Category Archives: Movies

Ranking Phases 1-3 of the MCU

After watching the kickoff of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cash cow, I resurrected a list of mine I was playing with on how the first 22 movies fall out. It’s not easy. I don’t know how a sports writer can rank 32 teams. Usually the top few are either obvious or bubble up, and the same with the bottom few bubbling down. But the middle 20+? I suppose they do it the way I did…start plugging in a somewhat rational order and then bounce each off of the higher and lower adjacent movies. Most of them have huge script problems…okay, almost all. Yes, these are comic book movies and I need to alter my expectations. And yes, the second time through they tend to fare a little better with me… I can’t help that my mind recoils at the materializing of suits and masks out of nothing. Or ordinary human bodies taking killing punishment and getting up for more. Or…ordinary humans processing unrealistic amounts of data and reacting with unrealistic, if sometimes augmented, reflexes.

Anyway, starting with the bottom of the proverbial barrel… Continue reading

On “The Martian”, in both forms…

Martian movie posterLet me first say that I did enjoy Ridley Scott’s rendition of Andy Weir’s The Martian. It was one of the rare ones that didn’t scream at my normally_rubbed-raw-by-incessant_incongruities senses.

I don’t usually care about book or movie reviews beyond a mild curiosity, but this one on practically demands a response for its absurdity. Dan Kois says “Andy Weir’s The Martian gets the science right but leaves out what matters most.” Really? Not seeing that.

I found Mr. Kois’ review to be ridiculous on numerous points. He opens up his article with the comment that the film is “exciting and funny”. He says that one of the chief flaws of the book corrected in the movie was that the book had a “fanatic need to show its work“. Kois rightly observes that the movie “for the most part, zips along engagingly at a level similarly close to the surface”, but he’s right for the wrong reason. He likes that director Ridley Scott had “Matt Damon’s face, which in its expressiveness in moments of action connects us emotionally to Watney.” Among other observations, Kois mourns the book’s lack of “foreverness of our universe”, though acknowledges that the book was not aiming to convey that. Finally, Kois bemoans that The Martian is “a novel about outer space that never gives even a moment to the concept of the infinite.” These are the nits I choose to pick.

calculationsTo his credit, Kois admits that just because he doesn’t like the calculations or seemingly endless problem solving, there isn’t a place for them, nor are the fans wrong. And yet, he still had a problem with Weir showing his work. I found them to be integral to the story, and appreciated Weir’s efforts to get things right.

Kois says that “The Hab was intact (yay!) and the MAV was gone (boo!)” is not something someone would say, and claims that it reduces human emotion to “binary code”. He is right in that isn’t something someone would say, but he does not disclose that Watney did not say that – he thought it, which is more likely. I am confused as to how that can be construed to reduce human emotion, but Kois is entitled to his opinion. Taking that reduction further, Kois likens Wier’s Watney to a “stick figure”. I certainly did not see that either. And I might number among the minority, but the movie didn’t engage me to identify with the main character as much as the book did. Matt Damon is a skilled actor but the book was orders of magnitude superior – the screenplay and direction left Damon with little to work with. The rest of the cast are sadly, “stick figures”.

Again, lest I be misunderstood, the movie was an entertaining envisioning of the book. Still, in contrast to Kois’ assessment that the film was “exciting”, save for a brief scene in the beginning, I found the movie to be quite slow and uninspiring – completely opposite of the book. I must disclose that I actually snoozed during part of it! In my eyes, the book is eminently funnier than the movie. You’ll just have to read it to see. (I’m trying to recall a humorous moment in the movie but can’t – even Watney’s frustration with the Commander’s music choices is woodenly delivered.)

Martian book coverBack to Weir’s calculations, they pretty much had to be left out of the movie. But in print, they kept me (awake and) engaged. Contrary to an implication I’m probably reading into Kois’ review, I thought the calculations made the book more human, more exciting, and more accessible. Without them, Scott’s product delivers flat, shallow characters with no stories, and presents a superficial treatment riding “close to the surface”. I agree with Kois on that, but obviously not for the reasons he implies.

As to a concept of the infinite, the movie fails miserably where the novel succeeds. Not exactly “infinite”, but those pesky calculations convey the magnitude of the distance to be traveled to the Ares 4 landing site, the impact of food shortage, well…a whole freaking lot. The movie never conveyed (unless when I was dozing) the issue of caloric deprivation that those calculations provided and the dire circumstances of the travel to the other landing site.

The movie is one of the best science fiction movies made. The book (impossible dust storm as a cliche plot device not withstanding) is, as usually is the case, much better. You can skim the best parts if you want and not miss out on the story.

Ridley Scott did. And I’m guessing Dan Kois did.

Great movie…better book…and then there’s Marvin…

…of the Year 2013

Now that 2014 is here, I’m going to try to exorcise 2013 from my memory as much as possible. Our tragedy took over our lives after July 31st, but several friends have faced life threats that have put things in perspective.

Too many bad things, so I’m going to take a page from Time magazine and the editors’ Person of the Year chosen for the impact/influence good or bad.

Scroll down for my choices for Person, Engineering & Physics & Chemistry & Biology Achievements, Operating System, Most Disturbing & Funniest websites, Misinformer & Political A**, Movie, Book review and last but not least…

…Beer of the Year!… Continue reading

“A Quality Instinct” in practice

Extraneous observation to share before I get in to the topic of the day: Having interviewed several times in the last six years, I have determined that going through the process with a current employer for a new position is harder than going in cold to a prospective employer. The challenge of trying to dispel some existing impressions while reinforcing others…? Tough. But that’s a story for another day…

Anyway, after reading and writing about The Quality Instinct last week, I tried to use Max Anderson’s five features when looking at a few exhibits last Sunday. Dylan and Drew had a class at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA)and I went off on my own to test my new knowledge on Loren Mozley and Greek and Roman artifacts. After their class, Andrea, the boys and I all toured three current exhibitions: Chagall: Beyond Color, The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum, and Cindy Sherman.

Of course, Andrea and I had differing opinions. And this piece today is about my opinion…

Continue reading