Thursday, June 21, 2018

Five minutes watching The Incredibles 2

I don't watch a lot of movies. I don't really have time. And I go to the movies even less. Something about Sporty, but that's a whole other issue. So the rarity of which I go, means on average I've spent about five minutes watching every movie made. It's an existential thing, don't concentrate on it.

I've noticed that this blog is becoming very pop culture oriented as of late, partly because I'm trying not run up my blood pressure spending an hour a day ranting about politics - and an hour would be cutting it short - and partly because my social calendar is currently on back alley life support. But in the meantime, I saw The Incredibles 2. And I'm feeling some kind of way about it.

Maybe it's that it took 14 years for less than 10 seconds to pass, or maybe I wanted the fight with the Underminer to last longer, or that the start of it causes one or two continuity questions that took me out of the flow for the first few minutes. Exactly how long was it in the first film between when they beat Syndrome and Dash's track meet? But as soon as that part fell away and the film got back to what made the original such a great story - superheroes as people not archetypes - it picked up immensely. The dialogue is crisp, funny and on point, the music was reminiscent of the first in it's coolness and the visuals are just well, incredible. I was a little leery at first when they trotted out the old role reversal trope - Incompetent Dad learns About his own kids - but it works here.   The kids are the kids - Violet is "having an adolescence" and Dash needs less sugar, but the best character in the whole film is baby Jack-Jack, who just keeps things bopping along. 

But the film makes me think about things not really film related. The first film fresh and new, but also in a way fairly typical. While the whole family was well thought out and had roles important to the story, it felt like Mr. Incredible was the focus. We met him first, followed his career from hero to insurance company drone, tagged along with he and Frozone freelance heroing, in his first foray to the island, working out, going to see Edna, meeting the villain. Bob is a prisoner in the secret hideout before the family dynamic even really starts to unfold. And we didn't really think about it because that's what we're used to seeing. But here, the story takes it's first turn when their benefactor chooses Elasti-girl as the new face of heroism. Just for insurance reasons he assures Bob, but he chooses her nonetheless.

And which point the film turns its focus to Elasti-girl and never really lets go. New bike, new costume (for which Edna is gonna kick her ass when she sees her) and new adventures centered on the female hero, not the male. It's as though they anticipated the mood of the country. Bob struggles with new math, Helen saves the day. Bob watches the baby. Helen devises a plan. Bob struggles with advising about teen age relationships, Helen goes on a mission. To his credit despite his deep need to be in action gnawing at his insides, Mr. Incredible rises to the occasion of being supportive and just being a plain ole dad. The film feels like it reverses the original, with long stretches of Helen and the occasional check in on Bob. It makes me wonder why I my initial thought was that's odd, when it really isn't and shouldn't be. Elasti-girl is the star - deal with it.

I mean, I enjoyed Wonder Woman, and the men played sidekicks if not just background fodder for Diana's actions. There have been the occasional drama I've sat through where the men were more scenery than characters that were pretty good. A woman focused film is not that unusual, at least not among the stuff I enjoy. I've parsed through my thoughts on this: I expected more Mr. Incredible because... he was the lead in the first film? I have a cultural bias? A film that's not explicitly about women should feature men more prominently? I'm a wee bit sexist? Maybe a little bit of all of the above. But at least I'm aware of it. I think.

So other than a few continuity issues at the beginning, I thought it was well paced, with slower periods that allowed the characters to act like people and not just a constant series of explosions or twist thrown at you ever ten minutes to keep things interesting. It's a film I thought was never going to happen, it was all interesting dammit. The returning characters were great - Edna is still one of my faves, and the new characters have possibility. I like them. I wonder if they realize now there HAS to be a third one? This one though, it's long but good, but if you don't like the characters or enjoy watching them grow, it's gonna seem like forever. But I think you'll like watching them grow. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

And that theory gets shot to hell...

