Star Wreck, in the Pirkinning

If you're a fan of either Star Trek or Babylon 5, odds are you've heard of Star Wreck : In the Pirkinning. This hilarious parody of both Star Trek and B5 is the result of seven years of voluntary work by a group of tremendously dedicated and talented people from Finland. But on the off-chance you haven't, and are a regular visitor here, then go see it now. Be forwarned though, this isn't your average sci-fi parody, many references will be obscure to those who aren't big fans of at least one of the two universes. If you aren't, you will be as lost as a starfury straying off the hyperspace beacons.


Go see Serenity

The movie is awesome. Haven't had this much fun at the movies since Fantasia. Simply amazing. You can't not see this and pretend you're a science-fiction fan. It's incredible to see how George Lucas can do so little with so much, while Joss Whedon does so much with so much less. Go see it. Now.


Greatness in webmail

Having switched webhost, and being unable to use their webmail account due to some firewall issues, I spend the last week desperately trying to find a webmail program that would work with the lightweight php and requires pop3 access this webhost requires (no imap support). After spending a week of installing, uninstalling, trying to code myself, I was just ready to give up. Then comes iloha, and all my problems are solved. Unbelievably effortless installation, and everything worked on the very first try. If you have webspace and are looking for a way to access your pop3 mail from anywhere, check it out.


Server switch

I've recently switched over from my old host and domain provider to godaddy.com. If you've sent mail to me between friday september the 2nd and sunday september the 4th, it is entirely possible that your mail fell in a limbo created by the server switch, even if you have not received a "bounced" message. Please send it again. Thank you!


Fantasia : Stop the Bitch Campaign (I and II) and Night Watch

Shot on video with a non-existing budget, both Stop the Bitch Campaign shorts are japanese sexploitation flicks. The acting is suprisingly good for a movie of this genre, especially the crazed mysoginic Kenichi Endo and his sidekick (in the second episode). There is a hilarious scene where Kenichi explains to his sidekick why having sex with prostitutes and running away without paying is actually doing a service to Japan. That aside, this movie is extremely violent and the plot is ridiculous. Victims of some of the long and extreme torture scenes are either completely innocent or the wrong target of revenge. As the movie progresses you can either get up and walk away (as many did) or just become desensitized to all this mostly gratuitous violence. I'd give it 3/10 as one of the most disgusting, pointless, ridiculous excuse for a movie I've ever seen, but there's Aoi Sora naked and having sex in this one so 10/10.

With a budget of 4 million dollars, you'd expect Night Watch's special effects to be cheesy, at best. A hollywood producer with a similar budget wouldn't be able to make a 5 minutes short, much less a 2 hours special effects extravaganza. Director Timur Bekmambetov succeeds at making this low budget feature feel like a multi-million dollars hollywood film. However, that is the only saving grace of this movie. It all feels rather familiar : stock vampires (known as Dark Others) square off against equally generic shapeshifters (known as Light Others) in something that could've been lifted straight out of Underworld or Blade. The characters are bland, uninspired and have a feeling of interchangeability. The plot is confused and lacks focus, the death metal soundtrack is mostly irritating and the uselessly stylish subtitles are hard to follow. I had high hopes for this one, but it turned out to be this year's biggest disappointment. 5/10.


Fantasia : Jason and the Argonauts, Heroes of the East and G.O.R.A.

Representing a milestone in stop-motion animation, Jason and the Argonauts is undeniably one of the most important B-movie of it's time. However the focus of this event wasn't the movie itself but the genius who is mostly credited for the "stop-motion revolution" : Ray Harryhausen. He was on-hand with one of the skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts. The movie itself remains good after all these years, but not great. So much has gotten so much better in the last 40 years, that most of the dialogs, action scenes and special effects can only be enjoyed as historical artifacts. Rating the movie as it is rather than as what it represents, I give it 6/10.

Heroes of the East is a jingoistic ride through the minds of the world-famous Shaw Brothers. If it were made today, the unbelievably over-the-top scenario that expresses the undeniable superiority of China over Japan in every conceivable way would most likely be taken as an edgy, second-degree movie. The sad truth is that although the movie doesn't take itself seriously, the message is probably genuine. Still, of all the four or five movies of the Shaw brothers I've ever seen, this one was the most entertaining. From the cheesy "swoosh" sound effects to the hilarious "crab-style Japanese kung-fu", this movie will deliver a ton of laughs, intentionally or not. 7.5/10.

