Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: The Wolfman

Filed under: Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:41 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw The Wolfman Friday night.

It was okay.
I mean, mostly, it was good. An old story being retold in a new way, with some new twists. The older version, of course, is a classic. I don’t think this version will withstand that particular test of time, but it wasn’t as bad, say, as Legion.
This new version parallels the old one in many ways, but doesn’t take long to depart significantly from the original plot. In a nutshell, a brother, Larry Talbot, played by Benicio Del Toro, estranged from his family, drawn back to his childhood home by the sudden and slightly mysterious death of his brother. He comes back for the funeral, but ends up getting drawn into a murder investigation by his deceased brother’s fiance. That private investigation brought Larry to a gypsy camp. While there, a beast of indeterminate, but vicious, nature runs through the camp, savaging many of the townsfolk and gypsies and, of course, Larry, too.

That incident changes Larry.
He turns into a werewolf, a lycanthrope. And, that’s pretty much where things start to really change in regards to the plot as well. The similarities between the two movies, new and old, depart drastically here.
In this version of The Wolfman, Larry fights his transformation aided by his father, in a way, and his father’s manservant, who is a Sikh. The townsfolk all want to kill Larry for what they think he’s become, but his brother’s fiance doesn’t care what he is, because they’ve fallen in love.

Well, I suppose the story is somewhat predictable. He can’t control himself or the transformation and, most importantly, he can’t control what he does when he transforms into the werewolf. This, naturally, is the conflict that drives the plot of this movie. So, to tell you more would ruin the movie, which means, of course, I won’t tell you about it.
I will tell you, though, that there are a few new twists which, while interesting, are no less predictable. And, near the end, it gets weak. I mean, really weak. Not just predictable, but, well, pretty thin. And, frankly, it took an otherwise okay movie and, well, sort of drove it into the ground. Also? The absolute end could have redeemed this movie, but, sadly, it doesn’t.

So, in the end, unless you’re a huge fan of someone in this film or Rick Baker’s makeup and effects work, I can’t really recommend it. At least, not at full price. If you need to see this movie, hit the matinee, or just wait for it to come out on DVD.
In spite of a pretty good premise, a classic movie for seed material, and a great cast, this movie comes out all mediocre. It’s sad, but there it is. Better ways to spend your money in this economy, so save it and see something else.


Review: From Paris With Love

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

So, Friday, I saw From Paris With Love.

At dinner, one of the guys I went to see the movie with went on at length about how the reviewers had panned it, but I figured there would be a good body count, so we went ahead and saw it. And, keep in mind, I’m not a fan of John Travolta or, honestly, anything that even indirectly benefits anything connected to Scientology, so this was a bit of a stretch for me.  But, it was a stressful week at the office and a nice, high body count really takes the edge off that, so, I was willing to take the risk.

As it turns out, I was rewarded for my faith.
I went into this movie expecting very little.  Even before the last minute, dinner-time warnings of suckitude, my expectations were low.  My expectations were met and exceeded.
The movie opens with James Reece, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers,  a nobody flunky at the American Embassy in Paris, getting a call while working with the ambassador and slipping out for a “secret” mission.  It’s not much, really, just flipping plates for higher-grade operatives, so that they’re not “made” by the locals.  Then, as his fiance essentially proposes to him, he gets the call he’s been waiting for; his new assignment is to partner up with a top-shelf, special-ops agent, Charlie Wax, played by a bald John Travolta.  When we first meet Charlie Wax in Customs at Charles De Gaul airport, he’s carrying on like a maniac about getting his energy drinks through security.  Reece, though amazed at the crazy partner he’s gotten hooked up with, uses a little lateral thinking and a knowledge of bureaucracy, along with a “Diplomatic Mail” sticker to get them out and on their way.  Naturally, nothing is quite what it seems to poor, inexperienced Reece.

