A Short Burst

The Daily Wire today came very late to the party with a news item about Wolf Warrior 2. And by late, I mean very, very late: the party was over like two years ago, when the movie was released (2017). Perhaps though, part of the piece they described, which they linked to, contained new or breaking material. In honesty, I didn’t read the linked article, and that’s not what this post is about.

I wrote about Wolf Warrior 2 several months ago after seeing it on Netflix, in a post Brainwashing Media. The movie was very clearly propaganda for China, against the West.

What I didn’t know at the time, and do now, thanks to the Daily Wire is the tagline of the movie:

Anyone who offends China, no matter how remote, must be exterminated.

Just think about the components of that tagline.

  • Anyone. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your job is, no matter how influential or otherwise you might be.
  • offends. In this day and age of political correctness and offence-seeking-victims, all of us sane people know how ridiculous and easily manipulated ‘offence’ is as a standard.
  • no matter how remote. i.e. everywhere (or perhaps ‘for every slight, no matter how small’).
  • exterminated. Not reasoned with, not taught a lesson, wiped out.

Now maybe you think I’m being melodramatic. It’s a movie right? Would I be saying the same thing if it was released by Hollywood?

No, no I wouldn’t. However, this movie isn’t released by China or the Chinese people but by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). I’m confident in saying that every single word of the script, every byte of promotional data was all funded, vetted and approved by multiple people in the CCP. Especially considering the film featured 32 real tanks and aircraft. That doesn’t happen without connections and approvals.

And if this is what they are wanting to portray in a movie, I’d also consider it to be their plan in every other sphere. Check out this video if you want to see the extent by which the CCP is willing to go in destroying it’s enemies.

(This isn’t my post for the week: I’ll be also posting the next chapter of my novelette Escape from Hell. Read chapter 1 here).

Big Budget Does Not Mean Good Story

With working some long hours, and over-taxing my body, I’ve spent more hours than normal in front of the TV in the last week. In hindsight, I realise it was time not well spent. Even though it was shows and movies I wanted to watch, I found most of them bland and uninspiring. Even high-cost productions lacked a good story line, leaving my overall impression at “bleh”. I moved from anticipating the new series through to just feeling obligated to finish it.

The one exception to this cacophony of lacklustre entertainment was the Marvel movie Doctor Strange. Spoiler alert: read no further. From a cinematic point of view it was too heavy on CGI for my liking, but in contrast to everything else it had a good story line, even if it was cliché.

Good: Doctor Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch is a deeply-flawed egomaniac who wants to win at everything. He ends up defeating the bad guy by being willing to fail endlessly.

Bad: I’d have to say I didn’t believe the transformation. I didn’t see him changing over time, it was like someone flicked a switch and all of a sudden he’d changed. Not so much a character arc than a plot-required u-turn.

Good: Being willing to fail is something that most people can relate to, and for the perfectionist it is a hard thing to accept.

Bad: In hindsight, it was kind of a weak ‘fail’. I mean he was willing to loose in another galaxy, population 1.. There were no witnesses. It’s not like he was willing to admit his mistakes on international TV.

Good: There was some good humour to break up the action. (Marvel are good at this). Take for example this where his cloak has ideas of its own.

Bad: And then the super-cheesy, I-so-didn’t-see-that-coming from the monk who never laughs. (Guess what he does?)

There were other problems with it too, which I guess just shows how bad the others were. From now on, I’m reading, not watching TV when it’s the approach of bed time.

Guardians of the Galaxy #2

Recently a new friend asked what my favourite movie was and I couldn’t answer. There are lots of movies that I enjoy and some I hate, but I can’t name a favourite.

I can easily name my wife’s favourite movies. It doesn’t take a genius-level of observation to realise if she watches the same movie back-to-back for an entire day that she likes it. I have no such movie stuck on loop.

