Saturday, December 08, 2012

While You Were Sleeping: The Funny, Quirky Holiday Classic

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman,
Category: Romantic Comedy
(Update: The BluRay release date is finally set for January 15, 2013.)
For some reason, I can't stop grinning watching this movie. It is probably one of the best romantic comedy movies of all time. Even after all these years, it still puts a smile on my face. 
It's also a great holiday movie. Lucy is a Chicago Transit Authority ticket / token both operator who has a secret crush on one of her regulars. When he falls on the train tracks on Christmas day, she jumps on the tracks to save him. What ensues is a case of bad hearing / mistaken identity at the hospital that brings her into the Callaghan family. Peter Callaghan, the guy she was crushing on, is in a coma and the family channels their attention to her. Which is something that Lucy is longing for because she has no family to speak of. Confusion and commotion follow when she tries to right her wrongs and start falling for Peter's brother Jack. 
What makes the movies work is Sandra. Sandra's Lucy sweet, nice but slightly quirky, the perfect (slightly damaged) girl-next-door. She can make frumpy work because her personality (and that smile) shines through whatever her wardrobe is. Her comedic timing is pitch perfect and she seems not too concerned about how silly she looks. Her acting was really convincing. She even makes Bill Pullman look better than he does in most of his other movies. 
Lucy's building owner and his son.
The other big part of the movie is everybody else. There is not one wasted actor in the movie. Seems like no line is too small. The movie is filled with interesting characters, from Lucy's neighbors, the Callaghans, Lucy's boss and even the doorman at Peter's apartment. Played by both seasoned and up and coming actors, they bring real life to their characters. Most of my friends can point out characters that they can relate to or have relations with. Peter's elderly doctor in the emergency room? That's none other than Richard Cusack, father of Joan and John Cusack. The acting felt real and the movie felt real because the people in them wore and did what you and I would normally be doing in the holiday season. Their problems are totally relate-able
Tying the movies together was a simple story that was well executed on a lot of levels. The introduction set the tone of the movie by having the right balance of romanticism and self-deprecation. Yet it tells of Lucy's heartbreak and special relationship she had with her father that later we learn led her to the where she is in her life.
Peppered throughout the movie are small interesting moments that tell their own rich stories but don't take anything away from the main story itself. Take Jack's new vocation and how it will affect his relationship with his father Ox. In two scenes, it tells the complicated story of a son torn between the past, responsibilities and his future. Then there are the slippery ice clues. Watch how many people slip on ice in the movie. I didn't figure this out for years after I first saw the movie. I thought it was just a mean trick played on the guy delivering the paper.   
Cinematography presents Chicago as the other star of the movie. Beautiful vistas and wide shots of the town is normal when you are trying to sell that the story is taking place in Chicago. But it's also shot on location so there are great scenes shot at both iconic and not-so-famous locations that are recognizable to the Chicago native immediately. Having the CTA play a role also helps. The external scenes were really great. I could almost feel the cold as Lucy sat outside on the stoop.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Honest Trailers: The revenge against Movie Trailers

Regular readers will know how much I hate trailers. They are some sort of necessary evil of which there is no cure... until now. The folks at screen junkies have come out with the perfect solution to trailers: Honest Trailers. Hilariously funny and giving away all the secrets it's both ironic and sarcastic at the same time. If haven't watched any of the movies that has undergone the Honest Trailer treatment, don't watch them yet. Who know, you may actually like Twilight.

There are currently about 11 trailers up at the Honest Trailer YouTube page. Tell your friends about them and maybe they'll make more. The best part is, they take requests.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Sherlock vs Elementary: Two TV shows take on the modern Sherlock Holmes

Starring: Benedict CumberbatchMartin Freeman

Starring: Johnny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Adian Quinn

Category: Mystery, Drama

When Sherlock came out, I was blown away. I had no expectation whatsoever. First, the movies studios have expanded and shaped the Sherlock Holmes stories to suit their own mold and the result is that many people who are aware of Sherlock Holmes have the movie images and stories in their minds. This sometimes is not true to the books. Second, there have also been too many interpretations of the Sherlock Holmes series that have tried to be different but end up no where near and often incomprehensible. I'm looking at you The Return of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes Returns.
You have to go back to the original stories to appreciate Holmes entirely. His character was often less pleasant and manners more rough than the movies often show. This was acknowledged by Dr, Watson who serves as the narrator in almost all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Most of the movies characters come across as polite but slightly eccentric Englishman. Did you know that the hat that is famously associates with Sherlock Holmes, the deerstalker hat, was never mentioned in any of the stories directly? He also never wore them often or in the city. It is his unique character in the stories, alongside his brilliant powers of deduction, that made him so appealing. In fact, Dr. House from the TV series House was noted for his similarities with the Sherlock Holmes in that they both use methods of deduction and logic, apply the knowledge of science and being sort of out of the mainstream social behavior. I consider Dr. House a worthy successor to Holmes but with the medical knowledge (and responsibilities) of Dr. Watson.
After watching Sherlock, the BBC version, I felt like giving it a standing ovation. The BBC series captures both of the characters wonderfully. The series not only captures the essence of Holmes, especially his idiosyncrasies, but manages to transport the character and intellect intact into the modern world. He is not easy to get along with as he is a driven, logical and focused individual. Like other geniuses, he worldview is different than most and that makes it harder for others to understand. What they see as something surprising and unexpected, Holmes sees as mundane and predictable.
And this is not just any modern world but modern-day London with it's character and personality intact. If this were an American production, you would have gotten cliches by the truckload. But since this is the BBC, London itself is a character, the more dank and dark one that Holmes inhabits.
The deep character links to the original books extend to Dr. Watson. While Dr. Watson severs as the narrator in many of the Sherlock Holmes books, there are some details as to who he was before he met Holmes. I found it especially delightful that they managed to incorporate and update his experience in Afghanistan. The original Dr. Watson was in the Anglo-Afghan war while the modern Dr. Watson also served in the modern day war on terror in Afghanistan. Both left the war with scars.
The storylines bear some resemblance to the original but appropriately updated and expanded. The pace is unsettling as it speeds up and slows down on a dime yet looses none of the drama that it tries to invoke. I thought I would be offended with the expansion of several of the minor characters but I wasn't. They were done with a purpose and properly fleshed out to add to the mystery but not enough to distract or bore.
Elementary, on the other hand is a mixed bag. I first wanted to write this off as another American TV series literally stealing from their British counterparts (you would be surprised how many popular shows are just copycats). But again I was surprised. I would like to say that Johnny Lee Miller was taking cues from Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Holmes but he could have easily been sourcing from the source material. It's easy enough to point to other TV characters and draw parallels. But you have to remember that almost every cop show where some thinking is required to solve crime owes something to the Sherlock Holmes stories (sorry, Walker Texas Ranger and Fall Guy). And every anti-hero, anti-social detective character has their roots to Sherlock Holmes. So the question of who is copy whom should never arise. Finally, Adian Quinn, playing the Lestrade role, makes a good bridge between Holmes's existence and the law. I hope he has more to do and his character further expands.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

