Monday, December 28, 2015

Please think of the children

I had such high hopes for you, JJ Abrams. With your pseudo intellectual 50's glasses and Kramer-esque teased-up hair. I thought you were going places. And, yes, you are but not in the direction I would have hoped. I even forced my girlfriend to watch Episode 4-6 in anticipation of sharing in the enjoyment of this new film. Full disclosure: I have not seen your new ode to old but I have seen Into Darkness

Similar to the missteps in Into Darkness, I cannot help feeling cheated when the 'best scenes' from the movie are exact facsimiles of scenes from the original film. So, Into Darkness is Wrath of Khan but with a switcheroo (Spock = Kirk and Kirk = Spock for the Khaaaaaannnn!!!! scene) and sadly no mullets



Similarly, The Force Awakens is just A New Hope with a switcheroo on the gender / character names / planet / moon. And of course this will still make a bajillion dollars despite being a retread. I just feel uneasy supporting such lazy storytelling. Heck, I would rather have another Phantom Menace than something that amounts to warmed-up last eons' dinner.

So, despite being really excited to see this film I cannot in good conscience watch it. I would be supporting a film that should not exist in its present form. All I wanted was something that had:
  1. Actual characters with actual emotions (like episodes 4-6)
  2. New plot points and minimal retreads of past story arcs
  3. Reasonable pacing - a good balance of action to character to story progression
  4. A story which makes sense and avoids the unnecessary plot holes
  5. No 'kitchen sinks' thrown at the action scenes (like episodes 1-3)
  6. A distaste towards the over-reliance on CGI (like episodes 4-6)
  7. Less screen time to the original actors (no one likes to see their heroes age)
  8. Maybe a few winks to the past just for teh fanzzz
    NOTE: A few
And maybe JJ's troupe did tick a few boxes in my list but they failed at the fundamentals when they decided to insult our ability to recognize the chronic amount of recycling on display in this film. Think green, I guess. Also, the girl powerrrr movement is getting a little tiresome. When Mad Max is not the hero and Rey is the hero of this, it just feels like we're pandering to the fairer sex rather than vindicating the need for the main role to be female. I still think the poster child for Girl Power is Ellen Ripley. Her role in the film was justified - I cannot help thinking that this is not the case here. I'm pretty sure that Rey's gender could be changed without even a line of dialogue needing to change. Even (poor old) George Lucas laments the film's devolution into fandom. I would even be curious to see what he had originally planned. Dare I say it, it might have been better (or at least semi-original) - but only if JJ helmed the directorial duties and the political bits / novelty characters were cut out. I guess we will never know what that vision might have been but I can at least imagine a better scenario than the one that was rehashed.

My basic plot points:
  • The Empire is a shell of its former self, brought into disrepair after the events from Return of the Jedi / death of Emperor and Vader
  • Bolstered by their former success, The Rebels are the new peace keepers. They now control trade and order within the galaxy, with the last remnants of the Empire being merged into their forces (or decimated)
  • Luke Skywalker helms The Rebels and oversees the stamping out of any remaining Empire resistance. Han / Leia leave to raise their children  (fraternal twins) in a 'safer' environment after forces of the Empire almost destroy their ship. Luke wants them to remain so he can train them. Meanwhile, despite their waning strength, the clashes with The Empire intensify with sneaky terrorist-like techniques like IED's and suicide bombers etc.
  • Han and Leia move to a lush palatial planet where Chewie returns to his home planet with the Millenium Falcon. Han Solo dies of a nasty cough (love the anti-climax) and Leia brings up their children alone
  • A few years later, Leia is inadvertently killed when Luke feels compelled to take her children away so he can train them and maintain order. One of the children escapes while the other becomes his padawan
  • Luke becomes the new Emperor; no longer held in check by his friends or Mentors and compelled by his desire to decimate all those who oppose the Rebels
  • The child, compelled by grief, learns a new way, taught by the ghosts of Leia / Yoda / Obi-Wan / Vader; one which turns out to be far greater than any who have preceded him/her (gender doesn't matter) and picks up some new side-kicks (former Storm troopers, aliens etc.) along the way
  • The child opposes his/her sibling and then old uncle Luke and cool things happen (use your imagination)

It would be relatively easy to break this story arc into three episodes and would be thoroughly satisfying to watch. Who wouldn't want to see an evil Luke Skywalker? It would even live up quite nicely to 'The Force Awakens' moniker, too.

    Thursday, December 17, 2015

    Of limits and sliding scales

    I've recently been watching and enjoying Quantico, with the exploits of Alex Parrish (or Anisha Punjabi, as I like to call her) on her quest to initially work through the trials of the FBI training course  held at Quantico and then the apparent framing for the bombing at Grand Central station.

    I was originally reticent to start Quantico as it was chock-full of beautiful 20/30-somethings, and so, I naturally thought it would be a relatively vapid and dallianced-centric story. And, yes, I was right but it also had a bit of fun with training exercises and a good dose of back story and conspiracies that ticked a few boxes.

    Personally, I think it would be wonderful if Ms Parrish turns out to be the master mind behind this whole thing. It would tickle my brain to see the main protagonist as the big bad ... and yet this possible avenue has not yet closed even as it nears the finale. Anyway, the person who plays her is a former Miss World and so we get lots of glamour shots of her attempting to remain inconspicuous while doing her 'blue steel.' Needless to say, it's quite ridiculous.