After getting out of customs, and arming up, Wax drags Reece through a seedy underworld of Paris that he never knew existed.  Or, at least that’s how it seemed.  Chasing through everything from Chinese restaurants to back alleys to whore houses, all the while shooting and being shot at by just about everyone there.  In theory, chasing drug dealers responsible for the overdose of a high U.S. official’s niece, but, again, not everything is as it seems.
Also, along the way, Reece keeps trying to rein in Wax and get in touch with his fiance who he left at the last minute to chase off on this wild ride through Paris.

And, as usual, I’ll stop there before I give too much away.
Mostly, this movie was a simple and entertaining romp through an ultraviolent Paris.  The body count was satisfyingly high and the action was pretty non-stop, which was good.  It was good mainly because it distracted us from whatever it was that Travolta was trying to do with the character.  I suppose it was acting, though, why he was trying for subtlety in a movie that painted action with such a broad brush is beyond me.  Still, it took nothing important away from the film.
There was a bit of a plot twist, though it wasn’t a big surprise to me, frankly.  Just keep an eye on the fiance through the movie and see if you spot something that’s not quite right.

All in all, not a bad film.  Not a great movie, either, but if you want a mindless action movie, this is pretty much your best bet right now.  It’s fun, in a violent death sort of way, and a nice distraction from the stresses of my everyday life.  And, after all, isn’t that what we go to see movies for anyway?


Review: Edge of Darkness

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:53 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Edge of Darkness Friday night.

You know, as many movies as I see in a year, I still wish I had time to see more. Especially right now when there are so many great films out.  And, this is one of them.
I don’t read thrillers much or mysteries, but I do love a good mystery/thriller movie.  That’s what this is, a thriller.

Edge of Night stars Mel Gibson as, Thomas Craven, a Boston Police detective who is a widower who lives for the job, and his adult daughter.  The movie opens with Gibson’s character picking her up from the train as she’s coming home for a visit.  Before they can enjoy each other, though, she starts to get violently ill, vomiting blood and hemorrhaging blood from her nose.  As they leave out the front door to rush to the hospital, a masked man guns down the young woman.  It’s assumed that he was actually after Craven for some old case, but not everything is what it may seem on the surface.

His daughter worked for a contractor with a government security contract, but she won’t talk about it because of her contract, not even to her father.  So, after she’s killed and things start to point toward something not on the up-and-up, one of the places he goes to try and figure things out is his daughter’s work.  Turns out they make radioactive ordinance, and other things, for the U.S. government.  They also seem to be run by a psychotic megalomaniac who’s so narcissistic and lacking in empathy that Craven is suspicious of him almost on sight.
Before Craven gets too far into his investigation, he’s approached by an unidentified agent who steers him toward key people and gives him insightful advice about how to proceed.  It’s unclear who’s side this man is on, pretty much throughout the movie, even through the very end.  It is clear, however, that he’s dangerous, but still surprisingly moral, considering the other people involved in mystery.

It turns out Craven’s daughter was suspicious that something wasn’t right at her company and, after exhausting all legal avenues open to her, hooks up with a crazy environmental group who try to expose dangerous and illegal goings there.  She helps them sneak into the labs where she works so they can gather the evidence they need to bring her employer to justice.  The only problem is, they don’t survive the attempt.
Naturally, this all comes out during Craven’s investigation and, as a father trying to avenge his deceased daughter, he pulls out all the stops and crosses all barriers to get the answers he needs.  That’s where the action comes in.

Now, to tell you more might ruin the plot, but it’s a living, breathing conspiracy that goes all the way up.  Craven is just a Boston cop with nothing left to lose who goes out looking for answers, and Mel Gibson plays him well.  There is an interesting cast of characters, each with their own agendas, and each played by interesting actors.  The end result is a fast-paced, intriguing and action-packed film.  It does keep you guessing, though not on all the points, and yes, even I was surprised by the ending.  I won’t go into details, so that the film still works for you, but, rest assured, the people who need to be punished are, and justice is served, after a fashion.