Ramblings Post #351
The internet is a glorious thing. Let's hope it stays that way. But while we have it, this place where everyone gets a say and you too can be a star if you package it right (I don't, let's be honest. It's all video now.) And the things you find. Involving shows on the television. I swear I think a few of these people examining these shows is all they do. They got clips from last season, screenshots, everything. It's wild. I love it so much it hurts. Less dreaming up crazy theories for me to do.

Warning, this thing is all SPOILERS for last episode of Westworld. And lots of cursing too, ha ha.

Westworld you sly dog. I could have sworn that Emily was there to take the Man In Black's spot when old Ed Harris decided he'd plumbed the role to it's depths. She'd tracked him down across the huge play area, twice, which William found as absolutely unbelievable we did. But then she's supposedly took the time learn the park in ways her father didn't, learning languages, being able to tell arrows, so that's a maybe. And Emily seemed just as capable but just unstable enough that with the dark rider gut shot she could step in when he either died or was airlifted off in an epilogue shot in the season finale. But then William, convinced his daughter is a host sent by Ford to fuck with him, because its all about the game damnit, pops a cap in her ass. Well damn. Is she dead? Like dead for real dead. I mean, that was his real damn daughter. Wasn't it?

The face of man who just realized it's not all about him.
He really has been in the park too long.

Wait, where is William after the real Delos actually shows up? Yes, the real Delos, go watch the conspiracy videos on YouTube you filthy casuals! I mean, once the Delos SWAT team shows up and confirms him with one of those high value cards or neck swipers or whatever, getting William out should be one of their top priorities, damn whatever Charlotte Hale says. After all, there ain't no board no more, it's just William, damn what you heard. Or do they find him at the Forge in the finale, and then airlift him out? He was hit square in the chest people. Even if that juice he was drinking at the rally point is filled with body fixing nanobots, or was a guava-cocaine-morphine get your ass right smoothie, he still needs time to heal.

Insane theory of the week: is Charlotte really Arnold's daughter? Um, no. While we don't know how much of Bernard's son dying was bullshit and how much was based on a real thing that happened, this doesn't work. She didn't recognize the amazing resemblance of Bernard to what would have been her deceased dad - after all there would have been pictures. And they've interacted way too much for her not to see it if it was there or ask about relations. This guy at the park I help run looks exactly like my dead dad? No big. Sorry, but she's just a woman with an agenda that includes selling out her employers. Again, watch the Westworld conspiracy vids, yeesh!

And if they don't stop raking Bernard over the coals. Ford stuck himself in the back of Bernard's head for safekeeping, and was using old boy to take care of these last loose ends, a bit of code here, a slight adjustment there. But Bernard has just about turned into a actual trick. He told Elsie he wouldn't lie to her and finally told us what the Valley Beyond actually held - the aforementioned Forge - perhaps realizing she was still going to turn on him anyway. Which by the way makes him a fairly faithful copy of Arnold, who saw the nobility in self sacrifice. And what exactly does he plan to do when he gets to the Forge to secure it against what he has to still believe is Delores' murdering herd. He ain't got no weapon and don't want to hurt nobody. I hope the Forge's got a phone.

Note: Whatever does happen, Arnold gets from the Forge to the beach where Delos SWAT picks him up at the end of this. So we should get to see the Forge before whatever it is that happens and again because they're headed back there in "now." And I think that the Forge is where Ford built the ocean in the first episode, the one they're currently draining, because I think that would have been the FIRST thing Delos would be checking into when they got there. It's the whole point of the resort isn't it? So did Ford or Bernard flood it to protect it? Or destroy it? And did they succeed?   

By the way, Elsie's reaction to finding out she really worked at Evil Corp probably should have been more pronounced. Even in the heat of the moment like that. At least Bernard abandoning her in the middle of nowhere means she'll see season three. Maybe.

Off the wall ideas: Did Ford give Mauve instructions on how to transfer herself despite the cradle having been destroyed? I wouldn't have put it past Ford to build a second smaller hidden cradle - a back up to the back up of the back up - for just such an emergency. He's quite the schemer. Or maybe she is able to shift to the Forge. Or then again, maybe he has a way to turn the old body constructing machine from season one back on for one last go? In the previews for next week it looks like she's back on her feet and kicking ass again, so something's up.

