November 28, 2005
A few years ago, the SciFi channel embarked on an epic miniseries: Dune. The followers of Frank Herbert's most famous novel can be considered as picky as any, and the minor disappointment of the first film was legitimate cause for concern. After watching the miniseries, I think it was expertly crafted and it brings to life the world of Arrakis and the spice beautifully. There were certainly some changes made for dramatic emphasis, but the freedom to expand upon the story within four and half hours really pays off.
There are three things this miniseries does very well. The first is the costumes and sets. A lot of effort was put forth into building a realistic and colorful world in the city of Arrakis, the desert, and in the houses of the families involved. The second are the special effects, which are very well done. The only problem I noticed was that some of the fake buildings and fires were clearly fake, if one pays close attention. The third are the sound effects, which are very immersing and of high quality.
I am looking forward to watching the SciFi sequel, Children of Dune.
I'd seen Johnny Mnemonic before, but I couldn't really remember the whole movie. Unfortunately, the movie itself suffers from horrible acting by all of the people involved (not just Keanu Reeves) and artistic liberties that tried to make this movie appeal to the lowest common denominator. The special effects and realization of the environment were very well done though.
November 27, 2005
I was first interested in seeing Sleepers from seeing the trailer. Partially because it involved Brad Pitt, who I really liked in movies around that same time period. I thought it was about some boys who were locked away until they were released as adults, and took revenge upon some people for something that had happened earlier. And that is what the movie is about, but not in the way I imagined it.
Instead, this movie is actually in two parts. The first half deals with the four boys who through unfortunate circumstance and a healthy dose of bad judgement and misbehavior end up being sent to juvenile hall. But only for a year. What happens there is disturbing, and becomes the basis for the second half of the film. It's in that second half when the mood shifts, and those boys as adults come up with a plan to get back at the people who wronged them during that year a decade ago.
The boys acting is really good, although I expect they were kept away from having to act out the really challenging scenes by choice. Instead, cinematography, editing, and the audio is used to convey the situation. The second half could have been better, but I think a lot of it got cut shorter than it should have been. The movie is already almost two and a half hours, but it just feels like the second half is missing something. Maybe it didn't need to be longer, but just better executed. The first half works as a sort of extended flashback, and so it makes sense for things to be a bit more disjointed.
Ever since upgrading my server's hardware to an Athlon 64 architecture, I've been unable to boot directly off the hard disk. So with the long weekend I decided to try an upgrade to OpenSuSE, the free release of SuSe after being purchased by Novell. Thankfully, it seems that the original SuSE people are still the ones in charge, because the OpenSuSE documentation and packaging is just as great as it's always been.
Unfortunately, I ran into quite a few snags trying to upgrade my 32-bit SuSE Linux 9.1 Professional installation to the 64-bit OpenSuSE 10.0 release. And, the DVD I created from the CD images was lacking quite a few packages. I ended having to back up my root partition and do a completely fresh install that included formatting the boot and root partitions. That's probably a good thing anyway, as it means my system is pretty much cleaned up of junk. I spent about twelve hours migrating my old system configurations to the new installations. Probably about twice as long as if the upgrade process had worked successfully.
In case you're wondering what sorts of problems I ran into during the upgrade process, here are some of the things I ran into. Many packages were listed as no longer maintained as part of OpenSuSE, and as a result, a few dozen of my packages were slated for deletion by YaST2. Although I didn't know it at the time, this is likely to have been the result of missing packages on my DVD. A dependency check complained a whole bunch about requiring an x86_64 version of the glibc files. I couldn't get this to go away. I tried to do a clean install without formatting my partitions as well, but the installer failed when trying to write the /etc/fstab file, even if that file was already removed. And after completing package installation, the boot setup always failed while trying to make the initrd image. Basically, it just didn't work.
Unfortunately, I'm still getting a GRUB error if I try to boot off my hard disk. But at least the error message is more informative and says there's a geometry incompatibility or something, instead of just saying error. I've switched to LILO to see if that might work better, but haven't tested it yet.
I've been up for almost twenty-four hours now, so I'm going to go to sleep soon.
La Vida que te Espera
I ended up watching La Vida que te Espera about twice, but not really paying attention to it the entire time. The story is a little odd, but it's the kind of story that people can write about and discuss after dinner. Drama unfolds in a small village setting as tension grows within a family being pulled apart by the status quo on one side and the need for excitement on the other. The acting was quite good, and I think anyone who likes realistic drama among closely knit people will appreciate this film. Hopefully the final release will have better translation for the subtitles though.
Dias de Santiago
I thought I might enjoy watching Dias de Santiago because it won several awards and was about a young man coming home after serving as a soldier. Well, it certainly contains a powerful story, and Pietro Sibille plays his part very well. But the movie feels very disjointed and does not contain any specific direction. That is done purposely, but it does leave me feeling unsatisfied because at the end of the film, Santiago isn't in any place other than where he started.
Grizzly Man got rave reviews as a documentary, and I certainly think that there is a lot of amazing footage taken by Timothy Treadwell. It is very cool to see him petting a fox or touching the nose of a grizzly bear. But he comes off as a little crazy and a lot of the time is spent talking about Timothy instead of learning about bears. So I found it a bit boring and I didn't really like how many of the interviews seemed to be scripted interactions or performances for the film.
Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi
I picked up a screener of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi from Cartoon Network because they're a pretty popular rock band right now in both Japan and the U.S. They sing the intro song for Teen Titans, and are making appearances at anime conventions in the U.S. The cartoon is typical very young audience fare, with short and simple storylines. Ami and Yumi do make an appearance in person, but it's brief and the cartoon voices are done by voice actors. The cartoon is really just another marketing avenue.
2009: Lost Memories
2009: Lost Memories is a Korean science-fiction movie that moves within a police drama. It's almost perfect, but loses points for: extremely inaccurate police protocols, overacting, scene transitions that belong in soap operas, unrealistic gun fight sequences, and staged drama. It does have an excellent story, great actors, very good audio production, and extremely thought-provoking issues run throughout the story. I also liked the use of natural lighting. What really makes this movie worth it are the ideas revealed, and how they are revealed, in a manner which forces you to appreciate the efforts of people who fought for what they believed in. With a better director, this film would have been perfect.
The 6th Day
The 6th Day is a science fiction film starring Arnold Schwarzenger in much the same was as some of his other science fiction films. And I enjoyed this film just as much as those others. The focus of this one is human cloning, and the ethical issues involved. Appropriately, the movie does not take any side in the debate, but it does provide possibilities for contemplation. And it does this in a very smooth and intelligent manner, while still providing the action movie most people are interested in seeing.
After watching the movie, I found a few Tank Girl comics at a local comic shop and ended up ordering the rest off eBay. While I enjoyed reading the comics, I didn't enjoy it as much as the movie. Which is probably opposite the majority of Tank Girl fans. The comics were just a little too random and inane for my taste. The authors certainly do have a deprecating and cynical mode of criticism that I can appreciate though.
November 25, 2005
The Andromeda Strain
The Andromeda Strain is based on the book of the same name by Michael Crichton. While I really like the book, I wasn't that impressed with this film adaptation. It did stay very close to the original plot, but it was very slow paced and did not keep my attention very well. The acting was not very good, and the director work also not very good in my opinion. The background music and sound effects were also distracting. Perhaps it would have been more entertaining to me had I not already read the book.
Barbarella is clearly a 60's film, as her space ship has a shag interior and there's the constant idea of free love and hedonism. There's a whole lot of imagination to be found in this movie, but the plot reads like a bad adventure story where the heroine asks a question, goes in that direction, gets and item, and repeat. Jane Fonda is pure eye candy without much else going for her. And there are lots of logic holes that you kind of have to ignore. They did put a lot of effort into the sets and special effects though.
Thanksgiving at Spencer's
Spence, who is one of my coworkers at Netflix invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and some other people he knows. There were a total of nine adults and four kids (approx. ages 2 and 4). I bought a big tub of vanilla ice cream because that's what Spence asked me to bring; apparently he didn't really mean a big tub, but just a regular sized carton. It was a pretty good dinner, and we talked about some fun and interesting stuff. I was the youngest adult there; I guess the next youngest was around 30's or mid-30's. Julie, Spence's wife, has dozens of different kitchen and dining items to serve any conceivable need.
Last night Shannon and Yvonne came over to sleep over. Yvonne didn't do much except read. She brought and finished some fantasy book by Mercedes someone, and also The Lost World. She also read my copy of Fight Club. Shannon started reading volume one of Azumanga Daioh.
In the morning, Shannon and I watched Star Wars: Episode III. She hadn't seen it before; Yvonne didn't want to stop reading to watch, even though she hasn't seen it yet. She'll have to watch it some other time. What's interesting is that if you consider President Bush as Emperor Palpatine, the movie takes on a very specific political stance. One which I happen to agree with. We also watched some of the special features, which made Mei-Ling say that she feels bad about watching pirated copies because they do so much work to make the movie.
Shannon went on a hugging rampage with Asuka and Niea. She kept trying to hug them a lot, but was usually holding them wrong so they would wriggle away. Chie kept hiding under the beds, but he did come out last night while I was sleeping, and also again around noon. I took him down so they could pet him, but he got scared and ran away back upstairs to hide inside my bed again.
After we finished watching Star Wars, Shannon and I played some Magic: The Gathering. I beat her with my deck so we swapped, and then she won with my deck. So she started to redo her deck but got annoyed at it because she picked too many cards. She doesn't know how to decide between cards, and always just tries to pick cards that are good without thinking about strategy or cost. That works in simple games like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh but doesn't work in Magic.
While we were doing that, Mei-Ling watched Hero, and Yvonne started to watch with her after she finished reading. Then they left to have Thanksgiving dinner with some people they know.
The Iron Giant
I watched The Iron Giant last night. It's an animated film that received very little publicity, but was done by Brad Bird, who was later hired by Pixar to work on The Incredibles. The Iron Giant is a pretty good animated film. The artwork is a little basic, but it's rich with detail and there is a great story without the typical children's clichés. The jokes are funny and the story is pretty good.
About half-way through watching, Shannon and Yvonne showed up to sleep over. Shannon thinks she has seen the movie before, but she wasn't sure because she couldn't remember right. But she kept trying to tell me what was going to happen next near the end.
