Saturday, April 26, 2014

Future War (1997)…The Best of the Worst (Movie review)

Note:  This is another review posted from my Epinions reviews.   I am making a few modifications since it was written so long ago.

I actually bought Future War many years ago at the mall. It was $3.  I figured that it was about the same price as renting. I should warn you that this movie was overpriced.

It starts with three people walking through these narrow corridors looking for something, presumably to kill it. They find it, but one of the three people trips and gets eaten. This marks the start of the opening credits, which alternate between names on a black background and scenes inside this empty ship. You get the impression that someone’s on it, but you can’t actually see anyone. Finally, Runaway, played by Daniel Bernhardt, washes up on shore. He’s a runaway slave (hence the name) running, and running from something bad. If you want to know how bad, remember that the writers didn’t bother to come up with a better name than Runaway.

Killer cyborgs and their dinosaur trackers are after him. The cyborgs look like the original concept was a vampire and the makeup department couldn’t even get that right. The dinosaurs also look like it was a real dollar-store effort. I’m not trying to demean dollar stores, but you’d think that a movie could do a little better than cheap puppets. That’s not even mentioning the point-of-view shots. For the cyborgs, we see a shot with the colors distorted and some lines framing the image. Dinosaurs only get a strong red tint.

For the first 15 minutes of the movie, there’s no real dialogue, unless you count the screams of innocent bystanders as dialogue. Apparently, the dinosaurs aren’t too smart and the cyborgs don’t talk much, so the dinosaurs will kill anything in their path until they eventually kill their intended target. This includes a guy on the beach and some homeless guy. Runaway manages to kill a dinosaur before he runs into a warehouse to hide from the cyborg. When we finally do get to see the cyborg (it had been point-of-view shots for a while) we get to see the epitome of bad acting. Think of all of the zombies, androids, and other things that walk stiffly. How it had managed to keep up is beyond me.

The set design for the warehouse looked like it was done at the last minute and/or with a microbudget. There were lots of empty cardboard boxes filled with thing that, when they fall, make a cheap, broken-glass kind of sound. We even get to see Runaway pull out some martial arts on the cyborg. There was one scene that made me think of Jean-Claude Van Damme channeling Bruce Lee. He dispatches it quickly and moves on.

He eventually hooks up with a sister who’s on the verge of losing her faith and has friends played by actors reading off of cue cards. They can’t figure out why Runaway can’t speak English. (He does pick it up eventually.) The movie takes off from there as they mobilize to take on the threat from another killer cyborg and dinosaur, both of which take a lot longer to kill than their predecessors. As is typical with a b movie, the good guys win and the bad guys stand only enough of a chance to get some good fight scenes into the movie.

The entire movie wreaks of a low budget and is even confusing at times. As I mentioned, the acting is sub par. The set for the church looks like the movie rented out someone’s bedroom. Also, notice that when the reporter from Channel 2 is doing his report, it looks like the microphone has only a piece of paper with ׀” written on it. It’s pathetic to think that someone doing a movie couldn’t bust out to have a fake microphone made up.

Now, there are a few things that I can’t figure out. We know that there’s a ship in the area of Earth; I’m assuming that this is the one that Runaway escaped from. However, did he steal the ship? Was it just some ship that he was being transported on? Was it the cyborgs’ ship sent to retrieve him?

About the cyborgs, it says that they were sent from the future to retrieve Runaway, but there’s no mention of time travel other than the text right after the opening credits. Also, are cyborgs the masters who enslaved Runaway or are they simply sent out as automatons? We know that the humans and dinosaurs are actually from Earth. They even have Christianity as their religion. It’s odd that Runaway could quote the Bible, even though it took him a while to figure out spoken English.

This movie is what other bad movies aspire to be.  At least it's good for a few laughs.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Alien Nation (1988)

Note:  This is another repost from Epinions.  This is why the first paragraph may seem a little dated.

Illegal immigration is a hot-button issue today.  Arizona passed a law making it legal for police to ask people for their papers.  (There’s talk of a similar law in Florida.)  There are several walls at the U.S.-Mexican border.  Immigration is on the minds of a lot of people.  There are lots of opinions and ideas on the topic.

How would you stop aliens from outer space?  Yes, the E.T., funny-looking, nanu-nanu, pointy-ear, little green kind.  In Alien Nation, Southern California had to deal with just that.  The movie was released in 1988, but set in in the 1990s.  An alien race called the Newcomers have landed on Earth and have no way to get back home.  Most were bred for slave labor and meant to survive in almost any environment.

