contemplating Sean Bean’s imminent demise

Sean Bean partially narrates this game I’m playing and it got me chuckling.  Once upon a time folks got to see Sean Bean brutally decapitated in Game of Thrones (that show I no longer watch).  This was the first of many main character deaths in that horror fetish of a series.  But at the time folks tried to rationalize what had just occurred.  I specifically remember saying to my brother, “It’s that much more dramatic because it’s Sean Bean.”

Wait, what?  That’s probably one of the dumber things I’ve ever said.  And man, do I spout some dumb shit.

For you see, Sean Bean does in fact die in everything he’s in.

And here’s even a Funny Or Die skit where Sean expresses his desire for a piranha based doom.

Sean Bean is only 58 years old, but perchance before he hits 60, he’ll be attacked by aliens.  They won’t come to conquer Earth, they’ll just come for Sean Bean.  And he’ll probably be smiling.

“Oh, hay there lads, got a ray gun I see?  Well, make it slow, if ya can.”

we reaffirm our commitment to “giving it a hard time just for the sake of it”

The goons of humanity who try and remote control other people’s lives are shockingly transparent. So when the Communist Party backed a movie they placed supreme faith in, gee, who would have figured they’d lose their minds when it turned out to be the terrible, mindless, bad action flick everybody expected?

Beyond my original thoughts on all this, I’ll simply put down the international failure of this movie to two concepts:

1) Zhang got himself trapped (as many a good filmmaker has) by the power of special effects. Since computers allow him to do anything he wants, he lets his mind go insane. Simple decent scenes become a mesh of digital action nonsense so disconnected from reality that the audience can’t connect with the movie. It’s like watching a bad video game or seizure inducing Japanese anime. You don’t feel anything. See the Star Wars prequels or the Transformers films for similar forays into the awfulness.

2) Despite (1), a whole bunch of movies succeed in this format and make a ton of money, see Fast & Furious. I think the Red goons wanted The Great Wall to make an insane amount of money. If it did, it would have been a critical first step of an organic Chinese blockbuster. The problem is nobody cared. Folks probably saw the terrible trailers for this movie and were like, “eh, whatever”.

The movie debuts in America tomorrow. So I guess we’re about to find out just how dumb the American theatergoer is. If this movie makes $300M in the States, I’m moving to the Moon. But the Chinese theatergoer already figured this out, and they weren’t happy.

But hey, even though the movie sucks, it’s not the movie’s fault. But rather you, the viewer, who is wrong. Per The Economist, Xinhua (the Party mouthpiece) called the film “innovative” and accused online detractors of “giving it a hard time just for the sake of it”.

I’ll wear that appellation with pride. As I hope every Chinese citizen who rightly criticized this movie online will. We can’t let the goons control human lives. To the point that the bad, is made to be good. Just because they say so.

The question again, is can you make good art, a good movie when the Party is pulling the creative levers? I don’t think so. Zhang used to make great movies, when he was a rebel and against the Party. Now he’s a team player and the art is over.

I hope he learns from this, dumps the handlers, and goes back to making great films.

The Great Wall

Human actor plays medieval part in movie about aliens who got to Earth on an asteroid and attack once every 60 years. Eh, wait, what? Well, what could go wrong?

the rarest of foods and the future non-rareness of Star Wars

South of my remote office that works has me travel to is a quaint town that deserves the title of village.  It’s like something out of a time warp where restaurants, antique shops, Andy’s office, a small town non-evil lawyer, town hall, Skip’s Hammer & Nails, and the local fire station all surround an open park that families play in with their children.  I’ve not seen this kind of thing much in all my travels.  I’m not sure this idyllic existence was ever that common to the human race.  It sure seems pretty sweet though.  Everybody in this village is very friendly, if they do still possess a little bit of arrogance.  But hell if I lived like that I’d probably think I was awesome too.