The acting is good, solid, no-nonsense stuff and everyone is on their game in this one.  It’s gritty and violent, but it’s about a man seeking justice above all things.  A man driven to solve the murder of his only daughter and the center of his life.  It grips you and doesn’t let you go until the credits roll.
Probably not in the top ten films of the decade, but a good, solid film well worth getting out to see.  Gibson is really good as the hardened cop, even if he seemed to have a bit of a problem maintaining that Boston accent.  I suppose we can forgive an Australian for not being all that great at a very specific American regional accent.  And, really, that’s the weakest part of the film.  Everything else, well, just works.

So, if you’ve got the time, Edge of Night is definitely worth seeing.


Review: Legion

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:41 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Legion on Friday.

This movie sucked out loud, on ice.
For real, this was one of the worst movies I have seen in a long time.  And, yes, that was a huge disappointment to me because I was really looking forward to a movie about the end times and angels and the powerful, smiting retribution of God.  Well, there were angels in it, anyway.

So, right, here’s the the basic plot; it’s the end times, but not really like we’re used to seeing or hearing about, and only one baby can save us, but his mother isn’t all that into having him and God has sent an army of angels to kill the baby and pretty much anyone along the way who tries to stop them.  Sounds like a winner, right?  Yeah, you’d think.  But, somehow they managed to take that premise, a fairly decent cast and screw it up at every turn.
First of all, Michael, chief of God’s angels, essentially rebels to come to Earth, make himself human, and try to save the mother of the implied second coming of Christ.  Not a bad start, really, except that no one ever cops to the fact that the baby is the reborn Prince of Peace.  Oh, and also?  That whole rebel angel thing.  That’s been done and, uh, Lucifer, the angel of the morning star, already did that and was cast out of heaven.  So, really, that was kind of a hard-sell to me, Michael rebelling.  And, uh, pretty well that’s the entire plot.  Angels coming to kill unborn kid, rebel angel out to stop them and the rag-tag group of human misfits who sort of tag along for the ride and cliched object lessons.  And, since I cannot in all good conscience recommend that anyone waste one, thin dime on this movie, I am totally going to ruin it for you now.  The rebel angel succeeds and the kid is born, humankind is saved, his parents are redeemed and become what seem to be red-neck, Christian Identity, gun-toting survivalists who apparently discover Utah.  And, now, thankfully, you don’t need to see this film.

So, if you’re still with me, here’s a theological issue I had with the movie.
Michael, the newest rebel angel, repeats several times that he’s giving God what He needs, not what He’s asking for.
Uh, hello?  What?  Are you implying that God doesn’t know what He wants?  That some angel with an English lisp and Enochian tattoos actually know better than God what God’s mind is and His needs are?  Seriously?  Because, then, God pretty well couldn’t be God, since that’s sort of defined by being all-powerful and all-seeing and all-knowing and if one of His creations knows better than He does then He can’t be those things.  Right?  And, really, that was just the most obvious and egregious theological failing, but it wasn’t the only one.  It’s just that one distracted me so, so much from the rest of the film that the rest of them aren’t worth mentioning.

And, really, the potential good parts of the film were bad, too.  Like the action and the manifestation of angels and all the ways that subtle morality lessons that never actually manifested.  Oh, and the crappy dialog.  And, the the bad acting by pretty much everyone except the baby, who I’m fairly certain was special effects.
And, did I mention that the movie was filled with badly failed cliches?  Because it was.  I mean it was clogged with them like an overflowing cinematic toilet.  It was bad, bad, bad.

Honestly, this movie was so bad I cannot believe it actually got made.
If you were thinking about going to see this film, slap yourself, have a stiff drink and go see The Book of Eli instead.  You’ll be happy you avoided this one.  And, I would say, don’t even bother to rent this stinker.  Truly.  It was bad in more ways than even I can list.
Do NOT waste two hours of your life going to see this movie.


Review: The Book of Eli

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw The Book of Eli Friday night.

