Archive for the 'movies' Category

Reliving My Childhood

This past week I received the movie G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in the mail from Netflix. I went against the recommendation of many critics and my own better judgment and watched it this weekend. It was, unsurprisingly, ridiculous. The plot was fairly predictable and formulaic: evil/maniacal/demented mastermind plans to control the world and steal lots of money by creating a global panic and fear of his terrifying new technology (here: nanomites. The horror!). Bankrolling the plot is the Scottish arms dealer whose family history creates a deep loathing for all things French. Throw in a master of disguise, a ninja assassin, and a jilted lover and you’ve got yourself an evil organization to rival the Brotherhood of Mutants! Enter the “Joes,” an elite multinational unit (because “a real multinational hero” has a much better ring to it than “a real American hero”) that is only thing that can save the earth from enslavement by the Cobra organization (which, if I recall correctly, isn’t actually named until the very end of the movie). Things play out as expected, with a major setpiece battle set in Paris (even our city destruction has international flair) then another underwater. As mentioned before, the plot was predictable. The dialogue was campy, the jokes were heavy-handed, the CGI was often weak (though the Eiffel Tower scene was impressive), and real character development was nonexistent. Make no mistake, I don’t recommend it to anyone. It felt completely overblown.

And totally awesome.

About midway through the movie I realized that for all its awfulness, I couldn’t help but love it. You see, I grew up playing with the G.I. Joe action figures. Next to Star Wars, I played with G.I. Joes the most. My childhood friend Will and I would spend countless hours in our backyards and homes creating outlandish scenarios for the toys, with characters switching allegiances and new factions emerging in each game we came up with. We’d have our own setpiece battles, but instead of an Eiffel Tower we had the living room recliner. Instead of the Sahara, we had the sandbox and the creek behind my house. As I watched this movie, I realized that I loved it because it was exactly the sort of situation that Will and I would come up with during a sleepover. That revelation freed me up to enjoy the movie for what it really was – the on-screen realization of a 9-year-old me’s imagination. I didn’t care if the dialogue was bad because so was Will’s and mine (we were 9 and 7). I didn’t care if the plot was outrageous because so was ours. I didn’t mind if they killed off a character or two, because that happened countless times in our scenarios. You can always invent a way to bring a character back to life. It may be outlandish, but hey, this is a 9-year-old’s universe. For two hours it took me back to the no-win situations that Will and I created on our living room floors. For two hours I was a kid again. Because of that, I loved it.

Four of These Things Are Not Like the Others

Today while surfing Netflix I came across this gem of recommendations. Apparently because I liked This is Spinal Tap and Amadeus, I’ll like A Christmas Story, Roxanne, Arthur, and Tootsie. I’m not exactly sure how Amadeus and Spinal Tap relate in the first place, but even assuming that they do, how do you get those four movies? I’m at a loss to explain it.

Normally, I find the Netflix recommendation algorithm to be fairly accurate at predicting my tastes. Who knows, it just may be that Spinal Tap + Amadeus = Me Loving Those Movies. There may be some odd correlation that Neftlix’s sophisticated prediction system has picked up that has eluded me. It’s entirely possible. I mean, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen Christmas Story and Roxanne and liked both, I just never realized that I liked them because I liked the combination of Amadeus and Spinal Tap. If someone has figured it out, please, enlighten me!

Dude, Where’s My Cat?

This past weekend Twitter was taken over by a pretty humorous trend. Take a movie title, change one letter, and you’ve got #oneletteroffmovies. I added a couple of fairly uninspired ones to the mix, but Mashable had 20 or so that were quite good. All in all, there were some really funny movie concepts created just from changing one letter of the title.

Some of my favorites:
The Dork Knight
Pilates of the Caribbean
Apocalypse Not
The Hoarse Whisperer
Porn on the Fourth of July
Tree Romance

Recuts Revisited!

About a year ago or so I posted a couple of my favorite recut trailers. They’re fantastic. Typically, recuts take either a horror movie and make it heartwarming, or take a romantic comedy and turn it into a stalker flick. Here are a couple more that I’ve found recently, both are well done, and pretty entertaining. The first is a pretty standard recut of You’ve Got Mail, but the second… Well, I think it’s the movie the makers of the original Willy Wonka were actually trying for.


You’ve Got Mail:

Willy Wonka:

Turns out the media IS biased!

