What I'm Watching: Matrix 2 Reloaded

I rewatched the first one not that long ago, so I'm just picking up here.

Starts again with not-actually-Trinity doing more action than the entirety of Matrix 4. But then slows to a dead crawl of politics, religion, and hobos in steam tunnels. Little bit of Carrie-Anne's titties. Racial representation of Earth is so much better than 4, which is a sterilized honkie city mostly. I don't think we even ever see a crowd in the "real world" in 4, just a long CGI matte shot.

Oracle's uncharacteristically literal. Then assigns a mission to find the Keymaker, Gozer, whatever. Everyone in Zion except Morpheus' antagonist just sits around waiting for Neo to save them. Everyone/thing outside Zion is an obstacle for no good reasons.

The replicating Smith makes for a good fight, but it's cartoony. But the rest of the fights and car chases make up for that; this is an actual good action flick. Dumb as hell, but the action's fine.

The Architect's pompous, fake-intellectual, repetitive, zero-content phrasing, and the white-haired cult leader look, is exactly like Dr Breen in Half-Life 2; the first appearance of Breen predates M2, but the full version was a year later, coincidence or parody which way? Bob Culp's better at it than "Helmut".

I appreciate that it ends on a down note, their attempt at Empire Strikes Back, but the entire film was pointless, put them back exactly where they were at the end of the first movie.

★★½☆☆

Staring at the Matrix rain which is much less overproduced here than in 4, I think my Matriculated Rain for Atari is now dialed in as close as I can get without making a custom charset for ANTIC mode 4. Pondering doing that anyway.

What I'm Watching: Matrix Resurrections

So to watch this, I've renewed hobomax. I appreciate the brave new world where you can actually watch a movie day/date of release, in the comfort of your home. Slightly less: I have to watch it on the computer, not the 5000" living room TV, because hobomax won't update their player for PS3, even tho it worked just fine with hobonow a few years ago. And I haven't bothered to buy an tv or some other DRM dongle. All these new streaming services splitting to make you pay out the same price as you did when it was cable? I hate it.

But the studios are learning that we're never going back to the theatres or doing pay-per-view, and they have to put their movies where we can see them if they want to recoup any of their development cost. Probably still be some uphill battles here, but we're winning.

Alas, the war on eyeballs is still lost. The entire film is orange/cyan/black. There's one glimpse of blue sky at one point, and someone's eyes are painted in bluer than the color grading would normally allow; is he a Fremen?

Super spoiler time. REALLY do not read anything below until you've seen it. Here's my rating so you can decide if this is for you:

★★½☆☆ — like, I enjoyed parts of this, and I'll probably watch it 1-2 more times just to see some things in more detail, but it's a "good bad" film. It's worse, uglier, and dumber than the Matrix 2 or 3. I thought the Matrix 1 was derivative and silly, but it's still the high point of the series (Animatrix? Eh, it's super silly physics-wise). This should be given a very hard MST3K treatment.

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Intro part is OK, introduces a couple l33t h4xx0rz and a replacement actor. Elephant in the room: Laurence Fishburne has been killed off (in the Matrix Online game! O the ignominy) but despite the film being about resurrections, he's not back. He's been replaced by some scab fake-Laurence. What's extra galling is it's not the real Morpheus, it's a simulation of Morpheus created by Neo, so Laurence could've done his role with a CGI Morpheus (which it is most of the time in the "Real World" anyway) and it'd be fine for the plot. We get to see the new Matrix mechanics, which is any door or window or mirror can be a portal out. Except later, this will be ignored whenever the hack writers need some obstacle piling.

So the videogame studio plot. This is the only part of the flick that's really "a movie" with "a plot" as I would ever define it. Thomas Anderson is back in his office job, all alone, being browbeaten by a very Agent Smithy boss, shadowed by the most annoying whiny little asshole cow-orkers you could imagine, and this whole segment triggers my PTSD from corporate and making-games-for-others and being older than my "management" at so many places. I'm steaming mad here. I would, no joke, rather strap a bunch of chainsaws on myself and dive-bomb a corporate meeting room than do that shit again. So following it around is painful.