Wow, this was not what I was expecting! I went in expecting this to be a straight-forward post-apocalyptic action movie, but it was a whole lot more than that.
The basic plot is pretty simple, actually.  A wanderer by the name of Eli, played by Denzel Washington, is traveling West.  He’s carrying a book, along with his sword, a bow and arrow, a gun and, in a master stroke of product placement, an iPod.  He’s a righteous man in a savage world of radiation, destruction and desperate people.  And, those most desperate of people come after him, to try and take whatever they can from him, perhaps even to take him for their stew pot.  After all, in a world where everything is scarce, meat is meat.

Eli meets several groups of people, from the barely organized savages who try to lure him in with a woman in distress to the much more dangerous roving gangs of bikers.  The savages he slices and dices, but the bike gangs turn out to be a “road crew”, of sorts, for  a much more organized nasty by the name of Carnegie, played by Gary Oldham.  Turns out, he’s looking for a book, a very special book, that he thinks can unite all the locals into a city-state of sorts.  A city-state he can franchise over and over and over again.
Eli wanders into this little dictator’s town looking to get his iPod charged up, because, you know, a war ravaged and devistated landscape is no place for a day hike without some portable tunes.  The local engineer sets him up, for a pretty good trade in pre-war goods, obviously salvaged, and sends him to the only bar in town for a drink while the iPod charges up.  That’s where things get a little dangerous and Eli takes out the road crew who he’d seen on the road.  That draws the attention of Carnegie, who “invites” Eli to stay on.  When Eli declines, Carnegie insists he stay the night to think about the offer, he sends in Solara, played by Mila Kunis, to try and convince Eli to stay.  Of course, in the end, she ends up convincing him to take her with when he leaves.

I won’t give away more of the plot, so as not to ruin the film, but you’ll quickly learn that the mysterious book that Eli carries and Carnegie wants is a Bible.  Seems after the war, they were all destroyed.  All save this one.  And Eli is the last righteous man on Earth, following God’s calling to take the book to the West where he’ll mysteriously know what to do with it and who to give it to.
And, yes, that is where the spirituality of the whole thing ties in.  Eli is the most just and upright man in a very savage and essentially Godless world, trying to follow the teachings in the Bible he carries, even as he fights for his own survival.  Carnegie represent all that is wrong and venal in a world ruled by baser politics and power and controlling the masses.  The dichotomy of these two men make most of the product placement shots rather more ironic than I think may have been intended, but, regardless, it’s a great morality story.  And, a great story for modern Christians to consider.
We, too, are in a world that is often far from “God centered” and ruled by baser ideals.  Are we going to keep God’s ways?  Are we even going to try?  Or is our religion just something we do once a week?  How faithful are we to what we believe is God’s way?  When we hear God’s voice, do we listen?
No, I don’t have the answers, nor does this movie, necessarily, but it does ask the right questions.  Or, at least, it provoked them in me.  And, yes, it was great to see a spiritual hero who was far from perfect and far from a pushover do his best in a particularly difficult place.  There comes a time, when the world is so banal and corrupt that no one else has anything more than base survival on their mind that even the smallest attempt as spirituality is huge.

In short, I loved this movie.
Sure it was pretty violent for the younger folks, but I’d encourage everyone to go see this one, even if you don’t like violence.  The themes, especially for Christians, that are brought up and snuck into your thoughts under the cover of an action film are well worth the price of admission.  Incidentally, the movie is based on a graphic novel with which I’m only vaguely familiar, and there are some fight scenes that really show the influence of that in their beauty and artistry and coreography. It’s a really well done film with top-shelf actors in it.
It’s a rarity for me, but I would see this again.  Hell, I’d even pay full price to see this one again.  It was that good.
Really, it may not have the visual impact of Avatar in IMAX 3D, but, I assure you, this is a fantastic film.


Review: Paranormal Activity

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Paranormal Activity Friday.

