Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace Movie Review

[Warning: Minor spoilers ahead]
I mentioned in a previous post about the magic of movie trilogies, how three is the magic number when it comes to creating, crafting and closing a richly woven tale full of character development, thickening plots, and those tasty turns in the plot so twisted that it would shame a preztel. What's interesting is that recently, there has been a trend in "rebooting" movie franchises, dumping the excess baggage tied to a flailing franchise and starting fresh with a new look and often, a new direction. A couple of years ago, we saw this with Batman Begins and Casino Royale (007). And next year, we'll be treated to the much needed reboot of the Star Trek series of movies. But for today, I wanted to focus on Quantum of Solace, the sequel to the 2006 Casino Royale that rebooted the 007 series from old, stale cliches to new, edgy excitement.

I really liked Casino Royale so I had a good time watching Quantum. Lots of action, exotic locales, future looking technological tools and an extra helping of action. And there lies the rub: if there was one bad thing about Quantum, it would be the action. As frenetic and brutally realistic as the action was, the too-close-for-comfort close-ups and shaky cam cinematography often seen in the Jason Bourne movies and the fast-paced, blink-and-you-miss-it split section editing often seen in any Michael Bay movie really made me wish I had ADD. It wasn't confusing or jarring to watch; it just felt like the movie director decided to piece together a bunch of blurry scenes together and call it an action sequence. Perhaps that the intent of the movie makers but I was a bit turned off by it. It's ironic: Casino did a great job of breaking away from the silly, over the top, bullets whizzing, things exploding action scenes from the Bond movies of the past but when you watch Quantum, it feels as though any other action scene from any other Bond movie. Casino Royale certainly had its fair share of action sequences but when you break down those scenes, you'll see a good mix of long, wide angle shots, followed up by some close up and midrange shots. There was a certain logic behind those action scenes, which I wish Quantum followed in their cinematography. But oh well. Lots of actions for everyone.

Daniel Craig does a great job in making his Bond the type of superspy who is willing to get his hands dirty to get the job done. Because of what happened in Casino Royale, you can see (and to a certain extent) feel his rage in wanting to exact revenge. He's really pissed off and willing to do anything to get answers. The unfortunate thing about QoS is that Bond is just a one note character. All anger, all action, whereas we got to see a more relaxed, a better humored Bond in Casino.

Some of my friends mentioned that they missed Q, the gadgets and all of the cheesy innuendo uttered by Bond at the most anticipated times. Certainly, the rebooted series forgoes cheese for a more realistic action-adventure spy game thrill ride and I'm glad it did since it's necessary to break away from the baggage of bad box office. Same can be said about Batman and the same will most likely be said about the new Star Trek movie.

Speaking of Star Trek, the trailer for the rebooted Star Trek movie series, directed by JJ Abrams, was shown before Quantum of Solace. You can find it online at the Apple website as well. If you haven't had a chance to see it, you should check it out. It definitely looks nice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

San Diego, Here We Come

The family and I will be down in San Diego starting Friday and coming back to Seattle next week Friday. During our time in San Diego, we'll be doing the Disneyland thing and probably squeeze in Legoland as well. The weather here in Seattle has been crappy during the past week (high 50's, low 60's, cloudy, rainy, breezy) so San Diego will be a nice change of pace (high 70s, low 80s, sunny, sunny, sunny).

No updates until then ... not that it matters since I don't really update my blog that often :-p

Friday, October 3, 2008

Battlefield 2 with Brian and Pat

So, aside from playing World of Warcraft, I've been getting back into the whole world of Battlefield, thanks to my two brothers in arms, Brian and Pat. Back in July, we got together and while playing, I recorded the three of us goofing off in one of the private servers. You can view a video that I created using the footage taken from our little adventure in Dragon Valley. Music by Matchbox Twenty. Enjoy!

Where In the World Is Scott?

Sorry for the lack of posts during the past ... holy hell ... over two months? And no blogging? Shame shame, don't play those games. So, yeah ... I need to get back to the blogging thing. In case you're wondering what I've been doing during the past two months, it's been something along the lines of:
  • work
  • family
  • World of Warcraft
  • work
  • family
  • some more work
  • sleep
  • family
  • work
In any case, look forward to some posts very very soon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Office Is Bugged

I came into work Wednesday morning and noticed something different about my office. It was subtle but I knew that something was different. Then, it dawned on me. My office was bugged. 

