June 29, 2012

Is Damon Lindelof The Defining Philosopher Of Our Times?

Damon Lindelof is many things. First and foremost, as a TV writer/creator he is one of the two gatekeepers to LOST empire, a title which earns him both world renowned scorn and acclaim. Second he's a prolific feature film writer, having earned credits on gigantic films like the new Star Trek films, Prometheus, and the upcoming World War Z. With these accomplishments he's a massive figure, albeit somewhat polarizing figure in the nerd world, but I think it's time to add another identity to his growing roster: modern day philosopher.

Yesterday it was announced that Lindelof will be adapting Tom Perotta's excellent book The Leftovers as a TV series for HBO. The book deals with people in a small town who are left-behind after a "rapture" like event occurs and millions of people around the world disappear. I've read the book and found it to be a cool exploration on how faith, society, and religion impact the individual. This is a theme that Lindelof seems to have carved out a little niche for himself. Simply put there is nobody in modern media who makes people question their existence like he does.

I realize that this might make serious philosophers question their existence even more, but if you look at some of the themes found in his biggest bodies of work, it's undeniable. Take "Lost" for example, a story about people searching for meaning on a stranded Island, it quickly turned into a mediation on time, love, destiny, good & evil. and of course faith. The final season was practically inspired by The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the last scene was tossing around more religious symbolism at us than a tornado in Israel. Check it out below

Lindelof is saying here he belives that when we die we head to purgatory, but not a time to get judged purgatory, but rather a place to be with friends until you're ready to cross over. It's a nice idea and a great coda to an excellent series, but it doesn't answer the question; What are you crossing over to? Ahh, of course, the real question that all philosophers have to tackle - Is there a God? Lindelof tackled this theory in this summer's "Prometheus"  a film that like "Lost" inspired waves of theories about what it all means.

With "Prometheus" Lindelof like "Lost" was earnestly tackling some big ideas that like all philosophers, he doesn't understand because he simply can't (no mortals can brah). Yet still his basic vision that our creators were bald super jacked alien engineers who lost faith in us and now want to kill us paints a pretty grim picture, don't you think? Rather, I think with "Prometheus" has taken his philosophy game one step further by both those tackling larger issues but also injecting modern Ancient Alien conspiracy mysticism into the discussion. Yet still, the crux of both of these stories come down to the individual, and how they process powers greater than themselves. Noomi Rapace's character in "Prometheus" and Jack in "Lost" both see their convictions tested. Do they turn to science or to faith?
This concept of science/practicality vs faith is everywhere in his work. Ultimately so far, we've seen his character's trust in faith not science/ logic. This is even true in his "Star Trek" reboot. In that film we see a central character born in a baptism of fire and then assume the mantle of leader not because of his science skills like his rival Spock, but because of his emotional beliefs. It may not be as clear as the symbolism of "Lost" and "Prometheus" but it's still the same.

I don't know any other screenwriters or entertainers that are exploring themes through hyper entertaining mass media and that makes Lindelof unique. He's got the gift of making us talk about our "theories" about his stories, and many of us (myself included) probably don't realize that what we're really talking about are the questions that have vexed us humans for generations. With "The Leftovers" he won't need  tropical polar bears, time travel, or alien body builders to make us talk about what it all means. This is a good thing, because it's about time he stopped messing around and embraced this whole 21st century philosopher thing.

June 21, 2012

10 Things About This Taken 2 Trailer

  1. This shit looks awesome, had to get that out of the way, but seriously, yes, i'm there, opening night fo sho.
  2. I'm just assuming here that since Taken came out four years ago in 2008, Liam Neeson's particular set of skills has been augmented by his experience with the following: fighting wolves, fighting gods, loving when plans come together, forgetting his memory and getting it back, helping Russell Crowe break people out of prison, fighting aliens at sea, and scaring the shit out of Ricky Gervais.
  3. Good to see Rade Serbedzija, aka Dmitri Gredenko, aka the one armed bandit, still burning it up on the screen.
  4. Love the highlight reel from "Taken" that opens it, as if we needed reminding how awesome the first one was.
  5. I'm putting the body count for this movie at a paltry 42.
  6. Oliver Megaton is directing this time, taking over for Luc Besson, who still is on board producing and writing the screenplay. Besides having a ridiculous last name, Megaton directed last years "Colombiana."
  7. I wonder if Liam's family is so calm with him on family vacations cause they know he is a straight regulator, sixteen in the clip, one in the hole style, or if they're just terrified to be around him.
  8. Istanbul is a great setting for this flick. The last movie with some solid Istanbul action was "The International," which wasn't that good, but has an incredible shootout at the Guggenheim museum in new york. Watch that scene here, easily on the best shootouts of the last ten years.
  9. No word if Jean Grey uses her powers in this film.
  10. The whole thing is just a prequel to Lost.

