Speculative Fiction Saturday: Pixar Films, and the rest

Pixar-CharactersWell, we have covered all the speculative fiction films of Pixar, and now it is time to discuss the rest. Personally, all of the Pixar films have some speculative element, and these are the ones that have the least amount.

A Bug’s Life: When I first watched this film, I immediately watched it again. I cannot remember any film that I have liked that much. Generally, I don’t watch a film over and over for fear I will wear it out.

It’s difficult to talk about A Bug’s Life without mentioning a CG Dreamworks film called Antz. To say these films are similar is like saying Deep Impact and Armageddon are the same film. They are not. Just because they involve ants doesn’t mean that they are the same, because there is about an infinity of stories that you can tell with ants. In fact, A Bug’s Life and Antz have completely opposite themes. Antz is about overpowering de-individualization, while A Bug’s Life is more about teamwork.

A Bug’s Life is a film about oppression, but it handles this dark subject matter in a very interesting manner. It opens with a colony of ants that are forced to offer food every year to some greedy grasshoppers. Unfortunately, an ant named Flik has an invention that malfunctions and destroys this offering. The grasshoppers are angry, and Flik decides that he is going to find some tough bugs and fight off the grasshoppers for good.

Sadly, this film becomes a “liar revealed” plot, and I won’t bother explaining what I mean by that. What makes this film work is how Flik teaches the ants to fight the grasshoppers, and overcome their fear. There is something inspiring about all that, and the film has hysterical moments with excellent characters as well. Kevin Spacey has the head bad guy is just so good that I don’t know whether to hate him or love him.

Monsters Inc.: I wish I could say that I loved this film, but I only like it, honestly. The premise is that monsters who live in kids’ closets are real, but they only scare because children’s screams can somehow provide energy. The way the monsters get into the closets is pretty creative, using technology with doors and stuff that brings it to a wonderful climax.

The really interesting part about this film is the relationship with Sulley, Mike, and a child from the human world who ends up in the monster world. It really is a tear-jerker what the characters go through, and I almost wish this film didn’t have a plot just so I can see it. I’ve already talked about the sequel in detail which you can read about here.

Finding Nemo: This film was when Pixar really began to shine, creating a world of fish that is as beautiful as it is colorful. The story is one about letting go as well as never quitting, and it works on so many levels. The ending always makes me cry and laugh, and the characters are the usual Pixar quality.

Cars and Cars 2: Okay, Cars is a film that I think I played as a kid. My sister and I had Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars and we pretended that the cars had minds and personalities of their own. I can’t really imagine a world where this was real, and there are several reasons why this just wouldn’t work. I mean, the cars seem to have buildings and stuff, but how did they build them? There is a scene where Lightning McQueen has a push button phone, but how does he push those buttons?

Yeah, there is a lot of nit-picking going on here, and sadly, I could tell where the first Cars movie was going from the first five minutes. Generally, if you see a character who is so full of themself, they will either learn the value of teamwork or die before the end. I didn’t think Lightning McQueen would die, and I was right. Unlike other Pixar films, the characters don’t make up for the unoriginal plot.

In fact, Cars 2 has Mater as the main character, and he was only a barely funny side character that really can’t carry a whole movie. It is more of an action film then the first, but still doesn’t work. I get the feeling it was made because Pixar could make a lot of money with toys from this film. I have already said in my Frozen review that Disney bought Pixar so the latter could make mediocre films and make Disney CG films look good.

Ratatouille: For some reason, a lot of kid’s films use this plotline. Some particular animal does something well, but the rest of the world won’t let this animal use their talent. It was done in Babe, Turbo, and other films, and in this case, it is a rat that can cook.

In all honesty, I thought this was just a bad premise for a film. However, this film really took it seriously, and yet it is still funny. Even though it features rats that talk to each other, this film feels genuinely real. I like how the character sees a deceased chef, but it isn’t a ghost or anything, he acknowledges that it is his imagination.

Even though this isn’t my favorite Pixar film, I will say that I love it. It is fun to watch, and the characters are really great.

Brave: Yeah, I’m beginning to think that Disney is telling Pixar to make some real sucky films with this one. It deals with a princess that doesn’t want to be a princess, which is in every Disney movie. Then the princess’ mother turns into a bear, which is straight out of Brother Bear. In other words, there is nothing original in this film except the cool Scottish setting. Oh wait, they did that in Braveheart. This film was like Braveheart, but without the “heart”. Yeah, I consider this the worst of the Pixar offerings, and the rest is just mediocre sequels.

