Tag Archive for movie

Final Destination Trilogy

Thanks to Allison I went last night to a marathon screening of the Final Destination Trilogy. That’s right, all three movies back-to-back-to-back. Well, with little intermissions as well, but close enough for government work.

The first film plays mostly like a suspense film. If you don’t know the story, a group of students are going to France for a school trip and one kid gets a vision of the plane exploding, he freaks out and a total of seven people end up getting tossed off the plane. The plane indeed explodes, and now Death is stalking the survivors who were supposed to die on the plane. They figure out, too late for most of them, that if they pay attention there will be signs and they might be able to continue cheating Death. I say its a suspense film because there is no physical Death, he’s not hunting them with a scythe or anything, and the weight of the film falls on seeing the signs and wondering from what angle death is coming at them. Its a pretty good movie, though I don’t recommend watching it before getting on a plane. I’m not really scared of flying, but seeing this film originally the night before I got a plane to Mexico made me a little edgy. The crash sequence is that ‘good’.

The second movie plays almost more for comedy. This time, one year after the plane crash in the first film, a girl gets a vision of a horrific car pile up and decides to use her car to block an on-ramp for the highway, saving the lives of a bunch of people. Once again, too late for most of the survivors, they begin to understand the signs… well, they know about it pretty early, but no one believes until half of them are dead. Most of the deaths in this movie are somewhat funny in ways, people actually laughed through a bunch of it, and it even ends with a death that almost fall-out-of-your-chair funny. Once again, a good movie for slightly different reasons even one kinda nifty twist, but I don’t recommend watching it before or while on a road trip. The car pile up is… disturbing.

This leaves us with the new chapter, openning today, Final Destination 3. Once again a girl gets a vision of impending doom, only this time its of a gory roller coaster accident. Ever been afraid a coaster might jump the track? Yeah, well, this is worse. Way worse. Like the previous films, she flips out and ten people get thrown off the ride, which has its accident according to plan. And as usual, Death needs to even the score and people start dying. Of the three films, this one, by far, is the bloodiest, goriest, splatter-festiest of the bunch. Some of the suspense from the first one is missing, and the comedy of the second is gone. This movie is people being viciously brutalized, kinda like at this point Death is very angry that people keep screwing up his plan. It was a good movie for what it is, but similar to the other films, don’t watch this and then run off to Six Flags or some other amusement park. Come to think of it, after watching this movie there are a number of things you might be a tad squeemish about doing again, at least the first time or two.

Overall, the Final Destination Trilogy is good, not-so-clean, fun. Two thumbs up.

Hollywood and Your Money

People often wonder why Hollywood keeps churning out crappy movies. The answer is simple… because you people keep paying to see them!

This past weekend approximately three and a half million people (3,500,000) went to see “Big Momma’s House 2” making it the number one film of the weekend with its $28 million box office draw. It also happens to be the second largest January opening in movie history.

Look people, we have to work together on this. You can not just go spending hard earned dollars on junk like this. You need to support quality films, and I don’t just mean Oscar winning crap, because lots of those films are garbage too. Sometimes you have to stop and think, and if there are no good movies playing, don’t go to a movie. Go home and watch a DVD or play a board game or go out drinking with some friends. Anything. Anything, that is, except settling for some movie that isn’t really worth your $8 but you don’t see anything better playing.

Support quality entertainment, not garbage. At least not at the theaters. Wait for DVD… or cable… or broadcast television… If you go to the movies and nothing good is playing, vote with your feet and walk away. If you stop paying Hollywood for making crappy movies, they’ll stop making crappy movies.

Zathura

Did you like ‘Jumanji’? Then you’ll like ‘Zathura’. It’s basically the same movie, but different enough to make it not feel like a retread of the same story. Two brothers, ages 10 and 6 (almost 7), are having a bit of a rough time dealing with each other and the divorce of their parents. The younger one finds a game, Zathura, in the basement of this house dad has moved them into (mom got their house in the settlement). He turns the keys, and pushes the ‘Go’ button sending them, their sister, and their house on an intergalactic journey.

It was just good, pure family fun. There’s only one dirty word in the whole thing, and the kids in the theater I went to see it at were full of ‘Oooh!’s and ‘Aahh!’s at the special effects. They were excited, they laughed, and so did I.

Another Con Bites the Dust

Dragon*Con 2005 is over. Four days in downtown Atlanta with Science Fiction nerds, Fantasy dorks, costuming goons, and the TV and movie stars and authors that go with it.

I’m tired now, and I think I will sleep. Tomorrow, or perhaps another day later this week I’ll write more about my trip.

