Movie Review: Zombieland

That Woody Harrelson can play something else besides the buffoon roles he seems to be condemned to can be gathered from a movies as the People vs Larry Flynt. He does however play the buffoon well, even to the point of being adorable, so he stars like a buffoon in Zombieland. He is joined by a cast of three, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin to make up a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse that has depopulated the world.

If you are a zombie nut you will be upset by Zombieland, either because you think it hogwash or because you find it hilarious. Zombieland is sheer baloney and that tends to gall people in unpredictable ways, just like it makes people giggle. The keyscene is probably the one in which Bill Murray dies, which makes Emma Stone suddenly giggle, saying; he still makes me laugh. Thus purposely ruining one of the few serious moments in the movie. The movie does at times build up to a serious moment but knocks it down flat a frame later.

The whole thing thrives on the interaction between the cast with the zombie background propelling the plot forward. How inconsequential everything is can be gathered from the fact that they basically travel from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular. As Harrelson says: some go west, stating it is safer there, some travel east, thinking it is safer there. Hence his drive is not safety, but twinkies. Just as scarce and as important as to endanger himself(and others to boot).

There is a very awkward romantic fling between Eisenberg and Stone who simply have nothing in common, but even that is in tune with the movie that turns everything upside down. The interaction between Breslin and Harrelson is much more believable, the first playing a twelve years old who hasn’t heard of Gandhi and Willy Nelson, much to the astonishment of the Harrelson who in turn has no clue who Hannah Montana is(that will be a bit more dated, I am sure).

While Harrelson plays the buffoon, Eisenberg plays the social misfit and Stone and Breslin play two sisters who make a living cheating others, out of their money before the zombie apocalypse and their cars and guns after the zombies have inherited the world.

The end scenes sees the two girls power up a theme park in the night so Breslin can have some fun. Where the power comes from doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that every zombie from miles around converges on the park, thus requiring the two men to save the girls.

Zombieland is not to be taken seriously really, which is the whole point. If that gets your feathers ruffled you better skip this one. But then you might not like Shaun of the Dead either. Which is really a shame. Perhaps refocus?
(I heard someone planned a spin off or something. I hope they rethink that, for there isn’t much to tell, unless the premise of the movie is changed into something more serious, which means it’s a different thing altogether)

Game review: Fallout 4

Enough has been said about Fallout 4’s flaws by others and I will not repeat what has been said before ad nauseam other then to note that Bethesda has finally done away with the roleplay elements of the game, which isn’t really a surprise as we shall see shortly. In fact it is the goal Bethesda has been progressing towards.

I will concentrate on what for me simply breaks a game, which is the story. In this respect Bethesda has been very consistent in that none of their flag ship games, being the Elder scrolls series and the Fallout series, have anything resembling a good story. Take the story lines of both Oblivion and Skyrim, they are very similar and just bare bones enough to get you out into the world. The world is basically a sandbox where you can roam around doing repeat missions that have no consequences. Go and kill some elder dragons up on the mountain and return to town to find out that nothing has changed. In Skyrim Bethseda has made boring what in other games is the summon of tension: fighting dragons. Next we will see fights with demons, as boring as can be(compare this to Dragon Age III)

Fallout is now the same game as the Elder scroll series. It is a sandbox game that has a flimsy storyline to get you going. It is so inconsequential that the game spends less then 10 minutes on your background story, it might be longer if you take the time to extensively alter your look.The whole story in a nutshell: a short introduction to your family, after which you agree to a place in the nearby Vault. Then the alarms sound, you run to the Vault getting while the bombs drop. You get frozen in, wake up for unknown and unexplained reasons, to see your partner getting killed and your kid stolen. Some unknown time passes and you get out of your cryogenic module, to find everyone in the Vault dead. Except for the radroaches, that is. It ends when you escape to the surface to enter the world of Fallout.

Fallout fails as a story because there is nothing to make you go out there. There is no imminent danger, no sword of Damocles or time limit. There is no evil character to beat, a threat to thwart or a world to save. The kidnapped son is supposed to be the MacGuffin that ought to get you going, but there is no pressure and, given that no time is spend on making him matter,  you basically don’t care what happens to him. In fact you know nothing will happen to him as the story won’t progress unless you talk to the next NPC in line. He is so unimportant that I even forgot his name until it popped up in my conversation options.

This game now has the option to build things, not that it matters to the world at large. It won’t get any safer or more advanced. In fact nothing happens. The same goes for the killing of all the monsters and raiders. What you get is empty looted places, not safe havens: the beginnings of a new civilization. You make a wasteland by killing everything and then that might be called peace.

