Movie Review: Fantastic Four – Rise of the Silver Surfer

I think this Fantastic Four sequel comes off as one of the better sequels this year, except for the point that the plot is glaringly obvious very quickly.  That and the fact that you know a major character isn’t going to get bumped off anytime soon (otherwise they never would have managed to make enough comic sales out of it).

Think Terminator 2’s T-1000 android in liquid metal human form and a bit more athletic looking and you get the Silver Surfer.

The basic premise for this movie is that Sue Storm and Reed Richards are having difficulty trying to get married, with their fame and Reed’s compulsive working habits getting in the way, when along comes this surfer dude to prepare the world for certain doom from a world-foe that really doesn’t have a presence in terms of a character.

If you’ve seen a preview, you know that there are some power swapping antics involved, though they really don’t have as much fun with this as they could do.  This time Chris Evans (Johnny Storm) and Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm – the Thing) are comic relief though largely settled into their mainstay of evil-doer fighting, noting that we don’t see any of their day-to-day hero antics other than in relation to the main plot, i.e. not like your average Superman movie where you get to see a few old ladies saved from improbably disaster.

Apparently there are already plans for a Silver Surfer spin off.  With the charisma of a statue, I’m not sure how this will play out – will they keep Laurence Fishburne’s voice on Doug Jones’ body?

The movie was fun, but Jessica Alba (Sue) still seems too young for Ioan Gruffudd (Reed), largely because there really isn’t any chemistry there.

Movie Review: Ocean’s Thirteen

Yes, Ocean’s Thirteen is the third (and hopefully last) in this series of movies.

This one really wasn’t too complex (i.e. disappointingly no real brain power required to figure out the minor twists), though entertaining enough.  It wasn’t really that funny either.  I think we’ve all become just too familiar with the banter between Danny and Rusty and the play of Linus as a parallel running character.  Watch it if you liked the first two, but don’t expect something better.

It’s been a less-than-stellar sequel run this year overall.  Of course there have been a few opening records set.  What amuses me is that all the professional reviewers seem surprised that sequels don’t have any staying power passed the first weekend.  Perhaps it’s because they are highly anticipated but not that good, plus they are all coming out one after the other each weekend stealing each other’s trailing thunder.

So in terms of major franchises, I think that leaves Fantastic Four, Harry Potter, Die Hard and Bourne to give it a go this summer.

geek losing 5lbs a week!

Right now:

  • I eat 5 times a day
  • I do no specific exercise
  • I buy regular food
  • I can eat at restaurants or order take-out
  • I’ve lost 5lbs each week in the first two weeks

This is entirely off-regular-topic unless you are amongst an apparently increasing number of western people including sedentary geeks that are overweight.

I have never personally bought anything after watching a TV commercial until I saw the commercial for this health program and I recognised the guy behind it.  That credibility point, the fact that this was a personalised program, the fact that it makes sense (and I’m a very logical person) and it doesn’t require special food – those things did it for me.  I had nothing to lose except pounds.  OK, that was extra corny.

The program does include exercise (walking!) and body shaping (18 minutes twice a week!) but it encourages you to get going first with the right food and then look at those other things later. 

I’ve lost 10lb already just changing my food.

I’m not going to say or acknowledge what the program is yet, because I want to see how well it works and it’s only been two weeks.  There’s a lot of solid rationale behind it.  I’m not going to suggest it to anyone yet until I think it really working for me. 

I’m betting that a significant portion of geeks are fat – let’s not mince words here.  I’m one of them.

I tried something based on the Atkins diet for a while and it did seem to work in conjunction with exercise, but it just didn’t seem right.

I walk around, I have a treadmill, I go snowboarding, biking, etc., but during the average week I’ll spend a significant amount of time sitting in front of a computer.

The one downsides of this program is the need to pre-prepare food or do a lot of cooking.  You also have to be regimented enough to eat every 2 or 3 hours.  If you have a good cook in the house and the right shopping list, you could be on to this with little or no effort on your part.

