Illness Movie Binge

I’ve been sick for the past week, and with a long weekend this past weekend I did what any sane sick person should do during cold weather: bundled up on the couch with blankets, a lot of tea, and watched movies. I’m usually too lazy to pay attention to a full movie, but given that I was camped out on the couch for entire days on end with a throbbing sinus headache, keeping track of the plot of a 2 hour movie was easier than keeping track of the plot for multiple television episodes. I ended up watching 7 movies across 3 days which is more movies than I watched through all of 2018. I’m not about to even come close to writing a review for each movie given how particular I get after doing so much film analysis in college, but I figured I’d jot down some quick thoughts on each of the films I happened to watch. Most of them were titles that were just added to streaming services I use. I watched each movie without looking at basically anything, from reviews to earnings so I could go into it as blind as possible, though with some of the more… popular recent titles (ahem, Bird Box) I had already seen a lot of chatter. For most of them I went back and checked that info out afterward, though.

I didn’t intend for this since I knew basically nothing about the majority of the movies I watched, but most of the live action ones had extremely small casts. Go figure.

It should go without saying but basically the rest of this post will contain spoilers. Skip a film if you don’t want something ruined.

Annihilation (2018)

I mainly watched this because I like pretty much anything with Natalie Portman, which already starts the bias train off on the right foot. I found the movie to be pretty entertaining. I liked the creepy, new-weird vibe that I assume comes from the novel it was based on (which I immediately added to my wishlist after watching this.) I thought the small cast did quite well, and they kept the tension on edge. The non-linear timeline, aided between Portman’s recounting of events as the basis for the film plus the characters’ self-proclaimed inability to keep track of time within “The Shimmer”, also made it fun to try to piece together what was happening. The end was trippy as hell (though not the trippiest of what I watched.) Before the very end I was tempted to think the idea of killing the alien being which spawned “The Shimmer” caused the whole thing to self-implode was a little too neat-and-tidy, but Lena and Kane’s ending scene where neither believes they are their true selves combined with the changing irises brought it back. I thought it was definitely worth watching, though I can understand how it flopped at the box office. I’m also curious where the story goes from here since I know there are two additional books in the series; I’ll be checking them out for sure.

If you like weird sci-fi that won’t always make complete sense and isn’t entirely explained, I’d recommend giving this one a shot.

Bird Box (2018)

I had heard a ton about this movie over the past month, not the least of which being the idiots doing the “Bird Box Challenge” and injuring themselves. I knew the basic premise of the plot, and I actually own the book though I haven’t read it yet. More on that later. I found the concept to be extremely interesting; otherworldly beings that inflict anyone (well… almost anyone) who looks upon them with such powerful emotions they’re compelled beyond control to kill themselves. The film started off just as promising, and the scene with Malorie and her sister leaving the hospital was truly intense. After things settled in at the house, though, the problems with the film began. There were just so many plot holes that the whole thing barely made any sense. Just the ones I happened to remember right now:

  • The harrowing trip to the grocery store went relatively smoothly aside from when the car was surrounded by the creatures, despite the fact that shots of the street prior showed complete chaos of wrecks and road blockages. How the hell would you actually drive through that with just GPS (the display for which is always delayed…) and proximity sensors is pretty rich.

  • After Machine Gun Kelly and whoever the woman he was with (most of the characters weren’t memorable enough for me to recall the names… that’s bad), they somehow continued to get food without the car? They lived in the house for YEARS, based on the age of the children. I don’t think they got enough supplies for that from a single trip.

  • When Psycho Dude (again, I don’t recall the name) made most of the house see the creatures and commit suicide right after the birth of the children, he opens the windows in the bedroom where Malorie and Olympia gave birth. Olympia destroys the window when she jumps out of it. Somehow this is later repaired without sight. Wut?

  • Malorie, Tom, and the children randomly relocate to a much more secluded house from which Malorie eventually departs on the river. How the hell did they get there? Was it that easy to just walk outside, not listen to the temptation of the creatures, and stumble upon it? I could maybe buy that, but if that’s true then it’s horribly contradicted later by the next point.

