Archive for August, 2018

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 13

August 6, 2018

Magical Earth Defenders

Louis was working in the science lab during lunch which was not out of the ordinary. Louis did not have a lot of friends and when he had spent lunch periods in the cafeteria or the hallways, he had sometimes been bullied. He much preferred the quiet safety of the science lab. If he was being honest, and he was honest with the therapist his mother made him see, he would admit to being lonely. Except for Lennon, the other kids just literally did not understand. He was advanced beyond their level in all subjects except for PE. He hated that he had fallen into the stereotype of the weak-bodied geek. His coordination was faulty so he never really got into team sports. Instead, he went to the gym to stay healthy but it was so boring. His mind raced while he was on the treadmill, going nowhere.

It was even worse in classes, he was so far ahead on homework and studying that he could have practically recited the lessons along with the teacher. He found himself doodling schematics for his next big project instead of listening. He was always trying to think up new things to build. Either that or he was trying to reverse-engineer something cool he had found on the market. The only one who ever understood his excited ramblings had been Lennon but she had her own problems and she often worked on her projects at home. She had consulted on the earlier parts of Louis’ current project which was a fully automated robot. The mechanics all worked fine but he was having trouble coding a basic Artificial Intelligence program to get it functioning. It was a little frustrating that it had not worked yet but Louis found the process fun.

His creation, which he had named 2S or Twos since it was his second attempt, was sitting on the platform used for charging and linking. Louis was sitting at his laptop, trying to parse through lines of code. He was running the compiler for the third time during lunch and drinking coffee as he studied some possible new solutions. He was always trying to stay up to date with the bleeding edge of technology. Journals, websites, message boards and any scrap of techie text were all he read anymore. It was as exhilarating as extreme sports for him to pump up his mind with all of this new knowledge. If only he could solve this one problem, all the doors he wanted would open and his future would be assured. He could practically design his own major in any college. He might even be able to graduate high school early.

Suddenly, a chat prompt popped up in the lower right-hand side of his screen. Most of his contacts should have been at work or in class so he had not been expecting it. What he also had not expected was the chat request being from a name he did not recognize. Normally, he would have disregarded it and blocked the person but he was feeling tired and antsy from all of the coding. He clicked and requested the chat request.

ArvhanFan616: Hello?

Louis3K: Can I help you?

ArvhanFan616: Is this Louis Wilson?

Louis blinked at the screen. How had this stranger known his full name? He had never shared his full name with any of his online contacts. His mother had not raised a fool.

Louis3K: What do you want?

ArvhanFan616: I simply want to help you make your creation work.

Louis3K: What creation?

ArvhanFan616: I believe you call it 2S or Twos?

Louis was getting more and more frustrated. How did this stranger know all of this?

Louis3K: And how do you think you can help? Who are you?

ArvhanFan616: My name is Afolo and I am from somewhere you cannot even conceive of yet. I have a rare ingredient that was not available in your world until recently.

Louis3K: What are you talking about? The physical is complete, I don’t need any more ‘ingredients’!!!

ArvhanFan616: What about magic?

Louis was now convinced that this guy was a lunatic. He had a weird name and he was talking weird and he was waisting Louis’ time. However, something about the words made Louis believe that there was some truth in them.

Louis3K: Magic is not real, psycho. Stop wasting my time.

ArvhanFan616: Oh it is very real. I’m practically made of the stuff. I can show you how real it is.

Louis3K: Show me? How are you going to show me over the Internet?

ArvhanFan616: I have my ways. All I need for you is to ask for my help.

Louis3K: Sure.

ArvhanFan616: The actual words, please.

Louis3L: Whatever. Please help me make Twos work.

All of a sudden the lights in the science lab began to flicker and Louis could swear he could hear laughter like at the dumb carnivals he had been dragged to in the past. His laptop began to glow and then he looked and Twos was glowing too. Suddenly, it felt like gravity in the room started to lessen. Suddenly, tools and books were floating in the air. Then Louis himself was floating up out of his seat. He reached down grabbing for something to anchor himself with but he kept losing his grip. In his panic, he grabbed his laptop and it floated into the air with him. He briefly looked at the screen and it was full of script in a language that Louis had never seen before. He heard the demonic laughter louder now.

He looked over at Twos and the robot suddenly opened up like a piece of paper unfolding. All of its innards were suddenly on display and then cords from its core snaked out and caught Louis’ ankle. Louis tried to free himself, tried to wriggle away but the cord started to pull him through the air toward Twos. He screamed wordlessly. For once in his life, he did not have the words to express what he was feeling. He found himself slowly pressed against his own robot, more cords snaking out to tie him to it. Then the robot started to fold back up and that unearthly glow got brighter. Louis felt himself getting folded into Twos and it hurt. It really hurt.

