Editorial 36: I Built a Thing III

I apologize for the recent lack of content. I have been pretty busy this past weekend at a book fair, shilling my story, and hanging with friends. Furthermore, nothing came out that really struck my fancy. Red Sparrow looked like another boring spy movie, Death Wish was a remake, and A Wrinkle in Time was clearly not made for me. This week shows promise and I have another Netflix review in the works. In the meantime, I built a thing.

I am of the opinion that every movie, book, and videogame is an experiment by creators. Rather than do the same thing over and over, they attempt something new with follow-up projects and sequels. Whether it is to test new mechanics or challenge themselves, experimentation in the arts is key to future success. When I decided to start building scutums, I went through trial and error to nail down a process that produced the best results. Even after I succeeded I knew I could do more and change up the formula to make it better.

There were a number of elements I wanted to address with this new Centurion Scutum (CS): weight, handling, appearance, and painting. With the commission I was given after my first, I found using thinner panels cut down on the total weight and made the shield easy to carry. However, I used fence slats that were 4” wide, which made them 1.5” bigger than the cross beams holding them together. The steps on the beams are 2.5, leaving enough room for overlap, thus more protection. More overlap made the panels flimsy because they do not have enough support from the beams. I should have double pinned them to the steps, but there was a risk of cracking the beams. Instead I made sure to cover the steps in extra glue to secure the panels.

To solve this problem I decided to make the new panels 3” wide. On top of that, I wanted to give the CS a curve and the top and bottom. I do not know if it is historically accurate, but I borrowed the design from the show Rome where Verinus and other Centurions used a curved variant of the scutum. The problem was the segmented design would throw off the curve. Because they are staggered across the beams on the steps, the line of the curve would break between each panel.

This was partly why I elected to paint the scutums after assembly rather than before. I knew if I applied a pattern on the panels laid flat, the inside edges would be hidden by the overlap, covering an otherwise complete design. Because this new shield was an experiment, I elected to test this theory. I also added a laurel crown around the eagle and reversed the blue/white color scheme. I was inspired to make white the primary color from a painting of Caesar in combat on foot, which he did on occasions like at Pharsalus. Apparently the painting was of the Battle of Alesia, but I do not know if Caesar was actually with his men during the final battle.

After assembly I took account of the results. The curve was inconsistent, but only at the two side panels and not to the extreme I suspected. One problem I found was the pattern. Not only were the designs broken up across the panels, parts of each one were hidden under the panels or too far apart to look correct. All that survived was the thunderbolts, eagle, and SPQA. The stars and laurel were more or less destroyed. Lastly, the total weight of the CS was significantly reduced at the cost of making it smaller. It could still provide adequate cover, but a little more would have been better.

With these failures I have learned a lot. I feel more confident about painting, determined the proper size of panels, and I now know that I can make a curved variant that does not look terrible. Moving forward I understand more about the construction process. There is always room for improvement and I cannot wait until I am inspired to try something different again.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)

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Editorial 35: I Built a Thing II

For about a year and a half, my parents have been building an apartment in the back of their house. With all the construction, they ended up with a surplus of scrap wood that I collected for future use. As the months went by the wood remained in a pile taking up space. I am not one for being an inconvenience, but I could not think of what to do with the material until I found inspiration.

If you read my book “Back to Valhalla” (check it out (http://a.co/bTui8sN)) you  can tell I am a fan of Vikings and Norse Mythology. I find their way of life and beliefs fascinating. Their morality and concept of heaven hinged upon dying in battle and most of the Norse Pantheon are personifications of war. I would not have written a book about it were it not awesome.

However, when it comes to rating warrior cultures, the Romans take the cake. Their training, tactics, and impact on the world are a treasure trove of military history. For such an antiquated period, Rome had the most modern conception of an army. They had a salary, unit organization, and equipment designed to be as efficient as possible when meeting a foe.

The most important piece of equipment was the shield called a scutum. It was cumbersome and awkward, but was an essential component in the legionary’s arsenal. It was so effective at crowd control when up against groups of hostiles that police riot shields take after the scutum. Next to the late Imperial Era body armor, the Roman shield is iconic, and I wanted to build one.

For practical use or otherwise, I wanted to make a scutum. Maybe I would use it at a protest to bash Antifa thugs in the teeth or for exercise; I did not have plan. My only concern was putting one together. After two first attempts I did not bother documenting because I was embarrassed, I figured out a system to put build a scutum that was functional and semi-faithful to the original design.

