Marley and Me (2008)

IMDB Plot:

A family learns important life lessons from their adorable, but naughty and neurotic dog.

Spoilers? Most probably, but I think I ruined them all in my book review. Oh, wait, I didn’t wrote a book review!

Ok, in case you didn’t read the book: Marley & Me is about this journalist, turned columnist, which have a dog that seems crazy. The dog was an artifact to make his wife forget about having kids but, in the end, becomes part of the family himself.

Now, the movie: It borrows the premise of the book, but it doesn’t follow the book. Not. At. All. It’s a movie based on the book, but not the book itself.

Yes, the story is basically the same: Guy marries woman, woman starts thinking about kids, guy gets dog to make woman use her maternal side and forget about kids for a while, guy and woman get hooked into dog, guy and woman decide to take the step forward and have kids, they do that 3 times, and then, since dogs have shorted life-spans than humans, dog dies. Thing is, most of the stories in the book appear in the wrong/different order and some characters appear out of nowhere. Which… kinda works. Kinda.

Acting is, let’s be honest, ok. It’s Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. But, apart from that, I must say that it was probably the BEST acting of both. In one scene, when Jenny is about to be given the news that they lost their first child, there is some… light that fades on Aniston face. I mean, you can see that she’s shining because their are about to have a kid and, even before the doctor gives the bad news, she realizes that and the light just fades. And Wilson, when he’s giving the news to his wife about Marley critical condition and eminent death, leaves a small sigh on the phone, while trying to appear strong to for his family.

Yes, it’s a tear-jerker. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, though. At least it’s not another movie about the guy who lost the girl of his life (or the other way around) and find a new love in some unexpected way.

My rating: It’s either 2 or 5 stars for following the book (which it doesn’) or 4 or 5 stars if you see it as an independent movie (and it goes to 4 due the cited scenes from Wilson and Aniston.)

The Escapist (2008)

IMDB plot:

Frank Perry is an institutionalized convict twelve years into a life sentence without parole. When his estranged daughter falls ill, he is determined he make peace with her before it’s too late. He develops an ingenious escape plan, and recruits a dysfunctional band of escapists – misfits with a mutual dislike for one other but united by their desire to escape their hell hole of an existence. Much of the action takes place within the tunnels, sewers and underground rivers of subterranean London.

Spoilers? Probably. It’s your risk.

First thing I noticed, being a non-English native speaker, is that Irish accent is kinda hard to understand… at first. It gets easier when you get used to it, it’s easier to understand.

So you have this old guy, in prison for I can’t remember how long, who hears the news that his daughter is sick and he wants to leave to talk to her. So he makes a plan to escape, recruits one guy but, in the way, needs to “add” recruits to fill the gaps in his plan and, in return, get a chance to escape. All that while avoiding the big bad guys in the prison. It’s kinda like “Prison Break”, but with some more human parts. In a way, “The Escapist” makes “Prison Break” look really mechanic; everything planned ahead, while the first is way more basic idea building organically as elements are added.

And, besides, the ending is one of the best plot twists I have seen in the latest years.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Outlander (2008)

IMDB plot:

During the reign of the Vikings, Kainan, a man from a far-off world, crash lands on Earth, bringing with him an alien predator known as the Moorwen. Though both man and monster are seeking revenge for violence committed against them, Kainan leads the alliance to kill the Moorwen by fusing his advanced technology with the Viking’s Iron Age weaponry.

There may be spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.

Ah, fantasy and sci-fi. Book stores love to sholve them in the same stands even if the their point of views are completely different. And then comes a movie to put them together. Fortunately, it kinda works. Kinda.

So yeah, you have this spaceman, with this awesome technology that makes him capable of traveling around the stars, when something goes wrong, he crashes on Earth in the age of Vikings, his prisioner, an alien (like in the movie)-like monster escapes and now he have to recapture it with the help of the residents. Again, it kinda works, ’cause he proves to be a worth warrior and the Vikings accept him to fight the thing they never saw before.

But not that the movie is flawless. Yes, it’s a dumb-down action movie like every other without the explosions, but at some point the spaceman decides to create a weapon using the metal from his ship and uses a viking forge to mold the metal. Now, let me get this straight: You have a ship that can fly around the space, resist huge amounts of gravity, have withstand the heat from re-entering the gravity of Earth and can be easily be molded with fire. Right. I can accept that there is a chance of time-travel or another human-like race that can fly in space, but I can’t accept this fucking up of simple logic.

