X-Men: The Last Stand

on Monday, 29 May 2006
I watched X-Men: The Last Stand yesterday at the new Cathay Cineplex in the new Cineleisure building at The Curve in Mutiara Damansara. This post is a two-part review. The first part reviews the cinema, the second part reviews the movie.

First, I love the new cinema, except for the cold. Buying tickets and getting in was a breeze, although the empty new Cineleisure building made it tedious to ride all the way to the top to get to the cinema. I'm sure that'll change when tenants start to move in. One reason it was easy to get tickets was probably because alot of people don't know about it yet, so we don't have a whole lot of idiotic kiasu people who book 6 tickets in every single timeslot, and possibly every single cinema for one whole day, just because they couldn't decide when and where they want to watch it. These inconsiderates just don't care how much this inconveniences those people who know when and where and what they want to watch. But I digress.

I really like the fact that Cathay chose to show all their old advertisements from the 80s and 90s. It brings nostalgia to me, remembering the good old days when my father would drive the whole family down to the nearest Cathay cinema for a weekend movie. And now Cathay is back! And with quality too. The sounds great, the screens great, the software and hardware used are pretty impressive. The only gripe I have is that it's bloody cold! I watched it in the middle of a hot afternoon. The hall was half-full. Couldn't they turn up the temperature to adjust for the lack of body heat? Everyone was freezing. Reminder to self: Bring a jacket next time; or two, or a thick one.

As for the movie, I'm giving it a 2 out of 5, despite CinemaOnline's user rating of 4 stars. Overall, the effects and dramatics were all there, boosting the rating brought down by continuity problems, bad character development, and some illogical scenes. And that's despite me putting aside the blatant and offensive inconsistencies with the comic characters. The pros:
  • They finally show off how powerful Storm can be, rather than the wimp she was in the first two episodes.
  • The Beast was really quite nicely done.
  • The whole plot idea was rather intriguing, and some scenes have a cool (though somewhat predictable) twists.
  • A lot of good scenes with highly charged emotions, some reflecting real-life situations.
  • Some of the special effects are very spectacular, if one does not consider the context in which it was placed.
  • Rogue's subplot was realistically played out, but it could've been played down in favour of other characters, considering her minimal role.
  • The Danger Room was a nice touch, although it could have been much better.
The cons:
  • Jean Grey's "evolution" was really badly done.
  • Wolverine was a pale shadow of what he was in the first two episodes. I can't help but feel that some of his scenes weren't meant for him.
  • A lot of cliched one-liners.
  • Really really bad character development, even for characters already introduced previously. And for some obscure reason, the major characters were just killed off or sidelined only to put focus on underdeveloped and unused characters.
  • Introducing so many new characters was a really bad idea when you don't have the time to properly portray them. It'll only offend the fans.
  • What happened to Nightcrawler from the 2nd episode?
  • Unimaginative and some rather stupid use of mutant powers.
  • The music score was rather forgettable, and sometimes, inappropriate.
  • Change of director was a really really bad idea.
  • This was supposed to close the trilogy... not kill it.
  • With so many characters and being a finale, I'm surprised the movie clocked in at only a 100 minutes or so...
Conclusion: A good storyline coupled with spectacular effects cannot justify killing off major well-developed characters, sidelining previously well-developed characters, focusing on underdeveloped characters, and introducing unused characters.
The rant (Extreme Spoilers!!! Highlight to read):
  • Storm does not have short hair. It just doesn't feel like Storm anymore.
  • How can they kill off Cyclops! It's crazy! Professor X was acceptable for the drama, but Cyclops?! Just 10 minutes into the show?! And in such a lame manner. I really hope it isn't because of having to film Superman Returns. If it is, Superman Returns better be well above my expectations, or I'm going to rant on him.
  • Jean Grey as Phoenix was incredibly horribly portrayed. Famke's a really good actress, but Phoenix feels more like a pouting supergirl who flings destruction when she has a tantrum.
  • Someone apparently didn't know that the word 'Phoenix' very much implies fire. Jean Grey as the Phoenix? Not even a spark. She feels more possessed or an undead than a reborn goddess.
  • Wolverine is so... tame. Totally unlike his feral namesake and the Wolverine in the earlier episodes. Sure there are action scenes, but he just feels more... mushy. Too many emotional scenes involving him that was so obviously meant for Cyclops.
  • Angel was totally inconsequential as a character and pointlessly included. Why provide an interesting background to a character and then have him as a pointless afterthought in the show?
  • Magneto is too ruthless. It's so unbelievable he would abandon Mystique the moment she lost her powers. Plus, it's bad judgment to leave her alive if you don't want her anymore.
  • Magneto is too fake. What's the point of assembling an army of mutants only to use them as guinea pigs? All the while trying to get the audience to buy into the us vs. them beliefs.
  • Magneto is too dumb. Why in the world did he team up with Pyro to launch flaming cars when he has the power to tear down the whole building by himself? He can move a whole bridge but can't do more than fling cars? Give me a break! Special effects potential does not justify stupid strategy.
  • Magneto is not that charismatic. It just doesn't make sense for him to free two captured and convicted mutants (Juggernaut and Multiple Man) and have them join him as-a-matter-of-fact and no questions asked...
  • Juggernaut looks like a walking trash can. His "armor" is hopelessly ridiculous. Whoever designed it needs to be blinded.
  • The way Mystique is killed is really lame. Killing off a memorable character in such a manner and then just dumping her as inconsequential really kills the trilogy.
  • There's not a single line of script in that movie that mentions the names of Shadowcat, Colossus, Psylocke, Angel, Beast, or Multiple Man. And I'm not sure if I got all of them. It must be really offensive to comic fans when the comic characters they're so familiar with aren't even named.
  • I probably have some more rants but I'll stop. :P

