The Judge

I spent 1/3 of this movie waiting for it to start, another third waiting for it to end. The middle was filled with vomit, diarrhea, and a wisecracking Tony Stark.

If you are expecting a courtroom drama, as I was, don’t waste your time. This is a family drama about family issues. It’s about a lawyer son desperate for his father’s approval, and that father just happens to be on trial for murder for a few minutes in the movie.

The scenes that actually take place in a courtroom with trial stuff happening are pretty good, but most the time the movie is too busy trying to be heart-felt and / or authentic to find much time for the plot.

I don’t really have much else to say about this movie. Billy Bob Thornton plays a guy who says ‘objection’ and stands up and sits down and paces back and forth and wears a suit. Robert Downey Jr plays himself, and may or may not have made out with his own daughter. There is lots of Bon Iver.

Boring, overly dramatic, hardly anything happened.

I wasn’t kidding about the vomit and diarrhea.

 

House of Cards

I just finished season three of this series, and I feel it has changed a lot since its beginning. There are spoilers in this post.

The show is about power, and what people will do to obtain it, and keep it. At first, I got the impression that it was a statement about corruption in politics, how those who play dirtiest get farthest, and painted a picture of every politician who got anywhere in life being cutthroat and without morals. Some of the scenes in the most recent season had this creepy, ethereal choir music that gave the impression of some kind of angelic immortals, or something inhuman anyway, as if those who wield this kind of power, and seek it, are something else entirely than the rest of us.

But then, toward the end of this season, it seems the show has shifted into, well, a political drama. We are no longer curious about how Frank will deal with the next thing that stands in his way, because he simply crushes everything. Zoe? Dead. The guy who was in love with Zoe, and made it his mission to prove Frank killed her? Sent to prison. A new reporter is asking hard questions? That reporter loses her press pass. All at the snap of his fingers, so to speak. The show is now about solving crises in Russia and winning elections and we somehow seem to have forgotten that the President of the United States has murdered two people. Instead we’re worrying about his relationship with his wife and who slept with who.

In the final episode, Rachel–who I was convinced would be the card that brought down the so called house–is buried. Another loose end unceremoniously tied up.

Instead, with little to no explanation, Claire is leaving Frank. The whole premise of their ‘problems’ seems cheaply manufactured, and is disappointing because one of my favorite parts about them was how loyal they were to each other while they fucked over everyone else in their path.

Maybe I was expecting too much based entirely on the title of the show. I expected that Frank would claw his way to the top, the pinnacle of power, using and abusing everything and everyone in reach. Then once there, all his lies and secrets would come out, and his carefully stitched together story would come collapsing around him, like, say, a house of cards. Now, it seems there are no loose ends. Instead he will presumably be brought down by a dissatisfied Claire. It doesn’t seem to have the same poetic punch as being found out to be a murderer while sitting as a loved president.

I guess we’ll see what happens next season, but I’m losing interest.

Creating new senses for humans

I just watched this TED talk with David Eagleman, and I am impressed, astonished and excited for the future of our species.

After seeing all the different ways our brain is able to process sensory input in this video, I am convinced that Eagleman’s ‘Mr. Potato-head’ analogy is not far off at all.

If blind people can learn to see via electromagnetic impulses on their tongue, then why shouldn’t I be able to learn to sense electromagnetic waves, or ultraviolet light, or radio waves in some similar fashion? Our brain is so adaptable at interpreting sensory input, that I can see a future where people can pick and choose what senses they want equipped at any time. If it’s dark out, turn on your heat vision, which you feel via vibrations on your fingertips, or in your forehead, or any other number of options.

Eagleman also goes into possibilities that I found extremely interesting from a sci fi perspective. He talks about having, for example, instrumentation on a space shuttle be connected to sensory input, so instead of reading charts and graphs and counting numbers or ratios, you just feel when something is wrong, on a gut or instinctual level. The same way you are aware of your own body and when something is wrong with it.

This really interested me because this is how I, and a lot of people, think naturally. I don’t always know why I make a certain decision at the time I make it, I just know that it feels right. Only afterwards, when I try to analyse my feelings, do i realize all the underlying information that lead to the decision. But the feeling comes instantly. The calculations are done on some subjective level and I’m left with what I can only call a ‘gut instinct’ at the time it happens.

