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.