From the Google Plus Stream: Humor of all kinds

Did you know that MyWatchlist has a Google Plus page? It's where I quickly share links or other posts related to what I am watching. Sometimes there is a link to videos,too. There is also a Wandering YouTube G+ page which is dedicated to what I find on YouTube. If you are into watching YouTube a lot, this will point to some videos I found or watching that may be not so mainstream. Just subscribe to the MyWatchlist Google Plus by clicking the G+ button on the side of this site.
These are some of the posts on my G+ stream that I found downright hilarious.

50 Shades of Hey. A play on the famous book of the similar name. Either the video is a examples of the various usage of the word "hey" or an indictment of how overused the word "hey" has become.

A follow-up to the post on the funny YouTube videos of Birdbox Studio. It's a series ads that they made for vodka company.  The post shows how 3 cowboys settle on how to enjoy their drinks. The video will the show other ads made at the end of the video. Click on those to see more. Some are ok but some are really funny.

And finally some reality-based humor. It's either a bizarre sense of entitlement or rugged individualism running amok in all the wrong directions. Either way, it's hilarious when a someone call 9-11 to complain about a fast-food joint's new menu. The complaint is that it's healthier and the person wants the old menu back. Funnier when animated.

Friday, September 28, 2012

WDTV Problem Averted

As you may know, I love my WDTV. While not the most functional nor flashiest of the streaming set top boxes, it does what it does for me very well. Well enough that my 4 year-old is now able to select what he wants to watch from a list by himself. If that isn't a testimony of ease-of-use, I don't know what is.
I had two surprises recently with the WDTV box. The first was when I restarted it. Well, I accidentally pushed the power button to turn it off. When it came back up, it asked me whether I wanted to update the firmware. Now that was a pleasant surprise. The WDTV's warranty was over as it has been over a year. So to see a new update being offered was nice. Restores my faith a bit in companies that stand behind their good products in our increasingly disposable world. I reckon they wanted to update codec and probably get rid of the MediaFly option in the Internet section. However, I really wanted to watch something so I said no, knowing that I could do it manually at a later date.
Some days later I decided to update the WDTV's firmware. But this time, when I tried doing it manually, it said that it didn't find any updated firmware. I was upset and thought there was something wrong with the WDTV box. Worse still was the thought that whatever was wrong with it, required the new firmware to fix it.
I checked WD's website and found that a newer firmware was listed as being available. So that meant there was something else that was happening. But on some pages, it listed that my current firmware was the most updated version. I was confused. Since Western Digital does make several variants of the box for different reasons, I reckon that I had just looked at it wrong. So I went back to the page where the newer firmware was listed and downloaded it. I read up on how to do a manual update. But every where there was a description of how to do it, there was a strong suggestion to do it automatically.
How can I do what's right with so many conflicting messages?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Belting Your Heart Out on YouTube

Starring: You
Category: YouTube
I don't understand why but I actually like listening to karaoke. Good karaoke that is. Probably because I appreciate live music. With karaoke, of course, it's the singing that's live. The singers try to follow the stylings of the original song. That makes it familiar. Then there are singers who try something different. That makes it fun. Some of these efforts work out, some fall flat. Finally, you stumble upon talent. 
And there are tons of karaoke on YouTube. The more popular ones are those that graduate into live performance and become YouTube stars. Check out this playlist of live music on YouTube. I made it over a year ago and most if it is Boyce Avenue but check out also whom they are collaborating with. It's been a blast to watch the growth from posting up karaoke clip, to singing on YouTube to these full blown music video production by first-time artists. 
Which brings me back to something I first saw just over 4 years ago. 
I love this guy's rendition of Second Chance by .38 Special. For a time, it was the only version I could listen on YouTube because the video of the group's version were being brought down due to copyright problems. I have to say, the guy has both talent and passion for singing this song. I really, really, hope the song doesn't have any connection to him :) ! Listen to it to end and catch the comments buy the other patrons nearby. Funny and inspiring at the same time.

