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Monthly Archives: August 2008

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A Little More Max Payne

There’s a second or really first more extensive trailer out for Max Payne with more footage and more context that convincingly makes the point that Mila Kunis is way out of her league and badly miscast and that the movie integrates a lot of the noir wackiness of the game with an emphasis on the supernatural.

Yes Max Payne looks very much like The Crow with guns, or rather The Crow meets NYPD Blue, but it helps to remember that Max Payne the game was produced by a bunch of Swedish guys who had never been to New York City but like the Rockstar crowd, enjoyed a lot of crime classics set in New York and produced a hell of a game. Of course when Rockstar took over Max Payne they cluelessly wrecked it with a sequel that everyone hated, The Fall of Max Payne.

Now back to the present day Marky Mark looks acceptable as Max Payne. Not quite right, but close enough for government work. The trailer still focuses on the action scenes and pads it out with dream sequences and some exposition about the Valkyries, the overall effect is cool in a music video sort of way, but lacking any real plot or sense of what actually sitting through ninety minutes of this thing would be like, beyond the same old, Crow with Guns bit.

I can’t stand Marky Mark or his wooden performances, but he might actually pass muster as a video game character. Still it would take some kind of genius director to turn Max Payne into a watchable movie. Nolan might do it, but he ain’t on the job.

WB to Focus on Brooding Superheroes

With “Batman vs. Superman” and “Justice League” stalled, Warner Bros. has quietly adopted Marvel’s model of releasing a single film for each character, and then using those movies and their sequels to build up to a multicharacter film. “Along those lines, we have been developing every DC character that we own,” Mr. Robinov says.

Like the recent Batman sequel — which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far — Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as “The Dark Knight.” Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.’ DC properties. “We’re going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it,” he says. That goes for the company’s Superman franchise as well.

Dark? Sure that usually works for Batman who is a dark character, a dark Green Arrow can sort of work, but a dark Superman? A dark Green Lantern? All bad ideas. Going dark can make a story work through sheer intensity, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, dark just becomes unfocused brooding or a depressing movie that turns off the audience. Superman Returns was somewhat dark, it was full of lots and lots of brooding, it was actually 90 percent brooding and 10 percent action. And it made for a terrible movie.

Now remember Superman IV? It was actually fairly dark as Superman movies go. It was also borderline unwatchable. I’m sure some studio executive back then thought that going really dark after Superman III’s slapstick comedy was the way to go. But what counts most is first of all a good story and meeting viewer expectations of the character. Superman is not a dark character, he’s not the dark knight fighting desperately for a battle that can never be won, he’s the symbol and champion of hope, the man who can do anything but reveal his true identity to the woman he loves. He can change the world but can’t change his place in it. It’s a great concept and it is not what we saw in Superman Returns.

If Robinov really wants to go dark, he might want to take a look at All Star Superman and how Grant pushed Superman to the limit without going dark or brooding in the Dark Knight sense. Superman facing his own mortality. Now that’s a story we should be seeing and won’t. Instead we’ll probably wind up with some crap from Mark Millar about Superman fighting the government or David Goyer throwing something together with an “edgier” Superman.

Guy No One Cares About Demands his 15 Seconds

If you’re like most people, Rod Lurie is a more obscure figure than ever Sarah Palin. If you do know who Rod Lurie is, you know he’s the guy who makes incredibly boring movies and TV shows about politics that no one watches or cares about. Basically imagine Aaron Sorkin without drugs and only 75 percent of the sense of entitlement and you have Rod Lurie.

So why talk about Rod Lurie? Because supposedly Rod Lurie’s opinion on the Palin pick somehow matters because he wrote a TV show about a female President called Commander in Chief that initially got some viewership, but that everyone forgot about. Lurie back then was obviously pushing a Hillary candidacy, but in retrospect got it wrong. Now the masterful political expert is back to tell us Palin is a bad choice.

A Barack Obama supporter, Lurie criticized the real-life manifestation of his TV fiction.

“People who understand politics know anything is possible,” he said. “Picking a woman is an absolute strategic idea from McCain’s point of view. He’s not talking about governing right now. The idea of this woman actually facing down [Vladimir] Putin and negotiating with [Dmitry] Medvedev is idiotic.”

In the “Chief” pilot, the qualifications of Davis’ character also came under fire before she later proved her worth.

