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Still here links

Posted on May 27, 2009 by billsimmon in linkdump, whining about being busy | 13 Comments

Blogging is the first thing to go when things get busy. Here are a few links that have been haunting my Firefox tabs lately, just itching to get blogged about…

Also, do not believe the lies. Terminator Salvation is a decent action film that is taut, well directed, well acted, and totally worth 8 bucks (and not a ridiculous sci-fi parody like T2). Don’t think about it too hard, but it’s a summer blockbuster so that should be easy.

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  1. On May 27, 2009, odum said:

    Heavens. Even when I agree with you, its laced with a large dose of what-the-hell-is-he-thinking, I tellya.

    First of all, T2 is a fantastic movie by virtually every metric imaginable. Seeing my kid’s understanding of/appreciation for not just sci fi, but the human condition and good ol’ morality (killing is bad) at one viewing was testament to that.

    And its precisely because T2 was so damn good that T:Salvation is getting a bum rap. Just saw it after reading the reviews, and I enjoyed it and recommend it. It’s clear, though, that the reviewers are comparing it to T2 which was frightfully superior. The characters in T:S were fine, but were basically grim-n-grit dramatic forms, virtually interchangable with characters from a zillion other such films. The characters in T2 felt real both on their own terms, but also spoke to a lot of stuff a lot deeper for viewers. Again, all you have to do is show someone (of any age) the film for the first time and watch their responses to these people.

    Agree 100% of Buffy, though.

    And geekdom assembled needs to stop obsessing about how Time Travel is done. Y’know what? It’s ALL good. It ALL works. Here’s how:

    Structure of the universe questions (the multiverse thing) can remain a total constant. It’s the rules of the travel itself that vary. I think the “change the present” stories are perfectly fine – they just further indicate that its easier to travel forward and backward in time then sideways.

    If I go back in time and prevent my own birth and I return to the present to a changed history, it just means that I went back to the present of that new timeline. The timeline I came from is a parallel one that is sideways to me now, ever since I made the change. I’m an alternate reality refugee.

    If I then go back and “fix” the damage, I’ve likely just made a “third” timeline that mimics the first. I return and am happy, but I’m not actually in the original timeline I left. I may not feel the difference (since the “native timeline” version of me also went back and changed history, duplicating the schisms from his own perspective) as I’m now (unbeknown to myself) simply filling in for this native version of myself in an otherwise indistinguishable history.

    So all these different versions of time travel can easily co-exist – the difference is how the travel actually happens – do you make a timeline and return to the future point along this newly made history, or do you return forward and sideways to the specific history you left?

    For that matter, is there a conservation of energy principle whereby timelines that bear no distinction from each other merge into one? That would mean, when you “fixed” things, you actually DID end up back in the timeline you left.

    Fun to think about anyway, but don’t let the different time travel stories bug you. They can all work.

  2. On May 27, 2009, Lev said:

    Do you mean T2 or T3? I rather liked T2, even though I largely agreed with David Foster Wallace’s critique of the film: http://www.badgerinternet.com/~bobkat/waterstone.html

    I actually think that every new incarnation of the Terminator franchise just makes the overarching premise of the whole thing more ridiculous. If time travel was only a one-off thing, like T1 implied, okay. But if they can send them back repeatedly, as in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, then the game is over, especially the liquid metal ones. There’s no way humanity has a chance. You can’t survive having an infinite amount of terminators thrown at you–eventually one of the infinite unstoppable killing machines is going to kill you.

    I rather enjoyed The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and I haven’t seen Salvation, but each installment in the Terminator franchise has upped the ridiculousness. At least the show had the sense to elide the question by keeping Cromartie/John Henry and Garbage woman as the week to week baddies, with a future terminator occasionally tossed in.

  3. On May 28, 2009, Fargus said:

    I’m cross-posting this comment from PSFR:

    I think the reason for all of the T2 love isn’t its place as a sci-fi film, or its place relative to the first film. I’ve agreed for a long time that it screws up the internal consistency of the series in large and various ways (the third and fourth movies in the series don’t help, though).

    But most people aren’t sci-fi nerds like we are, and they remember the then-groundbreaking effects (which still look pretty damned good today), and the cheese probably worked for some people as a substitute for a heart, heavy-handed though a lot of it may have been.

    Personally, I love the film on the brainless popcorn action level. If I want to just watch a few hours of stuff blowing up, it’s hard to beat it. On the sci-fi level, though, I completely agree with you.

