Sunday, November 23, 2014

X Men: The Last Stand


So I just watched this again since my friend rented it for no readily apparent reason. Like many others I saw this and was immediately disappointed after the first go-around; however 8 years later with a less scornful eye I somehow managed to find enjoyment out of the film. Many will remember the infamous “I’m the Juggernaut, Bitch” scene as the one highlight of the movie, and it still is; however the rest of the movie sort of follows that accord. This movie just doesn’t give a single fuck, much like a Roland Emmerich disaster movie.

Major characters get killed off randomly, hundreds of civilians get murdered; and in general it’s just a ludicrous action movie. The movie’s not horrifically awful like Batman and Robin or anything though, it really has some interesting scenes and is toying with themes far above it that could have worked in a better film. The CGI holds up pretty well so provided you’re up for a silly big budget action film I would recommend it.

Perhaps the film’s most egregious error is not allowing Wolverine to say “Bub,” because as Steve Blum fans know Bub is the height of all Wolverine discourse. However in the absence of Bub we get the disposal of asshole Cyclops, terribly acted Mystique, and Jean Luc Picard who’s obviously too good for this movie (Gandalf was not so fortunate). There’s a certain charm about the absurdity of the film reminiscent of Independence Day, while it doesn’t hold up quite so well as that masterpiece it doesn’t deserve the amount of disdain that it still has to this day.


Far from a formulaic Super Hero movie, this film strives to have as many explosions and B romance plots as possible. Ellen Page, the matriarch of female video game characters, is even in this film at the ripe old age of 19. Vinnie Jones plays Juggernaut flawlessly, and pretty much everyone else sucks to one degree or another; but for some reason it kind of works anyway. It’s not quite as baffling how this got through production, this has all the charm of a 90’s action movie minus Bill Paxton. Keeping in mind how horrible most Super Hero movies were in that decade this one towers over them as the true ascendant heir to the 90’s.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Interstellar


Interstellar is not a perfect film despite the Nolan touch being present; but it is damn good. The audio and visual experience is absolutely top notch and much better than anything else in that regard. I’d put the soundtrack up there with Road to Perdition as one of the finest scores of all time, just amazing stuff. Plotwise we’re in semi-near future Earth in a more realistic than usual but not entirely realistic doomsday scenario where we need to evacuate the planet within a century or so. So Matthew McConaughey is tasked with saving the world, after a very good exposition and introductory sequence.

I don’t wish to spoil too much of the film but the overall premise is McConaughey promises his daughter that he will return from an impossible journey through a wormhole. A dubious promise to be sure, but this being a movie you should have an idea of how that works out; since it’s Nolan there’s some let’s call it “interesting” stuff that happens along the way. I could read this film pretty well, at some point I've just seen too many movies and have a rough understanding of what has to occur; but it still had some surprises in there.

There are some amazing emotional moments in this movie and it makes no sense how they work so damn well with so little. And then there’s some bits that aren’t quite as great. However, this isn’t a movie where you wonder “what could have been” because it’s still pretty damn good anyway. Sure, sure it’s probably not as good as Inception but it’s also more philosophically interesting than Inception and maybe less of a technical showpiece. The film is definitely superior to The Dark Knight Rises, though the technical achievement here is primarily a digital one whereas in the Batman films the most impressive shots were practical (how do you film 200 police cars in unison converging on a tank in a major city? That’s a 20 million dollar 15 second shot.).

My Dad’s reaction was to compare it directly to 2001 and I have to say it compares quite favorably. Whereas 2001 kind of goes off the deep end eventually this one stays in the realm of possibility maybe? I mean based on what we know maybe not but who the hell actually knows. Robots are scumbags in 2001 and in this they’re the best (goofy looking) fucking character; I’d have a beer with that robot level of comradery. On that note: Fuck Matt Damon, what the fuck are you doing in my movie you fucking asshole; get the fuck out.


This is a really interesting, compelling movie and I’ll probably have to see it a few more times to get an overall read on it. There’s obviously the one negative sequence everyone’s going to point to but it’s not different than Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight (which is still by miles and miles the best movie in its genre). It’s not strictly predictable but it has simple, effective foreshadowing that leads to the eventual conclusion. As to what happens in between; well that’s up for debate, you can try to figure it out I guess, it’s not complicated it’s just hard to say whether it is plausible enough, for some it will be and for some it won’t. Is it better than Edge of Tomorrow? Well, Edge of Tomorrow is not going to get Oscar consideration so I’m inclined to favor it and I imagine over the course of time I’ll probably watch Edge 20-30 times and I might only watch Interstellar like 6 or 7; but Interstellar might be slightly better just for the audio/visual combination. Fuck Matt Damon.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

What is Power?