  • Why the fuck would you make someone look when going through the rapids on the river? When reaching the rapids, why not just land the boat and walk around them? When this initially came up, I assumed there was significant river travel after the rapids, though that obviously wasn’t the case since Malorie and the children run to the rescue location after (unsurprisingly) overturning their boat. The only thing that makes sense is the idea that getting onto land is just way too dangerous for the entire group, thus putting a single person in danger by looking is a safer bet. If that’s the case, though, then I have to ask again how the hell they randomly got to this house in the middle of nowhere. The continuity was just awful.

  • A last, more general point, but Malorie seemed to have an almost preternatural ability to see when blindfolded if it was really important. In the last mad dash to the doorway of the school for the blind, for example, she 1.) runs straight to the door, 2.) sets the children down right in front of the single step, and 3.) steps over it without issue. In the forest before that, she tripped over every fucking log in the place.

On the whole, I thought Bird Box was a great idea that was ruined by an absolutely awful movie. I’m still looking forward to reading the book in the hopes that it does the concept more justice.

Unless you’re literally dying to see what all of the noise in the media regarding this movie is about, I’d skip it.

IO (2019)

I knew literally nothing about this film going in, but it seemed sci-fi-esque and was new on Netflix. The concept was interesting, and not particularly far-fetched given the way the world is going. The beginning and end of the movie were pretty good, but I felt that the middle was really bogged down by preaching “Being alone is bad, m’kay?” As someone who is pretty lonely, I don’t particularly like that motif in films. People who are lonely already know this and feel shitty about it. People who aren’t lonely are like, “Yeah, whatever, that would suck.” We don’t need an hour about it. That being said, I felt that Margaret Qualley did a great job of portraying someone who was quirky and awkward from years of isolation in the interactions between Sam and Micah.

When I initially watched the film, I thought the ending was terrible. Sam decides to stay on Earth, removes her helmet in a toxic environment, and somehow lives. To me that just seems way too implausible. The film showcased how a queen bee had adapted to the new environment when it lived through the toxic storm. Bees live way shorter lives than people, though. Given that Sam had never experienced Earth “before”, we can figure that she can her father had been working on these projects essentially her entire life. I can believe that in a few generations of bees that mutations would occur to allow for this. A single person just randomly mutating to survive in a toxic environment? Yeah, no.

After thinking it over, though, I’m choosing to interpret the ending in a different way that makes me like the film much more. My thought is that Sam didn’t become immune to the toxic environment but that she actually died when the scene of her removing her helmet faded to black. The ending scene of Sam on the beach with the child is the final iteration of her recurring dream rather than reality. Maybe that’s macabre, but it makes for a much better film.

I think pretty much everyone should watch this one to develop their own opinion.

Close (2019)

I watched this soley because I saw Noomi Rapace was the star, and I’ve loved her since her work in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. After the opening scene of Sam saving the lives of the journalists in Sudan in true badass fashion, I was pretty stoked. The movie was off to a great start. When it switched gears to “babysit the bratty rich girl”, I may have audibly groaned. I maintained an affinity for Sam throughout the film just due to my bias for Rapace, but I literally spent the whole film wishing she would just abandon Zoe and move on. There were a handful of sick action sequences, but on the whole the film was a super generic “z0mg, gotta find who is betraying who!” film with the most predictable “plot twist” possible. I almost wanted to be engrossed by the generic plot just to distract me from how much I hated Zoe. The ending was also extremely anticlimactic with Zoe and Rima mostly holding off the lone gunman, who was the leader of the dumbest criminal organization on Earth until Sam could remember to stop guessing numbers that couldn’t possibly be the birthday for a teenage brat and get herself out of a locked room. Oh, and that gunman’s sole contact to their buyer was murdered by Sam like 45 seconds after the gunman and his contact spoke. So he wasn’t getting paid. That dude was straight up horrible at his job.

Unless you adore Noomi Rapace beyond all understanding, definitely skip this movie. Just watch The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for the 500th time… you’ll be better off for it.

