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.

 

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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.

Looper – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Looper is a 2012 time-travel film noir starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis both as a character named Joe.  The premise of the movie is that in the year 2074, time travel has been invented but it is illegal.  It is used by criminals to dispose of people by sending them thirty years into the past where killers called loopers execute them in exchange for bars of silver.  The kicker is that thirty years later the loopers are sent back into the past to be executed by their younger selves.  This is called closing the loop and once the looper kills his older-self he is retired with a golden payday and heads off to enjoy his money in peace for thirty years.  I know, this is a seriously goofy plot device.

Young Joe is a lost soul with a drug habit and little else.  At one point he attempts to help his friend Seth, a fellow looper, whose older-self escapes killing.  He hides Seth in his apartment.  But when their boss Abe, played by Jeff Daniels, tells Joe that the choice is betraying Seth or losing half of his silver stash, Joe gives up Seth who is killed in a fiendishly painful way.

And of course, a similar thing happens to Joe.  His older-self shows up to be killed but eludes Joe and thus it becomes a three-way search with Young Joe looking for his older-self and the gang looking for both of them.  Into the middle of this is thrown a young woman named Sara, played by Emily Blunt, and her young son Cid.  Young Joe shows up at her farmhouse because he has information that Old Joe is planning to kill the boy.  Old Joe has information that leads him to believe that the boy will grow up to be a ruthless killer that will lead to the death of Old Joe’s wife.  I won’t give away the ending because it’s well done and if you decide to see the movie it would spoil it.

From the point of view of science fiction, the plot has got more holes in it than swiss cheese.  Using time travel to get rid of bodies?  That’s the best use they could come up with?  This story is really a character driven noir.  Joe, in both of his manifestations, is a damaged human being who late in the game discovers his humanity.  The improbable plot allows his characters to exhibit the best and worst traits in their personalities and his interaction with Sara and Cid allows him to finally look beyond his harried, meaningless existence and do something right.

By the illogic of the scenario, this movie may not appeal to somescience fiction fans with higher expectations for time travel story consistency.  But as a story it has merits.  Gordon-Levitt is his usual sympathetic persona.  Interestingly they used makeup  to try to make him look a little bit more like Bruce Willis.  It is a little distracting, but not much.  Bruce Willis is, of course, Bruce Willis and is most himself when he is pouring automatic weapons fire into his surroundings which he does with great abandon.  But he does okay.  The supporting cast is good and the few special effects are good enough.  I’ll recommend this movie.  It’s not great but it’s good.

Ready Player One – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Lately I’ve been at a loss to find any sci-fi movies that I might like.  After some searches I saw a trailer for this 2018 Spielberg film and decided to give it a viewing.  The scenario is a dystopian future where because of (you guessed it) global warming and the exhaustion of all fossil fuels everybody lives in trailer homes stacked on top of each other in piles.  And because life is so miserable, everybody spends all their time inside a virtual reality program called the Oasis.  This program was invented by an uber-geek named James Donovan Halliday who when he died revealed to the world that hidden in Oasis was an Easter Egg and clues to finding it.  Whoever found it would inherit his ownership of Oasis which was worth around a trillion dollars.

This is the story of how a teen age geek named Wade Owen Watts (in game name; Parzival) with the help of his friends Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Shoto find the Easter Egg and save the gaming world from the evil IOI (Innovative Online Industries) corporation that wanted to win the contest and turn Oasis into a boring commercial wasteland.  Nolan Sorrento, the head of IOI, detects Wade’s success at finding the clues and uses real world violence to try and sideline Wade and his friends.  And in fact, Wade’s aunt and many people living in his trailer stack are killed in a drone attack meant for Wade.  But eventually good prevails and Wade and his friends find the egg and live happily ever after.  Now for my review.

This is a Spielberg film.  And it is like every other Spielberg film.  The hero is introduced and we watch him struggle, fail, learn and grow.  The good people are hip and watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the Breakfast Club when they were young and the bad people are corporate types that wear three-piece suits.  And because this is today one of the characters is a black lesbian because diversity.  And like in all Spielberg films, when the climactic scene where everything will either fail or succeed is reached, there is the annoying back and forth fumbling which is supposed to produce nervous tension.  In this one the on-line character is trying to get a key into a keyhole while his real-life body is standing in the back of a speeding mail truck that is being slammed into by hostile vehicles.  So, for several minutes we have to watch him miss the keyhole.  This sort of thing was annoying in the Indiana Jones movies and in Saving Private Ryan.  It’s still annoying today.

