Terminator Genisys

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More Terminator on Terminator Actionifyouwriteit review of terminator genisys

Spoilers and Such

I love The Terminator.  It’s a damn near perfect film that did a pretty good job of tying up its loose ends.  But not so good a job that it didn’t end up with a few too many sequels. So it’s a bittersweet experience to watch the clumsily re-shot scenes from The Terminator and hear familiar dialogue spoken in odd voices.  The redo of Judgement Day as the opening credits roll was a pale imitation of Linda Hamilton’s raspy, hate filled voice from T2.

But then, this isn’t that reality.  So it’s not really a paradox that Kyle Reese still has a photo of Sarah, even though we saw his photo burn to a crisp in The Terminator.  Ditto for any other random oddities.  That’s an alternate timeline, don’t worry your pretty little head about it.

One particularly odd callback is to The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a brilliant little show that never got a chance due to a Writer’s Strike.  In that show, Sarah and John time travel and appear naked on a freeway, as do our heroes here.  What’s odd is that that Sarah Connor’s pet Terminator was a genius.  She had a phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range and a time machine.  This Sarah’s Terminator is still using guns it should damn well know will not be effective.  Why didn’t he whip up a few phased plasma rifles?  He did manage to make his own time machine, so he’s not a complete idiot.

Easily the funniest surprise was seeing Dr Who’s Matt Smith playing Skynet.  He does have an American accent, but it’s still just a hoot that The Doctor wants to destroy the Future.   I found it hard to take those scenes very seriously.  I honestly can’t think of a worse choice for the part.  At least Mother Skynet didn’t make an appearance.  Of course, this is just part one of three, so who knows.

There’s a lot of Termintors fighting Terminators, which is pretty boring most of the time.

Terminator Genisys had a few cute moments, such as the fact that Skynet is no longer an A.I. lose on the internet, he’s a Social Media platform. Of course, he wasn’t even an A.I. in the first film, just a series of defense network computers that was rumored to have gotten smart. Arnold is at his best being an overprotective father and his best line has to do with how ‘little’ he sees in Kyle.

Since about half this film is bits and pieces of other things, it’s hard to see much that is original or groundbreaking or even all that interesting. It reminds me a lot of the rebooted Star Treks. Dammit Jim, that isn’t Sarah and that isn’t Kyle! It’s just a couple of people pretending to be them.


True Detective Season 2

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ifyouwriteit.com reviewI Need A Hero

I really liked the first season of True Detective.  It was a wild and magical story with a lot of mumbo jumbo and talk about Time being a Flat Circle.  It was also pretty clear who the two main stars of the show were.  Lots of people came and went, but our two detectives were the stars.  I have no idea who the hell’s supposed to be the main character in HBO’s True Detective Season 2.

With a dozen or so people sharing screen time, and four people who seem to be sort-of main characters, the story can’t really be all that tight.  I’m also having a pretty hard time accepting usually funny man Vince Vaughn as a mobster with a tortured soul. After two episodes there is the now mandatory Game of Thrones moment, which lacks all of the drama or impact of Game of Thrones.

It’s a violent show, though not as violent as the first season.  Not yet anyway.

For me the problem is an all too familiar one.  This is a show about Bad People doing Bad Things.  Which is not a problem as long as they are bad people we like.  I loved Walter White and wanted him to get up from the floor and hop in the car with Jesse.   I really hate most of the people on Game of Thrones and enjoy seeing them killed and humiliated each week.  But those are relationship that took some time to build.  That first shocking death on Game of Thrones was shocking because we all thought Ned was going to be the Hero.

The people we find in True Detective Season 2 could all die next week and no one would shed a tear or give a damn.

On the plus side, Nevermind by Leonard Cohen is a pretty good theme song.  Though not quite as good as Far From Any Road (Main Title Theme from “True Detective Season 1″) by The Handsome Family.

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Dead Wake by Erik Larson

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The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Dead WakeErik Larson writes dense books filled with minutia that somehow always feel poignant and relevant. This time the story is about World War I u-boats and the end of the great age of Ocean Luxury Liners.

The Lusitania was a large ship and had close to two thousand souls on board. Erik does a great job of bringing many of those two thousand people to light. Celebrities of the day and people working their way across alike. Everyone has a story. Of course, the rich and famous get a bit more attention as a good deal more is known about them. One of the more interesting aspects of the tale is that everyone knew the German’s were gunning for the Lusitania, but none of the passengers were at all concerned. Much like the good folks on the Titanic, they had more faith than common sense.  The ship sank in 18 minutes. Killing 1,198 passengers and crew.

