May 28 2015

Kingsman

Adel Gabot

10:25AM

Whew. The Inquirer article’s done, and I sent it off. If you’re from around here, you’ll see the piece in this Sunday’s issue.

That clears my sked for the month.

Meeting the deadline (well, meeting it a day in advance—I always make it a day earlier than it really is, sometimes more, just to give me a bit of leeway just in case something untoward happens) gave me a bit of time to catch one more movie: I finally saw the overwrought and very silly but exceedingly fun Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Briefly, it’s about a highly funded and highly secret international spy organization composed of 12 operatives called Kingsmen, the modern-day equivalent of King Arthur’s Knights of The Round Table, restoring peace and order to the world on the sly for decades.

One of them is killed while on a mission, and the others immediately set about looking for a replacement. One of them, Galahad (actually Harry Hart, played by the aging Colin Firth with a surprisingly spry take on James Bond), picks the son of a former colleague who saved his life at the expense of his own many years ago.

The son (Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton), who’s a bit of an underachiever, is a teenager who’s down on his luck and his options, and who’s only too glad for the opportunity.

A large part of the film is about Eggsy and his training to be a Kingsman, and about a billionaire named Valentine (played, again, by Samuel L. Jackson—I told you he’s everywhere) as a cool hip-hoppy dude with a lisp, and his henchwoman with razors for feet, played with sexy menace by Sofia Boutella.

Valentine is a techie madman who means to cull the planet in order to save it (don’t ask), and it’s up to Galahad and Eggsy to save the day.

Which is why it is way disconcerting for Galahad to be killed by Valentine halfway through the movie. After this wonderfully violent set piece in a redneck religious service in Kentucky where Galahad and the congregation try (and largely succeed) to kill each other in a mad frenzy ,in a small test of Valentine’s culling method, Valentine shoots Galahad in the head.

Huh. Reminds me of that scene in Deep Blue Sea where one of the main characters (again, weirdly, played by Jackson) is eaten by a shark in the first act in the middle of delivering a stirring speech.

So we’re left without a main protagonist and are forced to side with still-raw Eggsy for the rest of the movie, as he tries to stop Valentine from carrying out his plan.

I won’t get into the details anymore, but suffice it to say that the film is done tongue-in-cheek and way over the top, particularly the riotous final act, which is played in Valentine’s mountain retreat with, apparently, a cast of thousands who die horribly.

Big-budget films done this way are pretty rare these days, and it’s nice to see studios still making them. It’s mindless, crazy fun, and that’s all you should expect from this film. If you check your disbelief at the door, you could conceivably have a nice time with Kingsman: The Secret Service, despite yourself.


May 27 2015

Reviews

Adel Gabot

1:54PM

Sigh.

With my forced vacation at the moment, I’m afraid this personal blog is turning into a Review Site. Well, no matter. It is what it is.

I just have one last article to write for now, one for the Philippine Daily Inquirer‘s Sunday issue, and while I’m chewing the fat over that one, I saw a couple of movies yesterday. Here they are:

BG_Big Game trailer2

Big Game (2014)

Another Samuel L. Jackson quick-cash extravanganza. Or so it seems. That guy is in everything; he’s giving Nicolas Cage as run for his money.

Actually, it’s partly a Finnish production, which is made obvious by the casting of actors from Finland for some of the major parts—but mainly for Oskare, the Finnish 13-year-old played by Onni Tommila, out on his own in the woods to prove his manhood and coming across a stranded President of The United States (played by Jackson)—and by long stretches of Fin dialogue without the benefit of subtitles. The other parts are filled in by some notable American actors, namely Victor Garber, Ted Levine and Ray Stevenson (well, British in his case).

In this movie, POTUS and Air Force One have been attacked on the way to a G8 summit over Finland, and POTUS ejects from the crashing plane and comes down in a survival pod near the boy.

Together, POTUS and the boy brave the Finnish forest and run from the terrorists (who’s basically just a loony who wants POTUS’s body stuffed and in his collection of ‘big game’).

Along the way, POTUS is captured and encased in a refrigerator carried aloft by a helicopter but is saved by the boy who jumps on at the last minute, and they later escape their tormentors by ejecting from the downed-and-partially-sunk-in-a-lake Air Force One (again).

