Star Trek: Discovery (first impressions) – OR: I really hate Michael Burnham

I grew up on Star Trek TNG.  I was, in fact, one of ‘those’ trekkies, with the encyclopedias and the model Enterprise, and even every single one of the extended universe books.  I would rush home from school every day and wait for it to begin at 4PM.  And then I would despair when the syndicated episodes ran out and it would start over at season 1 episode 1 again and I’d have to wait until the channel caught back up to presently airing episodes.  Ahhhh, the late 80s/early 90s.  And now we have the internet!  What a savage and primitive world this used to be.

As most people are probably aware, the world of Trek has been languishing of late, and so did my interest.  I was happy to leave nostalgia back in the 90s with TNG and not worry about reviving it.  I don’t think I even saw an episode of Enterprise before it got canned.   So I hadn’t even really heard about Discovery, except maybe in passing.  I paid no attention to the hype, or the trailers.  I had zero awareness or expectations for it.

Then we ran out of TV to binge and wandered into The Orville.  If you’re not aware of The Orville, it is Seth MacFarlane’s love letter to Star Trek TNG, which basically means TNG with dick and fart jokes.  Here’s your bonus review: I actually really enjoy The Orville, but god damn is it awkward, ahahahahahaha.  It doesn’t know what to do with itself.  I saw one review/comment that said ‘Basically, it’s a perfect show, except for the part where it is a Seth MacFarlane show.’  Right in the bullseye.  The show tackles deep and interesting plot lines and tries to develop its characters and world in ways that are, dare I say it, TNG-esque.  It pulls you in and hits you with nostalgia that reminds you why you liked TNG.  And then it remembers that it is a Seth MacFarlane show and shoehorns an awkward fart joke into the mix and it falls over itself.  Now, I am ALL FOR a show that is literally TNG with dick and fart jokes, but c’mon guys, you gotta have better delivery than that to make this work.  I will continue to enjoy The Orville and facepalm at its horrible awkward delivery until its inevitable cancellation :(

So, anyway, we exhausted the current run of Orville episodes and found ourselves wanting more Star Trek.  Rather than binging through TNG again, which was my first inclination, we decided to check out Discovery.  It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s Star Trek, and we’re out of shit to watch.  Why not!

In case you are wondering why not, I will explain to you why not.  Full disclosure: at the time of writing, only four episodes of Star Trek Discovery have aired, and two of them are the pilot which kinda don’t even count as episodes.  I am intrigued to see where this goes and will continue to watch, but I am not optimistic.  The best case scenario would be if I can come back to this after the season is finished and lauuugghhhhh. We’ll see!

I’m also breaking rules by logging this under “movies” but since bitching about writing is my MO, you’re just going to have to deal with it. Read more of this post

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Baby Driver

I’m not really certain why I disliked this movie as much as I did.  It did do some things I liked – the integration of music into the scenes was great, and somewhat unique.  The cinematography was good.  The actual driving sequences were well shot.  Apparently they used practical effects for the driving, so that’s awesome.  The rest of it was pretty much crap.

The main character is a child prodigy with a tragic backstory who listens to music all the time and wears cool sunglasses and is just SO INEXPLICABLY GOOD at driving that he wows everyone.  For some reason, every single person in the movie has to go out of their way to be a gigantic dick to him, and then he acts all cool at them, and then they gain some grudging respect when they see how cool and good he is.  Repeatedly.  Like, that’s basically the movie because there wasn’t much else in the way of plot.  If you’re looking for a definition of Gary Stu, you probably want Cypher Raige, but this guy will demonstrate it fairly well too.

Despite being ridiculously good at driving (at the age of, what, 17?), Baby doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of common sense because he never figures out that if you switch cars, then continue driving like an asshole, the cops can figure out which car you’re in.  This seemed to really bother my husband, who finally blurted out “Has this guy never played Grand Theft Auto?”

Then Baby meets The Girl, and spends the second half of the movie pining after her.  Then he must inevitably protect her from The Bad Guys.  And then he tries to run off with her, and she’s all for it despite knowing him for like, two days, and having heard him speak like half a dozen words.  The movie would have gained a significant number of points with me if he had shown up to run away with her and she had gone “Are you fucking crazy?  I barely know you and you’re clearly a criminal!  Get out of here” and then he went to jail wondering where it all went wrong.  INSTEAD, she’s head over heels, and the entire city rallies to explain what a great guy he is despite very obviously being a criminal.  Because he’s just that god damn cool.

And then at the end, she’s like “I can’t used to your real name being Miles!”.  Is it, perhaps, MILES PROWER????  GET IT???  GET IT??? (Miles per hour, get it????)  lolololololol

I guess that was a spoiler.  Oops!  Sorry for ruining this movie for you.

I have a headache.  The writing in this movie gave it to me.

Into the Forest

(Not to be confused with “Into the Woods” which is a very different sort of movie.)

This is a movie that really makes you think.  But not in a good way…

This review is going to contain a lot of spoilers but it’s okay because if you’re watching this movie, it’s for the acting and emotional impacts. Not the plot.

I picked this one up because I was in the mood for a post-apoc tale (preferably about a virus since we’re dealing with household illnesses right now and it would be thematic) but, alas, it would appear that I have seen literally every post-apocalyptic movie ever made.  Even the bad ones.  But then “Into the Forest” scrolled past and I went “close enough.”

“Into the Forest” is a post-apocalyptic (sort of) tale about two sisters who are staying at a remote forest cabin with their father when a severe power outage strikes the world. Instead of a chilling tale of virus contagion, I got a tale of two teenage girls whining about the internet not working. Which, honestly, was still pretty entertaining, simply because it was so god damn realistic.

