Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why so scared about computer? -- Eagle Eye

It was the name "Shia LaBeouf" that attracted me to this film. He is hot recently, some weird thing in Hollywood, cuz he is not as handsome as Orlando Bloom, or as cute as Zac Efron, but he has been continuously appearing in some blockbusters since 2007: Transformers, and Indiana Jones IV. Is he really going to be the "Next Big Thing"?

(This version of the poster is used in Singapore also, directly shows that there will be some explosions involved)

The plot is not quite surprising: One ordinary man and one ordinary woman, got a mysterious phone call some day, respectively, and got involved in a BIG plan. They were running, being hunted, robbing some guys, and finally, saving the United States. This is not a brand new idea, so the writter gave it more "incentives" by setting the "behind-the-scene-guy" as, actually, not even a "guy" (yup, you are right, "she" is a super computer). But the thing is, Matrix had done so even longer before...

If you are still amazed by the death race and the accuracy that the super computer could remove all the "obstacles", I'm sorry to tell you that this idea has been used in a Hollywood-made Chinese movie So Close quite some years ago. And the delicated trap about bombing the US president and all other highest-rank officers, looks not quite creative after we have seen Ocean's, National Treasure, etc.

The car racing is quite exciting, but not that exciting when I just experienced the first F1 night race on the road of Singapore. And too much bombing sometimes made me feel like a bit fed up. So my favorite scenes are actually the outlook of Pantagon. Not every one got a chance to see that, you know. And the worst scene is the inner look of the super computer -- a copycat of X-Men.

(The US version poster, you can hardly tell what this movie is about after viewing this poster...)

But Shia LaBeouf is nice. The most impressive scene is when Jerry (Shia) was crying at the funeral of his twin brother, Ethan (also played by Shia). He was crying in a very touching way, quiet, by touching. Seldom young guys (he is only 22 now) in Hollywood nowadays can do that. Maybe because this is more like an oriental way. If you watched some Chinese, Japanese or Korean movies, you can see that at least half of the time, when a dude cries, he cries in such a way.

In an interview, Shia LaBeouf compared himself to Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hanks. He said that they all have the "defected looking", so cannot be some "idols". I think the biggest thing in common he shares with Tom Hanks is the baby face. Tom Hanks suffered quite many years before his wrinkles came out and proved that he was a mature man. Shia used mustarche to cover his baby face in this film, but still not quite convincing, especially when his "partner" was played by Michelle Monaghan. Michelle is 12 years older than him, and quite appropriate to play such a struggling single mum. (BTW, her last movie, Made of Honor http://snowscorpio.blogspot.com/2008/06/grab-bride-as-you-can-made-of-honor.html also quite nice.)

(OK, he IS a big boy now...)

As to the supporting roles, the most impressive one is the FBI agent played by Billy Bob Thornton. This role could be quite boring if he did it in a "traditional" way.

Now back to the theme of this film. People are always so scared that one day some "super computer" will take control of this world. But on the other hand, people are quite comfort with the benefits from the automatic and efficient life style brought by the modern computer techniques. Some of the terms in this film actually exist: "Eagle Eye" is a total defense system brought up by US government, to utilize the internet, GPS and all kinds of monitoring equipments to locate the suspicious targets, like Osama (but this is only a monitor-and-report system, cannot do any "auto control" stuff, nor is it controlled by some "super computer"); "Big Brother" (mentioned in a news report at the very beginning of the film) is a terminology used in Internet world, referring the "central control" of domain names, communication protocols, etc.; the "monitor every mobile phone call" technique is possible, but no one wants to do it currently, not because of any privacy problem, but the huge money needed to do that (except for the Bourne Ultimatum movie...).

As a computer and AI professional, what I can say is, the "total control" is possible, with much, much more money than that US government wants to use to save this round of the financial crisis, EVERY YEAR. And if that comes true, the possible damage to world economy by a trivial mistake in the "controal centre" will be MUCH, MUCH MORE than the money invested into it. So, not from a social, but a realistic point of view, I could not any possibility that any one is willing to invest such a huge amount to do such a highly risky thing, -- that, violates the basic rules of economics.

Now, why so scared about computer?

