All posts by Alexander Vera

Why Tesla’s CyberTruck Matters

A Unique Unveiling

cybertruck

On November 21st, Elon Musk finally unveiled the long-teased and eagerly anticipated Cybertruck. The unveiling was livestreamed with great fanfare, featuring Elon and his team introducing all the different features of this truck that looks quite unlike any other truck you may have seen before.

…And with the unique design came the ridiculing on the internet. “Finally every kid will be able to draw a realistic truck” noted one commentator on Youtube. Others compared the design of the truck to everything from the Pokemon Polygon to the original video game version of Lara Croft’s breasts.

But not everyone poked fun. Some hailed the design as taken straight from a sci-fi film, which indeed was probably where a lot of the inspiration for the design came from.

The ridicule was then made worse when one of Elon’s team threw a metal ball at the car’s windows to prove how durable and shatterproof they were. Instead the ball cracked the glass at its impact point. So they did it again with the second window, sure it wouldn’t happen again. But it did.

This made for a somewhat awkward rest of the presentation, with Elon standing in front of his brand new Cybertruck with cracked windows trying to continue selling the thing as if nothing had happened.

Elon Cybertruck awkward

“We can fix that in post” Musk joked, as he tried to move past the incident. He later tweeted his team doing the exact same thing in a test behind closed doors, showing the windows doing what they were supposed to and repelling the metal ball effortlessly. It was clearly a humbling experience.

The Inspiration

Musk told Vox journalist Kara Swisher in an interview last year that the car would be “a really futuristic-like cyberpunk, ‘Blade Runner’ pickup truck”. Thus the name, and I would imagine, the appreciation for the Cyberpunk genre.

Apparently the appreciation is mutual. Blade Runner’s art director Syd Mead apparently told Business Insider that the Cybertruck was “stylistically breathtaking”, for which Musk was later thanked him for on twitter.

Musk also stated that part of the influence for the design was taken from the Lotus Esprit S1 car, which turned into a submarine for James Bond in The Spy That Loved Me.

Sci-fi and Cyberpunk fans felt that the car was reminiscent to many classic sci-fi films such as Total Recall, Back to the Future, and Blade Runner of course.

Cyberpunk 2077 Rumors

But sci-fi fans may have something else on the horizon to get even more excited about. There are rumors that the Cybertruck may be featured as a playable vehicle in Cyberpunk 2077.

A fan posted the picture below to Reddit of what that may look like, and as you can see, it fits right in.

tesla cybertruck cyberpunk 2077

In fact, Screenrant made the connection immediately. “[Elon Musk] unveiled [the truck] with a name which suggests the inventor is very, very hyped for CD Projekt Red’s next game. Luckily, it may not be too late in the development cycle of Cyberpunk 2077 for the game to add in Cybertruck as some sort of additional promotional content, should they choose to do so. After all, Musk is undeniably practically begging for it with that font choice.”

How close are the fonts? Well, you be the judge. Below is the Cybetruck font.

Cybertruck font

And this is the Cyberpunk 2077 font.

Cyberpunk 2077 logo

…Screenrant may have a point.

Why this all matters

I discovered Cyberpunk in January 2018, but I have always loved the Cyberpunk genre–I just never knew it. With my favorite movie of all time being The Matrix, and then feeling enraptured by films such as Ghost in the Shell, Minority Report, I, Robot, or Blade Runner 2049, it’s always been a genre that was an interest of mine. However, for a long time this genre was rather niche. Despite the Matrix trilogy bringing the genre out of the shadows for a brief period, it wasn’t enough to keep it mainstream, and thus it fell back out of the limelight until 2017 and 2018 which was considered by some to be a re-birth of the genre. This was a result of Blade Runner 2049 and Ghost in the Shell coming out the same year, followed soon thereafter by Ready Player One, a Steven Spielberg film. We also saw Upgrade, and TV series like Altered Carbon and Black Mirror coming out around the same time, and it was this combination that finally helped Cyberpunk stay in the mainstream spotlight to some extent.

The Cybertruck is proof Cyberpunk is becoming mainstream

Now, with Cyberpunk 2077, I am convinced that Cyberpunk is experiencing a rebirth of the genre. People are becoming more excited than ever about Cyberpunk, and the Cybertruck–a competitor to the Ford F-150 in the car industry, of all places–is one of the many places that Cyberpunk is becoming relevant. With the rising use of drones and the increasing ability of autonomous robots, I believe that Cyberpunk will continue becoming more popular, not less, and the Cybertruck is clear proof of this. Its home was in the books, movies, and tv series, but it is now expanding into delivery drones for Amazon, Mules and Bomb Squad Robots for the military, and now trucks in the car industry.