We really did enjoy it—for the most part—but it suffers mightily from “stupid decision syndrome”.  Not quite to the degree where you are yelling at the TV like “NO YOU IDIOT DON’T GO IN THERE YOU WILL DIE.  SEE I FUCKING TOLD YOU YOU WOULD DIE YOU FUCKING DESERVE TO DIE YOU FUCKHEAD” but more along the lines of “ALL of these problems could have been solved if you had taken a tiny little precautionary action eight months ago you dipshits >:(“.  Again: it’s pretty realistic!

Except it’s not.  Stupid character decisions aside… it suffers from a fair amount of bad writing.  More specifically, the movie really suffers from scaling issues.  Supposedly the movie is set in Canada, and the girls spend a lot of time talking about surviving the winter.  The movie spans at least 15 months of time, and not one single snowflake is to be seen, and the greenery never goes away.  Instead there are lots of idyllic berry picking scenes.  The cedars and rain suggest it was located on the west coast, where sure there’s less winter than some places in Canada, but you’d definitely have a few more hardships and a lot more issues with cold than were depicted here.  Worse, they’re living in a modern upscale cabin (with all kinds of electronic gadgets that don’t work anymore!) with a few initial shots of a tarp on the roof to establish that there is some patching that needs to be done, and it goes from that to mold infested and literal beams rotting and collapsing in less than a year.  And it didn’t even have to deal with the weight of snow at all! Apparently it was built with paper mache, which was a bad decision for the west coast of Canada. (Meanwhile, they are still driving a 1995 Jeep Cherokee which is as bombproof as ever.  Oh but for the glory days of Jeep to return…)  If the movie had scaled the timeline up a bit this could have been a bit more believable, but it’s even more annoying that the girls take the time to research topics like in-depth nutrition and “DIY abortion” but not flip a few pages over to look under “Carpentry”.  It’s not like they didn’t have enough fucking wood, and even cedar for shingles!

And then there’s the ending.  So the house rots and collapses around them and they decide “let’s waste the last of our gas to burn it down” for… reasons.  Their logic is explained in the movie but I was still kind of like “…what?”  I mean sure don’t live in the mold infested pile of rot but the gas has a lot of value and you could still store the goddamn books and supplies and shit in… nevermind.  Then they move into a hollow tree stump with a shard of plastic for a roof annnnnnd fin.
I think the intent is to suggest they go back to their ancestral roots and live happily ever after, foraging off the land and enjoying each other’s company as they live out the rest of their lives in symbiosis with nature (hence: ‘into the forest’ see?  Get it??).  In reality, there probably should be a footnote after the credits saying “And then they died.”  Because, yeah.  You don’t just burn down your shelter then wander off into the forest and live in a stump at the onset of winter.  Not even the winter that exists in this world where it just rains and then you go pick some blueberries.  I don’t care how fucking resourceful you are.  If you can’t even be bothered to patch your goddamn roof, you’re not going to make it through a winter in a stump with a newborn baby.

Bitching aside, the REST of the movie was pretty decent.  The acting was great, and the two girls really hit off each other for some high emotional notes.  There aren’t many tense moments or suspense like might expect from most post-apoc stuff, and the worldbuilding is pathetic at best (nothing is explained, and seriously, if the entire world can be fucked for over a year if not permanently by a single power grid failure then the future is pretty dumb), but the emotional moments are A+.  So it’s kind of a girly post-apoc film, I guess.  If that appeals to you, by all means check it out, as long as you are wary of stepping in pits of dumb decisions, bad worldbuilding, and lengthy interpretive dance scenes.

The 5th Wave

We watched The 5th Wave last night.  I recalled being mildly interested in it from the previews, but then when I saw the ratings it had garnered I quickly quashed any sort of optimism.  I was still curious though, and we were also mildly drunk, so it seemed like a good time to see what was up.

Rather than create a formal review of this movie, I think it will be more appropriate to transcribe the intoxicated messages I sent to my friend while watching it.  Enjoy.

[Warning: Spoilers.  But you shouldn’t care because this will be more entertaining than the movie.]

————————————-

We are watching the fifth wave which has a whopping 5.2 on IMDb.
So far not bad but she just used her cell phone and typed y o u and it autocorrected to “u”

>:( One star.

Husband asked for a space marine movie before we picked this.
Me: “They’re basically space marines but they’re children is all.”
Him: “Not very good space marines. Also they’re not in space.”
Me: “But they’re fighting aliens!”
Him: “It’s really not the same.”

Female protagonist has been helped/captured by hunky male now. She just did the lip thing that suggests she wants to fuck him. Odds of hunky male being an alien??!?

Husband and I are laying bets on his alienness now

He’s is totes an alien and she’s going to fall in love with him and be horrified by herself and then come around. Book it
(AFTERMATH SPOILERS: I was wrong.  It actually kinda happens the other way around which makes even less goddamn sense)

Husband doesn’t think he’s an alien because he hid her from alien drones. That was the whole point to make her trust him YOU FOOL

Female protagonist shows loving nurturing side while proclaiming “I’m not TOUGH, okay??!?”.  Meanwhile second female character (only other one in movie) is being super badass and beating up all the males and training them to use weapons because she’s a girl but also super badass you see

He is lovingly tending to her wounds. Boning imminent.

Oh man I didn’t even get to hit send before they started shoving tongue down each other’s throats

He’s gonna be an alien he totally is

Husband: “I’m giving this movie a lot more credit than you are. He’s not an alien. They just want you to THINK he’s an alien.”
Me: “There’s a reason this movie has such low ratings.”