June 13, 2012

The Mind Melts You Should Be Asking About Prometheus


Lotta people are asking me about my "Prometheus" review and saying they're surprised that I was disappointed cause they consider me someone who likes heady space alien awesome shit. Well folks, I'm still disappointed, but a recent online discussion has allowed me to gain a much larger appreciation of the film. In particular one live journal post from a fan in London really the blew the lid of the heady ruminating on the film. Slash film got into it as well. The whole thing seems very engineered to be exactly like the crazy theorizing that surrounded Lost season 4/5. Not a coincidence, since Damon Lindelof wrote both. So in the spirit of "Lost" theorizing, let me drop some old school 2009 ish "heyyy brotha Daniel Faraday" mind bones on you about the film.


1. What did David say to the Engineer after waking him up?
Lindelof has said it was originally subtitled and we'll learn what he said on the dvd, but until that drops we're left to speculate. Over the course of the film, David learns more and more about humanity. He learns about faith and toughness of Shaw, the corruptibility of Holloway, and the lust for power that Vickers has. I was struck by the scene of him washing geezer Guy Pierce because it seemed like he knew that this was going to be it for the old man. I think what he said to the engineer was like "this old man doesn't deserve your awesome power, kill this sucka right here."

Of course that raises the question if David knew he was about to get his head ripped off. Of course he did.  He knew that like the other famous feet washers in history (aka Jesus), he would ultimately be resurrected and ascend to heaven. In the end, where's David going...blasting off through the heavens to meet his a higher power.

2. Where did "The Alien" Really Come From?
When they first go into the the chamber with the jars of black ooze, there is clearly a xenomorph (that's the nerd name for the traditional alien) on the wall of the chamber. This means that Engineers know about them and the alien wasn't just the spawn of the gigantic vagina octupus thing at the end. Rather, they're the evil incarnate killing machine that lurks inside every engineer. I like they're like a a defensive mechanism, so when engineers are KILLED, their nasty little true self pops out. When the tentacle monster kills the engineer, a xenomorph...not THE xenomorph is a result.

3. How Big of A Reboot Is This For the Alien Franchise?
"Prometheus" co-writer Damon Lindelof is a world creator. He's responsible for the super deep mythology of "Lost" and the rich world of the new "Star Trek" movies. There is no way Fox and Ridley Scott hired him to touch up the script. No, they hired him to create a massive new sci-fi world for future films. This world includes the engineers, their creators, whatever creepy space creatures the engineers were making, the Weyland-Yutani company, and let's not forget the Predators. With The Avengers proving that audiences eat up crossover storytelling, there is no way Fox has not already blueprinted for the predators and more to fit into this mythology.

4. Why was The Engineers SpaceShip in The Opening Different Than Ones On The Planet?
No doubt the opening of the film was some super far out meaning of the universe Tree of Life shit. As for the ship featured in the opening, I think this was the first glimpse of the engineer's creators. This hints at the cyclical nature of life in the film. The engineer's creators made the engineers so they could seed life through sacrifice, the engineers created us in their image, we created robots in our image, their sacrifice being they have no souls. Now based of David's actions he has evolved beyond humans (he clearly sees us a less than him). What comes after David? Like "Prometheus" the film I don't have all the answers....but my head hurts.

June 11, 2012

TPG Ticket Check: Prometheus

Ticket Check - Where I examine previous hype train articles to see if the tickets that I purchased and primed you guys to purchase where worth the ride.

Prometheus is a well acted, gorgeously shot, tremendously exciting breath of science fiction movie-making that happens to not make any sense. I feel good that I hyped it up, because seeing bold movies like this with huge ideas and massive production design is a good way to show the decision makers that audiences want something besides "Battleship." Now I should say, I feel that many of you, like me, will see the film and be disappointed. As my buddy and frequent reader of Thislalife Dewbert pointed out about the movie - "It kind of sucks...but shit does get crazy."

My biggest beef with the film is the apparent lack of simple logic on behalf of almost all the characters in the film. Everyone seems to pretend like a movie character who serves a purpose instead of, you know a normal person. For example, at one point two characters are stranded in the alien crypt, rather than rest as close to safety as they can get, they chose to rest in a place that they actively know to be extremely dangerous. Why would you do this? Another part of the film finds a main character attacking crew members, but when the characters meet again, this is not discussed at all.  For a film so caught up on the big heady ideas it's very ironic it can't handle the small details that matter.

