Who you gonna call…again? Ghostbusters! 3!

The news we were all waiting for – Harold Ramis has confirmed that there will be a second sequel to Ghostbusters with the original cast

 

These guys ruled!
These guys ruled!

If you grew up with the comic, ghost-slaying antics of these guys you are SO in for a treat!  Can you imagine these guys donning their proton packs and firing their proton guns today just like they did 25 years ago???? 

 

 

Better call them loud - hearing can't be the best these days.
Better call them loud - hearing can't be the best these days.

Oh.

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[Movie Review] I Am Legend

I Am LegendStarring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Salli Richardson, Willow Smith

Director: Francis Lawrence

Genre: Sci-Fi

Cert: 15

Released: 2007 

 

 

I try not to feel intimidated by films with big casts, budgets and reputations.  “I Am Legend” is one such film – a $150m budget with a $585m box-office gross and starring Hollywood’s most bankable star, Will Smith.  I shook the underwhelming ghost of “I, Robot” from my head and settled down to watch an apocalyptic nightmare unfold… apparently. 

It’s 2009 and Dr Krippen (Emma Thompson) announces on TV that she has cured cancer.  Three years later and things aren’t quite so rosy.  The cure for cancer (basically a re-engineered measles virus) mutated and became an airborne virus that killed 5.4 billion people.  Of those who lived a small percentage were found to be immune but a far larger percentage were not – they transformed in to an animalistic, primal race that prowl the streets at night as they are sensitive to sunlight.  

The assumption is that the immune were slaughtered by the infected and the last remaining human on earth appears to be army scientist, Robert Neville (Will Smith), who remained in New York City to try and reverse the effects of the virus.  Through flashbacks we note that he had his wife and daughter (Salli Richardson and Willow Smith) transported out of New York three years earlier and now has only his German Shepherd, Samantha, for company.

During the day he leaves his safehouse to try and capture infected humans (Darkseekers) so that he can perform tests on them in his underground laboratory and try to find a cure.  At night he sleeps in a bath tub with the lights off and all his windows and doors boarded up as the infected remainder of the human race prowl the streets looking for prey. 

Neville knows he must find an answer soon and, if he does, what is his motivation?  Everyone else is dead.  What is left for him?  

“I Am Legend” (based on a 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson) certainly requires a bit more engagement than your standard zombie film.  In other words, this isn’t “Resident Evil”.  While the movie has been criticised for deviating from the book’s plot, it does recreate a bleak apocalyptic vision and has a narrative that expands beyond the typical big-budget blueprint.

Director Francis Lawrence (“Constantine”) has by no means a simple task on his hands given the storied project he inherited (numerous actors, directors and scripts have been lined up and abandoned since the mid 90s).  What he has presented is a watchable but uneventful action movie with heart.  

Smith, as always, plays his role well (he’s not your typical scientist but I guess casting Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Paul Giamatti didn’t appeal to the producers).  He engages during the numerous silent scenes and his relationship with Samantha, the only “living” creature he gets to interact with, is affecting.  I was reminded of Tom Hanks’ “Castaway” film in the sense that his character must try to overcome a long-term lack of human interaction by interacting with inanimate objects (Smith’s character does so with mannequins).  

But there are issues with the way the story is told.  If you haven’t read the preview blurb then you might be confused.  Neville watches old news clips that relate the initial breakout of the virus but I’m sure it took some people time to twig that these were historical reports.  The flashbacks tell some of the story but leave an awful lot of information out.  For example, there is no focus on the actual spread of the virus, how it manifested itself, the devastation it caused (a prequel covering these issues is provisionally slated for a 2011 release).  

The film takes an unlikely turn and then showers us with an unsubtle Christian subtext which is an instant turn off for me.

“I Am Legend” works for a while but just at the time you expect something to happen, it just kind of ends.  Shame.