The first problem was the curve. Your standard Roman shield is rounded plywood, but I did not have sheets that size or the tools to bend it into shape. To compensate, I made a stencil for two curved crossbeams to hold panels or fence slats to simulate the curve. To protect the user I settled on a shape and length to hold nine panels between 2.5” to 4” wide. I also took an artistic liberty and made the beams with ½” steps in a fashion similar to a Viking long ship.

Next came assembly. The beams were positioned nine inches from the top and bottom ends of the panels and pinned with shaven chopsticks. I wanted to use bolts, but 22 metal bolts with nuts can be expensive and one of my goals was to use materials that were already available. The pins were also glued in place with expanding epoxy. The carry handle was placed at the center on the third and seventh panels with two pins. Once the glue was dry the panels were sanded down.

The final step was painting and I cannot paint to save my life. Using stencils I drew beforehand, I had a better time of it. I also learned to never touch spray paint ever again. Scutums were usually pained red and gold, but I wanted the shield to look contemporary. Many argue America is the new Rome, so I decided my shield should reflect that sentiment. After masking off the gaps from the back, I settled on a dark blue field with gold trim.

Borrowing from history for the main design, I picked a Roman eagle perched atop the acronym SPQA. Originally it was SPQR, “Senatus Populusque Romanus” or “The Senate and People of Rome.” Latin Nazis will correct me, but in my case I switched “Romanus” with “Americanus” to fit the contemporary aesthetic. Beneath that I added a pair of thunderbolts and crowned the whole thing with 13 stars, representing the original American Colonies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight and handling aside, I was very happy with the end result. I finally figured out how to build a semi-faithful scutum while making it artistic. Whether it would be useful in a riot or reenactment remains to be seen, but I feel good knowing I accomplished something.

I shared my work on social media and people were more or less impressed. A friend of mine wanted one and I could not help but oblige. Being of short stature she did not want the scutum to weigh a lot and requested I paint a Gorgon head on the front in reference to the Aegis of Athena. To capture the detail of the design, I drew out a Gorgon on paper, and traced the lines onto the wood with a thick piece of wire. I then followed the indention with white paint across five panels. After finishing the design I went back to touch it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend and I settled on a price for my effort and I am working on getting the shield to her in the near future. I really enjoyed building these scutums and I want to make more. If you like my work and want your own, please use my email below. If you want a design other than a scutum or a particular color scheme, I would be willing to work with you. Prices may vary depending on labor and transportation required.

Thank you.

Email: charliemac92@gmail.com

Movie Review: Annihilation

Alex Garland is one of those creators that have been around forever, but you probably never heard of him. The Beach, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine are just a few movies he has written with frequent collaborator Danny Boyle. It was not until after Dredd in 2012 that Garland made his directorial debut with the excellent Ex Machina. Can he keep up the momentum with his second effort Annihilation or does he have a long way to go?

After being reunited with her husband under strange circumstances Lena, played by Natalie Portman, journeys into the Shimmer, an anomaly her husband was sent to investigate. As her team of four other scientists travels to the epicenter, they discover the environment has changed in ways they could have never imagined.

Take a typical John Carpenter movie like The Thing or Prince of Darkness and imagine it in the hands of Christopher Nolan. What you get is a highbrow kind of science fiction that is also weird and otherworldly with a good dose of guns and gore. Annihilation does not pretend to be smart, but does not out-right explain itself in a fashion not unlike Interstellar. Questions are answered, yet the movie relies on you, the audience, to understand what is happening. At the same time, it uses its complex concepts as an excuse to be as strange as possible.

The Shimmer mixes and matches the cells of organic life. Plants grow in the shape of people, alligators are combined with sharks, and a bear takes on traits of the prey it kills. It is a perfect opportunity for exotic set pieces like colorful fungus and flowers of different shapes on a single stem. The diversity of the changes translates to the characters as they walk through the Shimmer. With touches of body horror and the otherworldly environment, Annihilation becomes a great example of Lovecraftian horror that I do not want to spoil.

Given the visual implications of the film’s set up, it was up to Garland to put the exoticism of the environment on display. As you can see in trailers, the color pallet is rather muted with a hazy filter. While this could be a result of using real film (I have no idea), it works to the movie’s advantage. It creates an atmosphere of dread that becomes confusing when all the color comes into play. The Shimmer and its side effects are bright and rich, luring you into a false sense of security. Everything is alien and dangerous, but it looks gentle and welcoming. Suddenly a rainbow does not look so nice when you see an albino crocodile or plants in the shape of people.

