Diary of a Network Geek

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

8/15/2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Movies,music,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:56 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


ScottPilgrim

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

The movie so good it got me to blog a review after months of slacking.

Yeah, I loved it.
So, right, this movie is based on the award-winning and very popular independent comic series of the same name. The comic, and the movie, follow the love-life of the title character, Scott Pilgrim, played by Michael Cera as he tries to avoid his under-age Chinese stalker, Knives Chau, played by Ellen Wong, and date, instead, the girl, quite literally of his dreams, Ramona Flowers, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The only problem is, to date Ramona, Scott has to defeat her seven evil ex’s in a battle to the death. But, nothing is quite as easy as it seems, and each ex is more difficult to defeat than the last, much like a video game.

In fact, as Scott defeats each villain, he’s rewarded in video-game fashion with a glowing numeric display of points and then they burst into coins. Yes, coins. Oh, and there’s plenty of video-game themed music, too. But, don’t think you have to be either a gamer or a comic fan to “get” this movie! I mean, if you’ve participated in pop culture at all and are under the age of 60, you shouldn’t have any trouble keeping up.
But, speaking of music, the sound-track on this film rocks! Literally! For starters, a significant contributor to the soundtrack is Beck. Not only as a solo artist, but also as part of Sex Bob-Omb, the band to which Scott and his friends belong. And, that band participation is significant to the plot as they battle other local bands to get a recording contract and a big gig at a big club. Seriously, though, the music is all great and adds a lot to the film. At least, I enjoyed it. Mostly a rock soundtrack, but with the addition of video-game tunes, which enhance the movie.

The whole thing was fun.
Sure, it was sort of a chick-flick, but not in a bad way or as much as you might imagine. I mean, yes, it is about dating and romance and the trials and tribulations of ex’s, but it’s far more fun than it sounds. Because, it’s a comedy, in case Michael Cera being in the cast didn’t give it away. Frankly, the whole thing is just fun and, wow, I can’t remember the last time I saw that in a Summer movie! Seriously! I mean, that’s what Summer movies are supposed to be all about, right? Well, this one actually is! Honestly, I wish I were dating someone so I could have taken her to see it, because it was such a cute, fun film that I’m confident it would have gotten me laid. Seriously.

Mostly, I can’t go into the plot too much, because it would be 100% spoilers, but it’s all about Scott and Ramona, and dating, and love, and music, and the band, and defeating evil ex’s. But, the basic plot is, well, that last sentence pretty well sums it up. I mean, Scott trying to get Ramona and make music with his band and, well, again, defeat those evil ex’s, is pretty much everything that happens in the movie, but, somehow, that paltry description doesn’t capture the fun and adventure of this movie. Trust me, though, when I tell you that it was fast-paced, filled with action, and romance and even a life-lesson or two.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I rarely see movies more than once in the theater, so, they’ll get the impact of this statement; I would happily see this movie again, at full price. I loved this movie that much.
Seriously.
If you like pop music, or if you’ve ever been in love, or if you’ve ever fought against impossible odds to pursue the companion of your dreams, you will love Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Go see it.
Trust me.

Update: Want to see what I’m talking about with the music?  Check out some selections from the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Soundtrack.

8/1/2010

My Review of Think Tank Airport Ultralight V 2.0, Backpack with Security Cable, Lock and Shoulder Harness.

Filed under: Red Herrings,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Originally submitted at Adorama

Think Tank Airport Ultralight V 2.0, Backpack with Security Cable, Lock and Shoulder Harness.

