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Jun 11, 2017

A Dark Beginning for the Dark Universe

Anyone who has been online this week has probably come across the many bad reviews being put out for Universal Studios' newest incarnation of The Mummy.  It's even currently sitting at a not so fresh 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, though if you look closer the audience score is actually 45%.  That's probably a bit more accurate and fair.

The studio has decided to create its own Dark Universe, likely inspired by the success of such franchises as Marvel's MCU, and bring to life the army of classic movie monsters it just happens to own the rights to.  The Mummy is the first step into this new overlapping world and gone is the campiness of the 1999 Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz romp along with the brooding full body wraps of the classic 1959 version with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Instead, the film is full of clear visuals, crisp visual effects and surprisingly not horrible acting.

I went into the film not expecting much, I will be honest.  I knew what people were saying and I have also grown somewhat tired of the recent offerings from Tom Cruise, action hero. I can say though, quite honestly, I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, some parts almost have a slightly desperate quality where you can tell the team making it wanted to put in everything they could in the hopes of making it successful but nothing jarring.  The story's main antagonist in the vengeful Egyptian princess Ahmanet is carried off really well by actress Sofia Boutella and the sweet looking blonde from the trailers, played by Annabelle Wallis, has more depth that I was expecting from the trashing her character was getting in the reviews.  To the point where I'm really hoping they intend to branch her out and make her the main lead and tie in for the next story.  I think both the character and the actress have more to give if they are given the chance and the script to work with.   Even Cruise manages to give some good comedic timing moments and character development. 

It definitely has some flaws but I watched it and was entertained.  There were some jumps, some snickers, some moments of genuine surprise and I enjoyed seeing nods both to what is alluded to for the rest of the Universe and to earlier imaginings of the story.

The movie is no Iron Man, breaking barriers and leaving audiences astounded, but its more enjoyable and entertaining than it's being made out to be. If Universal can step its game up a bit for the next installment, it may actually be able to get more audiences on side and build this Dark Universe it's hoping for.


May 30, 2016

Two Little Words and the World Crumbles

There's been a lot of uproar on social media the last couple days, with all of it caused by two little words..."Hail Hydra".  The reveal of Marvel's so called Hydra Cap has brought about some very strong feelings and opinions in many people and I've been trying to find a way to put my own feelings into words.

I missed the original announcement/reception because I'm not online at my work place. When I finally heard the news and sat down to do some catching up, my initial reaction was disbelief combined with the thought "well, he's got to be undercover or something". But the way Marvel and the writers are talking about it deliberately denies that idea.

After that, all I could feel was dislike and heavy disappointment. For so many reasons. 

Firstly, for whatever their stated reasons for going down this path, this feels like a really cheap gimmick and something you're more likely to see in DC than in Marvel. This is not me just having an us against them attitude either, I'm very aware people can like both, but I personally generally find DC characters and storylines somewhat lacking and heavily relying on these kinds of gimmicks mixed with cardboard archetype characters. Marvel usually has more depth than this.

Secondly, they're inferring things like Sarah Rogers, a woman that has always previously been about standing up for yourself and others and being the best you can be, led Steve into Hydra back before the serum. I'm sorry, but Natasha and Bruce's MCU Ultron romance has more believability than that. (For those who don't know me, that's said with sarcasm and heavy eye rolling)

Thirdly (and importantly), it's both disrespectful to the core ideals the character has always held and to the original (Jewish) creators of the character. Yes, Marvel owns Cap and can do whatever they want, but they also have a responsibility to the fans and to the legacy that Steve Rogers as Captain America represents. This kinda craps on both. 

Finally, the attitude of the writers and Marvel more closely echoes the glee of Internet trolls right now than the usually stand up company myself and others are used to loving and cherishing. They are delighting in the divisiveness this idea is causing, the writers are actively encouraging it, and they don't seem to care about the heartache being caused to fans of all ages. That's sad to see from a comic company that usually writes with a bent towards inclusiveness, equality and acceptance.

They will make their money, I'm sure, as there are always those that enjoy seeing things torn apart or that don't have strong feelings or find Cap boring etc etc etc. But it won't be my money and it won't be that of many people I know and trust. Which is again sad because I was kind of curious and looking forward to the new series. I LIKE the new look. But I can't like or condone the story, even if it all comes right in the end.