I’m a bloody picky eater.  I can’t stand fish (except tuna or some battered fish), nuts, grains or sour vegetables.  I thought this was going to be a pain, but now I’m actually used to it.  It does help that I don’t drink alcohol.

I’m about to have lunch consisting of pork, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots – done with a frying pan and a microwave.  I’ll be eating out at a Subway this evening and eating again between the two!

There’s absolutely no incentive of any kind for me to promote this program, so I’m only doing so to the extent that I think it’s worth sharing, and you can probably find it online yourself anyway.  I just thought you may like to know of something that seems to be working for someone in a similar position to you.  I decide to mention it after I saw Robert Scoble’s post asking if Social Media is making us ill where he mentions that he’s going to the gym to get healthy.  This program gives some rationale about why the gym may not be the best idea. 

I wont be posting any before and after pictures :-), etc., just more details and loss statistics if it keeps working.

Movie Review: Mr Brooks

Kevin Costner is back with some style as the disturbed but structured Mr Brooks.

Ever since Waterworld (which I personally liked), he’s not had any major successes, though the Guardian last year was quite good (except for laying the Hero angle on a bit too thick).

Apparently it’s Kevin’s custom to take a year off after making a movie, so he would seem to be in no rush to boost his box office presence.

The movie gets right into it from the beginning and has sufficient suspense throughout in terms of what will be Brooks’ fate.  His alter-ego cohort is played by William Hurt, though there’s nothing that William can make his own in this script.

There’s a parallel story going on with his police nemesis played by Demi Moore (though she also couldn’t really bring any distinct differential to this character).

Mr Brooks’ wife is played by the lovely Marg Helgenberger, and you’d almost expect her to get out her CSI kit but for the fact she’s oblivious to what’s going on.  She doesn’t really factor into the story as much as their daughter does – and is somewhat underused.

The big ‘surprise’ actor in this movie is comedian Dane Cook who does a reasonable job of focusing the stereotypical self-deprecation or insecurities of a comedian, into the curious and disturbing nervousness of a wannabe bad guy.

The movie’s pace is a patchwork of slow and steady (a reflection of Brooks’ meticulousness) combined with bouts of stark violence or action.

Apple iPhone and HTC Touch is all fingers and no thumbs

Between Windows Mobile 2003(SE) and Windows Mobile 5.0, Microsoft attempted to make the Pocket PC and Smartphone platforms similar.

One way they did this, was to make Pocket PC devices more single-hand friendly.  Their ODM-buddy HTC jumped on by putting more of the important buttons like (Start and OK) at the bottom of the device and a ‘jog-wheel’ where the index finger (for right-handed people at least) goes.  This allows you to do a lot with just your right thumb, and scrolling with your index finger.

Almost everyone using a WM Smart Phone or other ‘Smart Phone’ (e.g. a Nokia running Symbian) is very used to the idea of ‘thumbing’ away of their keyboards.  Even the Pocket PC devices with slide out keyboards, and the UMPCs coming out now with keyboard, really rely on good ‘thumbing’ skills for typing…

Along comes the Apple iPhone and the HTC Touch.  Both of these heavily demonstrate the use of the index finger for controlling the interface, which essentially makes using the device an involved and more distracting experience because it becomes a two-handed (or stable-surface-dependent) experience.  Follow that Apple link – it takes one hand just to hold the thing – great if it’s a Star Trek Tricorder, but not so great if you want to live in the modern world.  Did I mention (as you probably already know) that both of these devices are missing 3G radios?

So forget the wow with these two new devices for a second and consider just how potentially inconvenient they are to use on the go!

iTunes DRM-free doesn’t mean Scott-free Sharing

In a comment on Mack’s post about iTunes going DRM-free I speculated whether they would still keep identity information in tracks to fight file sharing.

Well I’ll happily boast that I seemed to have called it.

The BBC is reporting that the new DRM-free tracks have the full name and email address of the purchaser in them! 

The DRM-‘full’ tracks apparently also had this, but it appears that DRM-free, doesn’t mean scott-free or audit-free sharing.

I personally really think this was to be expected.  Perhaps it’s stated somewhere, but it’s clearly not obvious to most.