So, you might have noticed that I haven’t reviewed many movies in the past couple weeks. Well, I’ve been busy. Stop laughing!
Anyway, I wanted to hit a movie and even though it’s not my kind of film normally, a friend convinced me to go see Paranormal Activity. Now, I didn’t find it scary. That’s not why I don’t generally care for these kinds of movies. No, rather, it’s because I’m generally two or three steps ahead in the plot. So, when most people are getting scared, I’m nodding, or adjusting my internal predictions of how things are going to go. And, yes, I do keep that all inside so that I’m not ruining the movie for anyone else with me. I’m not rude. But, I’m also not often wrong when it comes to the plots of movies like this.

I will say this, I actually liked this film.
I liked that it was made on a shoestring budget and still had some pretty decent effects that the actors sold really well. I liked the little tricks they did by filming with a single camera from the point of view of footage recorded by the participants in the film. Sure, it limited them in both scope and certain aspects of cinematography, but as a concept it worked well, especially in this particular scenario.
The basic plot is simple; a couple are being “haunted” and they try to get to the bottom of it with a video camera. As it turns out, she is the one being haunted, not the house or land. The “ghost” follows her and becomes more and more aggressive as she and her fiance try to capture it on film and then also try to enlist a medium to get rid of it. Those attempts fail, incidentally, but that’s only early on in the film. After that, things get much, much worse.

Now, as per usual, I won’t give away too much of the plot here, but eventually we do see a ouija board, sleep walking, and footprints made by an invisible creature. Not to mention all the strange sounds and odd, little camera effects that go on. The director does a fantastic job building up the suspense until the final confrontation with the angry spirit.
There were, for me, few surprises. All I can say is go see the movie and pay close attention to all the hints and you’ll see most of this coming, too. But, I promise you’ll still get a surprise at the end, just like I did.

If you like scary movies, or even if you’re just not scared by them and want to check one out, hit this movie. This really is the sleeper hit of the season. It’s not gory and really not overly violent, though there is violence in the film. It does drag a little in the early stages, but once the momentum starts to build, it just keeps building until things explode!.
Well worth seeing before it gets squeezed out of the theaters by the more “feel good” holiday films. Paranormal Activity is certainly one of the best films of the year.
Go see it!


Review: Law Abiding Citizen

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Law Abiding Citizen Friday night.

This was a fantastic movie.
No, really, I think this may have been one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen.  I was actually surprised at several points in the movie, which, frankly, is unusual for me, especially when it comes to action-thrillers.  The movie stars Gerard Butler as a father who watches his wife raped and murdered in front of his face and hears his five or six-year-old daughter murdered, while he lies stunned, helpless and potentially bleeding to death.  Only, he survives and lives to see the Assistant District Attorney, played by Jamie Foxx, make a deal with the worst of the killers to plead to a lesser charge to testify against his partner, who gets the death penalty.  Obviously, Bulter’s character is less than pleased  about this deal and he vows revenge.

The movie flashes forward ten years, to the day of the execution.  What was supposed to be a painless, humane solution to a violent problem turns into a very violent solution, much to the surprise of the audience of witnesses which include the Assistant District Attorney team who put him there.
Then, while they’re still trying to figure out what happened and why, someone goes after the second killer, the one who made the deal and put the other killer on death row, even though he was, in fact, the more evil of the two men.  The vigilante turns out to be Butler’s character, who incapacitates the killer and dismembers him in the most gruesome ways imaginable, videoing the whole thing.
And that’s just the first thirty minutes or so of the movie.  Yeah.  That was kind of my reaction, too. Damn.

So, here’s the thing, if you can make it through the amazingly brutal, psychologically damaging first half-hour of this movie, the pay-offs are fantastic.  Explosions, high-level plotting and scheming, spies, remote-controled weaponized bomb disposal robots, you name it, it’s in this movie.
Butler’s character is a military genius, inventor, and engine of destruction who references Carl von Clausewitz, if you can wrap your head around that.  And, he’s in amazing physical condition, too.  He fights a war of brutally personal scope, announcing that he will take revenge for what he lost, who he lost, by destroying the system which allowed a deal to be made giving any kind of leniency to the killers of women and children.  He claims that he’s fighting “total war, like Clausewitz describes.  He’s unrelenting and you find yourself rooting for him, even though, at best, he’s the darkest of dark heroes.

