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March 22, 2008

Update

Filed under: Machining,Movies,Work — Bob @ 7:13 pm

It has been a really long time since I posted anything (and maybe longer since posting anything interesting).

Work has been really, really busy including a number of evenings at home to finish up the day’s efforts. I’ve been busy with planning the start of a new version for the Sophos Web Appliance. The successful launch of version 2.0 in January caused a fair amount of new investment in the product line. So time for robots and other hobbies has pretty much been suspended because of that, which explains why the Joint Strike Minisumo project hasn’t progressed any further.

Eileen and I have recently seen two movies worth mentioning though: In Bruges and The Other Boylen Girl.

In Bruges is basically the same type of film as Pulp Fiction, except it is set in Europe and has a strong European flair (and without the great dance contest). It is a really well-made film starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes and probably a bunch of other great actors I didn’t recognize. It was shot in the fantastic city of Bruges in Belgium, and we recognized quite a few scenes (we’ve been to Bruges probably six or seven times or so from the time when we lived in Brussels).

The Other Boylen Girl is quite different. We debated the film quite a bit and I’d say that the set decorating and costumes were the best part. The script follows the historical facts quite closely but is generally an uninspired tale. The film plods along without a strong central storyline. I’d still recommend seeing it though but don’t get too excited – it isn’t quite the same scale as Elizabeth.

The one bright note for my robotics hobby is that I’ve finally invested in a CNC set-up for my Sherline mill. I decided on a package from Xylotex. I’m still waiting for it to arrive in the mail but when it does I’ll document the conversion, including the Sherline CNC conversion package. I haven’t purchased software yet but I’m strongly leaning towards Mach3. I really like the g-code generator wizards for common operations.

January 1, 2008

Can’t get enough zombies

Filed under: Movies — Bob @ 9:50 pm

Seems to be the time of the year to watch zombie movies. The other evening we rented 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to the brilliant 28 Days Later. Although the sequel isn’t as good as the original, it was still a well-made horror flick. We particularly enjoyed the views of the empty city of London, and of course the story was well written and decently acted. There were plenty of frightening scenes and great zombie attacks.

Tonight we watched the Dawn of the Dead remake from 2004 on the Space Channel. Not a particularly great film but it had some original things as well as all the traits of a classic “B” horror film. I don’t think the acting was very good and the photography was average at best, but setting the film inside a shopping mall was brilliant. If you haven’t seen it you really should.

Any other zombie movie recommendations?

December 30, 2007

I Am Legend

Filed under: Movies — Bob @ 10:04 am

I Am Legend MovieWe caught the latest Will Smith movie I Am Legend last night, and it sparked a lot of conversation between Eileen and I over dinner about the merits and disappointments of the film.

If you didn’t know, this film is the third on-screen rendition of the original book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (in reprint now, due to the film). The first time around in 1964 it was titled The Last Man on Earth and starred Vincent Price. I’ve never seen this film and wasn’t even aware of it until I read about it on IMDB. The second film The Omega Man is a bit more modern, made in 1971, and stars Charlton Heston as Robert Neville. I haven’t seen this film in years but recall watching it with my father when I was young. It wasn’t really scary when watching on television on a Saturday afternoon, but it definitely intrigued me.

When I first saw the trailer for this latest version, I was immediately struck with the similarities to The Omega Man, and I quickly discovered the history of the book and original film.

After the film we went to the Gerard Lounge at the Sutton Place Hotel across the street. This fabulous little bar has great atmosphere reminiscent of a gentleman’s club in Victorian England: dark, floor to ceiling wood paneling, and a full complement of waiters to bring drinks and food. It was the perfect setting to debate what we liked and disliked about the film.

First, the very best “character” in the film is the very lonely, very wild, very overgrown New York City. It was better than any of the human or animal actors by far. Don’t get me wrong, Will Smith did a tremendous job portraying a driven, lonely, slightly mad Robert Neville but even he couldn’t compete with the sweeping and often disturbing views of NYC.

Second, I’d say that the the film was too disjointed. There was very clearly an over-arching story of how Neville is trying to “fix” the problem of the killer virus but why he was so involved from the beginning wasn’t really explained very well. It was clear why he was so driven after the death of his family, and there were vague hints of his early involvement but there seemed to be more emphasis on his military role rather than his role as a virologist. There was also a big gap in the portrayal of the evolution of the “zombie”. There was the great scene where Neville records his behavioral analysis, but missed the opportunity to observe that the Dark Seekers were intelligent and rapidly organizing themselves into a society.

There was also no coherent story for the “head zombie” (credited as Alpha Male, played by Dash Mihok). He really could have been nothing more than a savage beast, but the film would have been improved by giving that character more depth. All the pieces were there: a love interest, motivation to find Neville’s house, ability to learn and adapt, etc.

Third, the film was too predictable. The unfortunate death of Sam was telegraphed very early. The death of Neville’s family was obvious two minutes into the flashbacks of their attempts to exit the city. The attack on the house was entirely expected. The “happy ending” was not surprising nor interesting at all.

Which brings me to my last point: I don’t think the “happy ending” was appropriate. I don’t know how the book ends (I should probably get a copy and read it) but I found it very disappointing. Same for the ending of another post-apocalyptic film Children of Men from 2006. Too happy, and too unbelievable.

This doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy the film. The photography was great and the “world” of Robert Neville was very well done. Will Smith really captured the sense of loneliness and desperation. The long views of NYC were fantastic. Its just that the film could have been so much better than it really was.

October 14, 2007

More Movies

Filed under: Movies — Bob @ 7:52 pm

In the Shadow of the Moon Elizabeth: the Golden AgeWe watched two very good movies recently, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.

In the Shadow of the Moon is a documentary by Ron Howard about the NASA moon landings. It contains a number of interviews with nine of the living astronauts who landed on the Moon in the 1969-1972. The video footage was worth seeing, much of it I hadn’t seen before. But the stories are all very familiar if you have seen Apollo 13 and From the Earth to the Moon.

Disappointingly, Neil Armstrong did not participate. I worry that we might never hear his story in his own words, which would be a real tragedy. This film did contain a line (by Alan Bean, if I recall correctly) saying that it is very hard to be Neil Armstrong simply because he can never live up to the expectations.

The other film we saw was Elizabeth: The Golden Age, the sequel to the 1998 film Elizabeth. Eileen is a fan of this period of English history and was eager to see it. This film is visually stunning and quite dramatic although the storyline doesn’t really come together very tightly. The script also took a few small liberties with the historical facts, which was also disappointing. However the visuals are worth overlooking these small foibles.

Seen any great (or bad) movies recently?

September 30, 2007

Fracture

Filed under: Movies — Bob @ 6:39 pm

FractureWe watched the film Fracture starring Anthony Hopkins last night. I was unsure what to expect, but we’d heard good things about the film from friends. It was most certainly not another Hannibal Lecter flick.

Without giving too much away, I’ll say it was a great game of cat-and-mouse between the Deputy District Attorney and the fellow who kills his wife in cold blood. The end is quite good although rather predictable after the significant climax where Anthony Hopkins’ character won’t be prosecuted for attempted murder.

Parts of the story are quite clever though, for example the hiding place for the gun that committed the crime was a nice touch. Like all good plot twists, it was obvious from the start except it wasn’t obvious at all.

Seen this film? What did you think of it?

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