Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to anyone passing by. Merry Christmas and take care of yourself!



Bumping off the Linux rant

Just bumping off my last Linux rant. Shortly after that rant I pulled Xubuntu off the computer and went back to good old reliable but slow Ubuntu. So far so good. I didn't try to mess with automatix or what not. I managed to install and run Azureus with the latest Sun Java (that was a major pain in the ass) and aMule. Not too bad. I'm looking a bit into freespire. It looks as easy as Ubuntu but doesn't delve into the "completely free" rhetoric that will, eventually, drag Ubuntu down in the mud. A perfect quote I read about freespire : "People want a computer that works, not a computer that makes them work." So far Linux and Ubuntu has done more of the latter than of the former. Let's see this thing unfold. One thing for sure, Linux is part of my network now, for better and for worst.


Yet another linux rant.

I've had it with that muthafucking Linux on that muthafucking computer. Linux may be a great command-line OS (like DOS used to be with my great ancestors painted cave walls) but it is absolutely abysmal as a desktop GUI os. Case in point. I have 1 Linux box. It's a Xubuntu box. Its purpose is one fold : Serve as a place for all my downloaded crap. It has 1 hard drive for the OS, and one shared hard-drive, called Q. No matter what computer I use on my network, I download crap on this drive so it can be accessed by all the other computers. The system itself runs TWO applications : aMule and Azureus. Those download various podcasts and p2p files and the like. The computer does NOTHING ELSE. I don't install ANYTHING else on it, in fact I rarely ever use it except for the very very rare, occasional firefox browsing whenever my other computers are off and I need to find something out quickly.

This computer runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's never off. Once in a while, it will get abysmally slow. Fair enough, windows does the same thing. So I reboot it and everything is fine.

Every so often, when I boot it, it will only see half of my Q drive, the other half is just missing. For no reason at all. First few time I panicked, rebooted, and the other half was there. So it became part of the process. Reboot/verify/be happy.

Today it was running slow as it often does. I reboot it, and lo and behold, the Xfce title bar is gone, the task bar below is gone. Both Azureus and aMule run in the upper-left corner of the screen with no menu bar and no way to move them around or close them. Now if that had happened after I downloaded and/or installed a bunch of suspicious applications or some bullshit I would've blamed them, or myself.

Thing is, this computer DOES NOTHING, it just needs to BOOT for crying out loud. Is it really too much to ask that it doesn't break itself just by being plugged in the wall? I can only imagine what a nightmare it would be if I actually USED the damn thing.

Maybe replacing Ubuntu with Xubuntu was one of the greatest mistakes in my Linux life. Perhaps this underground branch of the Ubuntu core is just not well developed and supported. But since it was an older, slower machine it sounded like a good idea at the time. All I know is that I will toss out several hours of my life, trying to get this do-nothing computer to do it's nothing again. Oh well.


Fantasia : Conclusions

And so ends another Fantasia festival. 26 movies is a new record for me, from here that number can only go down. I cannot say I enjoyed this year's edition as much as the previous one. The main reason being the terrible seats at the Hall Theater, which led me to create my new "butt-factor" rating modifier for every movie I've seen. It's bad enough that the seats were terrible, but what makes bad really worst is that we were told last years that new seats were on the way, and that was not the case.

Now that my butt, and my brains, have had a chance to heal, I've devised my new rules for Fantasia.

1) Buy 10 movie tickets at most at the beginning of the festival. Buy the others halfway through if you feel you can handle more. Aim for probable sold-outs and must-see at the beginning.

2) Double-features are good, because you wait in line only once for two movies, but they're a real butt-killer. Make sure you put at least a day off between double-features, to allow time to recover.

3) Favor weekday movies to weekend movies. (I'm already downtown during the weekdays. Solves parking and transportation problems).

4) No more late-night Japanese soft-porn. In fact, no more late-night soft-porn. In fact, no more late-night or soft-porn. Porn is meant to be watched at home anyway, and for two years in a row I didn't really enjoy the soft-porn movies presented. So that's done. Exceptions might need to be made for late-night non-porn must-sees. But they should be exceptions.

5) Favor weird and funny over traditional and serious. As such, movies like The Bittersweet Life, Typhoon and Seven Swords would be sacrificed for the likes of Executive Koala, Funky Forest and Tokyo Zombie. Not always the right choice, I liked Typhoon better than Funky Forest, but it's generally better.

6) Check for alternate ways to see a movie before buying a ticket. For example, and The Descent and Bon Cop, Bad Cop, will both get standard theatrical releases soon. Death Trance is already out on DVD. It's useless to wreck your butt seeing them at Fantasia.