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018)

I took a break from live action films to weeb out for a little bit. This film is the sequel to 2017’s Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters. It’s a sequel in the way that Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a sequel; they’re parts of a trilogy and just continue the unfinished story. The animation from all of these films is absolutely top-notch. I don’t watch dubs, but the Japanese voice actors did really well to my supremely untrained ear. The pacing for this film was much better than with the original title that was saddled with a good bit of setup. Beyond that, just everything was better, to be honest. The action sequences were more engaging with less “let’s do the same thing over and over for 15 minutes.” The plot is what takes it on the nose up until the very end, though, as everything is mostly straightforward as can be right up until the revelation that the Bilusaludo’s vision of “victory” looks quite different from what the humans and Exif envision. And yes, if you’re curious I recalled the name and spelling of the fictional race “Bilusaludo” when I don’t recall the normal, American names of the half-dozen characters in Bird Box. That should say something about Bird Box. I felt like Haruo’s decision between losing to Godzilla or sacrificing humanity to achieve a Pyrrhic victory was the first sense of emotional discord in the series beyond the general rage at Godzilla. Haruo’s swallowing of that rage in a refusal to concede Earth also set a terrific basis for the third film.

Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2019)

In easily the best film of the series, this one was truly enjoyable to watch. Building on the themes from the end of City on the Edge of Battle and setting up for the conclusion of the series, the film plays upon the idea that both 1.) people are never satisfied with what they have, 2.) hate breeds hate, and 3.) everyone has their own agenda. It was a little similar to the Bilusaludo reveal of wanting nanometal to encompass the Earth, but the Exif long-con to use humanity to summon their demi-god Ghidorah to Earth as an offering was unexpected… even if it was a little rich that both of the alien races helping humanity essentially turned on them within a span of a day or two. I also enjoyed the play on humanity’s own weakness for so easily falling into the claws of religion rather than looking at the logical conclusion that the Houtua’s work saved them from the nanometal, not a higher power.

As is so commonly the case in anime, the final confrontation between Haruo and Metphies was needlessly dramatic due to Haruo going by himself rather than just taking a few other people along with him, but oh well. The real ending was honestly pretty poignant with Haruo seeing humanity’s assimilation into the Houtua culture (which views “winning” as living and “losing” as dying) and realizing that he alone was keeping alive the hatred which allows creatures such as Godzilla to be created in the first place. Maybe it was just to drive the point home how strong his hatred was, but it was a little surprising to me how unemotional Haruo was in his final conversation with Maina or even the one before that where she revealed the Houtua have no word for “hate”, but it felt meaningful nonetheless when Haruo opted to kill himself to safeguard the future of humanity, even if it wasn’t the future he wanted.

It’s a bit of a slog to get through the first film and parts of the second, but I think they’re worth watching to experience the third. I’m not normally a Godzilla fan, but this was just a terrific anime film in general. If you do watch it, stick around until after the credits of The Planet Eater.

2036 Origin Unknown (2018)

By far the trippiest of the films I watched, I opted into this one just because Katee Sackhoff is the star, and I absolutely loved her in Battlestar Galactica. And when I say she’s the “star”, it’s a bit of injustice because she’s literally one of two actors with any significant screen time; the other actor gets maybe 10 minutes. She solo acts pretty much the entire thing, which is insane. When the film first reveals the mysterious cube on Mars, I was prepared for a shitty 2001: A Space Odyssey rip-off. It quickly turned into much more than that, though, as the film really explored the place of AI in humanity’s future and an almost Ghost in the Shell-esque questioning of the nature of one’s own reality.

I can’t even give a good recounting of the end simply because I don’t quite fully understand it yet. ARTI seems to have destroyed the Earth and all of humanity along with it, opting to use Mack as the basis for an android representative of what humanity could be as it leverages the cube to meet an alien civilization. While tons of people have theories about the film, I took most of it at face value. After Mack dies from suffocation when the Earth is destroyed, she sports the same injuries she had in the video to the android version of herself, though I can’t account for when that filming would have taken place given how little time there was between the assault on the mission control room by security forces, Earth’s destruction, and Mack’s death. My best guess is that Mack from the film is not the human Mack from the video, but that ARTI has been running this same simulation over and over as a sort of Turing test to produce the best possible android version of Mack that he can. Now that I know what happens, I really think I need to give this one another watch to make more sense of it. The fact that I’m willing to do that speaks volumes for the film, though. Despite a low budget and virtually no cast beyond Sackhoff, it was a fantastic watch.

If you like sci-fi and don’t mind a pretty cerebral ride, you owe it to youself to check this one out. Just be aware that you’ll likely feel pretty lost at the end and, like me, either want to watch it again or just feel like you wasted your time. Your mileage may vary.

