Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

After watching a lot of one- and two-star movies, I figured I’d try something different.  The Girl Who Leapt Through Time looked interesting, so I ordered it from Netflix.  The movie is about Makoto Konno.  Her day starts off normally.  She wakes up late, rushes out the door to school, doesn’t do well on a pop quiz, and nearly starts a fire while cooking.  To make matters worse, she nearly gets hit by a train.  The only thing that keeps the train from actually hitting her is that she’s developed the ability to jump back in time.

She finds herself having gone back a few minutes.  When she realizes what happened and that she has control over it, she begins to use it for several trivial jumps.  She now knows the answers to the pop quiz, which means that she can ace it.  She knows not to take a certain station in the cooking class.  Instead of being limited to an hour of fun, she can repeat the session over and over again.  Upset that her little sister ate Makoto’s pudding, she goes back to eat it herself.

She has no sense of the consequences or the possibilities.  (Other people don’t always like the outcome of her changes.)   She could date someone that she likes and if it doesn’t work out, she could literally go back to the way it was, as if nothing had happened.   She comes to realize that she has a limited number of jumps and she doesn’t have many left.  At this point, she does try to make things better, but there’s always that loose end.  It seems like there’s always one more thing she has to fix.

I hate to say it, but for many people, like my mother, anime tends to be a strike against a movie.  Any sort of sci-fi or fantasy tends to be another strike.  I happen to like both, so I don’t mind watching a movie like this, but it’s not really fair to a movie to not like it based on the style of presentation.  Also, the science-fiction aspect isn’t really that heavy.  You don’t get a lot of technical talk about how time travel is possible nor does the movie spend to much time on altered time lines and the butterfly effect.

Instead, it’s about Makoto and her learning to deal with the consequences of her actions.  She starts out with no real direction in life.  Many of her friends have some idea of what they want to do.  She has no sense at all of what she wants to do when she grows up.  I don’t know that she does when the movie ends, but she does have a slightly clearer sense of purpose.

This was one of those movies that I really enjoyed.  (Judging by the other reviews, I’m not alone.)  I really felt for Makoto.  Unfortunately, she was the only character that had any real development and she did seem to get the most screen time, but that did make for an engaging movie.  As you might expect with a time-travel movie, there were some repeated scenes.  (The time-jump animation got a lot of use, but not to the point where it was distracting.)

The movie has a PG-13 rating in the U.S., which I would think is for some mild language.  (Masturbation is mentioned once in the movie.  Beyond that, it’s nothing worse than damn and hell.)  It’s the kind of movie that anyone could enjoy assuming that they don’t mind that.

I’d definitely recommend the movie to anyone.  Runtime was 98 minutes, which was a good length.  I didn’t feel like it dragged at all, nor did I feel that the movie was missing anything.  I don’t know that there will be a sequel.  It’s one of those movies that’s probably better left open. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Note:  This was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Warning:  I’m not only going to give away details about the movie; I’m going to give away and pick apart the ending.  If you don’t want to know that much about the movie before reading it, now would be a good time to stop reading.

There are some movies that are so incredibly bad that I’m surprised people didn’t torch theaters in response to seeing them.  The Giant Gila Monster is one such movie.  As you might expect, The Giant Gila Monster is about a Giant Gila Monster (played brilliantly here by a Mexican bearded lizard) that has surprisingly gone unnoticed until two local teenagers go missing.

Naturally, since they were a couple and no one has yet seen the Gila Monster, it’s assumed that they ran of somewhere to get married or something.   Rather than assume what people are saying, Sheriff Jeff gets some of their friends to help look for them.  The group is led by Chase Winstead, who’s basically a good kid.  He works hard to help take care of his mother and sister.  What money they don’t need he puts into his hot rod.  Most of the other kids like and respect him.  When the father of the missing boy tries to impeach his character, the sheriff sticks up for him.