Fantasia : The Great Yokai War, Executive Koala, The Five Venoms, Re-cycle and Zombie Self-Defense Force

The last Fantasia weekend was filled with a great bunch of movies. Here are my reviews, in even more express form than usual.

The Great Yokai War is a children's epic. It's from Takashi Miike and it is an absolute delight to watch. Great character and creature design, awesome mechanical design. In this story a young child is destined to save Tokyo, the capital of all anger, from an army of mechanical monsters created by combining trashed, but still functional, items with the souls of the Yokai. Chiaki Kuriyama (of Kill Bill fame) proves in this movie that no matter how ridiculous her outfit or hairdo, the camera still loves her, and so do I. Acting is usually good but fails at times. The ending really doesn't make much sense, but it's beautiful. 8 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 1.

Moving on to Executive Koala, the movie that had me laughing out loud long after it was done. Part Perfect Blue, part romantic comedy, it is important to note that although the main character is a Koala, he could've been human without affecting the scenario. The result however would have been less than stellar. Seeing someone bad tripping and going insane is something that can be seen in any other movie. But a Koala? Instant entertainment. 8.0 with a butt-factor of 1.

The Five Venoms is ranks as the second best Shaw Brothers movie I've seen. Finishing after last year's hilarious Heroes of the East but before the others. It's a Shaw Brothers movie. It's old and it's mostly good for the cheese factor. 6.0 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 1.

The sold-out Re-cycle featured lots genuinely scary moments. While seeking inspiration for her next best-seller, an author is propelled into a nightmarish world made up of all the things, and people, she threw away in her life. Old acquaintances, old toys, old secrets. All are there to torment her. Visually impressive, good acting, but a bit too predictable. 4.5 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 3.

Zombie Self-Defense Force would be my last Fantasia movie this year. Not exactly the best way to end the festival, this movie is a weird DIY zombie flick. Beginning with a strong anti-Bush, anti-American imperialism and yet pro-Japanese imperialism (Japan saved south-east Asian from occidental imperialism during World War II. Right.) Moving on to the movie itself. Lots of cheesy gore. Reminiscent of Bad Taste or Dead Alive, ZSDF lacks a good plot, good special effects and good acting. Like Dead Alive, it has a few good quotes and is entertaining for the gore and cheese factor. It has a pretty funny zombie fetus, which gives this movie a few extra points. 4.5 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 0.5.

Fantasia : Typhoon and The Order of One

Typhoon is what happens when you take a James Bond or Tom Clancy story and use human beings as characters instead of one-dimentional cliches. That is what Typhoon is about, and although it is by no means a chef d'oeuvres, it works. One interesting note, the movie is actually shot in several languages including Korean (it is a Korean film), Chinese, Thai and Russian. And not just one or two sentences to look cool like any U.S.-made spy flick, but entire dialogs. So if you're into spy movies or political thrillers, look it up. It's worth it. 7.0 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 0.5.

Those who've seen Sinners and Saints two years ago at Fantasia will no doubt recognize the cast of The Order of One. And although the former had genuine funny moments and kickass fight scenes, it had a messy storyline with an artificial, pasted-on ending that didn't make sense. I can only congratulate this dedicated team of DIY Canadians for pulling off a movie that is better in every way. The Order of One isn't just appealing because of the cheese factor, but actually has a decent storyline, good dialogs and even better fight scenes than it's predecessor. Shot like an old kung-fu movie of the '70s, it even has cartoon bubbles naming every major kung-fu maneuver before it happens. Great stuff. 7.5 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 0.5.

Fantasia : The Descendant and Reincarnation

Philippe Spurrell and most of the cast of The Descendant were on hand to present their solid DIY movie. To say I went to see this movie reluctantly is an understatement. The trailer did nothing for me. But I was going to see Reincarnation later on, so what was I to do between work and that? I went. And I enjoyed it, quite a lot. Those who have seen Saint-Martyr des Damnes or David Lynch's Twin Peaks will recognize the premise : Strange events lead a regular city boy to a typical quiet,peacefull little village... which hides a terrible secret. The population of that village, who areapparentlyy nice and friendly, are pretty much all whack-jobs and psychos bent on preventing city boy from exposing their secret. So far, so good. There are a few things that set The Descendant apart though, not the least of which is the fact that it is based on actual event and does have a cultural and historical purpose. Where both Twin Peaks and St-Martyr suffered from an horribly confused storyline that seemed to be headed in every possible direction at the same time, The Descendant is actually very focused. It doesn't have the awesome writing of Twin Peaks nor the production quality of St-Martyr. This is pure DIY, very little budget and it shows. Virtually no special effect shots. I always said that if you're going to do a DIY movie, make it a comedy. People are much more prone to forgive the cheese factor in comedies than in serious drama. The Descendant is an exception to this theory. I give it a 7 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 0.5.