Now, they have to assimilate to life on Earth.  They work, go to school, raise families and do everything that humans do.  They just look very different from us.  They have larger heads, no hair and spots all over their heads.  They’re also much stronger and smarter than humans.

The movie starts with two detectives, Bill Tuggle (Roger Aaron Brown) and Matt Sykes (James Caan), responding to a robbery of a convenience store.   Two Newcomers shoot and kill the guy running the store, then turn on the detectives and kill Tuggle before they get away.  Sykes didn’t like Newcomers to begin with.  Now he really hates them and wants revenge.  Sykes has been told not to investigate Tuggle’s death, but has no plans on not looking into it.

When Newcomer police officer Samuel Francisco (Mandy Patinkin) is promoted to detective, Sykes volunteers to be his partner.  Sykes makes it clear that the only reason that he’s doing this is because he needs a connection to the Newcommer community.  Francisco will be able to talk to people that Sykes can’t.  Francisco will know things that Sykes doesn’t.  Their partnership isn’t any sort of act of goodwill.  He also tells his new partner that he’ll be calling him George since he can’t very well go around calling him Sam Francisco.

The two are an odd couple.  Sykes tends to be more street smart, willing to cut corners when necessary.  Francisco is more by the books, but not very knowledgeable about humans or the new society he’s in.  Together, they find out that there’s a lot more to Tuggle’s death than just the robbery.  A group of Newcomers are making a drug that was used on the ship to keep the slaves in line.  It’s very potent and very dangerous.  It could undermine everything that Newcomers have done on Earth.

The movie has a split personality about it.  On the one hand, it’s a movie about two good police officers trying to take down the bad guys.  On the other hand, it’s a movie about culture clash.  Sykes is a racist and Francisco is the target of his prejudice.  The two of them have a lot to learn about the other.

Much of the movie deals with Sykes coming to terms with Newcomers and with Francisco learning about humans.  In one scene, Sykes has to explain to Francisco what a condom is.  (Francisco is amazed that it actually does what Sykes claims.)  Also, many of the Newcomers have weird names, which is something Sykes asks Francisco about.  (One of the other main characters is called Rudyard Kipling.)  Francisco points out that in his language, Sykes translates roughly as “excrement cranium.”

It ended up being a very good movie.  Yes, I am a bit biased towards science-fiction movies, but it was well paced.  It’s also interesting to think how our society would react to a shipload of aliens landing on Earth with no way off the planet.  Even though the difference is obvious, deporting them really isn’t an option.  (This really isn’t addressed in the movie.)

It’s not really the kind of movie I’d buy, but I do watch it when it comes on TV.  Even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi movies, it’s still possible to watch this movie.  While it does deal with societal issues, it doesn’t really beat you over the head with the aliens being from another world.  At worst, you get to see them drink sour milk, which is like beer to them.

IMDb page

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I have a soul…I just don't have it with me (Cold Souls review)

Note:  This is a review that's reposted from Epinions.

Very few works of fiction try to tackle what a soul is.  What is it about or minds and consciousness that makes us self-aware?  What does a soul do, exactly?  What would happen if we could have our soul extracted and put into storage?

In Cold Souls, Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti.  (A brilliant stroke of casting, I think.)  Giamatti (the character) is preparing for his role in Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, but just can’t seem to get it right.  Someone tells him about a service that will remove his soul and put it into storage.  When he reads about it in the New Yorker, he seriously considers it.

This may all sound sinister, but in this movie, it’s really not.  When Giamatti goes in to speak to a doctor, he’s told that it will remove the burden of his emotions, allowing him to go through life much more easily and clearly.  After a little convincing, Giamatti has the procedure done.

At first, it’s not so bad.  There’s no guilt or fear, but his work and social life do suffer.  When he and his wife are out with some of her friends, one of the friends is talking about caring for a terminally ill patient.  Giamatti casually suggests that she just pull the plug.  When talking about it in the car later, Giamatti has absolutely no idea what he did wrong.  As for the play, he starts overcompensating.  He’s going in a totally wrong direction.  Giamatti soon realizes that he needs his soul back.