Guild Wars Fan Movie

on Thursday, 25 May 2006
This should only interest Guild Wars fans but potential recruits can take a look too. Here's the link to the forum post for The Adventures of Miya and Malatide 2. It's a really creative work of passionate players. Here's the direct link to download it (~140MB); and the links for episode 1 (~66MB) and the X-mas special (~10MB).

FitNesse Testing

I took my first look at a new testing framework called FitNesse. It certainly looks interesting. It's like a combination of natural language requirements specification, wiki documentation, a testing tool, a web server, and a collaboration tool. Tests are actually conducted on the wiki pages themselves, with test results being produced as page updates.

This is not meant as a replacement for unit testing strategies (xUnit). In fact, they're meant to work together; unit testing for checking that the code has been built correctly, and fitnesse testing to ensure that the correct code has been built.

It's also a collaboration tool because the tests are not only created by the developers, but the testers, managers, support staff, and users as well; to ensure that the requirement is interpreted exactly as it was meant to be. This means those who write requirements can actually produce something the developers can use as measurable targets, as opposed to natural language specifications. Tests can be produced much earlier as well.

Should be interesting to see how it all goes when I dig in deep later on.

EDIT: Testing is about specification, not verification.

RK Launcher

on Tuesday, 16 May 2006
I found a really neat tool the other day when checking out the desktop modding guide over at Lowyat.net's forum. It's called RK Launcher.

What does it do? Well it shows a very nice looking docking bar at the side of your screen that can be used to hold shortcuts. The good thing about it is that it's fully customisable. It's still in beta and it's already impressive. You can change it's location, the opacity, the size of the bar, the animation smoothness, and the icons. Just drag-and-drop the shortcuts. I'm in the midst of cleaning up my desktop and relocating everything on the bar (and hiding the standing Windows taskbar while I'm at it).

It gets better. You don't need to install it at all. Just drop it anywhere and maybe add a shortcut to the start menu so it starts up automatically. And even better, you can have multiple copies of the program and have two different docks containing different shortcuts!

While searching for more icon sets (very few by default), I found this post, which already manages to explain things I wanted to talk about, and with screenshots to boot, plus providing some links to icons.

Also, RK Launcher can be used to contain docklets as well, as mentioned in the above link. Do a google on Y'z Toolbar and ObjectDock. The docklets (mini-programs) for these applications can be attached to RK Launcher without much problems.

Turning a Page

on Wednesday, 10 May 2006
I am, right now, officially an ex-staff of my company, joining a whole bunch of those who left before me. It's a been an interesting journey, full of ups and downs, hates and loves, and bittersweet memories. People who could've made a difference has gone before me, and people who are probably better off in a competitor's employ are still in the company, and still there are people left to carry on the slow (very!) march onwards. On the one hand, I feel sad that I'm leaving this part of my life behind, but excited at the start of something new. It's a weird mix of feelings when I start handing over the work that I've been doing for the better part of my 2-year-plus time in the company. It's like giving away my blood and sweat and all those long nights. In a way, it's a relief as well, to no longer have to look at it... :P Oh well, the next chapter is here, and I'm definitely looking forward to see what it contains.