And, of course, I’ll stop giving away the plot now, but trust me when I tell you; see this movie.
If you’re a fan of Gerard Butler or Jamie Foxx, they both play great parts in this movie.  Both play complicated, multi-layered characters with deep backgrounds and are finely detailed.  The scripting is good for everyone, but they have the best dialog between the two of them.
The cinematography is pretty impressive, too.  The close-up shots of a very intense Foxx and equally firey Butler fill the screen and capture your attention in a way that’s hard to describe.  It’s very well done and in a style unlike anything I recall seeing before.  The rest of the movie is just as visually stunning, each shot highlighting the action in that scene.  Brilliantly done.

I won’t tell you how it ends, or even if the ending is happy.  It is, I promise, satisfying.
And, I assure you, this is a movie well worth seeing.  Go.  Now.


Review: Pandorum

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:38 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Pandorum Sunday morning.

It was okay, but nothing fantastic, frankly, or overly surprising.
The premise is simple enough; a flight crew wakes up from an extended hypersleep on an enormous spacecraft that seems to be either abandoned or damaged, but they don’t know what or why and no one is there to tell them what’s going on.

But, of course, it’s more complicated than just firing up the computer and reading the ship’s log.  The power is out, mostly, except for power surges that are almost more trouble than the lack of power that seems to be the rule.  The flight crew is missing one person and suffering from a kind of temporary amnesia caused by the extended hypersleep, but things start to come back to them quickly.  The officer of the team, a Leutenant played by Dennis Quaid, gets enough emergency power routed to the local workstation to discover that the ship’s reactor is going to overload, or rather, it’s going into emergency shutdown before it does actually overload.  The Corporal, played by Ben Foster, just happens to have remembered that he knows how to restart the reactor and save the ship and everyone on it.  All he needs to do is get to it, which means getting past a whole lot of bulkhead doors effectively locked due to the power fluctuations.  Naturally, that means he’s going to have to crawl through a whole lot of very strange, ooky ducts that lead to a lot of eerie, drippy, abandoned corridors.

The thing is, as huge as the ship is, most of the crew and passengers aren’t there or awake.  And, while wandering the corridors, looking for a way to the reactor, the Corporal remembers that they’re a colony ship, sent to create a new Earth on a very distant planet.  A one-way trip meant to off-load a significant portion of the population of an over-stressed, worn-out, abused Earth and give humanity a new start.  Which makes it even more confusing that they seem to be all alone.
Only, it turns out, they’re not alone.  Something else is there.  Something human-like, but more animal.  Something that hunts in packs and seems to know the ship quite well.  Something that’s hunted the other flight crews down for food.  And, at least some of the colonists, too, as it turns out.
The Corporal runs into two colonists, each involved in life-sciences of one kind or another, who have learned to live in the dark, corroded ship, hiding from the alien things who have made it their hunting ground.

Well, that’s the basics of the movie.
It’s not a bad premise for a story, actually.  In fact, in one form or another, it’s been used in science-fiction for many years.  It was even the basis of at least one sci-fi role-playing game.  This movie handles the topic quite well, I think.  It produces a fairly realistic set of circumstances, if it’s possible to create a “realistic” setting in a science-fiction setting.  Then, it puts reasonable people in that setting and applies pressure.  I think that is the essence of a good story, whether in a movie or a book.  People are at their most interesting when they’re under significant pressure, when they’re given a chance to show their true character.
The sets are very much like the sets we saw in Alien, and many, many times since.  It’s nothing particularly new anymore, but I think Pandorum does it better than I’ve seen since the Alien movies, so it was fine and not over-done at all.  It is a dark movie, in both the cinematography and the theme are dark.  The sets are mostly in shadow and odd emergency lighting, reinforcing the idea that no one knows what’s going on and what dangers might be lurking just off screen.  And, of course, the idea that an entire ship of people, an entire colony, might be lost at any moment and the possibility that something sinister already has happened to them are themes that are ever-present and weigh heavily on both the characters and the audience.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a good science-fiction horror movie, but I have to say, Pandorum was that.  It wasn’t great, but it was good.  It’s hard not to compare it to Alien, since that was the first true sci-fi horror movie I ever saw.  But, it’s no where near as good as Alien.  Still, Pandorum is worth seeing on the big screen if you like scary, tense science-fiction films.  And, I did enjoy it.