“We don’t need the world to see a soft, indecisive woman commanding the troops,” one character declared.

So basically Rod Lurie is now talking about Palin the way the bad Republicans did on his own show? Fun. Hypocrisy is like basketball, everyone gets to play.

The thing is Lurie might actually have a point if the Democrats weren’t running a guy for President whose qualification for sitting down with Putin are about as bad as Palin’s are. Considering that, you would think the Democrats would have enough common sense not to drag experience or qualifications into it. If you just walked in on the sales floor and want the manager’s job, taunting your opponent’s deputy manager’s lack of experience is just gonna blow up in your face.

As for Rod Lurie, everything he’s done has failed. He puts on turgid political melodramas that no one cares about. End of the road.

The Underlying Philosophical Ideas of Nolan’s Batman Returns and The Dark Knight

It can be a bit weighty but stick with me. Both Batman Returns and The Dark Knight were basically about the question of whether Gotham could be saved. Any third Batman movie from Nolan will inevitably also deal with the same question.

Bruce Wayne’s father attempted to try and save Gotham through social aid, by building a metro tying together Gotham. This addressed some of Gotham’s problems, but not the real problem, crime. Organized crime. Batman is the tool that Bruce Wayne chose to use to save Gotham from organized crime.

Ra’s Al Ghul believed that Gotham could not be saved. That it was a source of rot and had to be destroyed. In Batman Returns, Batman stopped Ra’s Al Ghul, fighting for the right to try and save Gotham. In The Dark Knight however Gotham and Bruce Wayne need to be saved from Batman. Bruce Wayne wants to resume a normal life and everyone is hoping that the police and Harvey Dent can step in to restore law and order to Gotham.

In The Dark Knight the question is no longer can Batman save Gotham, it’s clear that he can. The question is can Gotham be ruled by the law. As Ra’s Al Ghul came to challenge the idea that Gotham could be saved, the Joker serves as an agent of chaos, challenging the idea that Gotham can be ruled by the law.

The Joker’s tactics are multifold, first in his games with criminals and ordinary people, he seeks to prove that given a choice, people can be predictably programmed to turn on and kill each other without following any moral code. He also seeks to prove that any enforcers and keepers of the law, whether it’s Batman or Dent or the police detective he’s locked in with, can just as easily be forced to break the law, proving once again that there is no moral order, either from the top down, or the bottom up.

The thrust of the Joker’s argument to Dent is that there is no morality because people are not moral. Something Dent himself already believes by that point. Those who administer the law are in the end just as broken as those who are subject to it. The only morality therefore is the morality of chance. When you subtract the idea that there can be any kind of formal moral order, right and wrong don’t enter into it, and the only chance for either justice or right, is pure chance. This is the basic argument of chaos and anarchy, if order is biased toward selfish human choices that are immoral, then the amorality of chance is preferable.

By refusing to be corrupted Batman denies the Joker his ultimate victory, but leaves Gotham dependent on him for law and forces a coverup that turns him into the enemy of the law, giving the Joker a smaller subtler victory. Gotham can still be saved, but Batman is still the only one who can do it. Law enforcement has proven that it can’t step up. That leaves Gotham with a Dark Knight, an outsider who must do what Gotham itself can’t.

Now where does a third Batman movie from Nolan go from here? If the first movie asked can Gotham be saved and the second movie asked if Gotham could be saved under its own law and order, the third movie might ask whether Gotham will ever need to be saved from Batman or whether Gotham itself can save Batman.

The ending of The Dark Knight was inevitable, because Batman exists because the police and the prosecutors office can’t handle it alone. The third movie will have to go into more uncharted territory, asking about the soul of Batman and the soul of Gotham and how both will find their balance in their unique relationship.

The Internet Explorer 8 preview

I was one of those who quite underwhelmed and more than a little bit annoyed by Internet Explorer 7 and baffled by even the most lukewarm praise it was getting. This wasn’t simple a knee jerk reaction on my part of being a Firefox fanboy. I like Firefox but that ardor has cooled, especially since it’s obvious that Firefox 3 continues to have serious problems such as the CPU leak that’s as bad as Firefox 2’s memory leak. I would welcome Microsoft developing and deploying a serious browser.

