Friday, January 30, 2009

A three hour tour. A three hour tour.

I haven't watched a Ray Harryhaussen movie, quite some time. Last summer I guess. It feels like it's been way too long!

I found a used copy of Jules Verne's 1874 novel, Mysterious Island at, surprisingly enough, a used book store near my apartment. I looked at it and thought to myself, 'You know what be fun, self?'

'No, self, what might be fun?'

'It might be pretty flippin sweet if we read this book, and watch the movie and then write about it!'

'Ok, sure, self. I could see how at least part of that might be fun.'

So, it was decided...I would read the book and watch the movie, then write all about it. Except, there was one problem. The book is god-awful boring. I read pretty fast most of the time. When I fly, I just devour books. Well, after 3 flights, I was barely 100 pages into the novel, about a fifth of the way through it! I'm sure it's a wonderful book, I don't know if it's just dated, or if it's just poorly translated, but I just can't get into it. So, I have no idea how different it is from the movie.

Mysterious Island is essentially a sequel to Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Of course, we don't know that at the outset. We know only that this band of soldiers has escaped a Confederate prison in the waning days of the American Civil War via hot air balloon. They find themselves caught in a wind that inexplicably is blowing west...eventually taking them from South Carolina to the South Pacific.

Stuck on this island they must fend for themselves. And by fend for themselves, I mean find food and fight off giant crabs. That's how it goes, right? There's something strange though, they seem to have a mysterious benefactor. Each time they're in over their heads, some needed assistance appears. It's quite...mysterious.

Yeah, I just said that. It was too good a pun to pass up.

Verne's story is as much an adventure on a lost island as a survival guide. The escapees are all incredibly capable men, able to do anything that might need to be done, including figuring out their latitude and longitude without any tools. They're quite impressive. They're the typical men's men. The kind of men they make Burger King commercials about.

Our intrepid islanders in the film are...not as explicitly capable. They're able to survive the way they need to, but they're not the experts that Verne created. The movie, however, does not suffer from the pacing problems that the book does. It may actually have to opposite problem, it moves too quickly, especially in getting everyone to the island. There isn't much of a setup for the characters. You don't learn much about them and what brought them all together.

Unfortunatley, that's all the comparison that I'm qualified to do. See, after 100 pages...nothing has happened. No, that's not true. Things have happened. They escape prison and get to the island. They find shelter, make fire and learn what they can eat. They didn't fight anything though. No pirates, no monsters. At least not yet. I hear that things like that might happen. They did in the movie. And the movie was certainly a good adventure.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

sit back and wave through the daylight

Underworld: Evolution was one of my first reviews. It was a cold Monday night in January of 2006. I left work and went to the theater by my office, excited to be seeing the sequel to a movie that I loved. I sat in the back row to enjoy the movie, and enjoy it I did.

Here we are, a scant 3 years later and it's once more a cold January evening and I'm on my way to see Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. I left work and went to the theater by my office, excited to be seeing the prequel to a movie that I loved. I sat in the back to enjoy the movie, and enjoy it I did not.

I wanted to like it. I really did. I went to see it EXPECTING to like it. I mean, I loved the first two. I really like Rhona Mitra. And I liked the Victor and Lucien characters in the first movie. Something about this one though, just didn't do it for me. After the first five minutes, as the voice over sets the stage for what's to come, I was already unimpressed.

Something about it was just...wrong. Off. The origin of the Lycans, the all just just seemed wrong. At least wrong enough that it left me with a (figurative) bad taste in my mouth.

Lucien is a servant to Victor. A slave actually. A slave held in high regard, but a slave no less. Lucien is a lycan, a werewolf. Unlike the werewolves that have come before him, however, he can shift between wolf and human forms. This makes him valuable. Victor uses him to make more lycans like him. More slaves. Slaves who can help to protect the vampires in the daylight.

and in the daylight we can hitchhike to maine
i hope that someday i’ll see without these frames
and in the daylight i don’t pick up my phone
cause in the daylight anywhere feels like home*

Unless you're a vampire. If you're a vampire then in the daylight anywhere feels like burning! And that's not good. It leaves them vulnerable. A fact that should have really been exploited. Hey, whatever. I'm no general. I'm no leader of men (or lycans) what the hell do I know.

