Older blog entries for AlanHorkan (starting at number 312)

18 Aug 2006 (updated 18 Aug 2006 at 22:55 UTC) »
Snakes on a Plane!

Snakes on a plane (SoaP) does exactly what it says on the tin.
Critics are whining like spoilt children because they didn't get to see advanced screenings and suggesting the film must be really terrible. Without having seen the film Wired magazine described it as "The best worst film of 2006" and I cannot think of a better description of this high concept film. The characters are cookie-cutter stereotypes, the plot is uncomplicated, there is plenty of action and some gruesome deaths. There is an initial build up of tension as we wait for the eponymous Snakes on a plane but from there things move quickly. There are some jump in your seat scary moments, scary by surprise not by any careful build up of dramtic tension. This could have been a very awful but it is good at what it does and provides an entertaining action horror.

Go see it, make up your own mind. At the very least I can assure you it isn't awful. I'm not sure yet if it has the staying power to become as much loved as films such as Die Hard but I certianly enjoyed it.

17 Aug 2006 (updated 30 Aug 2006 at 09:18 UTC) »
A fistfull of film reviews

A few months ago put down the hard cash for a years cinema membership. At this rate I will have more more than broken even in less than six months. Of course I wouldn't be going to the cinema this often if I had not bought the membership so it balances out nicely.

Keanu says Wow and looks a bit out of it
Meh. A Scanner Darkly was disappointing. Interesting in places with a strong cast and some amusing banter but the animation is an annoying gimmick. The plot was unsurprising since I guessed the true identity of Hank almost immediately.
Update: watched it again and enjoyed it slightly better but still the experience was underwhelming.

You must be at least this tall
Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest looks a lot like a fairground ride in places. The novelty value of the first film has worn off and it is more of the same schtick, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I may have mentioned once of twice how much I like Keira Knightley and I still like her. Orlando Bloom is still terribly bland. The worst thing about the film is it is very much part two of three and leaves you hanging. Fun but not particularly satisfying. Didn't stop me from watching it more than once.

Truth, Justice and all that stuff
Picking up where Superman 2 left off this film delivered on my (low) expectations and more. No one expects shades of grey when it comes to Superman. Brandon Routh (rhymes with South) is suitablly heroic. Kevin Spacey hams it up with melodramatic evil, a lazy but adequate performance. Kate Bosworth plays a disappointly soft Lois Lane with too a bit too much damsel in distress and none of the fire of Margot Kidder. The usual elephant in the room problem is compounded by Clark and Superman both disappearing for five years and nobody notices. Otherwise the story is suitably heroic and good fun. More enjoyable the second time when childern were not kicking the seats. Better than Pirates of the Carribean 2.

Super Needy Ex-girlfriend
Dreading a revenge on the boyfriend chick-flick I got something entirely different. Starting off as a romantic comedy the film ends up as a silly superhero[1] story. I was amused by the very appearance of Eddie Izzard but only that and not anything he said or did on screen. The titular super-ex girlfriend is totally unbalanced, entirely unsympathetic, and just plain crazy. Who is this supposed to appeal to? If it were on television you might watch it but hardly worth the effort of going to the cinema.

Video Game Horror
Malcolm in the Middle plays video games and tries not to get killed, while other television "teen" get killed off one by one. Stay Alive is good enough that it didn't go straight to video, worth renting when it does get there. Did the film makers expect quite so much laughter? The audience reaction was what made this film so enjoyable. Entertaining if you like this sort of thing but with a PG rating you get more horror on the news.

[1] Trademarks are nuts too. Marvel and DC Comics claim joint ownership of the word superhero(TM). Seriously.

"I sue Dead People"

The Record Industry hits another low note, first it was old ladies and small children but now they really trawling the depths as they are suing dead people.

On the one hand the Record industry is desperate to push their product on radio and television but on the other hand they are terrified about maintaining control of distribution. Too many middle men looking for their cut.
Fans naturally want to share the music the like but the industry cannot control the ways they do so and their ill conceived attempts only bite the hand that feeds them. Amusingly the restrictions the record industry insisted on has provided Apple with a high level of vendor lock-in and dominance in the market for music downloads, an imbalance the industry is struggling to deal with.
One commentator describe recording contracts as being like a mortgage where even after you have paid back the loan the bank still owns your property.

Copyright has gone beyond a joke. Do not forget to pay the licensing fee net time you sing Happy Birthday!

Remember "A bug's life?"