Turned out my manager had a bunch of bug stickers lying around his house and decided to share them with the team. For payback, I should find some RAID stickers and put them on his nameplate.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls Review

[trying to be as Spoiler Free as possible]
I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons and one of the School House Rock cartoons talked about how “Three Is A Magic Number”. Some of the examples mentioned in the cartoon include: the past, present and future. The heart, the brain, the body. Three legs to make a table stand, three wheels to make a tricycle. Lastly, a man, a woman and a child, in a family. In some ways, the same applies to movies as well. George Lucas has mentioned in a past interview where the first movie introduces the characters, the second one puts them in some kind of peril with the hero’s outlook being bleak. The last one shows our heroes getting out of their jam and triumphing in the end. Lucas mentioned it as the very definition of drama. We have seen this type of drama in the character arcs of some of our favorite characters in the following trilogies:
  • Star Wars (both originals and prequels)
  • The Godfather
  • Back to the Future
  • The Matrix
  • Terminator
  • Lord of the Rings
But, for whatever reason, a fourth movie materializes out of nowhere, hoping to capture the essence of the originals. But, along the way, it bursts the “Three Is A Magic Number” rule and taints the goodness trilogies hold for people. Some examples of this include, but not limited to:
  • Rambo
  • Die Hard
  • Aliens
So, when I heard that a fourth Indiana Jones movie was going to be produced, I sort of cringed at the thought of it. Last Crusade did a decent job of providing the audience with a different perspective of who Indiana Jones is, especially with the brilliant opening sequence with River Phoenix playing young Indy and the great interplay between Indy and his father, played by Sean Connery. Everyone got to ride off into the sunset and put a close to the 80s with a film trilogy that represented pure, unadulterated action with an iconic movie character that audiences can relate to.
19 years later, we are treated to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It’s certainly an Indiana Jones movie with Indy in pursuit of those rare antiquities (in this case, some football shaped crystal that is coincidentally looks like an alien head), while being pursued by the bad guys. Harrison Fold reprises his role of Indy but seems grumpier and not as invested into the adventure than in past movies. It’s as if Indiana Jones was doing an impersonation of the Harrison Ford of recent years. Marion is back for some of the action as well but isn’t well utilized. There isn’t as much globe-trotting as in the previous movies but there are some elaborate set pieces created that barely holds the action scenes that take place. In fact, the newest Indiana Jones film has enough action for two summer time films. Unfortunately, for all of the action that we get, there are many elements from the previous trilogies that is sorely lacking in the newest film.

  1. Pacing. With all of the action surrounding Indy and his sidekicks, it’s hard to find time to soak up the ambiance of where the action is taking place. The opening scene from Raiders is a perfect example of giving viewers a good idea of idea of what’s in the cave and what things to avoid. The opening sequence in Crystal Skull plops us in a place that some fans may consider as familiar but then jumpstarts the action into overdrive. Had the pacing been a little bit better, it could have built the wonder and excitement of figuring out where our hero is and what he is trying to do.
  2. Sidekicks. We are introduced to two sidekicks. Mac and Mutt. But aside from a line or two from the script, there isn’t much time for us to figure out exactly who these characters are and what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s an Indiana Jones movie so sure, Indy is the star but Short Round was a great sidekick in Temple of Doom. Indy’s father Henry Jones Sr. added some depth to Indy’s character. I’m not particularly sure why both Mac and Mutt are in the movie in the first place. You could probably remove them from the movie and still maintain the same storyline.
  3. Aliens. George Lucas shifted the time frame from the 1930’s to the 1950’s and tried to capture the movie genre of the time, which includes Communism and Aliens. The two don’t really go hand in hand and while the alien premise showed promise, the Crystal Skull turns out to be nothing more than a mere object that Indy is after. The Ark was almost a character in itself in Raiders, causing those mice in the cargo hold to get all loopy and the Holy Grail itself provided a connection between Indy’s dad and Indy, perhaps the only thing other than blood that kept the two together. The Crystal Skull kind of falls into the Shakara Stones with its super powers but weak connection to the main characters.
  4. Bad Guys. I mentioned how Communism and Aliens didn’t go hand in hand. The Russians in the movie serve their purpose as the bad guys but have as much menace as a dead rattlesnake. They look scary with their uniforms and such but don’t do much in the movie besides shoot badly and chase after our heroes.

