Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Magic Boy & Robot Elf

I can have fun. I like to have fun. Really. Like this book. This book, Magic Boy & Robot Elf by James Kochalka, is all kinds of fun. And I like it.

The story is of a man who builds a robot to be him. The robot wants to live so tries to take his creator's life right from childhood. (Because it has a built in time machine of course.) Thus the book goes along on a wild rampage broken up by moments of quiet reflection. Somehow the rampage and reflection seem to all fit together.

Each moment of the story is told only in service of that one moment with no ulterior motives of getting the story someplace by the end. It takes sudden left turns just for the sheer joy of seeing what happens. It is a very enjoyable meander through a wild imagination.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


There is apparently a cute little robot movie out by Pixar. Other than that, I knew nothing of what to expect in going to see Wall-E.

There is a lot of cute to it. All sorts of saccharine sweet, laid on thick, sappy, cute. And if that's enough for you, this movie is great. But if you peak behind that curtain of cute, it's very empty. For me, the cute was way too much. I found myself rejecting it and the movie just fell flat.

Presented with a robot that had lots of personality, but no traits that would seem to lead from being a robot. In fact, some of it seemed to clash with being a robot. A most decidedly male robot although there should be nothing to make him male. He is tasked with cleaning up an Earth which, thanks to a loss of the law of conservation of matter, is quite covered in trash.

Along comes another robot. This one is decidedly female although there is still nothing about her that should lead her to thinking she is female. These humans that made these two robots seem to have adding in a lot of extra programming that serves to reduce the chances of the robot working well.

Ultimately the only robots that seemed to have a sensible outlook on life were a cleaning robot before it suddenly stopped hating "foreign contaminant" in order to save a really big clump of the stuff and the autopilot. Past that, the motivations of humans and robots were utterly mysterious leaving the action without foundation. Which is why it was quite empty to me.

I also have to love the amount of trash a ship on its 700th year of a planned 5 year outing is able to pump out. That pesky conservation of mass thing has really been kicked. Other than that, I have a couple other solutions to the motivations of the characters of this movie:

  1. Watching a sappy movie for 700 years can make a robot become sappy to a degree few humans have ever achieved.

  2. This sappiness is infectious. It may require touch to transmit, but it can transmit to other robots.

I did like the opening short. Rabbit is hungry. (Hear the tummy growl?) Rabbit would usually have been fed, but isn't. Until feeding happens, rabbit is quite prepared to do all sorts of ill to the hand-that-has-not-fed-it. Ah, motivation.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

some movies

I've actually been off to see a few movies in the last couple of months. First there was:

The Fall. Not very imaginatively named but imaginatively constructed. After a fall a stuntman is hospitalized and possibly paralyzed in 1920s Los Angeles. After a different fall, a little girl is hospitalized with a broken arm. He decides to tell her a story populated by the people she knows and has told him about. Why he does this is he skeleton of plot the movie is built on, but the meat of the movie is art rather than plot.

The stuntman tells a story which is mainly the movie he was working on when he had his fall but we see this story as it is interpreted by the little girl. This is clearly illustrated as he tells of the Indian's most beautiful "squaw" (which I'm fairly certain is not a word used in polite conversation) in all the land but her Indian friend is from the subcontinent so the fabled wife is in finery associated with India. The movie is full of delightful details and certainly would bear, even need, multiple watchings.

Iron Man is a straight up action flick. Lots of fun and largely bloodless violence so rather cartoon like even though it's live action. Well, I guess the more violent parts probably weren't really live action since they're between robotic shells. Good guys win and bad guys lose and it's all quite feel good. Good to see whenever you need brain candy.

Wanted is also an action flick, but with a lot of artistry tossed in in rather silly ways. This one was full of quite bloody violence. I wondered what the dad who came in with his two little kids just after the initial bloodbath and longest of the two sex scenes (which are there to illustrate just how much of a lose our hero is at the start) was thinking. The boy sitting next to me who must have been 7 years old winced a bit during the movie and I quite agreed.

Once in a while the barrage of weird artistic bullets doing impossible things with far too graphic results would have a go at actually being a suspense thriller instead of straight action. But it seemed like the creators found that too slow, so they would get past in as quickly as possible. It had some fun CGI stunts too, but I don't think I need to see this again.

Kung Fu Panda is more brain candy. It seems that young pandas script their dreams terribly, but I love what they do with the textures during this opening sequence. It's a lovely piece of work. Most of the movie is fairly standard for this kind of animation these days, but standard has gotten to look very good. I had the impression that his fur might not be as deep as it ought to be, but there's plenty other things wrong with the panda if you want to get into how he isn't exactly like a panda. The plot itself held together very well. I'm not used to seeing that in an animated movie staring animals. In spite of the claim of "kung fu", there was no actual Eastern philosophy of any kind that I can remember in the movie. Again, something to watch when what you are looking for is well executed silly.

I also caught the trailer for Star Wars: Clone Wars. I was impressed, but not in a good way. They have decided to take a series of short cartoons that were done in an innovative and artistic 2D animation and remake them into a single movie done in a 3D style that was innovative in the 1980s but now just looks cheap. My two questions are "Why?" and "Who would bother to go see this?" Certainly won't be me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

looking up

We must be an inherently optimistic people. How else could all manner of words from "fantastic" to "terrific" come to mean "extraordinarily good"?