The Last Jedi

I stopped going to Star Wars movies after the second one. I didn’t hate them, but clearly I didn’t have the devotion to keep up with the series.

Still I know a lot of folks out there, some very good friends of mine, love the franchise. But according to Michael Loftus this addition to the saga missed the mark big time. Save you money folks. If you feel compelled to see it, wait for your public library to show it.

N.B. There are loads of spoilers in the video.

If you’re hankering for some science fiction this Christmas season, check out Doctor Who: The Last Christmas.

If you want to see a film about heroism, watch Army of Shadows.

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12 Days of Christmas Stories, #4

Doctor Who Last Christmas is an outstanding episode, that’s funny, mind-bending, and emotionally satisfying. It delivers smart science-fi that makes you think about our dreams and our dreams within dreams. We see Clara missing her boyfriend Danny, who had died (I haven’t seen that episode. I’m quite behind in my Doctor Who viewing. As usual Peter Capaldi is a frantic, whip smart and yet annoying Doctor, who usually makes a good point when you think about it.

It’s got the gross monstrous villains you expect. The twists and turns that make the plot unpredictable and moments between Clara and Danny and the Doctor and Clara that provide emotion that’s more real than what’s on a lot of television. It does a lot of questioning our dream states that was compelling.

Oh, and Santa, Santa and elves with attitude and smarts feature prominently.

You can find it on Amazon or DVD. Give it a watch!

Obsolete Man

A classmate linked to this on her Library UX blog for a final reflection. It’s fascinating television, well written and acted. Yet, I don’t think you could broadcast this today. There’s no violence, edgy-ness or swearing. 😉

The Day the Earth Stood Still

1The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

My friend Kevin recommended I watch The Day the Earth Stood Still for my classic movie challenge. Though I typically don’t think much of sci fi movies, I gave this one a try and it won me over. Directed by Robert Wise, The Day the Earth Stood Still begins with a cheap-looking spaceship landing on earth in Washington DC. Despite the archaic look of the film, I got pulled in completely. Wise mesmerized me with this very cheap, plain spaceship with its clichéd passengers.

A crowd gathers around the ship and soon Klaatu, the archetypical spaceman emerges. Klaatu’s soon shot and his robot Gort defends his master using laser vision against the army. Klaatu’s taken to the army hospital and observed. Klaatu is played as a very serious, really supercilious figure who’s been given the task of letting the inferior earthlings know that now that they’ve gotten nuclear weapons their squabbling could hurt other planets and these other, higher beings won’t tolerate any activity that can upset their peace. His request to speak with all the world leaders is deflected. Things just don’t work that way on earth.

Klaatu escapes in a stolen business suit and finds a boarding house that will take him in. He befriends Bobby, a boy who’s impressed with Klaatu’s knowledge of science and around novelty. Bobby’s father’s passed away and his mother isn’t so sure about Klaatu, but she’s busy dating her perspective husband so Bobby’s got lots of free time to wander the city and go back to the spaceship with Klaatu. It is all rather hokey, but Klaatu is so smart and so above us. We know he’s right about our wars and “petty squabbles.”

Klaatu gives up on the world leaders and tries to get a renown scientist to organize a big powwow with all the top scientists in the world.

Unfortunately, Bobby’s father-to-be gets jealous of Klaatu and tells the army about him. Soon Klaatu must flee for his life and try to war the world that if we don’t stop our nuclear arms development, the rest of the universe will bake us to a cinder.

There are plenty of amusing quotes, such as:

Reporter: I suppose you are just as scared as the rest of us.
Klaatu: In a different way, perhaps. I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason.

George Barley: Why doesn’t the government do something, that’s what I’d like to know.
Mr. Krull: What can they do, they’re only people just like us.
George Barley: People my foot, they’re democrats.

All in all, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a fun movie and its dated aspects just add to the fun.