Leave a comment at the YouTube page. He'll appreciate it.
Now, some of those people that were belting it out on YouTube or their local karaoke bars have now a new outlet for their talent: Reality Singing Shows. You name it, American Idol, X Factor, the Voice. That is what they are, an opportunity for these singers-at heart to sing in front of a larger audience.

That is what they are, an opportunity for these singers-at heart to sing in front of a larger audience.

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Google+ Pages Updates

Scan here to get the
MyWatchList Google
Currents Edition
This site has had a Google Plus page for ages. But it ended primarily for stuff that I found on YouTube. So it was called Wandering YouTube. I've had some good feedback on it and continue to add stuff. But the G+ page was named MyWatchList like this site. So it got some people confused that I was just reviewing YouTube videos.
So to clear the confusion, this site now has 2 Google Plus pages (sort of). There is a new WanderingYouTube G+ page. Stuff that I find interesting on YouTube will be posted there.  The MyWatchList G+ page remains. It'll be for all of MyWatchList stuff, including Wandering YouTube. Wandering YouTube posts will appear in the MyWatchList G+ page so you don't have to subscribe to both. The Wandering YouTube section on the  MyWatchList on Google Currents will be updated accordingly.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises above all other comic book movies

Category: Action 
How much are we willing to pay for peace? In many places in the world, peace is often at the cost of freedom. Because freedom, while desirable, can be an agent for instability. And peace, while appreciated, can really mask instability. Those are two of the many themes of the final installment of Chistopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.
The movie begins a number of years after the events of The Dark Knight. Although Gotham is peaceful and prosperous, Commissioner Gordon carries the weight of guilt on his shoulders. Guilty in perpetrating the lie of Harvey Dent's death and in the vilification of it's true hero, Batman. Moreover, the result of this lie is a tough law called the Dent Act which reduces Gotham's criminal elements to a bare minimum. It makes his job easier but Gordon is driven by the ghosts of the lie, never letting down his guard and going about with a sense that he will pay for his sins. For everybody else, prosperity reigns most and people go about their lives blissfully unaware.
Bruce Wayne also carries a heavy burden. He feels guilty for the death of childhood love Rachel and his choice of putting what was right before his personal feelings. He feels that his chance for happiness is gone, having not only lost a friend but someone whom he could have shared both of his lives with. He is also a broken man, the scars of his battle with the Joker taking it's toll on his body and spirit.
From seemingly out of nowhere comes the villain Bane. He has an agenda for Gotham, an agenda that seems to have no source or background. Although it appears to be that he is some sort of mercenary, it's quite clear  that he is his own boss. Bane is ruthless and without mercy.
Bruce Wayne's shuttered existence is interrupted when his safe if broken into and his mother's pearl necklace is stolen by Selina Kyle, a master thief. He finds himself impressed by her skills and intrigued by her motivations. Selina's actions inadvertently leads to Gordon being taken by Bane. He is saved by Officer John Blake, who goes against his superior's orders to save him. This and Bane's actions, forces Wayne to bring Batman back.
Blane's trail leads Batman/Wayne back to Selina. He sees a kindred spirit in her, someone who also wishes to leave everything behind, as he had done when he left Gotham. He tries to reach out to her but she is too jaded with the world. Nonetheless, she helps him and Batman with their efforts to thwart Bane.
In the meantime, Wayne faces problems at Wayne Enterprises. A business rival, John Dagget, is trying to gain control over Wayne Enterprises. Helping him to defend his empire is fellow board member Miranda Tate. Alfred, in despair over what he sees is the return of the self-destructive drive of Wayne behind Batman, reveals a dark secret he has been keeping from Wayne which leads to a confrontation between them.
All that and the movie is barely a third of the way through! This three hour long movie provides a huge amount of entertainment value. It makes time pass quickly whether you are a Batman fan or not. Even if you haven't seen the first two movies (and I know there are four of you out there), you can come in an enjoy the movie as just an out-and-out action movie.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sucker Punch Explained

This was a single article which got split into two. This is the spoilers section. The review of the movie Sucker Punch is here.
By the truck loads. There is no way to explain how to see the movie Sucker Punch without giving it away entirely. Which makes it hard for word of mouth promotion or any promotion at all. So you end up with the focus on the action and the girls.
The best way to understand the movie is to accept that what you have seen most through the movie was the imagination of Baby Doll on two levels. This is like the Kaiser Sozey myth of the Usual Suspects. Whatever you watched, you saw, never really happened. Or happened in a different way.
In the beginning of the movie, as Baby-Doll was being brought into the asylum, she saw the elements she needed to escape. She knew she only 5 days to escape and went about getting those items quickly. She was also befriended other girls who were with her on the scheme. The asylum was run on the inside by the orderlies led by the orderly called Blue in the movie. The escape plan went wrong and the girls were hurt badly but in the end, Baby-Doll realized she had to sacrifice herself so that Sweet Pea could manage to escape. As she was about to be lobotomized, she imagines a dream world. In this world, she replaced the asylum with a brothel. Baby-Doll probably had been able to build dream worlds to replace reality during the times she was molested by her father. This is what she did and what we saw during the brothel sections of the movie was a mix of her reality in the asylum and her imagining it as a brothel. This was her final escape before being lobotomized. You could see the world of the asylum crept in her dream world like the visions of the kitchen, the dorm and the grimy hallways. Whatever was replaced by the brothel imagery (of lights and stages and costumes) were probably pushed out by Baby-Doll from her mind. When she began dancing and entering her dream sequences, she was basically replacing her experience of stealing the items with her fantastic imaginary worlds, only keeping the memory of the excitement and the rush of adrenalin pumping through her. So like a Russian doll, the movie begins with the real-world (asylum), goes into the dream world (brothel) with the imaginary worlds (action scenes) at the center. The movie re-enters the dream brothel world and ends in the real world.
The title of the movie is spot on. Even at the most basic level, the ending will leave you wondering whose story is the movie really about. Despite of what the movie narration alludes to, it is still Baby-Doll's story. Since Baby-Doll goes catatonic, she never really sees Sweet Pea get on a bus. That probably is part of her dream world, too. The return of the wise man, is probably an indication that the vision we see is hers, justifying her sacrifice in exchange for Sweet Pea's escape.
Although the structure of the story seems unique, it has been done before but better. In comparison, the sucker punch was truly delivered by the Sixth Sense.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sketchy Animated Hilarity (or Funny Cartoons for the rest of us)

