December 2020 Reviews

[A summary of my movie and TV reviews from last month, posted to Attrition.org, mixed in with other reviews.]


The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
Rating: 5/5 check it out mate
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix
This miniseries, based on a 1983 book with the same name, is a fictional story about a chess prodigy turned master. It has the feeling of a real story and the producing, sets, and acting strongly lend to this. The main character, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, does an epic job playing a character who has personality quirks and addiction issues. The story is set many decades ago and gives a good reminder of the expectations about women in society. While chess may not seem to be a good basis for a fast-pace drama, the series does a wonderful job maintaining a good pace. I highly recommend this series for everyone.


Tenet (2020)
Rating: 5/5 – Action-packed mind-fuck
Reference(s): IMDB Listing
OK, you have to see Tenet. I think i liked it a lot? But I won’t be sure until I see it a second time. At least. Maybe a third time? It is a very cerebral movie and it makes Inception look like a cartoon in some ways. There are several layers and I think on a second watch I will probably notice a lot of things that would have helped keep up / understand along the way the first time through. Things that are better revealed toward the end as the movie progresses and evolves that will potentially make it more enjoyable the second time around. Very neat movie; great casting, great acting, and it really draws you in.


Ted Lasso (2020) [Apple TV]
Rating: 5/5 better than a biscuit, which is a cookie
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Apple
This comedy from Apple TV stars Jason Sudeikis as “Ted Lasso”, an American football coach recruited to coach a British football (soccer) team. It’s basically Gomer Pyle (Lasso) meets Major League (plot) to start and it delivers. Sudeikis does a wonderful job playing the always upbeat transplant assisted by coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) as they are immersed in a new culture and new sport at the same time. It’s not a sports show at all, it’s just about the people and interactions with goofy analogies and quick wit. Very light and well-done comedy, worth the watch.


Devs (2020) [Hulu]
Rating: 4.9/5 I have seen what perfection has wrought
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
You think you have seen interesting or compelling tech company drama? You haven’t until you watch this, and you will. You will understand the concept of quantum computing before you start the show and you will embrace the many-worlds theory. You find this review confusing now but it will become clear, until it doesn’t again. And then you will find yourself the god in the machine while you ponder the implications of when computing power goes too far. You will then enjoy your new state of enlightenment and make better choices.

Described as a drama/thriller when mindfuck is more apt. This show does a great job of making you think about serious implications that quantum computing could bring. While it is certainly sci-fi in the level of computing power suggested, it creates a nice vehicle to let us have a glimpse into what “quantum supremacy” might mean.


Marauders (2016)
Rating: 4.5/5 But i’m a sucker for heist flicks
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
Bruce Willis, Christopher Meloni, and Dave Bautista in a cops and robbers movie and somehow I completely missed this movie existed until I saw it on a Netflix scroll?! As a fan of the genre and generally not too critical of such movies, this one was surprisingly good. None of the acting stood out particularly but none of it was bad. A couple extra decent actors and the movie came together pretty well. Until halfway through I was wondering which way it would go as far as the “who done it” goes. The ending? Not how I would have played it out. If you like the genre, it’s worth a watch.


Fatman (2020)
Rating: 4/5 who let him make movies again?
This movie is a light-hearted take on Christmas and the failures of Santa, at least through the eyes of Walter Goggins’ character. This is kind of a comeback movie for Mel Gibson after his numerous personal failures, some that make it ironic with him playing a very Christian character while personally being a drunk and hating Jews / black people. Gibson’s last bit makes it all the more surprising that the amazing Marianne Jean-Baptiste would sign on to play his wife giving a modern interracial Claus family. Really surprising that despite his history that his career freeze has “thawed” as they say in the industry and that he is being given a second chance. While he can be a great actor, essentially bringing the same character “Porter” from Payback (1999) to play Santa, I have to wonder is Hollywood so hurting for actors that they would accept him back after his sordid history?

Oh sorry, enough of that shitbag that can act well. Fun movie, two great actors as main characters, fun and simple story, it really brings the true spirit of Christmas in my eyes. Think [generic assassin movie] + Toys + [cynical Christmas movie] and you know what are you in for. Worth a watch, but don’t pay for it which shows support for Gibson. Find another way to watch it for free and then find a way to support Baptiste and Goggins directly instead. Did I mention fuck Gibson?


