Thursday, March 29, 2007

Film Review: The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Even though I know the future Mrs. Daniel Misener ignores my film reviews, I'm bored at work so this is what's on the menu for today.

I caught The Wind That Shakes The Barley the other night. It was thoroughly depressing. Good, but thoroughly depressing.

For those who haven't heard of this little film, it's about the Irish republican movement back in the 1920's. We've seen this before with the likes of Michael Collins et al, but this one is a little smaller scale. It focuses on a small group of villagers (somewhere around Cork, I believe) who form a guerrilla army to oppose the British troops in the area. Lots of dying, lots of crying, lots of green.

The success of the film hinges on the performance of Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Red Eye) and he pulls it off pretty well. I don't know if it was just the crappy Cumberland Theatre, but the most frustrating part of my viewing experience was the sound. While the speakers might be partly to blame, it was clear much of the sound was captured during the shoot - rather than added in post. With what appears to be a lower-budget, sometimes improvised piece, that can make for practically inaudible dialogue. Might work better as a home rental.

Overall, I liked it - but it certainly didn't make my day.

I need a hug.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cory Doctorow Still Needs a Bitchslap

Popped by Boingboing today, as I do most days, and once again Cory's pissing me off with stupid posts. Let's got through the list, shall we?

- P2P is Killing Piracy: Cory has an article where he tells the story of some poor pirate CD merchants who are going out of business because P2P networks like BitTorrent etc are stealing their customers. Awww, poor babies. These guys used to pirate CDs/DVDs and sell them out of the back of their van every weekend, raking in a tidy profit. Cory actually states: "The music industry likes to lump P2P and hard-goods piracy together, but they're not the same thing at all -- in fact, they're dire enemies." You dumbass motherf***er, to the music/film industry they ARE the same thing: an illegal threat to their businesses. Who cares if there's no honour amongst thieves? The problem is that the thieves exist. I can't believe Cory readily admits that these pirates can have their (inexpensive) businesses crippled and still have the balls to say that the big bad (expensive) entertainment industry is unaffected by P2P networks (that, while capable of fair use, are never used in a fair use manner by anyone I've ever heard of - ever. Downloading the latest Gwen Stefani song is not fair use, you stupid dolt).

- Why ebooks' success has nothing to do with screen quality: I swear, if I hear this argument one more time... In this article, Cory claims that the idea that folks don't like reading off computer screens is b.s. He claims that people do like to read off of computer screens and his proof is (drum roll please): people spend all day reading off screens! He says, "It's like watching someone shovel Mars Bars into his gob while telling you how much he hates chocolate..." You...stupid...dumbass...mother... *sigh* How do you explain to a retarded person that they are retarded? I mean, like Brad Pitt says in Se7en: "When a person is insane, as you clearly are, do you know that you're insane? Maybe you're just sitting around, reading Guns and Ammo, masturbating in your own feces, do you just stop and go, 'Wow! It is amazing how fucking crazy I really am!'?" Look, Cory, the reason I read off a screen all day is because I have to read off a screen all day. It's called work, jackass, you should try it sometime. When I can do my work, get sports updates, write in my blog and check my email off something other than a computer screen - guess what? - I'm gonna do it. I read off a computer monitor because I have to. But, given the option between reading a book off a computer screen at my desk or off a piece of paper that I can flip/fold/write on/drop while sitting on a porch/roof/couch/plane/toilet, there's really no contest - the paper wins. Only the most arrogant cybergeek would presume that people are making it all up when they say they prefer paper over LCDs.

- Artists' eyes rove over images: And continuing in the unscientific realm... Cory posts this one about an "experiment" that tracked the eye movement of artists vs. "non-artists" when presented with an image (for example of person in a body of water). The artists, of course, scan the whole picture, taking in the breadth of the image, the nuances, the colours - gee, aren't they great? While the "non-artists" fix their gaze much more steadily on the face of the person in the water - ha! See? Artists are imaginative and see the big picture, while non-artists are obvious and narrow-minded! Proof! ...Uh...Except the "non-artists" used in this most scientific of experiments were all psychologists. Hm...think that might skew the results? Look, I'm the last person who is going to argue that people's brains aren't wired differently and that we see the world each in our own way, but could we try to make this a little more scientific and make fewer broad generalizations about the results? The psychologists fixated on the person's face more than the artists. That says nothing about "non-artists": it says something about psychologists. Gee, who would have thought that psychologists might be tempted to look more at a person's face than the pretty colours around them? Will wonders never cease? You'd almost think these psychologist types have a thing for people... I wouldn't be so peeved if this were an isolated case of poor science (or stupidity on Cory's part) but the fact is that almost every article I read about some study or experiment indicates some obvious flaw in methodology.

