guest - flak

stuck in a time loop

Of course I realize we’re stuck in a time loop. I’m not an idiot. Actually, a character on The Magicians says something similar, though with a bit more resignation, as he’s not powerful enough to change anything. The inevitability of the future, or the past, or whatever, is a recurring theme in time travel movies. Except when the theme is that things aren’t inevitable.

I liked Looper, mostly because it didn’t dwell on the time travel.

Everybody likes Primer. I thought the pacing worked really well. It develops at just the right speed to keep things interesting but without losing the audience. And then when things get crazy, it still makes a certain amount of sense. Iterative plot thickening. Now, with all the looping that takes place, is time mutable or not? If you go back and replace yourself, did that always happen? In order to come out of the box, you had to go into the box, so what does that mean about predestination?

Continue reading stuck in a time loop...

Posted 2016-09-20 13:08:59 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-20 13:08:59
Tagged: moviereview

Lo and Behold

Werner Herzog reflects on the reveries of the connected world. There’s a lot of short sequences here, but not much tying it together.

We start in the building with the ugly hallways at UCLA where the first internet connection was established. The first message transmitted was supposed to be “login”, but the machine crashed after “lo”. Lo and behold.

The inventor of cut and paste doesn’t like what’s been done to it.

The law of large numbers means that the bigger the internet gets, the more efficient it becomes. Everybody talking to everybody averages out. I’m not sure how this theoretical result squares with the reality that Netflix is 33% of traffic.

Continue reading Lo and Behold...

Posted 2016-08-25 01:00:09 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-25 18:04:23
Tagged: moviereview network web

who hacked madam?

The second season of Madam Secretary devotes several episodes to the hacking of the flight controls on Air Force One and the ensuing cyberwar. It’s fiction because nobody in real life is hot as Téa Leoni. Therefore it is totally unrelated to current events.

The trouble begins when AFO disappears over the Pacific. Madam must become Acting President for approximately forty minutes, just long enough to sign a pardon for a wrongfully imprisoned journalist before the episode ends.

Later, we learn that the plane was hacked by some very sophisticated malware. It penetrated three firewalls. Nevertheless, it gives up its secrets under the careful study of the president’s cyber czar, Oliver, who’s basically a black mudge.

Continue reading who hacked madam?...

Posted 2016-07-30 01:08:57 by tedu Updated: 2016-07-30 01:08:57
Tagged: moviereview politics

magicians tv

The book was better. Watched the SyFy series The Magicians. A short review of the book series.

There’s a big difference between adapting a book for the screen and changing a book for the screen. Alas, what SyFy has done is a sad mix. The adaptations are good, but there are a few helpful adaptations that were possible but not done. On the other hand, a lot of changes are for the worse. And not simply different, but unenjoyable.

One especially annoying halfway adaptation is taking all the fucks from the book and adapting them to regular cable as fcks. The disemvoweled version makes everybody sound like they have an odd speech impediment. Or something has gone horribly wrong in the audio mixing process. Even after multiple occurrences in every episode, it never feels right. Every single time I forgot all about the show and could only think the video stream was corrupted.

Continue reading magicians tv...

Posted 2016-06-27 20:45:00 by tedu Updated: 2016-06-28 00:01:37
Tagged: moviereview

humans

An amazing show. Sat down to watch one episode of Humans and watched the entire season in one six hour sitting.

The premise is a world much like our own, but with mostly perfected android technology. The synths appear human and have a sufficiently advanced AI to interact with humans. They are not, however, self aware. Except for a select few, which have been captured, wiped, and returned to service. Now they need to find each other while hiding their true identities, especially from the secret synth police chasing them. Apart from some of the worst examples of technobabble posing as computer jargon, the show works and is very well made. I’ll just assume that robotic AI is very complex, and they borrowed jargon from simpler fields.

Continue reading humans...

Posted 2016-05-19 20:34:43 by tedu Updated: 2016-05-19 20:34:43
Tagged: moviereview

the nether

In the future, the Internet becomes The Nether, a fully immersive virtual reality and the setting for a play by Jennifer Haley. The play alternates scenes between a real space interrogation room and flashbacks to events in the nether. A detective demands that the proprietor of a particular realm, one that specializes in adult-child relationships, reveal the location of the hosting server.