November 23, 2005
Cocoon is a science fiction movie from the 80's that I recall knowing about back then but I never actually watched it. It's a pretty decent movie, although the 80's influence on its mood is pretty obvious. So it's not timeless in that manner. The basic plot is pretty interesting and there's some real good subtext you can read into. But I wish there had been much less feel-good type fluff put into the middle of the film. That kind of made the movie lose focus and eat up time that could have been spent exploring the ideas further.
Bush Wanted to Bomb Free Speech
It is being reported that President Bush wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera news offices, but was disuaded by Tony Blair. Al-Jazeera is seen by the administration as hostile to U.S. interests because their reports include content that is damaging to the U.S. Such as photos of killed civilians in Iraq. U.S. news corporations will comply with government requests not to report on certain newsworthy items. The leaked memo detailing Bush's proposal is being withheld at the British government's request.
November is the first month that Pacific Gas & Electric bumps up the baseline quantity by a lot, to match the increase in heating requirements. It also means this is the first month that I can see the benefits of the insulation I had installed earlier this year.
I am using the same thermostat setting as last year. Data from the Weather Underground indicates much warmer daytime temperatures this year. My hot water and central heat is gas-powered. This year I used 1.0 therms/day compared to 3.2 therms/day last year. However, I used 18.6Kwh/day this year compared to 15.6Kwh/day last year. I could probably save more by replacing the front and interior garage doors. My back downstairs windows are okay, even though they weren't replaced when the rest of the windows were, because I have them covered in blackout cloth which prevents a lot of air movement.
November 22, 2005
Jose Padilla Finally Charged
After being held for three years, U.S. Citizen Jose Padilla has finally been charged with conspiring to murder, maim, and kidnap people in countries other than the U.S. Maybe one day I too can look forward to being held in solitary, treated as an enemy combatant (subject to torture), and denied my Constitutional rights until some charges can be discovered. By my own country, which proclaims to be the freest nation on Earth.
I watched Blade II last night. I liked the first one, but the sequel doesn't have as much mythology going for it. Where it delivers instead is in action and special effects. The fight sequences are pretty intense, although I did notice once or twice the stupid thing where baddies hang back to attack one-by-one. And it still doesn't make any sense for Blade to use fists instead of other weapons when he has the chance.
My Sassy Girl
October 6, 1999.
November 21, 2005
Harry Potter Day
I promised Shannon and Yvonne I would take them to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire a while back. Well, Yvonne decided to ditch us and instead went to see it with some of her friends. So only Shannon and I went to see it. We got to the theater about five minutes before showtime because I got off at the wrong exit. It wouldn't have mattered anyway because the line for each showing started forming an hour early. So we went to the next showing and got in line right then.
I liked this Harry Potter film more than the last two. I think this one, and the first one, are the best of the four so far. Shannon liked it more than the previous one also. Unfortunately, Ron was exceptionally annoying and dumb in this movie, and the major players of the previous films had much smaller parts in this one. The latter isn't really a problem, except that it is strange to see previous characters replaced by new ones.
Afterwards, I made a deal with Shannon that she could go buy some Pokémon cards only if she ate good food. Since she never eats well enough on her own. She'd rather eat lots of bread or mashed potatoes or junk food. We went to Sweet Tomatoes and she ate a lot of good stuff, and only a little junk food. They have a really good chicken pot pie stew with biscuits for the entire month of Novemeber. Probably one of their tastiest dishes of all time. One of Shannon's friends from school showed up with her family; there were about twenty people in their dinner party total.
Then we went to Target so she could buy the Pokémon cards. I said she could only get two boosters, even though she wanted four. She also bought her mom's Christmas presents there. I ended up buying copies of Blade 2 and the Dune Miniseries.
When we got back to Shannon's house, Cecilia and Annie came over. They're sleeping over tonight. Yvonne dragged Cecilia into her room for a while, and then they turned into fangirls in front of the computer. Shannon and Annie and I played tag for a bit, then buried each other in the closet using stuffed animals and pillows and blankets. That turned into a pillow fight. We played a 3-way game of Pokémon which Shannon won. Then it was late so I came home.
November 20, 2005
I'm hosting a potluck next month that turned into a Star Trek theme party. So I want to make it as much Star Trek-like as possible. I failed to win any tribbles, tricorders, or phasers off eBay for a reasonable price, and I wasn't able to find any Star Trek items at the mall today. I ended up buying some balloons, paper mache, and furry yarn to make my own tribbles. I'm going to shove them into a cabinet and watch when someone opens it.
I also want to have some sort of costume. I wasn't able to find any uniforms or Vulcan ears or anything like that. I ended up buying some weird RBK (or Reebok) sports clothing that is generic enough that I could pull off a Vger Probe, Binar, or one of those two-color-faced characters that I don't know the name of. Most likely I'll go with Vger Probe, as that doesn't require me to paint my face or wear a strange mask. Technically I should shave my head, but I'll just wear contacts instead.
I didn't realize the clothing was so skintight when I bought them though. So I'll also have to wear the bottom-only bathrobe that I have, over the pants. Still fits the part, although it is white instead of gray. Maybe I can find some gray fabric instead. Might be cheap enough from the fabric store.
I wanted to see Waking Life when I first heard about it. Partially for its unique artistic rendering technique and partially for its subject matter. I also thought it was a film from Ethan Hawke, who is one of my favorite actors. Unfortunately, the subject matter was uninspiring and Ethan Hawke had only a very minor role.