YouTube has brought a renaissance of short animated clips. I am not talking about the shorts like Pixar's great shorts that run before their movies. I am not talking about clips that used to be made by some studios on the side and later find themselves as bonus material on DVDs. Not those same short that later find themselves on the Internet being forwarded through millions of clogged dial-up links before reaching overstuffed e-mail in-boxes and becoming the source of headaches for numerous IT admins everywhere. While these later found the safe haven of YouTube, some do find themselves removed by their studio creators.
I am talking about really short animated clips that could have been done on a budget small enough for a month lunches but with a personality and a sense of wit worthy of notable authors. Well, now YouTube has moved beyond a place of refuge to a place where these clips debut or even live beyond their initial run.
A recentcomer is Birdbox Studios, a outfit in London who noble goal is to create short movies that are "talked about, remembered and enjoyed by everyone." Their first work I came across is this

The hilarity of the situation appealed to everybody and I found it popular to whomever I played it too. I didn't give it much thought until I came across their other works which were differently drawn but contained the same style of wit and flair for the impossible. Then came their best piece of work yet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Watch an IOS jailbreak done properly

How do you jailbreak IOS devices like your iPhone or iPad? Fed up with the useless Android applications installed on your Samsung Galaxy phone but cannot be removed? Well, you need to root your Android phone to remove it. What if you want to try the latest Android OS but your phone's manufacturer does not want to support the latest version?
The TWiT.TV network's new show, Know How, helps users perform various tasks that seem difficult at first but it is actually easy. Ayaz Akhtar and Leo Laporte each week choose a task that at first seems a little complicated. But armed with some reference and information easily available on-line, they demonstrate how to do it right live on-screen.

This time around they show an easy way to jailbreak an IOS device with Ayaz's iPod Touch. After that, they root Leo's Kindle Fire. Both methods provide the owner with more functionality than the original device settings. For example, iPad and iPhones that have been jailbroken can use third-party apps. This may seem strange at first but there are other app markets for IOS devices other than iTunes. Also, this is the only way you can run a custom app that has not been vetted by Apple. An Android device that has been rooted will be able to do things that wasn't possible before, like delete apps that were previously not erasable. With more effort, and provided you can find the right ROM that supports your device, you can try out the latest version of Android.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Underworld Awakening: reboot or remix?

In an effort to recover from the last Underworld movie, the producers decided to do a reboot of sorts with Underworld: Awakening. They decided to change the world that it is set in to a time in the near future. Good choice because the last Underworld movie which was set in the past, didn't quite work out. But isn't it the same decision on but in a different way?
This time around they brought back the husband and wife team of Kate Beckinsale and Len Wiseman (in a producer's role). The story goes that the humans have discovered the war between the Vampires on one side and Lycans and werewolves on the other. They have also discovered that both of the races are the result of a virus. This becomes the motivation for their course of action. Vampires, Lycans and werewolves are hunted as infected animals, to be culled. The effort is successful as the Lycans are believed to be extinct while what is left of the werewolves are running wild like packs of dogs. The Vampires are driven into hiding as the humans go door to door in search of Vampire, Lycan and werewolf.
When am I not holding a gun in this movie?
However, the Selene, the Death Dealer and heroine of first two Underworld movies, was not killed but cryogenically frozen. She is freed and with the help another vampire, David, she finds out that she is connected to Eve, another escapee from Antigen, the company that had been holding her captive. David brings here to what remains of the Vampires and they are set upon the Lycans who seem to want Eve for their own purposes. In the battle, she encounters a werewolf that is immune to silver. Selene learns and accepts the truth about Eve and sets about freeing her from the Lycans, which mysteriously brings her back to Antigen.
That is about more than 50% of the plot. Despite what people have written elsewhere, there is a lot of plot in Underworld Awakening. Unfortunately, a lot of it gets explained to the audience rather than being discovered or allowed to unfold. In fact, of the important plot points, all that is left as a surprise is a key revelation that may come as a real surprise to some (check out the spoiler parts below for more).
The mythology of the world remains largely intact. Although some question as to what is the point to cyrogenically freezing Selene as she is immortal anyway, I think it is more a way to imprison her than anything else.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Suck: A Funny Vampire movie that doesn't

