May 31, 2006
License to Kill
I watched License to Kill not knowing that I'd already seen the ending to it before. I like this James Bond film because it has an interesting plot and pretty good action sequences. Supporting actress Carey Lowell has been one of my favorite Bond girls since I first saw this film, and Q's more active role as a field agent is also memorable.
May 30, 2006
Building a Pushcart
Yesterday Shannon and Yvonne had the day off from school. I also technically had the day off, but I came in to do some work for a few hours anyway. Anyway, Shannon had to build a pushcart for one of her class projects because they just read a book called The Pushcart War. I picked up some balsa wood and carved wheels (made in China) from Michaels and then went over to their house in the afternoon.
It took us a few hours to build the pushcart, but it came out pretty good. I tried to let Shannon do as much as possible, but Yvonne wanted to cut some wood and also liked to use the sandpaper a lot. And Mei-Ling didn't want Shannon to use the saw, even though using a hand saw is safer than using a utility knife. Afterwards, Shannon and I made little paper boxes and bags filled with beads and stickers to put into the cart for her to sell. Shannon kept rejecting other ideas for what to sell.
While I was there, Yvonne got tortured by some guy who was visiting. He kept trying to make her use her MP3 player and then said he would show her how to clean up her hard disk because she has almost no space left. Which of course would have been a tragic thing if he had succeeded in his attempt. Yvonne is doing a lot of schoolwork stuff lately because she's been thinking too much about getting into a college and doesn't think she can get into any good ones. But her levels of failure are, in general, much higher than reality. So she should be fine. Only she needs to figure out what she wants to study.
May 29, 2006
Superficially, Gunslinger Girl is a story about pre-adolescent and adolescent girls who are trained as efficient killers as part of a government special operations team. But if you approach this anime with that mindset, you will be extremely surprised at what this extremely tight and intelligent series really offers. The characters, story, and emotional aspects explored by the writers are some of the best I have ever experienced. What this series is really about are young girls who are trying to understand what life means for them in respect to their father-figure handlers.
You might think it cruel for these girls to have been brain-washed and forced to live in such a controlled and violent environment. But on the surface, all of these young girls were saved from horrible situations and the conditioning serves both to help them forget about what happened to them and to perform their duties more effectively. It might be hard to say whether or not they are better off with their new lives, or if it would have been best to leave them to die or live with their physical and mental scars. I certainly would not wish any young girl to live the way they do, but I think given the choice that this is a better option.
What really drives this series forward are the relationships that each girl has with her handler. Although they are not biologically related, the pair of handler and girl is referred to as a fratello, and their relationship is very much like that of a father and daughter. But as with reality, some girls will suffer tragedy or emotional hurt due to events outside of their control or from how their handler views them. Some handlers look at their cyborgs as tools to be used and nothing more. While others treat their girl as their own daughter. And because the girls and handlers are human, they come with all of the flaws and complexity that you would expect to find in real life. Regardless of if you like how a handler treats his girl, you have to understand that they are a fratello, and the girls would never accept a different handler.
I think that the depth of these characters and the realistic complexity of their relationships would actually provide more than enough detail for a much longer storyline or for greater focus on individual girls. But this series is extremely focused and so there is a great deal to pull out of each episode. The ending is so bittersweet and should really strike a chord within you because you've grown to understand and feel for the girls.
Two things that were really great with this production were the CG and music. The animators made great use of 3-D models and cel shading to create wonderful characters movements that looked absolutely great. It has an energy and fullness to it that you cannot find in traditional hand drawn animation. The music was heavy on the piano and stringed arrangements, partially because the series takes place in Italy, but also because it suits the mood of things very well.
Today Shannon and I went to FanimeCon 2006. I woke up early at 7:40am because I had to go pick up Shannon from her house. Then we came back and got the usual orange juice and bagel sandwiches before taking the VTA light rail from my house up to the San Jose Convention Center. We got there around 10am, and it was actually very quiet. Lots more people showed up around lunch time.
