Thursday, 30 March 2017

Passengers

Passengers is a a classic case of a classic science fiction tale told in three acts. At its core is the basic moral question of where we draw the line between the rights of the individual against the rights of others. Specifically, in the case of Passengers, how far can an individual go when fending for oneself at the expense of others?
That individual is Jim (Chris Pratt), an earthly passenger aboard a space ship taking him plus five thousand others to a new human colony. Through a malfunction, Jim finds himself awoken from hibernation and completely on his own 15 years from the start of the ship’s 120 year long journey; if all goes according to plan, everyone else is still asleep and won't wake till way past Jim's death of old age. On his own, Jim grapples with the dilemma of whether his solitude is worth addressing by messing about with the rest of the still hibernating folk around him. Specifically, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), with whom he falls in love.
Clearly, one does not recruit Jennifer Lawrence for a role but then keep her asleep throughout the duration of the movie. Eventually, our Adam and Eve will be called to make personal sacrifices when the pendulum changes and the question is no longer how much should the many sacrifice for the individual but rather how much is it reasonable for the individual to give back to the many.
Clearly, these are questions worth making a movie to promote a discussion on. Problem is, Passengers is an American movie, so things do gravitate towards the cheesy, the promised land at the end of the rainbow type conclusion. In order to get there, Passengers is not afraid to throw in physical impossibilities (despite taking much effort to present a very authentic space travel environment at first). Nor is it afraid to use the superior genes of its stars to titillate the viewer in quite unnecessary ways.
Overall: It’s a shame Passengers’ commercial aspirations had to ruin the great foundations it had built. Then again, that is the story of Hollywood in a nutshell. 3 out of 5 crabs that could have easily been much, much more.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Moonlight

The three acts tale of a black kid growing up with a druggie mother, turning into a teenager fellow kids bully, turning into an adult is - as can be totally expected - a really disturbing one. Moonlight is a tale of a segregated world in which black people grow under the influence of crime and, despite some good intentions to be found all around, have little in the way of an outlook to look forward to.
If you can tolerate the handheld camera style you will be in for a treat in reality TV like story telling and acting.
Overall: 3 out of 5 crabs.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Girl on the Train

Funny that. If you travel on a Melbounre train, you will hardly see any people outside those waiting to board the train at the various stations. Let alone observe folks’ entire life stories. Yet this is exactly what we get with this American interpretation of the British book, The Girl on the Train.
A woman (Emily Blunt), who - we quickly learn - is a rather disturbed alcoholic - is a regular train traveler who can tell us all about several people she observes daily out of her ride. With two other women entering the story, these observations quickly turn into a murder story. Which, in turn, makes The Girl on the Train into yet another member of the “it's always the one you least suspect” club movie. With, dare I say, not much to add to the genre.
Blunt is good, but the whole skipping between timelines and women is rather heavy handed. I haven’t read the book; it could well be that it does not have much to offer beyond easy to sell cheap thrills. But I doubt this big screen rendition does the book much good.
Overall: 2.5 out of 5 crabs.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Meaning of Science by Tim Lewens

Once upon a time in another world, I had a book called The Philosophy of Science that I developed a weird relationship with. First time I read it as a young boy, I thought it was bizarre; I was going for the science and ended up reading arguments piled over counter arguments. But with time I realised this made sense, revisited that book several times, and have grown fond of the complicated scene it exposed before me. Explaining what makes science different to other philosophies is no easy feat!
Years went by and that book got lost as I skipped several continents across the world. Then I bumped upon this book called The Meaning of Science, and immediately thought that, hey, here is a great opportunity for me to revive old acquaintances.
Only that this did not turned out to be the case.
The Meaning of Science is split into two parts, each with its own allegedly standalone chapters (I say allegedly because while the book may claim chapters can be read out of order, I did find inter references). The first part aims to establish what science is, philosophically, and the second tries to discuss the implications of that through practical examples.
However, right from the word go, with its discussion on science vs. pseudoscience, The Meaning of Science lost me. I understand philosophy can be a complicated affair, but I could not understand was that first chapter’s message - did it tell me there is a way to tell pseudoscience apart from science or did it argue the two are indistinguishable?
Whichever way the author had intended to be, the whole book is quite poor on the readability department. So much so it made it hard for this reader to tell the chaff from the wheat; or, more importantly, be able to critically assess the examples used by the book.
Overall:
I admit it entirely possible The Meaning of Science is a book way above my current intellectual capacity. However, even if that is the case, it only proves this is not a book that qualifies as a good dose of popular philosophy to the intermediate reader seeking to learn philosophy the way one learns science from a popular science book.
I therefore award The Meaning of Science 1 out of 5 crabs.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Inferno

If you’ve watched one of the other Dan Brown book based movies starring Tom Hanks, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, you would know exactly what to expect out of Inferno. More of the same of the little these two other movies had to offer, that is.
The plot starts off like your classic JRPG: our hero (Hanks) wakes up suffering from amnesia, but through the occasional flashback comes back to realise what is truly going on around him (an experience uncomfortably stretched across the width of this entirely uninspiring film). In between we are exposed to the occasional improbable action scene taking place at classic historic places in Florence, Venice and Istanbul and featuring much 2c occult bullshit.
It’s good to see Sidse Babett Knudsen, of Borgen fame, again in a supporting role. Yet both her and Hanks deserve so much better!
Overall: A numb time waster if there ever was one. 2 out of 5 crabs.