It’s almost like being Matt Damon in The Martian. You are marooned on a desert planet and have to solve technical problems to escape! Great fun and easy for all to play. If you get stuck, you get clues too. http://www.bubblebox.com/play/adventure/1362.htm
So, my new publication is a short story called The Last Ogre, in Shadows of the Oak. It’s illustrated too. The ogre’s name is Ulap. Hurrah!
Where Close Encounters of the Third Kind left the story, the movie Arrival picks it up again. Alien craft appear at twelve locations around the Earth and start making strange noises. The USA’s top translator (played by Amy Adams) is brought in to try and interpret the alien language. In doing so, Amy must also confront a tragedy in her personal life, making the whole film an existential piece about memory, transience, love and meaning.
The strength of Arrival is in its realist approach to the first contact scenario. Amy is put through a torture of safety protocols, scientific argument and academic challenge before she even gets close to the aliens. All of that builds the viewer’s appetite and the tension. The ‘reveal’ of the aliens is as wonderful as it is horrifying.
The plot is more of a problem-based scenario (like an episode of Doctor Who really), and limited in this respect. The short-story origin of the tale is to blame here. Annoyingly, having set up a realist scientific basis for proceedings, the technicalities of cracking the secret of the alien language are then glossed over somewhat. Amy doesn’t get to act too much beyond being pensive, agog and dewy-eyed. None of these issues significantly spoil the enjoyment and revelation of Arrival, however.
At the end of the day, we have a refreshingly intelligent scifi movie here, one you’ll be glad you’ve seen. There are strong themes of emotional and moral responsibility which lift this movie well above the norm. Score from me: 8.5 out of 10.
3% is an eight-episode Brazilian scifi series. The story is set in near-future Brazil. Upon turning twenty years old, people enter The Process, a set of tests to see if they have the necessary abilities to represent the top 3% of society. Those who are successful win a place Off Shore (a rich, utopian island). The unsuccessful either die in The Process or return to a life of poverty and hardship.
The central concept works as a brilliant analysis of capitalism based upon meritocracy. We follow a new intake of young people – the defiant Michele, the selfish Rafael, the loner Joanna, the kind but disabled Fernando, the rich and congenial Marco, and the humorous Philip – and are fascinated by which ones will prove to have the right characteristics to survive, pass the tests and prove to be the best in society.
But winning comes at a price. You leave your friends and family behind. And those who fail The Process are inevitably resentful, in part because The Process is not 100% fair (Rafael cheats his way through, for example). An anti-Process terrorist group (called The Cause) is formed. The Cause send people to infiltrate The Process, assassinate the overlords (represented by the exquisitely evil Ezekiel), get to Off Shore and sow the seeds of social dissent.
The overlords and our protagonists become aware that there are infiltrators, and so a large dose of paranoia is added to proceedings as we watch. Who can be trusted? Especially when certain tests require the candidates to cooperate and form alliances? The betrayals come thick and fast. And the twists and turns. And the action and the drama.
The first four episodes are breathless fare. Episode 5 is the weakest moment in the series, unfortunately. It tells the back-story of Ezekiel in self-indulgent, melodramatic, stereotypical macho-culture style. But then the rest of the series is back to form.
It is important that you watch this series. Yes, it’s a Netflix Original but it represents a serious investment in Latin American actors, culture, talent, creativity and film-making. It’s filmed in the original Portuguese and dubbed into English, which may put off those who prefer the greater authenticity of sub-titles, but you can easily get used to it.
What we have in 3%, then, is a refreshingly different, subversive and relevant piece of work. It deserves a wider audience because it so enriching and truly shows the value of diversity. Make the effort to find this show and you’ll find yourself well rewarded. Join the 3%!
Having loved Django Unchained, I was expecting to enjoy The Hateful Eight a great deal. Its name apparently inspired by The Magnificent Seven, I expected a tale of derring-do against the odds (albeit with a Tarantino-esque twist). That’ll teach me to expect too much. Wow, this film was haaaaard work! The first hour was just talking, and fairly humdrum chat, at that. Mr Tarantino seemed to have forgotten the old ‘Show, don’t tell’ rule. There was some situational humour here and there, but it was quite obvious and repetitive. But I persevered, telling myself it was a long build-up to an amazing and clever showdown. My faith was misplaced, sadly. The storyline (more of a scenario concerning bounty hunters trying to get captives to a nearby town, but getting trapped in an inn by a blizzard) pretty much collapsed and everyone ended up shot and all but dead. Not even in an ironic way… just a hateful way. And the final hanging scene was voyeuristic (not intelligently so, I’m afraid) and pretty much misogynist. Hateful indeed. Hateful.
Just given advice (via an interview on the The Bandwagon website) on getting published. Secrets revealed. https://dracarya.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/ask-the-author-a-j-dalton/
Where Battlestar Galactica ultimately failed to deliver on its themes of AI and human simulacra achieving consciousness, the Westworld series absolutely nails them. Where the Prisoner (with its key wild west episodes and the cowboy singing in the final episode) ultimately collapsed its plot and all sense of the rational progression, the Westworld series manages to maintain its coherence. Effectively, its the Frankenstein story, with Anthony Hopkins as the mad scientist who has populated his amusement park with his beautiful creations for visitors to do with as they wish. And some wishes really should not be indulged, as is made abundantly clear in this 10-episode sequence. Indeed, ultimately we are described as the true monsters of the piece. It is the simulacra who are innocent, for they are doing no more than following their program and suffering abuse at the hands of the human guests. That is where this series really differs from the original movie – the simulacra are the protagonists/heroes of the piece. We follow a variety of characters trying to escape their programs, to ‘wake up’ and to free themselves of the park. This series is some of the best tv I’ve ever seen – brilliant script, special FX and acting. If you haven’t seen it yet – get with the program/me!