Back at the facility, the doctor convinces Giamatti to take the soul of a Russian poet instead.  He gets through the play fine, but realizes that the only soul that will do is his own.  He goes back and insists on getting his own soul back, but it’s too late.  His soul has been stolen by Nina, a woman working for a Russian dealing in black-market souls.  His wife wanted the soul of an American actor and Giamatti’s was the only one available.  After finding out what Nina did, Giamatti sets off with her to get his soul back.

You’ll notice that Russians factor into the movie quite a bit.  Not having actually read Chekov or any other Russian literature, it’s hard to tell how much this influences the movie, but the movie can be somewhat heavy at times.  Giamatti is conflicted about having his soul removed.  A soul is a pretty big thing to have taken out.  Yes, he can have it reversed, but is it really necessary?  He’s a very tormented character.

There are also a lot of aspects of the movie that are depressing.  For instance, Nina is little more than a mule.  Transporting as many souls as she has, she’s left with residue that means that she may not be able to get her own soul back.  There is also a scene with Giamatti waiting in a Russian hotel.  It seems he has little to do beyond walking around the hotel property waiting for Nina to get back.

There are some humorous points.  For instance, each soul looks different.  Giamatti’s looks like a chickpea.  Another looks like a jellybean.  It’s not known why each looks different, but it does bother Giamatti that his is so small.  (Apparently, size doesn’t matter.)

Also, being able to harvest souls does create a black market, complete with the aforementioned mules.  The group of Russians dealing in black-market souls collects them from people that apparently need the money.  They sign away all rights to getting it back, as shown in a scene where a woman wants hers back.

The movie doesn’t deal directly with what a soul is.  The doctor repeatedly admits that modern science knows very little about the soul other than how to remove it, store it and put it in someone else.  I suppose this is a good thing.  There are so many views on what a soul is that to try to pin down a philosophy for the movie would have been unnecessary and probably would have alienated some viewers.  The movie simply explores what it would be like to have your soul removed without being too technical about it.

It gets a bit confusing at times.  Giamatti apparently has visions associated with the former owner of the soul.  It wasn’t until I started reading reviews about the movie that I realized what this was.  I think part of the problem is that even at 1:41, it drags on at parts.

The acting great as was the basic premise.  My only real complaint was that it dragged on a little too much.  About halfway through the movie, I felt like I was still waiting for the movie to get interesting.  At that point, I figured that I might as well finish it.  At the very least, I’d be able to know how the movie ended and write a complete review.

When I heard about the film on NPR a few years ago, the movie sounded interesting.  Having seen it, it’s hard for me to recommend the movie to someone mostly because I had trouble finishing it.  Had it not been for my desire to review it, I probably would have shut it off halfway through.  Overall, I’d give it three stars.  Catch it if it comes on TV, but I wouldn’t recommend renting it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

How Evil Works: Understanding and Overcoming the Destructive Forces That Are Transforming America (book review)

Note:  This is a review that was originally posted on Epinions.  I'm reposting it almost as is.  This was one of my more detailed reviews, so I'd definitely like to get this one on the blog.

There have been a few movies that I’ve watched knowing that not many people would be affected by them.  Those that agreed with the message would be glad that someone made a film showcasing their views.  Those that disagreed would hold it up as a bunch of lies.  (I’ve usually been in the first group.)

When I checked out How Evil Works from the library, I thought it would be about the psychology of evil people.  You’d have maybe a chapter on dictators and another chapter on criminals or something.  When I started flipping through the book, I realized that I had gotten something entirely different.  The first chapter title I saw was Chapter 7’s Rejecting God.  (It’s subtitled Why Militant Atheism is Becoming a Badge of Honor.)  I realized that I was going to be part of that second group.

I wanted to read the whole book, mostly so that I could give examples of what I don’t agree with.  I did finish and I wanted to be more specific than “all of it”, so I took notes.  Normally, I don’t like giving too much detail on each chapter, but I think I’m going to have to here.  There are a lot of things that I want to point out.

Chapter 1 is In Government We Trust.  Basically, David Kupleian says that we elect leaders not to do the right thing, but to lie to us.  It’s easy for a politician to get in with a big lie because we don’t question them.  Some will even start a crisis, like global warming, so that they might solve it for us.

We tend to elect liars based on the lies that make us feel best.  Do you feel guilty about murdering your unborn child?  Then vote for a pro-choice candidate.  (This is halfway down page 13.)  At the end of the second full paragraph on page 23, he states, “You can destroy lives and civilizations” if you’re sinful and not sincere.

