Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What's Next On My List? The Iron Giant

In my sci-fi class we are coming to robots and androids and we had to read a very good essay that detailed almost all available forms of AI seen on TV shows and movies. While reading it I kept remembering someone who should have been included in both that list and the list of aliens that pose a threat to us humans:


Hogarth Hughes stumbles upon a giant robot who behaves like a big puppy due to a blow to the head that made him forget his prime initiative. Hogarth becomes friends with him, cares for him, and together they go on adventures. However, the robot's arrival on our planet didn't go unnoticed and Hogarth has to help him in order to let the government see his isn't evil. When the giant robot's head wound heals we do find out that perhaps his mission on this planet was really more than making friends with a local boy.

This movie came out when I was just 8 years old, and writing that down is surreal because I'm not even that old... I fell in love with it immediately as the story was centered around a small very American town, where everyone knows each other and strangers stand out in a crowd. Hogarth doesn't have many friends, so he gets affectionate right away, and you can easily tell why: this is a dream come true. Think of all the movies that deal with alien encounters. They are either the reason for comic relief, because they don't know our planet (E.T., Earth Girls Are Easy, even Thor!), but they can also be the villain. Now, with Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics you have a shorter range of possible stories. In the end the robots either want to become us or take over because of years of humiliation. I can only say that it is a pretty good social criticism when we look at how robots are used and abused in certain stories...
Here you have both. First of all, an alien. Second, he is a robot. Third, he is as a comic relief character, same way as anyone coming into contact with the unknown would be, and on top of that, they are also a killing machine. The giant's real purpose was destruction. He is the villain. I can't really say that the government was wrong, and that they are the antagonists, because we find out that indeed the giant wished to attack us. Their salvation ultimately is the fact that this alien-robot is capable of human-like emotions. His connection to Hogarth was their salvation. Now, after reading Dan Dinello's chapter, "Cybernetic Slaves", I had to ask a lot of questions. You see, the Iron Giant is a good example of how many strive to be human, but have an initial programming that doesn't permit them to get there.
My question is, was his alien qualities that added his humanity? Was someone else in there? Were aliens who created him aware of the fact that he is capable of emotions? Is that the standard on their planet? I am asking these questions because that is what a good story does: it makes you think and think. I don't have the answers to those questions, and that is alright. I'll just rewatch it a couple of times and see if I find anything new! This movie in particular portrays a whole new world of ideas within a story that you have heard a thousand times before. Its ability to make it new is incredible. At first watch you are moved, at the second you laugh at the jokes a bit harder, the inner conflict of the main character and the giant both resonate with you, but when you grow up... you just really want to know more. More because this too was made by mere humans who were clearly familiar with the sci-fi background before making this movie. I just want to have coffee with the makers, is all I'm saying! :)

Watch it? It is a childhood classic. I think it teaches you to fear the unknown, but also to embrace it. To showcase how adults see the world differently from children, and that is alright, as long as you are willing to listen to the other side. I also find that it captures the kind of adventure we all dreamed of as kids and seeing it come to life is a real treat.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _

Hogarth Hughes - Eli Marienthal
Annie Hughes - Jennifer Aniston
Dean McCoppin - Harry Connick Jr.
The Iron Giant - Vin Diesel
Kent Mansley - Christopher McDonald

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What's Next On My List? Ex Machina

I need to share that this movie was the most bizarre experience. Here is why: I knew nothing about this movie. Not the actors, not the story, I have not seen a single trailer or even a poster for it, which is weird in retrospect, but it made me realize something: since I don't watch TV, since I don't go through channels randomly, I am never surprised. There is no excitement to the things I watch. I purposely don't watch trailers for TV shows, because a one minute trailer can ruin a 40 minute episode easily... but there is a continuity to a series that can't get me excited the way a movie used to. The fact that I refused to look up anything before watching this movie was the best thing I could have possibly done!


Caleb, a programmer at a major company, wins a trip at the house of his boss, where he finds out that he was chosen to perform the Turing test on an AI. Ava is the name of the robot, and Nathan, her creator, take Caleb on a very emotional journey. Nathan has qualities about him that make Caleb question his morals, whilst the purity of Ava enchants him. In the end, all three just wish to become survivors of this eventful week, but not all make it.