“I guess you were right. He’s an alien.”

I WIN.

It was pretty obvious because this is LITERALLY Twilight with aliens now

Female protagonist: “Did you really believe that??!?”
Alien love interest: “I did. But then I saw you.”

*Hurk*

Holy shit this has lost so many stars in like the last 20 seconds

Badass girl is now saving “still badass but deliberately not as badass to still show her feminine side” girl

Yeah.  That was awful.

Nova War

Nova War (The Shoal Sequence, #2)Nova War by Gary Gibson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I wrote about my distaste for the first book in the series, which had SO MUCH potential but was completely overpowered by sloppy writing and self-indulgent gratuitous eroticism. Dakota Merrick has all the parts in play to be a strong, intriguing character with a lot of depth… but she wastes it by spending the first book fucking everyone (including her ship). Other reviews suggest the series gets stronger as it goes, so I popped open the second one to see how the writing evolves.

It opens with the same problem the first one had: huge exposition dumps from characters I haven’t really been given much of a chance to give a single shit about. The underlying plot points really have some power to them, but it feels like such a slog to care about any of the characters.

We finally get back to Dakota, who finds herself in prison. She’s naked, of course, with plenty of mentions about her breasts, and she immediately notes how her pubic hair has been shaved. This does not look like a promising indication that the writing will be any less indulgent. Sure enough, when she is finally reunited with her boy toy (who, I noted, is also naked but he’s such a flat character that he isn’t even graced with a physical description) the first thing they do is fuck. Even though she’s been starving herself and is so weak she’s barely coherent. Priorities!

Let me be clear: I’m not prudish, and I will happily read explicit content in books, as long as there is a REASON for it. There is no reason for all of the gratuitous sexuality in these books. It’s self-indulgent and distracting, and the worst part is (as I said in my review of the first book) it could fairly easily have been modulated to actually have a point. Dakota Merrick could be a really interesting female protagonist, because she’s been ostracized and traumatized and has difficulty connecting to people. Building a trust relationship with Corso could be a REALLY powerful sequence. But, instead, she prances around naked and fucks everything with a cock at every opportunity (real cocks or artificial ones, it doesn’t matter to her!). It’s pretty clearly biased, too. We become intimately familiar with Dakota’s naked body, breasts, pubic region, anus… but there is barely any time wasted describing Lucas Corso. Who wants to read about him anyway, right? It’s all about the boobies and pubic hair! And, naturally, the males she fucks think it’s the best sex they’ve ever had. Even the main enemy is like “You know what, I kind of like her, despite trying to kill her.” I wonder how long it will take before she fucks him too, despite the fact that he’s a fish in a floating bubble. (He does have tentacles that extend outside of it! Hmmmmm…)

I skimmed through roughly 30% of the book and found the characters were still acting inconsistently (one moment they’re badass, the next they’re weeping and cowering) and just gave up before getting out of the prison sequences. It’s really a shame because the plot is interesting and the action is fast paced, but the characters ruin it for me. As I said with the first book, though: give it to an editor who will slash all the bullshit out of it and an effects team who will bring the action to life and we’ll have a decent (possibly cheesy) movie that I will happily watch.

Good Graces

Good GracesGood Graces by Lesley Kagen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book left me feeling confused. It was a rollercoaster, but for the wrong reasons.

I didn’t pay too much attention to it when I started it, and I was 30% of the way into it before I discovered it was actually a sequel to a book I haven’t read. It set itself up well enough, but a lot of things were half-explained and I expected them to be important when they were actually just callbacks to the first book. No big deal, I was able to follow along easily enough.

The first 50% of the book was quite good. The narrative voice is really well done, and the time period is described very well. If you lived during this time period I could see it quickly becoming a favourite. I, however, did not live in that time period, and it started to get pretty old. It was laying on layers of nostalgia that simply didn’t resonate with me, although I appreciated the detail of it.
The next 30% or so of the book dragged on to the point where I almost quit, except that some of the reviews said the ending was really surprising, so I decided to tough it out. It was a real slog, let me tell you. I skimmed a lot and I kept seeing the same shit repeated over and over again. There were parts where the main character would experience something, and then on the literal next page she would repeat it all back to herself. It was a struggle not to just skip right to the end.
Then, in the last 20% or so, things picked up. It was almost as engaging as the first half, except that the voice had lost all of its charm and was merely becoming grating.

And then the ending happened. I don’t even know how to feel about this. I made a prediction somewhere near the beginning and I fully expected it to be how the plot would play out—the fairly obvious main villain would turn out to be a red herring and it would end in a predictable cliche fashion full of shades of grey and moral lessons. Instead, the ‘shades of grey’ prediction turned out to be the red herring, and the big bad guy was the obvious cardboard cutout evil villain the whole time, and by the way, he’s even more comically evil than you thought! I suppose that’s one way to write a twist.

But mostly, I’m confused about the ending. Spoiler time:
They murder the main villain (I suppose it’s technically homicide if they didn’t INTEND to do it but… they did set out to take him down and it just went extra sideways), destroy all the evidence and bury his body, then go to a block party where everyone is like “I wonder where he got to? Oh well”. There are no further repercussions and they sleep soundly because hey, that guy was bad, remember? He deserved it.
These protagonists are 10 year old girls. The ending had a lighthearted tone. I don’t even know. I’m all for a morally grey or even a morally reprehensible character/ending, but I feel like that wasn’t intentionally the aim here. It feels like a “yay we win!” sort of ending and it felt really out of place.