Anyways, one of the restaurants around this park I’d been to before.  I got their tasty Asian themed burger last time.  It was great.  So naturally they no longer offer that.  Instead, the chef seems inclined to go high end.  And so a whole bunch of fancy and/or rare foods were on the menu.  I normally don’t go down the road.  I likes what I likes.  But the menu was short (which is fine) and so I decided to try things I’d not had before.  I cook all the time, but for the most part it’s just basic stuff.  I don’t usually buy or use too many fancy ingredients.  So all of this was new to me, in particular: black truffles, duck eggs, and bone marrow.

The result: I basically shrugged.  People I greatly respect in the food world talk up this bone marrow thing like it’s the nectar from the Sinai.  It was different, it was good, but it wasn’t something I’d have again over say, a good steak.  Maybe this village joint just didn’t do it right?  I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I didn’t understand the hype on any of this.  It was rather unfulfilling.  The night after I went to another town and a place I’d been before and went the burger route.  That worked out well.  I was satisfied.

bone-marrow.jpg

I will say, mine didn’t look like this.  So maybe they did indeed not do it right.

But the thought arrived in my crude brain, is rarity a delight in its own right?  Why yes, I think it is.  Sort of.  Let’s take these few belligerent examples.  To understand where I’m going, pretend for a moment that you’re a pretentious asshole.  As in, imagine you work for Goldman Sachs (offers finger to gilded palace level):

1) You are offered an omelet made of endangered condor eggs

2) You are presented beer brewed with water from The Moon

3) All the forces of science were used to cheat nature by recreating the dodo, just so they could kill it and you could eat it

dodo bird food.jpg

Coming soon to a plate near you.  Seriously, in your lifetime, somebody will attempt to do this.

We don’t have to necessarily go down this weird road though.  How about:

a) You drink a microbrewery’s beer.  It’s fairly decent, but nothing exceptional.  But you come back a month later and they’re out of business.  You will never be able to drink that beer again.  Was it that more special?

b) In your travels you experiment with a dish that cooks pork in a unique way you’ve never seen before or will again.  It’s nothing crazy, it’s just freaking pork, but it’s different, it’s good.  Will you miss this rareness a decade down the road?

To me, rareness or uniqueness is more along the lines of (a) and (b).  This kind of thing appeals to me.  (1) through (3) or bone marrow, eh, not really.  Not sure what that says about me, but that’s my take.

So then, the thought also crosses my feeble mind of what occurs when rareness disappears.  Even if you think bone marrow is liquid life, what happens to you if you have it every single darn week?  I suspect it loses the edge.

Everybody is once again on the cliff’s edge about Star Wars.  Yesterday, I saw a guy driving a Nissan Rogue where he had stenciled in cursive handwriting the word “One” after the Rogue lettering.  This means he’s even more of a loser than I.  A brief aside, how has Nissan gotten away without the evil corporate stigma that VW has?  Nissan has openly admitted to cheating fuel standards recently too, but nobody cares?  Whereas VW is the devil?  Eh, maybe folks just love to hate the Krauts?

Anyways, soon Stormtroopers and Darth Vader will be everywhere again.  You’ll stroll out toward your car in the dark of the morning and Boba Fett’s going to be standing by your mailbox smoking a cigarette.  And you’ll just shrug and start your engine because you expect it.  Here’s the thing though, I think it’s going to die down.

star wars admirals.jpg

These two dudes are going to show up to cut your grass.  You’ll shrug and give them the check.

Star Wars 1977 to 1983 was special.  Then George destroyed it.  So when Force Awakens appeared folks were just begging for some kind of victory.  They mostly got it, the world stopped for it.  Now everybody is looking for the ride to continue with Rogue One.  But, what happens when that rareness disappears?  Disney has 17 Star Wars films in development as we speak.  I suspect that rarity’s going to disappear.  You can only swallow so much bone marrow or Star Wars before you can only shrug.  It’s human.  In the best of our nature, we love to try things that are different.  We seek the adventure.  Things we eat or watch repeatedly can become less special, less unique.