A Few Good Men

“You can’t handle the truth!”
-Col. Nathan R. Jessep, A Few Good Men

It’s sad, but it’s true… there are a great many people who simply can’t handle the truth. And I mean simple truth, not ‘being brutally honest’ (which is more often a disguise for being honest, brutally). I had the misfortune of having a coworker ask about her own performance… Okay, let me back up.

I’m working on a program. And as I finish parts of it, I turn it over for requirements testing. The people who are testing it are also the people who gave me the requirements. More often than not, when they test, they complain about things the program doesn’t do, all of which are things they didn’t tell me it needed to do. As a result, I’m constantly rewriting my programs to include things after the fact. We have marathon email back-and-forths where we argue over the value of certain items. Their most common defense of a stupid business practice is “We’ve always done it that way.” And my most common attack is “We are writing a new program, so let’s take this opportunity to change the way its done and make it better.” And its not like its an alien idea… these are things they think SHOULD change, but they want the new program to work exactly like the old program and THEN change it. More work for everyone.

Anyway… so it comes that we are on the phone, and after we solve the latest fire she asks me how she’s been doing on the requirements and testing. I ask if she really wants to know and she says, “I want the truth.” I give her the truth, as kindly as I can. I don’t accuse her of giving me bad requirements, I instead explain that when working on requiements it would work better if she worked with the existing system for a couple or three weeks and documented every task she performed and later reviewed that log for missed steps or details to avoid the situation we have where daily tasks weren’t in the requirements. I explain that her testing should be testing of the requirements as written and not of desired features, and that things not in the requirements are enhancements for the next version, and if its discovered that essential requirements were missed they shouldn’t be reported as bugs, but should be brought up as requirements revisions. I explain that her testing is testing of my programming of the requirements as written, and when we move to phase two of testing, the user testing, her users will point out the missing details and at that point new requirements or revisions will need to be made. And lastly I say, that all this is for her sanity and mine, because if she’s constantly checking for items that weren’t in the requirements, then she’s going to be very unhappy; while on my end, if I spend every day rewriting my work for items that I wasn’t told about instead of working on remaining items or other projects, I get very unhappy.

In my opinion, I laid things out very clearly and kindly. I never yelled or accused, I just simply pointed out issues with the process she was using and how everyone would be happier if she did things differently. Well… except the users, but they’ll never be happy until we invent the “Do My Job” button so they spend their days like George Jetson or Homer Simpson, pushing one button when its needed.

So later that day I got pulled aside by my boss and told that I should never yell at anyone about how they do their job because its not within my authority as a contract programmer. I tried to defend myself, but he didn’t want to hear it. He only wanted to hear that I would never do it again (despite not having done it in the first place).

That’s my story… people, especially at work, can’t handle the truth… Now I will present you with a bastardized quote of my own:

“Work like you only need money. Love like you’ll never be happy. Dance like everyone’s got score cards. Sing only when nobody’s listening. And lie like your job depends on it.”

I don’t really mean that… but seriously, when someone asks for the truth, try to be sure they really want to hear it. And never ask for the truth unless you can’t handle it. And by “handle” I don’t mean “make them pay for telling it to you”.

Sky High

John Hughes returns to high school with this tale of super powered children attending a school to train them to be heroes… or for the less usefully powered kids, hero support, a.k.a. sidekicks. Okay, its not really John Hughs, but its got enough teen high school troubles that it could pass for one of his movies…

I really had fun watching this movie. After seeing a number of comic book and superhero films take things in a more grown-up and serious manner, it was nice to see a film take it from an almost slapstick comedy family point of view.

I’m not going to say much about the movie itself, because I might get carried away and ruin it for you… but its definately worth the money to go see it. It’s one I’ll have to own on DVD when they release it. Good stuff.

Harry Potter

One thing I do that has remained a constant practice in my life has been to avoid situations where I am guaranteed my expectations have exceeded reality. Mostly this comes in with movies and books. Should I happen to not see a movie just as it comes out, or read a book within a couple months of release, and that thing takes off with reports of it being “The best ever!” there is a narrow window of opportunity to see or read it before I’m forced to put it off until the hype blows over. The reason for this is simple… people talk it up so much that it can’t possibly stand up to it.