Back to Lucien though, since this is his story. See, he's in love with Viktor's daughter Sonja. And blah blah blah. Look, if you saw the first movie then you know the whole story. That's the problem with doing a prequel, you're covering ground that you've covered before.

Look, lets put it this a prequel that really helped a franchise, a prequel that added to the overall story. Not just added, I suppose they all add something, but added something good. Something worth while. Something that didn't leave you thinking 'well, I could have done without that'. Go ahead. Name one. I'll wait.



Take your time.

I've got plenty of time to sit back and wait.

I just got a new disc of House: Season 3 from Netflix.

Look at that guy limp.

Hey! He just made ajoke about Foreman stealing something! Hahaha!


Oh snap! He just called Chase British!



Boy, that House guy sure is wacky! Wacky and smart!


So, did you think of one? I sure didn't. You know how this shit is going to end. You know who lives. You know who dies. It removes the suspense from the movie. And while you know the 'what' going into the theater, you hope that the 'how' is at least interesting.

The 'how' could have been really interesting, but it was just such a rehash of what we learned in the first movie that movie served no narrative purpose. The story of these characters, the world they live in was not enriched. So, other than so-and-so begat so-and-so, nothing is really accomplished by RotL.

And that's the problem. Rise of the Lycans is a movie full of sound and fury, signifying nothing**.

*From Daylight by Matt & Kim. It's off of their new cd Grand. It just came out and it's pretty sweet.
**Hell yes I closed a review with a little Shakespeare! I'm cultured and shit, yo!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In which I revisit the past...

After playing Left 4 Dead, I found myself wanting to see 28 Weeks Later again.I don't think that it was coincidental. There are a lot of similarities between the rage infected "zombies" of 28WL and L4D.

I don't think I had seen 28 Weeks Later since I had seen it in the theater. I'd kept meaning to buy it, I just never got around to it. No real reason why. I mean, I loved the movie and new I would watch it again. I just wasn't in a hurry. I always figured I'd see it on sale someday for really cheap and pick it up then.

I'd waited long enough though. I wanted to see it again. I was itching to see it, one my say (though only because I'm usually feeling a little itchy, no idea why). It was 9:30 at night. It was cold outside. I wasn't wearing pants. I wanted to watch it though, so I got myself together and went to the video store to rent it.

I've already reviewed the movie here, but, a couple of thing occurred to me while watching it:

1) The opening chase scene with Don running from the infected my be one of the most exciting and beautifully shot zombie chases ever put into a movie. It's really a perfect start to the movie.

2) 28 Weeks Later may not be the best zombie movie ever made, it's full of giant leaps of faith and a few sizable plot holes, but it just might be one of the prettiest zombie movies out there. It has a beautiful 'look' to it without being heavily stylized. It's just an incredibly well shot movie.

C) The review I wrote two years ago? Looking back at it...I'm really REALLY proud of it. I think that it might be one of my favorite examples of my writing, and if someone asked for a sample, it just might be the one I would give them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There's been a lot about games lately, hasn't there?

I know, I get a new TV and suddenly my games look all sorts of friggin sweet and that's all I want to do anymore. It's not JUST that though. The other problem is that all of these movies look sweet. And I want to go back and re-watch movies again. So, I haven't seen much new.

I rented Mirror's Edge. Rented, not bought. It was the right choice.

Be careful what you read into that. I loved the game. It was incredble. Fun, interesting, unique. Everything one might want from a game. It's well worth playing.

You are Faith, a runner. You have to get from one place to another. On foot. You deliver messages. Yeah, I know what you're thinking but, Parkour Mailman just doesn't sound as sexy as Mirror's Edge, now does it? No, of course not.