Nov 16, 2014

John Wick



What can I say about John Wick? Firstly, the fact that it seems to be coming to the end of it's run in our cinemas, despite only having been out 2.5 weeks, is a bit of a travesty.  I'm sure that those who make the decisions have some great reason for this.  Just like I'm sure there's a reason a lot of people haven't gone to see this film, but I'm not entirely sure what either of these are.

I've been curious about this film since first hearing about it, mostly because the production involved some of the most talented names of the stunt community today and I knew the action scenes would be visually interesting.  I also thought it interesting that Keanu felt strongly enough about the film to help back it as one of the executive producers.  What's it about?

John Wick is a simple story of sadness, revenge and an ex-hitman coming out of retirement for very personal reasons.  One of these is the death of his dog at the hand of some thugs. 

No, this is not a spoiler, it's shown in the trailer. For those who may have skipped this film because of that fact, let me put your mind at ease. I was worried about my reaction to that part too but it is, thankfully, short and off camera. It hits home and makes a point, makes you feel, but it's not the excruciating moment it could have been otherwise, in my opinion.

It definitely makes you feel for John, though, and makes you want to cheer him on.

The film has a pretty straight forward plot and there isn't a lot in the way of character development but that's actually okay.  This is, in a way, an action film made by action fans, for action fans.  First time directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch are stuntmen, through and through. They've been in the business a couple decades each and have worked on some of the biggest name movies in Hollywood.  They know what works on film and what looks good.  The action shots were clear and free of shaky cam, wide enough to get a good sense of the action and allowed the viewer to follow everything easily without jumping from cut to cut.  The fights themselves...well, they just worked. They were fast, brutal and realistic and they didn't seem like rehash of fights scenes you've seen before.  A lot of that credit goes to the guys and gals at 87Eleven Action Design, who did the stunt work in the film.  This is a group of talented and hard working people who live and breathe stunt work, and it shows in their projects.

For all that John Wick is a pretty simple action flick, it's also got an underlying sense of humor that helps move the story along.  It keeps the film from being too morose and dark, gets the viewer cheering even more for John and adds to the entertainment value of the film.  I personally found myself snickering quite a few times.  Some of that is definitely due to some of the fantastic actors thrown into some of the smallest of parts.

Generally speaking, I found it an entertaining movie.  What more can I say?  It has 84% on Rotten Tomatoes?  I'd probably agree with that.  I enjoyed seeing it on the big screen, where it's easy to take everything in, and I'm fairly certain I'll watch it again when it comes out on dvd.  If you can catch it before it leaves the cinemas (without breaking the bank) then do it. Take a night and just enjoy some entertaining action.




 

Jul 18, 2014

Snowpiercer


I'm still kind of processing what I just watched, not because it was strange or confusing but because it was more than I was expecting.

Like most people, I'm sure, I heard about the film 'Snowpiercer' because its star is none other than the very popular Chris Evans. Realising that it was both a somewhat post-apocalyptic sci-fi film and one with a serious tone to it made me very curious, especially because Chris is known more for his comedic side than his serious one.

Note to Avengers fans, this is also the role he was in the midst of when he had to hide his grown out beard for the infamous Shwarma credits scene.

That was quite literally all that I knew going into the film. I certainly didn't know it was based on a 1980's French graphic novel known as 'Le Transperceneige' but have discovered that since and am now curious enough to try and track down a copy of the novel.

The basic premise of the film is that humans have screwed up royally (as we tend to do, especially in post-apocalyptic scenarios) and the entire world has been covered in ice and snow. The few surviving humans live on the Snowpiercer, a special train that travels continuously around the world, never stopping. Going outside means death. If the train were to fail, everyone would die. And, in a perfect representation of society as a whole, there is a class system in place where the rich and powerful have everything they want and ride at the front of the train while those with nothing ride at the tail.

Curtis Everett (Evans) is a man who has lived half his life in the tail of this train, surviving on the little given to them by the elites at the front. As with any story involving caste systems and the downtrodden, Curtis and his cohorts want a change and they plan a rebellion.

This is South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's first English language film and contains a cast of Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris and a grown up Jamie Bell alongside the earlier mentioned Evans, which kind of surprised me as I'd tried not to read much about the film beforehand. It's all pretty much perfect casting, as is the rest of the ensemble that makes up the group of interesting and classic characters.