In Chapter 2, which is called Sexual Anarchy, the author states that sex is for marriage only.  It’s “obvious” that sex is for a man and a woman because if the irrefutable proof that a child needs one mother and one father.  (This is from page 44.)  One thing I disagree with is with the author’s equating homosexuality and wanting to have a sex-change operation with having sex with children.  If it’s not one adult male and one adult female in the confines of marriage, it’s not good.

With Chapter 3, or How Terrorism Really Works, the author explains how use Stockholm syndrome to control people.  We give in to our captors out of fear for our lives.  Governments can do the same thing.  His solution?  Be strong, like Reagan.  Don’t be weak like Carter.

On page 51, Kupleian says that the political left is the total opposite of reality where up is down.  It’s a worldview that emanates from anger.  He says that we shouldn’t give into terrorism.  Instead, we should be strong and bomb the crap out of those that would do us harm.  (So, Stockholm syndrome is bad unless we’re the ones perpetrating it.)

Chapter 4 is called The Secret Curse of Celebrity, in which the author states that you have to be an raging egomaniac to want to be a star.  Even if you’re not, you have so many yes men, fans and whatnot telling you how wonderful you are that it’s not healthy.  God created us to worship Him, not each other.

Well, according to this chapter, there really is a God and only man has choice.  He can either chose to be with God or he can chose to be prideful.  We can either chose to be good or we can chose to blame others for all of our problems.  I get the impression from this chapter that there are a lot of egocentric, prideful celebrities.

Chapter 5 is Doctors, Drugs and Demons.  Kupleian rails against handing out diagnoses (and, thus, medication) to solve all of our problems.  Does your son twitch too much?  He has ADHD.  Give him some meds.  Are you depressed after having a child?  On page 107, the author states that god didn’t make us to be depressed and/or suicidal after childbirth.  Does this guy have a medical degree that I don’t know about?

Chapter 6 is called False Gods and is about witchcraft, paganism and the various new age religions.  This is the chapter where I came to realize that the author is pretty much full of it.  The basic premise is that the Christian God is the one true God.  Given the title of the chapter, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the author doesn’t have a high opinion of other religions.

On page 126, he asks who would believe in good-luck spells and magical potions?  Yet, praying is supposed to work?  Well, actually, submitting to God is supposed to work.  We go against God and chose these other religions is that we’re not noble.  We seek alternate religions as a way to rebel against the Church.

Chapter 7 is Rejecting God, which is about what he calls “militant atheism”.  (You have to look no further than the subtitle to find the term.)  As I said, this is the one that caught my attention.  The chapter tends to be mostly how religion (read: Christianity) is good and not having Christianity as a moral framework is bad.

Kupleian points out that Obama put non-believers on equal footing with believers.  Almost half of all Americans would be willing to vote for an atheist.  (Both of these come from page 140)   Are these supposed to be bad things?

On page 144, he states that atheists view the three major religions as being “dangerous monotheistic fairy tails.”  I’ve never really thought of religion in general as being dangerous.  Yes, people have done dangerous things in the name of religion, but I don’t see religion itself as being dangerous.

What really gets me is on pages 148-9, where Kupleian calls the lack of proof for Intelligent Design to be nonsensical.  He says that the proof is in the complexity.  In fact, he claims that there’s no proof of evolution.  Forget all the fossils.  Mutating viruses?  Ha!  Your unproven set of beliefs is nothing more than a religion.

I’ve never accepted the complexity of a system as proof of a particular creator.  Yes, one might wonder if there was someone or some group playing a part in it or setting everything in motion, but just because something exists doesn’t mean it supports your particular version of events.

In Chapter 8, Kupleian feels that fathers are no longer respected.  In fact, he calls the chapter The War on Fathers.    He seems to believe that society has it in for men.  Girls are getting ahead in school.  There are more women than men going to college.  Colleges are having to resort to gender-based affirmative action.

On page 173, the author implies that being feminist means that you hate men.  On 177, it’s implied that rejecting stereotypes is basically hatred of men.    On 175, he calls those wishing to change their sex through surgery “obviously troubled.”  (Did it ever occur to you that maybe a few social factors might play into that?)