It’s not a terrible movie.  The special effects in the movie are extremely good.  But the characters in Oasis and in the real world are not particularly likable or realistic.  And the plot is very predictable with the usual strawman for the villain.  I suppose someone who is a big fan of gaming might enjoy the in-jokes and references to classic games.  I thought it was trite and very self-indulgent.  Probably good for Spielberg fans.

Escaping from Their Better World

Joss Whedon is a colossal Progressive Jerk.  His politics are as stupid as the politics of any of the other losers in Hollywood.  But his one saving grace, in my opinion, is that he created the “Firefly” television series and the follow-on motion picture “Serenity.”  Serenity is a perfect metaphor for the culture we live in.

In the fictional Firefly universe, the powerful elites control the “Core” worlds where life is luxurious and everything is controlled by the security state known as the Alliance.  Out on the rim life is difficult and the inhabitants chafe under the hegemony of the Core which defeated their Rebellion in a devastating war. But they are far enough away from the Core that they can evade much of the control if they live outside the legitimate business world.  One such concern is the Firefly Class spaceship “Serenity” captained by former rebellion soldier Malcolm Reynolds.  Mal now runs Serenity as a trading ship which indulges in all manner of illegal enterprises and is constantly on the run from the Alliance security forces.

In the movie Serenity Mal is in more than the normal amount of trouble because one of his crew possesses a dangerous secret that the Alliance will do just about anything to stifle.  On a distant world the Alliance tested a chemical called pax.  It was meant to remove all aggression from the populace and therefore create a “better world” free from anger, hate and fear.  Unfortunately, it not only eliminated aggression it completely eliminated the will to live and the inhabitants just lay down and died.

To stop Mal and his people from revealing this secret the Alliance sends their most skilled “Operative” to eliminate Serenity.  In one of the pivotal scenes the Operative reveals to Mal his motivation.

Mal – Do you even know why they sent you?

Operative – It’s not my place to ask.  I believe in something greater than myself.  A better world.  A world without sin.

Mal – So me and mine gotta lay down and die so you can live in your better world?

Operative – I’m not going to live there.  There’s no place for me there any more than there is for you. Malcolm, I’m a monster.  What I do is evil.  I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.

Later on, Mal stops running and decides to take a stand.

Mal – This report is maybe twelve years ago.  Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up.  This is what they feared she knew.  And they were right to fear because there’s a whole universe

of folk who are gonna know it, too.  They’re gonna see it.  Somebody has to speak for these people.  You all got on this boat for different reasons but you all come to the same place.  So now I’m asking more of you than I have before.  Maybe all.  Sure as I know anything, I know this, they will try again.  Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean.  A year from now, 10, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people better.

And I do not hold to that.  So, no more running.  I aim to misbehave.

To my mind this is exactly what we are faced with in our present culture.  The elites are determined to force us to live by the rules they have invented whether we want to or not.  In their minds we are evil children who need to be punished and trained to love Big Brother.  They don’t want coexistence.  They want capitulation.  But the truth is we are stronger than we know and stronger than they fear.  The main thing is not to play by their rules.  And by no means play fair.  Deception and secrecy are perfectly reasonable in the present situation.  Use whatever advantage you find and be sure to protect you and yours.  Don’t let them wear you down.  And don’t let them steal the enjoyment of life with your family and friends.  That is the definition of victory.

And to paraphrase Malcolm Reynolds, without a doubt we need to misbehave.

Limitless – A Science Fiction – Fantasy Movie Review

Limitless was a 2011 movie starring Bradley Cooper.  The movie is about Eddie Morra, a young man in New York City struggling to write a novel.  On the day we meet him, he is dumped by his girlfriend and is trying to fend off his literary agent.  Eddie has blown through the advance he was paid for the book but so far hasn’t written a single word of the book.

By coincidence Eddie meets his former brother in law who used to be a drug dealer but alleges that now he markets a legal pharmaceutical called NZT that alters brain chemistry in a way that turns the user into a super genius for a day.  Although reluctant to use it Eddie tries it and it is everything promised.  He writes half his novel in a few hours and finds himself able to navigate his real-world problems, like his angry landlady, effortlessly and successfully.

