Monday, October 24, 2005

And a Review of a Movie I Haven't Even Seen

Doom - I can tell this movie is, ahem, doomed to be craptacular just by having seen the trailer. A movie based on a first-person shooter videogame, and the trailer includes some shots of carnage from a first-person POV (from what I've read, there is a lengthy first-person segment toward the end of the film). And not just any first-person POV, but a first-person POV that precisely duplicates the first-person POV of the game, with the player's selected weapon sticking out from the right side of the screen. The astounding lack of creativity necessary, the sheer bloody literal-mindedness of duplicating the FPS POV onscreen... well, the only thing I can think of that would be worse would be using actual shots of gameplay in the movie.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Movie Update

Robots - I agree with everything Joe said about it. Pretty, but hollow. I was particularly bemused by the female love-interest character: She seemed to take the main character's side for no reason other than that the "Female Love-Interest" character slot was unfilled, so she slid into it solely in order to fulfill that expected role in the story. Also, the Rube Goldbergian "Crosstown Express" scene at the beginning was cute, but it really needed to have then become a running joke through the whole movie: Off in the background of city scenes, we should have occasionally seen one of those cage-balls whizzing through the air with a faint "aaaaaaAAAAAAAAaaaaahhhh!" audible. That sort of thing.

Land of the Dead - That's the way to do it! And yes, that's a reference to the Zombie Punch and Judy puppet show briefly visible in one scene. I'd say overall that this is not quite as good as Night or Dawn, probably about on par with Day. Certainly better than the Resident Evil movies, roughly equal or slightly better than the Dawn remake. And Romero demonstrates once again that zombies don't have to run fast to be menacing. Still, I think I'll imagine that this takes place somewhere in the middle of the earlier movies, before the events depicted in Day of the Dead (or perhaps even the start of a completely separate storyline that just happens to share the element of zombies), simply because Day is so wonderfully, bleakly apocalyptic. I like to think of that one as truly being about the very end of the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I Love Criterion

Criterion, makers of the best DVDs around, has an edition of Kurosawa's masterpiece, Ran, coming out this fall. Note that when it comes out, it will be the third DVD release of this movie. Yes, I already own the other two, both of which are plagued, to a greater or lesser degree, by problems in the subtitles. Mostly some typos, but there's one other thing that has bugged me about them...

So I recently submitted a comment to Criterion through their website:
Comment: Please tell me that in the subtitles for the upcoming Ran DVD, you'll get the "My...Lord" gag right.

Here's what I mean: In the scene between Kaede and Jiro, after she has seduced him, where he's getting dressed in the background and she's laying down, she starts out by saying (in Japanese) "No-... Tono?" With a significant pause between them. This translates as "My... Lord?", "tono" being the Japanese word for "lord", and "no-" being a prefix meaning "mine".

The way she says it, with that pause, it is as if she is unsure what their relationship is, now that they have made love. "My...Lord?" or "My...Lover?", "My...Husband?" (or, given Kaede's nature, as if she is *pretending* to be unsure...).

The only version I've seen that subtitled that line in a way that preserved that hesitation was an old VHS release. There, it was translated with "My..." on one subtitle, and "...Lord?" on a separate subtitle a moment later. Both DVD releases up to now have just rendered it as "My lord?" which, while technically correct, utterly fails to convey the significance of the line.

I'm just hoping I can count on Criterion to finally get it right.

I just recieved the following response (after an earlier preliminary note that the rep had forwarded the question to the folks working on the subtitles):
Dear Scott,

Our DVD of RAN will include the ellipsis in question.

November 22 seems to be the release date. I can't wait.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Wow. Just, wow.

I've written on the general topic of Jack Thompson before, and given my libertarian politics and love of video games, my opinion of his crusade against them should come as no surprise. Not that I don't understand him: Headline-chasing is so much more profitable than ambulance-chasing if you're a useless hack attorney, isn't it?

