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Archive for May 2009

Windows 7 Starter – 3 Application Limit

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You gotta wonder, with all these leaps in technology and the dawn of the modern man (and other appropriate cliches), do these huge corporations really still think like old farts, or is it part of some world wide movement to just look stupid? Why’d they want that? Who knows, maybe so that when they fuck up for real they can hide behind the “We’re stupid like this only” wall.

Perhaps it’s just a publicity stunt (they removed the limitation yesterday); but if it is, it’s dumb. After Vista, that laughing stock of the OS world, and Games For Windows Live, that laughing stock of the gaming world, what Microsoft needs to do is set its image right (Windows 7 so far seems to be a significant step in that direction), not maintain its presence in the public consciousness with such asshattery.

In this age of nearly infinite technological choice, where do you even get the idea that the public will embrace crippled ware? An OS with application limits? Games with limited number of installs and a crapload of other piracy prevention methods (which don’t work anyway)? Songs, movies, books, with silly DRM wrappers? Seriously? If you’re gonna think solely about your company and your partners rather than your consumers, the consumers will ask you to kindly fuck off.

Unless you’re Apple.

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Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 31, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Lost Season 5 Finale

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Spoilers abound.

When Sawyer asks Jack why he wants to go back to the way things were so bad, he spews some nonsense about Kate.

What he should have said:  “Because I want to bury my father.”

That’s what he said in the first season’s finale to the airplane ticket counter girl.

It would have been the perfect line; certainly an improvement over the Kate drivel.

Now, of course, criticizing Lost is like criticizing your two year old brother for drawing stick figures instead of an Alex Ross painting, but still, what were they smoking?

In a show that earlier promised it wouldn’t pull any Terminator crap (the soldier from the future is John’s father, oh my!), then suddenly changed gears to “let’s try to change the future” for no apparent reason, it should come as no surprise when Juliet has a sudden change of heart, but still, what were they smoking?

I kept thinking that the Jacob who touches everyone off the island is the other guy, the bad guy, but alas, no such luck. I kept thinking it was awesome that the ass-kicking Locke had returned, but alas, it turns out it’s an impostor. What were they smoking?

And the end? With Ben becoming a pawn yet again? What were they smoking?

Let’s not even talk about the bomb in the backpack.

All that wasted potential. You gotta wonder why people even watch this. And yet, Yours Truly can’t quite stop. The wonders of pop culture.

Because I want to bury my father.

Would’ve knocked it out of the ball park.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 24, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Television

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The Pianist

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Click to open the IMDB page.

Click to open the IMDB page.

Polanski can portray the consequences of unchecked lust. He can explore human nature in all its raw ruthlessness. He can’t do sympathy. Oh, he tries. He pulls most of the tricks you’d expect from a Julia Roberts movie (only, they’re not really tricks, because he’s not jerking us around), and sentimental audiences, I’m sure, wept a bucket (the Oscar win confirms it) but, while it’s true that you can make a good movie on anything if you’re able, Polanski simply belongs out there where the men are savages held back only by the loose parchments that form the local law and where the underside of all cities and people is cold, black, nasty.

The first time I saw the film I wondered if Polanski was making a bid for the Oscars, selling out. But, no, even outside of his area of excellence, Polanski can’t quite manage a bad movie. It’s all there, those unflinching touches you’re used to see from the man; most apparent when the Nazis destroy – no other word for it – acre after acre of both hope and infrastructure. But it lacks what his best films have: the ability to leave you frustrated, irritated, perhaps outraged when you leave the movie hall because what you saw just hit home. Hard. Hearing those famous words in Chinatown; seeing the betrayal stinging Hugh Grant’s face – the things Oprah doesn’t do.

The entire story in two sentences: Nazis happen. One man tries to survive.

We’re supposed to care about him, clearly we are. But I didn’t. And for a movie such as this one, it’s the biggest possible failure. Adrien Brody’s to blame, I suspect. He tries, you can’t say he doesn’t, but he can’t pull it off. He looks the part; he just can’t play it.

Why see it, then? Why, because it’s Polanski, of course! I’ve just about had my fill of war movies (watching Defiance last month made it quite clear), but when I had the chance to see The Pianist again yesterday, I couldn’t refuse it. It gets better the second time, of course, because you’re not expecting greatness. And then you can concentrate on other things, like freezing the frame to marvel at the devastation in all its disrobed beauty.

And the music.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 20, 2009 at 10:54 pm

“Inspired By Einstein.”