Most of the play explores the line between reality and perception. What difference is there between feeling something and doing it? Or as one character put it, the nether is the contextual framework for our existence. This is a question with at least twenty years of fiction, but I liked the approach taken here. Despite the pervy setting, it’s a very human story.

Continue reading the nether...

Posted 2016-04-13 01:58:41 by tedu Updated: 2016-04-13 01:58:41
Tagged: event moviereview philly

german hacking movies

One of the perks of flying Lufthansa even when not traveling to Germany is their extensive catalog of German hacking movies. Well, maybe not extensive, but since there always seems to be a new one and the availability of these movies off plane is about nil, I consider it pretty extensive. Infinitely more than Netflix.

A while back I watched Who Am I? which has an English title to tell you it’s cool, but is otherwise German. It’s like a substantially better version of Blackhat, with maybe some Ocean’s Eleven style misdirection elements.

The hacking seemed realistic. No cringing. There is (as I best I can recall) a good mix of online hacking, and dumpster diving, and social engineering, and plain old sneaking about. The hackers are motivated by a combination of curiosity, respect of their peers, and embarrassment of political foes. Then it becomes slightly more serious. Nothing seemed too outrageous.

One unusual aspect was the meeting of assorted blackhats on a dark net forum was portrayed by masked figures riding a subway car. More exciting than reading chat transcripts on screen, and I think it made a meaningful distinction that this wasn’t some virtual reality that hackers were driving avatars through. Rather, it conveyed more of a mental attitude. Close enough for cinema, and much better than trying to make IRC look like a 3D video game.

More recently, I watched Boy 7 which is kind of about a hacker, but then drives more towards Manchurian Candidate style mind control conspiracy. I enjoyed it a little less, and it wasn’t particularly original, but passable.

Hoping I get another good one on my next flight...

Posted 2015-10-09 18:13:52 by tedu Updated: 2015-10-09 18:13:52
Tagged: moviereview

hot girls wanted

The Netflix blurb for Hot Girls Wanted promised to spotlight the amateur porn industry and the women it exploits. I was expecting something along the lines of a traditional documentary; lots of interviews, investigative reporting, some slide shows. Instead, it’s more Real World style, with a camera crew following a group of women around and observing their lives. There are some fact slides presented during scene transitions, but for the most part very little of what happens is deliberately directed at the viewer.

The film centers around Riley’s house and the girls who live there. Riley is an agent, posting the titular ads on Craigslist sites across the world. “Who doesn’t want a free flight to Miami?” With him live five girls who have come to Miami to start their amateur porn careers. They all pay rent. He also mentions that he is sometimes talent, though we don’t see him in this role.

Continue reading hot girls wanted...

Posted 2015-06-24 14:22:02 by tedu Updated: 2015-06-24 14:22:02
Tagged: moviereview

Alpha House

As more or less direct competition for Netflix’s House of Cards, Amazon has Alpha House. It’s a comedy, but still manages to capture a lot of what’s wrong with modern politicking. Gary Trudeau’s involvement helps. It may even be a more accurate portrayal in some ways, because it’s not laser focused on power and corruption. The light hearted approach leaves room for some less diabolical absurdity.

There are some long running plot lines, but for the most part it’s much more episodic. Curiously it retains much of the TV format, including a title sequence introducing each character. It’s hard to imagine a viewer “tuning in” to the middle of the series and needing such an intro. All the episodes are available online; why would anyone not start with the first?

Amazon also had a one season run of a show called Betas which I thought was nearly as biting in its parody as Silicon Valley. Amazon may not yet be a first rate producer, but I’ve been impressed with the quality of what they’re turning out in tier two.

Posted 2014-11-26 03:23:12 by tedu Updated: 2014-11-26 03:23:12
Tagged: moviereview politics

the future sure is bleak

Watched two movies.

Automata. Starring Antonio Banderas. This starts out like some of the best Asimov robot short stories, especially Little Lost Robot. The earth is a desiccated, irradiated husk but slowly being rebuilt by robots with two Protocols. One says no harming humans. The other says no self modification. Antonio is tasked with tracking down the origins of a group of robots that apparently can modify themselves. Then the story gets sidetracked quite a bit. The evil Robo Corp henchmen decide Antonio must be in on the trouble and are sent out to get him. So much trouble could have been averted if they had even once asked him what was happening, but no. Shoot first, ask questions later. Turns a rather good mystery thriller into a boring bang bang western.