There is some fighting, but not much. The game mainly focuses on running and jumping from building to building. You're more or less encouraged to avoid anyone shooting at you rather than confronting them. On the occasions that you must fight them, the battles flow as smoothly as the running.

It's a short game. This isn't a bad thing though. It ends when it should. If it were longer, it would get boring. It's really the perfect length for this type of game. It's biggest flaw, at least to me, was that there wasn't much about it that made me want to go back and play it again. It was a lot of fun, once. Time trials through the levels aren't that interesting to me.

It makes it a perfect game to rent.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What the crap?

I have no idea when it happened, but I no longer had links to anybody. I don't remember getting rid of them. Though, that's not saying much, my memory is far from perfect. Still, I would expect to have remembered something like that.

Oh well. I added links to some of the ones I used to, the ones I remembered. And some others that I never had before.

It's still weird though.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's pretty friggin sweet

I am so glad that I picked up Left 4 Dead. It is, quite possibly, the best zombie game I've ever played.

I know how that sounds. And yes, I've played Resident Evil 4 (though, not RE5. The demo comes out on the 26th...I can't wait!). So, it's no small praise when I say this.

L4D has very little story to it. Basically, you play as one of four survivors. Francis, a tattoo-covered biker; Zoey, a college student and horror movie enthusiast; Louis, a Junior Systems Analyst in his company's IT department; and Bill, a former Green Beret and a Vietnam veteran. It doesn't matter which one you play as. They have the same abilities, can use the same weapons. There's no advantage to playing as one over the other.

As a survivor, it's your mission to...survive. You have to avoid being killed by the many MANY zombies out wandering around. There are 4 campaigns to clear, each with 7 different missions. At normal difficulty, a campaign takes about an hour or maybe a little more. The campaigns really don't have much to do with each other.

In each, you explore the city, going from safe house to safe house. Along the way you encounter the mindless zombies, hunters, smokers, boomers and the occasional tank. From time to time, the zombies will attack en masse as the horde.

It's designed primarily as a co-op game and is best played that way. The AI is really quite good though. I played with a friend of mine, leaving two computer controlled characters. I never felt like they were hindering me along the way. They were there with health when I needed it, and were pretty good shots.

It's an intense game, and actually worth the money they're charging for it. That may have been the biggest surprise for me. I'd heard so much hype that I thought that there was no way it could be that good. But it was.

It actually almost makes me want to play it online. If only to play as one of the infected.

Monday, January 19, 2009

People should love you. They really should, okay? And I want to deliver that for you. It's the least that I can do.

Over the weekend, I decided it would be a good idea to go out with some friends. Stayed out kind of late, and almost made it home. The check gages light came on in my car, then the check engine light. The battery power slowly drained. Uh-oh...the alternator. Fingers crossed, I prayed and hoped that I would make it home. And then, at the intersection by my apartment, it stopped. My luck ran out. The car was stuck.

It was 2:30 in the morning and shockingly cold outside. Luckily, my friend lives real close and came out to give me a jump. We got enough juice into the battery to get me home, and with a little luck, I'll have enough to make it to the mechanic as well.

What does this have to do with anything? Not much. Except that it meant I was confined to my apartment for the day. And, what could possibly be better in that scenario than to catch up on the growing pile of movies I've been meaning to watch?

I'd read a bit about Hancock leading up to it's release last summer. Not much of it was good, to be honest. Here are a couple of examples from Rotten Tomatoes:

It's a pointless, plodding and just plain ugly effort which fails on just about every level. 

Smith's invincibilty at the box office may come down, for this film is a mess. Not even his charm and personality can save this train wreck.
The more we get to know about Hancock and how he acquired his name and mysterious powers, the less entertaining it becomes.
Don't expect to laugh more than five times and you won't be disappointed.

As they say, everyone's a critic. Read a lot of reviews like that about ANY movie, and your enthusiasm will wane. Personally, I'd wanted to see it, but kind of let it fall to the wayside as everything I heard made it sound so awful. Then I read this article defending Hancock. Suddenly, Hancock found itself rapidly climbing my Netflix queue.

