Category Archives: Matt’s thoughts

The Martian, The first great fall movie release?

the-martianThe book The Martian by Andy Weir, has become my favorite book I have read in the last few years. It also ranks up there as one of my all time favorites so far with a handful of other books. Which leads into the excitement I felt when I saw that the book going to be made into a movie with a bunch of actors I like. Among those are Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain. The trailers and videos I have seen so far for the movie makes me think that it has the possibility to be a very good movie.

I have embedded the most recent trailer that came out a day or two ago, and I like this trailer more than the first one that came out a few months ago. It sets up the story well and I like the song that they paired with the trailer.

I would also consider the release of The Martian the kick off to the fall/winter movie season. I am looking forward to a great movie season this fall and winter, with the highlights including the new James Bond film Spectre, the conclusion to the Hunger Games series Mockingjay Part 2 and of course to finish off the year Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens. With that kind of movie line-up it almost starts to rival what we have seen some summers for blockbuster films.

If you could not tell already I am excited for The Martian to come out on October 2nd 2015.

Why I am excited about the movie ‘Interstellar’

interstellar-posterThere are several reasons I am excited about Christopher Nolan’s newest film coming out in November of this year. The first few are easy to describe. I have generally liked the movies Nolan has done, so I am interested to see what he has made next. I am a big fan of science fiction and this movie easily falls into that category.  It has a good cast attached to it that I have enjoyed in the past with Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, and Matt Damon among the people in it. The major reason I am excited about the movie is the idea of space exploration that is at the heart of the movie from what I can tell from the two trailers I have seen so far. To me space exploration is the last frontier for human exploration to a certain degree and throughout our history humans have always been explorers of the unknown.  I think this idea is beautifully put in the voice over from Matthew McConaughey in the teaser trailer that was released at the end of 2013:

We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments, these moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Perhaps we’ve just forgotten… that we are still pioneers, that we’ve barely begun, and that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us. Because our destiny lies above us. 

To me it is a shame that NASA retired the space shuttle and we are now reliant on the Russians to travel to the International Space Station. I wish our country could rekindle that sense of dreaming and be pioneers again with a return to the Moon or even Mars, which is something that I would love to see.

The first trailer if you have not seen it is below the cut. Continue reading Why I am excited about the movie ‘Interstellar’

30 Years of Mac Computers

mac30I am a few days late on this post since the Mac’s 30th anniversary was last week but I still wanted to share my thoughts. For me I have used Apple computers all my life. The first computer I used at home was one of the green-screened Apple II models. Over the course of the years I have used several Macintosh computer models and I am inclined to think that Apple and their computers have had a great effect on my continued love for all things technological. The first Mac computer I bought for myself was a Titanium PowerBook G4 in August of 2003 before I went off to my freshmen year of college at Gustavus Adolphus. That was a great laptop for me that served me through my entire college career. My Mac’s have served me well over the years and I hope they continue to.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball has a great post that he did yesterday on how in some key ways you can still see the design decisions from the very first Mac OS.

For one thing, they sweated the details. The greatest testimony to their genius is just how much of that original design is recognizable in today’s Mac OS X 10.9. A Mac user from 1984 could sit down in front of an iMac or MacBook today and recognize it as a successor to that original machine. That’s simply amazing.

Even more amazing is that some things haven’t changed at all. File, Edit, and View menus to start the Finder menu bar — the same today as in System 1 in 1984.

Daring Fireball: Special.

 In a piece that touches on a similar topic MG Siegler over at ParisLemon — 30 Years Ago, Apple Was The Same Company talks about how the design philosophy and decisions that guided Apple 30 years ago with the first Mac are still present in their current products.

Finally Apple released a great video for the 30th anniversary of the Mac and I have included it below.

“The Magicians” Review

7125342I have been looking back at some books I have read and which I have given shorter reviews to in the last few years and I have decided to update and do a little expanding on those reviews.