Reincarnation is from Ju-On director Takashi Shimizu. Strange events appear to haunt the set of a movie whose goal is to recreate a gruesome series of murders. Could it be that the souls of those who died have come back to play their part, again? Much less scary than Ju-On, Reincarnation aims for the same kind of atmosphere. Didn't leave much of an impression on me, and did absolutely nothing to hinder my attempts to sleep later on, which both Ju-On movies managed to do so well. 3.0 out of 10 with a record butt-factor of 3.


Fantasia : Vampire Cop Ricky, iDol, Sukeban Boy and Negadon

Vampire Cop Ricky is, much like Frostbite, a vampire-themed comedy, but this one is even more light-hearted than the Swedish gorefest of Frostbite. Ricky is a... well... who's Ricky really? Truth is, nobody in that movie is named Ricky. Nobody. The plot is rather thin, as expected in those kinds of movies. Fly stings Dracula, turns into badass fly-vampire hybrid. Badass fly gets to Korean and bites out hero. Our hero turns into a vampire. Actually, a were-vampire who can only turn into his vampire-self when he gets a hard-on. That leads to some pretty funny moments. Actually, there are very funny moments spread throughout the movie. Unfortunately, those are too few and far between. And there's a reason for it too, the movie is 2 hours long. A little editing could've done wonders for this movie. 6 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 1.

Next were 3 short films. The iDol, Sukeban Boy and Negadon.

After The iDol, the only thing I could think about is : "Where can I buy an Alien Kun?". Made by American Director Norman England but shot entirely in Japan, The iDol is a weird, surrealist look at how one toy can change the lives of many. The story is nice, feel-good and the actors are all good. 6.8 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 1.2.

After Sukeban Boy, the only thing I could think about is : "What the fuck?". Indeed, what the hell was that? It's from Go Nagai? The same Go Nagai who brought us Cutie Honey and fucking Grendizer? This one blows them all, and your brains, to hell. It has cubed the sexploitation of Cutie Honey. Senseless violence, and a little child molestation of a boy by his father to complete the mix. And it's all done in a very hippy, cheerful tone that just makes your mind go blank. What kind of crack did he shove up his butt to come up with that? Impossible to tell. The result is sometimes entertaining, often shocking and often brain-numbing. Can't give this more than 4 out of 4.7, with a butt-factor of 1.3.

Those who walked out during Sukeban Boy, and I know a few, missed out on the very sober, technically flawless Negadon. A rather short homage to monster movies such as Godzilla. It has all the elements of monster movies, but is kept short as to not become boring (I usually get bored quite fast with monster movies). Touching story, very well executed CGI, of which it is completely made out of. I still don't like monster movies, but if you're going to see just one in your life, see this one. At least it will only take half an hour! 6.1 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 1.4.


Fantasia : Hell, Shinobi and The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai

Saturday was a butt-killing triple feature starting with Hell.

Hell is a Thai movie. Much like Necromancer, it is very serious and very violent. 7 people die in a car crash and end up in hell. But this hell is similar to most government bureaucracies : It is chaotic, confused, and prone to very basic errors like, for example, putting people in hell who aren't dead yet. Visually, Hell resembles the original Conan the Barbarian movie, dirty but beautiful. The characters all have their sins to pay for, and as expressed in the movie alcoholism yields a bigger punishment than theft. Somehow the way hell is organized is very disturbing. Not because of the endless scenes of torture the inhabitants endures, that's the whole point of hell if you believe in that sort of thing. What disturbs me the most is how disorganized it is, how easy it is to escape or hide, and how surprisingly, despite all of this, our seven hero appear to be the first ever to make such attempts. Good but not great. 5.5 with a butt-factor of 0.5.

Moving on to Shinobi. Shinobi's story may be standard fare, but that's where "standard" ends. Visually, the movie is stunningly beautiful and smells of high-budget, high-quality cinematography. The story, as I said, is traditional : Romeo and Juliet combined with Ninjas. Which is as good an idea on-screen as it is on paper. To settle a war between two villages, 5 shinobis from each village are send on a battle to kill each-other. Once all the members of one village are dead, the others will be able to gain an enormous amount of power in determining the next Shogun. The problem is, the leaders of both gangs of shinobis are lovers who are tragically made to fight one-another. As is most often the case, just a tiny bit of rational would save a tremendous amount of suffering. But that would make for a pretty boring movie now would it? And boring, along with ugly and uninspired, are traits this movie does not have. The design of the 10 shinobis is awesome, they all have their own special powers, from breathing out a poisoning clouds of mist to being unable to die. The story, albeit standard, is not without it's twists. And at the risk of repeating myself, what sets this movie apart the most is the production value and awesome imagery. 9.0 out of 10, with a butt-factor of 0.5. If you see one martial arts movie this year...

