Thursday, March 5, 2015

CHAPPiE, Trippy Dreams & Quiet Lightning

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Monday night, Izzy & I went to a “literary mix tape” called Quiet Lightning at the WeWork Building in Mid-Market. First & foremost, I just want to give a shout out to the WeWork Building… it’s pretty sweet. This seven-story building is apparently one of a network of similar office buildings around the nation that offer part-time office spaces to companies in need of a meeting room… but doesn’t really have a presence in the city yet, so more like emerging small businesses (usually tech companies in this area). The spaces are all cleaned, organized, appropriated & handled by WeWork… and there’s usually like a little common area if needed… and apparently they have craft beer available on every floor. For this instance, there was a keg of Lagunitas IPA, Anchor Steam & Anderson Valley Boont Amber… all included with the event. F**king awesome if you ask me… yeah, it’s basically a hipster’s paradise.
Anyway, Quiet Lightning, the aforementioned “literary mix tape”, is basically where writers of different genre, backgrounds, subjects all come together to share their short stories or poetry… usually about five minutes per person. This instance was led by the writing class that Izzy has been a part of the past few months… and it was pretty good. Each writer had a very separate & distinct style and prose to their works… and it was pretty entertaining… and the beer was plentiful for the not-so-uplifting stories. I highly recommend it if you ever are in the neighborhood. Heck, you can check their schedule online. See ya there! I’ll probably be the tall guy in a suit dispensing beer…
So that night… I had one of my fairly crazy dreams. I know, it’s been a long time since I shared one of these weird dreams with you… mostly because within about ten minutes of waking up I usually forget about it… but I remembered a few weird things about this one. Anyway, it was apparently set back in Feudal Europe… or maybe those Time Before Time settings like “Conan” or “Beastmaster”. There was the usual knights & serfs… but also barbarians. The first thing that I remembered was there was some kind of epic battle going on outside of a small rural village (no castle that I remember)… with broadswords slashing & screaming and all that mess… and probably the reason that stuck was that with every decapitation… the heads would still be moving about and barking out orders or something to the other men. Some of them were even moving slowly along the ground by moving their lower jaw & chin about to kind of wiggle like a slug or something, occasionally tipping over & then just kinda roll around on their scalp… oh but WAIT, there’s more!!!
Another part I remember is there was some super-hot redhead barbarian chick in full sexy regalia (think “Heavenly Sword” but with a spear) and she was in a home fighting off a half-dozen knights and dudes with pitchforks or whatever they could grab… and she was basically wasting them. Shank one guy, shank one the other way, pull out the spear and twirl a bit, cracking open a cookie jar while clearing out the way, followed by a pole vault kick sending one dude throw the front door, all that stuff, just destroying these dudes… and when they were all down, she left. Back in the house though, a little serf guy slowly comes out from behind a staircase… “Whew… that was intense.” He then sees a few cookies lying on the dresser top, takes one out of the porcelain shards, bites into it, “Hmm… that’s good” and then drops it down behind the crack of the dresser… and almost instinctively goes after it, grabbing it ALMOST immediately when it hits the ground… and then takes a self-congratulatory bite for his quick reflexes… and then realizes there are still 5-6 other cookies on the dress that… well, hadn’t touched the floor… and then he looks around at all the dead men on his floor… and then shrugs it off & takes another bite. “Whatever.” By the way, if you’re looking for any kind of deep meaning in my dreams, then I kinda pity you…
Back outside, the barbarians seem to be winning & there are only a few local soldiers still around. The rest have ran off with their families from the battle leaving behind their homes & such. Then up walks this giant barbarian lord (basically looks like me… if I had the body of Jason Momoa covered in blood & ritual face paint) and he’s breathing deep, savoring the victory. Then Red Sonya or whoever comes flying out of nowhere and still covered in God-knows-what, wraps her legs around him. “I must have… Him!” Him of course referring to his codpiece which she is now gyrating upon… but being the badass that he is, just kind of brushes her off and looks around, “After the Feast! Now… battle.” He then runs after a few of the stragglers who appear to be clergymen in the distance (about 50 yards off), they notice, and with a collective “NyoooOoOoOof**k!” they start running off… and then the dream end with my alarm. You’re welcome everybody!

