Rogue One Mini-Review and Machete Order Thoughts

A brief review of Rogue One, and some thoughts on why I don’t think it should be part of the Machete Order.

I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (man, that full title is clunky) last night, and really enjoyed it. Here’s the brief mini-review I posted to Facebook:

Brief spoiler-free review of Rogue One: as many have already said, it’s good, and well worth seeing in the theater. Manages to be very much a part of the established Star Wars universe while also being very different from every other Star Wars film made to date — and, yes, part of that is that it’s darker than the rest, and parents might not want to assume that young ones will be fine with this one just because it’s part of the Star Wars universe. Very effectively sits just before A New Hope while also being a very modern film; I was particularly impressed with how well they pulled this off, especially as so many of the costumes and hairstyles had to be consistent with the very ’70s aesthetic of ANH. Lots of little (and some not so little) touches, Easter eggs, and in-jokes for long-time fans to enjoy (one conversation between a couple stormtroopers made me laugh out loud, and I didn’t hear anyone else react to it; it didn’t seem that obscure to me, but maybe this Trekkie has a bit more Star Wars cred than I’d have thought). I’ll enjoy watching this one again down the line.

In another discussion, a friend asked where Rogue One should go in a Star Wars binge based on the Machete Order (which omits Ep. I, and puts Eps. II and III between V and VI, for a final viewing order of IV-V-II-III-VI). My initial thought was to just drop RO in at the beginning, since chronologically it comes just before ANH. When combined with The Force Awakens, this would make a full Machete viewing of RO-IV-V-II-III-VI-VII).

On further reflection, though, I actually think that RO (and, most likely, the rest of the forthcoming standalone films) should be omitted from the lineup, and that Machete Order should be restricted to the “primary” films (those with formal episode numbers).

(Keep in mind, the following is from the theoretical perspective of subjecting someone to a Star Wars immersion course under the assumption that they’ve never seen the films and are so divorced from popular culture that they don’t know the characters, beats, or revelations. So, basically, this is a fun little bit of geekery not very related to the real world at all.)

Spoilers for various films in the Star Wars saga up to and including Rogue One follow, so I’ll just drop the rest of this post behind a cut…

Continue reading “Rogue One Mini-Review and Machete Order Thoughts”

Star Wars Without Politics Wouldn’t Be Star Wars

Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization. Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.

Disappointed that these two tweets by Star Wars: Rogue One writers were removed (but not terribly surprised, especially if the deletions were decreed by the Powers Above):

On November 11, 2016, Rogue One writer Chris Weitz tweeted: “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” He later deleted that tweet after receiving lots of complaints from other Twitter users, many of whom asked him to stop “injecting politics” into Star Wars. Weitz clarified in one response tweet, “My apologies. You have a right to enjoy it as you wish; and I don’t wish to harm my colleagues’ work either.”

Weitz’ colleague, Gary Whitta, had already written his own response to the tweet comparing the Star Wars Empire to white supremacy, which said: “Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.” Whitta’s tweet has also since been deleted.

I have just as much sympathy (to wit: absolutely none) with people whining about “injecting politics” into Star Wars as those who did the same with Star Trek (most recently, regarding Bryan Fuller’s preparation for Star Trek: Discovery). Politics are integral to these stories. Even if you try to ignore the parallels between the Empire and the Nazi regime (which were explicit and intentional in both the original films and in The Force Awakens, so attempting to ignore that is rather ridiculous), the Star Wars prequels open with the Trade Federation controlling a blockade around a planet at the bidding of Chancellor Palpatine…but, no, sorry, that has nothing to do with politics. How silly of me.

All these people really mean is that they don’t want their politics to be called out as the bad guys…but, c’mon, if the shoe fits….

So Rogue One has already been passing the Furiosa Test (Do people on the internet get mad about it being feminist?), and now Trump supporters might be staying away as well (though, really, the two groups do seem to have a lot of overlap)? I don’t see much of a downside to that. I’d certainly be quite happy going to a movie knowing that there’s a smaller-than-normal chance of being surrounded by those types of people, and given the juggernaut that Star Wars is, I just don’t see a major impact on their bottom line from this. Win-win for everyone!