Harry Potter is one of those things. People were telling me for years that they were simply the best books ever written, utterly fantastic, it would blow me away. So, I didn’t read them. There was so much build up, that I knew it couldn’t possibly be as good as the hype. And it wasn’t. I finally started reading the Harry Potter books a couple months ago. I’ve been reading one of them, then another book or two, then the next Potter book, and so on. I’m almost finished with ‘Goblet of Fire’ now, that’s why I’m writing. The first book… ehh… it was good, no doubt, and for young readers its an excellent book for interesting non-readers. Its short, its light, full of fluff and fun, and to any person over the age of about 18 or so, completely and utterly transparent. The plot, while not bad, was predictable. Yeah, I’d seen the movies, but that didn’t matter, even the things left out of the movie I saw coming. It was not a complicated book. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing, as I said… good for young readers or new readers, bad for anyone who has heard all the hype.

The second book was better. Still a bit predictable, and more fluff than substance, but it was a fun read that I enjoyed. However, still far from being ‘the best ever’.

The third book, moreso… the story growing up as the boy does, becoming more complicated and involved, relationships becoming less simplistic, and overall a much better book.

As I move through the fourth book, I can see it continuing to grow. The story is more complex, more textured, the characters breathe on the page and display more traits like those you find in our own world, and its beginning to lose its predictability.

I look forward to the fifth book. And the sixth, the seventh, and more, if she decides to continue on.

Now that the books are out of the way… lets talk about the fans. I’m reading the UK versions of the books. One, because those are the ones my fiancee owns. And two, because reading the book with the authentic English (or Brittish) vernacular just appeals to me more than having them all sound like a bunch of Americans despite the fact that they are in England. As such, the books I read have covers that most of the people I pass on the street have never seen. Constantly, I am berated by people yelling at me or even grabbing me or my book forcibly, demanding to know how I got ahold of the as of yet unreleased sixth book. Once I explain to them that its an old book, most of them just stomp away, not even apologizing for my sprained wrist or nearly tackling me. Few ask why the book is different, and to those that do, when I try to explain that its the original UK versions, their eyes glaze over like I’ve just tried to explain in depth quantum mechanical theory to them, and they stumble away, dumbfounded by the knowledge that Brittish English and American English aren’t the same, and that people actually write in languages other than American English. Only one person so far has actually carried on a conversation of intelligence and cared about the differences in the books (simple things like that people in the UK call a ‘flashlight’ a ‘torch’ and so on).

I’ve met numerous people who are going to go out Friday night and stay up at book release parties until 12:01am Saturday to buy their copy of the book. Because, obviously, the books bought at that time will be better than the ones the store will be selling all day the next day, at reasonable hours, like after the sun comes up, or even after a lazy brunch.

As it is, my fiancee, a huge Potter fan, but not an insane Potter fan, is actually going to wait until sometime the following week to read it. Her UK copy is being shipped overseas, and while most who order through Amazon will get their books on Saturday if they specified the next day shipping, next day from England means Monday or Tuesday.

Anyway, back to work, or something… Harry and Cedric have just… nah, not going to tell you. Read it yourself. I do recommend the Potter books… but I do not recommend becoming a Potter fanatic.

Batman Begins

When Batman came out in 1989, I was wary of the casting of Michael Keaton, Mr. Mom, as the caped crusader. But it turned out that he was actually able to capture the duality of Batman and Bruce Wayne extremely well. And while I was disappointed with the death of the Joker (why do they insist on killing the bad guys? the comic books don’t), the movie as a whole was just good.

With Batman Returns… well, Keaton was still good, but the way they chose to portray the Penguin was just… well… crappy. Catwoman wasn’t bad (a zillion times better than the most recent incarnation with Halle Berry) but there were issues with the movie.

Then Keaton flees Batman, and we get Val Kilmer. Now, Val, I thought, could make a very good Batman and Bruce Wayne, but watching the movie, he seemed to be phoning in his performance. He was very wooden in both roles. Add to that the introduction of neon day glo Gotham, and the movie’s suck factor began to swell. Making Robin not be a kid was a step in the wrong direction. He’s supposed to be a teenager, that’s the whole point of his freakin’ character, a young foil to help keep Batman from plummetting off the deep end. I thought after seeing this movie that it had to kill the franchise. Whatever pull Bob Kane had he’d use, and DC would look at the movie and say “Oh, hell no.” and we would never see a Batman movie again. Then the stupid thing, propelled by Jim Carey as the Riddler, made truckloads of money. God help us all.