Chapter 9 is The Mysterious Power of Hate.  This chapter covers things like genocide and raising children to hate other ethnic groups.  On page 196, Kupleian says that there are two types of people.  There are those that accept God no matter how flawed they are and those that can’t face reality and their own shortcomings.  (So, if you don’t accept God, you’re delusional?  I don’t accept that.)

On page 200, Kupleian speaks of standing on a ledge and there being some force pulling you over.  This is called gravity, but he seems to think it’s the devil.  He holds the same to be true of head-on collisions.  Could it be that the road was a little wet?  Maybe you misjudged how sharp the turn was.  Or maybe the devil told you to do it.  The answer?  Trust in God.

Chapter 10 is So, Where on Earth is God?  The chapter doesn’t actually deal with physically finding God.  It’s more about accepting the emotional and spiritual path to God.  Instead of physically following Jesus, you’re dedicating your life to him.

On page 213, Kupleian calls Christianity a spiritual religion where Islam is more legalistic.  (Look at the fourth paragraph.)  Islam seems to be big on how often you pray or what kind of rug you use.  Christianity is about actually accepting the supreme being rather than going through the motions.  If I’m not mistaken, Islam literally means to surrender to God.  That doesn’t sound like someone that’s going through the motions.

Chapter 11 is the last chapter.  It’s called Turning the Tables on Evil in America.   Kupleian wrote a book before this called The Marketing of Evil.  Apparently, people wanted a sequel about marketing good.  He didn’t write the book, but he did write this chapter, partly in response.

He states on page 231 that “Deceivers have the upper hand.”  Deceivers are pumping you full of lies, like the government is there to help, homosexuality and abortion are good, and prayer and the Ten Commandments are bad.  (Instead, we should apparently think that homosexuality is bad and that the government is there to hurt is.)

One thing that stuck out in my mind about this chapter is a story starting on page 251.  Kupleian tells the story of William Wilberforce, who tried to end the slave trade in Britain in the late 18th century.  He couldn’t get the job done after 11 attempts.  His brother-in-law gave him an idea.  Instead of tackling it head on, use anti-French sentiment to sneak it in.

After he tells this story, Kupleian warns the reader that Democrats, tired of trying to get the Fairness Doctrine reinstated, used a set of laws to accomplish nearly the same thing.  So, the message here is that brilliant ideas are good so long as they accomplish something that you agree with?

This is the problem that I had with the book overall.  It seems like the author is saying that if you truly give your life over to God, then you’re in good hands.  If you’re a Muslim, an atheist, Wiccan, Democrat, liberal or feminist, you’re bad and there’s something wrong with you.

I’ve been able to comment on Chapter 7 mostly because I identify as atheist.  The chapter is misinformed at best and insulting at worst.  I have to wonder if the author spent any actual time with atheists or if he’s getting his information elsewhere.  There is evidence of evolution.  Those that don’t believe in it often make ridiculous arguments, like fossils were put there to trick us or to test our faith.  It’s like Groucho Marx said, “Who are you going to believe: Me or your lying eyes?”

I’d love to see what Wiccans and other believers of “false” gods have to say about Chapter Six.  I’d imagine that there would be a similar reaction.  Kupleian may get a few facts right, but I’d imagine that a good deal of it is his being misinformed.  There are a lot of other people that I imagine would have something to say, such as celebrities and doctors.

I apologize for the long word count, but I had a lot to say about this book.  I didn’t want to simply be glib or dismissive.  I realized that if I was going to pick apart the book, I might as well go all out and give examples of what I didn’t agree with.  There was very little about the book that I did agree with.

It seemed that overall, Kupleian was saying that God was good and everything not serving God is bad.   It came across as condescending.  It’s not that I think that abortion is good.  And I do agree that making an informed decision is the right thing to do.  It’s just that I think that there are times when having the option to abort the child should be made available.  I also don’t agree that homosexuality is bad.  I don’t think that it’s my place to tell people who they can date or marry.  Also, what’s the big deal about other religions?  What’s it to you if a law-abiding citizen wants to worship another deity or supreme being?

You don’t have to like everything that I do or believe.  I’m not going to like everything that you do or believe.  There are just times when I have to sit back and wonder.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Worth the low price (ASUS 7 [8 GB, Intel Celeron M, 900 MHz, 512 MB) Notebook review]

Note:  This is a repost of a review I wrote of the ASUS 7" (8 GB, Intel Celeron M, 900 MHz, 512 MB) Notebook on Epinions, located here. It was originally posted on Jan 24, 2010.  I know it's out of date, but I'm testing a site I just found to automatically post on Facebook and Twitter.