Cyberpunk is now.

Review: Woken Furies

220px-Woken_Furies_cover_(Amazon)

The Story

Woken Furies is the third novel in the loosely-interconnected Altered Carbon Series, or more accurately the Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy. This time we find Takeshi Kovacs on his home planet of Harlan’s World, a curious planet where orbitals left behind by the Martians will fire automated hellfire laser blasts on any ships that go too high in the atmosphere, except for certain small areas in the atmosphere. It’s been like that for as long as the residents can remember, and even though the Martians are long gone now, no one knows how the alien technology works or why it’s there at all.

Kovacs is on Harlan’s world because he is seeking to administer retribution to an extremist religious group known as the Knights of the New Revelation due to them killing a long-lost love of his and her daughter.

While trying to secure an escape after one of his attacks, he decides to help save a woman named Sylvie from a group of such religious zealots. It turns out she’s part of a mercenary group called deCom. Kovacs joins this group for a little bit, until Kovacs finds out he’s being hunted by a deadly killer. Sylvie then becomes captured and Kovacs hatches a plan to help her escape. The story also involves an AI entity that may or may not be Quellcrist Falconer, the long-dead revolutionary leader of the envoys.

Quellcrist Falconer

Not exactly straightforward

While this plot may seem pretty straightforward, I was only able to piece it together with the help of Wikipedia. Unlike Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, the novel doesn’t feel like one story, but rather two or three, possibly even four, separate stories loosely connected with the common thread of Sylvie and the assassin hunting Kovacs. This really hurts the story a lot, and I found this novel the most difficult book to read of the three of them by far. Unlike the first and second, which felt very much like page-turners at times, I found it hard to follow what was happening in Woken Furies because of how many different characters there were. This is because there are different stages of the book where Kovacs teams up with different groups. With each group he either has a mission, or hatches a plan to do something, that involves all members of the team, not unlike a mission Ethan Hunt might carry out in Mission Impossible. So not only are the steps of the missions complicated, the actors and targets keep on changing as well, as do the teams Kovacs is with. It also hurt the pacing of the story, and this is the most important detractor to this novel.

No overarching goal

Unlike Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, there is no clear end goal for Woken Furies. With Altered Carbon the book was set up from the beginning: Laurens Bancroft hired Kovacs to solve his own murder, and the readers go along for a ride with that overarching goal clearly set: we want to know what happened, why, and how.

With Broken Angels, again the goal is very clear: a mysterious Alien artifact has been uncovered, a portal that leads to who knows where, and Kovacs and his (one, non-changing) team work together to try to open the portal and find out what’s on the other side.

With Woken Furies, however, things just…happen. Kovacs saves Sylvie on a whim, because he doesn’t like the religious zealots and he wants to save an innocent woman. When he gets roped into her deCom group, he goes along with them because it’s convenient, but again, there’s no overarching goal or mission when he’s with them. As I read this, I thought this would be the group that Kovacs would stick with until the end of the book.

Envoys

Revolving door of groups to team up with

So it was confusing when something happened that caused him to leave that group, find another group in another location, and have the same thing happen. This time his second group is acquired because he is looking for a place to hide from the deadly assassin that is pursuing him. Again, he goes along with the group because it’s convenient. There is still no overarching goal at this point.

Despite all this, it’s still a good book

Richard Morgan is an excellent storyteller. He writes as if the world is real and it’s up to us to figure out what is going on, much like William Gibson did with Neuromancer (which was also very confusing for me to read). The action scenes are gripping, there is some mystery, but nothing like the Film Noir style we saw in Altered Carbon. There is also none of the space opera-esque nature that we saw in Broken Angels. Rather, it feels more like a series of heists, a bit like Ocean’s Eleven. If you go into this book knowing there are different groups with different stories that will all be tied up eventually in the end, that might help. But when I went into reading this book, I had no idea, and the difference between Morgan’s 1st and 2nd book is striking. Other than the main character being the same, this book bears very little relation or connection to the others, and doesn’t feel much like a sequel at all.

Final Verdict: 6.5/10

Good action, dialogue, and intrigue, but the discombobulation of the different stories makes the plot confusing enough to lose most readers, like, myself. As a result I felt it easy to put the book down because I didn’t know where it was going, and therefore lost interest relatively easily. There were some very interesting new concepts to think about in the book which I appreciated, however, such as double-sleeving or the nature of AI consciousness. Still worth reading, just not as good as the other two, and know what you’re getting yourself into.