My rating: 3 or 5 (’cause sometimes you want your brain to rot a bit.)

Bolt (2008)

IMDB plot:

The canine star of a fictional sci-fi/action show that believes his powers are real embarks on a cross country trek to save his co-star from a threat he believes is just as real.

Spoilers? Maybe. Not sure

If I could use another movie to describe this one, it would be “The Truman Show for kids.” Basically, this dog (voice by John Travolta) lives in a set and believes he fights bad guys and have super powers. Then, when his human go in a trip, he runs out and need to find her again, realizing in the way that he doesn’t have super-powers, life is bigger than what he knows and, in the way, he get the help of a street cat and a crazy hamster who believes he’s a super-hero.

It’s a funny movie overall, but not great. It’s surely Pixar material (to compare with the biggest computer animated company) and character movement feels human like.

My rating: 3 or 5 stars.

Watchmen (2009)

IMDB plot:

When an ex-superhero is murdered, a vigilante named Rorschach begins an investigation into the murder, which begins to lead to a much more terrifying conclusion.

The best way to explain Watchmen to someone that doesn’t want spoilers: It’s what comic books want to be when they grow up.

The story starts in 1985, when super-heroes really exist, they are all American and they helped in the victory in Vietnam. Years later, when those super-heroes were deemed as “illegal” and had to put their capes in the closet and retire, the nuclear tensions between USA and USSR in the cold war are getting out of control and the nuclear clock is set to 5 minutes to midnight (midnight meaning total nuclear war.) In this universe, an old hooded super-hero is murdered and one of his old partners, which refused to stop fighting crime (hooded), decided to go into action to find the murderer. On his way, he manages to bring old heroes back into action.

In 80s terms, think this: Super Friends are considered illegal by the government, every hero has to put down their capes and return to their secret identities. Batman is the only one that still fights crime with his bat-suit clandestinely and, years later, Flash is killed and Batman goes into action to find the person who did that, pulling all the other Super Friends back into action with him.

One of the things the stands in Watchmen is the heroes are flawed, human. You have the super guy that doesn’t feel he’s related to humanity anymore, the detective only sees the world through the mask, the smart guy that doesn’t worry about killing innocents to save more people… and the others seems lost without using their capes. This sense of lost is more apparent with Silk Spectre II and Night Owl II. They simply don’t work without the idea of being caped.

Acting is… well, comic book related. You can’t expect super heroes without the cheesy lines and the “holy than thou” attitude. So it’s hard to see if the actors are over-acting, under-acting or simply in character.

Also, there were a lot of comments on how faithful the story is to the comics, with the exception of the end. Which, honestly, works fine to me. I mean, the new ending. In a way, it make it sound a lot more like “making a super-hero being a hero”.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Moon (2009)

IMDB Plot:

Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet’s power problems.

As usual, there may be spoilers ahead. No guarantees of anything.

On thing you have to admit: While big studios like to remake old successes over and over again till it turns sore and people don’t care about it anymore, indie studios (well, even the indie arms of big studios) still manage to come with some freaking awesome ideas for movies. “Moon” is one of those.

It all starts with Sam in his solo work in a moon base. Everything is nice and dandy, although he have to cope with solitude for 3 years. But hey, things looks good, since it’s just about 3 weeks till his 3 year contract ends and he can return to Earth and see his wife and girl. And then, out of nowhere, he starts to see… things. People, mostly. At this point you probably go with a “oh fuck, not another ‘ghosts in space’ movie.” But when Sam suffers an accident and appears back in the base and all the ghosts are gone… something makes you keep going to see what’s going on. And then you think it’s the robot that it’s fucking everything, but you keep going just to be sure. And although the plot is giving right in the middle of the movie and there is no twisting plot in the end, it’s still a very good story with an reasonably good execution, even if you all you see is Sam Bell all the time and hear Kevin Spacey’s voice. And only that.

Character attitudes are kinda weird. While the first Sam seems to keep an attitude of “happy to see another human being”, the second Sam seems to quickly shift into “I’m the original” to “we are all clones” pretty fast. Also, GERTY attitudes also seem weird, even for a robot. He says he’s there to help Sam, but the way he does that sometimes feels more like he’s trying to help Earth instead.