I'm a member of a currency-tracking web site called Where's George.  Last year, I went to Las Vegas and knew that I'd be entering a lot of bills on the site.  Right before I went to Las Vegas, I decided to get a small laptop or netbook.  My primary reason for getting one was that I wanted to be able to enter bills from the comfort and security of my hotel room.  I knew I'd want a computer to take with me on the trip, but I didn't feel like dragging a desktop along for the ride.  (Airport security is strict enough about laptops.)

My primary criterion for purchasing said computer was the price.  I knew that I'd be using it after the trip, but I didn't know how often.  I didn't really want to have to shell out too much money for something I'd be using once or twice per year.  I also needed something that could connect to a network wirelessly since I‘d be using it on the road, so to speak, and most places that have Internet access have the wireless kind.  Size was also a big factor.  I'd need something that could easily fit in my backpack and still leave room for other things.

This was back when I was working for Wolf Camera and we had just brought in the Asus line of netbooks.  (For those that are wondering, a netbook is a smaller version of a laptop.)  The price was about as small as I could expect to pay and still get something that turned on most of the time.  Add to that the fact that I could get an employee discount.

My manager and I both bought one of these.  We didn’t really have the option to upgrade anything through Wolf.  It came with a 7.5 GB hard drive, 504 MB of RAM and a 900 MHz Intel Celeron processor.  My manager has been able to upgrade the RAM, but I don’t know about any of the other features.  The operating system is Windows XP, but I've heard that you can get Linux on it.

I don’t know how easy it is to get at the solid-state hard drive or what’s involved in replacing one.  The comes with one SD card slot and three USB ports.  Given how cheap SD cards and USB drives are, I think these would be my best option for expanding file storage, especially considering that I don’t really store files on here.  All of my files are on my desktop.

When it arrived at the store, I opened it up immediately to make sure it did turn on.  (Which it did, thankfully.)  I didn't really have a chance to try it out until I got home, mostly because we don't have wireless at work.

It didn't come with any major programs outside of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Works.  You do get the standard assortment of games like Freecell and Minesweeper.

Connecting through a wireless network is pretty easy.  For some reason, I've had issues staying connected at home, but I've never had a problem in other places.  (My mother's laptop has never had these problems, so I think it may be some issue unique to this laptop and our router.)  The entire time I spent in Las Vegas, I was able to stay connected using the Asus without problem.  (There’s also a port for connecting through a network using cables.)

That's not to say that I didn't have issues.  The first thing I noticed was that it doesn't have any sort of CD, DVD or floppy drive.  If you want to use a physical device to get information on to or off of the 701SD,. You have to use either a USB drive or an SD card.  If you have software on a CD or DVD that has to be installed through the CD or DVD, you'll have to get an external drive.  I don't know how easy it will be to install.  I can only hope you can get the drivers online.

This is ironic because the netbook comes with a DVD backup of the computer.  I'm told that it's an image of the hard drive when it left the factory, which means that you'd just have to copy it on to the computer.  What this means is that you'd have to have some other computer that has a DVD drive so that you can copy the information onto an SD card or a USB drive to then copy on to the netbook.

Also, the 701SD is small.  Yes, I wanted small, but I didn't expect it to be this small.  The netbook has small keys and I have big fingers, which made typing hard.  I'd often miss keys and end up typing a bunch of other stuff in trying to hit the backspace key.

Add to this that I was trying to enter serial numbers most of the time.  Because of size limitations, there's no 10-digit keypad.  I had to use the numbers at the top of the keyboard.  After checking what I had entered each time I entered a bill, I noticed that I was making a lot of mistakes.  I didn't have a chance to get a separate 10-digit keypad while I was out there, but I knew I'd have to get one eventually.

Fortunately, I had a USB mouse that I had won during some employee training.  If I hadn't had that mouse, I think I would have sought out the nearest Office Max.  Having used laptops before, I knew I wouldn't want to have to use the tracking device.  This one has proven to be especially problematic when trying to click on a small box.  When I raise my finger, the cursor will often move down a little.  The USB mouse, on the other hand, works perfectly.

