Movie review : 2012

2012
2012

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2012 was a disaster and I mean that in a good way. Not a great movie but wow does Roland Emmerich know how to tell a disaster story. And if you like disaster movies, like I do, then maybe this is a great movie.

The good: rocking good special effects. Epic in the destruction of California, Yellowstone, Rio, Rome, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Washington DC, . . . you get the picture. This movie is full of disasterz – that’s the plural of disasters. ( Plural of a plural if you will. ) The characters and their motivations are good enough to keep the dialogue going. And there are plenty of laughs. Even a few LOLs from the audience – which is more than I can say for most of the “comedies” I’ve seen this summer.

The bad: I thought the crisis near the very end with getting the door shut was a bit too much. I’d much rather see a little more in the denouement – post disaster. But I guess Roland figures more is better and wants to make sure you get your moneys worth of destruction.

I love the way Roland provides just a shred of science behind his stories. If you’re a science fiction fan then you may recognize the genesis of this story from Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Songs of Distant Earth. But the science ends there. Thankfully what he postulates in the story isn’t possible but it’s a good enough launching point. I’ll give him credit just for mentioning neutrinos. Who knows, maybe some kid out there sees the movie and then does a little reading on neutrinos and ends up becoming a physicist. So kudos Roland.

This would make a good night out with friends movie. Lots of food for conversation presented in this story, such as: would you be more like Carl or Adrian?

I saw the film at a midnight showing and the audience seemed genuinely captivated by the story and effects. There were even a few applauds. Yes the critics are going to pan this movie. But that’s like criticizing Playboy magazine for showing too much skin. Critics can be real bone-heads sometimes.

What did you think about 2012? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : This Is It

This Is It
This Is It

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In case you didn’t know This Is It has a documentary format. Seems pretty obvious but I just wanted to make sure you were clear on that. This documentary is a sequence of shots from the rehearsals for MJ’s planned tour. Most of the action focuses on MJ, as you would expect with a bit here and there from the dancers and musicians who were performing with him.

I’m not a huge MJ fan but I enjoyed watching This Is It. I was happy to see that MJ didn’t act like a prima donna. He took direction from his advisers and offered feedback to his support cast without being overly sensitive about it.

What I really enjoyed was watching the process that everyone, even MJ, went through to produce the show. It isn’t like MJ walks out and nails a dance move or musical note on the very first try. Even the greatest get it wrong more often than not on the first try.

The downside to this documentary is that it seems rushed. My guess is that the powers that be wanted to get a version of the documentary to the theaters as quickly as possible. And then in a few months we’ll see the DVD that has much more footage than a movie ever could. So if you’re not dying to see this then hold off and wait for the DVD which should be much more complete.

What did you think about This Is It? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Prima donna

Movie review : The Vampires Assistant

The Vampires Assistant
The Vampires Assistant

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I love vampire movies and was looking forward to seeing this one. And I’m not hugely disappointed because at least the movie didn’t suck. But it sure didn’t impress either.

The action scenes were just ho-hum. There were just a few funny bits and they weren’t all that funny. The story seems to leave a lot on the table because the one thing the movie might have going for it is that it has a fairly rich mythology.

It’s plane to see that the story was meant to introduce a series of movies. This bit played the role of the introduction to the characters along with the back story. Who knows, maybe the second movie will be a real winner. If it gets made.

The real failing of this movie was that it should have either been much darker with more angst and foreboding or it should have been a lot funnier. Either way would have worked. But the middle ground is pretty boring.

What did you think about The Vampires Assistant? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Astro Boy

Astro Boy
Astro Boy

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Astro Boy is visually appealing, which kids will enjoy, but the story is a darker than you might expect. But then this is a Japanese story which explains a lot: namely that slightly bizarre things will happen for no apparent reason. For instance some of the characters seem to change their personality without any explanation which is a bit of a jolt.

The voices were great. Nicholas Cage and Donald Sutherland both have distinctive voices and add depth to the characters.

