Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I really hope Avengers: Infinity War does not suck.

The initial buzz for people who have seen Avengers: Infinity War is good, and this makes me happy because I've been arguing back and forth with my friend, Brad Habegger, because he says the Avengers movies have been terrible thus far, and he is not excited in the least to see Infinity War (we are going on Thursday night). So, in a way, this needs to be good or I lose all nerd cred for hyping these things up.

Personally, I enjoyed the first outing of the Avengers. It was good campy fun with Loki stirring the pot in a way that I had not expected. But the follow-up, called Avengers: Age of Ultron, left a lot of people kind of saying that it was a hot mess. I (personally) liked it a lot. Maybe my love for it was improved because I bought the 3D version of it on Blu-ray and was kind of blown away by it (I own a 3D television set). Anyway, with so much apparently going on in the Avengers: Infinity War movie (and with such an enormous cast), it seems like it could very easily go south the same as "We Are the World" is not actually a great song. Sorry if that criticism stings if you are a Lionel Ritchie fan, but "We Are the World" (both versions) have too many vocalists all singing one partial sentence that it is just not pleasing to listen to (the point of the song was to raise money for good causes which I totally agree with).

Anyway, people are saying in droves that Avengers: Infinity War was epic and satisfying and with many of those spine-tingling moments that we expect from big stories. People also say that it has a fantastic ending, and that Thanos is a good but sad villain. This pretty much rings true in the comic books too. I guess, because I'm a fan of these movies and these stories, that I hope that people don't go and see it because they feel that they HAVE TO SEE IT. On a movie/story of this scale, rattling the very pillars of what we consider pop culture, or downright shaking them down, it may be irksome to many that peer pressure will be relentless to go and watch it. I hope that this doesn't happen and that people will just go because they want to see how the story unfolds.

I also can't wait to see if I'm right about the location of the soulstone being in Wakanda. I have a friend coming from out of town just to watch this movie with me, and he's convinced that it isn't in Wakanda but in the possession of Adam Warlock (whom we saw hinted at briefly in Guardians of the Galaxy 2). I don't think so. I think it has to be in Wakanda. But I've been wrong before. I also can't wait to see if my "meta" thinking regarding the movie and the fact that the contracts are up for both Chris Helmsworth and Chris Evans and for Robert Downey Junior as well. Basically, I'm betting that all three of these characters are killed by Thanos, thereby thinning out the herd a bit and allowing Thanos to establish himself (pretty quickly) that he's the uber threat that he's meant to be. My friend from out of town doesn't think that Disney would kill these characters off because they are too popular. Well one of us is right, and we only have a day or so to wait to find out.

If you are someone that has been looking forward to this movie, I hope you have your tickets already. I'm hearing that they are either selling out or sold out through most of the country at this point. On Friday, I'll tell you all about it.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The internet is our id.

I was having a conversation the other day with a co-worker, and it was about the new Lost in Space series on Netflix and how I had hoped that they would explore ties to Forbidden Planet, which is a 1950's science fiction show that I find incredibly interesting. My co-worker had no idea what I was talking about, and so I explained the plot of Forbidden Planet and how the ancient race of Krell beings with their fantastic technology were all killed off in a single night by "monsters from the id." This is a direct allusion to Sigmund Freud, who postulated that within all of us, there is the mindless primitive. The creators of Forbidden Planet extended this "mindless primitive" to the Krell race, and essentially said that no matter how far advanced they had become, each one had a mindless primitive within themselves capable of terrible and primal emotions like greed, jealousy, and anger.

Well, my co-worker was impressed by the plot of this old movie, and then he asked me if I had seen Ex Machina. I had (of course) and he was like, "The movie that you were just telling me about reminds me a lot of that...the whole 'artificial intelligence' thing and how our society is evolving and moving toward artificial intelligence because we think it will help us when in fact it will probably destroy us." This was an interesting topic, so I said, "go on" and he did.

He asked me if I had heard of an experiment where some technology company unleashed a primitive artificial intelligence to teach itself from nothing but social media. I told him that I hadn't. So he explained, "I read this in Wired or some other similar blog so I'm not making this up. But anyway, these guys inserted this artificial intelligence into a social media experiment like Facebook, and they asked it to learn everything it could. Within an hour it became a race-baiting, swearing, hate-filled nazi, and they were shocked by this and took it down. They installed some filters to see if they could prevent this from happening and then unleashed the artificial intelligence again into the social media universe. This time, it only took ten hours but the same result came to fruition...the thing became a race-baiting hate-filled bigot." Then my friend paused and he said, "The internet is our id. Plain and simple. It's like that movie, only the mindless primitive is the internet now and whenever any of us use it, we are swimming in the id of all humanity."

