Posts Tagged movies

Reviews of Another Mid-air Movie Marathon


I flew to the other side of the world yet again a few days ago (some day I’ll get to stay home… some day), and I watched a whole lot of movies, and I’m going to give my impressions of them. Last time I flew from Austria to New Zealand, I watched seven movies; this time I watched nine. I actually jotted down a few notes this time, so what I remember for my movie reviews will depend less on how sleep-deprived I was at the time. I was flying Air China (a perfectly nice airline, except they don’t give you that little care package with sleeping socks, an eyemask and a travel toothbrush that I’d come to expect), whose in-flight movie guide isn’t loading for me right now, so I won’t put up their descriptions of the movies. I went straight for the ‘New to the Skies’ section, figuring that I’d had plenty of opportunities to see the others.

Tomorrowland

This movie has a lot of things I love in it. The future! Kennedy Space Center! (At least, it sure looked like one of the launch pads at KSC, though they called it Canaveral.) Robots! Hope! The neat thing was I saw this while on an amazing flying machine heading toward a land where it was in fact already tomorrow, and I started off wearing a Back to the Future cap from the future (the year 2015) and then switched to a NASA beanie. I’ve never had such appropriate headwear for a movie.

One of the movies in my last mid-air movie marathon also had ‘Tomorrow’ in the title. I guess it’s always good to watch where and when you’re going.

Home

Relevant song. This movie also has a lot of things I like. A ball pit! Space! Cute aliens that talk in a mixture of lolcat and turns of phrase I could imagine Sheldon Cooper using! Partway through, I remembered seeing Jim Parsons’ name in the credits and realised that the main alien did in fact have Sheldon Cooper’s voice.

This movie was similar to Tomorrowland in many ways; it had the Eiffel tower as a great antenna (which is also true in the real world) surprisingly young girls who drive, and a world where only one young lady still has hope, hope which ends up saving the day. Also, I watched it while flying toward a place that some people say is my home, so that’s neat.

The Age of Adaline

This is a movie about a woman who miraculously stops ageing, so I don’t expect it to be believable, but two things about it seemed really far-fetched:

  • Defibrillating a heart which is, as far as I can tell from the preceding narration, not fibrillating. They could’ve used a more vague term such as ‘jump-start’ and we’d have believed that that worked in the magic situation in this movie, but instead they used a term which doesn’t even apply, because they figured the audience wouldn’t know what it meant.
  • A maths major who becomes a millionaire by doing mathematics. Okay, an Abel prize would almost do it, but real maths majors make their fortunes writing software for physicists.

Still, it was an enjoyable movie. It has libraries and secret identities, so it might appeal to Batgirl fans. There’s a joke in it that I still don’t get whose punchline is ‘Who ever heard of a horse pitching?’ There’s a man named Ellis. There’s the line, ‘They took the time to create the constellations’, which I challenge you to use as the first line in a story.

Dark Shadows

This had some things in common with the previous movie, in that it’s about someone (a vampire) who no longer ages, and love between the mortal and the immortal. It also includes a man named Alice. While there’s no ball pit, it has the biggest, most wonderful balls.

Black Swan

Just like Dark Shadows, in that it involves people in black and white makeup in destructive relationships, and blood. It’s as if all these movies were sequels to each other! Only this one seems to have been the result of a challenge to get the most kinds of disturbing into one movie. I lost count of the trigger warnings I intended to put in this review; dermatillomania was one. Probably not the best movie to watch just before a 17-hour layover when I’m already about tired enough to hallucinate.

Intermission

17 hours in Taipei, which I might write up in a separate post. There was ice cream.

Winter’s Tale

I kept seeing this in the list but skipping over it because it seemed a bit too much like another boring love/destiny story, but there was also some amnesia and later in the trailer which I thought might add some interest. It wasn’t so bad… another one about love and mortality and people being alive without aging for far longer than they’re supposed to. I must have microslept for the part where he actually ‘learns that he has the gift of reincarnation’ as it said in the description. There doesn’t seem to be any reincarnation in the movie at all, unless ‘reincarnation’ means ‘long after you die, someone else is born with the same fairly common hair colour’.

