Author Archives: Macelangelo

The “Amazing” Spider-Man 2 Review

 Okay, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 had some great scenes in it. Every fight scene with the web head doing his thing, swinging through the city, fighting the bad guys while making wisecracks and just plain having fun was amazing. The first confrontation with Electro had a great bit that really gave us a feel for what Spidey’s spider-sense does. 

There’s a couple of nice scenes with Spider-Man and a little nerdy kid. 

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry on-screen and are annoyingly cute to watch even though the are-we-or-aren’t-we-dating story drags on for far too long. 

It’s a good summer popcorn movie that could probably have been shorter if that was the original intent of the producers. It seemed like the producers of the movie were too focused on the long game – meaning – they’re dying to transform Spider-Man into a mega multi-movie universe along the lines of what Marvel Studios has done with the Avengers. (Spider-Man’s movie rights are owned by Sony – and they let you know it throughout the film) 

At the end of the day, though, you have a few great scenes wrapped up in a mess of a 2hr, 22min film that milks the love story as long as it can yet rushes to introduce villains, transform them via the most ridiculous means, and turn them against Spider-Man with very little back story. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it weren’t for the fact that the bad guys will likely be back in the sequels. 

While it may be a great idea to create a multi-movie franchise like Marvel Studios, if the first movie(s) aren’t very good, why on earth would audiences bother going to the sequels? After this film, I have little desire to see a “Sinister-Six” movie. (The next “Spider-Man” movie is going to focus on the villains – and will come out before an Amazing Spider-Man 3)

The movie has the elements there, and if they were shaken up and re-assembled in a different order, you might have wound up with a better overall story.

Case in point – There was a scene between Harry and Peter in the trailers where Harry showed Peter that OSCORP had Peter under surveillance, and it was cut from the movie. There was another cut scene from the trailers between Harry and Norman Osborn where they’re discussing Peter where Harry says “What about Peter?” to which Norman replies “Not everyone gets to have a happy ending.”

The movie focuses so much on OSCORP that it seems a shame that those two bits were cut from the film because it could have helped build up this larger epic conflict between OSCORP and the Parker(s). 

(BEGIN SPOILER) – Skip this section if you don’t want to know anything about the movie.

So, imagine how this would work —

Harry comes back to visit his dying father. His father reveals his legacy and fills him in on the research that he was doing with Richard Parker and that Peter may be the “key” to Harry’s survival.

After Norman dies, Harry is going though his father’s “Special Projects” files and stumbles across the research into the radioactive spiders. He also sees that Peter has been under surveillance and finds a video diary entry from Norman discussing his belief (but can’t prove) that Peter may be Spider-Man. 

Now, Harry has motivation to start hanging out with Peter again in order to rebuild their friendship. Show several quick scenes of them together (not the same sequence – make it clear that it’s different dates). 

Later, they have the conversation in OSCORP that we see in the trailer where Harry is showing Peter the surveillance footage while Harry quietly watches Peter and wonders if his father was right about the idea that Peter is Spider-Man. 

This would occur before Harry asks Peter to help him locate Spider-Man because he may be the key to saving Harry’s life.

(END SPOILER)

Anyway… 

Although The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has some great moments in it, they’re not enough to overcome the weakness of the overall story. It’s a decent popcorn summer movie, but it could have been better or at the very least mercifully shorter.

——————————–

This is a great FAQ (WARNING: SPOILERS!) that jokes about a lot of the good and bad elements of the film. It’s written by Rob Bricken who wrote another ingenious FAQ last year about Star Trek: Into Darkness.

http://io9.com/the-amazing-spider-man-2-the-amazing-spoiler-faq-1572405038

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

NOTE: If you haven’t seen it, remember, in true Marvel fashion, stick around for the credits. There are two additional scenes during the credits. I missed the second one, so I’ll have to catch it the next time.

Despite falling into more of a traditional action movie towards the end, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has a solid story that also displays a great deal of depth for its main characters and makes the movie the strongest Marvel Studios movie to date.

You might be turned off by the title, thinking that this is a “super-hero” movie, and, well, it is. Instead, consider Captain America: The Winter Soldier as more of a political thriller whose main characters happen to be super-heroes.

The opening 20 minutes feel more like something out of James Bond than a big super-hero spectacle. Then you realize, oh, wait. SHIELD is supposed to be a spy agency.