Since Chase tows cars for money, he comes across several things that would suggest something odd is going on.  In one case, a car skidded off the road at a right angle to the direction of traffic.  There’s no evidence of anything that would have caused a car to do this.  Next is a DJ traveling through town.  He describes a big black-and-pink-striped reptile that cut him off.  Since he was apparently drinking, the story is easily dismissed.

After some research and some theorizing, the sheriff soon comes to believe that there is, in fact, a large reptile on the loose.  It’s big enough that it can destroy a bridge by walking underneath it.  Eventually, the Giant Gila Monster shows up at a party that Chase is throwing.  The sheriff fires a few shots with no effect.  Chase gets the crazy idea to get some Nitroglycerine (that he just happens to have) and blow up the giant lizard.  The day is saved and Chase is a hero.

There are so many things that I could easily tear apart.  The most obvious choice for me is the title character.  The Giant Gila Monster is rarely shown and when he is, it’s fairly evident that forced perspective is being used.  This is because the Gila Monster is walking on sand.  If the Gila Monster is as big as it’s supposed to be, you shouldn’t be able to make out individual grains of sand.

This leads to pretty much no actual attack scenes.  The closest we get is seeing the Gila Monster’s giant foot coming towards the camera.  The scenes with the Gila Monster next to a car or building looked fake enough.  I think that any scene with the Gila Monster and a person would have been below even the standards of the crew of this movie.

Another thing I found odd, and this may be a generational thing, is that Chase liked to sing a lot.  He sang a rather odd song while working on a fender.  I can’t fault him there, considering that pretty much anything would sound better than a banging hammer.

He also sang a ridiculous song about the Lord wanting children to be happy.  The first time he did this, I didn’t mind so much because he was doing it to cheer up his little sister.  The second time was in front of his friends at the party.  I think if I sang that kind of song in front of most of the people I know, they either would have walked out on me or had me committed.  Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed them.  I mean, honestly.  Is this the kind of crap people sang in 1959?  Hadn’t anyone invented decent music yet?  I think that this was the impetus that caused Rock & Roll to come into existence.  Someone had to come up with something that rocked.

Speaking of Chase, the lizard busts through a barn wall during the second rendition of the Happy Children song.  Shortly thereafter, the Gila Monster destroys the front of the house that the sister is staying in.  When you consider that the Gila Monster also presumably ate two of his friends, it looks like this Gila Monster has it in for Chase.

The big question, which is barely addressed in the movie, was “Where the heck was this thing all this time?”  The theory is that the Gila Monster ate some special plants (or ate animals that ate special plants) that allowed for super growth.  Wouldn’t it stand to reason that other Gila Monsters had eaten the same stuff?  Why is this the first that we’ve seen of a gigantic lizard?  At the very least, there should have been a point where the sheriff said, “Gee… that explains all those missing people!”  Part of it may be that the lizard doesn’t look all that menacing.  I guess if anyone did see it, they probably didn’t think much of it.  (While thinking about this, I also asked myself something completely different:  Why have we never seen an abnormally large giraffe?  Now, that would be scary.)

The movie runs for 74 minutes and it’s almost all goofiness.  Aside from what I’ve mentioned above, we have a scene where the sheriff checks Harris’s sobriety by smelling his breath.  In another, Harris wants what he calls a soberty test.  He also compares buying a new car to getting married or going to New York.  It’s something you should do once, but never twice.

At the end of the movie, Chase kills the title reptile by loading his car with four canisters of nitroglycerine and aiming his car into the lizard before jumping out.  I always find it hard to believe that the car would stay on track and hit the lizard dead on.  It was also very convenient that Chase happened to come across a large quantity of nitroglycerine in the first place.  He had so much that I’m surprised that he didn’t load up enough of the stuff that it wouldn’t have mattered where he hit.  You’d think he’d want to be sure to be rid of the darned thing.

It’s one of those movies that it was worth the price of the DVD set just to be able to laugh at it.  I would actually check your listings or free on-demand section to see if this movie is available.  I’d hesitate to spend money on it unless you’re getting it with something else or you’re getting it from NetFlix.  This gives low-budget movies a bad name. 