First off is The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which is set in modern day New York and based around a young teen named Quentin Coldwater who ends up finding out that magic is real and is accepted into a school that teaches modern day magic.  Quentin Coldwater faces the standard problems teens face but also faces some uniquely magical problems that he must confront in this new world of magic he is in.

The Magicians  by Lev Grossman I would say is not an amazing book but is still an enjoyable read overall. I found it a bit interesting how Lev Grossman can sometimes pass a few months of time simply in a few pages. I sometimes wished he had slowed down a little in how much time he covered to give us more of the story that the characters where going through in the book. The jumps in time certainly contrast to the Harry Potter series where each book covers one school year.  I don’t think I would need to see the book confined to one school year per book just slow down a little more than Grossman ended up doing in the book.

Overall I found it was an enjoyable book, in that it gave me a different view of magic then say Harry Potter did over course of that series. I have the sequel The Magician King and plan to read it some time soon just not sure when. I just have so many books to pick from that I want to read that it is hard to decide what to read next.

The Costs of Over Working

working-overtimeI came across a good article at The New Yorker about over working which is a issue that certainly has become more prevalent with the advent of technology that allows people to stay connected to work much more easily.  While the article mainly takes a look at it through the financial sector, I think the problems of over working is applicable to many professions.  I certainly know the feeling of working more than your standard 40 hours because most of my paid jobs in the last few years have been on political campaigns. The norm is to work between 60-80 and even close to 100 hours of the week.  That being the 7 day work week since there rarely is a day off in the world of political campaigns. Going into campaigns you know that is the case and expect those types of hours, but that knowledge does not keep you from some times having those days where you are just dragging a bit.  One quote I wanted to pull out of the article that talks about the problems of overworking:

The perplexing thing about the cult of overwork is that, as we’ve known for a while, long hours diminish both productivity and quality. Among industrial workers, overtime raises the rate of mistakes and safety mishaps; likewise, for knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level. As Solomon put it, past a certain point overworked people become “less efficient and less effective.” And the effects are cumulative. The bankers Michel studied started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgment declined.

via James Surowiecki: The Costs of Working Too Much : The New Yorker.

I can very much understand how that could happen to people who have worked such long hours for a sustained period of time over multiple years. Being able to find the right work-life balance is important I think for every one so that you can keep your mental and physical health at a good level.  What that balance is for each person I am sure is a bit different but important to find.  This second quote from the article I also found interesting:

When new regulations limited medical residents’ working hours to eighty a week, many doctors complained of declining standards and mollycoddling, and said that it would have a disastrous effect on training, even though residents in Europe work many fewer hours, without harming the quality of medical care. “I went through it, so you should” is a difficult impulse to resist. 

The comparison between European and American work hours is not totally new to me, but still interesting when I come across good examples that illustrate it. I also certainly understand the impulse of if “I went through it you should too.” I think it is a bit natural to have people go through what you had to go through, the feeling of that type of working conditions is a rite of passage or similar feelings.

The issue of overworking certainly is a subject that needs to be discussed and I thought I would share my experience of over working related to the jobs I have had. The whole article is well worth a read and is not real long, so check it out. 

Image courtesy of I Drew Something Blog

Kevin Spacey On The Future Of TV

Kevin Spacey delivers the 2013 MacTaggart lecture in EdinburghKevin Spacey gave a speech at Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival recently and he made some great points on the future of not just TV but filmed entertainment in general be it TV, Film or web/computer based of some form.

“Clearly the success of the Netflix model, releasing the entire season of House of Cards at once, proved one thing: The audience wants the control. They want the freedom. If they want to binge as they’ve been doing on House of Cards and lots of other shows, we should let them binge. I can’t tell you how many people have stopped me on the street and said, ‘Thank you, you sucked three days out of my life.”

This shift of the audience having now at least some control over their viewerships of TV has certainly been growing since the advent of the VCR.  It has really taken off in the last decade with the invention of the DVR/Tivo and the prevalence of websites and digital stores like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon Instant. Count me among the people that is grateful to have this control over our media and when we watch it. Another quote from Spacey that follows along from the quote above.