Fun Fact:

  • The Day the Earth Stood Still won a Golden Globe award in the category of “Best Film to Promote Global Understanding.” Who knew that was a category?
  • When Patricia Neal was making the film, she didn’t think much of it and was surprised to learn that it’s regarded as one of the best sci fi movies to date.

The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence stars as 'Katniss Everdeen' in THE HUNGER GAMES.

Since the second film in The Hunger Games series is out in China, I thought I’d check out the first film and possibly go to the theater for the second. The Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, a strong, brave young woman living in a bleak dystopia. In her country every year two young people are chosen to compete in a brutal competition for survival. Years ago there was an uprising and after it’s put down, the government starts these intimidating games to keep citizens in fear.

When Katniss’ 8 year old sister is chosen, she volunteers to take her place. It’s a rare occurrence that generates a lot of notice. The boy from the district is Peeta, a baker’s son who’s watched Katniss from afar for some time. Their relationship is icy and complex. Katiss and Peeta are taken to the capital city, which reminded me of a high octane Oz. Very sleek and modern in a colorful, yet cold way.

After some training, a make over and opening ceremonies the games begin. Mentors help Katniss and the others but it’s unclear whom to trust. Katniss is a strong woman and expert archer, but her opponents are tough and mostly brutal.

The city folk dress in vibrant colors, while the villagers are in drab grays and blues

The city folk dress in vibrant colors, while the villagers are in drab grays and blues

While Lawrence did a fine job with the role, the story itself left me cold. Many scenes are brutal as characters, who weren’t well drawn to begin with get slaughtered. While I understand the concept of dystopian sci fi and realize that these stories are allegories, I felt there wasn’t a strong message here. Also, the characters lacked development. I never knew as much as I wanted to know about Katniss. I felt I was teased so I would watch the next film. If I’m going to be exposed to people brutally killing each other, I insist on getting more of a reason. My guess is the pay off comes in the final book and that the answer would only satisfy younger viewers and readers, who haven’t seen as much history or as many Orwellian tales.

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was a much better film in this genre. Watch that (again). The book might be better as Katniss is often on her own in the film. Perhaps the book has a lot of her thoughts.

Library Wars

LIBRARY-WARS

Is an idea worth fighting for?

Library Wars is a Japanese film based on a manga series by Hiro Arikawa. The film focuses on the conflict between the Japanese Library System’s credo of supporting protecting intellectual freedom and the government’s Media Betterment Act of 1989 that legalizes censorship.

The story opens in 2019 when the Betterment Squad, a band of armed men all dressed in black suits, open fire in a library killing all but one librarian. Next the Betterment Squad descends on a bookstore where they pull all the improper books off the shelves and out of the hands of customers. One high school student, Iku Kasahara, hides an adventure book behind her back and which the Betterment Police soon find. A tug of war between Iku and the book police ensues. When the Library Defense Squad, a department of the library system that’s armed and can shoot to warn, arrive one of its soldiers comes to the girl’s aid. He approves the book for library purchase. Immediately this soldier becomes the girls hero. Iku plans to follow in his footsteps.

Years later Iku joins the Library Defense Force. She’s an energetic, able, idealistic recruit who soon becomes the sole woman to make it into their elite force. Yet she does so despite Dojo, her drill sargent’s harsh treatment of her.

The film’s got an upbeat didactic tone, as many manga do. Itu is a typical genki (i.e. Energetic in a very Japanese way) woman. She’s easy to root for as she has the right mix of skill, idealism and flaws.

Though Dojo’s unfair to Itu, we forgive him because his tough treatment is a result of his idealism and eventual love for this rookie.

Library Wars is a fun film with a message. The message is put out there rather blatantly, but I found I could excuse that as I don’t often see intellectual freedom promoted to the culture at large. Like manga do, it makes an esoteric idea accessible and can promote discussion of big ideas like intellectual freedom amongst us ordinary folk. While the film should fall flat for its message, it doesn’t because you sense the characters do believe that intellectual freedom is worth dying for.

Amazing, huh?