Starring: Rob Stefaniuk, Jessica Paré, Malcolm McDowell
Category: Horror, Comedy

What do you do when you are part of a struggling band that's competing with other similarly struggling bands for attention from the record companies? You're playing one night gigs in dives and bars that aren't paying you anything because they know how desperate you are to attract attention. Well, you will do anything to outdo the other bands. Use any advantage you have in the search of fame and the fortune that supposedly comes with it.
Suck is the story of one such band. They are pursuing the rock and roll dream and seem to be getting nowhere. They play in places they think record executives will be in the hopes of "being discovered". Their luck changes when their bassist, Jennifer, is bitten and becomes a vampire. At first, she accidentally eliminates a competing band. This works to their advantage. She then ropes in her band-mates, one by one, to help her cover her feeding frenzies. They help her dispose of the bodies of the other bands that she fed on. As the competition begin thinning, they seems to be getting more fans and start becoming more famous. However, a vampire hunter is also hot on their trail.
The movie came out more or less after Twilight. Some would be tempted to say it's an antidote for that movie, an example of what a real vampire movie with "real vampires" should be. I wouldn't go so far. The vampires in this movie do follow the accepted vampire conventions. However, horror isn't what the movie is about.
And it shouldn't be confused with Vampires Suck, the Twilight parody. The movie is a comedy but it's a black comedy. If you are expecting laugh-out-loud moments, you'd be disappointed. Much like you would if you watched Vampires Suck. If you are laughing-out-loud in either movie, you could be just high on something...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Roosterteeth + Trials Evolution Multiplayer = Mayhem + Comedy

Warning: Possible Not Safe for Work. 
Maybe with headphones, you could get away with it.
Trials Evolution is video game for the Xbox 360. It is a motocross racing game set in a variety of tracks. The game is played from a third person perspective and is really fun to watch. The variety of tracks is tremendous and the developers have released a track editor that is so flexible, players have made other games like a Missile Command and a third person shooter. Although they are several intros and trailers to the game, I like this from RoosterTeeth because it gets directly to the gameplay and the game itself. Most others are just loud for being loud's sake and have intros of their own that take up almost half the time of the video. 

It also has multi-player and the guys at RoosterTeeth take a crack at it. The result is possibly the funniest video by the guys at RoosterTeeth. Just a bunch of guys having fun. It's like you are a friend in the same room watching. Obscenities abound. 

A friend of mine laughed so hard, he had to leave and ask for the link to watch later. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Adjustment Bureau: Adjust What You Think This Movie is About

Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp
Category: Romantic Thriller
A really simple question with a big answer. How far would you go for the one you love? We have loved many people in our life. Whatever you may say, the love ebbs and flows over time. But what if you were given a glimpse of what might be, taste what it would feel like but ultimately denied it by forces you have never known before? How far would you go to have it back, to have that love back?
The Adjustment Bureau tells the story of shadowy organization that enforces "the plan". The plan is a document that is designed to keep humanity intact. The Adjustment Bureau ensures that it is followed by intervening in people's lives, either nudging them towards choices or triggering events that force a decision to be made in a certain way. In extreme cases, the Bureau intervenes directly and changes people's memories or thoughts so that they would act or do things "according to plan". The bureau has been around for a very long time. They may have great powers but seem to be as fallible as anybody else.
David Norris, who is running for a seat on the US Senate, finds himself at odds with the Bureau when he tried to start a relationship with Elise. He first meets her just before giving his concession speech after losing the Senate seat election. She inspires him to write a speech that makes him a favorite to win in the next election. However, she leaves quickly  because she was being chased by the hotel security.
An Adjustment Bureau agent, Harry Mitchell, fails to spill coffee on David one morning. This causes him to make the bus and meet Elise again. They make a connection and she gives him her phone number. The Adjustment Bureau realizes that this has changed the course of future events and goes about forcefully re-aligning events and people so that it will follow the plan. David discovers them but is only stopped. Instead of having his memory changed like the people around him, he is told about the Bureau and warned not to contact or find Elise again. The phone number is confiscated and destroyed.
The rest of the movie is about an elaborate cat and mouse game between the David, and later Elise, with the Adjustment Bureau. It is explained why the bureau does what it does and give hints as to why David is special. David on the other hand refuses to give up on Elise and goes to great lengths to find her and be with her. At every turn, the Adjustment Bureau is waiting and thwarts their attempts, finally bringing in a specialist.
The movie is the story of one man's devotion and his unwillingness to accept what is given to him. He wants something that he sees as something better and make sacrifices to get it. In this case, the love of a woman whom he is attracted to. His attraction to her is more cerebral as she is from a different background than him and has a different outlook on life. He finds her refreshing because she is not impressed by what he does but rather who he is. David Norris realizes that Elise brings out the best in him and the best parts he never realized was there. For that, he was willing to risk every thing.

Friday, June 22, 2012

DayZ and Walking with the Dead

Category: Game

Why just watch a zombie movie when you can experience it yourself? The cool guys at RoosterTeeth reviewed DayZ, a mod for ArmA 2 for the PC. It creates a world in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse with a high degree of realism. In this world, the player and other survivors have to .... survive. The other players are all other players on the same server. Non-player characters are zombies of several kinds. This is not a game where you shoot anything that moves. In fact, you should really think about how not to shoot because the noise attracts zombies. And you should worry about dying because there is no respawning. You come back as someone else and whatever you had is gone. So basicaly, re-living the world of The Walking Dead. In this clip, Burnie from RoosterTeeth provides a comprehensive introduction to the game/world.