Airport Easy

By J K Hoffman from Jersey Village, TX on 8/1/2010
5out of 5

Pros: Customizable, Roomy, Airplane Friendly, Comfortable

Best Uses: Transporting Gear, Travel

Describe Yourself: Photo Enthusiast

I got the Think Tank Airport Ultralight specifically for a trip to San Francisco, so I could get all my gear on the plane and didn’t have to trust it to the TSA. It was *perfect* for getting a maximum amount of gear on the plane and it fit in the overhead bin *easily*. I managed to get a camera body, two lenses, three hot-shoe flashes, batteries, chargers, and assorted cables and light modifiers into this bag comfortably and safely.
The outer pocket took my 15′ laptop snugly, but securely. Note that the picture included a laptop sleeve that did NOT come with this bag. However, after adding my own inexpensive laptop sleeve to help get me through security easier, this bag essentially let me travel with a small, portable studio ON THE PLANE. Thanks to this bag, I checked NO camera gear or electronics at all, but safely carried it all on with me!

I highly recommend this bag! It’s got good, strong construction and handled my gear well. I’m very happy with this purchase. It was worth every penny!

(legalese)

7/27/2010

Ryumaou Reviews Ramen?

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Life Goals,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:51 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, there’s a new poll up to gauge how you all feel about a regular, weekly review of ramen noodles.

Look, I’m embracing the fact that I’m probably going to be poor for a very long time, so I’m cutting back. I’ve eaten out a lot and I think that’s probably one place I can cut back easily. But, I got to thinking about it and, well, I probably spend a lot on fast, convenient food during the week, too. I started to think about all the things I did in college when I didn’t have any money and, naturally, I thought of ramen noodles. Who hasn’t slurped down their fair share of ramen noodles? Seriously!
As a college student, in particular, I ate my fair share of ramen. Hey, I’m sure we all did back in the days when we were starting out. I mean, they were fast and easy and didn’t require more than a spoon stolen from food service and a cup of hot water. What’s more, though, is that I found them not just filling but tasty, too! So, instead of reviewing the super-high-end food that so many upwardly mobile people get all goofy about, I thought I might review the cuisine of the financially challenged everywhere: ramen!!

Okay, so I know it’s not really the most original idea. At least one guy in Japan has done it already at a site called i-ramen.net. But, that’s all in Japanese, so it doesn’t do much good to those of us in the English-speaking world. (I read about him in an article from Boing Boing, incidentally.)  I don’t know that I’ll get to review as many as 4000 different versions of ramen, like he did, either, but, well, it does seem like the craziest low-budget adventure I can contemplate this week!
So, who’s with me?  If you think this crazy idea might be fun, vote in the poll on my sidebar and leave comments.
(Oh, yeah, if you don’t get the reference to “Ryumaou”, look at the address of the site you’re on.  I’ve used that romanization of a Japanese nickname since I first got on-line in the 90’s.  And, I liked the alliteration.)

4/1/2010

Review: The Bounty Hunter

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:18 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


TheBountyHunter

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw The Bounty Hunter Friday last week.

I know, I’ve been bad about letting things go between updates here, even though I’ve mostly reduced things to just doing movie reviews. I’ve been busy.
In any case, I did get out to see The Bounty Hunter staring Jennifer Anniston and Gerard Butler. They star as a formerly married people. He was a cop and she was a cub reporter. Now, she’s a very successful reporter and he’s a bounty hunter. The funny thing is, while she was working on a story, she got a little tangled up with the courts for a minor altercation that got a little blown out of proportion. Well, now, she’s working on another story and, as she’s about to go into court, she gets a call from a source, so she misses her court date. Naturally, what that means is that her bail gets revoked and a bench warrant for her arrest. Can you guess who gets the job?

Right.
And you can pretty well guess where the comedy goes from there. Of course, it is funny. I mean, really, it is. But, it’s a romantic comedy, even though these two start off divorced. At first, the movie is about him chasing her and trying to bring her back to jail. But, her story quickly becomes a problem as the people she’s investigating try to kill her. And, mayhem ensues.

I don’t have time for my regular, in depth review this morning, but let me say that this movie was far funnier than I thought it would be. I mean, look at the actors playing the two leading characters. No, really, just go look at them. They’re simply beautiful to look at, both of them. I’m pretty sure that’s all we were meant to do, anyway, was look at them. But, it turns out, their on-screen dialog is pretty funny, too. Okay, perhaps not the most brilliant or subtle comedy, but, still, funny enough that for most of the film I was laughing out loud. The last third of the movie, though, they really step up the romance content and it kind of over-shadows the comedy. It’s still there, but, frankly, I think at this point we’re supposed to be more interested in them as pretty people than actual people.

