Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dracula: The Untold Story

Its "untold"  because it didn't make "movie of the year"  like Jurassic World. I'm surprised because it was really good!  I'm a sucker for vampires and this movie didn't disappoint.  It was well paced, no boring parts, interesting characters.  I mean, his wife even had a personality!  Vlad the Impaler, he left the Turk army and reclaimed his place as Prince or King, whatever.  He brought peace to his land from the Turk's for a very long time till the Sultan of the Turk's decided to kidnap young boys again to add to his army, a thing Vlad thought he stopped doing.  His own father gave him up.  He tried talking him out of it, being peaceful.  But, the Sultan was a jerk and basically told him if he didn't comply he'd march onto his kingdom.  

Vlad didn't even have an army.  What the hey is that all about?  Who runs a kingdom but not have an army to protect it with?  So, before he even met with the Sultan he and a few of his men were scouting the mountains and found the original vampire in a cave.  Vlad escaped.  How is it they never found this cave before?  I mean, how long has he lived there?  Anywho, he talked to his Priest about it and knew the creature had awesome power.  In the end he decided to fight instead of give his son up and to win the war he knew he'd start he asked the vampire to make him one as well.  The vampire was eager to get this awful curse lifted from him so he agreed.  Vlad could go back to normal if he didn't feed for 3 days....weird huh, because he had to die in order to be a vampire so would he just be a corpse after 3 days?  

So, yeah, he killed the whole army, he eventually killed the Sultan and saved his son, but not his wife or his people....
He moved the clouds to kill all the vampires he made and himself but his loyal servant saved him, he was kind of  a weird character in the movie, showed up like twice and made you think he was in the wrong movie;  he should have been in Frankenstein.  So, Vlad lives forever and finds a women in the future who looks like his wife.  I think there is a sequel.  I'm actually hoping for one because I loved it!  So go watch it!  It'd make a great Halloween movie too! 

Fast and the Furious 7...Oh, I mean Mad Max Review

Yeah.  So, I was going into this movie expecting to hate it but I actually really liked it!  
I also kept wondering why in the world it was rated R...I mean Die Hard was worse!
It was violent, but not gory, it had crazy people in it and some topless women who were
hooked up to milking machines, but other than that I really don't see the rating.  
There weren't any swear words that I remember.  In fact hardly any talking at all!
Mostly just driving around and shooting people, and really cool sand storms that apparently
actually happen in Australia and that is why nobody lives in the middle of the island.

It was a cliche story.  A lone man joins a heroic cause and helps win the day, but
the photography and cinematography were saweeet!  I think I'll watch it again someday.

So, there really isn't anything to spoil because you've seen it before, but this was done
very, very well.  So much story telling in so little.

And now, I'm sure my husband will post some more!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Avengers: Morality is Hard

If only they'd built a fat man barricade!
Moral philosophers like to probe the makeup of ethics by presenting the Trolley Problem.  It's a simple question: If you have the power to save X people from dying by choosing to kill Y people, do you do it?  Play with the numbers X and Y until you find the range where a person will answer yes or no.  To make the game more interesting, you may say "okay, but what if the Y is your mom and a litter of newborn kittens and X is your in-laws?"

It's been shown that if you try taking a fine-toothed comb to most peoples' sense of right and wrong, you'll find it's a hairy incoherent mess.

I have no idea why this might be.

Are you on the "laugh at Stark's hubris"
bandwagon yet?  You should be!
There's a guy by the name of Tony Stark.  He likes to fly around in a magical suit and likes to imagine himself the savior of the world in spite of repeated peripeteia-tastic moments that indicate the contrary.

Stark believes that if he merely continues to fly his suit around and shoot bad guys, his efforts will ultimately be futile and zillions of people will die. But he believes he can avoid those deaths by writing an ominously-named computer program that no existing hardware can run.  Unlike folks in a philosophy class, he doesn't clearly know how many innocents are going to die when he switches or doesn't switch the trolley tracks.  Not even Captain America actually knows when he dissents against the Ultron saying that "Every time somebody tries to win the war before it starts, an unspecific number of people -- probably some multiple of 1000 -- die.  Every time!"

