I did it again. I waited until the last minute to see a hard science fiction film until it was just about to leave theaters, even though I complain about the conventional Hollywood logic that hard science fiction doesn't sell tickets. In my defense though, I was preparing for a trip out of the country when this movie released. So my excuse this time is far better than my excuse for missing opening weekend of The Martian. And once again, this film's 94% on Rotten Tomatoes (as of the time of this writing) and its exceeding box office projections (coming in third behind a Marvel comic book movie and a children's movie) seems to vindicate that Hollywood can still make high-concept, hard science fiction films, that people will go see them, that people will understand them, and that those people will like them.
Arrival is as hard as hard science fiction gets. Think Contact; think 2001: A Space Odyssey; think the Star Trek TNG episode "Darmok". Arrival is all about communication, and it offers an interesting exploration of how language influences the way that we think, and how our thoughts are filtered through the language that we speak. The entire movie is about the efforts to communicate with the aliens, while human beings progressively become incapable of actually communicating with one another. There's no real villain, exactly one explosion, and the threat of China and Russia starting a war with the aliens on the other side of the globe is a distant, but tangible threat. This film is slow and methodical, much like the efforts to teach a new language to someone, and it makes absolutely sure that the audience will be able to follow along with what is going on.
Moreso than our attempts to communicate with aliens, this film is about our ability (or inability) to communicate with each other - at every level of society. From individual relationships, to professional relationships, to political relationships, to international diplomatic relationships, and even the relationship between the media and the public.
Arrival is more about our inability to communicate with each other, than our inability to communicate with aliens.
It's difficult for me to say anything more about this movie without absolutely, completely spoiling everything. Suffice to say, the high-concept science fiction stuff is very well handled. This movie earns some comparisons to Interstellar, but is far more intelligent and manages to not be hokey at all. Read on if you want spoilers... [More]
The Chicago Bears' season has been over for a while now, but they had an opportunity today to play spoilers for the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes. That didn't really happen, as the Bears settled for a game-tying field goal instead of attempting to convert a fourth and goal from the four yard line to win the game. The Bears had a first and goal at the three yard line with less than two minutes in the game and down by three (27-24). A penalty backed them up to the thirteen, and they weren't able to punch it into the end zone. Micah Hyde swatted a pass out of the hands of Cameron Meredith on third down, and John Fox decided to kick a tying field goal rather than going for the win.
Jordan Howard had rushed for over 90 yards, a touchdown, and a 5.3 yards per carry average over the course of the game, yet John Fox decided to throw the ball on third down and concede to the field goal. I would have put the ball in Jordan Howard's hands and given him both third and fourth downs to try to punch the ball four yards into the end zone. No way I would have settled for three.
Micah Hyde swatted a 3rd down pass that would have given the Bears a late lead.
Chicago had nothing to play for except beating Green Bay. Kicking a tying field goal had no strategic advantage. You have nothing to play for; there's no reason to play it safe. Let your bell-cow running back show what he can do.
Bad decision-making didn't end with the decision to play for the tie. The Packers got the ball back with about a minute left and no timeouts. An injury on third down stopped the clock, but the Bears refused to enforce the ten-second run-off. Aaron Rodgers followed that with a deep bomb, a clock-stopping spiked ball, and a game-winning field goal with three seconds left... [More]
When I reviewed Captain America: Civil War, I said that "the Marvel cinematic universe may be starting to collapse under its own weight". I probably should have said that "it's starting to buckle under its own weight", since Marvel is still a ways off from anything that resembles collapse. That movie also got better upon repeat viewings, but I feel much the same about the recently-released Doctor Strange. In much the same way that I had suspected that Suicide Squad must have taken place years (or decades) prior to Dawn of Justice, I had also assumed that Doctor Strange must have occurred (at least partly) prior to the events of the first Avengers movie.
The story of Doctor Strange is, after all, essentially a Doubting Thomas story. That would be fine if Doctor Strange were a stand-alone movie, but a Doubting Thomas story is a really difficult thing to buy into within the Marvel cinematic universe. By the beginning of the movie, Stephen Strange (who lives in New York) must surely be aware of (and possibly have first-hand experience with) superhumans since the events of the first Avengers movie. In a world in which the literal Norse God of Thunder Thor has descended from the mystical plane of Asgard, to team up with a gamma-powered Hulk and a super soldier frozen since World War II, to defend New York from an inter-dimensional alien invasion, can you really be all that skeptical of astral projection, alternate dimensions, or even blatant magic?