“And through this new form of distribution, we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it. Well, some will still steal it, but I think we can take a bite out of piracy.”

While I would say TV has certainly made some good strides in this area, they still have areas to improve on making content reasonable priced and easy to access all the time and if they can make it better it I think it could be even more successful. If you remove more of the restrictions on media on where people can play it or when they can see by enforcing viewing videos say of not posting a new episode on Hulu until 8 days have passed, those are the type of things I think can improve viewership and likely at least to a degree decrease piracy.

Here is a trimmed down video of Spacey’s speech that has some of the highlights.  Below the cut is the full longer speech.

 

Continue reading Kevin Spacey On The Future Of TV

Pacific Rim, Summer Movie champion?

pacific-rim-poster-image

Part of the success of the movie I also think comes from director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro. I have seen and enjoyed his movies before and had confidence that he could pull this movie off.  Del Toro managed to create a movie that it made it believable we could have a world where giant monsters could be fighting giant robots.  He created characters that were believable enough. But while they could use possibly a little more character development he gives you enough for the action movie that it is. With that said, he gave us characters that are different and diverse enough from each other to help the movie. The other part I wish we had more of in the movie is possibly a little bit more mythology or backstory of the monsters, but not having that did not heavily take away enjoyment of the movie.

Overall for me, Pacific Rim, was different enough and great fun seeing giant monsters fighting against giant robots. The monsters and the robots were the real stars of the movie since there was not any real A-list stars in it and that worked just fine, since it allowed the movie to showcase them even more. Finally as some who often enjoys the film scores I quite enjoyed the score by Ramin Djawadi.

Why I am disappointed Argo won Best Picture

Argo Oscars

I was not surprised last night that Argo won the Best Picture Oscar, just disappointed because I did not think it was the best movie of five of the nine nominees that I had seen.  The five I have seen are Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook. For me I would have been happy if Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty had won Best Picture from the five I had seen.

I am not saying that Argo is a bad movie, but like I said not the best of the nominees. In my opinion the problem with Argo was that I did not feel much tension at the end of the movie, in the final road block that the characters were facing.  Given the movie is based on a true story and has at least some basis in fact, we already knew the outcome of the movie before going into it.  In the case of Argo, the movie did not give me enough story or gripping characters to make me forget that I already knew the ending to this movie given its ground in real life. Overall it is a good movie and worth seeing once, but it is not one that I am going to go out and purchase for my movie collection.

Lincoln PosterIn contrast to Argo both Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, while based on real life events like Argo, gave me enough in terms of story and character development/investigation. For Lincoln, the movie gave me a great character study of one our great presidents, Abraham Lincoln, to help set off the fact that you already knew that he died and that the amendment would pass. Daniel Day Lewis performed amazingly as Lincoln and made you feel like you were getting a real glimpse at what Lincoln was like. Steven Spielberg and the entire production did a great job at pulling you into the past with how faithfully they created the world of the 1860’s Civil War era.

For Zero Dark Thirty given that it is a military story enough details have been shrouded in secrecy that it is great for the movie to lift the veil on what happened in the search for Osama Bin Laden. The movie also gave us a great performance by Jessica Chastain and her character of Maya showing the very determined CIA officer who relentlessly tracked down Bin Laden and did not give up.

ZeroDarkThirty_v2

In the end we are still left with two great films in Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty and just because they did not win the Oscar for Best Picture does not take away from the fact that they are great films.

Impatience with ‘How I Met Your Mother’

imagesOne of the creators of the TV show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Carter Bays in a recent interview talks about fans impatience at not yet meeting the mother referenced in the title. In the question before this Bays talks about the last girl Ted dates before meeting the mother.

Is she actually the last girlfriend? We’ve seen him try to do that before and it doesn’t go anywhere.
Bays:
 I know, but this will be the one that tops all of those. … I know people are impatient and we appreciated the impatience. I would contend that most people who watch the show watch it this way. We’re not trying to jerk anyone around, but if the series has a point, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. It’s about these five friends. We’re not making ‘Mad About You’. It’s not ‘How I Romanced Your Mother’, which would be a great show and there have been great iterations of that, but that’s not the show we’re doing. I appreciate people’s frustrations and would maybe ask them to forget the show’s title. If we had called it ‘Ted and His Buddies’ or something, maybe there’d be fewer complaints.

via How I Met Your Mother Boss on Show’s Fate, Barney’s Proposal and More – Today’s News: Our Take | TVGuide.com.