Cars is crap. Pixar has set such high standards and Cars doesn't live up to them. The story is an American standard, arrogant big shot city boy learns the importance of small town values. How terribly pedestrian. The Incredibles took a lot of unoriginal ideas and presented them in a fun and refreshing way but Cars only manages to be adequate at best.
Owen Wilson is type cast as a really annoying guy in his upcoming film You Me and Dupree, and it is a shame no one warned Pixar to cast a more sympathetic actor in the lead role. The trouble with this kind of cliched story it is all too easy not to care about the redemption of the hero. Paul Newman is a legend, and deserves a lot of respect for his charitable work.
Annoyingly Pixar has succumbed to the pointless trend of recasting voices for the UK audience. Frankly the cameo by Jeremy Clarkson host of Top Gear is something adults might notice but doesn't do anything to help the fact that Cars is very much a childrens film and generally unfunny throughout. There were a few jokes which manage to raise a smile but it was far from laugh out loud funny like Monsters Inc.
Take my advice and wait for the video. With the Disney takeover of Pixar I worry this may be the beginning of the end for Pixar but I do hope it is only a minor setback and they will be back on form next time round.

I watched "Ultra Violet" yesterday. It is C-R-A-P but I pretty much knew that before hand so I had a bit of a laugh at home awful it was. I didn't mind watching Milla Jovavich dancing about the place and waving around swords and guns but there are better ways to kill time. Ultra Violet is from the director of Equilibrium which wasn't a great film to begin with looks fairly good when compared to Ultra Violet although the two films share the same stylised violence. Ultra violet is shown in a strange soft focus throughout and everything is very brightly coloured, the clothing and hair colour changing to match the surroundings like a mood ring. The film opens with a comic book sequence, it would have been far better if it had continued that way and been done entirely as animation instead of going with an totally overstylised and unreal looking future world. The threadbare story amounts to futuristic vampires, the film is really only an excercise in style. There were some interesting shots of Bejing architecture mixed in with the futuristic city which you'd hardly notice unless you happened to have recently watched a BBC documentary on China.

There are far better films showing at the moment. Hard candy is a certainly an interesting film despite looking a lot like a car advertisement in places. It does contain scenes of torture - I dont want to say any more, too many reviews spoil all the surprises - so you would want to make sure to mention it before encouraging others to see it. Ellen Page is one to watch out for.

Thank you for smoking is a guilty pleasure, devilishly funny and probably the best in the cinema at the moment. Interestingly child actor Cameron Bright is currently appear in both Ultra Violet, Thank you for Smoking and X-Men 3.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (until the next one)

With Brett Ratner taking over from Bryan Singer X-men 3 could have been a lot worse. Overall I'd say it was a satisfactory conclusion to the series. They managed to introduce many more characters without it getting too distracting. One of the more interesting additions is Hank "the Beast" Mc Coy, played by Sideshow Bob, err Frasier, err I mean Kelsey Grammar. Vinnie Jones is once again typecast as violent thug with not much to say, the Juggernaut. One detail most people will not notice but will surely annoy fans of the comic books is how the filmmakers ignored the comic books and incorrectly labelled Juggernaut as a mutant. Hopefully they will correct eleborate on the details they glossed over if Juggernaut appears in the planned Wolverine films. In X-men 2 we briefly saw a girl with the ability to walk through walls, and this time Kitty Pryde is part of the main team. She is played by Ellen Page who thoroughly creeped my out and made me squirm in my seat when I saw Hard Candy which is due out in Ireland later this summer.
The story is driven forward by a "mutant cure" which alludes to racism and homosexuality but unfortunately it is used only as background decoration and they fails to make any strong point on the issues.

24 May 2006 (updated 24 May 2006 at 02:25 UTC) »
Too much tee vee: Firefly.

Watched the first episode of Firefly again this evening, twice*. Firefly was never broadcast in Ireland - at least not on any of the few dozen channels we receive - so I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't know it is an entertaining mix of the Wild West and Science Fiction from Joss Whedon better known for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The last time I watched it was a low quality internet download, and that was only after I had seen the film Serenity. This time I watched a shiny new DVD bought for the very reasonable price of €21 and now I can really appreciate details I missed before. The biggest difference is the detail in the special effects, the shots of the spaceships such as the skyscraper style Alliance ship are especially impressive. *The extras like the commentary give me another reason to watch again, even better value for money. If you think about it there is far more than ten hours of entertainment at the cost of only a few hours paid work, and less than €2 average episode price. Compare that to the price you pay for a mere hour worth of music! There is a good variety in price if you are not too bothered about buying the newest releases it is all very reasonable. Hardly seems worth the effort of downloading of the internet, although borrowing a copy from a friend is always the easiest option.
The hard part will be resisting the temptation to buy more than I actually have time to watch. It will be tricky but I will definately be buying more boxsets of television series in future.