Or maybe I’m just an idiot.  Maybe I’m wrong.  For example, I do love those burgers.  You can make a burger exactly 2,748 different ways.  I’ve only tried 73 of them.  I want to try the rest.  So maybe, just maybe Star Wars has 135 films left in it before everybody stops caring.  I assure you, Disney has it in them.  So we’ll find out, one way or the other, whether I’m right.

red shirts.jpg

Most if not all of these Red Shirts are going to die.  They told us so in the original movies.

Sicario – the film that hits you repeatedly with a plastic bat

You hear a movie’s great. Then you see it and didn’t like it. What does that say? Well, a couple of options are in play:

1) Everybody else is right, the movie’s great

2) You’re too stupid to completely understand the movie

3) Aliens and/or alcohol drugged you so much you couldn’t follow the movie properly

4) Everybody else is wrong, the movie’s complete garbage

At any given point, all or one of the above apply to my movie viewing experiences. But for Sicario, I’m going with option (4).

Sicario.jpg

Blunt, Brolin, and del Toro view the film creator’s designs for the most pristine of plastic bats.

Everybody loves this movie. It’s some kind of award winning masterpiece. And I’ll admit, it has some top notch features. It’s well shot, has a beautifully dark score, contains mostly interesting scenes, and has swell acting. I think this is why folks think the movie is awesome. On the surface it’s well done. But when you peel back the onion everything underneath is just wrong. It’s like those onions that bring the fruit flies into your humble abode.

If I could name one key gripe with this flick, it’s the unjustified suspension of reality. Not all movies need to be knife edged real. Movies are all about escapism. They take you somewhere special, or they bend the truth to make a point, or explore possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t exist. But Sicario makes it clear almost immediately that it has a larger purpose. It’s a running commentary on the war of drugs, American policy, morals, etc, etc. About 1/3 of the way through the movie I said to mine doggies, “This flick is Syriana II”. And so it is. And Syriana sucks too.

In order for you to buy the film’s message that our reality is wrong, you’d think the movie would have to be grounded in some kind of its own reality, right? Otherwise the message would get clouded by lunacy? Nope.

Kindly observe this limited list so that you can understand why I think this movie hits you repeatedly with a plastic bat and asks you to not think. They just want you to admire the beauty of the film, swallow the message, and not think too much.

1) In the first five minutes we’re asked to accept that one can store 40 corpses in a suburban Arizona home if only you hide them behind drywall. There’s even three guys just hanging out in there like it’s nothing. Eh, I’m pretty sure drywall aside, that this home would smell like five blocks away. But it’s dramatic, so they put it in there.

2) Juarez is depicted as a vacation spot worse than Mosul. Blunt looks on from a nighttime El Paso roof to see the Juarez skyline alight with explosions and machine gun tracer fire. Eh, I looked at that skyline almost every night I was in El Paso for years. I never saw any of that nonsense. In the years I was out there, I never heard one gunshot. Contrast that with my fairly standard east coast suburban hovel where I’ve heard at least a dozen gunshots over the years. Granted, most of those shots are jackasses shooting trees in the small woods adjacent to my back yard, but the comparison remains valid.

3) Blunt, del Toro, and Brolin alongside a dozen stereotypical American commandos (scruffy beards included) erase eight cartel gunmen and one corrupt Mexican cop on the Bridge of the Americas in front of several hundred people. We the audience are then treated to a throwaway line via the team radio about how this incident is so common it won’t even be news in El Paso. Oh, how cynical! This movie is so darkly intriguing. Give those geniuses an award. Eh, I’m pretty sure if nine men die on the Bridge of the Americas that the whole planet would know in about four minutes.

bridge-of-the-americas

Gee, I wonder what occupation these bearded gentlemen must have?