Someone compared it to State of Decay and indeed even that game shows how soulless Fallout has become. In State of Decay you cared for your small group of survivors and building mattered for it made your base safer and for you especially when you had to find resources that were important and in short supply. It also had a story with a definite end and a heightened pressure when more deadly monsters appeared. There were many faults in State of Decay, but you felt that it what you did mattered, you had your favorite survivors you cared for and gave the best of your equipment.

And this then compared to the empty world of Fallout. No story to be had, no characters to care for, you don’t matter, the world doesn’t matter and nothing matters. It is a sandbox where you can roam around for ever for there are always randomly spawned monsters and raiders around the corner. It has no story and no soul. How utterly soulless it has become is shown by the fact that any humor is lacking. This game is as dry as a desert and devoid of life as a graveyard. Compare that to Fallout 1 and 2.

And this is what Bethesda wants. Offering a sandbox game without a story so they don’t have to spend time on writing, without roleplay elements so they can go on forever, and with just shooting and looting. What is next? Fallout online or Elder Scrolls online no doubt. Perhaps that already exist? Maybe. It is what a MMO is basically: sand box games with a flimsy story. Soulless worlds.

Movie review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Some time ago a friend of my former partner involved herself in writing romance novels for a mass market publishing firm. She never showed any aptitude in writing before, but it was something to do next to running the family, which pinned her to her house for the better part of the day. The writing didn’t ask much imagination as the stories were pretty formulaic. Like painting by numbers she just stayed within predefined boundaries and soon enough she cranked out another cheap novelette under the name of a non-existent writer such as D. J. Barding.

The ingredients were always the same. The main protagonist was a woman aged twenty something to forty, single, and without any kids to tie her down. The man was in the same age range, but always a few years older, single as well, without romantic involvements. A setup to pursue their dalliance. Also the man was usually of a higher social standing and income group. She being a nurse, him being a doctor. She being a maiden, him being a lord. She being a student, him being a billionaire. And finally there was always something to surmount: a troubled past or a social barrier. The end saw the two joined in happy union. Usually.

Sounds familiar?
It is almost verbatim the story outline of fifty shades of grey.

At this point you would expect me to start a long list of this movie’s shortcomings, but I have to disappoint you for I am on the same page with the nostalgia critic in that this movie does the best with what it has got . In fact I will do one better. I find it a hilarious movie and it might be aiming for cult status by making a mockery of itself and of you.

There are preposterous moments such as at the beginning when the female protagonist, Anna, tells to a friend that Grey is so clean. Wait. What did she just say? I checked and, heck, she says it: clean.. Grey is clean. This is her appraisal of a guy she just met. And somewhat further into the movie he pops up in the hardware store she is working in and starts buying things as tie ribs, ropes and chains. And I doubled over laughing. Was this a promise of things to come? Would she, later on, be subjected to what he is buying together with her there and then?

And when he shows her his ‘play room’, a chamber done in black and red with racks filled with whips, floggers and canes – with only the bloody saw missing -, the only valid response would be to judge him batshit crazy and flee the premises, but instead she gapes as if he just revealed his private art collection, while at the same time listening to him telling her how he will use that stuff on her cause it is the only thing that turns him on. It is perfectly clear: they are seriously odd in the head.

More hilarious moments follow when they come to the contract he so persistently insists upon. So we get a lengthy exposition of all the particulars of the fetish contract and she even calls for a meeting to go point for point through the contract discussing such things as the use vaginal clamps and anal fisting. All things he wants to do to her.

Everything is off kilter in this movie that follows the prescription of a cheap romance flick but fills it with concepts that hail from the fetish world. He keeps on telling her how does not do the romantic thing, but for a large part of the movie he just does that, taking her with him in his helicopter, driving her around in his Lamborghini, taking her out for dinner and wooing her. He says A, but does B. And she believes B and ignores A. No wait she eventually begs him to do A. And when it happens she is really really upset about it.

This movie is a trashy romantic tale that you wouldn’t have wanted to see if it it hadn’t held the promise of kinkiness. The sin of this movie therefore lies not with the movie, but with its detractors. What did you expect? Romeo and Jullia go kinky? Pride and Prejudice in skin tight leathers? Superheroes in latex instead of spandex?  I am looking at you who goes to watch this on Valentine’s day and gets disappointed! What where you thinking?  You knew it is crap. You know crap stays crap because only in nature crap can produce roses. But ultimately what you wanted was PG rated kinky porn. That is by definition impossible. PG is not adult. If you want to see kinky porn go watch kinky porn.

