The Last Heist: It’s pretty awful

Watched a movie this morning. One of those straight-to-video-on-demand ones. You can get it for $4 on Amazon, if you like. I’m not going to link to it, because you should save your cash. Buy half a beer instead. Better investment of your time. Silly me, I spent the $4.

It actually has a great premise. Here’s the plot: Heist movie. Bad guys rob a bank to get at a safety deposit box with $100 million in it. Except that one of the people in a bank turns out to be a serial killer… played by Henry Freakin’ Rollins.

Now, that sounds pretty awesome, right? Like Die Hard, but twisted. Well, for a such a great idea, they really turned out one terrible movie.

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First, let’s get this out of the way. If you love Henry Rollins, then you’ll find that his performance is very good. He’s actually not in the movie a bunch, which is probably the main problem with it. But when he is on screen, he completely is the whole movie. Best acting in the film, and he’s just playing a guy who is covered in blood, standing perfectly still, and talking a little bit like a very calm crazy-eyed preacher. Not a whole hell of a lot of “range” in his performance is my point.. and still he’s the best in the whole movie. By a mile.

The second best acting in this film is that of the burrito truck guy who has like three lines near the beginning of the movie and is never seen again.

Everybody else: they really, really suck. Like, their performances are easily the worst I’ve ever seen. Stilted, awkward, not delivered as if they’re, you know, in any form of stress. No, because either robbing a place or being held hostage is a totally stress free environment.

The robbers are naturally a diverse cast of men, women, one black guy, etc. Standard. The guy that plays Washington (aka the black guy) actually isn’t half bad. He manages to eek out a bit of stress from the situation, but he just doesn’t have the necessary material to work with here. Not his fault. He’s okay, I’ve seen him before, but I’m darned if I can tell you in what. Probably a CSI episode or something.

But the point is that you actually want Bernard (Henry) to kill them all, partially because they’re stupid and annoying, but mainly so that Henry can get more screen time. Seriously, he has so little screen time that it looks like they shot his scenes over a weekend or two. Given the rest of the movie though, that’s probably true.

In fact, this kind of looks like the type of movie you make when all your budget involves borrowing props from other movies being shot nearby, and using locations where your brother works or your friend has the keys for the place over the weekend.

None of this is helped much by the horrible effects that they used. Muzzle flashes don’t look like that outside of photoshop, guys. Guns don’t fire that way. The ridiculous CGI cartoon like pinging of bullets against the walls that somehow fail to do any damage, even when you’re firing an automatic rifle at what is clearly sheetrock… It’s that bad. And the performances of every single actor shooting any form of weapon here really, truly, showcases that they have never actually shot a gun in their life outside of a Call of Duty game. Nobody really stands up, screams like an idiot, and does a one armed rapid fire spray of bullets. This isn’t a video game, you idiot. Despite your Payday style masks.

Oh, by the way, since the budget clearly couldn’t afford things like blanks for the guns (the gunfire is all just mimed, seriously, it’s that bad, I could go on), so where’d they get a bank to film in? They didn’t, instead it’s a “safety deposit box location” in what appears to be the warehouse district. So, today’s color scheme will be “gray”, and “dark”. Most of it looks filmed inside what looks like disused office space, probably over the weekend.

Any good heist story has twists, and the twists in this particular story number about 8. All of them are easily spotted well in advance, of course, because the script is laughably bad. Arguments between characters seem to exist only to pad out the runtime, which is thankfully short to start with. Every argument makes no sense. Every character is unlikable because of it. Every action taken by the would-be-robbers is stupid in the extreme. None of it makes a damn bit of sense. And every plot element is not only explained, but explained multiple times.

Early on in the movie, they move to a backup plan, which involves opening a hole into an old disused elevator hidden in the building. Fair enough. One guy starts breaking a hole in the wall in a back room.
Later on, we see him continuing to break this hole in sheetrock and bricks.
Later on, somebody asks for his progress on making said hole.
Later on, he has dug said hole, and we discover that voila, there’s an elevator door behind it.
Later on, we see him wander off to the electrical closet to try to get power to it.
Later on, two cops who broke in and are sneaking around find the elevator doors and move on.
Later on, the power comes on, he wanders back, and we get a shot of him pressing the call button to get access to a now working elevator.
Later on, when the bad guy is talking to the corrupt cop, the corrupt cop says something like “so, was your backup plan to use the elevator?” and bad guy says “you know about that?”.
Later on, corrupt cop uses the elevator and we get a shot of him pressing the freakin’ call button.
I mean, at some point, shouldn’t an editor recognize that he’s padding the film out pointlessly? The whole movie is like this, in many ways. The story as filmed would better fit into an episode of a TV show. And not a very good TV show.