Ok, enough looking at this bloody computer screen - time for lunch.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

This And That - Again

Man, I'm bored...

What's going on these days...?

- Did you hear about this new species of leopard in Borneo? This thing looks bad-ass. "The clouded leopard is Borneo's largest predator, has the longest canine teeth relative to its size of any cat, and can grow as large as a small panther."

- Marvel Comics is trying to pull off a "death of" stunt, this time with Captain America. This comes on the heels of the recent Civil War storyline, where Cap and a group of "outlaws" defied the U.S. government and refused to abide by the Superhuman Registration Act. Eventually, Cap surrendered rather than incur civilian casualties, only to be taken out by...a sniper? SO lame. So not gonna last. If you read the issue, you know this "event" has plenty of loopholes. This didn't stop some media outlets from reporting the story, much as they did the "Death of Superman" - remember that? Mark my words: Cap will be back around the time that the Initiative storyline winds down - a year or so (July 4, 2008?). (As I suspected, the "Captain America" mantle will be picked up - temporarily - by The Punisher who has been getting a little more attention thanks to his role in Civil War) Give some points to Marvel for taking on a relevant political issue - the SRA was often compared to Bush's bullsh*t Patriot Act (a misnomer if there ever was one - let's protect Freedom by taking freedom away, shall we?). It's only fitting, then, that Captain America, the symbol of all things good in the U.S., would "die" fighting it.

- A couple of very real deaths occurred recently, however - both by suicide. Richard Jeni was a terrific stand-up comic - probably my favourite. I can recall a number of his routines involving late night Brooklyn-based diet infomercials ("I've got a weight loss plan for you: it's called 'Stop eating, you fat bastard!'...Send me fifty dollars, I'll send you a tape. It's not video tape, it's not audio tape, it's Scotch tape: Put if over your mouth, so the Twinkies don't get in."), the stupidity and allure of Jaws 4, and a whole bunch more.

- Brad Delp, the lead singer of famed '70s band Boston passed away this week also. I have their greatest hits CD, which includes songs like "More Than A Feeling", "Foreplay/Long Time" and "Amanda" - essential to any classic rock collection.

- Today, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the longstanding publication blackout/ban for elections. Seems some guy got fined ($1,000) for posting the Atlantic Canada results prematurely on his website. He fought the fine all the way to the Supreme Court with the support (not surprisingly) of all the major madia outlets. "He argued the prohibition in the Canada Elections Act violated freedom of speech and freedom of political association and said the ban was obsolete in the age of the Internet and other modern communications technology." Huh? Seems to me that quick and efficient mass communication tools make the ban more relevant than ever. If polls are going to have the same business hours regardless of time zone (meaning the BC polls stay open 3 hours later than the ones in Ontario) then you have to have a ban. Exit polls are one thing (inexact and flawed as they are) but posting the actual results in one region before the voting is over is just wrong (no one should know the results while an election is still taking place!). The solution is to have all the polls close at the same moment everywhere - midnight in Ontario, 9pm in BC (or something similar). Sure, the networks won't like it because of the loss of prime time coverage in the east (the alternative is to screw west coasters and have the polls there close at 6pm or something) but elections shouldn't be about television.

- I thought women tried to avoid wearing the same stuff as other women. So why is it that everywhere I look I see women carrying those ridiculous Louis Vuitton bags? (or knockoffs - how sad is that?) Weird. Honestly, ladies, it makes you look pathetic and shallow.

- Pete Rose recently admitted that he did in fact bet on baseball games involving the team he was managing at the time - the Cincinnati Reds. The thing is, he claims he bet on his team to WIN every time. Wow. If it's true, this guy shouldn't be punished; he should proceed directly to the Hall of Fame - do not pass GO, do not collect $200. That's some kind of gamer. It's not like a bet like that would affect your managing - you should be trying to win. The only shame in all this is that Rose looked like a jackass all these years for denying he bet on baseball at all.