4) We find that the CIA’s plan to assassinate a cartel boss apparently can only entail the use of a former Medellin killer who can infiltrate the bad guy’s compound to exact his revenge. Eh, this would come as comical news to the Mexican Marines who have killed or captured dozens of cartel bosses over the last decade in deadly raids. At great cost to themselves and their families.

Mexican Marines.jpg

Mexican Marines (not depicted in Sicario), escorting El Chapo to his second opportunity to die in prison.  No matter what you do in life, you will never be as awesome as these men.

5) Ultimately, Brolin admits to Blunt in a plot twist that’s quite humorous that the CIA’s grand strategy to defeat the Mexican cartels is to help the Medellin and/or Columbian cartels regain turf because they provided more stability. Truly! In order to swallow this completely bullshit notion, you will need have never heard of the following concepts:

a) The evisceration of the Medellin cartel and the overall recovery of Medellin as a decent city

b) The capture of the Columbian drug trade by the FARC and the Columbian war against said entity

c) The belief that the Columbian cartels of the 1980’s and 1990’s were somehow not the agents of chaos and destruction that they really were

d) The very idea that an American whole-of-government operation can conduct any such secret evil plan without it ending up on the front page of the Washington Post

e) That the CIA will threaten to and/or actually suicide people who state that they’ll tell folks about this evil government conspiracy

Hey I’ve got news for all you conspiracy lunatics: Everybody talks. America is not Soviet or Putin Russia. Everybody talks. As one of my references, I draw your attention to the ultra-secret CIA run black site program conducted after 2001. This was as deep a conspiracy as you can get. Yet here we are about a decade later and you can read online and determine just about every aspect of the operation, right down to the price the CIA paid for the freaking Polish buildings.

Again, I wouldn’t bring up this absence of reality, except that Sicario takes itself so damn seriously. You’re meant to feel their message. The plastic bat is at work. You will be made to agree with this nonsense. Well, I will not. This movie is only mildly entertaining, but is overall, just not very good. My Guests and I would not recommend.

del Toro.gif

Sorry, God’s too busy to meet your shitty movie.

I don’t care about robots

So there’s this Westworld thing that premiered over the weekend that’s supposedly pretty good.  It’s got a great cast, it’s likely well shot, slickly made, and probably fairly entertaining.  HBO is sure hoping it’s the next Game of Thrones.  But I don’t care.  I’ll not be watching.

So last year there was this Ex Machina movie that was supposedly pretty good.  They said it had a great cast, interesting dialogue, and a strong plot.  I didn’t see it.  I don’t care.

I don’t care about robots.  The very thought of the concept on screen just bores me.  I’d loosely heard about Westworld and was mildly interested.  I worship Westerns and was hopeful that HBO was going to attempt another go at the genre.  There’s a lot of room left to still make something as good as Deadwood if people actually tried.  But then I read Westworld was about a robot theme park.  When I heard this, I immediately fell asleep due to boredom by osmosis.  My dogs had to revive me with smelling salts.  They still won’t tell me where they got them from.

westworld-hbo-evan-rachel-wood.jpg

Yeah lady, I know.  I’d need a nap too.

I already know how Westworld is going to play out.  The robots will become more human over time and contrast themselves with the barbarity of the humans who made and abuse them due to our own primal nature and we’ll have to see in the robots what it really means to be human and maybe some of the humans in the television will see the robots and remember what’s it’s like to be human and for you see philosophy and the human psyche are concepts that transcend, … [sleeps]  [sleeps]  [dogs dart over with salts]

Oh, that and graphic violence and gratuitous nudity.  You need that in smart psychological dramas too.  There’s apparently a vicious rape scene in the very first episode of Westworld.  Don’t believe the HBO lie that it has anything to do with the plot or some high minded concept.  It’s there for shock value and eyeballs.  As is the overall level of brutality and nakedness.  Apparently Ex Machina had an excessive amount of nudity and violence as well.  I’m sure that was just a coincidence.

machina_a.jpg

Yeah lady, I know.  I’d need a nap too.