So don’t expect someone to set up something like the old-style Napster again fueled by iTunes downloads ๐Ÿ™‚

Windows Live Writer Beta 2 For Blogging

It now has (amongst other things):

  • Inline spell checking
  • Direct link to blog management web page
  • Direct link to blog stats web page
  • Easier to link to previous posts
  • Can add categories

Those last three work with WordPress at least.

So I’m happy that the features release match many of the ones I was looking for.  Now if it could have an MDI interface…

Check it out.  Note that http://writer.live.com/ is not pointing to the new stuff for some reason.

Microsoft Surface: Over-Due, Over-Priced, Over-Done, Over-Hyped, Totally Unavailable

It’s this year’s Origami and years from surfacing.

I’m sorry, but I’m simply not going to get on the wow bandwagon.  I’ve even had an IM debate with a friend already this morning.

The fact is that there really isn’t any NEW innovation in this, where NEW means “wow I had absolutely no idea this could be done today” or “this wasn’t available a year ago”.

I’m a Microsoft fanboy most of the time, but the answer to the following questions are all “no” so I’m just going to find myself bored and at the same time amused at all the hype that’s going to come out of this.

  • Can I have one today?
  • Does it cost the same as a computer + projector + sensors + table or even close?
  • Can I get it the way I want it in terms of colour, size, form factor?
  • Can I use my existing computer with it – like dock my tablet into the side and so just purchase the table/projector/sensor combo and install some software?
  • Does it have an intuitive interface?  Easy to learn yes; immediately intuitive, no – completely breaks UI standards with different apps having different drag semantics.
  • Is this the first time Microsoft has shown this technology?
  • Can I get one this time next year for the same price?
  • Can I get the runtime and build my own?
  • Is there an SDK?
  • Does my credit card or other existing devices work with it directly?
  • Is there a consumer-friendly kit for making my existing devices readable for placement on the surface?
  • Can consumers get one at a reasonable price with three years?

Do I want one today as my coffee table?  YES, if there’s an SDK.

Over-Due

I could play space invaders on a coin-op machine in a pub about two decades ago.  Why did this take so long?  Microsoft admits starting on this in 2001 – why did it take until now?  If anyone is thinking “But… <insert whizzing technology> wasn’t available….”, stop right there and think if you are acting on blustering belief or considered application.  Even on the 1990s space invader table, you could have had useful applications with that level of graphics.  Considering Microsoft did Zune and Xbox so fast, and everyone up to Bill Gates authorised a team, what took so long?!  I’m not saying it could have been done back then, though I could have justified US$10K at that point – more like 2000 perhaps.  Actually, those paying attention know that Bill Gates has shown this kind of technology already, and it was a while ago, so why is everyone acting like bread could only be sliced today?  Calm down!

Over-Priced

Apparently these devices will cost $5K to $10K US and the END of 2007?  Why?!  Makes it sound awfully delicate to put one in a restaurant if it costs that much to replace.  Does everything in the furniture market have to be so over-priced and unavailable?

Over-Done

Many people aren’t quite as fixated on technology stuff as some of us, so this all looks so cool, but it has been demo’d prominately by Bill Gates before.  It feels overdone because it has been on the cards for such a long time and this announcement (mostly consisting of consumer experiences) carries zero promise of availability to consumers and an extremely low chance of a consumer getting to interact with one.

It’s not surprising that all the sophisticated demoes are for brands that have the money to invest in these things: casinos and telcos.

Everyone is so into this that they fail to notice that the demos are done by people that have been using it for a long time and have learnt the drag semantics.  The demos are so far baked that they all have their differing ideas for what dragging does and how the UI goes.  WPF can be used to break years of Windows UI consistency, and this new UI is a whole new UI that screaming excitement but hasn’t been given to anyone to really standardise or play with.

Over-Hyped

Oooo, Ahhhh, so when can even a developer get one at a reasonable price?  Is news really that slow, and everyone really that bored that they think this is really that innovative? 