Birth (2004)

I have this thing for strange movies. Some I honestly like while others I watch simply because they’re strange. There are some like Birth that I watch simply to see how they turn out. They get you interested and don’t let go until a very unusual ending.

The movie opens with a man saying that he doesn’t believe in reincarnation. Next is a man (presumably the same man) jogging. It’s a very simple, powerful scene. It looks like he’s jogging his usual route when all of a sudden, he collapses underneath a bridge. The next scene is a child being born.

Ten years pass since the man dies. The man’s wife, Anna, is getting married again, this time to a man named Joseph. One day, at a party, a ten-year-old boy walks in claiming to be Sean. It turns out his name is actually Sean, but he means Anna’s dead husband Sean. This freaks Anna out a little, but she begins to accept and believe the boy. He seems to know things about Sean, Sr., like where he died.

Most of the people surrounding Anna don’t believe. Anna’s mother is particularly resistant, threatening to call the police at one point. Even if Sean were to prove that he was who he claimed to be, it’s just not right for a woman of Anna’s age to have that kind of a relationship with a child of ten. (I should warn you that there’s a bathtub scene along those lines that may freak people out. It was staged, but it’s still a little freaky.)

Joseph is outright resistant to the idea that Sean is the reincarnation of the deceased. He’s had to wait a long time for Anna and be persistent. It’s understandable that he doesn’t want the boy in his house. After all, here’s this ten-year-old kid that practically walks right in to their lives and almost instantly wins Anna over, whereas he’s had to wait several years just to get her to say yes to a marriage proposal.

But is it even really Sean? The movie goes back and forth several times. Yes, he knows stuff, but he doesn’t know other things. There are also critical facts that the young Sean doesn’t know. He spends the entire movie seemingly convinced that he’s reincarnated, but what does he have to gain? What’s his game? Of all the people that could have been reincarnated and aware of it, why him? Why now?

That was what kept me watching the movie, even though it was slow and a little confusing. I kept waiting for some sort of major revelation, but I never got it. There was no heavy “Oh crap” moment where the entire movie came into focus. It would have been nice.

Don’t get me wrong. The acting was good. Nichole Kidman effectively played a woman that needed to believe. Lauren Bacall was great as a mother who knew that her daughter was digging a hole she might never get out of. But it was too strange a story. Reincarnation is one of those things that some people dismiss as mystic nonsense. I think that many of these people will turn the movie off within a half an hour. I can’t even say that that’s a bad thing.

I kind of wish I hadn’t watched the movie. Having watched it all the way to the end, I didn’t get it. Someone could come up to me and explain it and I probably still wouldn’t get it. I’m not sure what Anna was planning on doing at the end of the movie. Did she finally feel that she was being taken? I can’t recommend this movie.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Non-Stop (2014)

There’s not a whole lot you can do on an airplane.  With movies, any confined space is going to present problems.  It worked in Exam.  Several people are competing for one job.  When the turn on each other, not being able to leave the room adds to the suspense.  With Non-Stop, you have a similar problem.  Liam Neeson plays an air marshal named Bill Marks.  He’s not the best person.  He drinks.  He argues with people.  He even sneaks a smoke on the lavatory.  The good news is that he gets to travel a lot.  The bad news is that it’s the kind of work that can take a strain on you and your family.

It’s shaping up to be another routine flight when Marks gets a message over the secure network.  The person on the other end threatens to kill passengers at regular intervals unless money is transferred to a specific account.  He initially assumes it to be a joke by the flight’s other air marshal, Jack Hammond.  Hammond denies everything, even showing Marks his own pager.

It doesn’t seem like it would be that easy to pull off something like this.  There are several suspects, though.  Could it be the friendly woman that put forth some effort to sit next to Marks?  It would be too obvious if she took out a pager.  Could it be the angry guy that talks back?  Maybe it’s the token Arab/Muslim guy that everyone’s ready to point a finger at.