It's always refreshing to see non-US sci-fi. It's even better when one has Hollywood-quality special effects like G.O.R.A. This is a Turkish science-fiction parody similar to Spaceballs in style and intent. Gags are not particularly subtle and often fall into the obvious. However they are well executed and usually deliver. The jokes are pretty much aimed at science-fiction fans. If you haven't seen Star Wars, The Matrix, The Fifth Element and others, you won't get most of it. If you have however, G.O.R.A. is bound to make you burst into laughter at least a few times, and you'll smile in-between. 8.5/10.


Fantasia: Ghost House, P and Survive Style 5+

Ghost House is a light-hearted haunted house comedy movie starring the absolute cutest ghost of all times, Seo-hee Jang. Although about half an hour too long, the movie generally works. It features gags reminiscent of Evil Dead : Dead by Dawn, Bewitched and Beetle Juice, which is sometimes a good thing, sometimes not so good. 7.5/10.

P is your typical stripper/prostitution flick. Girl needs money to pay medical bills of relative. Girl gets a job whoring. Girl is mistreated by fellow strippers/whores and abusive clients. Girl uses ancient Khmer magic to destroy said rivals and abusive clients. Girl turns into a demon. We've all seen this a million times folks. Jokes aside, the movie has decent acting, lots of effective scary moments and pretty strippers. Do not under any circumstances see this movie if you plan on visiting Bangkok brothels anytime soon. 7.5/10.

Featuring five insane, intertwining stories, Survive Style 5+ is a witty and surreal roller coaster ride that will surprise you at every turn. Supernatural phenomenon, comedy, violence, touching family drama, sex, and the craziest hit man you've ever seen this side of Firefly, this movie has it all. And it comes wrapped in some of the brightest dialogs you've heard in a long while. 9/10.


Fantasia: Phantom Master, Tetsujin-28 and White Dragon

Phantom Master : Dark Hero from Ruined Empire is a visually stunning and thoroughly entertaining piece of Japanese-Korean animation. The character design is outstanding, the production quality is excellent throughout and the story is engaging. It does share the same episodic feeling as Dragon Head, but as with that movie, this one doesn't see itself weakened by it. A must-see for any anime fan. 8.5/10.

Tetsujin-28 is a modern adaptation of a giant robot manga that first appeared in the 1960s. As such, it is extremely naive and kid-oriented. The robot design is excellent, the Black Ox' look reflecting it's sinister nature while Tetsujin relays a sense of innocence and gentleness. You will definitely like this movie if A) You go with your kids or B) the kid in you is not completely dead. As neither is my case I was mostly bored with the movie's slow fight sequences and the long, drawn-out emotional dilemma of the 12 year-old boy whose decision will change the face of the earth. 5/10.

Not knowing anything about White Dragon before seeing it, I was fooled into thinking this would be "just another" feudal wusha flick. But a few minutes into the movie it becomes clear this movie takes as much from Clueless as it does from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The lead character is a completely normal Chinese schoolgirl who, by a twist a fate, downloads (yes, feudal china was apparently familiar with the concept) powers from a mysterious crime-fighting master. With tons of modern-day references and an arch-enemy inspired by the character of Zatoichi, White Dragon will make you laugh with it's unrefined yet good-willed sense of humor. 7.5/10.


Fantasia: Le Protrait de Petit Cossette, Breaking News and Dragon Head

Le Portrait de Petit Cossette (I'm not misspelling that, they are) is a 3-part Japanese OAV consisting of three 40-minutes episodes. The art is splendid, and Yuki Kajiura (Noir, .hack//sign) once again impresses with her haunting soundtrack. However the story itself feels disconnected. I can't say I figured it out, which can be a good thing, however I feel like watching it again wouldn't help, which isn't. Having enjoyed Furi Kuri, Serial Experiment Lain and even Video Girl Ai, I consider myself a fan of Japanese weirdness, this however didn't hook me. 6/10. The art and music in, mostly for the art and music.

Breaking News is an excellent Hong Kong police flick. Making a social statement about the importance of the media in police business, the movie turns a hostage situation into a circus, where cops and bandits alike become so obsessed with winning the media war and earning the public's trust and sympathy that they forget how to do their job. Funny at times but often serious, Breaking News is effective and entertaining. 8/10.

Dragon Head begins as a train gets trapped inside a tunnel by a gigantic and unexplained explosion. The claustrophobic beginning leads to a This movie brings a grim and depressing view of mankind's reaction to crisis situations. Claustrophobic at first, terrifying in the middle and depressing at the end, Dragon Head won't earn any nomination for the feel-good movie of the festival. It is however very well-made, with good acting, stunning visual and a tight script. The story very segmented, and at times feel like episodes of a miniseries sewed together. That didn't bother me at all, but could potentially put off viewers. 8.5/10.