2star

[Movie Review] Man of the Year

Man of the YearStarring: Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Jeff Goldblum

Director: Barry Levinson

Genre: Drama

Cert: 12

Released: 2006


Sometimes things just don’t work.  Here in Ireland, for example, we bought and abandoned millions of Euros worth of electronic voting machines because they were found to be unreliable and could be interfered with so as to affect the outcome of an election.  And while that is fact, Barry Levinson (director of “Good Morning, Vietnam”, “Rain Man” and “Wag the Dog”) brings us “Man of the Year” – the story of a comedian wrongly elected President of the United States.

Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) is the Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert of this fictional tale.  Dobbs hosts a TV show where he pokes fun at the politicians he feels are letting down America.  An off-hand remark from an audience member prompts him to run for President as an independent candidate.  While seeming short on policies other than challenging the lobby group funding and affiliations of Democrats and Republicans, he charms America with his humour and calls for change (probably written before Obama trademarked the concept).  Incredibly, he wins the election.  

But, unknown to him, a computer glitch within a new electronic voting machine system by a company called Delacroy, has wrongly elected him.  Days prior to the election, computer programmer Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) accidentally discovers the problem and reports it to her boss James Hemmings (Rick Roberts).  Hemmings ignores the warning as he knows it is too late to make modifications without seriously damaging the company’s credibility.  He brings in Stewart (Jeff Goldblum) to help silence Eleanor but she is already worming her way in to the affections of President-Elect Dobbs.  Can she get the truth to Dobbs before Delacroy get to her? 

Maybe it’s the eternal question of whether or not someone finds Robin Williams funny.  I don’t.  And he’s not helped here by a very uneven script where his frequent digs at politicians range from mildly amusing to amateur.  He does fire the occasional solid one-liner (“I had sex with a prostitute when I was 21, I was so bad, she gave me a refund”) and makes well-delivered observations during a political debate where his retort to his opponent declaring his support for hydrogen cars is “that’s weird, because you’re backed by oil companies.” 

But this is basic stuff and as you watch this very average comedian become President of the United States you are hoping there is something a little meatier to get your teeth in to.  Unfortunately that won’t be found in the parallel plot line involving Eleanor and the computer bug that has devastated democracy.  I don’t think a film like this needs to be overbearing in its technical jargon but the specific glitch she discovers is eye-rolling in its simplicity.   

Christopher Walken goes through the motions as Dobbs’ agent and Jeff Goldblum (who doesn’t seem to age) is so much better than this minor role as a sort of corporate “fixer”.  

There’s little here to raise the pulse and if I were you I’d rent “Bulworth” instead.  As I said, sometimes things just don’t work.

1halfstar

Ciaran Cannon joins the party of leadership and inspiration

As Irish political party the Progressive Democrats collapse in to nothingness, former leader Ciaran Cannon today confirmed he is defecting to the main Irish opposition party, Fine Gael.

Ciaran Cannon

Part of his motivation for joining Fine Gael was that he felt the ruling party, Fianna Fáil, “lacked leadership and failed to inspire people”.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present HIS new boss, the head honcho of the Fine Gael party, the inspirational leader…Enda Kenny!

Facebook: The Private Profile Challenges

I love nosing around other people’s lives on Facebook, sticking my nose in to every nook and granny. I suspect I’m not alone in this pastime – I’m sure many of you also click on friend’s friends to see who they are and what they look like. It is of course a great endeavour for bored single people who have thus far been rejected by the opposite sex (or the same sex if that’s your preference).

But there is a spanner in the works, a fly in the ointment, a whistle blower in the financial institution – privacy. Unfortunately privacy has become a big concern for Internet users who don’t want utter strangers to see how they live and what they do. I think this is just really mean but short of hacking their account we’re stuck with it.

00224_001There are three ways to see someone’s profile:
(1) Be their friend;
(2) Join the same network as them and hope they have allowed access to their profile for other network users or;
(3) Hope they have no privacy settings on their profile at all.