Val exitted stage left, and we got George Clooney. Now, I like George… he was great on ER, he did a fine job in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and even in One Fine Day. As Batman/Bruce Wayne he brought so much bravado and swagger to the role that the film choked on it. I figured when I saw Batman Forever we’d seen about as over the top a film as could be made… Then somehow Joel Schumacher managed to double and then triple it and cram it all into the godawful Batman & Robin. The plot was horrid, the actors all gave the worst perfomances of their lives, and Gotham became the new Las Vegas. Utter trash. Thankfully, without the odd star power of a Jim Carey, B&R died (well, it made over $100 million, but it was far less than any of the others in the franchise).

Now that I’m done with that walk down memory lane, let’s get to the movie at hand…

Forget all four of the previous films, Batman Begins is THE Batman movie. Much like I pretend that there is only one Highlander film, and thanks to Episode III I now pretend there are only 3 Star Wars films and it ends with Return of the Jedi, I will now happily pretend that this is the first Batman movie ever made.

Christian Bale is Batman. Christian Bale is Bruce Wayne. He’s able to pull off the brooding superhero, the tortured man, and the facade of the billionaire playboy like no one else. Add to that surrounding him a fantastic cast including Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, and more. Then add a fantastic script that isn’t full of camp and punchlines (though not without its laughs). And finally put Christopher Nolan (Insomnia, Memento) behind the wheel. What you get is a film about the construction of a hero, a crusader, a legend.

If you go to the film looking for the ‘Biff’ and ‘Wham’ of the old TV show, or the tongue in cheekiness of Batman Forever or Batman & Robin, you are going to be horrible disappointed. You’ll probably think this is the worst movie ever made.

But if you go for Batman… if you like The Dark Knight Returns, or Batman: Year One, or the current run of the comic books. If you view the ‘camp’ of Batman as a blip wrong detour of a much better and larger tale, then this movie is for you.

I can only hope that Batman Begins really is a new beginning, and that at least another movie or two with this collection of folks manages to find its way to the big screen.

Star Wars: Episode III

Let’s start with ‘It was good.’ I enjoyed the movie. It ended right where I wanted it to end. It tied up nicely to lead into what we know to be true from the original trilogy. The battle scenes, particularly the lightsaber fights, were awesome. But…

Hold up. Need to do this. I’m about to ramble about the movie, and since I don’t censor myself, I might inadvertantly spoil something for you if you haven’t seen the film. So, if you are worried, stop reading now.

Again, there might be spoilers ahead, so stop if you don’t want to hear about the movie.

Third time… spoilers may be coming. That’s it, you read further, it’s your fault.

So, back to the ‘But…’ I think George Lucas messed up this movie. Like the two prior in this trilogy, there are a number of occasions where its appearant he couldn’t find a way to tell you important facts during the action, so he grinds the movie to a halt for a conversation, then puts it back in gear. Its moderately jarring when you think the movie is picking up speed, then it just stops again. Some of the early film is kinda boring, but the last 20-25 minutes of it are pretty damn good.

I enjoyed the special effects… however, and Jodi put this in to the right words for me, sometimes the special effects became the story, and that’s bad. In Empire, they ride Tuantuans (I’m sure some Star Wars geeks will correct me on the spelling, but I don’t care). They even wind up using one as a source of heat to survive the night cold. But at no point are we ever looking at the tuantuan… its Han riding the tuantuan, it Luke riding the tuantuan, its people handling the tuantuans. In Episode III, Obi Wan rides this lizard thing (which we never learn a name for) but it dominates the screen for 5 minutes in a crazy chase scene. Its so colorful and vibrant in its movements, the fact that Obi Wan is on its back is almost lost… we are watching a lizard run through and over the city, and sometimes we see something flail around on its back. Too much lizard, not enough Obi Wan, the scenes focus becomes the special effects, and in doing so becomes cool looking, but less thrilling. And this happens in a couple of places, the scenery upstaging the characters. Not good.

The lightsaber scenes rocked though.

Mystery Men

I know its an old movie, but I picked it up on DVD at Best Buy for five bucks today. I love this movie. Its a perfect example of what I think this world would be like if there were superheroes. There would be people with real super powers, but most of them would just be regular guys with kitchen utensils and garden implements throwing down a little justice on the wicked. Its also kinda what I was hoping for when I heard about City of Heroes so long ago… sadly, while their costume creator is fantastic, the uniqueness of the character under the suit is very limited. If you want to be a scrapper, you have a sword, a katana, some claws, a dark aura, spines, or you are a martial artist. And every archtype has the same limitations… you can put twenty blasters next to each other, and they may “look” vastly different… until they all pull out their assault rifle and fight exactly the same way. Where is my shovel? Where are my forks? Where is my bowling ball? Where is my furious rage?

Anyway, the movie itself is great. I highly recommend it.