There are so many cool feature is this game which takes it to the next level. Health management effects gameplay and game experience directly. If you are shot and bleeding, your character is shaking. And when you are shaking, you can't shoot straight. You have to bandage yourself and take something to calm your nerves down. Worse is that resource management is critical as provisions are few. You may not have that injection, only bandages.
One of the unique aspects of this game is taking action (or not) living with the consequences. Since players cannot re-spawn and dying means starting fresh, the approach to gameplay changes significantly. The game world is huge, slightly over 100 square miles and the main transportation is your own two feet. What strikes me is how just walking in the game resembles the posters for the Walking Dead TV series. It is not uncommon to walk around and find the remains of other players. Remember to loot. 
There are problems. Mostly communications. Communications is limited at the moment because players are not individually recognizable. There are no identifiers on the players nor and there is a limited way you change how you look. Communication within a game server covers all the players so you can basically see other people talking to each other even though you cannot see them. Nor can you be sure the person you are chatting with is actually the person in front of you.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Prometheus Review: Prometheus Delivers Something Else

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace
Category: Sci-fi Action Adventure Horror

If you are a sci-fi movie fan, this movie is for you. If you like monster movies, you will like the second half of the movie. If horror movies are your thing, there are plenty of moments in this movie that will make you happy. If you are an Alien franchise fan, this movie is not meant for you. You can enjoy it as one of the others kind of movies but if expect this adds to the Aliens lore and the world that it lives in, you may not like what you see.
Prometheus generated a lot of interest because of it's links to director Ridley Scott , who directed Alien and the fact that it is a movie about aliens. It wouldn't be impossible to draw links to it and the Aliens franchise. The genesis of this movie is in fact from a pivotal scene in first movie, Alien. This is when the crew of the Nostromo walks into a cavernous chamber and find it filled with Alien pods on the floor. At the center of the chamber is a giant creature sitting in throne of something that looks like a telescope pointing skyward. The brief image and the question of who is the Space Jockey has been a source of popular fascination in the Aliens popular lore.
The Space Jockey in Alien
There have been no clues in the other movies so the identity of the Space Jockey is a mystery to most people. The novel Aliens: Original Sin doesn't count.
So it this movie a prequel? Yes and No. You will have to read the spoilers section at the bottom for an explanation.
The movie starts with a mysterious figure who looks like he committed suicide. That's a great way to start a movie, a mystery that will make the audience talk about after the movie. The problem is that it encourages the audience to think and look for clues that may answer that mystery. Unfortunately, this movie is enjoyed best without doing that.
Another view of the Space Jockey in Alien
The movie then jumps to two archaeologists who make a startling discovery in a cave: a pre-historic cave drawing of people pointing to a group of planets. They take this as proof (to them at least), that we were visited by aliens at different times in our history. And that they wanted us to go to them on their planet. (Really? Is that the first thing that comes to mind?)
The Weyland corporation then sponsors them to go to this planet. The group consists of a company representative played by Charlize Theron, the ship's crew, the two scientists, some other scientists, some security personnel and an android. The android has a disturbing fascination with Lawrence of Arabia and spends time on the ship, while the human crew are in stasis, watching the movie and dying his hair blonde. Lawrence of Arabia is not a great choice for an android to be taking lessons from. The main character is manipulative and rather unstable. Two traits you don't really want in a robot.
They reach the planet and find a hill with a landing strip that they think holds the key to the identity of these aliens. Then the movie gets out of hand. The scientists, in the spirit of Christmas, go headlong into the hill, exploring it's caves. They are giddy as children with a new gift and as reckless.
They make more discoveries that lead to more questions. Things start to go wrong and they discover that they are not alone. Not alone on the ship and not alone on the planet. Some of the crew get infected and all hell breaks loose. The movie then moves from science fiction to more action and horror elements.  

Prometheus has everything going for it. A great cast, a good premise, huge budget, a good director and a strong interests from an existing fan-base. So it's not hard to expect great things from it. The movie is good but unfortunately, not great. It'll keep you talking and thinking when the movies ends but not for the right reasons. The movie does not live to it's full potential and having everything going for it makes it harder to swallow.
The cast were underutilized. Not quite up to the level of Clash of the Titans but the movie does have Charlize Theron just standing and glaring for the most of it. Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender do the hard lifting in the acting department and scenes where they are the important ones in the movie. Like the what the Weyland Corp. did in the movie, the producers could have just hired a generic support crew.
The movie has an epic quality to it. Definitely, a huge chunk of the budget is on-screen. But it is more so when it comes to size. Everything is scaled to make the humans look small. Huge hill/mound in a valley surrounded by towering mountains. Enormous sandstorms. The fact is, the aliens are quite big. You can see that even in the original Alien movie. The Space Jockey was a giant. The message here I think is clear: Humans are not the biggest beings in the universe. Now behave like it.
I also made the epic mistake of watching the trailer despite having understood the hidden code of trailer makers. I enjoyed the movie less because I watched the trailer. If you want to enjoy this movie, don't watch the trailer or forget what you saw.
Having said all that, this movie is still quite good. Come to it with no expectations and you will not be disappointed. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Watch List now available on Google Currents.