But the vast majority of people have locked down their profile and so we have very few tools at our disposal to see whether or not the person is appealing to you. Here are some of the challenges we face.

Problem #1: Image Size
Unfortunately, unless you have access to a profile, your only visual of someone is the circa 100-square pixel preview image. This is often too small to make a call on the person’s physical attributes. You can copy and paste the image in to a photo editing program and blow it up to about 400 pixels wide. This will result in very poor resolution meaning that the person will appear pixelated and you are therefore unable to accurately appraise their appearance.

Image blown up 4x

Problem #2: Unrelated images
Sometimes people put up a picture of a cartoon character, a sunset or a palm tree. This is not you. How can one make a judgement call on your physical attributes?

Problem #3: Multiple faces
This can be a hard one to call. If there is more than one face and one is markedly more attractive to you than the other then you need to use a bit of intuition to work out which one is the profile subject. Usually it will be the more prominent face but you can’t always rely on this logic. Sometimes the subject may put that particular image up, even if they are secondary, because they like how they look. Best thing to do is await an image change and hope that the subject does not revert to a palm tree.

Multiple Faces

Problem #4: This is the best it will ever be
Most people don’t put up pictures of themselves looking naff such is the vanity inherent in us. So you must remember that when you do view a picture of someone (blown up to 400 and pixelated), this is probably the best they’re going to look. Sometimes you can positively evaluate someone’s main picture and subsequently find (when you do have access to their other photos) that their profile picture must have been taken on some incredible day when planets aligned. That’s why it’s their main photo.

I had a theory about 20 years ago that you were better introducing yourself to someone looking your worst – cheap ugly coat, hair combed sideways like a science teacher, big thick bi-focals, slightly-dazed expression. Then the next time you met them, shed these shackles and look absolutely brilliant. This makes you seem more attractive than you actually are because their expectations were at such a low base.

Whether this works or not is still undetermined.

This blog is brought to you by Shallow Endeavour eXperiences.

[Movie Review] In Bruges

In Bruges

Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

Director: Martin McDonagh

Genre: Thriller

Cert: 18

Released: 2008

 

Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are two very different people.  They both kill people for a living – working for Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) – but have little else in common.  Ken is older, has been a killer for a long time but enjoys tranquillity and sight-seeing.  Ray is new to the game, is easily bored and has a habit of getting himself in to surreal scrapes.  

When a hit in a London church goes wrong they flee to Bruges in Belgium for a fortnight and are told to await a call from Harry.  While Ken enjoys the serenity of the city, Ray gets involved in ludicrous disagreements with American tourists and angsty midgets.  Things pick up for him when he meets Chloe (Clémence Poésy) on the set of a Dutch movie shoot.  With both men now happy to stay in Bruges, it seems their two weeks will pass satisfactorily.  But Harry has news for them and soon the peaceful city will become bullet-ridden and blood-stained.  

It takes a little while but when “In Bruges” finds its feet, it’s irrepressible.  The awkward opening – dominated by Farrell’s Irish brogue – soon gives way to some darkly comical scenes as Ray and Ken, along with the viewer, become acquainted with the city.  Much credit goes to writer-director Martin McDonagh who has created a gangster movie in the ilk of “Layer Cake” and “Sexy Beast” but yet one which feels fresh and original – his Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay (and similar awards from BAFTA, Phoenix and the British Independent Film Awards) underlining this.

Gleeson and Farrell were both deservedly nominated for Golden Globes (with the latter winning).  Farrell bounces around the screen early on with what seems to be adult ADHD but before long the script allows him to expand his performance, shedding the quirkiness and introducing haunted and emotional sides.  Gleeson is as masterful as ever, one of those actors who always seem effortlessly on the money.  

Ralph Fiennes plays the violent but principled gangster who is not impressed with the behaviour of his hitmen.  I haven’t seen much of Fiennes since his “Schindler’s List”, “Quiz Show” and “Strange Days” run about 15 years ago (less said about “Red Dragon” the better) and he is almost unrecognisable with his thick cockney accent and cropped hairstyle.  His supporting role is played to perfection, balancing his violent ethics alongside some delicious dark humour.  