I’m not a huge fan of Captain America, and for the most part, nothing in the first movie nor the Avengers changed my mind. But, the opening scene really changed my mind.

This movie transforms Captain America/Steve Rogers into a great character. Although Rogers has always had a desire to serve his country, he begins to question Nick Fury and, once he learns of SHIELD’s latest initiative, both SHIELD and his role in this new world. Add this to Rogers still adjusting to living in the 21st century, and there’s a lot of dimension to this soldier. 

Something else that I don’t remember seeing in the first film that I thought was a great touch was that, like the latest Batman movies, Cap now seems to have his own fighting style and using his shield is a big part of that style. It’s not that Cap needs the shield to fight, but we now see him wield the shield with the same expertise a master samurai would wield his katana.

This time around, Cap is caught in the middle of a much bigger story and he quickly learns not to trust anyone at SHIELD, well, except Black Widow. The two of them begin digging into a mystery involving Nick Fury and someone called The Winter Soldier, which SHIELD treating Cap and Widow as fugitives. The fugitive angle also forces both characters to spend most of the movie out of costume, which helps make them closer to being “normal” people.

There’s a great chemistry between Cap and Black Widow in this movie, and despite a quick kissing scene, there’s no attempt to force Widow into a love interest. In fact, part of the banter they have is Widow trying to play matchmaker for Cap. 

Black Widow has a lot more to do in the movie as well. We learn a great deal more about her character, and being the spy who “gets the job done” plays well against Cap’s sense of justice.

Sam Wilson, a former soldier and veteran’s counselor that Cap meets early in the movie also gets sucked into the story when Cap and Widow need a place to hide. He also gives Cap a glimpse into life outside of being a soldier as well as someone else whose lost a partner in war. We eventually learn that he flew a very, um, unique craft during the war.

There are a couple of big reveals about the villains of the movie before the action ratchets up that I won’t go into. 

Once the action gets going, it almost becomes a completely different film where the explosions are big and the snappy one-liners kick in. The movie quickly recovers though, and there are some big ramifications to the story after the fireworks die down.

Overall, though, the movie works as a great action-thriller with touches of super-hero stuff thrown into the mix. It’s probably the most complex story I’ve seen in any of the Marvel movies, and that’s a good thing. 

2013 Reading List

At the beginning of the year, I wanted to set a goal for myself to read more books. Since I’m working at a job that has a long commute, that goal has been made much easier since I listen to audiobooks to keep my sanity while sitting in DFW traffic.

Anyway, I wanted to share my list and I may add some comments about some of the books. If you see something that you might be interested in, just ask and I’ll tell you what I thought of the book.

2013 books read (so far) – in no particular order

Audiobooks

1) Callis Rose by Mark Tufo

  • Great book!

2) Life of Pi by Yann Martel

3) The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight by Jack Campbell

4) Daughter of the Sword: A Novel of the Fated Blades by Steve Bein

5) Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

  • Interesting twist on a world with people with super-powers. 

6) Spartan Gold by Clive Cussler

  • If you wanted a “popcorn-movie” book to read, this would be a good one. 

7) The Disciple by Stephen Coonts

  • Very interesting fictional story involving Iran.

8)  Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
9)  Lycan Fallout: Rise of the Werewolf by Mark Tufo
10 )Killing Floor by Lee Child
11) Greywalker: Book 1 by Kat Richardson
12) City of Bones The Mortal Instruments, Book 1 by Cassandra Clare

  • Meh. Some interesting ideas about the supernatural world, but not much else.

13) The Cobweb by Neal Stephenson, J. Frederick George
14) Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

  • Super heroes in a zombie apocalypse. ‘nuff said.

15) 14 by Peter Clines

  • Hard to describe this book, but it was a quick and enjoyable read.
  • It has a very Stephen King-like feel to it, because it basically takes a collection of normal people and puts them into a very unusual situation.

16) The Cartel by Ashley & Jaquavis

17) Suspect by Robert Crais
18) Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey

  • Great “hard sci-fi” story. I’m looking forward to picking up the sequels.

19) As the Crow Dies: A Jason Crow West Texas Mystery, Book 1 by Ken Casper
20) Among Others by Jo Walton
21) Blowback, A Retrieval Artist Novel by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
22) Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson
23) The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

  • Ugh. 
  • It’s not that she doesn’t tell a good story, it’s just that I didn’t care about the story or the characters. 