Dead Wake is not just a tale of the Lusitania though. It is also the tale of u-boat SM U-20, Room 40, and the government of Great Britain’s willingness to do anything to get the United States in the war. We also spend a good deal of time in the company of a broken hearted/love struck President Wilson. There are countless people that you want to use a time machine to go back and give a good slap.

Among the more amazing bits are how long bodies can remain at sea before washing ashore. The tales of identifying corpses and how they gave up trying. How hundreds of bodies end up in a mass grave and have to remain there even after they are later identified. It is a heart wrenching story.

Scot Brick, one of the best audio-book readers of the age, does his usual brilliant work here. He gives each sentence the attention it deserves and offers just a hint of outrage or sorrow when needed.

Like Devil in the White City, it is a vast story with a cast of thousands.   I didn’t even try to keep track of who was doing what.  Erik does a good job of reminding us every time someone is mentioned.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania is an amazing book. I highly recommend it.

Categories: book review

Humans-Androids Are Slaves

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Another Science Fiction Show where machines with souls are bad.

humans Humans is a British Channel 4 science fiction show picked up by AMC. The big American star in the cast is William Hurt. He plays a grumpy old man who has a strong attachment to his malfunctioning robot. In this alternate reality, health care is not only free, it’s mandatory. The Government tells William he must replace his old model with a new one. The new model appears to be based on Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

The main storyline has to do with a handful of Persona Synthetics that can think, feel emotions, and seem to be fully aware of themselves. The first episode sees this merry band of robots wandering through the woods in the company of scruffy looking human. There’s very much an Underground Railroad feel to these scenes. The human pretends to be their owner so random people won’t take them away. Of course, as soon as he turns his back, random people take them away.

Now we find ourselves in a typical upper middle class British home. The Dad is overwhelmed by housework and Mom is away on a business trip. Dad decides it’s the perfect time to run out and buy that Android he’s always wanted. The robot, of course, is one of the smart droids stolen from the woods. She has been reprogramed, but she is still more human than other robots. When Mom returns, she is not happy to have this machine caring for her son and two daughters.

The robot maid/nanny is super model thin and very pretty. A running gag is that all the men who meet her check out her all but nonexistent ass. I guess they don’t have Keeping Up With The Kardashians in this reality. They do have robot brothels, though, which is where we find another of our sentient robots.

The last of the smart robots is discovered while he toils away at some kind of farm. He is captured by a man who wants to know his secrets. Where is your tribe, Taylor?

I like the look of Humans. The androids have glowing eyes and a slight plastic look to their skin. The world is pretty much our world, only machines now do most of the jobs humans used to do. It isn’t clear what flesh and blood people are supposed to do now. This might be a good time to return to the days of Downton Abbey.

Like most science fiction shows about robots, they have a nod to the great Isaac Asimov and mention in passing that the Robots are safe due to their Asimov protocols.

I like Humans, even though there are a lot of familiar notes here. The grumpy old man and his android bring to mind a wonderful indie film called Frank and Robot. And all stories about robots tend to hit the same notes about slavery, loss of employment, and wouldn’t it be nice to have a robot to have sex with.

Inside Out

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inside outThe last Pixar film I watched was Brave, a Pixar film with a Disney plot shoved down its throat. Brave could have been so much better. I didn’t bother watching Cars 2 or Monster’s University. For the most part, Pixar films have been consistently good, but I have feared more Disney interference. It doesn’t look like Disney did too much damage to Inside Out.

I watched Inside Out in 3D, a gimmick that I guess is not going to go away any time soon. The 3D effects were smooth, but for the most part, unimpressive. I still like 3D, but I’m not sure it should be used on every film.

Like all Pixar films, there was a short before the main feature. The short was called Lava and was about a lonely volcano looking for love. It was a sappy bit of business, which proved to be the perfect leadin to Inside Out.

Inside Out was a real tear jerker. It has a few funny moments and plenty of whacky over the top characters. But it is mainly a love song to Sadness, one of the five emotions constantly fighting for control of our hero, 11 year old Riley.

My favorite emotion was Anger, played by Lewis Black. Fear sounded so much like Keith Carradine that I was totally surprised to see Fear was voiced by Bill Hader. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith have the big parts of Joy and Sadness. Mindy Kaling rounds out the emotions as Disgust. Paula Poundstone has a small, but funny role. And, of course, John Ratzenberger, gets a small part.

One of the fun little bits is seeing inside the heads of other characters. Mom has a community of super rational emotions while Dad has five flavors of Anger.

The crux of the story is Putting Childish Things away. Endless days of Joy give way to endless days of Sadness. In fact, sadness is so strong that she can turn any memory into a sad one.

I like Inside Out a lot. Be sure to bring tissues.

