Saturday, May 26, 2007

Movie Review: Spider-Man 3

Wow, I saw another movie in an actual movie theater. I've doubled last year's total!

I went into this movie hearing about mixed reviews and an overly-long playing time. Well, the playing time was a bit long, but not too bad. My main problem wasn't with the overall time, just with the percent of time spent showing us the "bad" Peter Parker. OK - he brushed his hair down over his eyes and started eying the ladies. We probably could have gotten that across without showing him strutting down the street twice, putting the moves on three different girls, and giving us two cheesy dance routines. Oh, and while I know cheese was definitely on the menu (Spidey's little tribute celebration was the definition of cheese), Tobey still looked about as far from menacing as it is possible to be.

The other problem was the ending. Sandman just kind of gives up? While he had been slowed down a couple of times, nobody came close to stopping him, or even coming up with a plan to stop him. Yeah, yeah - a criminal with a conscious and all - but still. This was too easy an out.

Other than that, a pretty solid outing. Good, brutal fight scenes, some shifting alliances, the usual Spiderman soap opera...not a bad outing. But not as good as Spider-Man 2. Sandman doesn't quite stack up in my mind to Doc Octopus. Three stars.

Oh, and the worst part...the trailer for Rush Hour 3. I'm a huge Jackie Chan fan, and even speaking as someone appalled at his recent Hollywood work...this looks terrible.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Non-liveblogged Lost season finale

Didn't have time to make notes as I was going - I had to watch this show in three separate blocks. 24 needs to take some notes here. Where there was very little tension in Jack's last two hours, Lost managed to keep things running along nicely for most of its running time. Give Charlie a chance, then take it away, then have him be rescued, then have him commit suicide. Well - that last one didn't work so well. It sure looked like Charlie could have made it out in a couple of different ways, so his death was effectively suicide, and left a bit of a bad taste. But the communication he received bodes well for the immediate future of the show.

As is the revelation that Jack and Kate (at least) do get off the island, assuming the flash forward we saw is carved in stone. (I'm going to assume for the time being that the writers aren't going to screw around with us by showing us a possible future, and then changing it later on.) Along with Ben's warnings, Locke's psychic hotline message from Walt and Charlie's message from Penny, well, maybe we're going to see yet another group of "bad guys" next year. Still doesn't mean Ben et. al. are the "good guys".

Speaking of which - what about this past season? Well, despite Ben's assertion, we didn't actually see anything to demonstrate that his group were the "good guys" - and plenty to show they are "bad", or at least so convinced of their mission as to be amoral. We didn't find out anything much about Dharma, except how they got taken out by Ben's group. We didn't find out much about the island itself, except for vague metaphors about the "magic box".

We didn't really find out much about any of the main mysteries.

And we got a few new ones. Why do pregnent women die there? Who were the group that Ben ended up leading - split off Dharminians or a separate group? Who or what is Jacob - just a figment of the imagination or something real?

At any rate, the last few episodes have breathed some real life back into a show that I was ready to give up on. Now I find myself really looking forward to next season. I sure hope the 24 team is able to pull the same turnaround.

Now there's just The Shield left to finish up - then's it a long dreary summer waiting for football. I'll probably use the time to catch up on some other shows, like Doctor Who Season 2, that I've left sitting round.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Go Spurs!

I'm not a big NBA fan normally - I'm more into the college game, and the NBA season and playoffs are just too long. So I only get interested after March Madness is over, and then only while the Mavericks are in.

So obviously, as a Dallas fan...after the Golden State debacle...I'm not very much into the NBA right now.

But I do watch various sports shows, and there's been a lot of talk about how the Suns got jobbed by commissioner David Stern. The story: the Suns' best player, point guard Steve Nash, gets taken out by a blatent hip check by one of the Spurs' bench players, Robert Orrey. Two Suns, including another key player, Amare Stoudemire, get off the bench and come onto the floor, where they have to be warned by coaches and refs to stay back. This is a violation of a zero-tolerance NBA rule, and so Stern suspends both Suns for one game. The Spurs' player is also suspended, but the Suns obviously take a much bigger hit here.