I would also like to make note of the soundtrack. It is very reminiscent of Arrival with a lot of ambient, industrial noise. However, it is synthesized and mixed very well to supplement the tension of certain scenes. The ending in particular has a track that plays very loud for a short period before it cuts at the perfect moment. I highly recommend looking up the soundtrack before getting a ticket.

Annihilation feels like it should be bigger or that it deserves more attention. It is weird, original, and a movie that feels better suited for the summer or fall release schedule. It creates an honest facade of intelligent science fiction while having fun with its concept. Garland once again proves himself and such quality is often reserved for later in the year. Skip everything else this week (I have no clue what’s out anyway) and see Annihilation. It is more than worth your attention.

Movie Review: Black Panther

I have said on more than one occasion that politics in entertainment is reprehensible. It takes escapist media that is supposed to pull you out of the world and reminds you of all the worst parts. Creators and committees have ruined comics, movies, and videogames to push a Left leaning agenda onto consumers. Art has become propaganda and as I have mentioned many times, I have abandoned media I used to enjoy. Try as I might, I cannot escape this topic nor avoid bringing it up.

I was reminded we cannot have nice things with the initial reactions to Black Panther. Most of it was beyond the pale of mental illness from Blue Hairs and Soy Boys alike. Guilt tripping, virtue signaling, and reverse racism are a few terms to describe the press the film received since details first surfaced. While I wanted to write a proper introduction, I was compelled to take a route that will likely backfire. I try to be honest when giving my opinion, but by keeping my thoughts to myself when I feel so strongly, I am essentially lying to you. I beg your pardon as I tell the truth in my own way.

To anyone who has politicized Black Panther, would you kindly fuck your mother? It is not Triumph of the Will for Black Supremacists or this monolithic achievement for African Americans. No. It is a fucking Marvel movie about Marvel shit that just happens to feature a cast of black people. Tyler Perry movies are full of blacks and he does more damage to African Americans than the KKK. It is not going to do a damn thing for anyone except make Disney money. People are not going to stop being pissed off about stuff, whites are not going to feel ashamed, and it is not going to heal alleged racial tensions.

Do you think anyone outside your autistic cabal gives a shit about seeing a movie to be humbled? Do you think I care about Japan getting nuked twice? Do you think I care about the two million civilians killed during the Vietnam War and the long-term effects of Agent Orange? Do you think I care about Amerindian Genocide or slavery from 200 years ago? Do you think Russians are ashamed of atrocities committed by spreading Communism? Do you think the Japanese feel guilty for Unit 731 or the Rape of Nanking? Do you think the Chinese obsess over the 60 million people that were murdered under Mao?

The past is past. It is gone. It is over. You Blue Hairs and Soy Boys fixate on people and events that happened centuries ago and expect everyone to feel bad about it. If you think events from a racist past afford others and myself exemption from tribulation in the present, you have wasted your intellect, and have no right to dictate how we should feel. The world is not Germany or Britain… or Canada. We do not feel bad for anything except our own mistakes. We will not grovel for forgiveness for what happened in the past. I do not feel bad for anything my country and people have done because I was not there. Nobody was.

Our only concern is the now and right now, you pieces of shit do not know when to quit. The world would be better off if you kept your degenerative thinking to yourselves. You are an evolutionary misstep, inbred homunculi hell-bent on taking us back to the Stone Age. You claim to be “progressive” and “enlightened” when your movement seeks to erase centuries of real progress and enlightenment. But I get it. I really do. You wanted something to believe in, to do your part for a cause, even if that cause is wrong.

Your teachers, parents, and friends drilled into your tiny brains that Patriarchy is real, Capitalism is bad, and white people are to blame. Everyone needs a little fantasy in their life, but it is time for the LARPing to end. If you want to fight actual Patriarchy, go to the Middle East or Africa where millions of young women have their clits sliced off and are forced to wear veils or be stoned to death. Go to Pakistan and try to stop honor killings and gang rapes by the victims’ own family.

