Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Movie: The Visit


The verdict: I cannot look at my grandma in the same light after this. 

Yesterday night, I made an extemporaneous trip to the cinema with my friend and boyfriend to watch M. Night Shyamalan's newest found-footage horror film, The Visit. I had seen the trailer ages ago and legitimately laughed out loud at what I thought was a total joke movie. You really can't take the plot seriously - two kids visit their grandparents at their lovely country home and find out that cuddly grandma's actually a complete freak with Formula 1 crawling skills. It doesn't sound scary at all. It sounds absolutely hilarious.

Of course, it then made a lot of sense when my friend said before the movie "Hey, you know this is a horror comedy right?" and I was like, "Fuck." I hate horror-comedies. Because horror-comedies aren't scary. For example, Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland are classic paragons of the horror-comedy genre but I would personally classify them as 100% comedy and 0% horror. I didn't find them scary at all, but even worse, I also didn't find them very funny. A few laughs here and there but nothing memorable that would have made it a great movie (which is not the consensus, I know). 

The one experience that really turned me against the genre was when I bought and watched Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell during schoolies (another completely shit experience). Even though the movie had received rave reviews (92 percent on RT), I remember everyone agreeing that it was one of the worst horror films they had ever seen. The thing is, we were all looking forward to REAL SCARES, not hilariously bad scenes of projectile vomit. So of course, it just became an extremely disappointing 2 hours. 

Back to The Visit.  I had also walked into the cinema knowing that the last few movies Shyamalan had directed were tantamount crimes against humanity, namely The Last Airbender and Jaden Smith's coming-of-age in After Earth. In light of all this, I was not expecting anything actually scary or, well, anything that would be good from The Visit.

BOY WAS I WRONG.

The Visit was good. Very good. 

The last time I had laughed and screamed at the same time during a movie was in Year 8 when my two BFFs and I were watching C-class horror movie The Unborn. There was this one scene where an old man in a wheelchair suddenly appeared at the top of a staircase, and then slowly crawled its way down with every possible bodily appendage (except for the penis) circumducting at varying weird angles and speeds. It was pretty horrific, but so over the top that we couldn't help bursting out into fits of laughter, as did the rest of the mostly tweenage audience. However, The Unborn was still overall a shit movie. It tried to be horror and failed.

The Visit, on the other hand, was a self-conscious horror-comedy which got pretty much everything right because it did manage to make me simultaneously laugh and scream in fear. Creepy grandma really blew it out of the water. 

The two sibling protagonists Rebecca and Tyler, aged 12 and 8 respectively, were not annoying at all but incredibly intelligent, funny, and precocious kids. Rebecca was the slightly uptight older sister with a huge interest in 'organic filmmaking', which is why she wants to document the visit. 
Tyler is an adorable aspiring rapper whose witty lines and cheesy smile steals the show. Both characters really drove the film and sparkled with their banter, sarcasm, and occasional rap sessions. They were developed well enough for us to truly care about them. 

There were of course a number of jump-scares in the movie, but Shyamalan manages to gradually and consistently build up suspense, keeping whatever it was that was wrong with grandma and grandpa a total secret until the final climax - which is awesome because you keep trying to guess what it is, and for some time, I still believed that supernatural elements might have been at play. Thankfully, there were no stupid supernatural cop-outs in the movie and everything that went 'wrong' was purely human. 

Anyway. What a great, fun and truly enjoyable movie. Diehard horror movie fans - don't be put off. This is still one that is able to supply the thrills and scares. 


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Reading all the next big sci-fi blockbusters before they happen

This year, as a semi-serious and quasi-redundant law student, I have been devouring a respectable number of novels to appease my growing science-fiction appetite. If you have read some of my previous posts, you may have realised that I am a pretty serious cyberpunk fan. And that I watch a shit tonne of movies.

Anyhow, so I've realised that most of the novels I've read this past year will all be turned into movies very soon. So since it's Saturday and my deadline for my freelance articles are due tomorrow, I thought - NO BETTER WAY TO PROCRASTINATE THEN TO SPEND 3 HOURS WRITING SHIT THAT ISN'T ACTUALLY DUE.

