All posts by geofflechef

michaEl bay or how I lEarnEd to stop Enjoying his films

So I haven’t written in a LONG time for several reasons… ok honestly I forgot I made this blog but regardless I am now going to attempt to post a movie review or rant at least ONCE a week from now on… yay.

So let’s get started with the topic at hand, why do I have a problem with Michael EXPLOSIONS Bay? (please note that to honor Mr. Bay’s stylistic choices I too will be putting in EXPLOSIONS where they make no sense)

It’s simple, I find it hard to consider him a filmmaker. In my eyes he’s a movie goer who has developed the ability to create the pinnacle of big budget EXPLOSIVE (yeah I know that one works) cash grab corporate summer block buster films designed for the purpose of building revenue.

His filmmaking rests EXPLOSIVELY within his ability to gain large budgets for films that have some sort of pre-established fandom before hand and cash in on that. Don’t believe me? The obvious example of this is the Transformers movies

For those who have no idea what Transformers is, it is a series in which two different alien clans of the same species of sentient transforming robots compete to become the wielders of weapons of vast power. The movies themselves are adapted from a TV show which was specifically designed to sell toys (and I am convinced are the root of all evil in film making because Orson Welles’s (second to) last job was voicing one of the Transformers in the TV series where his voice was so heavily edited that you cannot even tell it’s him).

But it’s more than just Transformers. Pearl Harbor, which could be argued to be an actually good film, relies on American patriotism as the film depicts the heroics of American servicemen during one of the worse attacks on US soil. Even Bad Boys, which was an original piece, had Will Smith in it, who had a huge fan base from Fresh Prince and partially because of his rap career. There was another guy but I forgot who it was… Martin something.

Even Bays lone attempts at making original pieces are caught up in his style of muscle bound adrenaline. Pain and Gain, a film about a three weight lifting body building guys, falls into the Bay normal tropes, with tough guys having to deal with over the top problems.

One of his most recent films, his adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles only reinforces this style (yeah yeah he produced it but seriously, the guy who directed it, Mister Bay Junior, pretty much made the movie with the Bay handbook). The film follows four genetically mutated turtles as they seek to bring justice in a world without none. Also they are ninjas. And teenagers. In the film, though he only acts as producer, Bays style of over maculating his characters shines through with the attempt to make the turtles look ‘tough’ is unneeded as it does nothing but simply brand the movie as a product of Bay’s rather than heart fully attempt to respectfully adapt the TMNT’s.

EXPLOSIONS (Well that was forced, should I stop? I’ll stop)

As I write this it dawns on me why I truly do not enjoy Bay films. They take themes from action movies from the 80’s and 90’s (films I love to watch for the sake that they are fun) and attempts to remake them without doing it in such a way that respects or replicates what makes them special.

He gives us characters we can’t relate to in situations way to unbelievable and develops action that we can’t follow or understand. Unlike characters like John McClain and Rambo, we are given characters who are suppose to be passed off as ‘Average Joes’ who own the power to survive all the explosions. They are uninteresting and feel like nothing more than plot devices rather than real people.

A great example of an action hero done right is Chad Stahelski and David Leitch’s John Wick, a film so creative they named it after the main character. The film follows an ex-hitman who leaves his life of peace after some crooks kill his dog left to him as a final gift from his dead love (bit of dick move on the part of the crooks am I right?).

The films story starts off with nothing but cliché followed by cliché followed by cliché followed by cliché followed by cliché and so on and so forth until you got bored and skipped to the next paragraph.

However, it is oddly enough the small amount of character development which makes this film one of my favorite action flicks in recent years. In the film, simply mentioning Wick’s involvement, let alone his name, puts fear into characters. Instantaneously characters demeanor will change as they realize that John ‘The Bogeyman’ Wick is back.

It is the depiction of how much fear Wick creates in others that helps set the audience up for the violence that he brings upon the villains and even then the film ultimately surprise’s you with the amount of damage this one man can deal out.