So I recently saw both Sin City and it's new sequel, and the esteemed Powers Boothe is excellent in both films (though only briefly in the first). His most wondrous line was "Power is is Power does." Because who knows more about Power than a man named Powers? Well, as much as Powers Boothe knows to most of us power is a nebulous thing. However the easiest way to describe it is one's ability to influence another human being, whether voluntary or involuntary. Power translates fairly evenly to natural resources, military strength, the sheer number of humans under one's control, and one's skill at manipulation through fear, deception, and even positive reinforcement.

Power does not however, automatically translate to money itself. Sure money can theoretically equal power but money itself is a nebulous, flowing thing that doesn't actually signify something in and of itself; it is a simple stand-in for a barter system. A marker as it were. To have enough money to achieve something appreciable as an individual (i.e. be the sole financier of a major military conflict or revolution) is functionally impossible; as that figure is in the trillions of dollars; thus these vast fortunes that people accumulate are functionally more or less useless. You can have billions of dollars, sure, but you can't actually effect change with that sum due simply to the sheer preponderance of wealth in the world (JD Rockefeller may have had some capacity in his era, however) and the logistics of controlling millions and, indeed, billions of people.

Thus wealth itself is largely meaningless beyond a certain point, the most expensive sum of things an individual can buy that is actually useful is maybe ~$30 million, anything beyond that does nothing beyond slightly influence election campaigns (for which there are major restrictions) or give to a charity and help a few people in the short term. So, if it isn't wealth you should strive for in the pursuit of power, what is there to pursue? Well in America it's very difficult to say, much of the elements that would make one powerful are simultaneously divided and institutionalized in such a way as to benefit those that already have power (which is the nature of humanity); in broad terms to pursue power you need to be able to influence people rapidly and effectively.

For one: Have a message, it doesn't necessarily matter what that message is as long as you're able to make it resonate with others through speaking, motioning, or demonstrating en masse (not in small numbers mind, in vast and broad numbers sweeping across the entire society). Power can be created with eloquence, however more often the best messages are simple and easy to understand; these messages largely focus on single human emotions, anger, hate, fear, love, and reconciliation being amongst them. Anger is most common and generally the easiest to utilize.

What makes a seemingly small and archaic organization such as ISIS powerful? Well they seem to be competently organized for one; structured effectively with a zealous devotion to their cause; however that zealousness is organic rather than a symptom of the systemic design. You can not create that kind of passion in people through training, you have to produce it from some other means; generally with some kind of emotional resonance. Thus Iraq's military fails even with a vast superiority in numbers and materials; the smaller, more aggressive force is functionally more useful than this country-wide organization. Obviously a larger force from the US or Canada (wouldn't that be something?) or whomever could easily repel and hold basically all of the territory ISIS has, naturally they wouldn't be able to eliminate them due to the nature of Guerilla warfare and invading an opponent's homeland; but that sort of feverish devotion to a cause is one of the symptoms of power.

Power is situational, fleeting even; it doesn't hold in one place for long. Some men have borne the mantle for their entire lives, but once they die the message rarely gets passed on effectively to the proceeding generations. To make an organization sustain extraordinarily levels of influence for more than 20 years is an extremely difficult task, but it is one that can happen through communication and faith in the particular cause. While some small handful of men have had the term "powerful" applied to them in a non-erroneous fashion, we need some way to translate this down to a lower level so that the followers of such men can still maintain that power in their passing. So what is ultimately the answer here? Who really wields that kind of power? Why, God of course! Religions are the only organizations in human history that sustain power throughout time; and the reason is simple, there is a Nietszche-identified trait in humans to pursue some sort of belief about the end of their existence; it is universal, even in those that deny it. Powerful groups must embrace some sort of over arching faith or belief in a cause beyond themselves and all such causes are founded not on logic or reasoning but in simple emotional resonance.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Would it Take for Me to Buy a Wii U?


In the long long ago of 2007, a time amidst shitty new consoles there was one smart buy left for me. And so was the Gamecube purchased, alongside its finest efforts, some excellent games overall and 2 of the best games ever made. While it's no Vagrant Story on a whim or Valkyrie Profile 2 and Final Fantasy XII on the same day this was perhaps my third best video game related purchase of all time. So what would it take for the Wii U to accomplish such a feat? Let's look back and see what made the first purchase good in these considerations.