It doesn’t help that Marks has no proof.  At best, he looks paranoid.  Things get worse from there, especially when people actually start dying.  You’d think someone would notice a fellow passenger sending texts and turn them in.  The movie manages to go on for 1:46 with the bulk of it in the airplane.  You’d think Marks would be able to see the person given the right vantage point.  It’s never that simple.

That’s the big problem I had with the movie.  The movie is entertaining, but requires a certain suspension of disbelief.  You’d think two trained air marshals could figure out who one person is when the person they’re looking for is typing something on a wireless device.  It shouldn’t take that long to figure everything out.

It’s as if someone got the idea and tried to get it as close to two hours as they could.  It’s interesting to see how the next person will be killed, but that’s not really exciting enough to carry the film.  There is also part of the movie that would be a good candidate for Mythbusters, assuming there’s a way to test it at all.  Knowing that there’s a bomb on board, Marks proposes that they bury the bomb in luggage at a weak point in the plane to direct the blast.  I’m not sure that it would go down as expected.

This is one of those cases where I’m glad it was a free rental from Redbox.  The premise wasn’t enough to get me into the theater, but I did want to watch it.  The movie came off as a little too cliché to me.  If you can get it through Netflix, I’d say go for it.  Just don’t ask too much of the movie.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Iron Sky (2012)

They say ignorance is bliss.  I find this to be most true while watching movies.  When I notice scientific errors or when someone uses the wrong word to describe something, it sticks with me.  Iron Sky starts by explaining that the Nazi’s have a lunar base on the far side of the moon, which is described throughout the movie as the dark side of the moon, but more on that later.

The year is 2018 and an unnamed American president is thinking about reelection.  (Throughout the movie, she’s referred to simply as the President of the United States.)  As a publicity stunt, she sends two people to the moon.  It’s something that hasn’t been done in 50 years and is bound to get her name in the press.  Shortly after landing, one of the two astronauts discovers the aforementioned Nazi lunar base.  They’re planning to return to Earth, biding their time by mining Helium-3.  (Yes, that’s a real thing.)

That astronaut is shot, leaving the other astronaut to be captured and brought into the base.  As luck would have it, the captured astronaut is an African-American model named James Washington.  Washington is experimented upon while the Nazis prepare to invade Earth.  (They think that Washington and his fellow astronaut are an advance team as a prelude to invade the moon.)

Their new war ship isn’t quite ready, but it’s discovered that Washington’s phone has more processing power than all of the Nazis’ computers combined.  Klaus Adler kindly insists on going to Earth to get more such devices.  He brings along Washington, who claims to know the President personally.  (His fiancée, Renate Richter, secretly tags along.)  When they meet up with the President’s advisor, Vivian Wagner, both Adler and Wagner realize the opportunity that they’ve just been given.  Adler ditches Washington and hooks up with Wagner.

The movie is listed as a comedy, but it’s probably more appropriate to call it a satire.  In this regard, I can forgive a few mistakes.  2018 isn’t an election year, but the President strongly resembles Sarah Palin.  She’s not presented as being very bright.  Also, manned lunar missions are usually about a three-day trip one way.  I can forgive this as technology may progress in the next four years and it was never explicitly stated that it didn’t take 3-4 days.

There were a few things that the movie got right.  As I said, Helium-3 is a real thing that is actually found on the moon and could be used for nuclear power.  One possible reason to go back to the moon might be to mine Helium-3.  Also, the swastika has been used by many cultures, including Hindus.  It’s conceivable that an Indian representative to the UN would be wearing a ring with that symbol.  It’s unfortunate that the Nazis used it as a symbol of hate.

I don’t think everyone will be interested in this movie.  That‘s not to say that most people won‘t like it.  A lot of this has to do with the use of Nazis.  The swastika and other propaganda is featured prominently in many scenes.  It’s a sensitive subject and with good reason.   There are a few people I know that might like it, but I wouldn‘t necessarily feel comfortable recommending it to them.