Concluding with the final part of this threesome, the soft-porn political commentary that is The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai. It all sounded awesome on paper. Softcore pornography combined with philosophical and political commentary. The premise is as twisted as it is imaginative. Average horny tutor Sachiko is accidentally caught in the crossfire of a shady deal gone wrong, and is shot in the head. Strangely, that bullet doesn't kill her. Instead it turned her into a genius who is obsessed with and has an apparently infinite capability of learning. She starts studying great philosophers such as Descartes and modern political commentators like Noam Chomsky. And she can't stop discussing deep philosophical and political matters, even during intercourse. Which is just added value for a fellow male teacher, a concept similar to the famous massage parlor scene in Le Déclin de l'Empire Américain* (The Decline of the American Empire). You see, she may have become a genius, but she is no less horny than before. The plot twists when she finds a cloned finger of George W. Bush in her purse, and even starts seeing the evil president in dreams and fantasies. What is the purpose of that finger? Watch and see. However let me warn that although it all may sound awesome on paper, watching it isn't. The sex scenes areplentifull and as graphic as softcore pornography can get. As with mostJapanesee sex movies there is at least one and probably two cases of rape (the point at which one third of the theater audience leaves). At least there aren't as many as in last year's Stop the Bitch Campaign, which had only that. Most of the sex scenes are so weird that they don't get to be very exciting, despite the beauty of the lead actress. There are a few funny moments, and you can't help but admire the premise. Overall though, it was pretty disappointing. 3.5 out of 10 with a butt-factor or 1.

*Although the concept of this film is seen in part in Le Déclin de l'Empire Américain, I am in no way comparing both movies. That one being a masterpiece and this one being, well, sucky. Just thought I'd get that out of the way.


Fantasia : A Chinese Tall Story and Frostbiten

Both movies I saw on Thursday exceeded my expectations, and both for the same reason. I was expecting, in both the case of A Chinese Tall Story and Frostbiten, movies that would take themselves very seriously. I was pleasantly surprised.

A Chinese Tall Story wasn't the pompous, confused mess I was expecting it to be. Instead we are presented with a clear, easy to follow story, well-defined characters and a slew of often cheesy but always entertaining CG shots. And those CG shots don't pretend to be anything but. In one instance in particular you see a ton of explosions, and then the explosions freeze and the camera spins around, matrix-style. Well that spin reveals, in fact places emphasis on, an age-old CG trick of pasting 2D explosions facing the camera to increase render efficiency. As the camera turns you clearly see that the explosions are flat. They don't care. Neither do I. The tone is light-hearted and comedic, despite the epic nature of the tale. The design is imaginative. It may try to go everywhere at once, flirting with fantasy, science-fiction and epic battles, but it does so in style and without ever becoming confused. This movie has been a charm to discover, and I highly recommend it. 8.5 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 0.5.

Moving on to Frostbiten. Again my expectations were that this would be scary and serious. It was mostly wacky and didn't take itself seriously at all. Frostbiten could be described as a mix of Argento's Demons and Meet the Parents. Put one vampire in a room of druken carefree teenagers and you quickly end up with a room of druken carefree vampires. And also nothing ruins your first meeting of the in-laws like slowly turning into a vampire during dinner. The latter is especially funny. One particularly clever twist, as the movie takes place in northern Sweden, nighttime actually lasts several months, making this the ideal playground for vampires. Funny, clever, gore is on the average side of average, and it's not that scary. But I don't believe it was meant to be. 7 out of 10 with a butt-factor of 1.

Fantasia : SARS Wars and Necromancer

Wednesday was a Thai double-feature.

The Thai have been turning out pretty good comedies in the last few years. The Bodyguard and Heaven's Seven to name a few. SARS Wars may not be the best, but it's still pretty solid entertainment and has a good share of hilarious moments. Always self-referencing, often crude but always funny, SARS Wars gets a 7 out of 10. With a butt factor of 0.5.

However, when it comes to drama, they still have some way to go. Or maybe it is I who no longer have much fun watching those kinds of movies. Necromancer takes itself very seriously, and as such would have needed more polish. The gore factor is rather high, but overall it's not that good a film. 4.5 out of 10. With a butt-factor of 1.


