Lost Infrastructure of the 20th Century

Horrific picture from Larry on ADDN:

Now I'm wondering what other kinds of infrastructure of my yout' no longer exist. Growing up there were always old-timer stories of "oh we used to have horses and play hoop-and-stick! A live theatre show cost a penny!", but they never had useful tech and then lost it.

Mentioned earlier today: Party lines. Rotary phones. Phones only owned by Ma Bell. Landlines. Telephone girls.

Newspaper vending boxes, probably all owl nests now. Newspapers; I used to get a weekly big city paper, alt press paper, and sometimes a daily trash paper (USA Today & the like, for mediocre perspective, and I could do the crossword in <30 minutes). Print magazines, used to be the monthly delivery of all information. Books. I say I'd miss books, but honestly I buy only ebooks now, I have thousands of books in my iBooks & Dropbox, a much smaller physical bookshelf now.

Card catalogs are gone. I spent so much time with a little golf pencil, index cards, and flipping thru the catalog looking for a book, writing down Dewey numbers, then go hunting the shelves. Microfiche. Reference/research librarians. Libraries are under attack from the usual suspects aka the GOP, maybe they won't make it.

Vinyl and cassette tapes have made a temporary, improbable, and really stupid comeback, but once the fad ends they'll vanish forever. SONY MiniDisc. 8-Tracks. Reel to reel (had a brief fad again after Pulp Fiction). VHS (a few online art projects like FORGOTTEN_VCR and RedLetterMedia's "Best of the Worst" aside). I have to check if my VCR still works.
Do you even know how to be kind? R E W I N D
DVDs. There's just streaming you can't even keep, and Blu-Ray with parasitic Java programming, you can't just watch a movie without it spying on you online.

Television. Apparently there's still non-streaming, "cable" and "over the air" (but digital, not analog signal), constantly NCIS and "reality TV" with ads every 10 minutes selling laxatives, painkillers, and Gold Bond Medicated Powder. But that can't last long, all the Boomers will be dead soon and nobody else cares. Projected movies. Plays in theatres. Vaudeville. Nickelodeons (not the kids series).

Videogame arcades. Pinball machines. Computers that boot up instantly and are useful when you turn them on.

Radio. It's just right-wing hate speech radio, and a few oldies stations. And "oldies" now means "greatest hits of the '70s, '80s, '90s, and today" as one near me says; but don't worry, they don't really play anything past 2000. That's a biz model headed for death. Radio dramas have been dead for 70 years. Rock & Roll has been dead a while, there's still old bands playing it, but not many new.

Malls. If you can order everything online, why go "shop" and maybe hook up with a cute person?

Schools are obviously a bad idea. Chalkboards are gone; nobody's beaten erasers or choked down chalk dust in years. One-room schoolhouses died out when schools became about training industrial workers to sit down and take it, and now we obviously can't cluster up kids. Individual education, or none at all, just like in the dark ages.

Work offices are going to be gone soon. It's easier to deliver to customers (using underpaid gig workers, or soon drones), and work from home with chat and videoconferencing.

Trains and trolleys are long gone, except as tourist attractions. Once the schools and offices remove the need to drive around a city every day, it's gonna get awful quiet. No more cars, highways, streets, street lights, skyscrapers, planes. Ships are probably still needed to deliver from factories to target continent. Zeppelins could make a comeback, they use less fuel.

The Earth will go dark again. Little campfires as we all live out in the boonies with a single glowing rectangle or a cable into our skulls. Global economy reduced to swarms of drones delivering goods from robotic factories, until the owners, now on Mars, shut them down and all the lights go off.

What I'm Watching: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds S1E04

I'm not gonna post every ep. S1E03 was a nice normal medical disaster ep, TOS had a bunch of those, every planet's full of plagues. Backstory for Number One and a bit for Dr M'Benga.

S1E04 is a little more involved.

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Why are they waiting to the final weeks to deliver AIR FILTERING to a shake-and-bake colony? How about you plan ahead a year and then there's no JIT emergency?

"I'm not going to let some doctor inside my head to try and fix me. I'm not broken, I'm fine." —Someone who is the opposite of "fine"

Oh, it really is Acheron LV-426 down there. Including Fig "Newt"-on. "The monsters come out and click at night. Mostly." Kid is never seen again. I really wanted the Gorn to get on board, have a crew hunt in lower decks, Fig escapes and Number One comes in with an exoskeleton and BFG "get away from her, you BITCH!" Anyway. We still haven't seen a Gorn.

