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Review – The Imitation Game

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Like I mentioned in previous weeks, I want to review something at the end of each month. Since, technically, this will be the last Sunday of the month, I decided to review something. And although I don’t have a “genre” of the month, like I will be having in the months to follow, I decided to write about a movie that I had previously seen that I feel as though falls under the Science-Fiction category. The movie I am talking about is The Imitation Game by director, Morten Tyldum.

To be honest, I am not usually a fan of historical movies. I don’t know what it is about them, or why, but I just don’t. Anyways, my friend wanted me to go, so I went. And, well, I was thoroughly impressed.

In short, this movie is about all that went on behind the scenes at a British facility called, Bletchley Park. It starts off with the recruitment of Alan Turing and others who need to break the Nazi Germany transition signal device called, Enigma. All of the people recruited are mathematicians and Turing, as discussed in an interview in the movie, is a “prodigy” at math, having published his greatest piece of work by the age of 24.

The device, stolen out of Germany, is much harder than it seems and has different combinations of ways to transmit an encrypted message—in fact, 159 million million possibilities. In the movie Turing builds a machine single-handedly that will try to outwit this Enigma machine because as he says, “Only a machine can beat another machine.” This quote was one of my favorite because it foreshadows this idea of the future of our society with the advancement of technology. But, I digress. One of his greater lines in the movie is “What if a machine can only beat a machine?”

Anyways, they eventually figure it out but cannot act on it all the time because, if they do, then the Germans will have figured out that they cracked Enigma. So, instead, they strategically plan what battles they are going to win so that they win the war. The idea behind that (and in the movie they use D-Day as an example) is very awesome. This idea, however, may be a little bit fictionalized as a great blog post by L.V. Anderson located here, describes the main differences between the movie and what actually happened in real life. These real life events, and what the screenplay was written off of, is based on a book by Andrew Hodges called, Alan Turing the Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film, “The Imitation Game.” You can locate that book with this link located here.

Anderson does a great job at explaining what is real and what is fictionalized. As she was going through it, sans a point about sandwiches being a major “plot point” in the story, it was really valuable. And although it’s valuable to understand these differences, I think it’s also valuable to understand why the director chose to shoot this movie the way he did. And that, my readers, is about conflict. If you ask any writer the three fundamental rules of writing are: (1) conflict, (2), conflict, (3) conflict. Without conflict there is no tension and thus we can’t really become involved in the characters’ lives and feel for them when they are going through tough times. Most of what is changed in this movie is done to create a more immediate sense of conflict (probably why I thought the movie was so great) or also to evoke a sense of poetic symbolism. An example of the latter is that the machine that Turing builds is called Christopher whereas Anderson mentions it was called Bombe. Is the name really going to change much in terms of the story-sequences? No. But it does change a lot in the story-telling and gives the readers a sense of “payoff” at the end after the “set-up” done in the earlier parts of the chronology in the movie where we learn that a boy Christopher was Alan Turing’s first true love. It is accurate that Turing is homosexual, although it seems as though he was more open about it in real life than how he appears in the movie says Anderson.

Anyways, with all that being said, this was a great movie. I highly recommend seeing it. It got nominated for 8 Oscars which is pretty impressive. The acting was great all around and Benedict Cumberbatch who plays Alan Turing did a great job in character (even though it’s not historically accurate). Kiera Knightly does another fabulous job as Joan Clarke in this movie. Who knows if the actors are going to get Oscars for their roles, but I definitely think they deserve the nominations.

The only thing that bugged me about this movie was the seemingly random ending. The movie itself is split into two different time periods—present day and past. The present day stuff seems all rather contrived and I was much more interested in the past events and working on Christopher to beat the enigma device.

What blows me away is that Alan Turing died at the age of 41 after being on estrogen pills for a year to try and curb his homosexuality. He committed suicide. Just imagine if none of that would have happened and we would have had his mind for another 20 or so years at least. The advancement we would have seen would have been phenomenal. I already believe that his Christopher is paramount in the establishment of the computer we have and use today.

In conclusion, this is 5 out of 5 stars for me. Go see it while you still can in theaters!!! If you’ve seen the movie, I would love to get your take on it. Comment below. Or, if you’ve read the book, it’d be awesome to see what you have to say on this man too!

Michael E. Thies

P.S. If you want to suggest what type of fantasy or science-fiction you want the next month (February) will focus around, please don’t be afraid to mention it in the comments.

Ender’s Game: From Book to Movie

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Alright, so I am disappointed to admit this but until the movie gained popularity, I had not read Ender’s Game even though it is considered to be a staple in the science-fiction genre. Needless to say, I bought the book on my Kindle and I read it before seeing the movie. I always find it fascinating when books get turned into movies and I think that is really any author’s dream (or nightmare if your book gets murdered as much as Christopher Paolini’s Eragon did). With that being said, this is my review of the book and movie as a conjoined identity.