Robots are not human.  They will never be human.  So the very idea of spending multiple seasons watching Westworld and trying to develop some kind of intellectual connection with a robot character is beyond my comprehension.  How can you relate to or root for a character that’s not really alive?  I’d feel more remorse killing a spider in my bedroom than watching some robot get hurt on screen.  If I was forced to watch Westworld with a girl on the couch, and she starts talking about how she understands the trials of Robot Emma and finds the show entertaining, I’d likely remark in my most deadpan condescending voice imaginable, “Why?  It’s just a fucking robot.”  And that’d be that relationship, and I’d have to begin a new online search.

Once upon a time I used to be in the 1’s and 0’s business.  I hated it.  I will never go back.  But I’ve learned enough to know that artificial intelligence is a crock.  A robot can be programmed to solve math, play chess, or even enslave humanity.  I admit it could happen.  But at its most base level that doesn’t mean a robot can attain self-awareness.  It’ll still just be a machine programmed by a human to fulfill tasks, even if in theory it can also self-learn.  1’s and 0’s is not consciousness.  Humanity is not God.  A robot is not alive.

Just about the only time I think I’ve ever felt any sympathy for a robot on screen is Data, or Arnold in Terminator 2.  You’ll remember that factory scene, right?  Despite the fact that Arnold was bound for the path of an adulterous failed governor and Edward a coked out mess this whole exchange is just awesome, as is the whole movie.  The scene really gets to you.  Arnold’s generally a likeable actor and really does a good job of turning this faceless killing machine into a sympathetic character.  You laugh at him, you root for him, you’re sad when he dies.  This I cared about, sort of.  But in the end it loses its impact over time.  Because in the end after you’ve lost the initial first time edge of the power of this scene, you remember it’s just a robot.

terminator2.jpg

“I know now why you cry.  But I still don’t have a beating heart.”

The same basic concepts hold true for Data.  You care about him too.  You get to see him grow for seven years.  But I’ve always had this distant attachment with Data.  I can root for him, but have always felt him distinctly apart and separate from the other characters.  And, I guess once you’ve seen that robot development story done, it’s done.  Why bother seeing it done again?  That show was like 15 years ago.

In the end I suspect the way Star Trek told Data’s story is going to be infinitely smarter and more entertaining than anything Westworld can churn out for the masses.  And with 98% less nudity and bloodshed too.

laforge_data.png

Oh man, do I sure miss the low key, intelligent, entertaining ways of this show.

On Nazi gold, trains, Wolfenstein, and Indy

So a pair of lunatics are digging up part of a Polish mountain thinking they’ll find a lost Nazi gold train in there. A bunch of smart dudes say there’s no train in there, but whatever, these two dudes are going to dig anyways. Good for them. At least they have a goal for their lives. I know I sure don’t. Maybe they’ll find a gold train, maybe they’ll find nothing, or perhaps they’ll just find an awfully large number of bugs. Or maybe they’ll find Mecha Hitler:

Mecha Hitler

Dude should have brought more than just a knife before digging up a Nazi tunnel.

 

 

The possible existence of said train is called local folklore or whatever. Meaning it might not have ever actually existed, but folks said it did. Or it became a rumor, a legend, worthy of exploration. Indiana Jones 5 needs this plot. Apparently Harrison Ford is going down this road again even though he’s now 89 years old. The fourth Indy movie is perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever seen. So Indy needs to get back to his non-awful-alien-movie roots. Who doesn’t hate Nazis? Indy sure does, he told us. The movie can still take place in the 1960’s, it just has to involve the gold train, Nazis, and somebody other than Ford to do all the punching.

Mecha Indy

Remember when Harrison Ford / movies were this cool?