Overall, it’s a very good story, even with the missing plot explanations (for example, what was those hallucinations Sam saw before his accident?) and some good acting.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

links for 2009-11-17

Up (2009)

IMDB plot:

By tying thousands of balloon to his home, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn’t alone on his journey, since Russell, a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, has inadvertently become a stowaway on the trip.

You may find spoilers ahead. I’m not sure, I’m just writing this review. You have been warned.

I must say that after watching all Pixar movies so far, this is the saddest, darkest movie they ever did. I mean, seriously.

It all starts with this kid and his dream. Then he finds a girl with the same dream. They grow up, get married, still having the same dream. Then they decide to have kids and surround it with their dream. Then, in one scene, it seems they lose the kid to a miscarriage (and, as a side note: How the hell would you explain to your kid why that woman is crying?) Time passes, husband finally decided to take that jump forward to finally complete the dream (in not exactly the way it was dreamt) and the wife dies. And that’s like the first 15 minutes of the movie. From there, things just go downhill.

All the movie is dark ’cause the husband seems to find more trouble trying to get to the dream then getting there. For every single step forward, there are at least two back (sometimes, more.) Only in the final 20 minutes it turns to somewhat more happy tone, when husband finally decides to let his wife go and pursuit his own adventure instead.

So, there you have it. The whole movie is 1 hour and 30 minutes long. 15 minutes of introduction, 50 minutes of the saddest, darkest, unhappiest Pixar movie ever and then finally 20 minutes of something a little bit more upbeat.

I still like Pixar style and this movie is still faithful to it, although most of the time they seem to be careless about small details, like when Carl puts a piece of paper or chocolate in his jacket inside pocket and the scaling of the house near the waterfall (it may even be right, but the camera positioning makes it feel like that house suddenly got scaled a bit up.)

Personal opinion: 2 of 5 stars.

Why Go feels like a balloon boy

One of my friends like to use the expression “balloon boy” to everything that gets a lot of attention but it turns to be a lot less interesting in the end.

Go is a new language created by Google that recently went open source and generated a lot of buzz in the interpipes.

As someone who have been working as programmer for almost 20 years and worked with almost a dozen languages and, on top of that, have a blog, I think I’m entitled to give my biased opinion about it.

One of the first things that got me off was the video pointing that the language is faster. Or the compiler is. Honestly, pointing that you become more productive because your compiler is fast is utterly wrong. If you’re aiming for a new language and you want people to be productive with it, make it so it’s easier to write code right in the first time. If you need to keep compiling your code over and over again till it does the right thing, you should probably check if there isn’t any impairment in the language itself that prevents right code to be written in the first place.

Which brings us to my second peeve about Go: The syntax, as presented in the tutorial. Syntax, in my opinion, is the biggest feature any programming language have to offer. If the syntax is straightfoward and easy to understand, it makes easier to have multiple developers working on the same code; if the language allows multiple “dialects” (or ways to write the same code), each developer may be inclined to use a different approach to write the code (which basically does the same thing) and you end up with a mess of a code where most developers would feel like rewriting than fixing a bug or adding a feature.

The first thing that caught my eye was the “import” statement that at some point uses a name before it and a block in the second example. Why two different ways (well, three if you count that one is probably optional — in the middle of the statement, nonetheless!) to import other packages with the same command?

Variable declaration also feels weird. “a variable p of type string” is longer to read than “a string p” (comparing var p string := ""; with C way string *p = "";). And that goes on. If you keep reading the statements in their long form (expanding them to natural English), all commands start to feel awkward and adding unnecessary cruft on the code, things that could be easily dismissed and force people to do less typing.

The “object” interface seems derived from JavaScript, which is a bad idea, since JavaScript have absolutely no way to create objects in the proper sense. And, because object attributes and members can be spread around instead of staying grouped together, like in C++ and Python, you can simply add methods out of imports. Ok, it works a bit like duck-taping methods in existing objects, but still can make a mess if you add two objects in one file and people decide to add methods just in the end of the file: You end up with a bunch of methods about different objects all spread your code, when you could “force” them to stay together.

So far, those were my first impressions of the language and, as you can see, it was not a good first impression. Focusing on compile speed instead of code easiness/correctness seems out of place for current IT necessities and the language seems to pick some of the worst aspects of most languages around.