Sunday, September 30, 2012

"In Space"... Camp


If there ever was a movie that could force me to overlook the outstanding flaws of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, that movie is Space Camp.  When I first viewed 2001 about a year ago, I was overwhelmed by the incredible boredom it induced and unimpressed by its seemingly outdated effects.  Upon watching Space Camp, I acquired a new appreciation both for the narrative pace of 2001 and the nature of its special effects.

Space Campy, err Camp, is a sci-fi tale that was made in the 80s but resembles a product of the pre-Star Wars 70s.  It documents the adventures of some inept and immature teenagers who all undergo a positive change of character, become adults, and learn the value of teamwork when they are unexpectedly sent into space by a protocol/astromech droid named Jinx.  The basic 5-act plot of the movie is as follows: kids act like kids at space camp, lovable robot sends kids into space, kids run out of oxygen, kids work together to refill oxygen tanks at space station, kids magically turn into responsible adults and pull off emergency landing.  Should you watch the whole thing, you’ll also experience a forced romantic subplot that never resurfaces after the “lake scene”, a disturbingly bestial relationship between a young boy and his robot, some partial nudity in the women’s dormitory, cheesy old-feminism (“I’m gonna be the first female shuttle commander.”), a prolonged sequence in which not one but two people leave the space shuttle to retrieve oxygen supplies, a total of two “mild peril” scenes in which someone drifts away from the shuttle only to be rescued predictably by another astronaut, another scene of peril where someone gets stuck outside the cargo bay doors (she’s rescued later), a crying scene, and a surplus of drama at Mission Control, all accompanied by overwrought, generically heroic tunes by John Williams of all people.

Clich├ęs and stereotypes abound.  We have the nerdy brainiac girl, the arrogant hothead who conquers his pride and learns responsibility by the end, and the young boy who’s obsessed with dreams of visiting the great beyond and fighting a glorious war against the evil Empire (Star Wars is referenced extensively throughout the movie, probably to alleviate the need for the writers to craft their own story).  At the beginning of the movie, a central teenager named Kathryn is put into a simulation machine which is supposed to teach pilots the science of landing a shuttle.  She fails of course, complaining afterwards that she needs another chance.  As I foretold out loud, she gets one in the film’s final ten minutes, when she has to land the real spacecraft.  In an “inspiring” triumph over her former challenges, she somehow manages to land the ship safely, prompting the resounding cheers of those at NASA, who apparently can’t comprehend their legal predicament or the many millions wasted on the shuttle’s fruitless voyage.  The “messages” of the movie are simplistic and typical of a kiddie flick: believe in yourself, follow your heart, and work together.

All this might be forgiven if the movie at least moved at a brisk pace, but Space Camp makes even 2001 seem gripping.   My father has hypothesized that the pacing of A Space Odyssey is supposed to match the film’s theme: long periods of boredom punctuated by brief moments of intense excitement. 2001 does indeed have flashes of intensity that captivate the audience, e.g. the lethal rebellion of HAL 9000 against his masters and Dave that represents the climax of the film, and thus the movie has some entertainment value.  Space Camp, however, is all boredom, no excitement, despite its strained efforts to inject peril into the narrative.  Never once does one feel concern or anxiety for the lives of the intrepid heroes, because it’s explicit from the movie’s tone and setup that everybody will survive and live happily ever after.

The “special” effects of the movie are scarce and unbelievable.  Unlike 2001, which was almost 20 years old at the time of the former movie’s release, Space Camp fails to create a credible sensation of space travel.  Very rarely does the camera offer a full view of the actors’ bodies, reinforcing the audience’s prevalent suspicion that the characters are just standing on unseen surfaces.  Scenes on the exterior of the shuttle are obviously creations of Hollywood, with a variety of cardboard cutouts substituting in many shots for human actors.  2001, in contrast, employed moving sets, wirework, and clever camera tricks to manufacture an illusion of zero and shifting gravity so authentic it would later inspire the modern cinematic genius Christopher Nolan in his work on Inception.  Space Camp, unlike 2001, was ignored by the filmmaking community and forgotten by the few who saw it.  Additionally the characters of Space Camp possess the unique ability to talk to each other outside of the flying shuttle, which contradicts a wise saying: in space, no one can hear you scream.  Stanley Kubrick averted this problem by ascribing an eerie silence to his space scenes that’s broken only by the hiss of an astronaut’s suit.  2001 strove for realism, while Space Camp elected for fantasy.