Because you’re not going to see this movie, and you shouldn’t, then I feel okay spoiling the ending for you. Henry lives, pretty much everybody else dies. I don’t even consider that a spoiler. He’s clearly the (anti-)hero of the piece, and he’s a crazy serial killer who cuts out people’s eyes. Everybody else is simply so unlikable that you want that guy to win. Which, of course, he does.

Henry, please, go back to making good films. Remember when you had that role in Heat? I know it was a long time ago, but come on. You’ve clearly got the chops to be in good films. We still love you, man. :)

Thoughts on Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a game I like to play when I get a few minutes here or there. Fun to play, the matches are relatively short, new cards appearing every so often keeps it interesting. If you have not played it, but want a fun and free game, give it a try. Works pretty good on phones, great on tablets and PCs.

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And there’s a new expansion coming out next week

Anyway, here’s my thoughts on the recently announced nerfs which will be accompanying the new expansion next week. If you’re not into Hearthstone or gaming, you might just skip this post. :)

Continue reading “Thoughts on Hearthstone”

On Terry Pratchett

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When I was a kid, I found about Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels from my dad very early on. He had quite a large collection, including an original paperback of Dune (in sadly terrible condition), lots of the ERB Princess of Mars collection (NSF kids, BTW), and all sorts of assorted good collections from the 60s and 70s. Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, just everything. About 200 to 300 novels.

At one point he was going to toss them. I stole the whole lot instead and took it to college with me. Now they sit in my bookshelf, because *hell no* you’re not tossing those! :)

In something like 8th grade, I discovered Douglas Adams in my school library. Sometime shortly after that, I discovered the Discworld of Terry Pratchett. Instant addiction.

When I was in college, one summer, I was staying at home. I was probably around 19 or 20, and working for the summer, as a computer salesman (yes, seriously). My dad had a predilection for late-night reading back then. Lot to do during the day, people bugging him all the time, best to do his reading alone, when he could smoke, at some time after 10 pm. Simple. He used to borrow from my collection (his, which again, I totally stole and told him I was doing so), but which also had many of my own added in.

One night that summer, he chose to read “Moving Pictures”.

I woke up to my dad *screaming* in laughter. He came into my room, at about 2 am, turned on the light, and in between fits of giggling, read this back to me:

‘What’s it called?’ he said cautiously.

‘We call it Evil-Minded Son of a Bitch,’ said the newly-appointed Vice-President in Charge of Camels.

‘That doesn’t sound like a name.’

‘ ‘S a good name for this camel,’ said the handler fervently.

 

I laughed along with him, and proceeded to inform him that a) yes, I had read the book like a dozen times, and b) it was 2 in the god damn morning, let me sleep you son of a bitch, I need to be at work at 7 am, jackass.

Here’s the thing. Thinking back on that, that particular quote isn’t actually funny without the backstory and setup. It’s a straight-man joke. It’s the kind of joke you need setup for in TV shows. That’s how good Terry Pratchett was. You had this entire mental image of the surroundings, the people, the background, the backstory, everything necessary to make that joke *friggin’ hilarious*, without ever seeing anything but black text on a white background. Terry was simply that good of a storyteller.

Tonight, I received in the mail “The Shepherd’s Crown” from my Amazon pre-order. I have not opened it yet. I actually teared up when I looked at the package, because Terry died back in March, and I have not fully dealt with that fact yet. I have read and reread everything Terry Pratchett ever wrote, oh, hundreds of times. I have memories of me and my dad laughing over his prose. I know excessive amounts of details about the Discworld and can quote ridiculously long passages from the novels for no reason whatsoever.

Laughing along with Terry at his insanely funny parody of the crazy world around us helped me through sometimes, especially when I needed to laugh rather than weep at the silliness surrounding us all.

I’m not sure I can open that package from Amazon. I’m sure I will, eventually.

But, you know what? I miss you, Terry. Thanks for all the laughs, especially when I needed them the most.