Compared to the book, the movie falls short. Not even falls short. Falls into an ABYSS. It’s very sad to see such a great book that has a lot of potential to be a great movie, end up not being that great at all. I would have to say it’s the second word book-to-movie translation I have ever seen, behind Eragon (I’m convinced those people didn’t even read the book cause of how awful it was). Anyways, before you start criticizing me for badmouthing the movie, let me get a chance to explain the problematic elements the movie offered.

  1. I thought the movie was too short. I look at the time and it says that it was 114 minutes long, but it did not seem like that for me. I could have sworn it was only around an hour and a half and definitely could have been improved by being increased by at least another half an hour. If this length is correct than this movie suffers from misdirection in defining what is truly important in the storyline. Those are the next points that I will be addressing.
  2. Technically I guess the largest flaw of this movie is the fact that they did not describe the anscible or what it does. They make reference to it but do not make an effort to tell us what it does and simply assume that everyone watching the movie knows what it does. This I would consider the biggest flaw in the movie because it is the crux of the whole ending of the story! For those of you who haven’t read the book, the anscible is a device that allows people to communicate faster than the speed of light. This is the dues ex machina that allows Ender to control the entire star fleet at the end that are universes away. Also, when we find out that it was no simulation that Ender was facing, but the real enemy and the ansicble is the thing that made his directions seems to be in real time, it brings a certain sense of realism to the science-fiction element. With this element not being explained thoroughly we, as viewers, have no clue how this “simulation” ended up being real or how that can even happen without removing ourselves really really far out of the story (suspension of disbelief at its finest).
  3. The battles that made up a majority of the story, end up hardly making up any of this movie. Ender is shown doing one battle in the movie. Then all the sudden he is ready to take on a whole fleet of alien without any more training. That is too contrived. I understand you need to cut things to fit a book into movie form, however, a few more battles would have engaged the audience more and also would have shown Ender’s skills develop as a tactical genius. Plus, it would have created emotional unrest in us as we see all of his friends graduate (although we really know they just graduated to command school to where Ender meets them again). Because of this brevity we don’t get to see the strain it is putting on Ender and therefore cannot really connect with him as a character and so when he is having a hard time going to command school and needs to go home and his sister Valentine talks to him, we don’t really understand why he is so distraught.
  4. One last change that really made me upset is the fact that this “Giant’s Game” that is also a considerable part of the book, is skimmed over. The game is described in great detail but the “End of the World” part is not. What Ender struggles with is this, and he doesn’t struggle with it in the movie. In fact, he solves it the first time. And the “End of the World” that actually ends up being a whole different planet in the book, ends up being on the same planet where the Space Command School is set up. A site where they said they had traveled through all the tunnels and exterminated all of the “buggers” as they are called. Little do they know they missed one bugger and her offspring (which is going to repopulate the race that Ender just genocided). Okay, this may be believable if the fact that the place that they didn’t scope out fully is the one that is located as close to the Command School as possible. How does this one go without being looked at extensively??? Really??? Come on now producers, think that through!!!
  5. And finally just a few pet peeves that annoy me when it comes to translating anything from book to movie or tv show. Why do you need to change names if they are going to be the exact same characters? Granted this didn’t really happen a lot with Ender’s Game but there is a man named “Dab” who I am pretty sure isn’t in the entire book and just thrown in there as a filler character. But, for example, an issue where it becomes more prevalent is when Game of Thrones changed Theon’s sister from Asha to Yara (which I guess would have been too confusing with Bran’s wilding mentor Osha).

Now, as in any review or critique there needs to be some positive elements, right? Yes, that is right and Ender’s Game does have some moments of brilliance here.

  1. I thought the cast was appropriate minus Bonzo who I thought was going to be taller (especially since he’s older) than Ender. Also, I pictured him to be bigger. Was not expecting such a scrawny kid.
  2. I thought the fact that they did not choose to include the internet domination of Ender’s brother and sister is a good thing. I don’t think this really carried the book story any further and it definitely would have caused a drag in the movie if it were allowed to sneak in. That was an excellent choice by the producers.
  3. The graphics and animations were really well done. The buggers were shown very well and I though the “Giant’s Game” that Ender plays in the book was translated very well to the movie screen minus the fact that they didn’t go into enough detail with it.

All in all I would give this book to movie translation a 3/10. The graphics and cast are what got in the three. But not defining the anscible clearly and demonstrating a clear lack in Ender’s training which is probably 75% of the actual book just shows a clear negligence on the part of the producers. I would still have to say that my all-time favorite book to movie translations would have to be the Harry Potter series. The producers and directors did a fantastic job at those, and if my book, The Trials of the Core, ever gets chosen to become a movie someday, those are the people I would want to have it done.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you read the book? Have you seen the movie? Both? How would you compare the two?