They go on to lose the next two games and are eliminated.

This ruling by Stern leaves a bad taste in a lot of commenters mouths. Tony Kornheiser has said he has just lost all interest in the playoffs specifically because of this ruling. Not because he hates the Spurs, but just that it seems unfair.

Well - he's wrong. Sort of.

These guys knew the rule existed - especially after the nasty near-riot that occurred in Detroit a while back. When they got off the bench, they incurred a penalty (which I don't think Stern had a lot of leeway in enforcing). Is it unfair? Yes - but not because of the way Stern ruled. It's because of the rule in the first place. The penalty was overly harsh for the act committed, especially compared to Orrey's original act. But it was the rule.

Sam Smith has had some odd comments on this matter. He was seemingly complaining about the star system in the NBA - where big names get preferential treatment from refs. But then he simultaneously complains that the penalty robbed the series of any validity. What he is asking for, in effect, is star treatment - Stoudamire is too important, so let's relax the rule for him, because the fans want it.

You can't have it both ways.

The other things is the stupidity of zero-tolerance rules. This occurs in all aspects of life these days, especially for stupid school rules (like being sent to suspension because of some aspirin in a backpack, or because a tire iron is locked in a trunk). Well, guess what - here is another place where it fails. If Stern had leeway available, he could have made a sensible ruling; but instead, the rule says "suspend them" and so he does.

The next result of all this: I'm rooting for the Spurs.

Not because I like the Spurs - as a Mavs fan, I don't. But a Spurs win will put the maximum bad taste in everyone's mouth over this, since they have the stigma on them from the Suns series. So let's have the Spurs win, and maybe some changes for the better will come about next season.

But I'm still not watching this year.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Semi-liveblogging 24 season finale

Sorry, no clocks - what do think this is, an episode of 24?
  • "We're going to implant a tracker in you. The last guy we did this to chopped off his arm, so we're implanting this one directly into your balls."
  • Least popular job at CTU - the guy driving a captured Jack Bauer back to CTU.
  • OK - we've got about an hour and a half left - let's bring Milo's brother in for...what reason, exactly?
  • What a stupid plan - what's to keep these guys from storming the beach, shooting Doyle and grabbing the kid? This isn't exactly Normandy!
  • And sure enough - Doyle is down. What a bunch of idiots.
  • They can short out the tracker? Too bad nobody told the Russian from earlier....
  • Jack just passed up two perfectly good opportunities to say "we don't have enough time!".
  • "Life takes faster money. Life takes Visa." - Life takes faster money? Since when?
  • Blinded - maybe little Ricky won't be back next season after all.
  • This music as we approach the oil platform - I'm getting some nasty Batman Forever vibes here. That's not good.
  • The fate of the world depends on Chloe's mad SQL skillz. Uh oh.
  • That's the hour-ending cliffhanger? Chloe fainting? Sigh.
  • Hour number two - this plan isn't any better. Don't they need to prove the device is gone? How will an aerial strike do that? Couldn't they just blow up any old platform and accomplish the same thing?
  • Second least popular job at CTU - the guy flying a captured Jack Bauer back to CTU.
  • Why again are the Russians attacking an American base? If they are just moving into position to defend against China, why not just have them work with us co-operatively?
  • Oh, and it takes thirty minutes to strike a platform a few miles off of the California coast? Riiiiiight.
  • "I wish you luck, Mr. Vice President." What - luck to strike a stationary target in American waters? Feh.
  • Hmm....maybe they are going to reenact the end of Patriot Games?
  • "You are clear to land." Heh - Jack as a flight control officer - "I'm requesting permission to takeoff." "YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO TAKEOFF!!!!"
  • Jack Bauer In The Box - "Trust me, you're going to order the Cibatta, it's just a question of how long it's going to take."
  • Why do they keep showing shots of Chloe - resting comfortably?
  • Didn't Papa Bauer hear the explosions on the roof? That wasn't exactly a stealth entry.
  • OK - shoot him. Shoot Him. SHOOT HIM.
  • Nice. Better than Kim shooting Psycho Dad with the Jack remote control back in season....two?
  • So....where's the magic chip again? Why didn't Jack ask for that? (Or did Chang have it?)
  • Oh no - unfurling a ladder? He's going Die Hard instead of Patriot Games?
  • Well, they certainly made a big explosion. Almost as good as the aerial strike from season...uhhh, was that season four?
  • "Jack's not ready to go back yet." Umm...huh? What business can he accomplish in twenty minutes by himself on a deserted beach?
  • Well - off to dog school. Pick this up again later.
  • Just got through. I guess the goodbye to Audrey was OK, but as with many parts of this season, we've seen Jack break down at the end of a "day" before. Last time, he quit CTU for an office job, which is where he met Audrey in the first place. I had a little bit of wonder when they showed Jack walking outside - with his gun drawn. But Sutherland is signed on for two more years, so clearly nothing permanent was going to happen.
  • And Chloe is pregnant. Hmmm.
  • So what was up with Milo's brother?
In the end, an OK closing episode, but nothing great. Just kind of went from where it was set up with a minimum amount of fuss. But nowhere near the greats of Jack's wife being killed or Chase's wrist chop, or even Jack walking off into the sunset. The production team has some work ahead of them.