You can be a real activist, but we know you won’t because no one in those countries is white. They are just innocent, oppressed brown people in your eyes. You probably think it is our fault they are backward savages. You will never know because you are too busy yelling at us to see a fucking movie to feel bad. You are the reason the Alt-Right exists. You are the reason Donald Trump is our president and you are never going to win. No matter how much you cry, scream, and beg, anything you say means fuck-all. Your collective existence amounts to nothing.

I am not going to see Black Panther to feel ashamed. I am going to see Black Panther because I want to. You can piss me off and push me and others further Right with your sophistry and regression, but I will always enjoy movies, comics, and videogames. Stop crying out your puss and keep your nonsense out of the shit I love. By the way, if you cocksuckers actually read the comics you try to ruin, you would know Black Panther is about as nationalist and patriarchal as Doctor Doom and Namor. Get fucked.

Oh, I almost forgot this was a movie review.

Following the events of Civil War T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, returns to Wakanda to take his place as heir to the throne. While pursing his country’s interests on a covert mission, T’Challa discovers the mistakes of his father have come to haunt him.

Panther is pretty good in concept and story, but falters in execution. It is not all bad, but the sum of its mistakes keeps it from being as good as Winter Soldier, the benchmark of the MCU. As a character movie and pseudo-origin story, Panther falls in line with the first Thor. It has the makings of a great narrative, but struggled to realize its potential thanks to the botched start-up. Thor was a Shakespearean coming of age story with the finesse of an episode of Agents of SHIELD.

In terms of origin stories it is up there with Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. In fact, it is an origin for both T’Challa and Wakanda because he is its leader. As king, he must embody the county’s principles of nationalism and isolationism. Wakanda stays out of the affairs of the world and hordes its technology because of what it can do in hands other than Captain America’s. T’Challa’s whole personality is defined by these ideals and makes it his mission to uphold them.

His purpose as a leader, however, is challenged when he encounters Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. Without giving away spoilers, he is of Wakandan descent, but grew up in Oakland, California in the early 90’s. For readers outside the US who do not know, at the time, you could not live in that city without a gun. Killmonger saw the bad side of the African American experience and it colored (no pun intended) his perception of black people in the world. He sees his people as victims of oppression and wants to use his Wakandan ancestry to give them a fighting chance. When he enters the story, T’Challa is forced to reconsider his priorities.

The way the story plays out is very similar to Hamlet with a touch of Dune. T’Challa must contend with matters of state while juggling familial issues. Both T’Challa and Killmonger consult their fathers as spiritual guides to figure out how to approach their goals. The former is content to maintain the status quo, but is forced to question himself, while the latter is basically African Hitler. They are two sides of the same coin and their conflict is about dueling ideologies. Wakanda can either remain isolationist and secretive or use their technology to conquer the world, not unlike the conflict between the Atreides and Harkonnens from Dune.

This makes Killmonger infinitely more interesting as a character. He has a lot of baggage and with good reason. He is what could have been if Wakanda opened itself up to the world while at the same time showing the farthest they could have fallen. T’Challa is fairly basic and simple to understand, making him a tad boring as a character. He only gains depth after finding out the truth of his father and even then it is not explored enough. However, being the embodiment of the status quo, he could not be anyone else. He serves his purpose as the ideological opposition to Killmonger.

Other aspects in the film’s favor are the music and filmmaking. Following the example set by Guardians and Ragnarok, the score is distinct and stands out from the rest of the MCU. With a mix of African and rap music, Panther forges its own identity without the box-standard heroic orchestral beats of previous films. I must also give credit to director Ryan Coogler. He takes any chance he can to be creative with his use of long shots and editing. He also knows how to put together a scene and show off the aesthetics. Although, he needs to work on how he shoots action.

The issues that keep Panther from being as good as Winter Soldier are a lot of little things. Exposition is both dumped on you and repeated throughout. There is an opening intro to explain Wakanda’s origin before it is repeated in short bursts later on. It would have been perfect if we were fed information as the film went on, like how a king is chosen and endowed with the powers of the Black Panther. Instead, for some reason, the film has to remind us every ten minutes. There is also a scene where T’Challa’s sister explains how his gadgets work when we could just see him use them. It is that simple and the scene went on forever.

The bad humor was clearly shoved in at the last minute. I understand the MCU has to be funny, but it should not make you cringe. No one put any work into timing or being clever. Obviously, Panther was supposed to be a more serious film given its subject matter. That would have been preferable if it spared audiences from worse jokes than the ones from Doctor Strange.

