Movie Journal: Last Life in the Universe (Ruang rak noi nid mahasan)

’m not going to even try and offer a review of this movie. It’s touching, sad, funny and unique. Eric Campos sums it up best in his review so check that out instead.

I’m doing the iPod dance right now…

Actually, no I’m not? Want to know why?

First a brief digression: I just got my iPod (60GB) about 2 1/2 weeks ago and absolutely love it. Almost all my free time at home now includes ripping CSs to iTunes for eventual transfer. I bring it to work and listen to it there. I’m listening to albums I own but haven’t heard in years because moving CDs from home to work to listen to is just too clunky a process.

Last night the first thing I did when I fired up the computer was download and install iTunes 4.9 since I was excited about the support for podcasts. Immediately after installation I subscribed to For Immediate Release and downloaded the show. After ripping a dozen more CDs I plugged in my iPod as I was about to hit the sack to let it sync with iTunes overnight.Imagine my frustration when I woke up this morning, came down to grab the iPod and saw ABSOLUTELY NO MUSIC ON THE THING!!!! I plugged it in again and iTunes quickly told me that my iPod was updated and I could unplug it. There should have been 16GB of music and podcasts on there. But there wasn’t. Want to know why?

I didn’t think that since this was new iTunes software I might have to also download and install a new version of iPod Updater. This didn’t occur to me until I was walking to work, but it also does not appear on the Apple website. Shouldn’t this be included in the software and not a seperate component that people can overlook and forget? I’m not saying it wasn’t dumb of me not to think about this when I was doing it but some sort of note should be on the site at the very least alerting people they should do this immediately after downloading the new iTunes software.

Did this happen to anyone else?


[Cross posted at Public Relations Ramblings.]

Movie Journal: Batman Begins

Warner Bros. certainly had their hands full in relaunching the Batman franchise. Overcoming so much ill-will was not going to be easy. And, I’m happy to report, they succeeded.

Batman Begins is not meant to be an extension of the series, first directed by Tim Burton and then by Joel Schumacher, that ran from 1989 to 1997. It ignores all the plot points set up in those films and starts Batman off from scratch to great effect. Jettisoned are nipples (aside from those sticking out from under Katie Holmes’ shirts) and neon facades. In their place are dark brown rusty tones and serious psychological issues. Most reviewers, including Pete Vonder Harr, have made note of fear being the central theme of the movie. I don’t have anything to add to his or other comments on this point so I’ll leave it to you to read them and get the point.

What I thought was the best part of the movie was the performances from all, save Holmes, the lead actors. Not only does Christian Bale acquit himself more than adequately as a wayward spoiled rich kid who eventually finds some measure of tranquility in donning a bat’s mask but everyone else is just as strong. Michael Caine pulls a Harrison Ford and gets more out of the role than might have been on the page. Cilian Murphy is incredibly believable as a doctor gone psycho. Gary Oldman plays a very believable good Chicago cop without allowing in any of the cliches that so often dominate these types of roles. Liam Neeson especially shows what a great job he might have been able to do as Qui-Gon Jinn if it weren’t for an awkward script and almost no direction. It’s an incredible cast and you can see why they were able to get past whatever trepidations they might have had about being in a comic book adaptation.

My main thought after coming out of hte theater: I can’t wait to see it again.

Movie Journal: Audition (Odishon)

Holy shit. A mild tempered drama about a middle-aged man who holds a phony movie casting call in order to screen for a new wife goes from 0 to 60 in, literally, nothing flat. There are a couple weird moments before the grisly conclusion but nothing that prepares the viewer for what’s to come. This movie just defies easy description but is worth checking out.

Movie Marketing Madness: War of the Worlds

warworldsmmm01storyHow bad does Steven Spielberg have to be feeling right now? He makes a movie with Tom Cruise one of the biggest stars in the world, involving an alien invasion that’s based on a classic H.G. Wells novel. That novel was the foundation for one of the greatest publicity stunts of the 20th century when Orsen Welles broadcast a radio drama that sent panic throughout the country. It was easy money. It was going to be a blockbuster. It was going to be huge.Then Cruise starts talking. He starts talking about Brooke Sheilds, he starts talking about Scientology, about psychology, about Katie Holmes. (I’ll now allow a moment for everyone reading to go “ewwwwww”. All set? Let’s continue.) All this while ostensibly on the press tour for “War of the Worlds.” And through all this I just have this very clear mental image of Spielberg holding his head in his hands and thinking, “Why me. Why can’t this guy just shut the f*** up and talk about how it was so great working with me again?”