Of course, it goes without saying that I'll still be watching. I'm pretty sad that way.

And Down The Stretch They Come

OK - so I haven't done a good job of keeping up posting on TV shows (and not so coincidentally, my movie watching has declined a great deal). But now we're coming down to the end for two of my three regular shows, and they both need to hit home runs.

24 and Lost have had opposite problems this season. 24 got off to a very strong start - Jack back from China for a suicide mission, nukes going off in California, Jack taking out Curtis - but then something went awry. The things that once endeared us to the show, all the cliches, began to grow stale. Odd subplots were introduced and dropped without warning (remember "Behrooz on the loose"? Or Kim's one-legged boyfriend?). More petty bureaucratic struggles at the White House. More meddling from CTU central. More uncomfortable office love triangles. It just began to seem like going through the motions. And even the Jack moments seemed off. He would spend entire hours waiting in an empty house for a meeting. And somehow the shootouts didn't even have much to them (a notable exception: Jack's final takedown of Fayed and his team - even Doyle was shocked). Jack's takedown of most of the Chinese infiltration team last week is a good example; Sutherland was just kind of running around firing - must have had an aimbot working for him.

And now that we hit the last two hours, we have just started another office politic thread at CTU, we are chasing after Jack's nephew for the fourth time this season, and Jack is headed off to punk Doyle for at least the third time this season. They need to end strong, and then they need to figure out what to do next season; the producers seem to realize that the status quo isn't working out and have promised changes for next year.

As I mentioned, Lost has the opposite problem - a weak start and a stronger finish. The season was broken up into two parts, and the "fall season" was so useless that Lost moved from "don't miss" to "catch up with later". Once we finally got off of "Others Island" and back into the main group, things picked back up. I'm not happy with a lot of stuff - Desmond's sudden Charlie-focused precog abilities foremost - and the Others focus on pregnancy still doesn't have much of an explanation. But Locke's storyline has been a welcome return - back to having him be an independent agent, thinking he is in control but not realizing he isn't (a trait also shared by Ben). I even enjoyed the twisted little morality tale that ended up with two unliked characters unknowningly buried alive by the castaways.

The writers have done a pretty good job of setting up a bunch of juggling balls for the finale - Charlie in the Looking Glass station, the Others assault on the Losties, the Losties trap (which I swear was taken directly from Blazing Saddles of all things), Locke shot and left in a pit of bodies....there's a lot of things going on, and the writers also have to set us up for season four. Here's hoping they can pull it off.

And meanwhile, The Shield just keeps rolling along, kicking ass and taking names. By far the best show of the three this year. They still have a few more weeks to go on this season - I'm not sure Shane will be around to see the end of it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Insanity Update

Just happened to drive by city hall in time to see the group hug. They probably had enough people there to circle my house, but not enough to circle me and my neighbor's house, much less city hall. Maybe the Wal-Mart thugs got to them.