The only thing that really interests either me or Shannon is the dealer room. Finding hard to find items at lower than usual prices (if you shop smart and have a knack for bargaining) to make up for the registration fee is what we're both interested in. The first thing we did is find gifts for the people we wanted to get stuff for. I found a set of Keroro dolls for Luna, some Sailor Moon figures and accessories for Dantam, because I missed her birthday, and a Bleach plushie for Yvonne. Shannon bought some Inuyasha figures for her friends and a Bleach plushie for Yvonne.
Afterwards, we went around and bought stuff for ourselves. Shannon got some Pokémon plushies, and a Yu-Gi-Oh! booster pack. I think she should have bought something else too at least. I found a bunch of good stuff, including Range Murata's Robot Vol. 2, a bunch of Ghost in the Shell figures, some of which I got real cheap because the dealer wanted to unload them, and a really cute Tonberry plushie.
We met up with Alla's brother, Sasha, for a few minutes and his friend Simon shortly before we left. But then came home as soon as we'd finished shopping. Shannon was a little tired from all the walking and standing, and she wanted to visit the kitties and and I wanted to play video games with her.
I challenged her to a two-player battle in Pikmin 2 where I thoroughly stomped her even though I tried to help. She didn't really want to play that anymore. I thought it was fun. So we switched over to The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures which I specifically bought so we could play together. This was lots of fun, and Shannon really liked it too. Although she has trouble defeating enemies efficiently sometimes.
We got to Death Mountain before I had to take her to meet her mom and Yvonne at some place for them to go have dinner with someone they know. Today was a long but really fun day.
May 28, 2006
Surround Acoustical Panels
Several weeks ago I was patching an anime which had the voices sometimes move into one of the surround speakers as a person moved off screen. When this happened, I immediately noticed a problem. It sounded like those people suddenly moved into a completely different, live, room. And so I decided I needed to put some acoustical panels up to tame the surround speaker acoustics. I was able to go back to California Central Insulation and get some IS300 2.5" semi-rigid fiberglass and then some cotton cloth from the fabric store. And then I started to work on building the acoustical panels.
I built a total of eight panels. Four 2'x4' panels for the ceiling, and four 1'x4' panels for the walls near the top of the ceiling where there would be interaction with the speakers. It probably took me about ten or twelve hours to sew the sleeves for the fiberglass and then mount them on the ceiling and walls, but the results have been worth it.
Mounting the panels onto the walls was not too difficult. I threaded some steel wire through the sleeves and then hung them off eyebolts I screwed into the walls near the ceiling. However, mounting the panels onto the ceiling was very difficult. I could not run a screw through the fiberglass, as it would just go through the entire thing and then the panel would drop. I couldn't hang the panel from the ceiling because there was nothing to attach a hook or eyebolt into on the panel.
So I ended up having to get some transparent plastic wire and screwing four hooks per panel into the ceiling. Then ran the transparent wire between the hooks as a support for the panels. To ensure the panels stayed as close to the ceiling as possible (with some air to serve as a trap), I had to pull the wire extremely tight. Needless to say this was very tiring and hard on my hands. Since there was no one to help me, I often had to use my head or back and stand on the furniture to support the panel as I was pulling the wire.
Unfortunately I don't have the disc which originally made me want to do this to test how well that voice would sound now, but so far I've been very pleased with how much better the surround speakers sound. They are slightly less enveloping but I would say in a good way as the sound is more distinct and clear now. It is too bad that my surrounds happen to be bipole speakers (dipole operation possible) which is good for ambient sounds but bad for distinct sounds. The acoustical panels are making the tweeters on the surrounds much less useful. If I have the chance to upgrade my speakers, I will go for direct firing surrounds. Bipole or dipole operation is not as great in my open room anyway.