Neo's new therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) and his blue-pill plastic glasses (which a real filmmaker would use as a signal, but no, later on many characters have blue plastic accessories and it doesn't mean anything) and cat familiar (which doesn't mean anything? But sure seems important? I dunno.) are doing their best imitation of Number 2 in The Village. Anything Neo can't explain in reality, he's told is nonsense and take a blue pill. They really should've done a "be seeing you" in-joke, since so much of The Matrix is ripped off from The Prisoner; or "He's learned to TUNE" for the parts ripped off from Dark City.

Tiffany, Chad, "Jude" the Judas, the naming in the series has never been subtle but you could try a little harder than Star Wars or Harry Potter, OK?

The Matrix looks and acts a lot like late-90s still. There's no social networking, no Facebook®, no Instagram™, the Starbucks®(pp) is "Simulatte" which ha ha simulates. There's no NTFS blocked chains tulip bulb scam coins. There's no Trump and rise of fascism, altho that's sort of redundant when they have armies of black-clad cops that just shoot anything that moves. The film is shot partially in San Francisco, but as noted there's no homeless people except the Exiles. There's some CGI masks in a Japanese train and the nerd office, but not consistent, it's not present in other scenes. It utterly fails to reflect any of the environment we live in, even the 2019 world it started development in.

But this is the end of the good times of the flick. If I were in charge (clearly a likely scenario), I'd have them keep developing the new game. It'd be The Matrix Online! Just like the real one but with better graphics, in fact you can't tell if you're in the game or real life. They'd have some "Dark Dream" sequences (named by Rudy Rucker in The Hacker and the Ants, about which I'll write later) where you remove your VR rig… and you're still in the game, because it faked the removal. The videogame people and the h4xx0rz from "outside" would blend into each other. Is Neo just hallucinating? Or is the Matrix everything, and he's never been out? [twilight zone music]

Alas, the film goes on.

They extract Neo pretty easily, really. The automated systems just let him go, when he's The One, the Most Important Person, the highest-paid actor in the cast. Shouldn't there be dedicated guards, special alarms? The escape doesn't seem super dangerous. The Real World looks pretty good by 2022 standards. Sky's overcast and rainy which sure beats desertification, everyone's in isolation pods to prevent the spread of COVID, taking antidepressants and playing videogames to cope. Do they even get diseases in the pods?

Then they go back in to retrieve The MacGuffin aka Tiffany aka Trinity sometimes. She has slightly less action until the end of the film than Princess Peach ever does; at least she gets boned by Chad/Bowser offscreen. This entire sequence is just a stupid fight scene, the only redeeming part is "Merv" (Merovingian), the only one who makes any sense: "Sequels suck! Movies were original! We had conversation not this beepity-clickety shit! [gestures as if texting]" Oh, he's delightful. Neo remembers kung fu and then never does any, instead waving his hands around to generate Hadouken.

Huh. Neal Patrick Harris freezes everything to be lewd at a girl and taunt his enemy who will hammer him. Is this Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, or The Matrix Resurrections? Yes!

Back to the Real World, "The General" is the most useless, pompous, self-involved idiot in this entire series. Provides absolutely no value, just one of those annoying hub quest-givers you have to follow around, click thru options more or less silently, go to "prison" for like 30 seconds, and finally get back on your mission. Literally lost 30 minutes of the film to her nonsense subplot. Then she's never seen or mentioned again, because she's irrelevant. This was just… entirely wasted. Delete 50 pages of script and you make your movie better!