The Midnight Sky (2020)
Rating: 2.5/5 The movie belongs on a fiery earth
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix
Based on a book I didn’t read, this movie adaptation brings some star power with Felicity Jones and George Clooney. Without spoiling, the movie screamed “this is not what it seems” from the beginning so the ending was not as impactful as it could have been. Earth on fire and nearly uninhabitable? Sure! A two (?!) year voyage to the nearest habitable planet outside the solar system? OK! Man losing supplies then falling into arctic water and surviving? Prepare to suspend disbelief in the worst way. Overall, I suspect this is a case where the movie just didn’t do the book justice and fell short.

[Update: @_pronto_ pointed out they traveled to a moon of Jupiter, not outside the solar system. But still, a new moon of Jupiter that we didn’t know about is a viable alternative to Earth and Mars apparently isn’t?]


2067 (2020)
Rating: 2.5 / 5 – Science friction is more like it
Reference(s): IMDB Listing
For fans of the sci-fi genre, I don’t know if I should recommend 2067 or not. On one hand I like near-term sci-fi and I like dystopian films, which this offers both of. On the other, there are quite a few annoying bits about this, primarily the cast. I didn’t give two shits about anyone and most were annoying enough that I wanted them to die. Throw in a couple completely illogical things to advance the plot, a sign of bad writing in my opinion, and it just didn’t mesh well. It was good enough that, a ways in, I was willing to stick with it just to see how it ended. Recommend for watching while working, doing a puzzle, or falling asleep to.


The Jesus Rolls (2019)
Rating: 2/5 between 7-10p split, don’t watch
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
Did you know there was a spin-off to The Big Lebowski? Neither did I until recently. It follows a brief part of Jesus’ life, but not really his life bowling unfortunately. This is basically the story of two hapless and idiot guys on the lowest-end crime spree you can imagine. The humor is also some of the lowest-end too; there wasn’t that much to laugh about as the bit comedy was lacking overall. I’d pass on this and re-watch the dude. On the upside, we do learn the story behind the sex offender registry.


War Inc (2008)
Rating: 1/5 Disown the “spiritual cousin”
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
John Cusack plays an assassin in this movie co-starring Joan Cusack and Dan Aykroyd … no, he does in this movie too. According to Wikipedia, Joan Cusack said, “.. in a way, it was a Grosse Pointe Blank 2” while John Cusack said it was a “spiritual cousin to Grosse Pointe Blank”. Sure, I can see that but it isn’t nearly as amusing. Intended to be political comedy & commentary (comedary?) it comes across as a cliché to other cliché films while borrowing from characters from the prior film. Rather than go with more subdued humor around a military presence in a fictional Middle Eastern country, they opted to go over-the-top and it really detracted from the potential. Skip this, (re)watch GPB instead.

Altered Carbon Nudity Index

For those who know me, they are well aware that I have a slight ‘spreadsheet’ problem. More specifically, Google Sheets since they are collaborative and sync across devices. Not the point! I tend to make Sheets for more and more things and track many data points in my life around my health. I also have my fair share of less useful sheets and my friends are quick to volunteer me to make a new one.

In other cases, sometimes a Sheet full of data is the only way to solve a friendly disagreement. A while back someone asked me what the “oddest” thing I have tracked was. I think the title of this blog post spoiled the answer to that.

What might be more amusing is the conversation that sparked the creation of that sheet, and what disagreement it resolved (the ratio of nudity between men/women in Altered Carbon). ‘J’ericho and ‘F’riend for the dialogue that has been edited slightly for readability:

F: I finished altered carbon last night, binged in one sitting
J: I started it again. There was floating penis in the first 10 seconds of the show?
F: I saw two [penises]. Total. I stand by my complaint.
J: You are judging based on the # of distinct penises, not the frequency of seeing said penises. How many distinct sets of boobs were there?
F: 87654. And frontal fur patch at least 3-4. Total imbalance. The P:B/B (Penis to Bush/Boob) ratio sucked.
J: Need a spreadsheet with incidents by episode, duration, comments like “at a distance, floating in water”, for objective analysis.
F: I use an obviously visible for 2+ seconds rule
J: I wouldn’t. There are times where it could flash for a second but be VERY prominent and count.
F: Obscure millisecond drive by penis hardly counts when they do close ups on boobs. And half the Clothes were stupidly see through. We need to discuss metrics. Asses should be weighed at half value. They are gender neutral.
J: Once you have the base data, you can figure out your formulas.
F: I stand firmly behind the P:B/B metric.
J: But need the base data first!
F: I think we have advanced to next level data nerding 🙂
[..]
J: Curious how you missed the blatant penis in S01E02
F: That was the one in the crypt right?
J: Penis 1 was in the Bancroft vault, penis 2 was in the Jack Me Off sex club.
F: Oh I forgot it? Or missed it
J: See! Boob bias!
F: Or it was unremarkable
J: It was prominent, gratuitous cock.
F: Come ON! I’ll go inspect.
J: Time stamp is in sheet.
F: A time stamp, in the sheet. Anything less would be not up to your standards

