Friday, March 18, 2011

DVD: Walking Dead

A zombie TV-series? In a world of vampire slayers and ghost whisperers, it was inevitable. AMC’s Walking Dead, based off the monthly Image comics, came out on BD last week and so, of course, a marathon ensued! AnCe, LilBro, Jadek and myself curled up on a lazy Sunday afternoon to down all 6 episode in one shot. Not a hard feat, it turns out. The show is excellent! Just enough blood guts and gore to keep it interesting and never veering away from its real strength: solid character development. Sure, some of the “twists” weren’t as surprising for the discerning viewer, but that was really besides the point.

I really like that there’s stuff to talk about afterwards, you know? I anticipate the Great Whispers Debate all summer. And I also like that there’s a solid deviation from the comic books, so fans will have some surprises to still look forward to. It was a lot fun and a lot of scary. I recommend it!

Now Playing: Battle: Los Angeles

It took me a long time to actually sit down and write this review. It’s not because I have little to say; it’s because I have too much. Let’s get right to it then.

When someone comments about the unrealistic portrayal of something, especially in big-budget action movies, I’m usually the first to sarcastically quip back: ”are you saying that movie are not an accurate depiction of real-life?!”; I take the eye-rolling in stride. So, no, I don’t expect Zombies to be biologically viable with real science or to be able to blow up asteroids with real physics or even people to fall in love in crazy circumstances – but I do expect to suspend my disbelief with ease. For example: Zombies that are undead due to a haunted cemetery? Difficult. Zombies as a result of viral studies on chimpanzees? Done!

Then comes Battle: Los Angeles. Can I believe that an alien race discovers a resource-rich planet that they intend to colonise and will kill all the pests (read: humans) in order to do so? Yes. No problem. Which I why I was pretty excited to be watching the movie: I thought it was going to be all District 9 meets Independence Day! It started off really well – there were moments of genuine suspense and humour, as there should be in a good action flick. The characters were pretty good, though perhaps a bit too much of a caricature. I did enjoy that they took the time to introduce everyone name in an attempt to feel for them later. And if you’d asked me as soon as the credits rolled, what I would rate the film, I would have said 3.5 to 4 stars. Not bad!

Where it all falls apart is during the obligatory nacho analysis (you know, you go for nachos afterwards and dissect movie, arguing the pseudo-scientific facts). I tried to be as fair as possible, approach the movie from a formulaic standpoint. Here are the givens of the movie (spoilers ensue):

1) All the attack point were major coastal metropolises: Paris, London, LA, San Diego, San Francisco, NYC, etc.
2) The spaceships slowed down before hitting the water (i.e., slower than terminal velocity)
3) The ships had very sophisticated drone technology that tracked RF waves as well as human movement and sound.
4) The ships’ fuel is water.
5) The aliens were hostile.
6) The aliens had some serious armour with cybernetics fused to their bodies and a very small kill-box (to the left of where the human heart would be).
7) The aliens had some form of community, as there were moments where you could see them carrying off their dead or assisting the injured among them
8) The weapons were plasma- or acid-based, given the burns that resulted from being hit by one of them.
...In order to know where to hit us, the aliens would have had to observe us for some time. They didn’t hit just anywhere. No sir, they hit major metropolises that were not just human population havens but also electrical and communication powerhouses. I proposed they would have had to observe us for quite some time; Jadek posited that not really, since just watching the Earth at night would give you where the major human holdouts are. Fair enough. Either way, they would have already been here for some time before the attack and would know our major Achilles heel when it comes to Space Invasion: we have no weapons in space. I mean, yeah, we can resist you here on earth with our tanks and our guns and our bombs (oh my) but if you get us out in orbit, well, we’re pretty much toast. So why – why why why! – would any self-respecting alien race ever land on earth when they could blow us to kingdom come from space?!

Jadek tried – he really did – to make a case for them. Maybe they’re not that much more advanced than we are. Maybe they don’t have very good space weaponry either. (They don’t need to, they could use the plasma weapons they already demonstrate as having and shoot from space). Maybe they don’t have very good brakes (they sure do, they stopped their terminal velocity before hitting the water). Maybe they have a sophisticated space launch system (as opposed to space flight system) and so they need gravity or some solid object to stop against (you’re saying an extra-solar alien race, capable of launching themselves several light years at a very small target cannot alter their trajectory a couple of kilometres in order to stop outside our atmosphere as opposed to within it?) Maybe their advance force were, like, the dregs of their culture and they don’t care if they live or die as long as they secure their target (sure, they spend all these fuel resources – resources so precious they attack planets to secure some – but won’t spend a few extra ship resources to secure the ground before letting their dregs-infantry out?).

Anyway, as you can read, I was unconvinced and the more the talked about it the quicker it all fell apart. So plot-wise, it was a bust. Were the special effects at amazing? Not really – most of it moved too quickly to focus on and what we did see was pretty generic CGI stuff. We’ve seen better.

I would rent it, if you must. And don’t question it. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Now Playing: The Adjustment Bureau

Besides by barely concealed love for a beautiful suit-and-fedora combo, I was really looking forward to The Adjustment Bureau. Seems like smart sci-fi/parallel universe movies are making a comeback (thank you, Inception!) and I, for one, am ecstatic about it. It’s nice to be able to watch movies that are both visually and intellectually stimulating. As a movie, this was pretty decent. I especially liked Emily Blunt (is she one of the most under-rated actresses out there right now or what?)
Besides the running and the quick scene changes and the other various technical wizardry happening, there’s also a great dialogue also occurring. On one of my favourite theme, to boot: Free Will. Do we have it? Should we have it? If there was a beneficent Chairman out there who could control our destinies, would it be better if he/she/it took care of that, considering Humanity’s track record? If there isn’t – are we fucked? Will humanity ultimately choose to be good social creatures or bad selfish ones? Can we be good selfish creatures? Bad social creatures? Is this really what this movie is about? Questions!

Also: there’s a lot of NYPL in there – I mean a LOT. I kept being reminded of the Borges quote (I, too, have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library). So, of course, it got many extra points for that.

All in all, fun. A great start to March Madness. 4 out of 5 stars.