Blank Screen

I went to a screening of Incredibles 2 tonight. I walked into the theater about five minutes before the scheduled start. The screen was blank. That’s a bit unusual these days, but it was an IMAX screen; I figured that perhaps they didn’t have any commercial fluff that was in IMAX format.

The starting time of the movie came and went. People were still entering the theater. The screen stayed blank. People sat and watched the blank screen.

I began to entertain myself. “OK, this is a trailer for The Invisible Man Returns. Next, we have the trailer for Pitch Black. Now we have a trailer for a black-and-white movie, but because of a limited budget they couldn’t afford the white.”

I waited for twenty-two minutes after the scheduled start time, which is about how long trailers last these days. Finally, I asked the people sitting next to me to please watch my stuff as I went to the customer-service booth.

I asked the people there if anyone had reported that the screen in theater 10 was blank. No one had. A staff member said he’d check it out.

I went back to the theater and announced, “In case anyone’s interested, I just reported the problem.” A few minutes later the movie began.

The projectionist skipped the trailers and went straight to the movie… or what passes for “straight to the movie” these days. There was the warning about shutting off cell phones.

Then there was a special introduction from the voice actors and the director of Incredibles 2. More they once, they said that they’re sorry it took 14 years to make a sequel. But Samuel L. Jackson thanked us for our patience and assured all of us that it was worth the wait. Mr. Jackson, your words were truer than you know.

The chief antagonist of Incredibles 2 is the villain ScreenSlaver, who uses the power of hypnotic patterns on a screen to control people’s minds. During the film, the ScreenSlaver gives us the usual super-villain monologue about how everyone was mindlessly looking at screens.

Oh, poor ScreenSlaver. You worked so hard on your hypno-screens. Little did you realize that you can hypnotize a theater full of people with just a blank screen.

“The Last Jedi” – my experience

This is not a review. There will be no spoilers.

I had not intended to see The Last Jedi on its opening day. I anticipated the theaters would be jammed. Also, there were was a lot scheduled at work both today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday), including a #ScienceOnHudson talk and the lab’s holiday party.

Just as I was about to head home after the #ScienceOnHudson talk, I got a text message from a friend of mine. He couldn’t make it to the 10:30PM show, and wanted to know if anyone would like to have his ticket. My initial thought was that the film wouldn’t end until 1:30AM, which is a bit much for a work night. I drove home and got into my pajamas.

Then I saw a new text that said my friend and turned in his ticket for a refund. Several other friends said “We’re sorry we won’t see you tonight”. That was when I became aware it was a group trip to see the movie.

My geek cred returned with a vengeance. I went to the AMC web site to see if I could get a ticket for the newly-available seat. I had difficulties with the site (common for that site); while the seat was free the purchase didn’t go through due to a web error, yet the site reserved the seat and I couldn’t select it again.

As I struggled with the site, a new block of seats suddenly opened up. My guess is that a group of friends planned to go together, changed their minds, and refunded their tickets. I purchased one of those seats. I changed into my outdoor clothes and drove to the theater.

When I got there, no one had claimed those new seats, and the seat I had tried to reserve earlier remained empty. It wasn’t crowded after all!

I said I wouldn’t review the film, but I will comment on the performances of Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. After being associated with their iconic roles for decades, they could have just phoned it in. They didn’t. They both brought a new energy to their performance.

I seriously believe that both Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill (the former in particular) should be considered for nominations for Best Supporting Actor. If Heath Ledger could win posthumously, I see no reason why Fisher couldn’t.

And now it’s after 2AM, I’m still a bit wired after the film, and I have a lot to do tomorrow. I shouldn’t be writing this blog post… but here we are!

No spoilers, sweetie

My take on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” matches that of most of the reviews I’ve seen: this isn’t the best of the series (I’d pick The Empire Strikes Back); this isn’t the worst of the series (tie between The Phantom Menace and The Return of the Jedi). This is a Star Wars movie, picking up the beats from thirty-odd years ago. My main complaint about the film is that J.J. Abrams pushed the “homage” button a bit too often. Otherwise, fans of the series and a general audience will get what they expect from a Star Wars movie: action, adventure, dueling spaceships, lightsaber battles. And, of course, heroes with enough pluck to bite the ears off a Gundaar. The film fulfills expectations and gives room for the series to grow in the future. Now that we’ve got the homages out of the way, we’re ready to go forward with Star Wars VIII.

Knights of Badassdom – an annoyed review

As a grade-B horror comedy with well-known actors, maybe I should cut this film some slack. As someone who LARPed for 12 years, I can’t.

The story of Knights of Badassdom may be new to the general public, but it’s overly familiar to any LARPer, RPG gamer, or SF fan: what if a group of role-players actually met a fantasy creature?

The film has the standard ingredients of low-end horror films: buckets of blood, characters that exist to be slaughtered, protagonists that behave with incredible stupidity. If you’re a fan of the kind of film satirized by The Cabin in the Woods you’ll be on familiar ground.

What annoyed me was the film’s depiction of live-action role-playing. It’s a comedy, and perhaps I should allow them some license. But I’m annoyed that every single LARPer in the film fits the standard negative stereotypes: a mix of dysfunctional personalities, poor role-playing, and bad sportsmanship, set in a LARP with with a terrible (and inconsistent) rules system.

Mild spoiler: In the end, the only protagonists who turn out to be effective are the ones who reject the idea of LARPing from the start.

This film was locked in a dispute over distribution rights for two years. I looked forward to its release in the hope that it might be a film that showed LARPing in a positive light, or at least encouraged LARP acceptance. By the end of the film, I was not amused, scared, or entertained. I was disappointed.

Maybe someday there’ll be a film in which the hobby of LARPing isn’t treated as a joke. Knights of Badassdom is not it.

Originally published at Argothald. You can comment here or there.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Quick review:

I just came back from seeing STID. Without spoiling: Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor. He has the range to portray villains: nasty villains, noble villains, tragic villains. He could be Sherlock Holmes, the Doctor, Moriarity, the Master, or Richard III. But he’s not the villain for this film.

That, plus plot holes you could fly a starship through, and physics that suits the needs of the moment. I’ve been a Star Trek fan since 1967, and there was too much fan service even for me.

So only two photon torpedoes at best, and that’s as a simple disconnect-brain action flick. This is not Star Trek.