If you're an aspiring philosopher with no ideas of your own, or an amateur philosopher looking for more fluff to pad your public ranting, then you should take a look at this film. If, however, you've already thought about things like this, then there's nothing new for you to find here. In which case, I might recommend playing the movie on mute, with some interesting music of your own as accompaniment.
Silke recommended I watch Hocus Pocus right before halloween. Apparently, since it is a Disney movie and I put it into my Netflix queue around Halloween, I ended up having to wait quite a bit for it to arrive. No loss, because the movie is okay but not great. The plot is kind of formulaic and predictable, but at least it was entertaining to watch. Sarah Jessica Parker does an excellent job acting as a ditz.
November 19, 2005
Raising Victor Vargas
The first time I saw Raising Victor Vargas was when its DVD slip cover caught my attention at a Blockbuster store. I never ended up grabbing it though. The movie is kind of short, and comes up a little lacking in the directorial department. Initially the story seemed a bit stupid, but about half way in, things start to move in a new direction. What this film turns out to be is a lesson in growing up and recognizing people for who they are instead of who you think or want them to be. That this happens to all of the characters involved makes this growth all the more interesting.
While the production values were low, the acting was pretty good. Especially for relatively young and inexperienced actors. I also found it interesting to learn during the ending credits that the majority of actors involved have real names that are partially the same as their character names.
Another tidbit that may be considered interesting, but probably reflects poorly upon director and writer Peter Sollet, is that the same people were used in his previous film Five Feet High and Rising, with the same actors and names, in the same location. A brief look implies that Five Feet High and Rising is actually a prequel to Raising Victor Vargas. And, it is also about growing up as a person. Most likely, as this first film is only 29 minutes long, Raising Victor Vargas is the film Peter Sollet originally wanted to make.
Anyway, that's all conjecture.
Ellen's Birthday Dinner
Ellen had a birthday dinner tonight at Frankie Johnnie & Luigi Too, which is actually only about ten minutes from work. So I went straight after work. A lot of the same people from her last birthday dinner were there, and it was lots of fun. I got her a Hello Kitty pop-up doll house book. She also got a yoga mat, Alias season one, the game Taboo, and some gift cards. Alla and Jeannie's present is on its way. One of her friends baked a delicious three-layer cake.
Afterwards, we thought about coming back to my place to play Taboo, but Karissa didn't want to because it was far. In the end, a few people said they were too tired to play anyway. Even though it was only around 9pm. Instead, Ellen, Rita, and eventually Karissa started badgering me to "dance techno". Alla was supposed to be on my side but instead just gave Karissa instructions. Brian tried to defend me as Ultraman. I eventually gave in and played Puppy from my car.
I accidentally put my finger next to Ellen's head as if flicking her, when she was blowing out the candles and that ended up in the photo. I didn't realize she was blowing out the candles, otherwise I wouldn't have done that. x_x
November 18, 2005
James and the Giant Peach
James and the Giant Peach was directed by Henry Selick, who also directed the excellent The Nightmare Before Christmas. Only the former is based on the book by Roald Dahl, and the latter on was written for the screen by Tim Burton. Unfortunately, James and the Giant Peach just doesn't have anything special in it.
The claymation is quite good, and the audio production was very well done. But the songs were kind of empty and there wasn't a whole lot of appeal. I'm sure younger kids would probably enjoy its style more than I did. My favorite character is Ms. Spider, and I did appreciate the nods towards the previous film, The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Disappearing Colored Bubbles
There's this excellent article in Popular Science about the efforts of Tim Kehoe to create colored bubbles. As in the bubbles you blow out of soapy liquid, but these bubbles are a single bright color. It's like seeing something magical, or special effects from a movie. But in a few years time, I'm sure little kids will always think that colored bubbles are something normal. This is definitely very cool. Check out the video.
Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino's third feature film, and I really liked it. As a suspense crime thriller, this film really delivers with a great plot and excellent director work. The acting is also very good, where everyone seems to be normal, but very unique. There is a lot of characteristic Tarantino as well, with non-linear time sequences, abrupt background music changes, character soundtracks, and tributes to film and other choice icons.
November 17, 2005
The 1984 Apple Commercial
Owen Linzmayer has released a portion of his book, The Mac Bathroom Reader, for public consumption on Curt's Media web site. The excerpt is titled The 1984 Apple Commercial: The Making of a Legend. For those who are unfamiliar with this commercial, it is the most successful and most popular television advertisement of all time, and won dozens of awards.
6ixtynin9, or Ruang talok 69, is I think the first Thai movie I've watched. It's a strange tongue-in-cheek comedy where several people end up getting killed in one woman's apartment because she decided to keep a noodle box of money that was supposed to be left at someone else's apartment door. In a strange series of events, one thing leads to another, with silly twists and silly characters that make it a nice ride. Lalita Panyopas stars as the protagonist and does a pretty good job acting out the part of a woman who is suddenly dumped into an ocean of conspiracy and doesn't really know what to do except tread water.
