Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review: Dredd

"Dredd" is lean, mean, hard-core and badass. Forget the dreadful Stallone adaptation. It's true to the spirit of John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra's comic—but stripped down. Dredd doesn't have that ridiculous eagle on his shoulder. (A satiric jab at American imperialism, but impractical as actual police gear.)

In this new, bad, shitty future, most of the USA is a irradiated wasteland. The survivors live in one massive city (aka Megacity) that stretches from Washington DC to Maine. This urban sprawl teeters on anarchy. Order is maintained by "Judges." Each cop is now also judge, jury executioner.

It's a "bottle" story. The majority of the action unfolds in a shitty mega-condo called Peach Trees. A scarface drug lord mnamed Mama (Lena Heady) rule the roost. She bites off schlongs and gouges out eyes. Not a nice lady.

Carl Urban (who obligingly plays the whole movie in a mask) is Judge Dredd. He's breaking in rookie cop named X (who keeps her pretty face unmasked).

Ma-Ma's henchman skin three rival drug pushers alive and does 'em up with Slo-Mo and drop them off the highest balcony. Dredd and the rookie show up. She locks the place down and orders everybody to kill the judges.

Dredd fights his way to the top and throws her off the balcony.

A Taste of Armageddon ... with Waffles

"A Taste of Armageddon" was an original "Star Trek" episode — one of many in which Capt. Kirk violated the Prime Directive. Basically, the inhabitants of planets Eminiar VII and Vendikar were at war. To mitigate the destruction, they agree to fight the war as a computer simulation. If you "died" in the simulation, you had to report to a disintegration chamber where you were promptly annihilated. The citizens of both planets sheepishly complied, until Kirk ordered Spock to destroy the simulation computer. Righty-right.

 If a lottery ticket arrived in the mail ordering people to show up at a firing squad, there'd be mass revolt. But it amounts to the same damn thing.

Granted, the "Star Trek" episode involved a totalitarian government killing its own people. The American government lets the people kill each other.

Either way, a political system is in place. Random fatality is the price of maintaining that system.

Arguably, the floating lottery of mass shootings is form of totalitarian government as a distributed system. We all live with the knowledge that the sketchy dude (or clean-cut dude) at the next table might be packing —and you never know what triggers might trigger his trigger finger. (The words "Vietnam," "Trump," "Clinton," "9-11," or "Niagra Falls" just might set him off!) Auggh — is he looking this way? Oh god, oh god. Whew. OK. Stay cool, pay the check, go, don't talk too loud, don't make eye contact, avoid public spaces, know your exits, keep your head down and, just to stay on the safe side, stay home and lock your doors. As I've said before, "Charlie Manson is watching you."

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bullets at an Exhibition

The dream involved a twisted post-modern sequel to Ballard's "The Atrocity Exhibition." (Not normally my style. Ah, that wacky unconscious of mine!) The exhibition took place in a museum. (The exhibition was either virtual reality or actual slaughter, it wasn't quite clear.) Either way, the museum handed each visitor an AR-15 when they entered. The point of the exhibition was for the visitors to shoot each other. This wasn't mandatory, but expected.

The "living" museum would somehow scan the identities and histories of each visitor. The walls and halls would then blossom with paintings and statues revealing their lives.

Thus, when the slaughter progressed, it could not be impersonal. The "living museum" would record the details of the massacre; this would also turn into paintings and statues.

The feedback loop of endless documentation and analysis would eventually fragment into the "deconstruction" process when it would all turn into abstract art -- which, naturally, stood for abstract data.

The "Narrator" recorded this experience in a cold, heartless art review. The person doing the writing (Me?) was clear to distinguish between himself and this unfeeling "Narrator." He's saying it; I'm not.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: "Homeland"

"Homeland" is a great show. Which makes the great cynicism at its core so hard to take.
Ye, my friends. This is going to be a yes but review. I start by saying why "Homeleand is eellent on so many levels.
Follwing this pattern, I b wouldtupcially list all the things I like a bout it. Particulary (in the DNA of the John LE Carre tradition) the notion that people in the espionage community are, well, peoplde. That they have lives, families, neuroses, backstories, emotions, the whole inine yards. That carrie Matthieson (a flawed bipolar warrior, is the perfect emblem of that.Imagine all the scenes you miss of James Bond getting through the day; James Bond, the human being, f***up at the psychic damage of being James Bond the spy. Well done, folks. Cap-clap.

In the interets of fairmess, I'd say all the nice things. Then whip out my suede hammer and start whacking.
So consider the nice things said. And here goes.

The show is tghe brain child of Alex Gansa. He's no idiot. He's the creator of the nuanced Israeli show of which this is an American clone. As noted, he's fearlesly tackled the collateral dage o the human soulntha comees with the the skpy game . So, artistically spoeaking, bravo. Qite an accomplishment.
But homeland is alwso a TV show. It's an American TV show. An American TV show with an American audience.
Many of whom , not to put to fine a point on it, lean to the right wing.
Not coincdentally, many oy of the btalent3ed brains on Homeland are ferfugees from 24, which cleary catered to that audience.
The pint here being.
I caught the p;remire e;pisode -- a pusher's first time free fi offered by my friends at Showtime.
And it was enough to deduce that ...
Gansa figured Hillary Clinton was going to win the 2016 presidential election.
The right wing democgraphic which consitiutes a serious segment of the Homeland viewijng audience would be outraged.
Anticipating this outcome, Gansa and his creative team created a Hillary Clinto caricature  embodying every vile accusation agaknst her.
Elizabeth Marvel, that is.
The PResident elect who becomes the President.
A murderous bitch. )Just like the bitch who murdered Vince Foter, gt it?) An autocratic, narcissistic, heartless monster who cuts democracy off at the knees. (Which we all now Hillarywould do once she had any real power.)
Int he X season s survives an assassination attempt and jails 250 polticiisans (including Saul Berenson) in a heartless reprisal.
In the premiere of seqson seven, she tries to get a general shot for treason -- and wehn the miltiary jury merely imprissons him -- she leans on her piolticial flack to have ihim assassintation on day one of his life senttenmce.
This storyline ws clerly in place before the Nov. 2016 ballot.
Then -- bowy howdy — Dopnald Trump is eledcted president?
Gansa and his cre whad to run with it.
They';d figure don a timely satire of a liberal feminist rpeisdent their target audeince hated.
instead, thery wound up with an alternate reality.
A reality in which the President of the United States is a narcissitic, heartless mniac with no principles who takes a dump on the Constitution.
Female. Left-wing.
Aside from that, an amazing prophecy.
Har-de-har-har har.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A gnawstick and detarmined to

