Time for some movie reviews

Spider Man 3. Very bad. Worst of the series. The first Spider Man was mildly entertaining, though it suffered from an embarrassingly stupid villain. Spider Man 2 was entertaining primarily by way of being so bad it was unintentionally funny. The third one was just bad. You’ll find yourself checking your watch every half hour, wondering how much longer it can go on. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Pretty bad but better than Spider Man 3. The best actor by far was the Silver Surfer, generated by computer and voiced by Laurence Fishburne. In a bizarre casting anomaly, Jessica Alba was cast as Sue Storm. She was both unconvincing in the role and unattractive as a blonde. Might be worthwhile to see if you’re a comic book fan but wait for it to turn up on TV (shouldn’t take long).

Live Free or Die Hard. Best Die Hard movie since the first one. Much better than the third one. Also, the co-star is Justin Long aka the Hi, I’m a Mac guy. I was surprised the Hi, I’m Windows guy didn’t get a cameo somewhere in the movie. Speaking of cameos, Kevin Smith turned up as a “hacker” (in the Hollywood sense). Like most movies, the computer-related aspects of the movie were pretty silly but not as bad as many movies. Oh yeah, Tim Russ (Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager) has a brief cameo too. There was a lot of violence but it was much less graphic than previous Die Hard movies. Probably worth seeing at the theater. At least you won’t be looking at your watch during this one.

Transformers. About like you’d expect. On the upside it’s slightly better than most of the comic book movies like Spider Man and Fantastic Four. It was reasonably entertaining. On the downside, parts of it were like watching a string of toy commercials interspersed with car commercials. It’s riddled with plot holes, bad directing, confusing editing, inconsistent pacing, and hokey writing.

The action sequences in Transformers are mostly incomprehensible because all you can see are close-ups of flashing metal flying by at high speed while the camera shakes uncontrollably. Presumably they thought this style added realism or minimized the need for high quality CG. Imagine the fight sequences from The Matrix if all you could see were close-up blurred shots of arms and legs with no indication of what was happening, who was winning, or even who was fighting who. Pretty soon, you just lose interest because you have no idea what’s going on.

The special effects guys also seemed to misunderstand the whole point of shape-shifting robots. Rather than robots that were able to disguise themselves externally as Earth vehicles, they rendered the transformers as alien robots constructed from old car parts. So, Optimus Prime in robot form looks like a welded together kinetic art piece made from hubcaps, drive shafts, and chrome wheel rims. Many of the fight scenes between the robots look pretty much like a tornado in a junk yard with random car parts flying all over the place.

Despite all the above complaints, Transformers is intended to sell toys to a 10 year old audience and probably does a pretty good job of it. Besides, it’s a movie full of giant space robots, so have some fun and go see it already!

The Quiet Earth. Okay, this actually came out in 1985. I saw it at the theater back then. It’s a very low budget movie from New Zealand. I was thinking about it a while back and after much searching I managed to rediscover the title and track down a DVD. I’ve been meaning to mention it and what better time than now. The story concerns a man who wakes up one morning to find he’s apparently the last living human on Earth. Nearly everyone else has vanished completely and those who haven’t are dead. He eventually meets two other people and together they discover what happened to the rest of the world, why they survived, and that they have to stop it from happening again or they’ll vanish too. There are no super heroes, computer generated special effects, giant robots, or evil alien entities. It doesn’t move nearly as fast as any of the new movies, so it’s not suitable for the modern movie viewer with a 5 second attention span. But I enjoyed it and recommend to anyone who might happen across the DVD.

Robots parts, Free3D.org, and Movie Reviews

I received my laser cut acrylic parts back from Pololu the other day. They came out perfectly. The hardest part of the whole thing was creating the CAD file. There are simply no remotely usable Free (as in speech) CAD programs out there. I finally picked up a copy of Design Cad 14 for Windows on eBay for $10. I tried to run it under Wine but Wine’s OpenGL support doesn’t play nice with Mesa OpenGL emulation. You have to have actual hardware OpenGL support to have any hope of running an OpenGL program under Wine. So I ended up using Susan’s XP box. Anyway, the parts came out great. I highly recommend Pololu if anyone needs inexpensive laser cut parts.

As a side effect of the OpenGL hardware support vs. emulation problem. I got involved in a couple of usenet discussions about the poor state of OpenGL and general 3D acceleration support in the Free Software world. There are a few cards with rudimentary 3D acceleration support but getting information on what’s supported and how fast it is can be a pain. So I threw together a little website with some links to info and some crude (very crude) glxgears benchmarks on existing hardware. The site is www.free3d.org.

Susan and I saw Superman Returns. It was okay but nothing special. Just another comic book movie with the same characters and plot you’ve seen a million times before. We also saw A Scanner Darkly – very good, definitely a thumbs up from me. It was nice to see a Philip K. Dick story make it to the screen in a form that at least resembles the original instead of being turned into an action movie.

I also picked up the Time Tunnel DVDs. I don’t know when I’ll ever possibly have time to watch them all. We looked at the first couple. I remember loving the show when I was a kid. They’re still fun to watch but they seem pretty silly compared to modern science fiction.