May 27, 2006
I was driving out this morning when my neighbor told me that my rear passenger tire was flat. So I had to change it to the spare, and then drove to Wheel Works (how come their web site is so bad?) to see if they could patch it. They said they couldn't get to it for a few hours, so I left the tire there and went to work.
Around 4:30pm they hadn't called me back yet, so I gave them a call and asked what was going on. I saw this morning the damage was to the side wall and so I had to buy a new tire. I drove back and bought a new tire but took it home myself so I could save the money and install it myself. They placed the new tire onto my wheel and the mechanic was kind enough to balance it. Once I got home with the replacement tire, I jacked up the car and swapped the spare back out.
May 26, 2006
I watched Octopussy tonight and I was unfortunately a little disappointed by it. While the action sequences were pretty exciting, and probably very advanced for the time, I felt the story was a bit disjointed and maybe too convenient. The way the Russians as a whole and the military officer specifically are pulled into the film was unbelievable. And they could have at least gotten native Russian speakers to play the Russian characters. There were a few laughs, but overall I thought the puns and one-liners were way overdone, and that a lot of the movie was too goofy.
May 25, 2006
Now and Then, Here and There
For some reason, I'd heard of Now and Then, Here and There and decided to watch it. I'm glad I ended up doing so, because it turns out to be an epic but tragic and harsh story. It has intense action, flawed characters that you will really care about, and a dramatic plot. The English dub is okay, but the Japanese voice acting is better. The drawing style is a little on the older style, but it grows on you. And the music is a first class soundtrack, with songs that really enhance the mood without becoming the focus of your attention.
May 24, 2006
Alla got back from her trip to Europe last night. She went there originally to attend Wendy-Ann's wedding but stayed longer to travel around a little bit. She went to Luxemberg and also Prague. So she stopped by tonight and we just talked a bit while eating some sandwiches. I gave her the comb that Luna got her as a gift, and also the slippers I bought her for wearing at my house.
May 22, 2006
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
I just finished playing Metal Gear Solid 2. It was just as good as the first one, although with even more effort going into the gameplay, missions and map design, and storyline. One thing that really impresses me, after going through the game, was how smoothly the combat, sneaking, and activities are handled. Everything felt very natural and continually moving forward. There are no load times, or strange responses that make you wonder why the character just did something when you meant something else. Being able to pull that off is impressive.
The story of this game is much more complex and layered than the previous game. I won't reveal anything and risk spoiling things for people who haven't played the game (although it is old now) but it is a story that is extremely well thought through. The story slowly unravels as you move forward in the game, revealing ideas and motivations that require you to think for yourself about the issues and current events that are going on in your world today.
Some might find it surprising that it is a Japanese game maker that would explore American ideals to such depth, rather than an American game maker. But Hideo Kojima is someone who you can tell really has deep belief in what he does and that it is important to try and make other people think about their lives and the world around them. In many ways the ideas presented are universally applicable, despite being based in New York City and on American ideals. I think, actually, that American publishers would not be willing to distribute a game that might carry such a heavy political and social message.
May 21, 2006
LARP Stone Golem
I just finished Scrapped Princess and it turned out better than I thought. I expected it to be a somewhat silly show geared towards general amusement. But there's actually a lot more to be found in it. The series begins by dropping you into the middle of the action, so it starts out a little confusing, but things are quickly explained in a natural and unhurried way. It turns out that the appearances of the situation are deceiving, and there is a great deal going on underneath the surface that has resulted in this crisis for the three main characters and the people they interact with.
That is one of the good things about this series. The character development is thorough without being forced and not at all stereotypical. It's a serious anime, with just the right amount of light-hearted humor interspersed with a slightly more than necessary amount of emotionally revealing dialogue. But at least they don't spend crazy amounts of time talking or explaining when no one would act that way in real life.
It's also good that there is no filler in this story. Every moment is used to further develop characters and drive the plot in a way that is necessary for the story, but not in a manner that is obviously wasted time to get out another episode. I think the writers really took the time to figure out what should happen, when it should happen, and how much each character needs to be involved in those events. And then they started working on the anime.
