Monday, November 26, 2007

Coming Soon: Windows XP Service Pack 3!

That's right. Microsoft has actually decided to release the third Service Pack for Windows XP. It is currently in testing phase and should release soon, in a matter of months.

This will obviously delay the majority of XP users' migration to Vista, but might be a good thing. Even XP had its faults until Service Pack 2. Vista is working on SP 1, and could improve drastically by the second release. I wouldn't be harsh enough to compare Vista to ME (Millenium Edition - a flopped Windows Operating System), I always hold hope for the second service pack of any OS. Just like XP, even Windows 98's Second Edition proved to be Microsoft's best release at that time.

Link: IT Wire: XP SP3

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Movie Review: Beowulf

Beowulf PosterMovie Title: Beowulf
Starring: Ray Winstone, Brendan Gleeson, Angelina Jolie, Robin Wright-Penn, John Malkovich and Anthony Hopkins.
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Drama
My Rating: 7.5/10

Honestly, I had low expectations before going to see this movie. The only reason I went, was that it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I was going to stay in town, and some friends were going. Overall, it wasn't a bad experience.

However, this movie could have just been brilliant with the right screenplay and flow. Great actors, undeniably great special effects and a well-known legendary fairy tale to adapt. I even remember reading "Beowulf and Grendel" as a chapter in World Literature during my undergraduate studies.

The story starts in 7th Century,A.D., when Christianity was still in the process of spreading to Scandinavia. Ray Winstone (Mr. French from The Departed, Sexy Beast) plays the title character, a fearless Saxon warrior/freelancer who travels to Denmark in pursuit of killing a monster for a reward. The monster, Grendel, harasses the town folk of the local kingdom every time there is any merry-making. Grendel is horrific with an incomplete body structure yet huge and strong, and enjoys breaking people into halves. Anthony Hopkins plays the local drunk-king Hrothgar, speaking with his natural Welsh accent and portraying his role exceptionally well. Robin Wright-Penn acts as his younger, dignified and unhappy queen whom Beowulf has an eye for.

The real villain in this story is not Grendel, but his mother - the sea-serpent, played by Angelia Jolie, a gold-coated seductress with unbeatable magical powers and a long hair-tail. Jolie's really learning to play a bad mother very well, remember Alexander? John Malkovich was wasted as the king's chancellor-equivalent.

Another good performance in this film which could probably go under-appreciated is of Brendan Gleeson's. He plays Beowulf's second in command, a red-bearded bulky believer in his leader - very similar to his role in Braveheart, actually.

Contrary to what one may conclude based on the posters and trailer, this movie is not exactly an animation. Well, it is animation in parts. Real actors acted in front of a blue-screen in a studio, more than just lend their voices. Similar to the movie 300, with much of CGI. They were just all digitally "enhanced." 50 year old and bulky Ray Winstone was made to look at least 20 years younger and way fitter. Hopkins was given 50 pounds more. Robin Wright-Penn looked younger than in her current 40's. Jolie was just given just the golden touch and the hair-tail.

Even with the uber praiseworthy graphics/CGI/animation/SFX in general, this movie lacked a brilliant enough screenplay! If you like fantasy movies with monsters, brave slayers, dragons and curses that are supposed to have a moral ending hidden somewhere if you're too bored to figure it out, check out this movie on DVD. Watch it in the theater only if you're an SFX freak. I'm shocked this movie got a PG-13 rating rather than an "R".

7.5/10. Entertaining, keeps you awake throughout. Quite a winter movie.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Movie Review: American Gangster

Movie Title: American Gangster
Starring: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ted Levine, Carla Gugino, Josh Brolin, Cuba Gooding Jr., Armand Assante.
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Genre: Drama/Thriller
My Rating: 9/10

Based on a true story, Gangster stars Washington as a New York drug kingpin Frank Lucas. In the 1970's Lucas took advantage of the Vietnam War in progress by having drugs smuggled from southeast Asia to the US via military carriers. The protagonist started off as a driver to one of NY's top mob bosses, and built his own empire steadily after his boss died of a heart attack. Sporting a well-dressed, businessman-like demeanor, Lucas would kill in cold blood anyone who came in his way or his family's. Yet Lucas was a good family man and supported his entire extended kin from North Carolina.

Crowe, on the other hand, plays a no-nonsense New Jersey cop always equipped with a handyman's tools when investigating. A wrench one time, an ax another. Richie Roberts is "untouchable" - can not be bought over or bribed. Yet, he's no angel; putting his marriage, son and even ongoing divorce at the bottom of his priorities. Roberts is made head of an investigative team probing into the increasing drug traffic caused by Lucas' superior quality + half priced product called "Blue Magic."

Both these lead actors carried their roles and the movie as a whole just as brilliantly as they could. Their parallel stories were shared very well, even though they don't come face each other until the last 45 minutes of this long-yet-fast-paced movie. The supporting cast did their job decently as well. Carla Gugino looked good as Roberts' to-be ex-wife, Ted Levine fit his cameo as Crowe's boss, and Cuba Gooding Jr. looked old as Lucas' contemporary. The rappers did a decent job, it was just funny to see T.I. as Common's son in the movie. RZA played an undercover operative from Roberts' team. Armand Assante showed experience playing a mafia boss who befriends Lucas, and Josh Brolin played another crooked role of a corrupt NY cop who nobody really lied on either side of the law.

The direction was done with expertise, the pace makes you forget how time flew by, and the movie overall makes for a great Fall movie and one of the best released this year. I definitely see a few Oscar nods coming this way. Great job again, Ridley Scott. Bravo, Washington and Crowe!

9/10. Definitely a theater watch, definitely a keeper.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A good movie to skip

30 Days of Night, unless you're an avid horror fanatic. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George seriously need to replace their agents.

6/10. Saving energy here.

Movie Review: We Own The Night

Movie Title: We Own the Night
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes and Robert Duvall.
Directed by: James Grey
Genre: Drama/Thriller
My Rating: 7/10

Look at the cast, look at the setting, look at the trailer. You'll think it's going to be a masterpiece in the making. A family of cops that gets on the Russian mob's hit list in late 1980's New York - how would that sound to you? The movie had potential, even the setting was well done. What did it lack? Read below..

Respected veteran actor Robert Duvall plays a veteran cop, with one son (Wahlberg) also a cop, and the other (Phoenix) - a manager of a nightclub owned by a Russian "organized crime" family. Phoenix's character decides to give his wild ways a break to help his father and brother upon finding out they're in the mob's kill list.Eva Mendes plays his Puerto Rican girlfriend, more of an eye candy and less substance of a character. The rest of the cast is relatively unknown, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The bad thing is amateur direction and editing. I can bet all the quarters in my couch that if the movie is re-edited for DVD release it could turn out better. The story wasn't all that bad - it just wasn't given justice. Not with the direction, nor the editing. Despite it's shortcomings, I see this movie playing on the AMC channel on cable television in a couple of years, that's where I'd suggest you check it out.

7/10. Good acting, decent story, well set in the late 80's with Blondie music, but ugh - somebody do something about the pace.