Visually, the film had a strange kind of beauty to it and the contrast between the different parts of the train and the starkness of the white snow outside it was quite eye catching. The effects weren't perfectly flawless but there wasn't anything that jumped out too badly and some parts were amazingly well done. For all that my brain knew the truth behind this miraculous train to be an impossibility, it all blended well enough together that I was allowed to believe in it for the sake of the film.

The story was simple, classically so, so there weren't too many surprises but some of the twists towards the end were unexpected. Despite the simplicity of the story, or maybe because of it, I found myself actually quite drawn in and fascinated throughout the film. Seeing Chris in this role was also a real draw as there were no one liners, no snappy comebacks, just a seriousness and gravity to the character that was very believable and deeper than he's shown in even his role as Captain America. Of course, you find out about his story as the film goes on, through his own words and his interactions with those around him and some of it is a little shocking.

I don't want to give much away, and I certainly don’t want to drum up expectations, but I found this film enjoyable and entertaining. I would actually like to watch it again so I can pay more attention to the background. I recommend this film, to anyone who likes survival stories or that dead world atmosphere and certainly to anyone fond of Evans' work as it's a good role for him and quite a change of pace.


Jul 4, 2014

Truth, Justice And Relevance - A Reply

The date of July the 4th means a great many things and has significance to a large number of people. Today it has inspired some thoughts and a blog post from a friend about a couple of the biggest icons in comic history, and their relevance today.

Truth Justice Liberty Hope Relevance is an interesting read, talking about DC's Superman and Marvel's Captain America and their place in the world today.  Reading it, I knew immediately that I would have something to say in return because it feels like a puzzle piece, just one piece of a larger conversation that has been ongoing between myself a friends for a very long time.

I'll start by admitting a personal bias right off.  I've been an avid supporter of Marvel just about my whole life and my attempts to get into the DC universe have generally been met with a variety of less than stellar responses. I'm going to do my best to put that bias aside however, while at the same time I'll also be trying to look at this from the view point of someone who hasn't grown up immersed in comic culture.



Captain America & Superman...are they relevant in today's cynical society or has the shine worn off these icons of "good"?  This is the essential premise of the question Darcrider asks.

As he says, each of these characters is held up as an image to embody what is the "best" in the United States of America, living symbols of truth, justice and the American Dream. Each filled to the brim with happy propaganda and somewhat dated in their adherence to "old fashioned" values that sometimes seem to have no place in the world today.  With various levels of success, they continue to front large franchises as the average public buys movie tickets, plastic toys and logo-ed t-shirts, so you would think that answers the relevancy question in itself but I think it's more complicated than that.

Superman feels like he's always been around and, unless you were born before 1938, that's pretty much true. Everyone knows his origin; the last survivor of a dead alien world, raised without knowledge of his birth by a simple Kansas family until his teens when are the powers given to him by our yellow sun show him just how different he really is. He is the eternal outsider fighting for a world not his own and saving us from ourselves and outside forces, doing it because it's the "right" thing to do and also in the hopes of finding acceptance with people who would supposedly just fear him otherwise. Clark Kent, the name he was first raised under, becomes his secret identity to hide who really is.

Captain America came into the comic scene just 3 years behind his DC compatriot, all bright and shiny in his very obvious red, white and blue finery.  He was created to instill patriotism and fight fear in a populace gone from Depression to war in a blink of an eye.  A symbol of good, of strength and justice and all that people should strive for, he doesn't actually exist.  Steve Rogers is a man who grew up rough in Brooklyn, New York during the Great Depression, the son of Irish immigrants. Sickly and frail for most of his young life, he still wanted to make a difference and gets his chance thanks to an experimental serum. That serum and the Army's propaganda machine, turn him into Captain America.

In a way, for all their similarities, these two icons are almost polar opposites.

I can remember a time when I thought Captain America was dull but that had more to do with perceiving him as an overly patriotic symbol of the great US of A rather than for his ideals.  When I came to realize that he was more than the flag he wore, that's actually when I began to find him interesting.  The average person doesn't know the origin of Cap as well as they do Supes nor do they know his story, the layers of his personality and why he stands for what he does.  With Superman, it's very much what it says on the package for most people.  I feel he loses relevance more in his lack of surprises than in his shining morals.