The Colony. Starring Morpheus. Like Snowpiercer the world is frozen over after a global warming reversifier. Instead of the silly train conceit, however, people live in underground bunkers like in Fallout. So far, so good. Then we get lots of contrived conflict, blood thirsty cannibals (why is it always cannibals?), and whatever. I stopped caring.

Disappointing. It’s like the producer/director for each movie got halfway through, realized they hadn’t used any of the spurting blood budget, and then decided to use it all up. But at least in terms of atmosphere and setting, they were briefly entertaining.

Two movies, two bonus comics!

The real currency of modern life is information.

How to explain the future to your past self.

Posted 2014-10-30 19:36:09 by tedu Updated: 2014-10-30 20:25:42
Tagged: moviereview

Space Pirate Captain Harlock

A two hour long Final Fantasy (X, XII, XIII) cutscene, but uninterrupted by the need for level grinding. All the major motifs are present: good but actually evil churches that are actually governments, coverups and double crosses, dead but not dead people, ancient technology, preposterously ineffective battle tactics, collect all the MacGuffins quest, family squabbles, life in the shadow of the great war of the before times.

Posted 2014-08-31 21:30:26 by tedu Updated: 2014-08-31 21:30:26
Tagged: moviereview

Los Últimos Días

In Los Últimos Días, English title The Last Days, an extreme agoraphobia pandemic has swept the planet. Nobody can go outside without experiencing a fatal seizure. The movie doesn’t spend any time trying to explain the cause (which is good; better than a terrible explanation), but the Panic, as it is known, starts with a few cases and then affects more people over time until eventually everybody is trapped in whatever building they were last in. This sets us up for a story in a post apocalyptic world that’s a little different than the typical zombie virus plague outbreak.

It’s not a great movie (relies too much on flashbacks for my taste), but the concept is intriguing. Different spaces (office building, subway station, apartment building, indoor mall) all follow their own Lord of the Flies trajectory based on their occupant mix.

Posted 2014-08-19 04:42:16 by tedu Updated: 2014-08-19 04:42:16
Tagged: moviereview

Snowpiercer

Watched Snowpiercer. Some parts were good, some parts were bad, but the whole is sadly no better than the worst parts. The abstract concept of all of humanity being stuck in one metal can is great, but this implementation is a failure. (Haven’t read the comic.)

We start by setting up what life is like in the back of the train. It sucks. Then comes the revolt and we move forward through the train to first class, where everything is wonderful and lovely. I think we’re supposed to imagine a privileged few living at the expense of many poor, but the illusion falls apart when you realize there are more first class passengers dancing at a rave than huddled masses living in the back. There was an opportunity here to do something with class lifestyles, but it’s squandered for a few moments of cinematography.

There’s a few plot twists, but the characters don’t seem to adjust. The relentless Terminator style evil henchman remains hellbent on death and dismemberment long after the bad guys turned into good guys faced with hard choices. Other characters’ hidden objectives could have been easily resolved earlier. Perhaps this was some sort of political parable, but it really falls flat.

I enjoyed Pandorum much more, which got terrible reviews compared to the absurdly great reviews for Snowpiercer. In that case, it’s a spaceship that contains the last of humanity, but general outline is the same. A small group of heroes has to get from point A to point B in the giant metal can they call home, all the while battling enemies through a sequence of strange environments. What makes one movie “brilliant and fearless” and the other “lazily derivative” I cannot imagine. At least the Pandorum ship was conceivably large enough to house all its occupants; I have no idea where an entire car full of jackbooted thugs materialized from on the train.

Many years ago I read The Dark Beyond the Stars, which I think is the best take on the concept.

Posted 2014-07-29 05:15:29 by tedu Updated: 2014-07-29 05:15:29
Tagged: moviereview

the good bitwife

Just watched the season 3 episode of The Good Wife, “Bitcoin for Dummies”. For an episode that aired more than two years ago, that’s pretty edgy, especially considering what I assume to be the show’s target audience. It’s fictionalized, but it does a pretty good job of depicting Bitcoin accurately. Unlike another show that simply namedropped Bitcoin to prove it was the future, the episode actually spent considerable time explaining and incorporating Bitcoin into the plot. There’s talk of the exchange rate, the crash, mining, hoarding, etc. All the more remarkable for airing in January 2012.