Ultimately, the data proves that she was right, the P:B/B ratio was heavily skewed toward female nudity, and I was right that her perception of the ratio was slightly off.

See? Good data can answer a lot of questions.

For those who appreciate obscure data, you’re welcome:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14FUc9ejRNNgNCUzTBXNvy_aDtPM2hhPkKgqubfu2MHE/edit?usp=sharing

When Reality TV Rears Its Ugly Head

I really do love the show COPS. I’ve seen 99% of the episodes over 28 seasons, and there are ~ 25+ episodes per season. The show is absolutely real, but they certainly cherry pick the scenes, and the officers they follow. Further, the TV show is built on a premise of formula of one violent takedown, 1 drug bust, 1 family domestic (if memory serves, and is based on material that is heavily criticized). So tonight, watching the latest episode… cop in the car says: “There was an anonymous caller that just uh… told us there was a warrant suspect in the back yard… he’s known to run from us, he’s alluded capture before so.. we’re going to see if we can uh… take him into custody here…”

Yep, stop there. This is where the TV show, shows its hand so to speak, and demonstrates how it is not objective at all. Nothing about that one minute intro makes any logical sense. The responding officer wouldn’t say “anonymous caller”, as 911 dispatch takes the calls and knows who they are speaking to (even if anonymous, they know the address and name registered to a line with few exceptions). How many people stop to read the most-wanted posters that the local post office? You do? Great, they don’t show local warrant suspects. Those aren’t posted anywhere that I have seen, ever. Known to run from police? The cop knows exactly who they are dealing with then, which is a positive ID. Escaped before? Why… rare case the police stop pursuit during a chase… so, moving on!

The more compelling reason to watch this show? It is reality TV that demonstrates why no unarmed person should EVER be shot by a police officer, no exception. This show actually broadcasts cases where the officer screws up, does something that is against policy, or against training. But there is a struggle, and the outcome is beneficial to the public and police, so they air it. I generally don’t blame those officers one bit. They are a half-second too quick to use mace? Fine. But those are the scenes we see… the taser incidents we see, but rarely if ever in a position of dispute. So consider that police are a bit too eager to mace a suspect, or go hands-on (the real bit we should question), on national TV. Is it so wrong to consider that a police officer would step over the ethical line when no cameras around?

There is a movement to put body cameras on police, and I believe that should happen. If we had the budget, I’d want a COPS camera crew following every unit and publishing that material w/o police oversight. I think it would be very telling. Remember… this TV series shows us the BEST that police have to offer. It is filtered and approved at multiple levels, before it goes to TV.

Now, for your “meta” discussion… it’s 2015, and we’re still seeing violent take-downs of suspects over flakes of marijuana. They are offered deals in the field to admit to their crime, or arrested for having personal-use volumes (by Colorado law), which are illegal in other states. Why is the TV show COPS still showing us these ‘dramatic’ scenes where police officers use physical force over the presence of personal-use levels of marijuana, and someone that is nervous in the face of police, especially when they are minority?

This episode? The suspect says they won’t answer questions until they get an attorney. The cop keeps asking questions… ON NATIONAL TV. Was the officer not trained on Miranda? I’d say YES, since the same cop was reading the Miranda warning from a card they kept in their pocket. If a cop pulled a card to read me my rights? Part of me would appreciate it, as they are doing it to make sure they are read correctly. Part of me would be scared, because they are a professional LEO supposedly… and haven’t memorized the relatively short Miranda warning. If they can’t remember those few sentences, why are they enforcing the law?