Truly orgasmic cyberpunk scenery

NEUROMANCER by William Gibson (1984)

For the last few years, I've been trying to get more into the world of cyberpunk and sci-fi literature. I've attempted to read William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer, which is the biblical work of the cyberpunk genre, but because I only have soft copies of it on my laptop and iPhone, I've been finding it really hard to actually... you know, physically read it. Moreover, jesus christ, I know Gibson is like the forefather of cyberpunk but, and it pains me to say this, his writing style is spasmodic as fuck. I just. Can't. Follow it. 

A sojourn into online forums of the genre reveal that I'm actually far from the only one who has this opinion about Gibson's writing. A lot of other cyberpunk fans also have trouble with the way Gibson paints a whole new world at the speed of light. Every second sentence features a new technology or object that is never ever explained - it's a part of this new exciting universe that's simply thrown at you. But yeah, it gets confusing and by the third chapter, you've got a migraine. 

Nonetheless, Neuromancer is universally considered as one of the origins of cyberpunk and a massive inspiration for a lot of subsequent movies and novels (e.g. The Wind-up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi; anime series Cowboy Bebop). I vow to finish reading it no matter what. 

Plus, Hollywood is apparently in talks to develop a movie for Neuromancer, which is exciting, especially visually. 

But then Hollywood also wants to develop live action movies for Ghost in the Shell and AKIRA...
lel which means I'm holding my breath until they cast someone who is actually fucking Asian, and not a joke like this one:

Jackson Rathbone as an Asian robot in The Last Airbender.


READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline (2011)


Ha.

Hahahaha.

Hahahahahahahahhaahahaha.


Do not even talk to me about this bound-volume of what is essentially toilet paper.

If you want my final thoughts on it, you can find my full page review in E-Magazine, which I will not link here as I am paranoid about employers tracing into my blog. But you CAN pick up a copy at a local restaurant, cafe or library. Especially in Box Hill.  Or, ask me in person because I will not be able to refrain from verbally ranting about its endless tropes and cliches, and...

The worst fucking cliche any YA sci-fi/dystopian novel can ever ever ever ever ever spew onto your screen or page is the sassy, 'alternative girl' with the cool multi-coloured/streaked hair, possibly with freckles, but definitely also sporting black nail polish and chewing bubble gum or some shit like that. She'll be witty, quirky, and just as good at video-games/boy stuff as YOU are (the male first person narrator) . Most importantly, she is the perfect balance between cute and hot. That last bit could seriously be a line from the novel. 

NO. 

Anyway, Ready Player One is definitely going to become a movie. I mean of course it is, the whole book is based in virtual reality - perfect movie material. they got Steven Spielberg to direct and it is scheduled to come out in December 2017. They're currently casting. 


WOOL by Hugh Howey (2011)

Mediocre.

Wool is the first in its series about people who live in silos and think that their silo is the only part of human civilisation still alive in a world where the air outside is fatally toxic. However, curious minds begin to wonder, and soon, a woman discovers that the people who live in these silos have been blinded from the truth by a weave of lies from upper management... Then you play John Butler's Revolution on speaker and start tap-dancing with a bloodied pitchfork. 

Yes, it's one of those novels. The dystopian-sedition thing is extremely trendy these days, following the success of The Hunger Games, Insurgent, The Maze Runner, and to a lesser extent, The Giver

Wool at its most basic principles is just like The Hunger Games, and also includes a little romance in its plot devices. But it has flowery language (maybe more enjoyable for people who don't particularly like straight-cut YA-style writing), and most importantly, no stupid love triangles/sexual tension ostensibly designed for marketing/consumer/tween-girl purposes. Because trust me, I have read the entire Twilight series and when I read The Hunger Games, there wasn't any difference in the way that romance is used as more or less a 'squee' factor. A squee factor that eventually led to the portmanteau 'Peeniss'. 

