I have some comic book recommendations for you guys who really liked Chronicle but don't really read comics and would like some books that are along the lines of the film. Chronicle reminded me quite heavily of Unbreakable, but also of certain comics I've read. There's a lot of different influences that went in this film, other than just Akira.
First of all, check out Kurt Busiek's Secret Identity graphic novel. Busiek is best known for Astro City and Marvels (two books I'd recommend without reservation), but Secret Identity is another fantastic work that highlights his tremendous storytelling skills and love for the medium. SI is a Superman story, but not about Superman. Essentially, it's about a teenage boy in the real world who just so happens to be named Clark Kent by his parents as a joke. He's sick of his name and getting made fun of at school, until the day he actually does get superpowers identical to Superman's. It's never explained in the story how he gets them, he just does. The story isn't about that, but about what it would be like if a kid in real life actually got Superman's powers. You can obviously see the similarity to Chronicle, as they're both about teenagers in a realistic world getting powers. However, SI is quite different as Clark in the book takes the responsibility and uses his powers to help people, becoming a real Superman, while Chronicle goes off in the opposite direction. In the course of the story, he finds love in the big city, deals with an incredibly suspicious and hostile US government, and eventually even raises a family. I tend not to consider SI a "true" Superman story, as it does not take place in the DC universe or contain the actual character of Superman, but rather a kid named after Superman, but it's still a very good read.
The other comic I'd recommend is Brian Bendis's long-running series Powers. In a nutshell, Powers is about police detectives who investigate superhero, or "powers" crimes. They're just your average gritty cops, trying to do their job in a world filled with insanely powerful superheroes who demolish buildings and occasionally maim innocents. Of course, sometimes these superheroes turn insane, or end up getting murdered, and then they have to do their best to solve it. Unlike traditional comics where the superhero and supervillain are entangled in this intimate conflict to the exclusion of the outside world, Powers has a lot of collateral damage. People get their faces melted off, or just torn apart, because supervillains are sadistic fuckers. It's a comic that's alternately very funny, or very grim and dark.
Oh yeah, another thing I hate about Insurrection: They fucked up with the ready room desk.
For seven seasons, we were treated to this ready room. It felt comfy and warm and inviting. But most importantly, it was sparse. There was the goldfish tank and the model of the Stargazer and not much else. The desk had one of those LCARS displays and sometimes a single rack of data cards. That was it, that was all it had. The desk was mostly empty. It wasn't cluttered up with junk. Star Trek was about the future, and how technology would make our lives so much easier. So even though as Captain, Picard would still have to fill out paperwork, he could at least do it from a single display that would efficiently and effortlessly take care of everything. Every once in a while, someone would walk in with a PADD for him to check out. But never a desk in disarray. This was not the future that Star Trek envisioned.
But then we got to the movies. What the Christ? What the hell happened here, Picard? What are you, a two year old? Hasn't anybody taught you how to clean up after yourself? Why in God's name do you have dozens of PADDs and all kinds of crap all piled up here? Why is your desk so damn cluttered and messy? Is this the same side of you that enjoys off-road racing? I just don't... I really uh, don't know what to make of this. Why would you need so many different PADDs? Couldn't you just navigate through various data with a single PADD? There's amazing things people are doing with iPhones and iPads today, surely they'll be even better and more efficient in the future. Again... Star Trek is about how great the future is going to be. This looks like a goddamn bureaucratic nightmare.
Now, on a different subject... um, just rewatching some Voyager episodes lately... I've really gotta say that I hate some of the characters. Not because the actors are horrible people, but because they're just written so badly and boringly. Like.. Tuvok. What the hell is there to Tuvok? We had Spock, and he was a Vulcan, and that meant he didn't really have any emotions, but there was still so much to the character. Spock was still so interesting and captivating and could elicit a lot with just a raised eyebrow. He even turned out to be the most popular character during TOS's run.
Yet we've got Tuvok, and he's also a Vulcan, but... there's just nothing there. When he says something in this flat emotionless voice, that's it. It's just this flat dialogue and there's nothing to the character. He might as well be wallpaper, standing back there in that alcove. He fades from memory because he's just so darn boring and unmemorable. What went wrong here? Spock was great but Tuvok is awful. I haven't seen Tim Russ in anything else, so I dunno if he's terrible in other roles. But probably not? I hope it's just the material he was given.
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One of the problems I have with Insurrection is the whole idea that there's this beautiful native woman who just happens to be single and completely available for Picard to swoop in and sweep her off her feet. Like, isn't this an isolated society where people live to be 600 years old? So you're gonna tell me that this very attractive 600 year old woman is just single and has been waiting around all this time for an outsider to romance? Really? Nobody else in the Baku ever struck her fancy? Or is she just like the village slut and she's already been passed around so many times that nobody wants to have her as a girlfriend or wife? I dunno, it just seems silly to me that the big important female lead just happens to be single and waiting for the dashing strange outsider to hook up with. Even though I wouldn't really call a balding old guy "dashing."