DC likes to write Archetypes, Marvel likes to write characters. Darcrider quotes a comedy story of Lex Luthor verbally taking Superman down a peg or two and, while the story itself is meant to be a jab at Marvel in general, I actually feel that it makes my point for me in a lot of ways.

“…Your job is to be an inspiration for people! Someone they can look up to! Someone they can aspire to be like! In steadfastness, in character, in ideals! And what did Marvel offer? They said, ‘Don’t worry! You don’t have to aspire to anyone in our books. You just have to relate to them.’ And now we have an entire culture that thinks that who they are is just fine and how dare anyone suggest that they can improve themselves? Why aspire to be Superman, when it’s so much easier to relate to Spider-man? No one wants to look up to you Superman; they don’t want to strain their necks. Instead, they look straight ahead at the compromised heroes in front of them and say, ‘That’ll do just fine’…”

Do we not want to strain our necks or is it that people don't want to look directly into the sun?  It's unattainable, it's an impossible dream and hazardous as well.  Superman has often been referred to as a Sun God for a reason. The Moon is just as big a dream, just as high a mark to strive for but it's not going to burn you while you dream and plan and it's grounded in some real possibility. Ground a hero in something people can relate to and they feel more able to attain the same lofty heights that hero stands for.  Captain America is a symbol of good but it's an attainable good. When he holds people to account for their actions, he does the same for everyone, including himself, including governments.

I don't think it's their ideals that take these characters out of relevance or makes them dull, I think it's their treatment and the treatment of their stories. Captain America holds so much more humanity and more surprises for people right now, so he draws people to want to find out more. DC needs to find the humanity in Superman, which you can see they kind of TRIED to do in the recent Man of Steel film, but they went about it in the wrong way.  And they need to stop telling the same story over and over again!

One of the few DC writers I really love is Grant Morrison, who has an amazing ability to find the interesting and the relatable in the most ridiculous of characters. (He managed to legitimized Bat-Mite! I'm still stunned) In his book Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human there is a quote from the writer that seems quite perfect here: “We love our superheroes because they refuse to give up on us. We can analyze them out of existence, kill them, ban them, mock them, and still they return, patiently reminding us of who we are and what we wish we could be.”

(You notice the book title talks about Superman teaching the meaning of being human? Think on that.)

Being "good" or a "hero" doesn't make a character irrelevant no matter how cynical our society gets because the fact we keep making comics and turning to comic book characters for our escape shows just how much we need them, how much they mean to us in the ideals they represent. What causes problems is when we stop looking for new stories to tell and ways to MAKE our heroes continue to grab our hearts, minds and dreams and make us strive to be more in-spite of ourselves.

Btw, Happy Birthday, Steve Rogers. :)

Jul 18, 2013

Evil Dead Rises Again

After many months of pouting and wishing they had actually released this film to standard Australian cinemas (it was made in New Zealand! We should have got it here), I have finally had the opportunity to watch the brand new Evil Dead film.

Like so many films, especially the ones that are remakes or sequels of beloved favorites, I went into this with an expect the worse but hope for the best attitude.  I knew it wasn't going to be that strongly tied to the original and much loved Evil Dead trilogy and I had already heard, as many have, that Bruce Campbell was not in this film at all.  The main thing I had heard was that it was bloody, gory and supposedly had some people retching in their seats in the American cinemas.

Wow, distracting! I'm trying to write this up right after having watched the film but the other half has Olympus Has Fall playing at the same time.

Anyway, back to Evil Dead.  I kept notes while watching the film, pretty much checking off all the 'needed' classic horror movie elements.  I'd list them...but, you know, spoilers.  It had them all and then some.  You know all those things that movies like Cabin in the Woods makes fun of? Yah, they're pretty much all there.  To me, an avid horror fan, it was both really welcome and a little cheesy. It means, though, that you start to recognize things and kind of know what to expect.

This movie has been tag-lined as 'The most terrifying film you will ever experience'  To that, I have to say only if you don't generally watch horror movies. For pure scary or creepy factor, I personally didn't find it that strong. But the gore...the gore was definitely one of its strengths.  For pure blood quotient and things you really wouldn't want to have done to you, this film did pretty good.  And for anyone who's a fan of the original Evil Dead film, that very first piece of classic horror cinema, you will definitely recognize and enjoy certain nods to that film.