Wednesday night, we went to a special preview of “Chappie” starring Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Dev Patel & from the director of “District 9” & “Elysium” Neill Blomkamp. Now… when I saw the preview on TV for this movie… I instantly went into sarcastic mode & posted on Facebook something along the lines of “Didn’t they already do a RoboCop reboot last year?” Then someone suggested that I see the full 150-second trailer… and my thought was “Oh! So it’s ‘Short Circuit’ meets ‘RoboCop’… I love both of those movies, right? So why am I not excited?” Have I grown that cynical when it comes to big budget movies? Everything is recycled BS so what’s the point anymore? I like to think not… but at the same time, there’s very little out there to make me think otherwise. Need proof? Name one nomination for Best Picture last year that made money / was a financial success. “American Sniper” right? Literally had to have ‘American’ in the title, Bradley Cooper starring & Clint Eastwood directing to even get a passing glance here in the states. Regardless, this post isn’t about the state of big budget movies (or is it?) but just a passing glance at my first impressions going into this special preview… at least it was free & I wasn’t wasting $30 to see it… let’s check it out.
Now, I’m going to tell you right now… GO SEE THIS F**KING MOVIE!!! Okay, so the story is set in Johannesburg, South Africa (did I mention the director Neill Blomkamp?) in the far distant future of 2016… and the city is 1980’s Detroit meets f**king Afrika the past two hundred years! Hundreds of murders & violent crime each day, riots, all that jazz… so a company called Tetravaal comes in with a solution… robotic police officers, basically soldier drones to come in & clean up the town… and it works incredibly well. Meanwhile, the lead designer (Patel) is working on an artificial intelligence program in his spare time… and thinks he has it down, but is turned down by the CEO (Weaver) for funding. So… he kinda steals a robot that was on its way to the scrap heap… and before he can do his own experiments on it, he’s jacked by a few pretty sinister fellows (Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser & Jose Pablo Cantillo) who take him to their hideout because they want to program a robot cop to help them pull a major heist. Well, as luck would have it… they now have the lead designer & a robot almost ready to go… but they basically have to input this AI program and teach the robot… as if it were a supersmart child. Okay, now it’s time for the breakdown:
What I Loved About This Movie:
·         The Not So Subtle Context - What follows in the movie is basically a whole discussion on nature vs. nurture, what life is, what constitutes it, what it’s all about, what makes us human, why can’t a robot be human too, dealing with mortality, conflicting morality, can technology save us, can we be immortal through technology, all that kind of stuff… and oddly enough, despite it being pretty blatant (the lead designer is called “My Maker” and the thugs who basically raise him are “Daddy”, “Mommy” and “America”) that whole angle is actually VERY well done. It’s like a compilation of every Philip K. Dick novella or short story rolled into one… set in our current timeframe… and played out. There’s really a whole lot to talk about this with regards to this movie… but I’m just going to recommend that you check it out. It’ll be easier to discuss later. I don’t want to spoil anything.
·         The Acting AKA Who the f**k are Ninja& Yo-Landi? - The acting throughout… top notch. The Character Arcs are extremely good. The thugs that start out kidnapping the lead designer & raising Chappie (the robot by the way) as an evil tool… eventually warm up to him and fill their basic parenting and/or creepy uncle roles. Yes, the dialogue gets a little cheesy at times, but yeah… no idea who Ninja & Yo-Landi were before this movie… wouldn’t be surprised if they blew the f**k up after this. I’ve already seen Mr. Cantillo in a bunch of bad movies that I loved (both “Crank” movies & “Disturbia”) so he’s already half way there, but these guys were out of nowhere. I thought they’d just be bit caricatures of street punks or something. Also, as usual, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman & Sigourney Weaver are powerhouses… but we already knew that.
·         Music – Throughout this movie, the music is great at striking the notes needed… whether a bombastic house music explosion during the action scenes and slow-mo shots (that may or may not be made by the aforementioned Ninja, I just know I heard the artist say “Ninja” like a dozen times) to the hearttouching ballad moments, it all fits, is consistent, and doesn’t take you completely out of the movie. I think it also helps that with it being set in South Africa (basically could be Mars to most of us Westerners) it’s really good for it to have its own distinctive soundtrack like this movie provides.
·         The Carjacking Scene – Okay, so there’s a scene in this movie the thugs basically trick Chappie into stealing cars for them… saying that they’re his “Daddy”s cars. It’s just f**king hilarious. There are a few scenes like this one throughout… but this stood out to me. Just a mix of innocence, savage brutality, stunned reactions, teenage awkwardness and all that jazz… that’s all I’m going to say.