At first glance, Dick's novels and short stories don't seem that philosophical. 

They're filled with twist endings and switcheroos. Erzatz realities seem all-too real. You're living in a game show, or the virtual reality of the barely alive. Sadly, reality sucks. But simulation kick reality's ass! Organic beings act like machines! And machines that pull the same stunt. The robot who can't admit he's a robot blows up the world when he finds out he really is a robot. The little lost child is also a killer robot. Humanity's Savior is a fraud. He's a savior all the same.

In a lesser writer, this would be a gimmick, period. But Dick was a card carrying gnostic. For Dick, the twist-ending wasn't a gimmick. It's the way our so-called universe works.

As Admiral Ackbar might put it, our physical universe is a trap. We're spirits, living in the material world — as the great philosopher Sting once said. The whole damn thing is a prison.

The Black Iron Prison, as Philip K. Dick once said.

Do Amazons Dream of Electric Dick?

OK, speaking of Dick, I just checked out an episode of “Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams” on Amazon. (An adaptation of Dick’s SF short stories, dontcha know.) Skipped the first installment, went directly to “Autofac.” And here’s my roundabout reaction …
Year after year, the cheapjack county fair would roll into Sarasota, Florida. (Still does, who cares?) Said fair had a haunted house ride. They’d repaint the exterior with sloppy airbrush work every year or two, but the ride never changed. They’d strap you into a metal car and you’d ride into …
Darkness and pre-recorded screams. Ghostly gauze brushing over your face. A skeleton popping out of a coffin with red glowing eyes and a klaxon sound. EGGGHH-EGGGHH!
Then the car bumped out through swinging metal doors (Klunk-klunk!) to the lights, sounds, smells of the fair. (“Alive! Alive!”) And that was it.
Same old thing, year after year.
One year, I was riding along yet again—and the ride had a glitch. My car got stuck at the bend of a curve. Right in front of that mechanical skeleton!
The thing popped out, its eyes glowed red. The klaxon blared.
Then it happened again.
And again.
And again, and again, and again.
My car was an object at rest. People behind me were yelling in the darkness.
"This thing ain't moving! How come ..."
Stuck as I was, I got a good look at the skeleton. Plastic, papier-mâché. or something, not remotely accurate. The eyes were red light bulbs. I could see the speaker making the noise. The wires connecting the speaker to a power source. And the coffin was cardboard!
Cheap! Fake! Phony!
Everything! The whole damn thing!
Before tonight, the haunted house ride had mildly scared me. Before tonight, I could never get a good look at it. Now, I could see it all so clearly.
And the sight was vastly more horrifying.
A panic attack was crawling up my spine.
Then a carny finally ran out along the track, cursing. He jiggled the car, did something. The wheels started moving on the rail. I bumped back out into the fair. (“Alive! Alive!”)
But the fear stayed with me.
That’s the feeling I get after reading a Philip K. Dick short story.
That is not the feeling I get after seeing this show.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok

"Thor: Ragnarok" delivers on its promise. Do I believe for five seconds that Asgard is a self-consistent alien culture? No. But it's a fun movie.
Thor Ragnarok did not disappoint. It lived up to the promise. You get to see Thor and the incredible Hulk in a gladiatorial situation
Sibling rivalry with Loki; Jeff Goldblum is hilarious. He’s the evil meia mogul who runs a corrupt, entertainment obsessed planet that behind the gladiatorial games. He delivers his evil disctator lines as, well, Jeff Golbulum and it’s hilarious 
The ovie strikes a nice balance between being a working class comedy – a lot of it’s just comedy
Thor is dealing with his ister, hwho happens to be the goddess of death, who’s escaped from the Phantom zone or Asgard maxium security or whatever) she’s the ultimate female gdaass. He throws the hammer at her she gtrabis it; the hammer shatters like glass.
Essentially, it’s the plot of the Shane Black’s iron man movie. Thor’s stripped of his powers , doesn’t have his powers, is exiled, imprisoned, and 
Not the king of the mountain.
Various things revealed later
But a nice comic dynamic – put him at the bottom of everyuthging in this trashy planet that’s strewen with literal garbage and garbage entertainment. He’s not the king of the mountain. He’s got a control device on his neck straight out of Star Trek 
It’s all in the grailer
Working class comic moments interspersed with a gumbo of Shakespearean/Lord of the Rings serious moments. 
Genuinely suspenseful on own terms
The bcillaineess is basically the evil queen from Snow White and the Seven Drwarfves.
Graeat female heroes and female villains it’s a post woneder  woman movie and the XX chromosome pair gets its due representation (Finally) Loki goes from being the dark creep of the second avengers movie to more of a trickster.