1. Resident E-vil 4

Once upon a time I was dumb and I liked Resident Evil 2, what can you do. It's still an "okay" game in retrospect but man those controls were atrocious. Really the main redeeming thing about the series is the comedy from the awful story; so what better way to capitalize on that than to make one of the most fun games period and basically treat it like a B movie. RE4 is an awesome, awesome game and one of the few "infinite replay value" games in existence; the game just never stops being fun. So what could come out on the Wii U to be as good as this? Probably nothing realistically, but hey get some solid third party support from struggling companies and maybe you'll find something similar.

2. Metroid Prime

Ah Metroid Prime, what a gorgeous, wonderful game. Likely the best presentation ever alongside fun, almost totally unique combat systems and a genuinely interesting, if entirely predictable, storyline. People say Mass Effect was a good series and Metroid Prime just totally annihilates it, as far as Sci Fi series go this is the pristine peak. Super Metroid is a little better, sure, but that doesn't stop Metroid Prime from also being in the top 5 games ever. So yeah, don't make a shitty fucking Metroid game and there you go Nintendo.

Retro is making good/excellent DKC games but while DKC is a fine series it's still not even close to Metroid, likely the best franchise in existence. You don't have to make a game as good as Prime or Super to have an extremely good game in this day and age; just make something that's pretty good relative to those and you're probably set. It could be an old school platformer, a first person shooter, or hell even an FTL with Velocity-esque platforming sections. Just get us out there murdering those poor, defenseless space pirates one way or another.

Metroid Prime 2 is also quite a good game and supplements the main issue I have with the first in that there's a ton of boss fights and the vast majority of them are quite good. Obviously the last last boss (the first last boss was awesome) is not great but aside from that the game was superb; even with the ubiquitous light/dark mechanics of the time.

3. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Paper Mario has always been awesome, in concept and execution; and this game is no exception. With each dungeon you have a completely different exploration mechanic and the combat is easy to get into but somewhat difficult to master, with an extremely addictive leveling system. It's a good traditional RPG and those are precious few these days. What I want on the Wii U is mainly just a shitload of Xenoblade type games; one of those you can get out of the way quite easily by simply rereleasing Xenoblade on it and after that just make 2-3 more over the course of the system's lifetime. Square has some of the best talent out there as well so why not get them to make a non Final Fantasy game again, because basically all of those are amazing, including but not limited to: Vagrant Story, Chrono Trigger, Valkyrie Profile 2, Dragon Quest VIII, and Chrono Cross. Look, Final Fantasy is good and all but what really made Square impressive was the B team stuff that often exceeded the main product.


4. The Price

50 bucks, that's how much the Gamecube was in 2007. Now you can get one for like 35. Every so often there's a forum thread about whether they should buy Metroid Prime; and the answer will always be: it's cheaper to buy Metroid Prime and a Gamecube than it is to buy a new console game. Maybe 50 bucks is a pipedream in the immediate future (though likely not at the end of this console cycle); but just have a really nice Black Friday sale and maybe I'll even get one before the end. Right now the Wii U has a lot more good games on it than the other new consoles, but that will ultimately change at least in terms of volume (though perhaps not by that much at this rate); but it just doesn't feel like an upgrade over older systems. However I have more faith that Nintendo will put out an RE4/Metroid Prime caliber game (of which the last console generation was sorely absent, apologies to Dark Souls II and the Last of Us which barely miss the cut) than the other companies so I wouldn't be too displeased in buying one early. So, what price? I'm going to say 150 bucks, but I might spontaneously have a PS4 from an oft trucking brother of mine for at least a few months and that would drive the acceptable price range up to 200 bucks.


5. Uh... Zelda?

Full disclosure: while I own both Windwaker and Twilight Princess I've never actually beaten either of them. The reason is simple: A Link to the Past is better at doing the same exact thing. But random spatterings of Zelda in games such as Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2 will have to suffice. Really I just want a lot of good third party games, I mean if Zelda or Mario were miraculously amazing then sure I'd go for those but chances are they'll just be the same as always (3D World giving a somewhat different spin). What I ultimately want from a console is 10 great games, doesn't matter what genre they are though in the case of racing or rhythm games they'd have to be particularly good.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lucy



Lucy is a very bizarre, entertaining film. It plays at much grander ideas and even presents a few interesting ones that have little, if nothing at all, to do with the actual plot. This isn't a movie like Prometheus where you can philosophically deconstruct the whole thing successfully and get a semi-interesting result; no no no. This movie is quite dumb, but I mean if you go in expecting that you'll probably enjoy yourself. It uses the very tired premise that "We only use 10% of our brains, what would happen if we could use more."

