STARDUST [2007] review

October 27, 2007

I had medium expectations for STARDUST, bolstered by its 8.1 rating on IMDB, but that rating just goes to show that IMDB can be trusted less and less these days. STARDUST is just a movie that totally didn’t need to be made. It had no original message, and no original way of telling the same old story of dumb boy becoming a man and eventually falling in love with the right girl.

Claire Danes and Charlie Cox as the leads had zero chemistry together, and Danes who I always like, I actually couldn’t stand in this film. The only barely passable scenes in the film were the ones with Michelle Pfeifer being bad as the leader of three witch sisters. I felt embarrassed for Robert Deniro. The score was decent, but it was holding up an embarrassing script and weak action scenes. The special effects were pretty weak as well.

Someone in the row below me fell asleep and was snoring loudly, it was pissing me off, but I can understand what caused it.

20th Anniversary Skimboarding Season: Session #10

October 22, 2007

A somewhat below average afternoon at Chigasaki. The waves weren’t really there, but I tried to make the most of it. Had a very rare jump off a wave getting the board clean out of the water, a move that used to be my signature ride when I skimmed in high school and early college, but not one I do often at Chigasaki as conditions don’t lend themselves to it. Still, the weather was great on this day, perhaps the last warm day to be had this year out at Chigasaki.

THE GOOD SHEPHERD [2006] review

October 14, 2007

If you like the idea of watching Matt Damon be very serious while talking very little and often seriously staring at things while saying nothing, then you’ll find THE GOOD SHEPERD highly entertaining. As for myself, I do find much of the previous sentence to be entertaining, so the movie matched my somber Sunday night mood. The movie follows Matt Damon’s character from Yale graduate to increasingly important CIA agent at the very birth of the CIA itself. The order we see these events is not linear as the movie makes good use of flashbacks to fill in Damon’s character’s backstory as well as a present day CIA mystery involving who is in a mysterious photograph.

Directed by Robert De Niro as a kind of pet project of his, the movie is helped by the cinematography and score and Damon’s one note, but still engaging, performance. No doubt it’s a long movie and no doubt there could be lots of edits made to it’s 2.5 hour running time, but I was never bored and liked trying to guess what Damon was thinking and how his Russian KGB rival counterpart would try to one up him. A deaf girl Damon’s character meets in his youth also added a lot in a relatively small amount of screen time. She greatly humanized and otherwise methodical and systematic person.

The movie also offers an insight into the very low-tech beginnings of the spy game, which is most welcome. No cell phones, no computers, no relying on the speed of a download to save the day, just lots of boots on the ground and human-to-human deceptions. That said, the crack photo analyzing staff at the CIA in the early 60′s sure did gleam a lot from a blurry black and white photo.

Reverse Yamate Dori ride

October 12, 2007

Time in motion: 1 hour 11 minutes 32 seconds

Average speed: 13.7 mph

Max speed: 32.7 mph (a new record)

A second consecutive Friday morning ride. As usual I didn’t decide where to ride until the last minute. Then I only had the idea to “go north” as I usually head in a southerly or easterly direction. So instead of my usual left turn onto the street in front of my building, I made a right and took that road until it was no more. From that deadend I took the left fork which lead me to who knows where. Traffic was heavy and the red lights were constant. I was getting frustrated, but I felt that if I just kept going north enough the roads would open up.

…I was wrong. After about 35 minutes of straight riding I got fed up of the traffic and pulled a you turn. Little did I know that I was actually on Yamate Dori, a street I’ve ridden on several times but in the opposite direction. I had only taken exactly two roads from my building, yet miraculously, I got seriously lost on the way home which took almost 45 minutes when it should have taken less than 30. It didn’t make sense in my mind at all how I ended up so east of Ikebukuro. This could be because of wrong or ignant knowledge of the layout of the northwest area of central Tokyo or (more likely) due to some magic quirk that requires one to get lost on 50% of one’s sojourns out into new territory in Tokyo.

