Friday, May 11, 2007

"Meet the Robinsons" Review (2007)

When Disney announced that it was scrapping its 2d animation studio and betting the farm entirely on 3D I was a little bit dismayed. What were they thinking? The house of Mickey was built with straw brushes, and they were going to huff and puff and blow it right down! I was probably overreacting, because when it comes down to it, there is no reeeeeeal difference between 3D and 2D. Still, they weren't just killing a technology but also the Disney magic behind it, ala the people. Granted, Disney's most recent animated movies have been uninspired to say the least, but there was still a lot of pent up and latent talent in those people that have now been discarded like last weeks onion-skin dailies.

The new studio got busy right away and pushed out their first effort, "Chicken Little", to very little fanfair. The movie was decent but its claim to fame, and the only reason why I enjoyed it as much as I did, was because it was in 3D. Well of course it was a 3D movie, but it also was in 3D complete with the funny glasses and the headache inducing nausea. The headache lasted for the first ten minutes, after which the 3D became almost second nature and was actually quite good. It's no suprise, then, that they used the same 3D gimmick for their next movie, "Meet the Robinsons".

The movie follows the time-challenged adventures of a boy genius by the name of Will Robinson, erm, I mean Lewis Robinson which begs the question: Why is it always a boy genius? And not just any boy genius, an orphan boy genius. Go ahead search for movies about orphans on google. There are plenty of those. And you want boy geniuses? How about: Dexter's Lab, Jimmy Neutron, and even Lost in Space itself obviously. So they took a tentative, evolutionary step forward by combining the popular boy genius genre with the crowded orphan genre, how did they do?

See the dumbfounded look of the spiky-haired kid in the picture above? That was me after seeing the film. Unfortunately, it was more of the same from the house of mouse. While technically quite good, and in stunning 3d, the film was bogged down with a tarry mix of sarcasm, hyperactivity, and cheese. The audience was never given a moment to relax and get to know the characters. It went from one crazy kooky character to the next while no one stopped to reflect on the significance of the story. When the characters don't reflect, then the audience won't either. Which was sad because the plot was not bad at all. It had an interesting, albeit slightly obvious, twist and some genuinely inventive ideas.

Pixar has shown that it is possible to make animated films filled with maturity and zaniness, so that kids and adults can go, see them and everyone can enjoy them to the fullest extent. Maybe I am living in the past. Maybe Disney, itself, is not that company any more. They used to be with the classics like "Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast", but they've lost the magic. I hope the fact that Disney now owns Pixar doesn't dampen Pixar's genius, but instead, raises Disney's game to a whole new level. Nothing like a little competition to give you a kick in the pants.

Speaking of kick in the pants, its time for lunch! Ratatouille comes out in a few weeks which is the next Pixar work of art. See you then!

(2.5 out of 5)
James the CMO

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Spider-Man 3" Review (2007)

When I found out that Venom was going to be in Spider-Man 3, I became a drooling fanboy who would go see this movie no. matter. what. There really was no question about whether I was going to go see it on opening day or not, it became an immovable fact of the universe. When I heard the early so-so reviews, it didn't change the fact that I was going to see it, but it did damper my enthusiasm a bit.

Let's face it, Spider-Man 3 is not director Sam Raimi's best effort. But as the judges on American Idol like to say, "We still love you Sam!" The movie is a dense miasma of material and the scope is as far reaching as Middle Earth. Inside, Spider Man battles himself, an alien spore with the lovable nickname "Venom", a cocky competitive reporter, his best friend-with-a-grudge Harry, and the slips-through-your-fingers-and-gets-everywhere Sandman.

I'm glad they included Venom, because the sandman is just not interesting enough a villain to carry the movie. But with four other villains to jockey with, the sandman's story fades into pseudo-schlock territory and just doesn't matter. This was supposed to be a personal movie for Peter Parker, wherein he battles his own demons as all superhero's should (if only to satisfy us salivating comic fans.) When every other scene included the kind of heavy-handed verbage that spawned the "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" line the film just kind of drowned in its own lessons. I should have come out of it with a strong urge not to submit to my own darker urges, but instead came out of it with a strong desire to grab a beer and glare menacingly at the nearest emo goth.

Sam has an thing for humor mixed with action, which is a good thing, because he and I share that fetish. There are a great many humorous scenes in the movie, and the audience had a hoot of a time. Still, the humor did not mix well with the dark drama and angst. It went from Saturday Night Live goofiness in one scene, to wife-beating "what the hell are you doing?" in the next. This led to the movie lacking the usual Sam Raimi patented smooth silky scene transitions.

I liked the movie. It was better than any of the second tier comic book movie disappointments (see Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider, and the Fantastic Four.) It still had some of the ol' Raimi magic including another great cameo by the Indomitable Bruce Campbell. It had some fun Spider-Man action antics, and some drop-dead gorgeous effects. But the story was too big for the sandbox and the tone changes of the movie made me seasick, dropping it down a notch.