Despite reading some reviews and opinions, I knew surprisingly little about the movie. I know that it was about a super hero and that he was an asshole, but everything beyond that was a mystery to me. Hancock is a super hero. He has the powers for it. Flight, super strength, name it. And, he fights crime. The problem is that he causes a lot of damage in the process. He's reviled by the citizens of Los Angeles. As a result, he's turned to to the bottle. He's become a tired, alchoholic jerk. He's bitter and cranky and has become used to being the object of everyone's scorn. And then he saves Ray Embrey.

Ray is a PR guy. And as thanks for saving his life, he offers his services to Hancock. Together, they'll change his public image. To start with, Hancock will go to jail. That's right, there are consequenses to his actions. Hancock will go to jail, and stay there until the city begs him to come back.

That's Ray's plan anyways. And, it works. Hancock turns over a new leaf, tries to become the good kind of hero and help the police and save the day. And the people love him for it.

This is all secondary though. Hancock isn't a super hero movie in the traditional sense. It's a movie about people, love, redemption and purpose. There isn't some looming super villain or disaster coming. There's no one that needs to be saved. That Hancock happens to have that kind of power is mostly immaterial. The simple fact is that he's a man who is lost in this world. He has no memory. No knowledge of who he is. That's the story. Hancock's self discovery is what the movie is all about.

I found Hancock to be funny, touching and engaging. A great new spin on a genre that's currently being done to death. Hancock isn't a flawed person, he's just a product of his surroundings. Imagine what would happen in the real world if there were a real Superman, or Batman. Would we welcome him? Would we accept the damage done to our cities as they fight crime? Of course not. Most people bitch (endlessly) about what they pay in taxes now. Of course we would turn on them.

All I'm saying is watch Hancock with an open mind. Ignore the commercials and trailers that show a funny, drunk, down on his luck superhero screwing up at everything. Just go into it hoping for something a little different than the usual superhero fare.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A special announcement from 7dp

Thanks for joining me here on a Saturday of all days. I almost never post anything on the weekends. It's my time off. I have to make an exception today though. You see, it's January 10th, and that means that for the first time, I actually remembered it was 7dp's birthday ON TIME (instead of days or weeks later)!

Hey, thanks Al. I really appreciate it. Can you believe it's really been 3 years? 
Yeah, keeps me pretty busy sometimes. And it's hard to watch movies and write about them when I travel. You're right though, I should try harder.

That's enough guys. Thanks. Thanks for coming by and celebrating 7dp's 3rd birthday, but I think that it's time you all left. In fact, I think it's well past that time.



Really, Al? That's awfully nice of you. And incredibly unexpected.
That's great Al. Thanks. That's awesome. I really think that it's best that you leave now.
To celebrate the 3rd birthday of 7dp, let's say that that is the reason I switched to And since the new tv and dvd player will contribute to what I do here, lets say that those were gifts too. Now, if I only I made money here and could call it a business. Then instead of gifts, they'd be tax deductable business expenses.

Anyways, thanks for reading and sticking with me. And now, onto year number 4.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Stupid consumer electronics

I've been enjoying my new TV all week. It was a great puchase if you ask me. Watching the football game last night in HD was a lot of fun, and it made Florida's win look so much better (there's no real reason that I chose to root for Florida. I never have before, but for some reason I wanted them to win. Maybe it was because Michigan beat them a year ago). The one thing that has been a little less fun has been my DVD player. The picture was fine on my old tv, but...I know I could do better with this new one.

So, I took my old tv and some other crap that was lying around and tried selling some junk on the craigslist. And, it went pretty well. I made enough money to go to Best Buy and get the DVD player that I wanted.

I got it home and unboxed it, disappointed to discover that it only came with the good old fashioned red white and yellow cables. I unplugged the HDMI cable from the 360 and powered up the new player. I hit Open...


I pressed the open button again...