See, Tony, this is what
humility looks like!
It's a lackluster moral quandary when you're asking people to make values judgments without actual values to compare.  It appears as though the writers of Age of Ultron realized this after they'd written most of the script because they decided to make the entire thing explicit.

"Forsooth!" quoth the Avengers, "A megahuman city is to be weaponized to destroy the entire world just like in (insert old testament or paleontology reference here)!  To act is to kill lots but to not act is to kill all of them!"

This is certain to build suspense and catch the nuance of a moral judgment.  Clock's ticking, Avengers and the Trolley is loaded with all the humans!  Even the ones who are on the alternate route!

The protagonists are stalling for time, trying to avoid choosing between something horrific and something infinitely more horrific when along comes Nick Fury all messianic-like in his propeller-hoisted chariot of fire!  Deus ex literal machina!

Since when does she
wear the Tron suit?
Remember that ethical choice you were confronted with a second ago?  Yeah, me neither.

It's a good thing the writers spared us the burden of watching somebody choose between a single city's doom and absolute extinction!  With stakes that high, the audience would be wringing their hands clean off!

I don't begrudge the Avengers movie this hilarity.  I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to take my wife to see it.  It was more entertaining than the Agent Carter show so my expectations are met.  Not everything needs to be an exploration of moral philosophy in order to be good entertainment.

Avatar: The Last Airbender, however, does.  It's no secret that we here at Jenny's Spoilers are massive, squealing fan$(GENDER)s for this show.  It was captivating from the get-go precisely because it was a philosophy show of quality above not only other children's programs but above TV as a whole.  The animation, the story and the magic karate were all tied up in a neat little bow that hailed topics of self-discipline, responsibility and morality.  Rather uncharacteristic of the network that brought us Ren and Stimpy and game shows about dumping green slime on faces.

Maybe Black Widow's outfit
glows when she's in the
Avatar state.
The series was building itself up to a continent-reshaping showdown between the mad Fire Lord Ozai and the cryogenically tardy tweeny monk boy.  The point of suspense wasn't really a matter of fearing the mortal dangers involved with battling a crazed dictator who farts napalm but rather the ethical dilemma; how does one stop wanton burnination of the countryside humanely?  Because it must, as a matter of principle, be humane.

This was the thing that most terrified Avatar Aang as his encounter with the king antagonist loomed.  Could the kid beat his foe?  Probably.  If he could kick off the shining eyes-and-tattoo trick, definitely.  Could he do this while also keeping the body count at zero?  If it wasn't zero, would he be any better than the enemy he defeated?

Dang.  Morals are hard.

This is one of the reasons that I find Avatar so compelling; Aang's moral dilemma wasn't just one of playing a game of golf-score corpse counting.  He already knew that Ozai was a genocidal jerk-face.  For Aang, it wasn't a matter of piling deaths on Athena's scale.  Everyone he loved had already been killed by Ozai so he had a visceral understanding of the threat and yet his conscience compelled him to make a judgment above and beyond his grief.  For Aang, morality was about being accountable to himself for his own actions.  Where others may entrench themselves in the game of graphing the number of acceptable deliberate vs unacceptable accidental deaths, Aang deliberated over killing one man to save millions.  Not because he was an indecisive or irrational kid but because he had a clearer sense of his own ethics than most people do.  This is integrity.

This is also why the show ended up frustrating me so much with its ending.  It was clear that the writers understood what they were doing.  They'd spent 2.6 seasons building tension, setting things up for the ultimate measurement of Aang's moral fiber -- a thing far scarier than an agni kai for the fate of the world.  But when the moment of the climax was supposed to come, they side-stepped the whole issue, threw in a surprise magic trick, and Aang was allowed to get away with making no decisions at all.

You must master the Avatar state
by letting the bad guy hit you really
hard in your lightning scar.
Other writers had the courage to confront so difficult an issue head-on in Man of Steel and Trigun in completely opposite and equally compelling ways.  Avatar had demonstrated the potential to deliver in so many other ways that it was incredibly jarring to watch the series end on such a monumental cop out.

