Picking at the bloated carcass of geek culture...occasionally!!!

Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Giant robot knife fight

In Movies on December 31, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Humanity is not the most efficient or dangerous fighting machine in the world.  While the move from all fours to a more bipedal stance allows for specialized tool use and the like, it makes them pretty slow, pretty off balance, and easy to take down.  That’s why people had to develop weapons.  Because they were way below average in terms in strength, speed, or dexterity.  Humanity evolved from a four-legged animal and has made the best with an imperfect original blueprint.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, in Avatar, James Cameron has continued the pretty silly idea of basing future technology on human-based design.  This comes in the form of some giant robot vehicles that the human soldiers drive.  Take a look.

How many accidental deaths come from people getting stepped on by giant robots? I bet it's the biggest killer in the army.

Okay, here’s the the thing.  These giant robots might seem pretty cool, no doubt.  I’m not doubting that my inner 7-year-old that thinks giant mech suits are cool as fuck.  Look how popular Transformers are and that idea, which I adore by the way, is rock stupid.  And that’s what I’m getting at.  Giant robots are cool but really ineffective in combat and that is why they are ridiculous for any army-type to employ in a combat situation.

What do I mean?  People are pretty top-heavy with a high center of gravity.  When you can create any kind of killing machine in the world, why make one look kind of like one of the least effective-killing machines, aka people.  So, people machines are just bad design.  But, whatever, there are plenty of examples of giant robots in the world of sci-fi.  It’s dumb but to be expected.  Fine.

But here is where Avatar gets reeaallly dumb.  The mechs have fully articulated hands that are controlled by VR-style gloves worn by the mech drivers.  So, if you built a giant piano or a giant guitar, these fuckers could make a giant robot band.  Yeah, that’s a good use of military technology.  So, what is the use of giant robot hands?  To shoot giant robot guns, of course.  Instead of having built in weapons, the giant robots carry fully separate giant robot assault rifles.  So what does this mean in terms in combat?  It means if you are involved in a firefight, the mech pilot fires his gun by pretending to hold a gun in the cockpit.  It looks like Journey playing invisible instruments like in the “Separate Ways” video.  Yes, that stupid.  The fact that these soldiers don’t accidentally break the guns that their mechs are holding is a miracle.

But even this isn’t the stupidest thing.  Well, when the mech in Avatar gets inevitably disarmed, it is forced to get into the obligatory hand-to-hand fight with the protagonist.  So, this is when the giant robot draws a giant robot knife.  Not a built-in blade, but an an actual giant survival knife drawn from a giant robot sheath from a giant robot belt.  It proceeds to get in a giant robot knife fight with the protagonist.  Why, oh why, would a giant robot need a giant robot serrated giant survival knife?  Maybe it has a giant robot compass in the pommel?  Maybe it might need to whittle a giant survival spear out of a giant robot piece of wood so it can catch giant robot fish in the giant robot stream?  It is so asinine I don’t know how to keep writing about it.  It has exhausted my brain to even ponder it.

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Avatar: The Aliens What-if Movie

In Movies on December 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I saw Avatar recently and I want to write about it.  If you want to know how I feel about the movie, in general, check out this review by my friend Jon.  It pretty much sums up my general feelings about this movie.  Basically, it’s an okay to better-than-okay movie with tons of tired, cliched moments and special effects that are good, but not consistently mind-blowing.  So what do I want to say about it?  Well, I’ve been hearing a lot about how this is Dances With Aliens, Ferngully II, or Dune Lite.  I have heard and repeated those pretty accurate statements.  But upon thinking further, I have come up with my own take on it.  This is James Cameron writing the ultimate “what-if” movie.  He is basically saying: “What is the Colonial Space Marines didn’t fight a inhuman breed of killing machines, but instead a nature-loving, furry enthusiast’s fantasy.  This would basically be that movie.