Review: Surrogates

Filed under: Fun,Movies,News and Current Events,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:13 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I know, I’m late with my review of this and I didn’t post anything at all on Monday.

What can I tell you? It’s just been that kind of week! I suppose that I should be grateful that I have my iPhone to so I can, uh, “phone this one in” via the WordPress beta app.
Anyway, I saw Surrogates this past Friday. I liked this movie a lot. Now, I doubt it will be lauded as a great movie, nor will it do fantastically well at the box office, but I liked this movie better than Gamer, which covers some of the same intellectual ground. Surrogates is an action flick, too, but not to the same degree and, more importantly to me, Surrogates focused more on the social implications of the technology and less on the tawdry, flashy sex.

Surrogates stars Bruce Willis as an FBI agent in a world where virtually everyone has a “surrogate”, or remote-controlled robot, with which they interact with the world. The idea behind that is that the surrogate can’t die or be permanently damaged the way a human, or “user”, can. The problem is someone has found a weapon that can send some kind of feedback signal through the surrogate that will killthe user. Willis’ character is called in to investigate just such a crime and what might be the first murder since the invention of surrogates. The bigger problem is that the murder victim is the son of the man who invented surrogates.
The chief suspect is a “meat bag”, as people without surrogates are known. And, he was apparently used by an anti-surrogate extremist group called the “Dreads”, who are led by a dreadlocked Ving Rhames. So, now, not only does Willis’ character have to solve the first murder since the invention of surrogates, but has to figure out who made this “impossible” weapon, how, and, most importantly of all, why.  Add to this the fact that Willis’ character isn’t overly fond of surrogates to begin with, since his wife is using it as a way to hide from him emotionally as she tries to forget that they had a child who died.

But, like I said, this is an action film, so there is plenty of action.  A car chase with a helicopter that ends poorly and results in Willis’ character not being able to use his surrogate.  Being forced into the real world has some strange effects on people not used to it, or so it would seem from the level of anxiety he displays.  And, who can blame them for wanting to be in their surrogates all the time?  The surrogates are perfect.  Perfect bodies, perfect faces and, all but Willis’ have perfect hair.  And, these things are virtually indestructable.  So, that’s why it’s so important that they find out who’s killing people through their surrogates.
Willis’ character does find out, incidentally, but that’s far from the end of the story.  You’ll have to see it to understand and I’m not going to ruin it.

One thing to know, though, is that the action isn’t quite as good as Gamer, but the nasty, shock-value-only sex is virtually not present.  Also, I think they explored some of the social relevance of the surrogate phenomina better than those same aspects were explored in Gamer.
Definitely worth seeing this movie, but if you’re not a fan of science-fiction, you’d better hit this in a matinee.  Still worth seeing, though.


Review: The Informant, Nine and Extract

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:35 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw a bunch of movies in the past two weeks.

I know I see a lot of movies, but, until I got behind on my reviews, I didn’t realize just how many!
So, these will be three short, quick reviews to help me catch up, also they’re being written on the WordPress iPhone app, which encourages brevity. I’ll review them in the order I saw them.