Based on the reviews I was hoping for something much better than this. It’s certainly not on the level of most of the Pixar films. And it isn’t the best animated movie of the past few months either – Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs gets that distinction. But fortunately it isn’t bad either.

What did you think about Astro Boy? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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Movie review : Where The Wild Things Are

RunPee - PeeTimes link
Where the Wild Things Are
Where the Wild Things Are

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[ no spoilers ]

I’m new to the Wild Thing story. Before today all I knew about them came from the artwork. So I have no idea how well the movie tells the story presented in the books.

The audience was mostly small children. I would guess most were in the 5-8 year old range. The content of the story seems well beyond the grasp of a young child but at the end of the movie the audience applauded and it sounded like there were a lot of children doing the clapping. So apparently they enjoyed it.

The movie has a lot of cartoonish violence. Characters are thrown about, they hit things, fall and jump on each other. All with nothing more than a momentary head shaking before continuing on. But the cartoonish violence shouldn’t be a problem for children because it’s never the intent of any of the Wild Things to hurt anyone. It’s all for fun and play.

I enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t great or life changing by any means but I am looking forward to seeing it again and trying to understand it better. As I said, the content of the story is complex and I’m sure that I missed a good bit myself. Although I can use the excuse that I was distracted by writing down PeeTimes.

[ possible spoilers ]

My interpretation is that all of the Wild Things represent either some aspect of Max’s psyche or of someone in his life. What I like about the story, assuming I interpreted it correctly, is that Max realizes through the behavior of the Wild Things that he needs to change his own behavior with his family. It’s subtle and I may have totally read the move incorrectly. Which is why I would like to see it again.

What did you think about Where the Wild Things Are? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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Movie review : Law Abiding Citizen

Law Abiding Citizen
Law Abiding Citizen

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[ no spoilers ]

Lets face it: best case scenario is that this movie is just going to be average. We all know the story well about what happens when a man has everything important taken from him.

With Jamie Fox and Gerard Butler staring in the movie there’s hope that this might be about as good as it gets for this genre. But unfortunately no. It’s getting a rating of 25% at RottenTomatos and that’s probably fair. I’d say Law Abiding Citizen falls into the average rating if you were to compare it to other movies in this genre – Man on Fire, The Crow, Mad Max, Payback, Braveheart ( What is it with Mel Gibson and revenge movies? ).

What did you think about Law Abiding Citizen? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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My experience with the iTunes app store

I just finished reading Newsweek.com’s Striking It Rich: Is There An App For That? I concur with what many of the developers report. Because of the huge amount of publicity that Apple gets, and RunPee itself has gotten more than it’s fair share, people think that I must be making money faster than I can count it. Truth be told if all my money were in dollar bills I could count it all in about 1 minute.

RunPee has been hugely popular this summer and I’ve put a great deal of effort into keeping it there and preparing for the future. I’ve made a version for basic mobile phones – m.RunPee.com – and I’m working on rebuilding the site to support any language, like Chinese, German, French, Spanish, etc. Because of that I’ve only worked on two freelance projects this summer and one of them netted me a big fat zero in income. Fortunately the other project was with an old client of mine which made me a few thousand dollars. Without that I would be in a deep financial hole.

I was comfortable with taking on fewer freelance projects because I knew how many downloads the app was getting and therefore how much money I would eventually make. At least I thought I did.

The RunPee iPhone app didn’t come out until the 1st of July. Apple states that they will pay developers their share of money within 45 days of the end of each month. Unfortunately I based my finances around that. I knew exactly how many downloads there were each day and just did the math. It is easy to calculate how much I should get paid and the deadline for getting that money. My first check – going to RockSoftware who developed the app for me – would pay for the app development and net me a little more than $1,000+.

However that was not the case. RockSoftware did receive a check in mid September but for only about half of the downloads. It was a mystery to everyone as to why there was less money than expected. Then a few days ago RockSoftware received another check that seems to cover all of the downloads for July – over three weeks late. It’s hard to tell just what each check covers because, as I’m told, the reports that Apple produces with their payments are horribly complex and almost impossible to decipher. Basically, Apple will pay you what they want when they want to. And there’s not a whole lot you can do about it but wait.

