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...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wiiing on the open Seas

While on the cruise in Hawaii, I noticed they had some events that allowed people to play the Wii on the big screen on the ship. I'm kicking myself now for not at least checking it out, but I was kind of on my Honeymoon!

I thought the events were interesting because of the large number of roving gangs of old people on board. I wanted to see the age range of the people at the wii events because getting my butt kicked at doubles Wii Tennis by a 10-year-old and his 90-year-old grandma probably would have done more damage to my ego than all the bullies in grade school combined!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Would-be Intellectual

If I had more time to actually read (which is an excuse for me to play, I know) I would read I am a Strange Loop. It sounds like an interesting discussion about consciousness could be had after reading a book like this. On second thought, I take that back, I read a whole book last week called the The Book of the Dead, and despite it's stiff sounding title, it was pretty exciting, although only marginally intellectual. I would give it a 4.5 (but only after having read the other books in the series.)

Despite the onslaught on reading as a form of entertainment, by the scrappy likes of movies and videogames, there is just something about a good book that they can't quite replace. Maybe it's the subtle way in which words combine with images and memories so that every book we read mixes with our past and becomes part of our future, that gives us a real sense of ownership. My favorite movies are like books, in that they remind me of days past, and change me for the future. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn't change me, but it was a fun movie. If you like turtles. And Ninjas.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Captain, all the Stars have gone out!

Thanks to AICN, I discovered the trailer for what could be one of the best movies of the year.

I say that because I have a soft spot for the bygone age of such magical films as Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Princess Bride. For a while there, the monster that is Hollywood got stars in its eyes and engorged itself on sci-fi, and chewed up and spat out the comic book. Finally, we have come full circle with a delightful renaissance filled with wily wizards, effervescent elves, and fabulous fairies! Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter lead the way, followed by a little movie about a wardrobe.

But big budget extravaganza's are not exactly what I dreamed about. For in their time, Labyrinth and its ilk, had relatively little budgets, and were fueled more by imagination than dollar signs. And so they came in the past couple of years, small budget but high concept masterpieces like Pan's Labyrinth, MirrorMask, and Howl's Moving Castle. And now with Stardust, based on the wonderful book by Neil Gaiman, there is another quirky little gem to add to the pantheon of magical films.

I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman as an author, and I have high hopes for this film. I'll let you know as soon as I see it, if it was worth the wait, and if the child in me opened his eyes one more time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Are good airline experiences possible?

Wow, I'm back from my honeymoon. What an amazing trip! I was surprised by a couple of features that American Airlines offered this time, that I hadn't seen before.

They offered to contact me before my flight to let me know the final gate and on-time information. I filled out a form on the website, and sure enough, two hours before the flight I get a voice call letting me know which gate to go to and that the flight was on time. That was pretty handy!

On the way back, the DC 767 had electronic seats. We used some upgrade miles to fly first class, and the seats were incredibly comfortable. You could use one of three presets or individually adjust the seat bottom, the legs, or the seat back. It even had a memory function so you could store a comfy configuration, and then return to it later. The seats were apparently brand new because the flight attendants didn't know how to use them, but there isn't a gadget I can't figure out by pressing random buttons!

So yes, good airline experiences are possible. They either happen before you get to the airport, or you have to pay for them!

Thursday, March 8, 2007


This Saturday I'm going on my honeymoon. We are going to Hawaii, and I'm very excited, but also a little sad to be going so soon after beginning to write again. Ok, maybe I'm not that sad, but it sounded good at the time.

I won't be seeing or reviewing a movie this week, because I do have to pack. I'm the sort of person that thinks packing is a piece of cake. I always think that it's going to take me five minutes to throw everything in a bag and go. Of course, it always ends up taking three hours, I stay up way too late, and I inevitably forget something important. And every time I tell myself that I've learned my lesson, and every time I refuse to learn.

I won't be writing for at least a week, due to the whole being on my honeymoon thing. I'm sure you'll understand.