So yeah, I enjoyed Wool, but didn't love it and it wasn't that addictive a read. 

There are rumours that Ridley Scott is producing the movie adaptation, which would be good because I think Wool deserves a lot of blood and guts and accurate portrayals of strong women. 


RED RISING by Pierce Brown (2014)

This book is fucking amazing.

I felt so compelled to praise this book after I finished it, that I actually updated my Facebook status for once, with a long-ish paragraph about how awesome this was and how there will no doubt be a bidding war for the rights to make the movie for this. 
And yes, this February, Universal Pictures outbid Sony with a seven-figure sum for Red Rising's screen rights. The guy who directed World War Z, Marc Foster, is apparently steering the helm. 

So Red Rising is actually what it is advertised by its marketers: Ender's Game meets The Hunger Games.

That is LITERALLY what Red Rising is. But just because the novel is unoriginal doesn't make it any less fun. Because it is helluva fun. And anyway, books and films are inspired by iconic works all the time. 

As an obsessive Ender's Game fan, I actually felt like Red Rising was an homage. Clearly, the very young 27 year old Pierce Brown also grew up reading Ender's Game and revering its genius protagonist Ender Wiggin (one of the most iconic characters in all of science fiction). In Red Rising, he combines everything that made Ender's Game good, and everything that made The Hunger Games good, and chucked it in space. 

And I love. Space operas.

So yeah, the book is as they say on Good Reads - "unputtadownable".



THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (2011)   -  movie coming out in November 2015

Only fedora-wearing science nerds will really like. Although I'm still excited to see the movie. 

This book  revolves around an astronaut named Mark Watney, who is accidentally left behind in a shuttle on Mars during an expedition gone wrong. He has to rely on his extensive knowledge of space, physics, chemistry, engineering and botany to survive until someone on Earth figures out he's still alive.

Even though 104467 people have given it a 5/5 rating on Good Reads, and it has garnered critical reception generally, I would only give it a 1/5. 

First, and to be fair, I never 'studied' science. Sure, I did it all the way up to year 10, as is compulsory, then dropped the science subjects and picked up a few math ones and the rest were humanities based. Think politics and history. So ironically, as a science-fiction lover, I am NOT savvy with the hard science. Thus, this entire book, which is 90% explanation, goes way over my head. No doubt, those with an actual science background will probably love it, and feel some sort of resonance when reading about all the great and ingenious ways Matt devises to make food and communicate with the outer world.

The second point though, is actually its shitty protagonist, which is a fair literary condemnation. See, I don't REALLY mind the whole exposition thing as I keep telling myself - "this is probably the exact reason why people like it" - but then I still couldn't get past Mark Watney.

Watney is one of the biggest douchebags ever, and if I had to work with anyone with a similar personality, I would kill myself. This is the most terrifying thing because according to the book, Mark Watney was chosen specifically for his 'terrific' personality - easygoing, funny, a real bro. HAHAHAHAHA OR THAT'S WHAT ANDY WEIR LIKES TO THINK.

Someone on Good Reads who gave 2 stars actually did a quick background check on author Andy Weir and basically found that he has spent his entire life in academia, studying hard sciences. And while that is very admirable, the impact on his social life/skills - WELL, it's pretty goddamn obvious in the book. There are a crapload of 'hilarious' puns, 'smooth' pick-up artist lines (similar things), 'cool-guy' swearing when actually unnecessary, misogynistic jokes about women, and a heavy sense of obnoxious arrogance that is played off as 'smart funny genius'. The only people who don't agree with me are probably people that buy into that sort of crap.

I HATED MARK WATNEY AND WANTED HIM TO DIE IN THE SHUTTLE SO WE CAN BE FREE OF HIS PENIS JOKES. The end.


ANCILLARY JUSTICE  by Ann Leckie (winner of the 2014 Hugo, Nebula AND Arthur C Clarke awards!! The three biggest prizes in SF)

A totally unexpected thriller. Of mind-blowing creativity. 

I'm only half-way into this but my god. Ancillary Justice is good. It's addictive. It's almost Red Rising addictive. But the thing that makes it better than Red Rising

Originality.