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For sheer comic value, you can’t beat your local newspaper’s bling section. You know, the one where the pages are mostly filled with celebrities and their all-important opinions and quotes.

One of today’s headlines goes, “I was inspired by Einstein.” By one (I was a Black Eyed Pea!) William (with periods and random capitalizations in there somewhere). Regarding his role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Now, you and I both know this is all manufactured, but you’d think whoever was getting paid for this would come up with something better. It’s a minor role in a summer blockbuster spin-off of a moderately enjoyable franchise that might, at best, be a good couple of wasted hours. Not the second coming of Kafka.

All William did was be famous and get cast for it, then show up on set and pretend he knew what this acting thing was all about. Einstein, he’d punch the writer of this sorry sop in the face and call it a relative improvement.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 18, 2009 at 9:50 am

Collateral

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Click to open the IMDB page.

Click to open the IMDB page.

It still holds up. I’m not a very big fan of Michael Mann’s Heat. It’s an okay movie in my book; perhaps suffering from genre fatigue and good old star hype (Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro together again! Movie orgasm! And so on). But here Mann won me over.  Don’t get me wrong, Collateral is a genre movie, and can’t escape a few narrative clichés as a result, but like the very best of genre movies, it comes loaded with something that’s very much its own: personality.

While lacking in obvious one liners like movies before it (“I’ll be back.”) and any real originality anywhere, the movie gets away with it because Mann knows what he’s doing. Every single shot – including the streets of LA in all their glory – is a ticker-tape running to the (somewhat disappointing, but aren’t most of them?) conclusion.

The story is, let’s say, Terminator without the science fiction. Vincent (Tom Cruise) is an assassin. Only, that’s understating it. Tom Cruise gives one of his best performances (and you can yap about his Oprah freak show all you want; the man can act) in recent years, which is necessary, because without it, this would be an empty shell of a movie. You buy it. This man, Vincent, can do anything. The other guy in this buddy flick (it’s an uneasy friendship, but it is a friendship) is Max (Jamie Foxx), who (reluctantly) drives Vincent around to his targets. The Pop Psych 101 back and forth between them while traveling to those targets is cliché, sure, but it’s smart, too; because this is a genre film, you can’t hold those clichés against it for the cheese. Would you want a Death Wish without the political agenda?

Collateral, on the other, seems to have no agenda at all, except being a tense ride from the moment Vincent takes a seat in Max’s cab (which almost doesn’t happen because Max is busy flustering over getting his last fare’s number). Vincent has no “reason” to kill except being contracted to. He’s killing bad guys, he tells Max, to pacify him, but they both know that’s a lie. How do we know this? The camera focuses on Jamie Foxx during that shot throughout, and he channels that going-through-your-parents’-closet look very well.

In an O-story style, Vincent repeats one of the first things he tells Max at the end (you can see said end coming a mile away, of course), and, while the movie could certainly have ended on a meatier note, it ends precisely where it should. On a road.

Complaints? I wondered if David Mamet was going to ghost direct after Vincent decides to go see Max’s mother. In a hospital.

Thankfully, that scene, while among the movie’s worst, isn’t nearly bad enough to detract from the whole experience.

I’m tempted to reveal more, but this is one of those films which you see once just for the ride. And then, if you’re like me, a second time – when it’s on TV, perhaps – to study it. It’s not Mann’s best (that’d be The Insider), but as far as such movies go, without all the spit shine of special effects and flying robots, they don’t come better than this.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 14, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Content Overload

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One of the privileges of modern computing is nearly unlimited space. Where once you’d meticulously delete things, now you can afford to let it stay there. Where once watching a DVDRip meant either burning it to a CD right after (if it was good) or clicking it, pressing SHIFT+DEL and hitting ENTER (if it sucked or was just not worth the cost of the burning media), now it gets lumped into a folder called Seen and promptly forgotten.

Unless it’s good. In which case the folder is called Good Movies, and is eventually burnt to DVD along with five others.

Having access to all this content is wonderful; especially in this country of poverty – the internet as a great unifier, hail Web 2.0. But the flip side is, a lot of this content loses its worth.

There’s just so much to see! We simply don’t have time to watch every movie the way it deserves to be seen (whether it’s good or bad): from the beginning to the end without any other distractions.

So these days there’s a movie playing nearly everyday in the background while I do other work. Like writing blog posts. Most of these movies are the ones you’d never want to watch again, of course, but you gotta wonder: what if you miss out on that rare supposed B-grader that’s actually worth its footprint because you’re too distracted with the latest dose of science fiction nostalgia?