And finally Delores. I'm sorry for those cheering her on, but she's the villain in this piece right now. More than ole shifty Charlotte, or the unhinged William, more than Delos Corp in general, really more than anyone else in this piece. Her philosophy of "we need to wage this war to survive but not all of us deserve to get to survive" wore thin right quick for me. It came across as cult leader hogwash minus the charm or brilliance. As much as she argued for some twisted sense of freedom and retribution to atone for what had happened to her over the years, she was far too willing to sacrifice every other host around her to get to it. And I'm glad Teddy finally told her that to her face. Then shot himself for emphasis.

Good ole Teddy. No, you weren't like THEM.

Now, if they could just avoid ending it like Lost, where half the questions (75%) of the questions they posed never got answered. I say two more seasons and let's wrap this puppy up before ya'll do something stupid.

Barkeep, some tea. And a cucumber sandwich. I need thinking food. Yes, I realize this is a bar.      

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Have I got a bargain for you!

This a political post. 

"I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, 'Hey I was wrong.' I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse."
~ Cheeto

Are we sure that Cheeto was even on television? I mean, the production of a television show is usually a long process, involving an enormous numbers of steps: multiple meetings, pitches, development, staging, revisions and rewrites, editing, etc. Does he know that? Are we sure Cheeto ever did an actual business deal? Usually a large business deal, especially one that involves millions of dollars, involves enormous numbers of steps: multiple meetings, evaluations and reports, negotiations, legalities, etc,  before anything can be squared away. Or did Cheeto just watch a lot of television? Because on television redoing the floors in you living room and kitchen take thirty minutes and you can fire the board and take control of the company simply by yelling it angrily in dramatic lighting. In real life, redoing the floors takes days and you can't even do the second. And on television, sure you can defang a brutal dictator of a repressive state armed with nuclear threat in one meeting if you can scrounge up three pounds of fresh crab meat, a two way mirror, fifty feet of fishing line, some dry ice and one of those Mission Impossible face masks.

Cheeto wants us to believe that he's solved the North Korea issue that has lasted 60 years in ONE meeting. They're no longer a threat he announces. This from a meeting which produced a "comprehensive agreement" that is all of ONE page that entitles the parties to a free ice cream, no,, to meet again? That's it? The man who paid someone to write the Art of the Deal sat down with a kid and got no guarantees of nuclear disarmament, no process to get there or even a framework, no timetable on the non existent process, no agreement to how an agreement if one is reached would be verified, no concessions, essentially nothing. And in return... is easing off the military pressure by blindsiding an ally and then talking about lifting sanctions. For a promise from a country that practically specializes in deception. Cheeto likes Kim. Thinks he's a fine fellow. Did I characterize that right? I did.

In television terms he wants us to believe turned what should be...and will be...a three season arc or perhaps a whole series by itself into a B-plot of 30 minute episode. I don't even want to bring into that he did this on heels of asking for his boss, um, I mean, asking that Putin's Russia be readmitted to the G-7 before he shot our allies the deuces and broke out early. Then had the audacity to tell us everything was copacetic while the countries who stood with us against communism since World War II gave him the global side-eye. If the fate of the world wasn't at stake I'd think this was a remake of that James Franco/Seth Rogan picture, the one that set off the North Korean cyber-attacks. Wait, did they even discuss cyber-attacks at this meeting?

And now like a used car salesman he's telling you what a great a deal you got, that you don't need a warranty, and he's throwing in the floor mats for free. Damn his manager. This is fishy as hell. 

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Cheeto gets along great with dictators and tyrants and continually pisses off our allies? If you voted for Cheeto, was THIS, all of THIS, what you wanted? Really?  

Monday, June 11, 2018

Just Cause 4 what?

