Annihilation, a review

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This movie caught my eye, and the reviews seemed promising. So I watched it with my daughter. I didn’t come into the movie with any preconceptions, other than an idea that it would be really different.

It was. From start to finish, the film kept my interest. Many parts were straight up sci-fi, other parts were an almost Lovecraftian horror.

What struck me most about the movie was its vivid imagery. This startling film was a feast for the eyes, even though at some parts I wanted to look away, but couldn’t.

The characters were solid, real. The acting was excellent and lent itself to the surreal feel of the narrative. I have to say that I didn’t really “like” any of the characters, including the protagonist played by an M4 wielding Natalie Portman, but this in no way detracted from the overall experience. Very odd.

To me, this movie illustrated both human frailty and courage under circumstances that would make anyone break. We see each character’s flaws as the plot unfolds, we learn surprising and disturbing things about each member of the cast.

And then there is the finale. I watched this movie last night, and today I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. The end was no ending, it was a beginning.

If you want to see how people act under extreme circumstances, watch this film. It’s a study in the high and low notes of humanity set against the backdrop of a threatening, and yet beckoning, otherworldliness.

Recommend.

 

Who thought this was a good idea?

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OK, so the United States needed to help the Iraqis rebuild their army. I get it. We left their old army in flaming chunks all along the Kuwait City-Baghdad highway. It needed to be rebuilt if the Iraqis were going to stand a chance against their unpleasant neighbors in Iran- who, by the way, did everything they could to aid and abet the bastards who were killing Allied soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Don’t believe me? I’ve got tons of personal pictures of captured Iranian munitions, new in the box. Those little bad boys had my name written all over them, so no love for the mullahs from me.

So yeah, the Iraqi Army needed rebuilt as a bulwark against Iran and later ISIS. However, anybody who knows anything about armies over there knows that those guys have a bad thing about letting equipment and arms walk away, they do not have anything close to professional standards of accountability or physical security. And the culture of an army does not change overnight, no matter how much policy makers wish it were so. Also, the allied status of the Iraqi Army is dubious, to say the least.

Knowing those small facts about those guys, and the people in charge of procurement must have, why the hell did we sell them M-1 tanks? Of course some of them walked away. Of course. Now, I’ve known about this for a while, and I’ve heard about M-1 tanks being captured and operated by ISIS (and they were destroyed in turn by US aircraft). But once again- why did we sell M-1’s to the Iraqis?

Dumb. The M-1 tank is the closest thing that we have to a BOLO these days, they are plain hard to kill and deadly as hell. Why didn’t we sell them the older, and still quite capable M-60A3? These would be slightly less hard to kill, and they are still quite capable of dealing with the primary adversary MBT in the region, the T-55 or 72. The Turks are using the M-60 in combat right now in Northern Syria (where they are dangerously close, and possibly hostile to, US forces), so why, again, didn’t we sell the Iraqis M-60’s?

Probably because the Iraqis looked at their neighbors in Saudi Arabia and got jealous. But then again, I’m sure the Iraqis could have bought two M-60’s for the price of one M-1.

Someone listened to them and sold them the tanks. The cat is out of the bag, and it has been for a while. Predictably, they are now being operated by groups who do not have the best interests of the US or our allies in mind.

Wonderful.

The article says the US is politely asking for the tanks to be returned.

Even better.

Cooking with gas

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There’s an old saying around here that means you’ve really accomplished something- people say “now you’re cooking with gas.” Well, after the successful launch of Falcon Heavy, Elon Musk’s Space X is cooking with gas for sure.

I can’t even describe how exciting this is for me, and a lot of other people. For the first time since 1973 (!) we have an interplanetary capable launch system that frickin’ works. And the heck of it is that Falcon Heavy is merely a test bed, Space X is now concentrating on the BFR interplanetary travel system, the subject of an earlier post of mine on this website.

Wow. Mr. Musk is not just a guy who talks, he does things. Really cool things. He stakes his reputation and fortune on the results. This is the guy who promised to bring solar power to a portion of Australia, and it’s happening as we speak. He is cranking up electric car production here in the ‘States. He sells flamethrowers and makes tunneling machines. Lord, what doesn’t he try his hand at.

There are caveats, of course. It’s been a rocky road for Mr. Musk, especially with car production. But darn it, he is doing things as opposed to buying yachts that look like battleships, as some billionaires do. The measure of a person is not in what they say, but what comes out of their hands. And Elon Musk’s “hands” have produced quite a lot, as opposed to verbal flatulence.

This guy is amazing. If he stopped all of his activities tomorrow he would still go down in the history books as one of the key visionaries of this generation. But he isn’t done, not by a long shot.

A couple of years ago I had resigned myself to never seeing interplanetary travel within my lifetime. Especially with the ever shifting delays (interstellar probe by 2069. Give me a break.) and mush-mouthed predictions of our politicians and NASA. But Mr. Musk and Space X have changed all of that. He has yanked real space exploitation and exploration from the limp hands of the government, and he’s taken the reins himself. Scads of people are watching as he makes money and DOES stuff. The image of Spaceman sitting in the Tesla roadster was a publicity stunt, but a damnably inspiring one.

Will there be delays, disasters, and disappointments? Yes, of course. But Space X obviously has their eye on the long game.

And the long game is to get people headed into the stars.

Hostiles, a review

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So what’s with the old family photo in a movie review?

And why are we talking about a Western on a sci-fi site?

I can answer those questions.

I am the direct product of the Indian Wars. The photo above is my great-grandfather and his bride, a Dakota woman. At the end of the war out West, he was a soldier, and his final duty station was guarding a reservation in Minnesota. He met my great-grandma, got out of the Army, and they started a family. As the story goes, she didn’t want her kids on the Indian Census, so they moved back to Ohio. Back then it wasn’t cool to be a “redskin.” My grandfather, their son, told people he was anything but half-Native American. Greek, French, Italian, the story always changed. I don’t think anyone believed him. Eventually he ran away to join a Wild-West show. He led a colorful life, lost a son in Korea, and eventually died in a truck accident in 1966. I never knew him.

So when I saw a movie which was based in the dying days of the Indian Wars, my interest was peaked. In 1892, the year the movie is based in, my great-grandfather was close to donning the blue uniform, and who knows what conditions my great-grandma was living in on the reservation. Probably nothing too good- back then the reservations were like prison camps.

I’m writing about “Hostiles” on this site because hey, it’s my site, and I can. It was a very good movie.

One thing I am interested in is the effect of combat on both the combatants and society. The lead actor did a very good job of showing what someone looks like after twenty years of vicious, no-holds barred conflict. The protagonist, a cavalry captain on the brink of retirement, is edgy, weary. The female lead has her family slaughtered by Comanches, she does a very good job of showing what someone who is unhinged looks like. Every character has their flaws, and “hostiles” aren’t always who you would think they would be.

No one comes out of this movie clean, and neither does their society.

I’m not going to launch into spoilers here because some of you may want to see this movie. There is one scene that didn’t square with me, and it was clear at the end. I’ll be vague- it involved civilians who threatened a US Army captain who was completing official business. This would be most unwise- and it turned out poorly for them. But I question whether the incident in that form would have occurred in the first place. If you see the movie, and you should, ask yourself that question.

The action was realistic and non-stop. The scenery, acting and filming was beautiful, and reminded me strongly of another non-typical Western, “The Revenant,” another movie worth watching if you haven’t seen it already.

By all means, buy a ticket, grab some popcorn, and go see it.

The best movies make you think. This one puts you in the shoes of a hard man in a hard time.