The other possible metric is how often I’ve watched a movie, which brings me to the original Guardians of the Galaxy. I’d seen the promos and, thinking it was a sci-fi, thought it looked lame. When I eventually watched it with the mindset of not sci-fi but just a fun movie I found that I really enjoyed it. It didn’t take itself seriously, was quite funny and I can honestly say I’ve never seen a villain stalled by a “dance off” before. Over the years whenever the opportunity presented itself I’ve watched it (probably six times in total).

Recently I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Unwisely, I went in with high expectations.

The jokes seemed forced and were often predictable (not to mention considerably cruder than I remember #1 being).

And the ending… minor character dies (bad guy choosing to be heroic) and is cremated. Estranged friends arrive for a final farewell and put on a fireworks display. It might have been emotional and touching if it wasn’t completely corny.

And of course to add to the cheese the ending wouldn’t be complete without the lovers making up, the two feuding friends having peace and the delinquent’s behaviour understood.

The one shining light (other than the little dancing Groot, of course) was the basic premise: boy finally finds father, only to discover father is the villain.

My judgement: wait for TV. And only then, if you’re really, really hard-pressed to find something else.

Movie Review: Logan

As someone who grew up watching the x-men cartoons, probably long after it was age-respectable, I really like the x-men. And it almost goes without saying that Wolverine is my favourite. (It doesn’t hurt that the bladed-fury has most recently been played by fellow Aussie, Huge Jackman, who is a skillful singer/actor and all-round nice guy). I love the super powers of the mutants and their heroic struggles in a world where literally anything is possible.

According to the review sites the latest Marvel offering Logan is quite popular with audiences. Not with this reviewer, and I’ll tell you why.

Continue reading

On Villains and Heroes

Recently I watched the thriller Hush on Netflix. I’m not normally a thriller watcher, but every now and then the mood is (f)right. I enjoyed the movie and it got me thinking…

Hush is the classic psychopath-stranger meets lone girl in remote location. The victim just happens to be an author which is helpful in piquing my interest.  The twist this time is that the ‘victim’ or protagonist is both deaf and mute.

A protagonist should be placed in a vulnerable position by the villain and I can’t think of a more vulnerable position than being deaf and hunted. Imagine being worried about someone breaking into your house and not being able to hear them at all. Are they breaking down the front door or standing just around the corner? Sound is a pivotal sense when it comes to engaging the flight or fight mentality.

Imagine screaming in pain, and knowing that not a peep was coming out of your mouth. You can’t call for help no matter how hard you try. The twin duo of deaf and mute make you more vulnerable and less able to protect yourself. Kudos to the writers Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel for choosing a protagonist that maximised the suspense.

Then my thoughts turned to villains. An evil villain like a psychopath is a scary proposition. When I consider villains they fit onto a scale something like this (where the higher the number the more scary they are):

  1. At the ‘weak’ end of the scale is the incidental villain. This is just someone who is going along with the flow, perhaps being dragged somewhat unwillingly along by peer pressure. They made a bad decision and its putting them into bad situations.
  2. Doing slightly bad things from necessity not choice is the subsistence villain. They might steal to feed the family, but they’re going to avoid hurting people if they can.
  3. The social villain. The louts and idiots who enjoy committing ‘medium’ level crimes. They normally travel in packs and like to think they are smarter because they  ‘live outside the system’. Normally they started off as incidental or subsistence villains but then graduated up the food chain, so this group covers the boss down to the foot soldiers.
  4. Taking a giant leap in evil-rating is the sociopath villain. These individuals like to commit crime and hurt people. They can’t empathize and will only ‘behave’ if it is personally beneficial.
  5. Give a sociopath a high intellect and/or lots of money and they becomes a genius villain. They are the cream of the criminal crop. They’re not interested in becoming the biggest drug dealer, but running the entire city and/or world.
  6. The architect villain though is even scarier (in some respects). Sure they might be committing crime and hurting people, but their motivation is what makes them truly scary. They are doing it because it will eventually help us. They can see that our temporary pain will be to our eventual good. This villain will never rest because in their mind they are doing what is right.
  7. At the very top of the scale is the child sociopath.

looper

(Take for example the movie Looper … laying aside my general dislike for a 5 year old child playing such an incredibly dark role).

