Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fast Film Review - Blade Runner (Director's Cut)

  It is hard for me to write a review of Blade Runner.
  No, for a funny reason. I picked the director's cut of Blade Runner as my thesis topic for my Film class in college. I've already written about 250 pages on this sucker and I just want to post the papers as PDFs!
  But I recently watched it with my older kids and wanted to write about it, so....
  Quick review follows.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Stranger Things - Episode 6 Review

  Please see the wider internet for general recaps.

SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS TIME!!!

General Notes:
Slightly different order.
Cinematography and Editing:  Ives and Zimmerman are at it and it is great. Want examples of how camera and editing work well? Watch the scene where Jonathan is in Nancy's room an laying on the floor. Pay attention to camera angles, lights, and cuts. Now the scene an Lucas' house and how the editing takes us into the story.

Acting: Matarazzo was even better than last episode; the kid is great. Heaton was less engaging and frankly I suspect it is because Dyer was so damn flat; last episode was a head fake, I think. Ryder and Harbour were in Expositionville so they were mainly there to listen to character actor Amy Seimetz to a great job. Catherine Dyer was nicely effective as evil female agent #1, too. Brown had a little more to do and seems to be a solid, yeoman actor.

Directing: Good, especially for a largely Expositionville episode. The cough "teen drama" cough stuff was a mess and we'll talk about the younger guys in full.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Stranger Things - Episode 5 review

Taking my birthday to watch more episodes quickly. Remember, I review but I don't recap; there are great recaps all over.

General Notes:
Acting: Harbour, Ryder, Heaton, and Wolfhard were all good to great. Matarazzo stood out - the kid was great in this one. McLaughlin, Havens, and Keery are great journeyman actors and have good instincts - I really like Havens; the man will be a 'HITG' before you know it. Brown was great in the flashbacks but struggled in the contemporary scenes with how little she has to work with.
  And Dyer. That girl. She had a few good scenes, holding out hope.... Perhaps she is finding her feet, perhaps her issue is direction? Let us hope she isn't just doing a head fake.

Cinematography: I knew Ives was back before I looked at IMDB. His style isn't intrusive (quite the opposite) but it is distinctive; like Lindsey Buckingham on guitar. The cinematography keeps being great and the use of light was very good in this one.

Stranger Things - Episode 4 Review

  There are really good recaps all over, so I only review.

General Notes:
Acting: Harbour is on point this episode; try to imagine how hard it would be to act like you're acting, re-watch that diner scene, and get back to me. He was great. Ryder did a good job of doing the Roy Neary arc of appearing crazy while being aware of more than others. Joe Chrest looks like he might get to be more than 'the dad too tired from work to notice the little things', which is good because he's a solid actor. And, with feeling, Cara Buono is surprising me with her very consistent portrayal.
  Millie Brown keeps doing a lot with a little. Charlie Heaton is actually getting a chance to act and is doing well. Joe Keery put in a journeyman performance and Natalia Dyer keeps letting me down. Watch the scene between Nancy and Steve in the side alley at school; Keery is pretty good. Dyer is using the same performance as when Barb wanted to leave the party.

Cinematography: Drom now on I think I'll just mention when it is NOT great. Tod Campbell did a great job; he had shout-outs to the Searchers and Stagecoach in his use of cameras and I freakin' approve.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

RPGaDay - Catching up! - Character Moment you are Proudest Of

  Hard to say. But I will go with this one.

  In Lew Pulsipher's Tonilda campaign there are two main places of dread: Skystone Castle and Mount Thunder. The party was deep beneath Mount Thunder and already weak when we were hit by an ambush of Pyromancers. After a hard fight they fled and we were out of spells and low on hits.
  And the pyromancers had alerted the Ogre King - the entire tribe was on the way to slay us.
  We could not leave the way we came in, so we had to head to the arch, a long, narrow, stone arch bridge over a vast abyss. When we arrive it is held by a balrog.
  Yes, really.
  I was playing Andune, my then 6th/6th cleric/magic-user. He was at 24.5 hit points (Lew and I both track 1/2 hit points) but had a good armor class and a Mace of Disruption, meaning I had a shot at disrupting him. I was also the only guy above single-digit hit points.
  I read a Scroll of Protection vs. Fire and ran out to fight.
  4 rounds later I am at 6.5 hits and he's going strong. We tie initiative. W have the same dex. Same weapons speeds. Simultaneous hit.
  We both hit.
  I do minimum damage, 2 points.
  He does minimum damage - 6 points.
  I roll for disruption - natural 20!
  The balrog is sent away, I collapse, the party drags my barely-alive carcass over the bridge. We spend 2 hours hiding in a closet to avoid the ogres.

  Andune kept the balrog's whip and put it over the mantle at his tower.

Stranger Things - Episode 3 Review

  Remember, other places have great recaps, so I only review!

General Notes:
Acting: Natalia Dyer is bringing me down, man. The girl seems to have two acting modes - vaguely perky and vaguely confused. David Harbour is doing a decent job of keeping Hopper an interesting character. Winona Ryder was channelling Richard Dreyfus in CEotTK pretty hard, and in a good way. She did a fair job as coming across as 'really obsessed' rather than just loopy. Cara Buono is the hidden gem of acting in the show, BTW.
Cinematography: Continued great use of lighting, movement, blocking, etc. I can only say 'the cinematographer is really good' so many ways.
Editing: Continues the downward slide seen in last episode. The opening editing in particular was a mess, but this might be because the director demanded it. Hard to say, since some of the later cuts were confusing and jarring.
Directing: I was taught that under-acting is the fault of the actor, over-acting is the fault of the director. We are edging up on the director needing to get a grip on his actors. Ryder is doing OK, but Caleb McLaughlin is edging up on hamminess.

SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Short Reviews of Short Stories

A few short bits-
Ted Chiang:
'Hell is the Absence of God' - terse, good pacing, and nonsensical. The plot, such as it is, depends upon the universe that Ted makes being very literally illogical.

'Division by Zero'- the writing wasn't as good as in HitAoG, but still quite good. The central idea is ludicrous. Any competent mathematician knows that math is just a model, a tool, not reality. The idea that a mathematician would be driven to suicide by discovering the Godel was right is is silly as the idea of a cartographer becoming suicidal upon learning a street had been added in Brooklyn.

'What's Expected of Us'- good writing, again. Again, bone-deep stupidity in the idea. The core premise - a device is invented that proves people have no free will; this results in despair, etc. My problem? If humans lack all free will then learning that wouldn't change anything; we couldn't decide anything, after all - we would lack free will. I find it as ridiculous as a man who writes books about the total lack of free will being proud of his test scores.

  I find Chiang to be a rather odd duck - his writing is competent but his ideas.... They strike me as the sort of ideas that stupid people think are profound. Or the sorts of ideas you hear from someone smoking weed.
  'What if God did something we didn't understand?'
  'Ooooh. Deep, man.'

Ken Liu:
'Single Bit Error'- Here because it is explicitly written because HitAoG was written. The writing is yeomanlike, and OK. But the story is nothing more than the statement 'no amount of evidence, direct or indirect, will convince me God is real, not even an angel meeting me face to face'. When I first read it I re-read it because I could not imagine anyone saying something like that on purpose. I think he was aiming for profundity, but each time I re-read it I am gripped with fremdschämen.

In much of recent work that I read, particularly in short fiction, I see a lot of what appears to be an author believing they are saying something profound when they are, instead, revealing their own shallowness of thought. That is the closest I can come to the feeling much of contemporary SF/F instills in me.