24) The Racketeer by John Grisham

  • Meh. It’s a good read in one sense, but I hated the small-town lawyer goes to jail for a few years and is now some sort of master criminal plot. 

25) The Bat: A Harry Hole Thriller, Book 1 by Jo Nesbo
26) The Wind Through the Keyhole: The Dark Tower by Stephen King

  • Great story for fans of the Dark Tower, but not sure anyone else would enjoy it.

27) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

  • Another interesting teenage book with a couple of new ideas about magic.
  • Awkward ending, but still pretty good.

28) Paper Towns by John Green

  • Teenage angst story. Quick and good read. 

29) The Keeper of Lost Causes: Department Q, Book 1 by Jussi Adler-Olsen
30) The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

31) Redshirts by John Scalzi

  • Hilarious! – read by Wil Wheaton

32) 11-22-63 by Stephen King

  • More fantasy than horror, but a great story. King puts a lot of detail into the world of the late 50s and early 60s. Great detail about Dallas as well.

33) Under the Dome by Stephen King (re-read)

  • One of King’s best!

Novels

34) Twelve Years a Slave – Enhanced Edition by Solomon Northup and Dr. Sue Eakin

  • This is the source material for the movie of the same name. This book is Northup’s original account of his experience as a free African-American who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery for 12 years before being found and returned home to New York.
  • It also contains footnotes to Dr. Sue Eakin’s incredibly thorough research documenting the actual people, places and events that take place in the book. 
  • If you see the movie, then I’d recommend reading the book. There are a lot of details the movie didn’t cover that are in the book.

35) Near Death: Book 1 of the Near Death Series by Richard C Hale
36) Twittering from the Circus of the Dead by Joe Hill
37) Death Sight: A Will Castleton Novel by David Bain
38) Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
39) Divergent by Veronica Roth
40) NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
41) The Fixer: A Lawson Vampire Novel 1 by Jon F. Merz
42) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
43) Horns: A Novel by Joe Hill

44) A Storm of Swords: A Song of Fire and Ice, Book Three by George R. R. Martin (re-read)

45) Blood Skies (Book 1) by Steven Montano

46) Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (re-read) 

 

Graphic Novels

47) Locke & Key Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
48) Flashpoint by Geoff Johns
49) How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by the Oatmeal
50) Batwoman Vol 1:Hydrology (The New 52) by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman and Amy Reeder

51) Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis

  • Part of the New 52, I think. A new twist on Superman that fun to read. Superman is  a hard character to deal with, I think. 
52) Batman: Earth One by Gary Frank & Geoff Johns

53) Hawkeye, Vol 1: My Life as a Weapon by Mark Fraction, David Aja and Javier Pulido  

  •  I’ve never read much on Hawkeye and thought he was a strange choice to include in the Avengers. After reading this graphic novel, I was much more intrigued by the character and will probably pick up the next volumes of the comic.

Callis Rose – If “Carrie” had a sister…

While it may feel like it’s not completely original, Mark Tufo’s Callis Rose creates a wickedly intriguing and even cringe-worthy horror story around teenage girls that’s very entertaining.

The best way I can think of describing the story would to be take Stephen King’s Carrie and mix it up with the obnoxious popular girls from Mean Girls. 

The story follows Callis Rose, who is a girl with a special ability that she barely understands and has little control over. Her power turns her otherwise happy world upside down and she ends up abandoned to the overtaxed foster care system. The first part of the story follows Callis through the system and we see her go through a series of foster homes that unfortunately give her opportunities to learn more about her abilities. Using her power has a cost, but a part of her also begins to enjoy using the powers against others. 

The story quickly advances her through several years and she ends up with a stable but indifferent family just as she’s about to start high school. In spite of everything she’s lost and everything she’s encountered in the foster care system, Callis appears, on the surface at least, to be a pretty normal but poor teenage girl. 

On her first day of school she meets two people. One of them will become her favorite person in the whole world, and the other the complete opposite. Kevin, who is a junior varsity quarterback quickly becomes her friend and eventually something more. His cheerleader sister, Mindy, despises Callis and makes it her mission in life to destroy Callis and to prevent the relationship with Kevin from getting serious. 