How WP affected me

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Since everybody else is doing a blog post about how they got started with WordPress, figured I might as well give up my story too. Hey, a blogger’s gotta blog. ;)

Originally, this was a story about WordPress. But I’m not posting it on my WordPress blog, because as I wrote it, I found that this isn’t a story about how I use WordPress, as such. It’s a story about how using and working with and on WordPress has impacted my own life. So it’s on my personal blog. This may reduce the number of readers, but whatever. :)

This is long. So, click through the more link to read it.

Continue reading “How WP affected me”

How to cook properly

MAN COOK MEAT WITH FIRE

Not “man show fire to meat and then eat it while it still squirts and pulses.”

KILL IT DED WITH FIRE YUS

“Medium rare” = “good vet could get it up on its feet in an hour or two.” That’s not cooked with fire. That’s threatened with fire.

I DO NOT SEASON STEAK

Start seasoning steak and before you know it? You’re French. No. I go to my personal butcher and say, “Give me a piece of meat that’s been sawn off an animal.” And they throw me a chunk of animal. And then I say “Show me the animal this meat was sawn off.” And they show me a picture of a crying cow with a gaping hole in its side. And I say “Did the animal cry when you sawed my piece of meat off it?” And they show me a Ziploc bag full of cow tears. And I say, “Rub that on my steak! Let that be my seasoning!”

Email to my condo management company…

Hi!

FIX THE FUCKING ELEVATOR.

It’s broke. Again. Stuck on the fifth floor. For no reason whatsoever. No weather, no power outage, no nothing.

This is like the fifth time in 2 months.

What is so hard about this? What is the major malfunction? Is elevator science new or something? Why can we not get a fucking elevator that works for more than 2 fucking weeks?

Is it money? Is it sex? Is there some kind of magical fairy fucking unicorn that is needed to solve this god-damn problem? I dunno. Do you? DOES ANYBODY KNOW?

Hire somebody worth a shit and get the god-damn thing corrected. Or somebody, at some point, is just going to stop fucking paying.

Nothing personal. Just a tad ticked off.

-Otto

The Pirate Bay trying to launch flying server farms…

TPB says that they want to have their servers flying over international waters.

While I’m sure that this is pretty unrealistic, though certainly do-able, if they actually get it to work then there’s only one real response I can make:

On another note though, I don’t see how this solves their basic problem. They still have to have that radio link on some shore somewhere. In a sense, this is no different than if they put the things on a boat and ran a bunch of cables to land. Ignoring potential attacks on the boat, those cables have to touch ground somewhere, and that’s the point of attack. Unless you have lots of them and have them possibly mobile, which is at least more feasible with radio than with undersea cables.

I suspect that the idea is more of a political talking point. They do seem to love coming up with those.

SOPA, PIPA, and the MPAA

I’ve been reading some of the latest comments from Chris Dodd. I find it both amusing and saddening at how despite a resounding (but momentary) loss, he still doesn’t get the underlying ideas here. He’s blaming the current failure of SOPA/PIPA on things like “slow pacing” and the fact that this gave “the Internet and free speech advocates time to wake up and mobilize”.

Nowhere does he seem to realize that we are all against it because it is actually bad law.

See, Mr. Dodd, I think what you’re missing here is that you’re dealing with the Internet. It’s not “Silicon Valley” that is against you, it is everybody in the whole world that is intelligent enough to think for themselves and vocal enough to communicate with like-minded others.

I’m not against SOPA/PIPA because Google said so, or because Wikipedia was offline. I’m against SOPA/PIPA because I actually read the text of the damn things and I think they are bad law.

Like many, many other people who spend the majority of their lives online, I’m a pretty smart guy. I can read and write computer code. I also know English. Most of the time, I even know how to spell. And before I formulated my opinion on SOPA and PIPA, I went to the ‘net, found the text of the bills in question and read them. Then I weighed their texts against what I know about the internet (which just so happens to be a lot). It’s that simple, really.

Mr. Dodd, can you say that you have actually read and thought about these bills in great detail? Do you actually know how the internet works, and can you understand the effects that the language in these bills, if passed into law, would actually have? Because from your remarks, it seems to me that you don’t have the first clue what it is that you’re talking about and who it is that you’re dealing with.

See, you’re not dealing with Senators and Congressmen who pass bills having never read the text of them or even had them summarized to them by an intern. Instead, you’re dealing with the many, many intelligent thinking people who frequent the internet. People who understand language, and code, and law. People who have dealt with legalese in the form of licenses, and contracts, and EULAs. No, I Am Not A Lawyer, but I’ve read enough legal documents to know what the words mean and how they will be used regardless of their original intent. I’ve seen the myriad abuses of the DMCA.

