Self/Less: Review

Self/Less is a film which reminds you constantly not to suspend belief. The plot in Self/Less isn’t bad in itself but paired with bad writing/dialogue and a flat performance from Ryan Reynolds it pushes the film from being a promising B-  film to a soulless cash in on tried formulas. An over reliance on action movie tropes ,such as exaggerated military training capabilities, makes Self/Less fall into the category of outright silliness at times.

Characters behave and react to events in illogical and absurd manners. We are treated with a relatively disappointing and weakly written female supporting roles in a post-Mad Max society. A thoroughly unscientific plot attempts to prove that it is grounded but falls painstakingly short and expounds the gullible nature of Ryan’s on-screen “wife” even further. What could have been embraced as a distant undiscovered possibility is squandered by unconvincing narrative.

This movie had an intriguing premise which would be better suited to relish in its obscurity. It focuses on tried and overused devices in Hollywood filmmaking. With a lack of rational characters and motives, Self/Less fumbles while searching for it’s identity. While there is an obvious protagonist and antagonist, there really shouldn’t be. The audience is essentially forced into an opinion which would be fine if there was some sort of reasonable payoff.

We are given a glimpse about a debate on who is really right and wrong but ultimately do not care due to lack of execution. Self/Less isn’t a terrible movie but it certainly isn’t one that treats its audience as though they are remotely intelligent.

Verdict: 4/10 (Skip)

 

How Naughty Dog Fit Crash Bandicoot into 2MB of RAM on the PS1

“Here’s a related anecdote from the late 1990s. I was one of the two programers (along with Andy Gavin) who wrote Crash Bandicoot for the PlayStation 1.

RAM was still a major issue even then. The PS1 had 2MB of RAM, and we had to do crazy things to get the game to fit. We had levels with over 10MB of data in them, and this had to be paged in and out dynamically, without any “hitches”—loading lags where the frame rate would drop below 30 Hz.

It mainly worked because Andy wrote an incredible paging system that would swap in and out 64K data pages as Crash traversed the level. This was a “full stack” tour de force, in that it ran the gamut from high-level memory management to opcode-level DMA coding. Andy even controlled the physical layout of bytes on the CD-ROM disk so that—even at 300KB/sec—the PS1 could load the data for each piece of a given level by the time Crash ended up there.

I wrote the packer tool that took the resources—sounds, art, lisp control code for critters, etc.—and packed them into 64K pages for Andy’s system. (Incidentally, this problem—producing the ideal packing into fixed-sized pages of a set of arbitrarily-sized objects—is NP-complete, and therefore likely impossible to solve optimally in polynomial—i.e., reasonable—time.)

Some levels barely fit, and my packer used a variety of algorithms (first-fit, best-fit, etc.) to try to find the best packing, including a stochastic search akin to the gradient descent process used in Simulated annealing. Basically, I had a whole bunch of different packing strategies, and would try them all and use the best result.

The problem with using a random guided search like that, though, is that you never know if you’re going to get the same result again. Some Crash levels fit into the maximum allowed number of pages (I think it was 21) only by virtue of the stochastic packer “getting lucky”. This meant that once you had the level packed, you might change the code for a turtle and never be able to find a 21-page packing again. There were times when one of the artists would want to change something, and it would blow out the page count, and we’d have to change other stuff semi-randomly until the packer again found a packing that worked. Try explaining this to a crabby artist at 3 in the morning. 🙂

By far the best part in retrospect—and the worst part at the time—was getting the core C/assembly code to fit. We were literally days away from the drop-dead date for the “gold master”—our last chance to make the holiday season before we lost the entire year—and we were randomly permuting C code into semantically identical but syntactically different manifestations to get the compiler to produce code that was 200, 125, 50, then 8 bytes smaller. Permuting as in, ”

for (i=0; i < x; i++)

“—what happens if we rewrite that as a while loop using a variable we already used above for something else? This was after we’d already exhausted the usual tricks of, e.g., stuffing data into the lower two bits of pointers (which only works because all addresses on the R3000 were 4-byte aligned).