But it is more believable to see Wick bring down seventy six Russian Mobsters than it is for Wahlberg or LaBeouf to survive explosion after explosion because there is a pre-establishing of his abilities on a larger scale and more so his impact within the world of the film.

Bay’s characters don’t even have this basic set up, as they are simply ‘normal’ guys who get thrown into abnormal situations. It is this reliance upon us seeing these superstar actors as ‘Average Joes’ which ultimately causes the films to fail in having us the audience connect. There is no reason why we should be concern with the characters as they simply act as guides to bring us from one set piece to the next, and from this we lose out on seeing real people and thus Bay fails at creating something real for us the viewer.

This sense of not being able to create something real is a problem that plagues all of Michael Bay’s recent work, he doesn’t bring us somewhere new, he keeps us plastered to cheap theatre seats as we see a gag reel of overpriced stunt work and pyrotechnics which are not worth the cost of pirating them online a few months later.

rEviEw: dawn of the planEt of thE apEs

Whats it about? – Ten years after apes have gained intelligence as a result of a super virus which has killed off a majority of humans, the remaining human survivors and the new ape society find themselves on a very thin line between peaceful harmony or total war.

Review in one line – It’s a good movie but prepare to deal with at least a few cases of ape shit

Review (Warning, some light spoilers, nothing story breaking) – Let me get this out of the way, for anyone who saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I can say this with confidence, this one is much better. For starters there is barely any James Franco which is good (this a personal opinion) second, there is barely any James Franco which is good (a general public opinion).

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, lets dive into the movie itself. First off the story was pleasantly well done, which surprised me after seeing Rise of the Plan… ok from now on I’m referring to these movies as RISE or DAWN, because I lack patience. Anyway, the story in DAWN was well done, it built characters that I found myself interested in and even cared for, even going as far as to give us justifiably evil characters, something where there is a lack of. Andy Serkis who plays Caesar does an astounding job in creating a strong leader to whom I found myself interested and concerned with.

Then human characters are introduced. That’s whats interesting to me, the story about the apes was far more interesting and well done than the humans story, complimented with a lack of dialogue and relying on facial features to convey emotion for a good part of the film. But as fascinating and in-depth as the apes were, the humans seemed bland and typical as post-apocalyptic survivors with the all to typical goal of rebuilding society that is seen in nearly every post-apocalyptic movie or TV show (see Walking Dead as reference). More so, the dialogue that is shared between the humans seemed vanilla.

The movie is a very good looking film, having spanning views of destroyed San Francisco or almost claustrophobic shots of the forest. One of my favorite parts of the movie is a fixed camera that shows the immense scale of the films big battle scene, which was amazingly well done and would be enough of a reason for me to watch the whole film again. The action scenes were also well done, creating brutal, even savage fight scenes. The best instance of action in the whole movie is the assault on the human colony, where hundreds of apes with guns and horses charge a walled human settlement which has grenades and rocket launchers. If any action fans did not get giddy at the sound of that then boo, boo on you sirs (or madame’s).

Now for the bad parts, first off what really bugged me was that while watching the film I could imagine the writer getting through two thirds of a well written script before throwing their hands up and saying ‘fuck it!’ Because that’s what it felt like. The two characters who you can call antagonists, Gary Oldman’s character Dreyfus and the Toby Kebbell’s character Koba, were both justifiable in their goals and actions, where they had good reasons for what they did. But then in a feat of bad writing, these two characters become almost cartoonish and completely irrational, throwing away their well thought out logic to be crazy.

Then there are other parts that annoyed me. The amount of times that apes talked in the film, especially among one another (fuck me it’s surprising the first time all the way back in RISE but it works once… only once because after that you are not surprised and it’s almost comical to see the actors retract in horror when everyone who watched RISE are thinking ‘yeah, we knew that, how did it take you ten years to figure this out! FUCK!’) But I digress.