After a while, he thought he should have been crushed. He should have died. Instead, he could feel a tingling sensation all over his body. It was like the buzzing of a million bees and the pain of being stung by all of them. Then the sensation started to disappear. In fact, it was as if all sensation in his body was disappearing. He thought he might be merging with Twos but that was not possible, was it? One by one, his nerves seemed to shut off. He wondered if this would kill him. However, it had not done so yet. From somewhere, he thought he heard a voice.

“Welcome to the club, Junior!”

And then there was an explosion.

March Madness 6: The Pixar Quarterfinals Pt. 2

August 4, 2018

Bracket

Ratatouille vs. Inside Out

Ratatouille is the story of a young, foodie rat who joins up with a human in order to realize both of their dreams of cooking and love. Fundamentally, it is a story about being out of place and then finding a new place that accepts you for who you are. I never felt that way with my family like Remy but I did feel like that in high school. I watched this movie after I had found a new tribe among the theater people in college. It was the first time I had felt somewhat accepted but even then I still felt a little out of sync. The highlight of the movie is Remy the Rat played by Patton Oswalt. Oswalt, like me, was born a geek and knows a lot about being out of place and then finding your tribe. He really embodies the ennui and frustration of dealing with a family that does not understand him. He also uses his well-honed skills to be as likable as possible which is difficult when you’re dealing with rats animated to actually look like rats. His main co-star is Lou Romano who is not only an actor but also a member of Pixar’s production art team. He is lovably awkward but unfortunately largely forgettable. As are many of the other supporting characters who are performed by great actors like Brad Garrett, Brian Dennehy, Janeane Garofalo, Peter O’Toole, Will Arnett, and Ian Holm. The animation was a great leap forward and the art style was stylized to be more French and different from the humans in the earlier Incredibles.

Inside Out is the story of a little girl and the swirling emotions inside of her. While we do get to know the little girl, the main characters are the embodiments of her Joy and Sadness. All of Riley’s emotions just want the best for her but Joy also wants her to be happy all of the time. At its heart, the movie is about finding emotional balance during the hard times. Joy and Sadness go on an adventure through Riley’s mind and begin to learn what their connection is. I watched this one in theaters early on a rainy Saturday morning and it was perfect for that. The animation is great as there are two different art styles. One is as we watch Riley and her parents interact and the other is inside Riley’s brain which is far more fluid and delightfully weird. Joy is played by Amy Poehler who brought happiness to the role but also determination. Phyllis Smith played Sadness and brought to the role a sadness it was hard not to feel sympathy for but also some intelligence. They are supported by Lewis Black, Bill Hader, and Mindy Kaling who play Anger, Fear, and Disgust respectively. Riley’s imaginary friend is played by Richard Kind and he is so engaging. Kaitlyn Dias, Kyle MacLachlan, and Diane Lane play Riley and her parents and I loved spending time with all three of them. Like most Pixar movies, there were so many grown-up moments among the fun silliness but this one especially was relatable.

Main Character: The creation of a true partnership between Joy and Sadness was fun and engaging to watch which topped Remy’s journey for a place in the world.

Supporting Characters: The supporting cast of Inside Out is more engaging and likable than Ratatouille. The humans in Inside Out are also way more interesting than the humans in Ratatouille.

Villain: Because Inside Out really did not have a villain, the villain of Ratatouille wins here.

Music: I thought that the French-styled music in Ratatouille was better than the respectable mood music from Inside Out.

Story: I felt like the story and experiences in Inside Out were more fundamental to the human experience and therefore had more impact. It was also just more fun.

Animation: The animation and dual art styles of Inside Out were naturally more superior as the technology and creative process had evolved.

Winner: Inside Out

Monsters Inc. vs. The Incredibles

Monsters Inc. is a story about monsters (of the under the bed or closet varieties) who discover that their world is not quite what they have been told it is. Mike and Sully are a partnership, a true friendship that must deal with the biggest crisis their world has ever seen. At its heart, the movie is about both overcoming prejudice and also corporate culture. The two heroes must rise above their blue-collar background and challenge the very system they have relied on for their entire lives. I saw this one four years after it was released while working for a summer camp and I felt sad that I had missed it for so long. Mike is played by Billy Crystal and he is the brains of the operation but also the more anxious character. Sully is played by John Goodman and he is the warm, generous one of the pair. They are opposed by James Coburn, Steve Buscemi, and Frank Oz with a slimy corporate air. They are supported by Jennifer Tilly, John Ratzenberger, and Bob Peterson (another memorable Pixar woman played by a man). The animation is very good and a lot of credit goes to the art team for creating such unique and varied monsters to populate their world. The worldbuilding is a lot of fun and they created a lot of interest in how that world worked (which is why they made the prequel).

