Friday, August 30, 2013

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) Review

When a cop is forcefully recruited into a secret government agency, he finds himself facing danger unlike anything he’s dealt with before. Even if those threats don’t kill him, he may not survive the assassination training by an eccentric ancient martial arts master. Sounds pretty serious, but the focus us more on laughs and the interaction between the leads.  The end result is a very uneven film with a uniquely goofy charm that sets it apart from your run of the mill action movie.

Remo Williams Title

This movie about a rookie assassin launched into the crowded 1980’s action film glut failed to generate a box office killing and became something of a minor cult film instead. That’s appropriate since this action comedy was based on cult series of pulp novels called The Destroyer. Originally conceived as a spoof of James Bond and Bruce Lee movies, the novels veered off in another direction around the third installment when they became a very politically incorrect satire of absolutely everything and anything.

One of the fans of the series was Dick Clark of American Bandstand fame and he banded together with other producers to try to adapt the very irreverent and more than R-rated materiel into something for the masses. Hiring the famous James Bond movie director Guy Hamilton promised that the action would be well staged, but could they capture the odd style of the books? Well, there’s only one way to find out…

Remo Williams Sinanju

Asian inspired music opens the credit titles with accompanying glimpses of a very strange structure adorned with television antennae. Never explained in the film, this is a brief look at the home of a certain character from Korea built by many architects from around the world over the centuries, hence its hodgepodge appearance. It is a symbol of one of the bigger problems of the movie has: omitting explanations for the background concepts presented.

Normally I’m one for not having everything explained in a story. In fact, I find it very insulting. However, there is a minimum needed to bring people along who are unacquainted with the source material. This movie just manages to miss the required amount. Still, it is a nice “Easter egg” for fans of the novels.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Sound Decision

Little did I know that I’d end up with some quality headphones within a few days after my last post. Research had led me to AKG’s K 240 being the best performer for my auditory tastes while not spending hundreds of dollars. However, I kept digging due to a feeling I hadn’t considered every option. Wandering about the audiophile side of the Net I ran into something that was too good to be true: under $50 headphones that rivaled $150-1500 cans. But the more I dug into the phones it became clear this wasn’t a come on or mass delusion. UPDATED 8-29, see below the fold.

Enter the Superlux HD681’s which I purchased for just under $32 U.S. from Amazon.

These are full size circumaural (enclose the entire ear) headphones with a phenomenal range of 10-30,000 Hz. Nobody wears these to impress anyone for they are the cheapest looking plastic affairs I’ve ever seen. Muted red plastic trim adds to the dullness of appearance.

Fortunately, they are anything but dull in sound. Absolutely amazing range with deep yet controlled, bass, sparkling mid-tones, and extreme highs. The latter can be too much depending on the kind of music played and many will probably want to use an equalizer to tone down the high frequencies.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Insert Title Here Post

Ever try to use your brain only to find a busy signal, or worse yet, an answering machine? That’s how I’ve felt so far this week. Fortunately for me it is only Tuesday evening and the rest of the week awaits. Life has seemed hectic lately, yet I think it is only my perception of things rather than it being busy.

Part of the vapidity I currently suffer from has much to do with being overly tired. I’ve been pushing my limits again and finding out that they have become more restrictive. Not encouraging, but I work with what I’m given. This time around, I made myself fairly ill the middle of last week by really overdoing things. Still, it could be worse.

The last two Sunday’s have been particularly interesting due to changes at church. Bidding farewell to those you are fond of is always a melancholy things, usually a little while after when it hits you that you won’t be seeing them around anymore. In this case, an older couple moving out to the West to be nearer the kids and grandchildren marks the end of an era to me.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The African Queen (1951) Review

Take two aging stars worried about their careers and one dangerously close to being blacklisted director, stir in a splash of Technicolor, then add location shooting in Africa. What does this recipe make? One of the most unlikely films to ever grace many a list of greatest movies.

The African Queen Title

Star Humphrey Bogart reunites with director John Huston with Katherine Hepburn onboard for a wonderfully adult romance about two losers trying to sink a German boat in WWI Africa. Spectacular scenery, great acting, and fantastic writing make for a highly entertaining experience that has easily withstood the test of time.

Adapted from a novel by C.S. Forester of Horatio Hornblower fame, this gem of a film starts out in somewhat unconventional fashion. The name of the movie appears with a very important caption under it, “Color by TECHNICOLOR.” We’re used to color today, but in 1951 most movies were still in black and white making this a big deal.

So watching the credits go by while moving through exotic jungle trees with equally rare animal noises in the background had to be quite a thrill to theater goers. I know it got my attention as a little kid and I grew up with color. An air of promise fills the screen, promise that you are about to see an adventure straight out of National Geographic Magazine.

But does it live up to those expectations? Read on to find out.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sailing the High Seas of Spam Piracy

No, this post isn’t about hijacking trucks coming out of Hormel’s canning plants.What I’m on about is the latest referral spam to visit Blogger’s stats for From the Sidelines, http : // getfilesme . com / UPDATED 19 Oct 2013 to include filesw8 . com

getfilesme spam 01

filesw8 Spam


First off, don’t click on the referral if you see it, there is no point in feeding the spammers and associating yourself with piracy if the government comes snooping around on behalf of the entertainment industry. You also don’t know what you could catch from visiting such sites since they are a favorite way to spread trojans, keyloggers, and all sorts of malware. In other words, don’t try this at home kids.