He goes back to his brother in law to get more of the drug but after going to perform some gopher errands for him Eddie finds his brother in law shot to death in his living room and the apartment ransacked.  Eddie calls the police but spends the ensuing arrival time finding and taking the large supply of NZT that the killer had missed.

Now Eddie harnesses his abilities by becoming a securities trader.  But he needs capital to get going so he borrows $100,000 from a frightening Russian mafioso.  Eddie quickly makes several million dollars and comes to the attention of a Wall Street giant, Carl Van Loon played by Robert De Niro, who gives him the opportunity to become a major financial player.  But now he starts running into the side effects of NZT.  Continued use encourages neglect of the body such as forgetting to eat for days and overuse of the pills leads to violent impulsive actions.  And as he finds out from his ex-wife withdrawal from the drug can be fatal or at least permanently debilitating.

The climax of the story combines crises combining the Russian gangster, Eddie’s work with Van Loon and the NYPD.

The science fiction element of the story is restricted to the unbelievable effects of NZT.  In fact, the story reminds me of a decidedly non-science fiction story that I saw long ago.  In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Tom Cruise’s first big hit “Risky Business.”  We have a man taking a dangerous chance to change his life and dealing with the consequences of that decision.  Of course, this story is much darker but the resemblance occurred to me.  While I think the story is a little over the top, especially with respect to the Russian gangster portion of the story, I thought it was pretty good.  If it sounds interesting to you, give it a try.

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Movie Review – Joker – Todd Philips

The movie, Joker, could be easily dismissed as an attempt to extend on the successful formula established by Christopher Nolan in his turn at the Batman franchise, launched in 2005. But beyond the constant “dark” refrain, not enough was said about Nolan’s reformulation of the DC comic book character. When Tim Burton in 1989 first attempted to bring the character to film his movie temperament and the last shreds of maturity that remained in American popular culture required that he make it in its essence, comic. It’s true he leavened the film with instances of “adult” gravity, but no more than in his other comic book movies.

But Nolan did something that it took the success of the ‘80s and ‘90’s Batman movies to make possible, play Batman straight. By 2005 struck upon the formula for converting the comic book into a “serious” movie by making the films “dark”, thereby removing the tongue from Batman’s cheek. Nolan took the comic out of the comic book hero and the films became blockbusters. I suspect they did for the same reason space movies from 2001 to Star Wars were also so successful. The baby boomers and later Gen X-ers had a choice between the narcissistic atavism of their peers or withdrawal. The comic book fans were always outsiders so it was easy to choose withdrawal, and so they did, in droves. What has been truly remarkable was that most of the rest of America follow along, in even bigger droves.

But what does it mean to movies and America to make comic book movies without the comic? One might say that comic books, at least of the super hero variety, always played straight. They were more like the serial genre fiction that anticipated both the “soaps” and the novel. Fair enough, but the illustrations, primitive graphics and primary colors, were a comic proscenium, perhaps helping to suspend disbelief for the comic book reader, but not his sense of humor. Theatrical movies have no such proscenium, they have long been understood to be psychological, subconscious, in their effect. They do not afford the comic book distance, the healthy separation. We needed Burton’s fantasy gloss to create distance from the film. But Nolan’s success argues that this view was wrong, or at least obsolete, that audiences yearned for the Dark Knight’s subconscious payload, unmediated by winks at the camera.

Todd Phillips’ new contribution to the franchise, Joker, suggests that we might still need the winks. The movie attempts to use psychological clichés and bathos to establish a “natural” backstory to the one-dimensional villain. The attempt exposes the naiveté behind Nolan’s original reformulation. What is a joker, can one have a backstory? Lear’s fool never needed one. Jokers are allegorical place holders for dramatic elements like plot and action, even fate, but never character. They are anti-characters, devices, not anti-heroes. Ah, but Phillips would counter, I wrote Borat and most people thought he was real. Isn’t character fluid? Yes, it is fluid but not superficial. But what about the epics, they were full of the very same placeholders? Wasn’t Hephaestus allegorical? The answer is Hephaestus may be a myth and allegorical to us, indistinguishable from a joker, but to the Greeks he was a god.

