Category Archives: Reviews

The Martian Movie (A Quick Review)

The MartianMost people who follow me on Twitter or Facebook (or know me in meatspace) are familiar with my excitement regarding, “The Martian” book and movie. I still think it’s my favorite book of all time. And that’s saying something. So how did the movie compare? Surprisingly well, and not surprisingly, it was less awesome than the book.

The casting was probably the best part of the movie adaptation. Matt Damon is an incredible actor, and his personality is perfect for the main character. The other characters are well cast too, but Damon really did Mark Watney (the main character) justice. The science, which was extremely accurate in the book, was a bit on the loosey-goosey side in the movie. This was normally not a big deal, but at least one scene left me slack-jawed and eye-rolling.

Even though the movie was 2 hours and 21 minutes long, there was a LOT left out. Like, a lot lot. Lot.

Really, a lot. πŸ™‚ I’m actually waiting to hear from folks who haven’t read the book to know if the movie had continuity. For me, the parts left out were automatically filled in mentally. Thankfully, the parts that were in the movie were very close to the book. I hope the movie makes sense to folks who didn’t read the book. I also hope there’s enough in the movie to make people fall in love with the story.

There were actually a few of the minor changes that I preferred over the book. Without adding spoilers, the ketchup scene and the ending space scene were awesome differences from the book. Will the changes, the focus on action over science, and the incredible acting make The Martian as popular as I hope? Probably not. It will be awesome if I’m wrong, but I worry it won’t inspire the passion for space exploration that I imagine. I’m not sure anything can quite inspire the passion we had in the 60s, but gosh I hope something does!

Lastly, two things:Β the 3D is very subtle and quite well done. If you don’t see it in 3D, you’re not missing anything important, but at the same time, the 3D does a good job of immersing you into the world as opposed to being gimmicky. Also, while the book has profanity out the wazoo, the movie is PG-13, and has very limited swearing. There are 2 F-bombs, which I think is the legal limit for PG-13 rating. There are some other cuss words, but it’s not obnoxious.

tl;dr version: GO SEE THIS MOVIE AND READ THIS BOOK. (but not at the same time)

The New Ride

My beloved 1994 Chevy S-10 unfortunately drives very much like a 1994 pickup truck with 200K miles on it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my truck. The thing is, now that we’re in the city, when I commute to work in the morning it feels very much like I’m going to die at any moment. My truck shimmies, it rocks, it skids, and its safety features are pretty much non-existent. I’ve almost rear ended several vehicles because old Betsy just doesn’t stop like she used to. So, it’s time to get a new vehicle. And I LOVE my new vehicle.

Pictured here is my new 2013 Dodge Dart SXT/Rallye Sedan. The cool blue color is nice, but honestly is just a bonus, as the stuff inside is really what I was worried about. Here’s a quick rundown of the specs:

  • 1.4L Turbocharged, 16 valve, 4 cylinder engine
  • 6 speed manual transmission
  • 17″ Aluminum wheels
  • Eleventy hundred airbags (estimate)

The 1.4L engine with the multi-air turbocharger makes for interesting driving. I’ve never driven a car with a turbocharger (it actually still sounds like something fake to me), but it takes a little getting used to. The “turbo” kicks in when the car reaches a certain RPM, so with gentle driving it’s rarely engaged. Give it a little gas, however, and you REALLY notice the difference. It makes for a very VERY fun drive. 6 gears is a lot to shift through, but even that I’m getting used to.

Here is a photo of the inside. Doesn’t that look fun?

Along with the drive train, the technology was something I was very concerned about. I’m going to have this car for 10+ years, so it has to be worthy of such a long relationship. Along with the 8.4″ UConnect touchscreen entertainment panel (pictured above), I insisted on having Bluetooth connectivity. If I’m going to be driving 90MPH 70MPH on the way to work, I can’t be fiddling with my phone. So, the Dart has handsfree built in. It also has Bluetooth audio streaming, which is really cool — but in practice it’s a little underwhelming, because it lacks tools like fast forward and such. Still, in a pinch it’s pretty neat.