Judging by the box office, you've probably already seen Spider-Man 3. If you haven't, go see it, just so you can fit in with the rest of society. As I clean the sand out of my shoes, I know in my heart of hearts that I will buy the movie when it comes out on Blu-Ray. I will feel a twinge of guilt as I do so though, as if the movie isn't quite worth the full price of seeing it in the theater plus purchasing the shiny plastic disk version. I do love the shiny though...Hey what's that over there?

(4 out of 5)
James the CMO

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

More *purring* about IntelliJ

One of my coworkers pointed out to me a feature he discovered in IntelliJ. I don't know if it's specifically from the app, or if the operating system is doing it (linux in our case.) But its dead simple, and oh so pleasurable.

Middle click on an editor tab, closes that tab.

Also, he made me aware of the fact that custom user shortcuts can include the mouse. I could, for instance, make a shortcut of Ctrl+Alt+Click to perform an operation.

IntelliJ has one of the most robust customization schemes I have seen in any application. It makes most applications look like they came straight out of Bedrock in comparison because you can create a shortcut for nearly any operation.

If it's in a menu, it can be in a shortcut.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cars. They don't make them like they used to...

I saw the film, GRINDHOUSE, recently and I was impressed by the car chase scene in the sub-feature Tarantino's Death Proof. Two cars from over thirty years ago duke it out on the open road. When they merged into traffic with some more modern cars, they dealt massive damage to the relatively feeble cars. It was a pretty awesome scene but I was struck by how well the older cars held up. I wondered at the time whether it was more Hollywood magic or if the cars really were tougher back then.

On the consumerist today, I noticed a post about how the cost of low-speed crash damage has changed over the years, and I think I found the answer. The cars were tougher. What it boils down to is that a 1981 Ford Escort had $469 worth of damage (accounting for crashes at the front, back, and two corners) at 6 miles per hour. Sound high? A more recent Ford Fusion racked up $5,030 worth of damage! Holy insane! The tests were performed by the Insurance institute which may have an incentive to make us believe they are shelling out more in claims.

But if I'm going to get my kicks on route 66, I'm going to use a 69 Mustang for said kicks.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The boy who cried Fox

I've been burned so many times by the television studio known as Fox. The formula is always the same:
  1. Produce intelligent show (Firefly, Wonderfalls, The Lone Gunmen, etc.)
  2. Get me to watch
  3. Cancel intelligent show
  4. Get me to cry
So when I heard that they had this show (Drive) that was created by this genius (Tim Minear) starring this charismatic actor (Nathan Fillion) and they were asking me to watch, I was understandably a little bit suspicious. It's based on the idea of a bunch of strangers getting forced to participate in a mysterious race by mysterious people for mysterious reasons. I wasn't interested in the show based on the previews, but the pedigree was a little too hard to pass up, so I added it to my Tivo. Call me weak. Call me spineless. Call me what you want (as long as it's not weak and spineless) but I do get a little out of each of these shows, even when they pull the rug out from under me. Maybe it's only the sting of my head hitting the concrete, but I become a different if not better person each time!

I'll let you know how the show is, assuming they don't cancel it during the first hour! And no I wouldn't put it past them...Anyway, my head hurts, so I'm just going to have to go watch it, and stay away from those pullable rugs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shelve Changes (New for IntelliJ in 7.0)

Update: Corrected Typo. Create Patch is a new IntelliJ feature for their upcoming 7.0 release (for which there is an early access version available for testing.) It allows you to take a set of changes and package them up into a patch file, after which it restores each packaged file to it's original version from source control. Then, at any time, you can re-apply your effectively shelved changes by applying the patch.

This allows you to work on a large change, restore everything to its original version and work on a small change, and then go back to working on your larger change.

But, a coworker recently pointed out a more interesting use for this feature. You could work on a large change, shelve the changes, then check out a fresh build the latest version of the code, and then apply the changes, effectively patching the latest version of the code! This is amazing because the thing about large changes is, they usually take a large amount of time to work meaning an active code base becomes a moving target. The way our builds work is sometimes we can't just do an update to get the latest version (because of database upgrade issues) and we have to do a full check out and build. Applying our changes to a fresh build was always a pain because we had to painstakingly copy each file and remember where it went, and then manually merge and/or overwrite each file. What a pain that IntelliJ makes literally a breeze!

The delight is almost too much to bear...

Friday, April 6, 2007

Epson's 1080p projector at $2999 too good to be true?

Update: Apparently the $4,999 projector is ISF Certified, offers ISF Calibration modes, includes an extra bulb, and a coupon or somesuch. Worth it, I guess, if you have a lot of money to spend! The big question, is how does the quality compare to the Sony Pearl or the Mitsubishi hc5000 which cost significantly more?

Epson recently released some information on their new 1080p projector, the Powerlite Home Cinema 1080p at $2,999. I thought, "wow! I have to have that" because I'm in the market for a new projector. But, I checked out their website and they have an identical projector, a Pro Cinema 1080 that sells for $4,999.

My question is, did they mess up and release the specs for the Pro version instead of the home version? Or do they truly have two identical projectors with a $2,000 price gap?

If it looks as good as it's specced out to be, I want one! I had been previously looking at the Sony Pearl with an MSRP around 5 grand...