Honestly, I was kind of blown away by this realization, and I think he's right. So there you go...the internet is our id. What do you guys think? True or False? I hope to read some comments on this.

Friday, April 20, 2018

If there was a version of heaven that was the Legends of Tomorrow universe I'd name it Nerd Valhalla.

Legends of Tomorrow recently had its season finale, and I loved it sooo much because it had the most epic battle of all time ever. The chemistry between the cast has really grown since season one, and Sara Lance in the role of captain of The Wave Rider is everything that I could hope for in an inspiring leader. Additionally, Mick might be my favorite character, and I honestly used to hate him. But he has the greatest lines now, and he delivers them with on-the-spot comic timing. These are my personal favorite highlights from this spectacular season finale (there are spoilers in this post):

When combining powers of the totems, Mick repeatedly asks, "Are we making a baby?" and everyone ignores him. This made it all the funnier when that thing came out of the light, and his immediate response was to kill it with fire. That was just awesome, because it was obviously a "John Carpenter-esque" THE THING style abomination.
"Beebo Hungryyyy. I La-La-Love You!" Yes, Cuddle Me Beebo (whom we saw near the beginning of this season being worshiped as a god) finally defeats Malice, the huge D&D demon-thing (note that everyone has been mispronouncing this demon's name as "Mollus" and who Mick has been calling "Phallus). Also note that it is Malice that corrects their pronunciation of his own name. It's funnier when the villain demon thing is so bothered by it that he corrects them before fighting them. When Beebo wrestles Malice and defeats him with a huge body slam from the sky. Malice is gone and Beebo explodes into a blue heart of pure awesomeness leaving a crater and the Legends behind. This is how all season finales need to end, in blue hearts.
John Constantine looks like he's joining the cast of Legends of Tomorrow. This makes me really happy, because I've always liked the character of John Constantine and he honestly fits really well with the wacky group of Legends.

Sara giving that rousing speech to the Legends, Helen, Jonah, etc. and then following with "Now: how do we sneak out of the back?" was a high mark of the episode.

I'm kind of sad to see Damian Dahrk go. I was kind of really liking his villainy. It was such campy fun, and he seemed to be really hamming it up as a villain, which is perfect for a show like this. I know that ultimately he can't stay. He's evil (for one) and is probably too powerful to stay with the team, but he had incredible chemistry with Ray and Nate and Sara.

I'm glad Sara and Ava are a thing again.

Guys, this was an episode where a bad-ass Themysicra-trained Helen of Troy killed a shitload of bad guys with the standard sword and jumping around, and then picked up a gun and casually mowed down a shitload more of bad guys. That's another reason why everyone should watch this show.

I kind of squeed silently when Beebo did that Bruce Lee beckoning and then the kiai.... That needs to be captioned by someone online with the phrase, "Come at me bitch."

So in short, after becoming a Viking god. After the whole season of cameos. After we all became a little obsessed with it all. The Legends totem bearers finally got their shit together and Voltron into giant Beebo. The Blue God has returned to kill Malice with love and cuddles as only something so good and pure could. It was a perfect moment that really shows how crazy incredible this television series is. If you aren't watching, you should, and just skip season one. It's full of crazy chicken people (as Mick calls them) and they kind of ruin it (just being honest). 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Why do we like big monsters?

I saw Rampage on Tuesday night. It was a fun flick, but it made me think of kaiju and why I want to see films like Rampage, Pacific Rim, and the upcoming The Meg.

Culturally, we like big monsters, giant robots, and things that make us feel small. It makes for good entertainment, but I think there's a psychology behind it that goes beyond "disaster porn." Before I get to the point that I want to make, I'd like to review some of the theories that everyone else has put out there to give you some scope of what I'm talking about.

When it comes to Godzilla and other kaiju of the Showa era of television, the Japanese were putting a face or symbol to an overall fear that they had of nuclear power. This has been talked about and discussed for years, and Godzilla is (himself) an embodiment of that fear run amok. But the extenuating longevity of such creatures in cinema makes me believe that there's something else that's going on here. Another theory is that giant monsters and robots are the reverse of the fascination we all have with disaster porn...that we are celebrating the creator of the destruction as opposed to the aftermath of the destruction. Eh, maybe that's it, and maybe that's not it.