Is Joker a god, is Batman or Thor, to us? The mind reels. So, Phillips may have wasted much of his runtime trying to pose Joachim Phoenix’s anorexic torso to evoke St. Sabastian and paint the decay of ‘70’s New York in renaissance yellows and gold. The adolescent retreat in the face of adulthood beaten by the American movie going public, however, is not a Christian martyrdom. Phillips’ attempt to tell Joker’s story as such is the latest landing in the vertiginous descent of American society into an arrested underworld. Must we now analyze the cardboard cutouts populating our comic book movies first as patients, to remove any moral question of their actions, then as victims, to instead apply a moral test to “society” and finally as martyrs, to establish our newly reconstructed deities? Foucault would be proud. This mental ritual has become so routinized by academic and political rehearsal the director seems unaware of its emptiness.

And that can be the only verdict reached for Nolan’s vision and Phillips’ realization. Empty. This explains the need to go to further lengths, to go darker, with each successive relaunch. The writers, producers and directors, even the actors, know they must work harder each cycle to pump up the crowd and distract from the inevitable descent. But by trying to make serious our comic book carnival posters, the Hollywood hucksters have drained the fun from their movies, and our laughs on the rollercoaster.

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 4 – Conclusion

After reviving ourselves again with refreshments we estimated that we had time for one last course before exhaustion would set in.  Almost at random we selected Mudd’s Women.  It was a mistake.  What we thought we were going to watch was the episode called I, Mudd.  This one is about Mudd selling women that he artificially beautifies with a drug.  It’s boring and meaningless. At the end the women are seen to be beautiful without the drug because they’re self-confident.  Yeah sure, and I’m Brad Pitt.

Anyway, this poor episode angered the delegates and disrupted the complacency that the massive junk food binge had produced.  We set to work repairing the situation with mass quantities of supplies.  Once we had re-established our equilibrium, we decided to quickly bring the ShatnerKhan to a rapid close.  But we did ramble on about what we had learned and vowed less poisonous food at ShatnerKhan 2.

So, what did we learn?

  • William Shatner is indeed a demigod of bad acting. Series television, made-for-tv movies, big studio major motion pictures, even minor awards ceremonies; none of them are proof against his patented lousy acting skills.  He is a ham for all seasons.
  • As lousy an actor as Shatner is, he is definitively the best part of the original Star Trek series. His character possesses almost the only heroic characteristics to be found on the show.  The rest of them are even bigger weirdos and losers than he is.
  • Shatner actually seems to be a decent comic actor. He is able to perform self-deprecating routines quite skillfully.  We decided not to hold this against him.
  • Much more study will be needed and a much higher grade of food supplies will be needed for future ShatnerKhan events. I personally advocated for deli, others spoke of Thai food and barbecue.  These questions will be sorted out in committee.

But all agreed that ShatnerKhan 1 was a roaring success both academically and gastronomically.

All hail William Shatner, long may you endure as a shining beacon of terrible acting.

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 1

 

 

 

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review – The Terminator and Terminator Dark Fate

It is interesting to me to consider the new movie as part of two bookends to James Cameron’s strange career, while providing some comment on the evolving image that Linda Hamilton has presented in media and the almost unchanging one of Arnold.

When he made The Terminator, James Cameron had not done any of the films that built the industry position he holds today. He was a special effects guy that wrote a typical sci-fi screenplay about a murderous robot. But “The Terminator” somehow had a strangely enduring effect on American culture. The screenplay had all the stock components, with a few slight twists that would become Cameron trademarks like transforming female characters into alternate heroes. Otherwise it included the typical murderous, apocalyptic future so common, perhaps even central, to all science fiction, the obligatory arrested love interest, and a commendable combination of live action and classic stop motion animation right out of Jason and the Argonauts.

But this movie resonated with all kinds of segments, many without much taste for either conventional action or science fiction. And Cameron made both Schwarzenegger and Hamilton actual cultural icons. It’s easy to argue that neither of them surpassed their roles in the film, with Arnold literally milking it for billions in ticket sales and a governorship and Hamilton clearly chewed up by hers. How do we account for this? Can we see something in the two stars’ comparative destinies and did Dark Fate provide any clues?

