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Much like The Hobbit, the best part about the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, was a song — Adele’s title piece. Unlike The Hobbit, however, Skyfall was actually worth watching in it’s own right. Still, the best part is free:

The Hobbit & High Frame Rate

Today I went to the Metreon 16 Cinemas in Downtown San Francisco to watch the Hobbit with my CSE buddy Jonathan and another friend of his. We selected a show that boasted enhanced sound, a larger screen, high frame rate, and of course 3D.

First off, the movie was pretty bad. I would not recommend watching this for the movie itself. It dragged on with superfluous content that didn’t advance the stories or characters and seemed primarily designed to justify turning the book into three movies. The best part of the movie,  by far, you can see without even going the the theater — it was released as a trailer, below:

Save yourself the money and just watch that a few times unless you’re really interested in the latest movie technology.

Despite being a failure as a compelling telling of a story, the movie was a success in one way: it was a technological tour de force. What intrigued me the most about the billing was the high frame rate (HFR), a doubling of the normal 24 frames per second of traditional cinema to 48 frames per second. I was watching for it and the result is very good: the many big camera pans over lush landscapes appeared much smoother and much nicer visually. I’ve always been distracted by the jerkiness of 24 frame per second movies during panning. I hope this or an even higher frame rate becomes the new norm.

Again, the technology really shined in the sound arena as well. Apart from being considerably too loud — which I blame the theater for, not the movie — the sound system was still the best I’ve encountered. At one point, in a cave full of snoring dwarves, we all thought we heard someone directly to our right start snoring (Jonathan even turned to see if it was me!). Alas, it was just a better-than-average sound localization. Listening more carefully, I definitely could localize sounds to specific places in the theater much better than I recall being possible normally.

The 3D with the circularly polarized glasses was excellent as usual.

Too bad the movie sucked.

Who Watches The Watchmen?

I did, and it was very good.

Thanks to Bobby for giving me the opportunity!

Benjamin Button

I went to watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last night. It is the sort of movie that works really well as a movie — telling an intriguing story with complete suspense of disbelief throughout. It explored the topic seriously without taking itself too seriously — it was very well done. It was also a long movie, but it didn’t ever feel like it was dragging. It reminded me in some ways of Forrest Gump — the story of the journey of a remarkable person through life. I rate it a solid 4/5.

Primer, Again

After going for a run around Greenlake and feeling thoroughly gassed, Bobby and I watched Primer, one of my favorite movies of all time. Every time I watch it, I understand more and more. This visual timeline that Theo pointed me to certainly helped this time, but I also picked up on a lot of cues early in the movie that I didn’t notice the first three or four times through. Movies that can continue to produce newness after even a couple of viewings are rare; Primer in this regard is a true Gem.

Dark Knight & Wanted

A week ago I saw The Dark Knight, the second of the reinvented Batman series than began, appropriately, with Batman Begins. The movie was well done and enjoyable, but I feel that too much today a movie being excessively dark is a substitute for a stronger story. The Dark Knight was definitely pushing is this unfortunate direction. I think a lot of people think it was better than it was because it was so dark. But really what it needed to make it excellent was a slightly tighter, slightly better written story. Overall, a good movie, but not really a great movie, in my opinion.

The Dark Knight: 4/5

Last night, the plan was to finally watch WALL-E from Pixar, but a late plane arrival from Dallas spoiled those plans. Instead, we ended up watching Wanted, an insolent, unfortunate movie about superhuman assassins. I am as willing as the next guy to suspend my disbelief, but I really don’t like it when, once I have suspended my disbelief, the movie continues to rub my face in the fact that I was willing to do just that. And this movie did that incessantly, along with being overtly obnoxious just because. All that being said, some of the action scenes were fun, just not worth watching the rest of the movie for.

Wanted: 2/5

No Country For Old Men

I went with the roommate Darren to see No Country For Old Men tonight. It was a well done thriller about a drug deal gone wrong, a protagonist who finds the drug money, and an antagonist killing machine who comes after the protagonist and everything good in the world.  Although very dark and a bit depressing, that was to be expected given the title and the nature of the film.

The Yahoo! Movies ranking showed normal people rating it lower than experts — usually a very big warning sign to me. The only reason I agreed to go see it, in fact, was that Sunshine, a movie that I did enjoy, met a similar Users vs. Experts fate. As in Sunshine, the differential for No Country was only one grade point (ie, B- to B), so I guessed that meant the movie wouldn’t be too bad. The guess turned out to be correct. I am no better off for having seen the movie, but it didn’t leave me worse off either. (In cases where audiences and critics disagree by two or more grade points, such as in the case for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, you are almost always guaranteed a terrible movie.) I give it a 3.0/5.