Monday, December 31, 2012

Post Christmas Post

Last Christmas was our first one away from our families and friends back home ever, and it was a little tough, a little lonely, and a lot more peaceful. We had minimal decorations and no tree or lights in the apartment, and spent Christmas day together on the couch watching Die Hard. Not the worst way to pass the holiday season, but very different from previous years.

2012 was certainly an odd year for us. We couldn't work for five months due to shenanigans with our work permits, and we lived off potatoes and cheap sausages, or pasta and cheap pork mince. Without work, we were heavily restricted in what we could do during that time, so at the time it felt like forever, yet looking back on it now, it was a good period in general, during which I got to spend a huge amount of time with my wife right at my side.

We got back to work in July and I haven't had a day off since. I love my job, and it was so nice to get back to meeting all the kids and families, not to mention the wonderful co-workers. While Claire's freelance work was going from strength to strength, a setback in October to our plans pressed her into starting a new job that month for a small web development company. This annoyed me greatly at the time, as I had always wanted to be able to support her 100% in her building of her own online business and identity, as well as her writing. I felt that having her start this new job was a failure on my behalf, and it took me some time to come to terms with our new situation. Mostly, it just took me a little time to see that she really was loving her new job and the challenges it threw at her.

All this meant that, as well as a nice bit of savings tucked away, we had some extra cash to spend on each other this Christmas. Because of the break in employment, as well as the move to Canada before that, the effort to save as much as possible before the move, the fact that my job in Ireland didn't pay me enough to save substantially, and a whole list of other reasons going back several years, this was one of the first times we both agreed that we could treat ourselves a little this holiday season.

So we bought some decorations and fairy lights. I made a tree and wrapped some empty boxes to go under it. Slowly, over the early half of December, those were joined by actual gifts and everything felt more like a Christmas I remembered. We wrote Christmas cards and posted them to friends far away. We had friends over to play boardgames and Rock Band in the run up to the final week, and we went out with more friends to play pool, or watch movies, or generally have a good time.

It was feeling a bit more like the festive time of year.

And then it snowed!

Admittedly, it only snowed for a day, but it was magical to wake up to, thrilling to walk in, and resulted in one rather unusual Christmas event that will be forever burnt into my memory, side-by-side with walking on the frozen lake back home in Tipperary in 2010, and the Christmas we lost power at home minutes after the dinner was cooked, resulting in dinner by candlelight and easily the most peaceful, video-game-free Christmas in memory!

Christmas Day 2012 was spent in good company. We were invited to join a friend that Claire had made through writing for Christmas dinner. It was just the two of us, her son and his girlfriend, and herself. It felt very Irish, as they are all from Dublin, and dinner was chicken (turkeys over here are big enough to feed an army, far too big for just five of us) and the most delicious ham I have enjoyed since leaving Ireland. We sat around afterwords playing word puzzles and relaxing, and everyone had such a great time that we've agreed to do it again next year, should the fates allow.

Finally, the last few days have been spent playing yet more Rock Band and boardgames! In particular, yesterday, December 30th, saw us hosting a mammoth 12 hour boardgame day, starting around 1pm and finishing in the wee hours of this morning! We had a Geeky Gift Giving with six other friends. Basically, it was like Secret Santa, only there were no names drawn. Everyone arrived with a geeky gift and we played a bunch of games. Winners picked the gift they wanted. If you had already won, we simply went down the order until we hit the first person who had not yet picked and let them pick one. By the end of the evening, all eight of us had a great time, and everyone went home with a new boardgame, graphic novels, or, in Claire's case, a Nerf Vortex (I fear for my appendages). It was a fantastic night with zero organisational requirements, stress-levels zero, and smiles all around![1]

2012 was a roller-coaster of emotions and events, ranging from the life-affirming to the life-altering and much in between, but it ended on a high. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2013 has to bring, and I'm ready to take whatever it throws at me, safe in the knowledge that, no matter what trials I may face, I face them with Claire at my side.

So roll on 2013, you beautiful bastard!

[1]- I always enjoyed the Secret Santa back home, and Sinead always did an amazing job of organizing it and poking people to get involved, but if people couldn't make it at the last moment, it threw a spanner in the final gift swapping. Our G3 party required no organisation apart from an email inviting people to join in, and only those who showed up on the day were involved. The downside, of course, is that the gifts couldn't be tailored for any one person, because you didn't know who would get yours.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Poorly Baked Soufflé Of Darkness

Caveat: This breakdown of my issues with Batman: The Dark Knight Rises is going to be jam packed with spoilers, from opening scenes to closing action. If you haven't seen TDKR and plan on, maybe you should stop reading now. At time of writing, it is about to be released on DVD and BluRay, or, if you live in the 21st Century like most people do, direct digital download.