10 May 2006 (updated 12 May 2006 at 14:09 UTC) »
Action Man

Watched two films recently both of which starred British actor Jason Statham. The first was Transporter 2, and despite not having seen the original Transporter film I was just about able to follow the deeply intellectual storyline. The intricate and highly choreographed fight scenes and chase sequences are really what this film was all about. It was a Turn off your brain, keep your expectations low and your popcorn full and you should be able to enjoy this fun unpretentious action movie.
The second film was Revolver by Guy Ritchie - also known as husband to aging pop star Madonna - director of Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Revolver was unfortunately a terrible load of pretentious pseudo-religious rubbish with very little to recommend it. Boring. Avoid it.

Google Summer of Code

No longer a student but I will be trying to help out in other ways and I want to encourage students to apply. Please do consider applying for a project with Inkscape, Gnome, and Abiword. Best of luck.

28 Apr 2006 (updated 28 Apr 2006 at 04:15 UTC) »
GNOME, Gnome, gnome

"To infinity and beyond", so began my question on how much longer the Gnome 2.x branch would continue and if Gnome 3.0 could be seen anywhere on the horizon.

(This post is about the Gnome Desktop Enviroment and if you don't know what it is you probably will not find the rest of this post interesting.)

The results were predictable enough. One developer was bluntly honest and admitted he would not mind at all if the Gnome 2.x branch continued on indefinately. It may seem silly to outsiders to have Gnome 2.x continue on for years and years but developers seem fine with that. Others continued with the "not yet" and "maybe later" comments, and help to further build up expectations that Gnome 3.0 will be some wonderous utopia but with no idea of when it might happen. A few people agreed with my sentiment and helped explain all software development is incremental in a well managed project and there should not need to be any radical changes all at once. Next time someone asks about Gnome 3.0 the answer will probably still be there is more work to be done.

No sooner than I say Gnome 3.0 will not happen based on the lack of any plan or timeframe, I fully expect someone will tell me it is going to happen and how I shouldn't use the dearth of evidence as counterevidence or proof by contradiction. To play it a little safer Gnome 3.0 will not happen out of nowhere and I can at least say Gnome 2.16 is planned for certain. Next year Gnome 2.18 and 2.20 are likely to usher in Ten Years of Gnome. Project Ridley and the arrival of GTK 3.0 will probably be the cause the for Gnome 3.0 to be brought up again but I don't plan on being the one to float the idea.

The Gnome 3.0 discussion was tapering off I was amused by Elijah Newren making a cheeky comment on how Gnome was correct and Jeff Waugh was incorectly typing it in all uppercase as GNOME. I should have resisted but couldn't help but adding a comment about Uppercase Gnome of my own, which was quoted on and syndicated on Planet Gnome. (Pedantic: The background image reads "planet gnome" (sic) an execption to the otherwise consistent use of GNOME.) Since I was already being berated for my suggestion of Gnome 3.0 a little extra criticism for discussing this old chestnut wasn't going to make much of a difference. As usual not everyone realised the silliness of the discussion and one person kindly explained GNOME was an acronym but failing to realise how contrived it was. The silliness continued but some interesting points were made, inlcuding how gnome-binaries are lowercase, Miguel de Icaza writes Gnome, and most interestingly how Gnome capitalisation had all been discussed six years ago by the Gnome documentation project. Patrick Costello wrote an especially lucid explanation of why Gnome should be lowercase. I'm not sure if he was trying to be funny and describe Gnome developers but I especially enjoyed the comment:

The desktop is deliberately associated with small, hairy proto-men of indeterminate age and habits
which is nearly as funny as the Uncyclopedia explanation of the Gnome footprint:
Gnome's logo is a huge footprint, but it is not clearly established whether it is a huge memory footprint or a huge disk footprint.

Between GNOME 3.0 and Gnome capitalisation it has been an unproductive but amusing discussion. I do hope people see the funny side of it but more importantly and all silliness aside I do hope both the proposed changes can come to pass sometime in the future. (Comments)

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