Review of the movie Don Jon

Review of the movie Don Jon

I have been meaning to see this movie for a little while now. I finally just got around to doing it this past Sunday with a couple buddies of mine. I saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno a few weeks before and he discussed the movie a little bit and it made me only want to see it more.

What You’ll Need to Know:
This movie is all about sex. Go into it expecting that. It will definitely push the boundaries between what is R and what may even be considered NC-17. With that being said, go into it with an open mind. I mind it quite funny actually.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt:
Ever since Inception I think he has been doing a great job in the movies he has played. He is a really good actor and I really like the character he plays in this movie. A character that: masturbates constantly, has anger issues (especially when in his car), works out constantly, is always on the hunt for someone new to have sex with, but still upholds good morals in going to church every Sunday and repenting his sins.

He is driven by the fact that his co-actor (or actress in this case), Scarlett Johanson, is the one girl who he can’t hook up with on the first night. So he brings out his “long game” as it’s said and eventually swooes her into sleeping with him but only after first getting into a serious relationship.

Now with any romance movie you can kind of smell the ending coming. Well, I could here especially when he randomly meets a new (but older) woman during class. There is a shift in Levitt’s psychology when he realizes that Johannson is practically not really caring about him and just using him to get her ways.

I won’t spoil the whole movie for you so I’ll leave some of the things out but I think this movie really does a good job at sorting in the dichotomy of a male-female relationship. Men go into relationships with a more care-free attitude and woman want to be treated well and not lied to (which is definitely respectable). The issue this movie raises is when does that “lie” become something like Everest (near impossible) or a plausible idea. For Levitt the straw breaking the camels back (for lack of a better phrase) is something he can’t live without–masturbation. In fact, this whole movie discusses the role that masturbation plays in mens’ lives and shows how a female tends to view it (or at least Johansson who is a Catholic in the movie).

More over, it shows a man’s growing and learning to know what is truly important in his life. What he is willing to fight for and what isn’t. It shows that having the ideal model and trophy-life may not be necessary if, in doing so, you are giving up a part of who you truly are. I am sure this is an issue that many couples can relate to in America and actually all over the world and it goes back to “settling” or being “truly happy”. In fact, this is symbolized by Levitt’s character doing the exact same thing throughout the whole movie and walking into the gym the same way every single time until the very end where he doesn’t go to the gym but, instead, goes to play basketball. Very clever by the directors.

I truly enjoyed this movie and thought it was pretty funny. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. The actors and actresses was great. Analyzing this movie is so fresh and original, however, it loses that 1 of those 5 stars because I felt like the plane that took off when the movie started never quite landed on the runway.

Review of Riddick

So, one of my favorite movies ever was Chronicles of Riddick. I thought the whole movie was tastefully done and it had lots of twists and action in it that kept me guessing until the very end. When I heard that a new Riddick movie was coming out I was intrigued. Where did this one fit into the story line? Is it before Pitch Black? Is it after the Chronicles of Riddick? I had to check it out. And I did. Here is what I thought.

The beginning of the movie we get Riddick chronicling his life and what happened to him after he took over the throne. He is in pain and on a planet we have never seen before and the first fifteen minutes are just him showing his survival skills. The beginning could have the pace picked up a little bit. We see him get his dog pet and eventually we see him with his dog grown which raises the question, how much time has passed? How fast does the dog grow? Once the dog is grown he sends a beacon which attracts bounty hunters and finally the action begins.

Now, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the other movies but the connection this one plays is with Pitch Black and a guy named Johns who is never really focal to the story telling but we get his dad who hunts down Riddick in this one to find out what happened to his son. The connection is tenuous at best. The creatures that Riddick and the Mercs face in this movie are pretty unique and entertaining, however, I feel as though its really contrived that they, essentially, are underneath of the whole planet and when it rains a shit-ton come out. Wouldn’t they feel getting walked on? How would they survive if they are just in some sort of stasis until it rains?

The ending is good though, and there is definitely going to be another movie coming out as Riddick tries to find his home (which I thought was destroyed in the first movie, or they showed a clip of it being destroyed I am pretty positive).

Overall, it was a good movie. Worth the investment and when dealing with action-type movies I tend to negate looking at plot and structure and overall plotholes just because if I did that then most movies would get torn to shreds. I give it a 6.5 out of 10 just because I liked the action, but I was expecting more in a sequel to Chronicles, I was hoping for more real action instead of a “filler” movie as I would call it. I am looking forward to the next one though.

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