Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

RIP Jeff Goldblum

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Following the tragic death of Jeff Goldblum this past weekend, I feel now is the time to share a small revelation I had this weekend while watching one of his greatest works.

This past weekend I had to work on Saturday. We are trying to get some test flights of a new airplane based radar I’ve been working on in amid the rain showers. Don’t ask me why, but they don’t like to fly in the rain. This has been difficult and no sunny day can be wasted. I was not scheduled to fly originally, but following a flight on Friday in which no data was collected for mysterious reasons, the powers that be decided I should fly, with 2 coworkers because we were the ones who wrote most of the software involved. If we flew we would be there to diagnose and solve the problem on the fly, if needed. Everything worked perfectly on the flight so my presence was not particularly needed, but it could have been. I also did manage to get a little air sick while sitting on the floor, out of my seat, but in a position to see the control screen.

Upon returning home I found my room mate Sriram about ten minutes into the film Independence Day. This film, long one of my favorites, possibly my favorite action film of all time, is an oddity among my usual tastes in movies. Now, it does have, quite possibly, the best speech in a movie by an American president, but the events of last Saturday shed some more personal light on why I enjoy the film so much. I remember seeing it on July 3rd (or 4th) in Louisville, KY with my family the year it came out; I was 12 years old.
That same year, 1996, was also the year in which I first learned how to program, in qbasic with my buddy Greg.

In the movie Jeff Goldblum plays an MIT educated cable/satellite guru who looks into the alien television disturbance and finds something no one else bothered to see. Later, he creates a virus for the alien computer and flies up to the mother ship with the Will Smith character to deliver it, despite chronic air sickness. Why did he have to fly? He explains in the flim, “If anything goes wrong I’ll have to think quickly, adjust the signal, who knows?”

Now, my air sickness was nothing like his, and its all a different scale, but that’s essentially the same reason I was flying. Upon landing, while I helping to preparing for the next flight, some of the binary files used to setup the flight were found to have errors, errors so sever as to crash the program using them. I encounter problems like this, that require manually examining difficult to read binary files on a frequent basis at work. I enjoy it. Despite having a call in to the person who created the files, I couldn’t help but dive in and find the problem myself. Now that was easy, because I had the rubric for how the file was laid out. Goldblum’s character didn’t have that. I really wish there was more of a need to reverse engineer stuff like that at work. It is so much more challenging when one is not provided with a key.

This may also help explain why upon much self analysis, I consistently find myself thinking that if I go back to school, the only place to go, where it would be worth my while, is MIT (or possibly Harvard if I decide to go back for an economics degree). Clearly, everything in my life so far has put me on the path to become Jeff Goldblum’s character in Independence Day. At least, that is one way to interpret the facts.

Inkheart & Bridge to Terabithia

Monday, May 4th, 2009

InkheartThe other thing I did this weekend, besides the Derby party, was watch some high quality children’s movies. On Friday, due to a canceled date, I stayed in to hang out with my roommate Sriram and watch Inkheart, which is about a man who, when he reads aloud, causes people and things to jump into and out of books. He loses his wife in this way and gains a gang of bandits for his trouble. The graphics are pretty good on the many fantastical things that get read out of the books. The story also winds its way around a bit, and keeps some suspense for a movie with a foregone conclusion.

The foregone conclusion is what I forgot about with Bridge to Terabithia.AnnaSophia Robb in Birdge to Terabithia I ended up spending Sunday night relaxing with the house to myself and rain threatening outside. Inkheart at put me in the mood for another imaginative tale, and imaginative it was! They did a great job with the subtle use of special graphics to reinforce that Terabithia exists only in the minds of the two main children. The little girl, by the way, AnnaSophia Robb, is a dead ringer, at least in the movie makeup, for a 14 year old Keira Knightley. I had forgotten how the movie came to be on my watch list in the first place, but was reminded in the credits that its because the always wonderful Zooey Deschanel is in it.Keira Knightley in Love Actually She plays a music teacher with an interesting take on teaching, and an arbitrarily invitation to take one student to a museum in the city. This suddenly leads the movie down an unexpected road. In retrospect, I remember Richard Roper warning parents about this in his review, but I had forgotten. This only helped my appreciation for the film, however.

