Monday, June 19, 2017

Spare Parts

Spare Parts is an uplifting movie based on the Wired Magazine article La Vida Robot made in the same mold as the Mighty Ducks. Only here instead of ice hockey it is an underwater remote operated vehicle – robotics – contest sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and NASA.

As is with the hockey movie, the lead characters are students seemingly lost in life; they come together for a common goal, and ironically mentored by a man with issues. It is through this journey that they all go through they are able to build a better version of themselves.
Fred Cameron is a composite of Fred Lajvardi
and Allan Cameron who advised the team
Fredi Cameron (George Lopez), an engineer jumping from job to job ends up on the outskirts, in Carl Hayden Community High School, which is 92 percent Hispanic, half of whom says Principal Karen Lowry (Jamie Lee Curtis), are undocumented. Although Karen has her doubts why an engineer would be hopping jobs she accepts Fredi’s application for substitute teacher.

Karen assigned Fredi to the unpopular robotics club virtually assuring him that no one would sign up. Fredi couldn’t be happier to be just coasting his 4 month tenure as substitute teacher, until Oscar Vasquez (Carlos PenaVega) came in and asked to me mentored in joining a robotics contest. Oscar told the very skeptical Fredi that the contest was a means to an end especially for undocumented immigrants like him.  

With Fredi convinced of helping, Oscar went on with recruitment and got who would be the team brains, Cristian Arcega (David Del Rio). Fredi himself added a scrappy young mechanic Lorenzo Santillan (Jose Julian).

They now had a one-two punch, Cristian the designer is helped making his ideas real by Lorenzo who is very good with his hands. 

What makes Lorenzo so great is his ability to cannibalizing the spare parts out of anything just to make the ROV cheap. Luis Aranda (Oscar Javier Gutierrez II), they chose him for the size. The tether man who’s main job is to carry ROV and assist with adding or subtracting the slack of the tether.

From the Washington Post

Carl Hayden Community High School entered the contest against colleges instead of high school. They thought it would be a positive spin they will say to the world and themselves; losing was already an expectation, losing against college level at least mitigates that fact. Needless to say nothing went as expected.

I like the casting Spare Parts though George Lopez confuses me sometimes. Not that he’s bad actually he’s great for the role that called for occasional funny moments but not all out comedy. It’s just that when I hear his voice I keep thinking about the Rock hosting a game show.

Oscar Vasquez feels underdeveloped.  During the course of the story I keep wondering why he chose robotics as a fallback because the project was a Lorenzo-Cristian show. Luis was the muscle that much is obvious. 

From the Wired article Oscar was the leader. Maybe they blended too well cause Oscar never stood out as leader, he did what he was good at which oddly did not involve much tinkering at least compared to Lorenzo or Cristian. Only when the movie epilogue mentioned that Oscar Vasquez ends up having a degree as a Mechanical Engineer did I ever think he was into engineering.

It is in the building of a robot, the engineering, is what I like most about the movie. Spare Parts showed how scrappy the Carl Hayden Community High School robotics team was which, if you think about it, have engineering and a life lesson angle to it.

The life lesson is that you take what life gives you; if it’s not the right fit adapt it for your own purposes. Principal Lowry describes that during the course of the school year students disappear from the roll because of deportation. 

The team, all undocumented immigrants, could just lay down and wait for it to happen; Lorenzo’s dad fears it and so does Oscar’s mother. But like an engineering problem the team works to find a way out of their predicament.
The engineering angle; let’s just say I find Tony Stark designing his suit as showing how cool engineering can be in a sci-fi way, Spare Parts actually brings you to hardware stores and whatever surplus or junk shops the team were digging into. 

Parts, working parts meant for something else; they re-purposed it for their ROV. It’s not often fun to see people breaking things apart in order to build something. Women’s tampons were the highlight of this point.

I also liked how teachers here upbeat from Fredi Cameron to Gwen Kolinsky (Marisa Tomei), who’s put in there as a potential love interest, to Principal Lowry. The character of Fredi had a brokenness about him which needed a Gwen to straighten things out; from there Fredi can then straighten the kids out.

Usually in these types of films where there is an underfunded school, the principal is either the villain or at least they are the realist. They sit idly by and watch the teacher do all the work. Here Lowry is all support. She’s much more a bundle of joy than Fredi or Gwen ever was.  

Lastly and I do mean last. I think it’s a mark of a great script that Spare Parts besides being a great story but also having the best last lines in recent memory. 

The absolute last line is the beautiful ribbon to everything, neatly tied into a bow. As is with the gift you are aware of the box as you are aware of the story, it’s flow, shape, and narrative. Tie it with a bow and you get to see the whole box again see how it fits. Same with that last line. It all fits and then you’ll smile for more reasons than that line.

In Real Life:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dencio's - Drinking Spot Overlooking QC

Imagine the 3rd level of a building that rests on top of a hill and surrounded by a golf course and high end exclusive villages. The view afforded to you by Dencio’s Capitol Greenstreet is simply unmatched in the entire Quezon City.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Fate of the Furious (Fast and Furious 8)

It seems I’ll be with the few thinking that the latest of the Fast and the Furious franchise has run out of steam and should call it a day. People are still buying it in droves. Furious 9 is now guaranteed and a Furious 10 will supposedly be the last of it all.

Spoiler warning.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

13 Reasons Why

The first thing that came to mind was the movie I Know What You Did Last Summer. Somehow tapes were made naming the 13 people who killed somebody which seems to be the voice on the tapes. Suicide disclosure on the trailer notwithstanding there was an implied darker reason to it all. 

It made some sense. 13 people, un-sportsman like odds, one girl dead – got to be a murder conspiracy. After the first episode I realize the operative word was ‘reason’ hence the title 13 Reasons Why

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unlike the first book – Dragon Tattoo – The Girl Who Played With Fire started slow. Remember how book one had started with the mysterious gifts Henrik Vanger had been receiving that set the pace for a compelling mystery, this book didn’t start off with anything similar. Literally it was wallowing on the beach holding glasses with umbrellas kind of slow.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Sunday, June 04, 2017

What I Fear about Reviewing Movies

I love vlogs like Lessons from the Screenplay, Every Frame a Painting, and Movies I love (And so can You). They have such great technical insight. They are able to see and express more aspects of the film when I can only say things like: boring; it works; I like his acting; I don’t like this or that and so on.

Sometimes I fear that watching these vloggers and others tackling the same field, I lose the simple joy of watching a movie; that I’ll lose my blissful ignorance. Add to that the practice of writing a review means I have a tendency than most people to break things down.

Wonder Woman

Agreed. Wonder Woman is the best DC Extended Universe (DCEU) movie to date. Although I am not really sure being compared to Captain America: The First Avenger is a good thing. There are indeed comparisons but Wonder Woman is better. What does that even say; the best of DCEU is equal to whatever The First Avenger is to Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Before moving on, spoiler warnings. I am at a loss why readers would still need warning because any review is a potential spoiler however vague they try to be. Anyways.