Trust me, it’s more ridiculous than it really seems.

aFiQepVzUkKKtyN4iHxZEA

Infini (2015) 

A more promising hard sci-fi movie from Australia, starring, among many others, Luke Hemsworth of the Hemsworth brothers.

In the far future, people are sent across the vast open reaches of space like internet transmissions. They call this process ‘slipstreaming’, but the chances for data corruption are high, and sometimes the people don’t reach their destinations in one piece.

Then there is this remote, out-of-the-way outpost where the people have all died from some disease or infection from some organism, and a group of marines or some-such other group is sent over to find out what happened and rescue this one survivor.

There’s also this subplot of some slipstreamed packages being sent back to Earth from the outpost that kills whole populations, and apparently wipes out the west coast of the United States (or Australia for all I know; I don’t really understand much of it; the exposition was lost amidst all the fancy styling of the movie’s visuals). They stop this subplot cold, eventually.

Anyway, we follow this team to the outpost, and they find the survivor, but most of them get infected and die horrible deaths, until the only survivor is the one survivor they were sent to rescue in the first place. In the end, he commits suicide, but not before he first shames the organism (apparently the infectious organism was sentient; who knew?) into giving the team back their lives, so they all live happily ever after as if if nothing ever happened.

Trust me, the movie is loads better than I made it seem.

(Sorry, I’m distracted by that Inquirer article. I’ll write better tomorrow when the article’s done.)

 


May 26 2015

Strange days

Adel Gabot

JonathanNorell

10:38AM

I finally got around to watching the beginning episodes of the new BBC seven part mini-series Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, based on Susanna Clarke’s bestseller, and I am officially engrossed.

It’s a big departure from when I first bought the humongous book many years ago when it was new from a bookseller at the Power Plant Mall. I couldn’t get into it at all, and I don’t know if it’s Clarke’s impenetrable old fashioned writing style or what, but I could only get through the first couple of chapters before I gave up. I kept trying that first year I had it, but I really just couldn’t get into it no matter how hard I tried. Rare is the book that does that to me, and apparently this was one of them.

I don’t know where that book is now, but I still have a copy in my Kindle Paperwhite, waiting for that day when I can finally get through it, if that day ever comes. Or perhaps I just needed a way to get my head into that world.

Well, apparently that day has finally come.

I saw the first two episodes this morning, and I really like it. It’s a great alternate 19th century England where magic has become a lost art and practice, and it’s up to Mr. Gilbert Norrell and Mr. Jonathan Strange, England’s last two real magicians, to bring it back. Of course that’s just the main thrust of the story, and the politics, maneuvering and mysticism behind the effort is the actual meat of the whole thing.

The production values of the show are impeccable, and the acting beyond par. Eddie Marsan as the titular Mr. Norrell is suitably snooty and unapproachable (if a little too diminutive), and Bertie Carvell is adequate as Jonathan Strange, although he’s a bit too contemporary-looking-and-acting for my tastes. The show’s full of interesting characters, like Sir Walter and the unfortunate Lady Pole, the weird and spooky “Gentleman” who reminds me of a snarkier Malcolm McDowell, Strange’s wonderful wife Arabella, and a disgusting toadie named Drawlight who always pronounces Norrell as “Norrrrrrelllll”.

Hope this show keeps it up until the end. If the second episode’s any indication though, we’re in good hands.


May 25 2015

Louie and Amy

Adel Gabot

7:08AM

…and yesterday afternoon, I watched back-to-back two comedy specials on my setup that were calling out to be watched. I had just come from a long and leisurely lunch and long coffee break with my budding lawyer daughter Ea, and was in a good mood enough to go watch some funny stuff.

I saw Louis CK Live At The Comedy Store and Amy Schumer: Mostly Sex Stuff. The former was made just recently, and the latter back in 2012, ostensibly before Amy hit the big time with Inside Amy Schumer and Trainwreck.

louis-ck1

I found Louie hilarious, in that slightly vulgar but laid back and cool style that he usually employs. I’m starting to like his schtick a lot, in the slightly scandalized way I get when he goes into the really dirty stuff, but just enough to straddle the line between just being gross enough to be funny but not so vulgar that it turns you off, before reverting back into the “regular” stuff.

