Saturday 15 July 2023

Girls gone wild: Yellowjackets review

What goes up...


Season one of Yellowjackets was different and fun. The show's basically Lord of the Flies with girls, and it switches from their ordeal in the wilderness to the characters some 30 years later. 

The young ladies in question are members of a ruthlessly competitive girls soccer team, who are heading off to the world championships, when their chartered plane goes down in the Canadian wilderness. God knows we have enough wilderness to go around, enough for a thousand such shows. 

You'd think there'd be moose. Or beavers. Or at least horse flies. Nope.

Things get nasty quick. One nerdy little girl, the outcast of the bunch, takes immediate charge and cuts off the injured coaches mangled leg, which is caught under a piece of the aircraft. She's taken all the first aid courses there were on offer, and knows her stuff. 

Unfortunately, she quickly becomes addicted to her new valued status. 

Things get worse from there. Much, much worse.

Exactly what is left to our imaginations, at first. But it is heavily implied that as little as four or five people survive.

The very opening scenes show the girls hunting one of their own members, wearing masks, and performing what look like cannibalistic rituals. 

But we don't get to that state again in season one. It's a teaser to hook viewers in with the promise of the premise which they seem to mostly forget about.

Instead we cut to the girls later in life, when they've settled down into dull, domestic not-so-bliss. At first, there are only three. It seems the wilderness was a bloodbath that few returned from... until they introduce another survivor. 

And another. 

And another. 

And so on. 

It's like a shampoo ad, and the longer it goes on, the lower the dramatic stakes become. 

The show dives deep into the characters to the point of disinterest. The navel gazing is extensive and probing, and not recommended for carbon fibre hulls. But the actors are fabulous, and they do well with what they are given. It's an abundance of riches, which will suit some tastes more than others.

The scenes with the kids in the wilderness were even more compelling, with higher stakes. Whenever a 'now' scene rolls by, the urge to fast forward soon strikes, especially later in the season. 

Yet the wilderness family cannibal adventure is well worth watching, and I recommended the show to friends. I liked the heavy hints of the supernatural, that there were otherworldly forces dwelling in that forest, and had confidence the showrunners wouldn't drop the ball.

Then season two landed. 

The ball wasn't just dropped, it was lost entirely.

The scenes in the present became meandering and self-indulgent. 

Back in the wilderness, the vague supernatural forces hinted at earlier are... hinted at again and again. There's enough vague hinting to constitute trolling.

One character sits with her best dead frozen friend for three months, doing her hair and makeup before casually eating her ear. Because of course she did. Her friends find out about her freezer zombie ear parties, and decide enough is enough, they'll burn the corpse. 

You'd think that'd be the end of that. But wait! Vague maybe-sort-of-kinda supernatural forces drop a pile of snow on the funeral pyre, and voila, the corpse comes out like a braised butterball turkey. The girls then crowd around and chow down.

That got a guffaw. Not the response the show runners were hoping for, I suspect. Maybe they were going for horror or revulsion or something. All I could see was mouth watering Butterball.

The famine angle is mentioned, but not consistently, and the girls didn't behave or look starved. Obviously, they can't starve aspiring actresses. I mean, this isn't a Stanley Kubrick show. 

A few skipped episodes later was the finale, because that's all I could stand to watch. It was silly and pat. The central mom continued her death spiral into awfulness, hoping to one day to join the esteemed ranks of Dexter, Walter White and Tony Soprano. Or maybe not.  

Few shows so intriguing became so awful so quickly. Yellowjackets, like Icarus, soared high and then plummeted straight down and pancaked into pavement. Well. Icarus went into the sea, but you get the idea. 

Of course, I am not the target audience, so your mileage may be much better. For your sake, I sure hope so.

Yellowjackets would be an interesting subject for a screen writing class.

Friday 14 July 2023

War of the Roses and Medieval Genealogy ChatGPTrees

They begat and begat and begat until one day God said, "Stop fucking around!"

So I was looking into how Henry VI of Lancaster was related to the York leader Richard Plantagenet, for reasons that will soon become clear. I decided to pose the question to ChatGPT, because I’m lazy and genealogy gives me a headache:

Edward III was the grandfather of Henry VI. The lineage connecting them is as follows:

Edward III (1312-1377): Edward III was the King of England from 1327 until his death in 1377. He was married to Philippa of Hainault, with whom he had several children.

John of Gaunt (1340-1399): John of Gaunt was the third surviving son of Edward III. He married three times and had numerous children, including an illegitimate line of Beaufort descendants.

John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset (1373-1410): John Beaufort was the eldest son of John of Gaunt from his relationship with Katherine Swynford. He was later legitimized by King Richard II. John Beaufort's descendants were known as the House of Beaufort.

John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset (1404-1444): John Beaufort, the great-grandson of John of Gaunt, was elevated to the title of Duke of Somerset. He married Margaret Beauchamp, and their son was Henry Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset.

Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset (1406-1455): Edmund Beaufort was the brother of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset. He succeeded his brother as the 2nd Duke of Somerset. Edmund Beaufort's son was Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset.

Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset (1436-1464): Henry Beaufort, the son of Edmund Beaufort, was the 3rd Duke of Somerset. He was a prominent Lancastrian during the Wars of the Roses and a key figure in the reign of Henry VI.

Henry VI (1421-1471): Henry VI was the son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois. He became the King of England in 1422 as an infant and his reign was marked by political instability and the Wars of the Roses. He was a Lancastrian monarch.

Thus, Edward III was the grandfather of Henry VI through his son John of Gaunt and subsequent generations of the Beaufort family.