Speaking of sequels, Pixar is making another Finding Nemo movie. I guess that will be…good. I personally want to see more original material from this studio, and I admire their new ways of storytelling.

Performance Art piece has flying drones

I have reported a lot on drones for this particular blog, and I found this particular video with AscTec Hummingbird drones being used with dancers, and I am surprised that I haven’t seen more like it.

After all, performance art is all about dancing and doing weird stuff, right? Why not have a dance done with a little bit of flying robots with pyramids on them? Apparently it takes 10 to 15 motion capture cameras to make certain this effect work.

By the way, there is a weird effect at the end with lasers or something. It looks like something you would see in the drones’ control booth.


Moment Lens for smartphones and tablets

MomentI’m not certain what it is, but there is apparently quite a market for lenses for smartphone cameras. I guess too many of us are taking pictures with just our smartphones, and the lenses just aren’t that good. The Moment lens is made to “empower mobile picture takers with the best lenses in the world”.

This isn’t really a new idea. I’ve reviewed various lenses by Olloclip before, and I wish I had the Moment to check out. I’ll explain why I haven’t reviewed it later, but let me just start by telling you how it works. The Moment has a thin metal plate that can be put on the iPhone, iPad, or Galaxy series of phones. This is different from Olloclip, which is made for just iPhone.

The Moment is made to be portable and very easy to put on. It has a “simple bayonet design that rotates and stop the lens into place”. The glass and machined metal barrel is of industrial design and materials and come in Wide and Tele lenses.

As I mentioned before, the Moment lens is not available by now. This was a crowdfunded project that got its funding, and you can check out the store here. Hopefully, we will get one to review, but I’m not certain when that will be.

The Zimri Z-T210 Touch Control Headphones and Z-11 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Zimri Z-11If you are not familiar with Zimri’s product line, then you should really get to know them as soon as you can. I’m going to review two Bluetooth products from them, the Z-T210 and Z-11.

I’ll go ahead and start with the Z-11. It is a small speaker that I will admit that I have seen before, but I enjoy the small size of products like these. This one produces some pretty clear sound, and this is because of the port-holes on each side for “added bass response”.

It may not be as loud as the Soundbook X3, but it is made for Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC. I do like how it comes in red, and looks very good in a minimalist decor. You should be able to get it on the Zimri site here for $59.99.

Zimri Z-T210As for the Z-T210, it is also Bluetooth, but 4.0. It is a pair of headphones that has a lot of bonuses. The first is the touch-sensitive controls. Controlling the volume is as easy as swiping your finger up and down, and changing the tracks is simple as sliding backward or forward.

Just to let you know, the sliding is done with some beeping. At least that is what it did for me, as I tried them out. I liked how the cushions fit my ears in a way that didn’t hurt that them over time. The one thing that I didn’t try out was how it has 3500 hours of standby, with a battery level indicator.

If the Z-T210 is something that you want, you can get it for $89.99 on the Zimri site here. I recommend them both if you are in the market for a speaker or pair of headphones.

LG announces the G3

LG-G3LG has been up to awesome tricks for a while with smartphones like the G2, and now they have announced the G3. The G3 has a slogan of “simple is the new smart”, which is a good way of saying that anyone can use this phone.

The display of the G3 includes a 5.5 inch Quad HD display with four times the resolution of HD and twice as high resolution of Full HD display. It has a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 802 quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16/32 GB of internal storage, not to mention a 3,000 mAh removable battery.

As for the cameras, it has a 13 Megapixel rear camera and 2.1 Megapixel front facing camera. The sound has a 1 watt speaker with boost amp for deep bass.

Other new features include the rear-placed volume and power buttons. It also has a built-in FM radio and wireless charging. In case you are wondering, it runs 4.2, or KitKat.

I’m not certain what the cost will be, but should be available at many carriers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.


URME Mask allows you to avoid surveillance

urme-maskI found this article about the URME Mask on a site that I used to write on, and I couldn’t believe that this existed. Apparently, some man named Leo Selvaggio created a mask that you can literally take to the streets, in order to avoid any surveillance.

This man lives in Chicago, and this city is apparently the most watched city in America. I thought that London was the most watched city, but what do I know.

Now this URME Mask is part Indiegogo project, and part art project. This mask is 3D printed hard resin prosthetic, and it is meant to match the face of the creator. Apparently, this will fool facial recognition scanners.

What is funny about this is how someone could probably blend in with this mask. Most people don’t look at strangers when they walk down the street, so they might not look twice at someone in a mask.