First up is Extract, which is a Mike Judge film. He’s the guy who did Office Space and if you liked that you’ll like this one, too. This time, the “hardluck hero” isn’t a front-line worker, but management. In fact, he’s the owner of a small factory that creates extracts, like almond extract and other flavorings. Now, this might not seem like a funny setup, but, trust me, it is. Judge manages to find the hilarity in an over-worked, under-sexed small-business owner, trapped in an unhappy marriage and disenchanted with his own creation, played by Jason Bateman. He struggles with all the problems attendant to an entreprenuerial business, but manages well enough. Until, that is, there’s a freak accident in the factory that partially emasculates one of his star employees. That alone wouldn’t be a problem, actually, but it draws the attention of a sexy grifter played by Mila Kunis. She conivces the “victim” to sue, setting off a chain of events that are not only tragic and hilarious, but also so incredibly believable that you never question how outrageous they are or the reactions to them.
Trust me when I tell you this will be a cult hit just like Office Space was. I laughed out loud so often my sides hurt by the end of the movie. Oh, and Gene Simmons as the ambulance-chasing, shyster lawyer is too funny for words! Watch for his ad in the background because when he does it in Spanish you’ll have a hard time controlling you bladder. Very funny film and, if it’s not too late, a must see.

Last week Friday, I saw The Informant, starring Matt Damon. Now, you might not expect that an action star like him could do comedy, but he really pulls it off.
Now, this movie is an entirely different kind of funny than Extract. It’s still funny, but as much in that over-the-top sort of way. It’s a dryer sort of comedy, almost British in where it gets its laughs. I doubt it will do as well as other comedies this season for that reason, but I found it very funny. Also, this movie is based on a book which is in turn based on actual events. In. nutshell, Damon stars as an exec at ADM, a corn conglomerate, who gets into a tight spot and does some lying to get out of it. The only problem is, those lies bring in the FBI who need to be distracted. So, in an effort to save his own skin, he rats out the company on a huge price-fixing scheme and ends up being an FBI under cover informant for almost three years. Of course, during that time he also embezzeled more than 9 million dollars and never seemed to tell anyone the while truth, not even his wife, not even himself.
Damon is clever and likeable, in a kind of nerdy way, as the obviously not quite right Mark Whitmore, who still thinks he can steal from the company, become the next president after the old management team is out, and inform for the government at the same time. The really funny thing is that he manages to pull it off for three years before things really start to unravel. And, this movie is more than just laughs. You see a guy under incredible stress trying to maintain his sanity, world-view and family image while betraying those very same things. Near the end, Damon has some truly poignant moments where the frayed edges of his assorted lives and realities begin to show through. I really liked this film, but I doubt most people would. I honestly don’t see it doing well in the theaters or in rental, but I really enjoyed the surprsing subtlties in this movie. Damon turns in a fantastic performance that I suspect will go largely unnoticed by the public. If you’re a Matt Damon fan, definitely rent this one.

The last film I saw last weekend was Nine. Nine is a pretty adult animation film. The story follows Nine, a magically created living puppet in a post-apocalyptic world. He wakes not knowing who he is or why he was made and not even having a voice. Nine quickly explores his world, however, and meets more of his kind, one of whom helps him find a voice, literally. When that other “person” is taken by some malevolent machine, Nine tries to convice his newly found brethren that they need to go and rescue their missing member. Much of the film is spent in that sort of activity, either convincing older “people” who are afraid of losing thei power to change, or off fighting technology that has no soul.
And, that is one of the major themes of this movie; fighting the soul-less technological world. In a sense, this movie is all about heart, but it’s also an action film of sorts. And it was animated. Actually, it was animated very well, so that’s a point in its favor.
I’d recommend this film for anyone who’s either a sci-fi fan or an animation fan, but it’s not for the kids. Way more grown up than that. But, even though I liked it quite a bit, I don’t think it’s everyone’s cup of tea.

So, to sum up, go see Extract quickly, rent The Informant, and see Nine if you love sci-fi or animation or both, otherwise just rent this one, too. But, for the record, I enjoyed all three films.

Oh, and just so you know, this was meant to be posted yesterday morning and would have been the fifth consecutive post written primarily with the WordPress iPhone app beta. Outside of a problem uploading pictures, the beta app is working very well.
More movies this weekend, so, more reviews coming, though, they may not all be via the iPhone.

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