May 17, 2006
Xenosaga: Episode II
I just finished Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose and I did enjoy this installment much more than the first. While there are still many flaws, a great deal of the gameplay was improved, and in particular combat was no longer a drag. I also liked the updated character designs and 3-D models, and the more detailed and cleaner environments rendered in full 3-D. The music was done by Yoko Kanno, and so actually much better than the first game in my opinion.
Some people have complained about the combat system in this episode, but I liked it quite a bit, even if I found that magic still played an incredibly minor role due to not being able to chain magic but being able to heavily chain regular attacks. As a result, it is much easier to do significant damage using normal attacks and chaining and attempting to do so with magic is pointless. Having the boost gauge be shared, and allowing up to four combination attacks per character, with chaining depending on boosting and character turns, made things much more strategic and interesting. And being able to switch characters during combat is both important and allows for a more enemy-specific strategy during combat.
Battles still did sometimes have a tendency to become repetitive, but that was less of an issue unless there were exactly two or four combatants involved, as the combat sequence revolves in a four-stage cycle. Double attacks were pretty useless for me, for the same reason as magic. What was interesting is that in the same way you can use boost and chain attacks to take out an enemy very efficiently, the enemies could sometimes (although rarely) do the same to you. The AI doesn't seem to have been made intelligent enough to take advantage of this the same way you can.
A couple of the annoyances that still persist are having to confirm the use of elevators and having character target selection sometimes opposite the controller direction pressed. I don't know why the developers still haven't figured that out. And while the cutscene sequences are shorter than the first episode, there is still a great deal of time spent watching. But the story is still this game's greatest strength, so I didn't mind the cutscenes this time. They were short enough to deal with.
I do think the developers missed out on some great opportunities for mini-games instead of cutscenes. There are several situations where having to press the correct buttons with correct timings, or pilot a ship, could have added to the fun.
I also thought the skill system was extremely flawed. All characters have access to the same set of skills, which technically means you can customize them. But it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to customize them "incorrectly". Yet accessing more powerful skills requires you to unlock less powerful skills in specific sets to get the required amount of class points. As a result, you will often have to learn skills you have absolutely no interest in to access skills you do want. This is wasted class and skill points, and you now have a skill you'll never use. This is not all that different from the first game, except those were all status-based skills, while these skills include magic. So you might have to get Ziggy, a fighter, skills like Medica or Boost +1 when all you're really interested in is Expansion Slot.
Perhaps the most annoying part of the game is the Good Samaritan side-quests. The vast majority of these quests are scavenger hunts involving a lot of back and forth fetching and delivering. This, coupled with the somewhat slow load times and the fact you cannot execute a quest before it gets triggered even if you know what to do, becomes quite annoying.
May 16, 2006
Skype (an eBay company) announced today free SkypeOut to landlines and mobile phones in the US and Canada until the end of 2006. What does this really mean? It means no single U.S. or Canadian person with an Internet connection, dial-up included, has to pay for long-distance phone calls. For the rest of the year. No matter what. Seems eBay's investment is paying off big-time for consumers, and the telcos are going to be hating this because one of their massive cash cows just disappeared.
May 15, 2006
Karen visited me today, and we went out to eat at Mimi's Chinese Kitchen. I still think it's one of the best Chinese restaurants in the area, perhaps because it is a small family-owned and family-run restaurant. Unfortunately, there wasn't as much vegetarian choice for Karen, but they can of course provide custom orders so we were able to get stuff that Karen would eat. Afterwards, we came back to my place and watched Elizabeth. Karen enjoyed the film, and it's probably the fourth time or so that I've watched it.
I really didn't have any idea what Brazil (Terry Gilliam's version) was about, but I'd heard it was a very good and influencial movie, and when I decided to watch it I had thought I might like Terry Gilliam films. The movie is good, but I think what may have been seen as a comedic satire of the growing military-industrial complex and the possible extremes of situation is now unfortunately too close to reality. Rather than being able to laugh and speculate on what's presented in the movie, I felt like it was a realistic satire of the current situation in the United States.