Fucking hell. Seriously? I just got it home and it doesn't work. It was 8:45 at the time, and Best Buy closes at 9. So I boxed it up and plan on taking it back tonight. I'm still annoyed by the whole thing.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Good news everybody!

It occurs to me that I forgot to mention something. Unless you get the updates from the Facebook (and this might be a good time to ask yourself why aren't you), you may not have heard...

There's been a change around here.

We're now!

Isn't that exciting?

Well, I thought it was.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I can't help myself sometimes

After seeing Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog I may have developed a little crush on Felicia Day. At the very least, I wanted to see her doing more things. And that's how I started watching The Guild.

Plus, I can download all the episodes on my 360 (I'm mentioning that thing a lot lately...weird). I can even get Season 2 in HD. It a really good little series that's just incredibly well written and acted. And I just can't recommend checking it out enough.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I actually broke down and did it

After years of telling myself it wasn't something I needed or even wanted, I broke down. I'd always believed that what I had was fine. I had no problems with it, it worked as well as anyone else's. Well, after seeing the difference I know I was wrong.

I love my new tv.

It's a 37" LCD and so far everything looks really awesome on it. The Xbox looks especially good hooked up via HDMI and at 1080p. I find myself wanting to go out and get a bluray player and see how that looks, but I think I'm still a long way from doing that. An upconverting DVD player is much more likely.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Yoda isn't actually a lot of fun to play with...

Do you know what I watched over the weekend? Nothing. I managed to find a way to watch nothing besides a few episodes of Futurama on DVD. Aside from that, I picked up Soul Caliber 4 for the 360.

I had played it when I saw my friends out in San Jose a couple of weeks ago and had a lot of fun playing it. I've had fun with all of the Soul Caliber games though, so that wasn't too surprising. As an added bonus, the PS3 has Darth Vader in it and the 360 has Yoda. You know, from Star Wars. And they both have The Apprentice from The Force Unleashed. Yoda isn't actually a lot of fun though. He's small and kind of agile, but surprisingly slow and unresponsive. The Apprentice though is kind of cool and maybe a little more fun here than in his own game.

One of these days I should get a gold membership and play against people online. The only thing stopping me (well, 2 things) is my hatred of playing games with people I don't know and not actually knowing anyone else with a 360.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Just for fun

Like I said, I travel a lot. And, I thought it would be kind of fun for you to see where I've been. This map has all the states I've been to colored in red. I've been to all but three of them for work. And, if I did one of these maps prior to 2006, there would have been almost nothing colored in. Maybe 6 states. I've been to 26 of them now. That actually impresses me just a little bit.

create your own personalized map of the USA

Thursday, January 01, 2009

My Favorite Books From 2008

Lets do one more list. Just, you know, because.

It's been established that I travel a lot. Well, when I fly, I like to read. I like to read other times to, but I definitely read more on planes than I do anywhere else. That being the case, I've read a LOT this year. Let's go a little off topic and look at some of my favorites from 2008. Again, to qualify, they need only to have been read this year.

And, sorry, but I don't keep really good track of when I read books, so they're just in the order that they're in.

The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Two really good detective stories from one of the best authors in the genre. They were actually both made into excellent movies as well.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Another master of the hard boiled detective story and possibly one of the best writers of the 20th century. This was the first adventure of Philip Marlowe, and one of the best.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
I liked Slaughter House Five and Breakfast of Champions too, but not nearly as much.

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
Great story. The best Ellroy book that I've read so far.

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
It was an amazing movie, but an even better book. Seriously. Well worth reading.

The Raw Shark Texts by Stephen Hall
Hands down the best book I read this year. Ok, maybe not. I mean, Let the Right One In was pretty awesome. Definite top 3 though.

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
Yes, THAT Hugh Laurie. It's very hard to read without hearing House narrate the story.

Blindness by Jose Sarramago
Wow. Just...Wow.

Pipsqueak by Brian M. Wiprud
It was kind of strange, as any mystery surrounding a taxedermied squirrel should be. Very fun though.