I knew it all along.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Dr. Jackstraw, the Abnormal Drug Trafficker

It’s Finals time. Study breaks are a precious commodity, and I think all of the studying starts messing with your brain after a bit. While I was perusing Engrishfunny during one of my breaks, I came across this image.

engrish, movie, batman, toyIn case you can’t read it, here’s the full text:

When being a child Bruce Wayne had witnessed with his own eyes the fact his parents of millionaire were killed cruelly. So affected his strong desire of Revenging his parents. However, God had never given him a chance to fulfill his will. Following the advice of Raws Al-Ghul – the chief of Ninja Group, Bruce come to Gete, which was a corrupted city filled with various crime groups. Bruce found a basement under his villa that turned him into another person: Spiderman. With this mask Spiderman stroke all criminal activates and criminals everywhere. Such as Tougon, the chief of mafia, Dr. Jackstraw, the abnormal drug trafficker, even a mysterious opponent quite familiar with him——–

I love that the title is Batman Begins, and they (sort of) tell Batman’s story, yet once he finds the basement under his villa, he changes into another person, Spiderman. Spiderman? And Spidey fights crime in the city of Gete? All of that was funny, the villains were what put it over the top for me. Especially Dr. Jackstraw, the abnormal drug trafficker. I can only assume that’s the translation error for “Scarecrow,” but Dr. Jackstraw? Really? Hopefully I’m not the only one that finds this hilarious… Otherwise finals are already getting to me, and I haven’t taken my first yet.

Listen Close to Everybody’s Heart, and Hear That Breaking Sound

Earlier this week, I realized something. Apparently, I’m a pretty big fan of Joss Whedon. I liked the Buffy show alright, but never really got into Angel. However, I absolutely LOVE Firefly. I didn’t see it when it came out originally, but watched it a couple of years ago on DVD and instantly fell in love. It competes with The West Wing for the top spot on my “Favorite TV Shows of All Time” list, I’m pretty sure. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is an interesting one. It’s set in the future, so of course it’s a space-themed drama, but it paints a far less utopian future than other sci-fi shows. Space travel doesn’t cure hunger or poverty or any of humanity’s other problems. In fact, with colonization of other planets come new hardships. As a result, the show is something of a hybrid between science fiction and a western, which seems like an odd match, but it really ends up working well.

The show only lasted for seventeen episodes or so, which was a real shame. The writing was extremely witty, inserting bits of humor into situations where you wouldn’t expect it. It was also easy to see that the cast had real chemistry together and formed a bond that you don’t always see in shows. They also made a movie, Serenity, which was fantastic. If you haven’t seen either, I highly recommend watching Firefly, then Serenity. You won’t be disappointed.

This week, I finally got around to watching Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I heard of it because of Felicia Day, and completely forgot that Joss Whedon was the one that wrote it. I also managed to look away at the exact moment that the credits said that he wrote it and also missed Nathan Fillion (Capt. Reynolds in Firefly), so I was happily surprised when Fillion had his first scene. Anyway, the web miniseries stars those two as well as Neil Patrick Harris, and follows aspiring evil mastermind Dr. Horrible (Harris) as he plans for world domination, sharing his plans with the world via his video blog. His attempts to take over the world are frequently thwarted by Captain Hammer, played by Nathan Fillion. He’s also in love with Penny (Felicia Day), the girl he’s never spoken to at the laundromat. Of course, as the title implies, it’s a musical (think of the Scrubs musical or the episode from Buffy that was a musical). The music isn’t Broadway or anything, but for this format, it really works. And, though it’s only about 45 minutes long, I was drawn in and cared about the characters.

There’s something in Whedon’s characterization, style, and sense of humor that does that to me. It was the same thing with Firefly. Though it only lasted a few episodes, I was genuinely sad when I got to the end of the last disc, and realized that after seeing Serenity, there wouldn’t be any more of Capt. Reynolds, Jayne, Zoë, Wash, and the rest of the gang. It’s even in the music for his stuff. After watching Dr. Horrible, I listened to a few songs from the Serenity soundtrack. The main orchestration theme fits the series perfectly, I think; it starts a bit slow and somewhat melancholy, conveying a sense of longing with a touch of sadness that is replaced by a faster-tempo melody that subtly conveys the sense of humor inherent in the series. When I listened to it, I immediately missed the cast of the show and wanted to go back and watch the show again (even though I just watched the series in August). In that moment I realized that I don’t just like his stuff, I’m a Joss Whedon fan. He has the ability to hook me, make me care about his characters, and leave me wanting more. He certainly did it with Firefly, and Dr. Horrible was no exception.