Panther also looks very cheap. The sets are not lived in or very practical like background pieces from a very expensive play. I understand Wakanda is supposed to be futuristic, but the furniture and floors were way too clean. Everything looks like a sterile room where no humans are allowed. Furthermore, most of the technology is far too simple to seem useful. There are audio devices that look like contact lenses, EMP grenades the size of golf balls, and smartphones with hologram projectors in bead bracelets. Everything is so small and does not look functional without magic.

This issue compliments the use of CG and continues the “phantom objects” trend where whole pieces of armor and weapons appear from nothing. T’Challa’s costume is stored in a tooth necklace and forms all over his body in liquid form. This is not too far from the comics, but it looks terrible. Every time T’Challa is in costume, he turns into a Blade 2 CG character that looks like a cartoon. When he is out of costume, Bosman clearly does his own stunts. In costume, it is all a computer, not unlike his appearance in Civil War. It reeks of laziness where they did not bother choreographing action scenes with physical stunts the actor could have performed himself. It would have looked great, but all we got was an Unreal Engine asset flopping about.

Black Panther is difficult to recommend. On the one hand it has a compelling story to rival a lot of the MCU. On the other, it is executed poorly with a handful of problems that weigh down the experience. To that end, I recommend it as a matinee or a rental to tie you over for Infinity War.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)

Netflix Review 4: Altered Carbon

As a writer, cyberpunk is one of those genres I was hesitant to explore because there is a lot to unpack. You cannot just have cyborgs, super-corporations, and hacking and call it cyberpunk. There is more to consider in terms of how those things affect the setting and characters, as well as a mystery aspect with other prerequisites. I am actually writing my own cyberpunk story and going through a similar learning process. With the release of Blade Runner 2049 we are on the cusp of a resurgence of the genre. Last year we got a cyberpunk horror game called Observer, Duncan Jones’ Mute will be out soon, and Alita: Battle Angel is months away. For now we have Altered Carbon, a serialized adaptation of author Richard K. Morgan‘s cyberpunk classic.

After waking up in a new body 250 years after his death Kovacs, played by Joel Kinnaman, is hired by the powerful Bancroft, played by James Purefoy, to solve the mystery of his apparent suicide. The investigation takes Kovacs to the darkest corners of Bay City, an overgrown metropolis that used to be San Francisco.

Carbon feels like it belongs on television. The look, structure of each episode, and even the actors and sets scream Sci-Fi Channel Original Series. However, given Netflix’s loose restrictions and freedom afforded to creators, Carbon is like an HBO show with the budget of Battlestar Galactica or Stargate SG-1. If that sounds like a deal-breaker, keep reading; it is not as bad as you think.

The story is a noir style mystery with all the tropes you expect. The femme fatale, hard-boiled protagonist, some corrupt cops, and a ton of red herrings. There are many details that do not appear connected until all the clues come together at the finale. With that said, it is difficult to keep track of everything going on. There are ten episodes, each an hour long, and the amount of information throughout is overwhelming. It is hard to focus on one thing when there are 15 other clues from three episodes ago.

This is not a knock against Carbon because the real star is the world. The dilapidated, neon bleached, dystopian environments are full of physical details that make the world feel real. You get this sense of how centuries of progress and growth have contributed to a mass degradation of humanity and believe it. People take drugs in the open, sell their bodies, and have an apathetic outlook on life. Corporations and the super-rich are a major influence, but we see life at the ground level in all the nooks and crannies.

The premise of the show informs not only the world, but also the mystery. Sometime in the distant past, humanity figured out how to download the contents and consciousness of the human brain onto a stack, a data storage unit the size of a vertebra. It is even possible to transfer yourself onto other stacks and control the respective body or “sleeve.” Everyone has a stack and they have been a part of humanity for about a thousand years. This allows people to be immortal because they do not technically die. Sleeves can be replaced if there are available bodies and live for how ever long the body will last. You can go on for centuries without a body and wake up in a new sleeve like it was a dream, but if your stack is destroyed, you are dead forever.

Because you can get a new sleeve if you are ever killed or hurt, violence and murder is treated with a nonchalant attitude. Blood sports are a common occurrence, but regulated. Murder is still prohibited, but it is referred to as “sleeve death,” and bodily harm is called “organic damage” that gets you a slap on the wrist. The Neo Catholics of Carbon regard the stacks as an affront to spirituality. They believe when your body dies, you are dead for good, and avoid “re-sleeving.” With Kovacs, he used to be an Envoy, a soldier that can transfer into other sleeves to wreak havoc or conduct military operations. As for the mystery, Bancroft has a backup system that copies his stack every 48 hours and he killed himself ten minutes before the process took place. He cannot account for the two days before his death, leaving Kovacs to pick up the pieces.

