Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trollhunter (2010) Review

College students go out in the woods with a camera and disappear leaving only footage behind. Sound familiar? Well, this time it’s a wee bit different thanks to plenty of dry Norwegian wit and a ludicrous subject played with straight faces. Hoping for an interesting story on bear poaching, the students soon find out the object of their pursuit is hunting something different – trolls. Is the man insane or is there more than bears out in the wilds of Norway?

Trollhunter Title

The found footage craze has slowly died down in movie making much to the relief of serious cinema buffs. However, this indie gem out of Norway proves that the format isn’t completely worthless and that a good movie can be made in the style. It doesn’t hurt that a very dark sense of humor is complimented by legitimate tension building, great effects, and deadpan acting.

Trollhunter ThomasTrollhunter JohannaTrollhunter Kalle

Like all found footage movies things begin with text on screen informing us that the following content was edited from footage recorded by missing people, in this case college students working on a project in 2008.  We quickly get to know the main characters through glimpses of them setting up their gear and an early introduction for a documentary they are filming.

Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) is the nerdy and earnest face of the production, clearly in charge even if not respected by his cameraman. Johanna (Johanna Morck) is an attractive blonde in charge of the boom mike and recording system. Her other job is trying to keep cameraman Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) from being a jerk toward Thomas.

Trollhunter HansTrollhunter Land Rover Damage

Their quarry is a suspected poacher killing bears and depositing them in random places in the countryside. Clued in by the hunting community, they eventually track down the mystery man known only as Hans. Hans (Otto Jespersen) is a gruff cipher who rebuffs the trio when they confront him at a trailer park.

Something isn’t right though, even accounting for his illegally killing bears. One look at his battered Land Rover reveals some very nasty claw marks that don’t look very ursine in origin. Then there is the horrible smell coming from his camper.

A Frightening Innovation in Malware?

It may be Halloween and a time for spooky tales from the dark recesses of the imagination, but real life has more than enough frightening things. As we are now a high technology bound society in the West, it seems some of the more alarming things involve computers. A new strain of malware has shown up that supposedly can use a computer's speakers and microphone to transmit data.

If this turns out to be a legitimate thing rather than a hoax, badBIOS is a thing of nightmares for IT and security experts. Normally I'd call this a fraud or someone having a paranoid break, but the technology has existed  in the world of espionage for decades that allowed lasers bounced off of windows to measure and detect conversation inside rooms, for instance. This would be the kind of project a government would be capable of in theory, most likely one of the big three: the United States, Russia, and China.

It's been awhile since I've seen a BIOS based attack get any press, so this caught my attention quickly. Of course simple precautions will prevent malware from getting on your system and this one is said to have come in on a USB thumb drive. However, the way this thing works is fascinating if real.

Part of me wants this to be a hoax, because this kind of PC infection would be incredibly difficult to deal with if it spread widely. Another part of me wants it to be real simply because it would be an amazing feat of computer science. But most of me is holding judgement until more evidence is brought forward.

UPDATED 6 Nov 2013:

While there is a possibility this is a real virus or trojan, the evidence isn't checking out and some are calling into question the mental stability of Dragos Ruiu. Strange behavior by him in social media is making it look like a paranoid episode, which is still bad news of a different kind. Given the fragmentation of BIOS implementations, it would be extremely difficult to pull off with limitations to attacking specific brands and models of PC's.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Halloween Scary (and Not So Scary) Movie Review List!

While I'm working on one last review that hopefully will be finished for tomorrow, here is a list of movie reviews I've done that fit the Halloween spirit. Featuring monsters, supernatural doings, or unsettling science fiction all offer something a little spooky fun:

The Black Hole
The 'Burbs
The Curse of Frankenstein
The Curse of the Werewolf 
Dracula (1931)
Dracula (1931 Spanish Version)
Forbidden Planet
Frankenstein (1931)

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris
Horror of Dracula 
The Legend of Hell House
The Mummy 
Pacific Rim 
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Spirited Away
The Watcher in the Woods

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pacific Rim (2013) Review

A high budget love letter from director Guillermo del Toro to Japanese science fiction cinema, this story of giant monsters and titanic robots failed to light up the domestic box office. Yet it was far from a failure becoming a massive hit worldwide. Aimed squarely at twelve year olds (including inner ones), a simple heroic story told mainly visually also targets the human heart despite being a brutal slugfest. Beautiful to behold, packed with action, and supported by a good cast it is a whole lot of fun.

Pacific Rim Title

A last minute decision was made to add this review to my Halloween lineup since it was time for a giant monster movie in the rotation. Featuring kaijus (giant monsters) fighting with mechas (giant robots) rendered with the most modern of effects, it certainly fills the bill. Also, I love this flick and wanted an excuse to do a full review of its Blu-ray release. Thanks to a large amount of extras, it turned into a Herculean endeavor.