May 14, 2006
Lord of War
Lord of War was an excellent movie. Everything I was hoping it would be, both in terms of the subject matter, the acting, and the plot. The story takes place over the course of a few decades, following the political events that shaped the arms trade that we currently live with. I'm glad the real focus is on the lifestyle and circle of people that an arms dealer has, and not heavily focused on the individual events that occur. That way, this movie really can be about the arms trade, and not about a person who just happens to be an arms dealer.
Nicholas Cage plays his role extremely well, and I think the supporting cast is very good as well. The production values that went into this film are high and I believe attempt to be as authentic to the spirit of the film and the realities of the situation as possible. Locales like war torn Sierra Leone and the post-cold war former Soviet Union states are as commonly the backdrop for this story as New York City. And it is all presented in a very matter-of-fact manner, which both helps provide a more objective view and to be an informative movie.
May 13, 2006
Witch Hunter Robin
I just finished watching Witch Hunter Robin. Stephen watched it when it first came out, and he seemed to like it. It wasn't as appealing to me, but I've been running low on choices so I decided to watch it. And actually, it wasn't that great after all.
In the beginning, each episode sort of stood alone, so there wasn't much continuity pushing it forward. Kind of like single episodes in a TV series. Which isn't necessarily bad, but then things switch completely over and a plot beings. Only the plot moves very slowly, without any reason for doing so, and the events that occurred before seem to have become both inconsequential and they just don't happen anymore. As it turns out, the series only became really interesting for maybe the last three episodes.
I did like most of the drawing though. I thought that was well done. One thing that bugged me in the beginning was the slight mismatch between CG and painted/drawn environments. But eventually things got better. Either I became accustomed to it or they got better at integrating the two.
Picking Up Kitties
I drove up to Fremont to pick up the kitties and turtles from Shannon and Yvonne's house the day I got back from Shanghai. They were all doing okay, and Shannon tells me that all of them were feeling more comfortable, although Chie was still hiding a bit when I arrived. Apparently Niea also ate some of the plants Shannon gave her mom and then threw up. Mei-Ling also put the litter box right next to the water and food again, so litter had been kicked into their water and food.
Before leaving, I stayed around and had dinner with them. I also played some of The Adventures of Willy Beamish with Shannon but it seems we are stuck in save game without enough time left to finish successfully. So we started to play The Island of Dr. Brain. Shannon will only play that when I'm there because she doesn't like games that require thinking. :P
On the way home, all of the cats were pretty unhappy to be in the car. I think Chie peed a bunch in the middle between the two front seats, and maybe on some of the trunk-area fabric. I'm not entirely sure where the pee got other than into the area in the middle console where the parking brake is. At least that was easy to clean once I found out that's where it was. For a few days I was driving around with a urine smell though.
May 10, 2006
Rumor Has It
Rumor Has It is an unique movie. While poking a little fun at the community of Pasadena, California, the story is loosely built around the idea that The Graduate was based on an actual family and actual events. This only serves as the basis of the plot, which is good, because the writers and actors were able to do a lot on top of that. But, this is another one of those movies where what happens is okay for a woman to have done, but switched around it never would have worked. That always ends up bothering me for some reason.
More style than substance. That's unfortunately how I would describe the Aeon Flux movie. Which is too bad since it has a lot of potential given the current political climate and its intelligent premise, as well as featuring the talent of Charlize Theron. Like the animated series, the movie is primarily driven by action. But the plot and mysteries of the world are too easily revealed through narration and simple conversation. The background behind the Monicans is never explored, and some things like re-surfacing memories are never explained.
I did happen to watch this on the flight over to Shanghai, so perhaps I would have enjoyed it more on the big screen with a real sound-system. Because ultimately, it is the action, special effects, and audio production that would have made this movie worth anything. Still, I think the story is very lacking.
