Ex Machina – A Science Fiction Movie Review

This British production follows the story of Caleb Smith, a programmer working for Blue Book which is a Google-like company headed by a reclusive genius named Nathan Bateman.  Nathan has summoned Caleb to perform a Turing test on his female robot Ava.  A Turing test is the concept of an artificial intelligence passing itself off as human to an observer.  Ava has a human face, hands and feet attached to a body that is mostly mechanical.  Caleb quickly becomes emotionally attached to the robot and loses all objectivity for his job.  Nathan is a volatile, domineering personality who quickly bursts out into rage when anything goes against his plans.  Caleb slowly becomes convinced that Nathan is a kind of monster.

The story takes place in the claustrophobic “home” that Nathan has built in a remote mountain estate that can only be reached by helicopter.  We quickly see that nothing is at it seems.  Nathan is not trying to get Caleb’s opinion on Ava, he’s studying their interaction.  In this story we see that each of the corners of the triangle is manipulating the other two.  Caleb slowly finds out the dark details of Nathan’s project to produce artificial humans and I guess we’re supposed to sympathize with Ava and despise Nathan.  But it’s a funny thing.  By the end of the movie I feel the opposite.  Maybe it’s because I’m so tired of Alexa, my GPS and all the other annoying female artificial voices now filling our world.  I was rooting for Nathan.  I wanted him to shut down Ava and build a male robot that would just do its job and not complain.  After all, in the world we live in 99.999% of humanity are just wage slaves who toil away for the better part of our waking lives.

I was relieved to discover that there at least wouldn’t be any robot human sex scenes but there was some nudity involving an ancillary character.  Camera Girl chided me for watching robot sex movies.  Well this was worse than that.  It was sort of a robot revenge chick flick.  Female empowerment movies are really not my bag.  And female robot empowerment movies even less so.  I’m giving this thing a thumbs down.  If you are less sensitive about this sort of thing you might enjoy this movie but although some facets of the movie were interesting all in all I’d give it a pass.

28MAR2020 – OCF Update

This is the beginning of Week 3 of the COVID-19 lock-down here in lovely but chilly New England and the cabin fever hasn’t really set in yet.  But I must say the news has been a little monotonous.  Even Italy hasn’t reached their peak mortality yet and we’re still climbing so we’ll be here for at least a few more weeks.

The only political news is that Creepy Uncle Joe is not just creepy he’s a sex criminal.  One of his Senate staff workers accused him of an actual sexual assault on the streets of Washington D.C. back when he was just a lowly Senator.  Immediately calls to draft Andrew Cuomo as the Democratic Presidential Candidate began circulating.  It’s just amazing how terrible the Democrat bench truly is.

I must apologize for the low output on political posts.  I’ve tried to compensate by posting more reviews and photo stuff.  Just to let you know why this is, I’ve always felt that banging away at the same old thing when there’s nothing new to say is boring.  I assume it’s just as boring for the reader as it is for the writer.  So that’s why I haven’t been producing much of that stuff.  Chances are this is a very temporary lull caused by the lock-down.  We all know that regardless of whether the Democrats nominate Biden or an even worse candidate (as hard as that is to imagine) this election season will be the loudest, nastiest street brawl imaginable so I don’t see the need to pound away at the same old stuff when nothing is currently happening.

What I will do is look for interesting stuff in the news and life and post it along with my own cultural notes.  So hang in there.  Something horrible is bound to happen in Washington and we’ll have plenty of chances to be outraged sometime soon.

Also I want to start getting some feedback from the readers on the various types of posts I do.  After all Vox Populi, Vox Dei.  I want to see what is most interesting to the readers and give them more of that.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 26 – Errand of Mercy

Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet Organia to attempt to convince the inhabitants that they need to permit the Federation to

Defend their planet against the Klingons.  The Enterprise destroys an attacking Klingon ship but Kirk gives Sulu orders to retreat and bring the Federation fleet if a Klingon fleet appears.  And that is exactly what happens.  Now Kirk and Spock are trapped on the planet as a Klingon army occupies the town.  The Organians are completely non-violent and completely unconcerned by Kirk’s dire description of what life under a Klingon occupation would entail.  But they are anxious to protect Kirk and Spock and disguise them to prevent them being killed as Federation agents.

The Klingon Commander attempts to intimidate the Organians but is aggravated by their placid and agreeable manner.  It becomes apparent that both Kirk and Kor despise the Organians for their passivity and what they think is lack of courage.  Kirk and Spock begin guerrilla operations against the Klingons but they are quickly discovered and the Organians reveal their identities to forestall the Klingons using their mind sifter on the two officers to learn the truth.  Apparently, the mind sifter would also destroy their minds in the process of reading them.  Kor brings Kirk into his office and congratulates Kirk for his legendary exploits as the Enterprise’s captain.  He gives Kirk the chance to reveal information on the Star Fleet’s location.  But does not begrudge Kirk his resistance but merely tells him that he and Spock will be destroyed the following day under the action of the mind sifter.

