Monday, June 30, 2003


Movie: Crossroads

I just wanted to see how bad Britney Spears could be, and actually, she's not bad, though there's not much here to stretch her. The real problem is that the plot is so generic as to be obvious thirty seconds into the film. A trio of girls who used to be friends as children but now lead separate lives in high school, go on a road trip to California. Britney's going to surprise her biological mother who left her when she was a baby -- one guess how that goes. Another girl is going to surprise her fiance at school -- one guess what she finds him doing. Yeah, there are no surprises, nothing exciting. Oh, the girls do sing karoke, and the guy with the car turns out to be a musician who puts Britney's poetry to music, which she then sings at an audition... duh! Not bad, just boring.


Sunday, June 29, 2003

Orange County

Movie: Orange County
Writer(s): Mike White

This was a completely different movie from what I expected. I thought it was a dumb teen comedy. It turned out to be a drama with some depth on top of a dumb teen comedy. The story's about a surfer dude who discovers the miracle of literature and decides he wants to be a writer. But he's trapped in Orange County, which he hates. He thinks he can escape by going to Stanford but when he's not accepted, he goes on a road trip to find the dean and get himself admitted. It's actually a pretty cool story with some interesting characters. There's even some clever satiric jabs at life in Orange County. Unfortunately, it was marketed as a dumb teen comedy, and there are a few dumb teen comedy bits in it, which weaken the serious side, and the serious stuff totally dampens the comedy bits, with the result that this isn't a comedy, and isn't a drama. It's... odd. It doesn't really work.


Saturday, June 28, 2003

MLS: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

For a battle between the two top teams in the league, the first half was mediocre. There were a few chances both way, but the teams seemed to be cautious more than aggressive. In the second half things got wilder. Tackles were harder, and the ref began throwing around cards (eventually K.C.'s Nick Garcia got his second and was tossed), but though the Quakes certainly dominated the game, they couldn't quite break throw. Meola had a few great saves, and the Quakes couldn't quite complete a few other chances. The game finally went into overtime and finished nil-nil. A point each still leaves the Quakes on top of the league in points, but with a couple road games coming up I hope we don't look back and see two missed points there. Still, it was a good game. Both sides had chances, both sides played well. Neither could quite get the momentum needed to actually win, however, though the Quakes certainly came the closest. A fair result. Final: 0-0.


Friday, June 27, 2003

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

Movie: Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

The first film surprised many in how it was both a tribute to the TV series but established its own frantic identity as well. With the sequel you know exactly what you're getting and the film delivers. It's basically a 90-minute music video. It never lets up, is full of clever asides and in-jokes, and is just a blast. Everyone, from the writer to the director to the cast are obviously having a ball, and that shows. It's contagious. You want to join the cast and dance and have fun as well. There's nothing profound here -- you're an idiot if you're expecting anything remotely like depth -- but there hasn't been such a fun movie in years. Two thumbs way up!


Thursday, June 26, 2003


Movie: Hulk
Director(s): Ang Lee

This film shows that good direction and special effects don't make a film: you still need a good story. While I wanted to like it, it's weak. For example, the opening credits reveal a lot of the back story: we see how Bruce Banner's dad injected himself with an experimental drug, passed that on to his son, etc. Unfortunately, the rest of the film seems to think this back story is incredibly significant and spends a great deal of time letting us watch Bruce as he discovers his past. Boring! We already know all that so who cares? Before seeing the movie I was skeptical of having a CGI Hulk, and my doubts proved well-founded. While suprisingly well-done, with a scene or two of decent acting, the CGI Hulk never stops looking cartoonish, never is very believable as a human transformed, and never brings out viewer emotion. We just don't care. The story is weak, the quality of acting average to poor, and the film is way, way too long. Ang Lee is an excellent director, and it shows with many deft touches, from numerous clever (yet not too extreme) fades and transitions between scenes, and occasional comic book style split screens. It's wonderful in that it sets up the comic book mood. Unfortunately, the story isn't there. And without characters we care about or a story where we care about the ending, the film's rather pointless. That effect is actually heightened by Lee's dignified presentation which gives serious import to such light content. The bottom line: why bother?


Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Apple's WWDC in San Francisco

Spent this week in San Francisco at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference. It was an exciting show, partly because it was my first time at a WWDC, and being surrounded by thousands of really smart Mac programmers was an interesting experience, but this year was significant as Apple announced their new G5 Macs (shipping in August). The new Macs look awesome and appear to be a huge leap forward in performance, though Apple's performance numbers include some questionable fudging that makes me question Steve Jobs' "fastest personal computer in the world" mantra. Overall it appeared to be a good show, with everyone enthusiastic and confident about the future of the Mac platform.


Saturday, June 21, 2003

MLS: Columbus Crew at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Columbus Crew at San Jose Earthquakes

After being out of town for a couple weeks and missing being able to watch Earthquakes games, it was great to return home to Spartan Stadium. Despite missing Landon Donovan (on Team USA in France) and others through injury, the Quakes won and tied their last two games. They aren't playing perfect soccer, but they are gutting out performances, and it's great to see. Tonight was another of the same. The first half was a little sluggish, with the Quakes not working too hard and Columbus slowing down the play and sparking on the counters. Quakes' goal-keeper Pat Onstad almost scored -- his long kick bounced behind the Crew defense, catching the Crew keeper off his line and forcing him to backpedal and tip the ball over the crossbar to keep from going in. Hilarious! The Quakes had a few good chances, but nothing clicked. Then the Crew's 'keeper, Jon Busch, got injured on a play and was subbed. The first goal was awesome. Left fullback Todd Dunivant was next to the sideline, right in front of me when he passed the ball right to a Crew player. Spurred by the mistake, seconds later when he got the ball again, he delivered a long pass up the left wing. It was passed forward Brian Mullan, who ran onto it and scored, sliding the ball into the far side netting. It was cool to see such a key play happen right in front of me (my season ticket seat is in the front row). Going into halftime with a lead was great, but I worried because Columbus can be deadly (McBride hit the post on one chance). Sure enough, about ten minutes into the second half, the Crew was left open and got a hard shot on goal. Onstad made a terrific block, but the rebound fell right to McBride, who immediately kicked it in. It was a similar bad luck goal to the one we gave up in Columbus, where the ball bounced right to McBride. A little while later there was a huge scuffle. I missed the start of the innocent, but apparently the Crew's Mike Clark hit Manny Lagos and Manny went nuts, attacking him. Both players were shown red cards. But things got better when rookie Jamil Walker was put on. He scored the tying goal in L.A. on Wednesday, and I was eager to see him in action. He started off with a lot of fire, which was great to see. Then, in the 77th minute, he scored the game-winner. It was awesome. Richard Mulrooney was on the left side and back-heeled a 10-yard pass to Ian Russell that caught the Crew off-guard. Ian blazed up the left side and fed a ball inside to Walker, who blistered a shot through the crowd of defenders and goal-keeper to give the Quakes the win! Terrific game, terrific result, and I just can't say enough about how hard these young players are working. Players like Mullan who was tossed away by the Galaxy have really worked hard to prove themselves, and the rookies are learning from that spirit and giving it their all. The club has the feel of the 2001 championship team where the team works as a whole and there are no superstars. After the dream start this year I wasn't sure if the Quakes were real or other teams were weak, but when decimated by injuries the Quakes are still getting results, I am now confident this team has what it takes to win another championship. With today's win they now lead MLS with 21 points, one point ahead of the Metros and Kansas City. K.C. comes to town next Saturday, and that should be a real showdown with the two best Western teams battling it out for three key points. Landon Donovan should be back from France (with today's lost to Brazil the U.S. is eliminated from the Confederations tournament and play their last game tomorrow), and hopefully some of the other Quakes are healed and ready to play. Final: 2-1 Earthquakes.