    Here’s my little list of the Terminator films and where each of them went wrong relative to the prior ones (minor spoiler for T4):

    T1: Internally consistent, story more interesting than the creators probably even knew at the time.

    T2: Remember last film? How everything was deterministic and the act of trying to change the past created the future? Yeah, forget that.

    T3: Remember how we told you to forget about fate? Yeah, forget that.

    T4: Remember in T3 when we told you the Arnold model T-800 was able to get close to John Connor and kill him because of the previous attachment from T2? Yeah, forget that. Also, we’re going to make you think this is going to tie into the first film at the end, but then we’re going to snatch it back at the last second. Also, some heavy-handed nonsense (like in T2) about the line between robots and humans.

  4. On May 28, 2009, evening said:

    The Ze Frank video….really???

    I guess vampires are in between True Blood and those teen novels turned into movies, forget the name.

    And why does Buffy need to be updated?? It is a bit recent for that, me thinks. Though they did say they may not use any of the characters and such, so then how will it be Buffy?? grr

  5. On May 28, 2009, casey said:

    T4 is among the worst films I’ve ever seen. MCG (God, it kills me even to type that) is like Uwe Boll with better actors.

    This movie blew goat penis — from the it’s Tin Man “if I only had a heart” plotline to the ripped-off, dumbed down action set pieces to the utter waste of on-screen talent.

    There was nothing resembling the soft sci-fi origins of the franchise, and there was likewise no moral complexity in John Connor’s character. I mean, this is the guy who knowingly sends his dad/young charge back in time to die. Where is the sense of this on screen?

    The music and music cues were cruddy, as was the expository setup shots. If I see another seen with a group of people standing around in a circle pretending to confer about something but really only waiting for someone offscreen to burst in with Important Plot Information, I’ll gouge my eyes out with a spork. Taut, my ass. This is the kind of thing the Crown Prince of Hackitude, Robert Rodriguez, ACTUALLY MADE FUN OF in his “Grindhouse” segment.

    Like Zack Snyder, MCG is an overgrownfanboy who’s intellectually and creatively incapable of internalizing robust source material for the benefit of producing a watchable piece of pop culture.

    EPIC FAIL, and probably a franchise-killer.

    Playing Fallout III on Playstation 3 is a far more rewarding post-apocalyptic experience, and it’s got better CG.

  6. On May 28, 2009, casey said:

    Oh, and how the hell could “intelligent machines” not lock down all the fucking available communications spectrum? Gimmie a break. You could drive Arnold’s Humvee through the holes in the film’s logic.

  7. On May 28, 2009, billsimmon said:

    Odum, as far as T2 goes, look no further than the DFW piece that Lev linked to above (thanks for that, Lev – I’m a big DFW fan and I had not read that). He writes…

    “there were at most maybe eight of these incredible [action, F/X] sequences, and they were the movie’s heart and point; the rest of “T2″ is empty and derivative, pure mimetic polycelluloid.”

    Yup. I’ll add that the appreciation of small children is not really indicative of this film’s artistic merit. Small children understand the meaning of good and evil in Free Willy too, but that doesn’t speak to Free Willy’s worth in any other meaningful sense.

    “I know now why you cry, but I can never do it.”

    A terminator said that.

    I rest my case.

    Re: time travel, yes. I agree with everything you say here (with a small, really nerdy quibble regarding the mathematically chaotic nature of minute changes in the time stream necessarily resulting in new timelines even if you went out of your way to avoid making any changes at all — merely displacing the air is a big enough change to, over time, create enormous timeline consequences). But the Discover piece agrees with us as well. See rule #9.

    And while I think T4 was at best a fine action movie and not exactly worth a lengthy, thoughtful defense…

    Casey wrote…
    there was likewise no moral complexity in John Connor’s character. I mean, this is the guy who knowingly sends his dad/young charge back in time to die. Where is the sense of this on screen?

    That’s not what this movie was about. This isn’t a time travel story, this is The Road Warrior with robots.

    Complain about the stupid plot all you want and I’ll agree with you (and point out lots of decent action movies with dumb plots while I’m at it), but the stakes were perfectly clear at any given moment — that guy’s trying to not get killed by the big machine — computer Helena Bonham Carter is evil, Marcus Wright is growing a heart (yes the tin man analogy is right and handled pretty well IMO).