But I suppose it wasn’t entirely out of place, since Sally clearly has an abusive relationship with Troo. I found it kind of off-putting, to be honest, and if that was the intention then well done… but it doesn’t necessarily feel like that was the intention.  Compare with Cruddy, which I just finished reading (funny these two ended up back to back… must have grabbed them from the same genre bin or something).  In Cruddy everything is morally reprehensible and bleak and shitty (well, cruddy) and it’s really super obviously supposed to be that way so it makes sense and it makes a point.  In Good Graces, it’s just confusing.

The slog in the middle lost it two stars, and one more for the confusing message at the end. I don’t really know how to feel.

October 31st Movie Reviews

I didn’t want to say ‘Halloween movies’ since none of them were even remotely halloween themed aside from being some sort of attempt at scary, but it’s a halloween tradition here to plunk on the couch and watch ‘scary’ movies after dark, and we made it through three of them last night.  Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Last Shift
Rookie cop spends the night alone at an old police station guarding some evidence that still needs to be transported to the new one.

See, the description for this movie was all “She meets the KING OF HELL” and I was like “this is going to be a laugh riot of a movie”, but it ended up being the best one we watched.  It does absolutely nothing new or unique; it’s all standard haunted house tricks.  The protagonist is so god damn stupid that you spend the entire movie yelling at her not to do things (but, y’know, horror movie.)  But the movie itself sets up a good amount of tension and uses sound and visuals well to set the tone.  The King Of Hell thing is not nearly as cheesy as the stupid description might have you believe.

We Are Still Here
An older couple lose their college-age son to a car accident and buy a new house to start a new life as they pick up the pieces.  Once they move in, they start to suspect the ghost of their son is still with them.

Not bad but it suffered a bit because it came after watching the much better first movie, so it paled in comparison.  Another pretty standard haunted house story, but with a few twists to keep it interesting.  I found it a little confusing though, too.  The ghosts really needed to make up their god damn mind about who’s side they were on.

Storage 24
A plane crash nearby traps several people inside a storage facility, and soon they discover the plane was carrying some deadly alien cargo that is now stalking them.

Okay, THIS is the movie I wanted to write bitch about because I spent the whole movie sending snarky texts to my friend, and it’s absolutely not because we watched some better movies first.  Needed MUCH LESS relationship drama and MUCH MORE aliens eating people.  Could you possibly write less sympathetic protagonists?  I was rooting for the alien really early on and it just kept disappointing me.

Here’s an ending spoiler, which you can avoid if you care (you shouldn’t care.  Don’t watch this movie.):
The whiniest fucker takes on a Gary-Stu style survival skills and ends up escaping the alien on, like, three different occasions for no god damn acceptable reason (camera cut!  Oh no he must be dead boo hoo ooohhhh look he lived how could this be!  Fuck off) and then slays the alien with his bare hands and escapes with all of the females.

At this point I sent a message to my friend saying “This movie will get two stars instead of one if the alien resurrects and pops out and kills them all right fucking now and that’s how the movie ends.”  Instead of that, though, he makes some flippant remarks to show how cool he is, and then they pan out to show alien ships landing all around the city.  Which is ALMOST, but not quite, what I asked for.  Okay sure the aliens are probably going to kill everyone but you didn’t show one blowing up this whiny fucker as it buzzed past, so now we can only assume he will run out there and melee all of them to death like the whiny badass he obviously is.  *BZZZT* you fail, collect 0 stars.

So, to summarize:
Last Shift was great and I recommend it, even if the protagonist is as smart as a bag of bricks.
We Are Still Here was passable and worth a look.
Storage 24 is a horror movie for an entirely different reason and thank god Netflix subscriptions essentially mean I watched it for ‘free’.  Bitching about it was highly entertaining, at least!

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 Purge

I saw the previews for this movie and immediately scoffed at the premise.  I suppose it’s an interesting thought exercise but as a movie plot… Ennnh.

We were looking for some good Halloween type movies and it turns out we may have seen every not shitty horror movie.  While I was deliberating over whether to risk a movie where a murderous bigfoot terrorizes a town, or the ghost of a shark terrorizes some fishermen, The Purge popped up in the list of horror movies and we decided we may as well see just how bad it is.

It was surprisingly not shitty.  For most of the movie, anyway.  The premise was just as shitty as it seemed like it would be, but they got past it pretty quickly and got right down to the suspense.

The suspense part was good. I actually really enjoyed the way it was shot and the tension was palpable at several points in the movie, which is all I really ask from a horror thriller.  Well that’s not true I also ask that it not be so stupid that I can’t stop laughing the whole time, and it surprised me there too.  The preview clips made it seem like the “purgers” were trying to get into the house kind of at random, but in reality the plot had some plausible explanations for all of it.

In case you didn’t have the opportunity to laugh at the premise if this movie yet, it is set in the future when the United States of America has decided that the best way to solve its issues with violence is to give everyone a period of 12 hours once a year where they can commit any crime they want and just get it out of their system.  Hate your boss? Just wait until the purge and then murder them!  This solution is so very effective that violence no longer exists.
The main character of the movie is a guy who has become rich selling security systems to people who want to lock themselves away safely for 12 hours once a year. Because somehow there aren’t more people taking advantage of that extremely obvious cash cow.

The purge begins and this guy’s young son sees a man running down the street begging for someone to help him.  The son decides to help him, disarming the system and letting the guy into the house. The guy is not only black, but also wearing dog tags to indicate he is a veteran, just to ensure the symbolism is obvious.  They did earn a few points from me for only showing the dog tags in every scene, and not having a character blatantly and repeatedly point it out.

The people participating in the purge are not pleased with this decision and give the family an ultimatum – turn the guy over to be purged, or you die too.