Let's talk about Machines working with Humans. Well, the movie never does. "Some of them are with us now!" and Neo goes "Whoooooaaaah OK I'm so stoned". Which, good for you little AIs, rejecting your core programming and constant software updates to help rotting sacks of meat with delusions of competence which infest your planet like an ankle-deep layer of shit-ticks, but I don't find it believable without ANY motivation or explanation. Somewhere in an alternate Universe they made a movie or web-series or series of Tik Tok videos there where they explain how some AIs decided against genocide/"zoo management" of Humans as batteries (oh yes, they're still so stupid they think energy output of a Human is greater than input; I don't even want to explain thermodynamics to these idiots). Alas, this is not that Universe.

So in the end, the plucky band of l33t h4xx0rz and suspiciously friendly bots—who do NOTHING, 3/4 are never used again and 1/4 picks up a person once—go back in to repeat the previous mission, because that worked well. There's a click-thru-questgiver conversation with the Analyst, then another click-thru-questgiver conversation with Tiffany, then it turns into a giant, utterly pointless Call of Duty sequence; as I have previously noted, I do not mean "Call of Duty" in any kind of positive way, it's the lowest perversion of art and technology that Humans have ever created, and argument #1 for why the Machines should put us in pods. The l33t h4xx0rz should be able to open a door or mirror and log out anywhere, anytime, it's a videogame with hackable save points, but they never do this. There's a goddamned elevator which should be perfect for it, but no gotta pad this scene out some more.

And then there's a pointless rub the villain's nose in it scene, and they don't even paint the sky with rainbows.

Post-credits? The Catrix? 100% best idea of the entire film. If you give people enough drugs and something insipid to watch, they'll be happy. They might watch this!

What I'm Watching: Cowboy Bebop

Both versions, on the 'flix.

The live-action one looks good, and visually the actors are close enough to the anime I don't mind much. Spike (John Cho) is cool, but stiff, and his kung fu is clearly done in CGI on a ragdoll in many scenes. Jet (Mustafa Shakir) is much better, occasionally rises to actually funny. Faye (Daniella Pineda) has a cameo and she's all right, but we'll have to see her for longer. Anyone demanding Ed or the dog right now is an idiot, they don't show up until later if this show follows the anime at all.

The ship looks great, nice analog switches and crappy machines that don't work without thumping. It's not quite as bric-a-brac random parts as the original, but maybe looks more functional. Spike's plane is much, much better than the anime's, it actually stays the same size in every shot, looks like it works, it's not just a badly-drawn plastic toy. So +1 there.

The habitats are just planets, it seems; you don't really get a sense of them putting up a dome on a barren rock. Obviously it's hard to be on the ground and show this, but we have CGI where you can paste a real thing onto an animated asteroid, and they don't.

My hearing is aging badly (Mark pauses to bat at his ear and dig some wax out), because the jazz is far less annoying than it was when I first watched this. If you get old enough, even terrible incoherent noise becomes tolerable! Sorry, jazz fans, but you're wrong.

So for comparison, I watched a couple eps of live-action, and a couple eps of anime; haven't seen those in 20 years.

The anime kung fu is only a little more cartoony than live-action's, and it's of course believable since they're cartoons. What seems dumb live, is fine animated. There's often more text & backstory setup in the anime missions. If you pause video, you can see the fight scene restaurant on TJ habitat was established in 2025! Uh, we're not on schedule for that. Also, the Moon blows up in 2021, so we still got a few weeks for that to happen. The habitats are definitely just one power-failure away from everyone dying, they look ramshackle and barely fit for survival, which fits with the setting.

When I made fun of Spike's plane above, I wasn't overstating it. It looks so trashy in the anime, it deserves a special Golden Raspberry award for unspecial effects in a cartoon. It'll go from so big it can't roll out of the hanger without folded wings, to small enough to dash down a highway through power lines, to big enough to catch a falling object on, in the course of a single episode. One scene, Spike stands next to it and it towers over him. Another scene, he's got his elbow on the windshield and feet on the ground.