Carbon is not all mystery and world building. Breaking up the slow noir are nice doses of action throughout. Sparse and delivered in quick bursts, the action scenes stay within the realm of reality. Most are gunfights with hand-to-hand combat in between. One scene takes place in an artificial gravity well and another in a cloning facility where copy after copy is woken up and sent to die. The action is well shot, choreographed, and fairly brutal in some cases. The fifth episode has an elevator fight that will make you cringe.

The possibility of a resurgence in cyberpunk gives me hope for the future. It is a unique genre and it deserves as much exposure as possible. Both Blade Runner movies are a great introduction, but Altered Carbon is so complex and fully realized that it doubles as a cyberpunk bible. If you are interested in exploring the genre and understanding its nuances, there is no better show to get started.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)

Netflix Review 3: Bright

When I said David Ayer is a good director that was given terrible material in my Suicide Squad review, I meant it. He may have an early 2000’s style that persists throughout his filmography, but you can tell the man cares about his craft. He does the best he can because he loves making movies. It was unfortunate he was shackled to something as terrible as Suicide Squad and screwed over in the final cut. His previous work Fury and Sabotage reveal his competency and skill as a director. Without Warner Brothers hovering over him, Ayer has room to breath with Bright. Is it a return to form or should he retire?

In a world where fantasy and reality are one Officer Ward, played by Will Smith, is assigned to his orkish partner Jakoby, played by Joel Edgerton. On a routine patrol they stumble upon a conspiracy involving elves and destructive magic.

Obviously I am a little late to the party. I was not planning on writing a review of Bright until I decided to make reviewing Netflix Originals a thing. I do not usually watch stuff online, but I figured with what I did watch I would take it a step further. I may do this with some of Amazon’s content if I ever decide to get Prime. Being an online platform that is not connected to the Old Guard, Netflix is free to take risks in their various endeavors. As a critic it is a whole new land to conquer.

When it comes to satire, it is essential that you suspend your disbelief or miss the point. The nature of the genre is symbolism and metaphor in service to a message. While satire is not serious, you are meant to examine and analyze the subtext in regards to how it reflects upon the real world. RoboCop used cartoonish corporate executives and a hilariously dystopic setting to explore themes of corporatization and fascism. The same can be said for Starship Troopers where it was designed to be a Nazi propaganda film. 1984 created whole systems of government control that are virtually impossible to implement in a realistic sense to examine very real totalitarianism.

Bright uses fantasy tropes to shed light on social problems. Orks are a minority group that everyone hates and elves the upper class that controls everyone else, including humans. Orks are considered despicable for events that happened in the past and are targets of police harassment. Ward has is own issues with Jakoby and tries to get reassigned to another human on a regular basis.

Bright is obviously satirizing America’s alleged problem of police violence. The orks are African Americans being discriminated by humans, us Whites. It is very blatant and does not pull any punches. Even a blind person could see what Bright is doing. It is also a serious movie that does not joke about the premise or is self-aware. The whole time you expect Will Smith to make jokes and he plays it straight all the way to the end. In some parts the characters will essentially turn to camera and give a speech on equality to make sure you are keeping up.

This ultimately keeps the film from being complete satire. If there was some levity and a sense of disbelief, the message would have more impact. You would be compelled to consider how it reflects reality because it inspires questions. Bright is too close to reality and does not stand out enough to feel otherworldly. All it does is take real world concepts and switches them out with fantasy. It is blatantly simple, which means it is not difficult to comprehend. You are not forced to consider how orks are related to minorities because that is exactly what the movie makes them out to be. 1984 was unbelievable, but it made you think about parallels to the real world.

Taking out the satire, Bright is basically an action movie with fantasy elements. Rather than take its concepts to the extreme like Shadow Run, the action is standard and not really unique. There is one part where Jakoby gets hit by a car and walks it off because orks are naturally strong, but it is mostly gunfights with some acrobatics and magic. The scenes where Noomi Rapace flips around stabbing thugs were pretty great. Do not misunderstand, Bright has good action, but it is not special or really worth greater consideration.