Avengers Tower is clearly visible.
If Doctor Strange's car accident and physical therapy took place long before the events of the first Avengers, then this skepticism would be excusable. If Strange spent years at Kamar Taj learning magic, while oblivious to the events of the Avengers movies, Winter Soldier, and Civil War, then that would be a satisfactory explanation for his ignorance. But I don't think that's the case. Doctor Strange was tight-lipped when it came to references to the other Marvel movies (potentially for this very reason), but Avengers Tower still shows up in the skyline, and I'm pretty sure there were references to the other super heroes in the first half of the movie. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Strange gets a phone call asking if he'd be willing to treat an Air Force colonel who broke his spine in experimental armor. This must surely be a reference to Rhodes' accident in Civil War.
Strange is asked if he'd be willing to treat Colonel Rhodes after injuries sustained in Civil War.
Maybe I'm being nitpicky, but buy-in is important in fantastical movies like this. But it's hard to buy into Stephen Strange, and it certainly doesn't help that he's an abrasive ass hole and isn't very likeable at the start of the movie... [More]
I haven't had much reason to talk about the Chicago Bears this year. Since the preseason, the team has gone from bad to worse. Injuries has been the story of the season, but injuries are no excuse for the abysmally poor play from this team. The Bears have used all three of their quarterbacks and at least four of their running backs this season, as they've been going through a revolving door of injuries.
Rookie Jordan Howard has been the bright spot of the season. With injuries to Jeremy Langford and KaDeem Carey, Howard has been the bell-cow rusher for most of the season. And he has performed well. Not as well as the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliot, but still pretty good. Howard carried the Bears to 3 touchdowns in a 26-6 victory over the 49ers earlier today. It looks like the Bears have found a replacement for Matt Forte, assuming that Howard can continue to perform this well in the years to come.
The Bears look like they've found a replacement for Matt Forte. Jordan Howard has been excellent.
The quarterback situation, however, hasn't been as fortuitous. Cutler was out for a while, and Brian Hoyer played well in his stead. It looked like Cutler's career as a starting quarterback for the Bears was over (finally). Then Hoyer got hurt, and the untested Matt Barkley finished the game without much fanfare. The Bears weren't confident in playing a third-string quarterback, so Cutler came back the following week and lead the team to its second win of the season (a 20-10 victory over the collapsing Vikings in week 8). So maybe Cutler was back to form? Maybe he was going to save his job with a late-season rally?
Not so. The Bears were embarrassed the following week by Tampa Bay, and Cutler got hurt once again the following week against the New York Giants. Cutler will have to have surgery to repair the damage, which means that his season (and possibly his career with the Bears) is over.
In comes young backup quarterback Matt Barkley... [More]
Back in the summer, my girlfriend and her brother saw that Norwegian Air was offering direct flights from Las Vegas to Copenhagen, Denmark for relatively cheap (under $400 round-trip). So we bought some tickets, made reservations at a hostel in Copenhagen, and spent our Thanksgiving holiday traveling to Europe and getting some more stamps on our passports. This was only my second trip to Europe and the second set of stamps that I got on my passport.
The flight was pretty grueling. Ten hours in economy seating is not the most comfortable thing in the world. The time-zone difference also meant that the flight effectively wiped an entire day off of our calendar. Ah well. We bought a transit card called the "Copenhagen Card", which gave us free use of the public transit systems for the entire week. It also granted us free admission to some public facilities such as castles, museums, and parks. It was a very handy thing to have!
Gløgg is a Scandinavian holiday wine.
Apparently, the Danes really like Christmas. One of the things that struck us almost as soon as we got off the plane is that the entire city was decorated for Christmas. Whole buildings were covered in lights, street lights were lined with garlands, and there were multiple Yule Markets (outdoor gift and food stands) lining the streets and squares of the city. Since the Danes don't have Thanksgiving, they apparently don't have any reservations about putting up Christmas decorations in November. We walked through some of these street vendors and Yule Markets and tried our first Danish delicacy: gløgg. Gløgg is a Swedish and Danish drink that mixes hot mulled wine with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, raisins, and almonds. It's kind of like a sweet hot tea, and it's a very strong drink with a somewhat overwhelming fragrance. It was good in moderation, but its overwhelming sweetness meant that it wore out its welcome for us very quickly... [More]
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