Friday, June 09, 2006

Revvin' Up To Cars

I saw Pixar's latest - Cars - on its opening weekend and it was a real treat. This movie is set in a world where there are no people, just cars with big eyes where the windshield should be and a mouth on its front bumper. There are no animals either - cows are represented by "dumb" tractors (what they're farming is not elucidated - perhaps switchgrass for biofuel) and small flying bugs are - you guessed it - VW Beetles. The main race car character, Lightning McQueen, starts out the movie looking out only for himself, but that puts him into a situation where he gets lost in rural Radiator Springs, a town on Route 66 that had been bypassed by Interstate Highway 40. Those remaining in the town stick together and our hero realizes that making friends and working as a team has more value than he realized. Good message, good humor, amazing visual presentation. Disney movies make me nervous because they often have a degree of violence that we're not comfortable letting the kids see. There is one mean car in here that tries to make other cars crash, but that's as bad as it gets. This is definitely a movie I can't wait to see with my kids.

Living In Sin City

Sin City is another movie based on a comic book, a series of them actually, by Frank Miller. THe movie attempts, quite sucessfully, to adopt a comic book style. It is mostly black and white, with a few bits of color added here and there for emphasis. There's only one really good guy in here, a cop played by Bruce Willis, who gives his life for that of a girl, twice, sort of. The movie tells 3 interweaving tales (with a minor 4th plot beginning and ending the movie), but the links are weak. Mostly it is a tale of bad vs. evil as there is very little good in Sin City. There is again quite a bit of gore in this movie, though most of it tends to be integral to the plot. Ironically, I found myself rooting the most for one of the roughest character in the movie, Marv, played by Mickey Rourke. Ironic because I don't much care for the actor work before this point, but I like him here in this role. I'm glad I saw this movie and I will likely see its sequel, but I don't think I will watch it again any time soon.

Saw A Scary Movie

Roger Ebert has a movie rule called the Law of Economy of Characters, which states that movie budgets make it impossible for any film to contain unnecessary characters. Therefore, "any apparently unnecessary or extraneous major character is undoubtedly the villain". They are generally introduced early, at least in the 1st half of the film. This is definitely the case for the horror film Saw. This is mostly another gross-out flick like Hostel, but this one had a little more intelligence applied to it. I especially like how one of the main characters was also one of the main writers for the movie. This movie featured a bad guy that captured his victims and then put them in horrendous situations that usually end up with them killing themselves or another victim in the room. In many ways this reminded me of Seven, but I liked that movie better. Seven had better character development and plot lines. The bad guy in that movie (who was not revealed until the very end, violating Ebert's rule) tried to punish people for their commision of on of the Seven Deadly Sins. This movie's villain was attempting something similar, but actually seemed to try to teach them a lesson about their past behavior. If they could overcome their character flaws quickly or push their will to live to the very forefront of their consciousness, the might make it. If you can stand the horror aspects of this, watch and see if you can follow Ebert's rule and figure out who the villain is before they reveal him.

Taratino's Best, Volume 2

It came a couple of days leter than I guessed, but I did get to see Kill Bill, Volume 2. Though I would have preferred to see them back to back as one complete movie, this really was a different movie, with a different tone and style. There were still some intense action sequences, but not with nearly the scope of the first film. Instead, this film dealt more with the motivations of some of the key players, including Uma Thurman's Bride, the titular Bill (David Carradine) and his two closest henchman, his brother Bud (Michael Masden) and his new girlfriend Elle (Darryl Hannah). The final battle that we knew was coming was made almost civil by the presence of a four year old daughter that she thought she had lost. After a bedtime kung-fu movie (what else), she was tucked away and some raw honesty began. The actual fight was poignant, but a little anti-climactic. Overall, I still liked the movie, both movies actually and I may get these to own.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Tarantino's Best

I had seen almost all of director Quentin Tarantino's movies until Kill Bill. Knowing that it would be an action-packed, violent revenge movie, I know it would always be a hard sell to convince my wife to see it. Since I had new opportunities this week to see those movies, I rented Kill Bill Vol. 1. It was everything I expected and more. Some of the dialogue was almost stereotyped for a revenge movie, but it seemed to fit perfectly. Some of the dialogue was crisp and new. Tarantino is famous for non-linear story-telling and this doesn't dissappoint. The movie unfolds in non-linear chapters and starts in the middle with a hint of a horrific slaughter that triggers all of the events from that point on. But he also goes back before that point and delves into the lives of some of the characters and how they came to be the killers they were. One of these tales is even told in anime (japanese animated) form. The narrative weaves in and out of these lives as the heroine (?) dispatches 2 of the 4 members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad that she'll have to take out to get to Bill - the leader of the Squad and the man who tried to put a bullet in her head 5 years ago. Vol. 2 shows up in the mail tomorrow. I wished I could have watched them both together without the 2 day intermission.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Creating My Own Nightmares

I'm not sure if this is a great way to guarantee myself some sleepless nights or what, but I will have the opportunity over the next 2 weeks to watch several movies that I wouldn't be able to get my wife to watch because they are too violent. Tonight was Hostel, directed by Eli Roth, and this is one sick movie. It tells a fairly complete story as you watch these 2 American backpackers descend into a hellish world in Eastern Europe. It had some really good moments in it (a Slovakian street gang made up of 10 year old boys taking out a couple of thugs in exchange for a bag of candy) and a LOT of really gruesome moments in it. The gore wasn't just gratuitous as there were a few underlying themes that the film carried forward. One thing I learned was that if a foreign girl tries to lure you to an "art show" in an abandoned factory after 2 of your friends have disappeared, just say no.

Paper vs. PDAs

I have modified for the blog a comment I sent to Sacha Chua in response to her post about using her moleskine to network socially, because she was considering ditching it for a PDA.

She wrote:

Would a PDA be better for this kind of notetaking? I like not having to look at the paper while I'm writing. I can usually read my handwriting afterwards. I can use digital ink, I guess, but it doesn't quite feel the same. Besides, my fountain pen gets oohs and aahs. ;) (Yes, I'm silly!) Sure, I have to copy information out again, but that reinforces the links. (And I don't have to worry about battery life...)

Still, I'll try firing up my iPaq again and seeing if that works for me. Could it be any better than my beloved Moleskine, my little black book? =) I want to meet more people and learn more things and make more connections between others. My Moleskine's a terrific tool for the job, and I love how it feels, too: cream paper, red-black ink... It makes me happy, and it makes getting to know people so much fun. =)

In response I wrote:

I think you will be disappointed if you try to use an electronic notetaking method over paper. You really already made the argument against the switch yourself. Paper and pen are less distracting, never run out of power, and simpler to use for notes like you are trying to do. You want the flexibility to jot a networking note anywhere, anytime, very quickly at the time it is in your brain. I've been through various handheld computers trying to do what you're describing, and I was surprised how much I fell in love with my Hispter PDA that I made from a stack of notecards. I've since converted my Hipster cards into pages in my Moleskine pocket edition and it goes with me everywhere. For someone like you, your Moleskine won't be the only place you keep your ideas and you'll often need other resources to take action (like sending an email), but the ease of use of paper and a nice pen (mine's a Fischer Bullet Space Pen) means you're more likely to capture the idea/conversation/contact in the first place. Like you said, copying it to another resource (an online to do list, an email server, etc.) reinforces the item in your head and can be done when you have more time. Use your iPaq for databases, highly detailed contact info, and maybe your calendar. Program your email address into your cell phone and send yourself short SMS reminders about other emails ("lynn meeting" to remind yourself to email lynn about that meeting you wanted to schedule the next time you sit in front of your email). Keep the Moleskine.