Overall, the writing and the storyline could be called a little soft and the actors and characters probably don't have quite the charismatic strength that Bruce Campbell and his cohorts managed to express.  In a time where almost everyone has seen movies like The Ring, the Hostel films, anything from the Saw franchise or Paranormal Activity, this film probably doesn't have quite the impact the filmmakers would have hoped but it's a straight out, decent horror film and an alright addition to the Evil Dead family.  I enjoyed watching it, I will probably add it to my collection because it was straight out fun even if it could have been stronger and I will almost definitely watch the sequel when it happens. Just don't expect it to be everything you might have dreamed of.

I do very much wish I could have seen it in the cinemas, though. I'm sure the impact would have been much greater.

Oh yah, you might want to watch until after the credits, too.

Jul 14, 2013

Post Hardcore 2013

Whether you call it punk or hardcore or something else entirely, there is no question that this is a genre of music that has its lovers and its haters. Thankfully, its lovers don't care what the haters think so we get great little music events like the ongoing Hardcore one held this past weekend at The Hi-fi in The Entertainment Quarter.

I personally listen to a rather large range of music, often depending on my mood, but I'm one who has had a long time love of punk music.  I got introduced to the classic likes of The Ramones, The Clash and the Sex Pistols, along with their more hardcore cousins Black Flag, The Misfits and the Dead Kennedys, as a young teenager. The perfect time, really, to first hear these bands.  They're all still on my playlist too, even if they aren't always in high rotation, along with several much newer bands of the genre.

This weekend, I went out to see some bands in this loved genre that I honestly knew almost nothing about, so you could say I had the most open mind possible.  I had originally planned to get tickets but, like many things, I forgot.  Luckily, I happened to enter the Hi-Fi's contest for a double pass and won, so I have them to thank for the chance to check out some local Australian talent and a great old school hardcore band from the States. So, without further adieu...the roll call and review.






Higher Power

First off the rank, and facing a still quiet and slightly undersized crowd, were this Melbourne based crew.  My first impression about these guys were of the bass player and the guitarist.  Both were really good, fingers flying like they had wings (pardon the cheesy metaphor) and they were both really into the music they were playing.  The music itself didn't grab me off the bat.  Hardcore is a great genre but it's sometimes hard to stand out from the crowd of hard-rocking, hard hitting hardcore bands. I couldn't help but feel that these guys hadn't yet found something to pull them up out of the pack, something to make them stand out from the rest of the background noise.  Which made me a little sad for such obviously talented musicians.  The main thing that stood out for me about the vocalist was that he was angry and having one hell of a fight with his microphone...which he was losing.  In all, they were a good standard band and I didn't mind listening to them at the time, but they didn't with me.

Boneless

I feel bad for this band.  Stuck in what was probably the hardest to remember spot, I am actually struggling to remember much, if anything, about them.  I even briefly forgot their name!  I know that there wasn't a single bad band that I listened to last night but some definitely stood out more than others, for various reasons.  This was not that band.  They are Sydney based, like several of the bands playing Hardcore this year, so I may have the chance to hear them again.  I'm hoping that if/when I do, they leave me with something more memorable.

Vigilante

Another Sydney based band, these guys were one of the most cohesive and 'on' bands of the night.  Good sound, good rhythm, I found myself enjoying them quite a bit.  They seemed to really be enjoying their time on stage and the crowd was into them.  I also really liked that they had a message, that the vocalist had a message he felt he needed to put forward against violence and also about being yourself.  It made it feel like they were putting more feeling and more thought into the sounds they were making.  I think this band just needs a little something more to bring them up to the next level, a little something more to their music and maybe something distinctive to their look to make them stand out.  I'd see them again.

Warbrain

While Melbourne based Warbrain were not my favorite band of the night, they were defineitly one of the favorites with crowd.  Guys and girls rushed up front, screaming and chanting the lyrics along with the band.  The lead vocalist was also really into his music, running up and down the stage, probably doing as many laps as half the guys in the pit.  There was something about the guitars, the music that I did like, that caught my attention.  One or two songs kept dragging my memory back to The Crow soundtrack, certain riffs triggering a bit of an emotionally response.  It wasn't anything directly from any song or band, more of just a feeling, a mash up of the soundtrack's specific mid-90's sound with a little bit of a Nine Inch Nails meets My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult vibe with hard hitting,screaming vocals.  It's entirely possible no one else will ever hear it, but it was something that hit my while listening.

