Sunday, December 28, 2008

Unbelievable Vista

It's really unbelievable that Vista comes with a "complimentary" .Net Framework 1.1 plus SP1 which will cause an "endless" installation of a mysterious patch KB929729, given that actually Vista gives you another .Net Framework 3.5 at the same time!

The problem appears when I got my new laptop, with a pre-installed WindowsVista Business version, which is with this notorious .Net Framework 1.1. This version of .Net Framework was known for its stability on Windows XP before, but when it appeared that it was not compatible with the later .Net Framework 2.0 (or I should say it the other way round?), it turned into a nightmare of many developers and even some casual users. One example is the Paint.Net tool (btw I really love this free and handly tool, as a alternative for the expensive and complicated PhotoShop), which swang between these two versions of .Net Framework for quite a long time, and even gave some releases with a .Net Framework 1.1 embedded. Finally those Paint.Net guys chose to follow the latest one, just as most rational developers will do.

After several unsuccessful tries (I got a lot of help from Peter, but sorry I still could not make it...), I had to remove the whole .Net Framework 1.1, so that the "genius" Windows Update will not prompt me for this patch update any more. And guess what, none of my application SW complained about that! Obviously those latest versions of the tools I use have already tuned themselves to the latest version of .Net Framework, which I assume to be 3.5 on my Vista. So, why bother stick to the troublesome 1.1?

Still in a headache period with my new laptop and this new OS:
  1. I cannot see the defragmentation report before do the actual defragment, nor can I see the progress of it.
  2. I cannot find the plain "Add/Remove SW" button anymore.
  3. The "Windows Live Messenger Installation" always fails. (I had to manually download it and install it to bring back my MSN...)
  4. The Windows Media Player 11 still does not include any meaningful codec. I have to download a free codec package to play a traditional DVD. (Microsoft insists that ppl should "purchase" these codec, but pls tell me, how many ppl really did that?)
  5. ...

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Bite of Green Apple – Twilight

Most green apples have a flavor of mixture of sweet and sour, just like that of teenagers’ love. And the temptation of a beautiful green apple, is also like that of a healthy young girl to a … vampire, -- You just want to give it a bite.

At the first glimpse, “Twilight” looks not quite particular in a whole bunch of vampire movie recent years: It doesn’t have the all-star cast like “Interview with the Vampire”, nor does it have the terrific CG effects like “Van Helsing” and “Underworld”. Actually after I finished watching it, it somewhat reminds me the underrated “Queen of the Damned”. If the latter is like a rock song (they used a lot of rock songs in that movie indeed), the “Twilight” will be a “pure love” version.

The word “pure love” here is a word-to-word translation from a Japanese word “jun-ai” (“純愛” in Japanese and Chinese), which is used to described a type of books, movies, cartoons and music, where the theme is “true love can conquer everything”. The leading roles, normally the boy and the girl, always have some great obstacles in their way to the happy-ever-after ending, some are even taboos. The struggle of the couple, and the love shown during this struggle, is the major part, while the real world outside of them and the final endings, happy or not (actually most of the time is unhappy, with death of disease, death of accident, suicide, etc.), are relatively unimportant. This kind of theme is quite popular in East-Asian pop culture nowadays, where you can find a lot of related productions in Japan, Korea, China, etc.

Now you should see the connections between “Twilight” and “jun-ai”: High school boy and girl, teenagers’ love, great obstacles (vampire vs. human being), struggle, all these made it a typical “jun-ai” movie. In western cultures, ppl are used to sex, drugs and violence in high school, and it makes them quite “refreshed” to have a bite of green apple now.

The storyline is quite simple, and there are only a few scenes to demonstrate the mighty power of vampires (not even worthy to mention them once you’ve watched “Van Helsing” and “Underworld”). The huge success in the box office in U.S. has to come from the great acting of the two leading characters: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Rather fresh persons in the show business (the most remarkable roles for them before “Twilight”, is the dead senior of Harry Potter for Pattinson, and Jodie Foster’s daughter in “Panic Room” for Miss Stewart), both successfully portrayed the shy and lonely (sometimes even freak) teenagers. I particularly like the scenes when Edward tried to start a conversation with Bella with some awkward topics or techniques, and when Bella tried to talk to Edward with a stuttering voice. These scenes look so real, that sometimes I even thought Miss Stewart might really have a crush on Pattinson (maybe actually she does? ^_^).

The makeup of vampires, although already well defined in “Interview with the Vampire” and “Dracula”, looks more like a fake in “Twilight”. Seems they wanna use a mimic of Johnny Depp in “Edward the Scissorhands” (OK, they have the same first name at least), but ended up with a worn-out one. There have been a lot of reviews calling Pattinsom “beautiful”, and even more call him “over-aged”. To me the most remarkable thing in his outlook is his eyes: You can hardly miss them in the crowd. Luckily he got some real gift in acting to balance the outlook.

There’s nothing in “Twilight” that can get you “horror”. So what a young girl screamed in my cinema and tried to find a shelter in her boy friend’s chest, all audience turned back to watch this “show”…

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Australian “Gone with the Wind”

Many ppl called it “the Australian version of ‘Gone with the Wind’ ”, and it really deserves it.