The acting in the film is abysmal, which is inexcusable because the dialogue given to the stars is most commendable.  Here are some of the more quotable bits from the movie.

“*Max and Jinx friends, for e ver.*” ~ C3D2
“Why don't you evaporate, laser-brain!” ~ Max
“My philosophy is to sleep late, drive fast, and not take any of this s___ seriously.’” ~ Kevin
“Shut up!   I don't want to hear about it.  I can't hear it - you know why?  Because you're all dead.” ~ Andie

I believe Andie delivers the movie’s best line: “I’m gonna check this mother out.”  I urge my readers to do just the opposite with Space Camp: do not check this mother… out.


Grade: D+ (I reserve my D's for movies that are blasphemous, sadistic, flagrantly indecent, misleading, or anti-American, e.g. Transformers 2, Michael Moore's films,  and all of Pixar's propaganda.)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

This is irony.




Jewelry, trading cards, action figures, and other merchandise all based on a book that condemns glorifying and profiting from violence.  These are dark times, there is no denying.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My father says I can eat anywhere I want...



There's a lotta things about their menu you wouldn't understand.  Things you couldn't understand.  Things you shouldn't understand.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mean and Green and Bad – On CA Recycling




To find a compelling argument against the environmentalist movement, one must look no further than the Californian Beverage Container Recycling Program.  Like Obama’s proposed Christmas tree tax, it’s an insignificant but also avaricious and ineffective measure to legislatively sway the behavior of the American citizen.

CRV (California Refund Value) is a tax on recyclable drinks that was instituted by George Deukmejian in 1986 and championed by Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzennager through his two terms.  In an effort to spur the practice of recycling in the already communist state of California (San Francisco has outlawed Happy Meals, Los Angeles wants to impose population control, plastic bags are banned in various places across the land, and Jerry Brown wants “the rich” to pay even more taxes so that pension recipients can continue to get checks for $250,000 from the government), the ecologically obsessed legislature allowed consumers to redeem this 5-10¢ fine by taking their bottles and cans to a recycling center.  So, while this CRV is technically a kind of sin tax on wasting resources, the consumer has a chance to cleanse himself through washing by John Connor the Baptist in the holy river of Replanet.  And you wonder why Michael Crichton called environmentalism a religion.

There are several arguments to be made against this frivolous program.  First of all, this toll is completely unconstitutional.  The government can only tax an individual when he acts, and CRV is clearly a tax on not recycling, or inactivity.  Like Obamacare and Romneycare before it, the CRV program merits condemnation primarily because it’s a gateway to a throng of other corrupt indirect taxes.  If the government can tax you for not recycling, they can also tax you for not planting a tree, which highly credible animated kiddie movies tell me are being hunted to extinction by evil capitalists to make luxurious garments we don’t need.

Secondly, this tax functions like a bevy of other liberal proposals which end up punishing the innocent for the wrongs of the guilty.  In the same way that liberals try to confiscate the weapons of innocent Americans for the crimes of a few mass-murdering madmen, the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act (let’s call it ReCal for short) penalizes those who recycle their materials at home for the perceived moral transgressions of those who don’t recycle at all.  Conservatives are also susceptible to faulty logic like this.  Instead of laying harsher sentences on those who abuse marijuana consumption and harm others, they ban the drug entirely as if it's responsible for the injustice, moving it to the controlled substances list.  But that’s an essay/debate case for another time…

Third, the program carries a huge price tag for California while bringing citizens no tangible benefit whatsoever.  The cost of the BCRP, enforced by the Department of Resource Recycling and Recovery, exceeds an estimated $1.05 billion (http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/BevContainer/RecycleFund/2012/JulStatus.pdf), almost 1% of California’s expenditures.  Further, this 5-10¢ incentive doesn’t even work, which is the fourth point.