So Paramount’s publicity department has had their work cut out for them. They have to take what should have been a slam dunk requiring little but some moderately cool trailers and all of a sudden have to work against the tide of a star who seems to have turned a corner somewhere in the last six months. How bad do these guys jobs suck right now?

The Trailers

Lots of Tom Cruise and lots of ominous clouds gathering can be found in just about all the trailers and TV spots, of which there are four and 16 respectively. For there being 20 video spots there’s an astounding lack of originality to any of them. They all focus on Cruise and Dakota Fanning as his daughter reacting to some off-screen menace. The occasional one has co-star Tim Robbins looking grimy and like he’s avoiding something terrible. Either it’s aliens or a right-wing politician, I’m not sure.

Anyway, I don’t particularly like these spots. There’s no rhyme or reason to them. Very few of them follow any sort of linear format and instead seem to just jump in during the middle of the invasion. I’m sorry but I need more from a trailer than just that, especially when we’re talking about Spielberg. One of the problems with “Jurassic Park” was that there was very little in it that identified it as a Spielberg film. Based on the trailers I don’t see anything bearing the director’s distinctive mark. That’s too bad since I’ve really enjoyed his recent movies (I even like about 75% of “The Terminal.”)

The Posters

If I thought the trailers were boring then the posters are downright snooze-inducing. There’s either the ones with the alien hand reaching out and grasping the earth or the block letter one. The hand posters have recently been compared to the cover of one of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology-themed sci-fi books (I’ll find the picture and link to it off of my blog). The block-letter version has always reminded me of “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” Not very exciting. I just wish they had been able to find something more innovative.

The Website

This is actually the coolest aspect of the campaign. Not so much because it helps sell the movie but because it looks like it was laid out by someone who knew what they were doing.

“About the Film” is perhaps the shortest synopsis I’ve seen of a movie to date. Basically it says the earth is at war, this is an adaptation of a Wells novel and that it is told through the eyes of one American family. That right there is half the length of the synopsis itself. Also, why did they feel the need to specify it was an “American” family in the movie? Was there some fear audiences would mistake Cruise and Fanning for a Pakistani family? The mind reels.

Perhaps the most fully-stocked section of the site is “Media”. There you will find all four domestic – and a Japanese – trailer, 12 TV spots, some clips and a link to the soundtrack. I love it when a studio pays attention to this section and does more than just post one or two trailers there. The website should be all-encompassing and this one is just that.

Moving on we come to “Downloads”. I can’t even list all the features available here. There are wallpapers in every conceivable style and language, posters, a screen saver and a bunch of buddy icons. Pretty cool. “Photos” is just what it sounds like, a collection of almost 40 stills. “Features” includes a Yahoo IMvironment, something I’m still pretty fuzzy on and Moviefone’s “Unscripted” Q&A between the star and director. Finally there is the “Survival Game.” I’m not going to go into the game play but it’s pretty fun if you have some time to spare.


As much as I want to believe this reteaming of Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise is an authentic attempt to create some meaningful contribution to the lexicon of film I just get the feeling it’s a grab at some easy money. The campaign is not that exciting and honestly didn’t build my anticipation for the movie all that much. Sure the trailers look kind of cool but computers can do a lot and for as much as they don’t show what is seen is kind of lackluster. The best part of the campaign was the website since it acts as a repository for all the other promotional materials to date. Nice to have a one-stop spot for posters, trailers and such.

Movie Marketing Madness: The World (Shijie)

This looks intriguing. A kind of travelogue of modern China and how the world has come to it, the visuals almost look like something akin to Wes Anderson’s. It’s hard to get a sense of the performances since not much of them are shown and most of what is consists of a woman walking around a backstage area screaming for a Band-Aid.

The Poster

All I can say is that if you can make sense of the poster you’ll probably like the movie. It’s like an intelligence test. The audience will know who they are because they react to the mix of anime, ancient Chinese dress and kitschy world monuments. It’s definitely original even if it’s not the most appealing graphic design. Pretty cool, though.

The Trailer

This is where it just looks kooky. It’s one thing for so many disparate elements to be on a poster, it’s another to have them thrown at you like this. Also, see above on the woman asking for a Band-Aid.

The Website

Offerings here are pretty slim, but that’s to be expected of a niche foreign film.

There’s the trailer, a synopsis, credits and such. There’s also a list of reviews from publications including the Chicago Reader. The quote is from Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who also appears on a quick video interview you can watch on the site. Lastly, an online Press Room contains some promotional images and a PDF press kit you can download.


Quirky and fun, this could be interesting. Like I said, it definitely knows who it’s core audience is and the campaign is designed to appeal directly to them. It probably won’t attract too many outsiders

Movie Journal: When Will I Be Loved

The biggest surprise to me about this Neve Campbell flick was not all the sex. There was plenty of that and, unlike most mainstream movies, the scenes weren’t edited to within an inch of their lives. Instead they’re done almost completely in single takes to convey the impression the viewer is right there in the room, a feeling which adds to the vague discomfort in watching them.