Except the Empire, perhaps.

Architectural Psychology in The Shining

If you’re at all interested in movies, Stanley Kubrick, Kubrick’s version of Stephen King’s _The Shining_, set design, psychology, or any combination of the above, you really should take twenty minutes to watch both of the following videos.

If you’re at all interested in movies, Stanley Kubrick, Kubrick’s version of Stephen King’s The Shining, set design, psychology, or any combination of the above, you really should take twenty minutes to watch both of the following videos.

The Shining: Spatial Awareness and Set Design Part One:

The Shining: Spatial Awareness and Set Design Part Two:

(via Daring Fireball)

Mechanical Life and Intelligent Design

‘…this is proof that Autobots were not assembled on Cybertron by hurricanes or any other means envisioned by Darwin, and were Intelligently Designed. That makes the Transformers series a compelling parable for ID, and I expect several of this year’s Republican presidential candidates to recommend the movies on that basis alone.’

From On the Origin of Transformers:

The advocates of ID, who are arguing that their belief should be included in science classes in Texas, Tennessee and other states, say that if a living organism has a design that cannot be explained by the theory of natural selection, it is proof of an Intelligent Designer. If you consider a Camaro, for example, wouldn’t it obviously have had a Designer? Could its parts have been assembled by a hurricane (or a trillion hurricanes) blowing through a junkyard?

Certainly not. Therefore, this is proof that Autobots were not assembled on Cybertron by hurricanes or any other means envisioned by Darwin, and were Intelligently Designed. That makes the Transformers series a compelling parable for ID, and I expect several of this year’s Republican presidential candidates to recommend the movies on that basis alone.

Roger Ebert, making the case for Intelligent Design…at least within the universe of the Transformers.

When Harry Met Sally 2

This was far funnier than I expected it to be. I only wish it didn’t have the big “Funny or Die” banner and the intro, so that it was less immediately obvious that it was a joke. They should have saved that for the end, and started with a cold open.

Continue reading “When Harry Met Sally 2”

Skyline Review by @hogbiker

Last night, a friend of mine in Anchorage was getting together with some friends. The plan was to watch the new sci-fi movie Skyline, then have a boys’ night out. When I got up this morning, I thought the results needed to be saved for posterity.

Last night, a friend of mine in Anchorage was getting together with some friends. The plan was to watch the new sci-fi movie Skyline, then have a “boys’ night out.”

When I got up this morning, I thought the results needed to be saved for posterity. Here, then, is Karl‘s review of Skyline, assembled from his Twitter posts.

hogbiker: Looks like I’m going to see “Skyline”…

hogbiker: Cool! Boys night out! Bud’s have “kitchen passes.” Skyline then off to other “wet” locations around town. #debauchery

(Two hours later…)

hogbiker: I’d rather watch animal porn than Skyline. #absoluteshit

hogbiker: Thanks to Skyline, ‘Ninja Warrior’ is now a damn good movie! #worthless

hogbiker: Skyline is ‘clap’ of science fiction movies

hogbiker: Never in my life has a movie downed the party enough to call it a night. #historyinthemaking

hogbiker: Where do I start? Like I said, this POS makes ‘Ninja Assassin’ oscar worthy!

hogbiker: People were warning those waiting in line to go & watch something else till the ushers intervened!

hogbiker: …I’d watch [Battlefield Earth] on the BIG SCREEN over Skyline!

hogbiker: Skyline is the Chlamydia of science fiction movies!

hogbiker: Time to wash away that movie with some SERIOUS booze. G’night tweeps!

So there you have it, folks. Skyline: Makes Battlefield Earth look good.

I love my Roku

Readers Digest condensed Cliff’s Notes executive summary version: Do you have a Netflix account and a reasonable (1.5 MB/s or better) broadband connection? Then you should have a Roku player. That’s it.