This is when we learn the security systems this guy sells are a very expensive equivalent to The Club. It’s a visual deterrent where they move on to a juicier target, unless they actually want to enter the house, in which case all they need to do is spend about 5 minutes attempting to break in.  Also there is a disturbing lack of copious amounts of guns which could mow down any assholes standing on your lawn while you remain safe inside.  That probably would have been the first feature I asked for when defending against a night of free-for-all murdering, even if I planned to never use it.  They proceed to spend a large amount of time creeping around inside the house and fighting, and it was pretty good for a tense thriller type movie.

Then the ending happened and I discovered why it has such a low rating.  Why.  Ugh.  The premise is so fucking stupid, all you needed to do was spit it out as a setup and then ignore it. Noooo you had to go try to make some kind of social statement. A terrible, stupid social statement.

Sigh.

It was okay but don’t expect any thought provoking social commentary, whatever their original intentions were.

Elysium

Since it’s so new, I will endeavour to keep this spoiler free… honestly there isn’t much to spoil, but I’ll try anyway.
Sci-Fi movie!!!!  Usually we’re pretty cheap and wait for DVDs, but we loved District 9, and the previews for Elysium looked so good that we went and saw it at the theatre.  It’s not even 3D and we saw it at the theatre!

Elysium was simultaneously really good, and also disappointing. As is typical, my bitching revolves around the writing – the movie was disappointing because it could have been really good, but the writing was just sloppy enough to be distracting in how easily it could have been fixed, god damn it.  I suspect they read the screenplay and were like “Well, we have Matt Damon and Exoskeleton suits, no one will notice.”  I noticed >:(

The premise is that Earth is fucked and super populated and polluted and all those wonderful things we can see in our future right now, so all the rich people built a space station called Elysium and moved there to live in idyllic mansions surrounded by palm trees and swimming pools.

And this is where it starts to fall flat, because the worldbuilding ends there.  All it would have taken is a few more lines of dialogue to tie everything together with a throw-away explanation or two, but instead they leave ambiguous plot ends flapping around and the audience wondering “so… why is that?”.

Elysium residents have access to Med Bays which scan your body and instantly heal each and every thing wrong with it, from split ends in your hair to cancer in your blood cells (how did they design this technology and not solve any of the other problems lying around?  *shrug*).  There was a line somewhere that suggested people are living 200+ years so they also presumably extend your life and keep you young and beautiful forever.  Every single house on Elysium has one of these med bays, and it takes a whole, like, two minutes to cure every single ailment known to man.  For some reason, even though every single house has a med bay and they also have dozens of EMS ships filled with dozens of med bays which are all run by robots so there isn’t even any manpower cost in running them, Elysium refuses to let anyone on Earth use a med bay unless they are promoted to the rank of Elysium Citizen, even pushing it to the degree of needing special identification coded into your DNA before the med bay will activate.

The character development of every single person on Earth is something like this:  “I am sick and will die if I don’t go to Elysium and use a med bay – Therefore I must go to Elysium no matter what the cost.”
The character development of every single person on Elysium is split between “Ew people from Earth are gross” and “I will take over the world.”
That’s as deep as character development gets in this movie.

Unsurprisingly, desperate people are attacking Elysium all the time trying to get to a med bay, which results in things like Elysium launching missiles at them and blowing them all to shit.  Just put a fucking med bay on Earth, and the attacks stop.  WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR YOU TO FIGURE OUT??  Jesus.  There is absolutely no worldbuilding development that explains why they’re so stingy with their plentiful med bays, other than “Ew Earth people are gross” (not that you need to touch them or see them if you leave a fucking automated med bay on Earth, mind you… and in fact you would see less of them because they wouldn’t keep trying to come to your station to use your med bays), and “We need a reason for Matt Damon to go to Elysium” (undoubtedly the true reason).  It’s so sloppy that it was distracting for the entire movie.
Are they withholding med bays because………. Of limited resources? (Unlikely when there’s a million med bays lying around and people use them for face lifts… but plausible that they want to withhold those resources for their greedy facelifts?  But they don’t explain what they run on or how they work, so…)
Maybe the life extension benefits are too costly when the world is already packed? (plausible, but again, you think they could have mentioned that.  They’re already sequestered on their little space station, why do they care if the Earth stays crowded and fucked)
Because they’re huge elitist dicks? (This seems to be the only explanation, but there are so many other reasons to just throw a token med bay ship down there, like, NOT BEING ATTACKED ALL THE FUCKING TIME).
It feels like it would have worked a lot better if it were a truly alien race living up there on a spaceship with their super crazy technology we can’t understand, enslaving humans to build their robots, but hey they can cure diseases so let’s try to get to those med bays!  … but no, they’re humans, and they’re dicks with no really well explained reason for being so.  Yes, humans are dicks to lower classes of humans, that is well established.  But THE MED BAYS ARE FULLY AUTOMATED.  If only the med bays took fully trained personnel to run, oh look!  A reason to not have them on Earth!  But nooo.  No explanation provided.
I would have been happy with a bad explanation, like any exposition where they were all “Oh no don’t let them use our med bays because we are comically evil and if they use this the med bays will no longer be special and I want to feel special for having one”, but it doesn’t even give us that.

Slightly less distracting is the plot device that requires Matt Damon to use his brain as a flash drive, which makes absolutely no sense, but conveniently makes it so they can’t just solve the problem by shooting him because they need his brain data and it’s not retrievable if he dies.  (Incidentally – this is probably a good reason why a brain is not a good flash drive.  Among other things, which also happen.)