No, the biggest surpise was how quickly the movie moved. So many movies, even good ones, seem like they could lose 20 minutes and not sacrifice any of the story. How Will I Be Loved was over almost before I knew it. At some point I realized all the plot threads were about to come together and I didn’t realize where the time had gone. That’s a good thing.

I thought this was a much better exploration of sexuality as a means to the end of finding one’s place in the world than The Dreamers. That seemed overly stilted and not realistic at the end. Campbell’s portrayal here of a young woman who really feels that experiencing all she can sexually can lead her to a better understanding of herself feels genuine. It’s good stuff. Plus, you get to see lots of Neve Campbell naked. That’s never a bad thing.

Microsoft blah, blah, RSS, blah blah, Longhorn…

So everyone’s atwitter with news Microsoft’s IE 7 or Longhorn or whatever this is called will integrate support for RSS. You’ll please excuse me if I’m underwhelmed by this. After all it’s been at least six months since I started using RSS and I’m not exactly what you’d call an early adopter. Since then I’ve embraced the delivery format completely and use it for 98% of my web-surfing.

Why is anyone caring what Microsoft does these days to begin with? Here are some of the areas they have lagged in over the last few years:

  • Search (got smoked by Google and Yahoo)
  • RSS (got smoked by BlogLines, Newsgator and just about everyone else)
  • Music (got smoked by Apple, which just has to sting)
  • Browser (got smoked by Mozilla’s Firefox)

So why is everyone still tracking what comes out of Redmond? Because they still dominate the operating system. Windows complete reign of the OS market is unquestioned and, despite some companies moving to Linux and such, is unthreatened for the foreseeable future. If it weren’t for that we would have relagated Microsoft to the dustbin along with other companies whose monolithic status has hurt their agility.

Sorry, but I just don’t get it. Time to cut the cord, people. Or at least ease up on the rhetoric. That might get Gates and Co.’s attention.

Movie Journal: In Good Company

Decent movie. A solid double. Reinforced my opinion that Dennis Quaid was on the wrong end of a deal somewhere about 15 years ago and hasn’t had nearly the career success he deserves and that That 70’s Show is justified because it gave us Topher Grace. He’s an actor I look forward to watching develop over the course of the next few years. Also convinced me that, as cute as Scarlett Johansson might be (and that is considerable) she needs to learn there’s more to acting than just holding your mouth open slightly.

The story of a middle-aged ad salesman who has his life thrown into disarray by three very drastic roadbumps is good but could have been better. I keep thinking about it though and I can’t figure out how. Quaid’s salesman is honest and just the kind of general “good-guy” that is the very definition of the term. He’s loyal to his people, he recognizes the good aspects of just about everyone and, most of all, loves his family.

Check it out.


[Buy In Good Company at and support the Madness.]

Movie Journal: The Door in the Floor

Very disturbing movie, especially for parents. As much as you want and try to protect your kids you just can’t. Even if you’re standing right beside them or in the back seat of the car with them they are still vulnerable to the dangers of this world and can be taken from you at any moment.

The Door in the Floor tells the story of Ted and Marion Cole, played by Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger, and the sad state of their marriage. Many years before we join them their two sons were born in an accident which thankfully isn’t recounted until the very end of the movie. Why do I say thankfully? Because it doesn’t insult the audience by thinking we need to see what happened in order to understand the present state of the relationships between the characters.

Anyway, Ted and Ruth are just kind of living past each other. Ted is a womanizer who seems to justify his actions as fulfillments of his artistic muse. Marion has shut down emotionally after losing her sons and is ignoring both Ted and their young daughter (born out of a desire to start fresh after the accident) Ruth. Ted hires Eddie, a student and aspiring writer, as an assistant for the summer. Eddie will become a pawn as well as actor in the manipulations and trials of Ted and Ruth as the summer progresses, all while struggling for his own writerly voice.

I have a thing for relationship dramas and this one does that very well. In fact, I’d say it’s one of my favorite in the genre. It never takes cheap dramatic routes and instead portrays everyone as having their own well-defined motivations for their actions. Bridges has long been one of my favorite actors and he brings Ted just the right amount of arrogance, insecurity and world-weariness the character needed. I was a little bothered by some of Basinger’s line readings, though. They seemed a bit too staged or lifted straight from John Irving’s writing to sound genuine, like she just read them without doing any thinking on phrasing or drama. Good performance but could have used a bit more direction.

Overall The Door in the Floor is recommended.