It was moments like these, along with other parts such as how apes can hit the broadside of a barn while holding an assault rifle with one hand with zero training, that broke the immersion that I felt throughout the first half of the movie.

As annoying as these things were, I have to make it clear that this was a good movie. For all it’s flaws it created characters (mainly apes) who I cared for and were interested in. It developed a power struggle that was believable and it gave good reason to fear the apes, while sticking to themes that were persistent throughout all Planet of the Apes movies such as the switching of roles between apes and humans, and the concerns of conflict between cultures based on racism.

Final Say – If you skipped to here, I don’t blame you. In the end DAWN is a good movie, not a great movie since it is plagued with instances of breaking away from good writing or repeatedly halting immersion but it’s still enjoyable. It has good character development with a strong multi layered conflict, some great action and stays true to the Planet of the Apes central themes.

7/10 – It’s ok and I got no plans friday.

Medicine and the Internet

Image

We all wish that we had free medical care out there somewhere somehow. Bring one person forward who would like to say “Yah, I don’t mind paying for medicine” and I would find that hard to believe.

When President Obama announced his health care bill which would later be deemed “Obamacare”, many people frolicked at the idea that so many unfortunate people who needed healthcare would receive it. However the idea that this would have been a system without flaw is a bit of a fevered dream.

First off the bill was and is incredibly complex, with things such as how they would levee certain taxes, even one where “Indoor tanning salons [would] charge customers a 10 percent tax” (Health-Care Changes to Start Taking Effect This Year (Correct), Shannon Pettypiece & Alex Nussbaum). What is even weirder is that the bill has left about 26 million people without the insurance that the bill originally promised. So even with a bill based around giving everyone an equal chance at healthcare, many are left without it.

This brings me to a one David Price, who after biking in Texas became injured after his bikes gears jammed on his way down a hill. David racked up a hospital bill of about $69,000, and with David being employed as a freelance editor this kind of hospital bill was more than he could he afford. If you want to read the article that has an interview with him click here, (note: includes graphic photos of his face after the crash).

Image

Enter YouCaring.com, a site that works much like Kickstarter.com, in that it has people ask for money within a certain timeframe and hopes that people can give enough money and reach the goal. The difference between this site and Kickstarter is that the site’s only purpose is to help people fund their medical treatments, whether it is with David and his accident or to help someone with gaining enough money for a life saving procedure.

Image

So what can this mean? Well much like how Kickstarter showed us that you didn’t need some big investor to get your dream off the ground or perhaps sell yourself to a large company, YouCaring could perhaps change how we pay for medical treatment. In concept it may not be that different than health care. In both cases its large numbers of people paying money so that others have a chance to pay for treatments they otherwise could not afford. The difference being that it cuts off the bureaucracy of the government and makes it so that all the money goes straight to people who need it. No need to pay for a lot of middlemen or employs with training to distribute the money since you distribute the money. So much with how Kickstarter made it so that you could gain financing for a project without needing to go through a big firm, YouCaring may be the start to people being able to pay for medical care through other caring citizens.

Moving Hollywood Finance

ImageA many a time have I sat down with my little brother and discussed the money that circulates through Hollywood. He finds that since a good amount of the companies spend multi-millions of dollars on movies that will make them multi-millions of dollars this gives him the go ahead to pirate movies. I stand against him acknowledging the amount of money going through Hollywood but I feel that you have to keep in mind that you may encourage others to begin pirating lower budget movies that individual filmmakers have crafted.

Then I came across this Kickstarter that was started by former Scrubs actor Zach Braff to produce his second movie. Now many know Braff as being the charming face of the show with his doctor character J.D. Not so long ago Braff made his own movie called “Garden State“, a movie directed and written by Braff himself. Image This next movie, “Wish I Were Here”, already has reached its goal. As Braff puts it in his video describing why he is asking of the community to contribute to his film, he wrote the film the way he likes it and doesn’t want any company, though willing to finance the film, to have final cut. This means that they would change the characters personalities or make the characters into what they wanted instead of Braff’s vision.