- I'm still trying to figure out what I think of Facebook. It's such a weird concept. The appeal is that it circumvents some pay sites like Classmates, who must be crapping their pants right now (it'd be a good way to organize a reunion, provided enough members join). But the whole notion that people use it to compare the number of friends they have is completely and utterly sad. Not to mention that it's an internet voyeur's dream - you can find out tons about a person (yes, even if they make their profile "private"). It's a good way to find out if your friends have any "cute" connections that they could set you up with - thus bypassing the whole Lavalife thing. You can post pictures (bypassing Flickr). It's also a way of keeping in touch with friends (bypassing email) and what's going on in their lives (bypassing blogs). But none of this is really "free". You can bet your ass Facebook is using all of this networking info for some nefarious purpose - yes, I've started getting junk mail in my account.
- Don't you love how the Leafs manage to toy with us at this time of year? (Yes, I mean "us" - if you're not a Leafs fan, you're a closet Leafs fan!) Just when you thought they were out of it, back come Tucker and Wellwood, with Peca in the wings. Sometimes you think that if they could just get healthy and into the playoffs, they might do alright. And then the unicorns suddenly run away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Film Review: 300

Yup, it was worth the wait.

I'm actually somewhat surprised that the Rottentomatoes rating is as low as it is (62% at last check). Sure, this isn't going to win an Oscar for the script - but what do you want? It's an action movie based on a graphic (figuratively and literally) novel.

I actually waited to write this review because I wanted to pop into the local Indigo book store and see how the movie book compared to the film. Usually the film is a watered-down, Hollywood-ized version of the original source, but that's not the case here: the film is MUCH better than the comic. All the lines in the movie that made me wince, ("would a Spartan king really say that?") were lifted from the comic. Yes, Xerxes is that tall in the book. Yes, Ephialtes is that grotesque.

But what makes the film better is where it was not true to the source material: the exposition is better, the scenery is better, the characters are better, the action is better, the pathos is better, the violence is better.

This movie may not be everyone's cup of tea. Scratch that: this film is most definitely not everyone's cup of tea. But if we're to judge this film on its merits, we have to first accept it for what it is: a bloody comic book-based action film with iconic figures and wall-to-wall gore. If you accept that as its "genre", then I have a hard time believing anyone could give this film a bad review.
The achievements made here in cinematography and visual effects will pave the way for bigger and bolder films to come (The director's next challenge: The Watchmen...holy...). While 300, like the recent Star Wars trilogy, may have been 10% real and 90% green/blue screen, this movie isn't just about filling the screen with droids and starships; this movie - every frame of it - is a piece of art. It's as if every moment was painstakingly hand painted. It's gorgeous.

That's worth the price of admission alone.

Want another reason to like it? Ok, how about the fact that it was shot almost entirely in Montreal? It was shot in a mere 60 days with over a year of post-production. Oh, and ladies: the actors went through 6 weeks of rigorous training before shooting to get those ridiculously buff physiques, worthy of Spartan warriors. As one reviewer put it: "I feel comfortable enough in my (relative lack of) masculinity to say that if I had to stand in the presence of these men for more than ten seconds I'd spontaneously grow a pair of ovaries."

This battle is also credited with spawning the famous "come and get it" retort to an aggressor. It's claimed that when the Persians demanded that the Spartans lay down their weapons in submission to Xerxes, the Spartan king replied, "Come and get them!" ("Molon Labe")

Sure, the movie may not be 100% historically accurate (it's based on the comic, not on the history books, remember) but who cares? The movie made me want to read about the Battle of Thermopylae - and anything that gets me to read has got to be a good thing, right?

(My only complaint? The posters kinda suck - they don't do the film justice. Had they been anywhere near cool, I'd pick one up.)

This is one of those movies that you'll remember for a very long time. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

If you have the stomach, go see this movie.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Internet Generation Gap

As I type this, I can't for the life of me remember how I came across this article, but I'm glad I did.

It's a piece from New York magazine (online version of course, which is fitting) about the emerging generation gap between those who grew up with the internet versus those who did not. It's all about privacy and personal space and what should and should not be posted online (and who's to judge anyways?).