Fantasia: The Place Promised in our Early Days, R-Point and Ju-On : The Grudge 2

The Place Promised in our Early Days is a beautiful, touching and naive story about a childhood promise that, if fulfilled, could lead to the end of the world as we know it. If you've seen Makoto Shinkai's previous movie, Voices of a Distant Star, you'll feel right at home. Similar tone, similar subject (two innocent lovers torn apart by extraordinary circumstances). It's the same, only better in every way. 8/10.

R-Point is a combination of supernatural horror and war. This movie reminded me a little of The Keep. While watching I felt like I was watching a much older movie. It uses a lot of scary tricks that seemed to work much better in the '80s (bleeding radio anyone?). The acting ranged from adequate to bad. It does have it's scary moments, and some of the low-budget special effects are put to good use. 6/10.

Ju-On : The Grudge 2 is, overall, more of the same as the original Ju-On. The new twist will disturb many I'm sure, especially pregnant women (don't see this movie if you're pregnant, not only because of the stress it creates, but because the subject matter). Creepy as hell, disgusting at times. 7/10. As a side-note, seeing these kinds of film at fantasia may not be a good idea. It seems the crowd find it necessary to laugh most of the time, probably to hide their own fears. Rent and watch before going to bed, if you want to miss a good night's sleep.


Fantasia: Ashura, Arahan and Karaoke Terror

As you may know every year I go to the Fantasia Film Festival and I see an insane amount of movies in a very short amount of time. This year is no different, as I will see 19 movies in the span of a little less than three weeks. I will record the movies I see here for my own reference and also help you decide if you want to see them (if they still play at Fantasia, or later on DVD). They're by no means complete reviews, just pointers.

Thursday I saw Ashura, an entirely forgettable Edo-period demon-hunting action adventure film with a hint of comedy. The comic aspects are actually what works best in that movie, as the action scenes are nothing you've never seen before. There's enough good moments to recommend a rental on a slow night. 6/10

Saturday night was a double-feature : Arahan followed by Karaoke Terror. Both were fantastic. Arahan is a hilarious Korean action-comedy film where everything just seems to work. It's about a group of old, washed up Tao masters who find a young klutzy cop that they feel will be the new Tao Master. It still plays twice at Fantasia, so don't miss it. 9/10

Karaoke Terror is, at this point, the highlight of the festival. A brilliant ultra-violent gang war movie. Pitted against each other are young kids with no purpose in life and equally dispassionate middle-aged women. Their war will rapidly escalate to unreal proportions. The acting is awesome, the script is fabulous. You will either laugh yourself silly or be totally depressed. A real must-see. 10/10


PSP Dead Pixel Woes

Before I went to Amos, I bought a PSP at my local Toys R Us. I didn't open it until 600km later when I reached my destination. Turns out there were 2 dead pixels and 1 piece of dust stuck in between the protective screen and the LCD itself. I was infuriated. Not because of the fact that I had bought a defective product (I thought I could always return it) but because of what's stated on page 13 of the PSP manual :

"Red, blue or green spots (bright spots) or black spots (dark spots) may appear in certain locations on the LCD screen. The appearance of such spots is a normal occurence associated with LCD screens and is not a sign of a malfuction. LCD screens are made using highly precise technology. However, a very small number of dark pixels or continuously lit pixels exist on each screen."

Now, I understand that for all that it does (movie/music/console) the PSP is on the cheap end. And to get it out that cheap you had to make compromises. Among those compromises were poor quality control on the LCD screens. Fair enough. I don't mind a company that accepts that a certain percentage of units will be defective to lower costs. What I do mind is a company that guilt trips it's customers into thinking it's their fault if they think there is a problem with their screen. A company that lies about the nature of LCD screens, stating that "each screen" as in "all LCD screens ever built" have burned, defective pixels. A company that tries to make you feel like a moron for thinking there's a problem. That I mind.

I have used several LCDs, on my laptops, digital cameras and Gameboy Advance. I have never had any dead pixel on them. Don't tell all LCDs have them, unless you previously painted "sucker" on my forehead.

I have to say this turn of event stressed me during my vacation. I was 600 km away from the place of purchase and had no idea how Toys R Us would deal with my return. Would they try to tell me my unit was fine (like Sony is trying to tell me)? To my defense, the piece of unremovable dust caught in the middle of LCD screen would probably save me, as it was not a "normal occurence found in all LCD screen".