One of the movies in my last mid-air movie marathon also had ‘Winter’ in the title. In this case I actually was heading toward winter.

Divergent

I saw this on offer during the last mid-air movie marathon, but didn’t watch it, and then wished I had when I saw that the sequel was out in theatres when I arrived. This time I could watch the sequel immediately on the same flight, so I figured I might as well. I thought it might be just another one of those movies about how great it is to be different, special, well-rounded, and to not fit in, just like everyone who’s viewing it. It turned out to be all those things, but also about how useful lucid dreaming can be.

Insurgent

The sequel to Divergent. I watched them back-to-back and don’t recall where one movie stopped and the next one started. I enjoyed them, even though the ending was pretty predictable.

Several short documentaries comprised of even shorter segments

There wasn’t quite time for another movie on this flight, so I learnt about how artists’ canvases are made (in Taipei, as it turns out!) how stinky tofu is made, how refillable Dutch beverage bottles are processed, what happens when we dive, and a weird rolling bamboo thingy to explode land mines, among other things. I’m a little confused as to why they take care to fix up discoloured patches on the canvas before covering it in two layers of white paint.

Intermission

An hour or so in Sydney while they refuelled the plane.

Her

Relevant songs. Last flight; last movie. By this point I was watching any movie I vaguely remembered hearing something about. I remembered this one being mentioned in an article about the way ‘female’ AIs are so often sexualised. I couldn’t remember what the article said, but I remember thinking that although ‘female’ AIs (like female humans) may well be sexualised in a lot of movies, this isn’t a movie about AIs, it’s just a movie about the troubles of interspecies relationships, or yet another angle on relationships between mortals and immortals. When it’s a movie about relationships, not a movie about AI technology, it’s okay to treat the AI as a romantic partner. It’s actually better than a lot of relationship movies because you know that the human male character, and indeed, the viewer, is interested in her personality rather than her looks or genitalia. I did wonder if the same thing would have happened if he had chosen a male voice for it, assuming he identifies as straight.

I think the article might have been this one.

 “Her is playing on the fact that the audience knows what [Scarlett Johansson] looks like,”

Well, okay, then. I didn’t know who the voice actress was, though I did note that she had a very nice voice. While the name ‘Scarlett Johansson’ does indeed bring to mind people drooling over how sexy she is, I don’t personally know what she looks like. I just did an image search, and she didn’t even look familiar; from the name, I’d been imagining a brunette for some reason. I guess I’m not the part of the audience that Her is playing on.

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Unintentional Haiku in New Scientist’s Medical Frontiers: The Movie


How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?I’ve made a new version of Haiku Detector. The main changes are:

  • Performance improvements
  • Tweaks to which haiku are identified when punctuation is pronounced differently depending on line breaks and other factors (this includes a workaround for the ‘all numbers pronounced as zero’ bug I found in the speech synthesiser.) In my test data the list of haiku identified is better now.
  • Bug fixes.

To celebrate the new release, I fed in the text from the latest New Scientist ‘Collection’ issue, on medical frontiers. The funniest haiku arose when the last sentence of one article joined up with the headline and byline of the next. For example, this looks like the tagline of a movie about an underappreciated superhero, fighting to save anti-vaxxers from diseases of yore:

They will not thank you.
Dan Jones FIGHTING INFECTION
Small shot, big impact

After the opening credits, we see our hero Dan Jones in his lab, and the subtitle announcing his first challenge.

DRUG: Chlorotoxin
SOURCE: Deathstalker scorpion
CONDITION: Cancer

His superpowers come, of course, from vaccines:

Some vaccines seem to
provide us with a host of
extra benefits

But not everybody is happy with that:

Several groups have been
trying to develop drugs
that block these signals.

These groups spread propaganda:

Half an hour or
so later, you’ll feel a lot
better. Or will you?

They work around rules:

“Because we use cells,
not field-grown plants, we don’t come
under the same rules.”

And they target humanity by zapping the very microorganisms they’re made up of. Here’s a quote from the evil mastermind:

There are more cells in
your body than there are stars
in the galaxy.