An article by Luke Buckmaster talks about how some criticized not just Braff but also the Kickstarter that inspired him, Veronica Mars, on how rich people should not have to ask for money. This form of finance is opening up a whole new way that people will be able to make movie. In the past the movie making process required many parties and lots of negotiating because of the money required. These new film makers are developing a new form of movie making were the writer and director have more freedom, as long as they have the backing of their fans.

Consume What You Want to Be

ImageSocial networks have always asked questions such as ‘what is your favorite band’ or ‘who is your favorite actor’. These questions help to shape your profile and give people things, people and entertainment that you identify with. When someone first friends you, they might take a peak at your profile and see you enjoy a certain movie. How much you enjoy that movie is based on your own personal taste. However people do not have insight into what your personal taste is, so though you might of found a particular film intriguing, it might not make you’re a full fledged fan of the movie.

While reading Hugo Liu’s “Social Networks as Taste Performances”, a thought came up when I came across the line “One is what one eats; or rather one is what one consumes.” (Social Networks as Taste Performances, Hugo Liu, pg 252). It speaks to truth that this relates to the old adage that whatever you may eat defines you as a person. Liu however moved this old adage over to the modern era and used it with out obsession with social networking sites.Image

These profiles we create for the social networks ask us to divulge information that helps to create a persona online. However, since we do not have the luxury of meeting with people online and giving them a benefit of meeting with us face to face, it can create some false expectations of people.

Some of the information could be outdated or could be somewhat inaccurate based on individual perception. So even if you said you liked an action movie three years ago, you might of outgrown and become tired with the genre since then, but because it is still in the list of movies you like, you could create a false pretense of being generally interested in that genre of movie that no longer interests you.

So if it is true that what we consume can define us, it may also be true that whatever is in our history or what people perceive we like can also define us by other individuals.

Gun Buyers Become the Gun Makers

 

Image

Your sitting in your home at night minding your own business when suddenly you hear a crash downstairs, you rush to the top of the stairs to hear strange men rummaging through your things. You know that you are now the victim of a robbery but what are you to do? You rush to your 3D printer and print out the parts to a pistol in order to scare these ruffians away.

Understandably this scenario has some holes in it such as how do you have a 3D printer and wouldn’t the robbers hear it. However the idea of printing out parts for a gun with a 3D printer is not that far fetched.

ImageNot that long ago a crypto – anarchist by the name of Cody Wilson wanted to make a statement about gun control with the recent developments of federal gun control from the US government after the Sandy Hook shootings. He did this by printing out a plastic version of the lower receiver to an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle using a 3D printer. Now a 3D printer is a device that when given a design from a 3D program, can make nearly anything out of plastic. For example, if you went on your computer and had 3D rendering software, you could make a three dimensional cube of an inch by an inch by an inch. You then could input the design into the printer and lone and behold you would have a three dimensional solid cube in your hands.

Image

Now apply this same process of designing an object on a computer and printing out a gun part. This is exactly what Wilson is doing and is then taking the code and allowing anyone to use the code free of charge.

So what does this mean? It creates a whole new dimension to the gun debate. The lower receiver is the only gun part of the AR-15 that needs a license for someone to own and use, all other parts can be bought online or in stores without a license. So if people can now make this part at home, they no longer need a license to obtain the part, only to legally use it. What’s more, Wilson has made high capacity magazines, which is a normal gun magazine that would hold more bullets than average. The issue with this was that this was one of the primary issues covered in the new gun laws passed by the government.

Image

What a possibility of this new found method of obtaining weapons is that it makes the gun user the gun developer now. Much like how the internet made the consumer the designer of media with the rise of sites of Youtube which thrives off of user made videos, gun users and owners can now not just print out the parts they need, but with this technology and the coming of stronger and more durable plastics, the gun owner could design his own personal weapon suited to his own tastes and body type. Even if you are able to hinder the distribution of gun designs for 3D programs online which would be a feat in itself, a gun owner who is competent enough with a 3D program could simply design his own weapon as long as he could gain access to a 3D printer.