Categories: movie review

Mad Max Fury Road

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mad-max-fury-road-poster2One of the things I hate about new superhero movies is that they spend the first twenty minutes of the film on an Origin Story. Dammit, doesn’t everyone already know that Batman’s parents were gunned down in an alley and Superman was raised by a couple of hicks in Kansas?

Well, Fury Road wastes no time telling us how Max ends up in a desert snacking on a two headed mutant lizard. We have a handful of flashbacks of a little girl begging Max for help and then off we go on our two hour chase scene. Fury Road is completely over the top. It has no contact at all with any kind of reality, and that pretty much works for the story.

Like Waterworld and A Boy and His Dog, you just have to go with it. I hesitate to call it a story, so I’ll call it the reason for the chase, is that a woman driving a fuel truck helps a madman’s harem escape. Oddly, he has only five wives, and he is willing to let everyone who follows him die to get them back.

Mad Max Fury Road really feels like an old movie from 80s. It’s filled to the gills with ridiculous costumes and cars that look like a bored teenage mixed up all his Revel models and just slapped something cool together. At the same time it feels like a trip to Burning Man and Circ du Soleil. Easily the most bizzaro touch is a car made of amplifiers with a guitarist chained to the front of it and six kettle drums on the back.

I liked it. Lots of things blow up. Lots of cars crash. And we have clear cut good guys and bad guys.

Categories: movie review

Jurassic World-Not As Bad As I Feared

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Jurassic world spoilers.

I’m not a fan of the scene where they feed a mosasur a great white shark. I guess it could have been worse, they could have fed it a killer whale.

Jurassic World had a lot of fun nods to the original film and a lot of Really? moments as well, such as when we see a handful of T-Rex headed pterodactyls or when we see guests in a theme park free wheeling it on their own while surrounded by run of the mill dinos that could crush their little hamster ball by stepping on it or when a couple of kids drive off in a Jeep that was abandoned twenty years ago.

Jurassic World is pretty much Jurassic Park, only with a lot more CGI and a much higher body count. The main difference being that the deaths in Jurassic Park were all meaningful, all involved people we knew and had some interest in. Jurassic World follows the path of most modern blockbusters, lots of deaths of random people that are solely in the movie to die. There was more emotional attachment to the pet Raptors than to the countless security guards and park guests that were slaughtered.

The deus ex machina didn’t quite ring true either, maybe if there had been a bell or gong or something earlier it would have worked better for me.

Still, it was a surprisingly good film. It does a good job of hitting all the same notes Jurassic Park hit. A couple of kids are separated from their parents and happen to be at the park, visiting a relative, when Something Goes Wrong. An Evil Man wants to steal the Dino DNA. A Rational Man questions why they are making monsters in the lab. And Evil Corporate people want to buy Branding Rights for everything at the park.

Not too surprisingly, Universal Studios does a great job of making Jurassic World look like a real amusement park. They went a little overboard on the product placements, but that’s modern film making. And after the last three disasters, wouldn’t there be a Battleship anchored nearby that could launch a couple of Crusise Missles if the need arose? Just saying.

I like Jurassic World, even if none of it makes any sense.

Categories: movie review

The Matrix…Let JJ Abrams Have a Shot at It

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matrix1Just look at the One Sheets. The Matrix has actual humans photographed. Reloaded has Neo and Trinity Photoshopped within an inch of their lives. Revolutions has photos turned into a digital illustration. This parallels the path of the films, The Matrix is a very good film. Reloaded is a not so good film. Revolutions sucks.

Part of my feeling has to do with time. If you come to Matrix as a Trilogy, then you probably don’t see much of anything wrong with the sequels.

A small aside.

Easily the best ever episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation is Best of Both Worlds Part 1. My least favorite episode is Best of Both Worlds Part 2. Again, if you’ve only seen these episodes back to back, you can’t understand why I wouldn’t like the second half of the episode. But I had three months to think about how Riker would deal with Locutus and the Borg. Having them take a nap was not a solution any fan of Star Trek thought up during the off season. So many of us were a bit disappointed by it.

Back to The Matrix.

The Matrix was a textbook example of the Hero’s Journey. It was a perfect stand alone film. Joseph Campbell would be proud. At the end of The Matrix, Neo has become a god in the matrix.

Those of us that loved The Matrix had four years to think about what might happen in a sequel-I can pretty much guarantee that none of us had visions of an hour long car chase in mind. The major flaw with the sequels is that the main characters are Programs and the humans are shown to be irrelevant. Somewhere between The Matrix and Reloaded, Neo lost his godhood, just as somewhere between Reloaded and Revolutions he lost his real world powers over the machines.

If I came to The Matrix today, having never seen any of the films, I think I might not feel such hatred for Reloaded and Revolutions. As it is, I feel completely betrayed by the sequels. Just as I feel betrayed by the second set of Star Wars films and the last Star Trek film.