It also gives a big middle finger to those who wanted so see their desire to have a continuous sexual stimulus, cloaked as having a ‘special’ relationship, a joining of spirits, vindicated and branded as a lifestyle. BDSM isn’t. You do it cause it turns you on. Just like using butt-plugs all the time : it is a fetish. And it remains disturbed if you need to hurt someone else for pleasure even if it is with consent and even if you label it differently. And that is what this movie shows you bondage fetishists and that is why you hate it .

 

 

 

 

 

Movie review: Er ist wieder da.

When Hitler wakes up in Berlin in 2014 he is confronted by a thriving
modern Germany that, much to his surprise and regret, has not been destroyed
in the Götterdämmerung that he had staged at the end of World War II
and which he thought was the only thing his country  and people deserved for
failing him, their Fuhrer, and destiny.

Hitler, seen as a satirical comedian, soon rises to national fame as a
freelance reporter sniffs him out and sells him as a gimmick to a
commercial television station who use the mass murderer to prop up
their popularity figures. The internet then does the rest.

The movie is at times slow and, I must say, boring, unlike the
trailers, five of them, that are made with fast edits and snappy
satire. The trailers in no way represent the whole movie, as the
situations are far and in between and only at times, mostly in the
second half, does the movie gain the same speed and snappy witticism
that the trailers have.

The big message in the movie is that if the fear of foreigners gets the
better of the average German, numbed by commercial television,
democracy will give a new Hitler another chance to rise to power again.
This comes a bit towards the end as most of the movie is about Hitler
being seen as a funny figure that nobody takes serious and just laughs
at or makes selfies with.

There are some brilliant moments in this movie. One is were the bunker
scene from der Untergang is replayed scene by scene, but with the staff
of the commercial TV station replacing Hitler and his circle.

Another is where they show how Hitler becomes viral on the internet and
YouTube, which is where the movie shines with fast edits and visual
tricks and  which shows exactly the emptiness of it all as I experience it
nowadays: it doesn’t matter what it is about as long as it gets you the viewers. It is regurgitating words.

A great scene is where Hitler looks at a mountain range, comments on
how beautiful it is and then throws an empty coffee cup into the grass.
He pollutes that which he finds pretty. It is Hitler used as a mirror
for all the people who do the same, but now that Hitler does it it
gets meaning. This has to be placed next to his remark that the only
party he would ally with is the Green Party, because they value nature
and thus they value Germany.

We have some snappy comments on the current day German politicians, but
this is as temporary as anything as most of them will be nobody’s in
ten years time, perhaps with the exception of Merkel.

It also comments on the emptiness of commercial television and
shows us the silly ultra right wing fringe groups who are mostly a sad
bunch and no threat to society except for some of the numskulls being
pretty violent.

But the major flaw of this movie is a serious one: it skirts around all
of the big issues. The problems with Islam gets nary a mention. Only at
the end we suddenly get to see that Islam exists and even Wilders gets
injected and the latter in such a cowardly way it offended me, for even
though I am not a supporter of him and his ideas I think it is unfair
to show him as a kind of new day Hitler.  Also
unmentioned is the fragile economy and the big millstone of the
European financial situation that hangs around the neck of Germany. In
fact Europe and the European Union hardly gets a mention at all.

This is all the more surprising given the fact that Hitler rose to
power partly because of the global financial crisis of 1929. But the
movie doesn’t even mention this, but instead harps on about Germans
with their petty problems with foreigners and the threat that this
might pose to democracy because that is what might get a new Hitler
elected.

But what irks me the most is this totally warped vision of modern
Germany that this movie offers. If there is one country(I can think of
another country: Japan) that is unlikely to ever get a new Hitler
elected it is probably Germany. The Germans of today are vastly more
liberal, vastly more democratic and far less struggling with their past
than they were back in the 30’s where the average German was a
conservative, disliked the Weimar republic(it was more or less
imposed), in fear of both right wing and left wing violence in a
country in turmoil because of a deep financial crisis and suffering
from a post war trauma(a surrender that never truly sprang from a defeat,
unlike World War II: in which it was made sure that it was a real
defeat: hence unconditional surrender).

Hitler wasn’t elected because Germans hated Jews. Hitler was elected
because of the chaos and the promise that he would end it. And he rose
to power not because he was democratically elected, but because key
people, politicians and business men, very anti democratic people at
that, supported him by perverting the democracy they hated in the
misbegotten idea that they could control him, profit from him or
otherwise gain an advantage or even, yes even, replace the republic with a system they preferred.

