feel like sifting through the clues of a “whodunnit” is kind of silly when anyone can look like anyone else using magic.  Literally anyone could be framed, which leaves a bit too much leeway for “gotcha” twists.  The actual story of WAU was pretty weak as a result, although the experience was still good…

Those things aside, the two games are fairly similar in terms of mechanics, if not setting.  You progress through the story, make some big reveals, make friends/enemies, and choose your story branches.  Action sequences take place through quicktime events, and they’re often quite scripted to match the story.  Some people probably hate this but I find it immersive.  Sure it’s annoying to mash Q as hard as you can and watch the other character begin to overpower you at a certain point anyway, but doesn’t it feel like you’re pushing back as hard as you can and still losing ground?  You can feel his muscles straining as he struggles, but you can also feel the futility…
My only complaint is that watching for the key prompts tends to take my eyes off the scene, which is too bad.  Fortunately failing them doesn’t cause too much hassle, either.  Often it’s written right into the sequence like a dialog choice, which is a nice change from “oh you missed that one.  Welp time to move you back 30 seconds and start ALL OVER AGAIN.”

If I had to pick I would definitely say that TWD is the winner of these two, simply for the reasons listed above.  The freedom the writers have to set events in motion (and break your heart…) is simply not possible with WAU.  But will I buy season 2 of WAU?  Certainly. (when it’s on sale…)