ReCal is the one of the environmentalists’ most inefficient and time-costly ways to force their beliefs on others.  Most recycling centers have a total of 2 machines which can be accessed at any time.  An assistant usually accommodates a third customer.   Most often, the people currently using the machines have 5 or more massive black bags they’ve been hoarding for months, all of which they must empty before they leave the site.  Moreover, these people are excruciatingly slow, moving at a rate of 12 bottles/minute*.  Dividing 1200 bottles and cans** by 12 leads to the revelation that those at the front will be hogging the machines for well above 1 and a half hours.  Most people have other things to do, like work, besides standing in a line for an afternoon, so the machines are clearly not a viable option.  You have the alternate choice of waiting for an assistant to help you, but this only works from 9 to 4:30, and the employees usually take lunch breaks.  Oh, and you must account for the contingency that they’re not accepting glass, aluminum, or plastic.  Half the time, at least one of these materials will be rejected.  If you do manage to reach the assistant before the place closes, you’ll be given two options: weigh your recyclables and lose a substantial portion of your money or have the employee count 50 each of your booty and send you to the back of the line out of consideration of the other guests’ time.  For some reason, Californian logic concludes it’s reasonable to weigh 1000 of a customer’s bottles in a row, but unfair to count even a 100 bottles at a single time.  Anyway, the counting technique also fails at returning your money, because the employees frequently miscount by a quarter-dollar or more.  I know this because I take 5 minutes to carefully count my recyclables, distinguishing between 5 and 10 centers, before the employee consumes all of 2 minutes counting the same items, assuming them all to be 5 centers unless they’re well above 24 ounces.

Thus, it’s apparent that in recycling you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.  If you don’t, you never reclaim the countless nickels and dimes that the government has stolen from you for the luxury of drinking out of a container.  If you do, you will lose several hours of your life that could be better spent at a higher-paying job which actually produces income large enough to feed a family.

If I could formulate a single argument in favor of the BCRP, I’d say that it gives the homeless an avenue for generating income, but then ReCal would be little different from any other state-sponsored welfare system.  ReCal is like food stamps in that it redistributes money from those who work for their own lunches to those who expect the same meal for free.  For certain, many homeless people desire to find work so they can be independent and self-sustaining, but Beach Beer Can Collector is hardly the dream “career” they envision.

Liberals repeatedly make ambiguous calls for a separation of church and state; they should start by repealing the ineffective and useless laws that respect the church of environmentalism.

* This varies depending on the age and gender of the recycler.  Women usually take longer than men, depositing a bottle every 4-5 seconds.   Men are quicker, working at a rate of 1 bottle/3 seconds, sometimes 2 seconds if they’re experienced. Older people are generally much slower than everyone else, being retired and having no other business to accomplish on any given day.  These are all generalizations I’ve made from many hours spent at the center.

** This is a slight exaggeration to make the division simpler.  The average number of containers people recycle is probably closer to 1000, still an humongous quantity.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

In case you'd forgotten her.


One can't give CNN all the blame for the headline.  After all, it's the Democrats who invited a sex-addicted college student with no political experience, qualifications, or title other than "slut" to represent them on national television.

Next up, "THE WOMAN WHO STARRED IN THE AVENGERS".

Sunday, September 2, 2012

2016: Obama's America



With the presidential election a few months in the future, 2016 is an appropriately timed exploration of the Democrat candidate’s background, influences, and horrifying vision for America.  Using logic, evidence, and sound bites from Obama himself, the movie deftly analyzes the man’s past and shows how his family and idols worked to mold his communist ideology.  As the film explains, Obama rose to power based not on a well-known plan or solution to the problems instigated by a liberal Congress, but on the color of his skin and empty words about “hope and change”.  2016 aspires to prevent the same travesty from occurring a second time around by exposing the president’s true beliefs, which were largely concealed in 2008.

The documentary starts with an exposition of its director’s heritage.  Dinesh D’Souza, who previously penned The Roots of Obama’s Rage, was born in India and immigrated to the US in 1978.  Having grown up in a harsh and restrictive political atmosphere, he embraced the freedom and opportunity that America offered him.  Unlike so many of us, D’Souza never takes his liberties for granted or assumes that a leader is incapable of compromising his people’s rights.  After introducing himself, the director poses a question: what is Obama’s dream?  Is it the American dream, Martin Luther King’s dream, or is it someone else’s dream?  D’Souza then leads us on a journey to witness Obama’s history and see how his literal father and “founding fathers” molded his communist ideology.

The film tells us Obama was born in 1961 to an adulterous black father and white mother.  Barack’s father was absent for most of his life, leading him to depend on his mother, grandparents, and idols for guidance.  We learn that Obama Sr. was an extreme anti-colonialist who sought to expel the white men who were stealing his land’s natural resources.  This position differs dramatically from that of George Obama, Barack’s half-brother, who holds that third-world colonized countries grow faster and have better economies that independent ones.  George, an author, lives in a hut and reportedly looked to D’souza instead of his brother for financial assistance with his medical problems.