This is one of the advantages of having Netflix streaming.  If you’re not comfortable watching it with your roommates or kids around, you don’t have to worry about holding on to the disc for a few weeks until you get your chance.  There’s also a Netflix-exclusive director’s cut, so there’s a good chance that some version of the movie will be available streaming for a while.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (13 Nov. 2007)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions accouint.

“Who are you going to believe… me or your own eyes?”
- Groucho Marx

I always found it odd that people were willing to take creationism at face value.  They believe that the Earth was created in six days and that God rested on the seventh.  They also believe that the Earth is about 6,000 years old and that humans were created in God’s image.  It just seemed odd that people were willing to take one book’s word for it.

Well, many of the people of Dover, PA, were no different.  A few years ago, a group of people decided that something called Intelligent Design (cough cough…creationism…cough cough) should be taught alongside evolution as science, or at least a viable alternate explanation.  This had been going on in other cities, as well, but Nova decided to document Dover’s case.

Those that believed in Evolution brought the issue to trial, claiming that ID had no scientific credibility.  After all, evolution had observation and explanations and stuff.  ID had… well, the advantage of being ‘obvious’.  I mean, look at us.  How could something as complex as a human be left to chance?  We had to have had an intelligent creator that created us as we are.

It’s kind of hard to give an in-depth analysis of the plot because of the fact that it’s so basic.  The episode simply follows the battle between science and ID.  To make the case, the prosecution had to prove that ID was either religious in nature or was designed to promote religion.  It was fairly easy to show that ID didn’t follow the same rigor as science, but the prosecution needed a smoking gun, which they found.  (I’ll let you be surprised if you’re interested in watching this.)

Now, here’s the thing.  As with other highly debated subjects, those that agree with the outcome (ID being thrown out of the school system) will see the episode of Nova as fair and balanced.  Thos that disagree will think that only a heathen whack job would believe it.  Being one of the heathen whack jobs, I’m glad that I’m not in school any more.  I’m glad that I was never tested on any form of ID because I would have hated life.

There are many Christians that  absolutely adamant that God created the Earth simply because the Bible says so.  They will never accept that bacteria do actually mutate and evolve.  They will refute fossils as a trick by God to test their faith.  They see something labeled as a theory and think that it’s not fact.  (Granted, it’s not actually complete…yet.  ‘Theory’ means that science has yet to work out the details.)

Yes, I’m an atheist.  The reason that I chose science over faith is that science has proof where faith has a book.  Faith doesn’t take well do doubt whereas science relies upon it.  I have a hard time accepting something simply because someone tells me it’s so.  This is why I’ll see a movie even if someone tells me it’s horrible.  There are some things that I have to know for myself.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Steve Rogers has a dream.  All he wants to do is serve his country.  World War II is in full swing and he’s not going to let something like a medical deferment stop him.  You see, Rogers is small, weak and has a few health issues.  He can’t serve, as much as he wants to and as many times as he tries.  That’s where Dr. Abraham Erskine comes in.  He’s interested in using Rogers as a test subject.  Rogers agrees.  Even if it’s not for sure, it might get him into the armed forces.

Dr. Erskine has developed this serum that will turn an ordinary man into a super soldier.  He knows that Rogers is the right man for the job, despite the military’s skepticism.  Rogers is turned into a super-soldier.  The drawback is that the formula is lost, leaving Rogers as the only positive result.  This is useless to the military, as they were promised an entire army of super-soldiers.  But, they could always use him as a poster boy to sell war bonds…

This isn’t what Rogers signed up for.  Yes, he is serving his country, at least more so than when he started off.  The problem is that he’s going around in a silly costume that pleases civilians, but is seen as a joke by those on actual active duty.   When the opportunity presents itself, Rogers goes and saves his friend and many other soldiers, thus earning him the right to defend his country.  Rogers also brings back some good intelligence, giving him several more missions to go on.