·         This Movie has F**king Heart – For being a movie about robot police officers, this movie had touching moments. Now, I’m not saying that original “RoboCop” director Paul Verhoeven doesn’t know how to build real & believably touching moments in his films (“Showgirls”, “Starship Troopers”, “Basic Instinct”, etc)… oh wait, never mind. What I’m saying is… primarily because the robot has the mentality & morality of a child in the most horrible of situations, you totally feel for it… like… maybe even more than if it were a real child, as sad as that thought may be, because the robot is exactly what we program it to be in that short amount of time, as opposed to a child not constantly being under supervision, so it could’ve learned traits from anywhere. It’s a weird little conundrum that this movie builds… but I like it. The lessons learned mean something… the pain means something… the loss means something… the little joys mean something… and at times you have to remember, it’s a f**king robot! Or is it? You end up seeing his world through the eyes of a child.
What I Didn’t Like As Much
·         I Keep Thinking About Other Movies – There’s really not a lot to knit-pick about this movie as I obviously loved it. One thing was… it seems to borrow a LOT of key elements from some pretty major motion pictures. Granted, most of them are the best parts of those other movies… but here’s just a brief list: The entire plot, main characters, character voices, HELL almost the set design & all key locations from the “RoboCop” movies, but with the titular character as Johnny 5 from “Short Circuit” with the willingness to learn & adorableness of “Wall*E” but with guns & throwing stars. Not enough for you? How about if we had the star of “Real Steel” (Jackman) basically playing the same character (super athletic computer engineer) but instead of making him the hero of the movie… he’s the jealous adversary? And instead of a giant Rock-em Sock-em robot, we give him the ED-209 from “RoboCop”? Wait… do you think we’re taking too much from that movie? Are they gonna sue us?
·         The Use of Hugh Jackman – Don’t get me wrong, Hugh Jackman is Hugh Jackman in this movie… and he’s great. I like seeing him as the bad guy from time to time. Here’s the character’s story arc as far as I can tell though: An ex-soldier / rugby player / world-class robotic engineer has a pretty sweet R&D job with the world’s most prominent robotics company (already imagining how much a$$ this guy gets). Well, his robotics project (ED-209, basically a robo-tank with everything from rockets to machine guns to cluster bombs to F**KING JET PACKS!!!) is considered too expensive to mass produce because the Chappie program is so much more cost effective & overall effective. By the way, these would totally be on the field in war… even if you had Chappie-like soldiers, this is the equivalent of bringing in those giant orcs in the Lord of the Rings movies… but with gats & a jet pack! It’ll clear the f**king room… and it’s basically operated by a guy wearing a helmet thousands of miles away. Anyway, because of this jealousy with the lead designer (I guess), he not only pulls the worst f**king office prank in the history of mankind (actually funny how horrible it is with absolutely no repercussions) but then he puts THOUSANDS of lives in danger by shutting down all of the Chappie robots across Johannessburg, just to prove that his robot is better… but by going to destroy the only Chappie still working? Instead of bringing peace to the city (I assume by hellfire)? This is also on top of a bunch of other things that happen throughout the movie that I’m sure will pop up on Cinema Sins in about six months but… yeah, well done but… kind of a weird, illogical story arc. “I’ll show them mine is better by destroying the city! Then I’ll… completely forget to show them while I kill the other lead designer! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!”
·         Subtitles – Basically the accents in this movie were so bad at times that they had to use subtitles… but you could still really make out what they were saying (mostly the character Hippo & when everybody is talking at once). Really this is a warning that you’ll be listening to that Afrikaans / South African patois accent for two hours… but it’s not that bad.
·         Deon Wilson? Nope… Not Buying It – The only other thing I’ve got… is Dev Patel’s lead designer character name is Deon Wilson… and I’m not buying it. You show me a person of Indian descent with the name Deon Wilson… and I’ll show you a blond-haired, blue-eyed Deepak Nahasapetaminijad. Makes me wonder who was originally going to play Deon… before they realized they could pull Dev Patel.
Overall Synopsis: Again, go see this f**king movie!!! Like right now!!! Or at least some time this weekend!!! Also, before I go... I'd better add something about beer... so here's some Beer Lacing... I see the Roadrunner right before he meep-meeps outta here...
Anyway, big busy weekend coming up… but I’ve bored you long enough… have a great weekend everybody!!! GO SEE CHAPPIE!!!

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