I found it quite fascinating. It talks about many of the same things I wonder about when the topic of the internet and MySpace/Livejournal/Blogger/Lavalife/webcams etc etc etc come up.

How is the internet affecting people vis-a-vis school, friends, sex, privacy, relationships, celebrity...

The internet really hit the scene when I was in second year at UofT. Before that, I hadn't heard of hotmail, no one I knew had an "email address", a chat room was a place French people kept their pets, diaries had locks on them, nobody talked to strangers, and unless you came across a hidden stash somewhere you had to get your porn at the local Hasty Market.

My, how the world has changed...

Create Your Own Battlestar Galactica Clip!

Came across this cool idea via the folks at Boingboing.

Ever wanted to see your face on an episode of your favourite tv show? Well, if Battlestar Galactica is your thing - now you can!

Just head on over to the website and you can choose from dozens of clips from the show. Just mash 'em up with your own video and voila!: you're a star.

And in case that weren't appealing enough, you can submit your little opus and the best one will be aired on Sci Fi during a BSG episode!

In today's day and age of creators fearing piracy and digital rights management, it's refreshing to see a show that is clearly going above and beyond in reaching out to fans. In case you haven't seen it, BSG is a very cool show that is unlike any other spaceship/sci-fi show I've seen. Hell, it's borderline depressing.

I'd love to see Dan and/or Tristan take this on. Could Stan be a Cylon clone?!

If anyone wants to make one, I'll volunteer to help out!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nifty Snickers Commercial

Came across this via

Why aren't there more imaginative commercials like this?

Check it out.

Monday, March 05, 2007

UFC 68: The UFC Has Arrived *spoilers*


Two very pleasant surprises came out of the UFC event held Saturday night.

First, Randy Couture pulled off the massive upset over heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. He didn't just beat Sylvia - he dominated him from start to finish. It was unbelievable. I hadn't given the 43-year old Couture a prayer of winning against his gigantic opponent who was 13 years younger, 6 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier. Just like GSP's win, the bar went apeshit for Couture.


The second surprise came the next morning, when I was able to catch highlights and commentary on Sportsnet and The Score (I didn't notice anything on TSN). I've been saying for a while now that mixed martial arts (MMA) is the next Texas Hold'em - pretty soon you'll be seeing it everywhere. As it stands, I can catch MMA almost any night in some form or another and I just eat it up. (Wonder if they're hiring commentators?)

It's great to see this form of competition finally get the respect it's been looking for since the very first UFC tourney back in 1993.

MMA has arrived.

Film Review: Zodiac

I had high hopes for this movie, considering the 86% approval rating on Rottentomatoes and the fact it was directed by David Fincher of Fight Club and Se7en fame (two movies I loved).

The movie didn't disappoint, exactly, but it wasn't a home run.

First of all, it's really long. Clocking in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, it'll test the patience of any movie fan, but considering this is a very talky cop drama/suspense flick, it's really pushing it. The tone of the film is pretty even in its intensity, which gives a relentless pace to the film - this adds to the sense of length for the viewer. Some additional peaks and valleys or further editing might have been called for here.

To boot, I had a fair idea of how this movie would end. I mean, if you know a thing or two about the Zodiac killings, you know what to expect and what not to expect in terms of an appropriate ending. That tends to affect the way you view a movie - if it's based on a true story and you know how the real story ended, well...

But, that being said, I enjoyed this film overall. Mark Ruffalo was the real star of this movie, and was far more compelling than the screen time leading Jake Gyllenhaal. The supporting cast was a real treat. I didn't know much about this flick going in (well, other than the above-mentioned real life facts) and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the casting. I purposely avoided reading the names in the credits at the beginning of the movie (the things I do to ensure some sense of surprise - yes, I'm the guy in the theatre with his eyes closed and ears covered during the previews).

Considering Fincher's previous works, I had expected a bit more grittiness from this one. It didn't have the style of Fight Club or Se7en, but it had its moments. There was one murder scene that was rather disturbing in its execution (don't think I've seen something quite like that before) and a scene near the end had me gripping the armrest.

If you like crime drama and can hold your pee for 3 hours, check this one out.

Right now, I'm jonesing for 300...comes out this Friday!!!!