So, bottom line:
Was it entertaining? Yes, until the end, where viewers will suffer déjà-vu with the X-Files.
Is it worth paying full price to see this movie? Yes. But, only because it retains the basic essence of what was good and holy about the original trilogy. Disclosure: I actually saw Crystal Skull with my co-workers, with the company picking up the tab. But if I had not seen it with my co-workers, I still would have paid full price to see it.
Would you want to see it again? No. But yes when it comes out to DVD to see the supplemental stuff.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Status Report: What Am I Doing?

What music am I currently listening to:
  • A lot of Utada Hikaru, especially songs from her latest album "Heart Station"
  • A lot of Prince, old school Prince, when he was still Prince and not that funky symbol. Let's Go Crazy
What movies have I seen lately:
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls (review forthcoming)
  • Monsters, Inc. (with the kids on DVD)
What books am I currently reading:
  • The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda. An in-depth and analytical look into product design and usability.
  • Dragonball comics, by Akira Toriyama. I read these back in college but started to go through the whole series again.
What video games am I playing:

  • World of Warcraft. Running instances with my level 70 Holy Paladin so that I can get better gear
  • Grand Theft Auto IV on the Xbox 360. Haven't made a lot of progress since I've been playing WoW but want to see the plot advance.
What other stuff have I been doing:
  • BBQing when we have guests over at the house
  • Playing with the kids since the weather has warmed up a bit

Monday, June 16, 2008

Check Out "Tales From Japan"

A friend of mine residing in Japan with his family has a new website called "Tales From Japan". It's a pretty interesting take on living the American Dream ... in Japan. You get interesting insight on how it's like living in the land of the rising sun (food - delicious, commuting - crowded but manageable, day-to-day activities, like shopping or going to the bank or ... you know, buying a home - archaic, frazzled, yet satisfyingly fulfilling enough to make you want to start drinking) as well as good travel tips on where to go and what to see. All in all, a good read.

Make sure to click on one of the advertisements on his website so that he can finance his daughter's college fund.

Lost - Season 4 Finale Review

Warning … Spoilers Ahead.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Season 4 Finale was a very well written, well produced and well executed episode that deftly tied all of the loose threads from previous seasons together into a single knot of concentrated LOST goodness. And boy, was a tight knot. I mean, you had, in no particular order, the following storylines to address:

  • Dealing with those psycho Freighter commandos
  • The Orchid Station
  • The Oceanic 6’s return to civilization
  • Desmond and Penny’s reunion
  • All of the stuff with Michael, including a cameo by Walt
  • Jin’s fate on the freighter (but do we really know what happened?)
  • Lapidus, Faraday, Miles and that annoying chick with the accent.
  • Juliet and Sawyer, Rose and Bernard
  • Ben’s ultimate sacrifice
  • Moving the Island (no surprise, that was done)
  • And lastly, who’s in the coffin and why is HE in the coffin?
But alas, this being LOST and the season finale being a typical episode of LOST, there were certainly more head-scratching questions than answers. Sure, a lot of stuff was answered but most of it was telegraphed from previous episodes (we know that the Oceanic 6 get off the island, just didn’t did know how; we knew that the island was going to be moved, just didn’t know how; we knew the Jack (in the future) wanted to go back, just didn’t know how). So what are the questions?
  • How are the Oceanic 6 plus the late Jeremy Bentham going to get back?
  • What did happen on the island while the Oceanic 6 went away?
  • What is the real fate of Michael and Jin?
  • What did happen to the island?
So, the real problem I had with the episode, while good, was that it served as a bridge between Season 4 and Season 5. It didn’t have the Season 3 game-changer, that took me by surprise and really changed the way I think about storytelling. Have you seen “The Sixth Sense”? Do you recall the “a-ha!” moment at the end of the movie? There was an enlightening moment, once you realized what the twist was. The same thing could be said about the Season 3 finale. The Season 4 finale? It did its job of setting things up for Season 5 but that’s about it. No twist. No “a-ha” moment. No paradigm shift on my expectations of good television. In fact, if you're a fan of another good serialized TV show "24", it's almost like how I felt about Season 6 of “24”: been there, done that. It was a good season but nothing really new.

As critical as I am about the season finale, I still liked it. I had to watch it a second time to really appreciate what the writers and producers are trying to achieve. I’m hoping by setting this up for us now, it will pay TV gold dividends with the remaining last two seasons. That is what I’m hoping for. We didn’t get the big twist ending this time around, but this being LOST, I’m sure that there will still be a lot of good things to look forward to in the coming seasons.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lost - Season Four Two Hour Finale ... oh boy!!!