(Read the Chinese version: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_540d06ba0100azs1.html)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Love Story under a Horror Skin -- "Painted Skin"

This Chinese movie is based on an ancient ghost story recorded in the famous Chinese short novel collection "Liao Zhai Zhi Yi" (basically this is a collection of traditional Chinese ghost and demon stories, which was written over 200 years ago). The original story tells about a demon that maintains the outlook of a young beauty by eating human hearts every day. And the most horrible scene is when the demon "takes off" the skin and does make-up on it! (That's the origin of the name "Painted Skin")
The movie uses this plot, but don't mistake it with any other horror or ghost movies, or expect quite many bloody scenes or zombies in it. Down to the earth, this is about a love story.
Two men fell for one same girl, and she chose one, so the other one left in sorrow. Years later, the husband took back a mysterious girl, who obviously had this kind of crush in him. Wife found out that the girl was not just a girl, so she asked the other man that loved her to come back and investigate it. But they lost to the girl again and again, finally the wife had to turn herself into a "demon", to get the promise from the girl that she would not kill anybody any more, including the husband. But the husband did not give up his wife, even he believed that she was a demon. His choice was to kill her and himself. End of the day, the real demon was destroyed, and before she died, she regretted and used her power to bring back to life the couple in love.
Not quite a fascinating plot, I know. But you should watch this movie, even if you don't understand Chinese, because true love does not prefer any language.
True love, is not exclusion, but sacriface. You can enjoy this movie more if you can understand this point. Or, you will understand more about this point after you watch this movie.
Most girls, especially Eastern ones, would prefer those sensitive man, instead of those strong and tough guys. But the thing is, when a man is too sensitive, he will almost always hurt you some day, when the timing is right. A tough guy could hardly hurt you by any way, once he has chosen you as the one, but you might hardly feel his sensitive side for all the time. So you need to choose. Unfortunately, most girls will make one or several wrong choices for them during their lifetime.
The director is brilliant, for he managed to make a movie that so much like a whole. You can say that many parts of this movie, like the roles, are not the best one among the alternatives, but when you make the puzzle up, you could not find anything more appropriate than that. A great movie does not need one single brilliant component, but a brilliant combination.
Perhaps the only fallback of this movie is the voice of one leading role, Zhou Xin (as the demon Xiao Wei). She is a famous Chinese actress and has won quite some domestic and international awards. But her voice is rough and discomfortable, which she insisted to stick to it all these years long. She might have her insist, but the audience should have their choices also.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Artificial Messiah -- Babylon A.D.

When the show ended, friend asked me, "It this the end?" Not because that we did not want it to end, but we COULD NOT UNDERSTAND how it could possibly end like THIS?!

The inspiration seems to root in "Children of Men". Damaged and pollted earth, ex-USSR countries are all in a mess, and the only paradise is the two countried in North America (you know who they are). Sounds like Cold War? Come on, even James Bond has aged since then!

There's a mysterious and genius girl, mysterically pregnant like Maria, but her intelligence was from some super computer, just like a perfect (or perfectly awful?) mixture of modern science and ancient religion. I just feel like that the director is trying to find a way out, but he did not understand that there are two ways, via different directions, while he just tried to make them one, which was doomed to fail.

It's like a personal show time for Vin Diesel. After all those crazy things in "xXx", in this movie you can expect snow motorcycle, racing, shooting, fighting, you name it. But what else?
At first I was hoping to see him and Michelle Yeoh, because of that classic quote "You are not a gentleman" from "Gone with the Wind". Unfortunately, Vin Diesel might look a bit like Rhett Butler, but Michelle is not a single piece of Scarlett. Finally she left earlier than I expected.
And it's actually quite interesting to see the chemistry between Vin Diesel and Mélanie Thierry, like "Beauty & Beast". This young lady just looks like a new Mila Jovovic, and her role is just like Mila in "The Fifth Element". (And, actually Vin Diesel looks like Bruce Willis sometimes...) Although they look more like a father-daughter pair, the scenes in the bathroom did bring some sparks. Pity that Michelle Yeoh came back too early...
Besides these, we have to say that we know too little about this Diesel...

The ending is in a rush. If they were running out of budget, then why not just leave this topic to someone else?

Chinese version: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_540d06ba0100at5p.html