We face an era now that faces the dilemma where the distribution of the internet does not just mean the distribution of knowledge, but also guns. If history has been indication, 3D printers will be around for a while with their success and will be come more sophisticated and easier to obtain. Thus we will see a future where if you are alone at nigh when your house is broken into, you may very be able to print out a Glock for your own protection.

For more information, here is a small thirty minute video that include interviews with Cody Wilson about his 3D guns parts.

 

Are we friends or ‘friends’?

Image

Your on Facebook for the tenth time today, a little message pops up telling you that John Doe wants to be your Friend. Whether you know John that well, are best friends with him or are just acquaintances does not matter as much as it use to, he is requesting to see if you consider him a friend.

Image

After reading “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Networks Sites” by Dana Boyd, there was a thought that came to mind. Is it possible that with the use of the word ‘Friend’ being used more frivolously than previously and that the use of this word is being used in context where the word is used on a site that documents and records your friendship from the point of acceptance leading us to accept the term friend as being nothing more than a loose piece of terminology?

The idea of what the word ‘Friend’ means, as point out by Boyd is that “In everyday vernacular, a friend is a relationship that involves some degree of mutual love or admiration.” (Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace, Dana Boyd, pg 3). Thus this idea that in order to be a friend with someone that it is a mutual process of enjoying one another equally.

However, with the rise of social networks and their use of the word ‘Friend’, it seems that this may not be the case. Boyd later points out that there are more than just one factor that constitutes what how people use the word ‘Friend’ whether it be with how people talk with one another behind each others back or how they address one another. But this still does not go into the idea that when you go on to a social network and accent a friend request that is from someone you don’t know, does that really constitute a friendship?

In reality the term Friend may be used to much with modern social networks to the point where it doesn’t really hold as much merit or value as it previously had. It is simply a term that we have grown accustomed to and have used more often than could be warranted.

VICE and Modern News

mq1

I’m sitting in my room with a friend of mine, we have just watched a short fifteen minute piece on the relations of Pakistan and India. We sit there shocked by the scale of the conflict, something that we knew little about, afterwards discussing what could and will happen for at least an hour. Each week we see a new edition of this series and each week we end up much the same, talking about these shocking topics that we were introduced to by VICE

When people think of modern news they associate with major newspapers and broadcasting stations such as The New York Times or the Boston Globe. However, recently I have been visiting a site that I discovered because of a new series I have been watching called VICE. Now the series VICE is on HBO so not everyone will have access to it, but their website is more than accessible to any and everyone. The site caught my attention with its interesting stories but also with its colorful and captivating pictures that dot the site when you first enter in the internet address. This is a site that prides itself on being different than other news outlets.French Military in Mali

The website itself covers a wide range of topics of both domestic and international. From war torn Mali and the French liberation and military operations to the recent Boston Bombing and Reddit’s involvement with catching the bombers. The site also explores music and pop culture, and even has a NSFW (not safe for work) section that lives up to its name.

Reddit
Reddit

So how is VICE different than other outlets? The first reason is that it is very honest, but that is a statement that any news outlet can make. The reason I add the very in there is because the website has addressed very graphic and very controversial topics while getting interviews with people involved with the topic. For example, when watching the HBO VICE, the show covered how the Taliban had been using and manipulating children into carrying bombs for them. After interviewing some of these children who had turned themselves in the group went and gained a rare interview with a high ranking Taliban leader to get the Taliban’s perspective on suicide bombings.

Another reason this group is different is that it is a mix of a newspaper and something else. The stories on the main page of the website are up to date with new stories everyday. Yet with its very up to date format, and though the site comes from a magazine, the site much like newspapers gain their profits from advertisement. VICE is a group that concentrates on Immersion Journalism, or in other words a sort of journalism that concentrates on individual experiences concerning an event, creating a much more personal view of events.