There are a few things I found a bit off-putting with the film. For some reason, most of the men in the movie sound like women. I don't know why that is, but it seems to be the case for any man who isn't over forty. I also don't really like the sound of Thai vocal music. It is also a little disconcerting to experience Tum's dreams without realizing they are dreams. Although that approach is probably quite fitting and it is definitely effective at putting you in her shoes. Also, dead people shouldn't be breathing, or start bleeding in different locations, or have facial twitches.
November 16, 2005
Soylent Green is a famous science-fiction film starring Charlton Heston, and is actually based on a Harry Harrison. Although perhaps not as recognizable as some other science-fiction writers of the recent past or present tense, he has made significant contributions as a science-fiction writer. Soylent Green is a possible future in an overpopulated world that has suffered from ecological abuse, resulting in famine as natural resources begin to die out.
What I liked about the movie is that it has an interesting plot and an interesting idea. The acting is not particularly good, although Heston seemed less amateurish in this film than some of his earlier ones. Sol Roth, played by Edward G. Robinson, does give a nice performance though. That's probably not surprising given that he had been in dozens and dozens of films before then.
November 15, 2005
U.S. Torture Debate
Newsweek's latest issue has on its cover The Truth about Torture with a photo of Senator John McCain. Everyone should read the title article "The Debate Over Torture" which goes into detail about some of the political changes that have occurred with regards to the treatment of prisoners, detainees, foreign militants, or even random U.S. citizens (i.e. people without rights, according to the current administration).
I am still of the firm belief that you should strive to maintain your own ethical standards and apply them equally without exception. If you must make an exception, then you must also acknowledge this breach and accept the consequences. I would not treat foreigners any less humanely than I would U.S. citizens, as I value each of them equally. The U.S. government should not take such a stance either. It is a decision which I consider unconstitutional and unethical.
Specifically, I imagine the decision makers are not following the golden rule when they exercise their power. I also think it is wrong for the legislative branch to have granted such wide discretion in these matters to the executive branch. Lately, I feel as though the system of checks-and-balances has been compromised in exchange for a system of manuevering so as to accomplish the goals of a single entity.
Alito Seeking a Job
I ran across a quote by President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, Jr. When asked about his written responses to abortion rights in 1985, he replied that his statements were those of "an advocate seeking a job." I think that sounds a little bit like a person who is going to say whatever people want to hear, rather than a person who will say what they really believe in. In other words, a person without integrity. And now he is up for Supreme Court judge, a position that requires nothing if complete integrity.
I watched Practical Magic last night. I found it to be a somewhat run-of-the-mill romance, with the twist of magic being involved. I did enjoy the spookiness a bit, but there isn't a whole lot special about this movie.
Girl Born with External Heart
A baby born in India over the weekend was born with her heart outside of her body, located between her neck and collar bone. A doctor is quoted as saying, "She was holding her heart in her right hand when born.". Unfortunately, the baby's parents are too poor to afford surgery, so although the doctors managed to remove her hand from the heart, she died from an infection.
Bird Killed for Playing Dominos
As a lesson, whenever setting up four million dominos, keep the windows closed to prevent birds from flying in and knocking them down. Likewise, birds take note that if you knock down four million dominos, humans will shoot you dead as you quake in fear trapped in the corner of a room.
Eyes Wide Shut
Many of Stanley Kubrick's films can be hard to watch. A slow moving story and confusing imagery are the norm for his films. But Eyes Wide Shut is a different sort of Kubrick film. There remains a slow texture to the plot, but it is captivating instead of confusing. There's a deep undercurrent of suspense throughout the film. I enjoyed how Kubrick gets the ideas across without making the film weighty or artsy. You can take it as a puzzling film, or you can think about it some more and try to make your own mind up about how you need to approach life. There is also an interesting use of primary color, which I am still pondering over.
November 14, 2005
I knew a little bit about Thirteen from the trailers I saw a while back. I knew I thought it would be an interesting look at the sorts of things young teenagers go through. Probably a little fun to watch, with a story based in truth but dramatized. Turns out I was wrong. This film is a very dark look at the troubled soul of a thirteen-year-old girl who doesn't know who she is or what to do. Inside, she is rotting away, and during the course of this movie, that rotten core is exposed.
At first, because of the scenes shown, I thought this was going to be a sort of typical "watch idiots act like idiots" movie involving teenage boys and girls who get drunk, high, and party without respect for anyone including each other. But the mood quickly changed about a third of the way in when the pain hidden by Tracy is revealed to the audience in her bathroom. Suddenly, you realize there's much more going on beneath the raging waters that you've been seeing on the surface.
Evan Rachel Wood, who plays the part of Tracy, provides an exceptional performance. She is raw, uninhibited, and explodes with emotion and honesty in a way you cannot be prepared for. Excellent performances are also delivered by Nikki Reed, who plays teen conspirator Evie, and Holly Hunter as Melanie, Tracy's mom.
It also turns out that Nikki, who co-wrote the script, based many of the events in the film on things that she experienced herself at that age.
The United States of Leland
The United States of Leland is the story of a teenager who kills the retarded younger brother of his ex-girlfriend, and the at the same time the story of those around him. Unfortunately, I think many viewers will try to find a "why" as Leland puts it. Those that do, however, will be disappointed by the movie and fail to understand that this film is more about accepting that sometimes things happen and there's no acceptable reason for why.