I went to Toys R Us and I'm happy to report that they've accepted my return. In fact, even 1 burned pixel would've been enough. I'm very happy and satisfied that unlike Sony, they recognize that shelling 300$ for a piece of equipment that is defective is not something to be happy about. They gladly replaced my PSP and this one looks top notch. I still have about 40 days to make sure of this before my store warranty ends and I have to deal directly with Sony. Hope it never comes to that.

Thumbs up Toys R Us, thumbs down Sony.


One C.R.A.Z.Y. movie

I saw the movie C.R.A.Z.Y. over the weekend while on a trip to my hometown of Amos, Quebec. Excellent movie, great acting. It's in french (you can probably get it subtitled). It's drama with a touch of nostalgia. You follow one child of one suburban Quebec family from the '60s all the way to the '80s. It's mostly about homosexuality and how intolerant towards it people were in those days. (Of course there's still alot of intolerance, but I like to believe it's not as widespread). Anyway, check it out. 8/10.


Things that suck about the Battlefield 2 demo

- Most servers run 12 minutes games. Come on people, 12 minutes isn't enough for any serious games.
- Server time limit is badly reported on the server selection screen. You'll often see 12 minutes even with games without time limits.
- Server selection screen will make the computer freeze completely when you try to use filters.
- Many servers don't have VoIP support. No VoIP? Why not play Desert Combat instead?
- "There is a problem with your connection", yeah, except in every other game or application.

Getting to a 32+ game without the 12 minutes limit and with voice support is getting to be very complicated. If you know of any good reliable servers without the problems above, let me know!


Look me up in the Gulf of Oman

Downloaded the demo of Battlefield 2. Like it so far. Not enough people use voicechat I find. Squad and strategic features are also underused. Maybe it's all too new. Look me up, I'm Sheng Han Abdoulette.

Update : Finally had two awesome experiences. One as part of a squad that used voicechat extensively, we were really really working out as part of a team (malarkey###, a few others). Unfortunately the team commander was silent and passive, so the next game I got to be commander and it really rocked because 3 of the 5 squad leaders were using voicechat so the effort was coordinated like I've never seen in Battlefield. Integrated voicechat is IMO the defining upgrade since 1942. Strategic mode and homing missiles rank second. Can't wait for the real deal.

BTW the demo is buggy, first release will probably be buggy. Already looking forward to the patches :-)


Episode III sucks!

Episode III was a major disappointment. The number of inconsistencies within that universe skyrockets again, as this movie is a series of artificially and forcefully strung together events. That wouldn't be so bad if the dialogues weren't even more artificial than the plot. Some say bad acting, I say you can't deliver these terrible lines with any credibility, no matter what your acting skills. Want to show your position to the vocal but very wrong majority? Check out this store.

And check out these people, who are just so damn right about this. Here, and here.

Update : 2028 hours, another good review from the Montreal Mirror.


G4 didn't kill them folks

Last year when G4 engulfed TechTV and destroyed it, many of us mourned what was the death of a close friend. TechTV's flagship show The Screen Savers was first revamped into a pseudo-technological show, and was more recently completely destroyed and replaced by a trendy teenager-targeting "entertainment" show called "Attack of the Show". When The Screen Savers was at it's peak, it featured what I thought was the greatest tech/geek information/entertainment bunch I'd ever seen. Well, that optimal Screen Savers team is back together publishing a weekly audio podcast called "This Week in Tech". TwiT as they call it is a very entertaining and, more importantly, informative radio show that features content similar to the old Screen Savers. Check it out!

Also, Kevin Rose, another former Screen Saver who's also on the TwiT cast, has also launched his own television podcast called systm. Check it out!


The OSP Complete Archive is out!

I'm pleased to announce the release of "The OSP Complete Archive". This CD-ROM contains every game that's ever been developed by OSP Enr. as well as prototypes and cinematics of never-released games. The CD-ROM is available from cafepress.com and costs 14.99$. The official website is up so you can check it out. If you see any broken link or whatnot please let me know. Thanks!


Check out Ubuntu

I was recently toying with a great number of Linux distributions for a very specific task. The task was to turn my old 350mhz computer into a Samba server without really learning Linux (that'll come later). While installing and uninstalling a variety of distros I stumbled upon Ubuntu. It was love at first sight. This distribution is highly evolved (it can be updated as easily as Windows XP). It looks absolutely gorgeous and through it's very helpful website I managed to get it to do exactly what I wanted with a minimum of command-line interventions. If you're looking to get into Linux, I highly recommend Ubuntu.