Amy’s act, on the other hand, was a mixed bag.

SCHUMER_SEXSTUFF_640x360

I love her on her Comedy Central series, especially when she does these elaborate parodies of shows like The Newsroom and 12 Angry Men. I have yet to see her movie Trainwreck with Bill Hader, but I’ll expect I’ll have a good time there too.

Amy Schumer: Mostly Sex Stuff was largely funny, but honestly… most of her stuff fell flat. She would drawl in that laconic, nasal way that she has, but I think most of her act was written for, and directed at, women. Mostly Sex Stuff indeed, but for girls. Stuff about sex and menstruation and going down on men (and women) and vaginas and all that. Ha ha, real funny, Amy. When Amy crossed the line, I tended to shut my funny bone off. I guess this kind of humor just doesn’t gel with me, and women have a better time with it.

Oh, well.

I still have a bunch of stuff to watch, and I’ll go through some more of them this week.

This is how you get you have a lot of time on your hands.


May 24 2015

Ex Machina

Adel Gabot

ex-machina-movie

8:02AM

I finally got around to seeing that new movie everyone’s been talking about—Ex Machina.

I watched it yesterday afternoon, after sitting on it for two weeks or more.

Written and directed by Alex Garland in his debut as director, people say that it’s a hard sci-fi movie with big ideas on robotics and artificial intelligence and the true meaning of self awareness and consciousness, and it certainly is all those things, but I loved it for other reasons. We’ll get to them later.

It has a teeny-tiny cast, composed largely of three people: Domnhall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac. Four if you add the barely-appearing and totally silent Sonoya Mizuno as Isaac’s servant/slave.

Gleeson plays Caleb, a programmer working for tech mogul Nathan (Issac), who “wins” a lottery for a week’s vacation with Nathan in his remotely located estate in the mountains. There he finds out that Nathan’s been making a lifelike robot with AI that purports to be self-aware and has genuine consciousness, and it’s apparently Caleb’s job to apply the Turing Test to it to establish that over his week’s stay. What complicates the thing somewhat is that the AI is housed in a young robot girl’s body that Caleb strangely finds himself attracted to. That’s the film in a nutshell.

The film brings the hard-edged science to accessible levels, and reduces the lingo to common, everyday language, as Nathan insists that Caleb does. I found that refreshing. Of course, there’s behind-the-scenes manipulation and posturing on everyone’s part, particularly with Nathan, and, in the end, Ava (Vikander, as the robot/consciousness). Gleeson is basically a “good guy” who acts as the audience surrogate, reacting and responding as anyone normal would in a complicated situation like this.

The film is claustrophobic and forbidding because Nathan’s estate is located in the wilds somewhere, and apparently doesn’t depend on humans to get it running, instead subsisting on advanced and soulless technology. And we feel even more hemmed in by Ava being locked in a big room, and never allowed out. Caleb always talks to her from beyond a glass partition, further cementing our unease.

Of course, we all basically know where this whole thing is vaguely headed.

I won’t spoil it for you, but the appeal of the film for me is the in the laid-back nature of the characters, their interactions and their conversations, and you can’t really tell what their intentions are, until we near the end where everyone shows their cards—even the “robot”. In the end, we find out the answer to the basic crux of the story—what makes a human… human. And I don’t think we all like we find out.

It’s a fantastic movie, and I don’t think I’ve ever transferred one from my “New Releases” folder to the “Classics” one with more alacrity.

Watch it, please. You’ll thank me after.


May 23 2015

Blogo’s double-posting my media?

Adel Gabot


screenshot_09

8:55AM

I noticed, when posting on my blog using the stand-alone Mac app Blogo, that whenever I added pictures to a post, I find that it uploads a copy to my server at least twice, sometimes more, when once would obviously do.

It isn’t really that big a deal; it’s just small kilobytes of information, often less than 50k. It shouldn’t really matter with all those GB of space my server gives me, and with my modest requirements I couldn’t hope to use even a fourth of that.