In fact, although the title and focus of the story revolves around the boy Leland, viewers should instead absorb all of the intertwined story-lines together. Understanding and accepting what Leland did comes as much from understanding and accepting what the other characters do. And when asked, there are excuses like, "I'm only human" or "I don't know". But what Leland understands is that sometimes people do things that they know are wrong but they do it anyway. He also knows that happiness and sadness, right and wrong, are fleeting sides of the same coin.
I just got back from the hospital, and after three hours of mostly waiting, the X-rays came back okay and the official diagnosis is foot sprain. I got a special shoe from them, which I am to wear as needed for the next 2-3 weeks. Other than that, nothing special. I guess I messed up the muscles on both the top and bottom of my foot. I wasn't planning to go in to see the doctor, but last night it felt like needles and little bits of fire in my foot. Alla drove me even though she is super busy with work.
Black Pasty Stuff
Mei-Ling took me to see that guy I mentioned earlier. He examined my foot and told me that it swollen with liquid, where there is a bump on the top of my foot. He poked other places on my foot and ankle and rotated my foot around, and it didn't hurt other places. The rotating hurt, of course, but not too bad. Anyway, he gave me some black pasty stuff to make a compress from each night. I'm supposed to put it on at 9:30pm each night and keep it on while I sleep. That should get the swelling down in a few days, and he gave me enough of the stuff for a week. Yuliya is afraid it might be broken, so she told me to go see a doctor if the swelling is still there after a couple of days.
November 13, 2005
My Foot Hurts
I came over last night to visit Shannon and Yvonne, and we went to a plaza near New Park Mall to spend some time looking around a Chinese store. There were a few things I liked, but they were all more expensive than I wanted to pay. We watched the rest of Azumanga Daioh. Shannon thought the ending wasn't good enough; Yvonne thought it wasn't angsty enough. Then we watched Chungking Express. Sometime during the movie, my foot started hurting. It was late and my foot hurt so I slept over. Now my foot feels swollen and hurts a lot.
So Mei-Ling called someone she knows that is supposed to be able to fix these sorts of injuries. Whatever it is, since it just started hurting while I was sitting there. We're going to that guy soon. He is like her grandma's grand-nephew or something. If it doesn't get fixed, then I'll have to stop at Netflix on my way home to get my laptop and probably have to work from home tomorrow.
Gangs of New York
Gangs of New York was critically praised, nominated for dozens of awards, and winner of some of them. But I don't think it deserves nominations other than for costumes and the sets. The acting was decent but not amazing, and the story was unfocused. It's almost certainly a dramatic inaccuracy when it comes to history. Also, I'm not exactly sure how long the movie is, as it spans two discs but is only about three hours long and the copy I received from Netflix had serious playback issues on the first disc. There is a lame attempt at constructing a moral to the story but it is tacked onto the end as an afterthought.
November 12, 2005
Dinner and Movie
Alla IM'ed me tonight while I was still at work to ask if I wanted to go for sushi. She wasn't sure though which restaurant, but I suggested Sushi Factory because I hadn't been there. She told me we'd meet at 7pm, but 7pm came and I couldn't reach her by phone. So I ended up driving around aimlessly for a while. We ended up leaving together from her apartment, with her brother and Paul also. The service at Sushi Factory turned out to be pretty bad. We left a small tip and I could tell the waitress was disappointed. I would rather go to Sato Sushi or Todai next time.
Afterwards, Alla decided she would rather go out to a bar instead of watching a movie. So she stayed home and Paul and I came back to my place to watch a unique movie called Time Code. Instead of displaying a single scene and cutting between them, this movie displays four scenes at once, one in each corner of the screen. The events unfold in real time and the four cameras are following different people who end up all interacting with each other over the course of the day. The movie was improvised based on a loosely defined structure.
I found the approach interesting, but somewhat confusing. It's difficult to keep track of four different scenes at once, especially since at any given point in time, one specific scene is dominant. As a result, it is hard to figure out what's really going on and I think a person probably has to watch it at least twice to absorb all of the events. The acting was very good though, because some very good actors were brought in, and I suspect it is easier to act natural when you're making it all up as you go along. I do wish the earthquakes were better executed sonically though.
November 11, 2005
Wal*Mart is a company that I've refused to purchase from ever since reading The Wal-Mart You Don't Know in the Dec. 2003 issue of Fast Company. Before then, I did frequent Wal*Mart while living in North Carolina. Seems Wal*Mart bashing is becoming more popular, with dozens of labor-related lawsuits and outsourcing as a major concern. In response, Wal*Mart has put up a web site called Wal-Mart Facts and is buying banner ads to publicize it. Definitely worth taking a look at.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Hm. The Importance of Being Earnest only came out a few years ago, but I'd already forgotten that I'd seen it before. I realized about fifteen minutes into watching it tonight, that I was watching something I'd already seen. I think the movie is okay, with a few rare moments of laughter. But it lacks any real spark. And for some reason, Frances O'Connor, Colin Firth, and Reese Witherspoon keep getting cast into these English gentry roles.
The Green Hills of Earth
The Green Hills of Earth is another volume in the Future History series by Robert A. Heinlein. Much like the earlier volume I reviewed, The Man Who Sold The Moon, this is a collection of short stories which depict future possibilities.