To get started, we have characters.  Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully (or should I say Jakesully) is basically Michael Biehn’s  Cpl. Hicks if he had survived the accident in the beginning of Alien 3.  He’s dependable, smarter-than-he-seems, competent, and pretty likeable compared to his war-crazy compatriots.  How about Michelle Rodriguez’s Chicon, a wonderful combination of Vasquez and Ferro.  She’s a badass, super-pilot who you can almost hearing Cameron directing by saying: “Act more like Jeanette Goldstein.”  You even have shades of Ripley in (surprise, surprise) Sigourney Weaver’s Dr. Augustine, a non-military, non-corporate expert along for the ride because she knows more than anyone else how these aliens work.  My personal favorite is Giovanni Ribisi channelling his inner Paul Reiser’s Burke in every scene he is in.  Do you think James Cameron hates yuppies?  Yeah, I wonder.

This

Plus this

Equals this.

But it’s not just the characters.  Avatar has tons of Aliens DNA in it.  We have militarized load-lifters walking around.  I mean, the climax of both Aliens and Avatar have a person in a robot-suit fighting a big alien, for Christ’s sake.  I mean, just the idea of trained, technologically soldiers getting beaten by stronger aliens more familiar with the fighting in the terrain is a enormous repeated theme.  Even Sigourney Weaver waking up from cryosleep and demanding a cigarette echoes Apone’s immediate reach for a stogey coming out of his own cryosleep chamber.  Worthington’s post-sleep hangover could and has been perfectly summed up by “you look how I feel.”

So, if the marines in Aliens had woken up on Pandora, I feel like this would have been the movie, more or less.  This, however, is not the end of my Avatar talk.  I have a particular bone to pick, but that will be tomorrow.

Thank God that’s over

In Video Games on December 30, 2009 at 4:10 am

Well, I saw Avatar over the holiday weekend.  I have a lot to say about it and was looking forward to jump starting the whole blog with a snarky, sarcastic few days of poking fun at the latest work of Entourage Aquaman directing Jimmy Cameron.  That was the plan…but I got Assassin’s Creed II for Christmas and I decided to play around with that for a while.  Fast forward to me avoiding human contact, shunning showers, skipping meals, and putting off going to the bathroom so I could continue playing.  Avatar can wait, because I am coming off a video game bender.

I liked the first Assassin’s Creed alright.  It looked great and the gameplay of running all over the city was fantastic.  It suffered from repetitive design, however, with the protagonist basically doing the same boring sequences over and over until you beat the game.  Assassin’s Creed II basically fixed all the problems, added tons of layers of fun, expanded the world, explored the metastory in much greater detail, and added the weirdest mindfucking sidequest I have ever imagined.  Combine DaVinci Code conspiracy theory with alien invasions with those creepy Myst books and you’re on the right track.  I had no idea where the story was going but I was definitely along for the ride.

And there is the problem.  At one point, I really wanted to get off the ride.  The game is ridiculously fun but I have a life, you know?  I not only have things I want to do, but things I need to do.  Assassin’s Creed was hearing none of that.  It would not let me really do much of anything until I finished it.  That includes the Daily Scott Brown, which may explain why I’m up at 3:00 AM typing away.  So I said that I would finish it today, and get my life back.  But again, the game wasn’t listening.  Each gorgeous, imaginative level opened up to another one.  And just when I thought it was winding down, a whole freaking another storyline started.  And when I finished that, I saw the credits come up…and I knew I could finally take a break.

The only thing that got assassinated was my showering schedule, my desire to leave the house, and the health of my marriage. Thanks Ubisoft.

And then, it kept going.

I shit you negative, you are in control of an action fight scene that takes place over the credits.  I swear, there are words scrolling down the right side of the screen while you assassinize a team of dudes who have come to take you out.  Innovative game design, yes, but I swear…tears started welling up in my eyes and I was choking back sobs when I realized I had to keep going.

Of course, I could have always just turned it off…but it honestly didn’t feel like an option the last couple days.  But it’s okay now because I’m done.