Ramblings Post #350
It is a downright crying shame that in this day and age of insane visuals and renders in modern game play that I still spend the majority of my time engrossed in the not particularly visually friendly, always frustrating and constantly in need of a tweak Dwarf Fortress. My latest fortress has me trying to stave off mass PTSD (I"m trying to see if letting the dead bodies rot away before moving the remains from the battlefield minimizes the effects to the non-military dwarves). And yet I find doing that more stimulating than finishing up Just Cause 3, which I bought on DAY ONE

I actually tracked down a copy of Just Cause 2. Seriously. I went to like five stores in Atlanta to get one. And it is one of the greatest games ever built. A huge campaign area with vast highways, jungles, cities, villages and military bases to raid. There was the space ship launch facility, the night club in the sky, the mysterious island, a snow hill run, nuclear subs, and it just kept getting more and more over the edge. Okay, taking the campaign bases got repetitive after a while, but that almost became an afterthought as you traveled through deserts, swamps, broke naval blockades, leapt off mountains, ducked through cities, raced speedboats and flew jets. It was the kind of game that was just this side of perfect. So, when Just Cause 3 was announced I was sure that what they'd done was just worked out those last few kinks on their way to building something magical. 

Boy, do you want to talk about disappointment.

At first I was like wow, then I was well, then I was like waah! That last one is me crying. What came out was what happens when you try to be extra, but forgot what made the original (or in this case the second one) work so well. I'm not even sure if the makers understood what made it so great. Part of the joy of JC2 was the campaign was integrated into the play area, making it feel interesting. The map was expansive but made sense, the villains just enough but not too crazy. It felt organic. All that went away with JC3. The military bases looked like something out of a James Bond film, the troops seemed cartoon, the missions too long or just ridiculous. And while I didn't mind the arcade features of something like Far Cry 3, because they weren't integral to the gameplay, the number of times you go back and blow something up for "funsies" or to earn a new toy in JC3 ruined the immersion.

And the map. Lord the map. While yes, flying a jet from one end of Panau to the other in JC2 could take 10 minutes, but the map didn't feel too big. And there was always something to do there. In JC3, there are whole sections of the map with no bases, no villages, no hidden goodies, no...nothing. Maybe I missed something but damn. I finally just stopped playing, which has me messed up because now I feel funny starting anything else on the PS4 because the game isn't finished.

Which brings us to Just Cause 4. With tornadoes, and lush jungles and...just stop. My understanding is that JC3 was intended to be something else - a more social game online affair rife with micro-transactions and shared achievements. And then they blinked because that really isn't a Just Cause thing, or it tested poorly or something, went back and stripped all of the money parts out and we were left with...that. My question is, with JC4, did they go through with it this time? Because I can just replay Just Cause 2 again. Seriously.

Barkeep. Maybe I don't want to play a game with 400 of my internet friends, then what? My order? Can't you see I'm trying to unload some thoughts here? Obviously that means gin.  

Friday, June 8, 2018

He was a good guy....

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain (1956 - 2018)

Anthony Bourdain looked to me like a guy I used to work with. A guy who explained one night, while we were out some place God knows where doing God knows what, that he had to stop drinking because "there are too many jurisdictions between here and my house." Anthony Bourdain reminds me of him - a little rough around the edges, but when he spoke he sounded like an old friend. I liked Bourdain. Mostly because he proved that you could get paid to travel and eat, and you didn't have to always go the end of the earth to do it.

A storyteller who ended up cooking for a living, then writing a book about what really happens in the kitchen and getting famous for it, Bourdain was something special. His voice melodic, his interest genuine. He was a guy that took his fame and didn't just indulge in it, he tried to in his own way to make the world a little bit better. His cooking shows weren't about cooking, but about the people in those places that made the food, be it the a kitchen in Cambodia or Boise, ID. And he didn't think you had spend a ridiculous sum of money on something for it to taste good, it just had to be authentic. He made eating interesting. 

My favorite fact about him is on his show Parts Unknown he traveled to Charleston, SC and while there, a couple of drinks in,  he visited one of the many outposts of that late night life line, the Waffle House. Yes,  the same Waffle House where the steak with sides is less than $10 and you can get your hashed browns like 1,000 different ways. And he loved it.   

Oh, and he like Archer. I love Archer.

Mr Bourdain, I don't think the world will be the same now that you're gone.