But the latest round is something to behold. First, Jack offers $10,000 to charity if any video game company will publish a game based on his proposal. I'm not going to go into great detail about the proposal; suffice to say, it is clearly the lunatic ravings of a disordered mind. I will just point out this, though: His point, such as it is, is apparently that when game publishers refuse to publish a game in which the player massacres game publishers, it'll be evidence that the publishers fear the effects such a game would have:
How about it, video game industry? I've got the check and you've got the tech. It's all a fantasy, right? No harm can come from such a game, right? Go ahead, video game moguls. Target yourselves as you target others. I dare you.

I will simply mention here that such a game not only already exists, but Thompson mentions it by name in his very proposal: In Postal 2, one of the levels is set in the offices of Running With Scissors (the developer of Postal 2), where you are free to slaughter the developers to your heart's content.

So, enter Penny Arcade. Gabe sent Jack an email the other day pointing out that $10,000 was pretty lame compared to the half-million dollars worth of charity gamers had given through their charity, Child's Play. Jack's response, apparently, was to call Gabe and yell at him for a few minutes, including saying that:
He suggested that if Gabe mailed him again, he would be sued so fast that his head would "spin,"

This is a practicing attorney, remember. Threatening to sue someone for the vile, malicious tort of sending him an email.

Now, a conservative and anti-violent-video-game organization, the National Institute on Media and the Family, has asked Jack to kindly stop mentioning their name "in any way that would give the impression that we support your efforts." Jack's response to this bit of news includes statements like:
He is the latest casualty in an escalating war started by a reckless industry whose socipathic [sic] poster child is [Take-Two Interactive president] Paul Eibeler. Dr. Walsh has now cast his [lot] and his efforts, whether wittingly or unwittingly, with him.

At this point, I believe that Jack Thompson could not make himself look any more ridiculous if he started wearing a big red nose and floppy shoes.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Whedon, You Magnificent Bastard

Serenity - First of all: Go see it. If you are already a fan of the show, chances are, you already have. If you aren't already a fan of the show, go see the movie anyway. If possible, spend the 14 hours necessary to watch all the episodes of the show first - you'll appreciate the film even more - but the two friends of ours who had never seen the show before we took them to the movie still loved it. If you like science fiction at all, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

It's Han Solo done better than George Lucas ever managed, even back when Han still shot first. It's a better depiction of space as "the final frontier" than any of the Treks. And it's all done without resorting to having sound effects in space like everyone else since 2001 has felt the need to do (there is sound during the Big Climactic Space Battle, but their excuse there is that it takes place in the upper atmosphere of a planet, not in full vacuum).

I'm not even going to describe the plot, because ideally you should see the movie without having read any spoilers* first. I will, for that very reason, praise the trailers for the film: All the ones I've seen manage to give a sense of what the movie is like without actually giving away the entire story (as most trailers any more seem wont to do). It includes a bunch of humerous lines of dialogue, most of which occur within the first fifteen minutes of the actual film, thus leaving the rest of the movie to be discovered as you watch it.

A quick aside about the TV show: Prior to a few weeks ago, neither Brenda nor I had ever particularly gotten into Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We both thought the movie was kinda cute, and I had gathered that the general consensus was that the TV series was even better, but we'd never bothered to watch it.

As I wrote earlier, the Sci-Fi channel recently started showing Firefly, and I TiVo'd the first few episodes. On the strength of those, Brenda insisted I go out and purchase the DVD set so we could watch the rest of them without delay. On the strength of watching the rest of the episodes, we have since purchased all of the Buffy DVDs, and most of the Angel DVDs, and are working our way through them. Firefly is that good, that I immediately trusted that whatever Whedon had done in the earlier series had to be worth watching (and I haven't been disappointed). Serenity is of similar quality.

*Later on, after you've seen the film, come back here and follow this link if you want to see the inspirational story I suspect Joss Whedon had in mind when he wrote the line, "I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar..." That version doesn't quite use exactly the same words, but the sentiment is certainly there, and it makes sense in context, looked at with hindsight.

And then go read Julan Sanchez's Chock-Full-O-Spoilers review in Reason for a discussion of some of the libertarian themes in the film, as well as references to Sartre and Camus. And this one for more such discussion, and links to even more.