What we do get is a submarine battle against a destroyer group.

Singh: "I will make that adjustment. But I will not lie to them." Ash: "…about their chances. But, they have my sympathy."

"Ortegas, full stop": You can't full stop in an orbit, inside a gas giant. Newton's physics still apply here.

It's the Galileo Two (the same shuttle survives 10 years?!) Never send all your good officers on a suicide mission. And don't do therapy when you're supposed to be scouting! The Gorn apparently still use signal lanterns and morse code on their FTL starships; keep banging the rocks together, lizards, you'll invent encrypted radio someday.

"Suit up, strap in", says a man on a bridge with no seatbelts. I wouldn't even want them to develop seatbelt or non-exploding control panel technology now, they never had it on TOS, but don't lampshade it, maybe?

The actual ship battles are pretty good; they've learned a little bit to fight in 3D space, to think about the ships as spaceships and not wet navy battlecruisers. It's not perfect, their physics is total nonsense, but it's so much better than almost any Star Trek's ship fights.

★★★★☆ Either lean a little more into the Alien ripoff, or more into Das Boot.

What I'm Watching: Love+Death+Robots S3

Previously, S1 part 1, S1 part 2, S2.

Short season this time. No spoilers?

  • Very Pulse of the Machine: Beautiful, adapted from a fine story by Michael Swanwick, which you should read everything he writes, especially Vacuum Flowers. ★★★★★
  • Mini-Dead: Horrific subject run at high speed and tilt-shift makes it adorable. ★★★★½
  • Mason's Rats: Mercilessly bloody, esp if you have any sympathy for rats. I do not, but some kind of accommodation with the enemy must be made. Neal Asher story. ★★★★½
  • Kill Piss Kill: Call of Duty garbage that starts with an asshole pissing at the camera and gets worse. Didn't finish, hate it, everyone involved should be composted. ☆☆☆☆☆
  • In Vaulted Halls Entombed: Call of Duty vs bugs & Cthulhu. Writing's a little better than the shit medium deserves. Alan Baxter, who no shit calls himself "Warrior Scribe", "The Lord of Weird Australia". Wanker, but not the worst modern Mythos story. ★★★☆☆
  • Jibaro: Mount & Blade battle between a jewelled Siren and a bunch of knights… but one is deaf. And you want what you can't control. Excellent illustration of D&D encumbrance penalties. Very pretty. Written/directed by Alberto Mielgo. ★★★★☆
  • Swarm: The Bruce Sterling story! Kind of overly gross, dark, uncanny valley graphics, but the aliens look great, the Nest is nearly complex enough to be the Swarm. Doesn't flinch from the story ending. ★★★★½
  • Bad Travelling: Neal Asher again. Sailors deal with a bad case of crabs. Good story, CGI looks potato-y like the old videogame Summoner, characters except the navigator are moral & personality voids. It's the 3rd of 3 short stories in the Jable Sharks world, but only one adapted. ★★★★☆
  • Three Robots: Exit Strategies: Scalzi tries to be politically correct. He will be first to be killed and eaten after the apocalypse, as we all hate smug jerkoffs. I almost appreciate this one for letting my contempt for Scalzi reach a new low. ☆☆☆☆☆

This season there's not a single female writer, 2 directors are women, but one is of that CoD shit, earns a demerit to the female side.

What I'm Watching: Star Trek SNW S1E2

Second episode greatly improved on the first. I guess I'm subscribed and watching this. Nobody is more surprised that Mark liked a modern Star Trek than Mark.

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Mostly liked.

The Captain's dinner was bad. A) I really really dislike their "casual" being mostly 20th C stuff, obvs Pike's old-fashioned, but it's too retro. TOS set a clear standard that the fashion & music & entertainments of the future are NOT just rehashed pre-apocalypse stuff. B) Ortega's gutter trash look is completely inappropriate for Starfleet, even casual. James T. Kirk wouldn't put up with that kind of disrespect to the service. C) The grilling/hazing of Uhura is poor team-building, but also everyone goes on at length with bad writing nobody would ever say. Very cringey first act.