Unfortunately Internet Explorer 7 felt like My First Browser, with its oversized buttons and determination to uselessly rearrange the control scheme, clumsy tabbed browsing and general slapdash feel. Now Microsoft appears to be doing with Internet Explorer 8 what it did with Internet Explorer 7, that is playing catch up with the features that were in the released version of Firefox that beat their last entry. And of course that’s basically a recipe for disaster. Internet Explorer is no longer the confident market leader that it can simply afford to paste on slapdash versions of Firefox features and assume the public will be happy with them and won’t recognize their source. That dog won’t hunt anymore.

To beat Firefox, Internet Explorer 8 needs to beat Firefox 4 instead of trying to match Firefox 3. Racing Firefox 3 won’t help much when Mozilla releases Firefox 4 with a whole new set of gosh wow features that will easily overshadow the poor imitations in Internet Explorer 8. It’s nice that Internet Explorer 8 may finally nail down that whole tabbed browsing thing, that Firefox has had practically forever. InPrivate Browsing will probably play well with the general public, without being used much. Beyond that and some security updates, it’s likely to be business as usual and that just won’t be enough.

Managing Complexity is Key to Efficiency

Managing complexity is key to achieving efficiency. Complexity leads to redundancy, redundancy leads to duplication, duplication leads  to waste, waste leads to disorder, disorder leads to chaos, therefore complexity = chaos. When you increase complexity you proportionally also increase chaos, efficiency means the management of complex tasks with simple structures with each proportional increase in complexity, there is a proportional increase in inefficiency.

Order is achieved by balancing efficiency against complexity. The fractal point order of any base structure is relative to its proportional order of complexity through managing complexity, efficiency can be achieved, so long as output remains maximal chaos and complexity are paired in outcome, to reduce complexity without reducing effectiveness is to achieve efficiency.

While many mistakenly believe that complexity is the royal road to efficiency, effectiveness and order, complexity is actually the enemy of all three. All complex structures show an increasing tendency toward waste and chaos. Whether through centralization or decentralization, managing order requires favoring simple structures over complex structures, by favoring efficiency in design, distribution and definition. To embrace simplicity is to embrace that higher order which can only be recognized and achieved through the singular commitment to a focused definition of each part of a higher structure which when working in harmony toward achieving an efficiency end can abolish complexity in favor of functionality.

Warner Brothers to Reboot Superman?

This seems to fit pretty well with the rumors slowly coming around about a Superman reboot. Warner Bros president Robinov has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying the following,

“Superman didn’t quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to. It didn’t position the character the way he needed to be positioned. Had Superman worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009. But now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a Batman and Superman movie at all.”

Some are taking that to mean a reboot when Robinov said a reintroduction, but they’re probably right. Whether or not Bryan Singer stays on board for another Superman movie is likely to depend on whether he can credibly put forward a vision of a Superman movie that is not a sequel to Superman Returns and that can actually play well at the box office.

Superman Returns was a mess of a movie with little forward motion and a whole lot of brooding and not much action. Starting over and rebooting would probably be the best approach, but Warner Brothers may still stick with Bryan Singer for another run, or dump him for a trendier director, in line with some of Mark Millar’s trash talking a month or so back.

Dark Knight was a huge hit for the studio and Hollywood being the original place that it is, I’m sure there’s going to be some thought about making Superman darker. That would of course be a mistake. Batman has noir roots, Superman doesn’t. The contrast can be seen in the two cities, the slums and decaying architecture of Gotham against the space age chrome and swooping lines of Metropolis. Iron Man is potentially a better model for Superman than the Dark Knight, not in the sense of imitation its storyline, but getting back to that sense of dynamic adventure that expresses the comic book vision best.

England Confronts the Klingon Menace

Yes it’s true boys and girls, England is under siege. By the Klingons. Or their Bathlets anyway.

Lethal Star Trek blade seized in knives amnesty. Force for evil: inspector Mac McGarry with the blade, believed to be a lethal Star Trek replica

This horrifying five-foot weapon has been recovered by police during a knife amnesty.

The three-handled sword with a blade at either end, designed to be swung like a paddle, shocked officers who took custody of it.

They are using it to publicise a five-week amnesty during which they hope around 30,000 weapons will be handed in, mainly from youngsters.

A spokesman for police in Gloucester, where it was surrendered, said: “It is a particularly nasty weapon that can, literally, take someone’s head off. We are very glad it is off the streets and we want more weapons handed in.”