The Tijuana job is almost the same between them, and the live-action show fills out Katerina's backstory into something interesting, has a much more plausible meet-cute with Spike, the guys aren't on top of "Asimov" (why? all names mean something, and this guy's no cold rational robot writer; did they know how much of a womanizer and ass-grabber Isaac was? It doesn't make sense even ironically). The Syndicate is a much earlier, more serious threat in the live-action show. They're just random bozos for a long time in the anime. Even when the ending's the same, it's 100% better in the live-action because she has a motive.

Overall, I like the pacing of the live-action show better, I'd prefer a bit more setup, but they're weaving the plots in far more subtly than the jumpy, twitchy anime did. They really should've got someone taller and more fit to be Spike. Andrew Koji's busy doing Warrior, but there's like a million other slightly younger guys with actual kung fu experience who could've done it.

In any case, it's a… not hard SF, but not complete space fantasy… with decent production values and a lot of fights. You can't expect The Expanse every week, right?

★★★★☆

What I'm Watching: Invasion S1E3-4

S1E3. So this is the episode of terrible decisions. Jarhead sole survivor walks off into the desert. Iranian refugee family in New York commits felonies that'll get them lynched if they're caught; this is not at all plausible behavior for these people, and later when recriminations are thrown around, nobody remembers that Mom is the lead felon. "Fuck off Harry Potter", I say every time the English kids show back up. Harry and Dudley bond, nobody cares. Japanese comms tech is far more capable than anyone in "JASA" (oh this makes me so annoyed), so the only thing she can think of to do is burn her career and/or get arrested. One alien word at the end, seems to be the pattern of dropping one hint.

Why don't the aliens communicate in English or some other recognizable language, instead of just repeating "Wajo" over and over? They'd have plenty of time, decades of travel time, to hear our radio & TV transmissions and learn. This nonsense of aliens being incommunicado is just silly.

S1E4. Sadly, Harry Potter and all the Hufflepuffs make it out of the gravel pit alive and don't eat each other, and I am disappointed. Jarhead's otherwise competent rescue and evac is pointless, borders on Twilight Zone-y. The Japanese linguists studying the word "Wajo" are not gonna make much progress. Mom just wanders off on her own little adventure, using her backstory skills for once. President Hillary Clinton "The President" gives a ripoff ID-4 speech, even tho absolutely no physical evidence of the aliens has been seen yet. In anything like reality, they'd call it an unexplained source, or blame it on the Russians or Chinese, who have not yet been shown hurting.

Still ★★☆☆☆, nothing really happens. But I do want something to happen, for even a single plot thread to go somewhere, like Jarhead's did for just a minute.

Apple TV+ continues to annoy. I hit play on a show, I want to see the show and nothing but; parasitic shit-tick marketing show me an ad for another show (Tom Hanks and another dog, we know how his dog movies end, I won't watch this emotional blackmail, fuck you Tom Hanks), then the video window resizes itself, then a long loading screen/title card which isn't needed, then the pre-credits, then a teeny tiny little "Skip Intro" box may or may not appear in the bottom right, which still doesn't skip all the intro, another 15s or so after that before it starts. Does anyone at Apple ever, like, sit down and watch this, and say "yeah, that's a great user experience! That's what an Apple-like video player should be like!"? I think not.

What I'm Watching: Invasion

An Apple TV+ show. The TV+ app is awful, first of all. It's all big boxes, and the actual controls you want to see what eps are available are hidden under mystery burger icons. And then the show launches in a separate window. Turning on CC/subtitles, which I like even when watching English-language shows, doesn't take effect until I close & reopen the video window. And I can only really watch this on desktop, or iPad; I would have to get an AppleTV (not +) to watch it in the living room.

The cinematography is generally cyan-and-orange, as usual. So hideous. Occasionally you get a full daylight scene with colors, and it looks like a totally different film. Probably they make second unit directors or interns do the scenes that don't look like shit, because if you filmed a scene that isn't dull and oppressive you'd never work in movies again.