While you can probably call a few of the major plot turns they don’t by any means damage what is an incredible 100 minutes or so.  “In Bruges” is one of those special movies that doesn’t come along too often and simply can’t be missed.

4halfstar

Facebook changed. So what?

To the universe I don’t mean a thing

Whether it’s posting messages of support online for troubled celebrities we’ve never met or putting up posters of missing children in a local rural post office thousands of miles from the abduction, people have a genetic disposition to belong, to be identified with something.

I guess that’s why we support football clubs, join churches and wildly wave our national flags patriotically on holidays like any of it actually means anything in the grand scheme of things.

Facebook updated

00213_001The latest event to raise hackles across the world is the outrageous decision by Facebook – the world’s free and most popular social networking website – to update its look. 

Protest groups with names like “Petition against the ‘New Facebook’” (with over 1.5m users) and “We Want Old Facebook Back!!!” have been set up by users who are horrified at how this free service has changed beyond recognition. 

Those changes were…

What’s actually happened, rightly or wrongly, is two fold: Facebook has (1) made more room for advertising and (2) remodelled the homepage to more closely resemble the features of micro-blogging success story Twitter. 

On the first point, there’s a reason Facebook is free.  It sells advertising.  And, because this is how business works, they need to maximise their advertising revenues any reasonable way they can.  A stagnant business is a dying business and with venture capital money a lot more expensive than it was last year Facebook need to bring in as much of its own revenues as it can. 

Facebook can’t ask you to pay for an ad-free or customisable experience.  No one wants to pay for a service they used to get for free and, if anything, more people will get the hump if there was an optional fee to go back to the old look.

On the second point, Twitter is the new kid in town and Facebook are getting nervous.  Twitter doesn’t disclose how many users they have but estimates place the count at about 5 million.  Compare this to the 175 million on Facebook and you might wonder what the fuss is. 

But it wasn’t too long ago that over MySpace were comfortably the leading social network in the world and after being overtaken by Facebook globally, 2010 is set to see them replaced as the leading US site too.

Getting the hump

Now you might be sitting (standing, shadow-boxing – whatever) reading this with the right hump and saying “yeah, but I liked it the way it was!”

Unfortunately, patronising as it might sound, we don’t always get things the way we would like them to be.  When it comes down to it things will take their natural course.  And if you don’t like Facebook then go use some other site.  The only way that people running the site will get the message is if they start losing members and, subsequently, advertising revenue.

The New Terms of Service

A lot of this is fear mongering bullshit anyway.  Back in February Facebook updated its terms of service.  This led to more kicking and screaming from the agitated user base, underlined by the 2.6 million (about 1.5% of their total active membership) users signed up to the “Against Facebook’s New Layout & Terms of Service” group. 

The complaint centred on the wording “irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license” relating to users information after they deleted their account. 

After a lot of fussing Facebook reverted to their old terms of service with “founder” Mark Zuckerberg making a staunch defence, effectively saying that merely posting stuff on Facebook grants them licence to use it anyway and that the ways Facebook use your information has always been on a basis of trust.

Baseless claims like “Facebook plans to make money by selling your data” have as much credibility as those who still spout on about grassy knoll and Area 51 conspiracies.  All they do is further the disproportionate hysteria.

And speaking of disproportionate, the amount of negative energy that people expend on what is just a frickin’ website is absolutely ridiculous.  I think a bit of perspective might be in order.

Louis CK said it best in his “Everything is amazing, nobody is happy” routine. Below, he mocks the behaviour of a frustrated mobile phone user waiting for their phone to get a signal:

“Give it a second! It’s going to space!”

 

Addendum:

This is a very good critique of the changes to Facebook and why the author thinks they are not all that great.