The Ringworld Throne
I finished reading The Ringworld Throne on the way to Shanghai. This third book in the Ringworld series is not as interesting, although still enjoyable to read. The focus of this book is more upon the culture and different species of humanoid that have evolved on the Ringworld, rather than as much of the hard science. I think that is partially why this book is not as interesting, as how things have evolved is more arbitrary than anything.
I left this book with Luna, because she said she would like to try reading it. I think some of the vocabulary might be hard for her, and also that there are some words and ideas which are sort of made-up just for the book. But maybe she will enjoy some of it.
May 9, 2006
Two Fish Died
I got home from the airport today to discover that two of my Tiger Barbs had died. Looks like one of them died at least a day ago, and the other one more recent, judging by their decomposition. I had the automatic feeder going, so I'm not really sure why those two fish died. The other five Tiger Barbs are still healthy. It's not that much of a loss, but hopefully the Tiger Barbs will have more babies again.
May 8, 2006
I picked up Lucifer's Hammer before flying out to Shanghai because I knew I would need a book to read on the two flights and maybe sometimes while I was at my dad's apartment. I figured it might be pretty good based on its sales record and having Larry Niven as one of the authors. While it was a page turner, I think it was more of a mainstream scientific thriller than a science-fiction book. A lot of Niven's characteristic hard science was gone, and instead the story is more drama laced with science.
In some ways, this is your typical natural disaster story. The kind you'd see dozens of times in the movies and maybe read about too. However, one thing going for this specific book is the scope of that disaster. Several dozen meteorite strikes of significant size across a large percentage of the Earth's surface means global disaster. Lucifer's Hammer focuses on what happens in Los Angeles and parts of the SF Bay Area.
Two things I found interesting about the story were its cold war influence and period environment. The book was written in 1977, when the cold war was still a news topic and American culture and social order was very different from today. So part of me found reading this book now to be anachronistic, but once I accepted things for how they were presented that problem went away.
I think I would have enjoyed this story more if there was a greater focus on the hard science. Although I'm not really sure how you can do that when you're exploring a known environment. At which point the focus sort of has to be on character and humanity.
Visiting Luna Again
I just got back from my second visit to Luna in Shanghai. I flew out on April 29th and got back today, because the first week of May is a Chinese holiday and she didn't have work, so we could spend a lot of time together. The week went by really fast, and I was sad to leave. Luna's family picked me up at the airport, and I had dinner with them at Pizza Hut because Luna wanted either that or McDonald's. Afterwards, her dad took me back to my dad's place.
One of the things we did was to take a bus trip to her uncle's house, someplace north of Shanghai. The bus trip took around four hours, and including waiting time probably six hour total. I met her uncle's family and we went to a nearby park with his grandchildren to ride paddle boats. I accidentally dropped Luna too hard on the ground and she hurt her knee. We stayed overnight in a nearby hotel, and the next day went to a different park which involved lots of hiking. Some parts of this park were almost too crowded to enjoy. To return, we took a train back. Boarding the train was a little crazy, with everyone pushing to get on even though it is not as if the train will leave until everyone is on anyway.
While in Shanghai, we visited her grandparents, and also the family of one of her cousins. Her cousin has a PlayStation 2, and we played a few games including Naruto: Narutimate Hero 3, Devil May Cry 3, and Shinobi. I wasn't very good at the Naruto game, because I didn't know the controls for any good moves, and Devil May Cry 3 was very boring. Shinobi was a little fun, but not much. It's very much like a 3-D version of the original.
Luna and I watched lots of various things. She wasn't at all interested in Sneakers, but after I finally convinced her to watch Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries, she got into it and wants to watch the rest of the seasons. She originally said she didn't want to watch it anymore because a baby was killed early in the show. We also watched Juon, which really came across as a B-movie to me, but it is a bit creepy. Just very hard to follow because of how it is structured. Luna says it helps to have read the story first. She also really likes Kamen Rider, even though I think it is silly.
