Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Keep Portland Weird! UFO Response Team on Patrol!

I just had to share this picture taken by a friend around downtown Portland [Oregon] the other day. I laughed at first, for a millisecond thinking this was some odd legitimate detachment of our tax dollars flowing down the sewers as fast as the ever-present rain....then I thought...aww...its a private vehicle...STILL Hilarious.

[I may have embellished a bit]

Welcome to Portland, my friends!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Avatar - The BEST movie experience i've ever had.

My wife and I saw the Avatar movie last week, in 3-D, not the IMAX version one theater over, because we missed that one by an hour. Such is the way of busy family life!  But we raced in to catch the tale end of the"Alice and Wonderland" trailer by one of my long-favorite directors 'Tim Burton'. -which of course looked equally amazing and visually rich.  Pixar also let us know what will surely be fun "Toy Story 3" will be out soon.  I was so excited-this was my first 3-D movie, ever! Well, except for that purely demonstrative glance at Red and Blue glasses for my daughter's "Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus" dvd..heh..I HAD to make sure it worked right!??

I knew it was going to be great, when even the movie previews were flying out at me, seemingly only within arms length away!

Around half-way through the movie, I breathed a silent sigh of relief, that there was very few things that really bugged me about this movie, but none of them detracted from the overall result. The biggest concern, prior to seeing this, was all the critics panning the story as ‘done-before’ or too ‘simplified’. I for once disagreed, feeling that a simple story does not necessarily equate to less of a thoughtful, important or impactful one. If this movies plot had been more complicated, with numerous hard-to-follow twists and turns, I think the whole film as a whole would have been too overwhelming. One can only concentrate on so many things at once, and for this film, the visuals take all the thinking to absorb, the story is a nice easy-to-swallow thread that ties it all together. It’s immediately familiar, timely, sometimes heartwarming, thought-provoking and cautionary.

It also didn’t help, that the story did remind me of ‘Dances with Wolves’, which was and still is one of my favorite movies, and the book was incredible as well. Instead of Great Plains, horses and civil war soldiers, we have an incredible neon-lush jungle, exotic mounted dragons, and a futuristic marine corp on a resource pillaging mission.

And speaking of that jungle! It felt like there were new arrays of color and objects existing in this made-up world than I have ever even imagined before. It really was as close to being transported into another world as any human in this world could be lucky enough to experience. Going to the real Congo, or Amazon, wouldn’t even come close-and that is saying a lot.

Branches glistened with glowing hues like some black-lit rave party on acid. Footsteps stirred up glowing moss on the ground with every step, which faded away. Strange yet somehow familiar insects flew in the foreground, almost causing the urge to swat them away, while others crawled around tree-trunks. Vicious animals and beautiful floating things everywhere. There was plenty of action too, upon entering this land for the first time, Sam Worthington’s avatar is promptly attacked by a pack of hyena like creatures resembling Doberman Pinchers, and then a huge ‘Hammerhead Titanothere’ attack, not to be out-done by the overwhelmingly fierce ‘Thanator’ which James Cameron actually designed himself. Think Panther from hell, and you will get a good idea.

There are countless other creatures that are so fascinating I wished I could just jump into the screen and study them for hours…
Probably the biggest complaint came half-way through, the introduction of the main ‘bad-guy’ of the movie, Colonel Miles Quaritch. He fits the bill well enough for the no-nonsense, zero-empathy typical Hollywood personification of the one-dimensional military leader. And this is unfortunate, given the complexity the mission they are embarked on. He seems to react to every hiccup and diversion with hopelessly Jar-headed quips like, “I want this mission high and tight. I want to be home for dinner!” Come on, as a military guy, Hollywood writers really get on my nerves sometimes. I mean, not ALL of us are Jarheads, simpletons, or brainless robots that merely shout ‘Hoo-rah’ while cross-eyed as we march to our deaths! Some of us are diverse, introspective, worldly and sometimes even artistic and [gasp] sensitive fellows! If Colonel Quaritch had had a few fleeting glimpses of hesitation, even a thoughtful internal struggle at giving the order to destroy this culture...he would have been a hell of a lot more believable to me.