Readers Digest condensed Cliff’s Notes executive summary version: Do you have a Netflix account and a reasonable (1.5 MB/s or better) broadband connection? Then you should have a Roku player. That’s it.

So a couple months ago, I had a birthday, and with that birthday came some a little bit of spending money (courtesy of Prairie’s mom) that I wasn’t sure what to do with. As I’m in school, not making money, and existing solely on financial aid and Prairie’s good graces, I’ve gotten very used to spending money only on what’s necessary, and not on toys or frivolities. Because of this, I didn’t have much of a “wish list,” and the things I’m generally likely to spend money on — used books and vinyl — I currently have stacks of, waiting for me to find time to either read or import into the computer, so adding to the stacks (as enjoyable as that is) didn’t seem like the best way to go.

I let the money sit for a while as I played with various ideas, and eventually decided to go for something I’d been eyeballing for a while, but which had always fallen into the realm of “neat toy that could be fun, but isn’t really necessary right now”: a Roku digital video player.

Roughly two months in, I can easily say that this was one of the best impulse buys I’ve made in a long, long time.

First off, the basics, in case you haven’t heard of the Roku before. Originally developed at and for Netflix, and later spun off into its own company and opened to more content providers, the Roku is a tiny little set-top box that plugs into your TV, giving you access to the Netflix library of streaming “Watch Instantly” titles. Prairie and I had just recently started discovering the joys of Netflix’s streaming library (with the addition of my new iMac, as before that, none of our computers were new enough to support Netflix’s streaming service), but camping out in my office to watch shows on my computer wasn’t nearly as comfortable as our living room, so the Roku sounded like a nice addition to the house.

Setup is dead simple. The box is small, and if you have a WiFi network at home, requires the bare minimum of cables: power, and the connection to the television (if you don’t have WiFi, you’ll need to run an ethernet cable to the box). It has the three primary video connection methods (composite video, for old-school TVs like ours; component video, for higher-quality video on TVs that support progressive scan input; and HDMI for High Definition TVs) and both standard stereo and optical audio output.

Getting started took just a couple minutes: I plugged it in, told it which WiFi network to use and put in the password, and after a brief moment to let the box download and install new firmware and reboot, it was up and running. I popped into the Netflix channel, chose something in my Instant Watch queue, and was watching a show no more (and probably much less than) ten minutes after opening the box. Impressive!

The Netflix interface is slick and simple, and — thanks to a recent software update that actually came out just before I got the Roku — allows for searching and browsing the Netflix streaming library, and shows off all the recommendations of things that Netflix thinks we’ll enjoy watching.

There’s a lot more than just Netflix available, though. Roku’s channel store has an ever-growing library of options, with lots of internet-based shows and podcasts, sports channels, Pandora radio, and — our personal favorite after Netflix — Amazon Video on Demand. Last weekend after seeing Inception, Prairie and I were still in the movie mood, decided to see what new releases Amazon had available, and ended up renting, watching, and thoroughly enjoying Whip It!.

Our feelings at this point: Blockbuster is doomed. Outside of needing something rare enough that it’s not available to stream from Amazon or Netflix and soon enough that we can’t put in our physical Netflix queue, we have absolutely no reason to physically rent a video anymore. Movie theaters aren’t in much better shape, either — the entire experience of watching something at home is so much nicer, more comfortable, more convenient, and cheaper than going to the movies that we’ll be doing that far less than we already do (and we haven’t been going terribly often as it is).

The video quality of the Roku is great, as well. Admittedly, ours is helped somewhat by my television (geekery: though it’s an older, standard-ratio TV, this model Sony Wega offers an “anamorphic compression” mode that squeezes the picture down to a 16:9 ratio from the standard 4:3 ratio, increasing the resolution as it does so; this allows me to tell the Roku that it’s connected to a widescreen TV, at which point it outputs an anamorphic signal that results in a higher resolution and better quality image than if it were outputting the standard 4:3 640×480 TV signal), but the image quality easily matches (or at least comes very, very close to) what we see out of our DVD player. One of the very few disappointments I’ve had with the Roku (and a very minor one at that) is that while my TV can accept component video, the Roku apparently will only output component video as progressive scan output, which my TV doesn’t support, so I’ve had to resort to the lowest-quality composite video connection. Still, the quality we get is good enough that I can’t really complain — and when we finally get around to upgrading to an HDMI-capable HDTV, the quality will only get better!