November 10, 2005
Infected by XCP
I discovered today that I may in fact have purchased a copy-protected Sony CD. A while back I purchased Susie Suh's debut album. Turns out this is on the list of copy-protected CDs. At least I don't use Windows, so my computer hasn't been compromised.
Blow was a heavily marketed film with an excellent cast of actors and interesting story to tell. The clothes and sets were very authentic. And it's based on a true story as well. Unfortunately, I found it to be slow moving and only interesting for half the time. About an hour in, I checked the clock to see how much longer, and was surprised that it was only halfway through. I guess I really shouldn't watch biographies, as I rarely find them interesting.
Repaired Garage Door
When I came home this past Sunday, I found out that my garage door would no longer open all the way. Turns out one of the high-tension springs had snapped while I was away. Possibly the last time I closed the garage door. It may have been weakened due to the water I was using in that area while using the hole saw on the hushbox acrylic, although that seems unlikely since that was three or four days earlier. Anyway, I bought a replacement spring tonight and the garage door is working perfectly again.
November 9, 2005
The Crying Game
I remember when The Crying Game came out that it caused a stir for the surprise revealed about the girl in the movie. But I never got around to watching it. It wasn't what I was expecting, since I was always of the impression that the twist was revealed at the end. But the movie is much better for incorporating it into the story. I found it both enjoyable and intelligent. Stephen Rae, Jaye Davidson, and also Forest Whitaker give excellent performances.
Immortel (ad vitam) is a dystopian science-fiction film that was beautifully rendered against a CG cityscape. The quality of the CG work is top-rate, excepting the characters. However, because of the Eugenics concept, that may in fact be deliberate, and therefore this does not detract from the film if you accept that idea. Unfortunately, the acting is not particularly good, and while there is an interesting idea to the story, there's nothing special about it.
November 8, 2005
Seom is a Korean film that contains the elements for critical acclaim (as evidenced by its awards) but which I really didn't think was that good. I do believe Jung Suh did an excellent job at acting, which is very important in a film that only has around a hundred words of dialogue. But there's quite a bit I found unexplained, and I think the characters' insanity, while symbolically important, is hard to swallow. Plus the metaphors are executed in a disgusting manner. Now that I've finished watching it, I'm still not sure what the ending was supposed to have revealed. This really is a film for over-analyzing-people.
November 7, 2005
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums is supposed to be a really funny movie. It's got great comedians like Bill Murray and Ben Stiller, plus other great actors. The story is somewhat important and interesting, and the acting performances are great. It's even got a somewhat stylish execution. But I didn't like it. It was kind of boring. It wasn't funny, in my opinion. And I like the kind of comedy that this film was supposed to be.
The King of Masks
The King of Masks, or Bian Lian, is a a 91-minute Chinese feature film about a street performer who is in search of a grandson to whom he can pass on his art. Unfortunately, things go wrong when the boy he purchased turns out to be a girl. And that's where things become really interesting. I ended up liking this movie a whole lot because of the really great story and amazing adventures of this girl. Renying Zhou gives an amazing performance.
The Korea Herald is reporting on an eight-year-old boy named Song Yoo-geun. Interestingly, he has just been accepted into the Physics department of Inha University, after taking tests to pass out of elementary, junior-high, and high school. In other words, he's the world's youngest genius.
This morning, Mei-Ling had some sort of Dalai Lama thing to go to in San Francisco. So I slept over at their place last night and took Shannon to her class in Sunnyvale this morning. Someone from Mei-Ling's workplace named Ruth also slept over because she went with Mei-Ling to the thing in San Francisco. We stayed up kind of late watching Azumanga Daioh, and for some reason Yvonne had music on kind of loud at like 4 in the morning. It woke me up so I knocked on her door and she said, "Go Away" because she was trying to sleep.
I stayed with Shannon during her class, and she is the only girl there with five other boys. Most of them were acting like whiney babies and kept talking and not paying attention. So the teacher kept having to scold them. For the first half I started reading The Green Hills of Earth, but the second half they read some chapters from The Little Prince. So I read along with them. Shannon decided to call me a nerd again because I explained why hubris is different from pride. And the teacher thought I was in high school.
Afterwards we went to Milpitas Square to eat lunch but Shannon was being picky again and kept whining for McFlurries or something. We ended up eating at a Vietnamese restaurant (of course Shannon ate almost nothing), and then looked around in the shops there. I found something for Ellen's birthday gift. When we got back, Shannon worked on her math homework and then we went outside to play hide-and-seek with McKenzie. Yvonne wasn't there because she had Chinese school.
November 6, 2005
Blue Tonic World
Blue Tonic World was one of the top ambient electronic artists on the original MP3.com (before it was bought by one of the major labels and started sucking). Now that I have a decent setup, I wanted to get his music in the original uncompressed form, so I could play it back and enjoy it without compression artifacts. BitBurn was kind enough to allow me to purchase the uncompressed versions on CD from him directly.
There are a few specific tracks which I really enjoy, while the remainder of Blue Tonic World's music is of somewhat average fare when it comes to independent ambient music. I suggest checking out some of his music to find out which of his tracks you would prefer. One of my favorites is Visions of Mother Asia. Unfortunately, he did not have one of my other favorites, River, in the original uncompressed format.