Publication on your tablet and phone new. Powered by Google Currents.
I was looking for a way to do an e-zine that and came across Google Currents. I was blown away at how intuitive it was to set up. Best of all, it gives me an opportunity to give you another way to read my posts and provide news content from my other sources. This is great if you are reading this from a tablet or smartphone. It's customized automatically for each, giving the best experience possible. Dynamic views works for computer browsers but it didn't quite grasp the tablet experience. This goes a long way to address that.
The edition, which is the correct term for it, comes with additional content. Best of all, once installed and subscribed to, it will automatically keep up to date.
You can access it from the  My Watch List Google Currents link from a mobile browser. It should install the correct version of the app. But if is doesn't, the app can be downloaded from the iTunes store or from Google Play.
Tell me what you think in the comments.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Game of Thrones. This seasons MOST guilty pleasure

We have a guest contributor today, AR3

Starring: Sean Bean, Mark Addy, Lena Headly, Peter Dinklage
Spoiler Alerts for anyone who hasn't watched Season 2.

Last night I attended a dinner party. Almost everybody has a rich friend; and these were my richest friends, I'm talking Rolls Royce not Bently in the driveway. Anyway we were chatting and somehow I mentioned Mad Men and how obsessed I'd become by the series... and then it happened...

The dinner was a party of 8 plus a baby; as soon as I geeked out on Mad Men, that's when one of the boyfriends confessed that his girlfriend is obsessed by Game of Thrones (GOT). This admission was followed by another, then another, until pretty much the infant was the only one not raving about GOT.

I hitched a ride home and surprisingly the conversation continued. We talked about how the different plots were so solid, how Prince Joffrey, now King, was a jerk. How he was lucky to have Tyrion to kick Stannis Baratheons ass (we are on episode 9 (S2) at the time of writing this).

My friend said it's really funny because no one is really talking about this Show, yet so many people are addicted to it like it was crack. Girlfriends, boyfriends, affluent, normal, so many were junkies of this show. (probably because of the abundance of risque materials -Ed.)

Fantasy isn't really cool (how many Frodo jokes have you heard?). As a former D&D gamemaster, I embrace my geekiness, but for the uninitiated, this sensation of pleasure that comes with watching Dragons come to life is something new.

I say get over yourself! Enjoy the ride and tell as many people you can about the awesomeness of Game of Thrones.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Boyce Avenue provides a little bit Heaven

This popped up on my YouTube stream and I just had to listen. This is a Bryan Adams classic and like most of his songs, it is best enjoyed live. Well, acoustic is a close second

Check out one of two official music videos for this song starring a young Lysette Anthony. This video was unique for it's time because it part of a series of music videos that told a story. Watch Summer of 69, this and Run to You.

Watch More:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Clash of The Titans: Flush of the Brain Cells?

Starring: Sam WorthingtonGemma Arterton
Category: Action Adventure Fantasy

I finally watched this inadvertently at a friend's place. He put it on but people weren't watching. I was not interested in the conversations and decided of the two, the movie was probably better choice. Turns out, not by much.
I will spare the plot because basically this is a ride movie. You get on it and it tries to dazzle you with it's visuals and technical wizardry. Impossible zooms and camera angles only made me believe it less.
What was disappointing were two things. First, that quality of the cast could have made this into something special if they were allowed to. They weren't. A script that was short on expression made sure of that. Instead of fitting into the story-line, it chose the shortest, most hyperbolic way to convey the intended message. Which made for odd moments in the movie. Second, editing that favored special effects over acting. It seems that every time a moment's pause was needed after a short dialogue, it was cut out to save time for the special effects. In fact, thinking about it, cut were made almost the moment the dialogue ended. It didn't even bother to capture the reactions.
To be fair, a lot was happening. But some subplots could have been dropped or done with less special effects. The truth is, we don't need to see everything. Like Perseus's conception. We didn't need to see the entire event. In fact, by not telling it would have lent some mystery as to why Calibos was so bent on destroying Perseus. It could be told to him in a dramatic revelation, perhaps just before Calibos dies. But that would have made the audience think. And for this movie, it would have been a bad thing.
In fact, I think the people behind the movie had no intention of making this any form of cerebral challenge. The less people thought, the better. More distraction with special effects was the priority. I think they were afraid that if people used their brains in any capacity during the movie, the illusion would be lost and they would realize how bad this movie is.
Would I recommend this to anyone. Yes, I would. I would recommend this to anyone who wishes to not think for an hour and a half. Especially if they thought the conversations would have had an even worse effect on their brain.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Source Code movie a source of confusion?

Starring: Michelle Monaghan, Jake Gyllenhall
Category: Science Fiction, Thriller
Source Code is hard to pin down and harder to categorize. While it clearly makes itself out as an action-suspense thriller, the main thrust of the movie is science fiction. The idea behind the movie is that the military has found a way to go relive another person's life for 8 minutes in the past. They could send someone, in this case pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), to re-live the last 8 minutes of someone else's life who has died. Stevens is re-living the life of Shawn Fentress, victim of a train bombing. He is riding the train with Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) on the way to work.
At first Stevens is disorientated but with the guidance of Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farminga) he begins to learn the limitations and capabilities of his capability. Goodwin and Dr Rutledge, the man who build the machine, want Stevens to focus on finding the bomber, who they believe is on the train. But Stevens wants to find and disable the bomb. Goodwin and Rutledge try to convince Stevens that the reality he is in is a simulated world and that the events have taken place. So disabling the bomb is useless. At the end of each 8 minutes, Stevens is pulled out of the world and back into the machine. Each time he is sent back, it begins at the same place and the same things happen again. But Stevens begin noticing that although each 8 minutes he re-lives is basically the same, some small differences do happen, which gives him hope that he can change things.
Meanwhile, he begins to learn of his fate and how he came to 'pilot' the machine. He learns about the lost time in between his last memory of Afghanistan and where he is now. He also begins to connect with Christina and falls in love with her, much to the chagrin of Goodwin. But it is this connection that keeps him going as he falls into a state of despair as each attempt fails to reveal the bomber.
The movie is quite successful in being suspenseful despite working within cycles of 8 minutes and recurring events. Stevens goes through a process of elimination as he investigates each suspicious passenger. He evens 'builds' a plan to get a gun in an attempt to go after a suspect, making progress after each 8 minutes.
Halfway through the movie though, I struggle to push out the spoiler thoughts while I tried to enjoy the movie as it is. For those that can tune out, this is a great 'ride' movie. But to even a casual science fiction fan (if there is such a person), its very clear where the movie is heading even though they don't know how it will end. 
The characters were believable in their own way. Stevens is the driven hero but is made human with his regrets. Goodwin is sympathetic to Stevens' situation although as being in the military, she will follow orders when given. And even though her character is somewhat limited and repetitive (being the only main character that exist only in the 8 minute cycle) Michelle Monaghan, is able to make the most of it and able to portray Christina as a woman clearly at the crossroads in her life when it comes to love and life. The one most identifiable to me is Dr Rutledge, the myopic scientist in pursuit of his goals (some of them not necessarily scientific in nature) and discarding other conclusions than his own.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Moneyball and the Answers to Life's Problems