Tuesday, June 17, 2003

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Movie: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Not at all what I expected, especially the horrible things I'd heard about Nurse Ratchet (who wasn't that mean). The film's a comedy about people in an insane asylum, with Jack Nicholson's character the provoker of all sorts of mayhem. It's witty, fun, bizarre, and occasionally thoughtful, but my expectations were higher. It's a decent film, but I'm surprised it swept the Oscars the way it did -- looking at it 28 years later it doesn't seem that remarkable. I'm glad a saw it, and I liked it, but I was hoping for something more profound. There was no deep meaning or revelation.


Friday, June 13, 2003


Movie: Spartacus
Director(s): Stanley Kubrick

Cool, though very long movie. A zillion times better than the lame rip-off, Gladiator. It tells the epic story of slave Spartacus who's trained to become a gladiator and later leads a slave revolt against the Roman empire. It does get a little tedious with its excellent but complicated forage into ancient Roman politics, but as a whole the film deserves its reputation as a classic.


Thursday, June 12, 2003

2001: A Space Odyssey

Movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Writer(s): Arthur C. Clarke (novel)
Director(s): Stanley Kubrick

Scandalous, I know, but I'd never seen this before. I've watched the opening "Dawn of Man" segment numerous times, and seen clips of other bits on TV, but never the entire movie. I'd read the book years ago and it never made much sense, so I'd hoped the movie would explain things better. It does and it doesn't. The ending is a little more linear but still just as metaphysical, and instead of reading descriptions of the unimaginable we see wild pictures of it. Overall this fits in with the grand, epic scheme of the novel and film, and when the movie's over you feel you've experienced something profound (you just aren't sure what). However, while there's a place for mystery in literature, this story is being mysterious not to make us think but because the author really doesn't know what he means. He's therefore vague and metaphysical to imply something profound, but even he isn't sure what that is. Which makes sense to an extent: as the key plot is contact with extraterrestrials, who can imagine, fully, what that would be like? Despite a few problems with the odd story, I like this movie a great deal. It's an amazing cinematic feat. The photography and pace is incredible: it's like a space voyage, slow and ponderous and monotonous, yet moving at fantastic speeds. The music is key, like a narrator, explaining everything we're seeing. There's really only a few scenes with dialog -- the rest of the film is a visual feast. I can truly see why this is considered a classic, and I am amazed Kubrick managed to get it made at all considering it is so different and unorthodox. It definitely was before its time. The special effects are simple and subtle, and work well even thirty-five years later. A terrific experience, even if a bit mysterious and the conclusion unsatisfactory.


Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The insider

Movie: The insider
Director(s): Michael Mann

Interesting, though overly complex tale of a tobacco insider who turns whistle-blower. It's based on reality, and tells the story of a 60 Minutes producer who finds the insider and encourages him to blow the whistle. The producer soon finds his own network (CBS) is afraid to back him for fear of being sued by Big Tobacco and they leave the whistle-blower out on his own. Things are confusing as we watch the producer working on unrelated stories, and it's sometimes difficult to tell if the producer's the main character or the whistle-blower. The ending is also weak as we'd earlier watched the whistle-blower's life fall apart by pressure from the tobacco company (his wife left him) and that is never resolved. It's therefore implied that whistle-blowing will cost you everything you value, but of course, you must do it to be a good citizen. Overall an excellent film (good direction and performances), but a little convoluted and overlong.


Monday, June 9, 2003

The Fog

Movie: The Fog
Director(s): John Carpenter

Hilarious really bad B-movie. The story takes place at a small coastal town and as the fog rolls in one night, people die. It turns out that the fog is the revenge of a leper colony wiped out a hundred years earlier by the ancestors of the town's current residents, and every hundred years the fog returns to claim six more victims. Completely ridiculous, with incredibly bad acting by people who seem to take the script seriously, and smoke machines as the major special effect, this is a cult classic of bad movies. It's full of unintentionally hilarious lines like "Watch out! The fog's coming! The fog's coming!" Oooh, the fog, I'm so scared! I could go on and on, but it's best you see the film yourself. It's a great laugh, especially late at night in a small coastal town as the fog settles in....