Fantasia : Funky Forest

Those who've read past reviews know that I am usually quite fond of what I like to call Japanese Insanity. Survive Style 5+ ranked second best movie of last year's festival, after the equally crazy Karaoke Terror (which gets absolutely no love at all and is impossible to find). I absolutely adored Tokyo Zonbi and I really enjoyed FLCL or Excel Saga.

Herein comes Funky Forest. How to describe it? Take FLCL. Remove the good music. Make it live-action. Make it individual, disconnected sketches. Remove any thread that would hold them together. In the end you don't have much to stand on, and you'll stand on it for more than 2 and a half hours.

Funky Forest isn't without it's moment. "The Home Room !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" sketches are quite funny. The Guitar Hero is made good by the presence of the always charismatic Tadanobu Asano (of Tokyo Zonbi, Survive Style 5+ and Ichi the Killer). But a lot of this stuff is just plain gross and "imaginative, just for the sake of being imaginative". Many of the dance numbers are just plain boring and not that well executed (that's supposed to be the point, but still). Not even some of the cutest girls in the world (which I believe this movie has) can save it from being a disorganized unpleasant mush. Oh and the final, deafening sketch is only made to confirm the mistake you've made of going to see this film.

Based on the cheers and laughter coming from the audience, some would say that my review is lower than it should. But I would say that these people are insane. 4 out of 10 with a butt factor of 0.5.


Fantasia : Call of Chtulu, Monarch of the Moon and Exodus

Call of Chtulu was made to look like a silent, black and white film. This makes it unique and surprisingly refreshing. Those familiar with Lovecraft, even if not with Call of Chtulu itself, will recognize the premise. Inheritance, forbidden or paranormal research, people going crazy and/or (usually and) dying for going too far in their research. It's known and loved by the fans, and it works. The illusion of an old movie works very well at times, a bit less at others, where it becomes apparent it was shot with in modern video and CG-filtered to look old. Acting feels over-the-top, as it was at the time, which add to the authenticity. The music is perfect, and is the only sound in the whole movie. A pretty interesting experiment gives a pretty interesting movie. 7.4 out of ten with a butt-factor of 0.1.

When Monarch of the Moon showed up, I realized I had absolutely no idea what it was. Blind choices like that often yield terrific surprises, and Monarch of the Moon was exactly that. Like Call of Chtulu, Monarch of the Moon is a recent movie (more like a miniseries, with all episodes showed back to back) made to look like it's coming from another era. The illusion, in this case, is nearly perfect, aside from the all-to-often presence of cheesy CGI (I would rather have had to watch even more cheesy "real-life" effects). The theme, acting, horribly sexist and racist undertones, all appear to be lifted straight from the '40s. During the '40s, the Nazi and Japanese tried to destroy America. But they were only tools, tools of the evil Monarch of the Moon. Afraid of America, with it's freedom, democracy and good old American know-how, the Monarch uses Japan and Germany to weaken America before the final attack from the Moon forces. But thanks to superhero Yellow Jacket, who gained his superpowers from being tortured and drugged in a Nazi prison, America will be safe. Or will it? Monarch of the Moon was an awesome ride, if maybe stretched thinly in the middle. I think it would be beneficial to watch the series in an episodic fashion, rather than having all 6 episodes shown back to back. Still, entertaining, hilarious and very refreshing. 7.5 out of 10, with a butt-factor of 0.5.

Last and least, Exodus, the beautiful Thai children's epic. First and foremost, parents should be warned that Exodus may be considered a children's epic, but it has rather violent scenes (including torture). Maybe Thai children are not little wusses like children over here, so be warned that your little ones may need their dose of ritalin after that one. The story has been told thousands of times before. Humans are being attacked and destroyed by a race of bad guy. One hero emerges, he needs to gather a party of friends (in this case, 4 beautifully designed elementals), train and fight legions of bad guys, then face off against the evil boss, then live happily ever after. Still, the movie is beautiful, the elemental design is awesome, the shots with floating Tarot cards are imaginative and effective. However it all has a pretty generic feel to it. Not that most children will mind, but I did. 6.5 out of ten, with a butt-factor of 0.5.


Fantasia : Tokyo Zombie and A Bittersweet Life

Another day, another double-feature. I believe I have seen the best Fantasia had to offer this year. Let's see if the rest of the festival proves me wrong.