Yup, all done.

Then again…I didn’t collect all the hidden items yet…

Monday’s “That Guy:” Bob Gunton

In Movies, That Guys on December 29, 2009 at 3:03 am

I am back on the job.  In case you were wondering, I spent the last five months or so student teaching to finish getting my degree in teaching.  Now that I am finished, I can get back to doing this on a daily basis.  So…here we go.

I start back with a nice solid choice in terms of “that guys.”  I was watching cable recently and I saw this guy twice.  One of the movies I was watching was Demolition Man, the Sly Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Rob Snyder, Dennis Leary sci-fi action movie from the early 90’s.  As you may remember, it was shitty as hell and features the guy who played Otho in Beetlejuice (Glenn Shadix)  Actually, I just read that Shadix was neighbors with Xander Berkley in the 80’s.  How about that?  Oh, the other movie was Broken Arrow, the movie when John Woo decided to show how much he counted on the natural charisma of Chow Yon Fat by depending on Christian Slater and John Travolta to support this turd.  So what do these films have in common?  You mean, besides being awful movies that I spent precious moments of my finite life watching?  Well, they both feature this week’s “That Guy,” Bob Gunton.

This is a picture taken from his role on 24. I don't watch that show because I never got over the Season 2 Mountain Lion Fiasco. Someone tell me if he's good on it.

Bob Gunton, like many character actors, makes his career by television.  He has the usual ton of TV appearances that obviously allow him to make his living as an actor.  But in Demolition Man, he plays the chief of police in the Utopian future, a enormous square dweeb who does not approve of Stallone’s John Spartan, a hardass cop from the 90’s thawed out from deep freeze to pursue the super criminal, Snipes’ Simon Phoenix, as he tears apart a future society unprepared for such lawlessness.  Did I mention this movie is pretty awful?  Anyway, Gunton really sells this thankless part, seeming to genuinely be a guy from a naive and clueless society unused to any criminal activity.  In Broken Arrow, he plays a square, dweebish guy who is financially supporting the nuclear-warhead heist masterminded by Travolta’s Vic Deakins.  As soon as he walks on screen with his arrogant demeanor and whiny sense of entitlement, you know that Travolta is going to kill him.  It’s just that kind of character.  Again, Gunton brings his all to this shitty-ass role in this shitty-ass movie, though it probably isn’t too hard a job to play a character whose sole job is to question if John Travolta is the right guy to be in charge.

And this is kind of the types of roles that Gunton plays.  Squares, nerds, creeps, etc.  He does, however, have one performance that is so excellent, so iconic, so freaking pitch perfect that it outshines all the rest of his work.  Gunton played the warden from The Shawshank Redemption. Warden Norton is one of those characters that really earns the hate you feel for him.  At first he appears to be an authoritative asshole; a potentially shallow stereotype of what one imagines a warden would be.  But as we are exposed to this dude, his malicious and selfish evil becomes apparent, bubbling under a veneer of law and order.  His hypocritical and criminal behavior continues through the movie, whipping the audience into a rabid frenzy.  Even the non-religious of us find ourselves hoping and praying that horrible things happen to this character.  And our prayers are answered, my friends, setting up one of the most satisfying movie endings that I have ever seen.  And I think a lot of this is due to Bob Gunton’s pitch perfect playing of that warden role.  His icy voice, dead stare, and ability to be madly obtuse create an antagonist you really need to get defeated in the end.

So, Bob Gunton is not a perfect “that guy.”  Despite his many film and TV appearances and his extremely recognizability, to many people he will always be “the warden in Shawshank.  Always.  But, if you are not a big Shawshank guy, he works fine.  And, if you had been watching Broken Arrow with me a few weeks ago, you might have said “Hey, its that guy from Demolition Man.” But for that to have happened, you would have to have watched Demolition Man with me the week before.  And if you are that type of person, then God have mercy on you soul.