Toe To Toe

This first of the 'old school' hardcore bands to finish out the night, these guys have been rocking Sydney since their formation in the very early 90's and their full on, balls-to-the-wall sound showed it.  Definitely a much earlier sound than some of the first bands which are almost all fairly newly formed.  Good though and the crowd were into them so if you want classic hardcore punk sound, these guys had it.

Youth Of Today

The closers of the night, and the major draw card, this was the classic hardcore band's very FIRST visit to Australia and they were making the most of it.  Vocalist Ray Cappo was owning the stage like it was 1985 not 2013, though his powerful mid-song affirmations to the crowd might have been a bit more breathless than back then.  The short Conneticut born Italian (his words!) has done a lot of things in the years since the birth of this band, to the point where flyers for a day of yoga with him were being handed out between sets, but he still had the crowd jumping and revved up.  Old school songs, old school sound, I really loved having the opportunity to see these guys in person.  The only thing missing were classic punk clothes and 80's big hair. In all, a great sounding band that I had the pleasure to see perform before they call it quits forever.

 
It was a great event and a lot of fun, if you love the genre, and I think that there was only one thing that disappointed me the whole night.  Not a mohawk in sight all night, though there were some impressive beards and one truly great mustache.  The crowd was a lot more mixed than I expected, lots of girls truly into the music as well as a real mix of ages and looks...skaters and old school punks mixed with Sea Shepherd activists and metalheads.  Next year, I might check out the second day of the event, which presents more bands than the 18+ night I attended and is also All Ages.

Jun 6, 2013

The Truth About Emo

If there is one thing I loathe with the power of a dying sun, it's the term 'Emo'. I mean, what is it? It's not even a THING! Emo is a bunch of teenagers trying to make themselves feel special in the way they express how Awful and Terrible it is to be a teenager. Guess what? That's not a new thing.

Everyone who has ever had to grow up (ie EVERYONE) is aware that it sucks to be a teenager. 

And by the way, cutting yourself to show how emotional and angst ridden you are isn't Emo, either. It's not even a part of being a teenager, it's just dumb. As a way to make yourself feel better, it's self-defeating and self-destructive. Don't do it! If you REALLY feel that badly about life and/or yourself, talk to someone and get some help. Please!

Emo isn't a style. All it ever was, was a confused mix of hipster and goth with the only distinctive thing about it being a bad hair cut. And guess what? Making like you're trying to hide from the world behind your hair? Not new, really really not new.

There is no Emo music genre. The bands that got labelled that way mostly just had the dual misfortune of being popular during the supposed 'Emo period' and being popular with the teenagers who were trying to show how Deeply Upset they were. Also, here's food for thought. Emo is supposedly short for Emotional but if you're listening to or creating music that doesn't have any emotion basis to it, then you're doing it really wrong. And you kind of don't need to label it.

All Emo is, is an empty made up label that doesn't mean anything to anyone and that even the creators of it refuse to admit to anymore. Emo is a joke. Emotions are real, being upset as a teenager is real (not new, but real), music is real, finding your own sense of style rather than following the crowd...is real. The rest is just empty boxes that nothing actually fits into and sad attempts at marketing.

Need help? PLEASE click!
(Links below are Australian organizations but there are groups like these anywhere so please get help if you need it)

www.beyondblue.org.au

www.headspace.org.au

au.reachout.com

www.lifeline.org.au

Mar 20, 2013

Trains, Books and Reasons

There are a lot of stories about rape culture, female safety and so forth going around at the moment. It's a major issue affecting us all right now. And between the Steubenville case, Unwinona's blog and some conversations (online and off) with some female friends, the idea of train safety and the issues of public transport have been heavily on my mind.

Part of this is because I worry for the safety of my friends and partly because I am one of the fortunate females who hasn't had to deal with some of the kinds of issues others have. I find myself wondering why.

My first thought is kind of negative and self destructive but I have it anyway....maybe I'm just not attractive enough for the guys to bother with. The thought doesn't really affect me much, I'm capable of owning up to its silliness and inconsequential nature, shrug and move on. Whatever. From there I have to look at true facts and subjective issues.