The night started off with Tokyo Zombie (Tokyo Zonbi), actually, it started off with God's Left Hand, Devil's Right Hand, which was inadvertently played instead of Tokyo Zombie for several minutes until the rioting mob gave notice to the staff by chanting "ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE!". There was then a scare, that perhaps the film wasn't even here and wouldn't be shown. It was finally shown, but in HD-DVD format instead of 35mm, so it was in a relatively smaller format than it should have. Oh well, it's the content that matters, and boy that was some content. References to Shaun of the Dead will be unavoidable, and understandable. However the movies differ quite a lot. Aside from the premise (two loser-friends face off against a horde of Zombies), the rest is quite different. Tokyo Zombie is surrealist, and the sense of humor is very Japanese and very slapstick. In this film, the horde is birthed on Mt. Black Fuji, a giant, black mountain-like landfill located in central Tokyo. This landfill is unregulated, and when I say unregulated, I mean it. People bring in all sorts of garbage, from still-working appliances to hazardous chemicals to annoying stepmothers, still kicking and screaming as they're being buried. The result? The souls of the appliances, combined with the hatred of the people buried alive and the hazardous chemicals, spawn zombies (of course). That's all the plot I'll spoil for you, suffice it to say that it's laugh-out-loud from beginning to end. The first half may be a bit funnier than the second half, but there are still awesome moments in the later half. The gore is, for a zombie movie, very low, but that's not what this movie is about. You'll recognize Tadanobu Asano from Survive Style 5+ (and many other movies). He's hilarious, and his partner, played by Sho Aikawa, is equally wacky. Don't let the word slapstick turn you off, the movie is still pretty sharp and has quite a few twists and turns that makes it a must-see for any zombie fan or comedy fan. 8.8 out of 10, with a butt-factor of 0.2.

Moving on to A Bittersweet Life, who will get a much shorter review. What is there to say? It's a mob film, it's about falling in love with the wrong person, it's about ego and pride. It's like most other mob films you've seen a hundred times before. Is it bad? No, it's not, it's very well made and well acted. It's artsy and stylish. The tone reminded me of Boondock Saints, in which tragic and violent events are mixed up with comic relief in the form of rather dumb characters. To me it felt a bit like every otherAmerican Mafia/gang movie, except as it's not anAmericann film, predicting the end will be a bit tougher. 6 out of 10, with a butt-factor of 1.


Fantasia : The Descent and Seven Swords

The Descent is probably the first British movie I've seen at Fantasia (shame on me for missing Shaun of the Dead). It's tough to review a movie that so perfectly achieve what it sets out to do, that any review will only match the cover description of it. The movie is edge-of-your-seat, it is claustrophobic, and it is scary as hell. It is gory enough, but not overly. It's incredibly effective; the characters, all women, are believable, as it is true that some people are insane enough to go into caves like that, believe it or not. Acting is pretty good. Overall a very entertaining and scary film. 7.5 out of 10, with a butt-factor of 0.5.

Seven Swords is from the legendary director Tsui Hark, of Chinese Ghost Story fame. I had reservations about this movie, as my last exposition to his work with Vampire Hunter had left me rather cold and only slightly amused. Seven Swords disappoints. The story is confused and hard to follow, the characters are vague and not so well defined. There are many cool and interesting concept, but they're brought in clumsily and usually in a rush. The movie suffers from being too long, and at the same time, not long enough. The film would have benefited from being a TV series, with enough time to introduce the characters in a slower, more approachable fashion, while at the same time giving us a pause between episodes to assimilate everything they're trying to say. Although the good guys feel pretty generic in general, the bad guys, especially the general Fire-Wind and his female officer (whose character design is absolutely splendid) are especially effective. The fights are sometimes confusing and not always well-paced, but there are a few very effective sword fights, like the one in a very narrow corridor, this battle starts out horizontal but quickly escalates to a uniquely styled vertical fight. I give this movie a 5.5 out of 10, with a butt-factor of 1.5.

Torture in the modern world

Somewhere in a third world country prison, there exists a small, dark, damp room. The prisoners call it "the chair room" and most prisoners cower in fear at the mention of this room. The room is empty save for one chair.

It is said that spending three hours on this chair alone is enough to break any prisoner. It has never failed, and with it, the corrupt government of this third world nation takes pride in being able to break even the most stubborn political opponent.

Among the prisoners, many of which have broken fingers, missing fingernails, and charred body parts, the mere mention of that chair sparks fears and hysteria beyond anything humanly conceivable.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, legions of geeks come in droves to sit on that very same chair model, at the Fantasia Film Festival.