So, I'm a huge LOST fan. Love the show. It's like a modern day version of the Twilight Zone, put into serialized form (similar to 24) with a smidge of exploration (what's on the island? where's the Orchid Station?) and a good roster of intriguing and engaging characters (personal fave: Hurley and Locke). Watched it since it first aired four years ago and have watched every single episode and have had a mountain of water cooler discussions with co-workers regarding each of the characters, as well as the island, the black smoke monster and everything in between. Tomorrow night is the Season 4 finale. The Season 3 finale blew me away so while I should temper my expectations for tomorrow night's season finale, I'm hoping to be as equally blown away as I was last year. I can't wait.

Great Wolf Lodge

Towards the end of April, the family went down to the Olympia area and stayed the night at the Great Wolf Lodge. Just by the name itself, you would think that it's just some glorified motel with a petting zoo populated with various types of wolves. But it's claim to fame is, not the wolf theme (and no, there wasn't a petting zoo) but it's indoor waterpark. Yup, inside the hotel (and sticking out its backside, viewable from the freeway) is a big waterpark, complete with waterslides, wave pool, kiddie pool for the little ones and a giant fort in the middle of the waterpark that gets every 10 minutes with 1000 gallons of water. Folks in the fort don't seem to care about the 1000 gallons of water falling upon them; in fact, they looked like they were looking forward to it. More information at:

In any case, the family went down there and stayed the night at this Great Wolf Lodge. What's really great about the hotel is that it had it's grand opening sometime in early April so it still has that new hotel look, feel and musty smell to it. Everything was clean and the hotel staff was cordial and attentive. We were able to check in early (Friday morning) and was able to get access to the waterpark right away. The Great Wolf Lodge has a great hotel room key/entry pass into the waterpark system. They use an RFID embedded wristband that all of the hotel guests must have in their body in order to enter the waterpark. The RFID wristband is only your entrance into the waterpark, but your entrance to your hotel room as well. No more keys or cards to carry around; just use your wristband. Want to pay for your meal or snack or something from one of the gift shops? Just flash your wristband and it gets charged to your room. It's a pretty nifty system and saves you the hassle of carrying around your hotel keycard AND wallet with you when entering the wave pool.

Emily and Ally had a good time. Both of them were at first somewhat cautious about entering the water but once their bodies got adjusted to the slightly heated water and got used to the fact that they were wearing life jackets (provided by the hotel), they were able to fit right in and have a good time splashing around. They're still afraid of the water slides but I don't blame them. Even some of the kiddie water slide looked pretty steep. I'm sure once they get older, they'll enjoy all of the good stuff the waterpark has to offer.

Aside from the waterpark, there's an arcade with some video games and ticket based games (kind of like the ones you find a Chuck E. Cheese), along with a kid's activity room (which costs money) and a older kid's activity room which had karaoke and Rock Band set up (this also cost money). But aside from that, there wasn't anything else to do at the hotel. And there's virtually nothing around the area where the hotel is, save the Dairy Queen and McDonald's/Shell gas station hybrid (I guess "fill'er up" takes on a new meaning here).

Overall, a good time had by all. A good one day getaway with the family and it wasn't that far from our home (only 1.5 hours). I'm sure we'll go again as the kids get older. Make sure to check out the website for more information. It's a chain so there seems to be spread out across the country. Have you been one of these indoor waterpark/hotel dealies before?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Updates Coming Soon

So, I was on vacation at the end of April, which was nice and relaxing. I should have blogged something but got lazy. Sorry. And then, during the first week of May, I came down with something that put me out of commission for about a week. I'm fully recovered now, thanks to a daily regimen of Airborne and Red Bull (and no, not at the same time). Now that I'm feeling better, it's time to crank up the blogging engine and generate some posts.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Electronic Bullet to the Hard Drive

I have three computers at home:
1. my regular computer, which I use to surf the web, send out email, play games on
2. my Media Center PC, which is acts like a Tivo and records TV shows
3. my Windows Home Server, which has all of my music, photos and videos

Well, last night, one of the hard drives on my #2 machine, the Media Center PC, died on me, nuking all of the content on it. There wasn't any irreplaceable on it. Just a bunch of recorded TV shows, like American Idol and Battlestar Galactica. The downer is that there were also a bunch of kid TV shows that got lost as well, including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einsteins and my favorite, er my daughter's personal fav, the Teletubbies. As you can imagine, both of my daughters were not pleased to find out that Tinky Winky and the gang "disappeared". So I'm in search of a new hard drive. If I don't get one soon, I'm tubby-toast.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Getting Your Taxes Done

So, I'm finally done with my taxes. I'm not sure why it took me this long to get them done and sent out. I usually try to get them wrapped up by the end of March so I'm a little bit surprised at myself for waiting this long to send them in.

