Monday, November 28, 2005

War of the Worlds

This weekend I watched the updated Steven Spielberg version of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. The DVD was a Netflix rental, I did not see it on the big screen. I felt the same way about this movie that I did about Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith: I wasn’t terribly impressed. Unlike Sith, however, I’m not sure if a theater viewing would have helped with the experience.

“War of the Worlds” is about a dock worker named Ray (Tom Cruise) who is called upon by his ex-wife to watch over their kids; a slacker son (Justin Chatwin) and a modernized but typical allergy and affliction filled, “where’s mommy”, “I gotta pee” daughter (Dakota Fanning). Before Ray can awkwardly bond with anybody, a lightning storm causes a tall, mechanized, death-ray wielding camera tripod from hell to burst forth from the ground and just start frying everything in sight. The rest of the movie takes Ray and family across New York running from destruction, other people, death-ray blasting alien camera tripods, human grabbing and “processing” alien camera tripods, and strange mental cases planning attacks in deserted cellars (Tim Robbins). Then it’s over. Everybody is reunited and alive and relatively clean in mostly untouched Boston.

There are a number of ways I could review this movie. I could let it stand on it’s own as entertainment, I could compare it to “The War of the Worlds” (1953), or I could compare it to the H.G. Wells book The War of the Worlds (1898).

Standing on it’s own, War of the Worlds is almost a good movie. The movie is pure spectacle. It could have been a special effects “spooge-fest” but it isn’t; which is a good thing or a bad thing depending upon your viewpoint. The alien tripods were one-hundred percent believable. The aliens themselves were somewhat hokey looking. The plot was well sequenced but the cellar sequence was far too long and the ending was blatantly abrupt and disgustingly “happy”. The acting is above par, although most seem to hate Cruise’s mono-faced performances and Dakota Fanning’s constant screaming.

When compared to the “The War of the Worlds” of 1953 I would rate it slightly worse. It’s shocking when you realize that half a century separates these two films. The 1953 version was much better in most aspects, from the adaptation to the acting. Fifty two years of special effect evolution makes a massive difference but when compared to each other on equal ground the 1953 version still holds the edge on application and usage. I like their aliens better, too. I also liked the inclusion of faith in the 1953 version. The finale in/outside the church, the last sanctuary of humanity with all hell breaking loose outside, seems wholesomely realistic.

It has been about 28 years since I read the book and the black and white comic book that I obtained with it. I would have to re-read the book to make a comparison. Spielberg changed his version to have the alien machines hidden beneath the earth’s surface for what is presumed to be millions of years or at least before the genesis of man. Spielberg also kept the origin of the marauders hidden.

Most reviews of War of the Worlds attack it on the basis of sloppy science and use of political correctness. I think if you are one of those people, you are entitled to your opinion but I’ll consider you somewhat (or maybe entirely) an idiot. I program computers. I know there is no way in bloody hell that a nerd with a laptop could interface with, let alone write enough program code to be a destructive virus on a massive, planet-sized alien mother ship. My brother is a genetic chemist and knows dinosaurs cannot be grown from DNA in the belly of skeeter encased in amber. That didn’t prevent either of us from enjoying Independence Day or Jurassic Park. Frankly I don’t care if an EMP would prevent a camcorder from working, or if death-rays are the most inefficient ways of exterminating humanity, or if bacteria should have killed the aliens when they buried their machines millions of years ago. I also don’t care if this movie was sickeningly politically correct by not identifying the aliens as Martians, or having the pathetic single-dad, or that joining the Army is a worthless cause, or that occupations never work, or that human nature is really pathetic when you get to it, or that every impossibly grave situation will have a clean, happy ending in Boston. I felt the same way when I reviewed Land of the Dead.  If you can’t enjoy a movie because of social commentary or can’t accept the impossible in the name of entertainment they you have no business reviewing a movie or really discussing it openly. I think War of the Worlds would have been much better off without that social commentary but it wasn’t a deciding factor. I think Tom Cruise is a total whack-job outside of Hollywood, but on film he usually delivers acceptable to good performances.

To summarize, I’m glad I rented War of the Worlds. I probably would have been mildly disappointed if I had viewed in a theater or purchased the DVD outright. There weren’t enough special effects to make this a must have in collection and I don’t see it as a classic I watch over and over again.

Rotten Tomatoes

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cleaning up the Inbox - part one

Cleaning out the Inbox at work...

Andy Rooney said on "60 Minutes" a few weeks back:

I don't think being a minority makes you a victim of anything except numbers. The only things I can think of that are truly discriminatory are things like the United Negro College Fund, Jet Magazine, Black Entertainment Television, and Miss Black America. Try to have things like the United Caucasian College Fund, Cloud Magazine, White Entertainment Television, or Miss White America; and see what happens... Jesse Jackson will be knocking down your door.

Guns do not make you a killer. I think killing makes you a killer. You can kill someone with a baseball bat or a car, but no one is trying to ban you from driving to the ball game.

I believe they are called the Boy Scouts for a reason, that is why there are no girls allowed. Girls belong in the Girl Scouts! ARE YOU LISTENING MARTHA BURKE?