Some try to defend this anticlimax by saying "it's just a kids show" but I resent that kind of talk.  Do we really want to teach our kids that the solution to moral dilemmas is to avoid them until a one-eyed man in a trench coat shows up on the back of a Lion Turtle and solves the problem for us?

The whole ending was a wanton betrayal of everything the show had built up to that point.  We're told by Guru Pathik that mastering the Avatar state requires sacrifices that Aang ultimately never made.  In fact, Aang ends up winning and getting his Raava mode back all by accident.  So he can just end up marrying Katara just like he always dreamed with no heroic sacrifice, no personal growth, no real effort required.

That Avengers only wanted to joke about the existence of morals is fine by me.  It never pretended to be that mature of a show in the first place.  But, Bendyshow of Magic Karate, you had all the makings of greatness!  It hurts to see you wield the sword of moral awareness for two years only to drop it into the ocean and watch it rust in the moment it was most needed!

Sigh.  Whatever.  Morals are hard.  Let's go shopping.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How To Corrupt Your Children

This is how you name
a sequel.
Since time immemorial, it has been clear that the right and honest way to name a sequel is to append a numeral to the end of the previous movie's title. Heathenous franchises have strayed from this model and have paid dearly for it with ridiculous profits and persistent viewership.

I am pleased to report that the sequel to How to Train Your Dragon has properly followed this sacred guidance and, in spite of its difficulty to say, appended the unambiguous numeral "2" to the title when naming their sequel.

Unfortunately, this is where the movie's wholesome values end.

The writers of this film did not have the decency to copy and paste the previous film's script, use find-and-replace on certain keywords, and pepper segments with irrelevant references to the first film as if it were inane fan fiction. Indeed, the story seems to have violated the whole formula; taking on a life of its own in a grotesque display of unwarranted creativity.

This is unforgivable.

Family shows must be stupid for
the sake of the kids and have
meaningless pop culture satire
for the sake of lemurs.
Brazen displays of positive male identity, fond sentiments toward family and community relationships were on parade in this supposedly "family" film. There were instances of full frontal female independence without a single shred of incoherent misandry on her body -- in a film that is advertised as being for children! With all these inappropriate things in the show, it was really surprising to me that there wasn't a gratuitous dragon-human hentai thing in any part of it.

What's worse, the show neglected to nourish children's minds with the wholesome intellectual stimulation of fart jokes, or cheap slapstick -- the essentials of a child's mental diet! This movie even had the nerve to make a few of the characters nuanced people with flaws and virtues and the ability to learn from their mistakes and grow as individuals.

This is how far society is sinking. Movie theaters are playing this kind of filth for our children. They're trying to push their Quality Entertainment Agenda on us and poison the precious minds of the future.

It makes me sick.
It makes Shrek sick, too.
Be warned!  How to Train Your Dragon 2 is not the family friendly cliché barrage that they try to make it out to be.  Lurking under the facade of a disposable cartoon sequel is a coherent piece of genuine entertainment.  You will be disappointed.
Who dares to entertain the almighty Aku?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Advice for Panem Despots

Korra was disappointed that he wasn't
as wise as he seemed.  I was disappointed
that he wasn't as deep/nuanced as he
Something that really bothers me about cinema is the tendency of their tyrants to be such incompetent tools.  In order for there to be any drama in a story, the antagonist has to seem remotely capable of winning. That means he has to be a person and not a plot mechanism. The President Snow character in Catching Fire is another in the long line of totalitarian antagonists that does not help achieve this drama.

Just watch Jodi Foster's monodimensional callous as she blows border-runners out of orbit, or Unalaq shark-jump his way from an interesting character who teeters between madness and enlightenment into pure evil for absolutely no apparent reason.

Catching Fire's president character was the most frustrating in this regard because of how little effort was vested into making him seem at all like a workable despot.  Having stopped reading the series after the first novel, I can't really say whether the fault rests in Collins' lap or the movie producers' but given my experience, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the answer were "both."