I thought I could find out what I was doing wrong and correct it; it seemed like such a simple thing. But I looked all over, turned over all the rocks and searched underneath them for some switch, some toggle to turn it off, but no, there wasn’t any. It really just duplicates uploaded graphics for some reason.

And somehow it still grinds. I just can’t stand inefficiency; or, in this case, over-efficiency. The thought of files being added to my server that will never be used really rankles. So much so that I’m thinking of discontinuing Blogo.

Otherwise it’s fine, in large part. Just when I thought I’d found the perfect blogging app a glitch like this messes everything up.

I like Blogo’s streamlined and simple interface, and how it removes everything that is largely unnecessary. There are a few missing features as compared to the web browser interface of WordPress, yes, but I could have learned to live with it.

Oh well. Too bad.

Blogo people, if you’re reading this, fix that thing, will you?

 

 


May 22 2015

Supergirl

Adel Gabot

 

screenshot_152

7:20PM

Some wank put up an advanced, pirated copy of the Supergirl pilot as a torrent this afternoon. It’s so new the internet apparently hasn’t heard of the torrent yet.

Of course I got it. I watched it too.

It’s pop and campy and fun as hell. At least I think so. It’s obviously made for a market composed of prepubescent girls and boys, and not for a 53-year-old twice-married man with a daughter roughly about as young as Melissa. But I found it fun and appealling nonetheless. Hey, it’s Supergirl! What are you going to do?

Melissa Benoist is peppy and bright in the role, and if I were just a couple of decades younger… well. A nice bonus is that Dean Cain, Superman in Lois and Clark, plays her adoptive father, Fred Danvers. A nice homage and salute to the old TV days.

But does she have to announce her secret identity to everyone? Her family, an officemate, James Olsen, the entire anti-alien task force? It’s a wonder her boss, Calista Flockhart, isn’t in the loop.

And I hate to nitpick. But her sister, played by Chyler Leigh, says to Kara that because of her alien DNA, Kara can’t have pimples. But Melissa has this small but obvious scar in between her brows—where the hell did she get that?

Oh, well.

Now, the question is how is Supergirl going to tie in with the rest of the DC TV family when it finally comes out? How’s it going to gel with The Flash and Arrow and the rest of the gang? Superman and Batman aren’t even in there yet.

Hmm…


May 21 2015

San Francisco, Part Two

Adel Gabot

6:47PM

There is a buzz now about how Apple might switch to the “San Francisco” typeface in OS X and iOS in the next iterations.

See here.

Feh.

I switched to San Francisco last year! I even blogged about it.

How’s that for being ahead of the curve?


May 21 2015

Standing at a table, Part Two

Adel Gabot

1:42PM

Nah.

Not for me.

I tried it for a whole day. It’s precisely what I thought it would be like: standing still for a whole damn day.

It’s as exhausting and tiring as you would think. It was like standing in line at the bank, except the line would last the entire day, and you couldn’t even sit down.

By the first two hours, I was in agony. It’s a wonder I lasted the entire time.

True, it had its benefits: better. faster, more accurate typing. Tighter thinking. Great posture. But my legs wanted to give out by mid-afternoon. I shifted restlessly and was on the verge of cramps most of the time. I looked longingly over at my swivel chair, there in the far corner.

This morning, I got up and looked at my iMac and thought about standing there for another full day and thought better of it. Sigh. So I pulled back my swivel chair to the computer table, sat down and readjusted my system back to its old configuration.

I felt defeated, but relieved. It wasn’t for me.

Maybe it’s just that I’m not in shape to stand the whole day.

Or maybe I have the wrong table; after all, it wasn’t a standing workstation, it was just a regular, ordinary computer table made to fit my new working position. I wouldn’t know.

But at least I gave it the old college try.

So here I am, sitting on my chair, slouching just a little bit, my legs dangling about a couple of inches from the floor, typing on my keyboard with my arms at a slightly uncomforable angle and reaching over a little too far to the trackpad.

I’ve never been happier.


May 20 2015

Cool theme

Adel Gabot

12:37PM

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt was released yesterday, and to hype it up, Sony released this new free static theme for the PS4:

It looks like I might have to buy this new game. Hmm…