Bridge to Terabithia sits somewhere on the same scale as Pan’s Labyrinth. That is a scale between realism and fantasy. Pan’s Labyrinth spends far too much time in the real world, but it’s fantasy world is quite vivid. Bridge to Terabithia spends less time in the real world; well, maybe not film time, but the real world is less harsh and so that counts for it. However the fantasy world is not quite as beautiful, and again, like Pan’s it is but a taste. Somewhere on this scale exists a perfect escapist fantasy. The Chronicles of Narnia movies had a shot at this, but they screwed the pooch with the bland interpretation of the fantasy world.

Star Trek (11)

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009


I just got back from seeing the new Star Trek movie! How do you ask, well Celeste, told the xkcd forums, who told me. It seemes the Internet and the theater knew nothing about it otherwise. I still don’t know how she found out about it, but not many people did. It was not packed. I don’t quite understand why you wouldn’t promote a sneak preview enough to pack one showing. Anyways. I don’t want to give away any spoilers so the rest will be quite generic.

The movie started out strong, and quickly established a great action drama balance. I was drawn in well before the opening credits. The opening credits lacked a certain familiar tune. I mean, what they had, it’s similar, but it did not fulfill my desire to hear the music. The closing credits did so that was good.

So the movies going along just great and then there is a major plot point, something bad happens, and after that the movies just not the same. However, due to the continuities involved, there was a choice the writers could have made; that I would have made, but they did not. This takes them down a road towards a disappointing conclusion.

There is one gripe I can be specific about, because it was in the trailer. In the trailer they show a starship being constructed on the ground, on pylons. This utterly ridiculous. First, it is not consistent; all other star trek ships have been built in space. Second, if NASA didn’t even want to launch all of the international space station at once cause it weighted too much, imagine a star ship. Finally, star ships are not made to fly in the atmosphere, and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be rocketed up there, and they don’t have that kind of transporter capability at that point in the timeline; so how the hell does it get off the damn planet! I’m sorry there’s just no way that is realistic at all.

So this movie, being an odd one (11) was bound to suck (as all the odd numbered ones do), and so it did, although I will continue to applaud the strong start it had. And if you claim that this was really a different movie sequence then the other one then it is number 1, also odd, also bound to suck. This movie will not reboot the franchise. I’m not even sure the tag line “The future begins” is appropriate.

I do want to end on a high note. I really liked all of the new actors for the major characters, and they really did a good job of working in everyone’s lines from the show. They also hit all the classic elements but they did some of them in different ways. This is very similar to how Get Smart did things, and is applaudable. I would see a squeal involving them, but not in the time-line that extends from this film, which is the real problem with it.

The Dark Knight

Monday, July 21st, 2008

The Dark NightI saw The Dark Knight on Friday, as part of my birthday celebration, with a group of 16 friends. First and foremost it was a fun time, despite that the group broke up into 3 parts to find seats. I was not disappointed by the movie, but I do have some criticisms, some of which I already aired on Chris’ blog. There are some spoilers below.

My first criticism is that they tried to do too much with one movie. They should have saved Two-Face’s demise for the next film. It was not required to drive home the idea that Batman is a figure that can, and must afford to be hated by the people he serves. That point was beaten into our heads one two many times at the end of the film. I also thought that Two-Face detracted from The Joker. The inclusion of Two-Face cause the plot to contort in unnatural ways, much like what happened in Spiderman 3. Of course, the comparison to that pile of trash stops there; the performances in The Dark Knight are a world apart from Spiderman.

