Bad Movies, Good Docs, and Robopocalypse

I just relaxed for most of the Labor Day weekend. I avoided taking on any large, ambitious projects. This always leaves me feeling guilty. There is this vague checklist in my head, a list of things I should be doing and should have done, and nothing I do ever gives me a sense of completion. Perhaps I just miss school.

I watched a lot of bad movies and a few good documentaries over the weekend. I think I have exhausted all the good movies available and am only left with the crud at the bottom. I was unable to even sit through these films in their entirety, turning them off less than 50% of the way through. These included The Expendable (25%), Battle: Los Angeles (45%), and Attack The Block (15%). The last film has garnered a lot of good reviews and features a tenuous connection with Hot Fuzz with actor Nick Frost and director/writer Joe Cornish, but the whole British hip-hop scene of Jamaican accented teens dressing and behaving like American  gangster rappers really turned me off. And right from the beginning the story asks way too much of the viewer: Are we really supposed to sympathize with a character who mugs an innocent women of her jewelry?

At least I had a good backlog of documentaries in my Netflix cue. This is my great fallback position; when in doubt and out of ideas watch a documentary. I watched Botany of Desire and Helvetica. Botany of Desire deals with the history of four plants (Apples, Tulips, Potatoes, and Marijuana) and their relationship with humans. The film argues that the way these plants appeal to humans, Apples for sweetness, Tulips for beauty, Potatoes for sustenance, and Marijuana for pleasure, is an adaptation that has created a symbiotic relationship with humans and has enabled these plants to evolve and flourish for centuries throughout the planet. Helvetica is a documentary about the eponymous sans-serif font, an independent film dealing with typography, graphic design, and global visual culture. An 80 minute film about typeface fonts…what more could you possibly want?

I finished reading Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson. My initial reaction was pretty negative. The whole thing seemed like a ripoff of World War Z, the brilliant zombie apocalypse book by Max Brooks. However, about 100 pages into the story, the novel starts to assert itself. The initial seemingly random cast of characters are fleshed out and solidified with recurring appearances, each having their own continuity that often intersects with other characters. What started out as a verbal history of an event conveyed through security cameras and interviews turns into a well rounded plot. My favorite parts were near the end when the writer gets inside the head of the freeborn robot Nine Oh Two. These freeborn robots break free from the enslaved control of the AI Archos, the villain of the story also known as “the Big Rob” who is directing the war against humanity. It is really interesting the way these robot allies regard their human comrades. From what I understand, Robopocalypse is slated to be made into a movie direct by none other than Steven Spielberg. It will probably make a really good movie, especially with DreamWorks behind it. As a book it was a lot of fun, a mediocre read at worst, nothing that will keep Charles Stross awake at night, but still a good read and with only a 350 page length it didn’t absorb too much of my time.