Media, September 2014

Inspired by posts like this from guys like Sean Witzke, here’s the media I consumed in September:

FILM

  1. Tangled (2010)
  2. The Lone Ranger* (2013)
  3. Equilibrium* (2002)
  4. Monsters University (2013)
  5. Toy Story shorts (Hawaiian Vacation, Small Fry, Partysaurus Rex and Toy Story of Terror) (2011-2013)
  6. Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)
  7. Enchanted (2007)
  8. Toy Story 2 (1999)
  9. Swiss Family Robinson** (1960)
  10. Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers** (2010)
  11. Joseph: King of Dreams** (2000)
  12. Speed Racer (2008)
  13. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
  14. National Treasure* (2004)
  15. The Phantom* (1996)
  16. The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)
  17. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  18. Spirited Away (2001)
  19. Pixar Short Film Collection Vol. 1 (2007)
  20. Castle in the Sky (1986)
  21. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
  22. Wreck-it Ralph (2012)
  23. The Mummy* (1999)
  24. Blade* (1998)

*For Super Action Bros
**On Netflix

TV

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 7)
  2. Doctor Who (Series 8)
  3. Steven Universe (Season 1)

BOOKS

  1. Sin City: the Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller***
  2. Demeter by Becky Cloonan***
  3. The Mire by Becky Cloonan
  4. Wolves by Becky Cloonan
  5. Storm #1 by Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez***
  6. Suicide Risk #1 by Mike Carey and Elena Casagrande***
  7. The Multiversity #1 by Grant Morrison and Ivan Reis***
  8. The Midas Flesh (complete) by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb***
  9. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  10. Silver Surfer: Parable by Stan Lee and Moebius***
  11. Fatherhood by Ryan K Lindsay and Daniel Schneider***
  12. The Iron West by Douglas TenNapel***
  13. Nailbiter #1 by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson***
  14. The Five Fists of Science by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders***

***For Four Color Commentary

Mary Poppins – Still Great for Kids

Another originally posted at Super Secret Space Base.

Recently I sat down to watch Mary Poppins with my daughter. She had really enjoyed The Sound of Music (aka the greatest musical ever made) and I thought I would subject her to some more of Julie Andrews’ singing, this time augmented with some Disney magic. I was struck while we watched the film–Disney’s live-action fare has changed dramatically since its heyday in the 60’s. I stand by Mary Poppins as a movie, but it’s hardly the scientifically-maximized-for-kids entertainment compared to most stuff available now.

I’ll start with why it doesn’t measure up to today’s kid movies:

1. Length. The movie is just under 2 and a half hours, which, as anyone with a child under 5 knows, is waaaaay too long to sit still.

2. Pacing. There are some great, fanciful, exciting parts of the movie. Unfortunately for a child, they’re broken up by plot. While I am not complaining about plot (I’ll talk about liking it below), it’s pretty easy for a toddler to get bored during these sections.

3. Dick van Dyke’s accent. It’s terrible. Doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s just comically bad.

But what makes it superior to whatever Nickelodeon/Disney Channel-promoted flick out now?

1. The songs. These songs, unlike those in most kids’ shows (Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba! excepted) are timeless. Chim-chim-chiree and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious got me and my 18-month-old daughter singing along and having fun. They aren’t dumbed down or overproduced. They’re stone-cold classics.

2. The sense of whimsy and fantasy. The magic that happens is never explained or even really questioned. Not to say that a lack of skepticism is positive, but, as with JJ Abram’s mystery box, a lack of explanation can make some things more interesting and more exciting. We don’t know how much of this movie actually happens to the Banks children, if they really go into that chalk painting or dance on clouds of smoke above rooftops, and it isn’t important. Neither is HOW it happened. The world is magical for the children in the movie and should be for the viewers as well.

3. The story’s sense of realism. This might sound completely opposed to the previous point, but hear me out. There are very real issues in the story: the children are out of control, their parents are hardly involved in their lives, and their dad is a workaholic. There are no magic revelations in the movie, everyone goes through experiences that change them as people (or children, as the case may be) and they end up better people and a better family. There is real crisis, too, with the run on the bank, George Banks’ firing and subsequent not returning home (initially). The crises develop each member of the family in ways that are implied throughout the film rather than stated, bringing the movie to a satisfactory (okay, and whimsical) end.

So, sure. This movie will not completely occupy your children for its entire run time like the perfect electronic babysitter.* But, viewed as a family, it’ll give you great joy (the songs! I had to find my soundtrack record after we watched this), a chance to discuss things with older children, and even an opportunity to teach the younger ones (“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find that fun and *snap* it’s a game!”). Plus, Julie Andrews’ voice is perfect.

*Your best bet for viewing is to watch the first half before naptime and then put them down immediately after the “Stay Awake” lullabye. The second half can be viewed later in the day. Both halves have an extended song and dance number and kids can be brought up to speed quickly.

Who’ll Watch the Watchmen?

Unless you’re not an a comic book nerd in the 18-35 demographic, you may not be aware that Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ legendary icon of comics, Watchmen, is coming out in a film version this weekend. Don’t know much about Watchmen? Click here.

There are plenty of reviews out there, and they seem to be taking two very different looks at this movie. It seems that people who are coming into the film having already read and loved the Watchmen comic book love the movie. And people who don’t love (or haven’t read) the comic book are having a tough time with the movie.

Continue reading

Wall-e: Foreign Contamination

Wall-e Ponders

I recently watched Wall-e again, this time with my wife and our 6-month-old daughter. (She was captivated by some of the movie, but then she was captivated by the straw in our drink until she fell asleep. All in all a good first time at the movies.)

While watching, my nerd-self noticed an issue that I had yet to see addressed: robot communications and operating systems. In our modern world, things rarely “just work” when it comes to computers. Especially when dealing with connecting new systems with old. Or systems that aren’t built to interact. In Wall-e, he and Eve have very little difficulty communicating (despite some initial roughness that I’ll touch on in a bit). They easily interpret facial expressions, gestures and auditory cues from the other robot. It’s because of this that I think that

All Robots in Wall-e are Built on a Common Operating System

Wall-e and MO

Call it WinRE (Robot Edition) or MacOS R or Robolinux, but they all are able to communicate effectively with each other. It could just be a standard communications protocol (requiring a protocol droid..?) but I think, with the inherent laziness demonstrated by Buy-n-Large, it’s more likely that all the robots run the same OS. Imagine: rather than having to write different operating code for each type of robot created, they just install the standard WinRE (or whatever) and click the checkbox for Wall-e (or EVE, or MO, or Burn-e, or Wall-R or…)

This also brings us to a second thought about the robotics programming of Wall-e:

Wall-e has a virus.

It seems that most if the robots in Wall-e are not self-aware. They simply go about their tasks mindlessly, following their initial programming. I think the only exception (a robot programmed to be aware) is the auto-pilot.

Most of the robots lack self-awareness until Wall-e comes along. Wall-e has accessed deeper functions of self-awareness and seems to have also developed a Genuine People Personality (GPP). This is likely from a programming bug; he constantly replaces his hardware, so it can’t be that. His version of WinRE, though on wall-e settings, has somehow gained access to functions reserved for other robots. Wall-e’s bug and subsequent GPP is so profound that it seems to effect (and infect) many of the robots he comes across. From MO to the typing bot who learns to wave, Wall-e’s influence causes most robots to discover themselves.

I think EVE has some version of this bug too, which is what makes them such good soul(-bot)-mates. But this post is getting a little longer than I feel like making it right now. So, I guess I’ll come back to that.

Wall-e and EVE