Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Stuff Josh watched over the weekend: Agent Carter, Red, California Crisis, Time of Eve, Prey, Colorful

I visited my best buddy Tim up in New Hampster this weekend. We watched a bunch of stuff. Here are my reviews:

The first three episodes of Agent Carter: I really, really wanted to like this show, but I found it predictable, formulaic, and written for the dumbest person in the room. It's a network TV show, so I do cut it a little slack, but so is Hannibal and that's some of the sharpest writing out there. I love shows with female protagonists, but they don't automatically get a pass, and this middlebrow horseshit ain't gonna cut it.

Grade: C

Even Automat Angie can't save it.

Red: So, this is what porn for old people looks like.

The Cast of Red as imagined by fans of the movie:

The cast of Red, in reality:

What. The. Fuck. We get a movie with a bald Warren Ellis character, and it's not Spider Jerusalem? What kind of world do we live in?!

I hate the recent trope in comic book movies where the direction is dominated by the need to recreate certain "iconic" panels from the source material. Watchmen is probably the worst offender, but the movie that bothered me most was Snowpiercer.  Red does it constantly.

I joked that I liked Karl Urban, but the old people were all assholes, and I was only half kidding. Not to mention the fact the fact that kidnapping Mary-Louise Parker, tying her up and taping her mouth shut comes across way more rapey than I'm comfortable watching.

Grade: D.

Richard Dreyfus was chewing the scenery, and conveniently, he could just take out his dentures to pick out chunks of it when he was done.

California Crisis: This is an anime from 1986. You can watch it in its entirety, on youtube, but I'd advise against it. The production values are zero, the plot makes no sense, and then it just ends. They couldn't even get the colors on a goddamned rainbow right.

Roy G. BiP? Seriously, what the fuck is this?
Grade: F

And I still would have dropped my $29.99 on it at Suncoast video in 1991. Le Sigh.

Time of Eve: I'm actually a bit torn on this one, because while I think it ultimately fails at what it was trying to say, at least it makes the attempt. I like the poster, too.

The basic idea is that there are robots that are indistinguishable from humans, except for the ring of light that floats above their head. Our protagonist finds that his robot has been visiting a club where robots are permitted to turn off their identifying ring.

The robots are bound by Asimov's laws of Robotics.
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Wikipedia says, "These conversations make frequent allusion to Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, often highlighting surprising interpretations of those laws, some of which form apparent loopholes." Maybe this is true of the episodes that were combined to make the movie, but discussion of the laws of the movie is extremely facile.

That's the big problem with the movie. It's kind of a "greatest hits version of the series". This kind of thing isn't completely uncommon in adaptations, but the movie's pacing does suffer terribly because of it. They set up the premise, then quickly go through the rising action, climax, falling action and denouement of each episode, which leaves the whole thing terribly awkward. Also worth mentioning are the long, slow pans over a still shot. Again, not completely unusual, but the movie did it constantly, causing Tim to remark, "This movie is going to have a baby soon, with all these pregnant pauses."

In some Star Wars EU book, word of god is that all droids are explicitly non-sentient. C-3PO doesn't actually have the personality of a neurotic butler; he just has the facsimile of such. There is nothing in his brain that says "I am I". He's simply a series of notched plates that react the same way each time. That makes the droid torture scene in RotJ even more ridiculous, but it does sidestep the question of "Hey, you seem to have built a slave race of robots. Doesn't that give rise to some awkward issues?"

It's never clear if the androids in Eve are self-aware or not. If they are, then it's straight-up monstrous to enslave them, If their interaction with the world is some kind of Chinese Room illusion, then I wouldn't feel any more guilty about using them than I would for using my car. Unfortunately, nobody even think to ask this question.

Grade: C

"Where did all the liquid went?"

Colorful: A boy commits suicide, and a ghost in short pants helps him redeem himself by understanding his boring family. He's like Shinji Ikari, but even more nebbishy. It's not terrible, but it relies a bit too much on assumptions of Japanese culture to be accessible to Western audiences.

I do like the movie poster, though.

Grade: C-

"Now this is pod-racing!"

Prey: Probably the best of what we watched over the weekend. The Fugitive in Britain, with John Simm as Richard Kimble. I watched it because Simm was in it, and he didn't disappoint. He's always fun to watch. Cops in UK are rubbish (Simm's first two stops are his best friend's house and his in-laws's house, where his son is being kept), but it's a solid execution of a story we've all seen before.

Grade: B

Not since he played the Master has John Simm been so lovable.

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