Now imagine if you were getting sensory information about the altitude of the plane you are flying, as well as the speed of the winds outside, the condition of the engines, the state of the crew, the fuel levels, your speed–Imagine you could ‘feel’ all of this. And then imagine something goes wrong. Your instincts are going to take over much more efficiently if you can feel your altitude dropping instead of seeing it on a gauge. If you can feel all these inputs at once, and your brain is allowed to process it all on a subconscious level, you may even get that ‘gut instinct’ about the decision to make. And this time you’d know your brain has all the information it needs to make the right decision.

Our brain does a lot more behind the scenes than we are even aware of, and the more tools we give it to work with, the more it can accomplish. This kind of technology has me excited for the future, and I think I’ll be paying very close attention to Eagleman’s work from now on.

Columbo

I’ve been watching this 1970’s detective show again, and I’m trying to put a finger on what makes it so good. I don’t re-watch many shows, but I keep getting the urge to watch Columbo, even though I’ve seen them all.

I know it’s not nostalgia, because I never watched the show growing up. My first time watching was only a few years ago, after Stephen Fry said on QI that it was the best show he’s ever seen. After watching one episode, I watched another every night until I’d seen them all.

Now, lately, I’ve been re-watching them. And I’m not one to do that. When there’s something new to watch I’ll almost always pick that over revisiting something I’ve seen, but for some reason I enjoy re-watching Columbo.

I think part of it might be the way the show is framed. In most detective / mystery shows, part of the excitement is discovering who committed the crime and how. With Columbo, you know that in the first few scenes. With the mystery taken out of the mystery show, the focus rests more on the characters. And they are all good, from William Shatner to Lesley Neilson to Johnny Cash. Yet Peter Falk always manages to steal the show, and you never find yourself rooting for, or even sympathizing with the villain.

I know I’ve posted about it a few times here, but many shows have the problem of their villain having more charisma and being more likable than their protagonist. Not one episode of Columbo has that problem. Whether it’s the writing or the directing or the genius of Peter Falk’s character, I can’t decide. But it works so well. Every villain on the show falls to hubris, and you can only shake your head and watch as they spiral to their doom. You don’t despise them, you may even empathize with their motives, but all you feel is satisfaction when Columbo holds up his finger and says “Oh gee, I almost forgot, just one more thing.”

It’s not sci fi, and it may be old and outdated, but I’ve spent a lot of time watching it and have enjoyed every minute. I think everyone, even those not into mysteries, should watch at least one episode of Columbo in their life. Give it a shot, you might find a new addiction, like I did.

 

Dumb and Dumber To

Well I wouldn’t bother writing about this except that I made a point to write a post about EVERY movie I watched this year that I hadn’t seen before. So, here goes.

This movie was stupid, mean-spirited, thoughtless and lazy. And that coming from a fan of the original.

It started out promising. The idea of Lloyd faking a coma for 20 years just to say ‘gotcha!’ to Harry is pretty funny, and I probably would have laughed a lot if it hadn’t been given away in the trailer. The jokes after that are low hanging, predictable and mean. And when the jokes weren’t mean or gross, I felt like i was being mocked. Everything else was a cheap callback, stealing any positive feelings fans might have had for the original, instead of coming up with their own jokes. Much of the main plotline made no sense, many of the jokes were impossible to have occurred in real life, (like, physically impossible) And Jim Carry’s face has never been more punchable.

Just to make sure this wasn’t me having a case of the olds, I rewatched the original right after watching this horrible sequel.

Even 20 years later, when I’m an adult and rarely watch comedies, I found the first one to be charming, heartfelt and funny. Yes it’s stupid. Yes the characters might as well be mentally handicapped. But they have motivations and you can almost believe they might be real people, instead of walking gross-out punchlines that could never exist in the real world. Incompetence is real, and the original movie is actually internally consistent. The characters don’t appear places without having to get there, or disappear for a few scenes then reappear saying they’ve been to Mexico, like bugs bunny popping up out of his hole.

The people in the sequel could never have been real people. They have no redeeming factors, skills or anything positive about them. Even their friendship seems false most of the time. In the original, Harry and Lloyd are dumb, yes, but even they show some skills. Lloyd tricks Sea-bass into a free meal, and Harry is actually charming enough to get Mary to go out with him a second time. In the sequel, Penny has to be (and is) portrayed as an imbecile in order to show even a brief interest in either of these characters.

I also got the impression that the Jeff Daniels must have been forced into doing this movie somehow, because he didn’t seem to be trying, and often it felt like he was making fun of me for even watching.

The whole movie just felt thin, hostile, and cheap.

Not recommended. Just watch the original again if you want that nostalgia.