You Can't Have Iron Man Without IT

15-May-08 3:32 PM by
Filed under Films; 4 comments.

It's summer blockbuster season, which means it's time again for a dynamic duo team-up. No, not Batman & Robin — Angela Gunn and I have joined forces to review the technology in yet another explosive film. As we did last year with Live Free or Die Hard and The Bourne Ultimatum, we now turn to the IT in Iron Man.

As submitted to Angela, my initial review was rather lengthy and leaned more to the cinematic side, so to accommodate the IT angle called for by the publication venue, some content had to be cut. But Showbits is first and foremost about films, so I present to you that missing content, with ellipses used to indicate where in the final product it would've gone:

… we know that Stark's kryptonite and our own are one and the same.

Though Iron Man ostensibly shares the same world as his Marvel cohorts, the movie is not replete with clever cameos and geeky nods to his literary origins. Nonetheless, there's enough fine detail to reward those with even a passing knowledge of the Iron Man comic. There is a tease of Iron Man's sidekick, War Machine, that I honestly didn't know which way it would go. I was surprised to find myself holding my breath the potential of a surprise superhero. (Speaking of which, be sure to stay through the end of the credits for a bonus scene!)

There's little that Iron Man does badly, though perhaps it does some things less well than it could've. Gwyneth Paltrow's character of Pepper Potts has more depth than a Bond girl but still comes across as a bit weak — more a result of the scripting than the acting, I suspect. There's also plenty of borrowing from other genre films, including Marvel's own library. The villain's origin and appearance is similar to what we'll see next month in The Incredible Hulk; we've already seen the "bring the enemy into the atmosphere until his jets cool" trick in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer; and the hero and villain having an unmasked showdown is a staple of the Spider-Man line.

But hey, you're not here because you're a comic book geek; you're here because you're an IT geek. (There's a difference?) What makes this hero super is the technology, and there's plenty of it …

… Parts in a diagram can be rotated, separated and dragged to the trash, or worn like a glove. Très cool.

The less traditional machines in his house are more like versatile pets. With natural English speech recognition, Stark easily commands them to adjust variables, record logs, and assemble parts, though some machines exhibit personality traits that make them as annoying as helpful. It may not be flawless artificial intelligence, but they won't be threatening us with global thermonuclear war anytime soon, either.

Stark also sports a digital butler …

Read the full review at Computerworld.com »

My Secret Identity

25-Oct-07 2:22 PM by
Filed under Celebrities; 1 comment.

Angela Gunn is proving quite the sleuth at revealing the unpublicized lives of the stars. First she found a list of 66 celebrities who blog (ever wonder what Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cusack, and Jeff Bridges have to say that's [supposedly] unscripted?). Now she's dug up their resumes to reveal their inner nerds — that is, "celebrities who work at traditional artistic pursuits to make their way in the world, but have been known to kick back with a little astrophysics or microbiology in their spare time."

The list is a good balance of the expected and the surprising. Masi Oka, Wil Wheaton, and Bill Nye we already know about — but Dolph Lundgren? Rowan Atkinson? Lisa Kudrow? You have to be kidding me. I don't know whether to be impressed by these geeks' intellectual genius, or by them defying stereotypes and playing characters completely antipodal to their nature. (By contrast, my acting self receives daily audition notices for the fifth season of Beauty and the Geek.)

Excellent job, Ms. Gunn, for this fun and insightful piece (my contributions to which — Drake Hogestyn and Natalie Portman — reveal perhaps more about ME than I'd like…).  In a culture where "heroes" are often such for all the wrong reasons, it's nice to have admirable reasons to respect these stars.

Life moves pretty fast…

20-Sep-07 4:13 PM by
Filed under Films; 1 comment.

…if you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it."

As a teacher, I used films to teach my students important life concepts. Why did it never occur to me that such wisdom could come from the mouth of Ferris Bueller?

Over at The Sydney Morning Herald (with a tip of the hat to Tech_Space) is a thorough analysis of what makes Ferris Bueller's Day Off more than just another teen movie, and its hero a model for daily living: "Ferris Bueller pretty much embodies everything I believe a man should be: a little dangerous, immensely charming, funny, an optimist, adventurous, challenging, a bit dodgy, curious, subversive, latitudinarian and a dab hand with the sheilas… Everything you need to know about life is contained in the 102 minute running time of this '80s classic." And not routine, day-to-day life, but the vibrant energy with which so few of us imbue our waking moments.

But it wasn't always that way. Ferris Bueller's Day Off embodies the rebellious, free-thinking spirit that so many of us slowly let die as we assimilate into adults. Ferris opens the film by observing, "It is a beautiful day in Chicago," and seeing the opportunity therein. We the audience empathize with him, but only because in reality, we represent the tide he is swimming against: those who too often go through the motions and let each day slip by, just to bring another paycheck. What happens to us? If life is a carousel, whyever did we choose to get off? Our lives are not Ferris Bueller's, and we are rarely as brave as Cameron Frye. Why do we let reality define us, instead of vice versa? Is there an age at which we turn off our imaginations and stop struggling?

I should've shown this film to my 11th-grade students and let it infuse them with ideas with which to run amuck in the other teachers' classrooms. It's too late for me to do them this service — but while you read Sydney's lengthy blog post, which is worth every second, perhaps I can go watch the film myself, for the first time in over a decade, and be depressed at what I've lost… or inspired at what I might regain.

Still Bourne

06-Aug-07 11:41 AM by
Filed under Films; 4 comments.

As we did with Live Free or Die Hard, Angela Gunn and I have again collaborated on a film review, this time of The Bourne Ultimatum. It's a less amusing and more acerbic article than our last one, though, due to a vehement difference of opinion: though the film was okay, the primary adjective I would use to describe it is "nauseating"; Angela, OTOH, is in love with the film, its actors, and especially its IT.

To get my opinion, read the original article's black text and ignore the red.

Read the review at Computerworld.com »

Security Goes to the Movies

04-Jul-07 8:59 AM by
Filed under Reviews; 6 comments.

Happy Fourth of July! Celebrate America's independence with my review of Live Free or Die Hard, currently playing at Computerworld.com.

When I gave my final draft to my editor, Angela Gunn, I expected her to contribute her extensive knowledge of computer security into an article that blended our respective opinions into a cohesive, individual voice. The end result was, in fact, two distinct voices — and is far more entertaining than anything I envisioned. Unfortunately, Computerworld.com was swamped with iPhone coverage last week, shoving peripheral articles such as this one to the wayside. It finally got published in time for the holiday movie-going crowd to appreciate.

Read the review at Computerworld.com »