Ahhh, those big heady ideals. The film celebrates them even if it doesn't really know how to throw a party for them. We're constantly reminded about our quest to understand our maker and therefore ourselves. Every other topic in the film whether it's, religion, aging, artificial intelligence, evolution, and history comes from that DNA. Like a stoned philosophy under-grad the film is very good at presenting these questions in a stunning manner...but just awful at answering them. Don't get me wrong, I like when a film presents some thought provoking questions...but some of them need to be answered and the film doesn't do that.

Ultimately though "Prometheus" is a film that unintentionally or not is extremely challenging to understand. These may have been Sir Ridley's intentions; to make us think about something besides whether Tony Stark has enough weapons or if Bane will kill Batman. Already people are dropping "Lostian" theories* about the film and with it's impressive (and continuing) viral marketing and production design, I'm sure exactly what they wanted. I'm sure by the time 2014 rolls around and the first trailer for "Prometheus 2: Paradise" is getting released I'll hopping on the hype train once again.


Towards the end we learn that the "Engineers" were basically creating dangerous weapons of mass destruction, some of which they were unable to control. I'm calling it now, one of these evil weapon creatures that they created was the Predator species and no doubt the predators will be appearing soon in this new franchise.

June 4, 2012

TPG's Game Time - Episode 10 Valar Morghulis

Yeah that was pretty much all I've ever wanted in a Game of Thrones episode. Well, I could have gone for a direwolf kill, but sometimes the vault is empty, and the direwolves just end up brooding. Hodor? But seriously, just a badass episode full of epic action, romance, white walkers, dragons, tantalizing cliffhangers, and more. So let's get into it:.

Direwolf Badassery - .2 All were got some cool shots of Summer and Shaggydog walking around with Rickon and Bran. We didn't get to see Ghost or Grey Wind rip anyone to pieces!

Joffrey Swag - Love this guy. All season he's been so deliciously annoying/evil/hilarious. His speech to go with Lady Tyrell as his new bride/Queen over Sansa was dynamite.

1. Episode director Alan Taylor must have been a "Lost" fan because his episode opened focusing on the blinking eyeball made me think we were stranded on the island again. In reality, we merely were on the Island that Tyrion has found himself metaphorically on. Abandoned by his family, stripped of his title, and all he's got is his squire and his true love, oh yeah, he's got a badass new scar.

2. Speaking of True Love, this was by far the most romantic episode of the series. First we got the tender moment where Shae professed she really cared about Tyrion deeply and will stand by him. Then we got a quick lil "I don't wanna marry an ugly girl" wedding with Robb Stark and Talisa. If that wasn't enough we got see Khal Drogo say he'd kill and swear at Gods for his wife and child. We were introduced to a new blonde super couple of death in She Man and The Kingslayer. And finally Ygritte finally to see Jon Snow use his sword and got dayuuum she clearly was into it!

3. I loved the very direct metaphor of Tywin Lannister's horse shitting all over King's Landing, he clearly hates it there.

4. Ahhh, our first mystery, what the hell did my boy Stannis see in the fire? He goes from brooding about a lost battle, complaining he killed his brother, and choking out Melisandre to the making the best "O" face ever seen on the show when he gazes into those flames. Did he see:

  • A potential alliance with Khalesi and her dragons? 
  • A vision of himself with an army of Shadow Assasins? She did say the power was within him?
  • Some crazy sex shit with him and Melisandre?
  • A vision that made him realize he was actually a character in a book/TV show...wow...went a little off the rails there.
5. So Theon didn't get killed. Are you guys disappointed? After he went barreling down the evil path at the start of the season, he really started showing remorse, and I'm not surprised they're keeping him around. Whoever kills him is gonna be someone important, my vote is on Bran. Second Alfie Allen, the actor who plays him has done a tremendous job this season and I'm happy he's sticking around.

6. In the first episode of the series, we were promised Dragons and "Blue Eyed Demon" monsters. Tonight we got them both. Life is good.

7. After an entire season, we finally get to see Jon Snow fight and kill and you know be a regular one man virgin army wrecking crew. His fight with Qhorin Halfhand was short but awesome, complete with some nice trashtalk about mother's and bastards (pretty standard for Snow), but the kill, the huge Valerian steel through the chest was epic. And the icing on the cake? "We are the watchers on the wall," is Qhorin's final words, a true ranger to the end. Can't wait to have Jon undercover with the Wildlings, in particular Wildling King Mance Rayder, who is coming close to the coolest name on the show.