These cells can then be
killed using a laser that
penetrates the skin.

And just when Dan thought he had the solution, the problems compounded to the point of suspension of disbelief, precipitating a crisis. The mastermind had cooked up her own microbial minions:

Those microbes can be
in the environment or
a vaccine syringe.

To make matters worse,
there is a shortage of new
antibiotics.

The sequel, which may or may not be a Doctor Who crossover, features a heroine who will live forever:

“Just endless.” Helen
Thomson REGENERATION
Let’s get physical

Yep, it’s definitely a Doctor Who crossover. Here’s a quote from that movie:

“I’m the doctor. I’m
going to tell you what your
feelings really mean.”

She discovered that time, and specifically time travel, is the best cure for a broken heart:

If we can’t fix hearts
with stem cells there might be an
even better way

As the animal
was slowly warmed, it began
to return to life.

But however clever the TARDIS is, there’s one thing Helen Thomson isn’t sure she can do:

But can we ever
turn the clock back to a world
without HIV?

It turned out, weirdly enough, that the answer was in making sure there was enough shelf space for one’s awards. So she went home to Britain to save the Officers of the British Empire:

On her return home,
she applied those lessons in
British hospitals.

So far, two patients
have had OBEs, but neither in
a room with a shelf…

While we’re making sequels, let’s revive an old favourite, which never had any sequels:

The matrix holds a
dazzling array of future
possibilities.

But what is the matrix?

Normally, matrix
is harvested from human
or pig cadavers.

I guess you have to see it for yourself.

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Reviews of a Mid-air Movie Marathon


Technology is great. For instance, did you know that you can get to New Zealand from Europe simply by sitting in three different chairs in the sky and watching about seven movies while people bring you a succession of breakfasts and dinners in no discernible order? It doesn’t even cost any more money if you book it the day before instead of several months in advance, although it can be quite disruptive to daily blogging projects, and pretty much everything else. I know because I did it a week or so ago. In an attempt to get back on the Holidailies bandwagon, I’m going to review the movies I watched. I’ve never reviewed movies before, and I’ve also never properly slept on a plane before, so chances are these are poorly-written reviews of movies interspersed with the daydreams of a sleep-deprived mind.

First off, I can’t remember any scenes which would cause any of these movies (except perhaps the last one) to pass the Bechdel test, but I was awake for more than 48 hours that day, and I wasn’t specifically looking for such scenes, so I don’t trust my memory. I am pretty sure that they all had mostly male protagonists, so such scenes were not the norm. That means that even if they passed (and at least one apparently did), they didn’t do it with flying colours, even if I was flying at the time and they were in colour.

I’ve put the movie descriptions from the in-flight entertainment system at the start of each review. The order of the reviews is only approximately the order I saw the movies in.

Boyhood

Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, this film is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason, who literally grows up on screen. Snapshots of adolescence from road trips and family dinners to birthdays and graduations, and all the moments in between, chart the rocky terrain of childhood like no other film ever has before.

I was going to start with Winter Soldier, but the premise of this seemed interesting, so I played it on impulse. I wasn’t sure whether it was going to be a documentary or a movie. It was a movie. With all the effort and risk involved in filming the same cast over twelve years, it’s a shame they didn’t really come up with a plot for it. There were entertaining slices of life, though.

The film jumped from one year to the next without any clear indication that time was being skipped, so sometimes (especially during the parts where there were four children instead of two) it was difficult to tell when there were new characters and when they were just the old characters a bit older with different haircuts. Keeping the same actors is a great idea in theory, because it should be easier to recognise the character as a year-older version of the same actor than a completely different actor, but they still changed a lot. It could be that they deliberately changed the haircuts and hair colours of the actors in order to make it more obvious that they’d skipped some time, but I’d have been happier if they’d just put a date or ‘six months later’ title on the bottom of the screen.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve joins forces with Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, and a new ally, the Falcon, to battle a powerful yet shadowy enemy – the Winter Soldier.