My theory is that Americans like small things, and this is especially prevalent among young people. In our society, fat people (for example) are reviled and have been for decades. And look I'm just pointing out how I see things, and I'm not trying to shame anyone's body style. It's just the truth as I see it (as uncomfortable as the truth may be). I'm just asking that you listen to me for a bit before the outrage sets in on what I'm trying to say. If you allow yourself this time, you might start to see my point. Anyway, I'll continue.

Call a person "fat," "large", "roamy" or whatever adjective you want, and you'll see an obsession with size. It's a "I'm glad I don't look like that" kind of thing. There are people who shame men who take up too much space in a subway car (they call it "man-spreading"). Not enough of an example? Well, I've noticed young people don't like larger phones. "That looks way too bulky!" I've noticed a lot of teenage girls want "small cute cars" and "small this" and "small that." Most want thin (read as small) boyfriends. So from my observations, people idolize small and hate "big." And it doesn't stop with flesh. There's always a drive to make the latest tech device lighter, thinner, smaller. And plastic surgeons make their megabucks by promising to shave a millimeter here and there. Size, size, size...it's what's important and what people seem to value. Many hipsters like to go to fancy restaurants where the portions are small but beautiful (that's another example). I have acquaintances who (in the privacy of a home where they can speak and not be judged) say out loud to me, "I'm not attracted to fatties." It's just the way some people are, but you can bet they'd never say that on social media. Nope, these same people post body positive messages on their social media...a "do as I say not as I do" thing. If you didn't realize it quite yet, I'm sorry, but people are terrible. *Bubble Burst*

Anyway, it's my opinion that whether or not you express it, most Americans these days have at least an unconscious bias for liking small things (even if we ourselves are large). And by converse, it's not much of a stretch that this bias for liking small things also wants us to fool ourselves into thinking that we too are small (even if this isn't anything even remotely close to the truth). Kaiju, huge monsters, and giant robots destroying cities does this in a fantastic way. These huge monsters make us all feel small and powerless and helpless, even if we are six-foot four and could benchpress a Mack truck. Seeing these monsters reminds us of happier times when we were children and small and could not comprehend the world in the jaded way that we do now. And it's this powerful feeling...it's this ability to make us feel small in a good way...that is why we like huge monsters. That's my theory anyway. Who knows, maybe seeing things that are larger than you can even improve your self-esteem in small bursts because you know that other people are staring at the large thing causing all the destruction. "At least I'm not the monster" the unconscious thought may go. And for this simple reason, big monsters, giant robots, and kaiju may have an enduring legacy that goes on and on forever in the cinema that we all enjoy.

Monday, April 16, 2018

I really hope that the new Robbie the Robot in the Netflix Lost in Space draws some kind of connection to the Krell of Forbidden Planet.

I'm only four episodes into the new Lost in Space that premiered on Netflix this weekend, and I've really been enjoying it. Simply put, the show looks stunning on my television, and all of the acting is good, even that done from the twelve-year-old kid that's playing Will Robinson. However, the most eye-catching thing in the episodes that I've watched is the mysterious robot.

Being a science-fiction nerd, I know that the original "Robbie the Robot" got its introduction in a fifties movie (that I love) called Forbidden Planet. It was a Shakespearean-inspired retelling of The Tempest, Prospero the sorcerer, being recast as Doctor Morbius and Prospero's daughter Miranda as "Tara," who consequently is the only woman in the film. This kind of story (with an all white, all male cast) could not be told today without significant changes. But the most fascinating thing about Forbidden Planet was the research that Doctor Morbius had done, a small part of which allowed him to cobble together "Robbie the Robot." As an aside, Doctor Morbius does reveal in Forbidden Planet that building something like "Robbie the Robot" could have been expected of a child among the Krell...beneath the notice of greater minds.

In the movie Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot could do just about anything. In one scene he delivers 200 tons of lead shielding that he created the night before and sets it down with only one arm. He takes a request from a cook to synthesize Kentucky bourbon and creates something like fifty gallons of it (again with only a sample and in about a 24-hour period). How does this differ from the robot we're seeing in the Netflix series? Not by much, but with one notable exception (spoiler alert). Robbie uses a 3D printer to get a gun to give to Will Robinson for protection. I sighed at this, because the Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet would have just made one (could have made an entire arsenal on request within 24-hours).