The comet/alien artifact is fantastic, though. Great design for it. Alien thing that is actually alien and inscrutable. A seemingly simple problem, in TOS it would probably be a Prime Directive violation, but they just set up the PD last episode, so here they can just fix it. Except it's not that fixable.

Uhura gets to use linguistics (kind of a useless skill when you have a Universal Translator) and singing, tho she mostly hums. But she can carry a tune. Sam Kirk gets to be "the guy we zap or knock around because he can't die until TOS" for this series. Spock and Singh just stand around and be useless, but Spock & Uhura (and a bit with Nurse Bleach-Blonde Chapel) actually are funny, there's good writing here. Did they borrow writers from Lower Decks?

The alien menace is kind of ridiculous, bad face on the screen, weird shapeship that doesn't make a lot of engineering sense. For "advanced" aliens they have incredibly bad aim and weak, standard-issue plasma torpedo weapons. In Star Fleet Battles terms, they're like one of the minor races, no new tech but a bigger ship, any good pilot can beat them with a stock Heavy Cruiser.

The natives on the planet are barely seen, little fake camp pounding grit, hard to believe there's millions of them. If they're the reason you're doing this, at least show something sympathetic.

I really hope this doesn't turn into "every alien thing has TIME POWERS", because I'm annoyed by that already.

★★★½☆ but keep in mind I'd rate all of TNG, DS9, VGR, ENT, PIC, & STD ★☆☆☆☆ to ★★☆☆☆ with only rare ep exceptions, so this is some high praise from me.

What I'm Watching: Star Trek Strange New Worlds

So I haven't watched much of Star Trek: Discovery (STD, how unfortunate), the incompetent captain should've been fired… out a photon torpedo tube. There's apparently backstory to this series in it? But I'm gonna go ahead anyway. Better dead than Disco. And really I disdain all official Star Trek past TOS, TAS, movies I-VI (weird they never made V), and Star Trek: Lower Decks. So a new series is pushing a big stone uphill to even get me to watch it.

Theme song is far too mellow, but at least it's not ENT. The scenes with tightly packed walls of "asteroids" make me annoyed, but you know, dumbass visual designers gonna dumbass, may have nothing to do with the show.

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"Pike" is ominously brooding, call to adventure rejected, manly man gonna ride his horse in the snow, gotta go save the girl, yada yada. In reality, Anson Mount is a Confederate sympathizer inbred hillbilly "men's rights" garbage person, who I honestly don't expect to survive a season without some horrible racist/sexist/homophobic scandal. There's just no way. But let's pretend this jackass can keep his shit together for a while.

Security is a girl named La'an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong). That's literally like naming your kid Adele Hitler. Khan was a mass-murdering genocidal tyrant just 100-ish years before this, nobody's going to have his name. And in previous (later) Star Trek continuity, genetically engineered people like Bashir are hated freaks because of the Eugenics Wars. In the continuing saga of never casting Indians as an Indian tyrant and his cloned descendants, they found a Chinese-English actress. At least it's not honkie Benzedrine Crumpledpants this time.

Doctor M'Benga at least knows what Singh is, and the young and horribly bleached-blonde Nurse Chapel. M'Benga might actually not be bad; the character was in a couple TOS episodes.

Spock & T'Pring are horny young people, formal but not flipping between emotionless/raging hormonal maniacs as they ought to be, but nothing past TOS has ever done Vulcans well. Meh. Spock is played passably but uncertainly by Gregory Peck's grandson, but the kid really doesn't seem to know what he's doing.

Young Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) is… this is petty, but I don't like her look, buzzed-off hair, doesn't fit with Nichelle Nichols in any way. The actress does sing (but IC hasn't had a chance yet), but AFAICT from Youstubes only covers of alt/pop songs ("Isn't it Ironic?") We'll see. Actually a lot of the crew have really shitty Zoomer hairstyles, mullets and fake cornrows and such. Also very modern jumpsuit outfits on most, instead of the mini-skirts & overly tight slacks of the era. This is visually going to age very very badly.

Transporters are used for some tricky stuff that shouldn't be possible for at least a century or two later, they are super unreliable death machines at this time. Maaagic transporter medicine delivery, no.