Yes, my sci-fi class likes to dig deep and oh my god this movie... it was brilliant truly, this means that there are a lot of questions I had to ask myself while watching it. Just based on all the things that my teacher made me read all over the years, I need to say right away that sci-fi, especially post apocalyptic sci-fi, loves to play with the boundaries of morality. This story in particular really went all out on that regard and you are sitting there wondering what the hell you just saw, followed by a series of questions that would arise if you ever found yourself in a similar situation. To start off with, I can't pinpoint what it is, but I loved both guys. I think they were written perfectly, these two guys exist out there. This element of reality made the story all more accessible and believable and... more scary. After watching it my sister and I started to talk about it and we were trying are hardest to understand the ending. She, having seen the film already, tried to watch it from the Ava, the AI's point of view. If we are looking at this as a story of survival of the fittest, then really, the ending is perfect, as the strongest did get out alive.
But was this story really about that? I have huge problems with Caleb being left behind. We discussed that he might have been saved, not returning from the trip will raise eyebrows even if Nathan liked to keep to himself. Nonetheless, what was the point? I mean really. I understand that he was a pawn in her game, I understand that she was programmed to survive by any means necessary and she did just that. I remember that it was Caleb's visions of her being free in which they were together and not hers. Nonetheless, he was an idiot... I'm sorry to say, but he was an idiot. And I would go as far as to say that Ava did not pass the Turing test. The idea would be to forget that you are talking to a computer, or not be aware of it, but I strongly believe that Caleb fell in love with her as she is. His mind was clouded to begin with. Being an IT guy himself, he could've just as easily fallen for the technology and the finesse of it, not the personality or the girl Ava pretended to be.
I would like to devote a paragraph to Nathan. Yes, the idea of the AI alone deserves a whole dissertation, as I am sure there have been written many on it. I remember my sister asking why doesn't Caleb question Ava, and my answer was that she has already given him a villain. Ava says that Nathan is a liar, and Caleb finds out on his own and he really is up to no good. He likes to play God, he makes jokes about it, he is so smart that the only thing he can turn to to slow things down is alcohol. In his right mind he is dangerous, but once drunk, he is useless. My sister said and I agree with her that this tortured genius is a peculiar but very believable character. Someone who can have anything money can buy and he turns his knowledge into something designed to entertain himself.
Of course we find out that Ava was not the first successful experiment. I strongly believe that he designed these robots for something completely different, and then thought, hey, I can add brain to it. It became a quest of doing something nobody has ever done just because he can. I believe that nothing is more dangerous than people going around doing things just because they can. That is what makes Nathan a villain, and that is what made Ava in the end a villain too. She wishes to see an intersection, to see the people, and she does and I don't know what I was meant to feel in that moment. Be happy for her? Remember this was her wish? Think that she was not lying, she really did long for earthly things? Maybe all of those, but I did not feel the happy ending and the peace that came with this last scene because I did not agree with her choice to leave Caleb  behind in the first place.

Watch it? I definitely will in a couple of years, because just like my sister, I want to see it with experienced eyes. See if my opinion changes. See if I understand something new, notice something else. It is a peculiar story, but it is effective for the degree of reality. The movie has a good pacing that it keeps till the end and the music makes you shiver in your seat. The question of morals needs a bigger discussion than this blog entry would permit, but if anyone cares, we can continue this discussion in the comment section below!

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Nathan - Oscar Isaac

Saturday, October 7, 2017

What's Next On My List? Arrival

I am going to write a bit of a personal entry instead of the typical review, in case you are looking for that I would much rather have you go to imdb, instead of reading my details and thoughts on the movie. However, if you are interested you are welcome to see what emotions this movie got out of me. Let's then cover:


Dr. Louise Banks is recruited by the army as a linguist specialist to help them communicate with one of the alien vessels that landed on planet Earth. She starts to work alongside a physicist, Ian Donnelly, and together in a matter of long months start to learn the language that the so called 'heptapods' speak. They realize that their written language is different from the spoken, and not only that, but they realize that the written one holds certain elements which enable the mind to travel back and forth in time. However, only those who speak this language are able to see time.

I remember the exact day this movie came out in Hungary last year, it was on the birthday of my teacher, the one who actually made me read the short story on which this movie was based (Ted Chiang's "The Story Of Your Life"). There was a conference at the university and I spent the day with my friend, who that weekend went to see the film. She told me something afterwards that I don't think I will ever forget for as long as I live: she said that she feels 'detached from reality'. I guess me not being able to understand what she meant was one of the reasons why our friendship ended short after. Because of this I have been putting off this movie and have been putting off reading the short story, both of which she recommended to me. Somehow I felt that as long as I haven't read or seen it there was perhaps a chance that her presence in my life had not come to an end. I still don't know what she meant, don't think I ever will find it out, however, I know how I feel after getting acquainted with the story and my words would be 'lost'. Is that the same? Could be. I couldn't tell you for sure. And why do I feel lost? Because our understanding of time is linear, whilst that of the heptapods isn't. It makes me question if we live life right. It makes me question if I personally am living my life right. Is the fact that we are put under pressure by society's understanding of time absolutely necessary for one to survive?

"- Ian?
- Yeah?
- If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?
- Maybe I'd say what I feel more often."