For me I have been impatient with the show really in the last two years. I have felt like they simply have not given fans enough clues or hints towards the mother to help tide us over until they finally decide to reveal her.

Also some of the reason I have had less patience with the show is that simply I have not enjoyed the journey as Bays referenced above as much as in earlier seasons.  Maybe not a surprise since when I have felt this it has been during seasons 7 and  the current season 8. It is an older show which is not a surprise that it gets harder to continue having good story lines after so many seasons.  Maybe if I was still enjoying the journey I would not be as impatient as I am now about who the mother is.

The follow-up question to what I posted above touches on the connecting issue I have with the show:

Does that imply that we won’t see the courtship of the mother?
Bays: I still can’t say. [Laughs] But we’re going to start, I’m sure, frustrating a large segment of the viewership by answering a couple of small questions this season here and there before getting to the big shebang. We will get a couple more glimpses of her this year.

Personally I don’t to really want to for the first time meet the mother in the series finale and then have the show end.  I can accept Bays saying that it is the journey to meeting the mother, but at some point I want to met her and get to know her for more than one episode.  I feel like they could give new life to the show if they introduce the mother as a new full-time cast member and stop stalling.

As the show now stands I am really only continuing to watch because I have been a fan from the start.  For me the show has fallen from a must see show or one that I want to catch up on if I miss an episode to not really caring if I miss a new episode now.

Edit: Of course tonight’s (12/17) two new episodes were good after I wrote this post in which I pored cold water on the quality of the show.  Will see if they can keep it up, which I hope they can.

A great look at Aaron Sorkin and his new HBO show Newsroom

Cast of HBO’s Newsroom

Vanity Fair has up a great piece on Aaron Sorkin and his new HBO show Newsroom that will be premiering Sunday, June 24, 2012.  The piece is on the longer side, but I enjoy that when it is on a subject I enjoy.  The article gives you a great sense both in terms of the way Sorkin works and what the new show Newsroom will be like.  Here is one quote on one reason Sorkin creates TV shows:

Sorkin, who has been criticized for credit hogging—most often, the television writing process is highly collaborative—defended his method. “I create these shows so that I can write them,” he said flatly. “I’m not an empire builder. I’m not interested in just producing. All I want to do is write. I came up as a playwright—writing is something you do by yourself in a room.

“That said, I couldn’t possibly write the show without that room full of people. I go in there, and we kick around ideas. I’m writing about all kinds of things I don’t know anything about. So they do research for me.” Argument ensues. And, for Sorkin, happiness. “I come from a family of lawyers, all smarter than I am,” he said. “I grew up really enjoying the sound of intelligence and the sound of a great argument, and wanting to imitate that sound.”

This next quote is a bit obvious sense can tell from the shows he has created but still gives some insight into why he creates the shows he does:

“I really like workplace shows,” he continued. “I like creating workplace families, and writing about people who are very good at what they do, and less good at everything else.”

Finally a quote about the way Sorkin writes the way he does, which as he as says himself, he is wordy:

“I’m pretty wordy when I write,” Sorkin said, putting it pretty mildly. In an era when images have largely muscled out words, and much film and television dialogue feels like a succession of one- (or half-) liners, Sorkin’s scripts hark back to the passionately idealistic, speech-rich screenplays Robert Riskin wrote for Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Meet John Doe. Actors love him for it—it gives them more screen time, after all, and a chance to really strut their stuff. In return, there’s a price to pay.

via Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom: Sneak Peek at the New HBO Show | Hollywood | Vanity Fair.

There is many more interesting things in the article so make sure to check it out.  In the end the article certainly helps keep my enthusiasm for Sorkin’s new show high.