At this point, the story may feel like something you’ve read before, and with the exception of Callis, most of the characters are pretty one dimensional. There’s plenty of teenage angst here. Nice guy quarterback and nice “normal” girl go through the motions of their first dating relationship. Bitchy sister doesn’t approve of the girl her brother is seeing. Popular cheerleaders pick on the poor but pretty new girl. 

But, as Mindy escalates things, we begin to see something deeper both in Mindy and in the relationships between Mindy and her two cohorts. 

Of course, the story gets more interesting and much, much darker once Callis decides to start fighting back. As things progress, there are a couple of scenes that are very cringe-worthy. By the end, though, the lines are so blurred between Callis and Mindy you’re not sure who to really root for. 

Overall, it’s a very entertaining story, and Tufo adds enough new twists to the story, Callis’ powers, and depth to the characters to keep things interesting. I listened to the audiobook and I also enjoyed Sean Runnette’s performance. The story takes place in Colorado, but there are really no elements to the story that are unique to that location. That didn’t really bother me because I could easily imagine the story taking place in DFW or any large city. 

This is the second book I’ve listened to by Mark Tufo. Earlier in the year, I picked up Lycan Fallout: Rise of the Werewolf. I picked it up because I was on a supernatural kick and was tired of reading books on ghosts and vampires. I hadn’t read a good story about werewolves, so I picked this one up.

it’s a great story as well with a mix of variations on the post-zombie-apocalyptic supernatural world. The main character, Mike Talbot, is a great character and enjoyed the story. I’d recommend that book as well with one caveat. I did not know when I picked the book that it picks up from another series from Mark Tufo. I’d recommend starting with his Zombie Fallout series first before getting to the Lycan Fallout book, if only so you can follow Mike Talbot’s adventures from the beginning.

Anyway, Callis Rose is in a completely different vein from Tufo’s other books, and I think if you liked reading King’s Carrie, you’ll enjoy Callis Rose, too.

 

 

 

The Conjuring: Don’t watch the trailers!

The Conjuring is one of those movies where you’re probably better off not watching any of the trailers beforehand in order to get the maximum scare value for your money.

That being said, the Conjuring manages to be scary using lighting, sounds and background music to create the creepy atmosphere without using a lot of gore. 

It’s “based on a true story” which is at least loosely accurate. The Warrens really did exist and they were a well known husband and wife team of paranormal investigators. They are best known for another haunting investigation that you probably have heard of in Amityville (as in The Amityville Horror).

The Conjuring is based on another case where the Warrens help the Perron family who are experiencing increasingly disturbing events in their home in Rhode Island in 1971. Ed played his original interview of Carolyn Perron to producer Tony DeRosa-Grund. Loraine also helped consult on the film once it started production.

Outside of that, you’ll have to make up your own mind about what happened to the Perron family. 

The film takes great pains in recreating the 1971 environment, which helps hearken back to the other classic horror films from the 70s, like the Amityville Horror.

it delivers on the classic horror film with a couple of interesting twists. The movie title itself is a bit misleading which you’ll understand by the end of the film. I think the biggest danger about this movie is watching the trailers. Some of the scares are in the trailers, so you know they’re coming. 

Still, without those, there are still plenty of scares that you won’t necessarily see coming. I can think of a couple that caught most of the audience off guard. I was also kind of pulled out of the movie because I recognized the actors playing Roger and Carolyn Perron. 

It’s directed by James Wan who directed Insidious, but I think this is a much better movie. I lost interest in Insidious near the last third of the film. The Conjuring is a bit of a slow burn, but is overall worth watching.

 

 

Pacific Rim Thoughts

Who doesn’t like giant robots?

If you ever watched the old Japanese movies/shows featuring Gozilla or Ultraman or other monsters fighting or generally wreaking havoc on the cities underneath them, then Pacific Rim is the movie for you.

As a kid, I thought the giant robots were the coolest thing ever. At least, until Star Wars came out.

I even owned one of these giant Shogun Warriors that came out in the late 70s (yes, I know, I’m old). While I had Raydeen, a neighborhood friend had Mazinga, and both were pretty cool. I mean, these were toys that were almost two feet tall! And, they shot rockets! (This was before the industry took shooting plastic projectiles out of toys because some kids were shooting the projectiles at each other.)

Pacific Rim, to me, is an homage to those old monster/robot fighting movies. It’s a summer popcorn movie that’s big on action and visual effects and, of course, giant monsters fighting with giant robots.

