Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Picking a "trail name"

Last Friday at the 8sails staff meeting a couple of us watched a PBS program about the Appalachian Trail. For some time now I'd been curious about what it might be like to hike part (or maybe someday even all) of the trail.

I am curious no longer. I sincerely hope the show was a misrepresentation of the actual experience, because if it's accurate then the Appalachian Trail is the habitation solely of Trail Nerds, white people sufficiently well-to-do that they don't have to concern themselves with anything but hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Quick symptom of the problem: all of the interviewees had "trail names," sort of like CB radio "handles" only with a distinctly more hippified flair.

So on the off chance that I might ever lose my mind and give this a try, I'll need help picking a trail name. Here are the leading contenders:

1. Bryan Whitehead

2. Frodo Baggins (just in case I decided to give in and play along)

3. Jason Voorhees

4. Watongo (do a search on "Deadbolt Zulu Death Mask" if you want to track down the origin for this one)

Email me your fave (or another suggestion if you've got one)!


In site news, a bout of insomnia this morning gave me the chance to finish the rest of the backlogged site updates. Though my original plan was to include more material than just movie reviews for January and February, the fixes were taking too long. Besides, I expect the world can wait until next February for the (currently incomplete) list of our eight favorite Presidents' Day movies.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review – Case 39

Anytime a movie goes two years between shooting and release (and a not-particularly-hyped release at that), one can't help but wonder why. Here I'm guessing the problem was editing. In particular, the protagonist (Rene Zellweger) goes from ordinary social worker to paranoid "true believer" in far too short a span. Of course maybe having a demon child move in will do that to a person. Jodelle Ferland does a fine job as the evil kid, providing most of the movie's few genuine scares. The rest is strictly middle-of-the-road horror, neither impressively good nor annoyingly bad. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review – The Book of Eli

I really loved two aspects of this movie. First, the fight scenes were impressive. Really good choreography, especially for a Hollywood production. Second, the backdrops were great. I was particularly fond of the flattened cityscapes with big nuclear bomb craters here and there. Unfortunately, the rest of the picture wasn't so hot. The hero got on my bad side from almost the very first frames by killing a cat. But far worse was the plot, a relentless parade of hah-I'll-bet-you-weren't-expecting-that moments (especially the big twist at the end). They should have just stuck to fighting. Mildly amusing

My Thor Ath

Last Thursday (aptly enough) I went to see Thor. It was the first of the new generation of 3D movies I've seen, and frankly I wasn't all that impressed. The technology still produces an image that -- except for shots deliberately set up to take maximum advantage of the effect -- mostly looks like a vaguely out-of-focus version of plain old 2D movies. Plus the new tech apparently requires slightly dark glasses, which doesn't exactly help the picture quality.

Further, this particular production didn't take particularly good advantage of the 3D effects. Yeah, there's some fun stuff early on. But for the most part this is a flat movie that isn't made less flat by fancy projection tricks. Plus a lot of the action -- particularly the scenes set on the Ice Giants' planet -- are already dark enough without the extra dimness added by the glasses.

Though I'm not saying the movie itself was absolutely awful, I did find it underwhelming. Maybe it was just the movie I chose, as several friends assured me that Avatar in 3D was quite an experience. The 3D preview of the new Captain America movie made it look a little better, so maybe I'll give it another try later this summer.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Abandoned – Red Hook

Wow. This really is a movie about a scavenger hunt. There's some serial killer nonsense stirred in, but otherwise ... well, let's just say I made it 50 minutes in just to make absolutely sure it wasn't going to turn into a twist on Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook."

Review – The Devil's Backbone

If you liked Pan’s Labyrinth then odds are you’ll like this earlier effort from director Guillermo del Toro. It lacks Pan’s elaborate fantasy world and expensive effects, but the simple ghost story – again set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War – is just as chilling. Worth seeing

Review – The Church

Though directed by Michele Soavi, this has writer/producer Dario Argento’s wooden sense of plot, dialogue and character. The story – church possessed by evil spirits – is standard stuff, and this production doesn’t add anything particularly noteworthy to the mix. See if desperate

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Embedding (and not the kind that requires going to Iraq)

My desktop computer from work has now joined me at home, and the sabbatical is officially underway.

The big technical news today is that I'm in the process of creating a web page with embedded Youtube video. When I come back and read this post later I'm sure I'll think "wow, did I really think that was a big deal?" After all, everybody and their grandma can do this. The trick is that embedding involves copying HTML code from Youtube and pasting it into the code of the page I'm creating (a list of videos that are better than their songs, just for the record). The paste can't be done from the design view in DreamWeaver; you actually have to open up the code itself to plug it in.

Again, this wasn't especially hard. But I'm still new enough to this whole thing that I feel all smart and stuff whenever I learn to do something new.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review - Fiend Without a Face

Or arms. Or legs. And yet they manage to kill people. A mad scientist living near a NORAD base in Canada taps into the Air Force’s nuclear energy in order to generate creatures bred solely by his own powers of concentration. Unlike the Id Beast from Forbidden Planet (the obvious source from which this plot line is “borrowed”), these monsters are nowhere near as scary when they aren’t invisible anymore. If only our scientist friend’s awe-inspiring mental prowess had enabled him to conjure up something other than brains with tiny eye stalks and trailing spinal columns. I added this to my DVD queue because I like movies with nuclear weapons connections and the trivia notes said this was one of the first explicitly gory movies ever made. It disappoints on both counts. Mildly amusing

Friday, May 6, 2011

Abandoned – Frightworld

To the tune of "O Christmas Tree": O torture porn, o torture porn, why do they still keep filming? Six minutes (which was at least a minute longer than I told myself I was going to give it).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Maybe it's just that Mark Zuckerberg already has enough money

Last night at the ballgame we got stuck in front of one of those Yoda-like (at least in his own head) fountains of wisdom about everything in the universe.

When the guy noticed that I was keeping score on my iPad, suddenly we had to have a conversation about computers.

"Do you know why I don't use Facebook?" he asked.

"Because you're concerned about identity theft?" was my actual reply. Right answer, as it turned out.

Other options that would have been much better:

"Because you don't have any friends?

"Because you don't cotton to those new-fangled computemy boxes?

"Because one of the terms of your parole is that you can't use social media sites?

"Tell me if I'm getting close here."


I've made some progress on 8sails updates since last I wrote, but I've gotten snagged on the entry for April 4. It's supposed to include the March movie summary, which means I have to finish uploading all the March reviews first. Working backward has its disadvantages.

On the other hand, less than a week now before classes end and I can get down to serious work on the Survival Guide.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review - Fair Game

One thing about the Valerie Plame case that’s always puzzled me is why nobody ever seems to have anything bad to say directly about Robert Novak. Sure, Scooter Libby is the big villain (along with a handful of other folks in the Bush/Cheney White House). But if a liberal pundit had disclosed secret information that ruined the career of a CIA operative and compromised the safety of agents cooperating with her in other countries, the conservative media would be all over the serious ethics concerns raised by such an irresponsible act. And yet for Novak barely even a mention. Oh well. Overall this is a typical Hollywood telling of a reasonably interesting tale. Naomi Watts is pretty. Sean Penn is earnest. The whole thing is preachy. But as a makes-you-mad story, it does the job. Mildly amusing

Monday, May 2, 2011

Abandoned – Terror Tract

Three animals die in less than three minutes. Sure, one of them was an earthworm. But then the second one was a songbird and the third was a cat deliberately chased into the street and run over. This apparently pointless parade looked like it probably presaged the “sense of humor” the movie was going to employ.