The character of Sarah and the actress Linda Hamilton were perfectly matched to project the most innocuous presence, never rising above cute, until the cyborg is blasting a shotgun at her. We meet Linda working an adolescent fast food job and then going to a movie. In parallel a housewife mistaken for her is executed in her home and her roommate and boyfriend, beaten to death in her apartment. This balancing of extremes continues as her protector, Reese, and the cyborg finally meet shooting at each other in a bar over Linda’ head. The scene in a new wave disco called New Noir is one of the few that warrants the otherwise overused slow motion. While the “new wave” music plays and the young yuppies sway, the cyberpunk uncoils again from behind the bar, laser and machine guns in hand. Thus, begins the carnage. We see Sarah innocently look blandly at the camera with a red laser site on her head, about to be terminated when Reese uncorks his own assault, ending the scene by blasting the cyborg through a plate glass window.

When he rises, Michael Myers-like, Reese and Sarah alternately flee and shoot at the bot in every possible venue until Sarah/Linda is told that she is the mother of the future resistance, a legendary warrior whose son will defeat the future. She cries out for us all, “What”? The chase scene ends when the terminator drives straight into a brick wall with the cops chasing both of them.  Suddenly, Linda finally becoming partially aware of her surroundings and knows to grab Reese as he reaches for his shotgun to confront the cops. She yells, “No Reese, No, they’ll kill you”, in a voice we don’t hear again until she is does some terminating of her own.

Arnold gets the opposite treatment. We meet him emerging in a spherical electric storm naked in a crouch and watch him straighten up into the Hulk. He then walks through the park to murder and kill some punk rockers for their clothes, thus, cyberpunk. He is a comic figure We see his ass; he reads visual algorithms to select pre-coded responses like, “Fuck You, Asshole” in what became America’s definition of a slightly fascistic cyber/Germanic voice. His hair gets cropped and he wears cool ray bands to hide the eyeball he plucks out. He looks like Brando on his bike. Best of all, because he is a robot, he is not morally responsible for any of this, so we can enjoy his antics. This is no trivial accomplishment; Cameron creates a character Arnold will play for the next three or four decades. Remorseless, brutally violent, but cool and funny.

So, by the movie’s end, when Sarah punches the steel press on his steel skull, and he takes a last look straight into the camera, as if winking, with his laser red eye shining as the press crushes it dark, Sarah has gone from cute to terminator, and Arnold, the reverse.  Society, however, won’t let Linda be a terminator, but Arnold can be anything. He’s a protector, then he’s Danny DeVito’s genetically perfect twin, JL Curtis’ lucky husband, Sharon Stone’s even luckier boyfriend, a predator’s predator, a Kennedy, a Governor, even an expendable, and finally a terminator husband/father in Dark Fate. In the subsequent films, she will become a Rambet, permanently.

But a Rambet is denied even the righteous orgies of violence Stallone formulated for John Rambo. Sarah must become the separatist feminist, gaunt, cut, unsmiling, long suffering, ideologically pure. Most importantly, she is always angry. She invented the Hollywood version of the resting bitch face. She’s pissed about the apocalypse and having to bear the messiah and she’s going to do something about it. This may make for good doctrine, but it’s a bad career choice. It’s a classic Hollywood scam, make a “feminist” sci-fi cyberpunk movie that destroys the female lead’s career. Message, stick to cute.

That’s why The Terminator was so memorable and the rest, I don’t remember. Because at the end of the film with Linda Hamilton driving off into the stormy Mexican desert with her revolver, dog and headband, Sarah is still cute. There was still a Soviet Union. The apocalypse was coming, as it really is for all of us, but she came through the realization, as we all can. Later all this is revised as her ideology requires. We can’t be left with our faith, only her ideology. And therein lies the rub for Linda and even Arnold when it comes to the rest of their lives till Dark Fate.

I read that James Cameron, after years without contact, reached out to Linda Hamilton, his former wife, to ask her to make a new sequel. She claims that it took her years away from the industry living in Louisiana to finally build a stable life in a community away from Hollywood with real connections. But, for some reason, could it be money, she agreed to play Sarah again. The results are exactly as you would expect; it’s a disaster. Arnold’s body is gone, and his face looks like a parkinsonian mask. Linda’s voice sounds like she speaking through a tracheotomy. Now, with the right screenplay and if there had been no other sequels, these physical transformations could have made for interesting material. But given their respective ideological “careers” there was no way out. They went through the joyless, soulless motions until time, thankfully, ran out and Arnold was dead and burned next to the latest, multicultural terminator.