On that score, for the most part, Pacific Rim delivers big time. The monsters are massive, and there’s a bit of variety to them (although it’s never explained how, once detected, they have nicknames). The machines are equally massive. The destruction scenes are nothing short of spectacular. IMAX, natch, takes things to an even bigger scale.

The story is pretty basic. Monsters, named Kaiju, start rising from the sea and attacking coastal cities around the Pacific Ocean, causing massive amounts of damage and costing millions of lives. To combat the Kaiju, humanity combines their resources to build “monsters” of their own: Massive robots, called Jaegers. Jaegers are piloted simultaneously by two pilots who are neurally linked. The war begins, and for awhile, the Jaegers prove extremely successful.

Eventually, though, something changes. The Kaiju begin to adapt, and they begin taking out the Jaegers. Humanity’s leaders opt to look for other options and leave the Jaeger program to fend for themselves. There are no real surprises to the story; you won’t find any Oscar caliber material here. This is a movie about giant robots and monsters, remember?

One of the only downsides to the film I found is that, like Transformers, the fights occasionally zoom in so close that it’s fuzzy about what part of the monster is hitting the robot. Part of that is that most of the fights happen at night in the rain and near the shore, so both monsters and robots are at least partially submerged in water.

I’m sure part of the decision to bring things in close is to make the audience feel like part of the action. It’s a little disappointing though to not see a few wider shots though, to get a bigger perspective that the robot and monster are tearing up a city while they’re fighting. It also seems strange that the Kaiju have ranged attacks but the Jaegers do not (or at least, don’t seem to use them).

There were a couple of minor things that bothered me, but they start getting into taking apart the plot. Pacific Rim is one of those movies where you shouldn’t get lost in the details of the plot because they will hurt your head.

Pacific Rim is a great summer action popcorn movie. It’s long on action and visual effects and short on plot, which, when it comes to giant monsters fighting giant robots, is just the way we like it.

Paper Towns – An Angsty Teen Story Reminiscent of John Hughes

Somehow, I’ve learned well after the fact, I’ve managed to pick up a couple of audiobooks that are considered “teenage” books. I haven’t written a review yet about the other one (Among Others), but this one, Paper Towns, was pretty good.

If you’re a child of the 80s, you’ll fondly (or maybe not so much) remember the teen movies by John Hughes: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful. All of these movies revolved around high school and dealt with the various stereotypes and cliques in school and breaking outside those circles.

John Green’s Paper Towns reminds me of those movies. It’s a quick and entertaining read that captures the same teenage angst that those movies did even though the subject matter of a runaway teen may be a bit darker than those movies ever were. 

The story opens by introducing us to two childhood friends: Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman. They live across the street from another in Orlando and spent a lot of time together. At nine, they go to the park and stumble across the corpse of a man who has committed suicide. We see how the discovery affects both characters: Quentin is freaked out; Margo is fascinated by it. She becomes something of a young detective and learns more about the person, which she then shares with “Q” later.

The story jumps ahead to their senior year of high school, just weeks away from prom and graduation. Quentin and Margo have had little to do with one another over the years. Quentin ends up with more of the nerdy band geek crowd, while Margo has become popular. She’s more than just popular by the “in” crowd. Everyone has heard of or encountered her, and Margo Roth Spiegelman has become almost a legendary persona. 

One night Margo suddenly shows up at his window. She needs a partner-in-crime to assist her as she goes on a one-night spree of nasty pranks to get back at her so-called friends and her now ex-boyfriend, who Margo had just learned was cheating on her with one of her best friends. 

Quentin hesitates, but he goes along anyway. The all-night adventure re-ignites their friendship as well as Quentin’s crush on Margo. 

Exhausted, Quentin goes to school the next day and suffers through it, hoping that Margo will be there and hopeful that everything between them has changed. Margo doesn’t show up for school. 

He eventually learns that Margo has run away. It’s not the first time that she’s done it, though. Margo always leaves clues to her family about where she has gone, and she always returns a few days later.

This time, however, Margo doesn’t come back. After a few days, her parents file a report, and Quentin has to face questions from both Margo’s parents and the police. 

As the police look through her room, they pull down Margo’s window shade. Quentin discovers that Margo has put a Woodie Guthrie poster on the back of her shade, facing his window. Quentin believes this is a clue she has intentionally left for him to find. 