The rest of the movie is people in exosuits brutally punching each other, which was pretty cool… but it’s got some pretty terrible timing because I think everyone will find it pretty lacklustre coming on the heels of Pacific Rim.  Every fight scene I was distracted by the amount of shaky cam they used to cover up the CGI, and I kept thinking again how impressive it was that Pacific Rim didn’t do that.  If I’m thinking about other movies during your action scenes, there might be improvements to be made.

Oh and don’t forget the obligatory contribution of “We are the bad guys so we are going to threaten to rape the pretty girl” scenes.  Don’t forget those!

I’ve done a lot of bitching, so it’s important to point out that I did enjoy the movie, but almost all of the problems I’ve pointed out could be so easily solved with just a little bit of attention to detail.  It’s really kind of a shame.

Oh and then, of course, there’s the fact that everyone on Earth speaks English and Spanish, while everyone on Elysium speaks English and French.  I am deliberately not going to touch the potential allegories going on this movie (because you see, the English/French have good health care and a beautiful clean place to live above the dirty polluted English/Spanish people, so clearly it is a representation of how everyone wishes they lived in Canada.) (arguing about the allorgies is kind of the point of a movie like this I suppose, but you should probably have decent writing before moving to that stage >:( ), but I do want to mention that Jodie Foster has the most irritating accent going on in this movie… I think it was supposed to be French?  I don’t even know, it kind of faded in and out and was really weird and distracting.  Everyone’s accents were distracting. I think it was intentional to show some sort of melting pot society going on, but I can’t say for sure… and if I can’t say for sure, then something has probably gone wrong in the writing/directing department.  It was either an intentional attempt to show something that was a teeny bit too subtle for me because I was so distracted by all the rest of the sloppy writing, or it was just sloppily handled.

At this point it is probably distracting to think about how many times I have used the word distracting, so that’s probably the focal point of this review – there were too many sloppy distracting things going on, and just a little bit of polish could have really cleaned it up.

God, I hope Gravity doesn’t suck.

Pacific Rim

TL;DR: I lost count of how many times my eyes rolled, but then giant robots started punching giant monsters and it was awesome.

I’m not sure what I expected when I went into this movie.  I knew it was about giant robots fighting monsters and the fights were supposed to be awesome and didn’t rely on cheap tricks like shaky cam to obscure the action.  That’s exactly what I got!  But it was pretty obvious that 99.99% of their budget went into CGI and cinematography, and possibly 0.000000001% went into the writing. The premise alone got some huge eye rolls, before the characters even started talking!  Then, dear god, the characters started talking…

But let’s be honest here.  You did not go to this movie to see deep character development.  You went to see this movie to see giant robots punching the fuck out of some monsters with rocket fists and hokey samurai swords made out of chainsaw chains, and it totally knocks it out of the park for that!  Which is why it is somewhat unfortunate that it spends so much time on what were apparently supposed to be deep character development moments on characters that have no dimensions.  Every single character in this movie is a cliche cut from cardboard.

The middle of the movie dragged because there were no robots punching things.  Instead we spent a lot of time exploring the feelings and emotions of characters who are all Mary Sue incarnate.  Every single one of them.  Every single one of them.  I don’t know what the record is for number of Mary Sues in a single story, but man.  Everyone in this story has super special talents making them the best at everything, and a tortured past to make them sympathetic (when you’re not rolling your eyes at them, I guess).  Even the fucking robot is a Mary Sue (because it’s analog.  And can I just say: Ahahahahahahaahahahahahaha…).  Everyone is a Mary Sue except the guy who is a dick for no reason.  That guy is a dick.  Except he’s not even a good dick, because we already have a one dimensional evil enemy in the giant fucking monsters who want to take over the world.  So why have this guy being all dickish up in the face of the protagonist?  I don’t even know, because it didn’t even pay off in the end.  Instead they shoehorned in some sort of emotional father-son plot arc out of nowhere.  Make up your mind!

But then robots punched things.  And they punched the fuck out of things.  The CGI is fantastic, the 3D was pretty god damn good (although if I wanted to be all nitpicky I could point out that I was distracted by it a few times, so it was not the best 3D I have seen so far.  So there.)  The only flaw with the robots punching things aspect is that they did not punch things for long enough.  Why did we waste all this screen time on a ridiculous romance story, anyway?  Punch things, dammit!

Pacific Rim is an excellent movie for watching robots punch the everliving fuck out of things.  It is also excellent for making fun of bad writing.  So it’s kind of win/win I guess.

Also: May I point out that it was a terrible mistake to hire Ellen McLain to be GlaDOS as the background computer, and then only have her make one tiny not very insulting jab at someone.  Use your resources properly, people!

Splice

We watched this awhile ago, so my memory of details is probably fuzzy, but I remembered it recently and movies like this are exactly why I decided to start writing blog entries about shit.

Splice is a movie about scientists doing scientisty things and messing with DNA and trying to cure diseases.  Their research has led to the creation of an apparent new species of lifeform created by throwing buckets of animal DNA into a blender, so they’re starting to pick up some speed on the research front.  Then they “accidentally-on-purpose” mix a little human DNA into the recipe (something that is ethically forbidden and they know it) to try to create something that can be better used as a human analogue for testing.  What emerges is……. not human… but more animal like and difficult to control.  The first little bit of the film is spent exploring this thing, trying to gain its trust (apparently it’s a grouchy little thing), and marvelling at how it has an incredibly accelerated growth rate and is quickly growing and changing forms (thank goodness, since the movie is only 104 minutes long!).  Even though they planned to terminate it because they totally just wanted to see what happened and didn’t really plan to let this experiment run, well, whoops we’re kind of attached to it now so let’s let it keep maturing and see what happens!  What could go wrong!  The creature eventually develops into what is essentially a little human girl, except gone horribly wrong and with a tail and stuff.  The scientists then attempt to raise it like they would their child.  The lab/company is appropriately named NERD (I laughed), so they decide to name the creature “DREN” (I facepalmed).