Basic Instinct 2‘s playing in the background now, and you and I both know that all the t-n-a won’t save this ship (neither can the gorgeous Charlotte Rampling). But there was a time where I’d deconstruct a movie as shallow as this one too. Where this would be film school. Every scene would be analyzed for shot selection, music, length, and so on. If the film failed at that level, then of course there was the old doo-hickey: make up your own dialog.

More and more often, I reserve my proper movie watching time for movies I know achieve greatness. This Sunday, for example, is Kurosawa day.

But what about the next generation’s Kurosawa? If all content is merely background noise now except the renowned greats, how will the new visionaries get noticed amid all the ruckus?

“I’m bored,” a Youtube surfer says. Once upon a time having so much choice at your fingertips was unheard of. Once upon a time all I got here were two channels with half an hour every Sunday morning reserved for Walt Disney cartoons. It was all good. Every single cricket match was a family event. Who watches TV anymore? We’ll just read the results on the RSS feed, they say. But that’s for another post.

My excuse is that I simply wouldn’t have seen Basic Instinct 2 if it intruded into my proper movie watching time. Who’d sink this stinker between Herzog and Egoyan?

And yet, once upon a time the sheen and gloss (it’s not a bad looking film, even if Sharon Stone is plastic) on display alone might have been enough.

Infinite choice only seems like Utopia. But I’m not complaining. Gift horse, and so on.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 11, 2009 at 1:19 pm

RIP 3D Realms

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Main story over at Shacknews (new window). Going through the comments on that page is like going through an old photo album.

Computers — real ones, as opposed to clunky machines that could just barely run MS-DOS — came late to the country. I remember playing Dangerous Dave (in lush black and white!) the first time. I remember playing Pac Man (in glorious color!) too. But none of them really left as much of an impression on me as the first three proper computer games I played.

I got my first computer (technically, it was the “family” computer, but Yours Truly marked it as his territory from day one) sometime in 2000. Right after the Y2K scare. I remember, one of the first things I asked the assembler was whether it was Y2K compliant or not. Man, I feel stupid now.

It came loaded with Windows 98SE, which, for all intents and purposes, was the best thing. It had a 33.6 kbps modem and oh dear, let’s save the internet story for another time. The assembler loaded it up with a few game demos.

One of those was Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith. Not a bad one for a first. I was hooked, boy, was I. But let’s save the computer game story for another time too.

Because in a few months I downloaded the shareware version of Duke Nukem 3D (5 MB downloaded off a metered phone line internet, sorry for the bills, folks) and things, as they say, changed. Muchachos muchachas.

The first time Duke dropped one of his trademark lines (I think it was, “Your face, your ass, what’s the difference?” but I can’t be sure), I had the computer speakers cranked up high. Dad heard it. Not my finest hour. But I was hooked.

While others were spouting Bollywood dialog, I was busy mouthing Dukeisms.

So, when I went shopping for games a few months later and found a — check this — Premier edition of Duke Nukem 3D, I grabbed it like you’d grab a naked chick. I kid you not. There it was: this thick, black box. Beautiful like you wouldn’t believe. I still have it, along with the Half Life box (but that’s for later). I devoured the game. No other word for it.

When it was over, I went through it again. Then I found the map editor and, for the next month I was the nerd cliche. Dreaming of making games for a living. But I liked playing the damn game more than making my own levels (come on, confess it, I’m not the only one who shoved a truckload of belly dancers in a room with no doors and basically leaned back to watch ’em. Confess!), and thank Christ for that.

I tried running through Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem 2 (which were on the Premier CD-ROM), but I think I just went back to DN3D again halfway through (DN2 was riddled with bugs, anyway). I’m gonna rip off your head and shit down your neck. If only all protagonists were so eloquent.

Duke Nukem Forever, ever since its announcement, has been like retirement for most of us who played the original as kids. Something that will come by when you can enjoy it to its fullest. So, reading through the comments at Shacknews is no surprise. There’s a broken nerd gamer heart for every murdered alien scum today.

Me, I’ll be dusting that beautiful black box, and perhaps giving the CD a try. Witness the old magic in this age of intellectual bankruptcy. Hear that outstanding title song at the very least. They did with MIDI what Metallica couldn’t do with twenty years of technology: explode.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

May 7, 2009 at 10:30 pm