HYDRA is the main group of bad guys.  They’re the Nazis' research wing and they’re developing some pretty nasty weapons.  If Rogers can take out the remaining factories, all will be saved.  HYDRA is led by Johann Schmidt.  He’s an earlier, failed attempt at the super-soldier.  To say he has issues is an understatement.  It’s not going to be easy to defeat Schmidt and HYDRA, but it is possible.

At this point, if you’ve been reading my reviews, you should have figured out that I’m going to watch the Avengers movie one of these days.  Of all the movies that feed into that movie, this one seems to be the most obvious in terms of setup.  It even has “The First Avenger” in the title.  (The only one that comes close is Thor.)  You even get a tie in or two.  In the beginning of the movie, Rogers and his friend are visiting the Stark Expo, hosted by Tony Stark’s father, Howard.  Howard Stark even plays an important role in the movie.  I don’t think that the references were too much.  It wasn’t really forced at all.

The movie took a while to get going.  There was a bit of setup and a while where we got to see what kind of person Rogers was.  I didn’t think it dragged, but the action doesn’t start immediately.  Rogers spends a good deal of time getting ready to be made into Captain America and spends a good deal of time before seeing action.  If you’re in it for the action, I don’t know that you’ll be disappointed, but you will have to wait for it.

Right now, the only movie I would want to see before seeing The Avengers is The Incredible Hulk.  I’ve seen Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Thor.  (I don’t think there are any other movies I need to see.  Please leave a comment if I’m mistaken.)  Of all the movies that I’d have to see, The Incredible Hulk is the one I’m not too crazy about.  If I hadn’t wanted to see The Avengers, I’d probably have watched this and the two Iron Man movies and maybe gotten around to watching Thor if it came on TV.  Since I don’t read comics, I don’t know how well it holds up to the comics, but it is definitely worth renting.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Argo (2012)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions page.

The movie starts in November of 1979.  Protesters are outside the American embassy’s compound and those inside are worried.  The former Iranian shah is in America for medical reasons and the Iranians want him back.  Six of the embassy workers manage to escape, but everyone else is taken hostage.  Those six manage to find refuge at the home of the Canadian ambassador.  The U. S. State Department wants to get them out, but there’s no really plausible way to do that.  Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, finds reasons that each proposal might fail.

One night, while watching one of the Planet of the Apes movies, he realizes that movies will occasionally need to film on location.  This gives him the idea of posing as a studio employee meeting some ‘Canadian’ counterparts in Iran.  After a few days of ‘scouting’ for a location, they’ll all catch a flight back to North America.  Not only does Mendez have to train six people to learn their cover stories, but they’re operating under a deadline.  (It won’t take long for the hostage takers to realize that they’re short six hostages.)

There are also a lot of technical details to worry about.  Mendez brings in some Hollywood people to help sell the cover story.  They buy an actual script to use, hire real actors and go through the process of pretending to make a movie.  The even set up an office for Iranian officials to call when the need arises.  There are also bureaucratic problems that they just have to hope will resolve themselves.

Part of the problem with movies based in history is that you may have some sense of how it ends.  Argo tells part of what went on with the Iranian Hostage Crisis, which took place when I was only a few years old.  I saw the movie with my brother, who was only a few months old at the time.  There were a few references that he missed, like to Rock Hudson.  I’m sure that I missed one or two, myself.  (I have no memory of Carter as president.)

Most of the movie focuses on the rescue attempt.  We get to see the hostages a little before they meet Mendez, but it’s mostly to show that they’re getting cabin fever.  They can’t leave the ambassador’s residence for fear of someone recognizing them.  Once they’re out ‘scouting’ for a location, they have to stay in character the whole time.  (On that note, I’m not sure how much of the film was done for dramatic effect.  There were a few tense scenes where the six ‘houseguests’ were out and almost caught.)