I find a child psychopath more disturbing than an adult and I don’t think I’m alone. Is it because we inherently know that children are supposed to be innocent? Does a criminal act feels even more criminal when committed by a child? Is part of our fear related to their potential to hide their true nature? We know adults can be evil, but what if a child is evil now… how bad will they be in the future?

The mentally-deranged child is by far the worst villain.

The Importance of Finishing Well

Recently I watched Jurassic World.

To be fair I should state that it has a PG-13 rating, which should have been my first clue that it wasn’t going to be a reprisal of the more mature Jurassic Park (MA15+) from my own youth. Given the low rating it was probably designed for teenagers less than half my age. Maybe they would like it more, even if the plot had more holes than a fly screen.

Note the following contains a lot of spoilers and some disappointed grumpiness. The story is based on a reborn amusement park, where de-extinction is done through science. Looking to boost revenue of the now mundane dinosaurs, they create a new genetically engineered hybrid dinosaur called the Idominous Rex, stronger, faster, scarier…

Parts I liked:

  • The idea of genetically engineering new dinosaurs.
  • Any well-done envisioning of future-tech.
  • I kind of like the idea of “how can we use dinosaurs for other purposes…” (caveat below section)

Parts I didn’t like (that met the so-annoying-I-included-them factor):

  • The micro-plot of mum and dad are getting a divorce, which goes like this: I’M ECSTATIC TO BE HERE AND SEE IT ALL! I’m crying now because they’re getting a divorce. Eyes are dry ten seconds later and OH MY, LOOK AT THAT OVER THERE! (Hopefully the ten seconds of tears were enough to endear me to my older brother and make him protective of me, even though he finds me exceptionally annoying).
  • If they have enclosures for big dinosaurs that never get to leave the enclosure, why are doors made large enough for said dinosaurs to walk out of? Can’t make that T-Rex climb out of a human-sized doggy-door can we?
  • The fact that the Indominous Rex is part Raptor, (which is a pack/social animal) who eats its own sibling growing up (err, not particularly socially polite), spends its entire life not socialising in isolation… breaks out and kills anything that moves (also not social)… and THEN communicates with the Raptor pack (ooh social now, and just in the nick of time for a plot twist!).
  • The hero of the story has trained the raptors from hatchlings so that he is the alpha of the pack. He just manages to convince them to not eat the poorly inducted new guy, but then he’s perfectly safe riding alongside them on a motorbike. Despite the fact that the raptors get a new alpha (the Indominous Rex) and eat all the soldiers, they then switch sides in the grand finale to protect the hero (plot twist!). Fortunately by this stage all of their hunting instincts seem to have been pacified because they’re not interested in eating the hero’s companions either…).
  • The hero rides through a jungle on a motor cycle, at night, alongside the hunting raptors who are tracking the Indominous Rex. Fortunately the Raptors chose a path that was free from ground-level obstructions (rocks, undergrowth, branches).
  • And the ending… a big battle between the Indominous Rex, the now-loyal Raptor pack (who nearly all die), a random T-Rex… They all fight valiantly, but at the end of it all the Indominous Rex strays too close to the swimming crocodile-dinosaur and becomes dinner himself. Apart from some brave action the hero has very little to do with the climax – it’s mostly dumb luck that saves the day.
  • Oh, and finally: The woman has found love with the hero and so it’s happy ever after as they walk out hand-in-hand. Never mind the fact that countless people have been killed and injured, you and hundreds of other people are out of a job because the park you were responsible for has just had one of the worst catastrophes ever… oh, and there are dozens of flying dinosaurs headed to the mainland, not to mention a random T-Rex and lone-Raptor who seem to have a cease fire between them for the time being.

If there is one part of the story you want to get right, it’s got to be the ending. Think of it like food: the ending of a story is the taste that the reader has left in their mouth after a meal. If it’s bad, they won’t be back. If it’s great they’ll tell their friends.

Which is why the progress gauge on The Rebel Queen appears to be a bit stuck. I seem to struggle with my endings, so I am putting more work into finishing the story off well. I’m getting there.