One issue that cropped up by my next trip was the battery shelf life.  It seems that the battery won't stay charged for more than a week if you leave it off.  This means that you have to remember to charge it up before going out.  Even when you do go out, bring the power cord if at all possible.  The computer's initial estimate seems to be about 3 hours, but it could end up being much less depending on what you're using it for.

Another issue is that the screen size isn't standard.  This isn't really a problem unless you're installing software, which I haven't done a lot of.  (The only two programs I've installed are mIRC and Juno.)  When I went to install a printer recently, I noticed that the two buttons on the print screen fall below the bottom of the screen.  Hitting enter works in this case, but I could see someone running into issues with this.

The sound on the netbook wasn’t that great, but I wasn’t buying it to play music.  (If you are, there’s a headphone jack.)  Immediately after turning the machine on, I disabled the audio and haven’t missed it.  I generally don’t listen to sound while surfing the web.

I wasn’t looking to do much with this netbook and I pretty much got what I wanted out of it.   I'd recommend this netbook for anyone that needs something cheap and small and can handle the small keyboard.  The 701SD is almost small enough that I can fit it in my pocket.

If you buy it, I'd recommend getting the USB mouse and additional 10-digit keypad.  I'd bring it out with me more often if I didn't have to bring all of the additional stuff out with me, but I do bring it on trips where I'm staying in a hotel.  The Asus 701SD has done what I need it to and will hopefully continue to do so.

Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law [Robocop (1987) review]

Robocop is one of those movies I remember growing up.  I don’t remember when I first saw it.  It came out when I was 11, so I don’t think it was in theaters.  (Yes, it’s a very violent movie.)  It was probably on TV when I was older.  I had heard that there was going to be a remake of the movie.  I haven’t seen the remake yet; I’m expecting it to be a shiner version of this one.  However, if I do rent it, I’d like to have a recent memory of the movie to compare it to.

For those that don’t know the basic story, the Detroit of the future.  Detroit is bankrupt and has outsourced it’s police department to Omni Consumer Products, or OCP.  One division of OCP is working on new ways to patrol the city.  One idea is the ED-209.  When it fails miserably, an up-and-coming employee named Bob Morton (played by Miguel Ferrer) suggests the Robocop project, which needs an officer to die so that he might be remade into a cybernetic enforcement unit.

This infuriates Dick Jones (played by Ronny Cox), the senior vice president who happened to want the ED-209 to work, at least long enough to get a lucrative military contract.  Enter Alex Murphy, played by Peter Weller.  He’s just transferred to a precinct serving the wrong part of town.  As luck would have it, he ends up ‘volunteering’ for the Robocop project on his very first call in his new precinct.

Robocop a wild success.  He can’t be hurt.  He can’t be bribed.  He’s able to single-handedly clean up Detroit.  The trouble is that there’s corruption within OCP that Robocop cant’ quite seem to deal with.  He also has to deal with lingering memories from Murphy.  He can’t let his old life go that easily.

This is one of those cases where the movie seems dated, mostly in the special effects.  (The ED-209 has a definite stop-motion feel to it.)  It seems like an eighties version of a dystopia.  I will say, though, that they did seem to call Detroit going bankrupt.

I don’t imagine it was too easy for Weller as Robocop.  The costume covers everything except around his mouth for most of the movie.  We don’t get to see much facial expression as Robocop except towards the end, and even then, it seems emotionless, which I’ll admit is appropriate.  I don’t imagine it was particularly easy wearing that costume.  (However, it’s one of the few times that a stiff performance is called for.)

The movie is very violent.  Murphy being tortured and killed alone is enough to not let children see the movie.  Add to this that Robocop has to deal with all manner of criminals from rapists to drug dealers.  He also hunts down the people responsible for his being tortured and killed.  The violence is over the top.

What surprises me, though, is that the movie spawned not only several sequels, video games and the like, but also two animated series.  I’ve never seen either one, but I don’t imagine they could be that appropriate for children.  (From what I can tell, they do follow continuity at least marginally, so it’s possible that they’re intended for adults.)

The movie is primarily action.  There’s no twist ending.  There’s no romance.  We get to see a lot of gore.  At least the pacing was good.  I don’t feel like the movie overstayed its welcome at all.  I’m curious to see what the modern version looks like, but I’m also interested in checking out the sequels.  (It looks like Netflix has the live-action series as movies that were reedited from the episodes, although I don’t see the animated series.)