You see it in lots of stories about strangers coming into alien cultures, of course. Avatar had it with Neytiri, the chief's daughter who just happened to be single, lucky for Jake.
And I never understood why in Nemesis the Romulans had the Remans enslaved and working in dilithium mines. Like, you'd think with an advanced civilization, they'd have way better and more efficient means of mining minerals, right?
Now, I know you're thinking back to Star Trek VI, when the Klingons had their dilithium mining prison on Rura Penthe. But see, in that case, it always just seemed like the Klingons had them mining because they deliberately wanted their condemned prisoners to suffer and endure backbreaking labor. It never occurred to me that the Klingons had them mining dilithium because that was the best way of doing it. Klingons were generally cruel dicks and it made sense that they'd punish their prisoners with hard and pointless work.
But with the Romulans, they had the entire race of Remans mining on their own planet. So the prison rationale doesn't work.
So I just watched a rather obscure film on Netflix instant streaming called Carriers. And no, it's not a documentary about aircraft carriers. It's actually a low budget indie horror film about a world where a plague has wiped out most of humanity and the survivors have to try and... well, survive. Sorta like a modern day version of Poe's The Red Death. What really intrigued me about this film was that it starred a then unknown Chris Pine, back before he was cast as Kirk in Abrams' Star Trek. I'd already seen him in Bottle Shock and this was apparently that other film he did before hitting it big.
The film's basically like a cross between The Road and 28 Days Later, though there aren't any zombie shenanigans. It's strictly about surviving in a desolate wasteland while under constant fear of contracting the deadly virus. Because of the very nature of this story, it's incredibly bleak and nihilistic, which suited me just fine. It also explains why this had a very low budget, because it is dark and depressing and you feel awful and disquieted. This is not the sort of movie that has any kind of mainstream appeal, so I'd guess that they had roughly about 2 or 3 million dollars to work with, with most scenes shot on empty and barren highways out in New Mexico. Another factor is that the characters are all basically assholes and fairly unlikeable, which at first bothered me. It's naturally hard to get into a movie if you don't find yourself liking any of the main characters, isn't it? Well, they don't really get any more likeable as the movie continues, I can tell you that. At the end, they're all just as despicable and unsympathetic as when the film started. But as I thought about it... I came to peace with it. In a realistic depiction of this sort of horrendous post-apocalyptic situation... would people really be likeable? Do survivors need to be good-hearted chums that always do the right thing? Or would the few people that survive actually be those who are cruel enough to make the hard choices? When viewed in this light, I had to come to the realization that this movie was going for realism and that there was something incredibly grounded and true about depicting these survivors as people that we may despise. It was okay to have a movie with unlikeable protagonists, as long as it felt true to the story.
Fans of Stephen King will naturally point to The Stand as a direct influence on Carriers. Actually, I'd say that Carriers is most similar to Night Surf, the short story that King later expanded out into The Stand. There's revelry and a fatalistic hedonism that the survivors have, because there's no telling when you might get infected and die. Chris Pine gives a great performance as the wild and uncouth leader of this ragtag group.
Ultimately, this is a movie that you should watch only if you're prepared for a very depressing time. It leaves a bad feeling in your stomach and it should, because it's dealing with a nightmare and effectively depicts it with a stark minimalism. It's not something to watch while you're in a warm and cuddly mood, but I was left powerfully moved and very happy to be alive. For those who choose to take the plunge, I do believe you'll find a captivating but grim portrait of the last days of man.
So I was browsing for some Chronicle reviews, just to see what other people thought about it, and I went to the Totally Rad Show. Their review of it was alright, though somewhat more lukewarm then my rather effusive praise. But what really caught my eye was the guest reviewer, Miri Jedeikin in place of regular Alex Albrecht. I have to say... Ms. Jedeikin is probably one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in my life. I mean a 10 out of 10. Just perfection all around. Her facial features are incredibly striking and left an indelible impression. Here, you can see for yourself:
One of her best features are her eyes, because they're piercing and convey such intelligence and depth. Kinda reminds me of the eyes here: Start the Conversation
Wow, what a movie. Just outstanding. It is unbelievable to me that this film was made for 15 million dollars. Just swirl that around in your head for a while. 15 million dollars, and they created something that impressed me a hell of a lot more then Transformers 3, which ended up costing some 200 million dollars. As far as superhero movies go, we've got some big hitters arriving this year. The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, and The Amazing Spider-Man just to name a few. So I didn't give much thought to this one, arriving in February of all times. But now... I've really got to think about this. This will be legitimately challenging come the end of the year. Those other guys are gonna have to step up their game.