Ultimately Crash fit into the PS1’s memory with 4 bytes to spare. Yes, 4 bytes out of 2097152. Good times.”

Dark Editorial: Jurassic World | Review

With all the mayhem and death that was going on in this film, they failed to show any on-screen kids getting eaten or hurt by dinosaurs. They showed plenty of adults getting eaten alive, though. The best they could show on-screen was the aftermath of kids with scratches getting treated. I suppose this can’t be helped. Our world has extremely weird taboos and standards. Being that violence and murder is fine but when it comes to anything sexual with nudity, then it’s too much for television/movies.

Another thing that I found amusing was Hoskins, head of InGen security, trying to persuade people to use the dinosaurs for military use. None of his arguments brought up our current use of canines overseas and how this would just be the evolution of military uses of animals. I guess that would be too real for audience and would make them feel guilty. People would like to forget that that there are actual animals dying in wars who are trained to sniff out IEDs. They had to paint this guy as a bad guy, so you can’t really blame them.

In the end, this movie was a good popcorn movie. If you are looking for a fun movie to watch, you won’t be disappointed.

Twin Peaks (Season 1 & 2) : Review

You go into Twin Peaks expecting weirdness but nothing prepares you for the  downright absurdity that unravels. Twin Peaks takes everything you expect out of a normal television program and turns it on its head. This show is heralded by its community of cult followers and shunned by many critics. Of course, Twin Peaks probably deserves some of these polarizing opinions. Yet no one could have anticipated the scope of Mark Frost and David Lynch’s vision.

Twin Peaks is a show with an ever expanding universe that encapsulates film, books, and even the auditory medium with it’s Grammy nominated “Diane…” tapes. I won’t even get started on how good the musical score is in Twin Peaks.  It’s not a show you can just sit down and jump into during your leisure.  Frost and Lynch make it their job to not let many details get by them in the show. Seemingly irrelevant trivialities that are overlooked by the characters in the show and the audience come back into play later on, sometimes with major implications.

This show wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Kyle MacLachlan. From the very start, in the critically acclaimed pilot, MacLachlan sets the tone for the eccentric, loving, and superbly charming Dale Cooper. His incredible portrayal of the investigating FBI agent could have held this show up on its own but he is accompanied by an ensemble cast and a list of recurring guest that are just as well acted and well cast. The story of Twin Peaks is hard to exactly summarize without it sounding practically ridiculous but the plot has symbolism and overarching themes that prevail throughout with great effect. Subplots are very much essential and well written to the point where I couldn’t wait to see what was happening at the Diner with Ed and Norma.

Some may say that Twin Peaks  is a show that is being weird for the sake of being weird but I think they should try giving it another chance. Twin peaks is a show that really proves itself every episode.  The season two finale left many things open and questions unanswered but that is all soon to change due to its impending revival. The fact that the renewal date of the show directly relates to the finale shows great promise for the continuity of the series.

I propose at least trying out Twin Peaks. I’m sure you’ll be hooked from the pilot alone and every episode wonder what exactly did you get yourself into. But god damn you won’t be able to pull yourself away. Twin Peaks is a show which is discussed and interpreted fervently by its viewers and community and you need to check it out immediately. Two Cooper thumbs way up!

Gone Girl: Review

“Did you kill your wife?” This is the slogan for the movie and the most important question asked in this film, but all is not what it seems in this mysterious drama. Ignoring misogynistic claims from the community, which are actually  sort of legitimate, I’m going to just focus on whether this film is good or bad. Gone Girl is a thriller that absorbs you in its story. The adaptation from the best selling novel from Gillian Flynn, translates relatively nice onto the big screen.

Thanks to the great directing from David Fincher and the source material. Major plot devices and elements aren’t sprung on you at the last possible moment for shock purposes. Rosamund Pike’s performance as the alleged killer’s wife Amy will certainly be receiving some nods come awards time. Ben Affleck portrayed the alleged killer’s role with a level of charisma and skill that is really great to watch. His performance up to and including the trial is really a a strong and pleasant reminder of what we could possibly be receiving when he masks himself as the caped crusader.