President Snow, I would like to offer you my services as a consultant in how to maintain a stable authoritarian regime.  I've seen you and so many like you do your jobs so pathetically that pity drives me to offer these services pro bono.

Orange shorts: Sure sign of free thinking.
You never praise your plebs as the noble working class -- but you should. You need to tell them that their poverty and suffering are a product of District 13's extreme views on Capitol, or how your work in the capitol is part of a generations-long attempt at restoring justice to society after the horrific rebellion.  You gotta admit to not being perfect but convince people that if they just work harder at whatever it is they're doing to keep you fat and wealthy, that a change in mind-set will eventually happen and society will just be brighter for it.

The Tributes in your hunger games need to be the extremists.  Dissentors.  Rebels.  But they also need to be any Peacekeepers that get out of hand.  They need to represent the scary people in the pro-Capital and anti-Capital fringe that are easier to dehumanize and thus, harder to sympathize with when they murder each other. Then, when they die, no matter which side they're on, the masses can say that they pretty much deserved it and then go back to feeling comfortably ambivalent towards your rule.

You need to label dissent as anti-social, unhinged and calloused to the sad situation that most people are enduring.  Paint yourself as making the noble, painstaking attempt to fend off all these selfish extremists for the sake of the people.  You're the cool, even keel, stable, middle-ground.  Those that disagree with you are basket cases who will probably shoot-up a mall some day... assuming the next Games take place in a mall. (Which they should).

Headline: District 12 Tribute under arrest
for eating her baby.  Gamekeepers say this
does not disqualify her from the Hunger Games.
When tributes try some lame scheme like "OMFG! THIS ONE'S PREGNANT" you need to call them out on it.  Do an ultrasound.  Have her pee on one of those little sticks.  Perform some tests.  It's amazing how much ground you'd have gained at painting Katniss as a liar if you'd actually exposed the lie of her pregnancy!

Even if she's not lying, you can still beat the whole thing by saying "we tested the child and believe that it is not a viable fetus.  It will probably miscarry before the games -- it will certainly not survive to full term."  Or you could just abort the pregnancy like the Chinese do and say (like the Chinese do) that it's for the good of society.

Never do live broadcasts.  Seriously.  Editing is the propagandist's best friend.

When detractors attempt to spread their own propaganda, hold them to ridiculous standards of proof.  Use your educated partisans to label such detractors as being dishonest, unwilling to subject their claims to scientific rigor, and especially of being hateful or calloused of people from other districts who depend on Capitol's wealth redistribution mechanisms to survive.  You can discredit all sorts of people in the eyes of the public without ever having to gamble on their actions when in your holodeck thunderdome.

Autonomy and Identity
You know Nazis held hands, too.
Just sayin'
One of the biggest mistakes you make is dividing society so strictly into the districts.   This gives each district its own identity and its own autonomy.   This sense of identity is always one of the main driving forces behind insurrection.  When those who dominate are far removed in both geography and in cultural properties, the dominated get to feel sharper resentment.

You should do far more to help people feel like each district is just a convenient compartment but all of the people are part of one, great Panem collective.  When they are all proudly waving the same flag, it's harder for them to dehumanize you, their dictator, as a separate entity because you wave the same flag they do.

Make rail travel freely available. Or at least super-cheap.  The expense will not be negligible but the benefit will be a society without the closely-knit communities that are needed to form a real, effective rebellion.  Small, compartmentalized cultures keep secrets better, identify one another more easily, and share values; all of these things are the enemy of a sprawling dictatorship.

You should make it a point to try to engineer good-cop-bad-cop routines among your Peacekeepers.  Find a sociopath inside one district, nurture his cruelty and indifference, and place him in charge of law enforcement for his home district -- all for the glory of District 12!  Meanwhile, you should also have kinder, more compassionate law enforcers under him who also happen to be from the Capitol -- accents and all.  This way, the natives associate their own kind with barbarism and your way with benevolence.