The film is transporting. I didn't want it to end. There's a certain point in the film where the three leads get together and breathlessly exclaim that this was probably the best day of their entire lives. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but this was certainly one of the best movies I've seen in recent years. And I'm generally not a big fan of found footage movies. They don't hold any particular sway over me. But the visuals that we get to see, from clouds zooming past, to the climactic showdown in the city... that all was enhanced by the perspective they used here and worked beautifully.
There are certain ideas that are universal to the human psyche that have been conveyed in films. One is that strange niggling doubt in the back of our minds, wondering if our world is real. And movies like The Matrix and Inception have captured that idea and done wonders with it. Another is that childish yet irresistible fantasy that we sometimes conjured up in our youth or in our dreams, of being endowed with superpowers, or simply given godlike abilities. It's the ultimate fantasy, like wishing for infinite wishes. And Chronicle delivers on that fantasy in the most tremendously satisfying way, which is by doing it realistically. Bringing that fantasy to life in a believable manner is exactly how it should be done, because it brings that fantasy out of our dreams where it's always resided. By bringing it into the real world, we're left with something so sublime and extraordinary that it feels like slipping closer to heaven and touching the very face of God.
It also just now occurred to me that if you think about it... this was just about the same sort of "fall towards the dark side" story that the Star Wars prequels were supposed to be, but they actually pulled it off here. Here, we actually understand Andrew and what has perverted him into this creature and why he does what he does. It all goes wrong, of course, but we don't lose sight of the fact that this is a human being and we can sympathize with his situation. Nobody gave a rat's ass about Anakin because he was always this whiny douchebag. It's amazing to see these two stories, ostensibly the same, but with such vastly different results. The prequels are an abomination, but this turned out to be just the opposite. What a splendid surprise.
Now, I've noticed that some people have spoken negatively of the blonde female character in here. I had absolutely no problem with her and I'll explain why:
1. The movie needed a female love interest of some sort. You can argue that that's formulaic and unneeded, but that's what she was. And she was basically the only female there. What, were we going to focus on that pink haired chick? No thanks.
2. As this is a found footage movie, they needed her camera to provide footage from certain angles. And really, I didn't mind it. While I've never encountered any girls who filmed themselves all the time... I also graduated from high school in 2003. With how blogging is in today's world... it's not that much of a stretch.
3. She served to pull Matt away from Andrew. The entire movie was showing us how Andrew was a loner, and socially distant, and how even though he was gifted with these powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men... he still couldn't quite make the jump over into normalcy. He still couldn't escape his station in life and went bad. On the other hand, Matt was a normal guy and was one of the few positive beacons for Andrew. But Matt learned from his powers and ended up hooking up with the girl and this inevitably pulled him away from Andrew. Their paths diverged partly due to his relationship with her and this set up the third act.
I've also heard complaints about Steve and his role in the movie:
Yes, the black guy does die first in this movie. But I think he needed to. He was the really popular and nice guy. It didn't matter whether he was black. Steve served as the symbol of innocence in the story. When they're all together at the beginning and having a great time and bonding, it's mainly focused on Steve. He has the charisma and friendly nature that temporarily wins Matt over and calms him. But he is innocence, and the story loses its innocence when he dies. Like Piggy in The Lord of the Flies, Steve had to die to show the shift of the characters, and his death marks the turning point of the story. He was one of the few restraints on Andrew and the death of his goodness plunges us all into the heart of darkness.
Now, Chronicle is not an entirely new concept. I've personally seen many of the ideas of Chronicle in Bendis's Powers comic, among others. The notion of ordinary fucked up people abusing superpowers and creating utter devastation, etc. That's nothing new. But it's never really been so fully realized and brought together as a cohesive whole before on film.
It's also nice to see some little winks to traditional superhero stories.
The shots of the camera zooming past clouds is an obvious callback to Superman. One of the earliest teaser trailers for Superman the movie was just helicopter footage zooming past clouds.
But it's not just that. I felt that the very ending of the film was also a nice nod to Superman. Though Matt ends up traveling to Tibet, the snowy landscape really reminds one of Superman's Fortress of Solitude up in the Arctic. Different location, but the settings look a lot alike.
Please, go out and see Chronicle in the best theater you can find. It's an experience you won't soon forget, or want to.
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I just rewatched TNG's third season episode "The Most Toys."
Boy, what a great, great episode. This is one of those character pieces in Star Trek that I love so much. There's almost no action, but it doesn't matter, because this is basically a duel between the two characters of Data and Fajo. Of course, it's also an acting showcase for Brent Spiner and Saul Rubinek, who's probably best known for the role of the reporter in Eastwood's "Unforgiven." Rubinek pulls off the perfect balance between entertainingly whimsical and maliciously psychopathic. You can't pull your eyes away from him because you never know just what he'll do. There's an explosive spark beneath the surface that could go off at any moment.