Now, I’ll grant you, I had pretty low expectations for this film, but they were certainly all exceeded. It was a funny, comedy romp that was grown-up without being particularly blue.
Oh, and also, there was some action, so that Gerard Butler could show off his 300 physique. And, yes, for those of you who care, he does still pretty much have it. Damn him. Also, Jennifer Anniston was pretty damn hot, too.
The plot is nothing new, really, and the surprises were few, but the movie was fun enough, and the stars attractive enough, that it really didn’t matter much. And, let me hasten to point out, in spite of some weaknesses in the plot and action, and romance, I was still quite entertained. Though, yes, I do have to agree with other reviewers that the two stars lacked on-screen chemistry. At no point did I suspect they were banging each other off camera, and that’s okay. It doesn’t take anything away from the film, really. I doubt I’d have much chemistry with my ex-wife, even if I had to drag her back to jail, so a certain friction instead of chemistry in this movie actually kind of works.

So, in short, it’s not a bad film and if you’re in the mood for something light, fun, and not overly challenging mentally, in short, if you’re looking to be entertained, then this movie is a great choice for you. If you can’t stand one of these co-stars, you might want to wait until it hits DVD, but otherwise, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this film. I wouldn’t see it again in the theater, but I’d rent it again, just for fun.

And, now, with that, I have to sign off and head to the airport. Vacation has officially begun and I’m off to WonderCon in scenic San Francisco. I’ll try to do a couple of updates while I’m gone.
(Oh, and don’t get any ideas about coming to rob me. My vicious guard dog is still here and people will be checking on my house throughout the weekend.)

3/25/2010

Review: Repo Men

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Movies,News and Current Events,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:47 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


RepoMen

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Repo Men last Friday.

I loved this movie!
No, really, I was half expecting it to be total cheese, but it was surprisingly good. I read a review before hand wherein a reviewer complained that there was no dark humor in this film. Frankly, I wonder if we saw the same movie, because, though there wasn’t a laugh track, there was tones and tones of dark humor. Though, maybe some of it was lost on the reviewer and, frankly, the audience I saw the movie with, too. Thankfully, my usual movie companion is a fellow cancer survivor who has a similar sense of humor and we were laughing at the same things.

So, first, know that this is a bloody film. It’s not gory in a slasher sense of things, but there is a lot of carving on people as well as shooting and other fighting action.
Remember, the basic premise of the film is that, in the future, The Union has cornered the market on artificial, replacement organs. Anyone who has a problem with, say, their liver or their kidneys or their heart or their lungs, can go to The Union and get a perfect artificial replacement. For a fee. In fact, for very, very large fees, which the Union will let you pay them off at “reasonable rates to fit any lifestyle”. Of course, those “reasonable rates” aren’t very reasonable. And, the Union will send someone to repossess their property if payments aren’t made. Yeah, that’s right, they’ll repossess your heart.

The story follows two repo men as they hustle their way through this futuristic dystopia of corporate greed and consumer debt. They’re hard, brutal men, like many repo men are, only more so.
Jake, played by Forest Whitaker, loves his job. He loves the work, the people, the fear that he strikes into the hearts of others. His partner, Remy, played by Jude Law, is less into the work and he’s getting pressure from his wife to get into a safer, more savory, line of work anyway. But, then, something happens on what Remy plans as his last job. There’s a malfunction, a short-circuit and Remy finds himself in need of the Union’s special hardware. He wakes up with a Union “heart” keeping him alive and a massive debt schedule. The only problem is, now, he doesn’t have the heart to repossess other people’s organs.