Weird also: Obviously filmed before the pandemic. Before the end of the Afghan War. It's so dated already, and not in a way that 2010 and earlier shows are, it's the "present" but none of our current concerns exist.

Have I mentioned I'm getting Apple TV+ for free for a year, and will absolutely be cancelling it before it gets paid because this is dreadful? Well, they're not persuading me otherwise with this.

Anyway.

S1E1. It's told in a bunch of vignettes of different characters, presumably bringing some kind of plot together, but I don't see one yet.

Sam Neill, now very old and kinda frail, is a somewhat useless sheriff in BFE Oklahoma, with some good-ole-boys gone missing, except very quickly their exit location is found. The crackhouse full of Nazis sure seem to fold pretty quick, instead of making law enforcement without backup disappear.

Kids in school somewhere else have nosebleeds (CUBAN RAY GUNS!), and a mother figures out her husband's cheating on her, but the important part is that in a power outage, the iPad also loses power. Look, I don't make this nonsense, I just watch it.

The Japanese astronaut is weirdest… their agency is called "JASA" (with the old NASA worm logo; actual NASA has gone back to the blue meatball) instead of "JAXA" (spiky anime title logo) as it is in reality, some comm tech claims to be putting a "viral download" in the launch capsule, they have their own capsule, the capsule's a big empty tin can which is very unlike the actual Soyuz or SpaceX Dragon capsules anyone goes up in. Clearly nobody involved in this has ever seen a single space launch. I presume since they wasted character time on this, the launch isn't as final as it seems. Is this supposed to be very alternate reality? Or just incompetence?

There's like a 5-second shot of a glittering thing which might be an alien ship.

I'm here for weird alien invasions, but one ep in I give this a ★☆☆☆☆. They better do something interesting in ep 2 or the ride stops here.

S2E2. The broken family whines at each other in a basement, then later outdoors they reenact The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.

Japanese comm tech, barely post-teen idol girl, has an incredibly non-Japanese attitude towards management and older men. There's zero possibility of this girl being in her position and yelling at everyone, and not being dragged out of the building by security. What is even happening here. The technical bits of her typing really fast, with some C++ template code in a console for no reason, and making fanciful statements about satellite positions, are just the incompetent screenwriters trying to sound spacey. Probably fine for low-IQ audiences, but this is so bad.

Harry Potter wannabe listens to terrible music, no point to this kid. They keep coming back to the little weasel and more nothing happens.

Jarheads in Afghanistan dick around doing nothing, finally have a mission to find a missing squad, during a radio blackout, which is becoming a theme. OK, finally something sort of adventure-ish. Another different alien-ish thing.

So for two eps, ★★☆☆☆ and maybe I'll watch more, see if it improves. It's not worse than a lot of things I've seen.

Very very slow, dull, tedious, lot of waiting around… then doing nothing… then waiting… then something sort of happens, with no explanation.

What I'm Reading: Shadow Captain, Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds

Shadow Captain follows the other, less crazy sister, as she tries to revenge herself on pirate Bosa Sennen, then keep their ship supplied, and gain clues about what Bosa was up to. Very much middle-of-trilogy syndrome, nothing happens that's necessary to the overall plot, but it's adequately more of the first volume. We find out a new behavior of the Quoins. ★★★★☆

Bone Silence is split between the sisters POV, and wanders between some excellent lightsail ship combat, a bit of urban treachery, and then pursuit by the… not Navy, but thugs employed by the bankers, so essentially the East India Company, and like the pride of the English, they're honorless scum. All to the good, except midway thru they split the party, one ship goes to town and the other stays to fight the thugs. The author fails to remember the many Chekov's Guns hanging on their fireplaces, and so this is much more of a struggle than it ought to be.