Now I know that Netflix is under no obligation to go back to the roots of the robot. But I have to say, why not? The story of the Krell was incredibly fascinating and even if a smidgen of it makes its way into backstory for the setting of Lost in Space, it would be fun...maybe even amazing. They were a civilization that reached unimaginable heights of power. They literally solved the problem of power and created infinite energy that their society could use to build things. At the very pinnacle of their civilization, they unleashed a machine that would allow every single Krell on the planet to make real anything that they could possibly imagine. It was this that destroyed them, because basic emotions buried within the Krell (like anger and jealousy) caused monsters to spring forth that wiped them all out within a single night. The fifties show called them "monsters from the id." Left behind was a civilization of machines that kept running for a hundred million years without anyone to tend to them, until Doctor Morbius found their relics beneath the surface of an unexplored planet and started studying all that he could find (everything that was above ground had long eroded back into the planet surface).

So yeah, here's my hope that the new "Robbie the Robot" in the Netflix Lost in Space draws some kind of connection to the Krell of Forbidden Planet. I think it would be all the richer for doing so.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Meg channels Pixar in the funnest way using both music and some very similar font.

Movies with sharks in them are what superhero movies used to be before Marvel got so damn good at making superhero movies. This summer, we get The Meg, which is short for megaladon, which is short for "Bruce" from Finding Nemo.

At first I didn't really know what I was watching. And then it hit me, Jason Statham is finally in a movie with a bunch of green screen special effects! Jason Statham hates special effects, and it's probably the reason why he's a "B" or even "C" list movie star. Maybe Dwayne Johnson had a talk with him in filming the last Furious movie and said, "Hey man, if you want to make it big you have to go green screen. That's just where it is these days."

And regarding The Meg, it looks incredibly cheesy. And in this situation, cheesy is definitely good. Big Trouble in Little China was cheesy, and it's arguably one of the best movies of all time. It's all in how you handle your cheese, and The Meg seems to have it down pretty good in this trailer (I've embedded it below). For what it's worth, I love the campy feel of the tale as it unfolds, and the underwater research station off the coast of China looks really damn good. I totally feel for that little girl; I think I empathize with her fear of "the monster outside" because I saw Jaws so young.

Random musing: anyone else notice that the lettering on the poster reminds me of Pixar? Anyone notice that the music, i.e. "Somwhere Beyond the Sea" that appears in the trailer is also Pixar-esque? This has to be intentional. Anyway, if you haven't watched the trailer, click on it below and prepare to be entertained.

I have this love/hate thing with sharks. I really do. And the bigger, the better. I can't wait for August.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Cinderella live action movie that came out in 2015 is a true delight. If you haven't seen it yet you should watch it with your family.

I recently (and accidentally) watched the Cinderella live action remake that was in theaters in 2015. When it debuted, I missed it. Now I wish I had gone to see it in the theater because I really do think that it's magical. If you haven't bothered to look it up, you should do yourself a favor and watch it as soon as possible. It's wicked fun, and just a really good story. But here are some reasons that I fell in love with it.

1) The musical score is from composer Patrick Doyle, and it's incredibly lovely. It just kind of sweeps you along in the same kind of feel good tunes that you heard in the early Harry Potter films, and it lends the whole movie a kind of an old timey Bedknobs and Broomsticks kind of feel to it before embracing some truly epic and emotional crescendos. Just listen to this one tune from the soundtrack, and you'll see what I mean.


2) The costumes and set design are exquisite. When Cinderella shows up in a golden coach wearing the most incredible blue dress there ever was in order to attend the ball where the prince is waiting for her...well, it's magical. I know it's supposed to be, but I was captivated by it. The blue dress is fantastic and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother is the best choice ever for this kind of thing. A little "Bippity Boppity Boop" goes a long way.
If only all of us could feel this good when getting dressed in the morning.
3) The chemistry between the two leads is incredibly strong. Of course, I'm probably a little biased because I really like Richard Madden and would watch him in just about anything. But his portrayal of Prince Kit is super worthy of a Prince Charming if ever I saw one. OMG the blue eyes...just sayin'.
4) Cate Blanchett. I'd never seen her play evil until I saw her in Thor: Ragnarok. If I'd seen Cinderella in 2015, I'd have been better prepared to appreciate how evil she can be. She really nails the role of the wicked stepmother.

5) The details are so amazing. There are swan chandeliers. Yes...swan chandeliers. Just stop and go watch it. It's a feel good movie, and if you've been feeling down, it's just the kind of thing to pull you out of that funk and make you believe in magic once again.