2018 In Music: Spotify Wrapped

I’ve used quite a few streaming services for music throughout the years (I feel old remembering when Pandora was new), but Spotify is by far my favorite. The main value I see from it as opposed to similar, competing services is the amount of personalized, curated content that Spotify generates for me on a regular basis. Each Monday I get a Discover Weekly playlist with music I’ve never listened to before but which is similar to other things I’ve enjoyed. Every Friday I get a Release Radar playlist with new releases that also match my taste. These only get better over time as the service learns more and more of what I like.

Along with these weekly goodies, Spotify also does neat stuff for various milestones, and that’s especially true at the end of the calendar year. For example, each December I get a yearly playlist with my top 100 songs from the past year. It’s always an interesting listen to see how varied my tastes were throughout the year. Accompanying that is Spotify Wrapped which provides all sorts of interesting statistics about my listening. As someone who keeps Spotify tied to because I love statistics, I always look forward to Wrapped. Here are some of my interesting notes from 2018 (no pun intended.)

  • 8,131: The total number of unique songs I listened to.

  • 50,739: The total number of minutes I listened to music.

    • For those keeping score at home, that’s over 35 days.

  • My top artist was Tegan and Sara.

    • I spent 32 hours listening just to their tracks.

  • Overall top artists:

    1. Tegan and Sara

    2. Grimes

    3. Eminem

    4. Coeur De Pirate

    5. St. Vincent

  • Overall top tracks:

    1. RAP DEVIL (Machine Gun Kelly)

    2. Los Ageless (St. Vincent)

    3. 1940 – AmpLive Remix (The Submarines)

    4. Flesh without Blood (Grimes)

    5. Do You Feel It? (Chaos Chaos)

  • Overall top genres:

    1. Indie

    2. Pop

    3. Rock

    4. Dance/Electronic

    5. Hip Hop

  • I listened to “non-mainstream” artists 69% more than the average Spotify listener.

    • I have no idea what’s considered mainstream or whether Spotify is taking the “average” listener to be all listeners or only Premium accounts. Regardless, it makes me feel special.

Here’s to more music in 2019.

It’s all about being Unusually Pink.

This domain was a completely random purchase. Earlier today while taking a break from work (which was sorely needed… I had 3 weeks off over the holidays, and coming back today was not easy), I decided to hop on Mastodon for the first time in quite a while. A friend of mine who was previously on the same instance as me had apparently swapped to a different instance during the month or so that I was gone. I just happened to get lucky enough that another individual I follow happened to boost a toot from him; this friend was using the same avatar on his new instance that he used on the previous instance, so I immediately knew it was him. In seeing what instance he was on, I was a bit surprised. It had a .pink TLD. I had no idea .$COLORS was a thing now.

I hopped over to my registrar of choice (Namecheap) and saw that I could snag a domain for just $2.88 USD. It was a no-brainer. This was especially true because another friend of mine has a saying about the color pink. She doesn’t normally enjoy pink things, but she likes things which are (to quote her) “unusually pink.” A pink heart? Boring. A pink Razer keyboard and mouse combo? Unusually pink and therefore extremely cool. (If you happen to be curious, I own both that keyboard and mouse. They match wonderfully with the pink LEDs in my gaming desktop. Bonus points to me if I’m using them to play Overwatch while wearing my pink Mercy t-shirt.) Hopefully she wasn’t too mad that I snagged this domain. If you’re reading this, I’m sorry. But I did offer up a sub-domain of her choice should she want one!

At any rate, I made the purchase but had no idea what to do with it. After rolling a few things around in my mind, I decided that I would just make a blog on it. I used to blog a lot back in my college days, and I managed to garner enough readership that a few companies would occasionally send me free anime and video games if I promised to write a review on my blog. I lost my luster for writing a few years back, but maybe this will motivate me to do it more frequently. I already had the hosting space available on my VPS currently running, which doesn’t need all of the resources on the server by a longshot. Plus, I found this sick theme! It’s Rusty from the Hugo Themes gallery. It also gave me an excuse to learn how to use site blocks in Nginx as I’ve used Nginx for years but never with multiple sites on the same server. Spoiler alert: it’s super easy to do.

Hopefully I’ll put up more posts in the near future! They’ll be… unusually pink.