Nobody has ever actually read their mission briefing, they just showed up in a rush and are waiting for the boss man to tell them what to do. This is not reasonable para-military procedure. I compare it very unfavorably with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where the unfinished refit of the Enterprise and new crew are handled perfectly.

The actual mission, all 15-20 minutes of it, is pretty good TOS-style shenanigans. First contact with asshole planet, ridiculous genetic hacking disguises that wear off when it's inconvenient, sneaking/fighting thru an alien building which is just some brutalist design community college or business center. A preachy speech fixes everything (but blaming America for WW3 instead of, say, Russia? Silly but consistent with the worst eps of TNG).

The aliens have no personalities, no motivations. The leader woman with no name has a brief self-justification, stiffly read. Back in the day, aliens got names, personalities, and plots of their own. I understand actually giving a shit about your job is hard now.

The scout ship that starts this thing is weird. It's a Hermes-class scout ship, which is just an undergunned Saladin-class destroyer; anyone who's played Star Fleet Battles will have destroyed entire fleets of these things, they're cheap but very low on warp power. There should be a crew of dozens to run that, but there's 3 people, and only one of them can even talk when they're rescued? Who ships a main character and two line-less redshirt extras on first contact?

Later, preposterously grimdark backstory for Noonien-Singh, partly told earlier in the most awkward and inappropriate way possible, possibly because the script didn't get edited at all, so much as thrown at a wall. Why not cannibalism and beating her father to death with his own shoes, too? The Gorn don't lay eggs and especially not in "breeding sack" animals, they give live birth, and also hadn't been contacted in this time, Kirk's fight in "Arena" was first contact. Oops all around. Maybe she just had a bad weekend in Manchester and thought they were Gorn.

Pike has his own grimdark backstory and foreknowledge of the wheelchair but not The Cage, his dialogue is often pretentious and slow, but every captain's got their own style. Maybe he'll loosen up.

Not as terrible as Star Trek Discopants or Picknose, I didn't hate anything just disappointed with a lot of the casting, set & costume design, inattention to continuity. In 7 days, I can watch E2, and will decide if I'll keep Paramount+++ for another month or shut it off immediately.

Alastair Reynolds Notes on Revenger

And now Reynolds has some photos of his journals developing Revenger, especially interesting for the speeds of the ships & worldlets, layouts of baubles, illustrations of Clackers and Skulls (I had pictured more of a dragon skull, this is more whale-like). The illustrations of the ships as fish is bizarre; I had pictured more like sailing ships but rounded, no top deck.

What I'm Reading: Rudy Rucker's Million Mile Road Trip, Juicy Ghosts

I read MMRT late last year, just finished JG.

  • Million Mile Road Trip: Teen slackers behave more like '60s-80s teens than Millennials or Zoomers; they're actually independent, run around doing their own thing with only minimal parental influence. Zoe's a jazz trumpeter, boyfriend Villy wants to be a rock star and has a big ugly purple car (I bet he does). Weird subtly non-Human cousin Maisie, and UFO cult are introduced. Aliens come out of nowhere, as they so often do in Rudy's books. There's another, bigger Universe, "Mappyworld", and the aliens want the slackers, and Villy's little brother Scud as tagalong, to do a "million mile road trip" (title ref 30-ish pages in).

It gets weirder from there, as usual. The cosmology and physics are bizarre, more like one of Greg Egan's math-Universe books without the math. Strange aliens are everywhere, UFOs aren't at all what we normally think, and a super difficult quest. Lot of "teen romance", sex without understanding the consequences (not judgmental, just literally they don't understand what happens!)

Entirely normal interaction:

"Via my teep slug, I wit your brother was laid low by a Freeth." says Filkar. "And you took a coward's way out. Here's solace: oft a Freeth seeks only to stun, and not to slay. Let us therefore suppose that Villy is hale. How do you regain face? Return bearing the benison of a teep slug."
Scud goes for it. The slug is an add-on. A power-up. He extracts the dusty spice jar from his jeans and drops a caraway seed onto flat Filkar. The gingerbread man bucks and shudders, absorbing the seed's fragrant biochemical essence and, very clearly, feeling the better for it.
—Rudy Rucker, "Million Mile Road Trip"

But then eventually it falls apart, you can't actually narrate a million miles of driving (or flying), it's just too much. The book could be 1000 pages instead of 400-ish and it wouldn't be enough. You can see the exact paragraph where Rudy went "uuuuuuhhhhh… wtf now" and basically skips to the ending. The final Boss Fight is hard to follow, in spaces without space, time that doesn't pass, and everything's resolved too fast.

