Monday, May 30, 2005

Bad Film Week 2 -- Bigger, Badder, Bleah...

Jaru's gone to sasshin again so I'm finishing a first draft and, like last time, watching bad films.

But I'm feeling pretty let down by Hollywood.

I saw Unleashed last night. The premise is, of course, pretty flaky and isn't really saved by the execution -- but Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, and Bob Hoskins! Bob Hoskins gets the best part in the film -- this marvelously over the top, foul-mouthed low life, who, for some reason, is an expert in behavioral psychology. Morgan Freeman is cool and smooth in a part that really needed some more edge; some action films do a good job with multi-textured antagonists but go all gooey when they get around to the good guys. And Jet Li kicks some ass -- but, again, it's kind of hard to take seriously a metaphor for overcoming bad upbringing when it's as whacked out as your foster dad made you think like a dog. I think that's called trying too hard.

Anyway, it was a perfectly fine film, but the rest of the stuff in theaters is pathetic. Honestly, I've got just the kind of crappy taste that Hollywood panders to, so why am I scrounging the video stores? I've already seen the biggie, so I was looking at the other choices. I'll do a little list:

  • The Amityville Horror: Eh, maybe, but not really interested. I saw the first one and I'm a little tired of the guy turns into axe murderer in house with spooky events story (and happened to catch just that kind of movie on DVD last night when I rented Darkness). But maybe I'll see it anyway out of desperation.
  • House of Wax: Another remake... and this one has Paris Hilton. Admittedly, she supposedly gets killed, but, really, I'd rather just not see Paris Hilton at all. Actually, I would have gone to this had it not been for Ms. Hilton on the poster.
  • Comedies: It's like all the latest non-Star Wars releases are comedies and kids movies -- and The Longest Yard is a remake too! I guess because it has football in it the studios thought that would satisfy the guy portion of the audience...
  • So I'm also looking at older releases (Sahara or XXX: State of the Union), or releases that everyone knows will suck (Mindhunters).
But I'll probably just rent DVDs....

Friday, May 27, 2005

San Antonio Improves!

...Or my subjective evaluation of San Antonio increases after discovering a heretofore unknown fact.

While California Pizza Kitchen is pretty decent it's not quite my style -- and, after having checked pretty much every pizza place listed on various "best pizza places" listings in local papers and online sites only to discover that a lot of journalists like crappy pizza, I despaired of ever finding a decent pie.

But Paul's Pizza Roma has just the kind of crust I like -- crispy with puffy air pockets around the edge. It's pretty close to Round Table Pizza (the Holy Grail of pizza chains) but with a little more flavor to the crust (since Paul's brushes it with garlic butter).

So far my preference ranking goes:

  1. Casa Bianca
  2. Grimaldi's
  3. Delorenzo's
  4. Round Table
  5. Paul's Pizza Roma

While it didn't knock anything off the list, it is nice to have something close.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Jaru's College Cartoon! Posted by Hello

Jaru told me earlier tonight that she did a little cartooning so I thought we'd scan it and put it on the web.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Given Dan's prompting, I'll join the throngs and post my little Star Wars review too. It's probably the most reviewed movie ever. I'll do it in random-thought-spew mode.


Tragedy: RotS is a prime example of how to do tragedy and make it popular -- warn the audience 20 years in advance that it's a tragedy.

Personal Tilt: I preference rank RotS about the same as Return of the Jedi. RotJ might actually be better but RotS is tragic and has Ewen McGregor and Natalie Portman.

Problems: You can see a list of them on many websites and probably have your own list made up if you've seen the film so I'll just mention the key one for me.

Some of the dialogue was downright painful -- they really needed someone to go in there and do a script polish. If the actors can convey an emotion without saying anything, cut the dialogue.

Not Quite Problems: These are areas that I've seen mentioned as problems but I'm not sure that they really are.

Acting: I know some of the actors are getting blasted but you try delivering those lines or doing the Frankenstein "Nooooooo!" convincingly.

Busy Action Scenes: Particularly the opening sequence. We go through this masive sea of explosions and graphic effects while trying to keep track of Obi-wan and Anakin's fight with the droidships. I found this a bit confusing too (though not as confusing as some air combat scenes in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow). However, since this is the kind of film that I'll likely see more than once, all that attention to background detail will be fun to go back and watch. The messiness helps immerse one in the fictional world.

Anakin's Fall: The arc of his descent sort of works, all these conflicting emotions: anger over death of mother, worry about his wife, petulance about the lack of respect he receives, and, yes indeed, a lust for power. That sort of complex array is probably realistic, but movies are small things and so there's not enough time to develop all of that fully. The arc probably would have worked better if just one track (perhaps the secret lust for power) was given the focus and the others developed as off-shoots or supports for the primary arc.

Source of Problems: Collaboration is cool (see my earlier post). Collaboration and editorial oversight serves as a sort of error-checking -- people tell you when a line of dialogue or scene doesn't work. Unfortunately, after one becomes acknowledged as the master of the modern myth, people stop providing hard critical feedback. This is also why writers become more long-winded and erratic as they become more established -- still capable of great work but sometimes marred by not having a few bits excised.

Redemption: The last thirty minutes or so of the film, where Obi-wan battles Anakin on the lava planet, made the entire first trilogy worthwhile. Very cool, very intense, and even a moment of real emotion.