“How can you say… or not be excited by…” – because I already asked myself the questions above, the first time I saw a Microsoft demo of the technology months ago.  Everyone seems to be acting like a kid in a candy store, but they haven’t yet realised that all the candy is made of promotional cut outs, because someone hasn’t yet finished developing the candy and their pocket money wont be able to afford this kind of candy for quite some time.

If it’s that innovative, then why does it take companies with deep pockets to get it rolling and drive the price down?

So why has it been announced today?  Well, I’d guess it’s probably because it has been incubated for 6 years, and it would almost be embarrasing not to announce something, especially after Bill demo’d it a while ago already, plus the reality that if some money isn’t made back on the work, it will just end up getting dropped or developed at a cheaper cost by a start-up or hobbyist somewhere (if there’s isn’t one already doing it?)

Of course, all hype (good or bad) adds to the discussion, so even if you don’t agree with anything I’ve said, it will create the opportunity for more people to talk about Microsoft Surface (which is currently 1000s of fathoms far from surfacing).  I haven’t included a single link in here, because it’s all over the Web today and it certainly doesn’t need any help from me ๐Ÿ™‚

Engadget /verbose

In a previous post I discussed how Engadget appears to be getting more verbose with its posts, making it slower to skim through, and less effecient for obtaining useful information.

This was an observational hunch, until now…

Today, Yuvi has posted a detailed analysis of Engadget from the beginning of Engadget’s existance, and guess what I found…

Thatโ€™s growing as well. The average number of words per post is now 160, up from just a 100 in May 2004. More words, more posts, more people, more news.

Could that be 60% more verbosity?  Along with an increase of about 25% in the average number of posts per day, that’s twice as much information to read through from when they started, with 37.5%+ of post content being potentially redundant.

Bullet points!

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Don’t go into this POTC movie expecting to see a lot of Jack Sparrow humour, or in fact any of the chaos-driven outlandishness, wit and funny out-smarting/lucking that made for great entertainment in the first two.  There are a few laughs, but a whole load more action this time around.

Expect a swashbuckler of an action movie with lots of complex allegiance switching.  Expect to be totally lost if you have not seen the first two movies or have forgotten most of the plot.

If you put those two paragraphs together, you may like me, be a bit disappointed that you have to watch 2 hours and 48 minutes, waiting for Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) to do something really humourous again, instead of overusing one particular special effect on his character.  On the subject of special effects; it’s very easy to take them for granted in this movie, because none of the main characters have any cool magical attributes so no new crews of supernatural monsters – Caption Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) doesn’t even turn into a skeleton in the moon light anymore and just “arghhh”s a lot when he talks.  No real scary creatures or a spector of supernatural mystery.  The one big character reveal isn’t very well hidden.

Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) wins on character acting.  Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) was a wasted character as were the other pirate lords – they served as follow-on obedient merry-go-round stereotype humour figures.  Keith Richards‘ involvement was over-hyped.  There’s just one line in the movie that confirms his connection to Jack Sparrow, though you’d have had to miss a lot of TV to not know what the connection is.

If you blink, you will miss some of the single lines that explain the plot (which can be hard amongst all the sound effects), that is, if you even care about keeping track of it by the second hour rather than just watching the action.  With a movie this long (are typically shot out of order) isn’t not surprising that the love tale between Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) held little magic until the end – and be sure to wait until the end of the credits. 

There’s one character from the previous movies that does die in a last minute heroic way.

This review is probably as much relatively longer than other reviews I’ve done, as the movie was, compared to what it could have been (and that sentence was probably just a little less complex than the movie plot), and I’ve picked out quite a few of what I believe to be disappointments in the movie.  However, I’m waiting for CNN to post the movie earning for the weekend (a long weekend in the US) to see if it’s beaten any of Spidey 3’s recent records.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

UPDATE: According to CNN, it broke the US Memorial Day weekend record, but not the Spidey 3 record.

Despite all I’ve said, this was a highly anticipated movie, likely appearling to a wider audience and it did deliver high entertainment/action value for money.  It is a Jerry Bruckheimer movie with the all-out intensity and heroes-win(ish)-by-incredulity finale that you’d expect – though not quite dumb enough luck to make it Jack-Sparrow-amusing.