Unlike the competent Bradley Cooper film Limitless this movie just goes completely nuts with the idea right off the bat. And you know what, something about that is pretty charming and amusing, especially considering it is a Luc Besson film. Besson directed the outstanding Professional as well as the first Taken, but he's also done a lot of simply mediocre films along the way. However he does know how to construct an action sequence, even if said action sequence ultimately has no impact on the proceedings.

Scarlett Johansson plays an ostensibly stupid person (who seems to just be average at the start, not remarkably stupid as the film wants you to believe) who is lured in by an extremely well acted bit part guy with a cowboy hat to carry a case into an office building. Said case contains the plot macguffin drug that turns you into God if you take enough of it as it were; the drug lord is Choi Min-Sik from Oldboy, an amazing actor. After being surgically implanted with a fairly large packet of the drug (hereafter referred to as "blue shit") She has a series of epiphanies over the course of the film and turns into an emotionless robot immediately (there's no progression here, it's just overly emotional nervous wreck straight to killing machine superhero thing). She essentially becomes every X Men as well as Wikipedia in human form.

So if that sounds interesting to you go see the film, don't really need to read the rest of this. I think the dumber you are the more appealing this film will be, which isn't to say the film is bad on any level it's simply a bizarre curiosity and it isn't a fucking incredible bizarre curiosity like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. One early scene has stock footage of a cheetah catching its prey whilst Lucy is lured into the trap, reminiscent of the much more effective scene in Snatch which actually showed already presented and actively shot elements in the film. I mean the whole movie has Morgan Freeman narrating a bunch of purely hypothetical shit, but because it's Morgan Freeman it somehow kind of works, because Morgan Freeman could narrate the worst piece of literature in the world and it would still be interesting.

Okay, down to the Philosophical point I mentioned earlier. Basically at the end of the movie Scarlett Johansson turns into God, literally (and a 2 dimensional USB drive I guess); which obviously makes precisely no sense whatsoever. However it does bring up the interesting point that God is transient, timeless and the point of his inception is largely irrelevant and meaningless because we couldn't possibly fathom how or when it occurred. That's a good, interesting idea that deserves a better film to have a wrap-around for it, though it is probably too theoretical to use in a formulaic argument and would have to be presented at the point of impasse. The other major point the film makes is that everything humans have created is inherently flawed, obviously true but it even broaches the ultimate sacred cow of Mathematics; naturally the film does this poorly but it is probably true that our perception of Math is not some universal amazing language and that Mathematics is no more an objective science than any other human endeavour. Another interesting point that you could probably make a good movie about, this just isn't it. Meanwhile, a guy with a rocket launcher does an action slide and blows up a door to the white void from the Matrix. Yep.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy



Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. Yes it’s even better than Return of the Jedi as well as the two JJ Abrams Star Wars masquerading as Star Trek movies, not to mention Revenge of the Sith (a perfectly competent action film, for what its worth). Sure, sure a lot of films pay homage/rip off Star Wars (or Independence Day, more on that later) but this movie just is Star Wars. We’ve got your Luke Skywalker (Starlord), your Leia (green lady), your Han “Rocket Raccoon” Solo, your Chewie (I am Groot), your crazy guy who doesn’t fit this analogy at all. The Emperor makes a cameo before he’s due to return in 2 Avengers 2 Furious and Samurai Darth Vader is your big baddy; who sort of casually does a little to create an aura of intimidation.

I highly doubt the new Star Wars movie will surpass this one for overall quality, given that they have to have dozens of cameos and it’s the good but never great Abrams directing. This film is funny, well paced, and has an extremely diverse set of action sequences featuring all sorts of different, beautiful environments. There’s Mos Eisley, a Super Star Destroyer, the Millennium Falcon, Coruscant, and a prison sequence which very loosely fits the Star Wars theme. It’s not quite as funny as Iron Man 3, that glorious comedy of comedies; but it’s certainly much better as a super hero/sci fi movie and surpasses all other films except the magnificent Edge of Tomorrow thus far this year.

While the comedy in this is good it sort of just has the first Pirates film appeal, which is perfectly fine and popcorn worthy but not extremely dark like Edge of Tomorrow’s infinite death sequences.  There’s some odd “maturity” as it were to Edge of Tomorrow that this film doesn’t have and doesn’t need; but that’s still enough to propel the other forward, alongside some phenomenal thoughtfulness in the other film which is sort of lacking here, though not entirely. Space Racism is handled in a reasonably un PC fashion in the film which is rather amusing. Note: if you’re really into space racism you should definitely check out Defiance, a fabulous show.