Sir, we of the internet have been through legal hell and back, and frankly, we’re not willing to take it anymore.

More to the point, it seems to me that you haven’t actually considered how to solve the problem that you’re claiming to want to solve. Namely, you want to solve piracy.

Here’s the problem: Nothing in SOPA or PIPA or any other legal document you try to create will ever solve piracy. Can’t be done. The law does not prevent crime, it only punishes it. You’re unable to punish pirates, so you’re creating laws that are attempting to punish non-pirates, which just makes no sense.

Good news though! There is actually a way to stop widespread piracy of content: Convince the content creators to actually try to sell their product in sane ways. Look at what happened to the music industry, or the gaming industry.

In 1996 or so, the MP3 format emerged onto the fledgling internet. The encoders back then were kinda crap, and we were still in the floppy disk era to some degree, but the fact that 1 minute of CD quality music could fit into 1 megabyte changed the game. Suddenly it became feasible to put your CD’s onto computer-based media and use them for playing tunes. Sharing songs became much more accessible. A few years later, Napster emerged and changed the whole game. Sharing took off so rapidly that the music creators couldn’t adjust fast enough, and tried all sorts of ridiculous methods to try to convince people that sharing music was stealing. None of this worked.

What did work was the iTunes music store. Selling music online was kinda crap up until this point, because although it was there, it didn’t work properly and there was incompatibilities and the price was too high, etc. Apple did indeed change all that, although it took them a few iterations to sort out all the problems. Music piracy is still rampant, but only among a very small set of people. The iTunes music store fairly dominates music sales, by a huge margin.

Back in the day, I used to pirate video games. Hey, I was in college and couldn’t afford them. Later when I could afford them, I did buy a few, but copy-protection mechanisms often forced me to pirate them anyway just to play what I had purchased. What solved this problem for me was Steam, created by Valve software. With Steam, compatibility issues are mostly a thing of the past. I can buy the games I want without getting off the couch, and have them on the computer a short while later. No discs, no trips to the store, no fuss. I could have pirated Skyrim, instead I paid the $60 because it was worth that much simply to not have to spend my time trying to pirate it and dealing with the hassle.

That’s the key to solving piracy of content. Allow people to buy the content in a way that solves their problems. If I download a movie or TV show from a pirate site, then that’s likely only because the only other way to get it creates some kind of burden on me.

Some people in Europe have no legitimate way to watch TV shows from the United States. As in there are no actual legal means to do so whatsoever. It’s not for sale on DVD, it’s not online for streaming, it’s not broadcast locally.. And yet they still want to watch this content. It’s a bit hard for the MPAA to claim a “lost sale” when it’s not even possible for them to make a sale in the first place.

There’s shows made in the UK that I watch. Some of them I downloaded, because they won’t be broadcast here for many months, though they’ve already been broadcast there. I’ve downloaded them, watched them, and deleted them. I would have paid a couple bucks to do that, had there been a way to do it. There is no such way, and asking me to wait several months is burdensome when there’s no actual reason that I can’t do it right now.

Content creators do have the right to control distribution of their creations, but honestly, I think that they do not have the right to prevent such distribution by all possible methods. Intellectual property only exists because we the people agree that it exists. We agreed upon this specifically in order to foster the creation and spread of new ideas and new culture. When you prevent that spread, then you have violated this agreement, and the people will disregard that which you consider to be your “property”.

This is simply a fact, you’re welcome to disagree with it, but your disagreement with it won’t make it any less true.

Yes, there are those who pirate because it’s free, but if you’ve ever tried to pirate content, then you’d know that “free” applies to cost only. It doesn’t apply to time, or ease, or anything else. Pirates make things complex, specifically to get around your laws and restrictions. Pirating content is hard, and it’s something that 95% will resort to only when they have no other choice. The content creators of the world are forcing pirates into existence by simply restricting the means by which one can not-pirate.

If you want to stop piracy, you have to work within the bounds of reality as it actually is, and not within what you think it should be. Reality will not change for you, nor for anybody else, Mr. Dodd. We will continue to oppose all efforts by you and those who agree with you, but we will oppose them on our own terms, and because we all individually have thought through your rhetoric, and because we individually disagree with it.