Clearly Heath Ledger’s performance of the Joker ends the Best Actor Oscar race for this year. I’m also willing to give them the actress swap that they pulled with Rachel because of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s stand up job at filling Katie Holmes’ shoes. Her refusal to come back for the second movie is a black mark against Holmes in my book; previously beloved from her Dawson’s Creek days and the string of bad movies that followed. Christopher Nolan has also earned a bit of a scuff on his record with this movie.

The scuff has to do with consistency of setting of the movie. I feel that one of the problems besetting the the original series of Batman movies was an inconsistent feel of the setting. It seemed, in Batman Begins, that they were starting over on this as well. The big feature from this new setting was the monorails centered on Wayne Tower. There are many shots showing what looks like Wayne Tower from Batman Begins, which is in fact, the Chicago Board of Trade Building. But there are not any monorails. This is a huge let down for me, because this story takes place in the same city as the last one plot wise, but it does not setting wise. This is compounded by a shot (that I can’t find a screen capture of) of a Wayne Tower that looks different (sort of black and stocky) like this building. I don’t have a problem mixing and matching buildings from various cities, Gotham is a huge city, so there is certainly room for all of sorts of buildings strewn about it, but to forgo the monorails, which were too big to be removed by any reasonable civic authority.

Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Finishing off the blog posts from last weekend’s activities is my review of the new Indiana Jones flick. It was the first time I saw anything in the main stage at the Somerville Theater. Let me start off by saying that I don’t have any nostalgia for the old films. I thought that they were awful for many years. I wasn’t raised on them, I guess my parents skipped that chapter. Anyways, seeing them on TV didn’t help, there was no magic, there was nothing. However, in college my friends convinced me to go see Raiders of the Lost Ark at a midnight showing in a real theater. It was a blast with a sold our crowd, and gave me a whole new window onto the world of Indiana Jones. I never saw the other two in the theaters, but I figured I’d give this one a shot. I went with Andreas and most of my board gaming group.

The new movie delivers just like Raiders did for me in the theaters, there is magic and by the end I was sitting up in my chair. The plot was out there, a bit too much for me, especially the ending, but by then I had been drawn in. Some parts were too hokey for me. It was again fun to see it with a sold out crowd; there were plenty of crowd pleasing scenes, and they kept the Indy is old jokes to a minimum after the first act. Anyways I have to recommend it for a fun time, but not as an excellent film, hence the term flick.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Monday, May 12th, 2008

I finally saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall this weekend! I have been wanting to see it very much since it opened a week before ROFLCon, and I finally convinced a co-worker to go see it with me (actually he was just out of town for a while he wanted to see it of his own accord). I must say that is was supremely well written, and hilarious. Its like a Will Farrel movie if it was well written and didn’t rely on being idiotically stupid for laughs.

It was written by Jason Segel, who plays Marshall on easily one of my top 2 tv shows, How I Met Your Mother. (The other one being Lost). Every time I see the title I can’t help but think that he chose for the title to include the name of his HIMYM character on purpose to exploit the obvious synergies. There were a lot of great lines in the movie, similar to the kind of amazing lines that Ted delivers on HIMYM. It made me think that Jason Segel must also have a writing credit on the tv show, but (I just checked and) according to IMDB he does not. Maybe they do a lot of ad libbing on the show, or he stole a lot of ideas from the writers on the show, cause they seemed similar.

The movie also features Mila Kunis, of That ’70s Show fame, who was excellent, as all the reviewers said she would be. It’s good to see her acting again and not, as the voice of Meg on Family Guy, getting marginalized. That show, by the way, is so bad now. It has been on a steady decline since episode 2, and now its on episode 110! The real surprise to me was that Kenneth from 30 Rock (Jack McBrayer) essentially reprised his tv show roll in the movie. It’s such a good character that it never hurts to see more of him.

