The Thanksgiving Post

Thanksgiving weekend was terrific. I headed back home to Virginia and spent the extended holiday weekend with my family. It was the longest time I’ve left Coolio unattended, but with her automated water/food setup she has now she was fine. Spent the time doing all the family goodness I miss down in Florida. Played a few fun rounds of Pictionary, all saw a movie together, had breakfast at Ihop and of course gorged on the usual excellent Thanksgiving dinner. Sarah was with me the entire time which was brilliant and we spent one night out in Arlington hanging out with Eric which was great. Got to meet Jake’s Lauren and Stefan’s Courtney finally, which was long overdue by very nice, and even got an unexpected call from the soon to be wed Paul Macleod. Quick visits with Ali and Bob and Duncan where possible too now that Sarah can ferry me around in her spiffy new car. It’s very her.

We did the classic Black Friday shopping too, but opted for a slightly later rise than years past (since when is 5:15 considered a late start…yikes) primarily because there where no specific sales we wanted to capitalize on. We all enjoyed a healthy does of merchandising though, and got a large chunk knocked out of my ever expanding shopping list for the holidays. As always its sad to have to leave, but knowing I’ll be coming back in a few short weeks for my favorite of the family holidays definitely helps.

The Beowulf Post

Beowulf has a spot somewhere in my brain where I file information I learnt in school (it’s in the back under some dusty books and covered in cobwebs if I’m not mistaken) -where I remember it fondly as one of the ‘cooler stories’ that I had to read as a fifth grader. Its sad that I remember enjoying reading anything more than a movie, but unfortunately this is decidedly the case with Beowulf.

The stage is set with a wide pan starting in the great gathering hall, zooming out over the snowcapped rooftops of the Nordic village. We further zoom out over a river, some trees, some more trees, and probably another river maybe some more trees. Sad thing is, that while pretty much everyone watching the film is trying to busy their mind thinking about where the movie is slowly going, the answer is ‘absolutely nowhere’.

The character models are rather lifeless and move more like the humanoid characters in Shrek. Facial features are impressive but primarily while the characters don’t speak. The original story is also scrapped in favor of a more ‘sleeping with Angelina Jolie and giving birth to golden dragon boys’-approach which would be fine if it worked. Incidentally it doesn’t. Beowulf himself resorts to bellowing “I…AM…BEOWULF” numerous times throughout the movie in a very King Leoniodus tone. I imagine its supposed add some sort of quotability and drama to the film, but in all honesty it comes across as a friendly wakeup call to people who have fallen asleep and/or forgot what they are watching.

My main issue with the movie is that it does nothing new, and simply steals from other material without improving upon it in anyway. The fight scenes are stripped directly from Krato’s duels God of War. The art direction is clearly heavily influenced by 300 and Lord of The Rings. and the character design is a pale attempt at mimicking the Final Fantasy movie that came out over 6 years ago. A close second on my ‘issues’ list would be that the film is simply too long and doesn’t reward the viewers for the effort required to make it to the end. The ending had many people groaning as we left the theater, not even digitized Angelina-Jolie-boobs can save this one.


The Seasonal Post

It’s that time of year (some might say the most wonderful time even). Christmas season officially kicks off right after Thanksgiving next week, and then the feverous merchandising that is the holiday begins. Last year I didn’t put up a tree in my apartment, and the end result was a very un-Christmassy feel until the weekend I went home for the actual holiday. This year I wanted to make sure I got on the hype train early and picked up a little fake tree at Wal-Mart for the new place. Not much too it, but just enough to remind me that its holiday season and feel merry. I have already started to amass a few presents for people which I decided to stick under it, and while not wrapped (for transporting reasons) the effect is still there…sorta. We will be getting a small tree for the office too and Susan and I are starting a communal Christmas music bank where we will store all our holiday tunes to listen too over the next month.

The Ikea Mob Post

Ikea opened a new store here in Orlando on Wednesday. The store is right in the Millennia area and is about 2 minutes from my house barring traffic. Today however it took 20 minutes, a team of professional parking organizers, a squad of cop cars and guys yelling from rooftops to get in the damn place. It was a total mob-scene. I haven’t seen that many people in one place less maybe City Walk in the summer. Insane. The store itself is exactly like the Potomac Mills location in Virginia, so it wasn’t anything new for me really, but just getting through the serpentine showroom took the better part of an hour. Once I was inside I was just determined to get out, I’ll come back in a month too see what’s there as far as stuff for the new apartment, its just too crazy at the moment. The parking lot overflowed and people where being parked, Disneyworld herd-style on surrounding grassy areas. There where guys positioned on rooftops yelling to their dispatch below where free spaces opened up, and guys on stilts talking over the sea of people. Inside there where mariachi guitarists wandering the showroom singing and playing away, as well as more stilt guys and balloon animals. It was a freaking carnival. How anyone could go through the relatively demanding Ikea checkout procedure in all that mess I have no idea. I wanted to chill and get some Swedish meatballs and see if it died down, but they had crowd control for the restaurant and a line at least 300 people long, so I ended up skipping that too in favor of hitting the local mall and getting some Christmas shopping done. I love merchandising and I love some good holiday hype- but this was too much even for my tastes. Black Friday is going to be a beast this year…