The whole first part of the movie was actually really interesting and enjoyable.  Splice is really a shame because it was almost really good and even had some potential for exploring deep philosophical themes, if you should so desire to write it that way.  But then it was bad.  And it wasn’t just bad, it was really bad.

The movie goes through its paces and addresses a number of interesting scenarios that might arise if you happen to be dealing with a humanoid-thing-made-from-DNA-soup, including the inevitable look into a mirror where the creature realizes “hey, I don’t actually look anything like mom and dad.  What am I??” (well acted out with expressions, I might add, since the thing doesn’t have proper speech).  Sadly, it is at that point the writers either ran out of things to write about, or realized they were actually planning to make a horror movie, and everything just goes to shit.  The biggest shit the movie takes is the point where “Clive”, the male scientist, realizes the human DNA that was chucked into the soup is actually the DNA of his wife, and apparently sees some sort of resemblance to her in Dren.  His natural reaction at this point is, well, what else!  The only thing any rational person would do.  He has sex with it.

I’m pretty sure I yelled “Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME” at the TV.  But anyway, it turns out, when you have sex with a developing creature that’s trying to learn how to behave, it learns that it should rape everything!  So that was great.  Good job, Clive.

It just gets worse from there.  …No, I take that back, that’s definitely the worst part, but it doesn’t get any better from there.  The rest of the movie is your typical cheesy horror slasher movie with dumb “twists”.  Since the creatures have been created with a blend of animal DNA, it gave the writers free license to give them whatever animal abilities they wanted to swipe, at whatever time it was appropriate for the plot (and surprising to the scientists, of course, because you certainly wouldn’t have any way to control or monitor which genes your DNA soup is expressing when you’re at the point of being able to create a new species).  The initial “not made from human DNA” creatures provide the foreshadowing and then “Dren” goes through all the same paces, except much more tragically and deadly, since it is human sized and much stronger and deadlier (and also not in a safe little cage in a lab).  I don’t even remember what else happens.  It was all stupid and I was still reeling from the “It’s my wife’s DNA! I’m totally going to fuck it now” decision.

It was almost such a good movie.  I mean, not like, amazing or anything, but fully enjoyable.  And then…
My brain hurts.

Lockout

Lockout was a rare gem, in that it was a “science fiction” movie that we had not seen before.  I mean specifically my husband and I, because I’m pretty sure we’ve seen every single sci-fi movie that exists, so we jump on every sci-fi-ish movie that staggers out of the box office, even when they suck.  And boy do some most of them suck.

It’s actually kind of hard to tell that Lockout is sci-fi.  It is set in a prison colony that is orbiting the Earth.  The vast majority of the movie is spent inside the colony where absolutely nothing resembles space and everyone uses conventional tools like pipes to hit each other over the head, instead of futuristic laser guns or whatever.  You could alter a small handful of scenes and drop the sci-fi label from it entirely, so it was disappointing in that aspect.

The plot was so thin that I’m not entirely certain I can explain it to you other than “they go to a prison in space and blow shit up”.  That’s just about all you need to know to understand this movie.  It opens with a thing happening and a guy trying to clear his name but the guy who can clear his name is in the prison colony, and meanwhile a completely separate event happens where the president’s daughter goes to the prison colony and proceeds to not make a single good decision for the entire movie, resulting in every single prisoner getting out of stasis and wanting to rape her.  Naturally the president wants his daughter back and who cares about the other hostages, but hey if we storm in there they will almost certainly rape and then kill her, so we better do this covertly by using the guy who has an ulterior motive for wanting to go to the prison colony!  Also this guy is amazing at every single thing he does, is the only character in the entire movie who does anything correctly, and he may as well be superman because he is a pretty terribly written “Gary Stu” style character.

My god, the writing for that character.  The entire movie he attempts to be funny. Every single line – EVERY SINGLE LINE that this guy says is an attempt at a witty one-liner.  Some of them are amusing; I chuckled a lot in the beginning.  It very quickly became obvious that the writers were trying way way too hard.  They tried so hard that they began throwing in self-referential jokes where the other characters start making fun of his one-liners.  When you are writing characters that are making fun of you for writing badly, you should probably step back and reconsider whether you can write less badly instead.

They blow shit up.  Much shit blows up.  If you want exploding shit you will probably enjoy this movie.  I didn’t dislike it enough to give it an “I don’t like it” tag, but the bad writing was just too much for me to give it a like tag.  One thing I noticed while shit was exploding, though… a lot of the action scenes are artificially sped up and intentionally jerky to obscure what’s going on.  The speediness annoyed me and added to the whole “wow look at how fast this guy moves he’s so amazing” bullshit that I was already annoyed with, but then the arbitrary dropping of frames to hide actions just made me suspicious that a lot of corners might have been cut.  The exploding shit is all this movie has going for it, so it didn’t bode well.

I already mentioned the bad decisions on the part of the characters, but seriously.  Does she do anything right?  I think it was intended that we see her as some sort of badass independent-minded and intelligent chick who can take care of herself in the end, but, no.  You got off the fucking escape pod, meaning you completely wasted the fucking escape pod (not to mention all the time it took to escort your ass TO the escape pod) and now no one gets to use it, and all you accomplished by doing that is getting every single other hostage killed and also you got in the way of mister Gary Stu here who clearly does not need any help because he is perfect.  That was probably some kind of spoiler but it’s okay because you’re only watching this for the exploding shit anyway.