The app has sold pretty well and fortunately wasn’t too terribly expensive to develop – which I had to pay for. But I would say that developing for the iPhone is far more expensive than developing Flash applications. As a Flash developer I could have developed an app that has all the features that the iPhone app has – plus local storage and vibration for the Timer – in 15 hours max. It took the iPhone developer for RunPee at least 3-times that long to develop the app. From talking with a few peers that do both iPhone and Flash development they report that there are a lot of simple things on the iPhone that are very tedious to make work correctly. Most of that is because it’s an immature platform. Flash has been around for 10+ years and has an amazing set of tools to work with. Maybe iPhone development will get there someday.

The bottom line is that eventually I’ll start seeing a nice steady income from the sales of the RunPee iPhone app. Nothing that I can retire on but it will help pay the bills while I work on my next project. But I can tell you this now: there will never be another iPhone app associated with any of my projects. Well, I take that back. One of my projects, a game, will have an iPhone app. But I won’t sell it through the iTunes store. It will only work on unlocked iPhones. I know that’s a small percentage but it beats being beholden to Apple and their control-freakish culture. Hopefully more and more developers will go that route and force Apple into some changes. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Movie review : Couples Retreat

Couples Retreat
Couples Retreat

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[ no spoilers ]

As of today, Couples Retreat is getting a 9% at RottenTomatoes.com. If you added a zero after the 9, then I think you would have a much more accurate rating of the film. Most of the reviews to date are probably from professional reviewers who get in to see the film before opening day. I think that once the working crowd gets their reviews in there then the rating will go way up.

The movie is way better than a 9% just based on the laughs. The audience that I saw the movie with laughed many times. It was hard to get a PeeTime in the first 2/3rds of the movie because there were so many funny scenes. ( I try to not make PeeTimes during comedic scenes. )

The one critical thing I would say about the humor is that from what I recall it mostly centers around Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau – Dave and Joey. There isn’t anything wrong with that, except that there is very little humor centered around the female characters – aside from Lucy gawking at Salvadore. I’ve seen most of the work that Kristen Bell has done and she is a fine comedic actress. They should have put that to better use. Though to be fair she isn’t a particularly happy character throughout most of the movie.

Aside from the humor, the movie does a fine job of characterizing a lot of common problems that couples have. I think that any couple seeing this movie is bound to find certain problematic aspects of their own relationships sprinkled throughout the characters of this movie. So be prepared to have food for thought and conversation afterwards. It might even make a good movie for a group of couples to see together.

And I’d like to give props to the writers: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn and Dana Fox, for putting together a pretty tight story. They did a great job of showing us the character’s problems instead of telling us about them. Plus I never felt that the movie dragged.

What did you think about Couples Retreat? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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m.RunPee.com info

If you have registered for the mobile version of RunPee then the code will try to add a cookie so that you don’t have to login every time you visit. However, a lot of mobile browsers don’t work well with cookies. So I’m really sorry if you get prompted to login every time you visit the home screen. I’ll keep looking for ways to save the data that might work on more mobile phones out there. That’s why mobile phone development is so hard: because there are so many different browsers to work around.

The RunPee app for BlackBerry phones will probably not be done this year – if ever. It turns out that it is very expensive to create apps for BlackBerry and one app won’t work on all of the phones. Which really seems pretty stupid to me. At least you have m.RunPee.com now.

The significant difference between m.RunPee.com and the iPhone app – or any other RunPee app – is that the website can’t vibrate your phone right before a PeeTime is about to start and can’t do local storage. Both of those features will be part of every app – and part of the update to the current iPhone app which will be ready as soon as Apple gets their head out of their ass.

I’m totally new to building websites for mobile phones. In fact I haven’t written that much HTML in years. If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them.