They really started to get Data just right in the portrayal here in the third season, and The Most Toys is probably one of the episodes where Data is perfectly realized. Spiner does just enough to convey the turmoil and conflict of the situation, while retaining the fact that he is, after all, "just an android", as he says in the final shot. There's none of the stupid and inane buffoonery that we've had to endure in earlier episodes where he asks, "Burning the midnight oil? Gee whiz, better not do that!" Those sorts of dumb questions that make you wonder how such a retarded android ever rose to become second officer aboard the Federation flagship.
The last third of the episode really brings everything together and heightens the danger and intensity to a fever pitch. Fajo ends up murdering Varria and finally, we can see this series escape out from under the shadow of its predecessor to stake out its own legacy. Fajo has fully turned into this monstrous being and we can see that he's not just a Harry Mudd, a sort of huckster and thief. He's much darker then that. It inevitably takes the episode to a conclusion that can leave you profoundly disquieted or entirely satisfied, depending on your own views. Or, you can find yourself in deeper contemplation of Data's true self and whether your beliefs about him have changed. The episode really works on all cylinders and gives us a better understanding of the character, while not forgetting to tell an engaging and dramatic story in the process.
There's a few scenes of Wesley and his whining over Data's demise, and that's just annoying, but what can ya do?
The appeal of Lego, and why it's probably the greatest toy ever invented, is that your imagination takes control. When kids play with Lego, they aren't trying to build what's on the box. They aren't trying to recreate the actual "intended" Lego set. Or, you shouldn't be. That's not what you do with Lego blocks. Lego is about giving you building blocks to build whatever is deep within your heart, yearning to break free and take form in physical space. When I was a kid, I just took my pile of Lego blocks and built World War II battleships, the RMS Titanic, BattleMechs with gantries, USS Enterprise starships, aircraft carriers... whatever I could think of. It was pure delight and the reason Lego is so popular worldwide. That gift of creation is universal and appeals to everyone.
So... I really just don't fucking understand what's going on with these Lego games with Traveller's Tales. What is going on here? I watch videos of the gameplay, and it just seems like arcadey action games where you shoot stuff and gold Lego chips fall on you. Well, who the hell wants that? Who wants to play a bland arcade game with a Lego block aesthetic? Who cares about shooting stuff for points? They've completely missed the point of Lego! Where is the act of putting blocks together to form whatever you want? Where is that joy of physical construction? That tiny tug of frustration when you realize there's a piece that's stuck on too tight and you have to wiggle it free in order to perfect your creation? If I wanted to play as Batman in a video game, I'd play Arkham City, not Lego Batman.
Interesting thing I noticed about the Scimitar from Nemesis.
Back in DS9, they needed a design for the Dominion Battlecruiser. This was supposed to be the big badass capital ship of the Dominion, before they revealed the Battleship in "Valiant." The art design guy assigned to create this new ship was one John Eaves:
John worked long and hard and came up with this final design, which looked rather predatory and dashing and evoked the aesthetic of the Dominion attack ships:
Then DS9 ended. But there were still movies and other series to work on. One of the TNG movies, Insurrection, needed ship designs for the antagonists, the Son'a. Good old reliable John Eaves came up to bat and created the battleship and cruiser designs. But there was another ship that the script called for. This was a shuttle that would launch little drones to transport all the innocent Baku folk up. John Eaves worked and came up with this:
Well, huh. That's interesting. I mean, it doesn't really look like the other Son'a designs at all... in fact, it kinda looks a bit like that old Dominion battlecruiser, doesn't it? Why would the Son'a ship look so similar to a Dominion ship that was designed all the way across the galaxy, in the Gamma Quadrant? This is getting a bit fishy, but maybe he ran out of time. I guess it's not that big a deal.
Insurrection turned out to be a shitty ST movie, but they still found a way to make another one. This one would be a final farewell to the TNG cast, and was named Nemesis. The script called for a huge Reman battleship that could cloak, fire while cloaked, and have multiple regenerative shields while cloaked. It would also be about as big as a Borg Cube. Sounds a little fan-fictiony to me. But anyways, once again they turned to John Eaves to design this new unique ship. It had to be Reman, which we'd never seen before. But one expected to see some Romulan design influences. Well, what we got was:
Goddamnit, stop letting John Eaves create ships! He just makes the same damn ship over and over again! Fuck.
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The DS9 station's docking ports make absolutely no sense. See, most ships seem to dock at the main docking ring. These ports are connected to ports in the bow of the ships. However, it doesn't seem to make any sense for certain ships. I'm not sure if it's laziness on the part of the production staff, or something else. But I'm gonna go with laziness, since they couldn't even be bothered to create shield bubbles for battle scenes.
Are the Klingons just supposed to somehow crawl through the photon torpedo tube to get into the station? Poor Klingons.
Does anybody see a docking port in the bow of the Miranda? I don't.