Firstly, I did enjoy parts of the movie, and in the past I have stated that I might "still recommend people go see it", but not now. I've rested on this issue for a few months, and my final opinion is that it is just as bad movie, and not worth your money. I did love the cameos from Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy, and squeed loudly when Cillian appeared (I did warn you there would be spoilers). I also enjoyed seeing the ridiculous Batpod doing it's spinning wheel sideways thing. But, Avengers was far more enjoyable and true to the comic-book movie ideal.

There are massive problems with this movie. This is my list, and only my list. It's the things that I noticed personally. I've tried to avoid including things that I've read online. This is about my issues.

Finally, before we begin proper, the following numbered list uses an excessive amount of text in full capitalization. This is because there are just some moments that are too stupid not to shout about.

1- TDKR is a movie where we see Batman recover and return TWICE! The first time, he goes from being a cripple for eight years to being A-okay in a matter of days, if not hours. A high-tech leg brace gives him back all his agility and strength. The second time he recovers from a broken back by having his spine PUNCHED back into line?!?!? I would actually have given either one of the recoveries as part of the suspension of disbelief that movies, especially comic book movies, require, but the second made both stand out as stupid.

2- Even more than previous movies, the inconsistency of Batman's belief in not using guns was more evident. He uses guns and missiles on the Tumbler, Batpod and the Bat. While you can argue that they're only used on scenery, that gets thrown out the window at the end when he fires directly at the cab of Talia's (Er... Spoiler?) truck. Batman has always been known for his gadgets over guns, but here "gadgets" just means bigger guns. Where's his super-epoxy truck sticking foam, or bat-EMP truck disabling beam, or just tire-destroying bat-caltrops?

3- While on the subject of missiles- I loved the magic missiles that Selina used on the Batpod to unblock the tunnel. A few shots into several tonnes of wrecked cars and a perfect V-shaped hole appears to be cut right through.

4- Those cops were down there in the tunnels for five months. Hundreds of them. Where did they shit? Where did they clean their uniforms? Where did they maintain their guns? How did the resistance get that much food down to them to keep them not only alive, but able to stay in shape?

5- How did one opening rescue them all? Were they all trapped conveniently together in one chamber? That's not how it looked when the bombs went off.

6- They were just below street level, as seen several times. Could they not have just dug down through a nearby building floor? I'd accept that just blowing the street open might be enough to let the trigger-man hit the button and detonate the bomb, but they weren't a million miles underground, and they had FIVE MONTHS to rescue them! They could have done it in secret in a building!

7- What was with that 5 month time-limit anyway? The bomb was always going to go off. Everyone was always going to die. It made no sense. There was no redemption, no chance to become better, to take back the city. They were all dead, they just didn't know it. Clearly, Talia failed to read the Evil Overlords Handbook.

8- Batman recovers from a broken spine in FIVE MONTHS! Yes, I covered this earlier, but what if the bomb only had energy for 2.5 months. They'd all be fucked. It was a weak plot device. I mean, seriously, he gets back into Gotham with hours to spare, from where-ever he was abandoned in the world. And how did he afford to fly back to the US, not to mention get into the country WITHOUT A PASSPORT!

9- The bomb is referred to differently during the movie, the worst of all was when it is called a "Neutron bomb"... which doesn't even explode with the classical nuclear mushroom cloud devastation. It just emits a neutron bust, which wouldn't affect buildings!

10- Let's look at that bomb a bit more: It was originally a clean-energy fusion device until Bruce mothballed it because it could be used as a weapon, and he hates weapons. Except, as previously noted, on his vehicles. How did he get so far into the project that he spent billions of dollars without anyone pointing out that any form of fusion reaction could, potentially be used as a weapon? How is there only one person on the planet capable of deactivating the bomb? He must have been involved with the fusion reactors creation, but did he work entirely alone, with no team, no colleagues, no documented paperwork?!?

11- Wayne Industries is broke because Bruce has gone underground. What kind of company literally cannot function without one man? If that's the case, Apple is fucked without Steve! What was that board of directors doing for the last eight years? What of all the other parts of the company? Were they all shut down to finance the mothballed fusion reactor?

12- Joseph Gordon Levitt was the best thing in that movie. He spoke clearly, unlike almost everyone else, had valid character motivations, and stuck to his convictions throughout, but he was woefully underused. Bruce should have stayed broken, he should have been The Batman in the finale.

13- How could the police not find Banes construction underground. Yes, there are miles of tunnels under there, but don't start at random man-holes around the city. Start at the fucking water tunnel where all the bodies keep appearing and follow the water back along. It's not that hard, dumb-asses.