While it wasn’t a feature I was really concerned about one way or another, my car does have Sirius Radio with a year of service included. It turns out this is actually kinda nice, and while the stations aren’t really up my alley, a few are nice. For the most part, however, when I commute to and from work, I listen to audiobooks. At first I did this by connecting my phone to the car via USB (cool feature), but now I actually just loaded up an SD Card with a bunch of audiobooks, and leave it plugged into my car. It remembers where it left off, even if I remove the card and put it back in later. Oh, my car has an SD Slot, did I mention that? πŸ™‚

At the end of the day, this $22,000 car is a big investment. I feel so much safer driving to work now, however, so I think it’s worth it. And at 39MPG on the highway, it will practically pay for itself. In about 300 years or so. πŸ˜€

Shawn’s Super Quick Netflix Wii-view

Got my disk in the mail, and thought I’d stop home at lunch to try it out. Here are my thoughts, shot out into quick bullets:

  • The interface is the best Netflix interface I’ve used yet. It’s easy to navigate your queue, similar titles, recent additions to the streaming library, etc.
  • Activating your Wii is painless, and done online. (Like the PS3 and Roku) No need to try typing your email address and password into the Wii.
  • For those of you that have a hacked Wii with a USB drive for storing games — good news, the Netflix disk rips quickly, and runs from USB with no problems whatsoever.

So basically, I have a Netflix disk for a Wii if anyone wants to use it. AND, I suspect you’ll be able to download the Netflix Wii ISO from nefarious sites everywhere shortly. Heck, if you twist my arm I might rip it myself. (But I’ll never admit it online, because that would be RONG. πŸ™‚ )

And now? Back to work… ttfn

UPDATE: Wow, look, a fancy download link for a WiiNetflix.iso file. I’m not claiming to be responsible, but, um… Yeah. You can trust the link. πŸ™‚

UPDATE THE SECOND: Yes, it’s only 37MB compressed. It expands to 4.7GB. Also, contrary to popular belief, I’m not a douche. πŸ˜‰

UPDATE THE LAST: You don’t need an ISO file anymore, there is a Netflix channel. If you need to install the new shopping channel so you can download Netflix, but don’t want to update your system, check out THIS LINK. Cheers!

Review: 2006 Layer Cake Primitivo

If I had to choose between cake or death, I'd choose this.  But I probably wouldn't choose it over actual cake...I’m not a wine pro by any stretch of the imagination, but this wine was something I just had to review. It’s weird.

The back of the bottle explains the name, “Layer Cake” by saying good wine should be like a layer cake. There should be a layer of chocolate, a layer of fruit, and a layer of spices. I liked the imagery, so bought the bottle. (Plus, the guy at the wine store said he liked it.)

Here’s my take. My metaphors may not be as colorful as Gary Vaynerchuk’s, but I’ll do my best:

The wine has nice color. It’s a Zinfandel, and has the deep color you’d expect to see. It’s fun on the nose. Not literally of course, but smelling it. It has a really powerful overripe fruit smell. It’s almost like fresh red licorice. It’s not like the dried out stuff, but that powerful almost chemical smell of fresh red licorice. It smells intriguing.

The taste is a bit startling. Now, I know you’d think if there’s a picture of cake on the bottle, I should expect it to be sweet. Honestly though, this Zinfandel is hard to place on the sweetness scale. I did not expect a dessert wine, but it’s definitely sweet. Sadly, not quite as sweet as a dessert wine would be. To me it’s tough to fit it anywhere.

As far as flavor (mid-palette I guess is the proper term), it’s fairly fruity, but there’s not much to write home about. I thought there would be more tannins based on how deep red it is, but really it’s a pretty simple wine. You can swish it as much as you want, and you’re not gonna get that much out of it. It doesn’t taste bad, it’s just not as exciting as I thought it would be based on the smell.

The finish, or as us hicks call it, “aftertaste” isn’t really great. My first thought was to describe it as though the wine was crapping in my mouth on the way down. The only lingering flavor is a weird bitter taste that just won’t go away. I’m normally a big fan of lingering flavor in wine — but I wish this one would stop. Please.

So while I have no idea how I’d rate it, I can tell you it’s not worth the $17.99 I paid for the bottle. It’s not bad enough I’ll dump it out, but I won’t buy it again. I also wanted to comment on the screw top. First off, I’m not a zealot. I have no problem with screw tops, rubber corks, or cork corks. I’ve had crappy varieties of all 3. In fact, some of the worst wine I’ve had has been under an actual cork. I’m fine with screw tops, I really am. The only thing I miss with them is the uncorking process, which I actually rather enjoy.

So there ya go. Layer Cake… Not so great actually, but better than no wine at all. If semi-sweet wine is your thing however, you might actually like this wine. If you find it on sale, pick some up. πŸ™‚