Snatch is a comedic crime thriller by Guy Ritchie, that is supposed to be reminiscent of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Not surprising since both movies are by Guy Ritchie and even share some of the same actors. Unfortunately, sometimes the more chaotic style employed in this movie is a turn-off, and it just isn't as funny.
November 5, 2005
I first saw Battle Royale the movie while a student at UC Berkeley. I never had much draw to read the book, but I recently started buying the manga adaptation, and Yvonne read the book and told me she liked it. So I ended up purchasing the book, and I'm glad I did so. The book is just as good as the movie, but there is more background provided to the primary characters, and more time is spent explaining the reasons behind certain things. In this way, questions are answered and social and political criticisms are presented. For those who are wondering, the book is different than the movie, and the manga more closely follows the book.
I watched Crash last night. It's a very powerful movie, and pulling in only the best actors really produces an excellent film. I've found that the idea of mixing a bunch of random people together, who don't really know each other, but seem to run into each other, is becoming a popular scenario in movies. So that part is not really as interesting to me in this film. But what is good, is how well fear, mistrust, and other negative emotions are brought to the forefront without any apologies. Ultimately, it is each individual's responsibility to do make things change for the better.
Alla, Paul, and Michael came over tonight. We ate some Chinese food (except for Alla, who is on a diet) and we ended up watching Ghost World, which I liked, as did Paul. Alla didn't like it so much because there wasn't a clear point or ending. But she didn't have a better choice, and no one else made any different choices. Since Alla came late, we watched Jack-Jack Attack and also the crazy old-school short of Mr. Incredible, Frozone, and Mr. Dippydoo.
What's interesting about Ghost World is that it's this strange look at the life of one girl who doesn't really know who she is or what she wants to do with her life, and so looks for ways to both amuse herself and find fault in others. But what happens is she starts to understand and accept the differences in other people, without being able to figure out who she is. And when things change in ways that she has no control, she starts to feel lost. In the end, she decides her only option is to escape from it all.
Amazingly, Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch are perfect choices who pull of the look of the original comic perfectly. And they also provide excellent performances.
November 4, 2005
Alaskan Oil Drilling Passed
The Senate passed a bill to allow oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic Wildlife Refuge. And I don't approve of it at all. Some details of the bill indicate why this is a bad decision.
I agree with Maria Cantwell that oil drilling in Alaska won't do much to improve resource availability in the U.S. and certainly not without severe consequences to the environment.
Also, the amendment that will supposedly ensure oil from Alaska is only shipped to the U.S. is stupid. The oil companies can simply export oil from other U.S. locations, instead of oil from Alaska. It's like telling someone that all the money you give them has to be used for food. But they can still use the money they already have for whatever they want.
The Omega Man
The Omega Man is considered a classic science-fiction movie, starring Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, and Rosalind Cash. Unfortunately, I'd have to say it's not a very good movie. The plot is pretty basic, with some serious scientific flaws that even movies in the 1970's should not have made. The acting isn't so great either: melodramatic with superficial emotions. I'm sure the idea of a biological weapon wiping out civilization was appealing at the time, but this movie lacked any real depth of commentary or plot.
Projector Mount Improvements
I finally got around to fixing up the annoyances of my projector mount and hushbox. The mount was causing a problem by being too short to drop the projector below the support beam that cuts across the theater. To fix this, I stuck a 2"x6" between the mount top and the ceiling. It doesn't look great, but I can cover with some black felt to fix that. The other problem was the small rectangular hole in the hushbox acrylic glass. It was too small and blocking some of the light. So I purchased a 5" hole-saw and enlarged the hole, using water again to keep the temperature down. Although I did overdrive the drill motor. I also took the time to level the projector using the mount. The end result is a much nicer picture.
November 3, 2005
Originally, I wasn't much interested in Last Exile. It seemed like an above average action film with not much going for it other than the CG. Well, turns out I was wrong. Last Exile is an epic series that has a lot of character development, world development, pretty good plot, and non-stop edge-of-your-seat excitement. The action is also well planned, without excessive shots or stupid sequences. The CG is pretty good, but still missing a little bit. Plus, the CG is not the absolute latest technology. The only downside I see to the series are the corny lines that pop-up at rare occasions.
The creators of this anime have come up with an interesting mixture of ideas. There are three societies, each with different naming conventions and cultures. There seems to be some German influence in the names, and the combat philosophy stems from the 18th-century British Empire style. The music has a Celtic undertone, and there are a few really good compositions. I do also like the character designs by Range Murata. I should try picking up some of his art books.
November 1, 2005
Supreme Beings of Leisure
The first time I listened to the Supreme Beings of Leisure was when Janet Jones at UNC let me borrow their title album, along with some other nice albums. I'd heard of them before, but listening to them made a real impression on me. I ended up buying the album for Karen as a birthday gift, and just recently purchased my own copy. SBL is a treat to listen to, and they have a very distinctive sound thanks to their singer, Karin. Their music is somewhere between electro-pop and chill-out lounge music.
Sony CD installs Windows Rootkit
Came across this blog entry by one of the SysInternals crew: Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far. Mark Russinovich recently purchased a CD published by Sony that comes with a data session and installs some DRM software on Windows machines. Turns out this DRM software is hides itself from the user by employing rootkit-style tactics. And this software is extremely bad for you to have on your computer, both for what it does, what it uses, and for being poorly implemented.