Yes folks, those butt-wrecking knee-killing chairs are back, and after yesterday's double-feature, the discomfort and pain is enough to seriously make me reconsider my attendance to the festival for the next years. If I could record the feeling I get after 2 hours in this chair, and play it back just the second I get near the Admission counter, I'm sure that I wouldn't go see 24 movies, as I am this year. That's right folks. I've beaten my record once again. But why go to so many movies when you're so uncomfortable in those seats?

I seem to recall last year, during the speech of the opening movie, that "new seats had just been received but there wasn't time to put them in place". Those "new seats" look, and feel, exactly the same to me. Newsflash : the old seats weren't defective. They were crappy. And if those seats are new seats, they're equally crappy.

So that's my rant for today. As with every year I will bring you reviews of every movies, but to reflect my frustration with the current seating arrangements, and to help alleviate the responsibility of my unpleasant movie going experience from the movies themselves, every score given to every movie will be accompanied by "THE BUTT FACTOR".

This represents the amount of points I consider the movie lost, not because of content, but because my brain's primary job was to suppress pain, and not concentrate on the movie. So if a movie gets a 6.5/10 with a BUTT FACTOR of 1, then this means I probably would've given the movie a 7.5, given enjoyable watching conditions.

Stay tuned for my reviews of "The Descent" and "Seven Swords" later today.


Why do I even bother with these duct-taped together, stress inducing nightmares of OSes?

Don't interpret this as support for Microsoft, although it is. Today I boot up my trusty Ubuntu, load up Azureus and my eDonkey client and they all say my "in progress" data is not found. I check on the data drive that I mounted in my "home" to find out more than half the data on one of my drives is gone. Not all of it, if it were the case I would blame it on a failed "mount" attempt. Because mounting a drive in Linux really is an act of faith. If it doesn't work, just reboot. But this one showed only PART of the data (2 folders instead of 10) which, in most normal OSes, means that the rest of the data has been erased. Now that seemed to indicate that I would spend the rest of my vacations running file recovery tools on that drive to pull back what's on them. After a bit of cursing and promises I would never ever deal with these patched up pseudo-OSes again, I decided to just reboot.

Well lo and behold, the data is all back. Safe and Sound. So mounting a drive in Linux isn't an act of faith as I understood it. Thinking it either worked or didn't. It's actually more complex than that. It can partially work, or partially not work. There is probably some complex random algorythm within the mount command that calculates what percentage of the drive to mount depending on the weather. That must be it.


Linux is not ready for prime time. It may never be.

As if I actually had spare time, I tried, as I did twice before in my life, to install and run Linux on one of my machines. I am very pro open-source, pro windows alternative and all of that, but once again I am forced to admit that Linux is yet very far from prime time.

Two things are different between this time I installed Linux and the preceding times. 1) I will actually keep the Linux machine and not go back to Windows. 2) I will stop pretending that Linux is somewhat close to going prime time, or that it is close to being "consumer-friendly".

Why will I keep it? Simple. The computer it is on now has a very limited responsibility on my network. It needs to serve files and printers, to scan documents, and to download bittorrent and edonkey files. And I believe I will be able to manage that.

Now the meat of this entry. Why do I feel that Linux is further away from prime time as I did the last times I installed it? The answer is that Linux doesn't seem to have much will at all to move towards being a more user-friendly platform. Last system I installed was Ubuntu Breezy Badger, and the current one is Ubuntu Dapper Drake. I still believe Ubuntu is the most user-friendly Linux OS out there. Still, there are absolute no-nos that need to be addressed, but aren't. Here's a pretty generic problem and the solution.

1) I install a secondary hard drive, format it ext3, mount it under my home drive. But I can't do crap with it. It says I don't have permission. It says that drive doesn't belong to me. This is emblematic of what Linux stands for : protecting you against non-existent threats.

I have a pretty decent security system that prevents people from accessing my data. It's called a door with a lock. Most apartments and houses come with those. It means that if someone crashes the door or picks the lock, my data is theirs. If they can't, then it's not. I'm pretty happy with that system. Worked so far. My point is, how dare a stupid OS tells ME I don't own the drive. Did I steal it and not know about it? I still have the invoice for it. I even scanned the invoice, figuring if the OS reads it , it will recognize me as the owner of the drive. But no. I still don't own it.

Permission for this, permission for that. Every time I want to sneeze on this machine now I have to beg for the permission to do it. I keep whining that Micro$oft is stealing control away from the users. Well it still has a long way to go before it reaches the level of Linux.