We had to suffer it all in Dark Fate. A tanned wrinkled, aging second wave feminist Sarah croaking out lines like “they want your womb”. A dumpy, younger, millennial feminist protector constantly signaling her sacrificial virtue. A Mexican virgin 2.0 screaming about her right to choose. Finally, a constantly transitioning multicultural killer cyborg. An identity maelstrom. I came to the conclusion that both Arnold and Linda got screwed by their roles, although Arnold a little more lucratively. They are left having lived out the superficial script written for them by Cameron. His hollow successes after The Terminator, with the exception of Aliens, have condemned him to the same lucrative irrelevance. It’s fitting that the Avengers franchise, sourced from dime store children’s comic books, is eclipsing his pretentious achievements, Titanic and Avatar. Stan Lee must be rolling in his grave.

So, looking at two films separated by 35 years, and two actors with seemingly opposite careers that ended in the same place, and the director responsible for the whole mess, what can we say about any of this. Only that the tenuous string that used to barely connect what passes as popular culture to at least a modicum of genuine craft has, over the course of one director’s career, entirely disappeared, leaving in its wake a trail of cultural victim/collaborators in various states of wealth and debasement. And nothing whatsoever for us.

 

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 3

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 2

 

As stated at the end of the last post we settled on Star Trek episode “Space Seed” as our next course.  And there it all was!  Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner battling to settle the question of who could chew up the scenery faster.  Khan proves to be an even more persuasive lady’s man than Kirk.  He convinces a lady scientist to turn traitor to the Enterprise and assist Khan in taking over the ship.  Of course, the most absurd part of the story is that Kirk provides Khan with the ship’s technical manuals that allow him to figure out how to selectively flood most of the Enterprise with knock out gas.  Could there be any logical reason to provide a known megalomaniac with the details of these most sensitive technical secrets of the ship?  Of course not.  While he was at it, he might as well have given Khan his social security number and his bank account PIN.

There is a great scene near the end where Kirk and Khan are fighting mano a mano.  Khan starts out by snatching away Kirk’s phaser and twists it in half with his bare hands.  Kirk gets tossed around like a rag doll but at the critical juncture he grabs hold of a solid metal bar and clonks Khan over the head a few times with it and shows that even a super-strong super-genius should go for the quick kill instead of ending up having the tables turned on him like some kind of super villain in a James Bond movie.

Watching the final scene where Khan and his colony agree to be exiled on a world of their own is of course ironic.  We know that in the future the Wrath of Khan is awaiting Kirk and the rest of the crew.  This was discussed heatedly.  What should have been done.  Should Khan have been handed over to a re-education camp.  Should Kirk have checked to see if Ceti Alpha was a stable star that would permanently support a colony?  Should such dangerous genetically superior individuals have been liquidated, for the safety of all humanity?  What, precisely, was rich Corinthian leather?  The answers to all of these were debated endlessly and then abandoned because we got hungry again.

But certain things were agreed on.  Kirk and Khan are both hounds and neither Shatner nor Montalban believed in understated performances.  And these two things were linked with the fact that this is one of the most popular episodes of the series.  Shatner and Montalban are over the top ham actors.  The characters they are playing are out of a comic book.  But they are fun.  They are motivated by the things that men are interested in; women, adventure, honor.  This makes them about a trillion times more fun and interesting than Spock or Picard or any of the other “futuristic” characters.  Shatner taking shoulder rolls and bouncing around under pretend Khan pummeling is laughable and sophomoric but it’s still the best thing Star Trek had in this episode.

So this is the revelation.  Kirk is the best part of the show because he provides the only example of a normal man doing normal manly things.  He doesn’t do them well or convincingly but he’s all there is.  So we gave one cheer for James Tiberius Kirk and took some time out to eat some more food.

You may think that there was an inordinate amount of time taken away from the proceedings of ShatnerKhan to eat junk food.  You would be correct.  The plain truth is that all the delegates there were taking the opportunity to eat types and amounts of food that their wives would normally prevent.  In many ways it was almost as if ShatnerKhan was an excuse to pig out.  Once again, you would be correct.  But we justified this by pointing out that Shatner himself always looked like he could lose about thirty pounds and we perceived something heroic in men of a certain age throwing caution and wifely warnings to the wind and seizing the day and the Dorito (as it were).

In the final post we will look at the concluding viewing content and then our final thoughts on ShatnerKhan 1 and the prospects for later editions.

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 4 – Conclusion