Diabolicaltude is directly
proportional to the twirlitude of
the mustache.
Really, president, you don't need to feel threatened by hope.  It is really an immaterial thing when you have the monopoly on guns and media.  Rather than trying to quell it, you should turn peoples' hope against them.   Convince them that they have a shot at improving the world by playing by your rules.  Try establishing a parliamentary legislature made up of Victors.  It'll give you a great shot at weeding out the natural leaders and free thinkers.  Open up your media.  Put on a show about tolerating difference of opinion by having brainless partisans make fools of themselves in pretend debates.

It really seems to me that you have no reason to lose to the uppitty hillbillies in District 13.  If you ever bothered to look at the cards, you'd find that the deck is stacked in your favor.  Do us all a favor and man-up!  Be a real, honest despot!  One that we can be afraid of, one that could actually defeat the plucky little resistance.  Would you do that for us, sir?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Dude of Steel

How is it that Superman is
"the man of steel" when this
guy exists?
After Krypton blew up, I spent a lot of time fantasizing about how much better Man of Steel would be if it were written by the minions from Despicable Me. What else was I supposed to do? It's not like Kevin Spacey was in this show or anything.
The movie itself is generally pretty vapid so I'm just going to transcribe a direct dump of what my brain did through the show.

So Paul Ballard and Boyd Langton are incarcerated in The Attic where they are forced to work in the most hellish place that a Rossum employee could be sent: Canada. Which is also the afterlife that Capricans go to as punishment for mutiny.
Actually this afterlife thing is starting to make more sense since this is also the kind of Hell I'd send anybody from Waterworld to; "You wanted to find land so much? WELL HERE YOU GO! LAND THAT IS BORING AND HAS TORNADOS!"

Holy crap, this entire film is a montage of unnecessary flashbacks.

Okay, I'm willing to suspend all sorts of disbelief on the "gravity is weaker" thing but very much of this is clearly not a matter of just jumping really hard. Further support of the afterlife story as this smacks of the dream-like logic of a near-death experience…. whereupon, Superman isn't a messiah as he works to keep people in this afterlife. Also, why's there that rumbling and gust of — IS HE PROPELLING HIMSELF BY FARTS?

"On my planet, it means hope." Because suddenly a farm-boy from Kansas is an expert on a culture from kiloparsecs away that's been extinct for thirty years.
Why doesn't Superman go for Faora? She's prettier and probably way more likely to … um… be able to keep up with him. Being his species is also a plus. When my in-laws ask "How was the Superman movie?" I'm pretty sure my wife would slap me if I told them it was a story about bestiality.

"The slow blade penetrates
the shield."
If Colonel Hardy actually gets into a knife fight, he and Colonel O'Niell can start the "Airforce Officers Who Discovered Blades Work Better Than Bullets On Aliens" club. We know this because Zod killed Jor not with his pewpewlayz0r but with a shiv. Whoops! Nevermind. Superman ruined that interesting possibility, too; back to the fruitless, brawling.

OoooOOOOooooh! Yeeeah. She just got a line and… yeah, I totally understand why Kal's not into Faora-Ul now. Anybody who says crap like that is not worth continuing the species with. I'd go panda, too if I were him.

Man, if I were a Keynesian, I would want for nothing more than to live in a comic book movie universe as a window salesman.

Wait! Is this a flashback to a previous scene in the movie? Oh, I guess not. It's just that Lois falls a lot. Wait! Is this a flashback to the fight from five seconds ago? … I can't tell.

"I killed you too quickly
the first two times.  A mistake
I do not mean to
duplicate tonight!"
They need to find another slot to cram that USB stick into just so we can watch Jor have a third defiant death. Little does Zod know that when everyone takes off their Fawkes masks Jor will be standing there in the crowd.

Oh, hey! It's the ending I wished that Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koneitzko were man enough to write.

"Welcome to the planet!" So punny!

They need to round-off the flashback thing in this ending by cutting to Lois and Superman's 25th wedding anniversery party and having them say to the crowd "and that's how we met!"