There are a few relatively minor caveats to the Roku. Most importantly, you do need a reasonable (1.5 MB/s) broadband connection, and for HD video (not an issue for me at the moment), it requires at least a 5 MB/s connection (which, even if I had the hardware to display HD video, isn’t available from Qwest at my address yet). A WiFi network, while not necessary, as the box does have ethernet input, is highly recommended, as it keeps you from having to string more cabling around your house. And, of course, with any online-based service, there is the potential for network or server issues to occasionally get in the way, though we’ve had very few times where this was an issue (and when it was, Roku and Netflix were both good about communicating with their customers, and we even got a bit of a refund from Netflix to make up for the service interruption).

In short, we love this box. We’ve been using it nightly, bouncing among a number of shows that catch our eye (recently: Bones, Futurama, Law and Order, Red Dwarf, and 30 Rock), and saving movies for when we have the time and interest to invest in a movie. This has increased our usage of the streaming service to the point where we’re considering dropping our Netflix subscription from our current 3-at-a-time down to the basic 1-at-a-time service, as Netflix (so far, and I hope this continues) is kind enough to offer their streaming service without limitation at all subscription levels. Good deal!

Once again: if you have Netflix and broadband, you really should have a Roku.

Thoughts on Inception

As good as it is, I don’t find _Inception_ to be a perfect film. Some of the things that bothered Prairie bothered me as well as I was watching it. Interestingly, some of these very things end up making more sense — or, at the very least, become less troubling — when viewed in the light of one of the more interesting interpretations of the film.

Prairie and I went to see Inception last week, and as I tweeted afterwards, I ended up really enjoying it, while Prairie didn’t like it as much. As she’s not as much of a sci-fi buff as I am, and has a lower tolerance for violence, that’s not a very surprising result.

As good as it is, I don’t find Inception to be a perfect film. Some of the things that bothered Prairie bothered me as well as I was watching it. Interestingly, some of these very things end up making more sense — or, at the very least, become less troubling — when viewed in the light of one of the more interesting interpretations of the film.

As Inception is still in its opening weeks, I’m going to go ahead and put the rest of my ramblings under the cut, for those who’d prefer to avoid spoilers…

Continue reading “Thoughts on Inception”

30 Years of Airplane

Possibly one of the funniest films ever made, Airplane!, just turned 30. While I’d read that Airplane! was based on Zero Hour!, I’d never realized just how closely the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team had hewed to the original.

Possibly one of the funniest films ever made, Airplane!, just turned 30.

“A lot of comedies in the last 30 years have wanted to be ‘Airplane!,’ ” said Patton Oswalt, a comedian and actor and the voice of the hero in “Ratatouille.” “But most of those movies took the wrong message from ‘Airplane!’ They were gag, gag, gag, gag, where ‘Airplane!’ is really structured, driving the story along all the time. In a weird way it’s like a Beatles movie. It looks like the easiest thing in the world, but there’s a lot of sweat and blood that went into it.”

“There is one line in ‘Zero Hour!’ where a stewardess says, completely seriously, ‘The life of everyone on board depends upon just one thing: finding someone back there who can not only fly this plane, but who didn’t have fish for dinner,’ ” Mr. Abrahams said. “That was the essence of the movie. We just repeated the line. We didn’t have to change a thing.”

While I’d read that Airplane! was based on Zero Hour!, I’d never realized just how closely the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team had hewed to the original. Here’s a great comparison between the two for reference.

And finally, a short behind-the-scenes look at the “jive” scene.