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Category: Drama
A friend of mine was so upset at the ending of this movie, his advice to me was to turn off the audio at the end of the movie. I'm glad I didn't. I'd miss out on the most important part of the movie. It's the part that changes the movie from what it appears to be into something better, something bigger than the sum of the parts of movie. The M.Night ending, if you must. The Sixth Sense kind.
You've probably have read that some movies are referred to as 'rides'. This means that they are like rides at an amusement park. You get on it with great anticipation. It feels great while riding it. You walk away from the ride excited. But in 5 minutes, you'd forget about it and probably moved on to the next ride.
Moneyball can be enjoyed as 'ride' movie. You can take it as the story of the underdog baseball team, going against all odds to achieve greatness. Only problem is, that wasn't the whole movie. The odds were stacked up against them. But they were largely internal or of their own making. And they didn't win at the end. Yes, they wrote themselves into the history books. But they didn't win their last game. They didn't win the game that would have ended the movie on a high note.

It can be argued that the movie is about the enduring hardships of a small team and ends on the romance of baseball, the principles of one man and the spirit of resilience and steadfastness. If you take it like that, the movie is easier to understand than The Natural.
I think that the movie can also be seen as the struggle of one man, Billy Bean, the General Manager of the Oakland A's baseball team, to build a winning team using whatever little resource he has. He has to find players that would give him any advantage against the opposing team. He uses individual player's strength in the areas he needed them rather than view their strength as a whole. He breaks down the game itself to the basic factors that will make wins and find the players that will do just those. Along his way, he finds that he is up against those who do not share his vision but he remains steadfast. Billy learns to stand up against the baseball establishment's ideas of what win ballgames in pursuit of his own vision.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Watching Games the next movie experience?

I am not a gamer. I stink at games. Puzzles? OK. Point and click adventure? If I have the time. Shoot-em-up? My last real one was the original Doom and Doom2. Even that was mostly played in co-op mode. Yep, it was over a network, something very rare back in the day. But I digress.
Games now are so much like mini movies. They have that cinematic quality to them. Everything is on a big scale. Most game budgets dwarf movie budgets now. It's no longer just during the cut-scenes. Some games used to be so bad, it consisted mostly of cut-scenes. You just basically play for a while until it reaches a point where it plays another cut-scene. 
Great games make you feel like you are living a movie. Wished you were Indiana Jones? Wish no more and be a Lego version of him. 

Games tie-ins have been around for a long time. But it's fairly recent that gameplay has come close to make you feel like being part of a movie. This brings up a problem. So what if you don't play games? Not just don't play them. Can't play games. Even if your life depended on it.
Do the next best thing: Watch someone else play! 
Walkthrus or Walkthroughs are videos of people playing games. People do this to show how it is played or the best way to play through a game. Walkthrus used to be long text files that describe the mundane and trivial. Reading a walkthru before playing a game will most likely tick you off and discourage you from playing it. The opposite is true with current walkthrus which are recordings made while someone else plays the game. YouTube is full of them and they come in a variety of styles. Some have witty commentary to explain what to do and why. Others just have the player make occasional remarks while allowing the viewer to listen to the game itself.
Basically, walkthrus are to help other gamers who are stuck in the middle of a game. It shows what to do and does it and shows what to expect when you do it. It's also like watching over someone's shoulder while they are playing the game. This is cool because 
  1. You don't have to actually stand around. 
  2. You get to pause and rewind what's happening
  3. That person you watching doesn't get annoyed.
If you're not sure about a game, I recommend starting with an intro of a game to see whether they are worth watching. Some games have trailers and are as useful as movie trailers.. which isn't. RoosterTeeth have their YouTube channel that showcases some games under the This is ... playlist. This series show off a few minutes of gameplay.

Once you like a game, go ahead watch a walkthru. Some games are more cinematic and lend themselves to the viewing experience. For example, Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a game that borrows heavily from movies and movie making which makes it a good watch. It also has a rich back-story that is told through radio broadcasts and short clips that appear on TV.  The atmosphere is very "Twilight Zone"-ish and the cheesy voice-over harks back to TV-land of yesteryear. 

Your mileage may vary. Some games a best enjoyed in short clips which shows off key actions sequences. I'd like to hear some of the walkthrus you've watched and what do you recommend.