The plot revolves around the government’s pursuit of “Mr. Bitcoin”, played by guest star Jason Biggs, for creating an illegal currency. Naturally, this brings up the question of whether Bitcoin counts as a currency or a commodity for bartering. Linguistic analysis is used to unmask Mr. Bitcoin based on his manifesto. A hidden message is found in the blockchain. There’s also some of the usual TV IP tracking hijinks, of course, but otherwise it’s well done.

This is the only legal drama I’ve ever seen that included the phrase “preimage resistance”. Also, funny line: “Cryptographer jealousy. The ugliest kind.”

I’m pretty impressed with The Good Wife. The writers are obviously working in (then) current trends, but I think it’s fair to say they’re using them as inspiration, and not just chasing ratings with buzzwords. The portrayals seem pretty accurate and not unusually contrived. Another episode deals with a judge accepting a juror’s friend request. Real life relation. The episode where they extract information (metadata, anyone?) from redacted government files was also a winner.

The WSJ has a longer recap if you’re more interested in what Alicia and Diane were wearing than Bitcoin.

Posted 2014-06-27 23:49:28 by tedu Updated: 2014-06-27 23:49:28
Tagged: moviereview

unhappy computer people

Was compelled to see Transcendence, which I knew I would regret. I wish I could quip that it was better when the computer was in Johnny’s head instead of Johnny’s head being in the computer, but then I realized Depp didn’t play Johnny Mnemonic.

It’s a strange movie, as some kind of techno romance thriller. Spends way too long setting up the love story, but then realizes too late that it really wants to be a summer action blockbuster. Spoiler: the ending makes no sense. Also, to pick on one petpeeve, why do movie producers demonstrate glitches by having 3D textures replaced by code fragments? Enough people have played various Bethesda games to know what real texture glitches look like. :)

The consensus seems to be that Her is a better disembodied computer soul movie, but I skipped it because Phoenix was really creepy in the previews. Maybe I’ll add it to my list now.

The Thirteenth Floor is a much better movie to watch if you want to ponder the nature of virtual consciousness. It’s more of a stretch, but Don Jon (starring the voice of Her, Scarlett Johansson, in a great role) actually does some philosophizing on human connections, real and virtual, as well.

I keep wanting to compare Transcendence to Source Code (a decent, but terribly, terribly named movie), but there’s not much similarity. I think that’s because there was a preview for Edge of Tomorrow, which looked like an awesome sequel to Oblivion until I realized it wasn’t. It’s actually Source Code but with mech suits.

jwz has some singularity reviews as well. The Machine is ok. Apropos current events, it features a Turing Test.

(Watched Her on the plane back from the hackathon. Creepy and uncomfortable doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s a good film, and well made I think, but I won’t be watching it again. Actually lots of parallels with Don Jon.)

Posted 2014-05-08 15:30:57 by tedu Updated: 2014-07-16 20:43:20
Tagged: computers moviereview

ten year reunions

The only thing better than remembering the past is reliving it.

Yellowcard released an acoustic version of Ocean Avenue last year to commemorate the ten year anniversary of the original release. Then they went on tour to promote, starting at the TLA. That was such a great idea that The Ataris launched a ten year “reunion” tour for So Long, Astoria (skipping the album part), which eventually came to TLA as well. Both shows were fun, in part for the same reason: they played the band’s breakout hit(s) in album sequence, instead of saving them for the encore. They didn’t play any new or old songs I didn’t like, or didn’t expect. Predictably enjoyable, enjoyably predictable. On a personal level, these two albums recapture the past in a way that VNV Nation albums like Futureperfect don’t. Then again, VNV Nation didn’t peak ten years ago (though Welcome the Night is great too).

Continue reading ten year reunions...

Posted 2014-04-17 04:59:49 by tedu Updated: 2014-04-20 02:46:03
Tagged: games moviereview music philly

forgers and scammers

Finished reading the rest of the Dec 16 New Yorker, beyond the State of Deception article.

The Lost World profiles Darwin’s lesser known predecessor, Georges Cuvier, the inventor of extinction and mastodons.

The best article is A Very Rare Book. The rare book world trades on reputation and a perhaps mistaken belief that nobody forges old books. Until somebody does. A very good story, one might believe it’s the start of a Dan Brown novel, except better. At the heart of the story is a forged proof of Galileo’s book Sidereus Nuncius in which he documented Jupiter’s moons. What relics will people collect 500 years from now? An original Kindle that once held a first edition?