Oh well, nutbags...better luck next time.

This Isn't What I Meant

After just making fun of RG4N for resorting to the same old tricks over and over, I discovered they actually had a different plan scheduled originally. They were going to intentionally create a traffic jam around Northcross Mall during rush hour.

The idea is to simulate the increased traffic that would result from having Wal-Mart at Northcross. Of course, this will do no such thing. First off, the number of cars they bring will have no alignment with the number of cars added to the area by Wal-Mart customers - it could be more, it could be less. Second, Wal-Mart customers are generally trying to get to the Wal-Mart and then get out promptly, but the RG4N people are intentionally trying to jam up traffic. So they aren't "typical" drivers at all.

This pisses me off. A lot. This takes them from harmless moonbats to public menace. So guys - what if there is a medical emergency in the area? How about if an ambulance can't get through because of your little hissy fit? Or a fire engine? Or a police car? Would it still be worth it?

You morons need to die in a fire. You don't like Wal-Mart? Go away - far away. Might I recommend San Francisco?


"Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Last February, the group Responsible Growth For Northcross decided upon a brilliant strategy to stop Wal-Mart from building a Supercenter on property that the rightful owners have planned to develop in accordance with all existing city codes. Their plan: to circle Northcross Mall in a giant human chain.

Obviously, this plan worked well, because they got some concessions from Wal-Mart, which were then retracted once they turned down the concessions as "not good enough".

Since they had a little bit of time before forming their drum circles down as Pease Park, RG4N have come up with an even more cunning plan...

They are going to circle City Hall in a human chain.

Well...that ought to do it.

They also are demanding an apology, in person, from the president of Wal-Mart. Were I the president of Wal-Mart, well...I would have millions of dollars, and so I wouldn't give a flying fart what a bunch of cornflakes down in Austin demand. But if I did have a little time, I might actually fly down to Austin and meet with that I could get their apology to me for wasting my and everyone else's time, for not recognizing the boost my company gives to the economy of America in general and Austin in particular, and for generally working to reduce the IQ of this already common-sense-deficient city.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Customer Service Tips

Dear Wal-Mart cashier,

When I showed up in your line, you might have noticed that I pulled the fire ant killer from the bottom shelf of my cart, separate from the food. Yes, probably overkill (so to speak), but no sense in taking chances, right?

You might also have noticed I put the pesticide as the last item on the belt, where it was obvious to the eye, and easily separated from the groceries.

Now...I bring all this up, so that I can ask you an obvious question...

why in the world would you then put the fire ant killer in the same bag as my salad?


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Day 4 at JavaOne

The count continues...

Number of free t-shirts: 2 (but they are duplicates, so one will go to a lucky cow-orker)
Number of free beers: 2
Number of sessions attended: 7 (afraid I skipped out on a couple today)
Number of people I knew that I ran into unexpectedly in a crowd of thousands: 3
Number of fighting robots I saw destroyed: 2

Today's the last day for parties and the Pavilion, so no more freebees! The final tally coming up after tomorrow's half-day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Day 3 at JavaOne

Number of free beers: 1 (but count should pick up tomorrow)
Number of free t-shirts: 2 (including one launched at me that I caught with my face)
Number of crazy people shouting on the street corner for no reason: 1 (this is in SF)
Number of parents shouting at their kids on the street corner: 2 (why would you raise kids here?)
Number of sessions attended: 10 (until 11pm)

and finally...

Number of false fire alarms at 4am: 0

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Day 2 at JavaOne

Number of free beers: 3 (but that's about the end of the free parties for the week)
Number of free t-shirts: 1 (4 total)
Number of people I know encountered randomly in a crowd of thousands: 4
Number of sessions attended: 8 (until about 11pm)
Number of demo crashes seen: 3 (although 2 were successfully revived)

Day 1 at JavaOne

Number of people seen sleeping on sidewalk in SF: 1
Number of free T-shirts: 3
Number of free beers: 3
Number of freezing conference rooms: 1

Oh, and...