 

Hey speaking of hating Nazis, the latest games I’ve been playing are the two recent ones from Bethesda: Wolfenstein The New Order & The Old Blood. After being stuck in a bit of a rut playing games that ended up as shit, or had garbage endings, or got trapped in Open World Hell, I find these two games to be rather delightful and refreshing:

 

1) No Moral Ambiguity Bullshit – you get to shoot freaking evil Nazis

 

2) A Clear Plot – you fight to stop the evil Nazis

 

3) A Clear Objective – you don’t have to walk around an open world for 43 minutes trying to figure out what the fuck to do

 

4) A Decent Ending – bask in the glory of a video game that doesn’t have an ending bathed in weirdness, nihilism, total nonsense, or an attempt by the designers to appear smarter than you

 

So I’m calling it right now, the next Wolfenstein game needs this plot too. They find a Nazi gold train. Wind up plot. Go.

Mecha Me.png

We know Indy, we hate Nazis too.  So we follow your holy example.

Matt Damon and Zhang Yimou whitewash their souls

Dark days are ahead for China. There be monsters north of the wall. Winter’s probably already here, or something like that. Everybody’s scared, the army’s not ready, disaster looms. But don’t worry, Matt Damon will show up to save everybody.

 

matt-damon-the-great-wall.jpg

Remember when this guy wasn’t an action movie star?

 

Except it’s a big trick. For the monster is not some type of mythical creature that eats life. Instead, it’s the devil incarnate of bad action movies. This hideous demon spawn was born from an unhuman blending of the reproductive organs of Michael Bay’s Transformers and Zach Snyder’s Superman. China doesn’t stand a chance, even with Damon’s purchased-sculpted-boxer-physique.

 

great wall movie.jpg

Just take a gander at the stereotypical bad action flick awfulness that awaits the poor Chinese theater audience.

 

The Great Wall is China’s most expensive movie production ever. It cost $160M in pure gold pressed latinum and is a massive gamble by both Hollywood and the Chinese film industry. Legendary Entertainment does the production as the now full-fledged member of China’s business community since they (sold out to) were bought out by Wanda Group.

Bankrolled by Wanda Group’s overlord, Asia’s richest man, and expert 1930’s style tap dancer Wang Jianlin, this flick’s meant to serve as a key mark on what Wang and many, many Hollywood suits hope will be a very long and lucrative alliance. If it’s not already, China will soon be the world’s largest film market. And you’d better believe Hollywood wants in on all that luscious cash.

This forthcoming epic masterpiece will hit theaters in China this December followed by a February 2017 debut in the States. This is a bit strange, as February is usually second only to January as a dumping ground for garbage films. Maybe they’re hoping a sparse market will help the film perform better? Maybe they’re hoping they can rope in the Valentine’s Day audience as 11th Century Chinese warriors are viciously beheaded by evil monsters?

 

The_Great_Wall_(film).png

Eh, I’m pretty sure The Mongols. Why do I need to pay $13 to see a movie when I already know the answer to the poster’s wise quest question?

 

Anyways, in our current modern media culture, we can’t have anything without a race based controversy. And boy does The Great Wall sure have one in the entirely accurate accusation that they whitewashed the cast by adding Damon when an otherwise all Chinese cast would have made a lot more sense.

They claim Damon plays a mercenary or something. Maybe he’s there to assassinate Jason Bourne? It would have to be something specific like that. Because from what I know about the Song Dynasty, I’m pretty sure the Chinese army didn’t lack for limitless raw manpower. So there’s nothing that would require them to hire to creepy white guy from Medieval France who’s on the lam for stealing Her Ladyship’s already stolen virtue.

Whatever. This aspect of the flick doesn’t really interest me. Damon’s presence is really rather simple. Wang and his minions want to make cash worldwide. In order to do that you need a global star. Damon is a global star. There’s not a single Chinese actor that comes even close to his worldwide appeal. That’s why he’s there. There isn’t much else to it. Money!