This kicks off Quentin’s quest to find Margo. He follows a number of clues with his best friends, Ben and Radar, to the point where it becomes an obsession. Quentin even wonders at one point if Margo has committed suicide and intended Quentin to find her body, just like they found the body of the man when they were kids. 

In his quest, Quentin realizes how little he really knows Margo. In fact, he learns that almost no one really knows her. Margo has created a persona, a “paper girl” that everyone sees, but she’s kept her true self concealed. While everyone else is focused on prom, finals and graduation, Quentin struggles to understand the “real” Margo, hoping that by understanding her, he’ll find her. The quest also forces Quentin to push himself well outside of his comfort zones: lying to his parents, skipping classes, etc. 

Just before graduation, Quentin finally comes across a clue that he’s certain that will lead them to Margo, and that she’s alive. He skips graduation and makes a last second cross-country road trip with his best friends and one of Margo’s friends – who has joined the group in their search. 

The story focuses on Quentin and Margo. While we learn about Quentin’s friends, Ben and Radar, and Lacey, one of Margo’s popular friends, they’re really not much more than stereotypical characters (Radar – the computer geek; Ben, the funny sidekick, and Lacey – the hot and otherwise unobtainable popular girl).

We never really learn enough about Margo to understand why she turned out the way she did, which to me weakened her character. As much as Margo complains about being a “paper-girl” living in a “paper-town” and the desire to escape where she can be “real.” the character has made every effort to keep everyone in her life at arm’s length. She seems to want someone to know the “real” her, but she prevents anyone from getting close.

Green does a good job of keeping the story pretty light-hearted, even when it seems like that Margo may be dead, or at least, gone for good. For most of the other characters and even the other kids at school, life quickly moves on. 

The only major complaint I had about the story besides understanding a bit more about Margo would have been to cut a chunk out of the middle. There’s a part to the story where the main character spends a little too much time not seeing the next clue even though the author has pointed it out to the reader.

I would have also liked to read/heard an epilogue, where the author tells us (via Quentin) where everyone ended up 10 years later. It’s not a deal breaker though.

It’s still a very entertaining story as these high school seniors deal with their last weeks in school and how much things will change in just a few months. It’s about enjoying time with friends, but also understanding that those friends will be moving in different directions and that you have to let them go.

Paper Towns is probably the closest book I’ve read that captures that same spirit of teenage angst that John Hughes did so brilliantly in his movies. 

 

Star Trek: Into Darkness Review

The challenge with saying anything about Star Trek Into Darkness is to say anything about it without giving away any spoilers. 

Overall, I think if you look at the movie with the re-boot of the series in 2009, Into Darkness is a great summer action movie. The movies capture the spirit of the characters in the original series and re-creates the dynamics (and creates some new ones) between the main characters.

It was cool to see Uhura get something to do in the movie, but it would be nice to see a woman with more of a commanding role in one of these films. I think it would be fun to have Kirk have to deal with a female captain that’s almost a mirror reflection of himself. 

Benedict Cumberbatch was a great addition to the movie cast as well. I thought he was excellent in the BBC’s recent Sherlock series, and he’s a great presence in this movie. 

The story, though, is still part of the re-boot, and this one focuses on building the friendship between Kirk and Spock. It also calls to question whether Kirk is really ready for the responsibility of “the chair” – being captain of Starfleet’s flagship vessel. 

Although fascinating, seeing the “origin” part of that story between Kirk and Spock is a bit hard to imagine. If you’ve been any fan of the Star Trek series at all, these characters and their relationships have long been established in our heads. 

Yes, the movie has a few glitches (technical and story-wise) and one scene you may either really enjoy or find super cringeworthy (I fell into the latter group). For the most part, they aren’t a major distraction to the overall story.

Die-hard Trek fans may pick apart aspects of the story and the technology with regards to how things don’t fit in with the original canon. I can easily understand how that can be disturbing to fans. I used to watch Smallville and had to spend a lot of time just shaking my head as the show’s producers played drastically fast and loose with Superman’s canon. 

If there’s one nagging thing that still bugs me in these new Trek films is all the freakin’ lens flare. To heck with 3D or IMAX or whatever, let me pay for a version of the movie with 70% less flare. 

But, here’s the interesting perspective that I read about – and it may or may not help you going into the movie.