Planes are a good way to catch up on all the movies the whole internet seems to be talking about which you somehow didn’t hear about or get around to seeing until it was too late. There were surprisingly few of them on offer (the internet talked so loudly about Guardians of the Galaxy that I saw it in the theatre soon after its release) but with this one I finally found out why the internet has been saying ‘hail hydra’ so much lately. My first flight was less than six hours, so I actually had to watch the end of this on my second flight. I’m more used to having two twelve-hour flights and a one-hour flight, so this was a bit of a jarring intermission. They didn’t even serve overpriced popcorn in Dubai airport. Anyway, it was a good superhero movie, with no gratuitous love interest that I can remember, but still a plot point borrowed from Romeo and Juliet.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

With his 100th birthday approaching, Alan Karlsson has led a long and eventful life. Despite his age, Alan has grown restless and while still in good shape, decides to flee his boring everyday life.

I pressed play on this one as soon as I saw it in the list. I read the book several years ago on the advice of a friend, and was excited to see the movie, even though it’s in Swedish and at that point in the flights I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep my eyes open to read the subtitles. I managed it well enough. The movie is good fun, although it necessarily misses some of the details and subplots of the book, because that’s what movies do. If you liked Forrest Gump, you’d probably like this; the guy’s life is a similarly unbelievable string of events. He reminds me of me. He also reminds me of Werner von Braun.

I Origins

While studying the evolution of the eye, molecular biologist Dr. Ian Gray and his lab partner, Karen, make a stunning scientific discovery that has far reaching implications and causes them to question their once-certain scientific and spiritual beliefs. Risking everything he’s ever known, Gray travels halfway around the world to validate his theory.

A more accurate description would be, ‘While studying the evolution of the eye, Dr. Ian Gray, with the help of his student slave who turns out to be competent, useful, and maybe even listed as a co-author, Karen, makes all the scientific discoveries he hoped to make. Later, he discovers that somebody else seems to be testing an unstated hypothesis that might cause them to question their spiritual beliefs. Risking a disappointing mid-air movie marathon, he flies halfway around the world to perform a single uncontrolled experiment to test what he hypothesises that hypothesis might be, with inconclusive results.’ I was disappointed, but I was still entertained enough for the amount of concentration I still had.

The Giver

In the year 2048, Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world of conformity and contentment. Yet, as he begins to spend time with The Giver, the sole keeper of all of his community’s memories, Jonas begins to discover the dark and deadly truths of his community’s secret past, and realises that to protect the ones he loves, he must achieve the impossible and escape their world.

Just another dystopian utopia. A bit like Pleasantville, with a mandatory daily dose of I Feel Fantastic. The final quest reminded me a bit of Milo smuggling a sound out of the Soundkeeper’s place in The Phantom Tollbooth. The title caused unpleasant goatse flashbacks.

Edge of Tomorrow

As Earth faces an relentless assault from an alien race, Major William Cage is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop, forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over. But with each battle, Cage gets more skillful and, alongside fellow soldier Rita Vrataski, closer and closer to defeating the enemy.

It’s like Groundhog Day, but the groundhogs are aliens casting their shadow over everything to forecast six more weeks of human life or an early extinction. In the very last scene, I thought to myself, ‘Hey, that guy looks kind of like Tom Cruise.’ Then the credits rolled and it turned out to be Tom Cruise. I’m quite proud of myself because I don’t usually recognise actors, and Tom Cruise is especially nondescript.

Predestination

(No description, since this was on a code-shared Qantas flight, and they don’t put the descriptions from their comparatively-terrible in-flight entertainment system online)

After watching this, I vaguely remembered a co-worker telling me about such a movie several years ago. It sounded really interesting and I wanted to see it. That’s weird because this movie only came out this year. Perhaps my co-worker is actually a future version of myself who travelled back in time to mess with my head. Or perhaps he was telling me about the Robert A. Heinlein short story —All You Zombies— that the movie is based on. Anyway, I really enjoyed this film, and watched the beginning of it again during the last half-hour or so of my last flight. I think the Bechdel test needs a fair bit of clarification before I can say whether this movie passes.

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