But hey, better to go large, right? Speaking of which…

Pacific Rim Trespasser KaijuPacific Rim Horizon Brave Jaeger

Pacific Rim launches straight into a prologue packed to the gills with action and information narrated by a rueful voice looking back at the events. Set in the near future, a huge amount of exposition both verbal and visual comes at the audience at a furious rate. In summation, giant toxic monsters have emerged from a dimensional rift called the Breach in the ocean floor of the Pacific, towering robots were built in an international effort to stop them, and humanity thought they were winning.

This data overload is presented in the form of news clips, flashes of monsters called the Kaiju (Japanese for giant beasts) trashing cities, and scenes of Jaegers (German for hunter) being built. Not only does it set things up, but the montage gives glimpses of Kaiju and Kaeger designs that didn’t make the final cut. More interesting is that del Toro did not direct this portion of the prologue. Not one to use the “found footage” or pseudo documentary style, he instead assigned it to a trusted friend and was delighted with the results.

It has been awhile since I’ve seen a big budget movie dare to start in the middle of a story and while it might not be what people are now used to, I’ve always felt that it adds to the suspension of disbelief. After all, most of life is about wandering into a situation as it messily unfolds rather than being there from the beginning.

With the setup explained the movie really begins.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Not Dead, Just Pinin' for the Fjords

It was with some surprise that I realized I hadn't posted in nearly a week. Not feeling well, but not terribly ill I simply haven't had any energy.

So some tweaking around the edges on the site is all I've done, other than work on a review that will go up tomorrow after a final pass. Since the top posts widget is effectively broken thanks to it recording referral spam as hits, I've manually gone through my Google Analytics records to create a list of the most viewed reviews to replace it.

It means more work for me, but at least I'll know it's somewhat accurate.

To while away the time, watching old horror movies has been the main item on my agenda. That's been a fun nostalgia trip and exercise in comparing childhood memories to reality. So far my memories have been more accurate than expected, though I've remembered things from one movie being in another on a couple of occasions.

It is amazing what trivial things stick in our heads and my suspicion that because they are audio/visual in nature movies lodge more easily in our memories. Anyway, off to watch another!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Self Torture Time

Without anything special planned such as going to a party or some such thing, tonight I’m going to go see Plan 9 from Outer Space at the Spring Grove Cinema near by for a Halloween treat. Twelve miles is what I consider “near by.”  Now why would I pay money to watch the worst movie ever made (or so many think) after having seen the RiffTrax and normal versions of it within the past couple of years?

It’s going to be shown in 3D, that’s why.

Yes, Tor Johnson will loom larger than life out of the screen, fake Bela Legosi will jump out at slowly approach us, and flying saucers will zoom by realistically. I’m hoping for the wires to show up in three dimensions.

So it will be a welcome break from watching quality movies and taking notes on them for I will be abusing my sanity and lowering my IQ by watching Ed Wood’s gloriously awful masterpiece…

IN 3D!

Some time much later…

Well, that didn’t happen. I really need to stop planning to do things, especially things for fun. Unfortunately for me, the trip to the movie theater instead turned into a five hour detour into a nightmarish repair call of my father’s. So I’ll never see Plan 9 in 3D.

I really need to stop wanting to do things, all it does is cause me grief.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Odds and Ends October 2013

It is cold and damp as I write this post, which means winter draws ever closer. It has been a time of painful sleep that's slowed me down more than I expected, so every time I get a post up it feels like a minor victory. The weekend was a loss thanks to this.

For some reason Google has failed to fix a rather massive bug that appeared in their Blogspot code within the last month. Actually, it had appeared for some earlier, but now is getting widespread. What's the bug, you wonder?

They broke the ability to edit text widgets in the sidebars. For two weeks I've been struggling to edit the ones on the right of this post to no avail. Finally somebody came up with a workaround that I didn't want to use, but now am.So now I'm able to update what movies I've recently watched.

How Google can ignore this bug is beyond me, but so is most of their behavior in regards to support. I'm too tired to trash them at the moment.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Again With the Spam

While there hasn’t been a lot of new spam hitting this blog (been a lot of vampirestats lately), there has been one showing up under two different links and one that showed up on another blogger’s site.

Ourmeets Spam Warning

First up is the worst offender. Coming in as www . seoanalyses .com or under its real address,  ourmeets . com , this is a pornographic “dating” site. As you can see, it was blocked by OpenDNS, which I use to pre-filter anything coming into the house. Don’t click on it as it is exceedingly unsafe to visit.

kallery spam 01kallery spam 02

Next up is one that commenter Sarma listed.

kallery . net out of South Korea looks like a real site at first glance, but digging further reveals that it sends you off to other sites where art is for sale. That’s a traditional tactic of cross promoting links used to generate ad revenue or of black hat SEO to up search engine rankings. Appears relatively harmless, but I advise avoiding.

Notice the art quiz winners on the right hand sidebar of the first screenshot. What are the odds that four of them would be links promoting the site? The mind boggles!