Though not all of his one-liners are as eye-rollingly shallow, he plays the part well, and is symbolic of a certain character and attitude that transcends into our own modern world’s political agenda’s.
I was hoping for some good vehicle battles, as hinted at in the trailer that I only allowed myself to watch once…and I was not let down. I’m all about futuristic military battles. The ending saw a horrendously amazing engagement that had so much going on, you could probably freeze-frame your future blu-ray copy and just study the amazing amount of work that went into this movie. It was intense, visually dense with action, and artistically refined in its simplicity. I couldn’t help but think of the ‘Star Wars’ Death Star trench scene, but with a LOT more colors. 
Strangely, this movie also marked a interesting change of perspective for me. Ordinarily I love just watching the battle play out, which is usually the good guys-killing off the bad guys. Here, I had a honest-to-goodness feeling of wanting the ‘military guys’ to actually fail miserably, and to crash and burn in their mission. The story might have been simple, but it was intensely effective enough to create a definite emotional sympathy for the Na’vi, specifically the main female ‘Neytiri’ and Jake Sully’s avatar. There are many themes here, mankind’s technology overcoming nature, but also how some cultures very ways of life and environment are endangered by those with more destructive tools, and agenda’s. I will leave that topic for another post.

The facial animations were so eerily close to the actual actors, it felt sometimes as if they were the actors merely with blue makeup on...this is especially noticeable with Sigourney Weaver's 'Dr. Grace' avatar. But alas, it is the female lead Na'vi in the story that completely captured not only mine, but my wife’s heart as well. She was utterly realistic, her movements and gestures so like a real woman as to be uncomfortable-her expressions and manner simultaneously exotic, strong, cautious, compassionate and naturally [for this make-believe world] beautiful in the most raw and perfect way possible. She was a character any guy would drool over, in those sublime boyhood dreams- but her allure is so innately powerful -any woman would look up at her with a sparkle in their eye.

Before I write a novel review here, I just wanted to give a nod to the newcomer special effects company on the block, whom so far, in the two movies I’ve seen their work in (Including ‘District 9’), are beyond anything I thought would be possible- New Zealand’s Weta Digital. But also, a thankful nod to the folks at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic-you may have heard of them) for lending a hand at completing the film for the overwhelmed fledgling company. The star wars folks helped finish some of the effects scenes alongside Weta, ensuring we all got to see the movie on schedule. More on that story HERE.
I think I fell in love with a CGI na'vi character 'Neytiri', really. Is this the beginning of something scary, odd, humorous and intriguing for the future of human/entertainment interaction?

My wife said it best when we were leaving our seats, "I think movie i've ever seen..."

I agree with her,
Avatar is sheer awesomeness...

Check out Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora (James Cameron's Avatar) for a interesting, further research into Pandora, which makes a nice keepsake for Avatar fans like me. I'm going to have to pick this one up for the ol' library.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Saints Win Super Bowl XLIV: 31-17 !

Yaaaaayy NEW ORLEANS! I hope they party it up big time, they needed the uplift!

Apparently, the (ahem) 'programmers' over at EA Sports NFL game franchise, had again simulated the Super Bowl this year. If you are interested in the latest iteration, you can of course find it here.

The winner? The Saints over the Colts by four, 35-31. [update:Close to their actual final score!!]

Madden NFL 10

That sounds good to me! I think New Orleans could use a good pick-me-up after recent years events.

How accurate is that? The video game simulation has been correct five out of the last six years. But as good as the Madden games have gotten at presenting realistic reproductions of what goes on on the field, there are intangibles that even sophisticated simulations like Madden can't factor-in. Nerves of rookie players and last-minute injuries are just a couple of them. The 2007-08 Patriots, the team that represents the one dark mark on the Madden simulation's record, saw that in Super Bowl XLII, when their sure-thing season evaporated under the glare of the cameras and Giants QB Eli Manning.

So, never fear, Colts. You'll have your chance to prove Madden wrong come post-halftime. Let's see what you got Manning!