In terms of performances, this was one of Smith’s more serious roles. The overall tone hamstrung his charisma. He did not have much in the way of laughs or cathartic appeal because he was deadly serious the whole time. It was the strangest thing to watch: the most charismatic actor in Hollywood playing it totally straight. Edgerton always does a good job as a character actor, but this time he was under layers of make-up. All of the ork characters have dentures and full cowls with contact lenses that were probably irritating to wear. That is a lot to deal with as an actor and Edgerton makes do.

Again I am very late to give my opinion on Bright and I do not expect it matter at the time. It rides the line between watchable and mediocre. It tries to say something and fails, but it is still entertaining. This was a step in the right direction for Ayer, sticking to what he knows, and doing it well. It is undeniable Bright was still a fun despite its flaws. If you need to kill time and want something entertaining, it is free if you have Netflix.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)

Movie Review: 12 Strong

The War in Afghanistan was interesting until about 14 years ago. As a civilian, to me it looks more like a cleanup operation, and trying to leave the country better than when we found it. The real exciting stuff happened before then, even further back with the Soviets in a war that would become their Vietnam. Rambo Part 3 and 9th Company are a couple movies that shed light on the unique aspects of that conflict. It still baffles me that the Afghanis would fight on horseback back like it was the 19th Century. Not many people realize this was the reality of the situation until years after we arrived and that is what 12 Strong hopes to convey.

After 9/11, the US Army sends a team of 12 to northern Afghanistan to facilitate a powerful militia, and fight the Taliban. When they get there, the team must contend with a language barrier and the terrain that can only be navigated on horseback.

12 Strong is in a bit of a spot of bother. Dunkirk more or less set the standard for war films to come. It cuts through the clichés and fluff and gets right the heart of the subject. Like Clint Eastwood with a massive budget, Dunkirk got to the point of that story. There was no real character development and there did not need to be. It was a tale of survival and that is all it had to be. However, the Dunkirk formula is not for everyone.

Sometimes theatrics and clichés are necessary to spice up an otherwise mundane story. Not all war related subjects are exciting enough on their own. It is like your average adaptation; you have to change the source material to make it filmable. The clichés in 12 Strong persist throughout in a limited sense. Every now and then the characters will talk about their families, getting each other home, all this stuff you have seen before. There is no denying it gets annoying very quickly, but 12 Strong has a lot more to it that you can look past the obvious flaws.

The crux of the narrative is the conflict between Chris Hemsworth’s Captain Nelson and Navid Negahban’s General Dostum. Nelson is a straightforward thinker when it comes to dealing with Taliban: shoot them. Dostum, being a local with decades of experience in the region, understands the minutia of fighting the Taliban, and the nature of warfare from an antiquated perspective. Both want to win the war, but they have very different ways of fighting. This is where 12 Strong stands out and it is the best part. You want to see these two vastly different men interact and try to work together. It was infinitely more compelling than the action sequences.

That is not to say the action was dull. It certainly could have been with the nature of fighting in an environment like Afghanistan. Because this takes place when horses were used in combat, it is a lot more interesting. There is a logical reason for the borderline exaggerated sequences where mounted infantry charge tanks and technicals because it actually happened. For a first time director, Nicolai Fuglsig knows how to shoot with spectacle in mind. There is no shaky cam, the staging is simple, and it looks great. It has a lot in common with older war movies like Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers. There are a ton of sweeping shots of active battlefields and long-distance tableaus of the terrain as it is bombed from above.

12 Strong is not perfect. The film runs two hours and it feels like three. A big drawback of the fluff is it drags the running time to a crawl. It packs on a lot of weight that should have been excised in favor of highlighting Nelson and Dostum’s conflict. There is also shoddy CG elements that could have been cut entirely. There is a B-52 and a scene with a rocket truck that was late 90’s bad. The entire CG budget should have been used on that truck alone. Then there are a ton of fake squibs and muzzle flashes, but not everywhere. Funny how the film was shot in New Mexico, a pro-gun state, and they did not have access to enough blanks for all their weapons.

For a January movie, 12 Strong is pretty good. It is not the best thing ever and it has plenty of problems, but it does not fail. It is an anachronistic film, a callback to a time when war movies were more focused on spectacle without trivializing the nuances of the subject. If that strikes your fancy, I recommend it as a matinee. It will not appeal to most people, but I say it is worth a watch in an otherwise sour month.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)