And this is why I hate the Middle Ages.

Thursday 13 July 2023

Extraction 1.0 and 2.0 review

Was it live or AI?

What a great video game walkthrough! 

Or was it a movie? 

The lead sure looked like Chris Hemsworth, but he wasn't jokey/goofy. So hard to tell. Could have been AI. Like Salma Hayek in Black Mirror.

Extraction is eerily like watching someone play a video game: long action sequences that morph into car chases, then foot chases, train chases and then more action scenes. 

Every now and then there is a cut scene where the actors emote and cry. 

Then it's right back into astonishingly long single shot action scenes. 

The action here is incredibly intense and visceral. You can almost feel the pain of the blows; it's not clean or antiseptic. That was quite well done, although most people (all people?) would be dead long before the characters in the film after taking that much punishment.

So fabulously well done action flick from a technical point of view. Very bare bones, plot and character wise. If you're good with that, you'll love Extraction. It's incredibly well done for what it is. 

If you want a more involved story, and aren't keen on 90 minutes of stabbing, shooting, pummelling, kicking, eviscerating, hacking, exploding and decapitating(?), then maybe this movie isn't for you. 

I have just one question: can Salma Hayek star in the next one?

Tuesday 11 July 2023

Commute Density Graph for Toronto

Basically, the best time to drive is 5 AM Mon-Friday:

Somehow I don't see myself rearranging my schedule. 

On the flip side, there's a black hole Thursday afternoon around 2:30 PM that sucks cars into a super density black hole from which they'll never reappear, and which will ultimately destroy the entire planet.

Saturday 8 July 2023

Savage review of Mandalorian Season 3

The Pitch Meeting series I've really enjoyed watching over COVID lockdowns. It's one guy who plays both the screenwriter and the studio exec in an imagined pitch meeting for the film. He's usually got some sharp, or at least funny, insights.

This one? Savage. Absolutely savage:

Friday 7 July 2023

Battle of Kursk: deja vu in Ukraine?

map of battle of kursk
The Kursk Pimple

During the early months of 1943, the Nazis were rolled back hundreds of miles from Stalingrad, until they finally stabilized their defensive lines in Ukraine. The line was relatively straight, except for a large bulge into the German side, centred around the city of Kursk. 

The Germans decided to squeeze this obvious like a ginormous pimple.

But the Soviets could read a map, too, so they new exactly where the Nazis were going to attack (also thanks to intel from the British Ultra program and the Red Orchestra).

Hitler hemmed and hawed, waiting until more of his Wonder Weapons were ready before attacking. The Soviets used that extra time to pack the pimple with troops, tanks and artillery, wrapped them in pillboxes, trenches, and mines, and tied a great big kill zone bow on top.

One of Porche's Not-So-Wonder-Weapons: The Ferdinand Dud

When the Nazis finally did attack, they made slow and costly progress against fierce and entrenched Soviet resistance. The new Nazi tanks proved unreliable: they hadn't been tested long enough to work out all the mechanical problems, and many broke down and were abandoned before they even encountered the enemy.

Once the Nazis had spent their offensive power, the Soviets launched a massive counter attack, overwhelming the exhausted Germans and paving the way to Berlin. 

A painting of the carnage at Kursk

Sound disturbingly familiar?

The Ukrainian offensive is trying to cut off Russian supply lines to Crimea. The Russians know exactly what the Ukrainians want to do, and where they are likely to attack. 

And while the Ukrainians have been waiting for Western tanks and equipment (and better weather), the Russians have been creating multiple defensive bands, with pillboxes, trenches, mines, kill zones, etcetera. 

A zoomed out view of multiple Russian defensive lines in Ukraine

The Russians are really good at this, and they don't need especially skilled soldiers to pull it off.

Speaking of which, the Russkies just moved some 300,000 more men into the area.  

Heck, take a look at the Reuters page on the Russian defenses, they describe it better than I ever could.

Pundits set unrealistic expectations for the Ukrainian counter offensive during the spring (and no thanks to the spectacular Ukrainian success last year around Kharkov), and as such people are now looking in askance at seemingly lacklustre Ukrainian progress. Ukraine is reportedly going slow to preserve the lives of their troops and inflict Russian casualties. Fair enough!

Yet the longer the war goes on, the more damage to Ukraine, its people, and its economy. 

US General Ben Hodges was suggesting that Russia might be thrown out this summer, leading to an armistice. While that might still happen (Ukraine is cutting of Russian supply bridges to Crimea using missiles), it seems increasingly unlikely. 

But hope doth spring eternal!

The superficial view shows Ukraine bogged down in attritional fighting. Which is bad. Very bad.

What happens if Ukraine falls? Some pundits say that's as far as Putin and Co. will go. Which would be bad, especially for Ukraine, but not catastrophic. 

Others claim he's going to keep going, and will hit Moldova next, then the Baltic states. Which are in NATO. Which means potentially catastrophic escalation.

Which is bad for everybody.

It's in Russia's interests to sow fear and division in the West, to amp up escalation worries, and in so doing deprive Ukraine of needed assistance, so maybe that's all these fears are.

I think I'll go watch some TV.

Wednesday 5 July 2023

Slo mo life drawing

 Dragged my lazy old bones out for some more life drawing. The poses were for the same duration as always, but I felt like I was in slow motion. I usually can get in some shading, or even colour on the longer poses. 

Not this time. 

life drawing woman touching toes

woman with hand on neck

Woman lying back in exercise wear

Sketch of woman in exercise gear sitting down
This was the longest pose. Can you tell?

Drawing of woman doing arm stretches