Bon Voyage!

IntelliJ pierces my heart

My wife would probably raise her eyebrows at me, but I hold a special place in my heart for IntelliJ. It is, for those not in the know, an editor for the illustrious Java programming language, and soon to be for Ruby also. I will be writing a series of articles that basically describe my delight while using IntelliJ. Whenever I encounter a particularly delightful feature, I will write a little about it here on my blog. And yes, delight to me is tinted a particularly fruity shade of purple.

Yesterday, I discovered how easy it is to internationalize (or i8n in l33+5p3@k) a Swing GUI application. While in the wysiwyg editor, I double clicked on a button in my form. I saw a cute little [...] button and thought to myself, "now what in the blazes is that for?". I clicked on it (because that's just what you do when you encounter a strange button) and it popped up a dialog asking me to pick an internationalized string from a property file. How convenient!

I will spare you the tragic details of when I encountered a strange button in Bangkok. Suffice it to say, it is not a memory I care to dredge up...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Gimme an S!

Sony did today what many thought they were incapable of doing, they innovated. They created this impossible mash-up of Second Life, Xbox Live Achievements, and Nintendo Mii's. By taking the social experience further than either of the other two game console manufacturers, they have cemented their place in the grand parade of gaming innovators. Which is all well and good.

But can they deliver? My experience with the Playstation 3 so far has been less than stellar. Heck, it's pretty much been stuck below sea level. The high definition era did not start with PS3, it ended, because the Playstation 3 banished my HDTV to the dark ages of 480p. This is in stark contrast to the glistening gorgeousness of Xbox 360 1080i. (480p and 1080i are a measurement of detail, the Playstation 3 on my HDTV sports half the resolution of the Xbox). And with a klunky interface, buggy software, and strange inconveniences, I'm half convinced Sony will fail to deliver.

But I'm a sucker for hope. And I want my $599 game machine to be worth a damn. So I'm going to take out my pom-pom's and wave them in the air and give them an S, an O, an N, and just to be fair, a Y. Go Sony! Go Sony! Go spend my 600 bucks to make my 600 bucks worth spending!

Games are a waste of time...but not for long!

I grew up on video games, and one of the things I am finding as I gain levels in the game of life, is that I have less and less patience with repetition in games. I despise games that make me wait to save, or make me repeat an entire level because I had the nerve to actually go and die. I used to spend hours in these games, like Mega Man, Ghosts & Goblins, and Battletoads. And most of the time was spent doing the same thing over and over and over and over. It literally sucked the life out of me! Not that I regret it, though, there was nothing else to do in the eighties. Madonna notwithstanding.

Arriving to save the day, and my precious time is a new game. If you think that innovation in video-games is dead, and you value your time, take a look at Braid. That is, if you dare click through and "spoil" yourself. I won't spoil you, that's your grandmother's job.

Braid looks to redefine challenge, and actually respects my time. I went ahead and read it, and it makes my brain hurt. Which is exactly the experience I am looking for in games these days.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Ruby and DRY

What is DRY? It stands for "Don't Repeat Yourself" and is one of the driving principals behind ruby and rails.

Why is it important?

Well, I was working in Java this evening and using the Hibernate ORM one of the premiere ORM libraries for Java. I tried to add a column to a table, and was dismayed when it wouldn't work. It refused to use the new column. What a piece of junk, I thought! Then I found the bug, in the xml property file I had used the word "properties" instead of "property", and hibernate just conveniently ignored my new column.

Hibernate (AFAIK) defines columns in no-less then five places!

1. In MyClass.hbm.xml
2. In MyClass as a field: myField
3. In MyClass.getMyField
4. In MyClass.setMyField
5. In the Database as a column: MyField

Ruby on Rails?

1. In the Database as a column: MyField

Now, if you had to modify your code to add a column to a table, would you want to do it in RoR or Java/Hibernate? I thought as much ;)