So, that’s the setup, and if you want to avoid the spoilers, stop reading here.
The problem is, Remy defaults on his heart and goes on the run. Naturally, the barely human local Union rep, Frank, played by Liev Schreiber, sends Jake, Remy’s old partner, to collect. Remy knows all the tricks, though, and off he goes into that strange place that’s off the grid in a future world ruled by a network of data that we’re only just starting to be aware of now. Along the way, he picks up a torch singer who also happens to be riddled with organs on which she’s defaulted. She introduces him to the black market and the underground economy. The chase is long and winding and ends up in the heart of the Union itself. I won’t tell you how it ends, but it is a surprise and a twist, but it’s not disappointing in the slightest and it is a real surprise.

Now, there are a couple of things that I think are interesting about this movie.
First, I can’t tell if they’re making an homage to Blade Runner, or if they’re making fun of it. The sets and settings all remind me, and every other reviewer out there, of Blade Runner and Ridley Scott’s vision of a future L.A. It also reminds me of William Gibson’s descriptions of a gritty future. But, it still works, either way. Also, that future is interestingly contrasted with a shrinking suburban landscape where Remy lives. A setting, incidentally, that also becomes a backdrop for at least on bloody repossession by Jake. The contrast is, well, a little shocking, even to someone as jaded as me.
Secondly, there’s a scene where Remy and Beth, the torch singer, cut into each other to scan their defaulted organs. Remy only has the one, but the part of the scene where he inserts the scanner into her goes on, um, somewhat longer. Though this was a bloody and gruesome scene, it was also disturbingly erotic, which I found a little unnerving. It’s not an entirely bad thing, but it was a surprise to see in a major motion picture, even one that’s R-rated. So, you’ve been warned.
Thirdly, the music was used expertly in this movie. The contrast of happy, pleasant “elevator” music during a violent scene is, at first, funny, but eventually, a kind of beautiful, violent dance that takes on a kind of surreal feel that was really fantastic. Music can certainly enhance a film and the director really makes fantastic use of it in this movie.

Right, so, here’s the thing. I loved this movie which I found fun and yet insightful and filled with the darkest of black humor. The entire theme is a commentary on the current health care crisis and the American personal debt crisis as well. I found a personal connection with that bit because of my own medical bills as a cancer survivor. They do seem never ending and oppressive at times as I’m sure they do for millions of other Americans who are far worse off than I am. So, I’m not sure how that will sit with the general viewing public, but it really hit home for me and, yet, also tapped into my own, personal reserves of black humor.
So, as I was mentioning, I loved this movie, but I imagine it’s not for everyone. It is dark, and violent, and bloody, and bleak, in it’s way, in the outlook on where things are going in our society, especially in regards to healthcare, debt and personal responsibility. But it does end with a kind of hope, in a strange and twisty way.

I can’t recommend this film for everyone, but if you’re open to something new and different and dark and violent, then this is your film. I suggest you take a chance, roll the dice and go see it, especially if you like science fiction, but even if you don’t.
If you’re not sure, then hit a matinee and minimize your risk.
Go ahead, take a chance.

(Sorry this is so late this week, but I’ve been busy and working late.)

3/10/2010

Review: The Crazies

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:10 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent


TheCrazies

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw The Crazies Friday night.

I’m not normally a big fan of horror flicks, but, well, there weren’t a lot of really palatable options Friday night, so we decided to roll the dice on this one. My expectations were low, but it was actually a pretty good movie. Keep in mind, though, I tend to pick these movies apart for sport. I’ll try to warn you before there are any spoilers, but, still, this is sort of your first warning, okay?

So, the premise of the movie is simple; there’s something making the townsfolk of a little, rural Iowa town go, well, crazy. In fact, to be more specific, there’s something making people become homicidal maniacs. The first “crazy” we see is on the local high-school baseball diamond on opening day. He’s the town drunk, even though he’s cleaned up, with a shotgun. Obviously, this ends badly for him and, frankly, doesn’t do much for the sheriff who has to kill him. He’s married to the town doctor, just to keep the main stereotypes all in the family.
Obviously, the sheriff’s all broken up about having been forced to kill the town drunk, but, his doctor wife assures him that he had no choice. Sadly, that’s just the start of the crazy behavior in town. From there, well, more people start going nuts and before long that other mainstay of the modern horror film, the U.S. Army, shows up to “help out”.