I wonder what percentage of Web pages in the world are actually spam sites? The search engines have enough trouble keeping up with the legitimate content being put up.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) Review

Known for its revival of the old horror franchises it was odd that only one stab was made at the werewolf subgenre by Hammer Films. Starring a novice actor named Oliver Reed and loosely based on a lurid bestselling novel of the 1930’s, it was something of a gamble. Fortunately for audiences, what they got was a portrayal of the warring sides of the human psyche and what I view as the best werewolf movie ever made.

Curse of the Werewolf Title

Director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein) was unquestionably Hammer’s go to guy when it came to directing reinventions of Universal’s old monster films. Adept at handling action, moody tension, and able to get serious performances out his actors, Fisher once again was called on when it was time to bring back the werewolf to the silver screen.

Curse of the Werewolf Spain

Adapted from a novel, Werewolf in Paris, the movie takes huge liberties with the source material and all for the better. The biggest change is in setting, which is moved to late 18th Century Spain. This is made very clear by the bold lettering that was considered so stylish at the time. After seeing how that screen capture turned out, I couldn’t resist using it. In fact, it’s the only reason for it to be in the review.

Time to get more serious and write about the story. But I still am amused by the screenshot.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Nearly Normal

Despite still needing to replace the car, things have gotten close to normal now. A slew of things need doing and are slowly being stricken off the to-do list. So what does normal mean?

Well, I’m sick again, this time with an earache that slowly developed over the weekend in time to become a problem yesterday evening. My sense of balance and perception had been off, but I’d attributed it to being overly tired. No such luck.

It made driving the borrowed pickup truck interesting yesterday since I still don’t have the “feel” for driving large vehicles. As a result, I took out the mailbox while frantically backing out of the top of the driveway when confronted with a UPS van charging up its steep slope. I haven’t felt that way since being chased by a protective cow when I nearly stumbled into her calf.

Suffice it to say the back end of a full size pickup is a lot longer than I realized. Now we need a new mailbox.

Normal also means I can allow my dad to drive on his own and do repair calls solo again. The only reason I was driving on Monday was due to his eye exam for replacement glasses. Irony is that with his pupils artificially dilated, he gets to experience what I do normally in regards to light hurting the eyes.

Still haven’t gotten the headphones apart and will have to wait for my balance to return to mess with them. The way my aching left eardrum reacts to bass, there is no way I’d be able to tolerate them anyway.

Box Elder bugs are out in force, which is yet another sign summer is over. I’m hoping to get some photographs of fall colors later this week since the maples are turning yellow and orange now. My suspicion is that autumn foliage was going to be disappointing again this year, but hope springs eternal.

Not everything has been negative or mandatory the past week. Various Hammer Films DVD sets had their prices lowered on Amazon and I’ve gotten all the early horror films they made I liked, aside from one oddball. The Vulture is a rarity and one of their more absurd movies so I doubt I’ll find it. Correction: Hammer didn’t make it, which explains its lack of availability!

The best thing about this is I get to review my favorite Hammer Film for Halloween. It will be my surprise review and the next one to go up.

Another sign of normality was the coming around of General Conference again. For once I had trouble picking out favorite talks due to the exceptional quality all the way around this time. If I were forced to pick one out it would be Elder Bednar’s talk on tithing which should be mandatory for every Latter-day Saint to see. Anyone wondering how money is handled in the Church will find out it is the same model as how we are advised to run our personal finances.

Well, the ear is hurting so I’m going to wrap the post up. At least doing screen captures doesn’t require sound!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Whisper of the Heart (1995) Review

An early attempt by Hayao Miyazaki to step back from directing led to this soulful adaptation of a manga about a stubborn middle school student trying to find a direction in life. Filled with trials of school, friendship, family, and even romance, her journey takes her to the most controversial ending in Studio Ghibli history.

Whisper of the Heart Title

Adolescence is a turbulent period in the life due to all the new and confusing situations you encounter. Most of the trouble is in dealing with others while trying to figure out just who you are. This is a tricky balancing act in even the best of circumstances.

In our current culture, that time has extended well past the teens through the twenties to encroach on the thirty something’s. But in 1995 when Whisper of the Heart was released, there was still a desire to mature at an early age though it was fading.

Whisper of the Heart ShizukuWhisper of the Heart Book Cards

Set in a Japanese city, the film greets us with a montage of urban life after the sun has faded and the lights have just flickered on providing the glow that can make night life possible. It’s that period when responsibilities have mostly ended with the promise of things possible wafting through the summer air. Ironically, the Olivia Newton-John version of the song “Country Roads” is used as a backdrop for the cityscape.

Eventually we follow a girl leaving a market and accompany her home to a small family apartment. Shizuku Tsukishima is enjoying her summer break by burying herself in books about fairy tales. But a mystery arises for the middle school student when a name on the checkout card of a book she’s reading seems vaguely familiar. Sure enough, the same name appears on all the books she’s checked out from the library: Seiji Amasawa.