Shanghai was extremely crowded, even more so than last time, because of the holiday. Many Chinese tourists were there. In the popular spots, such as The Bund, you could sometimes barely move. The pollution and smoking got to me much more this time, especially when we went to a fancy restaurant and there was so much smoke in the room I started to feel sick. Luna kept taking me outside or to the window to get fresh air. I got a sore throat from all the pollution, I think.
Two special things we did were to get Luna her engagement ring, and to take the wedding photos. We went to a lot of different jewelry stores, probably more than a dozen, although that's not as hard to do as it sounds as a department store will have several jewelry stores on a single floor. After looking at a lot of different styles, we found a signature cut at one of the stores that Luna really liked. It was a decent price, although I still haven't figured out how the discount was calculated and why, and she's happy with it.
For the wedding photos we went to Milan Studios, which Luna says is the best wedding photo studio in Shanghai. It's certainly a big production, and they provided the clothing and makeup, and seem to have purchased a fake building in the park for their photo shoots. I asked Luna not to pick any of the photos that have fake English words in them. The photo shoot took around twelve hours to finish, because there were so many people and not enough photographers and sometimes even not enough clothing (of the right type). Some of the costumes were a little strange to consider for wedding photos, unless you are specifically looking for an older time period, and it was very tiring for Luna. Partly because she had such a hard time following directions for posing.
All of those activities took up most of the week. Saturday and Sunday we finally relaxed. We were both very tired from so much walking around and doing so many things, including time spent shopping for gifts. So these last two days are when we just spent time at home watching things and resting.
Cheaper by the Dozen 2
On the flight back to San Francisco, I got a chance to watch Cheaper by the Dozen 2, although I haven't seen the first movie. What I did like about this film was Steve Martin, but that's about it. The story is predictable and simple, and the events nothing new to see. So while I can't recommend this movie as a comedy, it wasn't bad and I could appreciate the humor for what it was.
Luna and I wanted to watch a movie while I was visiting. Instead of going to the Peace Cinema at Raffles City, which is new and tends to show the newer blockbuster releases, we went to a different, smaller cinema which seemed to have been recently renovated, and saw Eight Below. This movie claims to be inspired by a true story, but I would consider that a lie. There also weren't any English subtitles, but that's okay because dogs don't talk and it was extremely easy to figure out what people were saying since the dialogue was so simple and predictable.
I consider the idea of this movie being based on a true story to be a lie because from what I can tell, the only thing based on a true story is the idea of Antarctic scientists/explorers getting beaten up by the elements and having sled dogs. I don't think any significant sequence of events that occurred in the storyline of the movie has any relation to a sequence of events that took place in reality.
I also didn't really like how personalities were given to each of the dogs by having them act certain ways on command and the use of camera angles and sound effects (dog noises). I suppose giving the dogs personalities is essential to the film, because the story is in large part about how the dogs survive on their own for so long. But their personalities were too artificial for me.
While I don't think the length of time the dogs are left down to survive, without water, is realistic at all, I do think this is a decent "Disney" movie and can be enjoyed in that respect. I just don't have much interest in that sort of movie these days.
May 1, 2006
I had heard that Fantastic Four (what happened to the "The"? guess I was remembering the old issues) wasn't that great a superhero movie. I got a chance to watch it on the flight over to Shanghai, and yeah, it isn't that great a superhero movie.
The plot is very simple and the sequence of events and character development formulaic. There isn't a whole lot of villiany, even though the villian (not necessarily a person) should be what drives a superhero story forward. Instead, it's like a huge chunk of the movie is used to "create" the Fantastic Four, and then they just fight a bad guy at the end.
The acting also wasn't very interesting. A lot of the behavior, dialogue, and body language seemed canned. You can't get a whole lot of human expression out of Thing, but the rest really did look a lot like something from the silver age of comic books.