V for Vendetta (and “Awesome”)

March 22nd, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

On Monday evening I saw “V for Vendetta”, the new Wachowski Brothers film based on the graphic novel of the samemask name. I’ve never read the original comic-strip on which the screenplay is based, so my opinions of the film are based only on what I saw, and not any relationship of the movie to the original book.

That said, the movie is extremely well-done, with only a few minor problems:

The Not-So-Good:

* Natalie Portman’s lackluster acting and mediocre rendition of the accent, which in more than a couple of scenes, she seems to forget about altogether.

* A few poor choices of lines, usually completely unrelated to the central plot, and overly melodramatic.

The Good:

* Visually stunning. The exploding-Houses-of-Parliament sequence is jaw-dropping.

* Excellent set design, and brilliant attention to detail in the film. The designers do a fine job of articulating what a dystopian near-future London might look like, and throughout the dystopia, manage to make everything still seem London-esque, right down to the choice of typeface and signage.

* A fine storyline. I’ll talk about this some more below:

Though the original graphic novel is supposed to take place in 1997, inspired in part by the rise of conservativism in the 1980s, the plot seems to have been tweaked a bit to resonate with a contemporary American audience. September 11th isn’t mentioned explicitly, though there is a fast mention of Iraq. If you leave the theater and don’t feel the slightest connection with contemporary world events and American politics, you were asleep. I think it’s a generally good sign that conservative critics of Vendetta are slamming the film for “glorifying terrorism”; it means that at least someone was paying attention to the fact that the film is a political allegory. The critics do of course miss that the main characters actions are intentionally morally ambiguous, and V’s role is certainly not a Christ-figure.

Similarly, I think it’s a good thing that liberal critics are saying that the film is an indictment of the Bush Administration. Though this isn’t really true, either. If any indictment, or warning, is being issued by Vendetta, it’s against the audience, cautioning us to be wary of trading freedom for security willingly. The core philosophy seems more like Edward Abbey than modern Democrat. Perhaps the seminal line of the film is “People should not be afraid of the government…government should be afraid of the people.” Does this parallel our contemporary political situation? It’s highly possible, indeed probable, that the Wachowski Brothers intended in their screenplay adaptation to think so. However, I think the true intention was to induce the broader thoughts of “freedom versus security” and so on in the audience.

Snakes on a Plane

March 20th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

If you’ve not heard of the upcoming New Line release, “Snakes on a Plane”, starring Samuel L. Jackson yet, you’ve clearly not spent nearly as much time browsing the Internet as I have. This is probably a good thing. Wired Magazine named it the “Worst Film of 2006″, even though at the time, the only things known about the film were a few production stills and the title.
My friend Steph first brought it to my attention at a party in October, and it’s been the source of much conversation since.

Now, I present to you, via TagWorld, the first official Snakes On A Plane trailer.

So good I’ve watched it three times.

Skype and VoIP

March 2nd, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Over the past 18 months or so, it’s been very interesting to see VoIP technology enter the mainstream. I say “enter the mainstream” because the idea of encoding voice digitally and sending it via Internet Protocol is a reasonably elderly concept, at least in Internet terms. I remember playing with H.323 and NetMeeting back in about 6th grade, at least eight years ago.

That said, the widespread deployment of broadband over the past few years, combined with a couple of innovations to accompany VoIP has allowed almost anyone to make use of the technology, with very little overhead cost. Specifically, those innovations are SIP and Skype. The former, Session Initiation Protocol, is the force behind services like Vonage, where the goal is to replace landline telco services for the consumer and small business. For a short while, I had a Vonage telephone line and was very pleased with the performance. I’ve also experimented with Asterisk (http://www.asterisk.org/), the Open Source IP PBX and while I didn’t get to deploy it properly, it was an extremely impressive piece of software, and a real gem of the OSS world. SIP allows end-to-end connectivity to be made easily without need for extensive firewall modification, which I recall was a constant problem with my early dealings with VoIP.
More recently, I’ve been toying with Skype. Though it’s not as popular in the United States as it is in Europe and Asia, Skype is impressive. Created by the same developers as the KaZaA Peer-to-Peer network, Skype leverages P2P networking for one-to-one or many-to-many voice and video data. It’s extraordinarily easy to use, the quality is impressive, and the video support, though it’s still in beta, is pretty decent.

If you’ve got some spare time on your hands, and have the hardware (a microphone is the only prerequisite), grab yourself a copy from http://www.skype.com and give it a shot. You can reach me via the Skype username guydickinson, though if you look up my email address (guy@gdickinson.co.uk), you can find me that way, too.