I think that if you feel homosexuality is wrong, it is not a phobia, it is an opinion.

I have the right "NOT" to be tolerant of others because they are different, weird, or tick me off

When 70% of the people who get arrested are black, in cities where 70% of the population is black, that is not racial profiling, it is the Law of Probability.

I believe that if you are selling me a milkshake, a pack of cigarettes, a newspaper or a hotel room, you must do it in English! As a matter of fact, if you want to be an American citizen, you should have to speak English!

My father and grandfather didn't die in vain so you can leave the countries you were born in to come over and disrespect ours. I think the police should have every right to shoot your sorry ass if you threaten them after they tell you to stop. If you can't understand the word "freeze" or "stop" in English, see the above paragraph.

I don't think just because you were not born in this country, you are qualified for any special loan programs, government sponsored bank loans or tax breaks, etc., so you can open a hotel, coffee shop, trinket store, or any other business.

We did not go to the aid of certain foreign countries and risk our lives in wars to defend their freedoms, so that decades later they could come over here and tell us our constitution is a living document; and open to their interpretations.

I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor

I know pro wrestling is fake, but so are movies and television. That doesn't stop you from watching them.

I think Bill Gates has every right to keep every penny he made and continue to make more. If it ticks you off, go and invent the next operating system that's better, and put your name on the building.

It doesn't take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid; and smack their little behinds when necessary, and say "NO!"

I think tattoos and piercing are fine if you want them, but please don't pretend they are a political statement. And, please, stay home until that new lip ring heals. I don't want to look at your ugly infected mouth as you serve me French fries!

I am sick of "Political Correctness." I know a lot of black people, and not a single one of them was born in Africa; so how can they be "African-Americans"? Besides, Africa is a continent. I don't go around saying I am a European-American because my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was from Europe. I am proud to be from America and nowhere else.

And if you don't like my point of view, tough...

For those who don't have time to keep up with the medical journals

In Pharmacology, all drugs have two names, a trade name and generic name. For example, the trade name of Tylenol also has a generic name of Acetaminophen. Aleve is also called Naproxen. Amoxil is also called Amoxicillin and Advil is also called Ibuprofen.

The FDA has been looking for a generic name for VIAGRA. After careful consideration by a team of government experts, it recently announced that it has settled on the generic name of Mycoxafloppin.

Also considered were Mycoxafailin, Mydixadrupin, Mydixarizin, Dixafix, and of course, Ibepokin.

Pfizer Corp. announced today that VIAGRA will soon be available in liquid form, and will be marketed by Pepsi Cola as a power beverage suitable for use as a mixer. It will now be possible for a man to literally pour himself a stiff one. Obviously we can no longer call this a soft drink, and it gives new meaning to the names of "cocktails", "highballs" and just a good old-fashioned "stiff drink." Pepsi will market the new concoction by the name of: "MOUNT & DO."

What is a committee?

A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary.

Good, better, best...

1) Good

An Erie, PA policeman had a perfect spot to watch for speeders, but wasn't getting many. Then he discovered the problem. A twelve year old boy was standing up the road with a hand painted sign, which read "RADAR TRAP AHEAD". The officer then found a young accomplice down the road with a sign reading "TIPS" and a bucket full of money. (And we used to just sell lemonade!)

2) Better

A motorist was mailed a picture of his car speeding through an automated radar post in Pittsburgh, PA. A $40 speeding ticket was included. Being cute, he sent the police department a picture of $40. The police responded with another mailed photo of handcuffs.

3) Absolute Best

A young woman was pulled over for speeding. As the Pennsylvania State Trooper walked to her car window, flipping open his ticket book, she said "I bet you are going to sell me a ticket to the State Troopers Ball". He replied, "Pennsylvania State Troopers don't have balls". There was a moment of silence while she smiled, and he realized what he'd just said. He then closed his book, got back in his patrol car and left. She was laughing too hard to start her car.

Kinfolk talking???

Bubba and Homer were sitting in back of their trailers, shooting the breeze. Bubba asked Homer, "If I snuck ovah to yore house while you wuz out fishin' an' I made love to yore wife, an' she got pregnant, would that make us kin?"

Homer scratched his head for a bit then said, "I don't think so, but it shore would make us even."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Are you bored? No games installed on your corporate workstation or laptop. Stuck in a meeting with that computer? Still bored? Well here is a neat little time waster. All you need is a:
  • scrolling wheel mouse
  • access to a web pages with a large table of contents (Google Oracle SQL Reference and find an available site)
To play:
  1. Load the page and go to the bottom of that page
  2. Place the mouse just below dead center
  3. Click the center scroll wheel once; the cursor will turn into dot with four directional triangles
  4. Move the mouse up and the cursor will become an up arrow and the screen will scroll down, the farther away from center the faster it will scroll
  5. The goal of the game is to get as far left as possible without touching text while "flying" as fast as possible
  6. Repeat until you get caught or you are no longer bored
Neat huh?

Yeah I was pretty bored.