2) The problem I've mentioned above certainly have a simple solution. One I will find out by searching a few keyphrases on Google. On some forum, some guy who has enough heart to share his infinite knowledge will have detailed out the solution. It usually takes the following form : Open up the console and write "sudo some bullshit /etc/home/whocares gedit right /user +crapme -r -b hde1". Of course! How could I not figure this out by myself? This is why Linux is not ready for prime time. With windows, even if I don't KNOW how to do something, I can just dive-in with my trusty mouse and eventually I'll stumble upon the solution. There's just a few places, all relatively obvious, to look at. The Control Panel, Program Files/System Tools. You don't know? Just search until you find. With Linux the answer is always a complexly written unintelligible sentence which brings back the nightmarish era of MS-DOS. I should need a command prompt console to install a new hard drive as much as I should need a cave wall and some cow blood to paint something.

Could it get better? Of course. But somehow it doesn't look like a priority. The enigmatic stoneage-worthy concept of the command line seems to be admired, even revered by the Linux community, rather than shunned and hated as it should. Such archaic concept should be driven out of mainstream operations and kept only for the most obscure, advanced usage of the OS (installing a new hard drive and getting it to work doesn't count).

There was a time, starting with Corel Linux and up to Ubuntu Breezy Badger, when I saw tangible steps taken towards reducing the reliance upon the command line. But since then it is as though a ceiling has been reached. Can giving myself permission to access my own hard drive be too complex to implement into the GUI? It sure seems that way.

I'm sorry to declare that as a consumer-ready OS, Linux is still trailing way behind Windows, and will for the foreseeable future.


The Archangel Chapter website opens to the public

My latest indie game project, The Archangel Chapter, now has a website opened to the public. Visit http://archangelchapter.com for all the details.


Galactica Reconciliation

I had tried to watch Battlestar Galactica 2003 when it first came out. Unfortunately I could only focus on how the series was destroying my childhood by completely ignoring (or deliberately raping) concepts that were brought forward by the original series which I was fond of (Starbuck and Boomer women? Baltar a part of the crew? Please). But after hearing everyone and their grandmother claiming this was the best show on TV, ever, I gave it another shot.

I've finished watching the miniseries and 2 of the series episodes. Here are my thoughts. I've done my best to avoid spoilers :

- Ship design : Vastly inferior to the original. Should've left it as-is. The new "everything must be rounded" philosophy is really not a aesthetically pleasing as the old retro-tech squarey look of the original series. The Cylons are the ones suffering the most from the "upgrade", as both raiders and base-stars look awful. The most prevalent Colonial Viper in the show, the Mark II, looks pretty similar to it's '70s brethren, which is a good thing, because the newer Vipers don't look that good.

- Cylons : Aside from their ship, the newer sex-craved bio-cylons are also kind of lame. Obvious demographic-targeting ploy to lure in young boys with the dreams of kinky robot sex. It does provide a good opportunity for a "The Thing"-like suspicion fest, as the crew could now be infiltrated with human-like cylons. Except they should be easy enough to spot. The hornier someone is, the most likely he or she is a cylon.

- Characters : There's something you didn't have in the '70s : character development. The new show beats the old one hands-down here. We are no longer in a clean-cut, good or evil environment. Characters are now ambiguous, make decisions that kill innocent people, by mistake or deliberately. Baltar is particularly interesting, although he spends entirely too much time inside his own head screwing his cylon lover.

- Plot/Direction : Another point where the new show mops the floor with the old one. The sense of urgency and isolation is a lot clearer. The number of humans left alive is accounted for and updated, and it goes down more than it goes up. The first episode is particularly effective in expressing just how desperate the situation is.

- Stupid gripe : You know the rather recent camera trick used in exterior shots to track fast-moving object? The camera starts badly focused, zoomed and oriented. It stays that way for about a second, then zooms/focuses/orients itself really fast towards the subject, then stays on it somewhat erratically as if the cameraman had trouble keeping track? Well, in Galactica, they use this trick WITH ALL EXTERIOR SHOTS, even those without fast moving objects. Now THAT is slightly amateurish and rather annoying.

- Music : The original Galactica theme ruled, and it was a bad mistake to leave it out of this show. Speaking of the introduction of the new show. So far it's horrible. Music is really not that endearing and the opening of the show is made from shots of that very episode, sometimes containing spoilers. Thumbs down.

- Overall : I'm hooked. It is, so far, a much better show than the old one, albeit one with relatively poor ship design, annoying exterior shots and artificially injected sex. The characters are awesome and the dilemmas gut-wrenching. It's qualities far outweighs it's shortcoming. Looking forward to the rest of it.


Development Blog

As some of you may know I've started my own indie gaming project. I've decided to create a production blog in order to help me remember the different steps and milestones of the project once it's done. If you're interested in game development or programming you might be interested. You can find it here.