The blade is believed to be a stainless-steel copy of a Klingon weapon used in the science fiction series Star Trek. “It’s an extremely dangerous weapon,” said a martial arts expert last night.

First of all based on the “force” pun, I think the Daily Mail has confused Star Trek and Star Wars. But that overlooks the bigger problem of the Klingon menace. It’s only natural that Klingons would turn on the English sooner or later. Having given up their weapons, the English have made themselves ripe for conquest and sooner or later the Klingons being the ruthless conquerors that they are were bound to turn on them.

I think it’s only a matter of time until Klingons are rampaging across the English countrywide, naming themselves Barons and eating shepherd’s pie. The English asked for it themselves, giving up their arms, cultivating a disgusting cuisine that only a Klingon or a Welshman could like and continuing their fraudulent claim that Shakespeare was an Englishman rather than a Klingon. Sooner or later the Klingons were bound to strike and when the Klingon Houses begin parceling up parts of England, I’m sure they’ll restore the rightful history of William Shakespeare, the long lost Klingon writer who crashed to Earth many centuries ago and did his best to fit in and comb his hair over his forehead.

The question is, is there anything the London police can do to combat the coming Klingon invasion? The answer is probably no. Their misguided knife amnesty only further disarms the London citizenry leaving them naked and helpless before the Klingon menace. What’s next a stick and stone amnesty? Confiscate a Klingon’s bathleth and he can still rip out your beating heart with his bare hands and take a big juicy bite out of it. Unarmed British PC’s confronted by raging Klingon warriors have no chance.

Is Kindle a Textbook Solution?

The internet seems to be threatening everyone these days and while textbook publishers don’t top the list, they are on the list. The obvious reason is of course the well known fact that textbook costs are ridiculously inflated in order to exploit students, a captive market. This has created a sizable used textbooks market, which textbook publishers have tried to dodge by constantly bringing out new editions of college textbooks that are basically mildly retooled versions of the previous edition. This has had a limited success, especially with the rise of the internet where students could sell and order textbooks online, killing much of the safety time the publishers thought they had.

Now Bittorrent is playing a role as students scan and upload textbooks, which can then be turned into word or acrobat files, for easy portability and annotation. Carrying around six 5 pound textbooks at 30 pounds total doesn’t compare to carrying around a flash drive on your keychain. Textbook publishers have tried to compete with e textbooks but they’re still widely overpriced.

Meanwhile Amazon is finally sorta admitting that the Kindle 1.0 is a dead end and really not doing all that well and so Amazon is now typing Kindle 1.5 or 2.0 as being the one that will really get it right. And they’re looking to expand the market, in this case by hitting the textbook market. It’s not a bad idea in theory, but since Kindle books come with DRM the question has to be asked whether resale of kindle textbooks will be allowed. So far the lead in publicity with its mention of lower prices to account for resale losses suggests it will not, which means all Kindle will offer is the same old overpriced textbooks in electronic format on Kindle. Big whoop.

Can an Ad Campaign Save Windows Vista?

After the Mojave Experiment, Redmond is rolling out a high end 300 million dollar ad campaign with ads to feature Jerry Seinfeld at New York locations and directed by Michael Gondry all to tout how well Windows Vista connects people together, removes barriers and does all that neat fun stuff.

The view in Microsoft HQ is clearly that Windows Vista’s problem is one of perception and while that might be 20 percent true, it’s 80 percent false. Windows Vista’s biggest problem isn’t negative perception but a negative reality, in no small part caused by Microsoft itself. Microsoft is pulling out the 300 million dollar campaign a year too late, but even that campaign would not have solved the fundamental problems with Vista, even if it sold a few more copies of Microsoft Vista.

Microsoft needs to be spending that money on promoting Windows 7 and early is never too early to start. Spending it on Vista is pushing money down the hole. A 300 million dollar ad campaign is not likely to pull in even 3 million Vista sales to account for the money Redmond is blowing on this. A high profile ad campaign worked for Windows 95 because it helped promote an operating system that actually was revolutionary. Windows Vista is not revolutionary, whether you call it Windows Mojave or anything else. The usual ad campaign techniques are fighting an uphill battle because Microsoft is never going to have the image that Apple does. And while Apple’s image may be 60 percent based on style, there is a 40 percent of substance underneath.

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