It's so rushed in parts, and so overly ambitious it can't be complete. The characters would be better a little older, On the Road was about Jack Kerouac's adventures in his 20s (and written in his '30s), making the sex, drugs, jazz, and murders less skeevy.

The book web page has notes with a lot more background material that didn't make it in.

So, I like this, I want to love it, but it falls short of that. ★★★★☆

  • Juicy Ghosts: Go read his speculative-science-newage-philosophy book The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul and the short story Juicy Ghost on his Complete Stories page. You've now read 90% of the novel. There's a few new characters introduced after the assassination of "Treadle" (Trump), and the biotech world kritters are interesting (but sort of recycled from Freeware). The biotech houses are neat, but never explained in much detail. There's a bit of a war scene, and some infiltration/hacking, and everyone wins yay. The Notes on Juicy Ghosts are better than the book; and Rudy's paintings help a lot, I wish he'd put more of those in the e-books, instead of just the line sketches that also work in print. ★★☆☆☆ can't really recommend reading the novel.

What I'm Watching: Severance

Well, it's on TV+ which normally I treat like a sub-Disney® quality back-alley shithole gutter of the most boring shows ever conceived by AI to lull Humans into submission before mulching the species (that popular one? That's the one I mean.), but Severance seems fun! Very Office Space, and The Office, and Better Off Ted, crossed with Paycheck (best Baffleck movie; mediocre PK Dick adaptation; worst John Woo), but even more brain fucking and crying. Also some of the Stargate SG-1 episode "Beneath the Surface".

A woman (Britt Lower) wakes up in a windowless underground office, doesn't know who she is. A man (Adam Scott, very punchable face but I'm not sure where I've seen him before) cries and then goes to work and is chipper and kind of pointless. The office job is pointless, maybe relentlessly stupid. Maybe it'll make more sense later? Their outside lives are frankly not that good for the kind of pay you'd expect to get for taking this job.

The office maze is driving me a little crazy. I'm pretty sure it's just a grid. They walk & talk right, right, right, left and are somehow in a different corridor. But they all look the same. The "break room" and "wellness room" are just like the "break pods" at one corp job I had, where it was almost literally a punishment to be sent there if you were having a rough time of it.

The office procedures are repetitive nonsense. The coffee is Rwandan. Literally blood coffee.

The biggest irony of this show is that it looks and acts like Apple already does. If Timmy Apple could do this to people, he absolutely would. Forcibly. With drill holes in the skull. He's already threatening people with their jobs or coming into the UFO-shaped office to catch plague, what's a little endless torture in a fluorescent-lit Hell? How did this get past their own self-awareness and PR?

Also doesn't help that they're promoting in pre-roll fucking ads wecrashed, a documentary about WeWork's cult, rise, and fall, which looks excessively like Severance. This isn't really an SF show, it's just how corporate workplaces already are. The cyberpunk dystopia of my yout' is here.

I'm not a fan of the episode length, nearly an hour. Half inside, half outside; but at least so far the inside is fun, light, gets to the point and tells the story, while the outside is long meandering talks with people that drag on for an endless eternity with maybe a minute of plot. I'm going nuts sitting thru this junk. Half length, and it'd be twice as good, as I often say about these bloated streaming waste-of-hours. I don't get it; there's no advertising, so why make it take forever?

TV+ continues to be the absolute worst app in a long cycle of shitty apps from Apple. I select the show in the main TV+ window, but can't see the title of each ep. Guess the next one's the first unlabelled video blob? Then it opens a player window. Of course you can't even screenshot, I have to use my iPhone camera if I want to take notes or something (like the weirdo keyboard, or the partial floor map). I'm surprised Apple hasn't embedded a "don't take pictures of this" signal in the show. Yet. Just wait until they issue Eyes with content filters.

★★★★☆ so far, aside from the pain in the ass of watching it on TV+.