If you haven’t seen it, you can see the three-part Dr. Horrible series here, or it’s available via iTunes.

Can You Not See Your Uncle is Varied by Your Mall Content?

I always get tickled by foreign bootlegging and their translations. Back in college, a friend brought back some bootlegged DVDs from a trip to China, and the back-of-the-box abstract about the movie was full of translation errors that were hilarious. Back in 2003, when my parents lived in Africa, they brought back a Kenyan copy of the Fellowship of the Ring that was equally funny. I’ve always boasted that while some people may have the Special Extended Edition, I have the Super Special Kenya-Only Edition. I’ve never actually watched it, though, to see if anything like this happens. This is from yet another Failblog sister site. Enjoy! (warning: there’s a little bit of language in the translation)

Update: Netflix Backs Down

I just received the following email:

Netflix saves profiles!

Hooray! Netflix listened to the “small” community of users that finds the Profile feature in Netflix to be essential to their enjoyment of the service. That’s fantastic. It’s nice to know that there’s at least one company out there that listens to and cares about what its customers think, regardless of how small.

Well done, Netflix!

Here’s a link to the official blog, just to confirm.

What a Crock: Netflix Removing Profile Feature

This one just gets my blood boiling.

I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for four years now, and I’ve loved it. My favorite feature quickly became the profile feature, allowing my wife and I to have separate profiles that allow us to have separate queues and rate movies separately. This is important to us, because we don’t have exacly the same taste in movies, but we enjoy using the recommendation system that Netflix has set up. It is pretty accurate in its predictions. We’ve found several excellent movies based on the recommendations. Then, last week, I received this email:

The infamous letter

When I got it, at first I thought it was a phishing scam. “There’s no way that Netflix would get rid of Profiles,” I thought to myself. I didn’t click on any links in the email for fear that it was some sort of scam, but went directly to the Netflix Website. Sure enough, it was all there, albeit buried in the “help” section. Netflix Profiles are going away as of September 1.

What’s more, if you’re a sub-user on an account, then you have to manually record your ratings that you’ve done for other movies, because there is no way to export them. That means that people like my brother-in-law, who has rated literally thousands of movies, has to do everything all over again, either on my sister’s account, or on a separate account of his own. That brings us to the crux of the matter.

Why exacly are they doing this? The email says that the change will help them “continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.” IMPROVE? How is taking away one of the best features of the entire system enabling improvement? I’ve read things all over the internet regarding this, including discussions of the fact that it’s an “advanced feature” that people don’t use enough. I love that line of thinking. Oh, it’s an advanced feature that only a certain set of people use. Let’s dumb down the system so that the ‘idiots’ aren’t confused by it! Give me a break.

My wife called Netflix up to complain about it, and she was told that they were “retiring old code,” and that was the reason that Profiles were going away. She told me this and I just about died laughing. That didn’t fly for her or for me. My wife’s response was, “I’ve worked in information technology my entire career. That answer doesn’t fly with me. You don’t just ‘retire’ code because it’s ‘old.’ ” Which is the truth. Unless you’re doing a platform shift, you don’t just retire old code. What’s more, if you do make a major software upgrade like that, you keep features that were preexisting in the system.

What’s more likely is that the Netflix people realized that they might be able to get a few more subscription dollars out of these people by eliminating profiles and requiring them to either use one account or get a separate account. That’s right, yet another user-friendly, customer-focused feature sacrificed on the alter of the almighty dollar. It’s the only explanation that makes any kind of sense at all. But what’s more, even if you do get a separate account, there’s no way to transfer your sub-Profile to the new account. If you have a lot of ratings on the sub-Profile, there’s nothing you can do but get screwed by Netflix. It’s insulting to me that they think they can explain it away as an “improvement” or “code retirement.” Sure, not everyone has knowledge of software development, but if it’s an “advanced feature” on web-related content, you can bet that at least a decent chunk of the user base that takes advantage of the feature will have an idea of the complete ridiculousness of the statement.

I’m fairly certain, though, that if they do go through with the plan of eliminating the feature, they will lose my business. I won’t get another account and we won’t start from scratch on our movie ratings on one profile. How could we, anyway? We don’t always agree on our movie ratings. What we will end up doing (Blockbuster?) is something that remains to be seen.

Well done, Netflix.

Official Netflix Blog
Indiscriminate Prose
Hacking Netflix
Don’t Touch Me
The Consumerist
Dave Talks Shop (good post from a software development perspective)
Save Netflix Profiles Petition
The Motley Fool