From a half-Caucasian-half-aboriginal boy’s point of view, the kettle breeding, racial discrimination, and the aboriginal culture are interwoven into a big carpet, which is then put in the WWII era. This really reminds me the cotton plantations and slavery in the South, with the American Civil War as the background. And the Great Plains, ranches and deserts, are just like an Aussie version of Tara. (Actually there IS a county called “Tara” in New South Wales, Australia. Built by Irish ppl, maybe?) The air attack to Darwin, maybe not as “hot” as the burn-down of Atlanta, but it’s much more striking, just like the Pearl Harbor. The “Drover” played by Hugh Jackman, is just a cowboy Rhett Butler; But the “Mrs. Boss” (Lady Ashley) played by Nicole Kidman, looks more like Melanie, instead of Scarlet. At the beginning, when a noble lady first stepped on this semi-civilized continent, she behaved like a proud little cuttie who went to the ball for the first time; but when she needs to fight against the villain Neil Fletcher to protect her ranch, it seems that she is far from capable for that (My Lady, if I were you, when that bastard came to my house alone, just use one single shot, and offer the body to the crocodiles, and that, I believe, is what Scarlet is definitely capable of.).

The part that describes the culture of the aboriginals, esp. the soul songs, is a bit too long. The whole movie lasts for 2 hrs 45 min!

For the two made-in-Australia superstars, there’s nothing much “outstanding” here. Hugh Jackman keeps changing between Wolverine and Leopard, and Nicole Kidman definitely learns a lot from Vivian Leigh (one scene she stands under a big tree in the dusk almost makes me shout out “After all, tomorrow is another day!”…). Her best parts are almost all with the little boy Nullah, esp. the two scenes (farewell and reunion) at the wharf, which show us the true love from a mother. Nice job for David Wenham (he also cooperated with Hugh Jackman in “Van Helsing” before), for the bad guy he portrayed is really sth. that you wanna bomb his head with your own heads. But the biggest surprise of this movie is the aboriginal young actor Brandon Walters, a.k.a., Nullah. Compared to the well-trained Jaden Smith, you have to admit that this freshman for acting really got some genius in this area.

The Tourism Australia is one of the major sponsors of this movie, so you can expect a lot of beautiful views of Australia in it. The sponsorship is definitely successful, because now I have already been craving for another Australian trip, esp. Darwin.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Unbeatable True Love? -- The Day the Earth Stood Still

A remake of Black-and-White classic, plus Keanu Reeves, the new “The Day the Earth Stood Still” somehow did not impress me as it should have.

From Cold War to environment protection, Aliens sent the messages, and human kind seems never listened. At the end of the day, the handsome Alien guy (or I should say, a clone) was so touched by the single mother he met, that he sacrificed himself to terminate the program that was supposed to destroy mankind. Looks like true love can beat anything, even Aliens… But just can’t image those high-tech Aliens still use palm recognition to trigger the switch!

The relationship between the mother scientist and the stepson costs a lot of effort, but was it really worthy? The little boy’s imagination about his Rambo-like father looks so unreal, even for a little boy. The mother chose to escape with the Alien guy (given that the guy looks just the same as Keanu Reeves, that’s understandable…) yet still taking a little boy with them? Why not just put the boy at the Professor’s house? That looks much wiser, more like a scientist’s choice, not a panic mother. Or, they just want to keep Mr. Smith Junior in the show. And after the mother was captured, the boy made friends with the Alien within seconds! Amazing? Or I should say, just a human nature of survival?

From Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly to Jaden Smith, the face expressions increased, in that order; and the drama we could feel decreased, in that order. Young Smith got a very emotional acting gift, but that could not save the failure of the scripts. Keanu is almost without any expressions, but God know we just like that! His acting is making you think, about every word he said, and every flash in his eyes. But pls exclude the part about two Aliens talking in McDonald, in Chinese! I can tell you that their Mandarin is very lousy, and I just don’t understand why the writers use such a scene to try to flatter Chinese-speaking audience. To be frank, I only felt insulted. For Jennifer, it seems that how she understands the word “mother” is, as long as the child is at present, you see nothing, talk about nothing, and do for nothing, except for the kid. Ideal mother, which never exists. But in the scenes she is alone or with Keanu, we can still see what a good actress should do. Pity for her Gothic-looking face, maybe she should try again if she is playing the Alien next time.
The Madam Secretary is an obvious metaphor to Rice. The U.S.-central theory is so out-of-date, especially given the news that Mr. Obama called China for help. So I just don’t know whether the scripts were really meant for this theory (I suppose the scripts had been finished before the sub-prime crisis), or this is just a joke. Either way, it makes me even more disgusted. The lines that the U.S. President gave the stupid order of using missiles against the Aliens while he himself (I assume that he is a “he”) were hiding in a “safe location”, are really typical to the current Mr. President. God blessed he is soon to leave.

There are always a lot of digital effects in such a movie nowadays. But the scene that a stadium was destroyed by the “metal locusts” looks not that gorgeous. Maybe they should try the Lady Liberty next time? As a reference, I suggest them (and you too, if you have interests) to watch the Japanese movie “Sinking of Japan”. Also a remake from a classic some 30 yrs ago, this latest one “destroyed” a lot of grand Buddha statues, castles, palaces and other famous buildings in Japan. That, is what I call “destroy human kind”, by destroying all the icons of human civilization, not just a stadium, not some mountains or rivers (that is what I call “destroy the nature”). And one bug I found about digital effects is the scene that when Klaatu and Helen were talking in the cemetery, the yellow leaves on the ground were waved up by the wind, but the trees in the background didn’t move a single twig! Keanu looks like to be “pasted” to the background actually. Even if they need to do sth to the clouds, it should not be that hard to use a more vivid way to do that.

BTW, is there anything related to “earth stood still” here? Actually I wanna call this movie “The Day the Alien Visited”.