Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society

"The Major has you, Neo."

I just finished watching “Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society”. I'm not sure how this one escaped me for so long. It was typical GITS fare, for better and worse.

The worst of worse is that GITS loves to hear itself talk, and besides throwing a lot of terminology around expecting you to follow along, I'm not always sure the translations of these little complexities come through as clearly as they could. There were also some themes that are very prominent in the current 'uh-oh sphere' in Japan, so I guess you get more out of it if you're aware of that. Doubtless there's ton of Japan-culture things going on that a gaijin like me won't catch.

GITS also has a few of it's own tropes that make appearances... Motoko Kusanagi MUST:
-Jump on the back of a walking tank to open up its hatch.
-Jump backwards off a building, so we can watch from above as she engages optical camouflage and disappears.
-Float in water naked in the fetal position. Well... this was in the opening credits thing, and it soon becomes apparent that she's not naked, and that's not water, it's cyberspace, but the visual starts off very reminiscent of the opening of the original GITS movie.
-Not be played by ScarJo.

The smart tanks eventually become involved, but have fewer lines than in the series, so their squeaky voices don't get a chance to be annoying. It's the Tachikoma smart tanks of course... I miss the Fushikomas. But alas... not yet.

The main 'unsub' is “the puppeteer”. Really? That had me wondering for a minute if this was a retelling of the Puppetmaster story arc, but no. Was the name just fanservice? Oh well... the puppeteer does use people as puppets via hacking their cyberbrains... but this has to be a common enough crime in that age. And you can't have ALL of them calling themselves puppet-this and puppet-that.

Overall, typical GITS fare. Even seeing its flaws, watching some GITS, (especially NEW GITS) is darn near therapeutic to my nerdy brain.

Rating: Fanboy/10


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Autómata review

Autómata (2014) Review
by Joseph Picard
April, 2015

Hey, did you like the movie 'I Robot'? Shame on you. Go read the book. #authorsnob Oh, I kid, the movie was a fun, high action romp and all, but can they jam some more product placements in there? The movie left you with no deeper thoughts than a now-tired 'what if robots decided they were alive?'

So, Autómata. Take I Robot, strip off the excess commercialism, and add a dump truck of grit. It would be so easy to drop a few spoilers accidentally, to explain what makes Autómata different from I Robot at it's core. But I'll tell you what I can, safely..
In I Robot, we are told of the three rules of robotics... ahem...

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”
-Isaac Asimov

So, be nice to humans, obey humans, and lastly, and least of all, protect yourself. Asimov's rules have become nearly gospel in robotics, at least fictional robotics.

Autómata changes things slightly, with two rules, not three.
1- Do not harm ANY form of life,
2- Do not modify or repair any robot, including yourself.

Things start to hit the fan when a police officer runs into one in a slum, doing repairs to itself. The officer is creeped out and shoots it with his handy dandy shotgun before calling it in.

Did I mention this is an unpleasant future? World population is down to 10% of what it was. Solar flares have shredded much of the upper atmosphere and continue to make a lot of technology... well, if not broken, less effective or impractical. Most of the Earth is desert. Air travel is a thing of the past. Acid rain is the norm, (f you can get any rain) but at least in the city, metal clouds regulate weather. But not the acidity. Raincoats are important in the city. It lends itself to a little bit of a Bladerunner feel at times.

I was hesitant to call this an action movie. There's gunfights, a car chase, an explosion or two... so why am I hesitant to call it an action movie? What's an action movie these days... endless nonsensical explosions, with pointless nonsensical plot. Autómata lacks those aspects. I found the action scenes interesting mainly because they could change the flow of the story. People die that really could have contributed to the heroic cause further, (the cause doesn't start so heroic, the main character is an insurance investigator, who's assigned to pin damages blame to someone so the company doesn't have to pay out on a claim,) but heroics ensue... reluctantly.

Oh, our hero, by the way, played by Antonio Banderas. He did an amazing job. The role mostly called for 'grit', and I suppose didn't call for a wide range of sparkling emotions, but he was convincing. The accent was a little distracting a times, but not much.

The movie drops clues in your lap about what's going on and why, and not all of them are acted upon by the characters for various reasons, leaving you with a bit of brain candy. If you chew that brain candy, you might find an opening for a sequel. Ooh, I think it'd be a doozy, but I'm not holding my breath. It stands alone pretty well, and given it didn't exactly bust any box-office numbers, I'd guess a sequel is unlikely.