One thing I thought about was the screenwriter whose film was purchased to use for the project.  I felt a little bad that it was purchased with the intent of not really making it.  My brother pointed out that it did help to save lives, but the mission was classified.  Mendez, who came up with the idea, was awarded the Intelligence Star, but couldn’t actually take it home.  This is how classified it was.  I don’t imagine that the State Department was going to let some screenwriter in on their little secret.  I’m sure projects fall through all the time, but it must be so weird to find something like that out years later.

I do recommend seeing the movie.  I liked seeing it in theaters.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to posting it until after it came out on DVD.  Another thing I noticed is that the Canadian government did a lot to help us, even jyst by letting the six Americans stay there.  I’m not sure how much that affected their relationship with the Iranians.  Definitely rent this movie if you get the chance. 

After the Dark/The Philosophers (2013)

You might have had one of those philosophical debates in class over who would get to go into a hypothetical fallout shelter.  You have maybe two or three times the number of open slots and you have to pick based on things like skills, profession and gender.  (How useful is a college student?  Is a woman more valuable because she’s of child-bearing age?)  Well, someone made a movie based on that premise.

It’s the last day of a philosophy class.  The students are subjected to a thought experiment by their teacher, Mr. Zimit.  He proposes that his students are on a field trip when nuclear war or some other disaster breaks out.  They happen to be in proximity to a fallout shelter, but there are 21 people (including Mr. Zimit) competing for 10 beds.  They can’t alternate sleeping schedules, as there’s only enough food and air to last 10 people exactly one year.  Each student is assigned a profession and the students have to decide which of them gets in.

The first time the students conduct the experiment, Mr. Zimit gets himself in as a wildcard.  He won’t say what his advantage is or what he does for a living.  For all anyone knows, he’s a traveling axe murderer.  He gets himself in.  Realizing that he may be leaning towards axe murderer, the remaining nine selected decide to lock Mr. Zimit out of the shelter.  This may be a bad move, as he claims to have the exit code.  (His profession was shelter builder.)

That doesn’t end well, leaving the students to try again.  This time, an additional detail is revealed.  A female student that had been a doctor is now a potential Ebola carrier.  Another student, who had been rejected for being a soldier, now has eidetic memory.  There’s also the added condition that they must produce at least one child by the end of their year in the bunker.  Again, this doesn’t end well.

The students have one last go at it.  This time, one of the students decides to take over.  In Petra’s version, everyone is on an island.  There’s no sign of volcanoes going off or nuclear blasts or anything.  Still, she selects ten people to go in.  Mr. Zimit is chased off, as everyone knows that he has a thing for shooting people.  Initially, Petra doesn’t want to go in, but one of the other students switches places with her.

Even though Petra’s selections aren’t optimal, everyone lives this time.  It turns out that the apocalypse didn’t affect their area.  Mr. Zimit doesn’t approve of her outcome.  There’s no way to get back to the rest of humanity, nor is there any hope to rebuild on the island.  All of the ‘useful’ people were sent off on the boat.

That’s essentially what it comes down to.  In both of the teacher’s scenarios, people of perceived use are selected, but everyone dies.  In Petra’s scenario, she selects based on her preferences.  There’s limited hope, but at least nearly everyone survives the first year.  Usefulness is of little consequence if no one makes it out alive.

It’s interesting to see how the scenarios play out.  Normally, when I’ve been given this exercise, it’s strictly in the sense of which traits are useful.  No one ever thinks about how it plays out.  A doctor is perceived as being useful because they know about medicine, but what kind of person are they?

A leader has the advantage of presumably being able to lead, but we don’t know what kind of leader they’d be.  Everyone has to be able to get along with everyone else.  10 people means 45 possible interpersonal relationships.  All sorts of factors play into this.

We do get to see Mr. Zimit lead his class.  Many of the students aren’t convinced of his leadership.  A few threaten to walk out at the beginning of the exercise.  We also get to see him be a bit of a control freak.  This is not a movie for children, mostly because of his actions.  I don’t want to give away too much, but he does take a few actions that small children wouldn’t be able to understand.  (At the very least, you should probably watch it before deciding if it’s appropriate for older children.)