Still, is this the kind of world that we want? I mean, some sort of world where we wear masks to avoid surveillance? That’s kind of too V for Vendetta for me. That is, the movie ending and not the comic.

Holland Haptics Frebble lets you hold hands from a distance

FrebbleIf you saw my posts yesterday, you know that I was all about rejecting social networking, smartphones, and the Internet, and enjoying a nice sunny day. Well, it would appear that the Internet can simulate a hand-holding experience with the Frebble.

The Frebble, by Holland Haptics, allows for two users to feel the sensation of their hand being squeezed by someone from a distance. As you may have guessed, it is designed for those who are separated from their loved ones. This would be good for those for those who have grandchildren that live far away, or any situation where distance is the problem. As the slogan says: “hands together, worlds apart”.

This is a Kickstarter project, and it is seeking about $50,000. I believe that shouldn’t be a problem. Is there going to be a world where social touch connects us all, no matter where we are? I don’t know. That had better really be a very realistic kind of touch.

This Sesame Street video also encourages us to “Look Up”

Man, today must be “get off the computer and enjoy life day”, because both of my posts for today are essentially that theme. I highly recommend watching the “Look Up” video before catching this one. I honestly believe that this simple video from Sesame Street better illustrates the points of “Look Up” in a less heavy-handed way.

I highly recommend watching this for the song alone. Zachery Levi from Chuck and Tangled reveals he’s a pretty good singer, and the song feels better written than the “Look Up” video poet. It’s odd that it doesn’t feel preachy, even though it is dumbed down for a Sesame Street audience. Best of all, it is catchy and fun.

I couldn’t help but notice that there is a scene where Grover is using an Oculus Rift or some sort of VR headset. I point this out because Samsung is planning on putting out a VR headset of their own. I don’t have much details about that, but it is showing that VR technology is getting better. This means we have a lot of potential to shut out “A Lovely Sunny Day”.

My Response to the “Look Up” video

At my church on Sunday, I had a chance to see this viral video known as “Look Up”, which has apparently been very popular at about 40 million hits. Let me just say that it is difficult to criticize a video that has a very good heart.

Not to be too much of a spoiler, but the video warns that we live in an age of technology and social media, but we are still very lonely. This is a message that we have heard before, and you listen to Louis C.K., he has this bit known where he talks about how we have all this amazing technology but no one is happy.

Is it odd that a video that we watch on our computer or smartphone is critical of the culture around technology? Yes, there is a huge sense of irony going on here. It reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob wants to destroy all television, and announces his plan on…television. It also reminds me of an episode of Amazing Stories where a guy gets a magical TV that takes over his life. The moral of that television show is: don’t watch TV. Again, irony.

Still, the message is good. However, I’ve been critical of Christian films because the message is often good, but the rest just plain stinks. You can read my review of the Left Behind movie if you want to see what I think about that.

Please don’t interpret my review of this “Look Up” video as it just plain stinks. Granted, the poem is a little choppy in its rhyme scheme, I’m willing to pardon it because its subject matter is handled well.

I think the comment about a silent passenger train is interesting because mobile technology has reduced boredom to a very singular experience. There is no need to talk to people anymore just to pass the time, and this is something that is quite interesting to note.

What isn’t interesting is how the author comments that parks are empty. They aren’t. There are still kids that play on them, and I don’t think we will ever get past an age of slides and swings in our child’s play.

Also, the idea that you could miss your potential mate because you’re looking on your smartphone is a little…odd. You could nearly miss your potential life-partner through any diversion, such as looking at a rainbow. We can’t talk about the missed opportunities with tech and ignore the opportunities that technology gives us.

Still, this video makes me want to stop whatever I’m doing on my computer and phone and play with my kids. I suppose the video has succeeded in its purpose. To that, I say good job.

Introduce the new generation to old school with R-Type Dimensions

r-type-pic-1I had an interesting opportunity to try out a video game from the nineties, or maybe it is from the eighties. This is R-Type, and perhaps you remember it from the arcade, or from the Sega Genesis, like I do.

What is really interesting was when I downloaded it on the Playstation 3. I thought I was going to have some retro video game fun, and I did. What was really interesting was how my children, ages 10 and 11 wanted to play. They thought it was plain awesome, and it really shows how video games has changed through the generation.

After all, R-Type doesn’t really have any plot. It is just shooting stuff. The graphics are definitely a step up from what they were in its old-school days.

All in all, I have to recommend R-Type Dimensions for both new gamers and old-school ones. You can get it on the PS3 for about $9.99, and check out the official website here.