Wait, wait one second, you thought cities were safe, you thought one summer action film wouldn’t mercilessly destroy millions of innocent civilians abodes? You thought wrong! Bahahahaha, that’s right, Independence Day reigns supreme once again as yet another city falls to the might of American Cinema, joining the aforementioned Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla (which does get a pass), X Men, Captain America, Transformers, and undoubtedly every other major action film since the dawn of 2010. While previous years may have tried it looks like 2014 is going to be a strong contender for the most mass city destruction of all time. ALL TIME! Okay, old joke but it fits the humor chain of more or less every joke in the awesome film.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Geniuses are a Minority



This is something I've been thinking about for some time and randomly whilst posting on a forum (the highest of pursuits) it sort of just came together in the following paragraph:

"If you're just absurdly smart then that's not anything that can be solved except by miraculously finding a peer somewhere (I've never found one). There's a sort of layer of perception that essentially everyone else won't get when you're talking. This isn't some flaw in your reasoning skills its just your mind skipping steps as if every social interaction was just another mathematical equation to be simplified. The same way you might skip a step in a basic math problem you skip any superfluous step in a conversation. In debate this can be sort of harnessed if you make a hard enough hitting point, but in a conversation where emotions are involved your mind will naturally think of the conclusion of the relationship not the actual relationship itself. The film A Beautiful Mind is probably the best demonstration I've seen of this phenomena, though that considered an extremely successful person. If you made such a film about just any one of the hundreds of random geniuses that wind up doing absolutely nothing (because there is precisely no advantage to being one in American society) its hard to imagine how it would function."

So dissecting this: obviously technically geniuses are a minority by necessity. But what I actually mean is that you are a separate entity from the rest of society; an outside, external group of others. You don't have any visible indications of your intellect so people will treat you as they might treat someone else, at first, but as they get to know you or some nebulous fraction of you you gradually become either an object of awe or one of disdain, but never an object of acceptance. Since there's no way to easily identify other geniuses you have no method of grouping together, no inherent "genius" subculture as it were; sure vaguely smart people will cling together and develop nerd culture and all that nonsense but the actually smart people will be busy thinking about how to innovate in whatever field they're interested in or how to best manipulate everyone in a certain circle as a method of social experimentation or what have you. If you have absolutely no interest in basic social interactions you can't group together, you can't "defend" yourself from marginalization; but surely you will still be marginalized.

Personally I have demolished extremely difficult tests in the past that are supposedly extant for the purpose of advancing an exceptionally talented individual forward in society; however even having done that there wasn't actually any fundamental value to doing so (oh, your parents weren't in the military?); and indeed most supposed aptitude tests just wind up being tests on how well you studied for the test instead of actually being a measurement of aptitude. In effect the vast majority of extremely smart people will be totally ignored by society, they are a mythological being; you can't even claim to be a genius without someone shouting how arrogant you are. Really you just want some sort of positive identification that is meaningful and not a purely surface level thing such as skin color, but you will never have it; you will live inside yourself with no contacts that can actually understand what you're saying.

Hell, even saying something as simple as "language is too flawed to communicate my argument," in certain circumstances an objective fact, will lead to wild misinterpretations on the part of the observer. Personally I exceed at both written and verbal debate, but the fact that my mind skips obvious (to me) steps means I'll never get as good of a grade on a paper as some apparently average person whose mind works a bit slower but more traditionally would. You can't communicate, you can't integrate, you can't do anything except wax poetically occasionally. This is how it feels, this is reality for the most perceptive; sure I can completely annihilate people at whatever random game I want to play without actually putting effort forth, sure I can crush them in debate, sure I can make them laugh because humor is empirical, but I'll never be able to understand them and they'll never be able to understand me.

That as it were is the essence of being a minority; if I was somehow not a WASP maybe I'd be able to build some connection to another group of people on the basis of being an equally marginalized participant, but no I am a WASP; I am a member of the dominant group. Hell, I'm even extremely handsome, tall, and have a deep voice, and all of that is completely meaningless and useless to me because I just don't care about social interaction and will never be able to. Were it not for my unerring faith in God I would be quite self destructive I imagine, but I do have faith, I do believe I have a purpose, some mysterious reason for existence (even if that reason is to be God's thought experiment a la Job). Hell I even think I know what that purpose is and maybe it's theoretically possible, and even a hint of a chance at possible supremacy is enough for me to continue.

"All men are equal under the sun but for the unique gifts God has granted them." ~ Napoleon Bonaparte