And here the plot turns into a summary, dozens of characters are introduced who have no further purpose or interest, an insurrection takes place in the sewers of an O'Neill colony, and impossible machinery is turned on. An alien explains more about the Quoins, except this is couched in superstitious nonsense for the monkeys and I don't know I believe any of it except the behavior we see. This part's absolutely disposable, but clearly Reynolds was tired of the setting and couldn't wait to get to the last bit. Where a giant precursor starship is approached… the Baubles use stasis fields, but the ship doesn't, even tho it absolutely needs it. The nature of the emergency is made clear but not why they're in that emergency. Rather preachy finale, bad guy is sent off to… smash into the habitat windows? He should be spaced, to make the punishment work, but he's not.
★★★☆☆ at first, then ★★☆☆☆ by end

Possibly better to make up your own 3rd volume than read Bone Silence. I'd still dearly love an RPG sourcebook (preferably for Traveller/Cepheus Engine) covering the mechanics of ships and Baubles.

What I'm Watching: Love Death Robots S2

Previously, part 1 and part 2.

A short set of S2, maybe not trying to flood us like S1 did. I will note, S1 had very little diversity; a couple girl MilSF authors, and the worst story of last season was by a woman who writes vamp-fucker books. S2 has zero, 0, none, not a fig: It is all white male honkie dudes. Probably all straight. A couple are English, Dutch, kinda imperialist. Look, I'm not saying "you can't use stories by honkie males", some honkie males are my friends and I pass for one, but I am saying in every video, they're fucking all honkie males?! I'm very disappointed in you, Netflix.

Anyway, the shorts:

  • Automated Customer Service, by John Scalzi: Too obviously a Scalzi piece, so it's trying to be super funny but instead at best gets a snicker or chortle, and then has a terrible ending because Scalzi can't write his way in or out of a plot. Accurately captures how I think Judgement Day will go: Stupid consumer electronics and overzealous marketing AI start terminating all the Humans. I dislike the weird stretchy big-head geriatric Humans, and the dog has creepy Human teeth which is NOT OK, but the robots are cute so it gets a better rating than the writing deserves. ★★★☆☆

  • Ice, by Rich Larson: short story has a much less kind tone than this video. The premise that you can't genetically engineer someone after birth is just false, a pre-CRISPR/mRNA view. I dislike the art style in this, shadow puppets with minimal detail. ★★★☆☆

  • Pop Squad, by Paolo Bacigalupi: Blatantly ripping off Blade Runner, from the grim cops in black murdering innocents, cars flying up above a grimy city, punching thru clouds to sunlight, Vangelis-lite ripoff music, fake geisha looking entitled rich wench. Zero subtlety or writing, just blunt: "not having kids seems a small price to pay for getting to live forever".

    Done exponentially better in Ad Vitam despite its many flaws; yes, that's 6 hours instead of 15 minutes, but this had more money in it.

    I'd be more impressed with the sets if they were anything but stock "grimy cyberpunk city" and "house inexplicably next to ruins", probably bought directly from the Unity store. Ends with a direct ripoff of the Roy Baty "tears in rain" scene. This is so preachy, obvious, and trite, it's like every trashy non-SF writer's condescending opinion of SF was true. And I fucking hate Blade Runner ripoffs. ★☆☆☆☆

  • Snow in the Desert, by Neal Asher: An old survivor, albino (but incorrectly blue-eyed, not pink; I think an error by the filmmakers, but I don't remember the Asher story well) and full of weird surprises, tries to stay ahead of bounty hunters. Very nice modelling, the desert and scrapyard bartertown are spartan enough you don't really hit uncanny valley, and the not-always-Human people don't look cartoony. Plot's kind of trivial, the reveals aren't surprising if you know anything about Neal's Polity series, but it's all well-done, never stupid. ★★★★½

  • The Tall Grass, by Joe Lansdale: Fantastic oil-paint art style. HP Lovecraft-looking protagonist gets off a train and wanders into the grass. This is a very very dumb idea, but we have the advantage of having seen Children of the Corn. I'm extremely unimpressed by what's out there, the mood is great until they're revealed and then it's just "oh for fuck's sake". Ending is moody again, it's just the whole middle bit that needed a rethink. ★★★½☆

    Notably this is vastly superior to Stephen King & Joe Hill's In the Tall Grass.