I'm tall, but not overly. I'm average weight, Caucasian and have long blonde hair. I'm generally a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl but dress up on occasion and even DRESS-UP on the trains too. I don't go out of my way to worry about attracting attention, that's for sure.

One reoccurring theme that I've noticed come up is one thing I don't do; I don't read on trains. I'm an avid reader and adore books but I don't bother reading on trains. I have in headphones almost all the time, 7 out of 10 trips I have to stand or deliberately chose to stand and part of why I don't read is a lifetime habitual preference to be aware of my surroundings. I like to people watch, plus I was heavily bullied as a teen so I like to have an awareness of the people (men, women and kids) around me, something I don't have when I get lost in a book. I'm also paranoid about missing my stop and impatient to be one of the first out of the carriage because I hate being stuck in the cattle crush. I'm a very friendly, open person but I'm told I have a distinct 'back off' vibe at times, though I can't tell you when or how.

In there, somewhere, is the reason or reasons I've been so fortunate to have as little trouble on trains as I have. (Which I hope continues after this!) I'm tempted to run tests and add or subtract the variables until I figure out what it is but that would be almost impossible to do properly and probably not overly safe. Is it the book thing? It's the only reoccurring thing I've been able to pin point in the tales of friends and strangers. Which is ridiculous because why shouldn't a girl be able to read on a long train ride if she wants to, without attracting unwanted attention? Is there something about the nature of the action that causes curiosity or gives off an easy target vibe? The lack of awareness maybe? Or is it something infinitely more subjective and/or more personal about each individual involved?

It's something I would like to figure out or have SOMEONE figure out, in order to help ensure the safety of women everywhere. Of course, we shouldn't have to constantly worry about being safe, protecting ourselves and avoiding adverse situations but until the whole world changes, we have to live in it and deal with the current society issues. Ignoring them to make a point obviously isn't safe for anyone.

I hope that maybe something I've said about my personal scenario above may help someone, even just one person, or may strike a chord somewhere in how to fix things in general to make them safer.

Jan 3, 2011

Of Legacies & Evolutions

At this time, I've watch the movie twice and played through the game twice so I thought now might be a good time to do some reviews of each of them, my first for the new year. I'll start with the film first, since that's the way it should be done.


Tron: Legacy opens and introduces us to Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), a young man with a taste for adrenaline and a dislike for responsibilities and authority. Having grown up without his father, and still having no idea what happened to him, has left a mark on the young man. His father's company of Encom is now run by a board of directors that would be more to Dillinger's liking than Flynn's and good friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) has been sidelined.

Right off the bat, I found Sam to be a likable character. He's got his own set of issues but they're tempered by an obvious sense of humor and a good heart. And it's clear that Alan has done his best to look out for his friend's son.

After getting a nostalgic look at Flynn's Arcade, we end up on the Grid with Sam, where he faces Recognizers, sentries, Clu and gets thrown into the Games. He escapes with the help of a friendly program named Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and soon finds his father and learns the truth of what happened so many years before, including the fate of the movie's namesake.

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a very interesting character in this, part visionary, part hacker, part zen philosopher. He's been trapped inside all these years and has done his best to come to terms with his new life and the things he's lost but you get the idea that everything he was is still simmering just under the peaceful seeming surface. Seeing his son again, all grown up, definitely shakes things up for him and solidifies his priorities, things his long captivity has made him realize were more important all along.

Throughout the film, as Flynn, Sam and Quorra race to stop Clu, you meet a whole host of interesting characters including Castor (Michael Sheen) & his crew at the End of Line Club, Siren Gem (Beau Garrett), the unstoppable Rinzler and Clu's somewhat oddball sidekick, Jarvis (James Frain). There is even a great cameo by Daft Punk as a pair of mp3 programs.