Number of false fire alarms at 4:00am: 1

Friday, May 4, 2007

Either She's Rich Or He's Dumb

I'm used to seeing the proud members of the "reality-based community" here in Austin express their limited understanding of the world in bumper-sticker-sized chunks. It is, of course, a demostrated fact that almost always, when you see a car with more than two stickers on it, the car will be that of a liberal. I'm not sure why that is - maybe conservatives drive nicer cars and don't want them marred with sticker residue.

At any rate, today I saw a guy driving a Volvo. OK - not a great start for him, but upon seeing the vast array of idiocy adorning the hatchback, I knew I was in the presence of something special:

First, "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." Not one of Einstein's better moments.
Second, "What would Buddha do?" Ummm...get his ass kicked by Muhammad?
Third, "Stewart/Colbert '08" Ah, the sign of someone who thinks Jed Bartlett actually was president.

And the capper, "Code Pink".

Oh, no.

This can't be a guy in a Volvo with a Code Pink sticker. It just can't. Not even in Austin - maybe Berkeley.

As I approach, I see there's a woman - girlfriend? wife? - in the passenger seat. So, this must be the explanation, right? He's just trying to impress his hot girlfriend?

Getting a look in the Nope, that theory is wrong - she looks like a typical Code Pink member.

That leaves the last two possible explanations - she's very rich or he's very dumb.

Given the condition of the beat-up Volvo they were in, I'm betting on the latter.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

TV Review: The Shield - "Haunts"

Kind of an odd episode - there were lots of little pieces floating around, and not all of them seemed to be related. There have certainly been times where The Shield has shown Vic juggling multiple balls at once, but they still all came together into a cohesive whole, and I didn't get that vibe here. In particular, Vic's little sidetrip to roust some Jamaican drug-dealers with some ex-cops seemed like an odd diversion wedged into a larger story. Which makes me wonder if there will be repercussions from that later on - it's not like The Shield to introduce those kind of guys without at least touching on them again later.

That being said, this was still mostly a solid episode. Between Vic's breakdown last week and Shane's self-destructive bent, I'm still amazed Ronnie is hanging in there - I'm expecting Ronnie to reveal his own eject button at some point here. Mara is now fully in the know here; if she's smart, she'll start getting her own escape plan going, too. Billings continues to amaze - the job the writers are doing over the last few episodes, giving him some humanity while still keeping him basically an asshole, is good stuff. And he was actually competent this week!

I've got to believe that everyone with brains (Ronnie, Mara, maybe Corrine, Claudette - though she's pretty much been kept in the dark so far) is going to start inching away from Vic and Shane by the end of this season. And based on the preview, now that they see their first target was a wrong one, Vic's spotlight may start swinging over to Shane sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

TV Review: 24 - 1:00am - 2:00am

I haven't written a 24 review in a few weeks, because there just hasn't been much to review. The writers were having a hard enough time keeping things going during the nuclear bomb threat. In the end, they just kind of wrapped it up in about twenty minutes...only to discover they still had another eight hours to fill. I had thought when they dropped a hint earlier in the day that the China/Audrey thread might be a good plot for the much-rumored 24 movie, since it could be relatively self-contained and wouldn't need to tie into a bunch of other stuff in a 24-hour season.

But the writers apparently decided to play it out now, and they're doing it in a very ham-handed way. There just isn't enough there there, and the filler they are giving us (Bill being fired, the interminable Chloe-Miles melodrama, the VP becoming P) is all being handled incredibly poorly. All this filler leaves us episodes of Jack waiting around - waiting for the Chinese, waiting for Audrey, waiting for Heller - and Jack waiting is not as good as Jack acting.

The top-of-the-hour cliffhanger is supposed to be the hook to get us to next week. Something bad always happens just before the clock ticks off the last few seconds of the 59th minute - but not this week. Instead, Jack is told to stay away from Audrey by Heller. That's it. A poster on another board called it a Days Of Our Lives cliffhanger rather than a 24 cliffhanger, and they're right.

We're now heading into May, into sweeps, and into the last few episodes. Both 24 and Lost need to find a way to kick it into gear as we head towards the season finales, because both of them have regressed this year.