Remember – this is a continuation of the 2009 re-boot of the Star Trek movie universe. That movie involved a time-travel plot, and because of the actions in the first movie, the timeline for this version of Star Trek has and will continue to change as repercussions from elements of history changing in the previous movie.

Basically – This ain’t your father’s Star Trek. It’s hard, but try to set aside the history  from the original TV series and original movies before you see Into Darkness.

I didn’t do that, and it kind of affected my perspective on the movie.

I’ll have to go see it again with that in mind now to see if I enjoy the movie more with that in mind.

Bottom line. Give Into Darkness a chance. It’s a very entertaining movie.

Creating a Horizontal Scrolling Collection View Within a UITableView

A few months ago, I joined OrgSync as an iOS developer.

One of the things the developers there really encourage is sharing with the community. We’ve recently kicked off a developer blog here.

OrgSync Developer’s Blog

As part of that, I’m adding some iOS-specific posts about some of the interesting challenges we’ve looked into for our projects.

I recently looked into the idea of creating a horizontally scrolling view embedded inside a UITableView. Here’s a post about the solution I came up with using UICollectionViews.

Creating a Horizontal Scrolling Collection View Within a UITableView

The question of WWDC

This year, Apple took a different approach to selling tickets to their annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC or “dub, dub” as some devs call it).

They announced a day ahead of time when the tickets would go on sale instead of taking the traditional approach of selling tickets as soon as the announcement went out. 

With the conference selling out faster every year (last year tickets went in two hours),  pre-announcing the sale at least gave everyone a fair shot at getting a ticket. Last year, tickets were gone before most people on the west coast even knew they had gone on sale.

So, at 10 am PST yesterday, the mad scramble began. 

Two minutes later, it was over. 

Sold out. 5,000 tickets were gone.

A lot of well known developers were unhappy on Twitter because Apple’s system blocked them from completing their transaction. There were a number of complaints of people who had the ticket in their carts, but could not complete the transaction before tickets were sold out.

Apple has been reaching out to some of those individuals by phone and giving them a second chance at getting a ticket. They’re also increasing the speed of when the session videos will be available, promising that they’ll be available during the conference.

There are still a lot of developers left out in the cold, though.

How do they fix it? 

One option, some argue, would be to provide a lottery system. In a way, they’ve kind of already done that. 

If they make it more organized, then how do you determine who qualifies for the lottery? Do they add qualifications to it above just having a developer membership?

One thing they could do, I think, would be to offer a 1 day pass. The one day pass would basically only allow people into the first day of sessions, which would cover the keynote and the overview sessions. 

The firehose of information usually doesn’t get turned on until day 2. 

They may have to scale things up for that first day, but it might eliminate some of the people (like press) who buy tickets and only attend the first day of sessions.

Another option. They could scale up the conference. I saw someone mention that JavaOne hosts 20,000 in Moscone. 

That sounds easy, right? 

Apple sends 1,000 engineers to the conference and makes them available to answer developers questions. Right now, that’s a 5 to 1 ratio of attendees to engineers. If you scale things up to 20,000, then that ratio goes up to 20 to 1.

Okay, then, someone argues – send more engineers. 

Assuming Apple has the manpower, that means they could be pulling more guys off major projects. They may be able to mitigate that to some extent, but I don’t know if they have enough manpower to keep the 5 to 1 ratio.

It’s more than just the engineers, though. What about sessions?

Even when I went in 2009, some sessions were impossible to get into. I’ve heard that the problem hasn’t gotten better, and that’s with only 5,000 attendees.

How much harder will sessions be to get into when you have 10,000 or 20,000 people trying to get in?

They could repeat sessions, maybe. But, there again, you’re pulling engineers away from labs to present multiple times.

Okay – how about this? Let’s host multiple WWDC’s either in San Francisco or regional ones around the world.

The major challenge there is that now you have to pull engineers off for additional weeks to attend multiple WWDC’s. If you host it outside of San Francisco, now you have to spend the time and money sending developers to location X. 

Certainly, Apple could afford to do that. Can they afford to take engineers away from their projects for the additional weeks? 

Here’s another thing for you to think about? I may be wrong, but I thought I had read something in the stories about the new “mothership” headquarters in Cupertino being large enough to host WWDC there. 

Could they scale the conference up and host it at the “mothership”? 

While I would love for Apple to do something to allow more developers to attend WWDC, there are no easy solutions.