This is totally at odds with modern day Germany and somehow
arguing that a new Hitler might arise because modern day Germans have
issues with foreigners is a silly notion that insults a country and its
inhabitants and then to compound this by totally ignoring all the big
issues that actually might cause a Hitler to rise makes it a super
silly nonsense movie that has no relevance to anything and can only be
valued as being slightly funny but otherwise… pointless.

 

 

 

 

The brain series: Gender Identity

Someone from the transgender resource group sent met a link to this episode from the The Brain Series. This is about gender identity.  For many reasons this has fascinated me, not only because, as was found out, I have gender dysphoria too, but also because Identity just fascinates me.

Every Photo is a story: the photos of Frances Benjamin Johnston

Self_portrait_by_the_American_photographer_Frances_Benjamin_Johnston
Frances Benjamin Johnston, a self portrait.

I recently got five links from the Library of Congress for the series Every Photo is a story. In this series Kristi Finefield, reference librarian in the Prints and Photographs Division, and Sam Watters, architectural and landscape historian, take a look at the photos made Frances Benjamin Johnston,  (1864–1952), one of the first female photo-journalist who rose to prominence. She was an expert at making hand-painted photographs. She was a champion of the City Beautiful Movement to restore beauty to an industrial America through garden design and was very well connected. Such beautification could thus promote a harmonious social order that would increase the quality of life.
These two go together as she had her photographer ‘improved’ to the wishes of the customers by having them painted. Even then reality sometimes needed to be improved upon.  How this worked and why this was done will be told during the series.

Watters has worked with the library of congress to examine no less that 1100 of Frances Benjamin Johnston’s photos, which she donated to the Library of Congress.
Library of Congess: Every story is a Photo:
http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/results.php?mode=s&cat=69

800px-Frances_Benjamin_Johnston,_full-length_portrait,_seated_in_front_of_fireplace,_1896
Frances Benjamin Johnston, full-length portrait, seated in front of fireplace, 1896

Part 1: Start to Read a Photograph
http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=6730

Part 2: Get to Know the Photographer
http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=6731

Part 3: Consider How the Photos Were Made
http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=6732

Part 4: Interpret Stories You Discover
http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=6733

Part 5: Explore the Photographer’s Era
http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=6734

washington-morse-garden-gate-660
charles-marshall-townhouse-660arcady-330

For fun, I made my own look alike picture.. It is made using second life.

benjaminjohnston

More links

Frances Benjamin Johnston
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Benjamin_Johnston

Sam Watters’ book.
http://www.traditional-building.com/Previous-Issues-12/AugustBR12Gardens.html
http://www.designersandbooks.com/blog/author-qa-sam-watters-gardens-beautiful-america

City Beautiful movement
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Beautiful_movement

Library of congress
https://www.loc.gov/

Another story: Trinity

When talking about collages, a friend of mine asked me why I think that making a pictorial story would work because as far as he knows most imagery, a catch all phrase for pictures, photographs and other ways to display (un)reality, is often one single depiction of a single event. Like a snapshot or a painting of, say, Mona Lisa.
Perhaps he is right, but then I find it fun to work some kind of story into a depiction or playing around with imagery that is just something more that just one picture.
So here is another one that I worked upon. It is called Trinity.
Now I personally think that pictures should tell their own story.. or at least should inspire or fascinate, without needing words to explain more, as it is probably that the words will not always be connected to a picture. Perhaps I should looking into that.
This picture was inspired by the fact that in Second Life you can make a copy of yourself that looks exactly the same as another avatar, however through behavior and other ways of being they can be different and perceived and treated differently by others.

 

trinity

Story Telling: Mass Effect 3

While doing some preliminary research for a short article on Mass Effect 3 story telling I ran into the linked article.
I think it’s an interesting article that investigates how a sequence of stories(games) that allows for shaping your own tale can have impact on the the next installment and, when not handled properly, can lead to making large groups of people unhappy.
I do not agree that this is the only reason as I wanted to show in my short article on one particular story in Mass Effect.

I’ve played through the Mass Effect series a number of times to get a feel for the different directions the story can go and it is clear to me that of the three games Mass Effect 3 is the weakest. It is also the one that has drawn the most ire from fans. So I thought it would be interesting to really dig deeply into what was done not just in the 3rd game but the series as a whole and identify what caused the final game to end up in the state that it is in. The results are long, so bear with me.”

Posted by An Individual on August 20, 2013

http://www.koobismo.com/2013/08/me3-analysis-what-makes-this-good-game-bad/