While Kirk and Spock anticipate their fate suddenly the head Organian, Ayelborne, opens their cell door and offers them escape.  Confused but with no other choice they follow him.  After another futile attempt at convincing the Organians to resist the occupation, Kirk and Spock return to the Klingon headquarters with the plan of kidnapping Kor to force the Klingons to stop the mass killings until the Federation fleet can arrive.

When they break in on Kor in his office he seems unafraid and he reveals that his office contains a surveillance camera and immediately four Klingons enter with weapons drawn.  Kirk and Spock aim at the Klingons but simultaneously both the Klingons and the Federation officers fling their weapons away as if they were red hot.  Immediately following, we shift the scene to the Enterprise bridge where Sulu is preparing to give orders for the Federation fleet to fire on the Klingon fleet.  But simultaneously all the crew jump out of their seats as if they were in pain.

The Organians enter the office and reveal to both sides that they are not backward villagers but highly advanced beings who have outgrown the need for material bodies.  These advanced beings inform the Klingons and Kirk and Spock that they will not permit the war.  The Organians announce that on both Klingon and Earth an image of himself is announcing to both sides that they will not be permitted to go to war.  Both Kirk and Kor are highly incensed that the Organians would dare to interfere with their war.  Finally, Kor laments to Kirk that it is a pity it was prevented because it would have been a glorious war.

Back on the Enterprise Kirk feels embarrassed at how bloodthirsty he acted in front of the Organians.  Spock defends him saying that there is no shame in being less advanced than a race with a million years more evolution than humans possess.

This episode’s story is simple but reasonably well done.  Also, the dialog between Kirk and Spock has several funny exchanges.  When Kirk asks Spock how likely they are to succeed in their attempt to kidnap Kor, Spock replies that it is hard to be precise but he calculated the odds as 7,429.7 to 1.  Kirk reflected for a second and asks if he didn’t think that was close enough and Spock replies that he always endeavors to be precise.   On the merits I’ll give it a 7.

On the Shatner mockery scale there is much to enjoy here beyond the usual shoulder rolls and grunting.  When Kirk is explaining to the Organians the danger of being conquered by the Klingons, Shatner’s inflection is almost identical to the way it was parodied so wonderfully by Kevin Polack in his classic imitation of Shatner.  For that reason, I give this episode a 7 // 8.

Kung Fu Hustle – A Movie Review

I’m not normally a martial arts movie afficionado but an old friend was staying at “The Compound” and he took advantage of a Netflix account to watch quite a few of them.  One of those films was a movie from 2004 called Kung Fu Hustle and because of the fantasy aspects of the film I decided I could stretch a definition and do a review here.

First of all, this movie is in Chinese with subtitles.  As far as a genre I guess you could call it a martial arts fantasy comedy.  So, if any of those categories aren’t for you then you should skip this movie.  Stephen Chow is the producer, director, writer and star.

It is 1930’s Shanghai.  Chow plays Sing, a young man who has become disillusioned with the world because of his attempt as a child to defend a poor mute girl named Fong from some bullies.  He tried  using the Buddhist Palm fighting style that he had learned by reading a pamphlet that he bought from a beggar.  But he was beaten badly and because of this experience when he grows up he decides to turn to a life of crime.  He attempts to shake down some poor people by telling them he is part of the dreaded Axe Gang that rules the city through violence and terror.  When the peasants beat him up instead, he signals for the real Axe Gang and an epic battle ensues between the scores of Axe gangsters and the poor people of Pig Sty Alley.  As it turns out three of the peasants are coincidentally kung fu masters.  Behind their leadership the peasants defeat the gang.

Now Sum, the leader of the gang captures Sing and promises to kill him after the gang war is completed for causing such a terrible rout of his men.  But by some mysterious skill Sing escapes.  Meanwhile Sum hires two magical harp players.  Apparently, their music generates flying knives and using these they kill the three kung fu masters.  Now we meet up with two of the comic characters of Pig Sty Alley, the Landlord and his shrewish wife.  They also turn out to be kung fu masters and they avenge the slain men and defeat the harpists.

Meanwhile Sum decides that Sing can be a valuable tool because of his abilities as an escape artist.  He hires him to free a man called the Beast from an insane asylum.  He does this and, of course, the Beast is a kung fu master and a dangerous lunatic.  He attacks the Landlord and Landlady and fights them to a draw.  Sum orders Sing to help the Beast kill the husband and wife but Sing has a change of heart and attacks the Beast.  The Beast pummels the young man to a pulp and the Landlord flees with his wife and Sing’s unconscious body.

Somehow the tremendous beating triggers some kind of magical transformation in Sing and he not only completely regenerates but acquires the skills of, you guessed it, a Buddhist Palm kung fu master!  He squares off against the entire Axe Gang and the Beast.  After a titanic battle that involves flying through the sky and invisible forces that can knock down buildings, he defeats the Beast who then begs to be allowed to be Sing’s pupil.  Finally, in the last scene Sing meets up with Fong who is now an ice cream seller and I guess they live happily ever after.

You’ll probably say this is a ridiculous plot and it is.  But the action scenes are very well done, the comedy is funny and the story keeps your attention.  The martial arts scenes are somewhat reminiscent of the choreographed fight scenes in the Matrix.  If you aren’t completely opposed to a movie in this genre then I’d highly recommend you give this one a look.