Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reviewlet: X-men the last stand

Despite the critics' thrashing, the fanboy in me liked this movie, a lot. For someone who still owns at least 10 or so years of X-men comics, this movie gets it right. First and foremost, the mutant powers.

One specialty of the X-men comics has always been the team work and the comboing and complementary use of powers was exceptional.

Magneto and Pyro hurling flaming cars, Kitty Pride as the ultimate support character, Colossus with his new protect others ability, etc. And always, my favorite, the canonical "fastball special" of Colossus using Wolverine as a "smart" projectile.

And movie special effects have finally developed to make their super powers really worked. This was the first of the x-men films where Wolverine's healing was compelling. And Beast was true to form, and I thought casting frasier was genius, though his make up didn't quite work for me.

Like the previous movies, this one included lots of canonical x-men plot elements. Wolverine and Phoenix. Joss Whedon's plot line of the Indian scientist Kavita Rao discovering the mutant cure.

The movie again asks the interesting ethical questions that the X-men always asks. Revisiting the holocaust, ethnic persecution, and indirectly, homosexuality. Though it does so in unsophisticated ways, it's not bad for a superhero movie.

And minor spoiler. I am sure that despite the graves at the end, noone died.
One death was never seen, one (if you read the comic book you would know) can never die, and finally Xavier mentioned the braindead body during class for a reason. Of course there will be sequels.

Fourth highest grossing opening of all time. Like Da Vinci code, the people are ignoring the critics, for the better this time. The New York Times review by Manohla Dargis was clueless and stupid: "By the time Warren Worthington III soars over the Golden Gate Bridge, his white wings extended and evoking seraphic visions of "Angels in America," the metaphor of the persecuted minority has all but left the realm of the figurative."

Final Grade: A-

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mental Masturbation on Language and Rationality

Listening to NPR while jogging last week around the glimmering sunny Lake Lagunita (Lake "Lake"), Tom Wolfe mentioned his belief that human rationality, the very essence of humanity, came about with language, the ability to communicate sparked reason, sparked civilization, sparked humanity.

This sparked a chain of random fun ideas, on Wittgenstein's (I believe old Wittgenstein as opposed to new Wittgenstein) concurrence that reason is only possible with language and thus truth is inherently unknowable (echoing Humean empiricism) because language is necessarily imperfect (echoing the proof by Godel that even the language of math is necessarily imperfect and certain ideas must be inexpressible in any mathematical system, echoing Church and Turing on the inherent incomputability of some things), and then reminded of W-'s explanation of how Habermas' reconciles post-modernism with objective reality by saying that reality is objective, but the imprecision of language and the necessity of language to perceive reality makes our perception of reality necessarily subjective.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Reviewlet of the DaVincii Code

Google's immersive advertising campaign for DaVincii code worked on me. Sovling the onlne puzzles got me intrigued enough to want to see the movie, and thus read the book first. Here are my thoughts:

Perfunctory prose with scarce character development (supposedly Angels and Demons did that) and awkward dialogue that existed only to advance the plot reminded me of a Hardy Boys novel. Maybe I just haven't read fiction in too long, but I tend to expect better even from my comic books.

It is however my kind of story, though Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose did the whole biblical grand conspiracy story several orders of magnitude better, but this was defiinitely much quicker of a read, and filled with an interesting plot and intriguing historical details (like where the word horny comes from or how to better appreciate renaissance iconography or how a sexual orgy can be a ecstatic ecumenical excultation of the Goddess [though not as novel as Neal Stephenson's sexual orgy as primitive archo-Internet packet switching]).

Also interesting to compare to the retelling of the same conspiracy story in the crappy Nick Cage movie, American Treasure.

The cheesy travelogue descriptions of parisian and london tourist traps, were good for me to relive old vacations, and gave greater appreciation of paris and da vincii and the mona lisa. The book rewards the avid casual tourist who knows that westminster abbey is right by parliament and houses the tomb of newton.

In the end, a satisfying plot, with interesting colorful side characters (Silas, Teabing), I enjoyed the read. Angels and Demons is next on my queue.