8. Loyal Thislalife reader Z wanted to know if I was more jazzed off of the Dragons roasting that bald warlock trickster or the Ice Man Cometh White Walker Dumbeldore---Z thanks for your support but I gotta go with the Iced Out Blue Eyed Demon!

9. One thing that I've really enjoyed this season is how magic is becoming a bigger part of the show. There was no better example of this than the reveal that Medieval Bodie aka Sir Jaqen was actually a "faceless man." Coolest shit ever! We know have shadow assassins, white walkers, faceless ninja long haired assassins, fire breathing dragons, warlocks, and who knows what else. 

10. Another season finale, another series where Khalesi salvages her entire season storyline with some wildly cool shit. Her journey through her future (burned out Iron Throne) and her past (her child and dead husband) and finally he fire baptism, imprisonment of Xaros, and promise of a ship was fresh. If only she would show my man Sir Jorah some love, dude can't hang in there forever!

11. Couple other stray throughts
  • It was cool finally seeing spymaster Varys recruit a new spy into his legendary army.
  • I guess Bran's vision of the direwolf by the pond foreshadowed the super depressing death of Maester Lwuin.
  • Khal Drago's baby was fat as hell. Rhaegar gotta lay off the Lays.
  • Where is Sir Davos?

So that's it for the season. Thrones will return sometime in the Spring of 2013 and while it seems like a long way off, we will have a new season of Breaking Bad and the return of my Chemistry Class recaps to hold us over. Thanks for reading, it's been real fun writing them for you guys.

June 1, 2012

High Class Trash - Is Game of Thrones Really As Good As We Think It Is?

"Game of Thrones" has it's finale this Sunday and I can't wait. If you've been following my recaps* over the course of the past two seasons, you've probably noticed I'm kind of a Thrones' junkie. I even snatched up the books so I can be more in the know. Yet as we approach the end of the season and the unbearably long wait until season 3 sometime in Spring 2013 (!!!) I find myself just wondering how "great" the show really is.

For me a "great" show needs to transcends the boundaries of the space it exists in. Yeah, I know that sounds incredibly TV watcher pretentious, but stick with me here folks. The great TV dramas including "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "The Wire," and are both gripping narratives and also statements about something**. "Mad Men" so far seems to be about the passage of time between generations, how history both personal and national shapes us, and how the media forms our sense of self. "Breaking Bad" is a study in self control, power, and the shifting nature of evil. "The Wire" is about all the little interconnected pieces in a city. If you encounter fans of any of these shows they'll be able to talk about what makes it good, but they'll also be able to talk about what it's "about" (it's about tha game, life, power yo!)

There is no doubt that "Thrones" kills it on almost every level. Incredible production design (and budget), great acting, interesting characters, loads of sex and violence, magic, dragons, teleporting cloning warlocks you get the idea, but I struggle to figure out the deeper meaning behind the whole thing, because so far I don't think there is one. This partially due to the immense cast of characters the show has. "Breaking Bad' and "Mad Men" both have super strong protagonists that cary thematic weight, and "Thrones," shit, I don't even know who the central protagonist is? Robb? Arya? Jon Snow?

It's also excessively pulpy and trashy. It revels in excessive violence, gratuitous nudity, and a fantastic genre. A show like "Breaking Bad" is violent as hell, but it doles it out in small doses and each kill has a weight. In "Thrones," just last week we got people chopped in half, chopped diagonally, leg chopped, head crushed, and eye arrowed. Let's not forget last seasons excessive horse killing. If that's not all pulpy I don't know what is.

This desire to satisfy the audiences need in place of story makes it weaker in more line with gore fests like "True Blood" and "The Walking Dead," which aren't "bad shows, they're just not on the same level as the great shows they're "second tier." Other shows in this group that I've put "Thrones in include "Sons of Anarchy," "Homeland***" and even though it pains me to say it "Spartacus." Tune in at the bottom for a TPG power rankings of my favorite shows on the air.

Maybe I should listen to David Simon and judge "Thrones" on it's weightier themes after it's aired in it's entirety. Perhaps then it will work better thematically.  If each season is based on book, maybe I should judge each season as one story, kind of like the "Harry Potter" films. But for now, I'm going off what I'm seeing, and what I'm seeing is an awesomely trashy fantasy pulp epic. I'm fine with it, but wish it was something more.


Tier One
1. Breaking Bad
2. Mad Men

Tier Two:
1. Game of Thrones
2. Spartacus
3. Homeland
4. Boardwalk Empire
4. True Blood
5. Walking Dead

*If you're looking for a recap for last week's episode "Blackwater" - here it is: people got chopped up.
** I still haven't seen "The Sopranos," yeah I know, I gotta get on it.
*** "Homeland" is just "24" in a different package.