Friday, June 6, 2003

2 Fast 2 Furious

Movie: 2 Fast 2 Furious

The original was okay; this one's best feature is its remarkably clever name (for the dead, that's sarcasm). Yeah, it's got more cars, more chases, more women, more noise. The plot is more linear than the first one, but still dealing with guys going undercover trying to pass as street drivers so they can nail the bad guys. Frankly, the car races were boring. Gee, will the good guy win? I don't know... there's so much suspense! Okay, one or two jumps or crashes were cool, and the cars are definitely hot, but that's not enough to sustain a whole movie. Paul Walker, the only return from the first movie, proves that he's one of the worst actors on the planet (watch the scenes where he's supposed to get angry: though anger's the easiest emotion to portray, bad actors can't do it convincingly). The new people are okay, but nothing remarkable. That pretty much sums up the movie: nothing remarkable. The action is most cars revving their engines and going nowhere: I actually fell asleep during part of the movie! Mildly fun, but not recommended unless you're a car nut.


Thursday, June 5, 2003

Pattern Recognition

Book: Pattern Recognition
Writer(s): William Gibson

Strangely, considering his geek reputation, I've never been a Gibson fan. This, his most recent book, is the first I've managed to finish. I don't like his writing style -- he overwrites, tries to hard to be poetic, and uses elaborate vocabulary for no good reason. This book was better -- I was able to tolerate the style -- but it's a strange novel.

Remember that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the crew meet that alien species that no one has been able to communicate with? Their speech is incomprehensible, even for the universal translator. Then Captain Picard figures out that their speech is entirely based on common historical references. For instance, if I said, "Romeo and Juliet at the balcony," you would know what I meant, and that simple phrase would conjure up images of romance. Well, to someone who's never heard of the play, the reference is meaningless. That made learning the alien's language tough. Gibson does a similar thing in this book (and perhaps his other books, I don't know). He casually throws out odd references and assumes we'll understand. While I, being a computer geek, understood the computer-related ones, there were a number that were fashion-oriented, and I didn't get those at all. Fashion plays a big role in this book, as do logos. You see the main character, Cayce, is allergic to certain logos and trademarks. She uses this "talent" to consult with companies on the logos they choose (she can tell them if the new logo they've picked is bad or not). That's a cool concept. But the woman is therefore extremely picky about the clothes she wears (she tears the labels off everything she buys), and I gathered there were subtle references to and jabs at fashion designers I missed because I pay no attention to that aspect of reality at all. Anyway, my point is that Gibson's prose is often impossible to comprehend because he doesn't explain anything. And he still overwrites. Here's the first sentence of the book: "Five hours' New York jet lag and Cayce Pollard wakes in Camden Town to the dire and ever-circling wolves of disrupted circadian rhythm." Uh huh. Yeah. Beautiful. Fortunately the whole novel isn't that way, just bits and pieces. Unfortunately, the plot is rather mundane. It seems like it's got promise, and I kept reading, and there are some fascinating diversions, but in the end the conclusion was unsatisfying. I will say that in that respect the plot is like real life. Of course I don't read novels (especially this kind of novel) to experience real life. The story itself deals with an Internet phenomenon known as Footage. Clips of an unknown film are being released anonymously on the 'net. There are 135 of them so far, and fans edit the clips together in various assemblages, debate and argue various viewpoints, etc., but no one knows who's creating the clips, if it's a part of an ongoing work or a completed film being released in pieces, or why it's being released in this manner. But it's becoming a cult with millions of fans around the globe eagerly waiting the next clip release. Cayce is one of these fans. Then her current employer hires her to find the source of the Footage. Her quest takes her around the world, and there are mysterious events happening. Someone has been in her apartment, she's being followed, someone tries to mug her, and she learns she can't trust anyone. It's a wonderful concept, but the ending is unsatisfying both because it's so ordinary and because we still don't understand the motivations behind everything. There are too many unanswered questions (a few would have been okay, but here there are dozens). This book is apparently very different from Gibson's other works, which was why I was interested in reading it. I wasn't that impressed though: it took me weeks to slough through it and for what? I didn't get much out of it. I am interested in Gibson as I writer, though, so perhaps I'll try one of his other books and see if I can't make it through. Not right away, though. I need a break.