Favorite Scene: Right after Obi-wan hacks off Anakin's legs at the end then wails about how Anakin was supposed to be the chosen one. The emotion in that scene really convinced me (unfortunately, unlike a lot of other scenes) and I was looking for a reason to like this film anyway.

My Personal Thanks To: Ewan McGregor. I imagine it's pretty unpleasant acting against a green screen for long stretches of time, completely devoid of any context. And certainly some of the lines you were asked to deliver must give you the nightmares. But you created an Obi-wan that I thought could eventually be played by Sir Alec Guiness and gave the trilogy a dignity that it sorely needed. Hopefully when your kids are old enough and start watching the films they'll be able to thank you directly.

My Question:

In the scene where Mace Windu definitely does not go out "like some sucka", do you think Palpatine was really getting his ass kicked or was he faking it?

I've seen a little debate on this so that's why I ask.

I favor the theory that he's really getting the snot beat out of him. A) I like the idea that Mace is such a badass that it takes both Palpatine and Anakin to beat him. B) Palpatine struck me as a whiny coward (it's part of what makes him so endearing) so I don't think the character is acting when he does all the pathetic mewling to Anakin while Mace is beating him up.

Anyway, Ian McDiarmid was a great part of the series too, breathing life into a "kiss up, kick down" kinda Sith lord.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Blizzard for Congress!

I thought I'd try to do some smaller updates more frequently instead of letting those long, vacant gaps appear between posts. It really only takes time away from me reading other blogs anyway.

I've updated the sidebar again, with links to some of my favorite (roleplaying) game designers, and Blizzard Entertainment.

Some time back Robin Laws posted a small discussion of John Paul II as game designer to his blog. After seeing that it struck me that really, our legislative branch has no training for actually making laws. Legal training might tell them what the laws are, or how to write in such a way that those laws are incomprehensible, but there's little actual training available for the making of laws.

Except in game design. Good game designers know the effects their rules will have. They know that their rules need to be fair and balanced, otherwise everyone will carry a monofilament whip. Given that Blizzard can somehow manage to make a game where all nine classes are interesting to play, and have consistently produced games that I enjoy, even though I don't like the genres, I figure it'd be best to simply replace both houses of congress with the Blizzard design team.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Werewolf Films

From my March 17th post:

My guess is that it'll be even more difficult than the current "impossible-unless-you're-Wes Craven" to sell a werewolf script nowadays.
And here on May 14th comes Skinwalkers. I kind of suspect that I might have missed one or two other werewolf films too. However, I don't count movies with werewolves as costars to much cooler vampires, such as Underworld: Evolution, as werewolf movies.

Anyway, don't listen to me and go back to work on your vampire that becomes a werewolf or vice-versa spec script.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Enron and Mom

My mom and stepfather visited this weekend -- that means I drank more beer than usual. This part of Texas was heavily settled by Germans back in the 19th century so there are some nice beer houses around the area. But the best has to be Flying Saucer -- they've got 76 different kinds of beer on tap (check this pdf of their beer menu), from all around the world and from micro-breweries in the U.S. They have other locations too, but none in the northeast or west coast I'm afraid.

There's a couple theaters in town that play arty, foreign, indie, or documentary films. After seeing Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room I grew much fonder of the idea of a death penalty, or perhaps a torture-to-death penalty. For my Californian friends you ought to check this out and see how the rolling blackouts you suffered helped some CEOs receive 300 million dollar payouts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Dairy Products

Perhaps it's just that I haven't actually bought dairy products prior to this year, but it seems like the shelf life has gotten longer.

I'm fond of breakfast cereal (Oat Flakes or Captain Crunch, but not the Captain Crunch Swirled Berries), baked potatoes, and the occasional taco. But the problem with all those foods is that they require either milk or sour cream and I never use up the milk or sour cream fast enough to avoid having half of it acquire a strange odor and some small degree of sentience.

However, Jaru bought some ultra-pasteurized milk just a bit ago and it had an expiration date like one month after purchase. I'd swear that it used to be that you were pushing your luck if you didn't drink the milk in the car on the way home. And I've got this sour cream that's refrigerated-aisle-legal until July 11.

Our local grocery chain (which has some weird almost-monopoly on San Antonio shopping) has this milk-like substance on sale called MooTopia. Actually, they say "it's real milk, only better." I'm a bit put off by the milk that HEB isn't quite willing to call milk -- but I also realise that's inconsistent of me given my general fondness for chemically and genetically engineered food products.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Four Pickups

Jaru and I have been doing some furious house-hunting over the last week or two. Despite the fact that we're living solely on Jaru's visiting prof salary, we can afford a house down here. They run like 100k a pop -- I told a friend that he should sell his place in Silicon Valley and buy a half dozen down here -- my dad could sell his house and move into a lakefront or golf-course-front mansion.

But they would be in Texas then...

While looking at houses we drove past one nice little place (right around that 100k range) and in their two car driveway there were parked four pickup trucks. Not a bunch of little runabouts either -- two were identical extended cab jobbies, one looked like a big work truck, and the other was a small runabout kinda thing (maybe for the cat). That's like a hundred and twenty thousand dollars of pickup in front of 100,000 dollars of house; or 160 square feet of pickup bed in front of 1400 square feet of house.

Anyway, we've cancelled the house search since our circumstances are so volatile now and buying/selling fees in one or two years would cost us more than we gained in equity.

What kind of family could possibly need two tons of cargo capacity???