Our typical approach to taxes goes something like this:
  • early January - get Turbotax coupon from Costco in the mail (along with coupons for other important stuff, like frozen chicken wings, kitchen paper towels and LCD TVs)
  • mid to late January - go to Costco and buy Turbotax (and frozen chicken wings and kitchen paper towels; alas, no LCD TV this year) and use coupon
  • early February - install Turbotax and do a high level pass on taxes to see what the damage is
  • early March - start doing taxes in earnest; see what the real damage is
  • end of March - find an envelope
  • also end of March - find a paper clip
  • also end of March - go to the post office and send off tax return
  • beginning of April - relief
Turbotax is pretty cool and super convenient. I started my return in early February and pretty much went through all of the sections (although I skipped some of the more detailed stuff like stocks and crap like that).

What was interesting was that when I restarted my tax return in early March, I did the whole "update your software" thing and after Turbotax downloaded and installed the updates, I noticed that something was tacked on towards the end of the return. The question about what to do with your tax rebate (aka the stimulus package) was now in the form, asking you if you want your rebate direct deposited or send via snail mail. It's cool that Intuit included the update feature in Turbotax to update their product when necessary.

In any case, doing taxes isn't so cool but having Turbotax update itself so that it can direct deposit money to you ... well, heck, that's awesome. I probably won't find Turbotax so awesome next year since I probably won't see that question updated in Turbotax Tax Year 2008.

Monday, March 31, 2008

On A Need to Snow Basis

So, it's the end of March and over the past weekend, Seattle got a good dumping of snow. Not a whole lot, mind you, but enough to build a couple of snowpeople in our backyard.

Emily and Ally (my daughters, 4 and 2) wanted to go outside and play in the snow so after bundling them up in several layers of clothes, we headed out to the wild wilderness that is our backyard and made a couple of snowmen ... or, well ... snowpeople. The snowperson on the left is Emily. Ally is the one on the right. The "Creator" is the one in the center. It's crazy weather though. Usually, we get snow in the December/January timeframe so it's surprising to us to see snow sticking to the ground in late March. Not that it was a bad thing since making snowpeople is always a lot of fun. For more pictures, you can check out my Flickr website at

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Meaning of Wham!

So, some of you probably know this already but I'm a big Lost fan. I think it's the greatest TV show ever conceived and currently the only game in town that consistently keeps me glued to the edge of my seat each week. I usually Tivo (or technically, record it on my Media Center PC) Lost and watch it post-live broadcast. Occasionally, both Tivo and Media Center will, due to the goofy time schedules that ABC plays with popular TV shows, where a TV show will run over the usual one hour time slot by several minutes, probably to intentionally mess up people's Tivo recording schedules, record a portion of the show that plays after Lost, which currently is a new show called Eli Stone. And the pilot episode of Eli Stone had George Michael in it (don't ask me why; go watch the show to find out why GM shows up).

In any case, after having watched that pilot, I've been on this Wham!/George Michael groove where I would play nothing but Wham! and/or George Michael on my iPod/Zune player(s). In fact, I'm currently listening to "Everything She Wants" and thinks that it rocks! Rocks hard! Like Michael Jackson during his Thriller days hard (that's another post).

I was joking to a friend of mine that there is bound to be a Wham! Reunion Tour spinning up sometime soon since 1) all of these other groups from the 80s (The Police, Van Halen) are doing these reunion tours; why not Wham!, 2) I'm sure George Michael is hard up for some public lovin' after all of the negative press during the past few years and 3) that other dude (Andrew Ridges ... or something like that) could use the visibility.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

First Entry

So, I'm going to give this blog thing a try and keep going until 1) work/life gets too busy to update this blog or 2) I lose interest in updating the blog or 3) a combination of both. Hopefully, I'll find the time and motivation to keep going for some time.