    Speaking of ridiculous, I'll give you the following examples:
    • One Quantico application is faking being gay, needing glasses and has hidden the time he served in Syria from the FBI
    • One Quantico applicant had sex with an under-age girl who then died during an illegal abortion
    • One Quantico applicant continually wires large sums of money to midde-eastern contacts through FBI networks
    • Middle-eastern twins are masquerading as a single Quantico applicant
    • One Quantico applicant maintains a fake scar behind her ear for the most inane possible reason
    • Pretty much every person in the alumni has a questionable back-story which wasn't divulged to the FBI
    And, somehow, the FBI were incapable of doing even the most basic of background checks on their recruits. Colour me skeptical or very, very afraid if that's the level of ineptitude to be expected from the FBI.

    In addition, (I would guess) the 5-year-old writing team for Quantico decided to write a 'clever twist' to the story by getting Ms Parrish to publicly declare herself as guilty ('To make the real master mind behind the bombing relax') and then immediately, upon her public incarceration, get transported back to FBI HQ, get unshackled and then state to every possible terrorist candidate that 'it's just a ruse (nya nya nya).'  Hmmm ... I don't think they thought that through. If you know that one of the fresh Quantico graduates were responsible, why would you 
    1. Get them to investigate themselves
    2. Get the publicly-declared martyr to be secretly involved in the investigation
    3. Have anyone, who could possibly be involved in the terrorist plans, perform the formal investigation
    At this point I've given up trying to glean any logic from the procedings. I will probably still watch until its season finale, but it's well-and-truly moved into Transformers territory on the gray-matter scale. My recommendation is to put your brain in neutral and watch the pretty people and 'splosions and you'll do just fine.

    Friday, October 2, 2015

    Boxters are for ...

    I've always maintained the notion that Porsche Boxters are for people who can't afford a Porsche. I mean, considering they start from 55K USD, how can they not? Sure, they look sexy and the new '16 version looks amazing and, yes, they do go from 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds (so slow) but they're not a real Porsche, right?

    That's a good-looking car

    Maybe it's just that I'm being unreasonably elitist, heck, I can't even afford a 'non-real' Porsche let alone a real one. And by real, I really just mean the 911 GT3 RS. Because that's the only real Porsche out there (while being ~200% more expensive and only about one second quicker). Maybe, upon reflection, it's not so much that the Boxter is slow, rather, it's because those who can afford a souped-up 911 don't want their crown to slip just a little when the commoners can afford something approaching their elite status. I can't help thinking of the following conversation amongst Porsche owners:

    Wentworth Farmsworth Jr - I've got a Porsche 911 GT3 RS 3.8l naturally aspirated flat 6. My Daddy bought it for me - as is Farmsworth tradition -  for my 18th birthday ...
    Billy Joe Bob - Oh yeah? I gotta Porsche Boxter on Craigslist for 15K - race yer to the seven-eleven. Loser buys the Bud
    Wentworth Farmsworth Jr - That's not a Porsche
    Billy Joe Bob - Then what does that badge there on the steerin' wheel say? Porkies?
    Wentworth Farmsworth Jr - But that's not a - never mind. Buds are on you!
    <zoom!>

    I don't think anyone is denying that a Boxter is pretty quick by most people's standards. I think it's simply the derision of the upper-crust folks having to fraternise with less upper-crust folks that causes the Boxter to be painted in a less favourable light. As luxury brands broaden their market, it is only natural that there might be a few teething problems with existing clientele.  All I can say is Hakuna Matata / Que Sera - in the end, you get a great car at a better price ... and, as a happy by-product, it forces the top-tier cars to try just that little bit harder to retain their caché as the best. It's a win-win - even if you end up paying for the six-pack.

    Friday, February 27, 2015

    What's the frequency?

    Outside of What's The Frequency being an excellent track, it is also the title of the film I am about to review. Well, at least part of it - maybe not ...

    Frequencies is a romantic sci-fi drama which bears a passing resemblance to quite possibly the most stupid film I have ever seen. The basic premise is that there is an alternate world where each person has an assigned frequency which directly relates to their ability to control their fate. Those with a high frequency have somehow rangled fate to align with their desires and needs, conversely, those with a low frequency never get what they want and are constantly at sorts with the world. The only drawback of being high-frequency is that you lose touch of your humanity and ability to relate to others. Now, here's the clincher: if a high-frequency person comes into close contact with a low-frequency person, bad things happen: thunder; lightening; things breaking. The only way to resolve the situation is to depart each others' company. And so, this is the classic tale of two people kept apart by fate (or something quite similar). 


    At this point you might be wondering why I gave this film a pass and not Upside Down? Well, maybe because the premise is not that far removed from reality and at least the laws of gravity are not being abused in this film. Maybe we do not have bad things happen when a Bad Luck Brian comes into contact with a Gladstone Gander, but the rest has at least some credence. I truly believe there are those that are somehow more fortunate than others.

    The story revolves around Zak with a negative frequency and Marie with a very high frequency. They meet at junior school where a frequency test is undertaken to determine their levels. Upon discovering that they are polar opposites, Marie decides to undertake experiments with Zak to determine the effect of being in close proximity to each other. This continues throughout their childhood, with Marie, robotic in her responses, while Zak grows more and more passionate. During this process, Zak makes it his mission to last more than one minute with Marie (get your mind out of the gutter) without terrible things occurring. For at least half the film, this is an unrequited love story where it's a one-way street of Zak pining for Marie while Marie, at best, feigns human emotion.

    I enjoyed how this film progressed and liked how the multiple perspectives played out for certain key parts of the story. The film built up to an enjoyable ending and had a nice bit of scientific analysis thrown in which appealed to my more logical brain. Recommended.