Continue reading forgers and scammers...

Posted 2013-12-26 22:10:43 by tedu Updated: 2014-01-23 20:56:21
Tagged: magreview moviereview philly

Nerds the musical

Nerds is a live musical comedy. I’d say it was somewhere between awesome and really awesome.

Act One roughly follows a similar track as the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley although with less attention paid to historical accuracy. It’s a comedy, not a biography, but it gets a lot right. Various video screens showing era correct screenshots and logos were a nice touch. Act Two covers events up to today, but without even the pretension of accuracy. (The original script was apparently from 2007; it’s been updated to include the iPhone and death of Steve Jobs.)

Favorite part was probably the unveiling of Windows. Previously, Gates and Allen had tried to introduce DOS with a rap song but with bungled rhymes; e.g., “MS-DOS is lots of fun; we made it for every...body”). Then Jobs and Wozniak introduce the Mac (complete with the 1984 commercial showing on screen, but on stage is Wozniak in a crop top throwing the hammer). Finally, Gates steals all of Jobs’s cool ideas, leading to Windows 95. Gates and Allen run out on stage and launch into a Beastie Boys style number with tons of style.

Least favorite parts were probably the love interests for Gates and Jobs. It felt rather forced, especially the sex crazed band geek style stereotype chasing Gates around. Does every musical need the main character to have a love interest, just because it’s a musical? Allen and Wozniak both stuck around far longer than in real life, but that’s forgivable in the interest of plot streamlining. The love stories, on the other hand, were an unnecessary and awkward complication.

Posted 2013-12-20 22:09:43 by tedu Updated: 2013-12-20 22:09:43
Tagged: event moviereview philly

Antiviral

The movie’s premise is that in the near future people will pay money to be infected with viruses from celebrities. “From their body to yours.” You can tell it’s the near future because it looks like today except everything is white. The movie starts off as a possible parody commentary on the cult of celebrity and famous for being famous, but then integrates an actual plotline and turns into a corporate espionage thriller. There’s also some cool ideas about copy protection. Well produced, scripted, and paced. Keeps the overt messaging to a minimum while still being thought provoking. And not just entertaining, but educational. I learned that multicolored tulip flowers are the result of infection with a plant virus.

Posted 2013-12-03 14:05:09 by tedu Updated: 2013-12-03 14:05:09
Tagged: moviereview

The Talented Mr. Gatz

We keep remaking old movies. Why doesn’t anybody rewrite old books?

novel

AP English was like 900 years ago. Whatever The Great Gatsby is supposed to be about, I’m sure I didn’t care. And if I had cared, I lacked the perspective to appreciate it. Does anybody in high school care about somebody who forgets it’s his 30th birthday?

1974

Before Sam Waterston was a big deal district attorney, he was a lowly bond salesman trying to make it in the big city. Follows the book fairly closely as far as I can tell.

2013

Leonardo DiCaprio. Great Gatsby or Greatest Gatsby? I honestly think he’s better cast than Redford (more urbane than folksy charm). However, Redford played the part with more cool confidence, which is how I’d like to think of Gatsby, but DiCaprio may be closer to the book? Hard to tell.

Don’t think I’ve seen a more anachronistic movie. If it’s necessary to freshen things up, then just go for the full effect as in Romeo + Juliet, but don’t overlay a 1920s period piece with Jay-Z and electronic beats. Or completely tacky Moet product placement. If you need an original soundtrack, I think sticking with Lana Del Rey wouldn’t have been so bad, and then I could overlook lesser transgressions (I find it unlikely that Carraway would be unpacking Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922, even if he did have aspirations as an author).

Complaints aside, probably close enough to the book to pass English class, too.

modern take

Apparently Gatsby didn’t sell well in Fitzgerald’s life. Would a modern rewrite do better today, when the only decent character in the story is selling bonds on Wall St.? Yeah, right. Maybe The Bonfire of the Vanities is that rewrite.

Mr. Ripley

Regarding Mr. Ripley and morality, a point of view about the meaning of evil from BBC Magazine.

Posted 2013-05-23 23:18:29 by tedu Updated: 2013-05-23 23:18:29
Tagged: moviereview