Except to perhaps ask the question: Why isn’t there a Chinese actor as world famous as Damon? Ah, yes, now we get to the parts I actually care about. First off, let’s take a look at the director in the brilliant Zhang Yimou. I really like Zhang, the dude’s made some incredible movies and knows his craft well. In particular, To Live and Hero are quality movies. To Live even approaches the realm of masterpiece in my mind. But that was then and this is now.

Then, Zhang got himself banned from filmmaking by the Communist goons because To Live did such a great job tearing down the hypocrisy of said dictatorial state. Now, Zhang is their errand boy. So he thus produces flicks of questionable messaging and quality such as The Flowers of War, which also had a conspicuous hunk-white-dude lead in Christian Bale.

Now Zhang is working for Wang. And before he made billions in real estate, Wang was a regimental commander in the PLA. He’s also a mint condition delegate to the rubber stamp National People’s Congress. In other words, Wang’s the consummate Communist team player. Which helps to explain why Wanda Group is so successful given his connections. Although Wang is probably also a genius, so that helps too.

But if you were Zhang and you once made movies of conscience, perhaps you’d hesitate before getting into business with a guy like Wang who is so clearly tied to a Communist Party organization that censors movies like the ones you used to make. Hell, if somebody banned me and my movie, I’d be pissed. Maybe Zhang’s just more forgiving than I?

But you see, as a now Chinese owned studio, Legendary has to get The Great Wall entirely past the censors. This means that every line of dialogue, every scene of horrible computer generated action has to support the message of the Communist Party.

And therein lies the real crime of this movie, not the color of Damon’s skin. If I ran into Wang on the street (as in if I stowed away on his jetcopter) I’d like to ask him straight to his face if all of Legendary’s future movies are now going to have to be approved by the Commie censors?

I ask this because Legendary has made some damn good movies throughout the last fifteen years. I’d like to know in advance before stepping into the theater whether my movie experience got approved by some undersexed-degenerate-apparatchik-tool.

Hollywood (in theory) is supposed to be a land of consummate free speech. After all, it’s freedom of speech, freedom of the arts that enables Hollywood to function. It’s what gave birth to this pinnacle location of the film industry at the start of the movie era a century ago.

But money talks, and Hollywood (most, but not all) values money over principle. So Damon and a whole bunch of other people are perfectly happy to climb aboard a production that is essentially bankrolled by anti-free speech goons provided they get their tasty paycheck.

Seeing as how, like most celebrities, Damon does substantial humanitarian and human rights work, if I ran into Damon on the street (as in if I stowed away on his autogryo) I’d like to ask him straight to his face what he thinks about hundreds of Chinese human rights lawyers and activists being rounded up and convicted in show trials? Or that they’re being forced to read Cultural Revolution style confessions to the public like in one of the heart tearing scenes that Zhang used to put into his movies.

Did I also mention that Wanda Group owns AMC Theaters? Do you like movies? I sure do. Do you like free speech? I sure do. Well, as far as I can figure, I think these two concepts go hand in hand. But if you’re Wang, Zhang, or Damon, I guess you can respectfully disagree. Money!

Here’s the problem though. Wang and Zhang are placing a bet that you can have quality movies in a realm without free speech. It’s the same gamble that the Communist Party is taking all throughout China’s culture. For example, the Communist Party is backing efforts to dramatically enhance scientific research and development, but without the freedom of speech and academic liberty that normally comes with it.

I suspect, just as it’s awfully hard to invent cool shit when the censors are all over you, that Wang and Zhang are going to discover that without freedom of creativity that they can’t make decent movies. They might make a lot of money (see Transformers for the ability of bad movies to make billions) but not actual good art.

Until China’s film industry can make consistent, freethinking, actual good art, they’re never going to produce a true global star like Damon. I just don’t see it happening. True art requires true freedom. End of story.

Maybe The Great Wall will be fairly decent. Like I said, Zhang is a superb filmmaker. And I really do like Damon as an actor. But for the future of movies, I hope this film tanks.