The IAAPA Post

The International Association of Amusement Park Attractions (IAAPA) is holding its annual expo this week and this time its down here in Orlando. Apparently its come by before many times but has a tendency to move about the country. The show focuses on theme park attractions and the associated companies, ranging from rollercoaster design teams and park displays to arcade games and funnel cake. If it’s entertaining and could fit into a mall, theme park or carnival then its there. It’s the E3 of theme park entertainment, and Amazing Pictures had a strong presence there. I was able to get a vendor pass and attend the expo today with Bruce. I have never been to the Orlando Expo Center before- the place is massive. It would take 5 minutes to run across at full steam if the place where empty. It’s kinda insane how big the show floor was. It was filled with stands, booths and demos as far as the eye can see (literally) including our Amazing Pictures booth-which incidentally features a few shots of yours truly in the video presentation running on the overhead monitors. So many companies where there with a huge assortment of products and services on offer, and more free food samples than you can shake a disposable spoon at. I particularly enjoyed having a go at a Mission Impossible style laser maze in which you are trying to get through a tunnel filled with crisscrossing green lasers without breaking the beams. I did pretty well I have to boast. Here’s a little video of some of the snappies I took while there. I apologize for the Crazy Frog theme music. One of the wack-a-mole games had the damn song blasting and its been stuck in my head all day. So now I’m passing that irritation on to you.


The Molly MacPhearson Post

On the way up to the wedding Sarah and I made a random bathroom pit stop just south of Savannah Georgia. When looking for a place to stop we noticed a Scottish flag over on of the store fronts, and assuming it was a British store we pulled over in the hopes of snagging some Irn-Bru and Skips for the rest of the trip. Turns out it was a Scotch Bar named Molly MacPhearson’s. Being a Shearer on my mother’s side my family is actually part of the MacPhearson clan, so I was overly excited to see the place decked out with our clan tartan and crest. Met the owner and got a picture next to the fireplace with a picture of his great aunt Molly herself. Had a rousing chat with some of the regulars, including a man who was stationed at Ipswich airbase of all places. Chowed down on some tasty appetizers including some scotch eggs and picked up a ‘Touch not the cat bot a glove’ t-shirt.

The Ray-Hall Wedding Post

This past weekend Sarah came down for an evening before we headed off on the relatively brief jaunt up to Hilton Head, SC. We caught the ferry over to Daufauski Island, where the wedding was being held, and stayed in the inn overlooking the ocean. The whole island was beautiful (if not a tad chilly for my newly thinned Floridian blood), and the landscaping was really pretty. The wedding was a blast. Initially we felt like the odd couple out as it was quite a tight nit group of family and close friends, and with me only really knowing the bride, there where a lot of foreign faces. That was a non issue very quickly though as Katie’s family are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and they took no time in making us feel part of the team. The ceremony was wonderful, set on the shoreline in a beautiful gazebo. Katie made her entrance in a very majestic horse drawn carriage (while her brothers arrived down the isle as groomsmen to the Imperial March). After the wedding there was a reception and dinner in the hotel which was a lot of fun. While Sarah and I didn’t get down on the dance floor like the rest of the wedding party, we had a great time. The food….oh man, let me tell you. I have never eaten so well or so much in my life. I am so glad we got to go to the wedding and it was brilliant to catch up with Katie again post-Mason. Sarah and I had a wonderful road trip and mini-vacation together as well which was really great. We both wish Katie and Aaron the best of luck in their new lives together, and offer many thanks for being included and treated so well by her friends and family.


The Kingdom Post

Jamie Foxx (I hate that extra ‘x’) does a terrific job in his role as Ronald Fluery, head of an FBI special investigations unit, sent overseas to look into a terrorist attack that claimed one of the departments own. He takes with him a team of experts as they attempt to solve the case as to who was behind the bombings. They are met with obstacles on all fronts ranging from local resistance, red tape and even U.S. disapproval (personified in the always excellent Jeremy Piven). The film’s main strength comes from the fleshed out characters and their teamwork dynamic. Jenifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman (!) do phenomenal jobs backing up Foxx’s lead and come across as an adept team with a lot of history. It’s Ashraf Barhom’s role as Faris Al Gahzi that really steals the show though, as he performs remarkably well in a role that seems to be written in search of an Oscar nod. A nod goes out to the introductory package as well, which is the best since Casino Royal and was fantastically put together to open the movie perfectly.