Review: Terminator Dark Fate

Terminator Dark Fate Poster

Terminator: Dark Fate, while being the 6th film in the Terminator franchise, is set after T2 and meant as both a soft reboot and a sequel to the Terminator saga. With the failures that were Genisys and Salvation, Terminator: Dark Fate chose to go back to the basics, with James Cameron assisting in producing and writing the story, and Tim Miller (Deadpool) directing. Also returning are Arnold Schwarzenegger (a Terminator) and Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), both of which provide a superb performance. Newcomers are Mackenzie Davis as Grace, an augmented human soldier from the future, Gabriel Luna as a Rev-9, the newest and most deadly Terminator series we’ve seen yet, and Natalia Reyes as Daniela “Dani” Ramos, a young woman who is the Rev-9’s new target.

A Familiar Story

Dani is working at a car factory plant in Mexico when Grace, an augmented human soldier from the future, arrives to save her from Rev-9, the latest Terminator from a new terrible future. In their attempt to flee from the Rev-9 they encounter Sarah Connor, and then later another older Terminator, who all work together to protect Dani from the deadly and seemingly unstoppable Rev-9.

Review

Dark Fate was an exciting, thrilling way to spend 2 hours. It is definitely better than Genisys and Salvation, and a solid addition to the saga, but because of its need to reboot the series, it seems that the director and writer here didn’t want to take any chances by trying things outside the box. There was nothing particularly new in this movie, which can be both a good and a bad thing.

The Action

Visually, it was very well done. There’s a fast-paced car chase scene that reminded me of the highway chase scene in The Matrix Reloaded. There’s also a thrilling plane chase scene which was done in a creative way, and also reminded me of the plane scene from Fast and Furious 7. There were also a few nods to the previous films, in terms of parallel scenes, and it’s always nice to see the gang back together obviously.

Dark fate Heroines

A New Subtle Dynamic

What I wasn’t expecting was how much I enjoyed watching three different kinds of women that were all bad-ass in their own way. Sarah Connor is a grizzled, bitter, hard-as-nails human with enough emotional trauma in her past to make her cold non-nonsense character make perfect sense. Grace is a highly-capable super-soldier whose sole focus is her mission, and by extension her compassion towards protecting her charge, Dani, from harm. The short flashbacks of Grace’s character did a great job filling in her motivations as well. Finally, the whole film is tied together by the completely human responses that Dani delivers while learning she is being targeted by a robot death machine and needing to adapt on the fly to everything happening around her. She makes some mistakes and is shocked and frozen in place at times, which is exactly what she needs to do to ground the film in a realistic human reaction to an unrealistic situation. She also does a much better job of it than Sarah Connor did in T2.

I look forward to seeing more films with highly-capable action heroines that can actually perform the action well. Halle Berry’s performance in John Wick 3, for instance, left me a little wanting. Dark Fate did not.

In fact, for most of the film, there are hardly any men at all. The only men we do see are actually robots, and therefore aren’t really men at all. There are no male guardians telling these women what to do, and no male saviors of the world, which has always been the cliche in the majority of action films we’ve seen before. This made for a very interesting dynamic.

More interesting characters

The characters in Dark Fate were a lot better developed this time around compared to Genisys and Salvation, and as a result it made me care more about what happened to them. I also liked the sense of despair that gripped the characters, and the viewers, as nothing seemed to stop the main terminator antagonist. All three female protagonists are struck by tragedy in one way or another at some point in their story, which makes them deeper characters. For Dani, it’s something that happens early on in the film, so her pain is raw and fresh. For Sarah, it’s a tragic event explained at the beginning of the film, which is revisited later on. For Grace, it’s the traumatic experiences that came with the end of the world in her dystopian future, which she relates to the others and gives her greater depth. However, her backstory was a bit shallower to the other two, and I would have liked to have seen more of her story developed, but it may have been cut for timing reasons.

New Terminator

A New Terminator

Despite expecting everything to be the same, one thing that really surprised me in this film was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. In the film this Terminator has lost any connection with Skynet, and therefore has no more mission objectives. So what happens to a T-100 without orders, but with the same processing and adaptability capabilities that it had before? This film answers this question. In retrospect it makes sense and I guess I should have seen it coming, but although I recognized the moment when the Terminator would present himself, up until that point I had no idea when or where he would come up in the story, and that was great. Also, what happens to the Terminator by the end of the movie felt like a very elegant way to wrap up Schwarzenegger’s involvement in the series, allowing for different models and different faces in the future, if ever a sequel is made. There were other clues to Schwarzenegger perhaps ending his involvement in the series, such as him choosing not to pick up his iconic black sunglasses after considering them for a second, and telling a family he was with that “I won’t be back,” modifying his classic tagline. For Terminator fans, these subtle moments spoke volumes.

