Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Above Average Intelligence

The original definition of the term, "intelligence" could either mean a measure of the faculty of understanding or the gathering or distribution of information, especially secret information. In the new TV series created and developed by Michael Seitzman with Tripp Vinson, it came to mean both.

Starring Josh Holloway as Gabriel Vaughn, an ex-Delta Force operative implanted with a chip that allows him to access the global information grid. Marg Helgenberger as Lillian Strand, Director of the US Cyber Command, Meghan Ory as US Cyber Command Special Agent Riley Neal, an ex-Secret Service agent assigned to protect Gabriel from external threats, and John Billingsley as Shenendoah Cassidy, the neuroscientist responsible for creating the microchip that was implanted in Gabriel's brain.

Some spoilers follow: The first episode jumps in immediately into action to quickly engage the viewer when the opening scene shows Gabriel walking into a clearing as his surroundings suddenly changes into a snapshot of the interior of the 2008 Taj Mahal Palace Hotel terrorist attack. That piqued my curiosity. He's "cyber-rendering" the scene of a crime in his search for a woman (who was one of the terrorists involved) who was also later revealed to be his missing wife. Things get complicated real quick when Cassidy was kidnapped by a rogue Chinese intelligence group/militia and forced to recreate his experiment by implanting a possibly new and improved though untested microchip into a female agent who will obviously play the role of his arch nemesis in the series. My only beef with the main character is that despite the fact that he's an ex-Delta Force, having spent five tours in Afghanistan (or was it Iraq?) which means he's a man's man which he proved when he was able to walk out of the enemy's base on his own after allowing himself to be captured (this was implied that this wasn't the first time he did this) PLUS he's powerful enough to take anything download every fact that exists anywhere online, even behind firewalls and, seemingly on hard drives as well thanks to the microchip in his head. With that kind of power and attitude why would he then suddenly turn into a emotional underdog the moment he got a female partner? And what's with him getting beat up if he can as easily download an app for Mandarin language he could just as also adapt his fighting style to match his enemy like Neo did from The Matrix, right?

While I'm not one of those who religiously follow TV series in general especially those under the espionage genre like Nikita, Alias, Person of Interest, Numb3rs, Burn Notice, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Almost Human, or Homeland, etc. I found myself looking forward to watching the next episodes to find out what happens next. What I also found interesting is the plot revolving more or less around the idea of "Digital Permanence" (know more about it here - Digital permanence: What goes on the Internet stays on the Internet) and the impact and possible threat this imposes on heroes and villains as well as the idea of unlimited possibilities with evolving organic technology (a plot device which, I heard, is also being explored in Almost Human).

Intelligence will premier in the Philippines on February 11 and will be shown hereafter every Tuesday at 9:55 pm on the new channel, RTL CBS Entertainment HD, available a-la-carte and as part of Sky Cable's Silver, Gold, Dual Def499, Dual Def999, and TitaniumHD40 packages. Global Destiny subscribers will be able to access the channel on April, 2014.

You can read more about RTL CBS Entertainment and the programs that will be shown in that channel, here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Everything Looks Awesome!

It's really a treat to see a movie that delivers on its promise of a super fun ride based on the premise of a trailer or two. Rarer still is the movie that not only entertains the adults in the theater but also manages to balance it by making the story and the characters accessible to the kids. The Lego Movie is one of those movies that delivered on that promise. Visually, the movie stands out with the clever mix of mostly stop motion animation peppered with CGI. There's also the attention to detail that was absent in previous direct-to-video LEGO movies and cartoon series, "in which parts of the sceneries and most of the effects were made to look realistic." These parts include "water, fire, laser bolts, explosions and smoke. The laser beams were actually transparent LEGO rods (commonly known as "Lightsaber blades"), while smaller puffs of smoke are LEGO ice cream pieces." This deliberate decision on the part of the design was explained near the end of the movie.

Story-wise, as mentioned earlier, the movie spoke both to adults and children alike. The writers of the movie: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller managed to come out with a story that mostly steered clear of scenes that insinuate mature themes though there were instances of juvenile humor here and there and a bit or two of dark humor (nothing above the usual fare in cable cartoons). There were a lot of laugh out loud scenes that are good enough for a second or third round of viewing.

Picture copied from this site
The story revolves around, Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt), a very ordinary minifigure construction worker who had his life turned upside-down one day when he met Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) poking around the construction area after work hour was through. He was taken to be the prophesied messiah, the one that would finally restore order to the world (or worlds) 8 1/2 years before by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman). What follows is a mission of infiltrating the HQ of the villain, President Business (Will Ferrell) and destroy the weapon of mass destruction, the Kragle, by joining it with the Piece of Resistance that was supposed to be facilitated by a group of still-at-large "MasterBuilders" led by Emmett. But things go to a head because Emmett cannot seem to rise up to his role as the ultimate Master Builder.

But if you were to dig deeper past the humor things get dark real fast.

Don't read past this mark if you're not into that sort of thing.

* * *

It's the story of a communist society under a dictatorial leader aided by a hatchet man and surrounded by robot yes men who maintains the status quo by imprisoning intellectuals and forcing them to come up with gadgets and weapons while keeping the masses / hoi polloi under control via an instruction manual for their daily lives, controls what they can watch (a one-liner "sitcom" guaranteed to kill brain cells) or listen to (one catchy song that everyone sings for hours on end, even the robot minions). You can read the lyrics below to see what I mean:

Sung by Tegan and Sara feat. The Lonely Island, video created by Lego Girl.

* * *

The movie ends with a moral lesson, of course, but not the kind with the traditional mushiness of living a better life by being yourself but rather to savor the joys of childhood by playing with your toys as the manufacturers originally intended. Props goes to the ensemble cast that filled in the rest of the time with good humor include Batman (Will Arnett)Benny (Charlie Day)Bad Cop / Good Cop (Liam Neeson)Unikitty (Alison Brie)Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), with surprise guest appearances by Han Solo (Keith Ferguson)C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)Superman (Channing Tatum)Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), and Lando (Billy Dee Williams) among others

All in all, I predict this movie would be a certified hit bringing out all sorts of nostalgia for those who grew up playing with Lego bricks pretty much the same way Toy Story did for toys and Wreck It Ralph did for video games. No wonder the overwhelming feeling I got after coming out of the theatre was to rush out to the stores and get myself a starter set.

The Lego Movie will be shown Feb. 6 and is released and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures (Philippines).