The Kingdom is a gripping film that goes where many films choose not to, and offers an engaging view of the war effort and those not often highlighted. Considering the subject matter however, I feel that the many areas in which the film succeeds are not the areas it intended to. While terrorist attacks and mass murders in the Middle East are both fuel for a conflict and motivation for a plot, The Kingdom suffers in its first half as the cast struggle to accomplish much of anything in their investigation. Foxx and his team are unwillingly after an entire religion not a specific villain, and the goal seems as overly optimistic and unsolvable as the war itself. However, half way through the movie a plot twist results in a rescue mission and explosive shootouts that both entertain and enthrall. I felt guilty enjoying these elements of the film over the more serious issues presented, but as a film, the constant reminders of the dire situation were doing little besides mirroring a daily news report on the middle eastern crisis.

I feel bad enjoying the movie’s character interaction and explosive street fights more than the more pertinent, global conflicts presented, but not sorry enough not to really enjoy the film as a whole. And while I think the more successful efforts eclipse the film’s attempt and conveying the horror of the war; this is also the first film I’ve seen in a theater that had the audience walking out in total silence.

The American Gangster Post

American Gangster is not at all what I was expecting. Somehow I got a sense that the film was a rags-to-riches Scarface clone mixed with a classic cop vs. crook plotline. The movie is neither of those. Sure Denzel’s Frank Lucas is an organized crime figure who takes off and becomes a big player in New York’s drug business, which is akin to Scarface’s climb to the top down in Miami, however that is pretty much where the similarities end. As far as the cop vs. crook elements that are in the movie (pitting Lucas against Russell Crow’s Detective Richie Roberts) the two characters are unaware of each other existence until the last 30 minutes of the movie. There is no climactic rivalry or any interaction between the two on any level until the very end, and even then the most action involves a coffee being knocked on the floor. The omission of out and out action or fueled rivalry between the two main characters really hurts this film, whether it was advertised as having such or not.

Now I don’t mean to criticize this movie for not being Scarface, especially considering that I really don’t care for the Pacino flick at all (though who doesn’t look good in a Scarface airbrushed t-shirt? honestly). However the impression I got was this was going to be as gripping and heated as said film, and it was not by any means. Though entertaining and competent, the movie never grabs you and makes you wonder what’s going to happen next. The story transpires in front of you, then comes to and end. There are no twists turns, loops or pitfalls along the way. The complete lack of a climax really hurts the film and the ending, though accurate, is downright dull.

Plot issues aside the film is very impressively shot, acted and presented. Direction is top notch and the actors all do extremely believable jobs at fleshing out the characters crooks and coppers alike. Josh Brolin’s Trupo is the kind of slime ball you love to hate and shines in the role of the crooked cop, as do many of the tertiary characters, particularly Crowe’s team of detectives. It’s just my personal taste and misinformed bias saying this; but American Gangster is an excellent film in all regards except in the plot department. It has all the elements of something terrific, but unfortunately fails to deliver more than something adequate.

The Dad Visit Post

This weekend Dad came down for a visit to Orlando. It was great to spend time with him, hanging around and heading out and about. Watched some football, caught a few movies which I probably wouldn’t have seen solo, ate out and some of my favorite spots around town, and hit the Comedy and Adventurer’s clubs at Pleasure Island. Saturday we met up with Stacey for the last night of Halloween Horror Nights, which was really cool. Getting to spend more time in the various houses was way better than spending the majority of the night in line. We saw every house besides Dead Silence, which is irritating because that was the one I really had pegged as something I wanted to see. But we did see everything else and all three shows, including the Bill and Ted final performance, which was great and slightly modified by the cast due to it being the last hurrah. Stopped by an Amazing Pictures store and did a funny picture with Stacey which looks really good. Dad brought down with him my new CS3 suite too which is really exciting. Finally having up-to-date versions of all the Adobe killer-aps is going to make my graphics work much more enjoyable. My first project will be the Celica-to-Transformer-Project. More on that later. I have more manuals to read and tutorials to run through that I’ll ever be able to complete (16 lbs worth actually), but I plan on putting a dent in a few of the new feature centric content. Very fun, very full weekend. I really like getting to spend time with Dad. Makes me wonder why I used to want to argue with him every 5 seconds… who knows?