    It’s not high art, but it’s twice as good as T2 and 10 times better than Independence Day. It was action porn that took itself seriously (in tone at least, if not in smarts) and kept me interested all the way through. No, the plot doesn’t withstand scrutiny, but I can’t think of a single action movie that has decent acting/pacing/tone AND a decent story that isn’t also considered an amazing 4-star success. This isn’t that, but it’s not nearly as bad as *some people* are making it out to be. C’mon.

  8. On May 28, 2009, Fargus said:

    The Tin Man bit was handled well? Really? As soon as John Connor got stabbed, I leaned over to my friend and said, and I quote, “When Marcus Wright donates his heart to save John Connor’s life, I’m going to be very upset.” It was ham-handed and telegraphed all the way through. What’s more, the big reveal (that Marcus Wright was a terminator) wasn’t just given away by the movie, but by the previews.

    For that matter, why would Skynet make terminators that could deactivate their evil chip by picking it out of their scalp like a tick? To drill down even further, how well could the evil chip have been working if it allowed Marcus Wright to just pull it out like that?

    Because it didn’t have to worry about any consistency issues, that aspect of the film was fine. But I just found it boring.

  9. On May 28, 2009, billsimmon said:

    The tin man thing was handeled well insofar as Marcus’ conversion from cold death row murderer to freedom fighter and organ donor was mostly believable (and the most interesting character arc in the film). His relationships with Reece and whatsherface were things I wanted more of in the film, not less — that’s a pretty good litmus test of whether the character stuff was working for me or not.

  10. On May 28, 2009, Alex C said:

    OMG that movie suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked

    There might have been an interesting story in there somewhere but the one that made it to the screen was so incoherent that even playing my favorite little game of “point out the plot holes” would be tedious and exhausting. But here goes anyway… :-)

    More than The Wizard Of Oz the plot referenced
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon_with_a_Glass_Hand — or rather should have, except that people don’t know any history of the genres they’re writing in anymore. (I read the Marshall Rogers GN in Earth Prime at the shelves while you were at the desk, Bill.)

    Hey, how about those Transforminators! No wonder Helena Bonham Skynet lost: it thought the best design for a machine to harvest humans would
    be a 50-meter tall biped with only two claw arms, and with little detachable motorcycle shins that can’t right themselves if they spin out and come equipped with pedals and handles and seats so humans can ride them once they press their “OVERRIDE” button. Talk about overengineering!

    Bill, some of the action set pieces were well done; I felt I was watching “Saving Private Reese”. But the ones that had Diva Connor literally grappling with a 10-ton de-skinned titanium terminator exhumed the long-dead corpse of my suspension of disbelief and violated it with a pneumatic drill press before shredding and discarding it again. This was inconsistent on a physical level, not some airy fairy Sci Fi continuity nitpick. A human wrestled with a terminator and was not immediately pulped! It would be as if John McClane put on a cape and flew off the roof of Nakatomi Tower and then killed Hans Gruber with his heat vision.

    The dialogue was horrible. In addition to the “burst in with Important Plot Information” point above, and the general stilted gritty blah blah punctuated with “Alpha Tango Bravo! Roger that!” militaristic barks, how bout what I call the “CSI technique” where a scene opens with two people doing something that they’ve been doing for a while and suddenly one explains to the other exactly what they’re doing. And then says, “Oh, and i just finished, and here are the results now.” That makes “on the nose” emoting look bloody Shakespearian by contrast. It happened all the damn time in this disaster.

    I used to be an actual fan of Christian Bale. No longer. In “American Psycho” he was brilliantly plastic and “The Machinist” showed he had dedication to his craft and “Equilibrium” was a hoot, but after two rounds of No-Fun Batman and turning what should have been two great roles in The Prestige into one dull one, this movie is the last straw.

  11. On May 28, 2009, Therem said:

    Alex, your “suspension of disbelief” paragraph above actually came close to making me spew my tea on my keyboard. Seems like a strange thing to say, but… Thank you.

  12. On May 28, 2009, Therem said:

    Oh, and for a little change of focus, io9 has a comparison between T3 and T4 to decide which one sucks more:

    http://io9.com/5271146/is-terminator-4-really-better-than-terminator-3-a-road-test-comparison

  13. On May 30, 2009, Reba said:

    Is it wrong that I held my finger to the screen throughout the whole video? -RGM

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