Again, I am a fan of the show in many ways. It reminds our society that police activity is not safe, and that law enforcement puts themselves into situations that endangers their lives every single day. But when a heavily edited TV show that has served as propaganda since seasons one, shows police clearly stepping over the lines? The producers need to consider what the fuck they are broadcasting to the world. They are either proper journalists (no..), or sloppy (yes..), and need to quit their jobs.

Shan Yu had a point.

BOOK: Have you ever read the works of Shan Yu?
SIMON: Shan Yu, the psychotic dictator?
BOOK: Yep. Fancied himself quite the warrior poet. Wrote volumes on war, torture… the limits of human endurance.
SIMON: That’s nice…
BOOK: He said “live with a man 40 years, share his house, his meals, speak on every subject. Then tie him up and hold him over the volcano’s edge. And on that day you will finally meet the man.”
SIMON: What if you don’t live near a volcano?
BOOK: I expect he was being poetical.

I am a sucker for a movie or TV show that presents a compelling scene or story, that conveys a complicated topic most humans will never experience, or likely never fully grasp with any bit of reality. I am a bigger sucker when such a scene or story starts taking on a small shred of reality, in a different context, that I can piece together.

While I can’t compare my point to being held over a volcano’s edge, I feel that slowly meeting and getting to know someone over 20 years and watching a variety of mental toils take effect, may come in a distant second. In addition to compassion fatigue, spending decades in an industry you believe in that keeps failing, no matter how hard you try to improve, wears a person down in many ways. Some of them often destructive to themselves and those around them.

We’ve reached a point in InfoSec where there are hundreds, maybe thousands of veterans that are reaching a critical mass. The number of disillusioned professionals that cannot tolerate their beloved industry is incredible. Some I know have sworn off the industry, vowing to work outside their niche market, and forsake the rest of the industry. This is great for them, bad for the industry who could desperately use their experience and knowledge, and absolutely fair to both. I won’t get into the debate of “oh but there is a next generation“, and just say that a community who loses a significant portion of their elders will suffer tremendously, even if they don’t realize it until many decades later.

if Shan Yu were on social media, I think he would be fascinated watching the story unfold, and amazed at how much he could learn about people during their industry-induced downward spirals.

My kind of reality TV…

Reality TV has become a staple for U.S. television. We all know that a majority of the shows are complete trash, and yet millions tune in religiously to watch them. In some cases, it is no different than watching a car wreck or a scene of utter amazement. Almost everyone who watches TV has at least one reality show they watch, even if it is a guilty pleasure. I certainly have a few.

Survivor used to be an entertaining show, but went downhill over the years as their attempts to inject a fresh angle were poorly executed and simply not creative. Hell’s Kitchen is entertaining, but primarily because Gordon Ramsay delivers a level of verbal abuse that would make some drill sergeants nod in respect. COPS has become routine, but I still enjoy it when a dumbass shows the textbook way to get tased. Ninja Warrior (Japan more than US) is entertaining, as it demonstrates a level of physical ability that few will ever know. I watch these shows because of the entertainment value, but also as background noise while working. They simply aren’t engaging enough on their own to warrant full attention.

There are two reality shows that stand out to me, as they went in a different direction. Instead of throwing people into a scripted and absurd situation before calling it ‘reality’ (e.g. Big Brother, Jersey Shore), some shows throw people into a very different situation for our entertainment, and education.

Solitary

From Wikipedia:

Solitary is a reality show on the Fox Reality Channel whose contestants were kept in round-the-clock solitary confinement for a number of weeks with the goal of being the last contestant remaining in solitary…

And that is the beauty of this show. For most competitions determining elimination, contestants were competing against themselves. Confined in their rooms, with only a robotic voice giving direction at times, they would keep doing a given task that got more difficult until they could take no more. At that point, they would hit a buzzer to indicate they were done. Each time they hit the buzzer, they had no knowledge of the other contestants so they never knew if they were the first to buzz out. As such, each contestant gave it their all. In addition to the eliminations via contests, some physical, some mental, they were participating in a larger contest every minute. When the pressure of being alone after having their identity stripped (they were only referred to as a number by the computer voice) was too much, they could buzz out of the entire contest.

No social game, just a test of self determination to see the extent a person can persevere.

The Colony

From Wikipedia:

The Colony is a reality television series that is produced by the Discovery Channel. The program follows a group of people who must survive in a simulated post-apocalyptic environment.