14- Why is there a rope sitting at the top of The Pit when Bruce gets out? Does no-one in there have families, friends, evil organisation co-workers, or anyone willing to just walk out there and throw the rope down to rescue them? There are NO GUARDS! EVER! Just walk out of that enormous city we see, throw down the rope that is right there and walk away. And why does Bruce throw it down? Are they all just political prisoners, white-collar criminals that won't get out and return to a life of raping, murdering and pillaging? Or does he just trust that their time in the Pit has reformed them all into good citizens?

15- "Welcome back Mister Wayne. Sure hope you remembered where you parked the Bat because I don't have access to any others that I plan to sell to the military at the end of all this after you're dead." "Yup. On a rooftop that no-one in the last five months has gone up to. No one. Not one single per- FUCK! IT'S GONE! Also: What?"

16- "The bomb is ticking down it's last minutes. Let's all stop to listen to Talia's dieing ranting. Man, I hope those injuries are enough to kill her in the next 30 seconds, or we're all dead."

17- "Only 1 minute 57 seconds left on the bomb. I'll just stop to give everyone a pep-talk, kiss this cat burglar who everyone has avoided calling Catwoman for the last three hours and reveal to Gordon who I really am under the mask, by making a reference to an event decades ago that he only ever could have done once, because I'm the only person the Gordon has probably ever comforted in his entire career in the service."

18- "Aw. Batman died saving everybody. Well, better get back to selling these high-tech batwings to the military. You two random techies, fix the auto-pilot in this thing that looks kind of like the thing Batman used to fly, but it's not, because this one is in military camo and his was black. Also, I totally don't work for Batman. What's that you say? The auto pilot is fixed? By Bruce Wayne? Five months ago? Why the fuck would Bruce fix the auto pilot in the model he's not even using? And when did Bruce learn to program complex auto-pilot routines for experimental helicopter designs? And when or how did he test this? And OH MY GOD HE'S ALIVE! Dun-dun-duuuuuunnnnn. What? Why, yes, yes I did just say dun-dun-dun."

19- "Nice of Master Bruce to give the house to the orphans. Sure hope none of them mess around with that piano."

20- "Wow! All this cool shit. Look at that. I get to be the new Batman! Woo-hoo! Now how do I afford to repair any of this when it gets damaged, or even fuel the Tumbler. In fact, how do I adjust any of these suits to fit my clearly very different stature. Fuckit. I'll just go home."

21- The movie was far too long. I felt the set-up scenes were poorly played, and I actually got confused because I lost focus on what was happening. I thought it was Selina that Bruce sleeps with in the mansion during the rain-storm and the power-outage. That resulted in me missing a plot point entirely for the end of the movie when Batman seems so focused on saving what-ever her name is that turns out to be Talia. I kept thinking "Why does he seem to give such a shit about this board-member? Why is she important?"

22- This final one is something that I disliked, but others didn't seem to mind: There was no fan-service, nothing only for the comic readers. Like in Avengers, we had the Thanos reveal, or in Thor, we had the artifacts in Odins museum and the Cosmic Cube in the after-credits scene. Even as far back as Iron Man, we had the Nick Fury reveal. Stuff that left the long-time fans whooping and cheering, but left the casual fan that just turned up for the movie intrigued about what they just saw, but not feeling lost or missing a key plot-point. The little extras to reward the nerds. Batman never had that. Everything was clearly explained. There was nothing only for the comic reader. And there was opportunity! Right at the end: "Something for John Blake?... Oh, maybe my full name: Robin." As subtle as a brick, and unconnected to the comics in every way apart from the use of those 5 letters in that order. Why not "Something for John Blake?... Oh, maybe my birth name, Tim Drake?" There. Better! The fans get the "Woot!" moment, the rest get, "Oh, he's someone he didn't appear to be, but it's not as important as learning he's becoming the new Batman."

And that's it. Honestly there were more than 22 points during an earlier draft of this post, but an epic fuck-up on my part caused me to delete the entire post, so this is the striped down version. Some dropped paragraphs included choice moments like: why did Gordon keep that revealing speech in his pocket for so long, how does it go from bright day to dark night in the time it takes to drive through a tunnel, why does Batman waste what little time he has on his return to paint a giant bat-symbol in petrol on the bridge? There are detailed breakdowns of the movie by hundreds of people online, and many have some great points that further support my belief that The Dark Knight Rises is simply a bad movie, but this post is my story. It is about the things that jumped out at me and stopped me in my tracks while sitting inside the theater, watching the movie itself.

The Dark Knight Rises is a terribly constructed, poorly written piece of cinema that does nothing good for the career of the person who directed Memento, Inception and The Prestige. Ignore this tragedy and track down a copy of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm instead.