The Incredibles is a story about a man looking back at his youth and being somewhat dissatisfied with where his life has gone. He took joy in his life with his kids and his wife but something is missing. That thing that is missing is his superhero career. At its core, the movie is about figuring out that the future can be better than the past if you work to make it that way. I watched this one on DVD well after it came out. Arguably the main character, Bob Parr, is played by Craig T. Nelson who had experience playing a dad and brought a real middle-aged gravity to the role. His wife is played by Holly Hunter and she is so good that many wanted her to be the main character. They are supported by Wallace Shawn, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Bird, and Elizabeth Pena. Brad Bird is particularly hilarious and charismatic as the fashion maven Edna Mode. The villainous Syndrome is played by Jason Lee and he is so hatable. The animation is absolutely beautiful and much of it styled like what live-action superhero movies would soon look like when Marvel really got going. One of my favorite things about the movie is the way the characters move and this is the first 3D animated movie that really nailed human beings in a way that kept away from the uncanny valley.

Main Character: The Parr Family are much like most families I have met and are a little more relatable than working stiffs Mike and Sully.

Supporting Characters: The supporting characters of Monsters Inc. are a little forgettable while the supporting characters in The Incredibles are given some of the best lines and more personality.

Villain: The toxic masculinity and toxic fanboy nature of Syndrome is so relevant to our world and is way better than the fairly bland corporate villains of Monsters, Inc.

Music: I prefer the dramatic full orchestral score of The Incredibles over the simpler Monsters, Inc.

Story: I feel like the story of a family learning to be on the same page while literally defeating the ghosts of the past is better than uncovering corporate lies.

Animation: These two are actually pretty comparable but the slight edge goes to the cinematic camera angles and composition of The Incredibles.

Winner: The Incredibles

Media Update 8/2/18

August 2, 2018


Being John Malkovich

I have been hearing about this movie since it came out as I am sure plenty of people who have not seen it experienced the same thing. If you have heard the premise and you think the movie has been spoiled, then you are wrong. This movie is absolutely insane. It has so many twists and turns and themes that is honestly overwhelming at times. At various times I found the movie to be funny, deep, and uncomfortable and sometimes the three feelings got mixed together. This is a surreal fantasy where nothing is quite real and everything is like a series of comedy routines but teetering on the edge of horror. The movie stars John Cusack and a barely recognizable Cameron Diaz as a couple. Cusack is incredibly nerdy and weird and strangely relatable but also easy to hate. Cameron Diaz is sympathetic but also just insane. There is also Catherine Keener as probably the most confident woman in the world. Of course, John Malkovich is in the movie. He is just so charming and ends up usually being the straight man to the madness around him. There are also great character actors like Orson Bean, Ned Bellamy, and Mary Kay Place. The movie is offbeat and weird in all the right ways. I definitely recommend this one as it is delightfully weird.


The Men Who Stare at Goats

We already know that the US Military is very good at wasting money. So the premise of a special PsyOps squad dealing with trying to find new, stupid ways to deal with our enemies. The team of Ewan MacGregor and George Clooney has so much chemistry that it is an obvious pairing. Ewan MacGregor’s journalist character is pathetic and gullible and charming. George Clooney is dashing and crazy, sort of like he was in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? mixed with a little Danny Ocean. Robert Patrick is here too and he is always a little scary with a lot of gravity. Jeff Bridges plays an army man who gets sucked into the hippie movement and comes out with his brain baked. We also have appearances from Stephen Root, Nick Offerman, and Stephen Lang. The movie is quirky and fun but it was not really as good as I thought it could be. Still, it is a fun romp through Iraq which is a phrase I never thought I would type. It is a fun enough movie to put on the background. I would recommend it for that.


Neighbors

I have not seen many Seth Rogen films because most of them are Judd Apatow movies and I am not really a fan of those. However, what I have seen (Green Hornet, Zack and Miri) have proved to me that Seth Rogen is a lot of fun. Here, he plays the fun party animal who has grown up and has a family but is in denial about maybe missing a step. Rose Byrne plays his wife who also wishes she had not left the party behind. She is a lot of fun and I had not really seen her in a comedy role before (I had only seen her in X-Men: First Class). They are opposed by Zac Effron and Dave Franco. Effron is on top of his game here, alternately being very charming and then dropping into a darker, Pacino-esque persona. Dave Franco (who I like better than his sleazy brother) switches between fun frat bro and hyper-intelligent. The movie is full of fun cameos from people like Lisa Kudrow, Hannibal Burress, Lonely Island, the cast of Workaholics, Randall Park, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jason Mantzoukas. There are also relative newcomers like Jerrod Carmichael and Craig Roberts who are a lot of fun. I fully expected this movie to be dumb and it was but in all the best ways. It was way better than it should have been and I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:

Psychedelic Horseshit – Portals

Within Temptation – Paradise

Fort Minor – Remember the Name

GFRIEND – Time for the Moon Night

Antigone Rising – Everywhere is Home

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Down the Rabbit Hole”
– I watched more Agents of Shield Season 5
– I watched more Luke Cage Season 2
– I watched more Supergirl Season 3
– I watched more NCIS Season 15
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 8
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube


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