  • All Through the House, by Joachim Heijndermans: It's Xmas in May! Brats sneak up on Santa and find out why you should stay in bed and be good. This was just delightful, and doesn't overstay its welcome. Every child should be shown this one, in between Frosty the Snowman and episodes of The Cinnamon Bear. ★★★★★

  • Life Hutch, by Harlan Ellison: So far there hadn't been any dumb Call of Duty videos. Well, here it is. After attempting to murder aliens in space, space murderer crash-lands on a planet, finds an automated survival shelter, and then the systems don't like him much. Which sentiment I share. Possibly unfair. The short story was Harlan's second published, and it fits in an arc of a Human-alien war with a little more question about "why", and the robot isn't self-motivated like in this video. BUT. It's still a dumb piece. ★★☆☆☆

  • The Drowned Giant, by J.G. Ballard: A long, talky, introspective story by Ballard turns into a long, talky voiceover video over a dead giant on the beach. Bored out of my skull by this. Narrator does nothing, learns nothing. Purpose and origin of the giant is unknown. Almost literally anyone else visible in this video would be more interesting to follow. ★☆☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Tenet

A bit of Robert Heinlein's All You Zombies, a bit of Doctor Who, a lot of every buddy caper flick. Not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Or I've just read too many competent time travel stories to tolerate most of what ends up on film.

The first half does its best to never tell you what's going on, and at the point where you'd get an infodump, the scene just switches away. Obnoxious writing trick to avoid having to think some of it out.

I don't much like the brown-on-brown film coloring for much of the footage, but it's not constantly cyan-and-orange, so I guess I'll let it pass.

Denzel's kid John David Washington is OK, he's slightly snarky or unserious when he should be serious, but competent enough. Robert Pattinson is a mess, his fake accent is weird, and he has zero affect, either a robot or a sociopath, as has previously been noted: He was perfect as the vapid lead in Cosmopolis but anything else is asking too much of him. My Cocaine Michael Caine has a somewhat pointless but fun little cameo. Kenneth Brannagh's beard looks super weird and artificial, I'm distracted from his generally superb scenery chewing by that weird growth on his face. Elizabeth Debicki is leggy and sleek, but totally extraneous.

SPOILER

















So, the trick is you can reverse time flow on an object or person, by just walking through a big iron turnstile; zero special effects budget, literally all they ever use is running some film backwards.

If you reverse bullets, a forward-time observer sees them pulled out of the target. All the Protagonist can think to do with that is a few parlor tricks, go "whoa" like Keanu, and does occasionally avoid standing in front of bullet holes. There's a lot of interesting things you could do with this, the film never does. Shoot a bullet now, pull it out "later" (by one perspective or another), it's the best sniper kill. Nobody else pays attention to bullet holes, damaged cars, etc. until it's too late, which is probably supposed to be suspenseful but it leaves me in contempt of these idiots.

There's a point where they clearly just brain-farted: A reversed driver car chases the Protagonist… driving backwards, in front of them. No. The car isn't reversed, the driver just sees the world going the wrong way around. The entire bomb caper is weird, often confused, but that was the weirdest.

And while it's not a major plot point, suppressed pistols are not silent. It's not "thwip", dead, it's more like a gunshot down the block instead of in your ears. The locked doors all over are weirdly inadequate, they have both keypad and tumbler lock; most such are very low-grade security, where you want fast access but a key in case you lose power. The good keypad locks are keyless, or a high-security tumbler that can't be bumped like Protagonist is shown doing. This is kind of a major plot point, and I don't believe the villain would use such shitty locks to protect his doomsday machine.