I would say that 'survive' is not the best word, actually. Mostly because it implies that pressure is very much there. But here I would like to turn to the genius of this story. If we could tell what is going to happen, would we change it? I find that Louise's decision to live her life, even if knowing the pain that lay ahead is remarkable. She is capable of reliving some of the most painful things a person could ever face in one life time and she is faced with them daily. But what does she do? She keeps the bad because that means that she can keep the good. I sometimes hold on way too long despite the pain because I love remembering the good things. I have a fear in me that if I let go I'll lose the good too. It might sound dumb to some, but it is essential to me. Seeing this movie was the last promise I made to that friend, and I felt that until I didn't that link would be there. I watched it now because the pain has beaten the good and I need to let go before it becomes completely unbearable. At the end of the movie I was sitting and I had to ask myself: 'would do it all over again even if I knew how it would end'? The answer is yes every time.

Turning to an actual review: all those people telling you that this movie is brilliant were not lying. As far as the actors are concerned it is 10/10, the music and the visuals too are a home run. The short story was changed, slightly, as the movie focuses very much on the outside's world reaction to the arrival of the aliens. And you know what? I loved that. Chaos everywhere. When this story was adapted they grasped the essence of men so well that it was almost terrifying. Let's shoot at it, let's steal, riot, commit unlawful acts because if aliens arrive for some reason we are allowed to be ruled by fear and under fear the first reaction is to rob stores. This sounds far fetched actually written down but we have recorded cases of this! This is how we behave, complete anarchy: in the fear of losing our own lives we have no problem stepping over another person. The addition of the human element I think was wonderfully thought out and written. Not to mention that with it the story had a sort of time travel element that in the short story was only focused on Louise's memories, instead of actual actions. That made it even cooler, I need to say! Truly a marvelously adapted movie, among the top 5 at least.

Watch it? I highly recommend it. I think I personally need about ten years or so before I can rewatch it, I was sobbing pretty hard towards the end. Beautiful story that finally focuses on something other than the appearance of an alien or the apocalyptic world that it is likely to leave behind after first contact.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ 

Louise Banks - Amy Adams
Ian Donnelly - Jeremy Renner
Colonel Weber - Forest Whitaker
Agent Halpern - Michael Stuhlbarg
Captain Marks - Mark O'Brien
General Shang - Tzi Ma

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What's Next On My List? X-Men Apocalypse

Oh I forgot to review this! Sorry about that, I have missplaced my notebook with all the reviews I have planned... kinda knew that with the semester starting that is a possibility. Nonetheless, here we are back to good old comic book movies:


One of the strongest, some say oldest as well, mutant is awaken from their sleep. He is Apocalypse, who seeks to be the most powerful and is unaware that the world has since yielded a lot of mutants. Not only that but mutants who don't seek to be gods, but wish to be mere humans. He recruits four as the horsemen of the Apocalypse and prepares to shape the world into his know, however, the X-Men will have none of it as their fight to prove to humans that not all of them are evil.

I had no expectations really, going in, I had a fear that it would be bad and simply because Days of Future Past was such an extraordinary and wonderful movie. And altogether I liked it very much. I agree that Mystique should've been blue more often and well, I find that a lot of characters were underused. Now, yes, there is a billion of them, it is easy to have them fall under, my only problem is that there is really no need to introduce every single effing character from the comics if you won't be able to use them properly. There were times as well when you felt that they are trying way too hard to make up for mistakes of the past. The new Jean Grey was adorable, the new Scott still has to become... well, himself. What I lacked and what was set up in First Class is Mystique's background story. There is one rendition of the comic in which we find out that she is Nightcrawler's mother, fathered by Azazel, who was in the first movie. Not only that, but the beginning of Days of Future Past is about her finding pictures of Azazel as he was experimented on. They had a connection, spent time together, their union was somewhat foreshadowed and now here we are and NOTHING. I was hoping for that to be unraveled...
Going back to it, the villain was alright, some X-Men showed previously unseen talents, there was a nod to X2 again, which I liked and well, Magneto... Oh dear Erik... I gotta tell you, somebody has to be in charge of building his character. I actually enjoy very much how each movie focused a bit on his back-story. We care for him because that is how he is built but man... you really do get why he hates humans so much. He keeps repressing his inner self and even an act of kindness has a punishment following it. Despite how much pain he has been through he too understands right from wrong and that is what is maddening to him above all.

Watch it? Yes, I do believe it is an entertaining movie. It does not go into depth on moral and teachings. It's more like a simple story, but it is done well and you get more of your favorite characters. Turns out that those who want good for this world are willing to put themselves in harms way for it and that alone is a great message. Could it have been better? Gotta say, yes. But that's just my opinion.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _

Apocalypse - Oscar Isaac
Raven/Mystique - Jennifer Lawrence
Charles Xavier - James McAvoy
Erik Lehnssher - Michael Fassbender
Hank McCoy/Beast - Nicholas Hoult
William Stryker - Josh Helman
Storm - Alexandra Shipp
Angel - Ben Hardy
Nightcrawler - Kodi Smit-McPhee
Cyclops - Tye Sheridan
Jean Grey - Sophie Turner
Moira Mactaggert - Rose Byrne
Quicksilver - Evan Peters