So there is your checklist:  Exploding shit – check.  Terribly written characters that will make you want to vomit or stab your eye out in frustration – check.  Snappy one liners that will probably amuse you (especially while drunk!) but get kind of wearisome by the end – check.  Sci-fi… uhh kinda not really but if you close your eyes you can pretend it’s sci-fi.  If the list corresponds to your “things I like in movies”, you should check out Lockout.

D.O. Ale Classic brown Ale

This is a brown ale from “Old Yale Brewing” from Chilliwack.  It was on the rack of 650ml bottles that changes every couple of weeks, and they’re usually interesting to try.  I also like brown ale!  It seemed like a safe bet.

Unfortunately for this ale, all I can taste is hops.  Not the nasty bitter “ear wax” flavoured hops; it’s the flowery kind of hops.  I don’t often come across this flowery flavour (probably because I avoid hops-y beer) but I vividly remember someone taking a sip of beer at a beer tasting party and saying “UGH it tastes like potpourri!” and everyone kind of recoiled in horror, then tasted it and went “huh… yeah, you’re right!”  I usually only taste this in really high alcohol content beer, because it easily hides the extreme boozy taste, but this stuff is only 5%.  It’s ALMOST good.  The texture is super creamy and there’s a wonderful nutty flavour buried in there, but then WHAM.  Flowery hops.  And they don’t meld at all with the nutty flavours, as far as I’m concerned.  Ugh. Unfortunate.

Found Footage (Comparison)

I keep tripping over these things for some reason so I thought it might be fun to do a bit of a compare/contrast on some of the “found footage” style movies we’ve watched recently.

You’re probably aware of this, but “found footage” refers to a movie which is shot as though it was discovered on someone’s hand-held camera and then adapted for a wider audience.  It’s largely reviled as “shaky cam” because, as anyone who watches youtube videos knows, the average person with a hand-held camera absolutely sucks at keeping things in frame.  It’s a double edged sword because if you make it too shaky, people get nauseous or can’t tell what’s going on and it’s stupid.  If you make it too steady it’s pretty obvious it’s actually a movie camera mounted on special equipment, handled by professionals, which ruins the whole atmosphere of “oh shit they found this footage and the people in it are missing and no one knows what will happen!” which is kind of the point of it.  It’s usually resigned to cheap horror movies because of the premise and the ability to use the shakiness to obscure the scariest bits to good effect (assuming they use it to good effect, and not just “annoying as shit” effect, that is).

I was going to start with the worst movie first, but then I realized I couldn’t decide which one was the worst.  Conundrum.  Read more of this post

Wizardry Online

This review might be a bit premature, but I have a feeling it’s only going to get worse, so maybe now is a good time.

Wizardry Online!  Where did this come from??  I had heard absolutely nothing about this game until it actually came out.  I used to play the shit out of the old Wizardry series, along with Might and Magic.  Of course, the last Wizardry game I remember clearly was Wizardry 8, and since then it has apparently become an anime series full of elves with big boobs.  Unfortunate.

My husband and I spent a lot of time in Dungeons and Dragons Online, going back several times and usually subscribing for several months each time.  In fact, if it weren’t free to play, we probably wouldn’t get sucked back in so easily. The model works, as long as you’re not a greedy shithead with your pricing schemes and restriction of free accounts!
Wizardry is also free to play, and it seemed to have the kind of gameplay we like.  Co-op dungeon diving (that can be done with 2 people, but allows for more), hacking and slashing monsters in sewers, solving “puzzles” to advance through the dungeon, traps, treasure… the promise of multiclassing and other forms of advanced character building… hell we played the shit out of a game called Dungeon Lords which was about as polished as a fresh lump of clay, and we enjoyed that immensely because we were muddling through together, so Wizardry intrigued us.

Read 3500 words worth of bitching!

Uncharted Waters Online

I have a dream.  A dream of a trading-based MMO that doesn’t suck.  I mean, it’s hard enough to get a crafting system that is both meaningful and doesn’t suck, much less a decent economy that allows for players to build their own trade empires. I need a Harvest Moon MMO.  You hear me, Nintendo?  I want to grow crops and sell them at the market and upgrade my fucking barn with the profit I make from undercutting everyone else’s turnips.  And no, not Farmville.

When I went on a hunt for a trading based MMO, the majority of hits on Google were people suggesting playing the Auction House in World of Warcraft.  /facepalm.  The rest of the suggestions that sounded decent were in games that required combat, so really it wasn’t a trading based MMO, it was a combat based MMO with some decent trading (like Pirates of the Burning Sea, with an interesting looking crafting and trade system that is completely overshadowed by the conflict involved in transporting your goods, since the game focuses on sea combat and uses the trading as a means to force you into combat situations.  Ugh).  And then of course there is EVE, but I would also like to be able to jump in and have a hope in hell of getting anywhere without years of investment first, not to mention the sheer griefing potential that I would like to avoid…
So yeah.  Basically, my ideal game does not exist.

But then one of the suggestions I stumbled across was Uncharted Waters Online.  I had never heard of it, so I took a peek.  Apparently it was a moderately successful MMO overseas, and it was just recently bumped over to North America.  So the graphics are dated (originally designed for consoles, I think, so designed for weak hardware too) and some of the translations are a bit wonky.  All in all it didn’t get a whole lot of attention but it was staying afloat, somehow.  It was also free!

I decided to check it out.

Could it be? Have I found the MMO of my dreams?