I have some praise for the plot as well. At one point, I was unable to decide which of two directions the movie would go. I was also unable to decide which direction I wanted it to go. This is a common problem with romantic comedies. It becomes easy to pick sides, and then the movie will either do what you want or not. If it does what you want you call it predictable, and if it doesn’t then you call it bad — a damned if you do damned if you don’t situation. Forgetting Sarah Marshall avoids that completely by creating two, round (in the literary sense) and compelling choices. If you’re looking for something less exciting and more funny than Iron Man, go see this one!

Iron Man

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

I saw Iron Man today with some of my coworkers. It is as good as you have heard that it is! Assuming that you heard that it fucking rocks. I didn’t know anything about the comic book before seeing the movie, but that didn’t matter. It is defiantly in my top 3 super hero movies. That list also includes X-Men 1 and Spiderman 1.

What made it so great? Well, all the acting was very genuine and authentic feeling. This is especially true for Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. Also, the plot had some great twists and turns. There was good pacing with lots of action, but also plot and character development. Oh oh, and, as one of OSU Paul’s friend’s described it the movie consists of “2+ hours of gadget porn.”

There are some flaws, one glaring that I will call out. In the movie at the start the Iron Man must carry around a 12 volt car battery to power an electromagnet in his chest to keep him from dying. This, as you might imagine, is highly inconvenient. If the magnet is off for too long he will die. That fails to use the switching on/off capabilities unique to electromagnets and opens up the easy option to just use a regular MAGNET! Of course, if he had a regular magnet the iron man might never have been made, so I guess its forgivable? Anyways go see it.

The Bourne Ultimatum and Transformers

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

After months of uncharacteristically not seeing any movies in theaters In the past two weeks I saw both The Bourne Ultimatum and Transformers, this is a late review. Lets start with Bourne because I saw that one first, on opening night, in the cheap, quaint, and nearby Somerville theater, which had surprisingly good movies playing for once. Usually they have a bunch of crap that caters to the frat boy demographic, but not that night. The other movies there were the Simpson’s movie, Knocked Up (both of which I still need to see) and No Reservations, which I haven’t really heard of. Anyways the Wednesday before seeing Ultimatum I watched Supremacy for the first time, and well that just showed exactly how little I remembered from Identity; so, I watched that on Thursday. I thought it was a big help in understanding the third one, and would recommend rematching them before seeing the new one. Although the fun action will keep you entertained anyways. I was a big fan of how they used the Julia Stiles character, and I especially liked the hair dying scene as a parallel or foil to the first movie.

I finally saw Transformers yesterday down at the Fenway theater with Post after we were the only two people who showed up to play games. I can’t add much to the discourse on this one it was really entertaining. Afterwards I decided I’d take advantage of the no sales tax weekend and get some new shoes, so I used my new phone and found some stores in the back bay, but of course I didn’t find anything there in my price range. Well I guess thats all for now, I’ve been slowly getting less busy so maybe I’ll fill in the gaps a bit in the coming weeks.

Ocean’s 13

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

No spoilers to follow, I would not do that to you. Oceans 13 got 2 thumbs up from Richard Roper and whoever was filling in for Ebert this week. Man it suck Ebert’s been off the air for more than a year now with health problems, here’s hoping hes back sooner rather than later. Anyways I also recommend Ocean’s 13. It is way better than the second one; not as good as the first of course, but worth seeing. It was little faster and more straightforward than I would have liked, Roper described this as “tight” and a good thing. It was good to have it set in Vegas again; that and other things brought back a lot of the feeling of the first one. I agree with Roper that Al Pacino’s character could have been a lot darker. There was one cheesy part where they put up neon lighted numbers next to everyone’s heads; there had be a better way to do what they wanted to do than that. In the end it made me want to goto Vegas, and it made me want to watch the movie again, possibly in slow motion just to catch everything, definitely the same effects as the first movie.

Desitnaton: Ohio

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Ohio Trip Map
The My Maps version of my Ohio trip. It includes:

  • A mini review of Pirates 3
  • Cedar Point’s brand new coaster Maverick
  • Beth’s Wedding