UPDATE: A nearly identical site showed up today as filesw8 . com and I have no doubt it is put up by the same people. Stay away from it too.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A Ripping Good Time

An adventure into audio featuring:

  • Sound! (an Asus Xonar DSX)
  • Action! (CD ripping)
  • Thrills! (swapping an op-amp with an OPA2111KP)
  • Wildlife! (Media Monkey)
  • And a cast of thousands! (my music collection)

When opportunity knocks, you are obliged to take it up on its offer, no matter how dangerous it may be. That’s living life on the bleeding edge of technology and it isn’t for everyone. But for the daring there are rewards to be had, oh yes.

So when the onboard audio of my new motherboard didn’t impress me with its decidedly unmellifluous tones, it left me looking for a new conduit to pump my eight thousand odd music tracks through. It had to have good clarity and not cost over a hundred bucks.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

More Polish Spam

It seems I’m getting more referral spam linking to websites in Poland than anywhere else these days. The latest is http : // butyairmax90 . pl / which leads to a Nike shoes site (via my virtual Windows XP machine):

butyaimmax90 spam

How much you want to bet these are knockoffs and not the real thing?

Wrist watches have long been status symbols, so cheap copies of Rolex’s is something one expects. However, the rise of the expensive running shoe has been something that has occurred in my lifetime and is extremely silly to me. There is money to be had there no matter what my viewpoint is so this kind of spam is getting common.

Do not click on the link if it shows up in your Blogger stats or emails!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Wolverine in Theater Review

The opportunity to go see The Wolverine with a friend presented itself this weekend, so I decided to journey out for the occasion. Promises of Thai food had nothing to do with it, or so I’ll claim. It was entertaining if not as nuanced and filling as the meal beforehand.

To understand where I come from in this short review, please understand that I though Wolverine: Origins was one of the worst superhero movies ever made. Even Daredevil was better and I will speak of it no further, for I do not wish to relive the trauma.

My introduction to Logan aka Wolverine was finding the first issue of his 1982 miniseries in a drug store in tiny Spring Grove, Minnesota. Though a big comic book fan, I didn’t know the X-Men at all and that Frank Miller miniseries was a mind blowing experience. Combing aspects of film noir and Japanese art house movies it contributed to my becoming fans of both.

So Hugh Jackman finally got his wish and got the story from the miniseries adapted for the latest movie to my interest. The end result was a mixed bag as the plot fails to be coherent in places and the ending fight is simply one fight too many. However, the cast was excellent and how I wish they could have done a straight adaptation given the uniformly excellent performances.

Jackman simply is Logan to most people, but I’ll say this is the character I remember from the 1980’s on screen for the first time. The wounded ronin tired of living a life of loss and finding his reason for being was what made the 1982 comic book so interesting. Likewise, the story here gives us a much more fascinating and human Wolverine.

I should point out the actresses dominate this movie. Mariko, Yukio, and Viper are all strong characters played with style by their respective portrayers. It is hard to feel sorry for Logan when he has such women to interact with, I must say. Of the many changes from the original story, there is one I approve of: the softening of Yukio’s personality. Never a fan of her in the comics, I loved this version of her.

If you are a fan of Asian martial arts cinema, you will enjoy the fight scenes for they do go somewhat over the top while not going too far.  Without giving away too much, I’ll say some of them were overlong and the film could have lost ten minutes and been much leaner. The much advertised train battle was much better than I expected.

Something I’ve noticed lately is that superhero and other blockbuster movies this year are having third act problems. Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and The Wolverine all feature violent battles at the end that lack any genuine emotion or suspense. They are very fill in the blank in the way they’re written, not just formulaic. For examples of how to do it right, see the Chris Nolan Batman trilogy, Man of Steel, Captain America, Star Trek, and even Pacific Rim.

Anyway, the movie came in fourth on my list of X-Men movies, behind X-Men: First Class, X-Men 2, and X-Men.

The movie is entertaining and great fun for action fans, comic book nerds, and Japanese film buffs. Be warned there is profanity with the F-bomb deployed once and blood. Not suitable for small kids in the least.

Friday, August 02, 2013

A Couple of Drive-by Spams

We all notice the spam that hammers our referral statistics on Blogger’s control panel. But there is spam that only hits once or twice and is only seen if you are there at the right time. A couple of cases of these “drive-by” spammers were seen by me this week and you couldn’t get any different in what they were promoting.

First, one that hit today: http : // girlswithglasses . blognet . pw /

This happens to be hosted on blogger but with a name like that I was suspicious and fired up my virtual machine. Sure enough, it is a porn site looking to make money off of clicks. Do not click! Needless to say, there won’t be a screen capture.

coal spam

The other one was suspicious since it looked like it was masquerading as a legitimate site: http: // quitcoal . org / node / add

Well, it is a legit site. This is a Greenpeace run anti-coal page and it appears someone was trying to make people who clicked on the link automatically join the petition/site. Of course that’s an error message you see in the screen shot, so that forced recruitment failed.

Political referral spam, this is a first in my experience. I’m sure the individual responsible felt righteously motivated and justified in saving the planet. However, a policy of the ends justifying the means always leads into darkness and soon the would be do-gooder is a force of evil rather than good. In other words, a spammer.

By the way, I included the entire virtual machine window to show off my new way of flirting with disaster (cue Molly Hatchet) – checking out sites with Windows XP. The installation is setup to be roughly what an average user would have in the way of security to see what kind of nasty infections I can get from these sites. It’s actually a clone of a clean installation too, so I can do this without any hassle of reinstalls.