Since Obama’s father was never present to rear him, he looked to other people for his instruction and education.  These men included unabashed communists Frank Marshall Davis and Robert Unger, Bill Ayers, a terrorist, and Jeremiah Wright, an anti-American black supremacist pastor.  As Aesop advised, you’re known by the company you keep, and we should consider Obama’s ideals to be the same as his friends’.

Obama’s ideology shows itself not only in his partnerships but also in his actions, which reveal his resolution to downsize America’s position in the world, to reduce America to the level of any third world country.  Obama has blocked propositions to create oil jobs in the US, but made deals with Brazil to create similar jobs overseas.  He’s made promises to both the UN and Russia that he will disarm America of her nuclear weapons, should he gain more “flexibility”.  Obama opposes our ally Israel and sympathizes with our sworn enemy Iran.  While the typical Democrat believes in “redistributing” wealth from one American to another, Obama’s vision goes farther.  Indeed, the current president views American exceptionalism as a vice, for America only became prosperous by making other countries poor.  Not only have the bourgeoisies of America been exploiting their country’s proletariat; America itself is the bourgeois nation of the world, and has long been oppressing the middle-class nations.  Obama’s perception of justice is to return America’s stolen profits to the countries she has oppressed.

Lamestream media movie critics have been attacking this film for being one-sided and unfair.  This is a pathetic complaint for several reasons.  First, most of the critics refuse to present an alternative, right-wing side to Obama.  D’souza sets out to prove Obama is an anti-colonial statist, and does so flawlessly.  Silence is consent in debate, and the critics have conceded 2016’s arguments.  Second, reality isn’t subjective or two-sided.  A documentary which tries to acknowledge both sides as truth does not truly document anything.  Capitalism and communism cannot both be the right economic model.

The critics have also accused 2016 of conjuring facts to discredit their beloved king.   Regardless that none of these critics present counter-evidence, the evidence given in this movie is quantifiable and verifiable.  Obama has driven this country $5 trillion or more deeper into debt over 4 years – fact.  Obama has threatened to veto projects like the Keystone Pipeline – fact.  Obama has associated himself with ideological traitors to the republic – fact.  The man concedes that much in his autobiography, Dreams from my Father, the audio-version of which is used extensively in the film.

Finally, the critics repeatedly staple the word “propaganda” to this and any other conservative movie (Act of Valor is a recent example).  This does more to expose the stupidity of the critic than the evil of the director.  Dictionary.com defines propaganda as “information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.”  2016 clearly has an inherent political agenda: to create an informed electorate that really knows the candidate of the Democrat party.  Thus the movie is propaganda.  Is that necessarily a bad thing, though?  Clearly not, as American politics depends on propaganda.  Without propaganda, no person would be able to express his beliefs and the 1st amendment would not exist.  It’s also funny that such critics would denigrate D’souza’s work as “propaganda”, yet praise the blatantly liberal propaganda that conventional Hollywood produces (The Lorax, Wall-E, Happy Feet - all aimed at children, Hitler style).

If you’re a conservative or a libertarian, the movie won’t significantly alter your opinion of Obama and you can wait to watch it on the small screen.  If you’re a voting-age liberal, on the other hand, waiting for the DVD is not an option.  Should you want to cast your vote possessing a true understanding of Obama’s childhood, upbringing, and political philosophy, you must see 2016 in the theater or do similar research in other media.  The fate of the country is at risk; which dream will we carry into 2016?

Grade: 2016 can't be graded like other movies because it's not "art" in the regular sense.  I'll just say that it stands alongside The Dark Knight Rises as the most important movie of the year for posterity.


Trailer reviews –
Thirty Dark Zero – This is Kathryn Bigelow’s visual retelling of the Osama bin Laden killing. I personally believe the whole story amounts to nothing more than mythology, but, as the classically educated know, history’s best tales are found in mythology. The teaser tells one just about nothing.
Trouble with the Curve – Why are there so many baseball movies now? I’d rather watch Clint Eastwood’s RNC speech than this.
Life of Pi – The tiger’s CGI.
Flight – Concerns a pilot, played by Denzel Washington, who heroically saves a plane from a devastating crash and sparks controversy afterwards when he’s found to have to been drinking before the flight.  Intriguing premise.
Boom – When did civilized society start to glorify violence through the “sport” of MMA?