Season 1 is set in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, with 10 people living in an abandoned warehouse. While food and water is a daily struggle for them, the group is well-stacked for creativity and ability. Handyman, carpenter, machinist, computer scientists, and more. By the end of the show they have solar power, lighting, a shower, working radio (transmitter and receiver), and a lot more in the way of living. The group is put through many tests, often in the form of raiders, or other survivors begging for food and water to test the group’s unity. After surviving for almost sixty days, and losing one group member to an unknown incident, they are given a chance of escape and do so. The simulation is pretty well done and gives a rough idea of what life might be like. It shows how each person copes, how the group bonds as well as fights, over the smallest things. Commentary from an engineer, psychologist, and disaster consultant give insight as to what they are building, their mental state, and what options they have given the landscape.

Some of my gripes about season 1 are addressed early in season 2. Instead of attackers that push, shove, and menace, the colonists in season 2 are instantly pepper sprayed by the first large band of marauders. This forces them to use precious supplies like milk to neutralize the stinging. Season 2 also carries more dead weight; not everyone has life training in a discipline that has immediate use. A 22 year old model and a 70 year old man are in the group, giving a better spectrum of who may survive. Set on the edge of the bayou, this colony simulates a viral outbreak where every encounter with marauders must be done with masks and the threat of exposure. If possibly exposed during the struggles, they must self-quarantine themselves for 12 hours, and are only allowed to rejoin the colony if there are no signs of infection (e.g. fever, vomiting). In each case, while simulated, it gives a good glimpse into what a lack of society looks like. It shows how our minds work and how we can quickly descend into the types of people we looked down upon weeks earlier.

Know of any other reality shows along these lines? Let me know!

Listening in on a Wire

I’ve been a fan of the TV show ‘The Wire’ since i first saw it. Originally, it was just good police drama. a well done show that did not rely on gimmicks, wild chases or thousand bullet shoot outs. The show happens in Baltimore, not one of the staples TV rely on (LA and NY).

Re-watching the second season, i’m better understanding more of the appeal:

– It’s a smart show. If you don’t know what a DNR is in the first season, let alone the second, the show may not be for you (and make sure to know the difference between a DNR and wire). The show doesn’t have two or three main characters, it has a dozen or more. If you lose track of who’s who, the show will confuse you. It isn’t like most public tv shows, you don’t get every little event spelled out minutes later. For example, while i like CSI, it annoys me because of just that: [Nick collects evidence] [three minutes of commercials] [Sarah walks up “is that the evidence you collected from Jane Doe at the scene near that car lot on Broadway Blvd?”]. The show doesn’t treat you like a moron, and that is refreshing.

– It isn’t a procedural. Don’t get me wrong, procedurals have their place and many are good. However, there are too many and shows like Lost demonstrate that quality TV will keep viewers without the same formula every week.

– Every character, without exception, is deeply flawed. Not just some trite flaw that will be overcome by the end of a season. These characters are deeply flawed, and you know they will never get past their demons, never resolve their issues and continue to wade through a murky life as best they can. Despite this, you are guaranteed to find a character (or two) that you can easily related to. And that character may not be a police.

My MMA Wish-list…

I enjoy watching mixed martial arts (MMA). It is extremely demanding, compared to boxing for example. The multi-disciplinary style each fighter must learn or cope with keeps fights interesting. While I appreciate a good old brawl in the cage, I can also appreciate technical fighting and submissions. That said, there are some parts i’d love to see change, even once in a while.

  1. “I have to thank God..” as part of the winning speech. Ok fine, you got the power from God. Just once, one of these god-fearing religious types need to blame god when they lose. “Well, i guess God had it in for me this time..” or maybe “Wow, ya know, God really failed me here.”
  2. A fighter needs to enter the ring, and not have a single tattoo. No visible ink at all. No over-done tribal, no cursive names, no elaborate fiery demons.
  3. A fighter needs to enter the venue to an unconventional song, these ‘bad ass’ songs and lame rap songs are boring. Joe Blow entering to Portishead’s “Sour Times” would be great.
  4. Just one fighter, needs to use his name, and not a nickname. Joe Blow fighting this time. Not Joe “The Savage” Blow or Joe “Facemangler” Blow.
  5. If you talk shit for days before a match, don’t wuss out afterwards, even if you win. You spent hours calling the other guy a pussy, saying he can’t fight and that he chugs cock between matches. After you beat him, or he beats you, don’t wuss out with “yeah, just talking shit, he’s a great fighter blah blah wimp wimp”.