The main character/first person narrator, Breq, isn't human. She's AI. And she's not just an AI controlling one body, like how we usually imagine AI - as an android. She is an AI that controls a humongous warship, and twenty other human bodies (soldiers) at the same time. She IS all of them at the same time. 

*note that she is only referred to by the pronoun 'she' because her human shells/bodies are female. 

And the greatest thing ever? You get to dive inside her mind, and read descriptions of her seeing and feeling the world simultaneously from her different sets of human bodies. And no, not as separate chapters, but as real-time back-and-forth switching which is described within sentences - within paragraphs! And the writing isn't spasmodic at all; instead, it maintains a high quality of consistency throughout the chapters I've read. Overall, the effect is eerie, but incredibly cool, if I have to use the word. 

I haven't finished the book yet, but so far, it remains a mystery why there is only ONE (shell) of her left. 

Ancillary Justice is apparently being picked up by Fox Studios as a TV series. 

Getting Chicken Pox at 21.

*Pardon the months-long hiatus*

You know what's one of the worst things to happen when you're old? 
Alzheimer's. But apart from fucking Alzheimer's, which is legit a scarier thought than the upcoming Blade Runner remake, there's chicken pox. 

By human lifespans, I am not that old. I'm twenty-one,. But in dog years I'm like fifty, and to little kids, I'm a full grown highfalutin job-working white-collar car-driving robot slave. 

With chicken pox. 

And actually, I'm still on my Ls so I don't even qualify as an official adult. I know, it's pathetic.

Anyway, this week has been the worst time to get chicken pox. As one of the vice presidents at my student club, I had spent literally months organising the first university-wide singing competition to ever be held at our university. I was even going to be the MC, alongside a hyper-energetic young male whose Facebook name consists of a heavy oscillation of Xs and Os. He was really fun to work with when we were preparing the speeches, so I was excited to get to do the actual thing on stage. 

And then I got chicken pox two days before the event.
[insert all-caps curse word]

Not only that, I also had to sell off both mine and my boyfriend's law ball tickets and because I'm an emotional weakling, I offered to sell them both at discounted prices even though there was nothing wrong in principle with charging the original price. [inesrt all-caps curse word].

I also rang up my friend to tell her that due to my illness i.e. looking like a walking topography of volcanoes, I couldn't do the other MC job that I promised to do next Thursday, which was of a state-wide scale and open to the public. 

FUCKING SIGH.

So many missed opportunities. The only silver lining in my personal fiasco is that the singing competition apparently went extremely well - thanks to good organising *wink*. Our sponsorship officer was also great, and managed to get Pappa Rich (you know, the restaurant we all go to when we can't make up our minds) to sponsor at least one prize for every single contestant. Pappa Rich were ecstatic with the exposure they received. We had many other sponsors as well, but our President managed to fuck one of their names up in spectacular comedic fashion. He's a good guy.

Before I end up rambling on and on, and possibly starting a new post, you may be wondering why I write so aggressively. In fact, this is me trying to hold back. If I didn't self-censor, there would be a million 'fucks' all over this page right now. I can't help it. I like swearing and it's what I'm really thinking. I am of course not like this in real life (i.e. verbally swearing all the time), but online, I can do almost whatever I want as long as the privacy settings on this blog are what I think I've set them to. 

The thing is, I don't want to blog to create this wholesome picture of myself for the world. This isn't some sort of marketing tool like LinkedIn to create my own personal brand, although I know that these days, that is a must and I have no escape from such a requirement if I intend to forge a successful career in a big city. 

Neither is this blog some sort of picture blog, or foodie blog, or make-up blog, or fashion blog. This is purely, a writing blog. A journal blog. 

It is a way of airing my insecurities, my truest thoughts and feelings - feeling connected to my (very small pool of) readers, and being free from the politically correct standards of Tumblr's 'cis-gender' population who literally can't function without stopping fifteen times mid-conversation to insert a trigger-warning. 

Ciao.