VICE, though similar in some ways to other forms of journalism, has strived to stay away from typical large corporation based media and moves to become more invested with serious topics that do not come up with large more well known news groups.

We the Consumers and our Co-workers

ImageI was perusing an article Writen by Frank Kleeman, G. Gunter Vob and Kerstin Rieder that is named “Under paid Innovators: The commercial Utilization of Consumer Work through Crowdsourcing”. In essence this article talks of the working customer with the potential and use of crowdsourcing. So what you may ask is this working customer? Is this customer myself? Well yes, and you are not being given the appreciation for your fine work employee.

So what do you do for this large company where you evidently are now employed? First off you are not actually employed anywhere, you simply are doing tasks that traditionally are reserved for employees of the establishment. For example this could be self-service, how instead of someone checking you out at the grocery store you do the task yourself. What this does is that it relieves the company of certain duties while at the same time entrusting that the customer can do these duties without the worry of fault. So what as happened is that “Consumers have become more like co-workers, who take over specific parts of a production process that ultimately remains under the control of a commercial enterprise.” (Under paid Innovators, Frank Kleeman, G. Gunter Vob and Kerstin Rieder, pg 7). So not only are you helping with the process of gaining the product, you are in a sense helping to build your own product that will be distributed by your bosses at the company.

More to the point, the idea of the working customer is to use this concept on such a large scale that you can achieve crowdsourcing, which is to say being able to use the crowd to create products that would be received. By giving your input as a working customer you are in turn helping to shift what the answers will be while companies utilize crowdsourcing.

Image

What’s that? You want to know some examples? Well thanks for asking that fantastic question random internet user! Take for example the numerous times that you were sitting on your nice comfy coach at home when suddenly an exciting commercial comes on about how YOU can help decide what the new flavor of Doritos may be.
This is an example of crowd sourcing, using the public to help build the product but within the control of the company.This is true with Lay’s campaign for a new flavor as well or with Mountain Dew having YOU decide what their new drink will be.

ImageSo with this there had to be a question. Are the consumers getting shortchanged for their effort. Granted yes the consumer may be only asked to click a button of their favor flavor but this request is within the confines of what the company is looking for which is to expand their number of flavors with some new ones that they thought up. So really what I want to ask is that is there a way that we the consumers could contribute more to our co-workers? Is there a way that we could contribute past what is just expected of us?

Human Computation – Computers and humans working together

Image
Robots and Humans working together

Recently I read an article written by Alexander J. Quinn and Benjamin B. Bederson titled Human Computation: Charting the Growth of A Burgeoning Field. Now human computation is how some of us interact with our computers and more importantly how us and our computers are able to do some amazing things. Now for those who may not know what human computation is, the simplest definition is one of how it refers to when a computer cannot solve a problem and needs a human to solve the problem for it based off of some of the work the computer has done.

So here’s an example of what human computation is that is given in the reading I mentioned above. There is a mobile application called VizWiz “that enables a blind person to take a picture of a situation in life and ask a question about it to working in the cloud (i.e. “Which of these doors is the men’s room?”)” (Human Computation, Alexander Quinn and Benjamin Bederson, pg4). The computer itself does not have the ability to decide which of the two doors is the men’s room, what the computer does have the ability to do is to take the photo, and distribute it the cloud to other people who do have the ability to tell which door is right. It is also noted that in the case of bad answers, pranks or mistakes that “the system solicits redundant answers” (Quinn and Bederson, pg4). This means that the computer and its users capability are based not merely on individual ability but rather the ability of the computer coupled with the ability of others.

We can see another example of this with how MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has been striving to help integrate a stronger relationship between humans and robots by doing training were instead of having humans being reviewed it’s the robots. The general idea of the program is to reverse robot and human roles, were instead of seeing the robot as doing what it can do while the human can change, the robot is the one that is being enhanced with impressive results.