…The only good thing about this ride was that I got extra exercise in than I planned, that one part of the return ride was down a pleasant tree lined street, and that I set a new max speed record rocketing down a large hill that thankfully had a green light at the bottom of it.

FAST FOOD NATION [2006] review

October 12, 2007

This is a movie I didn’t need to see. FAST FOOD NATION by one of my favorite writer/directors, Richard Linklater, illustrates the absurdity of mass produced fast food and shows the power it yields upon government. But all that power could be gone if everyone simply stopped eating fast food and frequenting chain restaurants. Seeing those strips of Chili’s, Taco Bell, Applebee’s, etc. reminded me of exactly why I left the U.S. in June 2000 in the first place. Having moved to Los Angeles from Florida for a change, and finding the same set of franchises on every corner there also, I realized I had to leave the continent to escape it. My eyes just couldn’t take the horror of it all.

…The opening of FFN drags a bit, though some parts of Greg Kinnear’s investigation are interesting and I always like seeing Kris Kristofferson on screen. The movie perks up though as soon as Ethan Hawke (who I was once mistaken for at a film festival in South Korea) steps onto the screen and we finally start getting some trademark Linklater dialogue. Then the scenes with the college activists had some good, detailed dialogue and the frustrations and rational displayed by the character Paco no doubt represented how so many kids trying to fight against the Machine must feel. Avril is way too hot to be an activist chick. She played the part well, but took me out of things a bit seeing her.

…Is the message of this movie go vegan? Is it, think about where your food comes from? … Having already answered these three questions for myself some time ago, I didn’t necessarily need the movie to affirm anything for me, but yet it did. I feel re-invigorated about not being able to live in the franchise hell that covers much of the U.S.

…This is not a classic Linklater film, but if you are a fan or need a little further pushing to kick the fast food habit, then this movie is worthing checking out. I covered my eyes during the whole “kill floor” scene.

Early Friday afternoon short but fast ride

October 5, 2007

Distance: 9.1 miles

Time in motion: 40 minutes 17 seconds

Average speed: 13.5 mph

Max speed: 29.6 mph

Woke up late (11:03am), but still wanted to go for a ride as there was lots of sunshine and not so hot temps. So grabbed the Trek off its rack and rolled out not exactly sure where I’d go (as usual) but quickly decided to just do the past Yamate Dori route which provides a good local ride that I can push the pace on and takes me into some open road area.

As always the constant red lights were extremely frustrating, especially when you are cruising downhill then boom, red light and you have to slam on the breaks and lose all momentum. Had a nice moment though around Shinjuku Chuo Park rolling fast down a small hill sandwiched between two lanes of traffic just rolling without caring about safety, just feeling the rush and relying on maintaining top speed to get me safely through.

Tokyo Engadget Reader Meetup!!

October 5, 2007

I’ve been reading the gadget blog, ENGADGET, for over 2 years now. I read it daily. It has become a very influential site. It’s great for live-blogging Apple events in particular. They used to have a good weekly podcast which has since been put on hiatus though. So when they announced they’d be having a reader meetup in Tokyo, I definitely wanted to go. Unfortunately I had to work until 7:30pm, so I missed the first (and best) hour of it and any chance of winning any swag, but I still was able to see a few gadgets, like Sony’s silly rolly and I got my first look at an iPhone. At least 4 people had one. I spoke to one guy and asked how he activated it, and he said since he’s a freelance writer for Wired magazine he spends a lot of time in the U.S. and just bought one there like anyone else would. They definitely drew the attention of people in attendance.

…I got a chance to meet and talk to for a few minutes the editor-inchief of Engadget, Ryan Block. This was at the end of the meetup and he was still very friendly after no doubt having to make small talk with lots of attendees. He gladly agreed to pose for a photo together.

The event was held in the Google Tokyo offices, but I didn’t get a chance to do too much snooping around. Seems though that they are into lava lamp.