Gone Girl is  considerably dark; a theme and mood that Fincher is becoming synonymous with. Fincher flourishes in this adaptation of this mysterious and gloomy story. He somehow manages to invoke sympathy from multiple angles in this story, a difficult task considering this particular narrative. There are limitations to what can be done with adaptations, such as these. I couldn’t really comment on the faithfulness of the film to the source material but I was left wanting more at the conclusion of the movie.  We are given a fantastic build up and a relatively anticlimactic ending. This I must reiterate has no impact or takes away from the overall film in any way.

I was left satisfied and was thoroughly engrossed throughout. Affleck is truly on a great streak right now. We can only hope that his involvement in the Batman film does not force him out of roles like this. This might be on the last films we see before we can only see him as the Bat. I highly recommend going out to the theater and seeing this or pick it up on Blu-ray!

Fish Tank(2009): Review

In an ocean of independent films about troubled teenagers, Fish Tank truly sets itself apart from the pack. This a movie that I fell in love with progressively as it went on. Fish tank is a film I’m going to shower with praise because I really just can’t any faults in it.The best word to describe certain aspects of the film Fish Tank is authentic.

I sat there watching certain parts of the film, simply admiring how grounded the world seemed. It felt like I was looking outside of a window in  East London and spectating the lives of these characters.Camera work is phenomenal in this film.  The imagery isn’t the usual pretentious indie affair. There’s actual meaning for what the audience is allowed to see. The way the cinematographer selected what he should focus on was genius and allows for some great symbolism.

The director did a great job with the pacing in Fish Tank. A lot of independent movies end abstractly and almost feel completely detached from the rest of film. Fish Tank starts, progresses, and ends in a satisfying manner. It’s helped even further with fantastic writing.  The characters in Fish Tank are extremely well done. The performance by Katie Jarvis as the character Mia was really gripping.The dialogue was very well thought out for all of the characters. The dialogue almost seemed to give off the vibe that it was improvised for some sections of Mia’s scenes. That statement isn’t a criticism though; it’s just a testament to how absorbed I was in the world that Andrea Arnold had directed and penned.

Fish Tank is a forceful  drama that mesmerizes you by doing everything right. It’s a moving  piece of British cinema that works because its characters are convincing. It boasts a fantastic supporting cast and a real winner with a break out performance and debut from Katie Jarvis. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for more work from Andrea Arnold. I recommend this film if you like your heart strings being played on.

Transcendence: Review

Transcendence wanted so bad to prove to you that it wasn’t mediocre. It sports a great cast, great special effects, and  the premise of the story had so much potential that I almost had a semi reading the plot summary. Hollywood needs to learn that you can’t just throw money at a project and expect for the best.

The plot seemed like it was trying to do too much with too little time. A little more focus on the science behind what was happening on screen could have been beneficial. On the other hand, it also could have highlighted how ridiculous everything in this film actually was. We get a ton of run-of-the-mill performances from big name actors but the only real stand out is Paul Bettany. Maybe they should have thrown a couple more smooth talking English actors in the mix to give the illusion that the dialogue wasn’t uninspired.

Sentient artificial intelligence is a topic that I’m very attracted to. I am a great supporter of the Mass Effect series. This is a franchise that really shows how well a story about artificial intelligence can be done. In the universe of Mass Effect Artificial Intelligence is outlawed due to the dangers they present to organic beings.The basic premise of the plot in Transcendence is a bunch of religious nut jobs in an organization called R.I.F.T attack a scientist named William Castor. He is a man who is researching and developing a sentient machine. He is gravely injured and his grieving wife decides to take their research to the next stage by “uploading him”. The plot is a convoluted mess and the actions of the people on screen make little to no sense. In fact I think some characters roles in the film are so insignificant, I ponder why they even made it pass post production.

Wally Pfister who received well deserved attention for his cinematographic  work  on the movie Inception, made his directorial debut on the film. He did a  fair job but to be blunt I think this film needed him more in the cinematography aspect. Characters move around the screen in Transcendence like they don’t know what they are doing or where they are going. It just felt really sloppy and awkward at times to watch.

Transcendence is mostly horrible. Avoid it, unless you like blockbuster mediocrity.