Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jun 29, 2008


I'm not entirely sure why I wanted to see this film. I read the graphic novel a year or two ago and I thought it was horrible. It was a prime example of what happens when shallow uncultured boobs attempt to be "deep", "modern" or "controversial": you get a disgusting perverted retread of three-hundred-year-old philosophical theories that are none of those things.

Wanted the graphic novel is the story of a comic-book world where the super-villains have united and finally beaten the "good guys"--now they run the world just how they like it and no one can interfere in the slightest. The main character is the son of a super-powered assassin who can kill *anyone*, but he was taken away and hidden as a young boy by his mother. Fearing his potential power, his mother trained him never to fight back or stand up for himself, until in his early 20's he finds himself a hopeless basket case being shat upon by everyone and anyone.

Then this woman in tight red leather with guns shows up and his life completely changes . . . now he finds that he can do anything he wants and get away with it, as long as he accepts training as an assassin and enters a shadowy criminal underworld. So, okay, it's a coming of age story. Fair enough. The problem I had was with *what* he decided to do once he had his "Freedom". I'm sorry, shooting cops and raping celebrities? That's not macho, that's just pathetic.

In the movie, most of the background setting is changed, and the really disgusting elements are removed. Yes, he's still the son of a famous assassin . . . but his father belongs to an order of *assassins*, not super-villains. It's okay, the change was handled well and it gives no impression of just being "tacked on" . . . it is well-explained and developed. The protagonist comes across as an actual protagonist instead of an asshole punk on a power trip.

The main problem, I think, is with the narration. The early scenes in the movie in which you should be observing Wesley's lousy life and becoming sympathetic with him are narrated far too much instead of skillfully dramatized, so the emotional impact is nil. You don't care about him or his struggle for self-realization, so the rest of the movie just becomes a bunch of blood and explosions and special effects scenes.

Ending verdict: Movie 10,000% percent better than the graphic novel. Still mediocre.

Jun 28, 2008


The thing that really makes me sad about this film is that *someone* I know, quite probably someone whose aesthetic judgment I actually respect, will go see it and come back whining that it's an environmentalist diatribe against consumerism. Well, if you have any intention of being that person, I have one thing to say to you:

Idiot! Go to the back of the line!

Although elements that might, in other circumstances, point at consumerism and environmentalism are present in the movie, the movie is actually about virtue. It's an extremely complex theme for any sort of movie . . . in fact, I think it might have been a bit too complex for THIS movie, but damn if they didn't make an excellent run at it.

The basic premise of the movie is that humanity has left Earth in a fleet of automated luxury cruise ships while the planet is dug out from under an immense pile of garbage. Seven hundred years later, the humans are still living in space and the only thing still moving on the planet is a small robot named Wall-e, who is basically a self-propelled trash compactor. Surrounded by the detritus of so many lives, Wall-e has developed a personality.

Through a series of interesting events, Wall-e meets and develops feelings for another robot (Eve) and winds up blasting into space and landing on the flagship Axiom. (As an aside, is that a great name for a ship or what? From what I understand the main director in charge of Pixar is, if not precisely an Objectivist, someone with Objectivist tendencies.) There he discovers that the humans have all been turned into passive, shapeless blobs by the perfect luxury service. The presence of Wall-e and his devoted struggle for his values upsets the status quo and starts the humans back on the road to remembering that there's a Real Life out there somewhere and they're missing out on it.

It's a really good movie--stylistically it reminded me of the Fallout games just a little bit. It definitely shares some of the same "1950's apocalypse" tinge to it. There's amazingly little dialog, which is actually harder to do than too much.

Definitely worth seeing.

Jun 26, 2008

As a Horse

My new company signed me up (without warning me, I was lucky that I saw the schedule posted by the copy machine yesterday!) for a "health check" where they look at your BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc. I'm still chugging along just fine.

My blood pressure is a tad high but not too bad: 134/80. Which incidentally means that I could become a truck driver should it become necessary or advisable. Blood sugar is fine. Cholesterol is fantastic. Apparently all the oatmeal and garlic I eat is good for something.

I'm just really, really, really, incredibly FAT. I got the usual comment from the nurse when she saw the scale, "You don't look like you weigh that much!" Well, I FEEL like I weigh that much. Or, rather, my ANKLES feel like I weigh that much. And hips. And my knees pop when I stand up after sitting still for a while. Ugh. I'm thinking of joining a gym, I've already (mostly) gotten used to standing all day at work. (When you weigh 344 lbs, it's no picnic, let me tell you! I've weaned myself off the advil only with effort.)

So there's the update for anyone who cares.

Jun 24, 2008

None of The Above

Scott Powell of Powell History Presents makes an interesting statement that I also echo. I think that voting *for* either of the presidential candidates this year is worse than an exercise in futility: it is granting sanction to the forces of evil. I don't intend to vote in the presidential election.

It may be better to start focusing on "lesser" elections instead . . . and those are areas where your vote may actually have some significance.

Jun 21, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

A couple of days ago my dad asked me which movie I'd seen so far this year was the best one. I couldn't really come up with an answer, partly because I haven't seen many movies this year, and partly because most of the movies I've seen have been kind of mediocre. Iron Man, Indiana Jones, Incredible Hulk, Speed Racer, The Forbidden Kingdom . . . all very similar and all very meh. (Can you tell I like action movies?)

Well, now I can say it! Best movie so far this year: Kung Fu Panda. That's right. It was not just fun or funny, it was actually REALLY GOOD. Here we have an action movie with a Theme and a Plot and really well-done Characterization and all the events tie into each other with nothing seemingly "just thrown in". There's humor, yes, but it's not snide referential humor or self-denigrating humor: it's delightful and cheerful and fits perfectly into context. Even the purely stylistic elements of Kung Fu Panda are beautifully done and wonderfully consistent. Dreamworks has surpassed itself and delivered a gem easily the equal of the original Shrek movie . . . and without Eddie Murphy's inane blather to ruin it. (Granted, Jack Black's character Po talks a lot, but it's not blather and it's not inane: it's the nature of the character, not a sideline.)

Why is it that the best movies nowadays are ostensibly for kids? Are the Hollywood writers getting distracted by the tits and violence in their own movies and forgetting how to TELL A STORY?! Did I just answer my own question? It seems that every other movie feels this corrupt need to sneer at or denigrate or self-sabotage itself in an effort to be modern or at least "grown up".

You know what other movie I'm currently looking forward to? Wall-e. Because I will never grow out of my love for a good story with lovable heroes, and I hope you never do, either.