Setting

This film takes place in Mexico, at the border, and in Texas, which allowed the film to offer soft nods to current cultural clashes such as immigration and gun control. There’s an exciting car chase and highway scene at the beginning, and then another scene in the air with a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy and a Humvee, as well as a heart-pounding scene underwater at/in a Dam. While most of these scenes are different from previous Terminator films, some, in particular the final scene of the film, felt very familiar to the previous films, which was great.

Final Verdict

Although I left the theater feeling like, while enjoyable, this film offered little new (it stays formulaic in its plot of vulnerable human who is the salvation to mankind is protected and on the run from an unstoppable robot killing machine) upon reflection there were a lot of things that I really enjoyed in this film. The female heroines, both the T-100 and the Rev-9, Sarah’s performance and backstory, the action, the set locations (mostly Mexico, which is something different for the series, but also in the air and underwater), it all combined for an exciting and enjoyable film.

My final rating for this film is 8/10. It’s not a very complex plot and doesn’t offer much new, but the performances, action, and special effects were all great, making this a very enjoyable film to watch and a welcome addition to the Cyberpunk genre (even though this film had a limited amount of high-tech, low-life elements in it).

It’s a shame that this excellent film under performed in the box office. I would guess that it’s performance has nothing to do with the quality of the film, and more to due perhaps with audience fatigue with the series, coupled with bad associations with the previous films and perhaps a general decrease in the numbers of people going to the movies. This unfortunately means that a sequel will probably be shelved for the indefinite future.

Matrix 4: What we know so far

matrix-screens

It’s been a slow drip of news, and what we’ve learned has been sparse indeed. I’ve been holding back on reporting each news piece as I learn it, deciding instead to wait until there’s enough little bits of information to warrant an update. Well, we’ve reached that threshold, so here’s everything we’ve learned so far about the production of Matrix 4.

1. The name of the Warner Brothers project is Ice Cream.

A tasty project name, to be sure. I guess it sounded better than tasty wheat.

2. Keanu Reeves has read the script and says it’s “ambitious”

On September 24th, Reeves was on the red carpet with his sister Karina Miller attending the premiere of the new movie she produced, Semper Fi. While in attendance, Entertainment Tonight got the chance to speak with Reeves, who admitted that he had read the script. “It’s very ambitious…as it should be!” teased Reeves. Considering how hard it would be to top the original trilogy, including coming up with new concepts and ideas, the fact that Reeves had this to say is exciting to say the least.

3. Carrie Anne-Moss has also read the script and says it is “amazing”

While attending the New York Comic Con last Thursday to promote her role in Season 2 of CBS All Access’ “Tell Me A Story”, Carrie-Anne Moss told a small group of reporters that she’s keeping most of her thoughts about the new Matrix movie close to her heart, but that she has read the script and said “It’s amazing. I’m excited. I’m super excited. Believe me, I’d love to do nothing but talk about it, but, at the same time, there’s a time for that, and I want it to be — I want to give it all the respect and room that it needs.”

Well that’s two promising responses from the only two leads who are confirmed to be returning. Good enough for me!

4. There may also be a young Neo and young Morpheus, in addition to an older Neo and Trinity played by Keanu and Carrie-Anne.

Variety reporter Justin Kroll, the same one who initially broke the story that Matrix 4 was beginning production, revealed on an episode of “My Mom’s Basement” podcast that the Warner Bros. are in the process of searching for a younger actor to portray Neo. This comes along with the previously reported rumor that they were also looking to cast a young Morpheus, which may explain why Laurence Fishburne hasn’t been confirmed as returning yet.

Yahya Black Mantis Aquaman

5. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has been cast.

Once again, Variety was the first to report that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II landed a lead role in Matrix 4. Apparently he met with Lana Wachowski over the week and in recent days,

There’s no word who Yahya will be playing, but it’s a pretty easy guess that he may be playing a young Morpheus after all. You may have recently seen Yahya as playing Aquaman’s nemesis the Black Manta in the latest DCEU live action film. He also played Lupita Nyong’o’s father in “Us” by Jordan Peele, and also had a starring role in the episode “Striking Vipers” alongside Anthony Mackie from season 5 of Black Mirror.

I felt his intensity was welcome in his portrayal of Black Mantis in Aquaman, but I haven’t seen him in anything else so I’m reserving judgement. I, for one, trust Lana’s casting choices though.

