QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Wonder Woman


I was chatting about the Gadot Wonder Woman movie and hear it claimed that the biggest fault was the villians.

I, for one, felt that every single plot twist was visible a mile off, which that bothered me more. I have never read any WW comics and know of the character pretty much just from Linda Carter. (And the story here diverges from what I remember of that show.)

It was enjoyable for a comic book film, but you just have to keep those expectations low. I think it benefited from being about a very small cast of characters, rather than these N superheroes, plus assorted minor characters vs these M enemies, plus assorted minor henchmen. (Not naming Marvel's Avengers series by name, no, not me.)

I saw it in 3-D (because best showtime) and will confirm: 3-D unnecessary.

Runaway


I watched the Michael Crichton written/directed Runaway last week.

Runaway (1984) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088024/

The blurb I read about it promised spider robots. I was disappointed. There were things they called "spiders" in the film, but these were six legged things, about the size of a typical restaurant lobster, with hypodermic acid injectors instead of mandibles.

The story is about a near future when robot servants are commonplace and a police force that deals with rogue robots. Naturally, for a good story, there's someone who wants to rogue-ify robots and Tom Selleck is the cop who can stop that someone (who was played by Gene Simmons, of KISS).

The robots were somewhat reasonably designed. They are not Jetsons Rosy, but most were more like modern warehouse robots: blocky wheeled things with no face, but manipulator arms. Many of the robots do have implausibly good speech control, but not devious intelligence. They are pretty simple minded with less wit than Siri.

There are some interesting details. They use a "floater" to investigate an armed rogue-ified robot in a house. The "floater" is a small flying thing with a remote video feed, very much like consumer drones. But the engineering is all wrong: it's shaped a bit like a book with a single central prop, forgetting why helicopters have tails. The cop's son uses a thing that resembles a tablet computer to watch TV in bed. There are a number of things secured with biometric readings, particularly retinal scans. Robots can be disabled, easily, if you can get close enough to detach their battery cables. Reliability is a significant concern for the characters, and at one point Selleck refuses to let a medic robot perform because he doesn't think that model will be as careful as a human.

It's not a bad story and the vision of future tech holds up okay. Three of five missing computer chip templates.

Final thought: but the simplistic flaw of fear of heights is used in obvious ways.

Two Lane Blacktop


This film is in color, but it's so stark it feels like black and white. Characters without names drive cars and race cars. Words must cost money and they's short on cash. But there's such beauty in the film work.

The Driver and the Mechanic have a 55 Chevy, engine completely rebuilt, car stripped of anything unnecessary. They drive Route 66 east, looking for races to win. They keep bumping into this guy in a 1970 Pontiac GTO (both cars get listings in the credits). At this point you are reminded it is a color film because the GTO is bright yellow. The Chevy crew and the GTO agree to race to DC, for pink slips. There's a Girl, too. She just put herself in the car and they drove off without a word. Later, she gets tired of them never asking her name or something and takes herself out of the car. It's the racing that's important.

Imdb tells me a remake is planned. Seems like this can't be made better, though. Imdb also tells me the 55 Chevy went on to have a roll (in more than one sense) in American Graffiti, driven by Harrison Ford.

Two Lane Blacktop (1971) at IMDB

James Taylor is "The Driver". Beach Boy Dennis Wilson is "The Mechanic". Warren Oates is "GTO". Laurie Bird is "The Girl". That's how they are credited in leading and trailing credits. Names are heavy, they slow you down.

Five out of five weird hitchhikers picked up by GTO.

The grandma was the killer hitchhiker. (But not not a literal killer.) Odd that I watched this and didn't think about Harry Dean Stanton, one of the weird hitchhikers, but learned he died a couple hours later.

Harry Dean Stanton obit at LATimes

Final thought: GTO and the Driver have another reason to ponder mortality.

The Wages of Fear


The Wages of Fear (1953, original title "Le salaire de la peur") at IMDB

They came for the jobs, and then couldn't get home. A small town in South America where the only big employer is the Yankee "Southern Oil Company" (SOC) and there are no roads further than the derricks and no money for the air tickets. Trapped with no exit and barely money to eat, it's a desperate crowd.

Then there is the accident. Four dead and nine injured in an explosion at a drill site. The gusher continues to burn and a plan is hatched. Surround the fire with explosives, and blow it out with a big bang. The big problem? Moving all the nitroglycerine the three hundred miles from HQ to to well, with no safety equipment.

Better get some of the local bums to drive. Those guys don't have a union or families that will cause trouble. Just offer a big bonus for surviving and they'll jump at the chance.

Twenty miles of washboard gravel road to start the morning, out of twenty-two. The pre-drive part of the movie is kinda slow, but the drive is excellent.

I heard about it from a Frenchman discussing pot holes, which prompted me to watch it.