For gritty, realistic play on the “A.I. Is coming alive!” trope, set after an enormous global disaster, drizzled with Bladerunner, and a plot that doesn't treat you like an idiot, give Autómata a go.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Dalton's Daughter" review: A path to escape, wrought with sacrifice, pain, and yet growth.

Right to it then, no rambling this time!

Dalton's Daughter follows a girl who has a very dysfunctional home. Soon we see her heart-wrenching motivations for getting off of Dalton, a polluted, backwater excuse for a mining planet. I won't spoil anything, but her escape is personal and messy. I skipped a lot of critical points here, but they're such pivotal early spoilers, I don't even dare hint.

The only way to get off-world (at least in her tax bracket) is to join the military. She soon ends up on an orbital station for training.

Hollywood formula would dictate at this point that the book ends with her leading a brigade to defeat some epic enemy stronghold. Well, stuff that notion. The meat and potatoes of Dalton's Daughter is the training itself. Getting through, not breaking down, learning some of the little political garbage that she'd never been exposed to. There's a point where she can stop and think, and really look at the path she had to take to get so far. And she realizes that it was messy, and a little horrifying at points.

The girl we started with is now a mature woman, left with a lot on her plate, and adventures ahead.

This brings me to a point of caution- She is a character from a literary world that has well established entities and organizations. The preface reflects this; so much so that when I started the book, the preface intimidated me with many ideas and acronyms which I was entirely ignorant of. “Hoo boy, I'm going to have to learn all this stuff by figuring out in context through the book, and that sounds irritating.” But no. After the preface (which admittedly made a lot more sense after I finished the book) the story begins from a fresh perspective, a relatively naïve protagonist, who learns most of this stuff with us.

If the preface turns you off, finish it knowing that it doesn't end with a quiz. Skim, or skip if you're so inclined. A wonderful story awaits. Early on I was expecting an eventual massive fire-fight, but what I got was some pretty gripping drama, played both on, and off the varied training environments simulated on the station.

Oh, and if anyone asks, and I need to raise money for functioning weaponry, my vote is for the bake sale.

'Beyond Bermuda' review and general update

Holy crap, my last post was OCTOBER?... phew. Really, see more of my junk on FB than here, but I have a review I want to post, and another in upcoming days... I'll get to that...

I've been extra inactive in the last few weeks to to a pressure wound, (my first in my 14 years on being in a wheelchair) and I'll be in the hospital for a whiiiiile yet, so I get to play catch-up a bit, including writing on Rubberman's Citizens.

Shortly after I got scooped into the hospital, "Plan 559 From Outer Space" was released.

It's by a lot of the same gang who've done the "13 Bites" books, and other studio 559 stuff.

I contributed a short story, where Lifehack's Regan goes on a quest (during her quarantine time in the zombie-controlled city) for a mannequin for companionship. Hyjinx, action, drama, tra la la.. you know, Regan stuff. Did I post about the other Regan stuff? If not, next post.

So, Rubberman's Citizens, the next tale in the Rubberman series.... I have more time to work on it from the hospital, (yay?) which makes up for the lost writing time that I'd hoped for over spring break.

It's going well, my baddy's become a coke fiend, and thinks most people aren't 'real', and that he himself is an Actual. The accepted Actual is basically god to the Citizens, and by accident, the book's going to end up with some heavy biblical imagery. Bab-il, here we come. Rubberman's Citizen's intersects with Rubberman's Cage for a bit, so a handful of pages, I'll have to re-write events form the viewpoint of Leena, Citizen's protagonist. That will be interesting to do without being redundant.

I could ramble on and on... but on to the main event, my review of:


Beyond Bermuda is an adventure, but I'm not sure I want to pigeon-hole it much further than that. What starts out purposely without definition, turns into a little survival tactics, a little touch of corporate maneuverings, then onto a little espionage, some outright squad-based military tactics, a tour through otherworldly horror, and then, and then, and then... It was a WHAT all this time? OF COURSE IT IS! AWESOME! But.....No spoilers.

Our hero, Hal Brent's struggles within the triangle are interesting and asks a lot of questions, and his experiences and consequences with it nag him when he's safely outside the triangle's direct effect. Nag him and more. Should I mention the romantic sub-plot? Huh. I just did. What I liked about it is how naturally it developed. Nothing felt forced.

I want to watch this book as a five-part miniseries, or play as a game. The special effects would get pretty tricky in parts. (see above: Awesome) The book itself felt long, but in a good way. Your journey through stages of Hal's experiences are worth taking your time with, because before long, he'll be thrown into a whole new ballgame. Hang on, it gets pretty rough!

….. what used to be in that glass container over there? Hal? Hal? Pass the ammo.