6. There may be 2 Matrix projects in production at the same time.

Say what???

Saving the best for last, this news comes from the twitter feed from Zak Penn, a writer who was said to be working on a Matrix project where supposedly Michael B. Jordan was being considered for the role. This is what he had to say:

people keep asking, so let me clarify there are two different projects at wb. i wrote one set earlier in the timeline of the matrix universe. Lana Wachowski is directing a sequel that i did not work on, but cant wait to see. Neither of them are reboots.

So…there are…two matrix projects in production at the same time? This raises more questions than it answers. Is Michael B. Jordan attached to Zak Penn’s project, then? And why aren’t the Wachowskis working on both of them? And what is the project about, could it be a prequel if it’s set earlier in the timeline?

That’s all I know about Matrix 4 updates, but I’ll remain plugged into the system trying to stay updated on any further developments as your operator. What do you think of all these updates? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Review: Sturgill Simpson’s Sound and Fury

sound and fury 2

Sound and Fury is what would happen if you added some Tokyo City LSD to Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Jack, and then made it into an hour-long country rock music video.

This is one of the most refreshing, and unusual, tales of a dystopian story with cyberpunk elements that I’ve seen in recent memory. It reminds me a bit of Love, Death and Robots, except the art and story is a lot more connected.

Here’s why Sound and Fury is not your average Anime tale.

Sturgill Simpson is a country singer. Who loves Japan. And decided to go all out in creating the coolest-ever Japanese Dystopian Future tale to go along with his new country rock album Sound and Fury.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this done. Daft Punk famously created “Interstella 5555” as an anime visual realization of their album Discovery. But Daft Punk is a lot more closely aligned to the typical Cyberpunk style. If you don’t believe me, just watch the latest Tron film.

A combination of different sounds and songs.

Sturgill Simpson’s “Sound and Fury” isn’t all Fury, and has many different sounds. Some are slow, for instance. His vocals are excellent, and the rock is great too, but it’s a very different kind of rock compared to the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077’s Samurai-style Punk Rock.

Listening to it on Spotify

Simpson’s album is up on Spotify, so before watching the entire film (which is now available for streaming on Netflix) I saw first a teaser trailer which consisted of a scene from the film, then a proper trailer, and then I listened to the album on Spotify before watching the film.

I would have never imagined the illustrious, imaginative visuals that go along with Simpson’s music. Much like I would have never imagined Interstella 5555, there is very little in way of connection between the actual music and the visuals. But they provide for one hell of a ride.

Unfortunately, the teaser trailer that got me so excited to watch the film probably oversold it, as in my opinion it’s one of the best, if not the best, scene from the entire film.

So what’s it about?

The film follows the story of a Japanese monastery and family within that are attacked ruthlessly by 2 foreigners, who seem to represent corporate greed or cruelty perhaps. The rest of the tale is mostly one of revenge. There are a couple side stories, such as one of a slave uprising in this dystopian future, and one of what appeared to be a homeless person seeking shelter before a bombardment on the city. All stories seem loosely connected, and I am still trying to piece it all together to be honest.

But my favorite tale, the one shown in the trailer, is the main story of course. The main character, a cyberpunk samurai, leads an attack against the corporate villains, with two katana blades forged from the blood and spirits of the blacksmiths who made them.

A Refreshing Surprise

And just as the climax of battle is about to be reached, with an all out battle between the hero and the two villains, what does the anime deliver? If you guessed an impromptu dance routine featuring literally everyone, including foreshadowing what’s to come before the battle even happened, then you’d be…surprisingly…accurate.

Needless to say, this was very confusing to me. After the dance routine more side stories are told, and then THE CREDITS, only after which the battle and its conclusion is finally shown. So don’t worry, the final battle WILL come, you just have to sit through the credits or fast forward to see it. I guess they really wanted you to appreciate the work that went into making this film. Its production value is outstanding.

Catchy tunes that will stick with you

What’s interesting is what happened to me after I saw the film. The music…REALLY stays with you. Things kick into gear with the driving percussion from Remember to Breathe, continuing along into Sing Along, which you might remember as the visual trailer for the film. Next the tracks speed up with a Good Look, also known as When Everyone Breaks Out Into That Crazy Dance Routine. The album then alternates between slowing down a speeding up, tempered beats and slow crooning served next to jarring electronic chords and discordant sounds in a wild feverish mix of electronic-infused country rock gone mad.

Final Verdict: Definitely worth watching and listening to.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the official trailer below:

 

And then see the music video for Sing Along:

And finally, check out the entire film on Netflix, streaming now. You know you want to.