What I'm Watching: The Adam Project

Time Runner (1993) ripoff, Flight of the Navigator crossed with Last Action Hero. Little kid with smart mouth learns that there is no justice for nerds in school; but then he gets a magical adventure thru time with his dumber but buffer adult self (Ryan Reynolds) to meet his father (Mark Ruffalo), and the kid looks like neither. Mom (Jennifer Garner) is hot but vapid. Future wife (Zoe Saldana) is hot and deadly.

Occasionally busts out a bit of personal growth and philosophy of how we deal with loss and anger. Usually interrupted by scarface mook, villain, and a bunch of masked stormtroopers showing up, and wouldn't you guess, the stormtroopers die and disintegrate, while named characters die offscreen. There's some blood and a wound at the beginning, which is immediately forgotten and nobody uses guns with bullets again until the end, when there's no blood from such bullets, weirdly inconsistent tone going from Unforgiven to Roy Rogers. Mostly they fight with shitty lightsaber ripoffs.

The props and sets are CGI nonsense with glowing blue lights everywhere. The soundtrack's trying to repeat the success of Guardians of the Galaxy with '70s-80s rock, but doesn't really let the songs play loud & long enough. They say the future's bad, but don't show us anything of it except space jets and a few props. Very little attempt at worldbuilding, it's just a bunch of sets for fights to happen in.

Utterly inoffensive, dumb, overly cute kids/family show, and should really have just been PG instead of PG-13 for its main audience.

★★☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Matrix 3 Revolutions

Finally rewatching Matrix Revolutions, and boy is my suspension of disbelief in this bullshit tired. I would watch Resurrections again now, but it's no longer on HBOmax, so I guess it's time to kill my subscription again. These short play windows suck.

It's weird there's still pay phones in 2005. Best I can figure they went from 2M in 1997 to <100K in 2009.

I get that Sati is a tiny child/program, so "Trainman" is a fine name for her to use, but the word adults would use is "Engineer" or "Driver".

"I've never heard a program speak of love", dude, you can make a program speak anything. You do it all the time! LOVE by David H. Ahl But they really missed an opportunity here; the program that thinks it's a person's name is "Rama Kandra", which is so close… if he was only an actuarial program named RAM who believed in The Users.

But, speaking of love, there's 5 relationships? Neo & Trinity, of course, who don't really get much time in this film, they're very moved-in-girl/boyfriend, so it's less 24/7 humping than the second film. Sati's parents, who are just NPC programs. There's Zee & Link, which is somewhat ruined by the very mechanical Nona Gaye replacing the late Aaliyah as Zee so she has no actual on-screen interactions with anyone; Link seems more into the idea of her than the actual girl. Allegedly Niobe & Locke, but they have zero chemistry, Locke clearly only gets off on losing and being whipped by the council. And the Merovingian and Persephone are back together, which is surprising and she doesn't even hint at her earlier treachery; I guess even programs forgive all for a nice rack.

I think about this stuff to kill time here. Plot resolution of first 24 minutes: Neo waits for a train and his girlfriend has to pick him up.

Every scene drags on too long. Oracle could be resolved in a couple minutes. Cruising home "nobody can fly a mechanical tunnel!" but the tunnel's plenty wide enough, it's like a street. Dock fight is an hour of flashing lights.

Why don't the gun exoskeletons have armor? Like, even a stupid half-barrel welded around them with a faceplate would make them invulnerable to the dumb squids.

How is it Neo takes so long to understand that the only "person" who ever calls him "Mr Anderson" is the "person" he's facing? If he was The One, he should be like, "YOU!", and leap to attack.

Most of us when we're gut-wounded and impaled in multiple places, go "holy shit this hurts", they don't have a quiet 10-minute monologue about feelings. More Reservoir Dogs, less Lifetime Special Movie.

I prefer mud wrestling with bikinis, even if it's Keanu & Hugo.

At least things get accomplished in this two-hour-long drag of a film. A competent editor would've taken 15-30 minutes of 2, 40-60 minutes of 3, and made a single good, short movie.

There's nothing new in this movie, not even stealing from newer movies or tech, it's just iterating out the scenario of the first movie and almost completely ignoring the second, but it's mostly competent. It only suffers from nobody being able to tell the Warchowski Siblings "no" in the editing room.

★★★½☆ I think this is the second-best of the series.