Naturally, the Army’s idea of “helping” is to contain the problem and, basically, kill the town. The only problem is, the sheriff and his wife, and his deputy and her medical assistant, are going to try and make a break for freedom. So, yeah, without giving anything away, that’s the movie in a nutshell. Pretty basic. Something bad gets into the water and makes the town go crazy and our ragtag band of survivors has to, uh, survive, both the bad thing and the alleged good guys trying to save the rest of the world from whatever is killing the town.

Now, there are a short list of problems I had with the movie. Also? Here there be spoilers, matey!
First, the town is filled with crazies and the Army herds the town into holding pens, until they go crazy and try to get out. This results in mayhem, of course, and a bunch of dead bodies. No problem so far, right? Here’s the thing, though, the survivors have access to an unknown quantity of military-grade automatic weapons at this point, but they leave them all behind. They don’t even look to see if they can scavenge one and some ammunition to use! Not ONE! At this point, I pretty much think these people might not have the survival skills needed to make it through this.

Second, they cut cross-country to get to a farm where there’s a car they can use to escape. Why? Well avoiding the roads until they get the car will help them avoid roadblocks. Okay, sure, makes a kind of sense. But, aren’t they supposed to be in rural Iowa? They’re going to a farm, right? But, no one has horses? Really? No one thinks, hey, horses would let us cut cross-country all the way to a major town or city, avoiding roadblocks all the way? I’m pretty sure it was at this point that I decided for the long-term viability of mankind, these fools no longer deserved to survive.

Thirdly, after all this, every time these trained law-enforcement officers go into a building or even room, they never, ever check it. Not just for blind spots or crazies in the back hall, I mean they don’t check a damn thing. Nothing. Nunca nada. Seriously? I’m just a dude who’s seen too many cop shows on TV and I’d be checking every damn thing before I’d relax at all.

Fourthly, they started to have incredible luck and exhibit completely out of place skills. For instance, at one point the sheriff finds a Zippo in a display that’s fully loaded with lighter fluid and ready to go. Pretty sure, that’s not how those things ship because, you know, they might accidentally catch fire. But, it was an important prop that drove the plot later, so we’re supposed to overlook that.
Also, they finally find a semi that just happens to be fully fueled and ready to go in a garage. Why, it’s almost like it was waiting for them! And, naturally, the sheriff knows how to drive a big rig. Now, I’m sure it’s a pretty straightforward skill to learn, but, uh, don’t they advertise schools for that sort of thing on matchbooks? Seriously, I don’t think that a sheriff is likely to know how to drive a semi, not even in a small town. This guy is young, for one thing, and, frankly, more likely to have been former military, as a lot of guys like that are, which makes it even more likely that he would have picked up one of those handy automatic weapons! (Yeah, that one really bothers me, because, c’mon, that’s just basic stuff, man!)

So, yeah, the movie takes you on a merry chase away from the infected town and the nasty government men who are going to nuke the town to save the rest of us from this terrible thing which killed the town. There are the standard horror movie moments, though, I have to admit, the director did a better than average job of setting those up. Most of the movie really is believable, with a few, uh, notable exceptions. And, people do react mostly as you would expect, again with a few notable exceptions.
So, as horror movies go, it was pretty good. No, I wasn’t scared. At least once or twice I was startled but that was as much the crowd effect and the music as anything else. And, granted, my expectations were set pretty low, but they were met and greatly exceeded.

So, to sum up, if you’re a horror or slasher flick fan, then this movie is totally worth seeing in the theater. If you’re not into that sort of thing, then wait until it comes out on DVD.

Oh, and don’t forget, I’ll be at a wedding this Friday (no, not my own!), so I won’t have a movie review next week.  Maybe I’ll review the Warren Zevon biography I read recently instead.  We’ll see.