JJ Abrams did a great job on the reboot of Star Trek and just the trailer of the new Star Wars film has restored my faith in him. So go ahead and hand The Matrix off to him as well. Let him pick up the story right after Neo flies away from the phone booth and let’s forget that Reloaded and Revolutions ever happened.

Categories: random thoughts, sci fi

Defiance Season 3

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Defiance-poster-SyFy-season-3-2015The Syfy Channel’s post alien invasion/post apocalyptic tale of a city that used to be known as St. Louis. The first season was basically a Western, with the town getting a new Marshall and fighting off the Indians, only the Indians were a rag tag group of aliens. They are long gone now.

Season 2 saw the Marshall’s daughter turn into a killing machine bent on the destruction of Earth. We abandoned any idea that Defiance might be the last free city in the world and spent a lot of time with massive CGI destruction. A few characters from the first season mysteriously disappeared, I’ll assume they got better jobs somewhere. In the end, things went from bad to worse, but the world wasn’t quite destroyed.

Season 3 is a total surprise because I assumed this old school makeup and melodrama show had gone the way of Eureka and Warehouse 13. Right off the bat several formerly major players are killed off. A race of cannibals, sort of, has moved into the mines. An army of murders with human heads on spikes is rolling toward the town. And countless random people are murdered just for the hell of it. Defiance is a lot more blood soaked than I remember.

None of these changes are good. If I want to see Walking Dead, I’ll watch Walking Dead.

Not that the show was ever about sunshine and lollipops, but these first two hours saw a lot of cold blooded murder and ended with yet another hint that the earth will soon be destroyed, one way or another. And it’s not just the bad guys indiscriminately killing people, our hero the former Marshall blows away a man who has his hands up. There’s also an odd scene where most of the ‘good’ guys rip some skin off the Doctor. I do seem to recall that she was a mass murder or something, but still, it is an odd bit of business.

In short, we now have zero good guys, and while this works well enough for Game of Thrones, Definance is no Game of Thrones.

Categories: sci fi, tv review

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

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Jonathan Strange and Mr NorrellThe novel had one of the worst covers I’ve ever seen on a professionally published book. It’s solid black with the title in white text. I suppose they could have gone that extra step and had the title in black text, but the effect was pretty much the same, it could have been a book about anything or nothing. Add to that a page count that made it feel like a dictionary when you picked it up which inspired you to promptly set it back down. But once I got around to reading it, several years after it came out, I was enthralled.

The BBC production is very good. Tons of sets and costumes and very good special effects. The actors are mostly generic looking British types with only one or two familiar faces. The tale is a long and drawn out one. The BBC does a good job of capturing that sense that surely something will happen soon, but when it does, it’s not all that amazing.

Our hero is Jonathan Strange, a Magician in an era where Magic has fallen out of favor-the Napoleonic Era to be precise. Here we find Jonathan rubbing elbows with Wellington and doing his bit in the war. But that is a mere side issue. The villain here is not Napoleon, but an Elven demon who makes a pack with the other Magicain in the tale, Mr Norrell.

Once upon a time there was a man called The Raven King, who is mentioned in passing by the evil Elf and the two Magicians, he was in change when Magic was widely used. But that was long ago-three hundred years as we are constantly reminded. Now we have very few people who can use magic, primarily Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel, but also one or two others. Mr Norrell has amassed a vast collection of Magical Books, which he hordes like a miser. Jonathan has only one book and has to beg Norrell to let him read others. It isn’t clear why no one now practices magic or why these two have the ability to do so. The books contain spells and histories and ways to summon things.

Running through the heart of the story is the Fairy King and his obsession with a couple of humans. The Prime Minister’s wife and butler. The Gentleman forces them to travel with him to his home, where they are made to dance while they sleep in our world. He tells the butler he is a King and forces him to wear a crown and carry around an Orb and Sceptre. Whenever they try to ask for help, they find that they can only speak in nonsense.

This is a world much like our own, but also radically different. It’s a kind of steampunk magic story, an alternate history where men can do all manner of odd and often useless magic. We are told many times that there are only two Magicians, but then watch as others preform magic of one sort or another. It’s a world where we never know the rules, but clearly, there are rules.

I remember being a bit disappointed by the ending of the book, but being overall satisfied with this incredibly detailed world and the logic of what happens to Norrell and Strange. I like what the BBC has done with the story.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a slow tale.  There is a feeling all along the way that something should be happening which isn’t.  These oh so polite people take their time with all that they do and say. The result is we are forced to spend the time to get to know the world and its inhabitants. The payoff for those that hang in till the end is well worth the effort.  Damn, that last episode was good.

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