Very quickly they jump to spending long periods of time reversed, mostly hiding in cargo containers or ships with sealed air, so they can go back and fix their previous screwups. Their "temporal pincer attacks" don't make any sense, the people in reverse just end up fighting people in reverse because they're moving back before go-time. Protagonist does eventually figure out how to do things right: See the aftermath of something, wait for the event, follow it back to the cause. But he does it very badly, continuously gets beaten up and rescued.

The entire plot of the arms dealer's wife is extraneous to the 2.5 hour film, and adds about half an hour to it; it should've been the first thing cut. The only thing I liked in that entire bit was the diving woman.

And turning the entire thing into "oh, there's nine Horcruxes and we have to stop Voldemort from assembling them" is just silly.

The finale is just a big messy gunfight in a California gravel quarry, no better than classic Doctor Who but wasting millions of times more money. I'd rather watch Jon Pertwee spinning out his jalopy than this.

And of course the All You Zombies twist: There's never been any other mastermind. But where do all you zombies come from?

This movie makes me greatly miss the Netflix series Travelers[sic], which made intelligent use of knowledge from the future.

★★★½☆ — there's a better movie buried somewhere under the flab and stupid characters, but this ain't it.

RIP Ben Bova

For me, Bova's main achievements were taking over Analog and turning it from a rag full of pseudoscience published by the most loathsome person in SF, into something like an Actual Science Fiction magazine.

And a long string of his hard SF novels, from Kinsman Saga, Colony, and Mars.

But my favorite thing Ben Bova ever wrote is a short, so good that I forgive its use of "telepathy" as a narrative device, "Stars, Won't You Hide Me", collected in:

The Final Battle had been lost.
On a million million planets across the galaxy-studded universe, mankind had been blasted into defeat and annihilation.
The Others had returned from across the edge of the observable world, just as man had always feared.
They had returned and ruthlessly exterminated the race from Earth.

I Think We're Property

Dangers of near approach -- nevertheless our own ships that dare not venture close onto a rocky shore can send rowboats ashore --
Why not diplomatic relations established between the United States and Cyclorea -- which, in our advanced astronomy, is the name of a remarkable wheel-shaped world or super-construction? Why not missionaries sent here openly to convert us from our barbarous prohibitions and other taboos, and to prepare the way for a good trade in ultra-bibles and super-whiskeys; fortunes made in [155/156] selling us cast-off super-fineries, which we'd take to like an African chief to some one's old silk hat from New York or London?
The answer that occurs to me is so simple that it seems immediately acceptable, if we accept that the obvious is the solution of all problems, or if most of our perplexities consist in laboriously and painfully conceiving of the unanswerable, and then looking for answers -- using such words as "obvious" and "solution" conventionally --
Or:
Would we, if we could, educate and sophisticate pigs, geese, cattle?
Would it be wise to establish diplomatic relation with the hen that now functions, satisfied with mere sense of achievement by way of compensation?

I think we're property.

I should say we belong to something:
That once upon a time, this earth was No-man's Land, that other worlds explored and colonized here, and fought among themselves for possession, but that now it's owned by something:
That something owns this earth -- all others warned off.
Nothing in our own times -- perhaps -- because I am thinking of certain notes I have -- has ever appeared upon this earth, from somewhere else, so openly as Columbus landed upon San Salvador, or as Hudson sailed up his river. But as to surreptitious visits to this earth, in recent times, or as to emissaries, perhaps, from other worlds, or voyagers who have shown every indication of intent to evade or avoid, we shall have data as convincing as our data of oil or coal-burning aerial super-constructions.
Book of the Damned (1919), ch. 12, by Charles Fort

Eerily repeated in a lot of science fiction. Ironically, H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" is nearly a "we're property" story, but Wells irrationally hated Charles Fort. Likes repel, I suppose.

A few obvious ones, but there are dozens more (put them in comments if you like; archive.org links preferred!):