2/21/2010

Review: Shutter Island

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon or 4:27 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


ShutterIsland

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Shutter Island Friday.

I have to admit, I was a little surprised by this one. I’m not entirely sure what I expected here, but it wasn’t this. Incidentally, I’m not a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan, but he did a really good job with this one, as did the rest of the pretty amazing cast, including Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, and Ted Levine, to name a few.

DiCaprio plays Teddie Daniels, a U.S. Marshal investigating a disappearance on the infamous detention facility for the criminally insane, Shutter Island. Apparently, this very special and secure federal institution has a secret, too, and Daniels has an axe to grind in finding it. We meet Daniels on the ferry to the island, getting very seasick in the head. We meet his partner, Chuck Aule, played by Mark Ruffalo, at the same time he does, on the ferry. They’re met at the only dock on the island, the only safe way on or off, by the assistant warden who informs them of the rules, which include surrendering their sidearms. Obviously, they’re not happy about that, but it’s the only way the doctors in charge will let the Marshals into the patient wards to investigate.
The institution is separated into three wards; Ward A for the male offenders, Ward B for the female offenders, and Ward C for the ultravolent cases. The patient who disappeared vanished from her cell in Ward B was the delusional murderer of her children and, frankly, doesn’t seem like she’s capable of escaping from this sort of prison. But, that’s not the real reason Daniels is here.

Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island because something’s not right. People come to the island and all record of them is lost. People with relatively minor problems come back from the island broken, changed, and more unstable and dangerous than when they went there, though most are simply never heard from again. And one former “patient” told Daniels that they’re doing experiments on the patients, surgeries that make the most violent men easier to control, but no less violent. That, and the search for what happened to the man who’s responsible for his wife’s death, are the real reason that Daniels has come to Shutter Island. But, even that’s not so straight forward.

Now, before I give too much away, because frankly, there are more plot twists in this movie than any I can think of in recent memory. Keep in mind, this is all happening in a mental institution, so many things, and people, aren’t what they seem. Also, the movie takes place a few years after World War II, so there are plenty of references to veterans and what we now call post traumatic stress syndrome. And, yes, Daniels is a war veteran who helped liberate Dachau, so that factors into some of the plot.
This is far from a straight, linear, direct movie. And, while there is plenty of action, it’s mostly a psychological thriller. In fact, though I did like the film quite well, the first two-thirds of the movie are actually quite slow. Things pickup near the last third and then run from there through the end. And, while this is a bit of a spoiler, the ending leaves you wondering just a little bit what’s really just happened. It’s pretty remarkable, actually, and still a satisfying ending.

So, while I don’t think this was a great movie, it certainly was very good. DiCaprio did a very good job of portraying a driven man, who had issues, and was spun through a bewildering psychological landscape. Of course, Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow were fantastic as the slightly sinister doctors who had some mystery they were trying to hide. Really, the entire cast delivered good individual performances. There were a few weak scenes and a couple of holes in the plot, but, by the time you get to the end of the movie, I think those inconsistencies are actually explained, at least in an indirect way.

It’s an interesting film and well worth seeing. If you are a DiCaprio fan, you’ll definitely want to see this movie. However, if you just want to see something different than I think you’ll see all year. Incidentally, based on a book, this really is an unusual story these days, especially to see from Hollywood. In fact, one of the things I liked about this movie was that it was a bit of a surprise to me how some of the plot ran, which is pretty unusual, frankly. Not that I’m a genius or anything, but I read a lot and see a lot of films and when you combine that with my own study of plot and attempts at writing, plots become sort of predictable after a bit. So, again, there are some pretty surprising twists in the plot that make this movie really different and interesting.

In the end, I think this movie was well done and well worth the money to see it in the theater. Go check it out for yourself and see if you agree. I think you’ll like this one.

2/16/2010

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


Wolfman

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.

2/8/2010

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


FromParisWithLove

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?

1/25/2010

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


Legion

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Legion on Friday.

Wow.
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.

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