Some would say that the film's plot is too simple and sparse to be enjoyable but I can't agree. In an industry where everyone is trying to create the new Inception, the next A Beautiful Mind or is just resorting to blowing up as many things as they can, I found watching this sequel to the original Tron very refreshing. The story is classic, a young man's search for the truth, and his father, and his growth along the way. It sucks you in right from the very beginning and makes you care about the fate of the characters and it's all set against the beautiful backdrop that is the stunning visual effects of this film

Fans of the first film will immediately spot the familiar recognizers and tanks, though they have been updated, and the new Grid is pure eye candy. No hand done rotoscoping here and the new suits look fantastic. Each effect is done with an eye for detail and is flawless in its execution while Tron City looks like you could live there, and you want to by the end of the film. The only exception might be when you see young Kevin Flynn and his grid sidekick Clu 2. Yes, you can tell that the faces are entirely digital and under certain lights can look a little too false but when you consider they're attempting to create a young version of an actor who is now in his 60's, I can't entirely fault them.

Combine all of this with the amazing soundtrack created by Daft Punk and you really can't go wrong. The score is distinctive, bringing to mind certain scenes from the film long after you've finished watching it, and several of the songs, such as Derezzed, wouldn't be out of place on Daft Punk's latest album. Those planning to buy the OST do need to realize, though, that it IS a soundtrack and not a new studio album from the pair so it contains the entire score of the film and not just the dance hits. Personally, I enjoy driving to it.

I really can't recommend this enough. It's a beautiful film and I found I actually enjoyed it more, and got more out of it, when watching it the second time. The first time, you are so dazzled by the look and sound of the film that the plot actually takes second place. Just don't watch it expecting a high brow art-house film because that's not what Tron: Legacy is. This is a film for the imagination and the inner child, a film that makes you smile and catch your breath and that anyone, of any age, can sit and enjoy time and again.



SOME SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT!





The first thing I need to say about the game is don't play it first. While Tron: Evolution IS intended as a prequel to the film, the storyline works better if you have already seen the film. Not only do you see the correlation with certain events and the tie ins they've worked into it but you won't be spoiled about certain information. There are several things that you learn in the game that are, more or less, meant to be surprises in the film such as Castor/Zuse, Quorra being an ISO and the last of her kind and few other bits a pieces.

The first thing you will notice about the game, though, is that it is just as visually breathtaking as the film. You really do feel like you're in that world, which is great because in playing the game you get to explore more of what you only glimpse in Tron: Legacy.

The year is 1989 and your character is Anon, a specially programed system monitor created by Kevin Flynn to sort out what's been going on with the Grid. In this role you meet Tron, Quorra, Clu, Zuse, many of the ISO's, a friendly program named Gibson and eventually come face to face with the creator himself. You witness Clu's attack on Tron and Flynn in a cut scene taken almost perfectly from the film, see the destruction and purge of the ISOs and go up against the game's real enemy, a terrible virus by the name of Abraxas. Towards the end, your main goal is to protect Quorra and get her to safety. Yes, that sympathetic program she mentions in the film...it's you!

Whether going up against Clu's variety of sentries or the virus infected programs Abraxas has created, you generally fight with your light disc. The game carefully teaches you the basics of fighting and moving through this digital realm and then gives you a list of combos to use. Different enemies have different weaknesses and you can upgrade your software, adding mods to your disc to make it easier to fight them or just increase your health and energy.

Controls for moving about take a little bit of getting used to and can be a tiny bit frustrating for a bit but, with practice, getting through the game becomes very interesting and enjoyable. Even after playing it twice I still often derezz when I hit the controls wrong but you get used to that quickly. The moves you use have been predominately taken from Parkour so you leap over objects, run along walls and spend a lot of time flying through the air over the bright lights of the Grid. When not competing hand-to-hand, you also go up against tanks...and then get to drive and fight with one! I have to say, using a tank to blast Recognizers out of the air is one of my favorite parts. Not to be left out, there are also fast paced lightcycle sections where you have to move quick while avoiding being derezzed by recognizers, tanks or an assortment of objects that get in your way.

Tron: Evolution is not a very long game and can go quite quickly once you get the hang of the moving and fighting but every minute is fun and very beautiful. Even once you finish the game, you can try again on higher levels or play online multiplayer battles with discs, tanks or lightcyles and you keep your level throughout. On the Xbox 360, there are of course a variety of achievements to be won and they aren't impossible to reach.

Remember that, like most of the Xbox games, you need an Gold membership to play the online multiplayer maps with friends or other random players but for anyone who has enjoyed either of the Tron films and wants another way to get immersed in the world, I highly recommend this game. It's eye catching and fun and challenging enough without discouraging less proficient gamers and adds a bit to the storyline of the film.